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War With Russia?

The New Cold War is more dangerous than the one the world survived…

Stephen Cohen

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Authored by Stephen Cohen via The Nation:


The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of dusk. — Hegel

War With Russia?, like the biography of a living person, is a book without an end. The title is a warning – akin to what the late Gore Vidal termed “a journalistic alert-system” – not a prediction. Hence the question mark. I cannot foresee the future. The book’s overarching theme is informed by past and current facts, not by any political agenda, ideological commitment, or magical prescience.

This article is adapted from the concluding section of Stephen F. Cohen’s War With Russia? From Putin and Ukraine to Trump and Russiagate, just published, in paperback and e-book, by Skyhorse Publishing.

To restate that theme: The new US-Russian Cold War is more dangerous than was its 40-year predecessor that the world survived. The chances are even greater that this one could result, inadvertently or intentionally, in actual war between the two nuclear superpowers. Herein lies another ominous indication. During the preceding Cold War, the possibility of nuclear catastrophe was in the forefront of American mainstream political and media discussion, and of policy-making. During the new one, it rarely seems to be even a concern.

In the latter months of 2018, the facts and the mounting crises they document grow worse, especially in the US political-media establishment, where, as I have argued, the new Cold War originated and has been repeatedly escalated. Consider a few examples, some of them not unlike political and media developments during the run-up to the US war in Iraq or, historians have told us, how the great powers “sleepwalked” into World War I:

Russiagate’s core allegations—US-Russian collusion, treason—all remain unproven. Yet they have become a central part of the new Cold War. If nothing else, they severely constrain President Donald Trump’s capacity to conduct crisis negotiations with Moscow while they further vilify Russian President Vladimir Putin for having, it is widely asserted, personally ordered “an attack on America” during the 2016 presidential campaign. Some Hollywood liberals had earlier omitted the question mark, declaring, “We are at war.” In October 2018, the would-be titular head of the Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton, added her voice to this reckless allegation, flatly stating that the United States was “attacked by a foreign power” and equating it with “the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.”

Clinton may have been prompted by another outburst of malpractice by The New York Times and The Washington Post. On September 20 and 23, respectively, those exceptionally influential papers devoted thousands of words, illustrated with sinister prosecutorial graphics, to special retellings of the Russiagate narrative they had assiduously promoted for nearly two years, along with the narrative’s serial fallacies, selective and questionable history, and factual errors.

Again, for example, the now-infamous Paul Manafort, who was Trump’s campaign chairman for several months in 2016, was said to have been “pro-Kremlin” during his time as a lobbyist for Ukraine under then-President Viktor Yanukovych, when in fact he was pro–European Union. Again, Trump’s disgraced national-security adviser, Gen. Michael Flynn, was accused of “troubling” contacts when he did nothing wrong or unprecedented in having conversations with a Kremlin representative on behalf of President-elect Trump. Again, the two papers criminalized the idea, as the Times put it, that “the United States and Russia should look for areas of mutual interest,” once the premise of détente. And again, the Times, while assuring readers that its “Special Report” is “what we now know with certainty,” buried a related acknowledgment deep in its some 10,000 words: “No public evidence has emerged showing that [Trump’s] campaign conspired with Russia.” (The white-collar criminal indictments and guilty pleas cited were so unrelated that they added up to Russiagate without Russia.)

Astonishingly, neither paper gave any credence to an emphatic statement by the Post’s own Bob Woodward—normally considered the most authoritative chronicler of Washington’s political secrets—that, after two years of research, he had found no evidence of collusion between Trump and Russia.

Nor were the Times, the Post, and other print media alone in these practices, which continued to slur dissenting opinions. CNN’s leading purveyor of Russiagate allegations tweeted that an American third-party presidential candidate had been “repeating Russian talking points on its interference in the 2016 election and on US foreign policy.” Another prominent CNN figure was, so to speak, more geopolitical, warning, “Only a fool takes Vladimir Putin at his word in Syria,” thereby ruling out US-Russian cooperation in that war-torn country. Much the same continued almost nightly on MSNBC.

For most mainstream-media outlets, Russiagate had become, it seemed, a kind of cult journalism that no counterevidence or analysis could dent and thus itself increasingly a major contributing factor to the new Cold War. Still more, what began two years earlier as complaints about Russian “meddling” in the US presidential election became by October 2018, for The New Yorker and other publications, an accusation that the Kremlin had actually put Donald Trump in the White House. For this seditious charge, there was also no convincing evidence—nor any precedent in American history.

At a higher level, by fall 2018, current and former US officials were making nearly unprecedented threats against Moscow. The ambassador to NATO, Kay Bailey Hutchison, threatened to “take out” any Russian missiles she thought violated a 1987 treaty, a step that would certainly risk nuclear war. The secretary of the interior, Ryan Zinke, threatened a naval “blockade” of Russia. In yet another Russophobic outburst, the ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, declared that “lying, cheating and rogue behavior” are a “norm of Russian culture.”

These may have been outlandish statements by untutored political appointees, but they again inescapably raised the question: Who was making Russia policy in Washington—President Trump, with his avowed policy of “cooperation,” or someone else?

But how to explain, other than as unbridled extremism, the comments by Michael McFaul, a former US ambassador to Moscow, himself a longtime professor of Russian politics and favored mainstream commentator? According to McFaul, Russia had become a “rogue state,” its policies “criminal actions” and the “world’s greatest threat.” It had to be countered by “preemptive sanctions that would go into effect automatically”—“every day,” if deemed necessary. Considering the possibility of “crushing” sanctions proposed recently by a bipartisan group of US senators, this would be nothing less than a declaration of permanent war against Russia: economic war, but war nonetheless.

Meanwhile, other new Cold War fronts were becoming more fraught with hot war, none more so than Syria. On September 17, Syrian missiles accidentally shot down an allied Russian surveillance aircraft, killing all 15 crew members. The cause was combat subterfuge by Israeli warplanes in the area. The reaction in Moscow was indicative—and potentially ominous.

At first, Putin, who had developed good relations with Israel’s political leadership, said the incident was an accident caused by the fog of war. His own Defense Ministry, however, loudly protested that Israel was responsible. Putin quickly retreated to a more hard-line position, and in the end vowed to send to Syria Russia’s highly effective S-300 surface-to-air defense system, a prize long sought by both Syria and Iran.

Clearly, Putin was not the ever-“aggressive Kremlin autocrat” unrelentingly portrayed by US mainstream media. A moderate in the Russian context, he again made a major decision by balancing conflicting groups and interests. In this instance, he accommodated long-standing hard-liners in his own security establishment.

The result is yet another Cold War trip wire. With the S-300s installed in Syria, Putin could in effect impose a “no-fly zone” over large areas of the country, which has been ravaged by war due, in no small part, to the presence of several foreign powers. (Russia and Iran are there legally; the United States and Israel are not.) If so, this means a new “red line” that Washington and its ally Israel will have to decide whether or not to cross. Considering the mania in Washington and in the mainstream media, it is hard to be confident that restraint will prevail. In keeping with his Russia policy, President Trump may reasonably be inclined to join Moscow’s peace process, though it is unlikely the mostly Democrat-inspired Russiagate party would permit him to do so.

Now another Cold War front has also become more fraught, the US-Russian proxy war in Ukraine having acquired a new dimension. In addition to the civil war in Donbass, Moscow and Kiev have been challenging each other’s ships in the Sea of Azov, near the newly built bridge connecting Russia with Crimea. On November 25, this erupted into a small but potentially explosive military conflict at sea. Trump is being pressured to help Kiev escalate the maritime war—yet another potential trip wire. Here, too, the president should instead put his administration’s weight behind the long-stalled Minsk peace accords. But that approach also seems to be ruled out by Russiagate, which by October 6 included yet another Times columnist, Frank Bruni, branding all such initiatives by Trump as “pimping for Putin.”

After five years of extremism, as demonstrated by these recent examples of risking war with Russia, there remained, for the first time in decades of Cold War history, no countervailing forces in Washington—no pro-détente wing of the Democratic or Republican Party, no influential anti–Cold War opposition anywhere, no real public debate. There was only Trump, with all the loathing he inspired, and even he had not reminded the nation or his own party that the presidents who initiated major episodes of détente in the 20th century were also Republicans—Eisenhower, Nixon, Reagan. This too seemed to be an inadmissible “alternative fact.”

And so the eternal question, not only for Russians: What is to be done? There is a ray of light, though scarcely more. In August 2018, Gallup asked Americans what kind of policy toward Russia they favored. Even amid the torrent of vilifying Russiagate allegations and Russophobia, 58 percent wanted “to improve relations with Russia,” as opposed to 36 percent who preferred “strong diplomatic and economic steps against Russia.”

This reminds us that the new Cold War, from 
NATO’s eastward expansion and the 2014 Ukrainian crisis to Russiagate, has been an elite project. Why US elites, after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, ultimately chose Cold War rather than partnership with Russia is a question beyond my purpose here. As for the special role of US intelligence elites—what I have termed “Intelgate”—efforts are still underway to disclose it fully, and are still being thwarted.

A full explanation of the post-Soviet Cold War choice would include the US political-media establishment’s needs—ideological, foreign-policy, and budgetary, among others—for an “enemy.” Or, with the Cold War having prevailed for more than half of US-Russian relations during the century since 1917, maybe it was habitual. Substantial “meddling” in the 2016 US election by Ukraine and Israel, to illustrate the point, did not become a political scandal. In any event, once this approach to post-Soviet Russia began, promoting it was not hard. The legendary humorist Will Rogers quipped in the 1930s, “Russia is a country that no matter what you say about it, it’s true.” Back then, before the 40-year Cold War and nuclear weapons, the quip was funny, but no longer.

Whatever the full explanation, many of the consequences I have analyzed in War With Russia? continue to unfold, not a few unintended and unfavorable to America’s real national interests. Russia’s turn away from the West, its “pivot to China,” is now widely acknowledged and embraced by leading Moscow policy thinkers. Even European allies occasionally stand with Moscow against Washington. The US-backed Kiev government still covers up who was really behind the 2014 Maidan “snipers’ massacre” that brought it to power. Mindless US sanctions have helped Putin to repatriate oligarchic assets abroad, at least $90 billion already in 2018. The mainstream media persist in distorting Putin’s foreign policies into something “that even the Soviet Union never dared to try.” And when an anonymous White House insider exposed in the Times the “amorality” of President Trump, the only actual policy he or she singled out was on Russia.

I have focused enough on the demonizing of Putin – the Post even managed to characterize popular support for his substantial contribution to improving life in Moscow as “a deal with the devil” – but it is important to note that this derangement is far from worldwide. Even a Postcorrespondent conceded that “the Putin brand has captivated anti-establishment and anti-American politicians all over the world.” A British journalist confirmed that, as a result, “many countries in the world now look for a reinsurance policy with Russia.” And an American journalist living in Moscow reported that the “ceaseless demonization of Putin personally has in fact sanctified him, turned him into the Patron Saint of Russia.”

Again, in light of all this, what can be done? Sentimentally, and with some historical precedents, we of democratic beliefs traditionally look to “the people,” to voters, to bring about change. But foreign policy has long been the special prerogative of elites. In order to change Cold War policy fundamentally, leaders are needed. When the times beckon, they may emerge out of established, even deeply conservative, elites, as did unexpectedly the now-pro-détente Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in the mid-1980s. But given the looming danger of war with Russia, is there time? Is any leader visible on the American political landscape who will say to his or her elites and party, as Gorbachev did, “If not now, when? If not us, who?”

We also know that such leaders, though embedded in and insulated by their elites, hear and read other, nonconformist voices, other thinking. The once-venerated American journalist Walter Lippmann observed, “Where all think alike, no one thinks very much.” This book is my modest attempt to inspire more thinking.

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Maninhemoon
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Maninhemoon

Stephen Cohen is always insightful, but he makes depressing reading. It’s obvious by now that no one in the United States will have the guts to advocate a change in policy towards Russia even if they believe it necessary. However, surely the key question is the one Cohen won’t answer “Why US elites, after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, ultimately chose Cold War rather than partnership with Russia is a question beyond my purpose”. Without understanding this, we can’t begin to find a solution. It will mean tacking some very powerful lobbies, but if we can’t name… Read more »

RobertX5
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RobertX5

It’s interesting to see how far Stephen Cohen has traveled in his understanding of both russiaphobia and then russiagate. I remember first watching and reading his work several years ago when his position appeared to be ‘both sides are at fault and all that is really needed is for the adults to sit down and talk, and most of the issues can be resolved’. He now appears to realise that the problems are being exacerbated by one side. the U.S.A. but I worry that he still doesn’t fully understand or accept that this is deliberate policy, created by powerful vested… Read more »

Veth
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Veth

Whe Putin ordered the downing of MH17, this fake journalist smiled.

Tom Dicanarry
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Tom Dicanarry

Idiot! MH17 was entirely the doing of you Ukronazis. You numbskulks, the most stupid people in Europe, if not the whole world, have turned the Ukraine into the most abysmal, bankrupt, failed state in Europe. You should be proud of your achievements.
Before too long, the Ukraine will be begging Russia to take you back under its fold.

Veth
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Veth

The jit team concluded on all evidence Russia downed it. The Kursk brigade in occupied Donbass. When the Russian Army invaded ans started the genocide in Donbass your Russians miled

fred
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fred

hallelujah contact with a parallel universe

Veth
Guest
Veth

https://www.icc-cpi.int/itemsDocuments/2018-otp-rep-PE-Ukraine.pdf

Interim ruling ICC THE HAGUE ON CRIMEA……………5-12-2018….CRIMEA IS UKRAINE, DESPITE THE ILLEGAL ANNEXATION BY RUSSIA..THE SO-CALLED REFERENDUM HAS BEEN DECLARED VOID!

SLAVA UKRAINA!

Klink
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Klink

and the USA belongs to the Indians……

Ross Graham
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Ross Graham

Excellent piece and as usual Stephen Cohen hits the bulls eye .
America is a crumbling empire and her elites know its only a matter of time .
Its wounded , badly, and a wounded animal is often much more dangerous than a healthy one .
Their outcry becomes louder, their belligerence heavier, their hubris grows to extraordinary levels, the war cry more threatening.
Unfortunately this death knell awaits not just them but the whole world as well.

Olivia Kroth, author and journalist
Member

“Crumbling empire”, that is wonderful. If only it could crumble a lot faster because it does so much damage to the rest of the world.

Veth
Guest
Veth

Russia will be gone soon……………………….the Fascist State is nearly bankrot!

Veth
Guest
Veth

lIKE PUTINS DECISION TO DOWN MH17 SHOWED!

fred
Guest
fred

At first, Putin, who had developed good relations with Israel’s political leadership, said the incident was an accident caused by the fog of war.
so the west/US mainstream media woud not portray him as a “aggressive Kremlin autocrat”

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Canada to Pay Heavy Price for Trudeau’s Groupie Role in US Banditry Against China

Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Huawei CFO Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

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Authored by Finian Cunningham via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


You do have to wonder about the political savvy of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his government. The furious fallout from China over the arrest of a senior telecoms executive is going to do severe damage to Canadian national interests.

Trudeau’s fawning over American demands is already rebounding very badly for Canada’s economy and its international image.

The Canadian arrest – on behalf of Washington – of Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Chinese telecom giant Huawei, seems a blatant case of the Americans acting politically and vindictively. If the Americans are seen to be acting like bandits, then the Canadians are their flunkies.

Wanzhou was detained on December 1 by Canadian federal police as she was boarding a commercial airliner in Vancouver. She was reportedly handcuffed and led away in a humiliating manner which has shocked the Chinese government, media and public.

The business executive has since been released on a $7.4 million bail bond, pending further legal proceedings. She is effectively being kept under house arrest in Canada with electronic ankle tagging.

To add insult to injury, it is not even clear what Wanzhou is being prosecuted for. The US authorities have claimed that she is guilty of breaching American sanctions against Iran by conducting telecoms business with Tehran. It is presumed that the Canadians arrested Wanzhou at the request of the Americans. But so far a US extradition warrant has not been filed. That could take months. In the meantime, the Chinese businesswoman will be living under curfew, her freedom denied.

Canadian legal expert Christopher Black says there is no juridical case for Wanzhou’s detention. The issue of US sanctions on Iran is irrelevant and has no grounds in international law. It is simply the Americans applying their questionable national laws on a third party. Black contends that Canada has therefore no obligation whatsoever to impose those US laws regarding Iran in its territory, especially given that Ottawa and Beijing have their own separate bilateral diplomatic relations.

In any case, what the real issue is about is the Americans using legal mechanisms to intimidate and beat up commercial rivals. For months now, Washington has made it clear that it is targeting Chinese telecoms rivals as commercial competitors in a strategic sector. US claims about China using telecoms for “spying” and “infiltrating” American national security are bogus propaganda ruses to undermine these commercial rivals through foul means.

It also seems clear from US President Donald Trump’s unsubtle comments this week to Reuters, saying he would “personally intervene” in the Meng case “if it helped trade talks with China”, that the Huawei executive is being dangled like a bargaining chip. It was a tacit admission by Trump that the Americans really don’t have a legal case against her.

Canada’s foreign minister Chrystia Freeland bounced into damage limitation mode following Trump’s thuggish comments. She said that the case should not be “politicized” and that the legal proceedings should not be tampered with. How ironic is that?

The whole affair has been politicized from the very beginning. Meng’s arrest, or as Christopher Black calls it “hostage-taking”, is driven by Washington’s agenda of harassment against China for commercial reasons, under a legal pretext purportedly about Iranian sanctions.

When Trump revealed the cynical expediency of him “helping to free Wanzhou”, then the Canadians realized they were also being exposed for the flunkies that they are for American banditry. That’s why Freeland was obliged to quickly adopt the fastidious pretense of legal probity.

Canadian premier Justin Trudeau has claimed that he wasn’t aware of the American request for Wanzhou’s detention. Trudeau is being pseudo. For such a high-profile infringement against a senior Chinese business leader, Ottawa must have been fully briefed by the Americans. Christopher Black, the legal expert, believes that Trudeau would had to have known about the impending plot to snatch Wanzhou and moreover that he personally signed off on it.

What Trudeau and his government intended to get out of performing this sordid role for American thuggery is far from clear. Maybe after being verbally mauled by Trump as “weak and dishonest” at the G7 summit earlier this year, in June, Trudeau decided it was best to roll over and be a good little puppy for the Americans in their dirty deed against China.

But already it has since emerged that Canada is going to pay a very heavy price indeed for such dubious service to Washington. Beijing has warned that it will take retaliation against both Washington and Ottawa. And it is Ottawa that is more vulnerable to severe repercussions.

This week saw two Canadian citizens, one a former diplomat, detained in China on spying charges.

Canadian business analysts are also warning that Beijing can inflict harsh economic penalties on Ottawa. An incensed Chinese public have begun boycotting Canadian exports and sensitive Canadian investments in China are now at risk from being blocked by Beijing. A proposed free trade deal that was being negotiated between Ottawa and Beijing now looks dead in the water.

And if Trudeau’s government caves in to the excruciating economic pressure brought to bear by Beijing and then abides by China’s demand to immediately release Meng Wanzhou, Ottawa will look like a pathetic, gutless lackey to Washington. Canada’s reputation of being a liberal, independent state will be shredded. Even then the Chinese are unlikely to forget Trudeau’s treachery.

With comic irony, there’s a cringemaking personal dimension to this unseemly saga.

During the 197os when Trudeau’s mother Margaret was a thirty-something socialite heading for divorce from his father, then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, she was often in the gossip media for indiscretions at nightclubs. Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards claims in his autobiography that Margaret Trudeau was a groupie for the band, having flings with Mick Jagger and Ronnie Wood. Her racy escapades and louche lifestyle brought shame to many Canadians.

Poor Margaret Trudeau later wound up divorced, disgraced, financially broke and scraping a living from scribbling tell-all books.

Justin, her eldest son, is finding out that being a groupie for Washington’s banditry is also bringing disrepute for him and his country.

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US Commits To “Indefinite” Occupation Of Syria; Controls Region The Size Of Croatia

Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005.

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Via Zerohedge


“We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation” — a Syrian resident in US-controlled Raqqa told Stars and Stripes military newspaper. This as the Washington Post noted this week that “U.S. troops will now stay in Syria indefinitely, controlling a third of the country and facing peril on many fronts.”

Like the “forever war” in Afghanistan, will we be having the same discussion over the indefinite occupation of Syria stretching two decades from now? A new unusually frank assessment in Stars and Stripes bluntly lays out the basic facts concerning the White House decision to “stay the course” until the war’s close:

That decision puts U.S. troops in overall control, perhaps indefinitely, of an area comprising nearly a third of Syria, a vast expanse of mostly desert terrain roughly the size of Louisiana.

The Pentagon does not say how many troops are there. Officially, they number 503, but earlier this year an official let slip that the true number may be closer to 4,000

A prior New Yorker piece described the US-occupied area east of the Euphrates as “an area about the size of Croatia.” With no Congressional vote, no public debate, and not even so much as an official presidential address to the nation, the United States is settling in for another endless occupation of sovereign foreign soil while relying on the now very familiar post-911 AUMF fig leaf of “legality”.

Like the American public and even some Pentagon officials of late have been pointing out for years regarding Afghanistan, do US forces on the ground even know what the mission is? The mission may be undefined and remain ambiguously to “counter Iran”, yet the dangers and potential for major loss in blood and treasure loom larger than ever.

According to Stars and Stripes the dangerous cross-section of powder keg conflicts and geopolitical players means “a new war” is on the horizon:

The new mission raises new questions, about the role they will play and whether their presence will risk becoming a magnet for regional conflict and insurgency.

The area is surrounded by powers hostile both to the U.S. presence and the aspirations of the Kurds, who are governing the majority-Arab area in pursuit of a leftist ideology formulated by an imprisoned Turkish Kurdish leader. Signs that the Islamic State is starting to regroup and rumblings of discontent within the Arab community point to the threat of an insurgency.

Without the presence of U.S. troops, these dangers would almost certainly ignite a new war right away, said Ilham Ahmed, a senior official with the Self-Administration of North and East Syria, as the self-styled government of the area is called.

“They have to stay. If they leave and there isn’t a solution for Syria, it will be catastrophic,” she said.

But staying also heralds risk, and already the challenges are starting to mount.
So a US-backed local politician says the US can’t leave or there will be war, while American defense officials simultaneously recognize they are occupying the very center of an impending insurgency from hell — all of which fits the textbook definition of quagmire perfectly.

The New Yorker: “The United States has built a dozen or more bases from Manbij to Al-Hasakah, including four airfields, and American-backed forces now control all of Syria east of the Euphrates, an area about the size of Croatia.”

But in September the White House announced a realignment of its official priorities in Syria, namely to act “as a bulwark against Iran’s expanding influence.” This means the continued potential and likelihood of war with Syria, Iran, and Russia in the region is ever present, per Stripes:

Syrian government troops and Iranian proxy fighters are to the south and west. They have threatened to take the area back by force, in pursuit of President Bashar Assad’s pledge to bring all of Syria under government control.

Already signs of an Iraq-style insurgency targeting US forces in eastern Syria are beginning to emerge.

In Raqqa, the largest Syrian city at the heart of US occupation and reconstruction efforts, the Stripes report finds the following:

The anger on the streets is palpable. Some residents are openly hostile to foreign visitors, which is rare in other towns and cities freed from Islamic State control in Syria and Iraq. Even those who support the presence of the U.S. military and the SDF say they are resentful that the United States and its partners in the anti-ISIS coalition that bombed the city aren’t helping to rebuild.

And many appear not to support their new rulers.

We don’t want the Americans. It’s occupation,” said one man, a tailor, who didn’t want to give his name because he feared the consequences of speaking his mind. “I don’t know why they had to use such a huge number of weapons and destroy the city. Yes, ISIS was here, but we paid the price. They have a responsibility.”

Recent reports out of the Pentagon suggests defense officials simply want to throw more money into US efforts in Syria, which are further focused on training and supplying the so-called Syrian Democratic Forces (or Kurdish/YPG-dominated SDF), which threatens confrontation with Turkey as its forces continue making preparations for a planned attack on Kurdish enclaves in Syria this week.

Meanwhile, Raqqa is beginning to look more and more like Baghdad circa 2005:

Everyone says the streets are not safe now. Recent months have seen an uptick in assassinations and kidnappings, mostly targeting members of the security forces or people who work with the local council. But some critics of the authorities have been gunned down, too, and at night there are abductions and robberies.

As America settles in for yet another endless and “indefinite” occupation of a Middle East country, perhaps all that remains is for the president to land on an aircraft carrier with “Mission Accomplished” banners flying overhead?

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The real reason Western media & CIA turned against Saudi MBS

The problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

RT

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Via RT…


Forces are aligning against Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince, lead by elements within the CIA and strong players in the mainstream media. But what is really behind this deterioration in relationship, and what are its implications?

Following the brutal murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, western media and various entities, including the CIA, appear to have turned their back on Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman (MBS). In response to the scandal, the Guardian released a video which its celebutante, Owen Jones, captioned“Saudi Arabia is one of the biggest threats on Earth. Time to stop propping up its repulsive regime.”

The Guardian was not alone in its condemnation. “It’s high time to end Saudi impunity,” wrote Hana Al-Khamri in Al-Jazeera. “It’s time for Saudi Arabia to tell the truth on Jamal Khashoggi,” the Washington Post’s Editorial Board argued. Politico called it “the tragedy of Jamal Khashoggi.”

Even shadowy think-tanks like the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the Atlantic Council released articles criticising Saudi Arabia in the wake of Khashoggi’s death.

A number of companies began backing away from Saudi money after the journalist’s death, including the world’s largest media companies such as the New York Times, the Economist’s editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes, Arianna Huffington, CNN, CNBC, the Financial Times, Bloomberg, Google Cloud CEO, just to name a few.

The CIA concluded that MBS personally ordered Khashoggi’s death, and was reportedly quite open in its provision of this assessment. Antonio Guterres, secretary-general of the UN, also took time out of his schedule to express concern over Saudi Arabia’s confirmation of the killing.

At the time of the scandal, former CIA director John Brennan went on MSNBC to state that the Khashoggi’s death would be the downfall of MBS. Furthermore, the US Senate just voted in favour of ending American involvement in Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen (a somewhat symbolic victory, though this is a topic for another article), but nonetheless was a clear stab at MBS personally.

The only person who appeared to continue to uphold America’s unfaltering support for MBS, even after all the publicly made evidence against MBS, was the US president himself. So after years of bombarding Yemen, sponsoring terror groups across the Middle East, Asia, the Pacific and beyond, why is it only now that there has been mounting opposition to Saudi Arabia’s leadership? Let’s just bear in mind that western media had spent years investing in a heavy PR campaign to paint MBS as a “reformer.”

Former national security adviser under Barack Obama’s second term, Susan Rice, wrote an article in the New York Times, in which she called MBS a “partner we can’t depend on.” Rice concludes that MBS is “not and can no longer be viewed as a reliable partner of the United States and our allies.” But why is this? Is it because MBS is responsible for some of the most egregious human rights abuses inside his own kingdom as well as in Yemen? Is it because of MBS’ support for groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda? No, according to Rice, we “should not rupture our important relationship with the kingdom, but we must make it clear it cannot be business as usual so long as Prince Mohammad continues to wield unlimited power.”

One will observe that the latter segment of Rice’s article almost mirrors former CIA director Brennan’s word on MSNBC word for word who stated that:

“I think ultimately this is going to come out. And it’s very important for us to maintain the relations with Saudi Arabia. And if it’s Mohammed bin Salman who’s the cancer here, well, we need to be able to find ways to eliminate the cancer and to move forward with this relationship that is critical to regional stability and our national interests.”

In reality, this is probably the issue that western media and government advisors have taken up with MBS. Aside from the fact he allegedly held a huge hand in the brutal murder of one of their own establishment journalists (Saudi Arabia reportedly tortured and killed another journalist not long after Khashoggi, but western media was eerily silent on this incident) MBS is not opposed for his reckless disregard for human rights. With insight into Rice’s mindset, we actually learn that if the US were to punish MBS, he would be likely to “behave more irresponsibly to demonstrate his independence and exact retribution against his erstwhile Western partners.”

You see, the problem with MBS isn’t that he is a mass murdering war criminal, it is that he is too “independent” for the United States’ liking.

Last week, Saudi Arabia and the other major oil producers met in Vienna at the year’s final big OPEC meeting of the year. As Foreign Policy notes, Saudi Arabia remains the largest oil producer inside OPEC but has to contend with the US and Russia who are “pumping oil at record levels.” Together, the three countries are the world’s biggest oil producers, meaning any coordinated decision made between these three nations can be somewhat monumental.

However, it appears that one of these three nations will end up drawing the short end of the stick as the other two begin forming a closer alliance. As Foreign Policy explains:

“But Saudi Arabia has bigger game in mind at Vienna than just stabilizing oil prices. Recognizing that it can’t shape the global oil market by itself anymore but rather needs the cooperation of Russia, Saudi Arabia is hoping to formalize an ad hoc agreement between OPEC and Moscow that began in 2016, a time when dirt-cheap oil also posed a threat to oil-dependent regimes. That informal agreement expires at the end of the year, but the Saudis would like to make Russia’s participation with the cartel more permanent.”

Russian officials have been signalling their intention to formalise this agreement for quite some time now. Given the hysteria in western media about any and all things Russian, it is not too much of a stretch to suggest that this is the kind of news that is not sitting too well with the powers-that-be.

Earlier this year, Russia and Saudi Arabia announced that it would “institutionalize” the two-year-old bilateral agreement to coordinate oil production targets in order to maintain an edge on the global market.

While US president Trump has been supportive and incredibly defensive of MBS during this “crisis”, the truth is that the US only has itself to blame. It was not all too long ago that Trump announced that he had told Saudi King Salman that his kingdom would not last two weeks without US support.

Saudi Arabia is learning for themselves quite quickly that, ultimately, it may pay not to have all its eggs in one geopolitical superpower basket.

Saudi Arabia has been increasingly interested in Moscow since King Salman made a historic visit to Moscow in October 2017. While Trump has openly bragged about his record-breaking arms deals with the Saudis, the blunt truth is that the $110 billion arms agreements were reportedly only ever letters of interest or intent, but not actual contracts. As such, the US-Saudi arms deal is still yet to be locked in, all the while Saudi Arabia is negotiating with Russia for its S-400 air defence system. This is, as the Washington Post notes, despite repeated US requests to Saudi Arabia for it disavow its interest in Russia’s arms.

The economic threat that an “independent” Saudi Arabia under MBS’ leadership poses to Washington runs deeper than meets the eye and may indeed have a domino effect. According to CNN, Russia and Saudi Arabia “are engaged in an intense battle over who will be the top supplier to China, a major energy importer with an insatiable appetite for crude.”

The unveiling of China’s petro-yuan poses a major headache for Washington and its control over Saudi Arabia as well.According to Carl Weinberg, chief economist and managing director at High-Frequency Economics, China will “compel”Saudi Arabia to trade oil in Chinese yuan instead of US dollars. One must bear in mind that China has now surpassed the US as the “biggest oil importer on the planet,” these direct attacks on the US dollar will have huge implications for its current world reserve status.

If Saudi Arabia jumps on board China’s petro-yuan, the rest of OPEC will eventually follow, and the US might be left with no choice but to declare all of these countries in need of some vital freedom and democracy.

Therefore, ousting MBS and replacing him with a Crown Prince who doesn’t stray too far from the tree that is US imperialism may put a dent in pending relationships with Saudi Arabia and Washington’s adversaries, Russia and China.

Once we get over the certainty that the US media and the CIA are not against MBS for his long-list of human rights abuses, the question then becomes: why – why now, and in this manner, have they decided to put the spotlight on MBS and expose him exactly for what he is.

Clearly, the driving force behind this media outrage is a bit more complex than first meets the eye.

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