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Russia is Waiting for Trump in Syria

Russia’s military campaign in Syria is heavily conditioned by hopes of cooperation with the US which can only be achieved in the event of Donald Trump’s victory in the US Presidential election.

Oliver Richardson

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Information has been published on social media claiming that Russia’s high rate of supplies shows a readiness for a return to its pre-withdrawal level of activity. Whilst this information on supplies may be accurate, it merely shows what replenishing the stocks of 1000+ personnel looks like.

As things stand, Russia is unable to up the ante in Syria due to the US’ unwillingness to coordinate their actions. Even though the Kremlin recently announced an agreement with the US for enhanced cooperation, in reality the US wants Russia to be its Air Force where it is needed. No cooperation really exists between Russia and the US. The only thing that can change this is Obama clearing his desk in November for Trump.

Russia’s campaign in Syria began on September 30th, 2015, when a contingent of military advisors, artillery, helicopters, and jets made the long journey to the Levant, setting up camp in the western province of Latakia. This would later become known as the Khmeimim Air Base, where 10 fueling trucks, refueling stations, warehouses for supplies, mobile kitchens, and even a bakery would appear. But the real reason the air base was created was to host over 50 aircraft including Su-34, Su-24M, Su-25, Mi-35m, Ka-52, Mi-24, and many others.

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The first mission for the Russia Air Force was to clear out Latakia, in particular the areas surrounding the air base. This operation involved the destruction of ISIS’ oil supplies coming from Turkish territory. Russia made Turkey’s role in fueling the war in Syria perfectly clear to the world. This led to the notorious “stab in the back”, when a Russian Su-24 was shot down by a Turkish F-16 on the Turkey/Syria border. This incident was the catalyst for the deployment of the S- 400 long-range surface-to-air missile system at the air base. From this moment on, Russia had de-facto created a no fly zone in the entire region.

After Latakia had been cleared out, Russia did something that took the West by surprise – they “withdrew” the majority of their air forces. The reason why Russia did this is multifaceted:

A) Economy of Force. Russia had many idle units sitting at the airbase after the primary mission to disrupt ISIS’ funding and Turkey’s position in the region had been completed. In order to keep Russia’s operation optimized, Shoigu exchanged jets for helicopters, which would lead to the campaign in Palmyra.

B) Aiding the political process. The “withdrawal” served to show that Russia’s presence in Syria is flexible and temporary – it is not an occupation (they have Assad’s permission anyway). In actuality, Russia could bring back anything they moved, and thus it never was a “withdrawal”, just a reshuffling. But of course, the Western media liked to use the “weak Russia” analogy until exhaustion.

C) An agreement with the US. The Higher Negotiations Committee (Saudi Arabia’s faux opposition group with Salafi representatives of Ahrar al-Sham etc.) would not budge an inch unless Russia’s presence was thinned out. This worked out fine for Russia because of point A.

Shortly after the withdrawal, which annoyed Iran and Hezbollah as they were close to capturing key areas and subsequently had to reorganize and relocate, the city of Palmyra and its outskirts were fully liberated and de-mined. Russia’s helicopters would operate in groups of two so that, should one be attacked, the other one could hone in on the perpetrator. A Russian orchestra would play at the famous ruins to illustrate to the world’s media that Russia’s presence in Syria was very real, and not a farce like the US’ incursions in Iraq.

After the core of Palmyra was liberated, Russia then focused its attention on Aleppo. Turkey and Saudi Arabia issued rhetoric threatening an invasion. Iran then sent 6000 “Al-sabereen” troops to Aleppo to totally block such a possibility. By this time, the US’ proxies – both the “moderate rebels” and Al-Nusra – had started to create demarcation lines, which the US aims to use to partition the country. This resulted in Aleppo being split into two – North and South, with the latter being a source of Takfiri infighting (Jaish al Islam and Faylaq Al-Rahman). Due to Russia’s “withdrawal” and a lack of air support for the Syrian Arab Army, Jabhat Al-Nusra was able to reclaim what it had lost when Russia initially began its campaign. This created a scenario where Russia was forced to focus on North Aleppo in order to help cut the supply off to the South. Fortunately, the Syrian Army was able to capture some key areas in Aleppo such as Al-Mallaah Farms, thus cutting major terrorist supply routes.

Despite these successes, Russia now finds itself in a testing situation. The US wanted Russia to enter Deir Ezzor at the same time as its units were aiding the YPG in Raqqa. Russia was unwilling to do this as priorities change all the time, and at this moment Aleppo is the “mother of all battles”. The benefit of liberating Deir Ezzor would be securing the highway that goes to Iraq, as well as a key area near Raqqa. As a result, Russia did something that angered many – they signed a ceasefire deal with the US. It is this deal that leads us to the main point: Russia is waiting for Donald Trump’s election victory in November.

The Obama administration stubbornly refuses to cooperate with Russia; John Kerry told Lavrov in no uncertain terms that it is a pointless exercise to bomb the “moderates”, because the US will simply arm them time and time again. In other words, regardless of Russia’s progress elsewhere, it is a zero sum game. The US is actually more interested in liberating Fallujah, and soon Mosul. Both these conquests will give Obama the legacy he wanted, and it is still possible that Putin and Obama will liberate Raqqa together, since no party in Syria wants to approach the caliphate’s “capital” alone. Consequently, Russia signed a ceasefire with the US to buy time – 3 months initially to be precise. This allows some legal framework to be in force to reduce civilian casualties, to allow humanitarian aid to enter the besieged areas, and to give Russia time to badger the US to separate its proxies.

The US’ main stratagem in Syria is to blend Al Qaeda and the “FSA” Trojan Horse together so as to usurp Russia’s strict adherence to International Law. The latter’s role is to supply arms to the former. Russia is struggling to separate AlNusra from the “moderate rebels” in Aleppo, mainly due to the US’ reluctance to put certain groups (e.g. Jaish al-Islam) on the UN known terrorist organizations list. This would allow Russia to bomb them without having to worry about Washington crying “oh my god you killed our guys!” The other reason for Russia’s sticky situation is the fact that Aleppo is being organized by the US and allies for partition, and so bombing the city not only implicates innocent civilians, but also is ineffective due to the guerrilla tactics being employed by groups like Al-Nusra, whose leader al-Joulani isn’t the bumbling idiot we all think he is.

In order to progress before November, Russia will send its only aircraft carrier, Admiral Kuznetsov, with 12 jets to Syria from October 2016 until January 2017. This will allow Russia to reverse the “withdrawal” and (hopefully) avoid harsh critique from self-proclaimed military experts. This also gives Russia another point of attack instead of relying on Khmeimim Air Base. If Russia can secure the use of the Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, via mediation from Iran and Israel, it will open up even more possibilities for the future liberation of Aleppo. But a lot depends on the US election, and only Donald Trump is willing to actually work with Russia to end this mess once and for all.

The partition of Syria is still a very real possibility, and it could play out like it did in the civil war in Lebanon in the 1980’s, or even like Berlin post WW2. As the US is still pursuing a federalized Kurdish state, Turkey has seemingly abandoned their ambitions to annex Aleppo and reset relations with Russia. This could prove to be the deciding factor later down the line. One thing is certain – there is still a long way to go in the war, and Russia, for the sake of the multipolar future, knows that Syria and the region in general absolutely must not suffer Sykes-Picot 2.0.

The author is an editor and translator for Fort Russ – a popular independent news portal reaching more than 40,000 unique readers a day – with a focus primarily on the ‘world-island’ of Eurasia.  He is a also the website manager of the Eurasianist Internet Archive – a volunteer initiative dedicated to translating into English and disseminating the works of historical and contemporary Eurasianist thinkers.

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

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 38.

Alex Christoforou

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

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

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Via Axios

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

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

Southern District of New York

Mueller investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Via Zerohedge


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

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

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

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

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

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

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