Sergey Lavrov and John Kerry
Kerry: 'No, really, I DO have the final say on all foreign policy decisions!'
The Russian cellist and conductor Sergei Roldugin recently shared an eye-opening anecdote regarding Putin and Obama. He apparently told a group of journalists - "confidentially" - that "Obama's bodyguards are not trusting enough to leave him alone with Putin, so that they can speak one-on-one." Sure, Putin is a martial arts master and ex-KGB, but to imagine he would put Obama in a chokehold or poison his tea is ridiculous. There has to be another reason, besides concerns for his physical safety, why Obama needs minders during his meetings with Putin. What could it possibly be?

The answer should be clear, and it has to do with what we wrote about on Tuesday regarding the differences of opinion between the State Department and the Pentagon, for example. But it goes deeper than that. Even disregarding the infighting and departmental rivalries, there is a power structure in the U.S. which goes beyond any individual group, whether the Pentagon, CIA, FBI, State Department, etc. Peter Dale Scott, among others, calls it the 'deep state' - a network of individuals in the public and private spheres who wield a disproportionate amount of influence on policy. This is the "CIA within the CIA", and the interconnections with Wall Street, private intelligence firms, Big Oil, big banks, arms manufacturers, and so on.

When it comes down to it, Obama has relatively little power. He was probably sincere in his promises to close Guantanamo, for example, but the simple fact is: it wasn't his decision to make. He may have had a hand in averting all-out war on Syria in 2013, but he couldn't have done it without the catalytic role of Russia's intervention with Assad to destroy Syria's chemical weapons. When it comes to unilateral decisions, however, Obama doesn't make any. And he can't. Thus, his minders. If Obama were to have a private conversation with Putin, there's a risk he may go "off script", and that simply isn't allowed.

We saw a possible example of this yesterday regarding John Kerry. At the UN, he made a series of nonsensical statements that really make you question his grip on reality. (See: Straw man: Kerry blasts Moscow for things they never said.) There are a few possibilities here. Either Kerry has the reading comprehension of a mentally handicapped child (unlikely) or he is deliberately misrepresenting statements from Russian officials. Normal people don't do that, especially when their lies are so easily debunked. Psychopaths do that, however. There's only one other explanation: Kerry honestly believes that Peskov took responsibility for the airstrike because that is what he was told Peskov said. If Kerry relies on daily briefings for his news, then he is being manipulated, and making a fool of himself as a result. Either Kerry is a pathological liar, or he is being steered and manipulated by pathological liars. Take your pick.

In light of the de facto failure of the ceasefire - which the U.S. fails to acknowledge and for which the U.S. is fully responsible - Kerry proposed a solution, which amounted to an absurdity: get Russia and Syria to agree to stop attacks on al-Nusra. For the details, we recommend reading these pieces by The Duran's Alexander Mercouris: The proposal is both pitiful and jaw-dropping in its arrogance. Since the U.S. was unable to influence its moderate jihadis to disassociate from al-Nusra - thus failing to keep up its end of the ceasefire bargain - its solution is to protect al-Nusra so the moderate jihadis won't get hurt. Kerry is essentially admitting that the U.S.-backed rebels are deeply embedded with al-Nusra terrorists. A rational person would say that makes them no different than al-Nusra, i.e. the 'good guys' are in fact the 'bad guys'. But since Kerry can't publicly admit that without risking being charged with providing material support to a terrorist group, he is stuck with having to pretend that it is all in the name of protecting the "moderates". The Russians and Syrians would never agree to that, nor should they (heck, even the UN wouldn't agree to that, since it contradicts its own resolution to go after al-Nusra).

In talks with Lavrov yesterday, he again proposed grounding Russian and Syrian aircraft - in effect establishing a Libya-like no-fly zone. Naturally, no agreement was reached after those talks (everyone knows how that turned out in Libya). They are meeting again today (German foreign minister Steinmeier says "no progress" as of yet). Kerry said: "The question now is whether there remains any real chance at moving forward, because it's clear we cannot continue on the same path any longer." He's right about that! Unfortunately for him, the Russians already stated the solution: no more unilaterally upheld agreements, i.e., no more chances for the Americans to get their act together.

We've said it before, but have to say it again: in reality, the February ceasefire agreement was a success, and still is a success. The number of truce agreements signed between the Syrian government and local militia groups (i.e., village- or town-based self-defense militias), and mediated by the Russian reconciliation center, has now reached 651. That's about 3 per day since the last ceasefire went into effect. Amnesty agreements continue to be signed, militant groups continue to surrender their arms and even join state-backed defense forces. (For example, see: 'Over 120 rebels quit Syria's Homs under deal with Syrian government'.) The only people who have refused to agree to any such measures are the U.S.-backed "moderates", which are the same as al-Nusra in all but name, and the reason they refuse to agree is because they are being told to do so by the (real) US government. The same is obviously true of the U.S. military, which refused to share intelligence with Russia even if the ceasefire had succeeded and the JIC been set up to coordinate airstrikes with the Russians.

Speaking of the ceasefire, one of the five secret documents was leaked to the AP yesterday. So now you can read some of what the U.S. failed to do. Yet the U.S. continues to blame Russia for everything, despite the fact that the ceasefire is over because the U.S. violated it and it is blaming Russia ("whether or not Russia was involved") for the Syrian army's current offensive against al-Nusra in east Aleppo. Interestingly enough, it was leaked by the US State Department.

That said, Russia hasn't backed out of negotiations - however unlikely it is for the U.S. to come up with anything sensible - and despite the fact that the Americans are the ones posturing about waiting for Russia to come up with something "constructive". Both the U.S. and Russia "agreed to continue intensely to work on a possible restoration" of the deal. And UN envoy de Mistura says "the next few hours, few days maximum, are crucial for making it or breaking it."

In his speech to the UN General Assembly today, Lavrov stressed that it is crucial to avoid the collapse of the ceasefire agreements, but notice what he tagged onto that:
The main thing now is to prevent the collapse of those arrangements (between Russia and US), objectively and impartially investigate the undermining incidents in Deir ez-Zor and Aleppo, particularly, that there's many who want to sabotage the agreed approaches to the Syrian settlement.
Lavrov stressed that "it's essential to fulfill the UN Security Council [UNSC] demand to dissociate the so-called moderate opposition from the terrorists. Here, special responsibility rests with the US and the members of their coalition. Their refusal or inability to do this in the present circumstances can't but strengthen the suspicion that it's being attempted to move Jabhat al-Nusra out of harm's way and that the plans for regime change are still on the table," adding that it would be a "grave violation" of the UNSC resolution. His Q&A after the speech is worth watching:

This looks like another information-war victory in the making (see Joaquin Flores's must-read on the development of the Aleppo convoy attack: Russia's counter-blow: Aleppo convoy attack and the Russian info-war victory). Russia will take a valid ceasefire if they can get it, but they probably have no illusions about the likelihood that they will. So Lavrov is here reaffirming his support for the ceasefire, in principle, but tying it to investigations of the Aleppo and Deir ez-Zor attacks, both of which bear U.S. fingerprints. See, for example: 'SOTT Exclusive: Did the U.S. target Syrian aid convoy with Hellfire missile?'

On Wednesday, Lavrov had told the UN Security Council:
Coalition strikes on government troops positions at Deir ez-Zor on September 16 is a blatant violation of the cessation of hostilities regime. Furthermore, right after those strikes, ISIS forces attacked government troops. On September 19, there was another unacceptable provocation. I am referring to the bombing of a UN humanitarian convoy near Aleppo on a territory controlled by the armed opposition. Incidentally, it should be noted that on the same day, September 19, in the same area known as the Ramus road, Jabhat al-Nusra and allied detachments mounted a fierce attack on government forces. As a result, the jihadists advanced to Neighbourhood 1070.

I am not trying to make any accusations. However, I am convinced that such coincidences call for serious analysis and investigation. We insist on the most thorough and impartial probe into the attack against the humanitarian convoy. There are many indications that it could have been a rocket or artillery attack. Initially that was how it was reported. Then they started mentioning helicopters and then aircraft. Therefore it is probably necessary to refrain from emotional responses and to not immediately grab the microphone and make comments, but conduct a thorough and professional investigation.
i.e., coordinating with ISIS and Nusra
This is leverage. Russia likely knows exactly who is responsible for both attacks - the U.S. - which means that, if there is any future agreement, the U.S. will have to make even more concessions to avoid exposing their real intentions. Which will mean another agreement they cannot possibly fulfill. Which will mean the war continues on as usual, with Russia, Syria and Iran continuing to fight the terrorists the U.S. is so eager to protect.

All of this may seem like one big circle of futility - and in a sense it is - but you can't blame the Russians for giving the U.S. every opportunity to act like an adult. The U.S. is the Optimate/Pompey team to Russia's Caesar, pre-Roman Civil War - rejecting every offer for peace and reconciliation. We know what that led to. We also know who lost. This is a war of the U.S.'s own making. Every refusal of sanity prolongs the war. The only silver lining is that Syria is winning that war, and the U.S.'s terrorists are taking a beating. A peaceful solution would be preferable, but what choice do Syria and Russia have in the face of obstinate U.S. support of terrorism? Not much.