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Russian and US military chiefs meet in Turkey to discuss the fight against ISIS

US and Russian military chiefs meet to discuss their plans for fight against ISIS.

Alexander Mercouris

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Just three weeks after the top soldiers of the US and Russian militaries – General Joseph Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff – met in Azerbaijan, they have followed up with a second meeting in Antalya Turkey, for a summit hosted by Turkey’s top soldier, General Hulusi Akar, who is the Chief of the Turkish General Staff.

Unlike the summit meeting in Azerbaijan, which discussed the full range of US-Russian military relations, the meeting in Turkey is specifically focused on this situations in Iraq and Syria.

The background to this meeting is that President Trump has directed the US military to provide him with plans to intensify the fight in Iraq and Syria against ISIS and the other Jihadi terrorist groups, which President Trump has pledged “to wipe from the surface of the earth”.  Apparently a draft plan has already been prepared by the Pentagon, though it has not yet been presented to the President.

At the meeting in Azerbaijan Dunford is reported to have reassured Gerasimov that talk of large scale US army deployments to Syria was untrue.  However a sharp increase in the number of US military personnel deployed to Syria is definitely on the cards.  With the Russians in a dominant military position in Syria, Dunford clearly wants to brief Gerasimov personally about the plan, so as to ensure at least a measure of Russian (and Syrian) cooperation.

This comes after reports that the US air force carried out air strikes on ISIS that helped the recent Syrian advance on Palmyra.

A further reason why Dunford and Gerasimov might wish to speak to each other – and involve the Turks in their discussions – is that recent offensives by the Syrian and Turkish armies in northern Syria have brought these two armies into close contact with each other.  Whilst there has been no outright clash, a number of incidents have taken place.

With both the US and Russia anxious to concentrate on the fight against ISIS, Dunford and Gerasimov will be concerned to ensure that these incidents do not spiral out of control.  They will want Hulusi Akar’s explanations of how he will ensure this, and they may have their own proposals to make to him.

With the situation in the eastern Syrian desert Deir Ezzor remaining critical, Gerasimov will also be seeking reassurances from Dunford that the US is doing all it can to prevent ISIS fighters fleeing from Mosul and Iraq joining the fight against the Syrian army in Deir Ezzor.

Lastly, Dunford, Gerasimov and Hulusi Akar will undoubtedly discuss in detail the situation in Manbij, where parallel and clearly coordinated US and Russian troop movements have blocked a Turkish advance on Kurdish controlled Manbij and on ISIS controlled Raqqa.

The chiefs of the US and Russian militaries will want both to reassure Hulusi Akar that this is not a hostile move by the US and Russia against Turkey, and that Turkey’s cooperation in the fight against ISIS is highly valued, and at the same time make clear to Hulusi Akar what are the red lines beyond which Turkey is not allowed to go.

The fraught political situation in Washington has made it politically impossible for President Trump to forge ahead at least for the time being with his objective of detente with Russia.

However the US military are not so constrained.  With the neocons no longer in charge in Washington and able to prevent them from talking to the Russians, they have seized the opportunity to reach out to  their Russian counterparts.  The result is that they are now working with them discreetly on the ground in Syria in order to avoid possible conflicts there – such as the one which almost happened in October – and in order that the two militaries can keep each other informed of their respective plans.

It is important to say that this is a dialogue not an alliance.  There is no evidence that Dunford and Gerasimov are planning joint operations together against ISIS.  Whilst that might one day happen for the moment US Defense Secretary Mattis has ruled it out.

However one reason ISIS has been able to survive for so long and grow to such enormous strength is precisely that the US and the Russian militaries have been in conflict with each other in Syria.  This has allowed ISIS to play the two off against each other, and even to forge tactical alliances with the US against the Syrians and the Russians, as happened to deadly effect in September in Deir Ezzor.

Now that the US and Russian militaries are at talking to each and informing each other about their plans, hopefully that will no longer be the case.

In the meantime the mere fact that the US and Russian militaries once more have an active ongoing dialogue, even if its scope for the moment is limited to the fight against ISIS and Jihadi terrorism in Iraq and Syria, may make it easier in the long run to effect a general improvement in US Russian relations.

The US military are not as vulnerable to the charges of treason and collusion with the Russians that s0 many of Donald Trump’s civilian officials are.   It would take a very brave or even reckless Democratic Party Senator, CIA official or New York Times journalist to accuse General Dunford of treason because he has met with his Russian counterpart.

That means that for the moment the US military are in a much better position to carry out diplomacy with the Russians than the civilians are, a fact which given how important the military are in Donald Trump’s administration may turn out to be important in the long run.

That however is for the future.  In the meantime the mere fact that Dunford and Gerasimov are now regularly talking to each other is in itself a good thing.

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What Lies Behind the Malaise of the West?

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament.

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via Buchanan.org:


Is it coincidence or contagion, this malady that seems to have suddenly induced paralysis in the leading nations of the West?

With lawyer-fixer Michael Cohen’s confession that he colluded with Donald Trump in making hush money payoffs to Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal, America’s stage is set for a play that will run two years.

As Democrats test the waters for a presidential run by savaging Trump, the establishment Trump detests and defeated in 2016 will use every weapon in its considerable arsenal to break and bring him down, as it did half a century ago to Richard Nixon.

By spring 2019, Americans will be unable to escape the vitriol on cable and social media. And the outside world will see America again as a house divided. Our politics will be even more poisonous than now, and it is not easy to see what would bring our warring tribes together again.

Consider, then, the situation of our old ally Great Britain.

Prime Minister Theresa May was just forced to pledge that she would not lead her party in the next election — to survive a no-confidence vote in Parliament. A third of all Tory members voted to throw her out.

The no-confidence vote was called after May had to cancel a vote on the Brexit plan she had negotiated with the EU, when it was evident that a coalition of Tories and Labor would vote to kill her plan.

May has been humiliated. Yet her humiliation solves nothing. The clock is running toward a March deadline for concluding a Brexit deal. And no plan acceptable to both Parliament and the EU is on the table.

The possibility exists that Britain could simply crash out of the EU, causing severe economic damage to both.

Realizing this, Brussels has left the door open if Britain should vote in a second referendum to remain in the EU. But calling and carrying out that referendum would be a betrayal of the 52 percent of the British people that voted to restore full national independence.

While London wanted to stay in the EU in 2016, England voted to leave. Northern Ireland wanted to stay, as did Scotland, though 45 percent of Scots had earlier voted to declare their own independence from Great Britain.

In France, after four Saturdays of anarchy, arson, looting and vandalism of her national monuments, President Emmanuel Macron capitulated to the rioters. He withdrew the fuel tax that triggered the uprisings. He agreed to have his government add $113 a month to those earning the minimum wage, and to let workers get overtime pay and Christmas bonuses tax-free, and to revoke higher social charges on modest pensions.

The cost of Macron’s retreat is estimated at $11 billion, 0.4 percent of France’s GDP. Saturday will tell us if his appeasement bought peace.

The political collapse of Macron has been extraordinary.

In 2017, he won almost two-thirds of the national vote, and his La Republique en Marche! won an absolute majority of the National Assembly.

Today, one poll puts Macron’s approval at 21 percent. The idea that he can replace Angela Merkel as the recognized leader of the EU seems ridiculous.

As for Merkel herself, hailed as leader of the West in the time of Trump, her party and coalition lost so much support in the recent election that she stepped down as leader of the CDU and pledged not to run for another term as chancellor.

Europe’s fourth-largest economy, Italy, is now led by a coalition of the populist-left Five Star Movement and populist-right Lega party. The coalition seeks greater freedom on spending than Brussels is willing to allow, and a halt to migration from across the Med.

With Poland and Hungary at odds with Brussels over alterations in their political systems, the EU has never seemed less united.

What are the underlying causes of these 21st-century crises of Western democracies?

Certainly, globalization, with its creation of ties among transnational elites at the expense of nation-states and their indigenous peoples is one. Capitals — Washington, London, Paris, Berlin — seem ever more distant from the countries they rule.

Then there is demography. The native-born of almost all Western nations are aging, shrinking and dying. Death rates exceed birth rates. While peoples of the West are living longer, they are producing fewer children to replace them.

At the same time, Western elites have welcomed foreign workers and left borders unsecured against mass migration. And the people coming in, almost all now from the Third World, are not assimilating as the children of 19th- and 20th-century European immigrants to the USA had largely done by 1960.

A consequence and related cause is the rise of tribalism, or ethno-nationalism, the search for identity and community with one’s own. Loyalties to family, tribe, neighborhood, culture and country appear paramount, rising above intellectual and political alignments.

The heart has reasons of which reason knows nothing, said Pascal. And so it does.

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Petro Poroshenko and Theresa May: failed leaders on the same disastrous trajectory (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 37.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look how UK PM Theresa May and Ukraine President Petro Poroshenko are willing to destroy their country in the pursuit of pleasing their globalist masters, while retaining what little power they still hold.

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https://soundcloud.com/user-901836666/petro-poroshenko-and-theresa-may-failed-leaders-on-the-same-disastrous-trajectory

Via Zerohedge


Ukraine’s president has recently warned Russian tanks are amassing along the border between the two countries amid increasing tensions. The comments came late last month after three Ukrainian naval boats were seized in the Kerch Strait by Russia.

President Petro Poroshenko has allegedly shown images of what he claims to be hundreds of tanks preparing for an invasion.

He told Sky News:

“This is the tank base just 18km from our border, this was happening in September, October, and now.”

“This is 18km from my border, this is the same warehouse where they have their ammunition, the same where they have multi-rocket launch systems, we should be prepared to protect my country.”

Satellite imagery from Google Earth taken sometime in November from the Defense Blog has verified Poroshenko claims. Photos show hundreds of Russian main battle tanks at a new military installation in the Kamensk-Shakhtinsky region.

The Russian base is about 18 kilometers (11.1 miles) away from the rebel-held territory in eastern Ukraine. Images show hundreds of main battle tanks, with thousands of military trucks, support systems, artillery pieces, tankers, and troop transport vehicles.

Russia has been quietly building up its forces near the border with Ukraine since late summer and now has a military force greater than 2014, the year Moscow annexed Crimea, Viktor Muzhenko, the commander of Ukrainian armed forces, told Reuters in an interview last week.

In front of us is an aggressor who has no legal, moral or any other limits,” he said. “It is very difficult to predict when it will occur to him to begin active combat actions against Ukraine.”

“This (the Kerch Strait incident) was an act of aggression from regular forces, the border service (of the Russian Federation) in relation to the Ukrainian armed forces,” Muzhenko added.

Eric Zuesse via The Strategic Culture Foundation, made a great point in October that Washington is now treating Ukraine as if it were a NATO member, donating warships and military equipment to the country for use against Russia. This is the latest indication that America’s military-industrial complex is shifting to Ukraine as the epicenter to start World War III, and from which the nuclear war is to be sparked against Russia.

There is a reason why Russia is amassing hundreds of main battle tanks on the Ukranian border, that is because the next geopolitical flare-up is right around the corner, likely to occur during the next global recession.

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Canada PM Justin Trudeau in way over his head with Huawei CFO arrest

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 36.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris take a quick look at Justin Trudeau’s response to U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese officials over of stories around the arrest of Huawei’s CFO in Vancouver and the detention of a former Canadian diplomat in China.

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Via Zerohedge


China Arrests Former Canadian Diplomat As Government Fears Reprisal For Huawei CFO
Is this one of the “severe” reprisals threatened by Beijing when it summoned Canada’s ambassador to Beijing for a meeting over the weekend?

According to Reuters, former Canadian diplomat Michael Kovrig has been detained in China. Kovrig’s employer, International Crisis Group, is working to secure his “safe” release.

The reason for Kovrig’s detention wasn’t immediately clear, and Beijing has refused to comment on his detention. However, Reuters noted that the arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou has “stoked fears of reprisals.”

“International Crisis Group is aware of reports that its North East Asia Senior Adviser, Michael Kovrig, has been detained in China,” the think-tank said in a statement.

“We are doing everything possible to secure additional information on Michael’s whereabouts as well as his prompt and safe release,” it added.

China’s Foreign Ministry and Ministry of Public Security did not respond immediately to questions faxed earlier about Kovrig’s detention.

The exact reason for the detention was not immediately clear. The Canadian embassy declined to comment, referring queries to Ottawa.

Kovrig, a Mandarin speaker, has been working for the ICG as an in-house “expert” since February 2017. Prior to that, he served as a diplomat for the Canadian government between 2003 and 2016, with stints in Hong Kong and Beijing.

And while it’s possible that the timing of Kovrig’s arrest is purely coincidental, the timing is certainly suspicious.

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