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Russiagate scandal approaches its implosion point

Publication of GOP memorandum on surveillance abuses by Obama’s Justice Department could blow the lid off the scandal

Alexander Mercouris

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It is becoming increasingly clear that the point of crisis in the Russiagate scandal has now been reached, and that it centres on the four page memorandum prepared by Republican Congressional investigators after their examination of the Justice Department’s documents on the evidence provided during the 2016 election by Obama’s Justice Department to the FBI to undertake surveillance of members of Donald Trump’s campaign.

Publication of this memorandum has just been agreed by the House Intelligence Committee.

The final decision whether or not to publish the memorandum lies with President Trump.

I think it is a foregone conclusion that he will decide to publish it, though I expect heavy lobbying from the Justice Department and the US intelligence community to persuade him not to do so.

All I would say about that is that if President Trump allows himself to be persuaded by whatever threats or promises the Justice Department and the US intelligence community make to him, then he is a fool.

I do not know what is in the memorandum, though FBI Director Christopher Wray, who read it on Sunday, was apparently profoundly shocked by its contents, leading him to demand the immediate resignation of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

What is known about the memorandum is that it concerns the Trump Dossier, and it is almost certainly not a coincidence that it has appeared at roughly the same time that demands have been coming from Senator Lindsey Graham for a second Special Counsel to be appointed to investigate the Justice Department’s and the FBI’s actions during the 2016 election, and when a request has been made by Senators Grassley and Lindsey Graham for the Justice Department to look into the possibility of whether Christopher Steele – the Trump Dossier’s compiler – may have committed criminal offences because of contradictory things which he is supposed to have said to the media.

There are of course plenty of rumours about what the memorandum says.

The most plausible rumours that I have seen say that the memorandum says that a FISA warrant was obtained to institute surveillance of Carter Page without the FISA court been told that the evidence cited in support of the application for the warrant was based wholly on information provided by the Trump Dossier, and that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Hillary Clinton campaign.

Allegedly the US attorney who represented the Justice Department when the application for this FISA warrant was presented to the FISA court, and who did not provide the FISA court with the  information that it came from the Trump Dossier which the Democrats had paid for, was none other than Rod Rosenstein, who is now the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, and who was the Justice Department official who appointed Robert Mueller Special Counsel to investigate the Russiagate collusion allegations which are based on the Trump Dossier.

If this is true then I must say that Rosenstein’s position looks to me untenable, and I think he will have to resign.

Though I do not know whether legally speaking Rosenstein is caught in a conflict of interest – my guess is that he is – I cannot imagine that the Republicans in Congress will tolerate his remaining in overall charge of the Russiagate inquiry after such a revelation, and I cannot see Rosenstein remaining Deputy Attorney General if he is stripped of his power to supervise Mueller’s inquiry.

Needless to say if Rosenstein is forced to resign, then it seems to me that Mueller’s days will also be numbered.  My guess is he will in that case resign immediately, though he might try to cling on.  If he does so he will only be there for a few days.

At that point Russiagate – or to be more precisely the legal investigation into the collusion allegations – will be finally over.

On the subject of whether or not the Justice Department and the FBI knew that the Trump Dossier was paid for by the Democratic National Committee and by the Hillary Clinton campaign when it applied for the surveillance warrants to the FISA court, I must say that I agree with Representative Devin Nunes: it is all but inconceivable that they did not.

The very first question the FBI investigators would have asked Christopher Steele when he presented them with the first entry of the Trump Dossier back in early July 2016 was who was paying him, and he would have had to answer.

Even if all of Steele’s contacts were with Fusion GPS, and even if Steele only named Fusion GPS, that would have been enough for the FBI to trace the funding of the Trump Dossier back to the Democrats.  After all it was enough to set the Republicans in Congress on the right lead, and it beggars belief that the same would not have been the case for the FBI.

As it happens I suspect that there were many more contacts between the Democrats, the Justice Department and the FBI in the summer and autumn of 2016 than we know about, and I would not be surprised if the memorandum touches on them.

Perhaps the best evidence for the explosive contents of the memorandum is that the Democrats have felt obliged to produce their own memorandum in response to it.

Contrary to what Representative Adam Schiff is saying, the Republicans apparently agree that it should be published also.

The best discussion of all this – both about the contents of the Democrats’ memorandum and about the Republicans’ plan for eventual publication of the Democrats’ memorandum – has been provided by Byron York

…….there was also a rare moment of bipartisanship for the bitterly divided panel. At the same meeting, Republicans and Democrats voted unanimously to make the Democratic memo — the counter-memo to the Republican document — available to all members of the House.

That is the same process Republicans, under chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., followed with their memo. First, make it available to House members. (That happened on Jan. 18.) Later, after members of both parties have had a chance to read the memo, decide whether to release it to the public.

More than one Republican told me Monday that they plan to support releasing the Democratic memo to the public after a period of time comparable to the Republican example. (Republicans voted down a Democratic motion to make the Democratic memo public immediately, arguing that House members should have a chance to read it first.)

“Obviously we have gone through the process of letting our colleagues read our memo over the last several days, and I think that when the Democratic memo has gone through the same process, then it should have the same day in court, so to speak,” Republican committee member Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., told reporters after the session.

To no one’s surprise, ranking Democrat Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., was the first to make it to the cameras after the meeting Monday. He noted that the committee had voted to make the Democratic memo available to “members of the House that have been misled by the majority’s memorandum.” But he also spoke in a way that might have led a casual listener to conclude Republicans had voted to keep the memo completely under wraps. At one point he referred to “if and when the majority allows the minority memorandum to see the light of day.”

Now that the Democratic memo is available to everyone in the House, it remains to be seen whether Democrats will flock to read the memo as Republicans — about 200 of them — flocked to read the GOP memo. But what is clear is that some Republicans have already taken a look at the Democratic document, and it is, as expected, all about the GOP memo.

The Democratic memo, which like the Republican memo is classified and can only be viewed in a secure room, is an attempt to discredit the GOP document without making any larger point about the Trump-Russia investigation, said Republicans who have seen it.

“It was written by attorneys as a rebuttal to our memo, but it’s not going to move their argument forward,” noted one Republican member who has read the Democratic paper. “It’s too detailed, too confusing, and far more personal — they go after [Nunes] again and again.

The member noted that that Democratic memo contains far more classified information — names and sources — than the GOP paper. “It is much more revealing [of classified information],” he said. “It’s going to have to be heavily redacted before it can be released. We wrote our memo with the hope that it would be released to the American people. Their memo will have to be heavily redacted.”

Two other GOP members familiar with the memo echoed those points.

From this it is clear that the Republicans do not fear that the Democrats’ memorandum seriously challenges their own.

Rather it appears to have been concocted by the Democrats in order to muddle the issue and so as to give themselves counter arguments when the Republican memorandum is published.

Already that looks defensive, and the Republicans apparently feel that its verbose and legalistic style means that it fails to challenge their memorandum effectively.

One other fact in my opinion points strongly to the likely importance of the Republicans’ memorandum.

This is that though it has been the focus of all-absorbing discussion within the Washington political bubble for weeks, the liberal media in the US has barely spoken about it, and the media in Britain has ignored it entirely.

I have not come across a single reference to the memorandum in any British newspaper or on the BBC, which given the relentless way the British media has covered even the most insignificant and implausible of the Russiangate collusion allegations made against Donald Trump is both significant and remarkable.

What it points to is deep concern and embarrassment within the British elite, which given Britain’s central role in triggering the Russiagate scandal is not surprising.

All I would say about that is that if the memorandum is as explosive a document as appears likely then the British media is once again failing the British people, who may struggle to understand when it is published and when Russiagate finally collapses how that has happened.

Putting that aside, the supporters of the Russiagate conspiracy theory have not been inactive over the last few weeks, and as the prospect of the publication of the memorandum looms they have been working overtime to keep the scandal alive and to prepare their defences.

One approach has been play up ‘non news’ stories such as the fact that Mueller’s investigators have questioned Attorney General Jeff Sessions and may one day question Donald Trump.  Needless to say that is neither new nor important nor even interesting.

The second has been to speak ominously of ‘threats to Mueller’ supposedly coming from within the administration.

The most recent example of this is a strange story that President Trump supposedly planned to sack Mueller in June – very soon after Mueller was in fact appointed – only to be talked out of doing so following a row with White House Counsel Don McGahn.

President Trump has categorically denied this story – which has no independent corroboration – calling it ‘fake news’, but as now invariably happens his liberal opponents refuse to take his denial seriously, and despite his denial act as if the story has been proved true.

Personally speaking, I doubt that President Trump seriously intended to sack Mueller in June.  The political risks involved in doing so so soon after the botched sacking of former FBI Director James Comey, would have been too obvious and far too great for Trump to have seriously intended it.

Possibly Trump – who is an emotional man, and who is known to have deeply resented Mueller’s appointment – spoke wildly of sacking Mueller, only for this to provoke an angry rejoinder from McGahn, a tough and hardbitten character who is apparently known to give as good as he gets.  However I doubt that Trump ever seriously planned to sack Mueller.

Most probably the whole story – like so many others which have appeared over the course of the Russiagate scandal – is as Trump says an invention.

Whether it is or not, of one thing there is no doubt, which is that it is a red herring.

Whatever Trump’s intentions towards Mueller might have been back in June, he has repeatedly denied that he has any plan to sack Mueller now, making what didn’t happen back in June entirely beside the point.

The third approach has been to try to distance the scandal from the Trump Dossier by pretending that it did not have the central role in creating the scandal that it obviously did.

Thus we have seen the attempt to play up the role of George Papadopoulos (discussed at length by me here).

Now we have a new story ultimately sourced from the Dutch media that Dutch intelligence supposedly hacked a Russian hacking group based in a university building in Moscow back in 2014.

Supposedly CCTV inside the building was also hacked, enabling pictures to be taken of the members of the hacking group.

As with so many Russiagate related stories this one turns out to be a great deal less impressive than it looks at first glance.

Firstly, that a hacking group might be operating in 2014 out a university building in Moscow should surprise no one.

The fact that the building in question is said to have been situated close to Red Square points to the building in question being one of the old buildings of Moscow State University.

The staff and students of Moscow State University undoubtedly include many people with both the skill and the inclination to become hackers, and that some of them might actually have become hackers should surprise no one.

That fact alone makes it overwhelmingly likely that what the Dutch came across was a private hacking group made up of staff and students from Moscow State University, and the fact that the group used hacking tools known as Cozy Bear which are widely available to hackers who know how to access the dark web all but confirms this.

That Russian intelligence carried out an ultra sensitive hacking operation from an inherently insecure location like a university building in the centre of Moscow is all but inconceivable, and that whole idea should be put aside.

Moreover it seems from the reports that the Dutch did not in fact catch the hackers in the act of stealing the emails from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta.  I say this because if they did the Dutch media stories would certainly have confirmed it.

The Dutch media reports say that the Dutch were able to monitor the group for roughly a year, from mid 2014 to mid 2015.  The alleged cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee are supposed to have begun in the summer of 2015 and to have continued until 2016.  That strongly suggests that the Dutch ceased monitoring the hacking group just before the cyber attacks on the Democratic National Committee are supposed to have taken place.

Perhaps the cyber attacks (if they happened) really were the work of the group the Dutch came across, but it is clear that the Dutch do not know this.

In summary, the Dutch appear to have come across what was almost certainly a private hacking group consisting of staff and students from Moscow State University and operating from one of the buildings of Moscow State University, but Russian intelligence was almost certainly not involved, and the Dutch have no proof that the group in question was involved in the hacking of the computers of the Democratic National Committee or of John Podesta or in the theft of the emails published by Wikileaks which were stolen from those computers.  Nor obviously do they have any proof that the group was involved in providing the emails which were stolen from those computers to Wikileaks.

Possibly intelligence reports from the Dutch of the Dutch discovery in 2014 of this Russian hacking group hardened belief within the US intelligence community in 2016 of Russian involvement in the theft and publication of the Democratic National Committee and Podesta emails.  If so then it was an exercise in deduction based on too few facts.

Regardless, what the hackers in Moscow were up to in 2014 and 2015 can have no bearing on the collusion allegations between the Trump campaign and Russia which are the heart of the Russiagate scandal.

A careful analysis of the story therefore reveals it to be – like the ‘revelations’ about Papadopoulos – simply another red herring.

Frankly publication of this story at this time looks like another attempt to bolster the Russiagate conspiracy narrative just at the moment when with the imminent publication of the Republicans’ memorandum it looks to be collapsing.

Publication of the Republicans’ memorandum, even if it is as devastating as all the indications suggest it is, and even if it does trigger the resignations of Rosenstein and Mueller, will not spell the immediate end of the Russiagate conspiracy theory.

The Democrats and the media are heavily invested in it, and they will try to spin any resignations by Rosenstein and Mueller – or any pressure from the Republicans arising from the contents of the memorandum to get Rosenstein and Mueller to resign – as a Republican plot to suppress the truth.

That presumably is why the story of Trump planning to sack Mueller back in June is now being brought up.

The Democrats’ memorandum points to their chief line of attack: a legalistic defence of the actions of the Justice Department and the FBI and of the US intelligence community during the 2016 election in order to deny any wrongdoing and so as to keep the story focused on the collusion allegations.

With the media in the US and in Britain lending this line of attack its full support, and doubtless churning out more ‘non stories’ and red herrings of the sort I have discussed in the article, it is likely that for a time many people will continue to be confused and will be unsure where the truth lies.

Ultimately nothing can however disguise the fact that the surveillance of members of the Trump campaign during the election on the basis of unverified ‘evidence’ paid for by the Democrats, and the systematic and illegal leaking of classified information in order to undermine Donald Trump both before and after he was inaugurated President, actually took place.

By contrast the allegations of Russian leaking of the emails stolen from the computers of the Democratic National Committee and of John Podesta have never been conclusively proved, whilst the alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians which Mueller is supposed to be investigating definitely never took place.

It may take a little time, but once all the facts are out in the open it is only a matter of time before most people finally see the truth.

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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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