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Should US Defense Secretary James Mattis by fired?

Mattis’ hand in the infamous ISIS ‘escape from Raqqa’.

Eric Zuesse

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The U.S. Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, made a secret decision to place the safety and welfare of some foreigners higher than the welfare and safety of the American people. His number-one concern turned out to be the safety and welfare of the few remaining civilians who remained in Raqqa, and the safety and welfare of the U.S.-sponsored anti-Assad, Arab and Kurdish, mercenaries who have been America’s proxy-soldiers, or “boots on the ground,” fighting against ISIS at Raqqa in Syria (where America has no lawful presence but is instead only an uninvited invader, a violator of sovereign Syrian territory and even having the audacity to be trying to overthrow Syria’s sovereign Government). As a consequence of Mattis’s placing their welfare above that of the American people (and above that of all nations which suffer from jihadist terrorists such as ISIS), thousands of ISIS terrorists were allowed by Mattis to escape from Raqqa and are now being smuggled out of Syria to perpetrate their terrorism here in the U.S., and elsewhere. All of this happened because Mattis remains determined ultimately to overthrow the rule in Syria by its Ba’athist Party and that Party’s leader, Bashar al-Assad.

Mattis had promised not to do this — he had promised never to agree to any such outcome as releasing ISIS jihadists, but instead that the goal of the mission in Raqqa was (he said) to “annihilate ISIS. The intent is to prevent the return home of escaped foreign fighters” to their lands-of-origin and to their homes. That’s the promise which any U.S. Secretary of Defense is duty-bound to honor, as his/her basic professional commitment in this entire matter — especially because that’s the commitment which his boss, Commander-in-Chief Donald Trump had given him about the matter.

Concern for the welfare of the foreign fighting forces, and concern for the welfare of the very few civilians who had still remained in Raqqa at the time of the culmination of this secret deal, are fine, but they aren’t the primary obligation of a U.S. Secretary of Defense, in any case. The United States and the other fighting forces during World War II, didn’t hesitate to kill all in a particular city, in situations where the total defeat, conquest, of the enemy, was possible in no other way than to kill everybody there (it happened on many occasions, we bombed cities: wars routinely do that) — and this rationale was used on the Allied side (and not only on the fascist side), in that war, as being the ‘justification’ for horrific bombings. It was used even regarding the firebombing of Dresden, and the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan, at the war’s end.

Each of those instances can be debated, but that they occurred is a non-debatable historical fact. It’s nothing new to say that a President’s first obligation is to his/her own nation. And, regardless of whether or not those instances were really justified, it isn’t even the point here, because the United States, and even Defense Secretary James Mattis himself, have, in precisely the Syrian matter, made quite clear that they place the extermination of all ISIS jihadists as being the supreme purpose for the United States Government in Syria. They made this commitment, to serve the national-security interests of the American people, as being the most basic of their official duties. Candidate Trump had even made this very promise during his campaign — to kill all ISIS in Iraq and Syria. And, on 19 May 2017, Commander-in-Chief Trump’s Secretary of Defense announced publicly that this was the command that he had just received from his boss.

During a press conference on May 19th, Mattis announced that President Trump “directed a tactical shift from shoving ISIS out of safe locations in an attrition fight to surrounding the enemy in their strongholds so we can annihilate ISIS. The intent is to prevent the return home of escaped foreign fighters.”

That’s quite clear instruction from the President. “Annihilate,” not imprison. “Annihilate,” not allow them to commit future acts of terrorism, not only in Syria but anywhere — including the United States. “Annihilate” means slaughter. The President, according to Mattis, wasn’t placing qualifiers on that (such as to protect the few remaining civilians left in Raqqa at the end — which became the U.S. Defense Department’s excuse for letting thousands of ISIS jihadists escape).

Trump knows, just like Mattis does, that protecting the lives of human shields — people amongst whom the enemy hide and who will be killed if the enemy itself is to be killed — is a concern, up to a point, but that, especially when dealing with jihadists, the only solution is to annihilate them regardless, so that they won’t survive to recruit more, and to perpetrate more acts of terrorism anywhere.

Mattis said:

By taking the time up front to surround these locations, instead of simply shoving them from one to another and actually reinforcing them as they fall back, based on the recommendation that we made and the direction that President Trump took we now take the time to surround them. And why do we do it?

Because the foreign fighters are the strategic threat should they return home to Tunis, to Kuala Lumpur, to Paris, to Detroit, wherever. Those foreign fighters are a threat. So by taking the time to deconflict, to surround and then attack, we carry out the annihilation campaign so we don’t simply transplant this problem from one location to another.

He took full personal responsibility for having his subordinates carry out the President’s command:

The generals who know how to do those kind of things — we don’t direct that from here. They know our intent is the foreign fighters do not get out. I leave it to their skill, their cunning, to carry that out.

One reporter asked an incoherent question “on the annihilation change to encompassing cities” and promptly asked about timelines, so that the real issue here, which is how do you protect civilians when bombing and shooting at an enemy force that’s occupying a city, could easily be ignored, but Mattis included in his answer:

it is a change in tactics, (inaudible), that we now surround these location — these concentrations of enemy. …  But the bottom line is the foreign fighters don’t get out is our intent, or at least is greatly reduced in (inaudible) get back home again to bring their hate and discontent back.

Later in the press conference, he said:

The campaign designed end state remains the same; to destroy ISIS.

It’s not to protect anyone except the American people (and in the process, to not be sending ISIS terrorists anywhere else — to not be increasing the terrorist threats to Europe or anywhere).

However, there was also this remarkable and totally uncalled-for spewing-of-hate against Shiite Iran, and against the Shiite leader of Syria, Bashar al-Assad:

SEC. MATTIS:  The Iranian regime has been unhelpful. As you all know, some years ago when the Syrian people rose up against Assad, they would have been successful except for the Iranian reinforcements, full — full support for Assad. That’s the reason he was able to withstand that difficult time and be still in position now. So Iran’s activities have not been helpful.

They’ve been hurtful, they’ve extended a war that should have ended long ago. I’ve been in a lot of refugee camps over my years on active duty from — from the Dalmatian Coast to Africa and other places, seen boat people pulled out of the water off Vietnam. I have never seen refugees as traumatized as I’ve seen come out of Syria. Never. And Iran bears no little responsibility for that situation.

Either he’s stupid there, or he’s lying, because all of the actual scientific polling of Syrians, even the polling that’s done by Western polling firms and on behalf of governments that are dead-set against Assad’s continuing to lead Syria, has shown, consistently, that a clear majority of Syrians want him to continue leading the country. Furthermore, all of the reliable reports from Syrian battlefields have indicated that there are far more people who have been fleeing from rebel-held territory to Government-held territory, than in the reverse direction, from Government-held territory to rebel-held territory. However, with Mattis’s clear prejudice against Iran and against Shia, in favor of Sunnis, and especially “James Mattis’ 33-Year Grudge Against Iran”, it would be understandable why Mattis would have allowed thousands of ISIS terrorists (ISIS being 100% a fundamentalist Sunni operation) to escape. But Mattis’s doing this, is clearly in violation of what he says was the command from his Commander-in-Chief. He’d have no argument if Trump fired him for this. And then, should come the court-martial.

The November 13th news-report from the BBC regarding this matter, was absolutely devastating against Mattis — and, indirectly, devastating also against U.S. President Trump, for not subsequently firing him, for having violated the President’s explicit command. Here are highlights from that BBC report:

Raqqa’s Dirty Secret

[date not indicated but 13 November 2017]

The BBC has uncovered details of a secret deal that let hundreds of IS fighters and their families escape from Raqqa, under the gaze of the US and British-led coalition and Kurdish-led forces who control the city.

Abu Fawzi and dozens of other drivers were promised thousands of dollars for the task but it had to remain secret.

The deal to let IS fighters escape from Raqqa — de facto capital of their self-declared caliphate — had been arranged by local officials. It came after four months of fighting that left the city obliterated and almost devoid of people. It would spare lives and bring fighting to an end. The lives of the Arab, Kurdish and other fighters opposing IS would be spared.

But it also enabled many hundreds of IS fighters to escape from the city. At the time, neither the US and British-led coalition, nor the SDF, which it backs, wanted to admit their part.

Has the pact, which stood as Raqqa’s dirty secret, unleashed a threat to the outside world — one that has enabled militants to spread far and wide across Syria and beyond?

Great pains were taken to hide it from the world.

One of the drivers maps out the route of the convoy

“We were scared from the moment we entered Raqqa,” he says. “We were supposed to go in with the SDF, but we went alone. As soon as we entered, we saw IS fighters with their weapons and suicide belts on. They booby-trapped our trucks. If something were to go wrong in the deal, they would bomb the entire convoy. Even their children and women had suicide belts on.”

The Kurdish-led SDF cleared Raqqa of media. Islamic State’s escape from its base would not be televised.

Publicly, the SDF said that only a few dozen fighters had been able to leave, all of them locals.

But one lorry driver tells us that isn’t true.

“We took out around 4,000 people including women and children — our vehicle and their vehicles combined. When we entered Raqqa, we thought there were 200 people to collect. In my vehicle alone, I took 112 people.”

This wasn’t so much an evacuation — it was the exodus of so-called Islamic State.

It was also understood that no foreigners would be allowed to leave Raqqa alive.

Back in May, US Defence Secretary James Mattis described the fight against IS as a war of “annihilation”.“Our intention is that the foreign fighters do not survive the fight to return home to north Africa, to Europe, to America, to Asia, to Africa. We are not going to allow them to do so,” he said on US television.

But foreign fighters — those not from Syria and Iraq — were also able to join the convoy, according to the drivers. One explains:

There was a huge number of foreigners. France, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Pakistan, Yemen, Saudi, China, Tunisia, Egypt…”

Other drivers chipped in with the names of different nationalities.

In light of the BBC investigation, the coalition now admits the part it played in the deal. Some 250 IS fighters were allowed to leave Raqqa, with 3,500 of their family members.

“We didn’t want anyone to leave,” says Col Ryan Dillon, spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the Western coalition against IS.

“But this goes to the heart of our strategy, ‘by, with and through’ local leaders on the ground. It comes down to Syrians — they are the ones fighting and dying, they get to make the decisions regarding operations,” he says.

While a Western officer was present for the negotiations, they didn’t take an “active part” in the discussions. Col Dillon maintains, though, that only four foreign fighters left and they are now in SDF custody.

IS family members prepare to leave

Raqqa’s freedom was bought with blood, sacrifice and compromise. The deal freed its trapped civilians and ended the fight for the city. No SDF forces would have to die storming the last IS hideout.

The men who cut fences, climb walls and run through the tunnels out of Syria are reporting a big increase in people fleeing. The collapse of the caliphate is good for business.

“In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had lots of families leaving Raqqa and wanting to leave for Turkey. This week alone, I personally oversaw the smuggling of 20 families,” says Imad, a smuggler on the Turkish-Syrian border.

“Most were foreign but there were Syrians as well.”

He now charges $600 (£460) per person and a minimum of $1,500 for a family.

Walid, another smuggler on a different stretch of the Turkish border, tells the same story.

“We had an influx of families over the past few weeks,” he says. “There were some large families crossing. Our job is to smuggle them through. We’ve had a lot of foreign families using our services.”

IS fighters were bombed to the negotiating table on 10 October.

“Air strikes put pressure on us for almost 10 hours. They killed about 500 or 600 people, fighters and families,” says Abu Musab Huthaifa.

“After 10 hours, negotiations kicked off again. Those who initially rejected the truce changed their minds. And thus we left Raqqa,” says Abu Musab.

“We didn’t have heavy weapons anyway,” Abu Musab says.

Now in jail on the Turkish-Syrian border, he has revealed details of what happened to the convoy when it made it safely to IS territory.

He says the convoy went to the countryside of eastern Syria, not far from the border with Iraq.

Thousands escaped, he says.

Abu Musab’s own attempted escape serves as a warning to the West of the threat from those freed from Raqqa.

How could one of the most notorious of IS chiefs escape?

Abu Basir al-Faransy, a young Frenchman, left before the going got really tough in Raqqa. He’s now in Idlib, where he says he wants to stay.

The fighting in Raqqa was intense, even back then, he says.

“We were front-line fighters, waging war almost constantly [against the Kurds], living a hard life. We didn’t know Raqqa was about to be besieged.”

Disillusioned, weary of the constant fighting and fearing for his life, Abu Basir decided to leave for the safety of Idlib. He now lives in the city.

He was part of an almost exclusively French group within IS, and before he left some of his fellow fighters were given a new mission.

There are some French brothers from our group who left for France to carry out attacks in what would be called a ‘day of reckoning.’”

Much is hidden beneath the rubble of Raqqa and the lies around this deal might easily have stayed buried there too.

The numbers leaving were much higher than local tribal elders admitted. At first the coalition refused to admit the extent of the deal.

Raqqa was effectively IS’s capital but it was also a cage — fighters were trapped there.

The deal to save Raqqa may have been worth it.

But it has also meant battle-hardened militants have spread across Syria and further afield — and many of them aren’t done fighting yet.

All names of the people featured in the report have been changed.

Whereas the British BBC thinks that “The deal to save Raqqa may have been worth it,” this was an American deal, and it violated what U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis publicly stated to be the instruction he had received from his Commander-in-Chief. If Trump intends to retain him, Trump should explain why it was okay for his Defense Secretary to violate his command. Allowing that disobedience to happen is a dangerous precedent — and it’s occurring on top of the danger, now, of the thousands of ISIS terrorists whom the U.S. Government allowed to escape.

Furthermore, when one looks at the record of what candidate Trump had said during his campaign, firing Mattis is clearly in accord with what Trump was saying at that time, such as (in the 15 December 2015 Republican primaries debate) “We have to get rid of ISIS first. After we get rid of ISIS, we’ll start thinking about it [invading Iran]. But we can’t be fighting Assad. And when you’re fighting Assad, you are fighting Russia.” So, President Trump knows that Mattis’s action here, placing the war against Russia’s allies above the war against ISIS, is profoundly wrong, and that it threatens WW III.

The site of the brilliant anonymous geostrategic analyst who writes the “Moon of Alabama” blog, posted, on November 23rd, his interpretation of the evidence, that Trump is just the stupid stooge of a “junta” consisting of the generals (including Mattis) that Trump brought in to run U.S. foreign affairs. He opens:

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2017/11/syria-why-the-us-occupation-or-presence-is-unsustainable.html

November 23, 2017

Syria – This U.S. Occupation — Or “Presence” — Is Unsustainable

The U.S. is now occupying north-east Syria. It wants to blackmail the Syrian government into “regime change”. The occupation is unsustainable, its aim is unattainable. The generals who devised these plans lack strategic insight. They listen to the wrong people.

The Islamic State no longer holds any significant ground in Syria and Iraq. What is left of it in a few towns of the Euphrates valley will soon be gone. Its remnants will be some of several terror gangs in the region. Local forces can and will hold those under adequate control. The Islamic State is finished. This is why the Lebanese Hizbullah announced to pull back all its advisors and units from Iraq. It is the reason why Russia began to repatriate some of its units from Syria. Foreign forces are no longer needed to eliminate the remains of ISIS.

Map by Southfront – bigger

In its UN Security Council resolutions 2249 (2015) for the fight against ISIS the UNSC was:

Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of all States in accordance with purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter, …

So, he emphasizes that the U.S. is a foreign invader into Syria and has no legitimate right to have troops and military bases there. He closes by placing all of the blame for Trump’s continuation of Obama’s invasion of Syria, upon the people who run Israel, and none of the blame upon the Saud family, who run Saudi Arabia:

The military junta that controls Trump and the White House, (former) generals McMaster, Kelly and Mattis, are not acting in the interest of the United States, its citizens and troops.

They are following the call of the Zionist Jewish Institute for National Security of America which is pushing for a war on all Iran related entities and interests in the Middle East. JINSA advertises its huge influence on the higher U.S. officer corps. …

My own analysis of the situation explains (which he ignores) the arrangement that the royal Saud family and Israel’s and America’s billionaires have had for a long time, by which they jointly control the U.S. Government, at least as regards America’s policies in the Middle East. And, actually, the Saudi royal family control the U.S. Government even more than Israel’s regime does.

Because Russia will not allow the U.S. (fronting for the Sauds and Israel) to conquer Syria, Lebanon, and Iran (because Putin knows that next the U.S. would invade Russia), a significant possibility exists that the U.S. aristocracy’s effort (on behalf of the Sauds and Israel, as well as of American firms including oil companies and Halliburton) to conquer these countries, will produce World War III — Putin is fearing a sudden blitz nuclear first-strike attack against Russia so fast Russia won’t have time even to launch their retaliation. (The U.S. Government no longer believes in nuclear weapons for “Mutually Assured Destruction” deterring both sides against either side’s striking first to blitz-eliminate the other side’s retaliatory ability, but now believes instead in nuclear weapons for actual conquest — to actually win a nuclear war against Russia — and that’s what the U.S. regime is trying to put into place, starting with the conquest of Syria and of Russia’s other allied nations.)

Thus far, the U.S. alliance (including the Sauds and Israel) have not stopped their invasion of Syria, even after it has become clear that, when Syria will decide to impose its sovereignty and finally order all U.S.-and-allied invading forces to leave Syria, World War III (between Russia, including its allies Iran and China, versus the U.S. and its allies NATO and the fundamentalist-Jewish Israel and the fundamentalist-Sunni Arab oil kingdoms), will be the result, if the U.S. fails to comply with that demand from the sovereign Government of the land. If the U.S. fails even to start its withdrawal by Syria’s pre-set deadline, Russia would then (in fulfillment of the reason for which Russia was invited into the war to defend Syria’s sovereignty) promptly bomb all U.S.-and-allied controlled parts of Syria, and (since WW III would thus already have started in that case) might simultaneously launch all of its strategic arsenal against the U.S. mainland and against all U.S. allies that are also occupying Syria — launch these strategic weapons at that same time in the hope of reducing the destruction directly of Russia itself by whatever U.S.-and-allied forces remain in the wake of Russia’s blitz-nuclear-first-strike against the U.S. invaders/occupiers. The U.S. had already invaded, and has for several years occupied, Syria; but, this will be the moment when Syria, backed by Russia, demand the end of that invasion/occupation.

The U.S.-Saudi-Israeli aristocracies’ grabs for Iran, Syria, and Lebanon, could thus end the world. It probably will happen unless the U.S. alliance quits grabbing for the entire world.

The American Century (which in recent decades became instead, because of the U.S. aristocracy, the fundamentalist-Sunni and the fundamentalist Jewish and the fundamentalist Christian ‘century’) has ended, but now the real question is whether the U.S. aristocracy will go so far as global nuclear homicide/suicide, in order to resist that established fact, by trying to defeat Syria in at least a part of that nation. James Mattis clearly is a key person in that attempt to conquer at least a portion of Syria. America’s shame would not be in its being destroyed but in its having forced WW III and thus the destruction of everything. It would be the U.S. aristocracy’s shame; but perhaps that aristocracy is too psychopathic even to understand shame. Anyway, there’d then soon be no future in which to contemplate whatever they were, for for their having destroyed the world: they would not be viewed by future history, because there’d be none.

As regards the historical origin of this situation, my “Understanding the Power-Contest Between Aristocracies” presents that background information.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

 

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Skripal and Khashoggi: A Tale of Two Disappearances

Two disappearances, and two different responses.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Two disappearances, and two very different responses from Western governments, which illustrates their rank hypocrisy.

When former Russian spy Sergei Skripal went missing in England earlier this year, there was almost immediate punitive action by the British government and its NATO allies against Moscow. By contrast, Western governments are straining with restraint towards Saudi Arabia over the more shocking and provable case of murdered journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

The outcry by Western governments and media over the Skripal affair was deafening and resulted in Britain, the US and some 28 other countries expelling dozens of Russian diplomats on the back of unsubstantiated British allegations that the Kremlin tried to assassinate an exiled spy with a deadly nerve agent. The Trump administration has further tightened sanctions citing the Skripal incident.

London’s case against Moscow has been marked by wild speculation and ropey innuendo. No verifiable evidence of what actually happened to Sergei Skripal (67) and his daughter Yulia has been presented by the British authorities. Their claim that President Vladimir Putin sanctioned a hit squad armed with nerve poison relies on sheer conjecture.

All we know for sure is that the Skripals have been disappeared from public contact by the British authorities for more than seven months, since the mysterious incident of alleged poisoning in Salisbury on March 4.

Russian authorities and family relatives have been steadfastly refused any contact by London with the Skripal pair, despite more than 60 official requests from Moscow in accordance with international law and in spite of the fact that Yulia is a citizen of the Russian Federation with consular rights.

It is an outrage that based on such thin ice of “evidence”, the British have built an edifice of censure against Moscow, rallying an international campaign of further sanctions and diplomatic expulsions.

Now contrast that strenuous reaction, indeed hyper over-reaction, with how Britain, the US, France, Canada and other Western governments are ever-so slowly responding to Saudi Arabia over the Khashoggi case.

After nearly two weeks since Jamal Khashoggi entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, the Saudi regime is this week finally admitting he was killed on their premises – albeit, they claim, in a “botched interrogation”.

Turkish and American intelligence had earlier claimed that Khashoggi was tortured and murdered on the Saudi premises by a 15-member hit squad sent from Riyadh.

Even more grisly, it is claimed that Khashoggi’s body was hacked up with a bone saw by the killers, his remains secreted out of the consulate building in boxes, and flown back to Saudi Arabia on board two private jets connected to the Saudi royal family.

What’s more, the Turks and Americans claim that the whole barbaric plot to murder Khashoggi was on the orders of senior Saudi rulers, implicating Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. The latest twist out of Riyadh, is an attempt to scapegoat “rogue killers” and whitewash the House of Saudi from culpability.

The fact that 59-year-old Khashoggi was a legal US resident and a columnist for the Washington Post has no doubt given his case such prominent coverage in Western news media. Thousands of other victims of Saudi vengeance are routinely ignored in the West.

Nevertheless, despite the horrific and damning case against the Saudi monarchy, the response from the Trump administration, Britain and others has been abject.

President Trump has blustered that there “will be severe consequences” for the Saudi regime if it is proven culpable in the murder of Khashoggi. Trump quickly qualified, however, saying that billion-dollar arms deals with the oil-rich kingdom will not be cancelled. Now Trump appears to be joining in a cover-up by spinning the story that the Khashoggi killing was done by “rogue killers”.

Britain, France and Germany this week issued a joint statement calling for “a credible investigation” into the disappearance. But other than “tough-sounding” rhetoric, none of the European states have indicated any specific sanctions, such as weapons contracts being revoked or diplomatic expulsions.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was “concerned” by the gruesome claims about Khashoggi’s killing, but he reiterated that Ottawa would not be scrapping a $15 billion sale of combat vehicles to Riyadh.

The Saudi rulers have even threatened retaliatory measures if sanctions are imposed by Western governments.

Saudi denials of official culpability seem to be a brazen flouting of all reason and circumstantial evidence that Khashoggi was indeed murdered in the consulate building on senior Saudi orders.

This week a glitzy international investor conference in Saudi Arabia is being boycotted by top business figures, including the World Bank chief, Jim Yong Kim, JP Morgan CEO Jamie Dimon and Britain’s venture capitalist Richard Branson. Global firms like Ford and Uber have pulled out, as have various media sponsors, such as CNN, the New York Times and Financial Times. Withdrawal from the event was in response to the Khashoggi affair.

A growing bipartisan chorus of US Senators, including Bob Corker, Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Chris Murphy, have called for the cancellation of American arms sales to Saudi Arabia, as well as for an overhaul of the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Still, Trump has rebuffed calls for punitive response. He has said that American jobs and profits depend on the Saudi weapons market. Some 20 per cent of all US arms sales are estimated to go to the House of Saud.

The New York Times this week headlined: “In Trump’s Saudi Bargain, the Bottom Line Proudly Stands Out”.

The Trump White House will be represented at the investment conference in Saudi Arabia this week – dubbed “Davos in the Desert” by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. He said he was attending in spite of the grave allegations against the Saudi rulers.

Surely the point here is the unseemly indulgence by Western governments of Saudi Arabia and its so-called “reforming” Crown Prince. It is remarkable how much credulity Washington, London, Paris, Ottawa and others are affording the Saudi despots who, most likely, have been caught redhanded in a barbarous murder.

Yet, when it comes to Russia and outlandish, unproven claims that the Kremlin carried out a bizarre poison-assassination plot, all these same Western governments abandon all reason and decorum to pile sanctions on Russia based on lurid, hollow speculation. The blatant hypocrisy demolishes any pretense of integrity or principle.

Here is another connection between the Skripal and Khashoggi affairs. The Saudis no doubt took note of the way Britain’s rulers have shown absolute disregard and contempt for international law in their de facto abduction of Sergei and Yulia Skripal. If the British can get away with that gross violation, then the Saudis probably thought that nobody would care too much if they disappeared Jamal Khashoggi.

Grotesquely, the way things are shaping up in terms of hypocritical lack of action by the Americans, British and others towards the Saudi despots, the latter might just get away with murder. Not so Russia. The Russians are not allowed to get away with even an absurd fantasy.

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US-China trade war heats up as surplus hits record $34 Billion (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 136.

Alex Christoforou

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According to a report by the AFP, China’s trade surplus with the United States ballooned to a record $34.1 billion in September, despite a raft of US tariffs, official data showed Friday, adding fuel to the fire of a worsening trade war.

Relations between the world’s two largest economies have soured sharply this year, with US President Donald Trump vowing on Thursday to inflict economic pain on China if it does not blink.
The two countries imposed new tariffs on a massive amount of each other’s goods mid-September, with the US targeting $200 billion in Chinese imports and Beijing firing back at $60 billion worth of US goods.

“China-US trade friction has caused trouble and pounded our foreign trade development,” customs spokesman Li Kuiwen told reporters Friday.

But China’s trade surplus with the US grew 10 percent in September from a record $31 billion in August, according to China’s customs administration. It was a 22 percent jump from the same month last year.

China’s exports to the US rose to $46.7 billion while imports slumped to $12.6 billion.

China’s overall trade — what it buys and sells with all countries including the US — logged a $31.7 billion surplus, as exports rose faster than imports.

Exports jumped 14.5 percent for September on-year, beating forecasts from analysts polled by Bloomberg News, while imports rose 14.3 percent on-year.

While the data showed China’s trade remained strong for the month, analysts forecast the trade war will start to hurt in coming months.

China’s export jump for the month suggests exporters were shipping goods early to beat the latest tariffs, said ANZ’s China economist Betty Wang, citing the bounce in electrical machinery exports, much of which faced the looming duties.

“We will watch for downside risks to China’s exports” in the fourth quarter, Wang said.

Analysts say a sharp depreciation of the yuan has also helped China weather the tariffs by making its exports cheaper.

“The big picture is the Chinese exports have so far held up well in the face of escalating trade tensions and cooling global growth, most likely thanks to the competitiveness boost provided by a weaker renminbi (yuan),” said Julian Evans-Pritchard, China economist at Capital Economics.

“With global growth likely to cool further in the coming quarters and US tariffs set to become more punishing, the recent resilience of exports is unlikely to be sustained,” he said.

According to Bloomberg US President Donald Trump’s new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement isn’t that different from the North American Free Trade Agreement that it replaced. But hidden in the bowels of the new trade deal is a clause, Article 32.10, that could have a far-reaching impact. The new agreement requires member states to get approval from the other members if they initiate trade negotiations with a so-called non-market economy. In practice, “non-market” almost certainly means China. If, for example, Canada begins trade talks with China, it has to show the full text of the proposed agreement to the U.S. and Mexico — and if either the U.S. or Mexico doesn’t like what it sees, it can unilaterally kick Canada out of the USMCA.

Although it seems unlikely that the clause would be invoked, it will almost certainly exert a chilling effect on Canada and Mexico’s trade relations with China. Forced to choose between a gargantuan economy across the Pacific and another one next door, both of the U.S.’s neighbors are almost certain to pick the latter.

This is just another part of Trump’s general trade waragainst China. It’s a good sign that Trump realizes that unilateral U.S. efforts alone won’t be enough to force China to make concessions on issues like currency valuation, intellectual-property protection and industrial subsidies. China’s export markets are much too diverse:

If Trump cuts the U.S. off from trade with China, the likeliest outcome is that China simply steps up its exports to other markets. That would bind the rest of the world more closely to China and weaken the global influence of the U.S. China’s economy would take a small but temporary hit, while the U.S. would see its position as the economic center of the world slip into memory.

Instead, to take on China, Trump needs a gang. And that gang has to be much bigger than just North America. But most countries in Europe and East Asia probably can’t be bullied into choosing between the U.S. and China. — their ties to the U.S. are not as strong as those of Mexico and Canada. Countries such as South Korea, Germany, India and Japan will need carrots as well as sticks if they’re going to join a U.S.-led united trade front against China.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the escalating trade war between the United States and China, and the record trade surplus that positions China with a bit more leverage than Trump anticipated.

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Via Zerohedge Trump Threatens China With More Tariffs, Does Not Seek Economic “Depression”

US equity futures dipped in the red after President Trump threatened to impose a third round of tariffs on China and warned that Chinese meddling in U.S. politics was a “bigger problem” than Russian involvement in the 2016 election.

During the same interview with CBS’s “60 Minutes”, in which Trump threatened to impose sanctions against Saudi Arabia if the Saudis are found to have killed WaPo reported Khashoggi, and which sent Saudi stock plunging, Trump said he “might,” impose a new round of tariffs on China, adding that while he has “great chemistry” with Chinese President Xi Jinping, and noting that Xi “wants to negotiate”, he doesn’t “know that that’s necessarily going to continue.” Asked if American products have become more expensive due to tariffs on China, Trump said that “so far, that hasn’t turned out to be the case.”

“They can retaliate, but they can’t, they don’t have enough ammunition to retaliate,” Trump says, “We do $100 billion with them. They do $531 billion with us.”

Trump was also asked if he wants to push China’s economy into a depression to which the US president said “no” before comparing the country’s stock-market losses since the tariffs first launched to those in 1929, the start of the Great Depression in the U.S.

“I want them to negotiate a fair deal with us. I want them to open their markets like our markets are open,” Trump said in the interview that aired Sunday. So far, the U.S. has imposed three rounds of tariffs on Chinese imports totaling $250 billion, prompting China to retaliate against U.S. products. The president previously has threatened to hit virtually all Chinese imports with duties.

Asked about his relationship with Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin’s alleged efforts to influence the 2016 presidential election, Trump quickly turned back to China. “They meddled,” he said of Russia, “but I think China meddled too.”

“I think China meddled also. And I think, frankly, China … is a bigger problem,” Trump said, as interviewer Lesley Stahl interrupted him for “diverting” from a discussion of Russia.

Shortly before an audacious speech by Mike Pence last weekend, in which the US vice president effectively declared a new cold war on Beijing (see “Russell Napier: Mike Pence Announces Cold War II”), Trump made similar accusations during a speech at the United Nations last month, which his aides substantiated by pointing to long-term Chinese influence campaigns and an advertising section in the Des Moines Register warning farmers about the potential effects of Trump’s tariffs.

Meanwhile, in a rare U.S. television appearance, China’s ambassador to the U.S. said Beijing has no choice but to respond to what he described as a trade war started by the U.S.

“We never wanted a trade war, but if somebody started a trade war against us, we have to respond and defend our own interests,” said China’s Ambassador Cui Tiankai.

Cui also dismissed as “groundless” the abovementioned suggestion by Vice President Mike Pence that China has orchestrated an effort to meddle in U.S. domestic affairs. Pence escalated the rhetoric in a speech Oct. 4, saying Beijing has created a “a whole-of-government approach” to sway American public opinion, including spies, tariffs, coercive measures and a propaganda campaign.

Pence’s comments were some of the most critical about China by a high-ranking U.S. official in recent memory. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo got a lecture when he visited Beijing days later, about U.S. actions that were termed “completely out of line.” The tough words followed months of increases tit-for-tat tariffs imposed by Washington and Beijing that have ballooned to cover hundreds of billions of dollars in bilateral trade.

During a recent interview with National Public Radio, Cui said the U.S. has “not sufficiently” dealt in good faith with the Chinese on trade matters, saying “the U.S. position keeps changing all the time so we don’t know exactly what the U.S. would want as priorities.”

Meanwhile, White House economic director Larry Kudlow said on “Fox News Sunday” that President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping will “probably meet” at the G-20 summit in Buenos Aires in late November. “There’s plans and discussions and agendas” being discussed, he said. So far, talks with China on trade have been “unsatisfactory,” Kudlow said. “We’ve made our asks” on allegations of intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers, he added. “We have to have reciprocity.”

Addressing the upcoming meeting, Cui said he was present at two previous meetings of Xi and Trump, and that top-level communication “played a key role, an irreplaceable role, in guiding the relationship forward.” Despite current tensions the two have a “good working relationship,” he said.

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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