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Hysteria: Is that Russia troll farm an act of war?

james woolsey
© Win McNamee/Getty Images
Former CIA director James Woolsey
According to the indictment by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Russian trolls, operating out of St. Petersburg, took American identities on social media and became players in our 2016 election.

On divisive racial and religious issues, the trolls took both sides. In the presidential election, the trolls favored Bernie Sanders, Jill Stein and Donald Trump, and almost never Hillary Clinton.

One imaginative Russian troll urged Trumpsters to dress up a female volunteer in an orange prison jump suit, put her in a cage on a flatbed truck, then append the slogan, "Lock Her Up!"

How grave a matter is this?

This Russian troll farm is "the equivalent (of) Pearl Harbor," says Cong. Jerrold Nadler, who would head up the House Judiciary Committee, handling any impeachment, if Democrats retake the House.

Comment: Here is ex-CIA director James Woolsey laughing at the US messing around in elections around the world:




Snakes in Suits

Bought and paid for? Westminster councillor received lavish gifts and hospitality 514 times in 3 years

Robert Davis at the 2017 RHS Chelsea flower show.
© Alamy Stock Photo
Golden ticket? Robert Davis at the 2017 RHS Chelsea flower show.
Westminster city council's deputy leader has emerged as a contender for the title of the most schmoozed politician in Britain, receiving entertainment, meals and gifts more than 500 times in the last three years.

From tickets to the hottest West End shows to exclusive dinners in London's finest restaurants and trips to the south of France, the official declarations reveal an extraordinary lifestyle that included one day in Mallorca, when Robert Davis managed two lunches, the first at the home of Andrew Lloyd Webber and the second at the home of the Earl of Chichester.

Davis, the Conservative deputy leader of the central London borough and until last year the chairman of its powerful planning committee, was entertained by and received gifts from property industry figures at least 150 times since the start of 2015 - a rate of almost once a week.

Comment: Our elected officials have time and time again proven themselves untrustworthy, so while a meeting with property developers needn't necessarily be a suspicious activity, one can't help but wonder why the councillor wasn't able to meet them on neutral ground in a recorded meeting where his constituents would be privy to the minutes:


Footprints

'Walked away': North Korea's 'murderous regime' refused to meet Pence, and hear US ultimatum - VP's office

US Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam
© via Yonhap / Reuters
US Vice President Mike Pence, North Korea's nominal head of state Kim Yong Nam, and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's younger sister Kim Yo Jong attend the Winter Olympics opening ceremony in Pyeongchang, South Korea February 9, 2018
Pyongyang officials refused to meet with US Vice President on the sidelines of the Winter Olympics, amid belligerent rhetoric and threats of new sanctions, as well as US distrust of a recent rapprochement between South and North.

Pence arrived in South Korea at a time when the Trump administration is applying every effort to downplay the significance of the recent thaw between the two Koreas that came about as a result of the "Peace Olympics."

While initially denying intentions to meet with the North Korean delegation, Pence's team apparently worked relentlessly hoping to break the ice with the ceremonial head of state, Kim Yong-nam, and Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of the North's leader, Kim Jong Un. After all, the vice president was seated just a few feet away from Kim Yo Jong during the opening ceremonies, but failed to acknowledge her.

Comment: See also:


Gear

Deputy FM Sergei Ryabkov: US threats with new sanctions seek to escalate tensions before election

View of Kremlin
© Sputnik/ Evgeny Biyatov
View of the Moscow Kremlin from the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky Bridge
The US Department of State stated that it did not rule out potentially introducing sanctions against the 13 Russian individuals charged last week for alleged election meddling.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov stated that US threats to impose new sanctions on Moscow were aiming to escalate tensions ahead of the presidential election, which is scheduled for March 2018.

"Paradoxically, the Americans are taking steps that are aimed at intervening in our internal affairs, intensifying tension in bilateral relations ahead of presidential elections, but they continue to groundlessly, unprovenly blame us for allegedly interfering in their electoral processes," Ryabkov on Wednesday to journalists in Moscow.

Comment: See also:


Hourglass

All eyes on the Middle East as all-out war between Israel and Iran becomes a greater possibility

Middle East war
Over the weekend, Israel used the long-standing adversarial threat of Iran as a pretext to launch a barrage of attacks against targets in Syrian territory. According to the Israeli side, an Iranian drone launched from Syria flew deep into Israeli airspace, which prompted Israel to not only down the drone, but to also target the base the drone was allegedly launched from in Syria.

In turn, Syria activated its air defenses, which saw Israel lose one of its fighter jets soon after. Unhappy with this result, Israel launched a number of retaliatory strikes against Syria's air defenses, including bases allegedly staffed with Iranian personnel as opposed to Iran's mere proxy forces. Israel claimed it successfully destroyed half of Syria's air defenses, and because this is allegedly the first time Israel has actually struck Iranian targets as opposed to Iranian proxies, the weekend's developments undoubtedly represent an escalation.

"We are seeing a renegotiation of the rules of the game with regard to the kind of military activity that each side tolerates in the other," said Ofer Zalzberg, the senior analyst for Israel/Palestine at the International Crisis Group. "We will see more and more friction between the parties, given that we are seeing more and more this sense that Assad has the upper hand [against Syrian rebels]", he added.

Vader

Belligerent Netanyahu says to UN Chief: 'Golan Heights will remain in Israel's hands forever'

Netanyahu Munich
© Sven Hoppe/dpa via AP
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the International Security Conference in Munich, Germany, Friday, Feb. 16, 2018 during a lunch meeting.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met Friday with Antonio Guterres, the head of the UN, and told him that the Golan Heights would remain in Israel's hands forever. Meeting at the Munich Security Conference, Netanyahu told the UN secretary general that Israel would not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria.

Reiterating past comments, Netanyahu added that Israel would act against any Iranian attempt to build bases in Syria.

Netanyahu also thanked Guterres for holding an informal UN Security Council session on Israelis held by Hamas together with the remains of Israeli soldiers killed during fighting in Gaza and said that there must be additional action on this issue.

Netanyahu has made similar comments regarding the Golan in the past. Last year, Netanyahu asked U.S. President Donald Trump to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, territory Israel seized from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War. Israel made a similar request to the Obama administration in 2015, but it was rejected, diplomats said at the time.

Comment: In the hopes and expectation that the US will come to fight by its side, Israel will continue to attack Syria, steal land in Lebanon and push the limits of aggression until it receives a full-on pounding from its enemies. It seems just a matter of time at this point.


Gold Seal

In-depth analysis: US protecting ISIS to weaken rivals, justify and expand indefinite US occupation of Syria

manbij fighters

Fighters of the Euphrates Liberation Brigade, part of the Manbij Military Council, in Manbij, of the Syrian Democratic Forces. Syrian Democratic Forces recently captured the al-Omar oil fields of Deir Ezzor with support from ISIS
The dominant view of the US-led coalition against the Islamic State (ISIS), Operation Inherent Resolve, is that its fundamental goal is the defeat of ISIS.

And so, in the wake of the routing of ISIS from Iraq and Syria, the core justification for an ongoing US military presence in Syria is ensuring that no post-mortem ISIS insurgency arises.

That the US is unequivocally opposed to ISIS is simply taken for granted.

Yet a closer look at the history of US involvement shows that counterterrorism has been a lesser concern relative to geopolitical and strategic goals. Whenever the goals of expanding territorial control or weakening rivals conflicts with the goal of opposing ISIS, the entity was either ignored or even empowered in pursuit of these more paramount concerns.

In some ways, by providing a pretext for extended military operations on foreign soil, and by helping to diminish the military might of the Syrian regime and its allies, some coalition officials have seen the Islamic State as a potentially beneficial phenomenon to the wider ends of weakening the Syrian state and opposing Iranian influence in the Levant.

Attention

The US is uniting Turkey, Russia and Iran with its animosity

ErdoRhouPut
© Vestnik Kavkaza
The Three Amigos
The leaders of Turkey, Iran and Russia have agreed in principle to a summit on Syria to be held in Istanbul. The decision follows recent phone calls by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. The date is yet to be determined. Foreign ministers from the three countries will hold a preliminary meeting in Astana, Kazakhstan, in March. Given the latest developments in Syria, which require increased military coordination and cooperation among the three countries, Ankara would clearly like the summit to take place sooner rather than later.

Turkey's Operation Olive Branch in Afrin against the Syrian Kurdish People's Protection Units (YPG), which Ankara considers a terrorist organization, and Russia's joint operations with Syrian regime forces and Iranian-backed fighters in Idlib have caused strains between Ankara and its informal allies in Moscow and Tehran.

Attempts by the United States to consolidate its position in territories held by the YPG in northern Syria, nevertheless, remain the main motive for keeping the informal, tripartite alliance alive. Regardless of Turkey's suspicions about long-term Russian and Iranian intentions in Syria, and vice versa, the three do not want to allow potential strains among them to work to the United States' advantage, not only in Syria, but in the region as a whole.

Comment: As assuredly as the threesome of Erdogan, Rouhani and Putin do not want their differences to work towards a US advantage, the US isn't blind or inactive in regards to the practicality of 'divide and conquer.'


Chess

Not the end...the Great Game continues in Syria

Syria hands gun
© politpuzzle.ru
A routine refrain among casual observers in recent months has been a sense of relief that the conflict in Syria is coming to an end. However, the alleged shooting down of an Iranian drone, major Israeli air attacks in Syria, the downing of a Russian fighter jet and a Turkish helicopter, and a Turkish invasion of the northwest should shake this bout of wishful thinking to the core. The multiple wars in Syria have life and plenty of death left in them yet.

The Syrian versus Syrian component is still ongoing, though the opposition is struggling for survival, at least in its armed form. As regime forces edge ever further into Idlib and decimate East Ghouta, it is tough to see a reverse in this process without a major change in the balance of power.

This phase of the Syrian wars, and there are many wars, is all about the international and regional powers feasting on the cadaver of the Syrian state. Turkey is shaping the contours of a new power arrangement in the north, which will be deprived of any meaningful Kurdish threat. Yet the real long-term fallout for Syria will be the resentment caused by the numbers of Syrian Arab fighters who have become Turkey's tool for this. Kurds, Arabs and Turks will have to learn to live with each other again at some point.

Comment: This is a rather left-field approach to the ever-changing strata and power plays in the Syrian region. There was no mention of the US -- which will factor as the heavy-weight, albeit Israel's dupe. Perhaps also underestimated is the alliance between Russia and Iran and the added construct and purposes of other local players in the mix.


Light Sabers

Munich Security Conference descends into Russia-bashing and warmongering nonsense

Mattis at MSC

Munich Security Conference: General James Mattis at the podium
For an event designed to address real global security issues, the Munich Security Conference has shown itself to be a useless talking shop. But it does add more propaganda fodder for Russia-bashing. How ironic. A forum proclaiming to uphold global security is acting like a bullhorn for war.

The release on Friday of the US Department of Justice's indictment of 13 Russian citizens for alleged meddling in the 2016 US presidential election went on to dominate the conference being held in Munich over the weekend.

Rather than being a peripheral matter owing to its dubious claims, the Washington hobby horse of "Russian meddling" was given free rein in Munich. Instead of parsing the latest Russophobia with intelligent skepticism, the conference added fuel to the bonfire of warmongering.

Comment: Western Crazy Virus is spreading globally. Does anyone have a really large supply of Truth Serum?