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Here’s your legal koan for the day: When is an indictment not an indictment?

Answer– When there is no intention of initiating a criminal case against the accused. In the case of the 13 Russian trolls who have just been indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, there is neither the intention nor the ability to prosecute a case against them. (They are all foreign nationals who will not face extradition.)

But, if that’s the case, than why would Mueller waste time and money compiling a 37-page document alleging all-manner of nefarious conduct when he knew for certain that the alleged perpetrators would never be prosecuted? Why?

Isn’t is because the indictments are not really a vehicle for criminal prosecution, but a vehicle for political grandstanding? Isn’t that the real purpose of the indictments, to add another layer of dirt to the mountain of unreliable, uncorroborated, unproven allegations of Russian meddling. Mueller is not acting in his capacity as Special Counsel, he is acting in his role of deep state hatchet-man whose job is to gather scalps by any means necessary.

Keep in mind, the subjects of the indictment will never be apprehended, never hire an attorney, never be in a position to defend themselves or refute the charges, and never have their case presented before and judge or a jury. They will be denied due process of law and the presumption of innocence. Mueller’s ominous-sounding claims, which were the centerpiece of his obscene media extravaganza, made sure of that. In most people’s minds, the trolls are guilty of foreign espionage and that’s all there is to it. Case closed.

But the indictments themselves suggest that Mueller’s narrative is wrong. The objective was not to influence the election, but make money by getting viewers to “click on” advertisements. Check it out:

“Defendants and their co-conspirators also used the accounts to receive money from real U.S. persons in exchange for posting promotions and advertisements on the ORGANIZATION-controlled social media pages. Defendants and their co-conspirators typically charged certain U.S. merchants and U.S. social media sites between 25 and 50 U.S. dollars per post for promotional content on their popular false U.S. persona accounts, including Being Patriotic, Defend the 2nd, and Blacktivist.”

That sounds like a money-making scheme to me not an attempt to subvert US democracy. So why is Mueller in such a lather? Isn’t this all just an attempt to divert attention from the fact that the Nunes’ investigation has produced proof that senior-level officials at the FBI and DOJ were “improperly obtaining” FISA warrants to spy on members of the Trump Campaign? Isn’t that what’s really going on?

If we can agree that the indictments were not intended to bring the “accused” to justice, then don’t we also have to agree that there must have been an ulterior motive for issuing them? And what might that ulterior motive be? What are the real objectives of the investigation, to cast a shadow on an election that did not produce the results that powerful members of the entrenched bureaucracy wanted, to make it look like Donald Trump did not beat Hillary Clinton fair and square, and to further demonize a geopolitical rival that has blocked Washington’s imperial ambitions in Syria and Ukraine? Which of these is the real driving force behind Russiagate or is it ‘all of the above?’

Nothing will come of the indictments because the indictments were not designed reveal the truth or bring the accused to justice. They were written to shape public perceptions and to persuade the American people that Trump cheated in the elections and that Russia poses a serious threat to US national security. The indictments have no legal merit, they are a form of domestic propaganda and disinformation. The real target is the American people.

It’s worth noting, that if Mueller really wanted to get to the bottom of the Russia-gate allegations, he would interview the people who have first-hand knowledge what actually happened. He would question Julian Assange (WikiLeaks) and Craig Murray, both of whom have stated publicly that they know who stole the Podesta emails. Mueller hasn’t done that, nor has he contacted the VIPs (Ray McGovern, William Binney, Skip Folden, etc) who did extensive forensic investigation of the “hacking” allegations and proved that the emails were not hacked but leaked. Mueller has not pursued that line of inquiry either. Nor has he interviewed California Congressman Dana Rohrabacher, who met with Assange personally and who has suggested that Assange may reveal the name (of the DNC “leaker”) under the right conditions. Instead of questioning witnesses, Mueller has spent a great deal of time probing the online activities Russian trolls who were engaged in a money-making scheme that was in no way connected to the Russian government, in no way connected to the Trump campaign, and in no way supportive of the claims of hacking or collusion. None of this reflects well on Mueller who, by any stretch, appears to be either woefully incompetent or irredeemably biased.

The indictment states that the organization that employed the trolls “had the strategic purpose of sowing political discord in the United States.” This seems to be a recurrent theme that has popped up frequently in the media as well. The implication is that the Russians are the source of the widening divisions in the US that are actually the result of growing public angst over the lopsided distribution of wealth that naturally emerges in late-stage capitalism. Moscow has become the convenient scapegoat for the accelerated parasitism that has seen 95% of the nation’s wealth go to a sliver of people at the top of the foodchain, the 1 percent. (But that’s another story altogether.) Here’s a brief clip from the portentous-sounding indictment:

“The general conspiracy statute… creates an offense “[i]f two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose….

The intent required for a conspiracy to defraud the government is that the defendant possessed the intent (a) to defraud, (b) to make false statements or representations to the government or its agencies in order to obtain property of the government, or that the defendant performed acts or made statements that he/she knew to be false, fraudulent or deceitful to a government agency, which disrupted the functions of the agency or of the government. It is sufficient for the government to prove that the defendant knew the statements were false or fraudulent when made.”

The above statement helps to prove my point that the indictments are not a vehicle for criminal prosecution, but part of a politically-motivated information campaign to damage Trump and vilify Russia. No one seriously believes that Mueller would ever try to prosecute this case based on the spurious and looney claims of a criminal conspiracy. The whole idea is laughable.

There are a couple interesting twists and turns regarding the indictments that could be significant, but, then again, maybe not. We found it interesting that Rob Goldman, who is the Vice President of Facebook Ads, tweeted this revealing disclaimer on Monday which Trump posted on Twitter:

“I have seen all of the Russian ads and I can say very definitively that swaying the election was *NOT* the main goal.”

Then there are the puzzling comments by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein who said on Friday:

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: American Media, Deep State, Donald Trump, Russia 
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“If the election is ‘disrupted’ by voters changing their votes due to Russians posting on Facebook, then the problem is not that Russians are posting on Facebook, the problem is that voters are changing their votes based on posts they read on Facebook.” Bill H, comments line Sic Semper Tyrannis

“God help America. We’ve lost our damn minds.” Publius Tacitus

Robert Mueller’s Friday night indictment-spree, is a flagrant and infuriating attempt to divert attention from the damning revelations in the Nunes memo (and the Graham-Grassley “criminal referral”) which prove that senior-level officials at the FBI and DOJ were engaged in an expansive conspiracy to subvert the presidential elections by spying on members of the Trump campaign. The evidence that the FBI and DOJ “improperly obtained” FISA warrants to spy on Trump campaign affiliate, Carter Page, has now been overshadowed by the tragic massacre in Parkland, Florida and the obfuscating indictments of 13 Internet “trolls” who have not been linked to the Russian government and who are being used to conceal the fact that the 18 month-long witch hunt has not yet produced even one scintilla of hard evidence related to the original claims of “hacking or collusion”.

Think about what’s Mueller is really up to: He’s not just moving the goalposts, he’s loading them onto a spaceship and putting them on another planet. Where’s the evidence that Russia hacked the DNC computers and stole their emails? Where’s the proof that members of the Trump campaign colluded with Russia? That’s what we want to know, not whether some goofy Russian troll was spreading false information on Facebook. That has nothing to do with the original charges. It’s just politically-motivated gibberish that proves Mueller has nothing to support his case. After a full year, the investigation has failed to produce anything but a big goose egg.

According to the indictment, the alleged Russian trolls “posted derogatory information about a number of candidates” and its “operations included supporting the presidential campaign of then-candidate Donald J. Trump…and disparaging Clinton.”

Big whoop. If people are so malleable that they can be brainwashed by some suggestive posting on Facebook, then maybe we should abandon democracy altogether. But that’s not what this is really about, is it? Because if it was, Mueller would have posted the contents of those nefarious Russian comments in the indictment…WHICH HE DIDN’T because he knows it’s all obfuscating bullsh** designed to make the sheeple think evil Putin is dabbling in our precious elections.

Oh, and here’s a little tidbit the MSM managed to overlook in their typically-hysterical coverage. This is from journalist Alexander Mercouris at the pro-Russia website, The Duran: (If you think your delicate mind might be brainwashed by Russian propaganda, please, shield your eyes!)

“The third thing to say about the indictment – and a point which has been almost universally overlooked in all the feverish commentary about it – is that it makes no claim that the Russian government was in any way involved in any of the activities of the persons indicted.

Nowhere in the indictment is the Russian government or any official of the Russian government or any agency of the Russian government mentioned at all. Nor at any point in the indictment is it suggested that any of the persons indicted were employed by the Russian government or were acting under its instructions or on its behalf….” (The Duran, Alexander Mercouris)

No Ruskis involved? But how can that be? We were assured that diabolical Russia is behind everything bad that happens in America. Has evil Putin been sleeping on the job??

Yes, it’s true that the Internet Research Agency, LLC, is in fact located in St. Petersburg but–as yet–there is no known connection between the company and the government. And, if there was, you can bet that Mueller would have exploited it for all it’s worth.

By the way, Mueller’s presumption that the hackers were trying to influence the election, is just that, a presumption. It has no basis in fact whatsoever. It is mere speculation like the rest of the claptrap he’s come up with. The more reasonable explanation is that the hackers were trying to make a little dough on “pageviews or clicks” rather than trying to persuade voters to vote for one candidate or the other. Here’s more from the indictment:

” Defendants and their co-conspirators began to track and study groups on U.S. social media sites dedicated to U.S. politics and social issues. In order to gauge the performance of various groups on social media sites, the organization tracked certain metrics like the group’s size, the frequency of content placed by the group, and the level of audience engagement with that content, such as the average number of comments or responses to a post.”

WTF! Isn’t this what everyone is doing, including the Intel agencies, advertisers, media and corporations? So now it’s a crime? Give me a break!

Here’s a blurb from the comments-line at Sic Semper Tyrannis:

“The “conspiracy” started in 2014, and cost a whopping $1.2 MILLION, which includes salaries, tech support, and bonuses. The indictment includes info that the Russians ran ads supporting Black Lives Matter, Muslims, Jill Stein, Ted Cruz, Rubio, and Trump. They also organized rallies in support of, and in opposition to Trump and Hillary Clinton. They continued their activities up into 2017, still organizing pro-Clinton and pro-Trump rallies. At one point, the indictment says that the Russians ran an ad that reached 59,000 people, which is laughable, people with a camera in their kitchen get more views than that. Essentially, after about 1.5 years of investigating “Russian collusion” this is all they’ve come up with.” –London Bob, Sic Semper Tyrannis

And here’s more from the indictment:

“U.S. law bans foreign nationals from making certain expenditures or financial disbursements for the purpose of influencing federal elections. U.S. law also bars agents of any foreign entity from engaging in political activities within the United States without first registering with the Attorney General.”

This is mind-numbingly stupid. Does Mueller really think he can cobble together a case against 13 foreign-born defendants based on the thin gruel of Russian support for “Black Lives Matter, Jill Stein and Donald Trump?” Good luck with that, Bob.

Political analyst Paul Craig Roberts summarizes how absurd the indictments are in a Friday article tiled “The Result of Mueller’s Investigation: Nothing”:

“How did the 13 Russians go about sowing discord? Are you ready for this? They held political rallies posing as Americans and they paid one person (unidentified) to build a cage aboard a flatbed pickup truck and another person to wear a costume portraying Hillary in prison clothes….”

The whole thing is ridiculous and anyone with half a brain knows it’s ridiculous. The only reason this fiasco continues to drag on, is because the mandarins in the US National Security State run everything in America and they’ve decided that they can invent whatever reality suits their foreign policy agenda and the rest of us will simply accept it in silence or be denounced as “Putin apologists” or “Kremlin stooges”. Fortunately, facts and reason appear to be getting the upper hand which why the deep state powerbrokers are getting so desperate. They’re now genuinely concerned about what might “come out” and who might be exposed.

Do the names John Brennan or Barack Obama ring a bell?

Indeed. I’m sure both names would factor quite large in any seriously impartial and thorough investigation of the Russiagate conspiracy.

 
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Mike Pence’s trip to the Pyeongchang Olympics was an unmitigated disaster. In just 48 hours, the Vice President managed to insult nearly everyone he encountered including South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Kim Jong-un’s younger sister, Kim Yo-Jong. The overbearing Pence flaunted his contempt for the Korean people by humiliating their leaders, shrugging off their hospitality, and scoffing at their joint efforts for peace. He acted like an arrogant proconsul who only deigns to visit his subjects in order to treat them with condescension and scorn. Simply put, he disgraced himself and the country.

Before he’d even set foot on Korean soil, Pence had already started stirring up trouble by announcing “the toughest and most aggressive round of economic sanctions on North Korea ever”. The announcement, that was made a day earlier in Tokyo, was clearly designed to exacerbate already strained relations and put a damper on any negotiations currently underway between North and South. The belligerent VP wanted to make sure that any attempts at rapprochement between Pyongyang and Soule would be swiftly thwarted by the Washington overlords. Far from an isolated incident, Pence’s preemptive announcement follows a familiar pattern of heavy-handed intervention into Korea’s domestic affairs that stretches back more than 6 decades with the aim of derailing any promising move towards national reconciliation or détente. The western media has done an impressive job in concealing Washington’s malignant role in Korea’s politics. By focusing on Kim’s nuclear weapons, they have obfuscated the real source of the divisions, the distrust, and the hostility. Washington.

Pence childishly showcased his meeting with a defector from the North in order to humiliate the delegation from the DPRK before even meeting with them. He then reiterated the administration’s plan to conduct massive joint-military drills with the South following the Winter Games in order to apply “maximum pressure” on the North. The needlessly provocative military exercises, which are a source of endless aggravation in Pyongyang, include “decapitation” drills that simulate the capturing and killing of the North’s supreme leader, Kim Jong-un. Is it any wonder why Kim thinks he needs nuclear weapons to defend himself?

Virtually all of Pence’s activities and statements were designed to incite animosity, generate suspicion, or intensify hostilities. The sole purpose of the VP’s trip was to preserve the status quo, that is, to make sure the country remains permanently split into warring camps that justify Washington’s military occupation, thus, protecting US commercial interests while maintaining control of a strategically-located territory that is a critical part of Washington’s plan to dominate Asia. Pence is merely following the century’s old maxim for preserving imperial power: Divide and conquer. The US doesn’t want a peaceful, prosperous, unified Korea, it wants a fragmented, garrison state where cheap labor is abundant and the politicians dance to Washington’s tune. That was the objective when Washington installed its lackeys in the Capitol in 1953 and that’s the goal today.

Pence’s visit was highlighted by one mortifying gaffe after another making it the worst diplomatic disaster since Prince Philip asked his Aborigine hosts during a trip to Australia if they “still threw spears at each other.” Fortunately, in Philip’s case, he was clever enough to grasp his mistake and quickly make amends. Not so the fatuous Pence who in a short two-day stretch snubbed his hosts and their guests by skipping an extravagant state dinner, refusing to shake hands with Kim Yo-Jong, and by stubbornly remaining seated while the united North-South Korean team entered the Olympic stadium to the rapturous applause of the crowd. If Pence hoped to project the image of a man who thought he was better than everyone else, he certainly succeeded. It is doubtful, however, that he won the love and admiration of the Korean people who are now, undoubtedly, rethinking their relationship with the pompous and trouble-making leaders in Washington.

Pence’s blundering visit helps to confirm that the United States cannot play a constructive role in resolving the thorny issues between North and South. Pyongyang and Soule will have to convene a regional summit on denuclearization headed by China and Russia while demanding the immediate cessation of all joint-military exercises in the South. The North should agree to take verifiable steps to decommission its nuclear arsenal and allow international weapons inspectors free reign to conduct their work, in exchange for the gradual lifting of economic sanctions, the progressive strengthening of economic ties with the South, the signing of a treaty that officially ends the 65 year-long war, and the incremental, but total withdrawal of all US troops and military personnel from the R.O.K.

There will be no lasting peace on the Korean peninsula until the US occupation ends.

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
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The report (“The Dossier”) that claims that Donald Trump colluded with Russia, was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The company that claims that Russia hacked DNC computer servers, was paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The FBI’s counterintelligence probe into Trump’s alleged connections to Russia was launched on the basis of information gathered from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The surveillance of a Trump campaign member (Carter Page) was approved by a FISA court on the basis of information from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The Intelligence Community Analysis or ICA was (largely or partially) based on information from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign. (more on this below)

The information that was leaked to the media alleging Russia hacking or collusion can be traced back to claims that were made in a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign.

The entire Russia-gate investigation rests on the “unverified and salacious” information from a dossier that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton Campaign. Here’s how Stephen Cohen sums it up in a recent article at The Nation:

“Steele’s dossier… was the foundational document of the Russiagate narrative…from the time its installments began to be leaked to the American media in the summer of 2016, to the US “Intelligence Community Assessment” of January 2017….the dossier and subsequent ICA report remain the underlying sources for proponents of the Russiagate narrative of “Trump-Putin collision.” (“Russia gate or Intel-gate?”, The Nation)

There’s just one problem with Cohen’s statement, we don’t really know the extent to which the dossier was used in the creation of the Intelligence Community Assessment. (The ICA was the IC’s flagship analysis that was supposed to provide ironclad proof of Russian meddling in the 2016 elections.) According to some reports, the contribution was significant. Check out this excerpt from an article at Business Insider:

“Intelligence officials purposefully omitted the dossier from the public intelligence report they released in January about Russia’s election interference because they didn’t want to reveal which details they had corroborated, according to CNN.” (“Mueller reportedly interviewed the author of the Trump-Russia dossier — here’s what it alleges, and how it aligned with reality”, Business Insider)

Bottom line: Despite the denials of former-CIA Director John Brennan, the dossier may have been used in the ICA.

In the last two weeks, documents have been released that have exposed the weak underpinnings of the Russia investigation while at the same time revealing serious abuses by senior-level officials at the DOJ and FBI. The so called Nunes memo was the first to point out these abuses, but it was the 8-page “criminal referral” authored by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Senator Lindsey Graham that gave credence to the claims. Here’s a blurb from the document:

“It appears the FBI relied on admittedly uncorroborated information, funded by and obtained for Secretary Clinton’s presidential campaign, in order to conduct surveillance of an associate of the opposing presidential candidate. It did so based on Mr. Steele’s personal credibility and presumably having faith in his process of obtaining the information. But there is substantial evidence suggesting that Mr. Steele materially misled the FBI about a key aspect of his dossier efforts, one which bears on his credibility.”

There it is. The FBI made a “concerted effort to conceal information from the court” in order to get a warrant to spy on a member of a rival political campaign. So –at the very least– there was an effort, on the part of the FBI and high-ranking officials at the Department of Justice, to improperly spy on members of the Trump team. And there’s more. The FBI failed to mention that the dossier was paid for by the Hillary campaign and the DNC, or that the dossier’s author Christopher Steele had seeded articles in the media that were being used to support the dossier’s credibility (before the FISA court), or that, according to the FBI’s own analysts, the dossier was “only minimally corroborated”, or that Steele was a ferocious partisan who harbored a strong animus towards Trump. All of these were omitted in the FISA application which is why the FBI was able to deceive the judge. It’s worth noting that intentionally deceiving a federal judge is a felony.

Most disturbing is the fact that Steele reportedly received information from friends of Hillary Clinton. (supposedly, Sidney Blumenthal and others) Here’s one suggestive tidbit that appeared in the Graham-Grassley” referral:

“…Mr. Steele’s memorandum states that his company “received this report from REDACTED US State Department,” that the report was the second in a series, and that the report was information that came from a foreign sub-source who “is in touch with REDACTED, a contact of REDACTED, a friend of the Clintons, who passed it to REDACTED.”

It is troubling enough that the Clinton campaign funded Mr. Steele’s work, but that these Clinton associates were contemporaneously feeding Mr. Steele allegations raises additional concerns about his credibility.” (Lifted from The Federalist)

What are we to make of this? Was Steele shaping the dossier’s narrative to the specifications of his employers? Was he being coached by members of the Hillary team? How did that impact the contents of the dossier and the subsequent Russia investigation?

These are just a few of the questions Steele will undoubtedly be asked if he ever faces prosecution for lying to the FBI. But, so far, we know very little about man except that he was a former M16 agent who was paid $160,000 for composing the dubious set of reports that make up the dossier. We don’t even know if Steele’s alleged contacts or intermediaries in Russia actually exist or not. Some analysts think the whole thing is a fabrication based on the fact that he hasn’t worked the Russia-scene since the FSB (The Russian state-security organization that replaced the KGB) was completely overhauled. Besides, it would be extremely dangerous for a Russian to provide an M16 agent with sensitive intelligence. And what would the contact get in return? According to most accounts, Steele’s sources weren’t even paid, so there was little incentive for them to put themselves at risk? All of this casts more doubt on the contents of the dossier.

What is known about Steele is that he has a very active imagination and knows how to command a six-figure payoff for his unique services. We also know that the FBI continued to use him long after they knew he couldn’t be trusted which suggests that he served some other purpose, like providing the agency with plausible deniability, a ‘get out of jail free’ card if they ever got caught surveilling US citizens without probable cause.

But that brings us to the strange case of Carter Page, a bit-player whose role in the Trump campaign was trivial at best. Page was what most people would call a “small fish”, an insignificant foreign policy advisor who had minimal impact on the campaign. Congressional investigators, like Nunes, must be wondering why the FBI and DOJ devoted so much attention to someone like Page instead of going after the “big fish” like Bannon, Flynn, Kushner, Ivanka and Trump Jr., all of whom might have been able to provide damaging information on the real target, Donald Trump. Wasn’t that the idea? So why waste time on Page? It doesn’t make any sense, unless, of course, the others were already being surveilled by other agencies? Is that it, did the NSA and the CIA have a hand in the surveillance too?

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: CIA, Deep State, Donald Trump, John Brennan, Russia 
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Brainwashed Americans believe that Kim Jong-un is responsible for the confrontation between Pyongyang and Washington, but nothing could be further from the truth. The real problem is not Kim’s nuclear weapons but Washington’s 65 year-long military occupation that continues to reinforce a political solution that was arbitrarily imposed on a sovereign nation in order to split the country in two, install a puppet regime in the south, establish a permanent military presence to defend US commercial interests, and maintain control of a strategically-located territory that is a critical part of Washington’s plan to encircle Russia and China to remain the dominant global power throughout the century. Simply put, Washington is 100 percent responsible for the current confrontation just as it has been responsible for every flare-up for the last 7 decades.

Even so, fighting back against the relentless outpouring of US-backed state propaganda is no easy task. So allow me to defend the position of the DPRK with just one, brief analogy that will help to put things into perspective:

Imagine if the Korean army decided to deploy tens of thousands of combat troops to fight on the side of the South during the Civil War. And let’s say, that these forces were so successful that they were able to kill 3 million Americans while reducing every business and factory, every home and hospital, every church and university, to smoldering rubble. As a result of Korean meddling, the North was unable to win the war, but was forced to settle for an armistice that permanently split the US into North and South allowing Korea to install its stooges in the capitol of Richmond while it established military bases in every southern state from Virginia to Louisiana.

Let’s say this arrangement worked for over 6 decades due mainly to the efforts of Korean propagandists who derided any attempt at reconciliation, dialogue or reunification. Let’s say, activists and politicians in the North pushed for a “Sunshine Policy” that would foster communication and better relations between the two sides, but their efforts were constantly sabotaged by self-serving imperial overlords who saw any move towards dialogue as a threat to their continued presence in the South, so they engaged in the same illicit practices the US engages in today, that is, sowing dissension, discord and division between the two sides, always provoking more trouble, more disharmony, more acrimony. Always and everywhere pushing forward the imperial agenda by turning the bulk of the world’s population into Shia and Sunni.

Isn’t that the Grand Plan; divide and conquer, pit one brother against the other, keep all of us at each others throats in order to justify the ongoing occupation, in order to justify the ongoing meddling, in order to justify the ongoing economic exploitation?

Of course, it is. The United States has never lifted its sanctions on North Korea, never treated their leaders with anything except contempt and brutality, and never made any sincere attempt to end the hostilities. Washington will not even sit down with a delegation from the DPRK to air their differences or discuss a path forward.

Why?

Is it because the DPRK is a Communist state? Is that it?

Heck, no. The US has open trade relations with China and Vietnam both of who share a similar Marxist ideology. Even more shocking, the US now employs an openly “Utopian” Marxist militia (the Kurdish YPG) in East Syria as its proxy-army in its fight to topple the government in Damascus. Think about that for a minute: Washington’s shock troops in Syria are basically “a bunch of commies”. I don’t say that to criticize the Kurds (who share a similar ideology to my own) but to illustrate the contemptible lack of principle and utter hypocrisy of everything Washington says or does. Washington doesn’t care what one’s personal philosophy is. Washington cares about power. And anything that helps to enhance Washington’s grip on global power, is the supreme good.

The United States refuses to sign a treaty with the North ending the war, refuses to sit down with delegates from the North, and refuses to provide any security assurances that they won’t attack the North at anytime for any reason. This is Washington’s policy towards the North, and yet we continue to read almost daily in the New York Times and Washington Post and the other “trusted” elite media, that the North is “threatening the US”, that the North is impulsive and violent, and that the North must be punished for its defiance.

Baloney! The North is NOT responsible for the crisis on the peninsula. The US is responsible. 100 percent responsible! Check out this excerpt from an article by David William Pear

“Fearing that peace might break out with the two Koreas talking to each other, Washington instructed South Korean President Moon Jae-in to keep the message about anything but peace….It is not just Trump. A former top official for the Obama administration warned Moon that South Korea was not going to get anywhere with the North Koreans unless they have the “US behind them”…… The official went on to say, “If South Koreans are viewed as running off the leash, it will exacerbate tension within the alliance”.” (U.S. Humiliates South Korea, Threatens North Korea, The Unz Review)

So South Korea is “off the lash” like a pathetic little poodle? Is that what he’s saying?

This flippant quote deserves careful consideration mainly because it is not just a “one-off”, but rather summarizes the fundamental master-slave relationship between leaders in the South and their colonial Bossman in Washington.

It’s Washington that’s calling the shots in the south, Washington that controls the Korean military and Washington that sets the policy. This is essentially how the system works. Conversely, countries that defend their own sovereignty (like Russia, Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela) remain outside the US-run system, making them Washington’s de facto enemies to be demonized and threatened. But it’s not ideology that Washington cares about, it’s independence. That’s the big no-no. Check out this excerpt from an article at Liberation News:

“U.S. military occupation following World War II was more hostile and brutal than the Japanese colonial government. In fact from 1945 to 1948, the U.S. military continued to employ Japanese colonists, and Japanese law remained in effect. The prostitution of Korean women was official government policy for the purpose of now entertaining U.S. soldiers.

Meanwhile, in North Korea, the Soviet Civil Authority supported the peasant organizations and workers’ councils. In March 1946, land reform was instituted in which land owned by Japanese colonizers and their Korean collaborators was divided and handed over to poor formers. The rule of the land-owning class was broken, and landlords were allowed to keep only the same amount of land as their former tenants. Soviet forces left the peninsula in 1948…….

U.S. occupation troops remain in South Korea to this day. Washington continues to falsely claim that North Korea is to blame for the continued division of Korea. However, U.S. imperialism and the 32,000 U.S. troops that are stationed in South Korea to enforce the border between the North and South remain the predominant obstacle to reunification of the Korean Peninsula…. U.S. imperialism, from the beginning of Japanese colonization to today, has never had the interests of the Korean people in mind.” (“U.S. ‘liberators’ turned South Korea into a neo-colony”, Liberation News)

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
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US foreign policy in the Middle East is not merely adrift, it is in a state of severe crisis. Even as Turkish tanks and warplanes continue to pound US allies in northwestern Syria (The Kurds), powerbrokers in the White House and the Pentagon are unable to settle on a way forward. The frantic attempts to placate their NATO ally, Turkey, while trying to assuage the fears of their mostly Kurdish proxy-army (Syrian Democratic Forces) has further underscored the dismal absence of a coherent policy that would not only address the rapidly-changing battlespace but also deal with the prospect that a critical regional ally (Turkey) might seek strategic objectives that are directly at odds with those of Washington. The present disaster that is unfolding in the Afrin canton in Syria’s northwest corner could have been avoided had the Trump administration abstained from announcing that it planned a permanent military presence in east Syria, which implied its tacit support for an independent Kurdish state. This, in fact, was the trigger for the current crisis, the provocation that set the dominoes in motion.

The unexpected escalation of fighting on the ground (Afrin), along with Turkey’s promise to clear the Syrian border all the way to the Iraq, has only increased the sense of panic among Trump’s top national security advisors who are making every effort to minimize the damage by trying to bring Turkey’s invasion to a swift end. As yet, there is no sign that Turkey will stop its onslaught short of achieving its goals which involve defeating elements of the People’s Protection Units (YPG) that have joined the US-backed SDF. Ankara has already warned Washington that it will defend its national security against Kurdish forces (which it considers “terrorists”) whether US troops are located in the area or not. The possibility that one NATO ally might actually attack US Special Forces operating on the ground in Syria has ignited a flurry of diplomatic activity in Washington and across Europe. What started as an announcement that was intended to send a warning to Moscow and Tehran that the US planned to be in Syria “for the long-haul”, has dramatically backfired pitting Ankara against Washington while casting doubt on the Trump administration’s ability to diffuse a potentially-explosive situation. Here’s a clip from veteran journalist Patrick Cockburn’s latest in The Independent:

The US may want to get rid of Assad and weaken Iran across the region but it is too late. Pro-Iranian governments in Iraq and Syria are in power and Hezbollah is the most powerful single force in Lebanon. This is not going to change any time soon and, if the Americans want to weaken Assad by keeping a low-level war going, then this will make him even more reliant on Iran.

The present Turkish incursion shows that Ankara is not going to allow a new Kurdish state under US protection to be created in northern Syria and will fight rather than let this happen. But the YPG is highly motivated, well-armed and militarily experienced and will fight very hard, even though they may ultimately be overwhelmed by superior forces or because the Turkish and Syrian governments come together to crush them.

It was a bad moment for the US to stir the pot by saying it would stay in Syria and target Assad and Iran. A Kurdish-Turkish war in northern Syria will be a very fierce one. The US obsession with an exaggerated Iranian threat – about which, in any case, it cannot do much – makes it difficult for Washington to mediate and cool down the situation. Trump and his chaotic administration have not yet had to deal with a real Middle East crisis yet and the events of the last week suggest that they will not be able to do so.” (“Patrick Cockburn, The Independent)

The Trump administration has made a hash of everything and it is no longer certain that their present Syria strategy is viable. Trump’s national security advisor General HR McMaster has made every effort to smooth things over with Ankara, but his promises of accommodation do not approach Turkey’s grandiose demands. Consider the list of Turkish demands listed in the Turkish Daily, The Hurriyet:

1. No weapons should be given to the YPG.

2. Weapons already delivered to the YPG should be taken back immediately.

3. Military training given to the YPG should be ceased.

4. No logistical support should be given.

5. All ties with the YPG should be cut.

The Trump administration is not prepared to sever ties with its most effective fighters on the ground. Washington intends to use these troops to hold territory in the east, launch destabilizing attacks on the Assad government, and to undermine Iran’s influence in Syria. As one anonymous US official candidly admitted, “The entire US strategy rests on the Kurds.” So, while McMaster has already promised to stop all weapons shipments to the SDF, he will undoubtedly reverse his position when the fighting subsides and the crisis passes.

Washington’s biggest problem is the absence of a coherent policy. While the recently released National Defense Strategy articulated a change in the way the imperial strategy would be implemented, (by jettisoning the “war on terror” pretext to a “great power” confrontation) the changes amount to nothing more than a tweaking of the public relations ‘messaging’. Washington’s global ambitions remain the same albeit with more emphasis on raw military power. As for Syria, Washington still hasn’t settled on a way to square the circle, that is, a way to support its Kurdish forces on the ground without provoking its Turkish allies who see the Kurds as an existential threat. This conundrum might have continued to be ignored for some time, had not Secretary of State Rex Tillerson let the cat out of the bag and revealed Washington’s real intentions. Which is why McMaster has been doing every thing he can to put the genie back in the bottle.

But even these problems are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is the fact that there deep and irreconcilable differences between foreign policy elites as to what the policy should be. Check out this excerpt from the New York Times:

The White House sent out a message aimed at mollifying Turkey’s president on Tuesday, suggesting that the United States was easing off its support for the Syrian Kurds. That message was quickly contradicted by the Pentagon, which said it would continue to stand by the Kurds, even as Turkey invaded their stronghold in northwestern Syria.

The conflicting statements appeared to reflect an effort by the administration to balance competing pressures… the White House disavowed a plan by the American military to create a Kurdish-led force in northeastern Syria, which Turkey has vehemently opposed….

…the Pentagon issued its own statement on Tuesday standing by its decision to create the Kurdish-led force. And a senior American commander praised the partnership with the Kurds, whose help was critical in a major American airstrike on the Islamic State, also known as ISIS, over the weekend. (“Mixed Messages From U.S. as Turkey Attacks Syrian Kurds”, New York Times)

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Israel, Kurds, Syria, Turkey 
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The Democrats don’t seem to understand that the Russia investigation has made Trump stronger not weaker. They don’t see that their evidence-free probe has strengthened Trump’s base and convinced his supporters that their leader is being unfairly attacked. (According to a January Quinnipiac survey, a full eighty-three percent of Republicans believe the current investigation is “a witch hunt”. The data suggests that Russia-gate has rallied Trump’s backers to his defense.) Dems don’t grasp that, in the last 12 months, Trump has pushed through a massive tax bill followed by immigration reform that has broadened his support and silenced his GOP critics. When Trump took office, McConnell, Ryan and Graham were all on opposite sides of the political divide. Now Trump has them eating out of his hand. He took a fractious, splintered party and forced them to fall in line. Trump has succeeded in unifying his base while the collusion fiasco has had no noticeable impact at all. None.

As for the Dems, well, the Dems still refuse to pay attention to their own polling data that says that rank-and-file members want less emphasis on Russia and more emphasis on jobs, college tuition, health care, and entitlements. The tone-deaf Dems completely ignore that message choosing instead to pursue a counterproductive probe that has yet to produce a scintilla of hard evidence and that has helped to underscore the fact that the Dems have no platform, no vision for the future, and no solutions for the problems facing ordinary working class people.

Let me be completely honest: I don’t give a flying fig about Russia, Russia hacking, Russia meddling, Russia collusion or any other screwball thing related to Russia. What I do care about is what’s going on in this country. I do care that the man who ran on a campaign of “non-intervention” is currently building military bases in East Syria, stirring up trouble in the South China Sea, supporting counterinsurgency operations across Africa, facing off with Turkey, providing bombs for the ongoing genocide in Yemen, threatening North Korea with total annihilation, and pledging to build a new regime of “usable” nuclear weapons. That’s what worries me, not Russia. But what worries me even more is that, just when we need a strong, highly-principled, credible opposition party to fight the good fight for wages, the environment, social services, education, infrastructure, civil liberties, and peace– the Democrats have turned into jello, a wobbly, gelatinous mass of ingratiating losers. What’s that all about?

The Dems are a party without a leader and without a message. They keep carping about Russia and Trump because they have no convictions, no beliefs, and no fire in the belly. It’s a party of empty suits and phony flannel-mouth politicos. The only thing they’re good at is losing, which is an art they appear to have perfected. The problem is, that the rest of us are sick of the party’s sad-sack song-and-dance, sick of the excuses, sick of the buck passing, and sick of losing. We want candidates who actually stand for something, who actually believe in something, and who’ll actually fight for something.

Two weeks ago, the Dems shut down the government to see if they could force Trump into bending on the DACA issue. In less than 72 hours, they checked the polls, ran up the white flag, and caved in. I cannot remember a more flagrant display of political cowardice in my lifetime. Personally, I’d rather be on the side of someone who believes in something (even if he’s wrong!), than on the side of someone who believes in nothing at all. Democrat leaders believe in nothing, which is why they are not worthy of our support. Here’s how the World Socialist Web Site summed up the DACA cave in:

“The US Senate and House of Representatives voted Monday to approve a short-term budget resolution, putting an end to the partial shutdown of the federal government that began midnight Friday night. The deal leaves 800,000 DACA recipients without protection in what amounts to a total capitulation by Democrats to Trump and the Republicans…..

In the annals of cowardly capitulations, there are few spectacles that can match Monday’s collapse by the Democratic Party, which abandoned its blockade against the budget resolution less than 72 hours after it began. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer announced the decision in a brief, nearly blubbering speech on the Senate floor, which combined phony invective directed against Trump with a complete surrender to the bigot-in-chief in the White House….

The surrender was not Schumer’s individual decision, but the action of the entire Democratic caucus, which had no stomach for any serious fight…..” (“Federal shutdown ends as Democrats cave in to Trump”, World Socialist Web Site)

No stomach. No guts. No spine. Admit it: The entire Democratic party leadership isn’t worth the powder to blow it to hell. It would be better for everyone if someone just put them out of their misery.

The Dems think the midterms are going to be a landslide-blowout. But don’t count on it. It’s going to take more than Russia-gate and a few glitzy photos with ME TOO celebrity-victims to get disillusioned liberals back to the polls. It’s going to take a “message”, a vision, a progressive way out of the dark, Trumpian fog we’re all stuck in. Unfortunately, the Dems have no such vision, and they’re too busy chasing fictitious Russian trolls on FaceBook to give it a second thought.

Look: I worked in the Democratic party at the local level. I know that the people at the grassroots level are sincere, principled people that are truly committed to making the country a better place for everyone. I know that! But there comes a time when you have to accept the reality the party’s leaders believe in nothing, that they are joined at the hip with arms dealers, the neocons, the Intel agencies, Wall Street and the rest of the vermin who control this country.

I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that’s the truth.

It’s time to pull up our big boy pants and face the facts: The Democratic party is NOT a suitable vehicle for the progressive agenda. It just isn’t. We need to cut our losses and move on.

 
• Category: Ideology • Tags: Democratic Party, Donald Trump, Russia 
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The Trump administration has drawn Turkey deeper into the Syrian conflict by announcing a policy that threatens Turkey’s national security. Washington’s gaffe has pitted one NATO ally against the other while undermining hopes for a speedy end to the seven year-long war.

Here’s what’s going on: On January 18, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the creation of a 30,000-man Border Security Force (BSF) to occupy East Syria. Two days later, January 20, the Turkish Army launched a ground and air offensive against Kurdish troops in the Afrin canton in Northwest Syria.

The media has tried to downplay the connection between the two events, but the cause-and-effect relationship is pretty clear. Tillerson’s provocation triggered the Turkish invasion and another bloody phase to the needlessly-protracted conflict. Washington’s screwup has made a bad situation even worse.

A five year old child could have figured out that Turkey wasn’t going to sit-back and let the US establish a Kurdish state on its border without putting up a fight. Keep in mind, the US plans to defend this new protectorate with a 30,000-man proxy-army comprised of mostly Kurdish fighters from the People’s Protection Units or YPG. The Turks, however, believe the YPG is connected to the terror-listed PKK which has prosecuted a scorched earth campaign against the Turkish state for decades. That’s why Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will not allow these groups to dig in along Turkey’s southern border, they constitute a serious threat to Turkey’s security. Just imagine if Hezbollah decided to set up military encampments along the Mexican border. How long do you think it would take before Trump blew those camps to kingdom come? Not long, I’d wager.

So why did Tillerson think Erdogan would respond differently?

There’s only one explanation: Tillerson must be so blinded by hubris that he couldn’t figure out what Erdogan’s reaction would be. He must have thought that, “Whatever Uncle Sam says, goes.” Only it doesn’t work like that anymore. The US has lost its ability to shape events in the Middle East, particularly in Syria where its jihadist proxies have been rolled back on nearly every front. The US simply doesn’t have sufficient forces on the ground to determine the outcome, nor is it respected as an honest broker, a dependable ally or a reliable steward of regional security. The US is just one of many armed-factions struggling to gain the upper hand in an increasingly fractious and combustible battlespace. Simply put, Washington is losing the war quite dramatically due in large part to the emergence of a new coalition (Russia-Syria-Iran-Hezbollah) that has made great strides in Syria and that is committed to preserve the Old World Order, a system that is built on the principles of national sovereignty, self determination and non intervention. Washington opposes this system and is doing everything in its power dismantle it by redrawing borders, toppling elected leaders, and installing its own stooges to execute its diktats. Tillerson’s blunder will only make Washington’s task all the more difficult by drawing Turkey into the fray in an effort to quash Uncle Sam’s Kurdish proxies.

In an effort to add insult to injury, Tillerson didn’t even have the decency to discuss the matter with Erdogan– his NATO ally– before making the announcement! Can you imagine how furious Erdogan must have been? Shouldn’t the president of Turkey expect better treatment from his so-called friends in Washington who use Turkish air fields to supply their ground troops and to carry out their bombing raids in Syria? But instead of gratitude, he gets a big kick in the teeth with the announcement that the US is hopping into bed with his mortal enemies, the Kurds. Check out this excerpt from Wednesday’s Turkish daily, The Hurriyet ,which provides a bit of background on the story:

“It is beyond any doubt that the U.S. military and administration knew that the People’s Protection Units (YPG)…had organic ties with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which Washington officially recognizes as a terrorist group….The YPG is the armed wing of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), which is the political wing of the PKK in Syria. They share the same leadership…the same budget, the same arsenal, the same chain of command from the Kandil Mountains in Iraq, and the same pool of militants. So the PYD/YPG is actually not a “PKK-affiliated” group, it is a sub-geographical unit of the same organization….

Knowing that the YPG and the PKK are effectively equal, and legally not wanting to appear to be giving arms to a terrorist organization, the U.S. military already asked the YPG to “change the brand” back in 2015. U.S. Special Forces Commander General Raymond Thomas said during an Aspen Security Forum presentation on July 22, 2017 that he had personally proposed the name change to the YPG.

“With about a day’s notice [the YPG] declared that it was now the Syrian Democratic Forces [SDF],” Thomas said to laughter from the audience.

“I thought it was a stroke of brilliance to put ‘democracy’ in there somewhere. It gave them a little bit of credibility.” (Hurriyet)

Ha, ha, ha. Isn’t that funny? One day you’re a terrorist, and the next day you’re not depending on whether Washington can use you or not. Is it any wonder why Erdogan is so pissed off?

So now a messy situation gets even messier. Now the US has to choose between its own proxy army (The Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces) and a NATO ally that occupies the critical crossroads between Asia and Europe. Washington’s plan to pivot to Asia by controlling vital resources and capital flowing between the continents depends largely on its ability to keep regional leaders within its orbit. That means Washington needs Erdogan in their camp which, for the time being, he is not.

Apparently, there have been phone calls between Presidents Trump and Erdogan, but early accounts saying that Trump scolded Erdogan have already been disproven. In fact, Trump and his fellows have been bending-over-backwards to make amends for Tillerson’s foolish slipup. According to the Hurriyet:

“The readout issued by the White House does not accurately reflect the content of President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan’s phone call with President [Donald] Trump,”…“President Trump did not share any ‘concerns [about] escalating violence’ with regard to the ongoing military operation in Afrin.”…The Turkish sources also stressed that Trump did not use the words “destructive and false rhetoric coming from Turkey.”…
Erdoğan reiterated that the People’s Protection Units (YPG) must withdraw to the East of the Euphrates River and pledged the protection of Manbij by the Turkish-backed Free Syrian Army (FSA)…

“In response to President Erdoğan’s call on the United States to end the delivery of weapons to the [Democratic Union Party] PYD-YPG, President Trump said that his country no longer supplied the group with weapons and pledged not to resume the weapons delivery in the future,” the sources added.” (Hurriyet)

If this report can be trusted, (Turkish media is no more reliable than US media) then it is Erdogan who is issuing the demands not Trump. Erdogan insists that all YPG units be redeployed east of the Euphrates and that all US weapons shipments to Washington’s Kurdish proxies stop immediately. We should know soon enough whether Washington is following Erdogan’s orders or not.

So far, the only clear winner in this latest conflagration has been Vladimir Putin, the levelheaded pragmatist who hews to Napoleon’s directive to “Never interfere with an enemy while he’s in the process of destroying himself.”

 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Kurds, Rex Tillerson, Russia, Syria, Turkey 
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On Wednesday, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson announced the creation of a de facto autonomous Kurdish state in east Syria that will be supported by the United States and defended by a US-backed “proxy” army of occupation. Tillerson’s announcement was made at a confab he attended at Stanford University at the Hoover Institute. According to The Hill:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on Wednesday outlined a new U.S. strategy in Syria, hinging on maintaining an indefinite military presence in the country with the goal of ousting the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad and keeping militant groups at bay.

Speaking at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, Tillerson sought to make the case for an extended U.S. military role, backed by a United Nations-brokered political solution, in the war-torn country.

A U.S. withdrawal, he said, would likely have disastrous consequences.

“Total withdrawal would restore Assad and continue brutal treatment of his own people,” Tillerson said. (Tillerson outlines plan for long-term US military role in Syria”, The Hill)

Tillerson’s comments underscore the fact that recent setbacks in the 7-year-long conflict, have not dampened Washington’s determination to topple the elected government of Syria and to impose its own political vision on the country. They also confirm that the United States intends to occupy parts of Syria for the foreseeable future. As the article clearly states:

The secretary’s remarks on Wednesday signaled his most explicit endorsement yet for long-term U.S. military presence in the country. (The Hill)

On Thursday, Tillerson backtracked from his earlier statement saying his comments had been “misportrayed”.

“That entire situation has been misportrayed, misdescribed, (and) some people misspoke. We are not creating a border security force at all,” (Tillerson said)

Regrettably, the media did not “misportray” Washington’s intentions or policy. In fact, the details have been circulating since last weekend when an article appeared in The Defense Post announcing the creation of 30,000 man border security force. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” ….Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said….

“The BSF will be stationed along the Euphrates River Valley – marking the western edge of the territory within Syria currently controlled by SDF – and the Iraqi and Turkish borders,” he said. (The Defense Post)

As we have noted before, Washington is determined to throw up an iron curtain along the Euphrates consistent with its plan to split Syria into smaller parts, support the central government’s enemies, and create a safe haven for launching attacks on the government in Damascus. Seen in this light, the 30,000-man “border security force” is not a border security force at all, but a slick Madison Avenue-type sobriquet for Washington’s proxy army of occupation. The fact that “The Coalition told The Defense Post that ‘north army’ was not a recognized term in Syria,” indicates the importance Washington places on its particular “product branding”. The “border security force” (BSF) moniker helps to conceal the fact that Washington has armed and trained a mainly-Kurdish proxy-army to pursue Washington’s strategic objectives in Syria which include toppling the government of Bashar al Assad, splintering the country into smaller tribal-run territories, and installing a compliant stooge in the Capitol who will follow Washington’s diktats.

In order to achieve those goals, Washington has had to make critical concessions to its Kurdish allies in the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is ‘an alliance of militias in northern and eastern Syria dominated by the Kurdish YPG.’ The Kurds expect the US to honor its demands for a Kurdish homeland, an autonomous statelet carved out of Syria’s northeast quadrant, the portion of territory east of the Euphrates captured during the fight against ISIS. Tillerson’s announcement confirmed that the US will support the defense of this territory by its Kurdish proxies inferring that the Trump administration has thrown its weigh behind the unilateral creation of a Kurdish state in east Syria. (Publicly, the US opposes the creation of Kurdistan, but its actions on the ground, indicate its support.) Naturally, this has not gone-over well with the other countries in the region that have struggled to contain Kurdish aspirations for a homeland. The leaders of Syria, Iran, Iraq and Turkey all oppose the emergence of a Kurdistan, although Turkey’s president Erdogan has been the most outspoken by far. According to the Turkish daily Hurriyet:

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan threatened to thwart the creation of a U.S-backed 30,000-strong border security force manned mostly by the People’s Protection Units (YPG) in northern Syria. Turkey’s armed forces completed preparations for an operation against the YPG in their strongholds Afrin, in northwestern Syria, and Manbij, in northern Syria, Erdoğan said on Jan. 15 at an opening ceremony in Ankara.

“The operation may start any time. Operations into other regions will come after,” the president said, noting that the Turkish army was already hitting YPG positions.

“America has acknowledged it is in the process of creating a terror army on our border. What we have to do is nip this terror army in the bud,” Erdoğan said….“We won’t be responsible for the consequences.” (The Hurriyet)

It’s worth noting that the US never consulted its NATO ally, Turkey, before initiating its current plan. This suggests that the foreign policy wonks who concocted this misguided scheme must have thought that Erdogan and his fellows would be duped by the paper-thin public relations smokescreen of “border security”. Washington’s reliance on Information Operations and propaganda may have clouded its judgement and impaired its ability to understand how their public relations scam could blow up in their faces. (which it did.)

Despite the foofaraw, there’s nothing new about Washington’s determination to establish a permanent military presence in Syria, in fact, that has been the plan from Day 1. The basic US strategy in Syria has been modified many times in the last few years, particularly after Syrian forces liberated Syria’s industrial hub, Aleppo, which was the turning point in the conflict. Since then, news has circulated about a Plan B, which accepts the reality that Assad will remain in power after the war has ended, but redirects US efforts towards more achievable goals like seizing the vast expanse of land east of the Euphrates which can be used for future regime-destabilizing operations.

The basic outline for Plan B was presented in a Brookings Institute report by chief military analyst, Michael O’ Hanlon. Here’s a clip from his 2014 article titled “Deconstructing Syria: A new strategy for America’s most hopeless war”:

(Republished by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: American Military, Donald Trump, Kurds, Syria 
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The Trump administration has settled on a plan for sabotaging the Iranian Nuclear deal that does not explicitly violate the terms of the agreement. Trump will continue to suspend sanctions, as is required under the terms of the deal, but at the same time, he will warn that if the agreement isn’t changed to meet his specific demands, he will terminate it unilaterally.

“If at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately,” Trump said.

We can expect Trump to continue to issue these same threats in the months ahead as it helps to maximize the uncertainty as to whether the agreement will survive or not. As a businessman and investor, Trump knows that uncertainly is nearly as effective as sanctions when it comes to dampening foreign investment in the country’s businesses and resource development. Corporations and private investors are not going to commit significant capital to long-term projects if they think that the rug could be pulled out from under them at any time. They need certainty just like they need security. By renewing his threat to withdraw from the deal every 120 days, Trump hopes to negate any benefits that Iran might enjoy by complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. The sanctions will have been lifted, but the impact of Trump’s meddling will stifle foreign investment preventing the strong economic rebound that Iranian leaders had anticipated.

Trump also announced that the United States will impose new sanctions on “14 individuals and entities” over alleged human rights abuses to anti-government protestors during the recent demonstrations which took place in cities across Iran. The Iranian Foreign Ministry has denounced the sanctions as a clear violation of the nuclear agreement which forbids any changes to the terms of the deal. Here’s part of the FM’s statement:

“The Islamic Republic of Iran stresses clearly that it will take no measures beyond its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and will accept no changes to this agreement now or in the future and will not allow that the JCPOA be linked to any other issue.”

Taken together, the Trump strategy is clever two-pronged approach that shrinks capital investment in the country (thereby strangling the economy) while increasing the incitements that are intended to cause the government to overreact and (possibly) scuttle the agreement. Trump’s goal is to trick Iran into terminating the deal because it would be too costly for the US to end its commitment unilaterally.

The only reason Iran agreed to comply with the onerous requirements of the nuke’s deal was to end the sanctions that had crippled the Iranian economy. Iran agreed “to reduce uranium enrichment activity drastically, dispose of its enriched uranium stocks and modify a heavy water facility so it could not produce material suitable for a nuclear bomb.” (BBC) Iran was also forced to accept “the toughest and most technologically advanced inspections regime ever put in place to prevent a country from developing an atomic bomb.” In other words, Iran had to make huge concessions that no other signatory of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) ever had to make to stop the decades-long economic war the US had been waging on it. Trump’s strategy will undoubtedly erase many of the potential economic benefits Iran would have realized had the US honored the spirit and letter of the agreement.

Here are a few excerpts from recent articles that highlight Washington’s off-the-radar efforts to damage Iran’s fragile economy. Here’s a clip from a recent post at Press TV:

“The administration of US President Donald Trump is considering blocking planned sales of hundreds of passenger planes by two aerospace giants, Boeing and Airbus, to Iranian airlines, a report says.

Citing US officials, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that Trump’s team is expected to present him with options that include banning sales, imposing stringent conditions that could halt any aircraft deliveries, or slow-walking approvals.” (Press TV)

(NOTE: “The JCPOA explicitly allows US companies to sell civilian airliners to Iranian firms. The sales were a key incentive for Iran to sign onto the deal because Tehran is eager to replenish its civilian airliner fleet, which has been decimated by decades of sanctions.”)

Here’s more from The National Interest:

“The United States is criticized for deterring companies and investors from entering the Iranian market. Iran believes that while the legal and political foundations of sanctions have been removed, the United States has fully kept the primary sanctions in force, preventing the practical removal of the secondary sanctions that were to be lifted.” (“America Still Has Iran Sanctions—And They’re Hurting the Nuclear Deal”, The National Interest)

As we said before, the lifting of sanctions has not produced the economic benefits that Iran’s leaders had expected. Much of this has to do with the slow return of investors due to the unwillingness of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to provide assurances that the nuclear agreement won’t be suddenly rescinded. Here’s more from an article at Quartz:

“Most international financial transactions are done with U.S. dollars, requiring the transactions to be cleared through the U.S. banking system. Since the primary sanctions remain in force, Iran is barred from using U.S. Dollars, making it more difficult to trade with other countries. Additionally, Iran has experienced problems in obtaining its funds in U.S. dollars from other banks….

Foreign companies are also still restricted from trading with more than 200 Iranian entities sanctioned by the United States for non-nuclear reasons. Some firms also fear the possibility of “snapback” sanctions if Iran violates the deal, or policy changes under the next US president…

Citing remaining financial restrictions, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the United States of not fulfilling its pledges under the nuclear deal. “In Western countries and places which are under U.S. influence, our banking transactions and the repatriation of our funds from their banks face problems … because (banks) fear the Americans,” he said in March.” (“A year on, Iran’s nuclear deal is helping its economy, but not as much as some hoped”, Quartz)

Finally, there’s this from an article at Reuters titled “A year after nuclear deal, sanctions still hurt Iran”:

“While the deal lifted EU and UN sanctions on Iran’s banking and energy sector, unilateral U.S. sanctions on the Iranian economy remain. These sanctions forbid U.S. citizens and companies from conducting most forms of business with Iran, but companies outside the United States are affected as well. …

Without foreign direct investment and international banks willing to underwrite projects in Iran, the fruits of the nuclear deal will elude the Iranian public. Banking and finance are the arteries of global commerce and investment. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has tried to offer assurances that the United States will not interfere with legitimate commerce between Iran and the rest of the world, but his pledges ring hollow. European banks remain skittish. Over the past decade, BNP Paribas, HSBC, and Deutsche Bank have paid billions of dollars in fines for Iran-related activity.

From Iran’s perspective, unless the United States takes more concrete steps to make European banks feel confident about engaging in commerce with Iran, the Iranian people will begin to view the nuclear deal as one-sided.” (Reuters)

(Republished by permission of author or representative)