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“Washington’s strategic objectives in Iraq and Syria are not those of “fighting terrorism,” but rather consolidating US hegemony over the oil-rich Middle East and preparing for war against the principal obstacles to this objective, Iran and Russia. For US imperialism, undisputed control over both the Persian Gulf and Central Asia would provide the means to cut off energy supplies to its global rival, China.”

— Bill Van Auken, World Socialist Web Site

On June 10, the Syrian Army blitzed across an arid stretch of countryside in southeastern Syria to reach the Iraqi border for the first time in three years. The move, which caught US war-planners off guard, prevents US-backed rebels from moving north from al Tanf to join the fight against ISIS in Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. More important, the move makes it impossible for Washington to achieve its broader strategic objective of consolidating its territorial gains into a contiguous landmass along the Euphrates River. Washington wants to control the eastern part of the country so it can continue its attacks on the regime while overseeing the construction of gas pipelines from Qatar to Turkey. The prospects of that plan succeeding are now greatly in doubt due to the surprise advance of the SAA.

Aside from the humiliation of being caught flat-footed by a Syrian Army that has been battered by 6 consecutive years of war, Washington has allowed loyalist troops to seize a swath of land that splits US proxies on the ground and establishes a critical land corridor connecting Damascus to Baghdad to Tehran, a Shia superhighway that allows for the transport of commercial goods, people and weapons from east to west. Washington wanted to avoid that linkage at all cost, but simply wasn’t prepared to respond. Now any attempt to reverse the situation will involve crossing SAA lines which increases the probability of a direct confrontation with Russia. This is why it is essential to pay attention to events on the ground as they take place. The US and Russia are basically cheek-to-jowl on a topsy-turvy battlefield where any miscalculation could have grave consequences.

This latest move by the Syria Army has only added to Washington’s frustration. Ever since Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the creation of four “de-escalation zones” on May 5, the so called Axis of Resistance (Russia, Syria, Iran and Hezbollah) has been marching eastward along three parallel tracks with the clear intention of liberating cities captured by ISIS and reestablishing Syria’s sovereign borders. It’s been a hard-fought slog, but the progress has been steady and ISIS has been pushed back or beaten wherever they’ve been met.

At the present pace, the fight against ISIS could be over in a matter of months, but that doesn’t mean the hostilities will end. No one really knows whether the Turks, the Kurds or the US-backed militias will agree to withdraw from the territories they’ve captured during the war, but the general consensus seems to be that they won’t. In fact, the US has actually accelerated its operations in order to grab as much land as possible before ISIS is defeated. Here’s a clip from an article in the New York Times that helps to explain what’s going on:

“American-backed forces have begun an assault on Raqqa, the Islamic State’s hub in northern Syria, and signs are that they could capture the long-sought target with relative ease. Yet the militant group’s commanders, who have already withdrawn their toughest forces from the city, and most everyone else in Syria’s multifaceted war are looking ahead to an even more decisive battle in the south.

There, a complex confrontation is unfolding, with far more geopolitical import and risk. The Islamic State is expected to make its last stand not in Raqqa but in an area that encompasses the borders with Iraq and Jordan and much of Syria’s modest oil reserves, making it important in stabilizing Syria and influencing its neighboring countries.

Whoever lays claim to the sparsely populated area in this 21st-century version of the Great Game not only will take credit for seizing what is likely to be the Islamic State’s last patch of a territorial caliphate in Syria, but also will play an important role in determining Syria’s future and the postwar dynamics of the region.

With the stakes so high, the United States, Iran and Russia are all scrambling for advantage. They are building up their forces and proxy fighters and, increasingly, engaging in inflammatory clashes that threaten to escalate into a larger conflict…..

What is really at stake are even larger issues. Will the Syrian government re-establish control of the country all the way to its eastern borders? Will the desert straddling the Syrian-Iraqi border remain a no man’s land ripe for militant control? If not, who will dominate there — forces aligned with Iran, Russia or the United States? Which Syrian factions will wield the most influence?” (“Beyond Raqqa, an Even Bigger Battle to Defeat ISIS and Control Syria Looms”, New York Times)

Repeat: The outcome of the battle for east Syria will determine “the postwar dynamics of the region.”

So, Washington may have been caught flat footed, but it is prepared to make every effort to succeed in maintaining its regional hegemony. That said, the fighting ahead is likely to be more ferocious than ever.

Deir Ezzor is shaping up to be the decisive battle of the war. Washington needs the provincial capital to control the territory east of the Euphrates to establish military bases and create a launching pad for future attacks on the Assad government. The US also wants to control the eastern border with Iraq so the land route from Baghdad and Tehran is permanently blocked. But the US simply doesn’t have the military assets to win the war outright, which means the battlefield losses will continue to mount until government troops retake large sections of the border and the main population centers in the east. This isn’t a war the US can win without putting more boots on the ground. (some say 150,000 are needed) But, as yet, there’s no sign that the Pentagon Brass is willing to do that.

At present, all of the warring parties are racing to seize as much land as possible. In some respects, that’s a positive development because it suggests that everyone thinks the war may be coming to an end so they’re positioning their armies in a way that best favors their territorial claims. But resolving the territorial issues won’t alone bring peace. There are deeper issues that can’t be resolved by merely granting greater autonomy to the Kurds, or allowing the Turks to maintain a “safe zone” in the northwest, or letting local (mainly Sunni) councils settle their own affairs in cities like Raqqa. For example, neither Putin nor Assad will ever agree to a deal in which Washington establishes a base in the east where it harbors and deploys jihadists back into Syria-proper to wreak havoc, terrorize the public, and threaten the central government. That’s not going to happen. So while Putin may be flexible about Syria’s borders or greater regional autonomy, he’s not going to give ground on the fundamental issues of national security or terrorism. Those are non negotiable.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Counterpunch Archives, ISIS, Russia, Syria 

“The Democrats are not fighting Trump over his assault on health care, his attacks on immigrants, his militaristic bullying around the world, or even his status as a minority president who can claim no mandate after losing the popular vote. Instead, they have chosen to attack Trump, the most right-wing president in US history, from the right, denouncing him as insufficiently committed to a military confrontation with Russia.”

— Patrick Martin, “The Russians are coming! The Russians are coming”, World Socialist Web Site

Donald Trump is not the target of an FBI investigation.

Donald Trump has never been the target of an FBI investigation.

The FBI is not investigating Trump for collusion, improper relations with a foreign government, treason or any of the other ridiculous things he’s been falsely accused of in the fake media. In fact, the FBI is not investigating him at all.

Last week, former FBI Director James Comey admitted publicly what he has known all along: that Trump was not a suspect in the Russia hacking probe and never has been. Here’s the story from Politico:

“Comey assured Trump he wasn’t under investigation during their first meeting. He said he discussed with FBI leadership before his meeting with the president-elect whether to disclose that he wasn’t personally under investigation. “That was true; we did not have an open counter-intelligence case on him,” Comey said.” (Politico)

So, there was no counter-intelligence case on Trump? There was no investigation of collusion with Russia?

But how can that be, after all, Trump has been hectored and harassed by the media from Day 1? His appointments have been blocked, his political agenda has been derailed, and the results of the 2016 elections have been effectively repealed due to the relentless attacks of the media, political elites and high-ranking leaders in the Intelligence Community. Now Comey admits that Trump is not guilty of anything, he’s not even a suspect.

What’s going on here? Why didn’t Comey clear the air earlier so the American people would know that their president wasn’t in bed with a foreign power? Why did he allow this farce to continue when he knew there was no substance to the claims? Did he enjoy seeing Trump twisting in the wind or was there some more sinister “political” motive behind his omission?

Trump repeatedly asked Comey to announce that he wasn’t under investigation. According to Comey, Trump “emphasized the problems this was causing him” and (Trump) said “We need to get that fact out.” But Comey repeatedly refused to publicly acknowledge the truth. Why?

Comey never answered that question to Trump, but he did explain his reasoning to the Senate Intelligence Committee last week. He said he didn’t want to announce that Trump was not part of the Bureau’s Russia probe because “it would create a duty to correct, should that change.”

A “duty to correct”? Are you kidding me? What kind of bullshit answer is that? How many hours of legal brainstorming did it take to come up with that lame-ass excuse?

Let’s state the obvious: Comey wanted to maintain the cloud of suspicion that was hanging over Trump because it helped to feed the perception that Trump was a traitor who collaborated with Russia to win the election. By remaining silent, Comey helped to fuel the public hysteria and reinforce the belief that Trump was guilty of criminal wrongdoing. That is why Comey never spoke out before, it’s because his silence was already achieving the result he sought which was to inflict as much damage as possible on Trump and his administration.

Did you know that Comey was spying on Trump from Day 1?

It’s true, he admitted it himself. Following his first meeting with Trump on January 6, he started recording contents of his private conversations with the president-elect on a secure FBI laptop in his car outside Trump Tower. He didn’t even wait until he got back to the office, he did it in the goddamn parking lot. That’s what you call “eager”. In his testimony he admitted that he kept notes of his private meetings with Trump “from that point forward.”

Does that sound like the normal activities of dedicated public servant acting in behalf of the elected government or does it sound like someone who’s on an assignment to dig up as much dirt as possible on the target of a political smear campaign.

Isn’t that what Comey was really up to?

Comey is a man with zero integrity. Did you know that?

He is applauded in the media and by his fellow establishment elites because he is an unprincipled sycophant who slavishly obeys the directives of his deep state paymasters. Take a look at this except from an ACLU report on Comey:

“There’s one very big problem with describing Comey as some sort of civil libertarian: some facts suggest otherwise. While Comey deserves credit for stopping an illegal spying program in dramatic fashion, he also approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration during his time as deputy attorney general. Those included torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention.

On 30 December 2004, a memo addressed to James Comey was issued that superseded the infamous memo that defined torture as pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure”. The memo to Comey seemed to renounce torture but did nothing of the sort. The key sentence in the opinion is tucked away in footnote 8. It concludes that the new Comey memo did not change the authorizations of interrogation tactics in any earlier memos.

In short, the memo Comey that approved gave a thumbs-up on waterboarding, wall slams, and other forms of torture – all violations of domestic and international law. …Then, there’s warrantless wiretapping. ….”(“Let’s Check James Comey’s Bush Years Record Before He Becomes FBI Director”, ACLU)

Repeat: “He approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration (including) torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention.”

How does that square with the media’s portrayal of Comey as a man of unshakable integrity and honor?

It doesn’t square at all, does it? The media is obviously lying.

Now ask yourself this: Can a man who rubber-stamped waterboarding be trusted?

No, he can’t be trusted because he’s already proved himself to be inherently immoral.

Would a man like Comey agree to use his position and authority to try to “undo” the damage he did prior to the election when he announced the FBI was reopening its investigation of Hillary Clinton? In other words, was Comey being blackmailed to gather illicit material on Trump?

I think it’s very likely, although entirely unprovable. Even so, Comey has been way too eager to frame Trump for things for which he is not guilty. Why has he been so eager? Was he really just protecting himself as he says or was he gathering information to build a legal case against Trump?

In my mind, Comey tipped his hand when he said that he leaked the memo of his private conversation with Trump to the media in order to precipitate the appointment of a special prosecutor. Think about that for a minute. Here’s what he said:

“My judgment was I needed to get that out into the public square. So I asked a friend of mine to share the content of the memo with a reporter. I didn’t do it myself for a variety of reasons, but I asked him to because I thought that might prompt the appointment of a special counsel, so I asked a close friend of mine to do it.”

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Is Russiagate an investigation of foreign meddling into US elections or retaliation for Washington’s stunning defeat in Syria?

The opening of the Russiagate investigation closely coincides with the Battle of Aleppo, which was the turning point in the 6 year-long Syrian War. In July 2016 –the same month the FBI reportedly began its Russia hacking investigation — Russian-led forces launched their long-awaited Aleppo military offensive. Syrian, Iranian and Hezbollah fighters surrounded the city cutting off critical supplylines to the Sunni militants who remained inside a rapidly shrinking cauldron. In a bitterly-contested, winner-take-all slugfest, loyalist troops flushed the terrorists out of their hideouts and spiderholes, corralled them into smaller, isolated pockets, and forced them to either surrender or retreat. After months of aerial bombardment and door-to-door urban warfare, the opposition collapsed, the Syrian Army regained control of the city, and the broken jihadist militias fled eastward towards Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and beyond.

The CIA’s defeat was a humiliating blow to Director John Brennan whose support for mostly foreign-born extremists was supposed to achieve Washington’s regime change aspirations with less fallout than a full-blown ground war like Iraq. But the plan failed miserably casting serious doubt on Washington’s ability to maintain its regional hegemony or global domination. Russiagate, which is less of an ‘investigation’ than it is a public relations ‘smear campaign’, is the predictable reaction to Washington’s colossal defeat in Aleppo. It is an attempt to expand on the economic sanctions-meme, that is, to use all the tools at one’s disposal to wage war on the enemy. Russia has become the single greatest obstacle to Uncle Sam’s imperial ambitions; it is the emergent threat of which Paul Wolfowitz warned during the Bush years. This is why Russia is relentlessly demonized by the media, penalized with harsh economic sanctions, and disparaged among the allies. And this is why Brennan launched Russiagate. It’s a form of asymmetrical retaliation, 4th Generation “hybrid” warfare, all of which falls under the heading of “Full Spectrum Dominance”, the cornerstone of the Pentagon’s war doctrine.

According to Mother Jones, it was not the FBI that initiated the “Trump-Russia connection”.. but ..”Former CIA Director John Brennan says he was the one who got the ball rolling.”

Indeed. Brennan appears to be the central figure in this political fiasco, the font from which many of the spurious accusations, the bogus claims and the ominous pronouncements seem to emerge. Why is that?

It’s because Brennan’s army of Salafist misfits were clobbered in Aleppo leaving the Director with egg on his face. That’s why Brennan wants payback, he wants to hurt the people who hurt him, namely, Putin. That’s what Russiangate is all about: Revenge.

But how does Trump fit in with all this, after all, Trump had no part in Syria, and he certainly had nothing to do with Brennan’s defeat in Aleppo.

Trump was merely added to the mix after the smear campaign had already begun and the demonization process was in full-swing. It’s almost like Trump was an after-thought on the part of the perpetrators who must have figured they could kill two birds with one stone. The only problem is that they forgot that attacking a sitting president can be a lot thornier than slandering a foreign adversary. For one thing, it requires proof of wrongdoing which has been the glitch from the get-go. The media and the political class have mastered the accusations and fearmongering-part, they’re a just bit short on the proof-part which is what they really need to work on. Regrettably for them, they have yet to produce any hard evidence of foreign meddling or collusion in the 10 month-long probe. (Ex-DNI Director James Clapper has said repeatedly that there is no “smoking gun” proof of collusion.) On top of that, we now know that the foundation upon which they have built their pyramid of lies, the so called Intelligence Community Assessment, was written by hand-picked analysts whose conclusions were arguably twisted to fit the policy. In other words, the ICA is a thoroughly-unreliable document that represents the political objectives of its authors. In layman’s terms, it’s worthless.

In last week’s testimony before the House Intelligence Committee, Brennan demonstrated once again his uncanny ability to control the narrative. In tightly scripted comments, the former Spook Chief attempted to frame members of the Trump campaign by suggesting their relations with Russian officials were either improper or illegal, a dubious charge that he has yet to prove. Here’s part of what he said:

“I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign that I was concerned about because of known Russian efforts to suborn such individuals. It raised questions in my mind about whether Russia was able to gain the cooperation of those individuals.”

That was all the Washington Post needed to demand “a full investigation of Russia’s election-year hacking, (and) any sort of Trump campaign collusion.”

The Post doesn’t quibble about trivial matters like probable cause, reasonable doubt or the presumption of innocence. Heck, no. Let’s impanel a Grand Jury and let the impeachment proceedings begin! It’s a wonder that the W.P’s coverage is taken seriously by its readers. The bias is so glaring, you could cut it with a knife. And Politico is even worse. Here’s a blurb from Politico’s Austin Wright on the same Brennan quote from above:

“(Brennan’s) remarks, before the House Intelligence Committee, are the most direct acknowledgment yet by a current or former U.S. official that Russia sought to recruit Americans to help in its effort to affect the 2016 contest. The remarks also further complicate matters for President Donald Trump, who has dismissed the investigations into Russia’s election meddling as a “witch hunt.” (Politico)

This is delusional. There’s no evidence “that Russia sought to recruit Americans”. None. This is pure speculation based on the fearmongering blabber of a former CIA Director whose credibility is on a par with Bernie Madoff. We’re not talking about ‘honest’ Abe Lincoln here. We’re talking about the former head of the most diabolical organization in history, an organization that, since its inception in 1949, has engaged in all manner of demonic behavior including torture, death squads, rendition, black sites, kidnapping, extortion, drug trafficking, regime change and, of course, the arming, training and funding of Islamic extremists which is the source of the current terrorist plague that has engulfed the planet. It all started with the CIA. The idea that people take the specious palavering of this man at face value, is beyond belief. The truth is, Brennan’s appearance on the Hill was a thoroughly-rehearsed performance that was concocted to advance the geopolitical agenda of his paymasters, an agenda that, in all probability, involves a war with Russia. Isn’t that the real objective?

It is.

In the last week the media has been stumbling over themselves to report on the “new developments” in the investigation. As it happens, those new developments involve Trump’s son in law and chief advisor, Jared Kushner, who has been identified as a “person of interest”.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Let’s say you own a big US corporation but need help managing your domestic accounts. So you hire a bright, young man named Bruno who just graduated from Harvard Business School with a Masters in corporate finance. And the first day on the job, you discover that Bruno has secretly employed a private detective who has obtained subpoena power to dig through all of your business accounts, all your investments past and present, all your taxes going back decades, and any personal transactions you might have made in the last 20 years or so. And, oh yeah, and he also has the authority to interview anyone he chooses, including people who might have a grudge against you or who lost money on one of your dodgy real estate deals or who simply doesn’t like the way you comb your hair. And, of course, Bruno knows that the information he gathers is going to be deliberately tweaked to look as suspicious as possible, then it’s going to be leaked to the press and splashed across the headlines, then it’s going to be presented as evidence to a Grand Jury, and then, finally– after months of excruciating testimony and nonstop mud-slinging– it will be used in criminal proceedings that will lead your removal as CEO of your corporation.

How would you feel about that? Would you feel like your new employee had betrayed you? Would you think that Bruno was a back-stabbing scoundrel who was secretly working for your enemies?

Rod Rosenstein is Bruno. The man is a skunk, there’s no two-ways about it.

And, yes, I know, people are going to swarm to Rosenstein’s defense and say, “Yeah, but, Trump is a bloviating buffoon and a mentally-unstable despot.” And, they’re right, too, the man is a menace, a narcissist and maybe even a crackpot. Just look at the Saudi arms deal where Trump agreed to provide hundreds of billions of dollars of weapons to a fanatical government that will undoubtedly use them to arm its jihadist army in Syria or kill women and children in Yemen. It just shows that Trump is a vicious, unprincipled militarist. But that doesn’t change what Rosenstein did. People need to look beyond Trump’s failings to appreciate what type of man we’re dealing with here. Rosenstein is a duplicitous back-stabbing serpent. End of story.

When a president makes an appointment, like Deputy Attorney General, the assumption is that the appointee is going to play for the home team. That doesn’t mean that Rosenstein was expected to do anything dishonest or illegal. Not at all. He was simply expected to be moderately loyal and defend the administration against politically-motivated attacks. That’s it. But that was too much for Rosenstein whose first big decision as Deputy AG was to pull the rug out from under his boss, betray his team, and sabotage the administration’s entire political agenda. He blew up the whole damn operation with one sweep of the hand. Kaboom.

By appointing a Special Counsel, Rosenstein not only destroyed any chance Trump had at achieving his policy objectives, he also effectively rolled-back the results of the 2016 presidential election.

Not bad for a day’s work, eh?

We can now be 100 percent certain that Trump’s political agenda will never get off the ground. His tax plan, his infrastructure plan, his health care plan; all of them have gone up in smoke thanks to Rosenstein. Which is good, right, since the Trump’s “pamper the rich and screw-the-working-man” plan was crappy policy anyway? So, good riddance.

But was that Rosenstein’s decision to make? Is that how democracy is supposed to work? Does one unelected, meddlesome lawyer at the DOJ get to overturn the results of the election and bring the government to a screeching halt?

No. That’s not how the system is supposed to work. The president is supposed to set the agenda because, well, because he’s the president and that’s what the people voted for. It’s called democracy. But Rosenstein doesn’t like democracy, he’d rather do the work of his paymasters who want to see Trump drawn and quartered before he’s given the boot.

“His paymasters”? Rosenstein has paymasters?

Yer darn right, he does. Rosenstein didn’t make the decision to appoint a Special Counsel by himself. That’s baloney. He got his marching orders from someone else higher up the foodchain. That’s obvious. Does anyone seriously believe that a second-string attorney at the Justice Department would launch a full-blown attack on the president of the United States unless he got the greenlight from the deep-state fatcats who operate behind the scenes?

No way. If the big boys weren’t on board, the media would have blown Rosenstein out of the water 5 minutes after he made the announcement. As it stands, the witchhunt is going forward without a shred of solid evidence, without any eyewitnesses, without a hint of wrongdoing, and without any probable cause. It’s like a novel by Franz Kafka only everyone already knows how it ends.

And Rosenstein didn’t pick hatchetman Robert Mueller by himself either. That’s more malarkey. Mueller was picked by the same shadowy throng of elites that selected the 9-11 Commission, the big money guys who own this fecking country lock, stock and barrel. In this case, they wanted a political assassin who could be trusted to do everything in his power to force Trump to resign. Mueller was the perfect man for the job, a cold-blooded Mafia hitman who won’t leave his fingerprints at the scene of the crime. In his more than 10-year stint at the FBI, Mueller managed to conceal his utter contempt for the law behind a mask of smug sincerity and icy self-righteousness. His qualifications speak for themselves. Here’s a little background on Mueller from Sputnik News:

“Robert Mueller, picked as special prosecutor to investigate President Donald Trump, violated the US Constitution as FBI Director by using secret domestic spy programs, National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower William Binney told Sputnik.

“My problem with Mueller is that he agreed with and used the Stellar Wind spying program at NSA against common crime since 2001,” Binney said Wednesday. “He admitted to this in a 2011 interview with [Time magazine correspondent] Bart Gellman.”…

Binney said that Mueller’s willingness to use secret espionage surveillance techniques designed only for national security functions against suspects in regular criminal investigations revealed his willingness to ignore or break safeguards in the US Constitution.

“This means he [Mueller] did not live up to his oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution against foreign and domestic threats. So, he clearly has a selective view of how you apply the Constitution,” Binney explained…

James Comey, Mueller’s successor as FBI Director, who was fired by Trump on May 9 had also been willing to ignore the US Constitution in order to use NSA data collected without any legal warrant against ordinary criminals, Binney recalled.” (“Special Counsel for Russia Probe Violated Constitution – NSA Whistleblower”, Sputnik)

Repeat: He used “secret espionage surveillance techniques designed only for national security functions against suspects in regular criminal investigations.”

Nice. So instead of dogging-down the crooked bankers on Wall Street who blew up the financial system and fleeced We The People out of trillions of dollars, Mueller spent his time stomping on the Fourth Amendment so he could add a few more warm bodies to our ballooning prison population. Way to go, Bob.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Why is it a “conspiracy theory” to think that a disgruntled Democratic National Committee staffer gave WikiLeaks the DNC emails, but not a conspiracy theory to think the emails were provided by Russia?

Why?

Which is the more likely scenario: That a frustrated employee leaked damaging emails to embarrass his bosses or a that foreign government hacked DNC computers for some still-unknown reason?

That’s a no-brainer, isn’t it?

Former-DNC employee, Seth Rich, not only had access to the emails, but also a motive. He was pissed about the way the Clinton crowd was “sandbagging” Bernie Sanders. In contrast, there’s neither evidence nor motive connecting Russia to the emails. On top of that, WikiLeaks founder, Julien Assange (a man of impeccable integrity) has repeatedly denied that Russia gave him the emails which suggests the government investigation is completely misdirected. The logical course of action, would be to pursue the leads that are most likely to bear fruit, not those that originate from one’s own political bias. But, of course, logic has nothing to do with the current investigation, it’s all about politics and geopolitics.

We don’t know who killed Seth Rich and we’re not going to speculate on the matter here. But we find it very strange that neither the media nor the FBI have pursued leads in the case that challenge the prevailing narrative on the Russia hacking issue. Why is that? Why is the media so eager to blame Russia when Rich looks like the much more probable suspect?

And why have the mainstream news organizations put so much energy into discrediting the latest Fox News report, when– for the last 10 months– they’ve showed absolutely zero interest in Rich’s death at all?

According to Fox News:

“The Democratic National Committee staffer who was gunned down on July 10 on a Washington, D.C., street just steps from his home had leaked thousands of internal emails to WikiLeaks, law enforcement sources told Fox News.

A federal investigator who reviewed an FBI forensic report detailing the contents of DNC staffer Seth Rich’s computer generated within 96 hours after his murder, said Rich made contact with WikiLeaks through Gavin MacFadyen, a now-deceased American investigative reporter, documentary filmmaker, and director of WikiLeaks who was living in London at the time….

Rod Wheeler, a retired Washington homicide detective and Fox News contributor investigating the case on behalf of the Rich family, made the WikiLeaks claim, which was corroborated by a federal investigator who spoke to Fox News….

“I have seen and read the emails between Seth Rich and Wikileaks,” the federal investigator told Fox News, confirming the MacFadyen connection. He said the emails are in possession of the FBI, while the stalled case is in the hands of the Washington Police Department.” (“Family of slain DNC staffer Seth Rich blasts detective over report of WikiLeaks link”, Fox News)

Okay, so where’s the computer? Who’s got Rich’s computer? Let’s do the forensic work and get on with it.

But the Washington Post and the other bogus news organizations aren’t interested in such matters because it doesn’t fit with their political agenda. They’d rather take pot-shots at Fox for running an article that doesn’t square with their goofy Russia hacking story. This is a statement on the abysmal condition of journalism today. Headline news has become the province of perception mandarins who use the venue to shape information to their own malign specifications, and any facts that conflict with their dubious storyline, are savagely attacked and discredited. Journalists are no longer investigators that keep the public informed, but paid assassins who liquidate views that veer from the party-line.

WikiLeaks never divulges the names of the people who provide them with information. Even so, Assange has not only shown an active interest in the Seth Rich case, but also offered a $20,000 reward for anyone providing information leading to the arrest and conviction of Rich’s murder. Why? And why did he post a link to the Fox News article on his Twitter account on Tuesday?

I don’t know, but if I worked for the FBI or the Washington Post, I’d sure as hell be beating the bushes to find out. And not just because it might help in Rich’s murder investigation, but also, because it could shed light on the Russia fiasco which is being used to lay the groundwork for impeachment proceedings. So any information that challenges the government version of events, could actually change the course of history.

Have you ever heard of Craig Murray?

Murray should be the government’s star witness in the DNC hacking scandal, instead, no one even knows who he is. But if we trust what Murray has to say, then we can see that the Russia hacking story is baloney. The emails were “leaked” by insiders not “hacked” by a foreign government. Here’s the scoop from Robert Parry at Consortium News:

“Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray, has suggested that the DNC leak came from a “disgruntled” Democrat upset with the DNC’s sandbagging of the Sanders campaign and that the Podesta leak came from the U.S. intelligence community….He (Murray) appears to have undertaken a mission for WikiLeaks to contact one of the sources (or a representative) during a Sept. 25 visit to Washington where he says he met with a person in a wooded area of American University. ….

Though Murray has declined to say exactly what the meeting in the woods was about, he may have been passing along messages about ways to protect the source from possible retaliation, maybe even an extraction plan if the source was in some legal or physical danger…Murray also suggested that the DNC leak and the Podesta leak came from two different sources, neither of them the Russian government.

“The Podesta emails and the DNC emails are, of course, two separate things and we shouldn’t conclude that they both have the same source,” Murray said. “In both cases we’re talking of a leak, not a hack, in that the person who was responsible for getting that information out had legal access to that information…

Scott Horton then asked, “Is it fair to say that you’re saying that the Podesta leak came from inside the intelligence services, NSA [the electronic spying National Security Agency] or another agency?”

“I think what I said was certainly compatible with that kind of interpretation, yeah,” Murray responded. “In both cases they are leaks by Americans.”

(“A Spy Coup in America?”, Robert Parry, Consortium News)

With all the hullabaloo surrounding the Russia hacking case, you’d think that Murray’s eyewitness account would be headline news, but not in Homeland Amerika where the truth is kept as far from the front page as humanly possible.

Bottom line: The government has a reliable witness (Murray) who can positively identify the person who hacked the DNC emails and, so far, they’ve showed no interest in his testimony at all. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit weird?

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

There’s no proof that Russia hacked the US elections.

There’s no proof that Russian officials or Russian agents colluded with members of the Trump campaign.

There’s no proof that Russia provided material support of any kind for the Trump campaign or that Russian agents hacked Hillary Clinton’s emails or that Russian officials provided Wikileaks with emails that were intended to sabotage Hillary’s chances to win the election.

So far, no one in any of the 17 US intelligence agencies has stepped forward and verified the claims of Russian meddling or produced a scintilla of hard evidence that Russia was in anyway involved in the 2016 elections.

No proof means no proof. It means that the people and organizations that are making these uncorroborated claims have no basis for legal action, no presumption of wrongdoing, and no grounds for prosecution. They have nothing. Zilch. Their claims, charges and accusations are like the soap bubbles we give to our children and grandchildren. The brightly-colored bubbles wobble across the sky for a minute or two and then, Poof, they vanish into the ether. The claims of Russia hacking are like these bubbles. They are empty, unsubstantiated rumors completely devoid of substance. Poof.

It has been eight months since the inception of this unprecedentedly-pathetic and infinitely-irritating propaganda campaign, and in those eight months neither the media nor the politicos nor the Intel agents who claim to be certain that Russia meddled in US elections, have produced anything that even remotely resembles evidence. Instead, they have trotted out the same lie over and over again ad nauseam from every newspaper, every tabloid and every televised news program in the country. Over and over and over again. The media’s persistence is nearly as impressive as its cynicism, which is the one quality that they seem to have mastered. The coverage has been relentless, ubiquitous, pernicious and mendacious. The only problem is that there’s not a grain of truth to any of it. It is all 100 percent, unalloyed baloney.

So it doesn’t matter how many Democratic senators and congressmen disgrace themselves by lighting their hair on fire and howling about “evil Putin” or the imaginary “threats to our precious democracy”. Nor does it matter how many hyperbolic articles appear in media alleging sinister activities and espionage by diabolical Moscow Central. It doesn’t matter because there is have absolutely zero solid evidence to support their ludicrous and entirely politically-motivated claims.

Whether Russia was involved in the US elections or not, is a matter of pure speculation. But speculation is not sufficient grounds for appointing a special prosecutor, nor are the lies and misinformation that appear daily in our leading newspapers, like the dissembling New York Times, the dissembling Washington Post and the dissembling Wall Street Journal. The call for a special prosecutor is not based on evidence, it is based on politics, the politics of personal destruction. The Democrats and the media want this tool so they can rummage through whatever private information or paperwork anyone in the Trump administration might possess. So while they might not dig up anything relevant to the Russia hacking investigation, they will certainly gather enough sordid or suspicious information to annihilate the people in their crosshairs. And that’s precisely what the special prosecutor provision is designed to do; it provides the administration’s rivals with the weapons they need to conduct a massive fishing expedition aimed at character assassination and, ultimately, impeachment.

But, why?

Because Donald Trump had the audacity to win an election that was earmarked for establishment favorite and globalist warmonger-in-chief, Hillary Clinton. That’s what this witch hunt is all about, sour grapes.

But why has Russia been chosen as the target in this deep state-media scam? What has Russia done to deserve all the negative press and unsupported claims of criminal meddling?

That’s easy. Just look at a map. For the last 16 years, the US has been rampaging across North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia. Washington intends to control critical oil and natural gas reserves in the ME, establish military bases across Central Asia, and remain the dominant player in an area of that is set to become the most populous and prosperous region of the world. It’s the Great Game all over again, only this time-around, Uncle Sam is in the drivers seat not the Queen of England.

But one country has upset that plan, blocked that plan, derailed that plan.

Russia.

Russia has stopped Washington’s murderous marauding and genocidal depredations in Ukraine and Syria, which is why the US foreign policy establishment is so pissed-off. US elites aren’t used to obstacles.

For the last quarter of a century– since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the dissolution of the Soviet Union– the world has been Washington’s oyster. If the president of the United States wanted to invade a country in the Middle East, kill a million people, and leave the place in a smoldering pile of rubble, then who could stop him?

Nobody. But now that’s all changed. Now evil Putin has thrown up a roadblock to US hegemony in Syria and Ukraine. Now Washington’s landbridge to Central Asia has been split in two, and its plan to control vital pipeline corridors from Qatar to the EU is no longer viable. Russia has stopped Washington dead-in-its tracks and Washington is furious.

The anti-Russia hysteria in the western media is equal to the pain the US foreign policy establishment is currently experiencing. And the reason the foreign policy establishment is in so much pain, is because they are not getting their way. It’s that simple. Their global strategy is in a shambles because Russia will not let them topple the Syrian government, install their own puppet regime, redraw the map of the Middle East, run roughshod over international law, and tighten their grip on another battered war-torn part of the world.

So now Russia must pay. Putin must be demonized and derided. The American people must be taught to hate Russia and all-things Russian. And, most of all, Russia must be blamed for anything and everything under the sun, including the firing of police-state Reichsführer, James Comey, who– at various times in his career– “approved or defended some of the worst abuses of the Bush administration….including torture, warrantless wiretapping, and indefinite detention.” (ACLU)

This is the ethically-challenged scalawag the Democrats are now defending tooth in nail.

It’s pathetic.

Russia has become the all-purpose punching bag because Washington’s plans for global domination have gone up in smoke.

The truth is, Putin’s done us all a big favor.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

“Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad said that his country has information that Jordan is planning to send its troops into southern Syria in cooperation with the United States….’Jordan is not an independent country. Whatever the United States wants, it will happen,’ said Assad.”

— Middle East Monitor

“In the event of a de-facto partition of Syria, the US and its allies will get a strategically important region. It is through Deir Ezzor that the proposed gas pipeline from Qatar is supposed to run….The Deir Ezzor province is also home to Syria’s largest oil deposit, the Al-Omar. …the city and the province are of particular value since the deposits there contain the highly valuable light sweet crude usable in the production of gasoline and diesel fuel.”

— South Front, “The Stronghold of Deir Ezzor; What You Need to Know”

The United States is not going to launch a preemptive attack on North Korea. The risks far outweigh the rewards and, besides, the US has no intention of getting bogged down in a conflict that doesn’t advance its geopolitical objectives. The saber-rattling is just an attempt to divert attention from the Syria-Jordan border where the US and Jordan are massing troops and equipment for an invasion of Syria. That’s what’s really going on. The Korean fiasco is a smokescreen.

True, the Trump administration is milking the situation for all its worth, but that doesn’t mean that they want a war with the North. That’s not it at all. Washington wants to deploy its controversial THAAD anti-missile system to South Korea, but it needs a pretext to do so. Hence, the ominous threat of an “unstable, nuclear-armed North Korea”, that’s all the justification Washington needed to get its new weapons system deployed. Mission Accomplished.

But the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) isn’t aimed at North Korea, it’s aimed at China, and China knows it which is why it has protested its deployment repeatedly. The US wants to surround China and Russia with military bases and missile systems that are integrated into its broader nuclear weapons system. These lethal systems are a crucial part of Washington’s plan to pivot to Asia and rule the world into the next century. Here’s the rundown from Tass:

“Anti-missile elements that are being deployed around the world are part of a very dangerous global project aimed at securing US’ overall overwhelming superiority to the prejudice of security interests of other states….The US missile defense architecture is tilting the strategic balance of forces in the area of offensive weapons and creates more and more serious risks of global instability.” (“US anti-missile systems in Eastern Europe violate INF Treaty”)

And here’s how Russian President Vladimir Putin summed it up:

“The US is developing an anti-missile defense system which”….when it is operational… “there will be a moment in time when our entire nuclear capability will be neutralized, which means that the entire global balance of power will be overturned.. This means one of the powers will have absolute security and be able to do whatever it likes in regional conflicts. We’re talking about unrivaled power in global conflicts. ..This system forces us to create weapons that can nullify the system asymmetrically.” (Tass)

Is missile defense something the American people should want?

Heck no. Just think of the number of people that Uncle Sam has slaughtered in the last 16 years. Now try to imagine if all the constraints on Washington’s rampaging were removed allowing the US to conduct its bloody war on the world with complete impunity?

No one in their right mind would ever give the Washington crazies that kind of power. It’s a prescription for global annihilation. Besides, absolute security for one country means no security for everyone else.

But deploying the THAAD anti-missile system is just one part of Washington’s North Korea swindle. The fear-mongering is also being used to grease the wheels of the Military Industrial Complex (MIC). Here’s the scoop from The Hill:

“Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) push for a $7.5 billion fund to bulk up the U.S. military’s capabilities in the Asia-Pacific is gaining momentum as tensions with North Korea mount. The commander of U.S. forces in the region threw his support behind the idea this week, “This kind of money can help us bring together our allies and partners,” said Patrick Cronin, senior director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security. …The … proposal has gained more visibility amid the intensifying concerns over North Korea and its nuclear program.” (“McCain plan gains momentum amid North Korea threats”, The Hill)

So the MIC lackeys in Congress had already been pushing this latest boondoggle, but they needed a trumped up crisis in North Korea to put them over the finish line. Typically, the process is called “creative advertising”, which means scaring the shit out of the public so you can rip them off. Here’s more from the same article:
“I’d like to thank Chairman McCain and this committee for proposing and supporting the Asia-Pacific Stability Initiative,” Adm. Harry Harris, commander of U.S. Pacific Command, said at Thursday’s hearing. “This effort will reassure our regional partners and send a strong signal to potential adversaries of our persistent commitment to the region.”

The weapons manufacturers love sugar-daddy McCain who’s always on-hand with gobs of moolah.

Here’s more: “We can thank North Korea for one thing in this,” said Harry Kazianis, director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest”. “They’re amplifying the imbalance in the Asia-Pacific.” (The Hill)

Good idea, let’s thank North Korea for this latest windfall for the weapons makers. Why not? Let’s send Kim a nice big valentine from the American taxpayer with John McCain’s name writ large at the bottom.

In any event, Washington’s policy towards North Korea hasn’t changed. All the chest thumping and fireworks are just part of a circus sideshow designed to justify additional defense splurging and missile deployment. At the same time, the media is trying to divert attention from critical developments in the Middle East, particularly the Syria-Jordan border where Washington has rallied its proxy-fighters into a makeshift army that will (likely) invade southern Syria, charge northward to Deir Ezzor, establish a no-fly zone over the occupied territory, and partition the area east of the Euphrates preventing loyalist forces from reestablishing Syria’s sovereign borders. That appears to be the basic game-plan. Check this out from the Middle East Monitor:

“The Syrian regime of President Bashar Al-Assad said that his country has information that Jordan is planning to send its troops into southern Syria in cooperation with the United States…

“We have this information, not only from mass media, but from different sources”…
Speaking to The Washington Post, King Abdullah of Jordan reiterated that a planned joint operation could take place against terrorists. “It is a challenge, but we are ready to face it in cooperation with the US and Britain.” (“Assad accuses Jordan of planning Syria invasion”, Middle East Monitor)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Is Vladimir Putin the most popular Russian leader of all time?

It certainly looks like it. In a recent survey conducted by the All-Russia Public Opinion Research Center, Putin’s public approval rating soared to an eye-popping 86 percent, which is twice that of Obama’s when he left office in 2016. And what’s more surprising is that Putin’s popularity has held up through a severe economic slump and nearly two decades in office. Unlike most politicians, whose shelf-life is somewhere between 4 to 8 years, the public’s admiration for Putin has only grown stronger over time.

And the phenom is not limited to Russia either. According to a recent survey by the pollster YouGov, “Putin is the third most admired man in Egypt, the fourth in China, Saudi Arabia and Morocco, and the sixth most admired man in Germany, France and Sweden.” And don’t even mention Syria, where naming babies after the Russian president is all-the-rage.

Putin also won Time magazine’s prestigious Person of the Year award in 2007, and has remained among the top ten on that list for the last decade. The only place that Putin is not popular is in the United States where he is relentlessly demonized in the media as a “KGB thug” or the “new Hitler”. According to a 2017 survey by Gallup, only “22% of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Putin” while “72% hold an unfavorable opinion of him.”

There’s no doubt that the media’s personal attacks on Putin have dramatically impacted his popularity. The question that open-minded people must ask themselves, is whether their opinion of Putin is the result of their own research or if their views have been shaped by a vicious, corporate-owned media that denigrates anyone who stands in the way of Washington’s geopolitical ambitions? My advice to these people is to simply read Putin’s words for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The western media claims that Putin is responsible for a number of crimes including the killing of well-known journalists and political rivals. But is it true? Is the man, who is so revered by the vast majority of Russians, a common Mafia hitman who snuffs out his enemies without batting an eye?

I can’t answer that, but having followed Putin’s career (and read many of his speeches) since he replaced Boris Yeltsin in December 1999, I think it’s highly unlikely. The more probable explanation is that Russia’s foreign policy has created insurmountable hurtles for Washington in places like Ukraine and Syria, so Washington has directed its propaganda ministry (aka– the media) to smear Putin as an evil tyrant and a thug. At least that’s the way the media has behaved in the past.

The US political class loved Yeltsin, of course, because Yeltsin was a compliant buffoon who eviscerated the state and caved in to all the demands of the western corporations. Not so Putin, who has made great strides in rebuilding the country by nationalizing part of the oil industry, asserting his authority over the oligarchs, and restoring the power of the central government.

More important, Putin has repeatedly condemned Washington’s unilateral war-mongering around the world, in fact, the Russian president has become the de facto leader of a growing resistance movement whose primary goal is to stop Washington’s destabilizing regime change wars and rebuild global security on the bedrock principle of national sovereignty. Here’s how Putin summed it up at Valdai:

“We have no doubt that sovereignty is the central notion of the entire system of international relations. Respect for it and its consolidation will help underwrite peace and stability both at the national and international levels…First of all, there must be equal and indivisible security for all states.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, ” The Future in Progress: Shaping the World of Tomorrow, From the Office of the President of Russia)

This is a familiar theme with Putin and one that goes back to his famous Munich manifesto in 2007, a speech that anyone with even the slightest interest in foreign affairs should read in full. Here’s an excerpt:

“We are seeing a greater and greater disdain for the basic principles of international law. And independent legal norms are, as a matter of fact, coming increasingly closer to one state’s legal system. One state and, of course, first and foremost the United States, has overstepped its national borders in every way. This is visible in the economic, political, cultural and educational policies it imposes on other nations. Well, who likes this? Who is happy about this?….”

“I am convinced that we have reached that decisive moment when we must seriously think about the architecture of global security. And we must proceed by searching for a reasonable balance between the interests of all participants in the international dialogue.” (“Wars not diminishing’: Putin’s iconic 2007 Munich speech, you tube)

The Munich speech was delivered a full four years after Washington launched its bloody invasion of Iraq, an invasion that Putin bitterly opposed. The speech shows a maturity of thought on Putin’s part who, unlike other world leaders, isn’t quick to judge or draw hasty conclusions. Instead, he takes his time, analyzes a situation thoroughly, and then acts accordingly. Once he’s made up his mind, he rarely wavers. He’s not a flip flopper.

Putin’s opposition to unipolar world rule, that is, Washington dictating policy and everyone else falling in line, is not a sign of anti-Americanism, but pragmatism. Washington’s 16 year-long rampage across Central Asia, North Africa and the Middle East, has only intensified crises, fueled instability, bred terrorism, and increased the death and destruction. There have been no victories in the War on Terror, just endless violence and mountains of carnage. On top of that (as Putin says) “No one feels safe.”

This is why Putin has drawn a line in the sand in Syria and Ukraine. The Russian president has now committed troops and military aircraft to stop Washington’s aggressive behavior. Once again, this is not because he hates America or seeks a confrontation, but because Washington’s support for violent extremists requires a firm response. There’s no other way. At the same time, Moscow continues to actively seek a peaceful settlement for both crises. Here’s Putin again:

“Only after ending armed conflicts and ensuring the peaceful development of all countries will we be able to talk about economic progress and the resolution of social, humanitarian and other key problems….

It is essential to provide conditions for creative labour and economic growth at a pace that would put an end to the division of the world into permanent winners and permanent losers. The rules of the game should give the developing economies at least a chance to catch up with those we know as developed economies. We should work to level out the pace of economic development, and brace up backward countries and regions so as to make the fruit of economic growth and technological progress accessible to all. Particularly, this would help to put an end to poverty, one of the worst contemporary problems.”…

Another priority is global healthcare…. All people in the world, not only the elite, should have the right to healthy, long and full lives. This is a noble goal. In short, we should build the foundation for the future world today by investing in all priority areas of human development.” (Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club)

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

The Pentagon’s plan for seizing and occupying territory in east Syria is beginning to take shape. According to a Fox News exclusive:

“The Islamic State has essentially moved its so-called capital in Syria… ISIS is now centered in Deir ez-Zur, roughly 90 miles southeast of Raqqa, the officials said.”
(“ISIS moves its capital in Syria”, FOX News )

The move by ISIS corresponds to the secretive massing of US troops and military equipment on the Syria-Jordan border. It creates the perfect pretext for a ground invasion followed by a long-term military occupation in an area that Washington has sought to control for the last 18 months. Here’s more on the topic from South Front:

“The US military is reportedly concentrating troops and military equipment at the Syrian-Jordanian border. Local sources said that about 20 US Army armoured vehicles (including battle tanks and artillery pieces) carried on trucks were spotted in Al-Mafraq. US troops were allegedly accompanied with the Jordanian Army’s 3rd Division.

The US Special Operation Forces, the UK Special Operation Forces and units from some other countries -have been conducting operations across the Syrian-Jordanian border for a long time. They even had a secret military facility inside Syria where members the so-called New Syrian Army militant group were deployed. However, it was the first time when a notable number of US armoured vehicles was reported there. The US Ro-Ro ship Liberty Passion, loaded with vehicles, had arrived to the Jordanian port of Al-Aqapa few days ago. These moves followed a meeting between the Jordanian King and the US president.

Thus, the US-led coalition could prepare a large-scale military operation in southern Syria. The goal of the operation will likely be to get control over the Syrian-Iraqi border and to reach Deir Ezzor. It will involve militants trained in camps in Jordan and the US-led coalition’s forces.” (“US Military Deployment at Syrian-Jordanian Border, Military Escalation”, Global Research)

Deir Ezzor is a strategically-located city along the Euphrates that the Pentagon needs in order to tighten its grip on the eastern quadrant of the country. Once Deir Ezzor is taken, the US can launch its CIA-backed jihadist militias back into Syria at will putting more pressure on Damascus and eventually forcing regime change. That is the plan at least, whether it works or not is anyone’s guess. The deployment of troops on the Jordanian border suggests that Washington’s proxy-army, the mainly-Kurdish militia or SDF, is either unwilling to conduct operations as far south as Deir Ezzor or doesn’t have the military strength to beat ISIS on its own. In any event, the Pentagon needs fresh troops and equipment to succeed. Here’s more from South Front:

“US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis presented a preliminary version of the new plan to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq, a Pentagon spokesman, Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, said on February 28th. ….The plan submitted by Mattis also includes a proposal to increase the size of the US military contingent to ISIS in Syria… (Note–There are already 400 Special Forces operating alongside the SDF) Without significant US presence on the ground, the SDF will hardly be able to retake Raqqah from ISIS without incurring unacceptable losses….

As to Deir Ezzor, the US can try to use militants trained in Jordan to launch an attack on Deir Ezzor from the southern direction. However, the total failure of this US-backed group in 2016 leaves little chance that it’s able to combat ISIS successfully in 2017. So, the US and its allies will be pushed to deploy special forces units or even ground troops to support the advance there.

The Polish Special Forces have already deployed to Jordan where they will operate alongside their French and British counterparts. According to reports, the US-led block created a joint command center to coordinate efforts of all sides, which will support the advance against ISIS in the area.” (“New US Strategy Against ISIS And War In Syria. What To Expect?”, South Front)

Here’s more from Fox News:

“U.S. military drones have watched hundreds of ISIS “bureaucrats,” or administrators, leaving Raqqa in the past two months for the city of al-Mayadin located further down the Euphrates River from Deir el-Zour.”

Let me get this straight: US military drones located hundreds of ISIS terrorists traveling across the open dessert, but did nothing to stop them. Why?

Is it because the Pentagon needs ISIS in Deir Ezzor to justify a ground invasion? That’s certainly the most plausible explanation.

More from Fox: “Questions remain about the hold force necessary to keep the peace after ISIS is uprooted from Raqqa.”

In other words, readers are supposed to believe that the Pentagon doesn’t already have a plan in place for occupying the cities when the siege ends. That’s baloney. Check out this excerpt from an article by Whitney Webb:

“The Syrian city of Raqqa – the “stronghold” of terror group ISIS – will be governed by a “civilian council” with the support of U.S. troops following its “liberation” from terrorists….

On Tuesday, the U.S.-allied militias …announced that they had formed a “civilian council” to govern Raqqa after its capture from Daesh militants. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF)… claim to have spent six months setting up the council, with a preparatory committee having met “with the people and important tribal figures of Raqqa city to find out their opinions on how to govern it,” Middle East Eye reported.

SDF spokesman Talal Selo stated that some towns near Raqqa had already been turned over to the council following a successful operation to drive out Daesh forces.

The U.S. military had previously hinted that power would be given to rebel groups following Raqqa’s “liberation”…(“After ‘Liberation,’ U.S. To Give Control Of Raqqa To Rebels, Not Syrian Government”, Information Clearinghouse)

Washington has already chosen a group of puppets who will follow their directives when the fighting finally ends. The leaders will be selected from rebel groups and tribal elders that pledge their allegiance to Washington. The new arrangement will prevent the Syrian government from reclaiming a sizable portion of its sovereign territory or reestablishing control over its borders. A splintered Syria will strengthen US-Israeli regional hegemony and provide the land needed for future US military bases.

But why would Washington opt to occupy another country when previous occupations (like Iraq) have gone so badly?

There’s a two word answer to that question: Nadia Schadlow. President Trump’s National Security Advisor H R McMaster recently hired Schadlow to join his staff as a deputy assistant to the president for national security strategy. Schadlow recently published a book that “examined 15 cases in which the United States Army intervened abroad, and the service’s role in political and economic reconstruction.” According to the Wall Street Journal:

(Schadlow’s) “War and the Art of Governance” consists of a collection of case studies, beginning with the Mexican-American War and ending in Iraq. Each examines how the U.S. attempted…to translate battlefield victory into a lasting and beneficial political outcome.
Ms. Schadlow’s case studies tell an often doleful story of America allowing victories to fall apart, leaving behind a suffering populace that should have been rewarded with a better peace. She asserts convincingly that postconflict governance can only be done well by soldiers….

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)
 

Let’s say you know someone who wears funny blue suits and doesn’t share your views on politics. So you decide to stick this person in a cage and put him on a diet of bread and water until he agrees to change his wardrobe and adjust his thinking. And when he sits quietly on the cage-floor with his hands folded, you ignore him altogether and deal with other matters. But when he stomps his feet in anger or violently shakes the cage, you throw cold water on him or poke him in the back with a sharp stick.

How long do you think it’ll take before your prisoner changes his clothes and comes around to “exceptional” way of seeing things?

It’s never going to happen, is it, because your whole approach is wrong. People don’t respond positively to hectoring, intimidation and cruelty, in fact, they deeply resent it and fight back. And, yet, this is exactly the way Washington has treated North Korea for the last 64 years. Washington’s policy towards the DPRK is not comprised of “carrots and sticks”; it’s sticks and bigger sticks. It’s entirely based on the assumption that you can persuade people to do what you want them to do through humiliation, intimidation and brute force.

But the policy hasn’t worked, has it, because now the North has nuclear weapons, which is precisely the outcome that Washington wanted to avoid. So we don’t even have to make the case that US policy is a flop, because the North’s nuclear arsenal does that for us. Case closed!

So the question is: What do we do now?

Three things:

First, we have to understand that the current policy failed to achieve what it was supposed to achieve. It was the wrong approach and it produced an outcome that we did not want. We could argue that Washington’s belligerence and threats pushed the North to build nukes, but we’ll save that for some other time. The main thing is to acknowledge that the policy was wrong.

Second, we have to understand that situation has changed in a fundamental way. North Korea now has nuclear weapons, which means that North Korea is a nuclear weapons state. US policy-makers need to repeat that to themselves and let it sink in. It changes the calculus entirely. When one realizes that the North now has the power to reduce Osaka, Tokyo or Seoul to smoldering rubble with one flip of the switch, that has to be taken seriously. In practical terms, it means the so called “military option” is off the table, it’s no longer a viable option. The military option will lead to a nuclear exchange which — by the way– is not the outcome we want.

Third, we need examine the new threats to US national security that have arisen due to our 64 year-long failed policy, and respond accordingly.

What does that mean?

It means that Washington’s idiot policy has put us all at risk because the North is fine-tuning its ballistic missile technology so it can hit targets in the US with nuclear weapons. This didn’t have to happen, but it is happening and we need to deal with it. Fast.

So what do we do?

We do what every civilized country in the world does; we modify our policy, we turbo-charge our diplomatic efforts, we engage the North in constructive dialogue, we agree to provide generous incentives for the North to suspend or abandon its nuclear weapons programs, and we agree to provide the North with written security guarantees including a treaty that formally ends the war, explicitly states that the US will not launch another aggression against the North, and a strict time-frame for the withdrawal of all US occupation forces and weaponry on the Korean peninsula.

That’s what we do. That’s how we put an end to this unfortunate and entirely avoidable geopolitical fiasco.

We sign a treaty that requires both sides to gradually deescalate, meet certain clearly-articulated benchmarks, and peacefully resolve the long-festering situation through focused and results-oriented negotiation.

And what is the Trump administration doing?

The exact opposite. They’ve ratchetted up the incendiary rhetoric, put the troops on high alert, moved a carrier strike-group into Korean waters, and threatened to use the military option. After 64 years of failure, they’ve decided to double-down on the same policy.

Washington is incapable of learning from its mistakes. It keeps stepping on the same rake over and over again.

MIKE WHITNEY lives in Washington state. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press). Hopeless is also available in a Kindle edition. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

(Reprinted from Counterpunch by permission of author or representative)