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Syria on brink of final victory in Aleppo

With Jihadi counter offensives crushed, the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo trapped, and the US out of options, the Syrian government backed by Russia is on the brink of winning ‘the Great Battle of Aleppo’ and restoring its full control over Syria’s biggest city.

Alexander Mercouris

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Whilst all the attention is focused on the diplomacy, the fighting in Aleppo progresses steadily towards what is now starting to look like an inevitable government victory.

A review of the key events in the ‘Great Battle of Aleppo’ – likely to be the decisive battle in the Syrian war – is in order. 

At the time of the start of the Russian intervention a year ago, Aleppo – which contrary to what the Western media says is mainly government controlled and overwhelmingly loyal to the government – had become almost completely surrounded by the Jihadi rebels who in 2012 had managed to capture its eastern suburbs.

The key to the crisis the government faced in Aleppo was the Jihadi capture in March 2015 of the provincial capital and most of the western province of Idlib. 

This enabled the Jihadis to threaten the government’s heartland of Latakia, and put them in a position where they could threaten the roads linking Aleppo to the government controlled areas in the south.  At the time of the Russians’ arrival the roads to the south of Aleppo had been cut, so that Aleppo could only be resupplied by air through the airport, which remained under government control.

In the months that followed the arrival of the Russians in September 2015, Russian air support enabled the Syrian army to take the offensive. 

By the time of the first ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreement in February of this year the roads leading to Aleppo from the south had been reopened.  The Jihadis in eastern Aleppo however still retained control of the Castello road to the north of the city so that their supply routes to Turkey were still open.

It is now clear that both sides used the period following the ‘cessation of hostilities’ agreement in February to resupply and reorganise. 

On the part of the US and its allies this involved combining the various Jihadi groups (including Jabhat Al-Nusra) and putting them under the command of a single headquarters (or “operations room”) whilst resupplying them with weapons including it seems heavy weapons such as tanks and artillery, allegedly drawn from ex-Libyan army stocks. 

Though the objective of this planned offensive was (naturally) never made public, it is clear that it was aimed at capturing (or “liberating”) Aleppo. 

Presumably if Aleppo had been captured an alternative Syrian government would have been set up there, which the US, the European powers, Turkey, and the Arab states of the Gulf, would have recognised as Syria’s true or legitimate government. 

With President Assad having lost control of what was once Syria’s largest city, and the area under the control of his government reduced to Damascus and a belt of territory to its north, that would have made the demand for his removal almost irresistible.

By May US Secretary of State Kerry was issuing threats that the Russians only had until August to agree to a “political transition” in Syria (ie. President Assad’s removal from office).  Though what would happen in August if this did not happen Kerry left unsaid, with hindsight it is clear that it was the Jihadi offensive that was in preparation that he had in mind.

As previously discussed by The Duran (see here and here) Kerry followed up this threat with negotiations with the Russians in which he appears to have offered the Russsians a junior place in the US coalition against ISIS in return for their agreement to President Assad’s removal from power. 

In the event the Russians rejected this offer, whose acceptance would have contradicted the fundamental principles of their whole foreign policy.

Before the Jihadis were in a position to start their offensive, the Syrian government and the Russians got their blow in first. 

Further advances by the Syrian army backed by the Russian air force resulted in the capture in July of the Castello road, cutting off the supply route to the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo from Turkey, and encircling them.

The result was that when the Jihadi offensive against Aleppo finally got started at the end of July it found the Syrian military and the Russians prepared and waiting for them. 

As a result, though the Jihadis were briefly able at the start of their offensive in August to punch a hole through the government lines by capturing the territory of what is sometimes called ‘the Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district in Aleppo’s south western suburbs, their offensive – as The Duran predicted – quickly stalled, causing the Jihadis to suffer heavy losses at the hands of the Syrian army and the Russian air force. 

By the beginning of September the Jihadi force attacking Aleppo from the south west had spent itself, allowing the Syrian army – apparently with help from Russian Special Forces – to recapture the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district, thereby plugging the hole the Jihadis had punched through the government’s lines at the start of their offensive in August.

In passing I would say that this particular episode casts an interesting light over Western media coverage of the war. 

The brief Jihadi capture of the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district were widely trumpeted by the Western media as a great victory in banner headlines that appeared on the front pages of Western newspapers.  There was much breathless talk of how ‘the siege of Aleppo’ had been “broken”, and of how this would open the way to the capture or “liberation” of the government controlled area of Aleppo.

The Western media has by contrast barely reported the Syrian army’s recapture of the grounds of the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district in September.  It would require very close reading of Western news reports to know it had happened. 

Less observant watchers of the Syrian war who take all their news from the Western media might be confused why a siege which was ‘broken’ in August is intact now.

Whilst the fighting continued around Aleppo, the diplomacy continued as well. 

The failure of the Jihadi offensive in August led to the US proposing a new plan whereby the Syrian military would withdraw from the Castello road purportedly to allow the movement of humanitarian convoys into the city. 

This was first proposed at a time when the Jihadis were still in control of the territory of the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district and were thus in a position to threaten Aleppo’s communications to the government controlled areas to the south. 

The inducement the US this time offered the Russians was a US offer of joint operations against Al-Qaeda’s Syrian branch Jabhat Al-Nusra.

As discussed before, this plan – had it ever been accepted – would have put the government’s communications and supply routes to Aleppo at grave risk, threatening its control of the city in the event of the (inevitable) collapse of the ceasefire. 

Unsurprisingly the Russians proved unreceptive to this plan, especially as they probably always doubted that the US would act on its offer of joint operations against Jabhat Al-Nusra – all the more so since Jabhat Al-Nusra actually constitutes the bulk of the Jihadi forces fighting the Syrian government in and around Aleppo. 

By the time the plan was formally presented by Obama to Putin at the G20 summit in Hangzhou the whole premise of the plan had however collapsed following the Syrian army’s recapture of the territory of the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and of the Ramousseh district, securing the government’s supply lines to Aleppo from the south. 

The result was that the meeting between Obama and Putin at the G20 summit ended in acrimony, with the US accusing the Russians of supposedly “backtracking” on things that had already been agreed upon (almost certainly this reflects US anger at the Syrian army’s recapture of the territory of the ‘Aleppo artillery base’ and the Ramousseh district).

Following the defeat of the Jihadi offensive against south west Aleppo at the beginning of September, and the conclusive completion of the encirclement of the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo, their fate was in all practical terms sealed.

The ceasefire plan that subsequently emerged was an attempt by the more realistically minded officials in Washington – who presumably include Obama and Kerry – to save the Jihadi fighters in eastern Aleppo and to preserve them as a coherent fighting force by getting the Russians to agree to their withdrawal from eastern Aleppo via the Castello road

Though the opening of the Castello road as part of this ceasefire plan was presented as intended to make possible the delivery of humanitarian supplies to eastern Aleppo, in reality the agreement quite clearly refers to the withdrawal of Jihadi fighters together with their equipment from eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road.  The relevant term of the agreement reads as follows:

“Any Syrians can leave Aleppo via Castello Road, including armed opposition forces with their weapons, with the understanding that no harm will come to them and they can choose their destination. Opposition forces leaving Aleppo with weapons must coordinate ahead of time with UN representatives as to the time they will be using Castello Road and the number of personnel and weapons and military equipment departing.”

(bold italics added)

The ceasefire ultimately collapsed because the hardliners in Washington and the Jihadis on the ground in Syria could not in the end bring themselves to accept the surrender of eastern Aleppo to the government by agreeing to the withdrawal of Jihadi fighters from eastern Aleppo by way of the Castello road. 

The loss of a Jihadi presence in Syria’s biggest city – and with it the loss of any realistic prospect of the city’s eventual capture – would end the possibility of setting up an alternative government in Aleppo, and with it any realistic prospect of achieving regime change in Syria. 

Though there is now some talk of setting up an alternative government in Turkish controlled Jarablus, doing so in a small town on the Turkish border under the protection of the Turkish army five years after the war started is not a viable alternative, and cannot compare with the setting up of such a government in a Jihadi “liberated” Aleppo.

Since the surrender of eastern Aleppo means the abandonment of any realistic possibility of achieving regime change in Syria, the proposal to do so encountered bitter resistance from the hardliners in Washington and from the Jihadis on the ground in Syria.  That is why the ceasefire plan in the end failed.

The problem is that having ruled out a withdrawal from Aleppo the hardliners have no realistic alternative to offer. 

The Russians have made clear since the collapse of the ceasefire that any idea of sending ‘humanitarian supplies’ into eastern Aleppo via the Castello road must now be abandoned, ending any hope of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo being resupplied by that route.

Russian troops are apparently still located there, whilst the collapse of the ceasefire means that Syrian troops, who had briefly withdrawn from there, have reoccupied their former positions there, and are indeed carrying out further advances in the area.  That means that the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo can no longer obtain reinforcements or fresh supplies by way of the Castello road.  

Since the Castello road was the last remaining resupply route of the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo, that means they can no longer receive reinforcements or fresh supplies, and are reduced to trying to hold off the attacks of the Syrian army with only what they have.  By contrast the Syrian troops pressing in on them from the north and south can be resupplied and reinforced continuously, which is what is apparently actually happening.

The result of all of this, with the ceasefire having collapsed and with the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo trapped and facing defeat, is that the US is left thrashing around looking for something it can do.

There is again talk of supplying Jihadi troops, presumably in the area around Aleppo, with shoulder held surface to air missiles (‘MANPADS’) (the Saker has explained why this would not be effective) and of the US pulling out of negotiations with the Russians (it is not obvious why the US thinks that would scare or impress the Russians) but the truth is that with a head on clash with the Russian military in Syria categorically ruled out by the US military, the US has no real cards left to play.

This is the reason for all the overblown rhetoric of Russian “barbarism”, of Russia becoming a “pariah nation”, of the death threats against Russian servicemen and civilians in Syria and elsewhere, of the talk of the US bombing of Syrian military bases in eastern Syria (this clearly refers to Deir Ezzor), and of the hints of imposing further sanctions (“coercive measures”) on Russia (a non-starter), and of expelling Russia from the UN Security Council or diluting its power of veto there (ditto). 

In the absence of any viable alternative strategy this talk is intended to embarrass or scare the Russians into calling a stop on the Syrian military’s offensive in Aleppo, or – if that doesn’t work – in concealing behind a smokescreen of angry words the extent of the US’s humiliation in Aleppo .  The Russians however are obviously unimpressed and are paying no attention, and are pressing on.

None of this talk can change the military situation in Aleppo.  Though the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo are – as is to be expected – putting up a fierce fight, as they are now cut off from any hope of reinforcement or resupply in what continues to be a battle of attrition, their strength every day dwindles.  The result is that with every day that passes news comes of further Syrian army advances in the city

Unless the Jihadis’ foreign sponsors are prepared to escalate beyond anything we have seen up to now – which since it would risk a head on clash with the Russians seems very unlikely – the eventual outcome of the fighting in Aleppo is no longer in doubt.

The Syrian army’s eventual recapture of eastern Aleppo would not end the war in Syria. 

Jabhat Al-Nusra would still be in control of Idlib province.  ISIS would still be in control of Raqqah and of much of the desert region in Syria’s east.  In addition the Turkish military has been busy over the last few weeks carving out its “safe zone” for the Jihadis in north east Syria. 

It is not impossible – indeed it is highly likely – that the fall-back plan is to regroup the Jihadi forces in this Turkish controlled “safe zone” so as to launch fresh attacks on Aleppo from there in the future. 

Another option apparently once again being discussed is the old one of partitioning Syria by carving out a Sunni Jihadi state in eastern Syria.

In my opinion neither of these options is realistic or sustainable over the long term.

Having failed in the course of four years of war to capture the whole of Aleppo before the Russians arrived, and having been comprehensively defeated there since, I cannot see the Jihadis succeeding in capturing Aleppo in the future against a revitalised Syrian army that has the backing of Russia.

Nor do I think it sustainable to preserve indefinitely what would in effect be Jihadi emirates in poor peripheral regions of Syria like Idlib or Raqqah, or in a Turkish occupied “safe zone” in north east Syria, against the opposition of Syria, Iran, Iraq, the Kurdish militia, and Russia.  Not only would that be politically difficult, but with the Syrian government securely in control of Damascus and Aleppo, and with regime change in Syria definitely off the agenda, there would seem to be no point in doing so.  

In saying this I should say that I know of the talk of Western plans to build pipelines from Qatar to Europe through this area in order to bypasss Russia.  However I cannot imagine that happening whilst this area remains a fought over contested zone, which with neither the Syrian government in Damascus nor the Kurds accepting the existence of these emirates is what it would be. 

Moreover following the capture of eastern Aleppo the Syrian government’s priority is likely to be the recapture of Idlib.  Though Idlib is in difficult country and will doubtless be fanatically defended (as Raqqah will be) the US can no more prevent its recapture by the Syrian army than it can prevent the Syrian army backed by Russia from recapturing eastern Aleppo.

If the Syrian army recaptures Idlib after it recaptures Aleppo then the Syrian government will have finally secured control of the whole of Syria’s populous western regions, all its main cities, and of its Mediterranean coast.  At that point the preservation of the remaining pockets of Jihadi control in the poor and unpopulated areas of eastern Syria would seem to have even less point.

It is unwise to underestimate the fanaticism and bloody-mindedness of some people in Washington.  Unfortunately that always leaves open the possibility of some sort of dramatic escalation in Syria.  However with the Syrian army close to winning ‘the Great Battle of Aleppo’ it is increasingly looking as if Syria has finally turned the corner.

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Schaeuble, Greece and the lessons learned from a failed GREXIT (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 117.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris examine a recent interview with the Financial Times given by Wolfgang Schäuble, where the former German Finance Minister, who was charged with finding a workable and sustainable solution to the Greek debt crisis, reveals that his plan for Greece to take a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone (in order to devalue its currency and save its economy) was met with fierce resistance from Brussels hard liners, and Angela Merkel herself.

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Via FT

“Look where we’re sitting!” says Wolfgang Schäuble, gesturing at the Berlin panorama stretching out beneath us. It is his crisp retort to those who say that Europe is a failure, condemned to a slow demise by its own internal contradictions. “Walk through the Reichstag, the graffiti left by the Red Army soldiers, the images of a destroyed Berlin. Until 1990 the Berlin Wall ran just below where we are now!”

We are in Käfer, a restaurant on the rooftop of the Reichstag. The views are indeed stupendous: Berlin Cathedral and the TV Tower on Alexanderplatz loom through the mist. Both were once in communist East Berlin, cut off from where we are now by the wall. Now they’re landmarks of a single, undivided city. “Without European integration, without this incredible story, we wouldn’t have come close to this point,” he says. “That’s the crazy thing.”

As Angela Merkel’s finance minister from 2009 to 2017, Schäuble was at the heart of efforts to steer the eurozone through a period of unprecedented turbulence. But at home he is most associated with Germany’s postwar political journey, having not only negotiated the 1990 treaty unifying East and West Germany but also campaigned successfully for the capital to move from Bonn.

For a man who has done so much to put Berlin — and the Reichstag — back on the world-historical map, it is hard to imagine a more fitting lunch venue. With its open-plan kitchen and grey formica tables edged in chrome, Käfer has a cool, functional aesthetic that is typical of the city. On the wall hangs a sketch by artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, who famously wrapped the Reichstag in silver fabric in 1995.

The restaurant has one other big advantage: it is easy to reach from Schäuble’s office. Now 76, he has been confined to a wheelchair since he was shot in an assassination attempt in 1990, and mobility is an issue. Aides say he tends to avoid restaurants if he can, especially at lunchtime.

As we take our places, we talk about Schäuble’s old dream — that German reunification would be a harbinger of European unity, a step on the road to a United States of Europe. That seems hopelessly out of reach in these days of Brexit, the gilets jaunes in France, Lega and the Five Star Movement in Italy.

Some blame Schäuble himself for that. He was, after all, the architect of austerity, a fiscal hawk whose policy prescriptions during the euro crisis caused untold hardship for millions of ordinary people, or so his critics say. He became a hate figure, especially in Greece. Posters in Athens in 2015 depicted him with a Hitler moustache below the words: “Wanted — for mass poverty and devastation”.

Schäuble rejects the criticism that austerity caused the rise of populism. “Higher spending doesn’t lead to greater contentment,” he says. The root cause lies in mass immigration, and the insecurities it has unleashed. “What European country doesn’t have this problem?” he asks. “Even Sweden. The poster child of openness and the willingness to help.”

But what of the accusation that he didn’t care enough about the suffering of the southern Europeans? Austerity divided the EU and spawned a real animus against Schäuble. I ask him how that makes him feel now. “Well I’m sad, because I played a part in all of that,” he says, wistfully. “And I think about how we could have done it differently.”

I glance at the menu — simple German classics with a contemporary twist. I’m drawn to the starters, such as Oldenburg duck pâté and the Müritz smoked trout. But true to his somewhat abstemious reputation, Schäuble has no interest in these and zeroes in on the entrées. He chooses Käfer’s signature veal meatballs, a Berlin classic. I go for the Arctic char and pumpkin.

Schäuble switches seamlessly back to the eurozone crisis. The original mistake was in trying to create a common currency without a “common economic, employment and social policy” for all eurozone member states. The fathers of the euro had decided that if they waited for political union to happen first they’d wait forever, he says.

Yet the prospects for greater political union are now worse than they have been in years. “The construction of the EU has proven to be questionable,” he says. “We should have taken the bigger steps towards integration earlier on, and now, because we can’t convince the member states to take them, they are unachievable.”

Greece was a particularly thorny problem. It should never have been admitted to the euro club in the first place, Schäuble says. But when its debt crisis first blew up, it should have taken a 10-year “timeout” from the eurozone — an idea he first floated with Giorgos Papakonstantinou, his Greek counterpart between 2009 and 2011. “I told him you need to be able to devalue your currency, you’re not competitive,” he says. The reforms required to repair the Greek economy were going to be “hard to achieve in a democracy”. “That’s why you need to leave the euro for a certain period. But everyone said there was no chance of that.”

The idea didn’t go away, though. Schäuble pushed for a temporary “Grexit” in 2015, during another round of the debt crisis. But Merkel and the other EU heads of government nixed the idea. He now reveals he thought about resigning over the issue. “On the morning the decision was made, [Merkel] said to me: ‘You’ll carry on?’ . . . But that was one of the instances where we were very close [to my stepping down].”

It is an extraordinary revelation, one that highlights just how rocky his relationship with Merkel has been over the years. Schäuble has been at her side from the start, an éminence grise who has helped to resolve many of the periodic crises of her 13 years as chancellor. But it was never plain sailing.

“There were a few really bad conflicts where she knew too that we were on the edge and I would have gone,” he says. “I always had to weigh up whether to go along with things, even though I knew it was the wrong thing to do, as was the case with Greece, or whether I should go.” But his sense of duty prevailed. “We didn’t always agree — but I was always loyal.”

That might have been the case when he was a serving minister, but since becoming speaker of parliament in late 2017 he has increasingly distanced himself from Merkel. Last year, when she announced she would not seek re-election as leader of the Christian Democratic Union, the party that has governed Germany for 50 of the past 70 years, Schäuble openly backed a candidate described by the Berlin press as the “anti-Merkel”. Friedrich Merz, a millionaire corporate lawyer who is the chairman of BlackRock Germany, had once led the CDU’s parliamentary group but lost out to Merkel in a power struggle in 2002, quitting politics a few years later. He has long been seen as one of the chancellor’s fiercest conservative critics — and is a good friend of Schäuble’s.

Ultimately, in a nail-biting election last December, Merkel’s favoured candidate, Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, narrowly beat Merz. The woman universally known as “AKK” is in pole position to succeed Merkel as chancellor when her fourth and final term ends in 2021.

I ask Schäuble if it’s true that he had once again waged a battle against Merkel and once again lost. “I never went to war against Ms Merkel,” he says. “Everybody says that if I’m for Merz then I’m against Merkel. Why is that so? That’s nonsense.”

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The conclusion of Russiagate, Part I – cold, hard reality

The full text of Attorney General William P Barr’s summary is here offered, with emphases on points for further analysis.

Seraphim Hanisch

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The conclusion of the Russiagate investigation, led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, was a pivotal media watershed moment. Even at the time of this writing there is a great deal of what might be called “journalistic froth” as opinion makers and analysts jostle to make their takes on this known to the world. Passions are running very high in both the Democrat / anti-Trump camps, where the reactions range from despondency to determined rage to not swallow the gigantic red pill that the “no collusion with Russia” determination offers. In the pro-Trump camp, the mood is deserved relief, but many who support the President are also realists, and they know this conflict is not over.

Where the pivot will go and what all this means is something that will unfold, probably relatively quickly, over the next week or two. But we want to offer a starting point here from which to base further analysis. At this time, of course, there are few hard facts other than the fact that Robert Mueller III submitted his report to the US Attorney General, William Barr, who then wrote and released his own report to the public Sunday evening. We reproduce that report here in full, with some emphases added to points that we think will be relevant to forthcoming pieces on this topic.

The end of the Mueller investigation brings concerns, hopes and fears to many people, on topics such as:

  • Will President Trump now begin to normalize relations with President Putin at full speed?
  • In what direction will the Democrats pivot to continue their attacks against the President?
  • What does this finding to to the 2020 race?
  • What does this finding do to the credibility of the United States’ leadership establishment, both at home and abroad?
  • What can we learn about our nation and culture from this investigation?
  • How does a false narrative get maintained so easily for so long, and
  • What do we do, or what CAN we do to prevent this being repeated?

These questions and more will be addressed in forthcoming pieces. But for now, here is the full text of the letter written by Attorney General William Barr concerning the Russia collusion investigation.

Dear Chairman Graham, Chairman Nadler, Ranking Member Feinstein, and Ranking Member Collins:
As a supplement to the notification provided on Friday, March 22, 2019, I am writing today to advise you of the principal conclusions reached by Special Counsel Robert S. Mueller and to inform you about the status of my initial review of the report he has prepared.
The Special Counsel’s Report
On Friday, the Special Counsel submitted to me a “confidential report explaining the prosecution or declination decisions” he has reached, as required by 28 C.F.R. § 600.8(c). This report is entitled “Report on the Investigation into Russian Interference in the 2016 Presidential Election.” Although my review is ongoing, I believe that it is in the public interest to describe the report and to summarize the principal conclusions reached by the Special Counsel and the results of his investigation.
The report explains that the Special Counsel and his staff thoroughly investigated allegations that members of the presidential campaign of Donald J. Trump, and others associated with it, conspired with the Russian government in its efforts to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, or sought to obstruct the related federal investigations. In the report, the Special Counsel noted that, in completing his investigation, he employed 19 lawyers who were assisted by a team of approximately 40 FBI agents, intelligence forensic accountants, and other professional staff. The Special Counsel issued more than 2,800 subpoenas, executed nearly 500 search warrants, obtained more than 230 orders for communication records, issued almost 50 orders authorizing use of pen registers, made 13 requests to foreign governments for evidence, and interviewed approximately 500 witnesses.
The Special Counsel obtained a number of indictments and convictions of individuals and entities in connection with his investigation, all of which have been publicly disclosed. During the course of his investigation, the Special Counsel also referred several matters to other offices for further action. The report does not recommend any further indictments, nor did the Special Counsel obtain any sealed indictments that have yet to be made public. Below, I summarize the principal conclusions set out in the Special Counsel’s report.
Russian Interference in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election.
The Special Counsel’s report is divided into two parts. The first describes the results of the Special Counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The report outlines the Russian effort to influence the election and documents crimes committed by persons associated with the Russian government in connection with those efforts. The report further explains that a primary consideration for the Special Counsel’s investigation was whether any Americans including individuals associated with the Trump campaign joined the Russian conspiracies to influence the election, which would be a federal crime. The Special Counsel’s investigation did not find that the Trump campaign or anyone associated with it conspired or coordinated with Russia in its efforts to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election. As the report states: “[T]he investigation did not establish that members of the Trump Campaign conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in its election interference activities.”
The Special Counsel’s investigation determined that there were two main Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election. The first involved attempts by a Russian organization, the Internet Research Agency (IRA), to conduct disinformation and social media operations in the United States designed to sow social discord, eventually with the aim of interfering with the election. As noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that any U.S. person or Trump campaign official or associate conspired or knowingly coordinated with the IRA in its efforts, although the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian nationals and entities in connection with these activities.
The second element involved the Russian government’s efforts to conduct computer hacking operations designed to gather and disseminate information to influence the election. The Special Counsel found that Russian government actors successfully hacked into computers and obtained emails from persons affiliated with the Clinton campaign and Democratic Party organizations, and publicly disseminated those materials through various intermediaries, including WikiLeaks. Based on these activities, the Special Counsel brought criminal charges against a number of Russian military officers for conspiring to hack into computers in the United States for purposes of influencing the election. But as noted above, the Special Counsel did not find that the Trump campaign, or anyone associated with it, conspired or coordinated with the Russian government in these efforts, despite multiple offers from Russian-affiliated individuals to assist the Trump campaign.
Obstruction of Justice.
The report’s second part addresses a number of actions by the President most of which have been the subject of public reporting that the Special Counsel investigated as potentially raising obstruction-of-justice concerns. After making a “thorough factual investigation” into these matters, the Special Counsel considered whether to evaluate the conduct under Department standards governing prosecution and declination decisions but ultimately determined not to make a traditional prosecutorial judgment. The Special Counsel therefore did not draw a conclusion one way or the other as to whether the examined conduct constituted obstruction. Instead, for each of the relevant actions investigated, the report sets out evidence on both sides of the question and leaves unresolved what the Special Counsel views as “difficult issues” of law and fact concerning whether the President’s actions and intent could be viewed as obstruction. The Special Counsel states that “while this report does not conclude that the President committed a crime, it also does not exonerate him.”
The Special Counsel’s decision to describe the facts of his obstruction investigation without reaching any legal conclusions leaves it to the Attorney General to determine whether the conduct described in the report constitutes a crime. Over the course of the investigation, the Special Counsel’s office engaged in discussions with certain Department officials regarding many of the legal and factual matters at issue in the Special Counsel’s obstruction investigation. After reviewing the Special Counsel’s final report on these issues; consulting with Department officials, including the Office of Legal Counsel; and applying the principles of federal prosecution that guide our charging decisions, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and I have concluded that the evidence developed during the Special Counsel’s investigation is not sufficient to establish that the President committed an obstruction-of-justice offense. Our determination was made without regard to, and is not based on, the constitutional considerations that surround the indictment and criminal prosecution of a sitting president.
In making this determination, we noted that the Special Counsel recognized that “the evidence does not establish that the President was involved in an underlying crime related to Russian election interference,” and that, while not determinative, the absence of such evidence bears upon the President’s intent with respect to obstruction. Generally speaking, to obtain and sustain an obstruction conviction, the government would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person, acting with corrupt intent, engaged in obstructive conduct with a sufficient nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding. In cataloguing the President’s actions, many of which took place in public view, the report identifies no actions that, in our judgment, constitute obstructive conduct, had a nexus to a pending or contemplated proceeding, and were done with corrupt intent, each of which, under the Department’s principles of federal prosecution guiding charging decisions, would need to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to establish an obstruction-of-justice offense.
Status of the Department’s Review
The relevant regulations contemplate that the Special Counsel’s report will be a “confidential report” to the Attorney General. See Office of Special Counsel, 64 Fed. Reg. 37,038, 37,040-41 (July 9, 1999). As I have previously stated, however, I am mindful of the public interest in this matter. For that reason, my goal and intent is to release as much of the Special Counsel’s report as I can consistent with applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
Based on my discussions with the Special Counsel and my initial review, it is apparent that the report contains material that is or could be subject to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure which imposes restrictions on the use and disclosure of information relating to “matter[s] occurring before grand jury.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 6(e)(2)(B) Rule 6(e) generally limits disclosure of certain grand jury information in a criminal investigation and prosecution. Id. Disclosure of 6(e) material beyond the strict limits set forth in the rule is a crime in certain circumstances. See, e.g. 18 U.S.C. 401(3). This restriction protects the integrity of grand jury proceedings and ensures that the unique and invaluable investigative powers of a grand jury are used strictly for their intended criminal justice function.
Given these restrictions, the schedule for processing the report depends in part on how quickly the Department can identify the 6(e) material that by law cannot be made public. I have requested the assistance of the Special Counsel in identifying all 6(e) information contained in the report as quickly as possible. Separately, I also must identify any information that could impact other ongoing matters, including those that the Special Counsel has referred to other offices. As soon as that process is complete, I will be in a position to move forward expeditiously in determining what can be released in light of applicable law, regulations, and Departmental policies.
* * *
As I observed in my initial notification, the Special Counsel regulations provide that “the Attorney General may determine that public release of” notifications to your respective Committees “would be in the public interest.” 28 C.F.R. § 600.9(c). I have so determined, and I will disclose this letter to the public after delivering it to you.
Sincerely,
William P. Barr
Attorney General

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The consolidation of power of the global military industrial complex

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

Richard Galustian

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Humanity faces two imminent existential threats: environmental catastrophe and nuclear war.

America has elected to completely ignore scientists warnings that we have 12 years to reverse an environmental disaster.

As far as nuclear obliteration, Trump announced that the US is withdrawing from the INF treaty, which eliminated short range missiles deployed in Western Europe, on Russia’s doorstep. It’s the equivalent of Russia placing nuclear missiles in Venezuela.

A provocation, which enables US supplied missiles to be launched, only a few minutes flight time to Moscow.

That, of course sharply increases the nuclear danger. Historically on both sides, attack warnings given by automated systems have often proved faulty in the past; that, if enacted upon, would have meant the end of life as we know it.

Anyone familiar with contemporary military history knows that it’s a virtual miracle that we have so far avoided nuclear war.

Politically within Europe, the attack on democracy is very clear. Unchallenged undemocratic institutions in Brussels exist that is, in the main, part of the problem of the UK BREXIT negotiations.

Why does the public readily accept wars, engineered by our morally bankrupt governments to create ‘regime change’ in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, the Ukraine and soon to be Venezuela followed by Nicaragua and Iran, with such a muted outcry?

That preemptive nuclear attacks are even thought of shows the insanity of Western leadership controlled by vested financial interests led by the Military/Security Industrial Complex and bankers. Those same interests created both ‘industrialised’ World Wars in the 20th Century.

Our governments do not listen to the people. When two million hit the streets of London before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it made not an iota of difference to Tony Blair’s government.

Today, people’s apathy is notably caused by conditioning’, maybe better described as we’ve been ‘disciplined’ by MSM propaganda and family’s economic necessity to focus on their income, have made us so, due to our governments mismanagement of our economies.

Example, our university students are saddled with impossible to repay debt for a reason; to keep future generations ‘disciplined’.

No one has time or dare show any dissent especially given the Orwellian ‘newspeak’ environment that is created by ‘political correctness’.

Back to the subject of Russia phobia. The Western narrative against Russia is, in the main, the below:

* that Russia tried to murder the Skripals. Let the British government, who seem to be holding the Skripals against their will, prove they are not, by letting them be interviewed by the World’s Press.

* Ukraine – For over four years, the governments of NATO and the MSM have been waging the new cold war against Russia. This began with the ‘Maidan’ protests in Kyiv, Ukraine in early 2014 that culminated in the overthrow, universally acknowledged to have been engineered by the CIA, of Ukraine’s elected president and Parliament in February 2014. Putting in power an ultra neo-Nazi government, that in particular voiced hatred against all things Russian…and Jewish. Which MSM, TV news or newspapers, says so?

* That almost 100% of Crimea’s population are glad and grateful to be part of Russia. US, UK and EU says that is untrue, which is nonsense.

The demonisation of Russia is central to the multinational corporate interests that control our governments; the bankers protecting the steeply declining US Dollar, the institutions of the EU that are really controlled by Washington, who are preparing world public opinion to accept what the United States are now gearing up for, the “defence” of Europe.

At this point let us reflect on history by quoting one of America’s most distinguished soldiers, maybe of its entire history, General Smedley D. Butler, from his book ‘War is a Racket: The Antiwar Classic by America’s Most Decorated Soldier.’

“No one told these American soldiers that they might be shot down by bullets made by their own brothers here. No one told them that the ships on which they were going to cross might be torpedoed by submarines built with US patents.”

It is recommended to read more about General Smedley Butler, as he was the man chosen by US bankers and particularly the Bush family in the 1930s, to be the new fascist leader of the USA by overthrowing, in a coup, the then President Roosevelt during the period of Hitler’s rise to power. A coincidence one wonders. Butler was a true patriot; he bided his time then revealed the plot to both Congress and President Roosevelt. If you doubt this, it is suggested you research the subject.

We can stop the consolidation of power of the global military/security industrial complex, its war party associates, and specifically the US, UK and EU deep state political and financial elite that no doubt exists. We must elect new leaders, it’s that simple.

To quote Noam Chomsky “….power is always illegitimate, unless it proves itself to be legitimate. So the burden of proof is always on those who claim that some authoritarian hierarchic government is legitimate. If they can’t prove it, then it should be dismantled.”

Implicit in this statement is change by either elections or revolutions.

The French people have shown us when enough is enough by their persistent resistance to their government.

Do Europeans support the notion that the countries of the EU be the nuclear war playground of the United States?

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