Jared Kushner told Michael Flynn to call Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to advance the interests of israel, not Russia

Chris Menahan
Dec. 01, 2017

Kushner Told Flynn to Call Russia to Stop Anti-Israel UN Vote: Report

Jared Kushner told Michael Flynn to call Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak to advance the interests of Israel, not Russia, according to a new report from Buzzfeed.

From Buzzfeed:

WASHINGTON — Jared Kushner, President Trump’s son-in-law, called Michael Flynn in December 2016 and told him to call members of the UN Security Council in an effort to stop a vote on a resolution critical of Israeli settlement policy, according to a person who was present in the room when Flynn took the call.

Flynn then called Russia’s then-ambassador to the United States to seek his assistance, and later lied to the FBI about having done so, according to documents filed in federal court Friday by special counsel Robert Mueller that explained Flynn’s guilty plea on two counts of lying to federal agents.

The documents do not say on whose behalf Flynn contacted Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador, identifying the person only as “a very senior member of the Presidential Transition Team.”

But a Trump transition official who was in the room where Flynn took a call regarding the upcoming UN Security Council vote said Flynn identified the caller as Kushner.

“Jared called Flynn and told him you need to get on the phone to every member of the Security Council and tell them to delay the vote,” the person said.

If confirmed, that call would bring prosecutors one step closer to Kushner, who also serves as a senior adviser to Trump.

Kushner, the source said, told Flynn during the phone call that “this was a top priority for the president.”

The source says Flynn took the call at the Trump transition team’s offices in the General Services Administration headquarters in northwest Washington. After hanging up, Flynn told the entire room that they’d have to start pushing to lobby against the UN vote, saying “the president wants this done ASAP.”

The Obama administration let the UN vote condemning Israeli settlements go through unimpeded.

Nothing Kushner has ever done has been successful.

The Guardian has more:

One reason that conversation is important – and potentially highly problematic for Trump and his inner circle – is because of comments made to CNN on 23 December the day after Flynn spoke to Kislyak – by an anonymous Israeli official.

That official admitted that Israel – and reportedly the prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, himself – had contacted Trump to seek his assistance in killing the resolution.

The official – in comments that may come back to haunt the White House – said that Israel had “implored the [Obama] White House not to go ahead and told them that if they did, we would have no choice but to reach out to President-elect Trump”.

“We did reach out to the president-elect,” the official added, “and are deeply appreciative that he weighed in, which was not a simple thing to do.”

Trump himself not only spoke out to condemn the resolution ahead of the vote – highly unusual for a president-elect – but his incoming national security adviser Flynn was also lobbying Moscow to act against then US foreign policy.

While the timeline remains circumstantial, it is highly suggestive. At a time when Israel was asking the Trump transition team to intervene to derail the resolution, the question is whether Flynn would have approached Kislyak on his own initiative.

Flynn’s own answer to that question – in his guilty plea – is now on the record, alleging that a senior member of the Trump transition team “directed” him to make contact with Russian officials in December 2016.

And while the identity of that “senior transition official” has not been revealed there have been hints, not least the Wall Street Journal’s report last month that special counsel Robert Mueller has been investigating the attempt by Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner to block the passage of the resolution 2334 – the same effort that Flynn, it now appears, lied to the FBI about.

We can be certain no one in the US media will demand a thorough investigation into collusion between US officials and Israel. Currently, 51 Senators — from both parties — are signed on to a bill which would make boycotting the state of Israel a criminal offense, First Amendment be damned.

Buzzfeed in their own piece suggested these revelations could only “potentially be relevant to Mueller’s investigation into allegations of collusion between Russian officials and Trump campaign staffers.”


How Hitler Analogies Obscure Understanding of Mideast Power Struggle

How Hitler Analogies Obscure Understanding of Mideast Power Struggle


How Hitler Analogies Obscure Understanding of Mideast Power Struggle

While growing up in America during the 1950’s, one would sometimes encounter supermarket tabloid headlines asserting that Adolph Hitler had not died in May 1945 in the ruins of the Reich’s Chancellery. It was claimed that he had somehow escaped and was living under a false identity somewhere in South America, most probably in Argentina. Eventually, as the Fuhrer’s hundredth birthday came and went in 1989, the stories pretty much vanished from sight though the fascination with Hitler as the ultimate manifestation of pure evil persisted.

The transformation of Hitler into something like a historical metaphor means that his name has been evoked a number of times in the past twenty years, attached to Saddam Hussein, Moammar Gaddafi, Vladimir Putin and, most recently, to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran. The attribution in the cases of Hussein and Gaddafi was essentially to create popular support for otherwise unjustifiable wars initiated by the United States and its European and Middle Eastern allies. Putin, meanwhile, received the sobriquet from an angry Hillary Clinton, who certainly knows a thing or two about both personalizing and overstating a case.

The Hitler designation of the Iranian spiritual leader, which appeared one week ago in a featured profile produced by Tom Friedman of The New York Times, is particularly ironic as it came from the de facto head of state of Saudi Arabia Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, whose country has long been regarded as cruel and despotic while also being condemned for its sponsorship of a particularly reactionary form of Islam called wahhabism. Bin Salman described the Iranian leader as “the new Hitler of the Middle East.”

Both Khamenei and bin Salman exercise power without a popular mandate. Khamenei was named to his position in 1989 by a so-called Assembly of Experts, which is a quasi-religious body, and bin Salman was appointed Crown Prince by his father King Salman in June. Both have considerable power over other organs of state, but the comparison largely ends there as Iran does have real elections for an actual parliament with enumerated powers and a president who is also serves as head of government.

Iran is also tolerant of long established religious minorities whereas Saudi Arabia, which is seen by most observers as a theocratic based autocracy that is a personal possession of the House of Saud, is hostile to them. In particular, Riyadh has been actively promoting hatred for Islam’s second largest sect, Shi’ism. The Saudis have also been assisting al-Qaeda, al-Nusra Front and ISIS, though denying the considerable evidence demonstrating those links, while Iran and its allies have been destroying those terrorists on the battlefield.

Crown Prince bin Salman has been preaching an anti-corruption drive of late, which includes torture of those arrested. Many observers believe it is actually a bid to shake down some billionaires while also diminishing the power exercised by some members of the extended Royal Family. The Prince has also suggested that he will be promoting a “more open and modern” form of Islam, which might reduce some beheadings and amputations as punishment. But the death penalty will still apply for heresy, which includes the Shi’ism practiced by Iran, Iraq, some Syrians and Hezbollah. Nor will it put an end to the current horrific slaughter by disease and starvation of Yemenis being implemented by Riyadh with some help from its friends in Tel Aviv and Washington.

Liberal journalists like Tom Friedman, who have editorially sided with the Saudis and Israelis against Iran, have largely bought into the anticorruption theme. The Times profile accepts at face value bin Salam’s claims to be a reformer who will somehow reshape both Saudi Arabia and Islam. Friedman, a passionate globalist, largely goes along for the ride because it is the kind of language a poorly-informed progressive hopes to hear from someone who walks around wearing a keffiyeh and sandals. It also serves Friedman’s other regular agenda justifying Israeli threats to go to war against its neighbors, starting with Lebanon. Make no mistake, the offerings of war abroad and repression at home being served up by Riyadh and Tel Aviv are not the birth pangs of a New Middle East. That died a long time ago. It is instead a fight over who will dominate the region, the same as it always is.

What is the content of Putin-Trump understanding? America withdraws Saudi Arabia and Israel Russia proceeds with Turkey and Iran ماذا في تفاهم بوتين ترامب؟

What is the content of Putin-Trump understanding? America withdraws Saudi Arabia and Israel Russia proceeds with Turkey and Iran 

نوفمبر 28, 2017

Written by Nasser Kandil,ماذا في تفاهم بوتين ترامب؟

The understandings between the great powers are not accomplished through long summits between two presidents, because such of these meetings are a sign of the depth of the disputes on one hand, and the will to understand on the other hand. They led to bridges on which the experts, consultants, senior diplomats and military depend, while the understandings are made by those, and when they are accomplished they are only in need of a mutual smile between the two presidents, signs of body language, and exchange of some words of assertion on the determination and credibility in going on in the understandings with consent and acceptance. This is what we saw in the previous long summits between the Presidents of Russia and America, and what we saw in the statement of the Russian-American understanding about Syria.

The understanding on Syria cannot be achieved without a comprehensive understanding on three organically linked files, the first of which is an understanding about Washington’s file of concern which is represented by the missiles of the North Korea and its military nuclear file, its basis is to stick to the understanding on the Iranian nuclear file as a valid example for North Korea rather than the escalation against Iran, which the leader of Korea says that possessing the nuclear missiles is his guarantee not to be exposed to what Iran is exposed to, while the required is the contrary to make the Koreans see that the example of Iran is attractive, because it gets advantages, roles, and smooth relations because it commits to the ceilings of the international understandings, and that the surrounding guarantees of the signed understanding make it stable. The understanding on Syria is related to the understanding on how to reduce the opposition and disobedience from the Saudi and the Israelis parties, the encouragement of the former to engage in a negotiating choice will lead into a political solution in Yemen, and the encouragement of the latter to engage will lead to a negotiating solution with the Palestinians.

The solution in Syria is drawn by the post-ISIS phase which imposed its logic, but the elements of pressure which accompanied it accelerate to ask questions which the former US Ambassador in Syria Robert Ford has given preemptive answers to them, by saying that Washington has to ensure the participation of the Kurds in the Syrian political solution, and to be ready for the US military exit from Syria otherwise to go to comprehensive war, which it is supposed that those who wanted it to wage it under more attractive titles than supporting the Kurds. It is good for Washington to entrust Moscow with the solution in Syria, it is a solution under political ceiling entitled the elections after a new constitution, as stated by the resolution issued by the UN under Russian-American consent.

According to Russia, the Turkish role in the North is important as a guarantee to cooperate in ending Al Nusra front on one hand, and for the Kurdish participation in the political solution under Turkish consent that ensures subsequent Turkish withdrawal from Syria after being reassured for the Turkish national security on the other hand. In contrast the Iranian role in the South is not under Russian bargaining in order to get the satisfaction of the Americans and the Israelis. The Russian President has already told the Head of the occupation government two months ago that Iran is filling a regional vacancy in Syria, so its participation in the political solution will make its presence positive even to its opponents, because it participates in bearing the responsibility of maintaining stability and keenness on balance in dealing with the Syrian components.

Despite the indicators of wars and the signs of escalation, the meanings of Moscow-Washington understanding cannot be ignored, and it cannot be ignored also the Kurdish retreat in Iraq from the secession in a recorded time without an ignition of an American –Israeli- Saudi war  which was the only opportunity for a war, moreover it cannot be ignored the Saudi retreat in Lebanon and the Saudi retreat in the file of besieging Yemen and the need to observe the Israeli alert and the objection of the content of the compromises, in addition to the intention on intervention when the Israeli interest calls, as a repetition of what the Israelis already said with signing the understanding on the Iranian nuclear file.

Many people in Washington say that strengthening the Iranian regional role as a guarantor of stability is more than a message to encourage the North Korea to accept the language of settlements, it is an investment on the relationship with a rising power and the willingness to deal with the retreat of the regional allies who live the phase of end despite the arrogance, denial, and the crazy acts.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,


Statement by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the United States of America

ماذا في تفاهم بوتين ترامب؟

نوفمبر 14, 2017

ناصر قنديل

ماذا في تفاهم بوتين ترامب؟

– لا تنجز التفاهمات بين الدول الكبرى بقمم طويلة بين الرئيسين، ومثل هذه اللقاءات عند حدوثها تكون علامة على عمق الخلافات من جهة وإرادة التفاهم من جهة أخرى، فتنشئ جسوراً يتابع على أساسها الخبراء والمستشارون وكبار الموظفين الدبلوماسيين والعسكريين أما التفاهمات فيصنعها هؤلاء، وعندما تتمّ وتنجز، لا تستدعي إلا ابتسامة متبادلة بين الرئيسين وإشارات بلغة الجسد، وتبادل بعض الكلمات التأكيدية على العزم والصدقية في السير بالتفاهمات بالرضا والقبول. وهذا ما رأيناه في القمم السابقة الطويلة بين رئيسَيْ أميركا وروسيا، وما رأيناه مع بيان التفاهم الورسي الميركي الأخير والقمة عاأأيناه في بيان التفاهم الروسي الأميركي حول سورية، و«القمة عالماشي وعالواقف وعالجالس»، مع تربيت على الكتف وشدّ بالأيدي وابتسامة ونظرات متبادلة.

– التفاهم حول سورية لا يمكن أن يتحقق من دون تفاهم شامل على ثلاثة ملفات رديفة مرتبطة عضوياً به، أوّلها تفاهم حول الملف المؤرق لواشنطن المتمثل بصواريخ كوريا الشمالية وملفها النووي العسكري، قوامُهُ التمسك بالتفاهم على الملف النووي الإيراني كنموذج صالح للتطبيق مع كوريا الشمالية، بدلاً من التصعيد بوجه إيران الذي يقول لزعيم كوريا إنّ امتلاك الصواريخ النووية هو ضمانته لعدم التعرّض لما تتعرّض له إيران، بينما المطلوب العكس، أن يرى الكوريون أنّ مثال إيران نموذج جاذب بما تناله من ميزات ومن أدوار ومن انفراج في العلاقات، لأنها تلتزم سقوف التفاهمات الدولية، وأنّ الضمانات المحيطة بالتفاهم الذي وقعته تجعله غير قابل للاهتزاز، وفي المقابل يرتبط التفاهم حول سورية بالتفاهم على كيفية تخفيض حركة الاعتراض والمشاغبة من الفريقين السعودي و«الإسرائيلي»، وتشجيع الأول على الانخراط في خيار تفاوضي يؤدّي لحلّ سياسي في اليمن، وتشجيع الثاني على الانخراط بحلّ تفاوضي مع الفلسطينيين.

– إطار الحلّ في سورية ترسمه مرحلة ما بعد داعش، التي فرضت منطقها، وتسارعت عناصر الضغط المصاحبة لها، في أسئلة سبق وقدّم السفير الأميركي السابق في سورية روبرت فورد أجوبة استباقية عليها، بقوله إنّ على واشنطن ضمان مشاركة الأكراد في الحلّ السياسي السوري، والاستعداد للخروج الأميركي العسكري من سورية، وإلا فالذهاب إلى حرب شاملة، كان يفترض بمن يريدها أن يخوضها تحت عناوين جاذبة أكثر من دعم انفصال الأكراد، وخير لواشنطن أن تتعهّد موسكو الحلّ في سورية، وهو حلّ تحت سقف سياسي عنوانه الانتخابات بعد دستور جديد، كما نصّ القرار الصادر عن مجلس الأمن الدولي بتوافق روسي أميركي.

– الدور التركي شمالاً عنصر هامّ من وجهة النظر الروسية كضمان للتعاون في إنهاء جبهة النصرة من جهة، وتلازم الحلّ للمشاركة الكردية في الحلّ السياسي بقبول تركي، يضمن انسحاباً تركيا لاحقاً من سورية وفق معادلة الاطمئنان للأمن القومي التركي، وفي المقابل فالدور الإيراني جنوباً ليس موضع مساومة روسي لإرضاء الأميركيين و«الإسرائيليين». فقد سبق وقال الرئيس الروسي لرئيس حكومة الاحتلال قبل شهرين إنّ إيران تملأ فراغاً إقليمياً في سورية ومشاركتها في الحلّ السياسي يجعل حضورها إيجابياً، حتى بالنسبة لخصومها، لأنه يشاركها بتحمّل مسؤولية حفظ الاستقرار، والحرص على التوازن في التعامل مع المكوّنات السورية.

– رغم كلّ ما يبدو من مؤشرات الحروب، وإشارات التصعيد، لا يمكن تجاهل معاني إعلان موسكو وواشنطن عن تفاهم وصفاه بالتاريخي، ولا تجاهل التراجع الكردي في العراق عن الانفصال بزمن قياسي من دون تحرّك لحرب أميركية و«إسرائيلية» وسعودية كانت وحدها فرصة حرب لها أفق، ولا كذلك تجاهل التراجع السعودي أمام لبنان، والتراجع السعودي في ملف حصار اليمن، والحاجة للنظر نحو حال الاستنفار «الإسرائيلية» والاعتراض على مضمون التسويات، والحديث عن العزم على التدخل حيث تدعو المصلحة «الإسرائيلية» التدخّل، بصفته تكراراً لما سبق وقاله «الإسرائيليون» مع توقيع التفاهم على الملف النووي الإيراني.

– كثيرون في واشنطن يقولون اليوم إنّ تعزيز الدور الإيراني الإقليمي كضامن للاستقرار، هو أكثر من مجرد رسالة تشجيع لكوريا الشمالية لقبول لغة التسويات، بل هو استثمار على العلاقة بقوة صاعدة والاستعداد للتعامل مع تراجع الحلفاء التقليديين الذين يعيشون زمن الأفول رغم المكابرة والإنكار وما فيهما من حفلات جنون.

November 11, 2017

President Trump and President Putin today, meeting on the margins of the APEC conference in Danang, Vietnam, confirmed their determination to defeat ISIS in Syria. They expressed their satisfaction with successful US-Russia enhanced de-confliction efforts between US and Russian military professionals that have dramatically accelerated ISIS’s losses on the battlefield in recent months. The Presidents agreed to maintain open military channels of communication between military professionals to help ensure the safety of both US and Russian forces and de-confliction of partnered forces engaged in the fight against ISIS. They confirmed these efforts will be continued until the final defeat of ISIS is achieved.

The Presidents agreed that there is no military solution to the conflict in Syria. They confirmed that the ultimate political solution to the conflict must be forged through the Geneva process pursuant to UNSCR 2254. They also took note of President Assad’s recent commitment to the Geneva process and constitutional reform and elections as called for under UNSCR 2254. The two Presidents affirmed that these steps must include full implementation of UNSCR 2254, including constitutional reform and free and fair elections under UN supervision, held to the highest international standards of transparency, with all Syrians, including members of the diaspora, eligible to participate. The Presidents affirmed their commitment to Syria’s sovereignty, unity, independence, territorial integrity, and non-sectarian character, as defined in UNSCR 2254, and urged all Syrian parties to participate actively in the Geneva political process and to support efforts to ensure its success.

Finally President Trump and President Putin confirmed the importance of de-escalation areas as an interim step to reduce violence in Syria, enforce ceasefire agreements, facilitate unhindered humanitarian access, and set the conditions for the ultimate political solution to the conflict. They reviewed progress on the ceasefire in southwest Syria that was finalized the last time the two Presidents met in Hamburg, Germany on July 7, 2017. The two presidents, today, welcomed the Memorandum of Principles concluded in Amman, Jordan, on November 8, 2017, between the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States of America. This Memorandum reinforces the success of the ceasefire initiative, to include the reduction, and ultimate elimination of foreign forces and foreign fighters from the area to ensure a more sustainable peace. Monitoring this ceasefire arrangement will continue to take place through the Amman Monitoring Center, with participation by expert teams from the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Russian Federation, and the United States.

The two Presidents discussed the ongoing need to reduce human suffering in Syria and called on all UN member states to increase their contributions to address these humanitarian needs over the coming months.

Vietnam, Danang, November 10, 2017

source: http://en.kremlin.ru/supplement/5252

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Syria war, Sochi peace


November 23, 2017

Syria war, Sochi peace

In a well choreographed Sochi summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin defines a peaceful future for Syria after the liberation of the country from militants

by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times (cross-posted by special agreement with the author)

The main take away of the trilateral, two hour-long Russia-Iran-Turkey summit in Sochi on the future of Syria was expressed by Russian President Vladimir Putin:

“The presidents of Iran and Turkey supported the initiative to convene an All-Syrian Congress for national dialogue in Syria. We agreed to hold this important event at the proper level and ensure the participation of representatives of different sectors of Syrian society.”

In practice, that means Russian, Iranian and Turkish foreign ministries and defense departments are tasked to “gather delegates from various political parties, internal and external opposition, ethnic and confessional groups at the negotiating table.”


Putin stressed that “in our common opinion, the success on the battlefield that brings closer the liberation of the whole of Syrian territory from the militants paves the way for a qualitatively new stage in the settlement of the crisis. I’m talking about the real prospects of achieving a long-term, comprehensive normalization in Syria, political adjustment in the post-conflict period.”

So many red lines

Diplomatic sources confirmed to Asia Times much of the discussions in Sochi involved Putin laying out to Iran President Hassan Rouhani and Turkey President Recep Erdogan how a new configuration may play out in a constantly evolving chessboard.

Behind diplomatic niceties, tensions fester. And that’s how the current Astana peace negotiations between Russia-Iran-Turkey interconnect with the recent APEC summit in Danang.

In Danang, Putin and Trump may not have held a crucial bilateral. But Sergey Lavrov and Rex Tillerson did issue a joint statement on Syria – without, crucially, mentioning Astana; instead, the emphasis was on the slow-moving UN Geneva process (a new round of talks is scheduled for next week).

An extremely divisive issue – not exactly admitted by both parties – is the presence of foreign forces in Syria. From Washington’s perspective, Russian, Iranian and Turkish forces must all leave.

But then there’s the Pentagon, which is in Syria without a UN resolution (Russia and Iran were invited by Damascus).

There’s no evidence the Pentagon plans to relinquish military bases set up in territory recaptured by the US-supported Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), contiguous to Syrian oil and gas fields. Defense Secretary James Mattis insists US forces will remain in Syria to “prevent the appearance of ISIS 2.0.” For Damascus, that’s a red line.

Then there are Ankara’s red lines. For Erdogan, it’s all about the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) and its People’s Protection Units (YPG), who lead the SDF. Erdogan’s spokesman Ibrahim Kalin takes no prisoners; “The question of the PYD-YPG remains a red line for Turkey.”

Unlike Ankara, Moscow does not consider the PYD/YPG as “terrorist organizations.” The PYD will certainly be invited to Sochi. And there’s not much Ankara – which is under tremendous economic pressure – can do about it.

On the Iranian front, what Tehran wants in Syria is not exactly what Moscow-Washington may be bargaining about.

Lavrov has strenuously denied there has been a US-Russia deal to expel Iranian-supported forces from southwestern Syria – stressing they were legally invited by Damascus. Since July the official position of the Iranian Foreign Ministry is that the current cease-fires should be extended to the whole nation, but “taking the realities on the ground into account.” No word on Iranian forces leaving Syria.

A well-timed affair

The Sochi summit was choreographed to the millimeter. Previously, Putin held detailed phone calls with both Trump and Saudi King Salman (not MBS); the emir of Qatar; Egypt’s Sisi; and Israel’s Netanyahu. Parallel to a meeting of Syria-Russia military top brass, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad dropped in; a non-surprise surprise Sochi visit to tell Putin in person that without Russia’s military campaign Syria would not have survived as a sovereign state.

The facts on the ground are stark; the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) – fully expanded, retrained, re-equipped and re-motivated – recaptured Aleppo, Palmyra, Deir Ezzor and almost the whole southeast; borders with both Iraq and Lebanon are open and secured; cease-fires are in effect in over 2,500 towns; Turkey desisted from years of weaponizing and supporting “moderate rebels” and is now part of the solution; ISIS/Daesh is on the run, now no more than a minor rural/desert insurgency.

Daesh is almost dead – although there could always be a Return of the Walking Dead, with some obscure neo-al-Baghdadi posing as Caliph-in-exile. Iranian President Rouhani has declared the end of Daesh. Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was more realistic, saying Daesh has been defeated militarily but he will only declare final victory after jihadi goons are conclusively routed in the desert.

The final showdown will be the Battle of Idlib – where thousands of Jabhat al-Nusra remnants/cohorts are holed up. Turkey has troops in idlib. Putin and Erdogan have certainly negotiated Ankara’s stance. So it’s up to the Turkish Ministry of Defense to convince opposition outfits not allied with the Nusra nebulae to be sitting on the table in Sochi.

On an operational level, as I ascertained in Baghdad earlier this month, this is what’s happening; IRGC advisers; the Iraqi Army; Hashd al-Shaabi, known as the People Mobilization Units (PMUs); the SAA; and Hezbollah have been working in synch, as part of the “4+1” mechanism (Russia, Syria, Iran, Iraq, plus Hezbollah). Their counter-terrorism HQ is located in Baghdad.

Pipelineistan all over again

Putin told Rouhani and Erdogan in Sochi about the “commitment of the Syrian leadership to the principles of peaceful settlement of the political crisis, its readiness to carry out constitutional reform and stage a free, UN-supervised election.”

This tall order will be open to vast scrutiny. And that brings us to the key opposing party; the House of Saud, and more  specifically MBS’s stance.

The so-called High Negotiations Committee (HNC) – which is essentially the Syrian opposition factions regimented by the House of Saud – is in disarray. Its leader, Royad Hijab, was recently fired in murky circumstances. These factions met again in Riyadh, parallel to Sochi, with the Saudis basically reduced to screaming “Assad must go.”

MBS’s war on Yemen is a disaster – not to mention creating a horrendous humanitarian crisis. The blockade of Qatar degenerated into farce. The blatant interference in Lebanon via the Hariri-as- hostage saga also degenerated into farce. Saudi Arabia lost in both Iraq and Syria. MBS’s next foreign policy moves are wildly unpredictable.

Capping it all up, a key dossier apparently was not discussed in Sochi; who’s going to finance the rebuilding of Syria’s economy/infrastructure.

Turkey and Iran can’t afford it. Russia might help only marginally. China has made it clear it wants Syria as a Levantine hub in the New Silk Roads, known as the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – but that’s not a priority compared to Pakistan or Iran. The EU is focused on its massive internal psychodrama. And the Gulf – essentially Saudi Arabia and the UAE – are fiercely anti-4+1.

With Sochi in mind, a further joker in the pack is how a Trump-Putin possible entente will be regarded by the Pentagon, the CIA and Capitol Hill – which will always refuse the notion of a Putin-led peace process and no “Assad must go” to boot.

Most of what lies ahead hinges on who will control Syria’s oil and gas fields. It’s Pipelineistan all over again; all wars are energy wars. Damascus simply won’t accept an energy bonanza for the US-supported SDF, actually led by the YPG.

And neither would Russia. Apart from Moscow holding on to a strategic eastern Mediterranean base, eventually Gazprom wants to be an investment partner/operator in a newly feasible Iran-Iraq-Syria gas pipeline, whose main customer will be the EU. Beyond Sochi, the real – Pipelineistan – war has only just begun.

Thanks Given–ISIS Defeated; Putin and Assad Meet in Russia


Something to be thankful about today. Leaders of Russia, Syria, Iran, Turkey, and other countries are now converging in Sochi, Russia. The hope is to convene a conference that will lead to a political settlement in Syria now that ISIS has been defeated. Take a look at the following video showing Assad’s rather triumphant arrival on November 21. Watch as he meets not only Vladimir Putin but also some of the Russian military leaders who did so much to make this moment possible. The video was posted by Inessa Sinchougova, who also supplies the English subtitles:

From Sinchougova’s post at Fort Russ:

Russian President Vladimir Putin met his Syrian counterpart Bashar al-Assad in Sochi on 21st November 2017. The last time Assad visited Russia was at the beginning of the Russian campaign in Syria in 2015.

According to the Syrian president, in two years of the Russian campaign the successes achieved have been evident and many residents of the country were able to return to their homes. He noted that thanks to Russia, Syria was saved as a state.

The Chief of the Russian Armed Forces General Staff, Valeri Gerasimov, said conditions have been created for the return of refugees to Syria, during the trilateral meeting with his Turkish and Iranian counterparts in Sochi. “The main thing is that the sovereignty, the territorial integrity of the country has been preserved, the civil war was stopped, conditions were created for the restoration of peaceful life and refugees’ return,” said Gerasimov.

President Putin similarly told his Czech counterpart, Milos Zeman, that “over 98% of the territory of Syria is under the control of Syrian government troops, during their meeting in Sochi. Zeman congratulated Russia for its role in the outcome in Syria, saying: “you have won in Syria, because he [Assad] now controls almost the entire Syrian territory.”

The Russian military campaign in Syria began in late 2015, by invitation of the Syrian government. Meanwhile, the Western coalition was carrying out military activity there almost two whole years beforehand, illegally. Under the guise of fighting ISIS, they were simultaneously targeting Assad’s government forces, as well as letting ISIS spread like wildfire.

The Sochi conference is aimed at reaching a working agreement between Russia, Iran, and Turkey that will lead to peace in Syria. The West and its allies, particularly Israel and Saudi Arabia, seem to be doing everything possible to upset the apple cart. The New York Times published a cranky report yesterday complaining that the supposedly noble endeavors of UN envoy Staffan de Mistura “have now been overshadowed by Russia’s actions” while at the same time portraying Assad as “a war criminal.”

Meanwhile, SouthFront has posted a report saying that Hezbollah forces are now on high combat alert in case of an attack by Israel. Here is an excerpt from their report:

The situation in the Middle East is developing. The expected conflict between the resistance axis, primarily Hezbollah, and the Saudi-Israeli block is the current center of attention.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Iran wants to deploy its troops in Syria on a permanent basis “with the declared intent of using Syria as a base from which to destroy Israel” and threatened that if Tel Aviv fails to receive the international support, it is ready to act “alone.” “Iran will not get nuclear weapons. It will not turn Syria into a military base against Israel,” he said.

Deputy Chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council Sheikh Nabil Qaouq said his group is ready for any military scenario amid indications that Saudi Arabia is pushing the Israeli regime to launch a new military operation against Lebanon. He said “The resistance movement is prepared to confront anything. It is fully capable of securing victories and repelling any aggressor.” Hezbollah troops have been brought to the highest combat-readiness level, according to media reports.

Speaking to the Saudi newspaper Elaph, Israel’s military chief Gen Gadi Eisenkot called Iran the “biggest threat to the region” and said Israel is ready to share intelligence with “moderate” Arab states like Saudi Arabia in order to “deal with” Tehran.

The statement was followed on November 19 by an emergency meeting in Cairo between Saudi Arabia and other Arab foreign ministers, calling for a united front to counter Iran and Hezbollah. The emergency Arab foreign ministers’ meeting was convened at the request of Saudi Arabia with support from the UAE, Bahrain, and Kuwait to discuss means of confronting Iran. In a declaration after the meeting, the Arab League accused Hezbollah of “supporting terrorism and extremist groups in Arab countries with advanced weapons and ballistic missiles.”

In a post on November 17 I noted that “Israel is throwing a temper tantrum over the presence of Iranian troops in Syria,” and this is probably not surprising–for Israel and the US both are watching six long years of regime change efforts go up in smoke. This alone has the potential for making the situation volatile in the extreme, and it’s not hard to imagine some sort of “incident” being deliberately provoked, possibly by Israel or Saudi Arabia, aimed at drawing the US into a war with Iran.

The officials meeting in Sochi doubtless are taking note of all this, though–at least outwardly–they don’t seem too perturbed about it. You can go here to read a Kremlin press release on a joint statement by Putin, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran, and President Recep Erdogan of Turkey, that was released yesterday.

“The main pillars of ISIS have been destroyed,” Iranian President Rouhani observed—while Putin pretty much said the same thing in so many words: “Large-scale military operations against terrorist gangs in Syria are coming to an end.”

Hopefully they will come to an end…permanently…and peace will prevail in Syria.

One final thing…at a press briefing on November 20, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders asked reporters to preface their questions by saying what they are thankful for. You can go here to watch a video of the briefing. Some expressed thanks for their families, for their jobs, their colleagues, one or two expressed thanks for the First Amendment, and one expressed thanks to his wife “for saying yes on the fourth request.” But interestingly enough, not a single one expressed thanks for the defeat of ISIS, and perhaps even more significantly, no one expressed thanks that we have avoided a war with Russia.


Syrian government forces have liberated a large area from ISIS on the western bank of the Euphrates. The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces have captured the villages of Ajrama, al-Safsafah, Ksu Umm Saba, al-Jahlah, al-Dwair, Wadi Abu Jasim, Surat al-Kshma, Subaykhan, Gharbiyah, Suwaydan Shamiyah, Dabyan, Musallakhah and the nearby points, according to pro-government sources.

Now, the Tiger Forces are developing momentum in order to link up with their counterparts advancing from the direction of al-Bukamal.

The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that at least 7 SAA soldiers, a battle tank and a bulldozer were destroyed during ISIS counter-attacks in the area. However, the terrorist group was not able to stop the SAA advance.

In southwestern Aleppo, an intense fighting was reported between the SAA and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the villages of Rajm Sawan, Hajara and al-Rashadiyah. Pro-government sources speculated that this was a start of the widely expected the SAA operation to establish control over the Abu al-Duhur Airbase. No official confirmation of these claims are available yet. It’s unlikely that the SAA and its allies launch any significant military operation in southwestern Aleppo before the full liberation of the western bank of the Euphrates from ISIS.

In northern Hama, ISIS cells expanded their control in the so-called opposition-held area and captured the villages of al-Judaydah, Madabah, Abu Khanadiq and the nearby points.

The Syrian Military Intelligence has seized a large shipment of weapons en route to the militant-held part of the Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus.

The shipment included 15 Soviet Malyutka and its Iranian copy, Raad, anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) as well as 3 Soviet-made Konkurs ATGMs, 2 Russian-made Metis-M ATGMs and a French-made MILAN ATGM. 3 disassembled Soviet-made R-60 air-to-air missiles, dozens of US-made M72 LAW, Soviet-made RPG-22, RPG-26, and Czechoslovakian-made RPG-75 anti-tank rockets were also captured.

Additionally, the seized shipment included explosive belts, mines, explosive materials and a huge amount of drugs like marijuana and Captagon tablets.

On November 22, the presidents of Russia, Iran and Turkey met in the Russian city of Sochi to discuss the situation in Syria.

According to the joint declaration, “the three presidents expressed support to the intra-Syrian dialog with the participation of representatives from all segments of the country’s society” and “urged representatives of the Syrian government and opposition speaking in favor of sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian state to take constructive part in the Syrian National Dialog Congress in Sochi in the near future.” The sides also discussed the de-escalation zones and other important issues of the conflict.

The meeting has clearly shown the new reality appearing in the Middle East, which the US-Israeli-Saudi block will have to accept.

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Russia, Iran And Turkey Converge On One Point

Sputnik/ Igor Zarembo

Written by Dmitri Evstafiev; Originally appeared at eurasia.expert, translated by AlexD exclusively for SouthFront

On November 22, in Sochi, an unusual summit will be held [SF comment: It already took place] – talks between the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey. At the centre of attention will be the settlement in Syria, where the three countries come out as guarantors of peace. Along with that, cooperation in the Moscow-Ankara-Tehran triangle can go beyond the Syrian scope. Professor of the NRU “Higher School of Economics” Dmitry Evstafiev assessed the prospects of the “axis” formed between the three countries and the accession of Azerbaijan.

Preparing to Redraw Maps

On the main agenda of the meeting of the leaders of Russia, Iran and Turkey in Sochi on November 22 are issues related to the necessity to start the political reconstruction process of Syria and the prevention of its transformation into a platform for the development of Islamic radicalism, however on an internal socio-economic basis. It is possible, if there are no effective political mechanisms created, reflecting the new system of interests and influence, which arose both inside and around Syria.

In addition, the three countries are concerned that in the issues of the Syrian settlement the United States are beginning to take a more and more unconstructive position, which can bring destabilisation. Especially considering that the USA in today’s Syria and Iraq will “lose” almost nothing, and they may not particularly care for the fate of their assets and allies.

It is difficult not to notice, however, that the tripartite summit of Russia, Iran and Turkey in Sochi has become a kind of an “answer” to the APEC summit of Da Nag (Vietnam) and the preceding Sino-American negotiations. Agreements between the United States and China stayed away from the “strategic partnership”, but were clearly marked as “pre-freezing” strategic rivalry between the two countries, which was seen as the epicentre of processes in the Asia-Pacific region over the last few years.

World politics abhors a vacuum, especially if politics are in a transition period. In conditions of stagnation in key economic and political terms, Asia-Pacific region (obviously in the absence of a force majeure by the DPRK) will intensify attempts to change the situation in other regions. At a minimum, approaching the new cycle of showdowns in the Asia Pacific region relations with new opportunities. And at a maximum, protecting oneself from possible economic and political destabilisation.

Neither Russia, Iran or Turkey claim for global leadership, but have the status and capacity substantially greater than what the term “regional power” attributes. Three countries, although Turkey to a lesser extent, were focused on the connecting processes for the formation of a new economic space in South-East Asia. Now comes the time for them to restructure their own relationships in order to approach the new “points of bifurcation” with the best outcome.

The Potential of the Moscow-Istanbul-Tehran «Axis»

And from this point of view the potential of the “troika” Russia-Iran-Turkey is much more than just cooperative interaction in Syria or even in the Middle East. Speaking of development prospects of the Moscow-Istanbul-Tehran “axis” it is necessary to note three conditions that makes this geopolitical project not just interesting but also potentially of leadership.

First, the basis of the Moscow-Istanbul-Tehran “axis”, without a doubt, is the economic interests. Primarily, it is the formation of the logistics corridor “North-South”, which now can be viewed in an operational way. There is sufficient transit and, most importantly, non-transit goods for it.

But beyond the economic factors the “axis” brings together a shared vision of military-political issues and security. Not only in Syria or in general in the Middle East, but also in the broader context of South Asia and partially in Africa, in the Horn of Africa.

As practice shows, political and military components of the coalition are now the most enduring elements of the partnership.

This is due to the deceleration of globalisation and preparation of key governments of the world to the significant redistribution of markets in the calculation of the new industrial revolution and the restructuring of global political institutions. As counter-examples we can cite the fate of the Trans-Atlantic economic partnership and NATO.

Second, challenges of industrial modernisation stand before the partner countries. And in circumstances when former concepts of development, based on the idea of connection to the centre of economic growth in the EU, with variations, they lose their relevance. Over a potential range of industrial goods the countries practically do not compete with each other with the exception of certain areas. But they do not appear crucial against the background and can be harmonised in the development process of foreign markets.

The countries are too different for the “intraspecific” competition to emerge. The industrial modernisation will allow to further “spread” competitive “zones”. The partner countries stand before necessary new industrial modernisation but for each it will be different at the sectorial and technological focus.

It is important as well that the “axis”, for the economic cooperation to be successful, becomes a community with a base population of over 300 million people, which is sufficient for the development and initial commercial implementation of technologically rich projects. The community potentially has good chances for the formation of self-sufficient financial investments and billing cycles, with a high level of resistance to external pressure. Problems with access to financial tools are experienced, at the least, by two of the three countries of the “core”, Russia and Iran, and it seems that in the near future, Turkey will begin to experience it as well.

Third, at the “core” the axis naturally formed its own “semi-periphery” and “periphery” countries, which objectively will be pulled in into the “core’s” economic processes and projects. Moreover, these countries are different as to their status and capabilities and development. This gives the “core” of the “axis” sufficient flexibility to secure economic and political interests at the national level.

Around the “core” partnerships can be built with other countries ranging from Syria (logistically important territories and valuable agricultural space) and ending with Qatar (financial resources and a favourable geographical position), not excluding Egypt, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and several other countries.

With such allies, each participant of the “core” can find its own specific niche interest, both political and economic. This does not mean that there will not be any conflicts. On the contrary, in such strong members of the “core” contradictions are inevitable. However, a compromise will be easier to find amid the multiplicity of opportunities, facilitating economic and political “exchanges”.

Challenges for the New Coalition

The paradox of the relations in the Russia-Iran-Turkey triangle is that separately at the level of bilateral relations, the three countries are doomed to contradictions and the absence of long-term prospects, not to mention a strategic partnership. Any bilateral partnership will trigger a reaction not only from foreign players but also from the inside of the respective states. Indeed, the economic and political interests of partner countries are more than contradictory. This is obvious by looking at the confused and not yet successful cooperation of Russia and Iran, despite the good prospects.

But within the coalition, the objectives directed not against each other but on the “development” of the outer space, these three states may well create a relatively self-contained vector with a minimum of internal contradictions, which, of course, will not be able to completely avoid.

A key issue stands in front of the three “core” countries of the coalition. The answer to it depends on how the “troika” will be able to outgrow the framework of the situational alliance. The talk is about the formation of a new system of relations in the Caspian region. And the key issue will be the resolution, or at least long-term stabilisation, of the Karabakh conflict. Otherwise the level of political risks, limited investment processes in the “core” and around it, in the North-South corridor space, will be too considerable. But most importantly, the partnership system will not be able to include Azerbaijan, which in its potential in the future may become the fourth member of the “core”. The leadership of Azerbaijan clearly has the political will and common sense to do this.

The development of the “troika” partnership with Azerbaijan could significantly change the balance of power and relations not only in the Caspian region but also in the whole post-Soviet space.

And, of course, it must be understood that the potential geo-economic “axis” Moscow-Ankara-Tehran is highly vulnerable to information and political manipulations. This requires in-depth and thoughtful interaction at the expert and information level. Moreover, such manipulations are simply predetermined by the situation not only in Syria, but also in general in the Middle East.

The future of the Moscow-Tehran-Ankara “axis” is largely a matter of development and alignment of interests, not an immediate political institutionalisation. The formation of a new coalition will unlikely to resemble a geopolitical “revolution”. Its success will be judged initially by how and in what form the inclusion of the relative “semi-peripheral” countries will occur.

It is important as well that the new geopolitical and geo-economic “troika”, if its development is successful, will become a project, in many respects, an alternative EEU, at least because of the focus on the real industrialisation, not only the formation of the free regime and participation in logistics projects. For Russia, the economic success in filling the new coalition will be a real step towards not only political, but also a geo-economic multi-direction. This will be for the Eurasian states fundamentally a new challenge.

Dmitri Evstafiev, professor NRU “Higher School of Economics”

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