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The reasons and perils of Israel’s dangerous game in Syria

Israel’s bombing of Syrian positions in the Golan Heights is part of a strategy of creating an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone as Israel’s strategic position deteriorates in light of the pending victory of the Syrian government in the Syrian war.

Alexander Mercouris

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One of the most important things to have happened in the Syrian war over the last few months is that the veil of Israel’s neutrality in the war has been thrown off.

This veil was always very thin.  It is no secret in the Middle East that the Syrian conflict has been all about breaking the ‘Axis of Resistance’ of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah by attacking Syria, which was supposed to be its weakest link.

The ‘Axis of Resistance’ of course gets its name because of its ‘resistance’ to Israel.  It is not surprising therefore that Israel is implacably hostile to it, and has long sought to break it up. Since the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – and the extension of Iranian power that comes with it – is also seen as a threat by the conservative Arab Gulf States and by the US, that explains the de facto alliance between them and Israel which has been the main driver of the Syrian war.

Our contributor Afra’a Dagher – who is Syrian and who writes from Syria – has written about all this extensively.   Israeli leaders have also spoken about all it with refreshing directness and frankness which one never gets from the leaders of the West.  Consider for example the public admission in January 2016 of Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Ya’alon that he would rather see the victory of ISIS in Syria than the perpetuation of Iranian influence there.

It is clear by now however that this plan has badly miscarried.

Following the intervention of Russia in 2015 it became increasingly clear that the Syrian government was going to survive.  Following the liberation of eastern Aleppo last December it also became clear that the Syrian government was likely to regain control of the populous regions of ‘useful Syria’ on Syria’s Mediterranean coast.  Following the Russian-Turkish-Iranian ceasefire plan agreed in May the Syrian government’s control of ‘useful Syria’ has been consolidated.  Following the offensives of the Syrian army in eastern Syria it is becoming clear that the plan to hive off eastern Syria in order to create a Sunni client state there has also failed.  The US has now publicly admitted as much.

All of this from an Israeli point of view is serious enough.  However of even greater concern must be that the result of the Syrian war is leaving Israel’s strategic position much weaker than it was before the war started.  To see why consider the following four facts:

(1) The Syrian army is now a far more formidable force than it was before the war

The Syrian army before 2011 was like most Arab armies inefficient and shot through with corruption.  Six years of war have however cut out the dead and rotten wood, improving discipline and morale, and giving the army’s commanders battlefield experience exceeding anything the Israeli army now has.  It has also massively improved the Syrian army’s command and control systems.

The blisteringly fast parallel advance of three large Syrian military columns across the desert of central and eastern Syria towards Deir Ezzor which is currently underway speaks of the very highest quality of staff work.  This is not something the Syrian army was capable of before the war.

Quite probably much of this staff work – perhaps all of it – is being done for the Syrian army by the Russians, who have historically excelled at staff work.  However even if Syrian commanders involved in the operation are purely beneficiaries of staff work being done for them by the Russians, they will be experiencing the effect of first class staff work for the first time and will be learning vital lessons from it.

There are also reports of the wholesale retraining of Syrian officers and soldiers by Russian advisers and of the Syrians being supplied by Russia with sophisticated weapons such as T90 tanks, BTR82 armoured vehicles, Igla man portable surface to air missiles (MANPADS) and by Iran with sophisticated Iranian drones.

The Syrian army has also gained for the first time in its history experience of close air support for ground troops engaged in both offensive and defensive operations, with the Syrians learning all about how to train and position forward air controllers and how to maintain communications during ground fighting between ground forces and air forces.

(2) President Assad’s prestige and authority is being increased

The Syrian government has been the most consistent opponent of Israel amongst the governments of the Arab states since at least the 1960s.  Whereas Egypt and Jordan have concluded peace treaties with Israel, Syria has consistently refused to do so.

President Bashar Al-Assad inherited this policy from his father, former Syrian President Hafez Al-Assad.  Until the outbreak of the Syrian war he was however widely seen as a weak leader, too intellectual and too westernised to replace his father in leading Syria effectively.

In the event President Assad rose to the challenge of the war.  His success in holding Syria together through the extraordinary stresses of the war, the leadership he has provided to his people, to his government and to his army, and his skilful diplomacy, which has won him the vital backing of Russia, will inevitably once the war is over increase his prestige, not just within Syria but in the Arab world as a whole.  He will be seen as the man who at the risk of his own life stayed at his post even as his official residence was almost entirely surrounded by Jihadi fighters, and who stood up to the US, Israel, the Gulf Arab States, NATO, Turkey, Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and against all the odds won.

The war has transformed President Assad – amongst Arab leaders Israel’s most implacable enemy – into a potentially towering figure, arguably the most imposing the Arab world has had since the death of Gamal Nasser.  Moreover unlike tyrannical and blustering figures like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, Bashar Al-Assad – dignified, educated and articulate in both Arabic and English – looks like someone Arabs can identify with, and who like Nasser the outside world can take seriously.

The Israelis must be worried as to what use President Assad will put his newly found authority and prestige when the Syrian war is over and his hands are finally freed.  Will he become a beacon of opposition to them as Nasser once was?  The possibility is there.

(3) The Syrian-Iranian alliance has been massively strengthened

In my opinion the ultimate origin of the Syrian war is the 2006 conflict in Lebanon when the Lebanese Shiite resistance group Hezbollah successfully held off the assault of the Israeli army.  This event spread alarm not just in Israel but in the US and amongst the Gulf Arab States about the powerful Iranian led ‘Axis of Resistance’ which was in the process of forming.  As discussed above, the Syrian war was essentially launched to break it.

I will now state my view that this pre-2011 fear about the emergence of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ – often conflated with the somewhat different concept of the so-called ‘Shia Crescent’ – was overdone.  Before 2011 Hezbollah was a purely Lebanese movement, which posed no threat to the existence of Israel, whilst Syria, though Israel’s enemy and allied to both Hezbollah and Iran, posed no threat to Israel either.  As for Iran, though it did have a powerful military, it was also far away and was then and – in my opinion still is now – overwhelmingly focused on its own security.

As for the idea of some sort of territorially contiguous ‘Shia Crescent‘ forming a ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq, this was a concept which before 2011 had no reality.  Certainly no such ‘land-bridge’ could have existed in 2006 when Hezbollah defeated Israel’s assault in Lebanon because Iraq at that time was under US occupation following the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, ensuring that the US would intercept whatever supplies Iran might have tried to send to Hezbollah through there.

The effect of the Syrian war is however that it has actually brought all the elements of the ‘Axis of Resistance’ together and is adding Iraq to them, making the concept of a ‘land-bridge’ from Iran to Hezbollah across Syria and Iraq finally into a potential reality.

Iranian influence has markedly increased in Syria as a result of the war.  Iranian troops are now present in Syria where before 2011 there were none.  There are also now large numbers of Iranian commanded Shia militia from Iraq there.  Hezbollah is now also fighting alongside the Syrian army there. Syria and Iraq have discovered a commonality of interest in fighting ISIS and other Jihadi movements which they never had before, and are now de facto allies.  Both are allies of Iran.

With the coordinated arrival of Syrian and Iraqi troops at their common border for the first time in years, the much feared and talked about ‘land-bridge’ linking Iran with Hezbollah across Iraq and Syria is now finally close to becoming a reality.  Not only is it now theoretically possible to send supplies by road from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but there is now for the first time a real possibility of it actually happening.

(4) Israel is losing its strategic dominance in the region because of the coming of Russia 

If the arrival of the Russians in Syria in 2015 was the single event which decisively turned the tide of the war in Syria, Russia’s recent decision to set up a huge network of bases in Syria – a fully fledged naval base in Tartus, a permanent air base in Khmeimim, and a huge supporting complex of advanced surface to air missiles, electronic warfare systems, radars, and listening stations – means that Israel’s hitherto unchallenged strategic dominance in this region is being lost.

To be clear, the Russian presence in Syria is not directed at Israel, and the Russians have been at pains to make clear that they are not Israel’s enemy.  However the presence of the sophisticated military of a nuclear superpower so close to Israel’s territory cannot but fill the Israelis with foreboding since over time, as the situation in Syria stabilises, it will inevitably come to constrain Israel’s actions.

The US has twice been obliged to limit its air operations in Syria after the Russians turned off the ‘de-confliction’ hotline between the US and Russian militaries in Syria (see here and here).

There is a separate ‘de-confliction’ hotline in existence between the militaries of Israel and Russia.  Since it is hardly plausible that Israel will be prepared to send its aircraft to places where the mighty US air force refuses to go, the Israelis must dread the day when the Russians decide to do the same to them, forcing them like the US to limit their flights in Syrian airspace.

That day may not be so far off.

The Russians during the Syrian war have shown that they will act strongly if either the US or Israel take military action which directly threatens the Syrian government, or which interferes with the offensive operations of the Syrian army.

Thus the Russians reacted sharply last October when the US seemed to be considering strikes on Syrian forces to break the siege of Jihadi controlled eastern Aleppo and following a US air attack on Syrian troops defending Deir Ezzor, and more recently they also reacted sharply when the US shot down a Syrian SU-22 fighter during the ongoing Syrian army offensive in northern Syria against ISIS.  They also reacted sharply when Israel recently bombed Syria’s vital Tiyas air base, calling in the Israeli ambassador to protest an action which was clearly intended to obstruct the Syrian army’s eastern campaign against ISIS.

The Russians have however shown far greater forbearance in responding to attacks that they consider pinpricks ie. occasional US or Israeli strikes on Syrian troops or facilities which pose no direct threat to the Syrian government, and which do not affect the conduct of Syrian army operations which the Russians consider important.  The muted Russian response to the recent US shooting down of an Iranian drone was merely one example of this.

However once the situation in Syria stabilises and the country is at peace the Russians are unlikely to go on showing the same forbearance.  Israeli attacks on Syria will then be attacks on Russia’s most important friend and ally in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean, a country which will be hosting Russia’s biggest network of bases outside former Soviet territory, and one which will also be hosting tens of thousands of Russian visitors, not just military personnel manning the bases but civilian visitors and tourists visiting a friendly country which will no longer be a war zone.

In light of this there has to be an overwhelming likelihood that the Russians will at some point tell the Israelis that further attacks on Syria will no longer be tolerated, and must stop.

Beyond this there is there is the change in the regional balance caused by the mere presence of the Russian bases in Syria.

Already there are reports in the Israeli media of Israeli concern that Russian radars in Syria already possess the ability to track the flight of every Israeli aircraft taking off from every air base in Israel.  It is highly likely Russian listening stations in Syria and in Russia monitoring signals that might affect the operation of Russia’s Syrian bases will before long start listening to Israeli signals traffic even if they are not doing so already.  Meanwhile the electronic warfare systems the Russians have already deployed to Syria – notably the Krasukha-S4 – are probably already capable of jamming Israeli signals traffic and the operation of some Israeli weapons systems.

The Israelis must also worry about what might happen if the Russians one day start passing on some of the information their intelligence gathering systems in Syria are providing them to the Syrians.  After all it is standard practice for a country operating bases in another country to share intelligence it obtains through use of these bases with the host country.  The Syrians might in that case obtain intelligence about Israel of a quality they have never had before.

Regardless of that, with the Russians already in Syria and listening in to Israel’s signals traffic the possibility of Israel mounting a surprise attack on Syria like the one it carried off so spectacularly in 1967 has gone, probably forever.

It is not difficult therefore to see why Israel should be so concerned about recent developments in Syria.  A war which was at least in part intended to make Israel’s position stronger is ending up by making it much weaker.

It is these concerns which undoubtedly lie behind Israel’s most recent actions.

Despite Israeli denials the recent Israeli bombing raids on Syrian military positions in the Golan Heights are clearly intended to support an Al-Qaeda offensive against Syrian troops there.  The plan appears to be to create an Al-Qaeda controlled buffer zone between Israel and the Syrian military in the Golan Heights, the one area where Syria and Israel territorially adjoin each other, and where their militaries directly confront each other.

The Israelis after all tried to do the same thing when they set up the so-called ‘South Lebanese Army” in southern Lebanon to control a buffer zone there after their invasion of Lebanon in 1982.

If that is the Israeli plan – and everything suggests that it is – then the Lebanese experience ought to serve as a warning.

Al-Qaeda led Jihadi fighters are scarcely reliable allies for Israel, and in trying to manipulate them Israel is holding a scorpion by the tail.

By meddling in the Golan Heights Israel risks becoming bogged down in a prolonged war there, allied to Jihadi fighters who are its sworn enemy.  It is easy to see how this could turn out disastrously, with Israel over time becoming bogged down in a war in the Golan Heights similar to the war it fought and lost in southern Lebanon, which gave rise to Hezbollah.

Rather than engage in these dangerous games in Syria Israel would be far better advised to start looking at serious options to make peace, both with Syria and with the Palestinians.  Given that both of the two superpowers currently engaged in the Middle East – the US and Russia – are at present friendly towards Israel, there is no better time to do so than now.  Delaying doing it risks leaving Israel in a much weaker position than the one it is in now, as the situation in the Middle East following the end of the Syrian war starts to turn against it.

Unfortunately there is no sign that the present Israeli leadership – made complacent by long years of having things always go its way – has any thought of doing this.

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America the Punitive

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common?

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Authored by Philip Giraldi via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


There has been a dramatic shift in how the United States government carries out its business internationally. Admittedly, Washington has had a tendency to employ force to get what it has wanted ever since 9/11, but it also sometimes recognized that other countries had legitimate interests and accepted there was a place for diplomacy to resolve issues short of armed conflict. The Bush Administration reluctance to broaden its engagement in the Middle East after it recognized that it had blundered with Iraq followed by Obama’s relaxation of tensions with Cuba and his negotiation of a nuclear agreement with Iran demonstrated that sanity sometimes prevailed in the West Wing.

That willingness to be occasionally accommodating has changed dramatically, with the State Department under Mike Pompeo currently more prone to deliver threats than any suggestions that we all might try to get along. It would be reasonable enough to criticize such behavior because it is intrinsically wrong, but the truly frightening aspect of it would appear to be that it is based on the essentially neoconservative assumption that other countries will always back down when confronted with force majeure and that the use of violence as a tool in international relations is, ultimately, consequence free.

I am particularly disturbed with the consequence free part as it in turn is rooted in the belief that countries that have been threatened or even invaded have no collective memory of what occurred and will not respond vengefully when the situation changes. There have been a number of stunningly mindless acts of aggression over the past several weeks that are particularly troubling as they suggest that they will produce many more problems down the road than solutions.

The most recent is the new sanctioning of Russia over the Skripal poisoning in Salisbury England. For those not following developments, last week Washington abruptly and without any new evidence being presented, imposed additional trade sanctions on Russia in the belief that Moscow ordered and carried out the poisoning of Sergey Skripal and his daughter Yulia on March 4th. The report of the new sanctions was particularly surprising as Yulia Skripal has recently announced that she intends to return to her home in Russia, leading to the conclusion that even one of the alleged victims does not believe the narrative being promoted by the British and American governments.

Though Russian President Vladimir Putin has responded with restraint, avoiding a tit-for-tat, he is reported to be angry about the new move by the US government and now believes it to be an unreliable negotiating partner. Considering the friendly recent exchanges between Putin and Trump, the punishment of Russia has to be viewed as something of a surprise, suggesting that the president of the United States may not be in control of his own foreign policy.

Turkey is also feeling America’s wrath over the continued detention of an American Protestant Pastor Andrew Brunson by Ankara over charges that he was connected to the coup plotters of 2016, which were allegedly directed by Fetullah Gulen, a Muslim religious leader, who now resides in Pennsylvania. Donald Trump has made the detention the centerpiece of his Turkish policy, introducing sanctions and tariffs that have led in part to a collapse of the Turkish lira and a run on the banking system which could easily lead to default and grave damage to European banks that hold a large party of the country’s debt.

And then there is perennial favorite Iran, which was hit with reinstated sanctions last week and is confronting a ban on oil sales scheduled to go into effect on November 4th. The US has said it will sanction any country that buys Iranian oil after that date, though a number of governments including Turkey, India and China appear to be prepared to defy that demand. Several European countries are reportedly preparing mechanisms that will allow them to trade around US restrictions.

What do Russia, Turkey and Iran have in common? All are on the receiving end of punitive action by the United States over allegations of misbehavior that have not been demonstrated. Nobody has shown that Russia poisoned the Skripals, Turkey just might have a case that the Reverend Brunson was in contact with coup plotters, and Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear arms agreement signed in 2015. One has to conclude that the United States has now become the ultimate angry imperial power, lashing out with the only thing that seems to work – its ability to interfere in and control financial markets – to punish nations that do not play by its rules. Given Washington’s diminishing clout worldwide, it is a situation that is unsustainable and which will ultimately only really punish the American people as the United States becomes more isolated and its imperial overreach bankrupts the nation. As America weakens, Russia, Turkey, Iran and all the other countries that have been steamrolled by Washington will likely seek revenge. To avoid that, a dramatic course correction by the US is needed, but, unfortunately, is unlikely to take place.

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NATO Repeats the Great Mistake of the Warsaw Pact

NATO expansion continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war.

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Authored by Martin Sieff via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Through the 1990s, during the terms of US President Bill Clinton, NATO relentlessly and inexorably expanded through Central Europe. Today, the expansion of that alliance eastward – encircling Russia with fiercely Russo-phobic regimes in one tiny country after another and in Ukraine, which is not tiny at all – continues.

This NATO expansion – which the legendary George Kennan presciently warned against in vain – continues to drive the world the closer towards the threat of thermonuclear war. Far from bringing the United States and the Western NATO allies increased security, it strips them of the certainty of the peace and security they would enjoy if they instead sought a sincere, constructive and above all stable relationship with Russia.

It is argued that the addition of the old Warsaw Pact member states of Central Europe to NATO has dramatically strengthened NATO and gravely weakened Russia. This has been a universally-accepted assumption in the United States and throughout the West for the past quarter century. Yet it simply is not true.

In reality, the United States and its Western European allies are now discovering the hard way the same lesson that drained and exhausted the Soviet Union from the creation of the Warsaw Pact in 1955 to its dissolution 36 years later. The tier of Central European nations has always lacked the coherence, the industrial base and the combined economic infrastructure to generate significant industrial, financial or most of all strategic and military power.

In fact the current frustrating experience of NATO, and the long, exhausting tribulations that faced Soviet diplomats and generals for so many decades was entirely consistent with the previous historical record going back at least until 1718.

From 1718 until 1867 – a period of a century and a half – most of Central Europe, including even regions of Poland at the end of the 18th century, were consolidated within the Austro –Hungarian Empire, However even then, the Habsburg multi-national empire was always militarily weak and punched beneath its weight. After Emperor Franz Josef recklessly proclaimed his famous Compromise of 1867, the effectiveness of the imperial army was reduced to almost zero. The autonomous and feckless conduct of the Hungarian aristocracy ensured a level of confusion, division, incompetence and ineptitude that was revealed in the army’s total collapse against both Russia and Serbia in the great battles of 1914 at the start of World War I.

Germany moved in to occupy and consolidate the region in both world wars. But far from making Germany a global giant and enabling it to maintain its domination of Europe, the Central European regions – whether as part of Austro-Hungary during World War I or as independent nation-states allied to the Nazis in World War II – proved miniscule and worthless against the alliances of Russia, the United States, Britain and France that the Germans fought against in both global conflicts.

After the Soviet Union militarily destroyed the genocidal military power of Nazi Germany in World War II, Russia’s Great Patriotic War, the political consolidation of East Germany and Poland were strategically necessary for Russia’s security. But occupying and organizing the rest of the region was not. Far from strengthening the Soviet Union, those nations weakened and distracted it. Today, NATO is repeating the Soviet Mistake and that fatal move is inexorably draining the alliance of all its strength and credibility.

NATO is also repeating the disastrous mistake that France made in 1920-21 when it created a “Little Entente” of Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Romania to supposedly counterbalance the revival of Germany. The plan failed completely.

Today those very same nations – enthusiastically joined by Hungary, Poland and the three little Baltic states – are relentlessly distorting both NATO and the EU. They generate weakness and chaos in the alliances they are in – not unity and strength.

As I have noted before in these columns, the great British historian Lord Correlli Barnett drew the important distinction between militarily powerful nations that are generators and exporters of security and those, either tiny or disorganized, pacifist and weak nations that have to import their security from more powerful states.

One might call such small countries “feeder” or “parasite” states. They siphon off energy and strength from their protector partners. They weaken their alliance partners rather than strengthening them.

The consistent lessons of more than 300 years of Central European history are therefore clear: Leading and organizing the tier of Central European nations in the Warsaw Pact did not strengthen the Soviet Union: Instead, those activities relentlessly weakened it.

Incorporating most of the small nations in Central Europe into any empire or alliance has never been a cause or generator of military or national strength, regardless of the ideology or religious faith involved. At best, it is a barometer of national strength.

When nations such as France, Germany, the Soviet Union or the United States are seen as rising powers in the world, the small countries of Central Europe always hasten to ally themselves accordingly. They therefore adopt and discard Ottoman Islamic imperialism. Austrian Christian imperialism, democracy, Nazism, Communism and again democracy as easily as putting on or off different costumes at a fancy dress ball in Vienna or Budapest.

As Russia rises once again in global standing and national power, supported by its genuinely powerful allies China, India and Pakistan in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the nations of Central Europe can be anticipated to reorient their own loyalties accordingly once again.

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Why Russia will NOT fall victim to emerging markets financial crisis (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 81.

Alex Christoforou

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As the Turkish Lira collapses, sending emerging market economies into turmoil, Russia is being slapped with additional US sanctions dubbed the US Congress ‘bill from hell’.

The full text the newest sanctions bill has been released. The sanctions are deliberately designed to punish Russia’s economy for a Skripal poisoning hoax for which no evidence of Russian state involvement has been presented. The new bill even goes so far as to suggest designating Russia as a state sponsor of terrorism.

The “sanctions bill from hell” officially entitled ‘Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018’ was introduced by a group of Republican and Democratic senators on the 2nd of August.

According to RT, the bill would place restrictions on US cooperation with Russia’s oil industry, target Russian sovereign debt transactions as well as Russian uranium imports. In addition, the legislation calls for sanctions against “political figures, oligarchs, and other persons that facilitate illicit and corrupt activities, directly or indirectly, on behalf of the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin.”

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris explain why, unlike the financial meltdown in Turkey, Russia is well equipped and properly prepared to weather the US sanctions storm… and may, in the end, come out of the latest emerging markets turmoil stronger and more independent from western petrodollar control than ever before.

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

Via RT

The bill, which was recently published in full on Congress’ official website, also pledges full support for NATO and would require a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate if the United States ever wishes to exit the transatlantic alliance.

The legislation also declares that “the United States will never recognize the illegal annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation” and that Washington, in conjunction with NATO, should “prioritize efforts to prevent the further consolidation of illegal occupying powers in Crimea.”

The pending ‘Kremlin Aggression Act’ decrees that Congress should also determine whether Russia “meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

The bill also accused Russia of “enabling the brutal regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria to commit war crimes,” adding that Moscow has shown itself to be “incapable or unwilling” to compel Assad to “stop using chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria.”

The Act calls for a congressional committee to investigate “alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity attributable to [Russia]” and resolves to “punish the Government of the Russian Federation for, and deter that Government from, any chemical weapons production and use through the imposition of sanctions, diplomatic isolation, and the use of the mechanisms specified in the Chemical Weapons Convention for violations of the Convention.”

The legislation is just the latest addition to a laundry list of sanctions and laws passed in the months following the 2016 presidential election.

Republican hawk Lindsey Graham (South Carolina) and Bob Menendez (D-New Jersey), who both sponsored the bill, said in a joint statement that the legislation is designed to show that the US will “not waver in our rejection of [Russian President Vladimir Putin’s] effort to erode western democracy as a strategic imperative for Russia’s future.” The Russia-obsessed Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) was one of the five co-sponsors of the bill.

Moscow has brushed off the new wave of accusations as a projection of internal US struggle. Some elements in the US government are trying to “keep afloat” the conspiracy that Russia meddled in the US elections, in hopes of derailing constructive relations with Moscow and using the issue “purely for internal American purposes,” Senator Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Upper House Committee for International Relations, has said in response to the latest sanctions.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has warned that the adoption of any US legislation that targets Russian banking operations and currency trade would be considered a declaration of economic war.

“If they introduce something like a ban on banking operations or the use of any currency, we will treat it as a declaration of economic war. And we’ll have to respond to it accordingly – economically, politically, or in any other way, if required,” Medvedev said last week. “Our American friends should make no mistake about it.”

Moscow has vowed to respond to any new sanctions. Russia’s Finance Ministry said it would continue to sell off its holdings of US Treasury securities, while some lawmakers have called for Russia and its allies to stop using the US dollar for mutual payments.

 

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