H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad in Eastern Ghouta

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DAMASCUS, (ST)_ H.E. President Bashar Al-Assad in Eastern Ghouta with the heroes of the Syrian Arab Army on the front fire lines in the fight against terrorism, March 18, 2018.

The Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic

https://t.me/SyrianPresidency

“You are waging the war against terrorism on behalf of all the world as the ongoing battle is not only of Syria; you have been changing the world balance through every bullet fired by you against terrorists and every tank driver has been reshaping the world map with every meter forward.” H.E. President Assad addressed the heroes of the Syrian Arab Army.

H.E. President Assad met during the visit crowds of civilians who were liberated from the grip of terrorists in Eastern Ghoutta.

The citizens gathered joyfully around President Assad and heartedly narrated some episodes of their suffering, hunger, fear amd misery during their imprisonment by terrorists as human shields, shouting ”with our soul blood we sacrifice for you President Bashar”.

H.E. President Assad asserted that the Syrian People are proud of every Army Soldier in defense of Syria and take pride in the field accomplishments against terrorism as to restore peace, security and save the lives of the civilians from the terrorists and their backers.

Dr. Mohamad Abdo Al-Ibrahim

Editor-in-Chief

alibrahim56@hotmail.com

https://www.facebook.com/Mohamad.Abdo.AlIbrahim

http://www.presidentassad.net/

 

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RUSSIA’S LONG ROAD TOWARD RESURGENCE

17.03.2018 

Russia in the 90’s

The modern day Russian Federation emerged after the collapse of the USSR in 1991. Not only did this change the fate and the standard of life for millions of Soviet people but it also changed the trajectory of development for all mankind. In the first few years of the newly created Russia, the “team of democrats”, with active support from Western countries began its shock economic reforms.

The declared goal of these reforms was to liberalize the Russian [centrally-planned] economy by transitioning it to a market economy. Meanwhile, many believes that the real goal was the seizure of former Soviet property by the “new power holders” and the dismantling of the Soviet industrial economy.

When USSR collapsed, a relatively small group of individuals acquired ownership of tens of trillions of dollars [through a rapid onset of privatization]. Losses suffered by the Soviet production complex as a result of its planned destruction were much higher.

Modern factories were dismantled and exported to scrap metal, machines and equipment were sold for a symbolic 3-5% of their real value, inventory was stolen and all of this was carried out under direct orders or control of the new ruling elite. The territories of the former USSR faced economic and social chaos. The World Bank estimates that only 1.5% of Russia’s population lived in poverty in 1988, but by the mid-1993 that number rose to 39% to 49%. In many regions, people came close to starvation. Wages were paid through goods not money. The resulting hyperinflation reached its peak in the fall of 1992, when retail prices for food and cigarettes increased daily, sometimes multiple times a day.

The main anti-inflationary measure was a further reduction of the monetary supply. This came at the cost of unpaid wages and pensions, unfulfilled government and private contracts. A significant number of enterprises started bartering services.

It is important to note that the goals and methods of economic policies employed by the authorities in the 1990s were formed strictly on the basis of instructions of international financial organizations, primarily the IMF.

Crime flourished. Banditry and racketeering were firmly embedded into everyday life of Russia in the 90’s. Criminal behavior became fashionable.  Law enforcement agencies were not able to deal with these new phenomena in any effective way. Various sects and criminal activity spread rapidly.

Another phenomenon that received direct support from external sources was aggressive separatism and nationalist extremism. By 1992, a bandit formation was formed on the territory of one of Russian regions, the Chechen Republic of Ichkeria. The actions of the federal center, before the First Chechen campaign in December 1994, demonstrate that this formation likely appeared with the consent and support from the new “liberal team” that established itself in Moscow.

The presence this black hole and territorial anarchy allowed for massive collusions and schemes throughout Russia. It gave rise to abductions and human trafficking, large-scale theft of petroleum products, drug trafficking, arms trade and much more.

Thus, in 1993-1994, more than 700 trains were attacked on the Grozny branch of the North Caucasian Railway with the total or partial looting of about 6,000 wagons and containers worth more than 22.5 billion rubles. Production of false remittance advices was an emerging new craft, which earned more than 4 trillion rubles. During this period of 1992-1994, about 1800 people were kidnapped and illegally detained in order to obtain ransom in Chechnya. Until 1994, Russian oil continued to flow to Chechnya, while it was not paid for and resold abroad. At the same time, the federal center continued to transfer money to Chechnya from its budget. In 1993, 11.5 billion rubles were allocated to Chechnya.

The change in the trajectory of Russia’s development

In mid and second half of the 1990s, negative events in Russia continued to develop in virtually all sectors of everyday life.

Significant percentage if not most of senior officials were incompetent or corrupt. IMF and the so called “macroeconomic policy and reform advisors” continued a very precise external destructive influence. Moscow was flooded with various “financiers and businessmen” from the United States, Israel and countries of Western Europe with questionable enterprises. The state debt kept growing, production was falling, imbalance in trade increased, monetization of the economy sharply reduced, and a financial pyramid of state treasury obligations emerged.

Background: At the beginning of the reforms in 1991, the monetary supply was 66.4% of GDP, which was consistent with global practice. As of June 1, 1998, the money supply was only 13.7% of GDP for 1997.

All of this lead to the most difficult time for Russia, the “Crisis of 1998”. The situation was further aggravated by the fall of raw material prices in the world and the economic crisis that occurred a year earlier in South-East Asia.

Oil prices (BRENT) fell almost 2-fold, from about 24 dollars per barrel in early 1997 to about 10.5 dollars per barrel by November-December 1998. By the way, it was the IMF who was accused at that time by the national governments in provoking the Asian crisis and the consequences for the global economy.

As a result, in August 1998, the situation in Russian economy became critical. The IMF and the World Bank refused to fulfill their earlier obligations and refused to extend any more loans. On August 17, 1998 the government declared a technical default. At the same time, it was announced that the ruble will not be stabilized against the dollar, the ruble immediately depreciated by a factor of 3.

In September 1998 there was a change of government. Primakov becomes the new Prime Minister of the Russian Federation. Primakov was a former diplomat and intelligence officer who negatively treated those whom he called “pseudo-liberals” and “persons dependent on certain banking structures.” Maslyukov, a former experienced Soviet executive manager, becomes the first deputy chairman. This new government takes extraordinary measures: economic policy changes, reduction of tariffs, value-added tax on food is reduced, and the default is overcome.

Background: By the time Primakov assumed government, the debt of enterprises and organizations to the budget was 50 billion rubles, and the budget debt to enterprises amounted to 150 billion rubles. Debts also accumulated between the enterprises themselves. Federal authorities demanded cash-only payments. Direct clearing settlements were banned in accordance with the recommendations of the IMF i.e. For one side to repay its debt to another, it had to use cash, as did the other side. However, recall that by this time the Russian economy was deliberately demonetized. The volume of monetary supply was reduced by 4-5 times below the average level of other governments of the world. This meant that there was no money and repayment of debt was practically impossible. This promoted a furtherance of debt with respect to wages, pensions, and taxes, lack of capital and other negative phenomena. All of this was done under direct control and through recommendations of the IMF and international advisers. Primakov’s government, contrary to recommendations of the IMF and prior practice, initiated mutual settlements between government and enterprises. At the outset, it allowed to liberate 50 billion rubles.

Almost everything was done in direct contrast to the recommendations of the IMF. It is here, in this moment, that the history of Russia took a turn. The country persevered. Major structural changes in economics took place, there was a rise in economic efficiency of export, and industry began to show signs of recovery. The crisis turned out to be difficult, but short-lived. It is interesting that under Yevgeny Primakov, the thesis about the need to defend the national interests of Russia, became a constant theme in the speeches of both the minster and his subordinates.

It was in the spring and summer of 1998 that the young politician Vladimir Putin’s influence in Kremlin sharply increased. On May 25, 1998 he was appointed first deputy head of the presidential administration of the Russian Federation, responsible for working with the regions. After 2 months, on July 25, 1998, he became director of the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.

The 1998 crisis was the signal and the first wakeup call for the new Russian elites, whose interests were directly tied with the territory and potential of the Russian Federation as a state i.e. those who controlled mineral resources, the military-industrial complex, metallurgy and industry. For these elites, preservation of their newly acquired capital and effective influence was only possible in conditions of the preservation and development of the state as a system-forming factor.

Accordingly, they began a search for a “new leader”, one capable of changing the current situation and ensuring national interests of the state and this part of the elite. At the same time, the new leader had to emerge in Kremlin not as a revolutionary, but through a soft transfer of power with subsequent democratic legitimization. Accordingly, they were choosing the best candidate from those who surrounded president Yeltsin at that moment. Yeltsin’s deteriorating health contributed to this “soft” scenario but the president’s associates, the so called “family” opposed it.

Background: The “family” are relatives and the closest associate of President Yeltsin who controlled all of Yeltsin’s direct contacts with other statesmen and elites. Famous representatives of the family were: Yeltsin’s daughter, Berezovsky, Diatchenko, Voloshin, Korzhakov and others. Many members of the so-called “family” were connected with international financial capital.

The other part of the Russian elite that formed in the 90’s, was comprised, for the most part, of those who acquired speculative financial capital, having established strong ties with the “international financial community”.

They began to act as agents for international interests on the territory of the former USSR and perceived themselves as part of the world oligarchy. These elites sought to maintain the status quo in Russia through control and influence on Yeltsin’s family and his closest associates. They also understood that Yeltsin’s health was a matter of serious concern and actively engaged in the analysis of candidates for possible successors. For them, the main task that Yeltsin’s successor was supposed to provide – was their personal immunity and carte blanche for further operations on the territory of Russia.

There was a conflict between these two competing interests. At the same time, President Yeltsin, despite, to put it mildly, his ambiguous role in the history of Russia, was well aware of the threats and challenges, facing the government as well as the destructive role of a number of individuals in his environment.

Exactly one year after the 1998 crisis, the Second Chechen War began. On August 7, 1999, a large detachment of militants, supported by Al Qaida, invaded Dagestan (a constituent entity of the Russian Federation).  Two days later, on August 9, 1999 Vladimir Putin was appointed as an acting Prime Minister and lead the operation against the militants. In September, 1999 about 8,000 militants operated in Dagestan. However, as early as September 15, 1999 the entire territory of Dagestan was liberated from militants, and on September 30, 1999 federal troops were stationed on the territory of Chechnya. The second Chechen campaign begins.

By the new year of 2000, significant successes of the federal troops and local forces that supported Moscow were already evident. These successes were not only military but also political.

On December 31, 1999 Yeltsin announces his early resignation and the appointment of the young and popular prime minister Putin to the post of Acting President.

Against the backdrop of the chaos of the 1990s, the restoration of the territorial integrity of the state and the economic recovery that begins, bring Putin an unconditional victory in the March 2000 elections. He becomes the second president of Russia. In April 2000, the active phase of the campaign in Chechnya comes to an end.

It seems that Putin was perceived by Yeltsin not only as an energetic politician of a conditionally “patriotic bloc”, but also as a compromise figure for elite groups. At the same time, apparently, Yeltsin was confident that Putin would at least keep his promise to ensure personal immunity to Yeltsin and his family.

The Putin Era: Forming New Russia

Immediately after assuming office, the new president of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin faced many critical challenges, both to the Russian state and to himself personally, as an individual who sought to strengthen the “power vertical” and approach the problem of national development in a more systematic way.

Those with financial power sought to maintain their influence on the political decision-making processes. A significant part of the Russian oligarchy was conducive to the conditions of the 1990: a weak centralized authority, high level of corruption among official, legislative and judicial practices that ensured their personal interests.

At the same time, the Russian Federation had an enormous foreign debt. As of January 1, 2000, the external public debt of the Russian Federation was $158 billion, with the annual GDP (in current USD) of only $259 billion. Federal budget revenue in 2000 was 1,132 billion rubles, or only $40.48 billion USD.

The national tax system, while having nominally high tax rates, allowed big business to evade the tax burden through the use of offshores, legal loopholes, and a shadow economy. During this period there was no tax on extraction of natural resources by mining firms.

Excise taxes were set at a level of .7 to 2 dollars per ton of oil, depending on the enterprise, which was less than 1% of the market value of oil in the world at the time. Other mineral extraction fees were set even lower. The relatively high, income tax rate of 35% was easily bypassed by using a variety of schemes. For example, firms entered into contracts with their own subsidiaries registered in tax havens, and then sold oil at market prices using offshores, where all the profits were stored.

At the same time, the general level of taxation was overestimated. This was the reason for massive tax evasion by many companies.

That is why Vladimir Putin undertook to reform the tax system soon after his election as president in 2000. Overall, the tax reforms of 2000-2004 were successful. One of the most important events for Russia’s economy and its subsequent growth was the introduction of a mineral extraction tax (MET) on January 1, 2002.

Background: The tax rate for crude oil was set in absolute terms (in rubles per ton of extracted oil) and was applied using two coefficients calculated according to certain formulas. The first of these coefficients characterized the level of internasal world oil prices.  The second, introduced in 2007, characterized the degree of depletion of a specific oil deposit.

The introduction of MET and a highly progressive oil export tariff scale in 2002-2004 dramatically increased the fiscal efficiency of the tax system and led to a radical redistribution of revenues generated by the oil sector in favor of the state.

As the calculations on the total tax burden on the oil sector show, the share of taxes in the gross income of the oil sector increased from 28.1% in 2000 to 63.1% in 2008.

As a result of the reforms, by 2004 federal budget revenues increased 2.4 times compared to 2000, and by 2007 more than 6 times. Russia’s foreign debt, in contrast, fell to $121.7 billion by 2004, and by 2007 to $52 billion.

Background: In August 2006, Russia managed to fully pay off Soviet-era debts to the Paris Club member countries. This was preceded by several rounds of complex negotiations: not everyone wanted to lose out on income generated from interest on the loan. This meant that Russia had to pay a 1 billion euro fine. Nevertheless, these early pay offs allowed Russia to save $7.7 billion. Moreover, this allowed Russia to become a creditor instead of being a debtor state.

Putin’s actions to reform the economy, strengthen the vertical of power and the rule of law provoked active resistance from a significant part of the oligarchy, those who can be called the “supranational elites.” These oligarchs were supported by Western leaders and media. A struggle with them took place under the guise of traditional democratic and liberal slogans.

In February 2000, the first of these oligarchs, Gusinskiy, was arrested. A number of other oligarchs, as well as US president Bill Clinton and Israeli Politician Shimon Peres, immediately jumped to his defense. Gusinskiy was released from custody and hid in Spain.

In December 2000, another odious oligarch, Boris Berezovskiy emigrated to London without waiting for the results of the investigation into the “Aeroflot case”.

Background: The ‘Aeroflot case” was a criminal investigation and litigation concerning the embezzlement of funds owned by Aeroflot, and the appropriation of free foreign currency funds of the airline in the amount of 252 million dollars, by the Swiss firm Andava, the main shareholders of which were the top managers of Aeroflot and Boris Berezovsky.

Further, in the first half of 2002, a series of articles appeared in the European press incriminating the leaders of another Russian company, Yukos, of money laundering. These articles were provoked by the French tax police who discovered Swiss bank accounts through which hundreds of millions of dollars have passed. In Russia itself, YUKOS was accused of tax evasion, undervaluation of its taxable worth, and the sale of petroleum through phony intermediaries.

Against this background and in the run-up to the 2004 elections, Mr. Khodorkovsky, the main owner of the Yukos company, begins to oppose Putin, with direct support of the US and the Israeli establishment. Khodorkovskiy, with the help of former intelligence and security services officials, creates the Open Russia civic organization, attempts to seize information channels, conducts active and largely successful liberal propaganda campaigns aimed at the youth, with particular emphasis put on Russian regions, and finances opposition parties. However, Putin’s popularity is very high. He is backed by the majority of the national elites and by the “power ministries.” Everyone clearly remembers the chaos of the 1990s.

Khodorkovskiy commits strategic errors, demonstrates his lack of understanding of Russia’s society, and in the end demonstrates his inability to influence Russia’s political processes. During the March 2004 elections, Vladimir Putin scores an overwhelming victory with 71.31% of the vote.

In 2004, Russian-U.S. relations deteriorate. Earlier, in early 2003, Russia took a tough stance on US intervention in Iraq. At the end of 2004, the situation in the relationship is aggravated by the interference of the US and Western countries in the political crisis in Ukraine. In December 2004, Congressman Ron Paul stated that the US government sponsored the presidential campaign of the leader of the Ukrainian opposition.

After the statements of Ron Paul and L. Kraner, the head of the press service of the US President, Scott McClellan, officially confirmed that over the last two years the US spent about $ 65 million “on the development of democracy” in Ukraine.

Disgraced Russian oligarchs also actively participated in the financing of events in Ukraine. According to Forbes investigation, Berizovsky alone, spent more than $ 70 million to support the “orange revolution”.

With time, Russian-U.S. relation deteriorate further. On May 4, 2006, while in Vilnius, Vice-President Richard Cheney, delivered a speech that many now call “Vilnius”, following the example of Fulton’s Churchill speech. According to Cheney, the US is not satisfied with “the use of Russia’s mineral resources as a foreign policy weapon pressure, violation of human rights in Russia and the destructive actions of Russia in the international arena.” It is important to note that the turn of the US policy towards the Russian Federation took place long before the war in Libya in 2011 and the Crimean events of 2014.

Background: The US Vice President openly expressed his displeasure that many countries receive Russian mineral resources at prices well below market prices. For example, until 2005, Ukraine bought Russian gas for only $50 per thousand cubic meters. This was a price set out in the intergovernmental agreement meant to last until 2019. After the first “orange revolution” inspired by the West in Ukraine in 2005, the new Ukrainian government unilaterally broke this agreement, and started purchasing gas at market price. By 2009 the price of gas in Ukraine is $360 per thousand cubic meters. The profitability of the remaining industrial Ukrainian enterprises falls rapidly and tariffs for the population significantly increase.

Apparently, it was during this period that the American establishment and financial elites, who were interested in Russia’s natural resources, decide to pursue a strategy of uncompromising confrontation in order to change the political trajectory of Russia’s development, oust the post-soviet changes and balkanize the state. That is, they seek to complete the goal that did not work out in the late 90’s.

In August 2008, a new round of confrontation between Russia and the United States was caused by invasion of the Georgian troops into South Ossetia. Russia cleared this “unrecognized” territory, which by that point was almost fully captured by the Georgian army. Afterwards, Russia officially recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

In domestic politics, Putin’s second presidential term, from 2004 to 2008, is characterized by the continuation of reforms. In September 2005, the implementation of the “National Projects” was launched in Russia to resolve the most urgent social problems: health care, education, housing policy and agriculture. 6 billion dollars were allocated towards these programs.

Enforcement systems are also enhanced. In fact, during this period, organized crime stops being a factor that significantly influences Russian society.

At the same time, many measures were half-hearted. The level of corruption in the state apparatus remained high. The society expected radical changes that did not happen. On the one hand, the population experienced an increase in income, on the other hand, there is a growing stratification of society. It is impossible to form a new national idea and cultural strategy that the population can adopt. The new elite, including the supreme bureaucracy, grew and increased its power and influence on political decision making. The judicial system remained imperfect. Lawmaking was not effective enough and trailed behind the executive.

Same tendencies are seen during the presidential term of Dmitry Medvedev, from 2008-2012. During this period, Russia faced the problem of obsolescence of production capacities that remained from the Soviet era. Modernization of Russian economy became the main task of the new president.

It should be noted that despite numerous problems, high level of corruption and ineffectiveness of many initiatives, modernization and reindustrialization of the Russian economy has borne fruit.

The country managed to maintain its positions in traditionally strong sectors of the economy: in the military-industrial complex, mining, and science and technology sectors, even during the financial crisis of 2008 which took a hard hit at the economy.

Background: According to the World Bank, Russian crisis of 2008 “began as a crisis of the private sector, provoked by excessive borrowing in conditions of a major triple shock – terms of trade, capital outflows, and tight external borrowing.

However, by the second half of 2009, the country overcame its economic recession. In the third and fourth quarters of that year, Russia’s GDP growth, taking into account seasonality, was 1.1% and 1.9% respectively.

In 2012, during the next presidential election, Vladimir Putin wins again, gaining 63.6% of the vote. Putin and Medvedev switch roles, with the latter becoming prime minister.

Elections take place under difficult circumstances. Russia’s system of government is structured in such a way where all decision-making powers are tied to the president and his administration. Therefore, despite the fact that during Medvedev’s rule, Putin continued to remain unofficial leader, Putin, as a Prime Minister, had very few instruments of operational control compared to the president. Medvedev in turn, was a political figure that was more liberal, soft and subject to influence.  Many experts associate this personal characteristic of his with an insufficiently quick reaction during the South Ossetian conflict.

At the start of the conflict, Premier Putin was in Beijing at the 2008 Olympics and Russian troops began operations in South Ossetia only after his return to the country, that is, at least 2 days later than they could have.

In the political sphere, during Medvedev’s presidency, some liberalization is observed. Up to a point where pro-western opposition forces, which openly declared their goal of changing the country’s constitutional system, receive grants and subsidies from government sources. This could be the reason why various representatives of the opposition, supported by outside forces had decided that they had a chance to seize power. This was further facilitated by a recession in the economy, a decline in the power vertical and increasing confrontation with the U.S.

Opposition received generous support from varied pro-western foundations through the employees of the Georgian, Polish, and Baltic special services.

At the end of 2011 and the start of 2012, there are massive rallies of the opposition. Protests unite very different political movements that can be separated into two parts: Ultra right and ultra left radicals and liberals, including representatives of sexual minorities. The leaders of these protests took all possible measures and methods of “color revolutions”. Media distorted information, by multiplying the number of protestors, providing disinformation about the actions of authorities with respect to the protests, inciting hysteria and an atmosphere of fear. Western media ran fake news stories.

For instance, Fox News provided video coverage of protests in Moscow on December 7, 2011, by showing violent acts such as arson. This footage was actually taken in the Greek capital of Athens during nationwide protests in Greece.

The protests did not receive any widespread distribution or public support. Even in Moscow where the opposition sources were concentrated, the largest protests collected no more than 40 thousand people with a population of 12 million (0.3%). In other Russian cities, protests were much more modest ranging from a few hundred to 2 thousand people.

Meanwhile, public leaders of oppositions fully demonstrated their negative qualities both personally and professionally: extreme egoism, hypocrisy, cowardice, inability to consolidate or engage in mutual compromise. Segregation and discriminatory rhetoric became the norm for the leaders of the protests.

They divided the population into the “creative class” which was a small group of people that had liberal views. The rest were considered “cattle”, who were denied the ability to fully exercise their rights.

These events allowed Kremlin’s political advisers to adopt the idea that manifesting real shady faces of the Russian liberal opposition’ leaders is the best method of ensuring support for the ruling regime. The wave of protests was failing by the end of 2012.

Modern Russia

The electorate expected the new “old” president to focus on reforming the state apparatus, the process of elite formation, elimination of clans within the government, genuine battle against corruption, and economic development.

Protectionism and the merger between the new economic elite with the bureaucracy was visible at every level of society. It became a critical problem that delayed the country’s development. The courts were ineffective, many criminal cases concerning corruption, negligence, and abuse of authority never resulted in sentences, and those punishments that were meted our were remarkably mild.

In July 2012, the Krasnodar Kray in southern Russia experienced a flood that killed 172 people. The overall number of victims reached almost 35 thousand. These consequences were the result of incompetence and idleness of local and regional authorities. Planned measures to protect the territory against flood that should have been implemented in the previous decade were not implemented. No alert about the looming menace was issued.

Even more severe damage was avoided only thanks to a timely response by Russia’s EMERCOM, the participation of numerous volunteers in dealing with the flood, and the president’s personal involvement in the process. In spite of the impact on the public opinion and the evidence of negligence by officials, only a few local officials were ever convicted.

Background: Only three local officials were sentenced to imprisonment in penal colonies. According to Russian law, such colonies have no guard force, only supervision by colony administration. They enjoy free movement throughout colony territory between the wake-up and reveille, and can leave the colony without supervision if the administration permits it. The convicts could be allowed to live together with their families not only on colony territory but outside it as well. They could have money on their person, wear ordinary clothing, etc.

During that same 2012, another corruption scandal broke out. Since 2007, the country’s defense minister was a civilian official with education in economics, Anatoliy Serdyukov, who was appointed to carry out “long overdue reforms within Russia’s MOD.” Russia’s military operations during the 2008 conflict with Georgia revealed a mass of problems related to troop command systems, obsolete weapons, equipment, and communications.

However, Serdyukov teams actions, particularly those related to the so-called “optimization” of MOD’s property holdings, the closure of military academies and the destruction of the military health care system, caused growing astonishment within the majority of experts and career soldiers. On top of that, Serdyukov deliberately replaced the top leadership of the MOD, appointing civilian specialists from the private sector in the place of career soldiers.

Background: By 2011, out of 10 Deputy Defense Ministers, only two were military, including the Chief of the General Staff.

In the fall of 2012, Russian investigative agencies discovered large-scale embezzlement at the MOD and the linked Oboronservis commercial entity. Financial losses were estimated at no less than $100 million, resulting in criminal cases launched against almost 20 individuals, many of whom were close to Serdyukov.

After many inspections and a lengthy investigation that lasted for over a year, Serdyukov was also formally charged with negligence. However, in February 2014 the Main Military Investigative Directorate of the Russian Investigative Committee decided to cease investigating Serdyukov since he was covered by the amnesty issued on the 20thanniversary of the Constitution of the Russian Federation. Other key individuals named in the corruption scandal received insignificant prison terms.

Background: The main defendant in the corruption scandal, the former MOD Property Department head E. Vasilyeva was sentenced to 5 years in prison, but spent only 3 months there.

Nevertheless, the corruption scandal led to far-reaching changes, at least in the MOD. The new minister became Army General Sergey Shoygu, who earlier headed the EMERCOM. Shoygu’s appointment was greeted with enthusiasm by the Russian military. The previous leadership’s military reforms were reviewed and swiftly corrected.

Background: On May 22, 2013, Defense Minister Shoygu listed Serdyukov’s greatest errors. Among them was the closure of several academies and the reduction of the number of cadets at the remaining ones which caused a shortage of military specialists in troop units and in the navy, the elimination of military medicine system, the collapse of defense orders, belated signing of contracts with defense enterprises.

It is under Shoygu’s leadership that Russia’s continued and modified military reforms continued, thanks to which the Russian military assumed a “new look” within only a few years. At the same time, it has been argued that the success of recent reforms owes a great deal to the unpopular measures undertaken during the Serdyukov era.

In foreign policy, after Putin’s return to Kremlin, the state system stabilized which lead to a deterioration of relations with the United States and their satellites in Europe. US officials publicly called Putin’s victory “a loss of democracy,” in fact considering it a threat to the next phase of the US global expansion. The characteristic features behind the American establishment became quite obvious: they wanted an unstable state, an economy that is easily controlled by the world bank capital and MNC and degrading population, in effect a colony which would be sold as a “true democratic Russia”.

In any other case, Russia was a threat to “the whole civilized world”. However, in the information space, Western propaganda found nothing better than to resume the use of and to strengthen its traditional narratives.

However, the world was already different. There was disappointment with the consequences of the “Arab Spring” and there was an increasing amount of questions about the real role of the Western elites in world conflicts. It was during this period that the audience began to lose their confidence in the mainstream media (MSM).

Background: The western media’s coverage of the 2008-armed conflict in South Ossetia became one of the turning points in discrediting the MSM. During the conflict and immediately after its termination, MSM accused Russia of aggression and unprovoked invasion of a territory belonging to a sovereign state. The facts, testimonies, and eyewitness reports were hushed or deliberately distorted. The United States and its allies also accused Russia of aggression. However, as early as 2009, an international commission responsible for investigating the circumstances of the war of 2008 in the South Caucasus region, concluded, with irrefutable evidence that the armed conflict was provoked by Georgia. The West did not, in turn, consider it necessary to condemn the Georgian aggression.

The Kremlin immediately took advantage of this, both within the country and in the global information space. In late 2012, the well-known television channel, Russia Today expanded its capacity and moved to a new building. In 2013, state financing of this channel increased many times. It is interesting to note that in the broad strata of Russian society in the period 2012-2013, the words “liberal”, “universal values”, “the entire civilized world” received negative-abusive connotations.

2012-2014 became the period that determined the course of the world in subsequent years. The conflict in the Middle East became worse and ISIS appeared. At that time, instead of actively preventing terrorists from consolidating themselves on the territory of Syria and Iraq, the US and the EU tried to use that political moment to shift the legitimate government of Syria and to secure a geopolitical foothold in the region. In practice, they actually helped to strengthen terrorist quasi-state entities in the territory of Syria and Iraq. Similarly, the West began to operate in Ukraine, where in autumn of 2013 the political crisis began.

Background: The crisis in Ukraine (2013-2014) is a political crisis caused by the decision of the Ukrainian government to suspend the process of signing the Association Agreement with the European Union. This caused massive protests in Kiev and a number of other cities in Ukraine, which were supported and coordinated by the West. These protests grew into street riots and armed clashes with the forces of law and order.

Events in Ukraine moved rapidly from organized protests to unrest. As a result of political deception that took place under the guise of Western “intermediaries” who acted as guarantors on the part of the opposition, the president of Ukraine made concessions and fulfilled the basic demands of the protesters. However, the opposition, using the withdrawal of law enforcement forces as an opportunity, seized government buildings, and an unconstitutional coup took place.

Background: Putin commented on the events of the winter of 2014: “We were approached by our American partners, they asked us to do everything, almost literally a direct request that Yanukovych avoid using the army, so that the opposition can clear the plazas and administrative buildings and move on to implement the agreements that were reached to normalize the situation”. The President noted that the Russian Federation agreed to help the US, but a day later a coup d’état was carried out in Kiev. “They should have said something. There is a term “excess of actions”, we did not want the coup to happen, but this is how the events developed. We did everything to normalize the situation. There was not one word against those who committed a coup d’etait, on the contrary, they had full support.

The West, once again, bet on the radical nationalists and the oligarchic circles, who seized power in Ukraine. A routine practice of using “unknown snipers” and creating sacred sacrifices, named by the Ukrainian media as the Heavenly Hundred, was also used. That situation caused a backlash in the south and east of the country, where a wave of protests, under federalist and pro-Russian slogans, arose against the actions of the ultra-right nationalist organizations and in defence of the status of the Russian language. The new Kiev government began to actively apply force. They sent armed nationalists to the various regions, providing them with complete freedom of actions without any consequence from law enforcement agencies.

Background: On February 20, 2014, in the Cherkassy region of Ukraine, eight buses filled with Crimeans, who participated in rallies against the coup, were attacked. The busses were stopped by groups of armed supporters of Maidan, four buses were burned, people were beaten, and sustained fractures, burns, craniocerebral injuries and were subjected to mockery. About 30 Crimean residents went missing and at least 7 were killed.

During this time, nationalists from the western regions of Ukraine began to infiltrate the territory of Crimea in order to consolidate the anti-Russian forces and provoke a civil conflict.

There were murders, abductions of dissenters, seizure of administrative buildings. With this in mind, local authorities in the Crimea changed the executive bodies of power. The new Crimean authorities refused to recognize the legitimacy of the coup and turned to Russia for support.

Background: On February 27, Russia moved to active operations in Crimea. Over the next few weeks, independence of Crimea was proclaimed, a referendum was held on its status and Crimea was annexed by the Russian Federation. In the east of Ukraine, where Russia has not moved to active action, civil confrontation gradually developed to an armed conflict, and the slogans of the federalization of Ukraine have been replaced by the requirements of the independence of the regions. To suppress anti-government speeches, the Ukrainian leadership announced the beginning of a military operation in mid-April. Civil war broke out.

Events in Ukraine, the annexation of the Crimea and the civil conflict in the east of the country caused further confrontation between the West and Russia. The sanction war began. Both Russia and the West rendered direct support to opposing sides.

In fact, relations between the Russian Federation and the West began deteriorating to the state of the “cold war”. At the same time, the Kremlin does not take any active measures as it did with Crimea. It does not provide direct support to the pro-Russian population in Eastern and Southern regions on Ukraine, as it was done for residents of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. As a result, the new Kiev regime is given a carte blance for actions in other dissenting regions like Kharkov, Odessa and Kherson. Ultra-nationalist formations are introduced into these regions and law enforcement personnel are replaced by people from the west and centre of the country.

Political repressions and mass arrets begin. Total control over information space is established. These measures prove to be effective. Moscow loses its avenues of influence within Ukraine.

At the same time, the situation on Russia’s southern borders is growing more complex. ISIS successes in Iraq and Syria have spread radical ideas among the population of Central Asia and some southern regions of Russia. During the summer of 2015, ISIS included no fewer than 3,000 militants with Russian citizenship and another 2,500 citizens of Central Asian states. The leadership and command staff of ISIS special services and subunits consisted mainly of emigres from Northern Caucasus. Starting in 2015, having a command system and well developed propaganda outlets, ISIS intensified its recruitment on the territory of former USSR. Russian intelligence noted an upsurge of extremist activities on the country’s territory. This, and the prospect of loss of influence in Syria, the last place with Russian presence on the Mediterranean, led Russia’s leadership to provide military assistance to the government of Syria.

Background: On August 26, 2015, Russia and Syria entered into an Agreement on Stationing a Russian Armed Forces Aviation Group on Syrian Territory. Slightly later, in late September 2015, the land portion of Russia’s military operation in Syria began, which included special operations troops, artillery, combat engineers, and also an enlarged complement of instructors and advisors. According to some report, Russian military advisors were present in the ranks of SAA units operating on the most difficult sectors of the front already in the spring of 2015.

The Russian group of forces in Syria demonstrated its high effectiveness. Battlefield situation dramatically changed already in the first months.

In 2016, SAA went on the offensive on every key sector of the front. In the rear areas, Russian advisors and instructors facilitated the regrouping, rearmament, and training of Syrian forces. In late 2016, Syria’s second largest city, the strategically important Aleppo, returned under the control of government forces. By the end of 2017, government controlled the majority of Syria’s territory including Homs, Palmyra, Deir-es-Zor, and the outskirts of Aleppo. ISIS has ceased to exist as a quasi-state terrorist formation.

Since the start of operations in Syria, Russia encountered the opposition of the US and its allies, which from the start actively supported the armed opposition. Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary in the Obama Administration, said that Russia aim was not fighting extremists but supporting the “Assad regime,” “while the rest of the world community…is cooperating with the US within the ranks of the anti-ISIS coalition in Syria which also fights against other extremists.” The US official’s term “world community” was an apparent reference to the 60-some countries in the Global Coalition to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). However, during the previous two years, the US and the “world community” have failed to reconquer a single square meter from ISIS, not to mention “other extremists”. And they were also unable to achieve their main goal, the toppling of Assad.

The conflict in Syria in any event made the US-Russia relations even more complex. As part of its anti-Russia strategy, the West opted to continue and expand sanctions war that started in 2014 under the pretext of events in Ukraine. These measures had their results.

In particular, the limitations on access to world finance and international credit instruments were painful. Sanctions and the fall of energy prices were one of the causes of ruble devaluation in 2014. In August-October 2017, the ruble was the most rapidly falling currency out of 170.

Background: Sanctions were one of the reasons for the large-scale outflow of capital from Russia, which in the first 10 months of 2014 reached 110 billion dollars. On April 27, 2015, Vladimir Putin noted during e legislative council meeting that sanctions cost the Russian economy $160 billion.

2015 and the first half of 2016 were the most difficult for Russia’s economy. However, the West and its sanctions unwittingly helped drain the Russian bureaucratic swamp. Both the state apparatus and major corporations were forced to act. The food embargo was introduced as an answer to the sanctions already in 2014. The embargo had its greatest effect on the economy of Ukraine and Baltic States.

Background: The embargo was introduced in 3 phases: in 2014 on the EU, US, Australia, Canada, and Norway, in 2015 on Iceland, Liechtenstein, Albania, and Montenegro, in 2016 on Ukraine.

Positive consequences of the embargo in Russia include the significant increase in agricultural production and food processing. Negative ones include retail price increases of goods that fell under the embargo. In the first phase, food prices increased by 10%-25%. However, the annual 2016 food price inflation stood at 4.6%, and in 2017 it dropped to 1.1%.

Assessing the results of the sanctions war on various sectors of Russia’s economy as of early 2018, one could say that the embargo and sanctions overall had positive consequences, if not for the whole of the economy then at least for its manufacturing component. The national manufacturing sector finally experienced long-awaited and necessary changes which were not implemented since the break-up of USSR. One could also identify positive institutional changes in the military and space industries.

Background: Roskosmos head Oleg Ostapenko stated that “overall one can discern a positive impact of sanctions on our branch.” He added that new technological solutions are being implemented more rapidly, and likewise standardization measures are also carried out more swiftly.

The introduction of sanctions accelerated the process of import substitution in the space industry, which was already ongoing for several years. The Russian financial sector was forced to remember the lessons of late 1990s, in other words, how to operate under the conditions of an unfriendly international financial environment.

On the other hand, a number of Russian corporations, particularly in the fuel and energy sector, attempted to (and succeeded) to recoup their losses induced by sanctions and drop in energy prices using the budget and national reserve funds.

In the meantime, the Russian government continued to seek ways to reduce tensions. The victory of Donald Trump in presidential elections in November 2016 gave rise to hopes in Russia that bilateral relations would improve.

Background: On November 14, 2016, in the first phone conversation between President Putin and President-Elect Trump, the two speakers agreed that “the state of Russia-US relations is extremely unsatisfactory, and spoke in favor of active efforts to improve them and to work on constructive cooperation on a widest range of issues”.

Nevertheless, there has not occurred a single genuine summit meeting between the two countries in the first year after the election. Moreover, right after the election highly placed members of the Washington establishment accused Russia of meddling in the election and swaying its outcome.

Background: According to this version of events, “Russian secret services” organized a cyberattack on DNC servers and published email messages embarrassing to Hillary Clinton, and also used social media to manipulate US public opinion.

Limited Russian successes in propagating alternative points of view on international events using RT, Sputnik, and other instruments allowed the Washington establishment, with the help of mainstream media, to paint a picture of so-called “Russian propaganda” and to accuse Russia of unleashing a “hybrid war”.

Russia’s successes in this area were greatly exaggerated, as was the influence of Russian state media on the world audience, in order to increase budgets for “combating propaganda” and stepping up censorship of alternative media both in the US and the world at large. By 2018 this campaign acquired the character of mass hysteria.

Thus on January 10, 2018, Democratic senators published a 200 page report titled Putin’s Asymmetric Assault on Democracy in Russia and Europe: Implications for US National Security, in an effort to push Trump toward harsher sanctions. The report called for creating a new global front against the “Russian threat”, including European allies.

Background: In the 2 years of investigating the so-called “Russian meddling”, not a single convincing fact or piece of evidence has been presented.

US-Russian relations are at their lowest point since Russian independence. On December 28, 2017, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced in a New York Times editorial:

“On Russia, we have no illusions about the regime we are dealing with. The United States today has a poor relationship with a resurgent Russia that has invaded its neighbors Georgia and Ukraine in the last decade and undermined the sovereignty of Western nations by meddling in our election and others’.” One should particularly note the use of the phrase “resurgent Russia”. Apparently the phenomenon of a “resurgent” Russia as a center of world power is behind the observed actions by the Capitol Hill establishment.

On March 13, 2018 the Secretary of State Tillerson who was not known for his love for Russia was replaced with a more aggressive individual, the CIA Director Mike Pompeo. His nomination was enthusiastically received by both the Democrats and the more hawkish Republicans.

Backgorund: “We hope Mr. Pompeo will turn a new leaf and strengthen our anti-Putin and anti-Russia policies,” said the Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer. For his part, the well-known GOP hawk Lindsey Graham emphasized that “one couldn’t pick a better person.”

Presidential Election 2018

By the time of its March 2018 presidential elections, Russia found itself in a complex situation. In spite of certain successes in overcoming crises and challenges posed by the sanctions war, Russia’s economy is continuing to experience difficulties.

Background: In the fourth quarter of 2017, Russia’s GDP growth dropped to an annualized rate of 1%, and during the entire 2017 Russia’s economy grew by about 1.5-1.6%, which is considerably lower than the Ministry of Economic Development September 2017 forecast of 2.1%.

Disposable incomes are not growing. Small and medium business is still hidebound by excessive bureaucracy. Conditions necessary for their development still do not exist. Financial sanctions, tight monetary and credit policy, low demand, and negative expectations have led to a shortage of private sector investments.

On the other hand, while two years ago the ruble exchange rate was tightly linked to world oil prices, that dependence has greatly decreased.

In 2015, the ruble-oil correlation was around 80%, by 2017 it dropped to about 30%. The record low inflation rate of 2.5% in 2017 stopped the rise in prices. In spite of the expanding sanctions, Russian assets such as the Russian state obligations, Eurobonds, and the ruble, continue to appreciate.

The state is stimulating the economy through investment in global infrastructure projects such as the Crimea Bridge, and the Power of Siberia gas pipeline.

Overall, the Russian economy is displaying a variety of trends, and the likelihood of a dramatic worsening is extremely low. The situation is more complicated when it comes to social relations.

During the entire period of existence of new Russia, the question of fighting corruption and clannishness has always remained a tool of political warfare. However, there were no systemic measures until 2016. Only in 2017 did the ruling team start to take systemic measures.

Background: In 2017, Russia adopted a range of measures to combat the growth of corruption. In December 2017, State Duma adopted after the third reading the law on a registry of officials who lost public trust and were discharged for bribery.

Several highly placed officials had criminal cases launched against them. The total sum of bribes uncovered in 2016 reach about $41 million, or about $18 million more than a year earlier. In 2017, that sum reached $120 million. This increase was not the result of its growth in corruption bur rather due to different approaches to combating it and heightened attention by law enforcement.

It is remarkable that in 2017 the number of launched corruption cases decreased by 11.2% by comparison in 2016, while the sum of bribes increased by almost a factor of 3. It indicates that the attention of law enforcement shifted from “petty” corruption to combating bribery among top officials.

Background: The sums mentioned refer only to cases concerning Article 290 of Russian Federation Criminal Code, Receiving Bribes.

Thus in 2016-17, individuals charged with bribery and arrested included the Minister of Economic Development Ulyukayev, several current and former regions heads, dozens of highly placed officials and managers of state enterprises.

At the same time, a significant portion of Russia’s population is skeptical, and believes that the law enforcement are using corruption for political and electoral reasons and are not touching people close to ruling clans.

This public perception was formed over the course of the last 2 decades and it obviously can’t be changed in a year or two. This has been effectively used by opposition figures. Opposition also has been using quite correct, given Russian realities, slogans of budget inefficiency, absence of social mobility among youth, problems in health care and education systems.

Nevertheless, due both to Vladimir Putin’s actual successes and to opposition composition and their views, it has not been able to select a competitive candidate for 2018 elections or propose a rational alternative development plan for Russia, acceptable to any sizable portion of the population. One also ought to distinguish the so-called “liberals” from among the opposition as a whole.

Background: Liberal oppositionists include mainly representatives of humanist and creative intelligentsia, some small and medium businessmen (mostly in retail, financial), IT and service sectors, a proportion of college students, and office workers in big cities, mainly Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ekaterinburg, and Novosibirsk. Their electoral base does not exceed 5% of the population.

Rank and file oppositionists’ aspirations include positive changes in daily life, such as less bureaucracy, more entrepreneurship, an open society, in other words, creating a European model of democracy from the 1990s. Therefore, and traditionally, contemporary West is idealized. This has been effectively used by that part of Russia’s elite whose interests are tied to global financial capital and establishment and who see Russia as, at best, West’s raw materials base.

These individuals who call themselves leaders of protest opposition understand they lack broad popular support and can’t directly compete with Putin.

Background: All early March polls suggest Putin will win a decisive victory in the first round.

At the same time 2018 elections are perceived as a chance to change the direction of the country’s development and to use external forces to topple the “Putin regime”, up to and including a coup d’etat. Therefore they have chosen the tactic of attempting to discredit the elections as such. Already several weeks prior to the elections, the liberal media and the social media have launched a large-scale campaign promoting non-participation in the elections and, at the same time, accusing the government of planning mass forgeries.

The aim is to create the necessary image for MSM and “the entire world community” in order to continue the campaign to declare the elections illegitimate, with the support of external forces.

Background: For the last several years, media resources of “liberal opposition” have been focusing on youth aged 12-20 years. Most of that audience cannot yet take part in presidential elections, since the voting age is 18. This fact demonstrates that the opposition is not seeking to come to power using the existing elections process, but through discrediting the system and implementing a scenario resembling in some ways the Kiev Euro-Maidan or Arab Spring.

Moreover, the combination of “international support” and “illegitimate” elections results could be used both to launch street protests which would draw large numbers of 14-16 year old youths, in the hopes of creating images of “the bloody Putin regime beating children.”

Nevertheless, protests alone, even protests involving tens of thousands of participants will not be able to destabilize the existing Russian Federation state institutions. They would require assistance in the form of pressure by international crises, escalating instability close to Russian borders, or even a new theater of military confrontation or the threat of global war.

International crisis pressure would have to be based on several unrelated but major charges against Russia’s leaders. The British provocation in the form of “the Skripal poisoning” fits into this scenario perfectly, as does the alleged preparations by the Syrian government to use chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, as do the provocations in eastern Ukraine. It is entirely possible that the world will see, during the 2-3 weeks immediately after the elections, several other improbably brazen anti-Russian provocations.

Even if they fail to damage Russia’s statehood, they will serve as an excuse to strengthen Russian sanctions in 2018, expand efforts against the so-called Russian propaganda and, most importantly, to significantly increase US defense spending as well as defense spending of several other NATO countries.

أميركا تنخرط في الحرب المباشرة مجدّداً والمقاومة ستُخرجها بلا سفن ولا طائرات

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أميركا تنخرط في الحرب المباشرة مجدّداً والمقاومة ستُخرجها بلا سفن ولا طائرات

محمد صادق الحسيني

يبدو أنّ الرؤساء الأميركيين، سواء كانوا جمهوريين أم ديمقراطيين، يبقون دائماً أسرى ما يُسمّى الدولة العميقة في الولايات المتحدة، والمتمثلة في وزارة الدفاع ووكالات او أجهزة المخابرات الحكومية المختلفة، والتي تمثل بدورها مصالح الجهات الأكثر عدوانية وعنصرية وعنجهية في المجتمع الأميركي، ألا وهي تجمّع الصناعات العسكرية وتجمّع شركات النفط والطاقة العملاقة.

أما ما يدفعنا للوصول الى هذه النتيجة فهو قيام الرئيس الأميركي الحالي، دونالد ترامب، بنكث وعوده لمنتخبيه، أثناء الحملة الانتخابية، بأن يوقف تدخل الولايات المتحدة في النزاعات والحروب الخارجية، وذلك حفاظاً على المصالح الأميركية، ويعود كما سابقيه الى الانخراط في سلسلة حروب ومغامرات فاشلة تمتد رقعتها من افغانستان شرقاً وحتى الجزائر غرباً والتي تواجه الاٍرهاب، الذي زرعته الادارة الأميركية، على حدودها الشرقية والجنوبية.

حيث تناسى ترامب، وبعد إرغامه على العودة الى بيت طاعة الدولة العميقة، كل وعوده الانتخابية والتي لم يكن آخرها وعوده لناخبيه بتحسين العلاقة مع روسيا، ضمن توجهاته لخلق نوع من الاستقرار في العلاقات الدولية. ولكنه بدلاً من ذلك لجأ، وفِي نقض واضح لتفاهماته مع الرئيس بوتين في شهر حزيران 2017 في هامبورغ في ألمانيا، لجأ الى منحى مختلف تماماً عن الوعود الانتخابية.

اما دليلنا على ذلك فهو ما يلي:

ان الرئيس ترامب، مثل سلفه الجمهوري ريتشارد نيكسون، يرفض الاستماع الى آراء العقلاء في الولايات المتحدة والذين يكررون الدعوة لسحب القوات الأميركية من كل من افغانستان والعراق وسورية، تماماً كما رفض سلفه نيكسون الاستماع لطلب ممثل التيار المناهض للحرب في فيتنام في سبعينيات القرن الماضي، السيد جون كيري الذي كان ضابطاً في سلاح البحرية الأميركية العامل في فيتنام آنذاك، والذي دُعي خلال جلسة استماع في مجلس الشيوخ الأميركي بتاريخ 22/4/1971 الى إنهاء فوري للحرب في فيتنام تفادياً لهزيمة كبرى. وقد كانت نتيجة ذلك التعنت الأميركي هزيمة عسكرية أميركية مدوية في فيتنام في العام 1975، كما هو معروف.

إن الرئيس ترامب أقرب في ممارساته، وفِي النتائج التي ستترتّب عليها حتماً، الى الرئيس الديموقراطي السابق بيل كلينتون الذي أرسل في شهر أيلول 1993 قوة عسكرية أميركية الى الصومال بحجة اعتقال أحد قادة الفصائل المسلحة الصومالية في موقديشو آنذاك، وهو محمد فرح عيديد، حيث حاولت قوة أميركية خاصة مدرعة، من الكتيبة الثالثة، التابعة لفوج الرينجرز Rangers الـ 75، والتي كان يطلق عليها آنذاك قوات دلتا Delta Force، وبمساندة قوة عمليات خاصة محمولة جواً تابعة للكتيبة الأولى من فوج العمليات الخاصة الجوية رقم 160. حاولت هذه القوة مهاجمة مقر قيادة عيديد، ولكنها مُنيت بخسائر بشرية كبيرة وأسقطت عدداً من المروحيات التي استخدمتها، إلى جانب تدمير عدد من المدرعات المستخدمة في الهجوم وذلك بتاريخ 3 و 4/10/1993.

مما اضطر الرئيس بيل كلينتون إلى اتخاذ قرار حاسم وسريع، بعد اجتماع عاجل لمجلس الأمن القومي الأميركي يوم 6/10/1993، بسحب القوات الأميركية فوراً من الصومال وانتداب السفير روبرت أوكلي Robert B. Oakley بالذهاب الى موقديشو للبدء بمحادثات سلام مع الفصائل الصومالية المسلحة، أي ان الادارة الأميركية اضطرت ان تتفاوض معهم بعد هزيمة كبيرة تلقتها على يد جماعة مسلحة سيئة التسليح والتدريب.

وهذا بالضبط ما سيحدث للرئيس ترامب، إذا استمر في تنفيذ سياسات إدارته العدوانية في كل من سورية والعراق، وإذا أصرّ على المضي قدماً في إقامة قواعد أميركية في البلدين حتى بعد انتفاء الحجة، التي كانت تتذرع بها الإدارة الأميركية لإرسال «قوات خاصة» او «وحدات للتدريب»، الى كل من سورية والعراق وهي حجة محاربة داعش. أي أن الجنود الأميركيين سيُضطرون الى إخلاء قواعدهم والانسحاب تحت النار، اذا واصل رئيسهم رفض الاستماع لصوت العقل الذي يدعوه الى الكفّ عن ممارسة العدوان والتوقف عن تعطيل عملية التسوية السياسية الشاملة في سورية بالتوافق بين السوريين أنفسهم.

ولكن ممارسات الإدارة الأميركية، في كل من العراق وسورية، تشي بغير ذلك تماماً. فهي في العراق تطالب الحكومة العراقية بمنحها عشرين قاعدة عسكرية، بينما أقامت في سورية عشرين قاعدة ونقطة ارتكاز أخرى، دون موافقة الحكومة السورية، التي تعتبر هذا الوجود احتلالاً أجنبياً لأراضيها وتحتفظ لنفسها بحق التصدّي له وطرده بكل الوسائل الضرورية لذلك.

وما الأعمال التحضيرية التي تنفذها القوات الأميركية لإنشاء قاعدة عسكرية جديدة، شمال شرق الخط الدولي رقم 2 وبالقرب من نقطة تنيفات، إلا دليل على وجود مخطط أميركي يهدف الى القيام بفتح جبهة جديدة ضد قوات حلف المقاومة في قاطع التنف/ الوليد/ على جانبي الحدود، وذلك في محاولة منها لإنقاذ مشروعها الأساسي الذي يهدف الى تقسيم العراق وسورية وضرب محور المقاومة وإقامة منطقة سيطرة أميركية/ أردنية/ عازلة بين العراق وسورية، بهدف قطع التواصل الجغرافي البري بين طهران والقدس عبر العراق فسورية فلبنان، تماماً كالمنطقة العازلة التي تخطط «اسرائيل» لإقامتها على حدود الجولان المحتل بهدف إبعاد قوات حلف المقاومة عن خطوط وقف إطلاق النار في الجولان المحتل.

اما ما قامت به القوات الأميركية المتمركزة في قاعدة التنف يوم أمس الاول، من عملية قرصنة لاسلكية ضخمة، سيطرت خلالها لاسلكياً على المنطقة الجوية الممتدة من قاعدة التنف في سورية وحتى الرطبة شرقاً داخل العراق، أي أنها قطعت او عطّلَتْ كافة أنواع الاتصالات السلكية واللاسلكية في المنطقة المشار اليها أعلاه، فما هو إلا أحدث دليل على استمرار القوات الأميركية في عدوانها ومشاركتها لعصابات وفلول داعش وغيرها من المرتزقة الذين تقوم بتدريبهم، بالتعاون مع الجيش الأردني، في قاعدة التنف السورية وفي قاعدة الموقر الاردنية. نقول مشاركتها لهم في تنفيذ جرائمهم ضد وحدات قوات حلف المقاومة على طرفي الحدود، وذلك من خلال تعطيل اتصالات هذه القوات التي تنفذ عمليات تطهير في قاطع الرطبة/ عكاشات/ وادي الغدف… في العراق.

ولكننا نقول إن ما تجهله قيادة الجيش الأميركي والإدارة الأميركية في واشنطن هو أن زيارة الرئيس الروسي الى قاعدة حميميم في سورية ولقاءه الرئيس الأسد هناك في شهر 12/2017 كانت بمثابة إعلان مشترك عن النصر على داعش وأما خطاب الرئيس بوتين في موسكو قبل أيّام فما هو إلا إعلان عن نهاية أحادية القطب في العالم وولادة عالم متعدد الأقطاب وجديد تتحكّم فيه موازين قوى تختلف تماماً عن تلك التي حكمت العالم بعد انهيار الاتحاد السوفياتي.

إنه طائر الفينيق، إنها سورية التي تنهض من تحت الرماد لتعلن عن ولادة نظام عالمي جديد لا مكان فيه لمؤامرات الثورات الملوّنة أو تلك المسيّرة عن بعد، أي من واشنطن، بل انه نظام ستكون فيه الولايات المتحدة مجبرة على التخلي عن مشاريع إسقاط الدولة السورية وتفتيت سورية والعراق خدمة لمشاريع الهيمنة الأميركية المطلقة التي أصبحت من الماضي.

هذه المرة لن تجد أميركا الفرصة للهروب المنظم من بلادنا، كما فعلت من سايغون في سبعينيات القرن الماضي بأسراب طائرات من على سفنها نظّمت حفلتها لهم سفارتهم هناك، بل سيدفنون تحت التراب أو يُلقون إلى أسماك بحر الشام…!

فيما سنعلن نحن قيامتنا وعروجنا الى السماء من بلاد الشام كما صرّح جنرال النصر الحاج قاسم سليماني..!

بعدنا طيبين قولوا الله.

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How We Got Donald Trump, (And How We Might Have Avoided Him)

 

How We Got Donald Trump

(And How We Might Have Avoided Him)
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The present arrives out of a past that we are too quick to forget, misremember, or enshroud in myth. Yet like it or not, the present is the product of past choices. Different decisions back then might have yielded very different outcomes in the here-and-now. Donald Trump ascended to the presidency as a consequence of myriad choices that Americans made (or had made for them) over the course of decades. Although few of those were made with Trump in mind, he is the result.

Where exactly did Trump come from? How are we to account for his noxious presence as commander-in-chief and putative Leader of the Free World? The explanations currently on offer are legion. Some blame the nefarious Steve Bannon, others Hillary Clinton and her lackluster campaign. Or perhaps the fault lies with the Bernie Sanders insurgency, which robbed Clinton of the momentum she needed to win, or with Little Marco, Lyin’ Ted, and Low Energy Jeb, and the other pathetic Republicans whom Trump trampled underfoot en route to claiming the nomination. Or perhaps the real villains are all those “deplorables” — the angry and ignorant white males whose disdain for immigrants, feminists, gays, and people of color Trump stoked and manipulated to great effect.

All such explanations, however, suggest that the relevant story began somewhere around June 2015 when Donald Trump astonished the political world by announcing his intention to seek the presidency. My aim here is to suggest that the origins of the real story are to be found much earlier. The conditions that enabled Trump to capture the presidency stemmed from acts of commission and omission that occurred well before he rode down that escalator at Trump Tower to offer his services to the nation.

Here’s the sad part: at each step along the way, other alternatives were available. Had those alternatives been exercised, a Trump presidency would have remained an absurd fantasy rather than becoming an absurd and dangerous reality. Like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the Vietnam War or 9/11, Trump qualifies as a completely avoidable catastrophe with roots deep in the past.

So who’s at fault? Ultimately, we — the American people — must accept a considerable share of the responsibility. This is one buck that can’t be passed.

Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda

So what follows is a review of roads taken (and not) ultimately leading to the demoralizing presidency of Donald Trump, along with a little speculation on how different choices might have resulted in a decidedly different present.

1989: The Fall of the Berlin Wall. As the Cold War wound down, members of Washington’s smart set, Republicans and Democrats alike, declared that the opportunities now presenting themselves went beyond the merely stupendous. Indeed, history itself had ended. With the United States as the planet’s sole superpower, liberal democratic capitalism was destined to prevail everywhere. There would be no way except the American Way. In fact, however, the passing of the Cold War should have occasioned a moment of reflection regarding the sundry mistakes and moral compromises that marred U.S. policy from the 1940s through the 1980s. Unfortunately, policy elites had no interest in second thoughts — and certainly not in remorse or contrition. In the 1990s, rampant victory disease fueled extraordinary hubris and a pattern of reckless behavior informed by an assumption that the world would ultimately conform to the wishes of the “indispensable nation.” In the years to come, an endless sequence of costly mishaps would ensue from Mogadishu to Mosul. When, in due time, Donald Trump announced his intention to dismantle the establishment that had presided over those failures, many Americans liked what he had to say, even if he spoke from a position of total ignorance.

1992: President H. Ross Perot. In the first post-Cold War presidential election, H. Ross Perot, a wealthy entrepreneur and political novice, mounted an independent challenge to the Republican and Democratic nominees. Both parties, Perot charged, were in bed with lobbyists, insiders, and special interests. Both were enthusiastically presiding over the deindustrialization of a once dominant American economy. The rich were getting richer, the national debt was growing, and ordinary citizens were getting screwed, he contended. His charges were not without merit. Yet when Perot lost, Washington was back to business as usual. We cannot know what a Perot presidency would have produced. Yet such a victory — the American electorate, in effect, repudiating the two established parties — might have created powerful incentives for both Republicans and Democrats to clean up their acts and find ways of governing more effectively. Had they done so, Trump’s later vow to “drain the swamp” of corruption and self-dealing would have been beside the point.

1993: Gays in the Military. Bill Clinton ran for the presidency as a centrist. Even so, once elected, he immediately announced his intention to remove restrictions on gays serving in the armed forces. This was, to put it mildly, anything but the act of a centrist. Outraged senior military officers made clear their intention to defy the new commander-in-chief. Although Clinton quickly backpedalled, the episode infuriated both cultural traditionalists and progressives. Within 20 years, a different generation of senior officers decided that gays serving in the military was no big deal. The issue instantly vanished. Yet the controversy left behind a residue of bitterness, especially on the right, that worked in Trump’s favor. Had the generals of 1993 suppressed their insubordinate inclinations, they might have ever so slightly turned down the heat on the culture wars. When the heat is high, it’s the tub-thumpers and noisy haranguers who benefit.

1998: The Lewinsky Scandal. When President Clinton’s sexual encounters with a young White House intern became known, Hillary Clinton stood by her man. The first lady’s steadfast loyalty helped her husband avoid being thrown out of office, providing cover for other feminists to continue supporting the president. Imagine if she had done otherwise, declaring his conduct unacceptable. The pressure on him to resign coming from those who had been among his strongest supporters would have been intense. This much is certain: had evidence of infidelity, compounded by prior allegations of abuse toward women, forced President Clinton from office, Donald Trump would never have had a chance of being elected president. In all likelihood he would never even have considered running.

2000: Cheney Picks a Veep. When George W. Bush wrapped up the Republican nomination in 2000, he tagged Dick Cheney, his father’s defense secretary, with the task of identifying a suitable running mate. After surveying the field, Cheney decided that he himself was the man for the job. As vice president, Cheney wasted no time in stacking the upper ranks of the administration with likeminded allies keen to wield American military muscle to smite “evil-doers” and expand America’s empire. Bush had promised, if elected, to pursue a “humble” foreign policy and forego nation-building. Had he not surrounded himself with Cheney and bellicose companions like Donald Rumsfeld and Paul Wolfowitz, he might possibly have stuck to that course, even after 9/11. Instead, urged on by the uber-hawks in his own administration, he embarked upon a misguided “Global War on Terrorism.” No single action played a greater role in paving the way for Donald Trump to become president.

2000: The Supremes Pick a President. If, in choosing a president on our behalf, the Supreme Court had given the nod to Al Gore instead of George Bush, might they have averted that never-ending, never-contracting war on terrorism? No doubt the 9/11 attacks would still have occurred and some U.S. military action would have ensued. But Gore did not share the obsession with Saddam Hussein that infected members of the Bush-Cheney axis. Arguably, a President Gore would have been less likely than President Bush to insist on invading a country that had played no part in the al-Qaeda conspiracy. Had the U.S. not embarked upon a preventive war against Iraq — had this Original Sin of the post-9/11 era not occurred — a Trump presidency would have been far less likely.

2003: Congress Rolls Over. To its perpetual disgrace, Congress assented to Bush’s demands to invade Iraq. It did so less because its members, including presidential aspirants like Senators Hillary Clinton and John Kerry, were persuaded that Iraq posed a threat to national security (it did not) than because they sought to insulate themselves from the political consequences of opposing a president hell-bent on war. For decades, Congress had allowed presidents to encroach upon its constitutional responsibility to declare war, but this would be the last straw. Supine legislators became complicit in a disaster that to this day continues to unfold. A Congress with gumption might have averted that disaster, recovered its cojones, and left us with a legislative branch willing and able to fulfill its constitutional responsibilities.

2003: GM Kills the EV1 Electric Automobile. In the 1990s, General Motors produced the first viable electric car. Drivers loved it, but GM doubted its potential profitability. Shareholders were more likely to make money if the company focused on manufacturing vehicles powered by gasoline engines. So in 2003, GM executives killed the EV1. The effect was to postpone by at least a decade the development of a mass-produced electric car. Had GM persisted, it’s just possible that the EV1 might have jump-started the transition to a post-fossil fuel economy and offered humanity a leg up on climate change. Instead, politicians spent years bickering about whether climate change was even real. More than a few Republicans made political hay by denouncing those waging a “war on coal” or inhibiting crucially needed oil exploration — bogus charges that Trump adroitly exploited for his own purposes. Perhaps if the EV1 had fulfilled its potential, anyone mounting a presidential campaign while denouncing global warming as a hoax would have been laughed out of town instead of capturing the White House.

2009: Obama Bails Out Wall Street. President Obama entered the Oval Office with the U.S. economy in free-fall. His administration took prompt action to prevent systemic collapse — that is, it bailed out Wall Street. Meanwhile the little guy got clobbered, with millions of Americans losing their jobs and homes. A billionaire complaining about the system being “rigged” might otherwise have tested the outer limits of irony, but for Donald Trump the government’s handling of the Great Recession was a gift from the gods.

2010: Presidential Twitter Accounts. Huge numbers of Americans have willingly surrendered their lives to social media. I’m guessing that there are more vegans and curling aficionados in the United States today than there are non-subscribers to Facebook. So it was perhaps inevitable that politicians would hoist themselves onto the social media bandwagon, keen to use direct, unmediated electronic communications as a way of mobilizing their followers. Yet the resulting impact on American politics has been entirely negative. The space available for reasoned exchanges has shrunk. Political discourse has become increasingly corrosive, its apparent purpose less to inform than to obfuscate, trivialize, and create division. This development was probably inevitable and will no doubt prove irreversible. Even so, it was not inevitable that the presidency itself should succumb to this phenomenon. In 2010, when Barack Obama “made history” by sending the first presidential tweet, it was as if the Pope had begun spending his idle hours hanging out at some corner saloon. Even if only in barely measurable increments, the dignity and decorum associated with the presidency began to fade and with it the assumption that crude or boorish behavior would automatically disqualify someone for high office. Donald Trump, a first-class boor and maestro of Twitter, was quick to take notice.

2010: Mitch McConnell Chooses Party Over Country. With the nation still in the midst of a devastating economic crisis, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell declared on behalf of his party that the denial of a second term to President Obama was “the single most important thing we want to achieve.” To hell with the country, the GOP wanted Obama gone. McConnell’s troops fell obediently into line and the last vestiges of bipartisanship disappeared from Washington. Of course, the president won reelection in 2012 anyway, but in effect McConnell refused to recognize the result. So when Obama exercised a president’s prerogative to nominate someone to fill a Supreme Court vacancy, McConnell ensured that the nominee would not even receive the courtesy of a hearing. An environment rife with hyper-partisanship presented the perfect situation for a political outsider skilled in the “art of the deal” to offer himself as the antidote to persistent gridlock. Congratulations, Mitch! You won after all!

And So…?

It’s time to look in the mirror, folks. Blaming Trump for being Trump simply won’t do. Like Lenin or Franco or Perón or dozens of other demagogues, Trump merely seized the opportunity that presented itself. Our president is a product and beneficiary of several decades worth of vainglory, cynicism, epic folly, political cowardice, missed opportunities, and a public not given to paying attention. In present-day Washington, no one can deny that the chickens have come home to roost. The biggest fowl of them all has taken up residence in the White House and, in a very real sense, we all put him there.

Andrew Bacevich, a TomDispatch regular, is the author, most recently, of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History.

The chaos the USA has caused in Ukraine

Hundreds of far-right vigilantes sworn in to ‘enforce Ukrainian order’ on Kiev’s streets (VIDEO)  

Hundreds of far-right vigilantes sworn in to 'enforce Ukrainian order' on Kiev's streets (VIDEO)

Hollywood’s Dangerous Afghan Illusion: “Charlie Wilson’s War”. Legacy of the late Robert Parry

Source

Robert Parry, editor and publisher of Consortiumnews.com, passed away on January 27th.

The Global Research team pays tribute to Robert Parry and his unwavering commitment to independent and honest journalism. His legacy will live.

On January 1st, I sent a short note to Robert Parry. Today our thoughts are with Robert Parry and his family. 

Robert Parry was a powerful voice, incisive in his analysis of complex foreign policy issues, with a longstanding commitment to peace and social justice.  

To consult  The Robert Parry Archive of articles posted on GR, click here. 

Below is Robert Parry’s incisive and timely April 2013 article on Hollywood’s slanted interpretation of the Soviet Afghan war.  The US supported “Freedom Fighters” were Al Qaeda. The Afghan Mujahideen were jihadist mercenaries recruited by the CIA. It was all for a good cause: destabilize a progressive secular government, occupy and destroy Afghanistan, undermine the Soviet Union.

“Reagan’s pet “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan as in Nicaragua were tainted by the drug trade as well as by well-documented cases of torture, rape and murder.”

Robert Parry’s Legacy is Truth in Media!  

At this juncture in our history during which independent media is threatened, Robert Parry lives in our hearts and minds. 

Michel Chossudovsky, January 29, 2018

**

A newly discovered document undercuts a key storyline of the anti-Soviet Afghan war of the 1980s – that it was “Charlie Wilson’s War.” A note inside Ronald Reagan’s White House targeted the Texas Democrat as someone “to bring into circle as discrete Hill connection,” Robert Parry reports.

Official Washington’s conventional wisdom about Afghanistan derives to a dangerous degree from a Hollywood movie, “Charlie Wilson’s War,” which depicted the anti-Soviet war of the 1980s as a fight pitting good “freedom fighters” vs. evil “occupiers” and which blamed Afghanistan’s later descent into chaos on feckless U.S. politicians quitting as soon as Soviet troops left in 1989.

The Tom Hanks movie also pushed the theme that the war was really the pet project of a maverick Democratic congressman from Texas, Charlie Wilson, who fell in love with the Afghan mujahedeen after falling in love with a glamorous Texas oil woman, Joanne Herring, who was committed to their anti-communist cause.

However, “Charlie Wilson’s War” – like many Hollywood films – took extraordinary license with the facts, presenting many of the war’s core elements incorrectly. That in itself might not be a serious problem, except that key U.S. policymakers have cited these mythical “facts” as lessons to guide the current U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan.

The degree to which Ronald Reagan’s White House saw Wilson as more puppet than puppet-master is underscored by a newly discovered document at Reagan’s presidential library in Simi Valley, California. I found the document in the files of former CIA propaganda chief Walter Raymond Jr., who in the 1980s oversaw the selling of U.S. interventions in Central America and Afghanistan from his office at the National Security Council.

The handwritten note to Raymond appears to be initialed by then-National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane and instructs Raymond to recruit Wilson into the Reagan administration’s effort to drum up more Afghan war money for the fiscal 1985 budget. The note reads:

“Walt, Go see Charlie Wilson (D-TX). Seek to bring him into circle as discrete Hill connection. He can be very helpful in getting money. M.” (The notation may have used the wrong adjective, possibly intending ”discreet,” meaning circumspect and suggesting a secretive role, not “discrete,” meaning separate and distinct.)

Raymond appears to have followed up those instructions, as Wilson began to play a bigger and bigger role in unleashing the great Afghan spending spree of 1985 and as Raymond asserted himself behind the scenes on how the war should be sold to the American people.

Raymond, a 30-year veteran of CIA clandestine services, was a slight, soft-spoken New Yorker who reminded some of a character from a John le Carre spy novel, an intelligence officer who “easily fades into the woodwork,” according to one Raymond acquaintance. But his CIA career took a dramatic turn in 1982 when he was reassigned to the NSC.

At the time, the White House saw a need to step up its domestic propaganda operations in support of President Reagan’s desire to intervene more aggressively in Central America and Afghanistan. The American people – still stung by the agony of the Vietnam War – were not eager to engage in more foreign adventures.

So, Reagan’s team took aim at “kicking the Vietnam Syndrome” mostly by wildly exaggerating the Soviet threat. It became crucial to convince Americans that the Soviets were on the rise and on the march, though in reality the Soviets were on the decline and eager for accommodations with the West.

Yet, as deputy assistant secretary to the Air Force, J. Michael Kelly, put it, “the most critical special operations mission we have … is to persuade the American people that the communists are out to get us.”

The main focus of the administration’s domestic propaganda was on Central America where Reagan was arming right-wing military juntas engaged in anti-leftist extermination campaigns. Through the CIA, Reagan also was organizing a drug-tainted terrorist operation known as the Contras to overthrow Nicaragua’s leftist Sandinista government.

To hide the ugly realities and to overcome popular opposition to the policies, Reagan granted CIA Director William Casey extraordinary leeway to engage in CIA-style propaganda and disinformation aimed at the American people, the sort of project normally reserved for hostile countries. To oversee the operation – while skirting legal bans on the CIA operating domestically – Casey moved Raymond from the CIA to the NSC staff.

Raymond formally resigned from the CIA in April 1983 so, he said, “there would be no question whatsoever of any contamination of this.” But from the beginning, Raymond fretted about the legality of Casey’s involvement. Raymond confided in one memo that it was important “to get [Casey] out of the loop,” but Casey never backed off and Raymond continued to send progress reports to his old boss well into 1986.

It was “the kind of thing which [Casey] had a broad catholic interest in,” Raymond shrugged during a deposition given to congressional Iran-Contra investigators in 1987. Raymond offered the excuse that Casey undertook this apparently illegal interference in domestic politics “not so much in his CIA hat, but in his adviser to the president hat.”

Raymond also understood that the administration’s hand in the P.R. projects must stay hidden, because of other legal bans on executive-branch propaganda. “The work down within the administration has to, by definition, be at arms length,” Raymond noted in an Aug. 29, 1983, memo.

As one NSC official told me, the campaign was modeled after CIA covert operations abroad where a political goal is more important than the truth. “They were trying to manipulate [U.S.] public opinion … using the tools of Walt Raymond’s trade craft which he learned from his career in the CIA covert operation shop,” the official said.

From the NSC, Raymond organized inter-agency task forces to bombard the U.S. public with hyped-up propaganda about the Soviet threat in Central America and in Afghanistan. Raymond’s goal was to change the way Americans viewed these dangers, a process that the Reagan administration internally called “perception management.”

Scores of documents about this operation were released during the Iran-Contra scandal in 1987, but Washington-based journalists never paid much attention to the evidence about how they had been manipulated by these propaganda tactics, which included rewarding cooperative reporters with government-sponsored “leaks” and punishing those who wouldn’t parrot the lies with whispering campaigns in the ears of their editors and bureau chiefs. [See Robert Parry’s Lost History.]

Even after the Iran-Contra scandal was exposed in 1986 and Casey died of brain cancer in 1987, the Republicans fought to keep secret the remarkable story of this propaganda apparatus. As part of a deal to get three moderate Republican senators to join Democrats in signing the Iran-Contra report, Democratic leaders dropped a draft chapter on the CIA’s domestic propaganda role.

Thus, the American people were spared the chapter’s troubling conclusion: that a covert propaganda apparatus had existed, run by “one of the CIA’s most senior specialists, sent to the NSC by Bill Casey, to create and coordinate an inter-agency public-diplomacy mechanism [which] did what a covert CIA operation in a foreign country might do. [It] attempted to manipulate the media, the Congress and public opinion to support the Reagan administration’s policies.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Iran-Contra’s Lost Chapter.”]

Raping Russians

Hiding the unspeakable realities of the anti-Soviet jihad in Afghanistan was almost as high a priority as concealing the U.S.-backed slaughter in Central America. Reagan’s pet “freedom fighters” in Afghanistan as in Nicaragua were tainted by the drug trade as well as by well-documented cases of torture, rape and murder.

Yet, Raymond and his propagandists were always looking for new ways to “sell” the wars to the American people, leading to a clash with CIA officer Gust Avrakotos, who was overseeing the Afghan conflict and who had developed his own close ties to Rep. Charlie Wilson.

According to author George Crile, whose book Charlie Wilson’s War provided a loose framework for the movie of the same name, Avrakotos clashed with Raymond and other senior Reagan administration officials when they proposed unrealistic propaganda themes regarding Afghanistan.

One of Raymond’s ideas was to get some Russian soldiers to “defect” and then fly them from Afghanistan to Washington where they would renounce communism. The problem, as Avrakotos explained, was that the Afghan mujahedeen routinely tortured and then murdered any Soviet soldier who fell into their hands, except for a few who were kept around for anal rape.

“For Avrakotos, 1985 was a year of right-wing craziness,” Crile wrote. “A band of well-placed anti-Communist enthusiasts in the administration had come up with a plan they believed would bring down the Red Army, if the CIA would only be willing to implement it. The leading advocates of this plan included Richard Perle at the Pentagon. … [NSC aide] Oliver North also checked in briefly, but the man who set Avrakotos’s teeth on edge most was Walt Raymond, another NSC staffer who had spent twenty years with the CIA as a propagandist.

“Their idea was to encourage Soviet officers and soldiers to defect to the mujahideen. As Avrakotos derisively describes it, ‘The muj were supposed to set up loudspeakers in the mountains announcing such things as “Lay down your arms, there is a passage to the West and to freedom.”’ Once news of this program made its way through the Red Army, it was argued, there would be a flood of defectors. …

“Avrakotos thought North and Perle were ‘cuckoos of the Far Right,’ and he soon felt quite certain that Raymond, the man who seemed to be the intellectual ringleader, was truly detached from reality. ‘What Russian in his right mind would defect to those fuckers all armed to the teeth,’ Avrakotos said in frustration. ‘To begin with, anyone defecting to the Dushman would have to be a crook, a thief or someone who wanted to get cornholed every day, because nine out of ten prisoners were dead within twenty-four hours and they were always turned into concubines by the mujahideen. I felt so sorry for them I wanted to have them all shot.’

“The meeting [with Raymond’s team] went very badly indeed. Gust [Avrakotos] accused North and Perle of being idiots. … Avrakotos said to Walt Raymond, ‘You know, Walt, you’re just a fucking asshole, you’re irrelevant.’”

However, as Crile wrote, Avrakotos “greatly underestimated the political power and determination of the group, who went directly to [CIA Director] Bill Casey to angrily protest Avrakotos’s insulting manner. The director complained to [CIA operations official] Clair George, who responded by forbidding Avrakotos to attend any more interagency meetings without a CIA nanny present. …

“Avrakotos arrived for one of these White House sessions armed with five huge photographic blowups. … One of them showed two Russian sergeants being used as concubines. Another had a Russian hanging from the turret of a tank with a vital part of his anatomy removed. … ‘If you were a sane fucking Russian, would you defect to these people?’ he had demanded of Perle.

“But the issue wouldn’t go away. Perle, Raymond, and the others continued to insist that the Agency find and send back to the United States the many Russian defectors they seemed to believe, despite Avrakotos’s denials, the mujahideen were harboring. …

“It had been almost impossible to locate two prisoners, much less two defectors. The CIA found itself in the preposterous position of having to pony up $50,000 to bribe the Afghans to deliver two live ones. ‘These two guys were basket cases,’ says Avrakotos. ‘One had been fucked so many times he didn’t know what was going on.’”

Despite this knowledge about the true nature of the Afghan “freedom fighters,” the Reagan administration – and the “Charlie Wilson’s War” moviemakers – concealed from the American people the inhuman brutality of the jihadists who were receiving billions of dollars in U.S. and Saudi largesse. The movie depicted the Soviet soldiers as sadistic monsters and the mujahedeen as noble warriors, just as Ronald Reagan and Walter Raymond would have wanted. (Raymond died in 2003; Reagan in 2004; the movie appeared in 2007.)

But the Reagan administration did calculate correctly that Wilson from his key position on a House Appropriations defense subcommittee could open the spigot on funding for the Afghan muj.

Learning Wrong Lessons

While it’s not unusual for Hollywood to produce a Cold War propaganda film, what was different about “Charlie Wilson’s War” was how it was treated by Official Washington as something close to a documentary. That attitude was somewhat a tribute to the likeable Tom Hanks who portrayed the womanizing and hard-drinking Charlie Wilson.

Yet, perhaps the biggest danger in viewing the movie as truth was its treatment of why the anti-Soviet jihad led to Afghanistan becoming home to the Taliban and Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorists in the 1990s. The movie pushed the myth that the United States abruptly abandoned Afghanistan as soon as the Soviet troops left on Feb. 15, 1989.

All across Official Washington, pundits and policymakers have embraced the lesson that the United States must not make that “mistake” again – and thus must leave behind a sizeable force of U.S. troops.

For instance, the New York Times’ lead editorial on May 1, 2012, criticized President Barack Obama for not explaining how he would prevent Afghanistan from imploding after the scheduled U.S. troop withdrawal in 2014, though the Times added that the plan’s “longer-term commitment [of aid] sends an important message to Afghans that Washington will not abandon them as it did after the Soviets were driven out.”

The abandonment myth also has been cited by senior Obama administration officials, including U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Defense Secretary Robert Gates, as they explained the rise of the Taliban in the mid-1990s and al-Qaeda’s use of Afghanistan for plotting the 9/11 attacks on the United States in 2001.

In late 2009, Defense Secretary Gates reprised this phony conventional wisdom, telling reporters: “We will not repeat the mistakes of 1989, when we abandoned the country only to see it descend into civil war and into Taliban hands.” However, that narrative was based on a faux reality drawn from a fictional movie.

Gates knew the real history. After all, in 1989, he was deputy national security adviser under President George H.W. Bush when the key decisions were made to continue covert U.S. aid to the mujahedeen, not cut it off.

The truth was that the end game in Afghanistan was messed up not because the United States cut the mujahedeen off but because Washington pressed for a clear-cut victory, rebuffing Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev’s proposals for a power-sharing arrangement. And we know that Gates knows this reality because he recounted it in his 1996 memoir, From the Shadows.

The Real History

Here’s what that history actually shows: In 1988, Gorbachev promised to remove Soviet troops from Afghanistan and sought a negotiated settlement. He hoped for a unity government that would include elements of Afghan President Najibullah’s Soviet-backed regime in Kabul and the CIA-backed Islamic fundamentalist rebels.

Gates, who in 1988 was deputy CIA director, opposed Gorbachev’s plan, disbelieving that the Soviets would really depart and insisting that – if they did – the CIA’s mujahedeen could quickly defeat Najibullah’s army.

Inside the Reagan administration, Gates’s judgment was opposed by State Department analysts who foresaw a drawn-out struggle. Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead and the department’s intelligence chief Morton Abramowitz warned that Najibullah’s army might hold on longer than the CIA expected.

But Gates prevailed in the policy debates, pushing the CIA’s faith in its mujahedeen clients and expecting a rapid Najibullah collapse if the Soviets left. In the memoir, Gates recalled briefing Secretary of State George Shultz and his senior aides on the CIA’s predictions prior to Shultz flying to Moscow in February 1988.

“I told them that most [CIA] analysts did not believe Najibullah’s government could last without active Soviet military support,” wrote Gates.

After the Soviets did withdraw in February 1989 – proving Gates wrong on that point – some U.S. officials felt Washington’s geostrategic aims had been achieved and a move toward peace was in order. There also was mounting concern about the Afghan mujahedeen, especially their tendencies toward brutality, heroin trafficking and fundamentalist religious practices.

However, the new administration of George H.W. Bush – with Gates moving from the CIA to the White House as deputy national security adviser – rebuffed Gorbachev and chose to continue U.S. covert support for the mujahedeen, aid which was being funneled primarily through Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, the ISI.

At the time, I was a Newsweek national security correspondent and asked my CIA contacts why the U.S. government didn’t just collect its winnings from the Soviet withdrawal and agree to some kind of national-unity government in Kabul that could end the war and bring some stability to the country. One of the CIA hardliners responded to my question with disgust. “We want to see Najibullah strung up by a light pole,” he snarled.

Back in Afghanistan, Najibullah’s regime defied the CIA’s expectation of a rapid collapse, using Soviet weapons and advisers to beat back a mujahedeen offensive in 1990. As Najibullah hung on, the war, the violence and the disorder continued.

Gates finally recognized that his CIA analysis had been wrong. In his memoir, he wrote: “As it turned out, Whitehead and Abramowitz were right” in their warning that Najibullah’s regime might not fall quickly. Gates’s memoir also acknowledged that the U.S. government did not abandon Afghanistan immediately after the Soviet departure.

“Najibullah would remain in power for another three years [after the Soviet pull-out], as the United States and the USSR continued to aid their respective sides,” Gates wrote. Indeed, Moscow’s and Washington’s supplies continued to flow until several months after the Soviet Union collapsed in summer 1991, according to Gates.

Crile’s Account

And other U.S. assistance continued even longer, according to Crile’s Charlie Wilson’s War. In the book, Crile described how Wilson kept the funding spigot open for the Afghan rebels not only after the Soviet departure in 1989 but even after the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991.

Eventually, the mujahedeen did capture the strategic city of Khost, but turned it into a ghost town as civilians fled or faced the mujahedeen’s fundamentalist fury. Western aid workers found themselves “following the liberators in a desperate attempt to persuade them not to murder and pillage,” Crile wrote.

U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Robert Oakley began to wonder who were the worse bad guys, the Soviet-backed communists or the U.S.-supported mujahedeen.

“It was the leaders of the Afghan puppet government who were saying all the right things, even paying lip service to democratic change,” Crile reported. “The mujahideen, on the other hand, were committing unspeakable atrocities and couldn’t even put aside their bickering and murderous thoughts long enough to capture Kabul.”

In 1991, as the Soviet Union careened toward its final crackup, the Senate Intelligence Committee approved nothing for Afghanistan, Crile wrote. “But no one could just turn off Charlie Wilson’s war like that,” Crile noted. “For Charlie Wilson, there was something fundamentally wrong with his war ending then and there. He didn’t like the idea of the United States going out with a whimper.”

Wilson made an impassioned appeal to the House Intelligence Committee and carried the day. The committee first considered a $100 million annual appropriation, but Wilson got them to boost it to $200 million, which – with the Saudi matching funds – totaled $400 million, Crile reported.

“And so, as the mujahideen were poised for their thirteenth year of war, instead of being cut off, it turned out to be a banner year,” Crile wrote. “They found themselves with not only a $400 million budget but also with a cornucopia of new weaponry sources that opened up when the United States decided to send the Iraqi weapons captured during the Gulf War to the mujahideen.”

But even then the Afghan rebels needed an external event to prevail on the battlefield, the stunning disintegration of the Soviet Union in the latter half of 1991. Only then did Moscow cut off its aid to Najibullah. His government finally fell in 1992. But its collapse didn’t stop the war – or the mujahedeen infighting.

The capital of Kabul came under the control of a relatively moderate rebel force led by Ahmad Shah Massoud, an Islamist but not a fanatic. However, Massoud, a Tajik, was not favored by Pakistan’s ISI, which backed more extreme Pashtun elements of the mujahedeen.

Rival Afghan warlords battled with each other for another four years destroying much of Kabul. Finally, a disgusted Washington began to turn away. Crile reported that the Cross Border Humanitarian Aid Program, which was the only sustained U.S. program aimed at rebuilding Afghanistan, was cut off at the end of 1993, almost five years after the Soviets left.

Rise of the Taliban

While chaos continued to reign across Afghanistan, the ISI readied its own army of Islamic extremists drawn from Pashtun refugee camps inside Pakistan. This group, known as the Taliban, entered Afghanistan with the promise of restoring order.

The Taliban seized the capital of Kabul in September 1996, driving Massoud into a northward retreat. The ousted communist leader Najibullah, who had stayed in Kabul, sought shelter in the United Nations compound, but was captured. The Taliban tortured, castrated and killed him, his mutilated body hung from a light pole – just as the CIA hardliner had wished seven years earlier.

The triumphant Taliban imposed harsh Islamic law on Afghanistan. Their rule was especially cruel to women who had made gains toward equal rights under the communists, but were forced by the Taliban to live under highly restrictive rules, to cover themselves when in public, and to forgo schooling.

The Taliban also granted refuge to Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, who had fought with the Afghan mujahedeen against the Soviets in the 1980s. Bin Laden then used Afghanistan as the base of operations for his terrorist organization, al-Qaeda, setting the stage for the next Afghan War in 2001.

So, the real history is quite different from the Hollywood version that Official Washington has absorbed as its short-hand understanding of the anti-Soviet Afghan war of the 1980s.

The newly discovered document about bringing Charlie Wilson into the White House “circle as discrete Hill connection” suggests that even the impression that it was “Charlie Wilson’s War” may have been more illusion than reality. Though Wilson surely became a true believer in the CIA’s largest covert action of the Cold War, Reagan’s White House team appears to have viewed him as a useful Democratic front man who would be “very helpful in getting money.”

Most significantly, the mythology – enshrined in the movie and embraced by the policymakers – obscured the key lessons of the 1980s: the dangerous futility of trying to impose a Western or military solution on Afghanistan as well as the need to explore negotiation and compromise even when dealing with unsavory foes. It wasn’t the mythical U.S. “abandonment” of Afghanistan in February 1989 that caused the devastation of the past two decades, but rather the uncompromising policies of the Reagan-Bush-41 administrations.

First, there was the ascendance of propaganda over truth. The U.S. government was well aware of the gross human rights crimes of the Afghan “muj” but still sold them as honorable “freedom fighters” to the American people. Second, there was the triumphalism of Gates and other war hawks, who insisted on rubbing Moscow’s nose in its Afghan defeat and thus blocked cooperation on a negotiated settlement which held out the promise of a less destructive outcome.

Those two factors – the deceit and the hubris – set the stage for the 9/11 attacks in 2001, a renewed Afghan War bogging down tens of thousands of U.S. troops, America’s disastrous detour into Iraq, and now a costly long-term U.S. commitment to Afghanistan that is expected to last at least until 2024. With a distorted account of “Charlie Wilson’s War,” Tom Hanks and Hollywood didn’t help.

[For a limited time, you can purchase Robert Parry’s trilogy on the Bush family for only $34. For details, click here.]

Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).

The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

FINIAN CUNNINGHAM | 22.01.2018 | WORLD / MIDDLE EAST

The Arab Spring: Restoration, Repression & Regime Change

The outbreak of mass protests in Tunisia this week comes on the seventh anniversary of the Arab Spring uprisings in 2011. This week, seven years ago, saw Tunisia’s strongman ruler Ben Ali fleeing for exile to Saudi Arabia. Before the month was out, Egypt’s longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak was also ousted. Back then, revolution was in the air and the region was convulsed with potential change. In many ways, arguably, it still is.

Seven years on it is appropriate that social protests have reemerged in Tunisia. That demonstrates the Arab Spring is still unfinished business. The potential change for full democracy did not occur back then, nor since. At least, not yet.

Tunisia was the first country where the uprisings in 2011 kicked off after a young street vendor named Mohamed Bouazizi self-immolated in protest against poverty and state corruption. Today, protesters in Tunisia are still calling for liberation from political and economic oppression.

So, we may ask, what happened the Arab Spring and its promise for sweeping progressive change?

Before we review the momentous events, a note of clarification is needed. Back in the heyday of the Arab Spring some analysts posited that the social movements were part of a grand plan orchestrated by Washington to clear out despots who had passed their sell-by dates.

Authors like Michel Chossudovsky and William Engdahl were among those claiming a hidden hand from Washington as part of grand scheme. They point to communications between the State Department and certain protester groups, like the April 6 youth movement in Egypt, as evidence of a master-scheme manipulated from Washington. In that view, the Arab Spring was just another version of so-called Color Revolutions, which Washington did indeed orchestrate in other parts of the world, like Georgia and Ukraine in the early 2000s.

This author disagrees on what was the motive force behind the Arab Spring events. Admittedly, Washington did have a hand in the events, but more often this was reactionary, to curtail and divert the mass uprisings – uprisings which in this author’s observations were genuine popular revolts against the US and European-backed status quo serving international capital.

Instead of successful revolution, what happened the Arab Spring were three categories of reaction. Here we look at seven countries in the region to illustrate.

Restoration

Tunisians and Egyptians may have seen the backs of Ben Ali and Mubarak, but seven years on it is evident that the ruling system which both these strongmen oversaw has been restored. In Tunisia, the Nidaa Tounes party which Ben Ali patronized is in power as part of a coalition with the Nahda Islamist party. The ruling structure of crony capitalism remains in place. The government’s signing up to an IMF loan last year for $2.9 billion is conditioned on imposing harsh economic austerity cuts on the majority working-class population. The rule of international capital has thus been restored.

In Egypt, the Mubarak regime was restored through in July 2013. El-Sisi was a senior military holdover from Mubarak’s 30-year de facto dictatorship. Admittedly, Morsi’s ascent to power after Mubarak did not represent a pluralist democratic revolution. Morsi was beholden to the Muslim Brotherhood and his short-lived rule was associated with disturbing sectarian hostility. His government alienated secular Egyptian workers. Nevertheless, el-Sisi’s violent overthrow of Morsi can be seen as a reactionary restoration of the old regime. Like Tunisia, today Egypt resembles much of the status quo as before the 2011 uprisings.

Repression

Three countries illustrating this category are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. There were similar developments in other countries, such as Jordan, Oman, Morocco, but on a smaller scale.

After Ben Ali and Mubarak fled from power, the Arab Spring wave soon buffeted Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and Yemen. Like Tunisia and Egypt, those three countries were ruled by US-backed despots. If the whole regional ferment was somehow a devious plot to renovate the status quo by Washington, as some authors contended, then why didn’t the despots in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain succumb to the State Department’s “human rights” proxies?

This author was in Bahrain when its protests erupted on February 14, 2011. For almost one month, the Al Khalifa monarchial regime was reeling from mortal insecurity.

The protests were mainly led by the majority Shia population against the Sunni self-styled king. Their demands, as far as this author observed, were for a worker-dedicated democracy, not a sectarian Islamic-style revolution. Bahrain’s protests were brutally repressed with the invasion of Saudi troops in mid-March 2011. The Saudi repression had the full backing of the US and Britain since the island state was and is a key military base for those two powers in the geo-strategic Persian Gulf.

Similar protests were unleashed in Saudi Arabia, particularly in the oil kingdom’s Eastern Province where the mainly Shia population have been historically marginalized by the hardline Sunni House of Saud. The protests in Bahrain and Saudi Arabia continue to this day. But Washington and London, along with Western media indifference, have given political cover for the ongoing repression of these protests.

In Yemen, the story is slightly different, in that the protest movement emerging in 2011 actually succeeded in ousting the US-backed regime of Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012. Saleh was sidelined in a stitch-up deal overseen by the US and the Saudis to be replaced by his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi. The latter was prescribed as a “transition president” but ended up delaying the handover of democratic power that the Yemeni people had demanded in 2011.

No doubt that was part of the cynical US plan to restore the old order. However, the Houthi rebels grew tired of the charade and ousted the lingering Hadi by force of arms in September 2014. The US-backed Saudi war on Yemen that started in March 2015 has ever since been aimed at repressing the Yemeni uprising in order to restore their puppet Hadi.

Regime Change

Libya and Syria represent a very different category of reaction – namely, an opportunistic regime change carried out by Washington, its European NATO allies and regional client regimes. In mid-March 2011, the US, Britain and France exploited a UN Security Council resolution under the pretext of “protecting human rights” to launch a seven-month aerial bombing campaign on Libya. That war crime resulted in the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi and his murder at the hands of NATO-backed jihadists. Gaddafi had always been an object for Western imperialist hostility. Under the cover of Arab Spring popular revolts, the US and its allies got their chance for regime change in Libya. But seven years on, the regime change has proven to be disastrous for the people of Libya, turning the once socially developed country into a failed state of jihadist-warlord chaos. Cruel poetic justice is that Libya has haunted Europe ever since with a migration crisis owing to NATO’s criminal sabotage of that country and turning the failed state into a gateway for millions of migrants from the African continent.

In Syria, minor protests in mid-March 2011 were hijacked by US and European-backed provocateurs similar to Libya which then turned into a full-blown war. As many as 500,000 people were killed in the nearly seven-year war which was waged by the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Israel and Turkey sponsoring jihadist mercenaries, who gravitated to Syria from dozens of countries around the world. The US-led regime-change plot to oust President Bashar Al-Assad failed mainly because Russia, Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah intervened with military support for the Syrian state.

However, the announcement this past week by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that American military forces are to expand their presence in Syria shows clearly that Washington’s audacious and criminal regime-change agenda persists.

Conclusion

The Arab Spring events in early 2011 were momentous. But seven years on, the progressive promise of the uprisings has yet to materialize. The recurrence of social protests in Tunisia this week is testament to the unfulfilled promise of democratic liberation for the mass of working people in that country and the wider region. The US and Europe had, and continue to have, a vested interest in maintaining the anti-democratic status quo in most of the region. The custodians of international capital managed to stymie revolution by a combination of restoration and repression. In Libya and Syria, the Western powers used the cover of the Arab Spring for opportunistic regime change with horrendous consequences.

Seven years on, the Arab Spring may seem to have been buried as a genuine popular revolutionary movement. But wherever the mass of people are oppressed by an oligarchic elite, hope for liberation will always spring eternal and is always a potential threat to the oppressors.

The Western powers may have partially succeeded in “managing” the Arab Spring. But the potential for revolt against the Western-backed capitalist order has not gone away. That potential is always there, even for an American or European Spring.

Comment

Readers are advised to check the the following posts, posted in 2012, exposing sectarian”Muslim” Brotherhood who hijacked the so-called “Arab Spring” missed a great chance to turn Arab’s people uprising into a second Arab Islamic revolution against the real ENEMY (Anglozionist Empire), because they thought to govern they have to please the Empire.

The events of the last five years have proved that I was right and on the right track. Moreover, old reader may remember my dispute with brother Daniel Mabsout on Syria, Egypt and the war on terror. Please also check:

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