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Trump couldn’t engage in detente with Russia, but America’s Middle East allies have

Russia is ‘leading from the front’ by creating partnerships with states in the Middle East, just as the US ‘lead from behind’ strategy of employing non-state proxy actors to achieve its aims, has failed.

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Over the last two months, Russia has been using increasingly direct language to state the following:

–The US spares terrorists in Syria including al-Nusrea

–The biggest attacks on Syrian and Russian troops in Deir ez-Zor come from US-proxy SDF held positions

–The US and its proxies collude on the battle field with ISIS

–ISIS moves freely around US controlled areas in Syria and attacks Syrian and Russian forces from those positions

These are incredibly serious allegations, although they are little different than what the Syrian government has been saying for many years. The allegations amount to backing up Damascus, Wikileaks and some of things said by candidate Trump, implying that the US is seriously in cahoots with ISIS, that the known US proxy SDF is a also in cahoots with ISIS and is de-facto a militant group working to undermine Syria’s security and territorial unity and that the US is not actually fighting terrorism in Syria, contrary to boasts from Washington.

In this sense, Russia has seemingly given up on trying to insensitivity the US into cooperation and is instead telling blunt truths about the negative role the US plays in Syrian conflict, truths that Russia had previously been less reticent to spell out so overtly. While Russia has more or less given up on Washington, Moscow remains highly eager to work with traditional US allies throughout the Middle East and Eurasia, many of whom are now equally eager to work with Russia and take advantages of the many benefits of good relations with the Eurasian super-power.

Israel, which is a close US ally and a country that still maintains good relations with Russia, has also weighed in on this new reality. Hardline, Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman has recently said that the US must do more in the region to counter Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and refreshed Arab powers like Syria. While Israel does not necessarily mind Russia’s military presence in the region, Tel Aviv is well aware that Russia’s geo-political strategy in the Middle East is one balance and generally, one of fairness. This contrasts with the adversarial US approach, which virtually always takes Israel’s side over that of any country having a dispute with Tel Aviv. With Russia becoming a more important player in the region and with the US slowly but surely coming to realise its own failures, Israel will have to get used to the Russian language of compromise becoming increasingly prominent. Clearly Israel would prefer US language of undying pro-Israeli rhetoric, but realities are changing and Israel knows this.

While all this is being said, America’s two most prominent state allies in the region, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, are speaking more and more like Russia. Turkey is now standing with Iran and Iraq in saying Ankara has a commitment to the territorial integrity of Syria, Iraq and the wider Arab world and just yesterday the Saudi Foreign Minister said the same, even going further stating that Riyadh supports the stability of the political institutions of Syria. When decoding the diplomatic language, Saudi is essentially saying that it has dropped its long held militant opposition to the secular government of Syrian Prettiness Bashar al-Assad. During a recent meeting of the so-called Syrian opposition in Saudi, the Saudi regime delegates more or less said the same thing.

Saudi FM offers thinly veiled criticism of US during press conference with Sergey Lavrov

Just as Russia’s new found partnership with Turkey has brought Ankara’s leadership closer to Moscow’s regional partners, namely Iran, it is now highly probable that the wide ranging meeting between Saudi and Russian leaders in Moscow, could help ease tensions in the Persian Gulf.

Earlier this year, the Qatari Foreign Minister praised Russia’s role of being a neutral power in the Saudi, Bahraini, Emirati and Egyptian row with Qatar. Furthermore, Saudi Arabia which has led the boycott of Qatar, is now also praising Russia, using incredibly warm language, especially when one considers Saudi’s recent positions in the region which ran totally contrary to that of Russia.

In this sense, if any major power is going to ease tensions between Riyadh and Doha, this will likely be Russia.

As I explained yesterday, by creating an intertwined relationship between Saudi and Russia, this is actually good for Iran, as it gives Russia the ability to use economic incentives to quietly tell Saudi to tone down its anti-Iranian rhetoric. In other words, just as Russia brought Turkey and Iran together, that same economic and geo-political influence can now help to at least ease tensions between Riyadh and Tehran. For clear ideological reasons, Tehran and Riyadh will likely never be partners, but nor do they need to live in a state of constant tension. This is now increasingly possible.

Russia and Saudi Arabia: A case of ‘PEACE FOR OIL and OIL FOR PEACE’

Russia has also exposed a great many failures in Saudi’s own 20 year + geo-strategy. For all the money that Saudi has poured into proxy militant and terrorist groups, in attempts to foment regime change, none of it has worked, particularly in Syria. Iraq’s predominately Shi’a government is stabilising and has an ally in not only non-Arab Shi’a Iran but also now in non-Arab Sunni Turkey. Saudi is increasingly having to accept this reality. In Syria, Saudi’s failure is America’s failure and while it was Turkey’s failure, Ankara has saved face by more or less switching to the winning side, before the conflict officially ends.

In respect of Libya, this was always far more of a Qatari “project regime change” than a Saudi one and Saudi’s increasingly close relations with Sisi’s Egypt which supports the secular Libyan House of Representatives, effectively makes Riyadh’s machinations in Libya redundant, as Egypt has taken the lead. Saudi can do little more than tacitly consent to Egypt’s support for Libya’s leading secular faction, led by Khalifa Haftar.

Finally, with oil prices continuing to fall and with China’s progress in renewable energy threatening to keep the oil price down for many years to come, Saudi has found that as a non-OPEC energy producer, Russia may be a more useful economic partner than the United States, not least because quietly many in the Saudi deep state are privately upset that the US deep state favours former Crown Prince Mohammad bin Nayef (MBN) over the current Crown Prince and lead Saudi policy maker, Mohammad bin Salman (MBS).

After years of close relations with the US, Saudi is now discovering what it is like when leading figures in Washington seek to control the internal political workings of one’s state, and the pro-MBS faction which apparently includes the elderly Saudi King, are not entirely happy about that. Hence. the Saudi Foreign Minister stated that both Saudi and Russia are similar in that they do not seek to interfere in the internal workings of other countries, nor impose alien political systems upon foreign states.

Forgetting the fact that in Saudi’s case, this is historically untrue, the intent of the statement is far more crucial than the context. Saudi is saying that it respects Russia’s hands off approach to the internal realities in the countries it works with, while Saudi is expressing its growing exacerbation over US aims for Saudi which some are saying may go as far as to foment a palace coup in Riyadh in favour of MBN and his supporters.

In this sense, one could say that the US observed the Qatar crisis as a test to see how united a Gulfi country’s elites would be in respect of supporting an embattled leader. In Qatar, the Emir has not fallen and this means that the US might have more difficulty than originally thought if they really seek to foment a palace coup in Saudi Arabia.

Russia is also aware that as oil prices inevitably fall in coming years and as Saudi at least attempts to diversify its economy in line with MBS’ ‘Vision 2030’ programme, Saudi may increasingly fall into Russia’s orbit in the next decade.  As an energy producer desperate for unity among non-OPEC producers such as Russia and also as a country that will rely increasingly on the expertise of countries like Russia (and its ally China) to diversify an economy that since the inception of the Saudi state, has been entirely dependant on energy exports, Riyadh may well find itself embracing the so-called ‘eastern’ model of global commerce.

Saudi Arabia may need Russia more than it needs America

Saudi’s keenness to buy Russian weapons and also to purchase a licence to manufacture Kalashnikov automatic riffles, is a further sign that Riyadh seeks military independence from the United States. Unlike the case with Turkey, where Russian weapons were a more economic option, for Saudi Arabia, money is still essentially no object. In this sense, the weapons deals made with Russia are more of a symbolic gesture than an economic one, even when one accounts for the fact that in many instances, Russian weapons are simply more durable and better crafted than more ornate US made devices.

In this sense Russia is playing the long game which necessitates an understanding of where trends in the oil market will bring Saudi (whether they like it or not) in future years, while also playing the immediate term game of ‘leading from the front’ in the Middle East.

While the US has mastered the art of ‘leading from behind’ in the Middle East, first with Sunni jihadists and now Kurdish militants in Syria and to a degree Kurdish secessionists in Iraq, Russia is leading from the position of working openly with the major state players in both the Middle East and Eurasia. This includes Russia’s traditional allies like Syria and increasingly with its old Iraqi ally,  with rejuvenated Eurasian players like Iran and Pakistan and now with traditional US allies Turkey and Saudi.

Ultimately, the Russian strategy seems to be consolidating more meaningful geo-political as well as economic gains than the US strategy. In this sense, America’s failure to respect the sovereignty of states and even the internal political workings of its own allies, has put the US in a position of having to work with proxies and militants in order to attempt and attain its aims.

Russia’s position of respecting all states, no matter how seemingly different a particular state’s geo-politics are from Russia, has paid off and ultimately, unless a proxy force is as strong as that of a state, the state will always win. Russia’s traditional thinking has once again proved to be a more timeless way of doing geo-politics than the dismemberment inducing proxy strategies of Washington. Distrust is often the first step before isolation. If these trends continue, the US may one day be as isolated from Saudi, as it seemingly already is from its once unshakeable ally Turkey.

Furthermore, this is the price the United States is paying for being unwilling and unable to engage in meaningful detente with Russia. Donald Trump’s failure to actively engage with Russia has led Russia to simply engage directly with US allies throughout the world from Turkey and Pakistan and Saudi Arabia and South Korea.

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ABC’s Ted Koppel admits mainstream media bias against Trump [Video]

The mainstream news media has traded informing the public for indoctrinating them, but the change got called out by an “old-school” journo.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Fox News reported on March 19th that one of America’s most well-known TV news anchors, Ted Koppel, noted that the once-great media outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, have indeed traded journalistic excellence for hit pieces for political purposes. While political opinions in the mainstream press are certainly within the purview of any publication, this sort of writing can hardly be classified as “news” but as “Opinion” or more widely known, “Op-Ed.”

We have two videos on this. The first is the original clip showing the full statement that Mr. Koppel gave. It is illuminating, to say the least:

Tucker Carlson and Brit Hume, a former colleague of Mr. Koppel, added their comments on this admission in this second short video piece, shown here.

There are probably a number of people who have watched this two-year onslaught of slander and wondered why there cannot be a law preventing this sort of misleading reporting. Well, Russia passed a law to stop it, hitting dishonest media outlets in their pocketbook. It is a smart law because it does not advocate imprisonment for bad actors in the media, but it does fine them.

Going to prison for reporting “the truth” looks very noble. Having to pay out of pocket for it is not so exciting.

Newsmax and Louder with Crowder both reported on this as well.

This situation of dishonest media has led to an astonishing 77% distrust rating among Americans of their news media, this statistic being reported by Politico in 2018. This represents a nearly diametric reversal in trust from the 72% trust rating the country’s news viewers gave their news outlets in 1972. These statistics come from Gallup polls taken through the years.

 

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Empire Of Absurdity: Recycled Neocons, Recycled Enemies

Despite America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. 

Antiwar

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Authored by Major Danny Sjursen (ret.) via AntiWar.com:


There are times when I wish that the United States would just drop the charade and declare itself a global empire.

As a veteran of two imperial wars, a witness to the dark underside of America’s empire-denial, I’ve grown tired of the equivocation and denials from senior policymakers. The U.S. can’t be an empire, we’re told, because – unlike the Brits and Romans – America doesn’t annex territories outright, and our school children don’t color its colonies in red-white-and-blue on cute educational maps.

But this distinction, at root, is rather superficial. Conquest, colonization, and annexation are so 19th century – Washington has moved beyond the overt and engages in the (not-so) subtle modern form of imperialism. America’s empire over the last two decades – under Democrats and Republicans – has used a range of tools: economic, military, political, to topple regimes, instigate coups, and starve “enemy” civilians. Heck, it didn’t even start with 9/11 – bullying foreigners and overturning uncooperative regimes is as American as apple pie.

Still, observing post-9/11, post-Iraq/Afghanistan defeat, Washington play imperialism these days is tragicomically absurd. The emperor has no clothes, folks. Sure, America (for a few more fleeting years) boasts the world’s dominant economy, sure its dotted the globe with a few hundred military bases, and sure it’s military still outspends the next seven competitors combined. Nonetheless, what’s remarkable, what constitutes the real story of 2019, is this: the US empire can’t seem to accomplish anything anymore, can’t seem to bend anybody to its will. It’s almost sad to watch. America, the big-hulking has-been on the block, still struts its stuff, but most of the world simply ignores it.

Make no mistake, Washington isn’t done trying; it’s happy to keep throwing good money (and blood) at bad: to the tune of a cool $6 trillion, 7,000 troop deaths, and 500,000 foreign deaths – including maybe 240,000 civilians. But what’s it all been for? The world is no safer, global terror attacks have only increased, and Uncle Sam just can’t seem to achieve any of its preferred policy goals.

Think on it for a second: Russia and Iran “won” in Syria; the Taliban and Pakistan are about ready to “win” in Afghanistan; Iran is more influential than ever in Iraq; the Houthis won’t quit in Yemen; Moscow is keeping Crimea; Libya remains unstable; North Korea ain’t giving up its nukes; and China’s power continues to grow in its version of the Caribbean – the South China Sea. No amount of American cash, no volume of our soldiers’ blood, no escalation in drone strikes or the conventional bombing of brown folks, has favorably changed the calculus in any of these regional conflicts.

What does this tell us? Quite a lot, I’d argue – but not what the neoliberal/neoconservative alliance of pundits and policymakers are selling. See for these unrepentant militarists the problem is always the same: Washington didn’t use enough force, didn’t spend enough blood and treasure. So is the solution: more defense spending, more CIA operations, more saber-rattling, and more global military interventions.

No, the inconvenient truth is as simple as it is disturbing to red-blooded patriots. To wit, the United States – or any wannabe hegemon – simply doesn’t possess the capability to shape the world in its own image. See those pesky locals – Arabs, Asians, Muslims, Slavs – don’t know what’s good for them, don’t understand that (obviously) there is a secret American zipped inside each of their very bodies, ready to burst out if given a little push!

It turns out that low-tech, cheap insurgent tactics, when combined with impassioned nationalism, can bog down the “world’s best military” indefinitely. It seems, too, that other regional heavyweights – Russia, China, Iran, North Korea – stand ready to call America’s nuclear bluff. That they know the US all-volunteer military and consumerist economy can’t ultimately absorb the potential losses a conventional war would demand. Even scarier for the military-industrial-congressional-media establishment is the logical extension of all this accumulated failure: the questionable efficacy of military force in the 21st century.

Rather than recognize the limits of American military, economic, and political power, Bush II, Obama, and now Trump, have simply dusted off the old playbook. It’s reached the level of absurdity under the unhinged regime of Mr. Trump. Proverbially blasting Springsteen’s “Glory Days,” as its foreign policy soundtrack, the Donald and company have doubled down. Heck, if Washington can’t get its way in Africa, Europe, Asia, or the Mideast, well why not clamp down in our own hemisphere, our traditional sphere of influence – South and Central America.

Enter the lunacy of the current Venezuela controversy. Trump’s team saw a golden opportunity in this socialist, backwater petrostate. Surely here, in nearby Monroe Doctrine country, Uncle Sam could get his way, topple the Maduro regime, and coronate the insurgent (though questionably legitimate) Juan Guaido. It’s early 20th century Yankee imperialism reborn. Everything seemed perfect. Trump could recall the specter of America’s tried and true enemy – “evil” socialism – cynically (and absurdly) equating Venezuelan populism with some absurd Cold-War-era existential threat to the nation. The idea that Venezuela presents a challenge on the scale of Soviet Russia is actually farcical. What’s more, and this is my favorite bit of irrationality, we were all recently treated to a game of “I know you are but what am I?” from Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who (with a straight face) claimed Cuba, tiny island Cuba, was the real “imperialist” in Venezuela.

Next, in a move reminiscent of some sort of macabre 1980’s theme party, Trump resuscitated Elliot Abrams – you know, the convicted felon of Iran-Contra infamy, to serve as Washington’s special envoy to embattled Venezuela. Who better to act as “fair arbiter” in that country than a war-criminal with the blood of a few hundred thousand Central Americans (remember the Contras?!?) on his hands back in the the good old (Reagan) days.

Despite all this: America’s military threats, bellicose speechifying, brutal sanctions, and Cold War-style conflict-framing, the incumbent Maduro seems firmly in control. This isn’t to say that Venezuelans don’t have genuine grievances with the Maduro government (they do), but for now at least, it appears the military is staying loyal to the president, Russia/China are filling in the humanitarian aid gaps, and Uncle Sam is about to chalk up another loss on the world scene. Ultimately, whatever the outcome, the crisis will only end with a Venezuelan solution.

America’s impotence would almost be sad to watch, if, and only if, it wasn’t all so tragic for the Venezuelan people.

So Trump and his recycled neocons will continue to rant and rave and threaten Venezuela, Haiti, Cuba, and so on and so forth. America will still flex its aging, sagging muscles – a reflexive habit at this point.

Only now it’ll seem sad. Because no one is paying attention anymore.

The opposite of love is isn’t hate – it’s indifference.

*  *  *

Danny Sjursen is a retired US Army officer and regular contributor to Antiwar.comHe served combat tours with reconnaissance units in Iraq and Afghanistan and later taught history at his alma mater, West Point. He is the author of a memoir and critical analysis of the Iraq War, Ghostriders of Baghdad: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Myth of the Surge. Follow him on Twitter at @SkepticalVet.

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Secret deal between DOJ and Clinton lawyers exposes Deep State corruption (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 111.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss newly released transcripts from disgraced FBI agent Peter Strzok that reveal the US Department of Justice and the Clinton Lawyers struck a secret deal that blocked the FBI from accessing Clinton Foundation emails, during the Hillary home server “investigation”.

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Via Zerohedge


The Justice Department and Hillary Clinton’s legal team “negotiated” an agreement that blocked the FBI from accessing emails on Clinton’s homebrew server related to the Clinton Foundation, according to a transcript of recently released testimony from last summer by former FBI special agent Peter Strzok.

Under questioning from Judiciary Committee General Counsel Zachary Somers, Strzok acknowledged that Clinton’s private personal email servers contained a mixture of emails related to the Clinton Foundation, her work as secretary of state and other matters.

“Were you given access to [Clinton Foundation-related] emails as part of the investigation?” Somers asked

We were not. We did not have access,” Strzok responded. “My recollection is that the access to those emails were based on consent that was negotiated between the Department of Justice attorneys and counsel for Clinton.” –Fox News

Strzok added that “a significant filter team” was employed at the FBI to “work through the various terms of the various consent agreements.”

“According to the attorneys, we lacked probable cause to get a search warrant for those servers and projected that either it would take a very long time and/or it would be impossible to get to the point where we could obtain probable cause to get a warrant,” said Strzok.

The foundation has long been accused of “pay-to-play” transactions, fueled by a report in the IBTimes that the Clinton-led State Department authorized $151 billion in Pentagon-brokered deals to 16 countries that donated to the Clinton Foundation – a 145% increase in completed sales to those nations over the same time frame during the Bush administration. 

Adding to speculation of malfeasance is the fact that donor contributions to the Clinton Foundation dried up by approximately 90% over a three-year period between 2014 and 2017, according to financial statements.

What’s more, Bill Clinton reportedly received a $1 million check from Qatar – one of the countries which gained State Department clearance to buy US weapons while Clinton was Secretary of State, even as the department signaled them out for a range of alleged ills,” according to IBTimes. The Clinton Foundation confirmed it accepted the money.

Then there was the surely unrelated $145 million donated to the Foundation from parties linked to the Uranium One deal prior to its approval through a rubber-stamp committee.

“The committee almost never met, and when it deliberated it was usually at a fairly low bureaucratic level,” Richard Perle said. Perle, who has worked for the Reagan, Clinton and both Bush administrations added, “I think it’s a bit of a joke.” –CBS

Later in his testimony last summer, Strzok said that agents were able to access “the entire universe” of information on the servers by using search terms to probe their contents – saying “we had it voluntarily.”

“What’s bizarre about this, is in any other situation, there’s no possible way they would allow the potential perpetrator to self-select what the FBI gets to see,” said former Utah Rep. Jason Chaffetz – former chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee until 2017 and current contributor to Fox News. “The FBI should be the one to sort through those emails — not the Clinton attorneys.

Chaffetz suggested that the goal of the DOJ was to “make sure they hear no evil, see no evil — they had no interest in pursuing the truth.”

“The Clinton Foundation isn’t supposed to be communicating with the State Department anyway,” said Chaffetz. “The foundation — with her name on it — is not supposed to be communicating with the senior officials at the State Department.”

Republican-led concerns that the DOJ, under the Obama administration, was too cozy with the Clinton team during the 2016 presidential campaign have grown louder in recent days. Earlier this week, Fox News exclusively reviewed an internal chart prepared by federal investigators working on the so-called “Midyear Exam” probe into Clinton’s emails. The chart contained the words “NOTE: DOJ not willing to charge this” next to a key statute on the mishandling of classified information.

The notation appeared to contradict former FBI Director James Comey’s repeated claims that his team made its decision that Clinton should not face criminal charges independently.

But Strzok, in his closed-door interview, denied that the DOJ exercised undue influence over the FBI, and insisted that lawyers at the DOJ were involved in an advisory capacity working with agents. –Fox News

Strzok was fired from the FBI after months of intense scrutiny over anti-Trump text messages he exchanged with his mistress – FBI lawyer Lisa Page. Both Strzok and Page were involved at the highest levels of both the Clinton email investigation and the counterintelligence investigation on President Trump and his 2016 campaign.

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