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Does Russia have the best armed forces in the world?

Russia’s military forces are arguably the most effective in the world today because they possess an unmatched combination of a clearly defined and realistic mission, the ability to wage war at every level, and a strong military tradition.

The Saker

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This article is published with the permission of the author, first published by The Saker.

In my recent article “Risks and Opportunities for 2017” I made a statement which shocked many readers. I wrote:

Russia is now the most powerful country on the planet. (…) the Russian armed forces are probably the most powerful and capable ones on earth (albeit not the largest ones) (…) Russia is the most powerful country on earth because of two things: Russia openly rejects and denounces the worldwide political, economic and ideological system the USA has imposed upon our planet since WWII and because Vladimir Putin enjoys the rock-solid support of about 80%+ of the Russian population. The biggest strength of Russia in 2017 is a moral and a political one, it is the strength of a civilisation which refuses to play by the rules which the West has successfully imposed on the rest of mankind. And now that Russia has successfully “pushed back” others will inevitably follow (again, especially in Asia).

While some dismissed this as rather ridiculous hyperbole, others have asked me to explain who I can to that conclusion. I have to admit that this paragraph is somewhat ambiguous: first I make a specific claim about the capabilities of the Russian military, and then the “evidence” that I present are of a moral and political nature! No wonder that some expressed reservations about this.

Actually, the above is a good example of one of my worst weaknesses: I tend to assume that I write for people who will make the same assumptions I do, look at issues the way I look at them, and understand what is implied. My bad. So today I will try to spell out what I mean and clarify my point of view on this issue. To do this, however, there are a number of premises which I think need to be explicitly spelled out.

First, how does one measure the quality of an armed force and how can armed forces from different countries be compared?

The first thing which need to immediately get out of the way is the absolutely useless practice known as “bean counting”: counting the numbers of tanks, armored personnel carriers, infantry combat vehicles, artillery pieces, aircraft, helicopters and ships for country A and country B and come to some conclusion about which of the two is “stronger”.

This is utterly meaningless.

Next, two more myths need to be debunked: high tech wins wars and big money wins wars. Since I discussed these two myths in some detail elsewhere (here) I won’t repeat it all here.

Next, I submit that the purpose of a military force is to achieve a specific political objective. Nobody goes to war just for the sake of war and “victory” is not a military, but a political concept. So yes, war is the continuation of politics by other means. For example, the successful deterrence of a potential aggressor should be counted as a “victory” or, at least, as a successful performance of your armed forces if their goal was to deter.

The definition of “victory” can include destroying the other guy’s armed forces, of course, but it does not have to.  The British did win the war in the Malvinas/Falkands even though the Argentinian forces were far from destroyed.

Sometimes the purpose of war is genocide, in which case just defeating a military forces is not enough.

Let’s take a recent example: according to an official statement by Vladimir Putin, the official objectives of the Russian military intervention in Syria were to 1) stabilize the legitimate authority and 2) create conditions for a political compromise.

It is undeniable that the Russian armed forces fully reached this two objectives, but they did so without the need for the kind of “victory” which implies a total destruction of your enemies forces.

In fact, Russia could have used nuclear weapons and carpet bombing to wipe Daesh, but that would have resulted in a political catastrophe for Russia. Would that have been a “military victory”? You tell me!

So, if the purpose of a country’s armed forces is to achieve specific and political objectives, this directly implies that saying that some country’s armed forces can do anything, anywhere and at any time is nonsense. You cannot access a military outside a very specific set of circumstances:

1) Where: Space/geographical

2) When: Time/duration

3) What: political objective

Yet, what we see, especially in the USA, is a diametrically opposite approach. It goes something like this:

We have the best trained, best equipped and best armed military on earth; no country can compete with our advanced stealth bombers, nuclear submarines, our pilots are the best trained on the planet, we have advanced network-centric warfare capabilities, global strike, space based reconnaissance and intelligence, we have aircraft carriers, our Delta Force can defeat any terrorist force, we spend more money training our special forces than any other country, we have more ships than any other nation, etc. etc. etc.

This means absolutely nothing. The reality is that the US military played a secondary role in WWII in the European theatre and that after that the only “kinda victory” it achieved is outright embarrassing: Grenada (barely), Panama (almost unopposed).

I would agree that the US military was successful in deterring a Soviet attack, but I would also immediately point out that the Soviets then also successfully deterred a US attack. Is that a victory?

The truth is that China also did not suffer from a Soviet or US attack; does that mean that the Chinese successfully deterred the Soviets or the Americans? If you reply ‘yes’ then you would have to accept that they did that at a fraction of the US costs, so whose military was more effective – the US or the Chinese one?

Then look at all the other US military interventions, there is a decent list here, what did those military operations really achieve. If I had to pick a “least bad one” I would reluctantly pick the Desert Storm which did liberate Kuwait from the Iraqis, but at what cost and with what consequences?!

In the vast majority of cases, when the quality of the Russian armed forces is assessed, it is always in comparison to the US armed forces. But does that make sense to compare the Russian armed forces to a military which has a long record of not achieving the specific political objectives it was given?

Yes, the US armed forces are huge, bloated, they are the most expensive on the planet, the most technology-intensive and their rather mediocre actual performance is systematically obfuscated by the most powerful propaganda machine on the planet. But does any of that make them effective?

I submit that far from being effective, they are fantastically wasteful and amazingly ineffective, at least from a military point of view.

Still dubious?

Okay. Let’s take the “best of the best”: the US special forces. Please name me three successful operations executed by US special forces. No, small size skirmishes against poorly trained and poorly equipped 3rd world insurgents killed in a surprise attack don’t qualify. What would be the US equivalent of, say, Operation Storm-333 or the liberation of the entire Crimean Peninsula without a single person killed? In fact, there is a reason why most Hollywood blockbusters about US special forces are based on abject defeats such as Black Hawk Down or 13 hours.

As for US high-teach, I don’t think that I need to dwell too deeply on the nightmares of the F-35 or the Zumwalt-class destroyer or explain how sloppy tactics made it possible for the Serbian Air Defenses to shoot down a super-secret and putatively “invisible” F-117A in 1999 using an ancient Soviet-era S-125 missile first deployed in 1961!

There is no Schadenfreude for me in reminding everybody of these facts. My point is to try to break the mental reflex which conditions so many people to consider the US military as some kind of measuring stick of how all the other armed forces on the planet do perform.

This reflex is the result of propaganda and ignorance, not any rational reason.

The same goes, by the way, for the other hyper-propagandized military – the Israeli IDF – whose armored forces, pilots and infantrymen are always presented as amazingly well-trained and competent.

The reality is, of course, that in 2006 the IDF could not even secure the small town of Bint Jbeil located just 2 miles from the Israeli border. For 28 days the IDF tried to wrestle the control of Bint Jbeil from second rate Hezbollah forces (Hezbollah kept its first rate forces north of the Litani river to protect Beirut) and totally failed in spite of having a huge numerical and technological superiority.

I have personally spoken to US officers who trained with the IDF and I can tell you that they were totally unimpressed. Just as Afghan guerrillas are absolutely unanimous when they say that the Soviet solider is a much better soldier than the US one.

Speaking of Afghanistan.

Do you remember that the Soviet 40th Army who was tasked with fighting the Afghan “freedom fighters” was mostly under-equipped, under-trained, and poorly supported in terms of logistics? Please read this appalling report about the sanitary conditions of the 40th Army and compare that with the 20 billion dollar per year the US spends on air-conditioning in Afghanistan and Iraq! And then compare the US and Soviet occupations in terms of performance: not only did the Soviets control the entire country during the day (at night the Afghan controlled most of the country side and the roads), they also controlled all the major cities 24/7.

In contrast, the US barely holds on to Kabul and entire provinces are in the hands of the insurgents.

The Soviets built hospitals, dams, airports, roads, bridges, etc. whereas the Americans built exactly nothing.

And, as I already mentioned, in every interview I have seen the Afghans are unanimous: the Soviets were much tougher enemies than the Americans.

I could go on for pages and pages, but let’s stop here and simply accept that the PR image of the US (and Israeli) military has nothing to do with their actual capabilities and performance.

There are things which the US military does very well (long distance deployment, submarine warfare in temperate waters, carrier operations, etc.) but their overall effectiveness and efficiency is pretty low.

So what makes the Russian armed forces so good?

For one thing, their mission, to defend Russia, is commensurate with the resources of the Russian Federation. Even if Putin wanted it, Russia does not have the capabilities to built 10 aircraft carriers, deploy hundreds of overseas bases or spend more on “defense” than the rest of mankind combined. The specific political objective given to the Russian military is quite simple: to deter or repel any attack against Russia.

Second, to accomplish this mission the Russian armed forces need to be able to strike and prevail at a maxial distance of 1000km or less from the Russian border. Official Russian military doctrine places the limits of a strategic offensive operation a bit further and include the complete defeat of enemy forces and occupation of his territory to a depth of 1200km-1500km (Война и Мир в Терминах и Определениях, Дмитрий Рогозин, Москва, Вече, 2011, p.155) but in reality this distance would be much shorter, especially in the case of a defensive counter-attack.

Make no mistake, this remains a formidable task due to the immense length of the Russian border (over 20’000km of border) running over almost every imaginable type of geography, from dry deserts and mountains to the North Pole region.

And here is the amazing thing: the Russian armed forces are currently capable of defeating any conceivable enemy all along this perimeter. Putin himself said so recently when he declared that

We can say with certainty: We are stronger now than any potential aggressor, any!”

I realise that for a mostly American audience this will sound like the typical garden variety claptrap every US officer or politician has to say at every public occasion, but in the Russian context this is something quite new: Putin had never said anything like that before. If anything, the Russian prefer to whine about how numerically superior their adversaries seem to be (well, they are, numerically – which every Russian military analyst knows means nothing).

Numerically, the Russian forces are, indeed, much smaller than NATO’s or China’s. In fact, one could argue for the size of the Russian Federation, the Russian armed forces are rather small. True. But they are formidable, well-balanced in terms of capabilities and they make maximal use of the unique geographical features of Russia.

[Sidebar: Russia is a far more “northern” country than, say, Canada or Norway. Look at where the vast majority of the cities and towns in Canada or Scandinavia are located. Then look at a map of Russia and the latitudes at which the Russian cities are located. The difference is quite striking. Take the example of Novosibirsk, which in Russia is considered a southern Siberian town. It is almost at the same latitude as Edinburgh, Scotland, Grande Prairie, Alberta or Malmö in Sweden]

This is why all the equipment used by the Russian Armed Forces has to be certified operational from temperatures ranging from -50C to +50C (-58F to 122F). Most Western gear can’t even operate in such extremes.

Of course, the same also goes for the Russian solider who is also trained to operate in this range of temperatures.

I don’t think that there is another military out there who can claim to have such capabilities, and most definitely not the American armed forces.

Another myth which must be debunked is the one of Western technological superiority. While it is true that in some specific fields the Soviets were never able to catch up with the West, microchips for example, that did not prevent them from being the first ones to deploy a large list of military technologies such as phased-array radars on interceptors, helmet-mounted sights for pilots, supercavitating underwater missiles, autoloaders on tanks, parachute deployable armored vehicles, double-hulled attack submarines, road-mobile ICBMs, etc.

As a rule, Western weapon systems tend to be more tech-heavy, that is true, but that is not due to a lack of Russian capabilities, but to a fundamental difference in design.

In the West, weapon systems are designed by engineers who cobble together the latest technologies and then design a mission around them. In Russia, the military defines a mission and then seeks the simplest and cheapest technologies which can be used to accomplish it.

This is why the Russian MiG-29 (1982) was not a “fly-by-wire” like the US F-16 (1978) but operated by “old” mechanical flight controls. I would add here that a more advanced airframe and two engines instead of one for the F-16, gave the MiG-29 a superior flight envelope. When needed, however, the Russians did use fly-by-wire, for example, on the Su-27 (1985).

Last but not least, the Russian nuclear forces are currently more modern and much more capable than the comparatively ageing US nuclear triad.  Even the Americans admit that.

So what does that all mean?

This means that in spite of being tasked with an immensely difficult mission, to prevail against any possible enemy along the 20’000+km of the Russian border and to a depth of 1000km, the Russian armed forces have consistently shown that they are capable of fulfilling the specific political objective of either deterring or defeating their potential enemy, be it a Wahabi insurgency (which the Western pundits described as “unbeatable”), a Western trained and equipped Georgian military (in spite of being numerically inferior during the crucial hours of the war and in spite of major problems and weaknesses in command and control), the disarmament of 25’000+ Ukrainian (supposedly “crack”) troops in Crimea without a single shot fired in anger and, of course, the Russian military intervention in the war in Syria were a tiny Russian force turned the tide of the war.

In conclusion, I want to come back to my statement about Russia being the only country which now openly dares to reject the Western civilizational model and whose leader, Vladimir Putin, enjoys the support of 80%+ of the population.

These two factors are crucial in the assessment of the capabilities of the Russian armed forces. Why? Because they illustrate the fact that the Russian soldiers knows exactly what he fights for (or against) and that when he is deployed somewhere, he is not deployed as a tool for Gazprom, Norilsk Nickel, Sberbank or any other Russian corporation: he knows that he is fighting for his country, his people, his culture, for their freedom and safety.

Furthermore, the Russian soldier also knows that the use of military force is not the first and preferred option of his government, but the last one which is used only when all other options have been exhausted. He knows that the Russian High Command, the Kremlin and the General Staff are not hell-bent on finding some small country to beat up just to make an example and scare the others.

Last but not least, the Russian solider is willing to die for his country and while executing any order.  The Russians are quite aware of that and this is why the following circulated on the Runet recently:

Translation: under both photos it says “private of the US/Russian Army, under contract, deployed in a combat zone”. The bottom central text says “One of them needs to be fed, clothed, armed, paid, etc. The other one just needs to be ordered “this way” and he will execute his mission. At any cost”

At the end of the day, the outcome of any war is decided by willpower, I firmly believe that and I also believe that it is the “simple” infantry private who is the most important factor in a war, not the super-trained superman.

In Russia they are sometimes called “makhra” – the young kids from the infantry, not good looking, not particularly macho, with no special gear or training. They are the ones who defeated the Wahabis in Chechnya, at a huge cost, but they did. They are the one which produce an amazing number of heroes who amaze their comrades and enemies with their tenacity and courage. They don’t look too good in parades and they are often forgotten. But they are the ones which defeated more empires than any other and who made Russia the biggest country on earth.

So yes, Russia currently does have the most capable armed forces on the planet.  There are plenty of countries out there who also have excellent armed forces.  But what makes the Russian ones unique is the scope of their capabilities which range from anti-terrorist operations to international nuclear war combined with the amazing resilience and willpower of the Russian solider.

There are plenty of things the Russian military cannot do, but unlike the US armed forces, the Russian military was never designed to do anything, anywhere, anytime (aka “win two and a half wars” anywhere on the planet).

For the time being, the Russians are watching how the US cannot even take a small city like Mosul, even though it had to supplement the local forces with plenty of US and NATO “support” and they are unimpressed, to say the least.

But Hollywood will surely make a great blockbuster from this embarrassing failure and there will be more medals handed out than personnel involved (this is what happened after the Grenada disaster).

And the TV watching crowd will be reassured that “while the Russians did make some progress, their forces are still a far cry from their Western counterparts”.

Who cares?

(EDITOR’S POSTSCRIPT: In this article – republished with his permission – the Saker makes some interesting comparisons between the success of Russian Special Forces operations and the contrasting failure of such operations when carried out on a large scale by US Special Forces.

The most notorious failure of a US Special Forces operation in my lifetime was the failure of the US Special Forces operation in 1980 intended to free the hostages held in the US embassy in Tehran.

The most spectacularly successful Russian Special Forces operation carried out in my lifetime is one which is scarcely ever discussed today, since it was the Soviet seizure of Prague airport in 1968.

The Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a moral and political disaster, and it is completely understandable that no one – including in Russia – today wants to talk about it.  This has however detracted from a proper appreciation of the success of the military side of the operation.
Consider the problems the USSR faced when it decided to invade Czechoslovakia in 1968.  Czechoslovakia was an advanced European country with a modern military, on the face of it a far more formidable adversary than any state the US has fought since the Second World War.  All US military action since the end of the Second World War with the exception of the 1999 Yugoslav bombing war has taken place in what was once called the Third World against states with far less advanced militaries than its own.  By contrast the Czechoslovak military in 1968 was technological roughly equivalent to the Soviet, though of course far smaller and with a much smaller range of capabilities.  By contrast every adversary the US has fought since the Second World War – even including Yugoslavia – has been economically and technologically overwhelmingly outmatched.
For the USSR a war in Europe in 1968 with Czechoslovakia would have been a total catastrophe.  Whilst the USSR undoubtedly had a good intelligence operation in Prague, no one in Moscow could have been sure before the invasion was launched that the Czech government and the Czech military would not resist if given the opportunity to do so.
That was an eventuality which had to be avoided at all costs; and it was, through a spectacular coup de main involving the seizure of Prague airport by a Special Forces unit and the subsequent arrest in Prague by Airborne troops of the whole of the Czech government during the course of a single night (20th-21st August 1968), before resistance could be organised or orders to resist could be given, and before most Czechs were even awake and realised what was happening.
I have never known the US undertake anything comparable with such success.  The contrast with the messy US operations against Grenada in 1983 and Panama in 1989 (both far weaker foes than Czechoslovakia was in 1968), and the over extended operations against Saddam Hussein in 1990 and 2003, is striking, whilst the contrast with the murderously long bombing campaigns against Yugoslavia in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and Libya in 2011, is more painful still.
One of the benefits of this decisive and rapid Russian approach is that few die.  Compare for example the limited casualties amongst civilians from the Soviet operations in Prague in 1968 (72 civilians killed) and Kabul in 1979 (no civilians killed), with the number of civilians killed in the roughly comparable US operations against much weaker foes in Grenada in 1983 (24 civilians killed) and Panama City in 1989 (200 to 500 civilians killed).
I also have the clear impression that the Russian military today is much better than the Soviet military was in its heyday in the 1960s and 1970s.  That this is so is shown by the contrast between the logistic strength of the Russian military’s current operation in Syria by comparison with that of the Soviet military in Afghanistan in the 1980s.  The reason for that almost certainly is the far greater care today’s Russia shows its soldiers – AM).

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I really don’t know where to start correcting your factual errors but I’ll list as few. The Russian military is crap. Why? It has technology but no money. You have one tiny aircraft carrier that breaks down constantly. Most of your tanks are the outdated T72 because Russia can’t afford to equip it’s army with it’s most modern tank. Your top Sukoi fighter plane is only for export because your military can’t afford it. In Syria your air force drops unguided bombs because you cannot afford laser guided bombs. That makes me laugh. You do not produce any exports except… Read more »

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Kiev ‘Patriarch’ prepares to seize Moscow properties in Ukraine

Although Constantinople besought the Kiev church to stop property seizures, they were ignored and used, or perhaps, complicit.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The attack on the Eastern Orthodox Church, brought about by the US State Department and its proxies in Constantinople and Ukraine, is continuing. On October 20, 2018, the illegitimate “Kyiv (Kiev) Patriarchate”, led by Filaret Denisenko who is calling himself “Patriarch Filaret”, had a synodal meeting in which it changed the commemoration title of the leader of the church to include the Kyiv Caves and Pochaev Lavras.

This is a problem because Metropolitan Onuphry of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church which is canonically accepted and acts as a very autonomous church under the Moscow Patriarchate has these places under his pastoral care.

This move takes place only one week after Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople unilaterally (and illegally) lifted the excommunications, depositions (removal from priestly ranks as punishment) and anathemas against Filaret and Makary that were imposed on them by the hierarchy of the Moscow Patriarchate.

These two censures are very serious matters in the Orthodox Church. Excommunication means that the person or church so considered cannot receive Holy Communion or any of the other Mysteries (called Sacraments in the West) in a neighboring local Orthodox Church. Anathema is even more serious, for this happens when a cleric disregards his excommunication and deposition (removal from the priesthood), and acts as a priest or a bishop anyway.

Filaret Denisenko received all these censures in 1992, and Patriarch Bartholomew accepted this decision at the time, as stated in a letter he sent to Moscow shortly after the censures. However, three years later, Patriarch Bartholomew received a group of Ukrainian autocephalist bishops called the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the USA, who had been in communion with Filaret’s group. While this move may have been motivated by the factor of Bartholomew’s almost total isolation within Istanbul, Turkey, it is nonetheless non-canonical.

This year’s moves have far exceeded previous ones, though, and now the possibility for a real clash that could cost lives is raised. With Filaret’s “church” – really an agglomeration of Ukrainian ultranationalists and Neo-Nazis in the mix, plus millions of no doubt innocent Ukrainian faithful who are deluded about the problems of their church, challenging an existing arrangement regarding Ukraine and Russia’s two most holy sites, the results are not likely to be good at all.

Here is the report about today’s developments, reprinted in part from OrthoChristian.com:

Meeting today in Kiev, the Synod of the schismatic “Kiev Patriarchate” (KP) has officially changed the title of its primate, “Patriarch” Philaret, to include the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras under his jurisdiction.

The primate’s new official title, as given on the site of the KP, is “His Holiness and Beatitude (name), Archbishop and Metropolitan of Kiev—Mother of the cities of Rus’, and Galicia, Patriarch of All Rus’-Ukraine, Svyaschenno-Archimandrite of the Holy Dormition Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras.”

…Thus, the KP Synod is declaring that “Patriarch” Philaret has jurisdiction over the Kiev Caves and Pochaev Lavras, although they are canonically under the omophorion of His Beatitude Metropolitan Onuphry of Kiev and All Ukraine, the primate of the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church.

Philaret and his followers and nationalistic radicals have continually proclaimed that they will take the Lavras for themselves.

This claim to the ancient and venerable monasteries comes after the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate announced that it had removed the anathema placed upon Philaret by the Russian Orthodox Church and had restored him to his hierarchical office. Philaret was a metropolitan of the canonical Church, becoming patriarch in his schismatic organization.

Representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have clarified that they consider Philaret to be the “former Metropolitan of Kiev,” but he and his organization continue to consider him an active patriarch, with jurisdiction in Ukraine.

Constantinople’s statement also appealed to all in Ukraine to “avoid appropriation of churches, monasteries, and other properties,” which the Synod of the KP ignored in today’s decision.

The KP primate’s abbreviated title will be, “His Holiness (name), Patriarch of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine,” and the acceptable form for relations with other Local Churches is “His Beatitude Archbishop (name), Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus’-Ukraine.”

The Russian Orthodox Church broke eucharistic communion and all relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over this matter earlier this week. Of the fourteen local Orthodox Churches recognized the world over, twelve have expressed the viewpoint that Constantinople’s move was in violation of the canons of the Holy Orthodox Church. Only one local Church supported Constantinople wholeheartedly, and all jurisdictions except Constantinople have appealed for an interOrthodox Synod to address and solve the Ukrainian matter in a legitimate manner.

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Claims of Khashoggi death by fistfight expose Saudi brutality

The brutality of both state claims and unproven allegations in Khashoggi’s death raise serious questions about American alliances.

Seraphim Hanisch

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On October 2, 2018, Muslim Brotherhood member and Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, never to be seen or heard from again.

This chilling report has been answered with some horrifying and grisly stories about what happened – that he was dismembered while still alive, that his body parts were dissolved completely in acid, leaving nothing left.

Now after two weeks, the Saudi official word on what happened came out: He died in an unexpected fistfight in the embassy.

Really. That is the Saudi’s explanation. A fistfight. In an embassy. With 18 people detained as suspects in the investigation.

And apparently the Saudi government expects the world to accept this explanation and just let it go.

This situation has just exposed the true nature of this “ally” of the United States. Even Rush Limbaugh, a staunch supporter of all conservative positions in America, has spoken from time to time about the amazing disconnect in American foreign policy with regards to Saudi Arabia. He continued that on his radio programs on both October 18th and 19th, 2018, as shown in this excerpted transcript, with emphasis added:

I’m simplifying this, folks, but generally that’s what happens. So, by the same token, you could say that this militant terrorist Islam that we’ve known since 9/11 and maybe 10, 15 years prior, that has been sponsored by Saudi Arabia, by the Saudi royal family. It’s why so many people have been upset with so many American presidents being buddy-buddy with the king, whoever he happens to be. The Saudis always fund former presidents’ libraries. I mean, the Saudis had a good thing going. They had relationships with every president, former president and so forth.

And while they were selling us oil, sometimes. Cooperative or uncooperative, depending on the time, with price. But during all of that, they were the primary thrust for Wahhabi Islam. Now, here comes MbS (Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia), and he wants to just reform the hell out of the country, get rid of Wahhabism, bring in petrodollars competitors such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley and basically bring Saudi Arabia into the twenty-first century instead of the seventh. And there’s some people that don’t want that to happen.

And from the 19th:

Wahhabi Islam is where the really radical clerics and Imams are who are welcoming anybody they can into their mosques and just literally converting them into suicide bombers, terrorists, and what have you, under the auspices of Islam. And the Saudi royal family stood by and let it all happen. Whether they were instrumental in advocating it, don’t know, but Saudi-funded charities all over the world promoted Wahhabism.

And that’s when I went back to Mr. Buckley and said, “I don’t see how the Saudi royal family, the Saudi government can be separated from these 19 hijackers.”

Now in the rest of these transcripts, which are very interesting, Rush explains that Khashoggi was a Muslim Brotherhood member, and as such, stood opposed to MbS’ reform plans and actions. However the brutality of the alleged murder of Mr. Khashoggi, and the official “State version” account of his death are almost equally brutal. Death by fists? How is it that the United States considers such people allies?

President Trump is on record as saying that this explanation by the Saudi government is “credible.” However, this statement alone is out of context, so we bring you the entire statement:

This is not to be misunderstood as a Trump endorsement of belief. He points out that this is a first step, and that in his view it is a good one, but that is all.

Still, these events throw the real nature of the Saudi kingdom into sharp relief. They are the number one customer for US military equipment, now considered allies against Iran. In the complicated field of Middle East relations, the president’s caution is probably very wise for the moment. However, this is a nation which produced most of the 9/11 hijackers, which is said to be the last voice in what Islam is, and so promotes a very violent interpretation of an already violent faith.

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The news and information media got a great lesson in following something like “due process” with this matter, and while the President is doing that, this situation still invites some strong speculation. Allies that simultaneously seek an allied nation’s destruction do not seem like allies much at all. And embassies are usually held to be very safe places for people, not places where they meet their death in any way at all, let alone the cruel means alleged and later claimed.

This event may actually be very damaging to the Saudi Crown Prince’s effort to bring his nation out of Wahhabism and into some more kind interpretation of Islam, and indeed the West’s assessment of Khashoggi has taken to calling him a “teddy bear” when he is a Muslim Brotherhood member. Former US President Obama supported the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, and these people were so violent, killing Christians and destroying homes and businesses, that the Muslim Brotherhood’s uprising was followed by a second uprising from the more reasonable people in Egypt (which Obama promptly dropped).

If reports are to be believed, Mohammed bin Salman wants to end Wahhabism. It would seem to logically make sense that his agencies were involved in what happened to Kashoggi, who is a known critic of bin Salman. But if it really is true that the Saudi royals were not involved, then whoever it was certainly succeeded in stopping bin Salman’s efforts to modernize his country, at least for now.

 

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The future of war: UAE hires U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 137.

Alex Christoforou

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An investigation by BuzzFeed News has revealed that Middle East Monarchy, United Arab Emirates, hired U.S. mercenaries to assassinate political leaders and religious clerical leaders in war torn Yemen.

The U.S. ex-military, elite soldiers were paid by to kill those designated as “terrorists” by the UAE.

The UAE worked with the U.S. based mercenary-for-hire Spear Operations Group, founded by Israeli-American Abraham Golan, who told BuzzFeed News…

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen. I was running it.”

Spear Operations Group’s first target in Yemen was Anssaf Ali Mayo, the local leader of the Islamist political party Al-Islah, a party whose members include Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkul Karman.

Is this the future of war?

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and International Affairs and Security Analyst via Moscow, Mark Sleboda discuss the stunning Buzzfeed News article that exposes the dangerous and dark assassination strategy of the United Arab Emirates, hiring American ex-soldiers to target and kill political enemies.

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Authored by Aram Roston via BuzzFeed News…


The operation against Mayo — which was reported at the time but until now was not known to have been carried out by American mercenaries — marked a pivot point in the war in Yemen, a brutal conflict that has seen children starved, villages bombed, and epidemics of cholera roll through the civilian population. The bombing was the first salvo in a string of unsolved assassinations that killed more than two dozen of the group’s leaders.

The company that hired the soldiers and carried out the attack is Spear Operations Group, incorporated in Delaware and founded by Abraham Golan, a charismatic Hungarian Israeli security contractor who lives outside of Pittsburgh. He led the team’s strike against Mayo.

“There was a targeted assassination program in Yemen,” he told BuzzFeed News. “I was running it. We did it. It was sanctioned by the UAE within the coalition.”

The UAE and Saudi Arabia lead an alliance of nine countries in Yemen, fighting what is largely a proxy war against Iran. The US is helping the Saudi-UAE side by providing weapons, intelligence, and other support.

The press office of the UAE’s US Embassy, as well as its US public affairs company, Harbour Group, did not respond to multiple phone calls and emails.

The revelations that a Middle East monarchy hired Americans to carry out assassinations comes at a moment when the world is focused on the alleged murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, an autocratic regime that has close ties to both the US and the UAE. (The Saudi Embassy in the US did not respond to a request for comment. Riyadh has denied it killed Khashoggi, though news reports suggest it is considering blaming his death on a botched interrogation.)

Golan said that during his company’s months-long engagement in Yemen, his team was responsible for a number of the war’s high-profile assassinations, though he declined to specify which ones. He argued that the US needs an assassination program similar to the model he deployed. “I just want there to be a debate,” he said. “Maybe I’m a monster. Maybe I should be in jail. Maybe I’m a bad guy. But I’m right.”

Spear Operations Group’s private assassination mission marks the confluence of three developments transforming the way war is conducted worldwide:

  • Modern counterterrorism combat has shifted away from traditional military objectives — such as destroying airfields, gun emplacements, or barracks — to killing specific individuals, largely reshaping war into organized assassinations.
  • War has become increasingly privatized, with many nations outsourcing most military support services to private contractors, leaving frontline combat as virtually the only function that the US and many other militaries have not contracted out to for-profit ventures.
  • The long US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have relied heavily on elite special forces, producing tens of thousands of highly trained American commandos who can demand high private-sector salaries for defense contracting or outright mercenary work.

With Spear Operations Group’s mission in Yemen, these trends converged into a new and incendiary business: militarized contract killing, carried out by skilled American fighters.

Experts said it is almost inconceivable that the United States would not have known that the UAE — whose military the US has trained and armed at virtually every level — had hired an American company staffed by American veterans to conduct an assassination program in a war it closely monitors.

One of the mercenaries, according to three sources familiar with the operation, used to work with the CIA’s “ground branch,” the agency’s equivalent of the military’s special forces. Another was a special forces sergeant in the Maryland Army National Guard. And yet another, according to four people who knew him, was still in the Navy Reserve as a SEAL and had a top-secret clearance. He was a veteran of SEAL Team 6, or DEVGRU, the sources told BuzzFeed News. The New York Times once described that elite unit, famous for killing Osama bin Laden, as a “global manhunting machine with limited outside oversight.”

The CIA said it had no information about the mercenary assassination program, and the Navy’s Special Warfare Command declined to comment. A former CIA official who has worked in the UAE initially told BuzzFeed News there was no way that Americans would be allowed to participate in such a program. But after checking, he called back: “There were guys that were basically doing what you said.” He was astonished, he said, by what he learned: “What vetting procedures are there to make sure the guy you just smoked is really a bad guy?” The mercenaries, he said, were “almost like a murder squad.”

Whether Spear’s mercenary operation violates US law is surprisingly unclear. On the one hand, US law makes it illegal to “conspire to kill, kidnap, maim” someone in another country. Companies that provide military services to foreign nations are supposed to be regulated by the State Department, which says it has never granted any company the authority to supply combat troops or mercenaries to another country.

Yet, as BuzzFeed News has previously reported, the US doesn’t ban mercenaries. And with some exceptions, it is perfectly legal to serve in foreign militaries, whether one is motivated by idealism or money. With no legal consequences, Americans have served in the Israel Defense Forces, the French Foreign Legion, and even a militia fighting ISIS in Syria. Spear Operations Group, according to three sources, arranged for the UAE to give military rank to the Americans involved in the mission, which might provide them legal cover.

Despite operating in a legal and political gray zone, Golan heralds his brand of targeted assassinations as a precision counterterrorism strategy with fewer civilian casualties. But the Mayo operation shows that this new form of warfare carries many of the same old problems. The commandos’ plans went awry, and the intelligence proved flawed. And their strike was far from surgical: The explosive they attached to the door was designed to kill not one person but everyone in the office.

Aside from moral objections, for-profit targeted assassinations add new dilemmas to modern warfare. Private mercenaries operate outside the US military’s chain of command, so if they make mistakes or commit war crimes, there is no clear system for holding them accountable. If the mercenaries had killed a civilian in the street, who would have even investigated?

The Mayo mission exposes an even more central problem: the choice of targets. Golan insists that he killed only terrorists identified by the government of the UAE, an ally of the US. But who is a terrorist and who is a politician? What is a new form of warfare and what is just old-fashioned murder for hire? Who has the right to choose who lives and who dies — not only in the wars of a secretive monarchy like the UAE, but also those of a democracy such as the US?

BuzzFeed News has pieced together the inside story of the company’s attack on Al-Islah’s headquarters, revealing what mercenary warfare looks like now — and what it could become.

Full Story at BuzzFeed News…

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