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The US brands RT America a “foreign agent” while throwing out its own laws

The war on RT is a travesty of justice and it is one where childish ideology is being used to mask a genuine scandal of US corporations and the US government, working in tandem to enrich their own material interests. 

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The United States government has given RT America four days to register as a so-called “foreign agent” or else face consequence including a seizing of assets. The move comes on the one year anniversary of Donald Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton.

Before delving into the possible consequences. Here are the important facts:

1. RT does not stand accused of breaking a single US law.

2. RT America is legally registered as a company in the United States 

3. RT is entitled to the same First Amendment rights to freedom of speech (including the freedom to publish and broadcast) as any other entity operating in the United States

4. RT does not stand accused of favouritism in its election coverage 

5. RT’s social media ads are misleadingly described as “political advertisements”. This is a deeply dishonest description. A political advertisement is something that says “Vote for Donald Trump” or “Vote for Hillary Clinton”. Instead, RT’s advertisements simply said “Watch RT for coverage of the US presidential candidates”. In the end, RT placed more advertisement relating to coverage of Bernie Sanders than of Trump or Clinton. 

6. RT is partly funded by the Russian government, just as Al Jazeera is funded by Qatar, the BBC is funded by the UK, the CBC is funded by Canada and TeleSur is funded by Venezuela. There is nothing unusual about RT’s funding model. 

The consequences: 

Because the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) has rarely been used, it is not entirely clear what the US intends to do with RT America and its employees after the 13th of November, the time by which RT and its employees in the US will have to register as a “foreign agent”.

It is possible however to clarify the following myths

1. RT will cease operations and/or broadcasting in the United States–FALSE 

Registering as a foreign agent does not mean that one has to cease one’s business activities so long as they are otherwise legal as RT’s are. RT isn’t for example a weapons trading business, it is a news outlet.

In the US today, upwards of 1,700 lobbyists have to register under FARA and most of these people are not only living peacefully but ranking in a great deal of money.

2. RT America employees may be intimidated and cease working for RT of their own accord–Likely

Because of the intimidating sounding name of the legislation invoked to provoke RT, some Americans working for RT may voluntarily leave the company rather than register for FARA.

I personally think that such roles can be fairly readily filled with other individuals as RT remains popular among American viewers as well as among aspiring journalists.

3. RT America will lose its assets–FALSE

So long as RT’s registration is completed on time, then no assets will be stripped according to FARA.

4. RT will challenge the ruling in a US court–LIKELY 

After the 13th, RT can and almost certainly will use the US court system to challenging the decision of the government. There is a great deal of precedent in RT’s favour.

5. Russia will force US media outlets in Russia to register on a similar database–LIKELY 

Russia has stated that whatever steps are taken against RT in the US, will be replicated by Russia in respect of US outlets in cities like Moscow including CNN.

The real danger:

The real danger in forcing RT America to register as a ‘foreign agent’ is that it could merely be a prelude to further actions taken to shut RT America down. Shutting down a media company operating the US based on the content it produces is very difficult, even when explicit pornography is involved. There are no peace time precedents for such a thing and few even in war time. For those who need reminding, the US and Russia are not in a state of war, they are simply going through a rough time diplomatically, all of which is due to conspiracy theories peddling by US politicians and the US mainstream media.

Still though, if the US is this intent on tarnishing its own First Amendment, there is no telling how many more US laws the government is willing to fault to make a point.

The war on RT is a travesty of justice and it is one where childish ideology is being used to mask a genuine scandal of US corporations and the US government, working in tandem to enrich their own material interests.

As I previously wrote:

News producers, like authors, musicians, painters, photographers and other people in creative or current events trades, often do not take into account how the technology used to convey one’s content, often dictates the very nature of the context itself.

Consider how the invention of magnetic tape recording created a boom in the sales of symphonic music, because the supreme fidelity of such tapes allowed a more accurate recreation of the sound of a live concert vis-a-vis previous formats, which were rendered instantly obsolete. Consider how the advent of television led to film makers changing the way films were made, forcing studios, directors and producers to offer new enticements to people including more visually and sonically impact stimuli in the cinema.

It was the invention of increasingly inexpensive and portable video-tape records as well as broadcast satellites that led to a revolution in how people consumed the news. The age of printed papers and news reels which needed to be filmed, developed and then physically distributed, were at once made obsolete by the ability to broadcast sound and picture from multiple parts of the globe, all at one time.

Not only did the LP record become instantly popular, but it led to the 33 and 1/3 rpm record giving birth to a new style of music which was conceptually composed to fit the length of a double-sided LP as a complete piece with a beginning middle and end, complete with the short intermission that it required to flip the record. Of course the CD made that ‘intermission’ obsolete and today, digital streaming means that even having a physic disc is considered an inconvenience to many.

Just as the videotape and satellite made news more instant, social media networks have made the delivery of information all the more immediate.

However, beyond the ‘rush to immediacy’ that new technologies bring to any form of content, the internet and social media networks have made it so that one can get a written, audio or video message out to a wider public at a fraction of the expensive that it used to incur. 4G and Wifi is the satellite for ‘every-man’ while social media has allowed outlets to attain substantial audience proliferation at a fraction of the costs of old fashioned marketing campaigns.

This is why the elites who have their economic lives and in the case of politicians, the economic lives of their political donors, invested highly in the past, are attacking the content of future minded media outlets. Among the most successful such outlets are RT and Sputnik. Because of this, both RT and Sputnik  have now been banned from advertising their content on Twitter.

Of course, among the political elites of the west, there is a clear anti-Russian agenda with an accompanying snobbish attitude towards the very contemporary style of RT and Sputnik. But what it really comes down to is money. Ironically, the problem that western governments have with RT and Sputnik is the problem they have with an unregulated marketplace. So much for RT and Sputnik being ‘Soviet’ as is often alleged. In actual fact, they are the opposite: they are efficient business models in a competitive capitalist environment.

Competitions for ratings effect both state owned and fully privately owned broadcasters. This is why the BBC for example continues to sell and licence its products throughout the world. It is also why Al Jazeera America closed down. All the handsome funding from the Qatari state, could not help dig Al Jazeera America out of its low-ratings money hole. While state funded, Qatar wasn’t running Al Jazeera America as a charity.

RT and Sputnik, as partly state funded operations have broken the mould both in style, substance, efficiency and market proliferation. They have done so without maintain huge marketing budgets by any contemporary industry standard. In doing so, RT and Sputnik have challenged the old MSM monopoly. The fact that the old MSM monopoly refuses to accept the arrival of RT and Sputnik is the primary reason why they are being attacked on social media.

While RT and Sputnik’s content remains as popular as ever, the very nature of social media is changing before our eyes. The Twitter attacks on RT and Sputnik are just one very prominent symptom of this.

Days before Twitter pulled the plug on RT and Sputnik’s right to advertise, Facebook quietly rolled out a programme whereby media companies would be forced to pay advertising costs in order for their content to be seen on Facebook. So-called ‘organic reach’, the phenomenon of people seeing and then sharing a story from a media outlet is effectively quashed under the new programme that has already been rolled out in several global markets.

When taken in totality, the big social media networks want small independent outlets to be forced to pay for views while large, however nimble outlets like RT and Sputnik will be forbidden to do so. The logical conclusion is that only MSM outlets with big budgets, whose ethos does not threaten the old status quo, will be able to easily spread their content over social media networks.

The only solution is for alternative media outlets of all sizes to form an alternative distribution system to existing social media networks. Finding replacements for the current social media network monopoly has long been a pressing issue, given how censorship of free speech is now de rigueur among the owners of the means of social media production.

The following are some suggestions for a way forward: 

1. “Friends lists personal property of the individual”

In most countries, phone companies used to have an unfair advantage over customers insofar as phone numbers were the property of the telecom company. While this is still the case in some places, in many others, it is now possible and relatively easy to transfer ones phone number and contacts between phone companies as a legal right.

The same should be true for social media ‘friends lists’. If one could easily transfer one’s list of contacts between social media networks with the same ease as switching phone numbers, there will be far less reluctance to ‘relocate’ the core of one’s social media networking activities.

Pressure was put on reluctant phone companies to offer this to their ex-customers and the same must be done for social media operations in respect of friends lists.

2. Regulate existing social media networks in the style of telecom bodies 

As I previously proposed and now restate:

“It is widely known that Facebook and Twitter can temporarily or permanently ban users for the most arbitrary, foolish and immoral reasons. When called up on their use of their trigger-happy ban button, they simply say that ‘they are a private corporation’ and can therefore do as they wish. Whilst they are a private corporation, so are the telecom companies in many countries.

It is virtually unheard of for a phone or internet provider to ban a customer because of the content of his or her phone conversations or emails or even the photos and videos one can now keep in a cloud storage system.

This applies to conference calls, emails with multiple recipients, etc.

Facebook, Twitter and others should not act differently. Social media is, if you will, a conference call with a wider audience; an email sent to multiple people. Some people elect to privilege and restrict their communications and others can make it fully public. If someone doesn’t like what is being said they can personally block a user just, as one can hang up a phone during an unwanted conversation. It’s just that simple.

 Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others are telecom tools of the modern age, just as the landline was in the 20th century and mobile phones were after they became common in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Governments should force social media companies to refrain from any sort of censorship or removal of users in all instances except when criminal activity is suspected. Anything criminal such as plotting an act of terrorism or preying on children is all ready a criminal offence and it should be dealt with by police and not any private sector organisations, including Facebook middle management. Expressing views, even hateful views is not a crime. It is quite the opposite, it is protected by free speech laws. If someone is offended they can simply not look at the content, just as when one sees a unseemly vagabond on the street, they in many cases,  elect to cross the road.

Not only are Facebook and Twitter using their power as giant corporations to restrict personal liberty in line with a globalist liberal agenda, they are actually putting lives at risk. Government ought to step in to protect free speech from private sector censorship. Social media is not an ordinary product whose sale can be restricted by its lawful owner, it is a conduit of communications that is now a vial part of daily life. Unlike a small business owner who ought to have the right to refuse service in all but the most exceptional cases (such as race discrimination), Facebook and Twitter should be legally restricted in their arbitrary censorship measures because of the negative effect this has on society and personal liberty.

Social media is now the first line of defence against terrorism. Before mainstream media cameras can get on site, it is social media users who are sharing information about terrorist attacks, alerting others to either avoid the area or send for help. It is also a lifeline for loved ones to communicate with one another during times of crisis, as well as a way to let others know that one is safe in the event of a terrorist atrocity or natural disaster”.

http://theduran.wpengine.com/social-media-censorship-puts-lives-at-risk/

However, in spite of the concerns for personal safety, personal privacy and personal liberty, because of the nature of the media-industrial complex, it is very unlikely that these healthy regulations will come into place at this time. This however, is all the more reason to vocally make this argument.

3. Big broadcasters should start their own social media networks 

In the race to create new viable social media networks, considerable budgets, proven track records and brand recognition are invaluable. Here, RT, Sputnik and many other broadcasters could start their own social networks geared towards people with certain attitudes, but where all are welcome to freely share both profound ideas and typical updates on daily life.

With Facebook and Twitter conducting an ideological war on behalf of their fellow corporations, it is becoming increasingly necessary for those who are shut out of ‘old’ social media to find a new home. Ideally, this new home would not resort to censoring anyone.

RT’s motto of ‘question more’ is a good fit for social media. It could even be that RT could partner with Russian social media giant VK to create a platform whose reach is beyond VK’s target Russian speaking demographic to something that is fully multi-lingual and international.

If the corporate social media owners want to shut out “competition”, the best way to have the last laugh is to show them that they are only shutting out their own existing and potential client base.

If this base shrinks to people who only watch CNN and other MSM outlets, Facebook will lose advertising revenue for the same reason that a a lone undertaker would not need to spend much on advertising his services in a town with a large ageing population.

If RT and Sputnik want to not only preserve but increase the reach of their content, the next frontier is doing to social media networks what was already done to traditional TV and radio broadcasters.

CONCLUSION:

In the 1960s, new record labels in countries like the US, challenged the record producing monopoly of the old major labels. Likewise, in the 1980s, cable television challenged the primacy of the major 3 networks of the US.

Now is the time to challenge the old social media networks in the same way. The incentive is there, the audience is waiting and the potential gains are far greater than the potential risks.

In doing so, content creators will be able to rally behind a new means of distribution that will preserve and expand the reach of their work. The only losers are those who think less content means more market share. Those who censor, are those who are reducing their own business potential in the long term.

This is the real scandal and it is one that is hidden in plain view.

‘Twitter versus RT’ will either kill alternative media or social media networks

 

 

 

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BREXIT storm deepens, as parliamentary coup may be forming against May and Corbyn

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 166.

Alex Christoforou

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Emboldened by Theresa May’s lack of leadership and will to deliver the Brexit that UK citizens voted for in a democratic referendum, remain MPs are now mobilizing to do the EU’s bidding in forcing Britain to nullify the Brexit process and eventually stay a part of the European Union.

After yesterday’s thumping of May’s Brexit plan in parliament, The Times’ Matthew Parris is now openly floating the idea that “it’s time for parliament to wrest control from the zombies, stating that “Theresa May isn’t any good” and “Jeremy Corbyn is equally useless”…

There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess. No hidden strengths, no unexpected qualities; no whizzbang new thinking, no magic. Forget May. Forget Corbyn. Salvation is not coming from these directions.
So it’s up to parliament. MPs are coming to understand that they have to act. It has been stealing on parliamentarians for months now and close contacts between leading members of both parties have been made and have been deepening.
From within the Commons a shadow executive must emerge, and is beginning to. Labour’s Yvette Cooper talks to the Tories’ Dominic Grieve. Around them is a cluster of senior parliamentarians who are getting used to talking.
A common purpose unites them: rescuing the country from a no-deal Brexit that only a small minority actually want. Whether this is to be done by seeking a better deal than May’s or by a new referendum, or both, they need to find a way soon. An “indicative” vote of the House of Commons may help guide them.
And however speedily the House can find its leadership and direction, it’s hard to imagine this can be done without an extension to the Article 50 negotiating period.
Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn from last night’s vote is that parliament must wrest control from a zombie prime minister, a zombie cabinet and a zombie opposition. I heard in May’s response to the result the hint of the straw at which she may now clutch: a Labour-style Brexit under a Tory nominal prime minister. I would be amazed if her party would accept it.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the turbulent and uncertain road ahead in the Brexit saga as a March deadline looms.

Shifting sands, and betrayal at the highest level is now crystallizing, as hints of a possible parliamentary coup against May and Corbyn is being floated as a possible solution to the impasse that will ultimately steer the UK back under EU control, and cancel the Brexit referendum.

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Via Straits Times

The words “humiliated” and “crushed” featured prominently in British newspaper headlines following Parliament’s massive rejection of a divorce deal with the European Union on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Dailies said Prime Minister Theresa May’s grip on power was waning after the huge vote against the agreement struck between her government and Brussels, as she prepared to fight a no-confidence motion on Wednesday.

“May humiliated by 230 votes,” The Daily Mirror tabloid said.

The Daily Telegraph wrote: “Humiliation for Prime Minister as MPs overwhelmingly reject deal and Labour tables no confidence vote.”

The broadsheet’s parliamentary sketchwriter Michael Deacon said Mrs May had somehow defied the odds by making a historic event an anticlimax.

“Her speech had all the brio of a mouldy gym sock,” he wrote.

“She sounded as winningly persuasive as a mother snapping at her children to eat up their cabbage or go to bed hungry.”

The vote itself “was as if Agatha Christie has allowed Miss Marple to solve the murder half way through and spend the rest of the novel pottering about in the garden”.

‘ZOMBIE PM’

The Times columnist Matthew Parris said it was time for senior MPs to take over the Brexit process.

“There exists no leadership in either the government or the opposition capable of taking us through this mess,” he wrote following the vote.

“Theresa May isn’t any good; she doesn’t have a fiendish, secret strategy; she’s careless with the truth and will say anything to get her through another week. She doesn’t know what to do.

“Overwhelmingly, the conclusion to be drawn… is that Parliament must wrest control from a zombie Prime Minister, a zombie Cabinet and a zombie opposition.”

The Daily Mail said the defeat left Mrs May’s power “hanging by a thread”, calling it a “devastating result, which threatens to plunge the Brexit process into chaos”.

The Sun, Britain’s biggest-selling newspaper, said: “Crushed PM dares MPs to vote for general election after record Brexit defeat.”

“The crushing defeat – which saw 118 Tories turn against the PM – is the worst since the advent of full democracy and suggests Mrs May will never win enough support for her strategy,” said the tabloid.

The Financial Times newspaper ran a headline reading: “May’s defeat spells trouble for the EU’s Brexit approach.”

“Huge loss leaves PM in race against time,” the broadsheet said.

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Ukraine’s Cult of Stepan Bandera: Not a Detail, but a Cornerstone

Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media.

Dmitry Babich

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Authored by Dmitry Babich via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


During the recent years of the confrontation between Russia and Ukraine, there has been one issue where the Western mainstream press simply cannot fully ignore or reject the Russian arguments. This issue concerns the life and actions of Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) and his followers from what is known as the “Banderite” faction of the Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN, a far-right organization that took terrorist actions against Polish and Soviet officials from the 1920s to the 1950s and which is now legally protected from any criticism in Ukraine).

THE “WRONG” AND “RIGHT” VICTIMS

Because Bandera was born on January 1, 1909, celebrations of his birthday have become disgusting New Year’s rituals in Ukraine in recent years, with thousands participating in Nazi-style torch-lit marches that include shouted protests against “Putin’s Russia” and rants such as, “Jews out!” which are heard by everyone except the police. This New Year was no exception, since the current Ukrainian government under President Petro Poroshenko (who publicly identified himself as a Banderite after taking office in 2014) officially added Bandera’s 110th birthday to the list of Ukraine’s most important anniversaries. This time, there were several quiet voices of condemnation heard in Poland, Israel, and even the US. Why? In truth, torches, masks, political murders, and mob attacks against “pro-Russian” public figures are nothing new in post-Maidan Ukraine. And these things usually pose no problem for the mainstream press of the US and its allies. So, why is Bandera an exception?

The answer is ethnic, as awful as that may sound. Unlike Poroshenko with his aerial bombings of the Russian-speaking Donbass in 2014 and 2015, Bandera killed the “wrong” victims, the representatives of those nations that are valued even by the modern Western media, with its double and triple standards. In the 1930s Bandera killed Polish officials, in the 1940s his people killed civilian Jews and Polish peasants, and these are groups whose plight even the New York Times cannot ignore today. If Bandera’s infamous slogan “Death to enemies!” had been directed only against “disloyal” Russians and anti-Banderite Ukrainians (the groups currently persecuted by Poroshenko), Bandera would have been no different from his modern admirers in the Ukrainian government. But Bandera’s followers from the OUN decimated the Jewish population of Lvov and Kiev in 1941, trying to curry favor with the advancing Germans. And between 1943 and 1944, the Ukrainian Insurgent Army (UPA), taking its orders from Bandera’s OUN officers, ethnically cleansed his native Western Ukraine of ethnic Poles, killing from 70,000-100,000 of them (the infamous “slaughter of Volhynia”). The aim was to create an “ethnically pure” Ukraine before the arrival of the Red Army in late 1944. Documents published by the Polish historian Grzegorz Motyka indicate that Bandera and the OUN hoped that the Red Army would soon be replaced by Anglo-American domination. “His strategy was to clean up the house before the arrival of the real master,” Motyka concludes in his book.

THE LADY OF THE RADA VS. ISRAEL’S PRESIDENT

The American domination took another 70 years, but it did come. And now the Banderites’ (and Poroshenko’s) only historic disagreement with the West is over the infamous “ethnic cleansing,” to which Bandera’s “glorious heroes” subjected Ukraine in 1941-1944. When Israeli President Reuven Rivlin dared to raise the issue during his visit to Ukraine in 2016, he got a scolding from the vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament (Verkhovna Rada), Irina Gerashchenko: “The Israeli president allowed himself some incorrect and undiplomatic words about the OUN’s tragic history,” Gerashchenko said at the time. “It was highly inappropriate, especially now, when Ukraine is fighting for its independence.” Gerashchenko forgot to mention the fact that Babi Yar, the burial site of some 30,000 Jews killed by German and Ukrainian Nazis in Kiev in 1941, was vandalized nine times between 2015 and 2016, according to data provided by the Ukrainian Jewish Committee.

WHY THE WEST WANTS TO FORGET, BUT CANNOT

In the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup in 2014, the mainstream press was ready to forget even that, since an honest account of Bandera’s activities between 1939 and 1959 could rekindle memories of the undesirable parallels to the “resistance to Russian occupation” by Poroshenko’s army in the Donbass in 2014 and 2015. Between the summer of 2014 and the winter of 2015, about 10,000 people died there, victims of the aircraft and tanks sent by Poroshenko (just months earlier, the US and the EU had been unable to abide the use of truncheons by the police of the ousted president, Viktor Yanukovych). At the time, the NYT called Bandera the “Ukrainian nationalists’ hero.” Obviously, the NYT’s authors were taking their cues from the Washington Post’s Anne Applebaum, with her Banderite headline, “Nationalism is exactly what Ukraine Needs” in the once-glorious New Republic.

But here the mainstream press tried to kill off a memory that will never die — the memory of how Hitler’s East European Nazi allies participated in the destruction of the region’s Jewish population in the early 1940s. This was something not even Anne Applebaum could make people forget.

In his articles in the American press, the director of the Ukrainian Jewish Committee, Eduard Dolinsky, tried to explain to the American public that Bandera’s cult is not an isolated, unpleasant phenomenon: Stepan Bandera never acted alone, he represented a crudely nationalist ideology. Unfortunately, this ideology reigns triumphant in modern Ukraine behind the “liberal” façade displayed for the West. For example, Dolinsky notes that Poroshenko’s hypocritical speeches memorializing Jewish victims can be heard next to, say, a memorial to OUN activist Ivan Rogach, whose newspaper called Jews “the greatest enemy of the people” in 1941. “The Ukrainian leadership set itself on the course of rehabilitating anti-Semitism and introducing censorship of history,” concludes the official statement of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an international Jewish human-rights group, famous for its work to bring Nazi criminals to justice.

THE RUSSIAN QUESTION BEHIND THE JEWISH ONE

If the West cannot afford to be completely silent about Bandera’s participation in the Holocaust, it is willingly ignoring another huge injustice that is inseparable from Bandera’s cult in modern Ukraine — the erasure of the Russian and anti-Banderite component of Ukraine’s historic memory. In 2017, Kiev’s Vatutin Avenue was renamed Bandera Avenue, resulting in an outcry in Russia and complete silence in the West. This avenue, a major thoroughfare in the Ukrainian capital, had originally been named in honor of General Nikolai Vatutin, who liberated Kiev from Nazi occupation in 1943 and died in a shootout with the OUN’s guerillas in 1944. At the time, there was no question about where America’s sympathies lay: the fight against Hitler was not yet over, and Vatutin, born in 1901 to a peasant family living immediately adjacent to the future Russian-Ukrainian border, was a useful ally for the United States. Will Bandera and his modern followers be a good replacement? Only someone with Poroshenko’s plans for Ukraine or with Anne Applebaum’s views on history could agree.

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Entering a Major Regional Re-set – The Syria Outcome Will Haunt Those Who Started This War

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set.

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Authored by Alastair Crooke via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


The Middle East is metamorphosing. New fault-lines are emerging, yet Trump’s foreign policy ‘hawks’ still try to stage ‘old movies’ in a new ‘theatre’.

The ‘old movie’ is for the US to ‘stand up’ Sunni, Arab states, and lead them towards confronting ‘bad actor’ Iran. ‘Team Bolton’ is reverting back to the old 1996 Clean Break script – as if nothing has changed. State Department officials have been briefing that Secretary Pompeo’s address in Cairo on Thursday was “ slated to tell his audience (although he may not name the former president), that Obama misled the people of the Middle East about the true source of terrorism, including what contributed to the rise of the Islamic State. Pompeo will insist that Iran, a country Obama tried to engage, is the real terrorist culprit. The speech’s drafts also have Pompeo suggesting that Iran could learn from the Saudis about human rights, and the rule of law.”

Well, at least that speech should raise a chuckle around the region. In practice however, the regional fault-line has moved on: It is no longer so much Iran. GCC States have a new agenda, and are now far more concerned to contain Turkey, and to put a halt to Turkish influence spreading throughout the Levant. GCC states fear that President Erdogan, given the emotional and psychological wave of antipathy unleashed by the Khashoggi murder, may be mobilising newly re-energised Muslim Brotherhood, Gulf networks. The aim being to leverage present Gulf economic woes, and the general hollowing out of any broader GCC ‘vision’, in order to undercut the rigid Gulf ‘Arab system’ (tribal monarchy). The Brotherhood favours a soft Islamist reform of the Gulf monarchies – along lines, such as that once advocated by Jamal Khashoggi .

Turkey’s leadership in any case is convinced that it was the UAE (MbZ specifically) that was the author behind the Kurdish buffer being constructed, and mini-state ‘plot’ against Turkey – in conjunction with Israel and the US. Understandably, Gulf states now fear possible Turkish retribution for their weaponising of Kurdish aspirations in this way.

And Turkey is seen (by GCC States) as already working in close co-ordination with fellow Muslim Brotherhood patron and GCC member, Qatar, to divide the collapsing Council. This prefigures a new round to the MB versus Saudi Wahhabism spat for the soul of Sunni Islam.

GGC states therefore, are hoping to stand-up a ‘front’ to balance Turkey in the Levant. And to this end, they are trying to recruit President Assad back into the Arab fold (which is to say, into the Arab League), and to have him act, jointly with them, as an Arab counter to Turkey.

The point here is obvious: President Assad is closely allied to Iran – and so is Moscow and Turkey. To be fashionably Iranophobic – as Pompeo might wish the GCC to be – simply would spoil the GCC’s anti-Turkey ‘play’. Syria indeed may be (justly) skeptical of Turkey’s actions and intent in Syria, but from President Assad’s perspective, Iran and Russia are absolutely crucial to the managing of an erratic Turkey. Turkey does represent an existential Syrian concern. And trying to lever President Assad – or Lebanon or Turkey – away from Iran, would be absurd. It won’t happen. And the GCC states have enough nous to understand this now (after their stinging defeat in Syria). The Gulf anti-Iranian stance has had ‘the burner’ turned sharply down, (except when their need is to stroke US feathers).

They can see clearly that the Master of Ceremonies in the Levant – putting together the new regional ‘order’ – is not Mr Bolton, but Moscow, with Tehran (and occasionally Ankara), playing their equal part ‘from behind the curtain’.

Presumably, America’s intelligence services know, (and Gulf states certainly are aware), that in any case, Iranian forces are almost all gone from Syria (though of course Syria’s ‘Iranian connection’ remains as firm, as ever) – even as Pompeo and Israel say the precisely the opposite: that they are pushing-back hard at the ‘threatening’ Iranian military ‘footprint’ in Syria. Few in the region will believe it.

The second notable emerging regional fault line then, evidently is the one that is opening between Turkey and the US and Israel. Turkey ‘gets it’: Erdogan ‘gets it’ very clearly: that Washington now deeply distrusts him, suspects that Turkey is accelerating into Moscow and Beijing’s orbit, and that DC would be happy to see him gone – and a more NATO-friendly leader installed in his stead.

And it must be clear to Washington too ‘why’ Turkey would be heading ‘East’. Erdogan precisely needs Russia and Iran to act as MCs to moderate his difficult relations with Damascus for the future. Erdogan needs Russia and Iran even more, to broker a suitable political solution to the Kurds in Syria. He needs China too, to support his economy.

And Erdogan is fully aware that Israel (more than Gulf States) still hankers after the old Ben Gurion ideal of an ethnic Kurdish state – allied with Israel, and sitting atop major oil resources – to be inserted at the very pivot to south-west and central Asia: And at Turkey’s vulnerable underbelly.

The Israeli’s articulated their support for a Kurdish state quite plainly at the time of Barzani’s failed independence initiative in Iraq. But Erdogan simply, unmistakably, has said to this ‘never’ (to Bolton, this week). Nonetheless, Ankara still needs Russian and Iranian collaboration to allow Bolton to ‘climb down his tree’ of a Kurdish mini-state in Syria. He needs Russia to broker a Syrian-led buffer, vice an American-Kurdish tourniquet, strapped around his southern border.

It is unlikely however, that despite the real threat that America’s arming of the Kurds poses to Turkey, that Erdogan really wants to invade Syria – though he threatens it – and though John Bolton’s ‘conditions’ may end by leaving Turkey no option, but to do it. Since, for sure, Erdogan understands that a messy Turkish invasion of Syria would send the delicately balanced Turkish Lire into free-fall.

Still … Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia now all want America gone from Syria. And for a moment, it seemed it might proceed smoothly after Trump had acquiesced to Erdogan’s arguments, during their celebrated telephone call. But then – Senator Lindsay Graham demurred (against the backdrop of massed howls of anguish issuing from the Beltway foreign policy think-tanks). Bolton did the walk-back, by making US withdrawal from Syria contingent on conditions (ones seemingly designed not to be met) and not tied any specific timeline. President Erdogan was not amused.

It should be obvious now that we are entering a major regional re-set: The US is leaving Syria. Bolton’s attempted withdrawal-reversal has been rebuffed. And the US, in any event, forfeited the confidence of the Kurds in consequence to the original Trump statement. The Kurds now are orientated toward Damascus and Russia is mediating a settlement.

It may take a while, but the US is going. Kurdish forces (other than those linked with the PKK) are likely to be assimilated into the Syrian army, and the ‘buffer’ will not be directed against Turkey, but will be a mix of Syrian army and Kurdish elements – under Syrian command – but whose overall conduct towards Turkey will be invigilated by Russia. And the Syrian army will, in due time, clear Idlib from a resurgent al-Qaida (HTS).

The Arab states are returning to their embassies in Damascus – partly out of fear that the whipsaw of American policy, its radical polarisation, and its proclivity to be wholly or partially ‘walked-back’ by the Deep State – might leave the Gulf unexpectedly ‘orphaned’ at any time. In effect, the GCC states are ‘hedging’ against this risk by trying to reconnect a bifurcated Arab sphere, and to give it a new ‘purpose’ and credibility – as a balance against Turkey, Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood (Syria’s old nemesis).

And yet – there remains still another layer to this calculus, as described by veteran Middle East journalist, Elijah Magnier:

“Indeed the Levant is returning to the centre of Middle East and world attention in a stronger position than in 2011. Syria has advanced precision missiles that can hit any building in Israel. Assad also has an air defence system he would have never dreamed of before 2011 – thanks to Israel’s continuous violation of its airspace, and its defiance of Russian authority. Hezbollah has constructed bases for its long and medium range precision missiles in the mountains and has created a bond with Syria that it could never have established – if not for the war. Iran has established a strategic brotherhood with Syria, thanks to its role in defeating the regime change plan.

NATO’s support for the growth of ISIS has created a bond between Syria and Iraq that no Muslim or Baathist link could ever have created: Iraq has a “carte blanche” to bomb ISIS locations in Syria without the consent of the Syrian leadership, and the Iraqi security forces can walk into Syria anytime they see fit to fight ISIS. The anti-Israel axis has never been stronger than it is today. That is the result of 2011-2018 war imposed on Syria”.

Yes. This is the third of the newly emergent fault-lines: that of Israel on the one hand, and the emerging reality in the Syrian north, on the other – a shadow that has returned to haunt the original instigators of the ‘war’ to undermine Syria. PM Netanyahu since has put all the Israeli eggs into the Trump family ‘basket’. It was Netanyahu’s relationship with Trump which was presented in Israel as being the true ‘Deal of the Century’ (and not the Palestinian one). Yet when Bibi complained forcefully about US withdrawal from Syria (leaving Syria vulnerable, Netanyahu asserts, to an Iranian insertion of smart missiles), Trump nonchalantly replied that the US gives Israel $ 4.5 billion per year – “You’ll be all right”, Trump riposted.

It was seen in Israel as an extraordinary slap to the PM’s face. But Israelis cannot avoid, but to acknowledge, some responsibility for creating precisely the circumstances of which they now loudly complain.

Bottom line: Things have not gone according to plan: America is not shaping the new Levantine ‘order’ – Moscow is. And Israel’s continual, blatant disregard of Russia’s own interests in the Levant, firstly infuriated, and finally has provoked the Russian high command into declaring the northern Middle East a putative no-fly zone for Israel. This represents a major strategic reversal for Netanyahu (and the US).

And finally, it is this repeating pattern of statements being made by the US President on foreign policy that are then almost casually contradicted, or ‘conditioned’, by some or other part of the US bureaucracy, that poses to the region (and beyond) the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question. The pattern clearly is one of an isolated President, with officials emptying his statements of executive authority (until subsequently endorsed, or denied, by the US bureaucracy). It is making Trump almost irrelevant (in terms of the setting of foreign policy).

Is this then a stealth process – knowingly contrived – incrementally to remove Trump from power? A hollowing out of his Presidential prerogatives (leaving him only as a disruptive Twitterer) – achieved, without all the disruption and mess, of formally removing him from office? We shall see.

And what next? Well, as Simon Henderson observes, no one is sure – everyone is left wondering:

“What’s up with Secretary Pompeo’s extended tour of the Middle East? The short answer is that he is trying to sell/explain President Trump’s “we are leaving Syria” policy to America’s friends … Amman, Jordan; Cairo, Egypt; Manama, Bahrain; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (UAE); Doha, Qatar; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; Muscat, Oman; Kuwait City, Kuwait. Wow, even with his own jet and no immigration hassles, that’s an exhausting itinerary … The fact that there now are eight stops in eight days, probably reflects the amount of explaining that needs to be done.”

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