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5 reasons why Trump labelling China and Russia “rivals” is wrong

Donald Trump is set to give a controversial speech in which he will pin the interests of the US against those of fellow superpowers Russia and China. The move will increase global hostilities while not bringing any material benefits to the American people.

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The White House has openly leaked excerpts of substantial speech on national security that Donald Trump is expected to deliver later today. In the excepts that have been released, the US names China and Russia as its principle global rivals.

An excerpt reads,

“They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence”.

Based on this short excerpt, it would appear that the Trump White House has adopted the neo-con lexicon which implies that countries which don’t conform to how American leaders see their own country (however inaccurate this idealised vision is), are somehow an existential threat to the security of the US.

At the same time, this neo-con language is combined with the kind of apocalyptic theories of Steve Bannon who openly states that China and the US are inevitably headed for either a war or something close to a war.

Learning that the US views China and Russia as major rivals or threats is about as surprising as learning that Siberia is colder than Hawaii.

For years, the aim of US foreign policy, including the many proxy wars on all sides of China’s One Belt–One Road trade and commerce superhighway, have been designed to retard China’s logistical progress while simultaneously attempting to upset China’s political relations with her allies.

Russia, as China’s closest partner and more importantly, as the large geographical space that links the East Asia/Asia Pacific region to Eurasia’s western borderlands/Europe, is a clear target that according to western neo-imperial thinking, must ideally be subdued or mired in petty conflict in order to upset a superpower partnership that plays a substantial element in complete One Belt–One Road.

Implicit in One Belt–One Road, is a Chinese government that is growing ever more assertive in matters of geo-political affairs. In recent months, China produced and helped to implement its first peace proposal involving foreign states when Beijing introduced the three point plan to settle the crisis in Myanmar’s Rakhine State (aka the Rohingya crisis) which has spilled over into Bangladesh.

China proposes peace process for Rohingya crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh

Furthermore, earlier this year, China opened up its first ever overseas military logistics base in Djibouti.

America fears China’s geo-political power more than China’s economic might

The US aggression against China and Russia that the world has known about for years, but which Donald Trump will apparently lay bear in his forthcoming address, is a strategy that is destined to fail for the following reasons.

1. Zero-sum games versus the Win-Win model 

The US continues to exercise a zero-sum mentality in geo-politics which can be summed up by phrases as simple as “you’re either with us or you’re against us” or “it’s us versus them”.

The notion is one which states quite clearly that in order to be considered a partner or ally of the US, one has to adopt US policy positions vis-a-vis relations with other states, never challenge the hegemony of the Dollar as a de-facto trading currency and all the while pursuing domestic policies that are friendly to US corporations and the US military–often at the expense of the needs of a local population.

Apart from the ethical red flags involved in such a policy, there is another game in town in the 21st century that is not only challenging, but in many cases outflanking Washington’s international strongman tactics.

In opposition to the US model, there is the Chinese model wherein Beijing looks to form partnerships based on the unemotional economic needs of a would-be partner, combined with China’s natural self-interest of wanting to expand her own trading networks.

One Belt–One Road is emblematic of a Chinese attitude which seeks to play up the strengths of any given partner, while injecting investment in order to allow these strengths to reach their full potential. China and other partners will then fill the gaps in areas where any given country is either lacking or logistically incapable of producing a given set of raw materials or finished products.

Crucially, unlike the US model, China does not make any demands on the internal governance of partner nations. This has been made abundantly clear in respect of China’s overtures and olive branches to a hostile Indian government. China isn’t particularly concerned about a country’s foreign policy, so long as it doers not involve the threat of war or regional instability.

This is why China’s position with the Indian government of Narendra Modi is one of firmness and fairness. China is leaving the door to cooperation with India open, even during trying times in bilateral relations. China is not asking India to change its ethos, but rather, Beijing would prefer a more constructive attitude on the part of India and is willing to be patient until such a day might arrive.

This win-win model has proved attractive to many traditional US partners, including South Korea, Philippines, Thailand, Turkey and even Saudi Arabia.

According to the Chinese model, one can do business with Beijing while still acting as a US ally or a genuinely neutral state.

This is why for example countries like Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia all call China their number one trading partner, even if this doesn’t translate into a military or policy making alliance. For China, this is not a requirement.

2. The Dollar versus the Yuan

China will soon be the undisputed largest economy in the world, although in many ways, China already is and has been for many years.

As such, the Chinese Yuan will likely become the de-facto international reserve currency and perhaps more importantly, the de-facto international trading currency.

Because of this, the rise of the Yuan is inevitable. However, the Yuan has distinct advantages over the Dollar, even when viewed outside of the prism of inevitability.

Unlike Dollar based institutions, the Yuan is unencumbered in respect of sanctions coming out of the US Treasury Department. Because of this, many countries which have been pounded by increasingly frequent US sanctions are moving to the Yuan. Venezuela is already selling oil futures contracts in Yuan and other countries will soon join.

Secondly, China is willing to make deals in a combination of Yuan and the national currency of a partner–for example the Yuan and Iranian Rial. By contrast the US tends to make all nations convert to the Dollar before completing a transaction, which often puts countries with poor exchange rates via-a-vis the Dollar, in a position which is necessarily disadvantaged.

Thirdly, even among traditional US partners, the absence of Dollar dependency would allow for a more sovereign policy making process because without the hegemony of the Dollar, the US automatically loses the primary tool it uses to leverage the policy making decisions of its often dependant partners.

Because most of contemporary US power as well as the all important ability to project power is based on the global hegemony of the Dollar, if this is chipped away by the Yuan, the United States will lose its most important source of domination over nations, apart from its vast military. This frightens many in Washington who do not envisage a future based on multilateralism, but instead seek to dominate the world in a unilateral fashion for years to come–something which is becoming increasingly untenable.

Finally, because China owns $1.2 trillion of US sovereign debt, if antagonised, China could retaliate by dumping Dollars. Since 2013, China has in fact been reducing its Dollar holdings in order to strengthen the value of the Yuan in preparation for the inevitable day when the Yuan becomes a floating currency. This itself will do tremendous damage to the value and prestige of the Dollar and there is little the US can do to stop this from one day occurring.

America’s cold war on China is no longer just a trade war – it is a war for the Dollar and Federal Reserve

3. Russia’s model of “Win-Win Diplomacy” 

During the Obama years and into Trump’s first year in power, Russia’s diplomatic model has visibly usurped the position of the US which in the 1990s was undisputed as the de-facto kingmaker of geo-politics.

Today, when it comes to brokering peace deals, singing contrasts for weapons and the all important energy trade, countries throughout the world are turning first to Russia.

This is the case among traditional Russian  partners like Syria, Vietnam, Cuba and increasingly Iraq and Egypt once again, but more interestingly, this is also the case among many traditional US allies and partners.

Turkey and Philippines have both made seismic shifts in terms of security cooperation and weapons purchases that involve giving Russia a most favoured position. China too is an important buyer of Russian energy materials, hi-technology and weapons systems.

Added to this, countries as ingrained into the US system as Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Philippines and Israel, also look increasingly to Russia as a commercial partner in these areas and beyond.

In the non-aligned world, Russia has been able to maintain good contacts with India while pursuing historically successful and constantly growing relations with Pakistan.

Because Russia does not see diplomatic and security contacts in a zero-sum fashion any more than China sees commercial contacts in this way, Russia has been able to maintain good relations with both Iran and Saudi Arabia, Palestine and Israel, Pakistan and India, Vietnam and China, South and North Korea, Serbia and Turkey.

In conflicts ranging from the war in Syria, to Israel-Palestine as well as India’s conflicts with both China and Pakistan–Russia is fast becoming a de-facto peace broker.

4. A Sino-Russian partnership that is meaningful 

China and Russia have a long history of healthy relations in spite of being two giant land powers who share one of the world’s longest borders. In hindsight, it is accurate to say that the Sino-Soviet split of the Cold War era was an aberrational period in the long history of relations between the two superpowers.

Today, Russia and China are generally comfortable with their own roles in the world and as Russian industrial production increases in-line with the increased intensity of Chinese diplomatic involvement in international crisis areas, China and Russia are rapidly becoming complimentary both in areas where they share common strengths, as well as in areas where different strengths are pooled as part of the world’s most meaningful bilateral partnership.

In this sense, when it comes to a contest between three superpowers, it will be a matter of two against one for the foreseeable future.

Russia and China actively collude to bring down the only thing America cares about

5. It needn’t be a competition 

The two against one paradigm in terms of a contest between superpowers needn’t exist and certainly would not exist if Russia and China had their say about it.

Russia is well aware that the United States has a totally different approach to geo-political engagement than Moscow’s diplomats, but nevertheless, Russia has always been willing to cooperate with the US when and where possible. In every instance, with very few exceptions, the US has decided to reject Russia’s open door in favour of either antagonism or attempted competition.

Likewise, the United States, while a declining industrial power, still has a large skilled workforce that could play a part in One Belt–One Road if the US ceased being a thorn in the side of China’s epoch making initiative.

As the Americas are the only area on the planet where One Belt–One Road is not set to travel in the near future, the US could have proposed a trans-American economic corridor from Cape Horn to the Canadian Arctic. This would require a great deal of Chinese investment, much of which could have gone into revitalising US industry, in addition to Chinese economic might helping to revitalise Washington’s relations with its neighbours in Central and South America.

The vast Pacific coast of the US could have been modernised with new ports and expanded existing ports in cities like Los Angeles, in order to connect a trans-American corridor to a Sino-US maritime belt.

This is what “win-win” cooperation between the US and China might look like in a world where Washington is not obsessed with zero-sum gamesmanship.

Conclusion

Donald Trump, as a businessman for most of his life, would have been in an ideal position to foment a kind of cooperative effort which could help the US transition into an age where China dominates the global economy with diplomatic grace while incurring economic benefits for the American people and their regional neighbours.

Instead, Trump has once again surrendered to a neo-con mentality combined with outdated notions of competition between superpowers.

While two of the three world superpowers cooperate, the US alone sees the world in competitive terms. In this sense, the US has set itself up for a loss when up against rising powers of the east for whom connectivity is the world of the day and competition is the word of the past.

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The mainstream media does not want you to think [Video]

It is difficult to tell if recent reports like this really represent a realization for the media, but this interview rings true nonetheless.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Several recent stories on Fox, Breitbart, and here on The Duran all address the increasingly obvious bias of the mainstream media with regard to news reporting. We discussed on The Duran how Chris Wallace of Fox News refused to hear details from White House Senior Policy Adviser Stephen Miller about why the recently declared National Emergency is in fact legitimate.

This piece revealed that the media is very actively trying to control and direct what information they want the public to hear, rather than truly reporting the news, or interviewing people to get their takes on things, and to perhaps fully interview all sides in a controversy and then let the American public decide for themselves what to think.

This used to exist in more gentlemanly debate programs in some fashion, such as with the TV debate program Point Counterpoint, but now, the bias of the reporter or of the network is the primary operator in determining the outcome of the interview, rather than the information that is available about the story.

This has helped create a news and information culture in the United States that is truly insane. As examples, consider these paraphrased headlines, all occurring within the last few years:

All of these are probably familiar to most readers. Many of them are still repeated and acted on as if they were real. But the articles we linked to behind most of these ledes are examples of the disproof, usually 100% disproof, of these. They are hoaxes, or reports built on circumstantial evidence without any proof, or in the worst cases, pure slander and propaganda.

One reporter for CBS news, 60 Minutes anchor Lara Logan, discussed this in an interview with retired Navy SEAL Mike Ritland, for his own podcast program, which was picked up by the MediaIte website. The video of her interview is quite lengthy but starting at about 02:14:00 there is a particular segment that the MediaIte writers called to attention. We include this segment in the video.

PARENTAL ADVISORY: The video is unrestricted in regards to language and there is some profanity. Parents, please listen first before letting your children watch this video.

A major point Mrs Logan makes here is that 85% of the employ of the mainstream media in the USA consist of registered Democrats. She also speaks forcefully against the use of stereotypes, and suggests the best place to start is actual facts. This means that most journalists are coming into this work with a bias, which is not set aside for the sake of the facts of the story.

Probably the most key point comes at 2:18:20 in the video is how Lara Logan is taught the way to discern whether or not someone in journalism is lying to you:

“Someone very smart told me a long time ago, that, ‘how do you know you are being lied to?’, ‘how do you know you are being manipulated?’, ‘how do you know there is something not right with the coverage?’, when they simplify it all, and there is no gray. There is no gray. It’s all one way.

“Well, life isn’t like that. If it doesn’t match real life, it is probably not. Something is wrong.”

Lara Logan then pointed out the comparison of the mainstream media’s constant negative coverage of President Trump against the reality of his work, that, regardless of one’s own personal bias, it does not match that everything the President does is bad. She also highlighted the point that one’s personal views should not come into how to report a news story.

Yet in our days, it not only comes into the story, it drives the narrative for which the story just becomes an example of “proof” that the narrative is “true.” 

Tucker Carlson talked vividly about the same characteristic on his program Monday night on Fox News.

He points out that the 3,000 yearly shooting in Chicago get very little news coverage, but that is because these are not as “useful” as the Jussie Smollett story is.

This is an example of using an event or a person’s actions to satisfy a politically biased propaganda narrative, rather than report the news.

This is not occasional, as the list of news headlines given above show. This is a constant practice across most of the mainstream media. Probably no one who gives interviews on the major networks is exempt, for even Mr. Carlson often resorts to cornering tactics when interviewing liberals in an apparent attempt to make the liberal look ridiculous and the point of view he espouses to look vindicated through that ridiculousness.

While this is emotionally invigorating for the Carlson fan who wants to see him “eviscerate” the liberal, it is very bad journalism. In fact, it is not journalism at all; it is sensationalism in a nasty sense.

It also insults the viewer, perhaps without them knowing it, because such reporting is the same as telling the viewer “WE ARE IN CONTROL!” and that the viewer must simply go along with the narrative given.

It is very bad when what should be information reporting, policy discussion, or debate becomes infected with this. Ideas, the product of (hopefully) rational and discursive reasoning, are pushed aside by pure emotion and mass sensationalism. Put metaphorically, it is the new look of bread and circuses, keeping the masses entertained while anything else might be happening.

Sometimes the motive for this is not so sinister. After all, we have a 24 hour news cycle now. In the 1970’s we didn’t. And in those times, the calibre of news reported was much higher. Reporting was far more careful. The Pulitzer Prize winners  Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein did their incredible exposé on the doings of President Richard Nixon under the directorship of the Washington Post editor, which demanded triple-checking of everything, making sure that all information was factual, accurate and genuine. While the story was indeed sensational, more importantly, it was true.

Now we have a lot of sensation, but very little to zero truth. As an example, every one of the ledes linked above is not proven to be true, in fact the truth in many of these stories is the opposite of what the headline says.

This would not be much of a problem if the media lies were not absorbed and reacted on by their readers, listeners and viewers. But the fact is that there are a significant number of consumers of mainstream media news that do react to it. The Covington High School incident showed this in perhaps the most frightening way, with open calls for violence against teenagers and high school students, requested by professionals, people that are supposed to be adults, such as Kathy Griffin, Reza Aslan, and GQ writer Nathaniel Friedman, who called for these kids to be “doxxed”, which as we reported, is an action that can be deadly.

We are in the times where the love of many has gone cold, and all is about expediency and selfishness. While there are a few outlets and a few journalists that still retain interest in recording and disseminating the truth, the reality is that most of what is out there is tainted by the drive for attention and sensationalism.

The media that engages in such behavior is actually hurting people, rather than informing and helping them.

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Russia and China Are Containing the US to Reshape the World Order

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States.

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Authored by Federico Pieraccini via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Fortunately the world today is very different from that of 2003, Washington’s decrees are less effective in determining the world order. But in spite of this new, more balanced division of power amongst several powers, Washington appears ever more aggressive towards allies and enemies alike, regardless of which US president is in office.

China and Russia are leading this historic transition while being careful to avoid direct war with the United States. To succeed in this endeavor, they use a hybrid strategy involving diplomacy, military support to allies, and economic guarantees to countries under Washington’s attack.

The United States considers the whole planet its playground. Its military and political doctrine is based on the concept of liberal hegemony, as explained by political scientist John Mearsheimer. This imperialistic attitude has, over time, created a coordinated and semi-official front of countries resisting this liberal hegemony. The recent events in Venezuela indicate why cooperation between these counter-hegemonic countries is essential to accelerating the transition from a unipolar to a multipolar reality, where the damage US imperialism is able to bring about is diminished.

Moscow and Beijing lead the world by hindering Washington

Moscow and Beijing, following a complex relationship from the period of the Cold War, have managed to achieve a confluence of interests in their grand objectives over the coming years. The understanding they have come to mainly revolves around stemming the chaos Washington has unleashed on the world.

The guiding principle of the US military-intelligence apparatus is that if a country cannot be controlled (such as Iraq following the 2003 invasion), then it has to be destroyed in order to save it from falling into Sino-Russian camp. This is what the United States has attempted to do with Syria, and what it intends to do with Venezuela.

The Middle East is an area that has drawn global attention for some time, with Washington clearly interested in supporting its Israeli and Saudi allies in the region. Israel pursues a foreign policy aimed at dismantling the Iranian and Syrian states. Saudi Arabia also pursues a similar strategy against Iran and Syria, in addition to fueling a rift within the Arab world stemming from its differences with Qatar.

The foreign-policy decisions of Israel and Saudi Arabia have been supported by Washington for decades, for two very specific reasons: the influence of the Israel lobby in the US, and the need to ensure that Saudi Arabia and the OPEC countries sell oil in US dollars, thereby preserving the role of the US dollar as the global reserve currency.

The US dollar remaining the global reserve currency is essential to Washington being able to maintain her role as superpower and is crucial to her hybrid strategy against her geopolitical rivals. Sanctions are a good example of how Washington uses the global financial and economic system, based on the US dollar, as a weapon against her enemies. In the case of the Middle East, Iran is the main target, with sanctions aimed at preventing the Islamic Republic from trading on foreign banking systems. Washington has vetoed Syria’s ability to procure contracts to reconstruct the country, with European companies being threatened that they risk no longer being able to work in the US if they accept to work in Syria.

Beijing and Moscow have a clear diplomatic strategy, jointly rejecting countless motions advanced by the US, the UK and France at the United Nations Security Council condemning Iran and Syria. On the military front, Russia continues her presence in Syria. China’s economic efforts, although not yet fully visible in Syria and Iran, will be the essential part of reviving these countries destroyed by years of war inflicted by Washington and her allies.

China and Russia’s containment strategy in the Middle East aims to defend Syria and Iran diplomatically using international law, something that is continuously ridden roughshod over by the US and her regional allies. Russia’s military action has been crucial to curbing and defeating the inhuman aggression launched against Syria, and has also drawn a red line that Israel cannot cross in its efforts to attack Iran. The defeat of the United States in Syria has created an encouraging precedent for the rest of the world. Washington has been forced to abandon the original plans to getting rid of Assad.

Syria will be remembered in the future as the beginning of the multipolar revolution, whereby the United States was contained in military-conventional terms as a result of the coordinated actions of China and Russia.

China’s economic contribution provides for such urgent needs as the supply of food, government loans, and medicines to countries under Washington’s economic siege. So long as the global financial system remains anchored to the US dollar, Washington remains able to cause a lot of pain to countries refusing to obey her diktats.

The effectiveness of economic sanctions varies from country to country. The Russian Federation used sanctions imposed by the West as an impetus to obtain a complete, or almost autonomous, refinancing of its main foreign debt, as well as to producing at home what had previously been imported from abroad. Russia’s long-term strategy is to open up to China and other Asian countries as the main market for imports and exports, reducing contacts with the Europeans if countries like France and Germany continue in their hostility towards the Russian Federation.

Thanks to Chinese investments, together with planned projects like the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), the hegemony of the US dollar is under threat in the medium to long term. The Chinese initiatives in the fields of infrastructure, energy, rail, road and technology connections among dozens of countries, added to the continuing need for oil, will drive ever-increasing consumption of oil in Asia that is currently paid for in US dollars.

Moscow is in a privileged position, enjoying good relations with all the major producers of oil and LNG, from Qatar to Saudi Arabia, and including Iran, Venezuela and Nigeria. Moscow’s good relations with Riyadh are ultimately aimed at the creation of an OPEC+ arrangement that includes Russia.

Particular attention should be given to the situation in Venezuela, one of the most important countries in OPEC. Riyadh sent to Caracas in recent weeks a tanker carrying two million barrels of oil, and Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) has taken a neutral stance regarding Venezuela, maintaining a predictable balance between Washington and Caracas.

These joint initiatives, led by Moscow and Beijing, are aimed at reducing the use of the US dollar by countries that are involved in the BRI and adhere to the OPEC+ format. This diversification away from the US dollar, to cover financial transactions between countries involving investment, oil and LNG, will see the progressive abandonment of the US dollar as a result of agreements that increasingly do away with the dollar.

For the moment, Riyadh does not seem intent on losing US military protection. But recent events to do with Khashoggi, as well as the failure to list Saudi Aramco on the New York or London stock exchanges, have severely undermined the confidence of the Saudi royal family in her American allies. The meeting between Putin and MBS at the G20 in Bueno Aires seemed to signal a clear message to Washington as well as the future of the US dollar.

Moscow and Beijing’s military, economic and diplomatic efforts see their culmination in the Astana process. Turkey is one of the principle countries behind the aggression against Syria; but Moscow and Tehran have incorporated it into the process of containing the regional chaos spawned by the United States. Thanks to timely agreements in Syria known as “deconfliction zones”, Damascus has advanced, city by city, to clear the country of the terrorists financed by Washington, Riyadh and Ankara.

Qatar, an economic guarantor of Turkey, which in return offers military protection to Doha, is also moving away from the Israeli-Saudi camp as a result of Sino-Russian efforts in the energy, diplomatic and military fields. Doha’s move has also been because of the fratricidal diplomatic-economic war launched by Riyadh against Doha, being yet another example of the contagious effect of the chaos created by Washington, especially on US allies Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Washington loses military influence in the region thanks to the presence of Moscow, and this leads traditional US allies like Turkey and Qatar to gravitate towards a field composed essentially of the countries opposed to Washington.

Washington’s military and diplomatic defeat in the region will in the long run make it possible to change the economic structure of the Middle East. A multipolar reality will prevail, where regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Iran will feel compelled to interact economically with the whole Eurasian continent as part of the Belt and Road Initiative.

The basic principle for Moscow and Beijing is the use of military, economic and diplomatic means to contain the United States in its unceasing drive to kill, steal and destroy.

From the Middle East to Asia

Beijing has focussed in Asia on the diplomatic field, facilitating talks between North and South Korea, accelerating the internal dialogue on the peninsula, thereby excluding external actors like the United States (who only have the intention of sabotaging the talks). Beijing’s military component has also played an important role, although never used directly as the Russian Federation did in Syria. Washington’s options vis-a-vis the Korean peninsular were strongly limited by the fact that bordering the DPRK were huge nuclear and conventional forces, that is to say, the deterrence offered by Russia and China. The combined military power of the DPRK, Russia and China made any hypothetical invasion and bombing of Pyongyang an impractical option for the United States.

As in the past, the economic lifeline extended to Pyongyang by Moscow and Beijing proved to be decisive in limiting the effects of the embargo and the complete financial war that Washington had declared on North Korea. Beijing and Moscow’s skilled diplomatic work with Seoul produced an effect similar to that of Turkey in the Middle East, with South Korea slowly seeming to drift towards the multipolar world offered by Russia and China, with important economic implications and prospects for unification of the peninsula.

Russia and China – through a combination of playing a clever game of diplomacy, military deterrence, and offering to the Korean peninsula the prospect of economic investment through the BRI – have managed to frustrate Washington’s efforts to unleash chaos on their borders via the Korean peninsula.

The United States seems to be losing its imperialistic mojo most significantly in Asia and the Middle East, not only militarily but also diplomatically and economically.

The situation is different in Europe and Venezuela, two geographical areas where Washington still enjoys greater geopolitical weight than in Asia and the Middle East. In both cases, the effectiveness of the two Sino-Russian resistance – in military, economic and diplomatic terms – is more limited, for different reasons. This situation, in line with the principle of America First and the return to the Monroe doctrine, will be the subject of the next article.

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Nearly assassinated by his own fighters, al-Baghdadi and his caliphate on its last legs (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 178.

Alex Christoforou

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The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss how the Islamic State has been rapidly losing territory over the last two years in Syria and Iraq, due to efforts by Russian and Syrian forces, as well as the US and their Kurdish allies.

The jihadist caliphate has lost most of its forces and resources, leading it to go into hiding.

Al-Masdar News is reporting that Daesh* leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was reportedly attacked in a village near Hajin by some of the terrorist organisation’s foreign fighters in an apparent coup attempt, The Guardian reported, citing anonymous intelligence sources. Baghdadi reportedly survived the alleged coup attempt, with his bodyguards taking him into hiding in the nearby desert.

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Meanwhile European leaders are shocked at US President Trump’s ISIS ultimatum. Via Zerohedge

After President Trump’s provocative tweets on Sunday wherein he urged European countries to “take back” and prosecute some 800 ISIS foreign fighters as US forces withdraw from Syria, or else “we will be forced to release them,” the message has been met with shock, confusion and indifference in Europe. Trump had warned the terrorists could subsequently “permeate Europe”.

Possibly the most pathetic and somewhat ironic response came from Denmark, where a spokesperson for Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen said Copenhagen won’t take back Danish Islamic State foreign fighters to stand trial in the country, according to the German Press Agency DPA“We are talking about the most dangerous people in the world. We should not take them back,” the spokesperson stressed, and added that the war in Syria is ongoing, making the US president’s statement premature.

Germany’s response was also interesting, given a government official framed ISIS fighters’ ability to return as a “right”.  A spokeswoman for Germany’s interior ministry said, “In principle, all German citizens and those suspected of having fought for so-called Islamic State have the right to return.” She even added that German ISIS fighters have “consular access” — as if the terrorists would walk right up to some embassy window in Turkey or Beirut!

Noting that the Iraqi government has also of late contacted Germany to transport foreign fighters to their home country for trial, she added, “But in Syria, the German government cannot guarantee legal and consular duties for jailed German citizens due to the armed conflict there.”

France, for its part, has already agreed to repatriate over 130 French Islamic State members as part of a deal reached in January with US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) who are holding them, after which they will go through the French legal system. However, French Secretary of State Laurent Nuñez still insisted that the west’s Kurdish allies would never merely let ISIS terrorists walk out their battlefield prisons free.

“It’s the Kurds who hold them and we have every confidence in their ability to keep them,” Nuñez told French broadcaster BFMTV on Sunday. “Anyway, if these individuals return to the national territory, they all have ongoing judicial proceedings, they will all be put on trial, and incarcerated,” he said, in comments which appeared to leave it up to others to make happen.

And representing the Belgian government, Justice Minister Koen Geens charged Trump with blindsiding his European allies with the demand, which included Trump underscoring that it is “time for others to step up and do the job” before it’s too late. “It would have been nice for friendly nations to have these kinds of questions raised through the usual diplomatic channels rather than a tweet in the middle of the night,” Geens said during a broadcast interview on Sunday, according to the AFP.

Meanwhile in the UK the issue has recently become politically explosive as debate over so-called British jihadist bride Shamima Begum continues. The now 19-year old joined Islamic State in 2015 after fleeing the UK when she was just 15. She’s now given birth in a Syrian refugee camp and is demanding safe return to Britain for fear that she and her child could die in the camp, so near the war zone.

Conservatives in Britain, such as Interior Minister Sajid Javid have argued that “dangerous individuals” coming back to the UK from battlefields in the Middle East should be stripped of their British citizenship. He said this option has already been “so far exercises more than 100 times,” otherwise he also advocates prosecution of apprehended returning suspects “regardless of their age and gender.”

Identified as French nationals fighting within ISIS’ ranks, via Khaama press news agency

The UN has estimated that in total up to 42,000 foreign fighters traveled to Iraq and Syria to join IS — which appears a very conservative estimate — and which includes about 900 from Germany and 850 from Britain.

SDF leaders have previously complained about the “lack the capacity” for mass incarceration of ISIS terrorists and the inability to have proper battlefield trials for them. Recent estimates have put the number of ISIS militants in US-SDF battlefield jails at over 1000, though Trump put the number at 800 in his tweet.

However, even once they do return to Europe it’s unclear the extent to which they’ll be properly prosecuted and locked in prison by European authorities.

For example, another fresh controversy that lately erupted in Britain involved a 29-year old UK woman who traveled to join ISIS, and was convicted for membership in a terrorist group upon her return to Britain. She was jailed on a six year sentence in 2016, but is now already walking free a mere less than three years after her conviction.

 

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