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Russia calls U.S. bluff on Syria, Washington rages

With the Kerry – Lavrov agreement having collapsed and the US military ruling out imposition of a no-fly zone, the US can only rage as the Syrian army closes in on the Jihadis in eastern Aleppo.

Alexander Mercouris

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Over the course of the last week, following the collapse of the Kerry – Lavrov agreement and the ceasefire, and with the Syrian army closing in on the Jihadis trapped in eastern Aleppo, the reality of pending defeat in Aleppo has finally struck home with the Western powers.   

The result is a round of frantic diplomatic and media activity to try to embarrass the Russians to bring the Syrian army’s offensive in Aleppo to a stop.

The reason for this activity is the further advance of the Syrian army in Aleppo since the breakdown of the ceasefire. 

Having defeated and driven back the Jabhat Al-Nusra led Jihadi offensive against the south west of Aleppo by the first week of September, the Syrian army since the collapse of the ceasefire has consolidated its control of the Castello road by capturing the now deserted area of the Handarat Palestinian refugee camp.  It is also, following intense artillery shelling and bombing, advancing from the area of the Aleppo citadel and from the Ramousseh district into the Jihadi controlled areas of eastern Aleppo, apparently in order to consolidate its control of the suburbs of south western Aleppo and – possibly – so as to cut Jihadi controlled eastern Aleppo in half.

Reports from Aleppo speak of the Syrian military and its allies concentrating substantial forces near or in the city to support the offensive.  The Russian marines are still at the Castello road, and there are reports that up to 8,000 Iranian commanded Iraqi Shia militia have also arrived in the city.  The main strike force however remains the Syrian army.

It appears that the Russian aerial strike force at Khmeimim air base has also been reinforced.  A video released on Saturday 24th September 2016 by Russian Ruptly TV supposedly shows Syrian troops advancing against Jihadi fighters in Lattakia province following the collapse of the ceasefire.  The video shows SU25 aircraft providing ground support. Russia deployed SU25 aircraft to Khmeimim air base in September last year.  However they were all withdrawn in March.  It seems they are now back.

The key point to understand, and which explains all the furious rhetoric of the last few days, is that the Western powers cannot stop the Syrian offensive against the Jihadis trapped in Aleppo. 

At a US Senate hearing on Thursday 22nd September 2016 US General Dunford, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, explained why.  Pressed by Mississippi Republican Senator Roger Wicker to say if the US could take “decisive action” by imposing a no-fly zone – something which Wicker said he had discussed with the Democrats and which might have bipartisan support – Dunford replied

“For now, for us to control all the airspace in Syria would require us to go to war with Syria and Russia. That’s a pretty fundamental decision that certainly I’m not going to make.”

Dunford’s comment provoked an intervention by Republican Senator John McCain, a perennial war hawk and interventionist who constantly presses for US military action at any and every opportunity and especially so in any conflict involving Russia.  McCain tried to get Dunford to say that a no-fly zone was not the same as  “total control of the Syrian airspace”, which would require  war with Russia and Syria.

The reality, as both McCain and Dunford know, is that the US has never imposed a no-fly zone over a country over which it did not have “total control of the airspace”.  It is inconceivable the US would try to impose a no-fly zone over Syria if it did not have “total control of the airspace”.  Dunford’s admission that “total control of the airspace” cannot be achieved in Syria without going to war with Russia for all practical purposes rules the whole idea of a no-fly zone over Syria out.

Unable to impose a no-fly zone, there is nothing in practical terms that the US can do to change the course of the fighting in Aleppo.  

It is this US awareness of its own impotence as its Jihadi proteges in Aleppo face total defeat which accounts for all the angry rhetoric and cranking up of atrocity stories we have been seeing over the last week.  These have now culminated  in some typically furious denunciations of Russia by US ambassador Samantha Power on Sunday’s 25th September 2016 at the UN Security Council, over the course of which she actually accused Russia of “barbarism”.  

British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, in an unguarded comment for which he is probably already being taken to task, slipped the truth out during a television interview on Sunday 25th September 2016

“If you say to me the West is too impotent, I would have to agree. I would have to agree that, since we took those decisions in 2013, when those red lines were crossed, we have not really had a viable military response, or any kinetic response to what is going on. I don’t think there is any real appetite for such a thing.”

(bold italics added)

Johnson then went on to say that the only thing the West could do in this situation is to try to embarrass the Russians into calling a stop.  He explained this by saying that “the one thing the Russians respond to is adverse global public opinion”. 

This explains all the current talk of war crimes, encompassing charges of (the unproved) Russian guilt for the attack on the relief convoy, complaints about the deliberate cutting off of Aleppo’s water supply, charges of the indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas of Aleppo, claims of the use of firebombs there etc. – all things which happen in Syria all the time, and which having been happening continuously there ever since the war started, but which are now being talked about as war crimes.  

In the same interview Johnson put it this way

“They (the Russians – AM) are in the dock of the court of international opinion. They are guilty of making the war far more protracted and far more hideous, and yes, when it comes up, the bombing of civilian targets, we should be looking … to see if the targeting is done in the knowledge they are wholly innocent civilian targets, [because] that is a war crime.”

To Western dismay the Russians however show no sign of bending. 

The key point about the events at the UN General Assembly last week was that Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov – despite coming under intense concerted pressure from the US and its allies – flatly ruled out any more unilateral ceasefires by the Syrian army.  

Instead he made it crystal clear that a ceasefire could only happen if the Syrian opposition fighters genuinely committed themselves to it and separated themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra, as the US promised in February and in the recent Kerry – Lavrov agreement that they would do.

At the UN Security Council meeting on Sunday 25th September 2016 Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the same thing

“The American side de facto signed that it was unable to influence the groups it sponsors and to deliver on the deal as it promised. First of all, to separate those groups from terrorists and mark their positions on the ground accordingly.

The ceasefire can only be salvaged now on a collective basis. It’s not us that have to prove something to somebody unilaterally. We have to see proof that there is a genuine desire to separate US-allied rebel groups from the Al-Nusra Front, then destroy the Al-Nusra Front and bring the opposition into a political process. Otherwise our suspicions that this was only meant to shield the Al-Nusra Front would only grow stronger.”

(bold italics added)

Two weeks ago I said that the likely motivation of the realists in Washington who supported the Kerry -Lavrov agreement was to save the Jihadis in Aleppo and preserve them as a coherent force by evacuating them from the city, where they had become trapped and where their position had become untenable.  That was why – as I speculated on the strength of certain comments made by Russian military officials – it appeared that the Kerry – Lavrov agreement made provision for their withdrawal from Aleppo by way of the Castello road.

As it turns out the Kerry – Lavrov agreement did indeed provide for that.  This has now been confirmed by the text of the part of the Kerry – Lavrov agreement the US has disclosed (through the bizarre device of a leak to the Associated Press).  This is the specific provision in the text

“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 document the US has published is only one document of the five which together make up the Kerry – Lavrov agreement.  The other documents no doubt go into much greater detail about the separation of the fighters the US supports from Jabhat Al-Nusra.  It is likely that these documents specify which fighters were to leave Aleppo via the Castello road, and what would happen to those who remained.

In the event the intentions of the realists were defeated because the hardliners in Washington and the Jihadis on the ground in Syria rejected the Kerry – Lavrov agreement. 

The result was that instead of separating themselves from Jabhat Al-Nusra – as the Kerry-Lavrov agreement required them to do – the Jihadi fighters have remained united with Jabhat Al-Nusra, and tried to exploit the ceasefire to carry out more attacks on the Syrian army.

Following the collapse of the ceasefire, and with the forcible imposition of a no-fly zone for all practical purposes ruled out, the US has found itself left with nothing other than US Secretary of State Kerry’s absurd proposal that Russia and Syria impose a no-fly zone on themselves.  The moment the Russians rejected this proposal – as they were bound to do – the US’s bluff was effectively called. 

It is this awareness on the part of the US that its bluff has been called, and that its impotence to effect militarily the course of the battle of Aleppo has been laid bare, which is behind the furious denunciations we are now hearing from the US and its allies, as they scramble desperately to try to get the Russians to call off the battle of Aleppo so as to save their Jihadi proteges in Aleppo from total defeat, and themselves from the humiliation of the public failure of their strategy.

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New York Times hit piece on Trump and NATO exposes alliance as outdated and obsolete (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 61.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at the New York Times hit piece citing anonymous sources, with information that the U.S. President dared to question NATO’s viability.

Propaganda rag, the NYT, launched its latest presidential smear aimed at discrediting Trump and provoking the establishment, warmonger left into more impeachment – Twenty-fifth Amendment talking points.

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Via The American Conservative


The New York Times scored a serious scoop when it revealed on Monday that President Trump had questioned in governmental conversations—on more than one occasion, apparently—America’s membership in NATO. Unfortunately the paper then slipped into its typical mode of nostrum journalism. My Webster’s New World Dictionary defines “nostrum” as “quack medicine” entailing “exaggerated claims.” Here we had quack journalism executed in behalf of quack diplomacy.

The central exaggerated claim is contained in the first sentence, in which it is averred that NATO had “deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” This is wrong, as can be seen through just a spare amount of history.

True, NATO saved Europe from the menace of Russian Bolshevism. But it did so not over 70 years but over 40 years—from 1949 to 1989. That’s when the Soviet Union had 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops poised on Western Europe’s doorstep, positioned for an invasion of Europe through the lowlands of Germany’s Fulda Gap.

How was this possible? It was possible because Joseph Stalin had pushed his armies farther and farther into the West as the German Wehrmacht collapsed at the end of World War II. In doing so, and in the process capturing nearly all of Eastern Europe, he ensured that the Soviets had no Western enemies within a thousand miles of Leningrad or within 1,200 miles of Moscow. This vast territory represented not only security for the Russian motherland (which enjoys no natural geographical barriers to deter invasion from the West) but also a potent staging area for an invasion of Western Europe.

The first deterrent against such an invasion, which Stalin would have promulgated had he thought he could get away with it, was America’s nuclear monopoly. By the time that was lost, NATO had emerged as a powerful and very necessary deterrent. The Soviets, concluding that the cost of an invasion was too high, defaulted to a strategy of undermining Western interests anywhere around the world where that was possible. The result was global tensions stirred up at various global trouble spots, most notably Korea and Vietnam.

But Europe was saved, and NATO was the key. It deserves our respect and even reverence for its profound success as a military alliance during a time of serious threat to the West.

But then the threat went away. Gone were the 1.3 million Soviet and client-state troops. Gone was Soviet domination of Eastern Europe. Indeed, gone, by 1991, was the Soviet Union itself, an artificial regime of brutal ideology superimposed upon the cultural entity of Mother Russia. It was a time for celebration.

But it was also a time to contemplate the precise nature of the change that had washed over the world and to ponder what that might mean for old institutions—including NATO, a defensive military alliance created to deter aggression from a menacing enemy to the east. Here’s where Western thinking went awry. Rather than accepting as a great benefit the favorable developments enhancing Western security—the Soviet military retreat, the territorial reversal, the Soviet demise—the West turned NATO into a territorial aggressor of its own, absorbing nations that had been part of the Soviet sphere of control and pushing right up to the Russian border. Now Leningrad (renamed St. Petersburg after the obliteration of the menace of Soviet communism) resides within a hundred miles of NATO military forces, while Moscow is merely 200 miles from Western troops.

Since the end of the Cold War, NATO has absorbed 13 nations, some on the Russian border, others bordering lands that had been part of Russia’s sphere of interest for centuries. This constitutes a policy of encirclement, which no nation can accept without protest or pushback. And if NATO were to absorb those lands of traditional Russian influence—particularly Ukraine and Georgia—that would constitute a major threat to Russian security, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has sought to emphasize to Western leaders for years.

So, no, NATO has not deterred Russian aggression for 70 years. It did so for 40 and has maintained a destabilizing posture toward Russia ever since. The problem here is the West’s inability to perceive how changed geopolitical circumstances might require a changed geopolitical strategy. The encirclement strategy has had plenty of critics—George Kennan before he died; academics John Mearsheimer, Stephen Walt, and Robert David English; former diplomat Jack Matlock; the editors of The Nation. But their voices have tended to get drowned out by the nostrum diplomacy and the nostrum journalism that supports it at every turn.

You can’t drown out Donald Trump because he’s president of the United States. And so he has to be traduced, ridiculed, dismissed, and marginalized. That’s what the Times story, by Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper, sought to do. Consider the lead, designed to emphasize just how outlandish Trump’s musings are before the reader even has a chance to absorb what he may have been thinking: “There are few things that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia desires more than the weakening of NATO, the military alliance among the United States, Europe and Canada that has deterred Soviet and Russian aggression for 70 years.” Translation: “Take that, Mr. President! You’re an idiot.”

Henry Kissinger had something interesting to say about Trump in a recent interview with the Financial Times. “I think Trump may be one of those figures in history,” said the former secretary of state, “who appears from time to time to mark the end of an era and to force it to give up its old pretenses.” One Western pretense about Russia, so ardently enforced by the likes of Julian Barnes and Helene Cooper (who, it may be safe to say, know less about world affairs and their history than Henry Kissinger), is that nothing really changed with the Soviet collapse and NATO had to turn aggressive in order to keep that menacing nation in its place.

Trump clearly doesn’t buy that pretense. He said during the campaign that NATO was obsolete. Then he backtracked, saying he only wanted other NATO members to pay their fair share of the cost of deterrence. He even confessed, after Hillary Clinton identified NATO as “the strongest military alliance in the history of the world,” that he only said NATO was obsolete because he didn’t know much about it. But he was learning—enough, it appears, to support as president Montenegro’s entry into NATO in 2017. Is Montenegro, with 5,332 square miles and some 620,000 citizens, really a crucial element in Europe’s desperate project to protect itself against Putin’s Russia?

We all know that Trump is a crude figure—not just in his disgusting discourse but in his fumbling efforts to execute political decisions. As a politician, he often seems like a doctor attempting to perform open-heart surgery while wearing mittens. His idle musings about leaving NATO are a case in point—an example of a politician who lacks the skill and finesse to nudge the country in necessary new directions.

But Kissinger has a point about the man. America and the world have changed, while the old ways of thinking have not kept pace. The pretenses of the old have blinded the status quo defenders into thinking nothing has changed. Trump, almost alone among contemporary American politicians, is asking questions to which the world needs new answers. NATO, in its current configuration and outlook, is a danger to peace, not a guarantor of it.


Robert W. Merry, longtime Washington journalist and publishing executive, is the author most recently of President McKinley: Architect of the American Century

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Nigel Farage To Back Another “Vote Leave” Campaign If UK Holds Second Brexit Referendum

Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition.

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Via Zerohedge


Pro-European MPs from various political parties are pushing back against claims made by Prime Minister Theresa May’s government that a second Brexit referendum – which supporters have branded as a “People’s Vote” on May’s deal – would take roughly 14 months to organize, according to RT.

But while support for a second vote grows, one of the most notorious proponents of the original “Vote Leave” campaign is hinting at a possible return to politics to try and fight the effort.

After abandoning UKIP, the party he helped create, late last year, Nigel Farage said Friday that he would be willing to wage another “Vote Leave” campaign, even if he needed to use another party as the “vehicle” for his opposition. Farage also pointed out that a delay of Brexit Day would likely put it after the European Parliament elections in May.

“I think, I fear that the House of Commons is going to effectively overturn that Brexit. To me, the most likely outcome of all of this is an extension of Article 50. There could be another referendum,” he told Sky News.

According to official government guidance shown to lawmakers on Wednesday, which was subsequently leaked to the Telegraph, as May tries to head off a push by ministers who see a second referendum as the best viable alternative to May’s deal – a position that’s becoming increasingly popular with Labour Party MPs.

“In order to inform the discussions, a very short paper set out in factual detail the number of months that would be required, this was illustrative only and our position of course is that there will be no second referendum,,” May said. The statement comes as May has been meeting with ministers and leaders from all parties to try to find a consensus deal that could potentially pass in the House of Commons.

The 14 month estimate is how long May and her government expect it would take to pass the primary legislation calling for the referendum (seven months), conduct the question testing with the election committee (12 weeks), pass secondary legislation (six weeks) and conduct the campaigns (16 weeks).

May has repeatedly insisted that a second referendum wouldn’t be feasible because it would require a lengthy delay of Brexit Day, and because it would set a dangerous precedent that wouldn’t offer any more clarity (if some MPs are unhappy with the outcome, couldn’t they just push for a third referendum?). A spokesperson for No. 10 Downing Street said the guidance was produced purely for the purpose of “illustrative discussion” and that the government continued to oppose another vote.

Meanwhile, a vote on May’s “Plan B”, expected to include a few minor alterations from the deal’s previous iteration, has been called for Jan. 29, prompting some MPs to accuse May of trying to run out the clock. May is expected to present the new deal on Monday.

Former Tory Attorney General and pro-remainer MP Dominic Grieve blasted May’s timetable as wrong and said that the government “must be aware of it themselves,” while former Justice Minister Dr Phillip Lee, who resigned his cabinet seat in June over May’s Brexit policy, denounced her warning as “nonsense.”

As May pieces together her revised deal, more MPs are urging her to drop her infamous “red lines” (Labour in particular would like to see the UK remain part of the Customs Union), but with no clear alternative to May’s plan emerging, a delay of Brexit Day is looking like a virtual certainty.

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The National Security Agency Is A Criminal Organization

The National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Paul Craig Roberts

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Via Paul Craig Roberts…


Years before Edward Snowden provided documented proof that the National Security Agency was really a national insecurity agency as it was violating law and the US Constitution and spying indiscriminately on American citizens, William Binney, who designed and developed the NSA spy program revealed the illegal and unconstitutional spying. Binney turned whistleblower, because NSA was using the program to spy on Americans. As Binney was well known to the US Congress, he did not think he needed any NSA document to make his case. But what he found out was “Congress would never hear me because then they’d lose plausible deniability. That was really their key. They needed to have plausible deniability so they can continue this massive spying program because it gave them power over everybody in the world. Even the members of Congress had power against others [in Congress]; they had power on judges on the Supreme Court, the federal judges, all of them. That’s why they’re so afraid. Everybody’s afraid because all this data that’s about them, the central agencies — the intelligence agencies — they have it. And that’s why Senator Schumer warned President Trump earlier, a few months ago, that he shouldn’t attack the intelligence community because they’ve got six ways to Sunday to come at you. That’s because it’s like J. Edgar Hoover on super steroids. . . . it’s leverage against every member of parliament and every government in the world.”

To prevent whistle-blowing, NSA has “a program now called ‘see something, say something’ about your fellow workers. That’s what the Stasi did. That’s why I call [NSA] the new New Stasi Agency. They’re picking up all the techniques from the Stasi and the KGB and the Gestapo and the SS. They just aren’t getting violent yet that we know of — internally in the US, outside is another story.”

As Binney had no documents to give to the media, blowing the whistle had no consequence for NSA. This is the reason that Snowden released the documents that proved NSA to be violating both law and the Constitution, but the corrupt US media focused blame on Snowden as a “traitor” and not on NSA for its violations.

Whistleblowers are protected by federal law. Regardless, the corrupt US government tried to prosecute Binney for speaking out, but as he had taken no classified document, a case could not be fabricated against him.

Binney blames the NSA’s law-breaking on Dick “Darth” Cheney. He says NSA’s violations of law and Constitution are so extreme that they would have to have been cleared at the top of the government.

Binney describes the spy network, explains that it was supposed to operate only against foreign enemies, and that using it for universal spying so overloads the system with data that the system fails to discover many terrorist activities. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/50932.htm

Apparently, the National Security Agency values being able to blackmail citizens and members of government at home and abroad more than preventing terrorist attacks.

Unfortunately for Americans, there are many Americans who blindly trust the government and provide the means, the misuse of which is used to enslave us. A large percentage of the work in science and technology serves not to free people but to enslave them. By now there is no excuse for scientists and engineers not to know this. Yet they persist in their construction of the means to destroy liberty.

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