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The USSR and the Arabs: A chance for Arab Unity thrown away

Today’s crisis in the Middle East is the result of the failure of secular Arab leaders like Nasser and Saddam Hussein during the period of the Cold War to make use of the opportunity provided by the support of the USSR to forge Arab Unity.

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The notion of a unified Arab state has been one of the defining political questions of the 20th century. It first arose during the First World War when T. E. Lawrence (‘Lawrence of Arabia)’ famous assisted The Arab Revolt against their Ottoman Turk overlords on the basis that Britain would aid the Arabs to create a unified Arab state upon victory.

This promise was broken before it had the opportunity to be kept, as the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 between France and Britain split the Arab lands into incongruous new states whose borders continue to cause problems to this day.

Shortly after the October Revolution, Russia’s new Bolshevik government became the first country to expose this secret deal to the world. This would not be the first time that the Soviets would expose Western betrayals in the Middle East.

After 1945, when young Arab states begun to assert their independence, the second great attempt at Arab unity came about in the form of Egyptian President Gamal Nasser programme of Arab nationalism.

Nasser had a cohesive, modern, secular and socialist model for reforming his native Egypt and for uniting the Arab world. Curiously Nasser was also responsible for the single biggest example of US/Soviet cooperation in the history of the Cold War as both superpowers instructed Britain, France and Israel to halt their invasion of Egypt in 1956.

This was in many ways an odd moment in Cold War history. Because of his diplomatic manoeuvring Nasser was able to bring the US and USSR together in a kind of bidding war for influence over Egypt. Nasser was no doubted aided by the fact that the US’s then Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was perhaps the most anti-British figure in any modern American government.

Yet this brief moment of US/Soviet cooperation in the Middle East did not last, and soon it became clear that the Middle East would be divided between monarchies loyal to the capitalist powers and secular Presidential republics which tended to ally themselves to the USSR.

From the 1960s until the end of the Cold War the story of Pan-Arab unity on a broadly Nasserist model is the story of Soviet loyalty to the Arabs, in spite of no Arab government ever adopting a Marxist-Leninist constitution, and in spite of Syrian chauvinism several times thwarting attempts to create Arab unity. 

It is also the story of the Arabs sabotaging themselves through petty infighting. It is a tale of a lost opportunity to create secular stability in a region now swamped by religious civil wars, mass murder, eroding women’s rights, and terrorism.    

Nasser’s move was to create the United Arab Republic uniting Egypt with Syria. After Iraq became a left-leaning republic in 1958, Iraq might well have jointed too. Yet Nasser’s vision was quashed first by Iraqi worries of submitting to Egypt and, more importantly, by the arrogance of Syrian officials who in spite of multiple concessions by Nasser believed that the union was too Cairo-centric.

During the Brezhnev years Syria remained a highly important Arab ally for the USSR.  The other key Arab allies of the USSR during this period were the socialist regime in South Yemen, which came to power there after driving out the British, and Iraq, arguably a more important ally than South Yemen because of its much greater size and its abundant resources.   

By the 1970s both Syria and Iraq had governments that followed what was nominally the same ideology: Ba’athism. Both Syria and Iraq were supported by the USSR.  However in 1966 there was a rancorous split between the Iraqi and Syrian branches of the Ba’ath party, causing the two countries to remain disunited and become increasingly hostile to each other.

In spite of this a plan took shape in 1978 to form a union between Iraq and Syria, which was agreed between the then Iraqi leader Ahmed Hassan al-Bakr and Syrian President Hafez al-Assad. However, the emergence of Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq thwarted this plan. 

Saddam Hussein was a megalomaniac to be sure, and his volatile relationship with the Iraqi Communist Party may well have been enough to frighten off Soviet support. Yet as was the case with Egypt under Nasser and with Syria under Assad the USSR was nonetheless willing to work with non-communist, secular Arab governments such as Saddam Hussein’s.

Saddam Hussein, like Nasser before him and Gaddafi simultaneously with him, sought Arab unity.  However he lacked Nasser’s diplomatic genius.  He first proposed to create a distinct Iraqi identity, something arguably necessary to overcome the sectarian divisions of his arbitrarily created state.  Saddam Hussein’s idea was that after a properly united Iraqi state had been created it would form the basis for a united Arab state. 

Nasser and Gaddafi ruled over states with fewer sectarian problems, making Saddam Hussein’s attempt to draw on ancient Mesopotamian history to unite Iraq a difficult task. Saddam Hussein – like most idealists – in the end proved a failed idealist. That said, Saddam Hussein’s idealism was based on an understanding of his people in contrast to post-Gulf War Western ideals for Iraq, which were based on a total misunderstanding of the population of Iraq.

Whilst Nasser began his political life courting both Soviet and America support, Saddam followed something of an inverse pattern. Throughout the Iran-Iraq war Saddam received steadfast Soviet support against Iran, a fact which complicated Soviet attempts at normalisation with Iran despite the USSR’s early recognition of the Islamic Republic. 

Yet Saddam also began to turn increasingly to the West, receiving support from the US, Britain and especially France. This of course led in the end to conflict and the eventual destruction of Iraq, the execution of Saddam Hussein, and a civil war out of which the ugly beast ISIS has emerged.

What are the lessons of this tragic story?

First of all, it demonstrates that the Western powers are unreliable allies for secular, independent Arab leaders. Whilst the Soviets never forced a Marxist-Leninist government on these leaders, the US and its allies have sought to impose their ideologies on them. Many Arab leaders who sought rapprochement with the West (Saddam Hussein, Gaddafi, Mubarak, Ben Ali) have fallen, and chaos has emerged whether in Iraq, Yemen and Libya. Without Russian assistance Bashar Al-Assad in Syria might have fallen too, spreading chaos there as well.

The other consequence is that the quest for secularism and Arab unity is succumbing throughout the Arab world to theocracy and Islamism. This has less to do with the creation of the Islamic Republic in Iran than it has to do with the absence of a strong Soviet state to assist secular Arab leaders in the 1990s.

The fall of the USSR allowed the West freedom to weaken secular Arab leaders, allowing violent Islamism to fill this gap. Ironically Iran’s power has increased as a result. The silver lining to that is that the Iran of today is a vastly more moderate country than it was in 1979, so that it has remained one of secular Syria’s few allies in the region.

That being said, even if Syria defeats her Islamist enemies, the Middle East has become far less stable since the collapse of the USSR. It is tempting to blame exclusively NATO interventions in the region for this.  However the sad truth is that Arabs themselves must share the blame. By refusing to unite when they could have easily done so – under the assistance and with the protection of Soviet power – they let petty chauvinistic squabbling and personal egotism get in the way of their regional prosperity.

Ultimately Arab leaders forgot that one rarely gets to choose the timing of the occasion to which one must rise. In betraying their Soviet friends and the opportunities they presented, secular/socialist Arab leaders betrayed themselves, betrayed the Arabs, and – given the importance of the Middle East for world peace – betrayed the world.

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Nancy Pelosi tries to deplatform U.S. President Trump over the wall (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 170.

Alex Christoforou

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In response to Pelosi’s disgusting act of censorship, Trump trolled the Speaker of the House in epic fashion by forcing the cancellation of a trip to Afghanistan, Brussels and Egypt by Nancy Pelosi and her massive entourage.

In a letter addressed to Pelosi, U.S. President Trump told House Speaker Nancy Pelosi…

“I am sorry to inform you that your trip to Brussels, Egypt, and Afghanistan has been postponed. We will reschedule this seven-day excursion when the Shutdown is over.”

“I am sure you would agree that postponing this public relations event is appropriate.”

According to a congressional aide, Pelosi and several other politicians were already on buses preparing to leave the U.S. Capitol when the U.S. President cancelled their trip.

Trump suggested that Pelosi fly commercial to Afghanistan and elsewhere should she wish.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how Nancy Pelosi is trying to censor Trump and prevent the U.S. President from delivering the State of the Union to the American people, in what is clearly another liberal left deplatforming ploy.

Instead of debating the issues about the wall and immigration with fact, logic, and policy positions, Pelosi (out of fear) is trying to silence Trump and squash debate and political discourse.

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Via The Gateway Pundit

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) sent a letter to President Donald Trump on Wednesday asking him to postpone the State of the Union Address to a Joint Session of Congress scheduled for January 29.

Pelosi cited security concerns over the partial government shutdown.

Pelosi said both the U.S. Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security have not been funded for 26 days now – with critical departments hamstrung by furloughs. Therefore, they would not be ready for the speech.

Pelosi posted her letter to Trump on Twitter, saying, “Today, I wrote to  recommending that we delay the State of the Union until after government re-opens, as the , the lead federal agency for  security, faces its 26th day without funding.” (Text version of letter below tweet.)

The Department of Homeland Security refuted the Speaker’s claims — The Secret Service is ready for the SOTU.

And on Thursday FOX News reported that Speaker Pelosi was using “all kinds of security” manpower for her pricey trip with Democrats to Belgium and Afghanistan.

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BuzzFeed pushes fake Michael Cohen news, as real news breaks on HUGE conspiracy against Trump at FBI and DOJ (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 169.

Alex Christoforou

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According to Zerohedge, in an almost unprecedented event – having rarely commented on stories related to the special counsel’s investigation – Robert S. Mueller III’s office put out a statement firmly disputing the reporting of the news site BuzzFeed reported that the president instructed his personal attorney to lie to Congress about his push for a Moscow real estate project

BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the Special Counsel’s Office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s Congressional testimony are not accurate,” the special counsel’s office said.

As The Hill reports, BuzzFeed had released a statement earlier Friday defending the reporters behind the story and saying that it “stands by this story 100%,” and for his part, Cohen adviser Lanny Davis refused to confirm or deny the report during an interview with MSNBC on Friday afternoon.

President Trump retweeted a few social media reactions…

And then made his own views clear:

Meanwhile the real election collusion bombshell had nothing to do with Russia, Moscow hotels, or Michael Cohen, and everything to do with bullet proof evidence that DOJ official, Bruce Ohr, warned all the higher-ups at the FBI and DOJ (Comey, Rosenstein, McCabe, etc…) that the Steele dossier was connected to Hillary Clinton, and was extremely biased against Donald Trump.

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how BuzzFeed pushed out a clear, fake propaganda story on Trump, Cohen, and more stupidity about Moscow hotel deals, as real reporter, John Solomon broke a massive story, with solid evidence and facts, that show the FBI and DOJ knew that the Steele dossier was a complete work of fiction, and knowingly hide that fact from FISA courts.

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Authored by John Solomon, via The Hill

When the annals of mistakes and abuses in the FBI’s Russia investigation are finally written, Bruce Ohr almost certainly will be the No. 1 witness, according to my sources.

The then-senior Department of Justice (DOJ) official briefed both senior FBI and DOJ officials in summer 2016 about Christopher Steele’s Russia dossier, explicitly cautioning that the British intelligence operative’s work was opposition research connected to Hillary Clinton’s campaign and might be biased.

Ohr’s briefings, in July and August 2016, included the deputy director of the FBI, a top lawyer for then-Attorney General Loretta Lynch and a Justice official who later would become the top deputy to special counsel Robert Mueller.

At the time, Ohr was the associate deputy attorney general. Yet his warnings about political bias were pointedly omitted weeks later from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrant that the FBI obtainedfrom a federal court, granting it permission to spy on whether the Trump campaign was colluding with Russia to hijack the 2016 presidential election.

Ohr’s activities, chronicled in handwritten notes and congressional testimony I gleaned from sources, provide the most damning evidence to date that FBI and DOJ officials may have misled federal judges in October 2016 in their zeal to obtain the warrant targeting Trump adviser Carter Page just weeks before Election Day.

They also contradict a key argument that House Democrats have made in their formal intelligence conclusions about the Russia case.

Since it was disclosed last year that Steele’s dossier formed a central piece of evidence supporting the FISA warrant, Justice and FBI officials have been vague about exactly when they learned that Steele’s work was paid for by the law firm representing the Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee (DNC).

A redacted version of the FISA application released last year shows the FBI did not mention any connection to the DNC or Clinton. Rather, it referred to Steele as a reliable source in past criminal investigations who was hired by a person working for a U.S. law firm to conduct research on Trump and Russia.

The FBI claimed it was “unaware of any derogatory information” about Steele, that Steele was “never advised … as to the motivation behind the research” but that the FBI  “speculates” that those who hired Steele were “likely looking for information to discredit” Trump’s campaign.

Yet, in testimony last summer to congressional investigators, Ohr revealed the FBI and Justice lawyers had no need to speculate: He explicitly warned them in a series of contacts, beginning July 31, 2016, that Steele expressed biased against Trump and was working on a project connected to the Clinton campaign.

Ohr had firsthand knowledge about the motive and the client: He had just met with Steele on July 30, 2016, and Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS, the same firm employing Steele.

“I certainly told the FBI that Fusion GPS was working with, doing opposition research on Donald Trump,” Ohr told congressional investigators, adding that he warned the FBI that Steele expressed bias during their conversations.

“I provided information to the FBI when I thought Christopher Steele was, as I said, desperate that Trump not be elected,” he added. “So, yes, of course I provided that to the FBI.”

When pressed why he would offer that information to the FBI, Ohr answered: “In case there might be any kind of bias or anything like that.” He added later, “So when I provided it to the FBI, I tried to be clear that this is source information, I don’t know how reliable it is. You’re going to have to check it out and be aware.”

Ohr went further, saying he disclosed to FBI agents that his wife and Steele were working for the same firm and that it was conducting the Trump-Russia research project at the behest of Trump’s Democratic rival, the Clinton campaign.

“These guys were hired by somebody relating to, who’s related to the Clinton campaign and be aware,” Ohr told Congress, explaining what he warned the bureau.

Perkins Coie, the law firm that represented both the DNC and the Clinton campaign during the 2016 election, belatedly admitted it paid Fusion GPS for Steele’s work on behalf of the candidate and party and disguised the payments as legal bills when, in fact, it was opposition research.

When asked if he knew of any connection between the Steele dossier and the DNC, Ohr responded that he believed the project was really connected to the Clinton campaign.

“I didn’t know they were employed by the DNC but I certainly said yes that they were working for, you know, they were somehow working, associated with the Clinton campaign,” he answered.

“I also told the FBI that my wife worked for Fusion GPS or was a contractor for GPS, Fusion GPS.”

Ohr divulged his first contact with the FBI was on July 31, 2016, when he reached out to then-Deputy Director Andrew McCabe and FBI attorney Lisa Page. He then was referred to the agents working Russia counterintelligence, including Peter Strzok, the now-fired agent who played a central role in starting the Trump collusion probe.

But Ohr’s contacts about the Steele dossier weren’t limited to the FBI. He said in August 2016 — nearly two months before the FISA warrant was issued — that he was asked to conduct a briefing for senior Justice officials.

Those he briefed included Andrew Weissmann, then the head of DOJ’s fraud section; Bruce Swartz, longtime head of DOJ’s international operations, and Zainab Ahmad, an accomplished terrorism prosecutor who, at the time, was assigned to work with Lynch as a senior counselor.

Ahmad and Weissmann would go on to work for Mueller, the special prosecutor overseeing the Russia probe.

Ohr’s extensive testimony also undercuts one argument that House Democrats sought to make last year.

When Republicans, in early 2018, first questioned Ohr’s connections to Steele, Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee sought to minimize the connection, insisting he only worked as an informer for the FBI after Steele was fired by the FBI in November 2016.

The memo from Rep. Adam Schiff’s (D-Calif.) team claimed that Ohr’s contacts with the FBI only began “weeks after the election and more than a month after the Court approved the initial FISA application.”

But Ohr’s testimony now debunks that claim, making clear he started talking to FBI and DOJ officials well before the FISA warrant or election had occurred.

And his detailed answers provide a damning rebuttal to the FBI’s portrayal of the Steele material.

In fact, the FBI did have derogatory information on Steele: Ohr explicitly told the FBI that Steele was desperate to defeat the man he was investigating and was biased.

And the FBI knew the motive of the client and did not have to speculate: Ohr told agents the Democratic nominee’s campaign was connected to the research designed to harm Trump’s election chances.

Such omissions are, by definition, an abuse of the FISA system.

Don’t take my word for it. Fired FBI Director James Comey acknowledged it himself when he testified last month that the FISA court relies on an honor system, in which the FBI is expected to divulge exculpatory evidence to the judges.

“We certainly consider it our obligation, because of our trust relationship with federal judges, to present evidence that would paint a materially different picture of what we’re presenting,” Comey testified on Dec. 7, 2018. “You want to present to the judge reviewing your application a complete picture of the evidence, both its flaws and its strengths.”

Comey claims he didn’t know about Ohr’s contacts with Steele, even though his top deputy, McCabe, got the first contact.

But none of that absolves his FBI, or the DOJ for that matter, from failing to divulge essential and exculpatory information from Ohr to the FISA court.

John Solomon is an award-winning investigative journalist whose work over the years has exposed U.S. and FBI intelligence failures before the Sept. 11 attacks, federal scientists’ misuse of foster children and veterans in drug experiments, and numerous cases of political corruption. He is The Hill’s executive vice president for video.

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At Age 70, Time To Rethink NATO

The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

Patrick J. Buchanan

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Authored by Patrick Buchanan via The Unz Review:


“Treaties are like roses and young girls. They last while they last.”

So said President Charles De Gaulle, who in 1966 ordered NATO to vacate its Paris headquarters and get out of France.

NATO this year celebrates a major birthday. The young girl of 1966 is no longer young. The alliance is 70 years old.

And under this aging NATO today, the U.S. is committed to treat an attack on any one of 28 nations from Estonia to Montenegro to Romania to Albania as an attack on the United States.

The time is ripe for a strategic review of these war guarantees to fight a nuclear-armed Russia in defense of countries across the length of Europe that few could find on a map.

Apparently, President Donald Trump, on trips to Europe, raised questions as to whether these war guarantees comport with vital U.S. interests and whether they could pass a rigorous cost-benefit analysis.

The shock of our establishment that Trump even raised this issue in front of Europeans suggests that the establishment, frozen in the realities of yesterday, ought to be made to justify these sweeping war guarantees.

Celebrated as “the most successful alliance in history,” NATO has had two histories. Some of us can yet recall its beginnings.

In 1948, Soviet troops, occupying eastern Germany all the way to the Elbe and surrounding Berlin, imposed a blockade on the city.

The regime in Prague was overthrown in a Communist coup. Foreign minister Jan Masaryk fell, or was thrown, from a third-story window to his death. In 1949, Stalin exploded an atomic bomb.

As the U.S. Army had gone home after V-E Day, the U.S. formed a new alliance to protect the crucial European powers — West Germany, France, Britain, Italy. Twelve nations agreed that an attack on one would be treated as an attack on them all.

Cross the Elbe and you are at war with us, including the U.S. with its nuclear arsenal, Stalin was, in effect, told. Hundreds of thousands of U.S. troops returned to Europe to send the message that America was serious.

Crucial to the alliance was the Yalta line dividing Europe agreed to by Stalin, FDR and Churchill at the 1945 Crimean summit on the Black Sea.

U.S. presidents, even when monstrous outrages were committed in Soviet-occupied Europe, did not cross this line into the Soviet sphere.

Truman did not send armored units up the highway to Berlin. He launched an airlift to break the Berlin blockade. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian rebels in 1956. JFK confined his rage at the building of the Berlin Wall to the rhetorical: “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

LBJ did nothing to help the Czechs when, before the Democratic convention in 1968, Leonid Brezhnev sent Warsaw Pact tank armies to crush the Prague Spring.

When the Solidarity movement of Lech Walesa was crushed in Gdansk, Reagan sent copy and printing machines. At the Berlin Wall in 1988, he called on Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall.”

Reagan never threatened to tear it down himself.

But beginning in 1989, the Wall was torn down, Germany was united, the Red Army went home, the Warsaw Pact dissolved, the USSR broke apart into 15 nations, and Leninism expired in its birthplace.

As the threat that had led to NATO disappeared, many argued that the alliance created to deal with that threat should be allowed to fade away, and a free and prosperous Europe should now provide for its own defense.

It was not to be. The architect of Cold War containment, Dr. George Kennan, warned that moving NATO into Eastern Europe and former Soviet republics would prove a “fateful error.”

This, said Kennan, would “inflame the nationalistic and militaristic tendencies in Russian opinion” and “restore the atmosphere of the cold war in East-West relations.” Kennan was proven right.

America is now burdened with the duty to defend Europe from the Atlantic to the Baltic, even as we face a far greater threat in China, with an economy and population 10 times that of Russia.

And we must do this with a defense budget that is not half the share of the federal budget or the GDP that Eisenhower and Kennedy had.

Trump is president today because the American people concluded that our foreign policy elite, with their endless interventions where no vital U.S. interest was imperiled, had bled and virtually bankrupted us, while kicking away all of the fruits of our Cold War victory.

Halfway into Trump’s term, the question is whether he is going to just talk about halting Cold War II with Russia, about demanding that Europe pay for its own defense, and about bringing the troops home — or whether he is going to act upon his convictions.

Our foreign policy establishment is determined to prevent Trump from carrying out his mandate. And if he means to carry out his agenda, he had best get on with it.

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