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Doomed for failure? Russia, US to start talks on rebel withdrawal from Aleppo

© Omar Sanadiki / Reuters
A Russian soldier walks to a military vehicle in goverment controlled Hanono housing district in Aleppo, Syria December 4, 2016.
A proposal made by US Secretary of State John Kerry to Russia about the divided Syrian city of Aleppo details the procedure for the withdrawal of rebel forces, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov revealed, adding the two countries will discuss the issue in the coming days.

"During the Russian-American consultations concrete routes and timing of the withdrawal of all militants from eastern Aleppo will be discussed. Once we reach an agreement, a ceasefire will be put in place," Lavrov said.

The Russian foreign minister added that any armed group that refuses to leave Aleppo will be treated by Russia as terrorists, adding that Moscow will support the Syrian Army's operations against them.

Comment: Russia is giving the US another chance to remove the Aleppo rebels but it is doubtful the US will succeed based on the rebel's response.


Star of David

Dutch intelligence probed right-wing politician Geert Wilders over Israel ties

© Mike Stone / Reuters
Dutch Parliamentarian Geert Wilders
Dutch secret services conducted an investigation into suspicions that Geert Wilders, head of the anti-Islam Party for Freedom, was strongly influenced by top Israeli military and political figures, according to reports in the Netherlands.

Wilders, the firebrand leader of the Dutch far-right Party for Freedom (PVV), was investigated by the country's General Intelligence and Security Service (AIVD) between 2009 and 2010 over his "ties to Israel and their possible influence on his loyalty," according to De Volkskrant newspaper, which conducted interviews with 37 public officials and former intelligence officers.

An investigation into an opposition leader is an exceptional case in the Netherlands, the newspaper noted, citing several former intelligence officers who said such inquiries are considered an "absolute no-go" due to political sensitivity.

Comment: He's not the only 'new right' leader (or his/her people) with connections to Israel. What remains to be seen is how 'solid' these ties are; is the new right playing it smart?... or are they actually fans of the Apartheid State?

Given that this was such an 'exceptional investigation' into Wilders, why bother disclosing, 6 years later, that it took place?

This can probably be put down to politicking by the Dutch establishment, which is unnerved by the likelihood of Wilders becoming prime minister next year.

If you thought 2016 was politically explosive, 2017 - with general elections in the Netherlands, France and Germany - is going to be dynamite!


Info

Russian gas focus of fierce debate on EU's energy dependence

© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
Lessening dependence on natural gas from Russia has topped the agenda of a European Union energy ministers meeting on Monday.

The ministers are discussing amendments to European energy deal regulations to reduce the dependence of member states and increase cooperation during gas supply emergencies.

"Governments can be deeply entrenched in the commercial interests of their national champions and object to the EU messing with their strategic relations with external suppliers," said Marco Giuli, an analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, as quoted by Bloomberg.

He stressed that it isn't easy for member states to cede power over energy policy and there are limits to EU action.

Jet5

Defense Secretary Ash Carter: Mosul victory 'certainly possible' before Trump takes office

© Goran Tomasevic / Reuters
An Iraqi soldier uses his rifle to hold up a helmet as a decoy during clashes with Islamic State fighters in Al-Qasar, South-East of Mosul, Iraq November 28, 2016.
Retaking the Iraqi city of Mosul from Islamic State is "certainly possible" before President-elect Donald Trump takes office in January, US Defense Secretary Ash Carter said. Commanders in the field, however, say there is no deadline for seizing the city.

"[Retaking Mosul] is certainly possible and again it is going to be a tough fight," Carter told journalists on board a US military aircraft, when asked if the recapture would be completed by January 20 - the date Trump's presidency begins.

The comment came as Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants repelled an offensive by elite Iraqi forces in eastern Mosul, in a series of powerful counter-attacks that also targeted government troops to the south and west of the city.

Info

Japan Prime Minister Abe to visit Pearl Harbor: A first for a Japanese leader

© REUTERS/Agustin Marcarian
In another sign that conventional diplomatic protocol is changing on a daily basis, on Monday Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said he would visit Hawaii on Dec. 26 and 27 for his final summit meeting with outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama, and to remember the victims of Japan's Pearl Harbor attack 75 years ago.

As Reuters reports, the visit will make Mr. Abe the first sitting Japanese prime minister to visit Pearl Harbor since his country's surprise attack on the Hawaiian port began the Pacific war 75 years ago.

Following Mr Obama's visit to the atomic bombing site of Hiroshima earlier this year, it will break down one of the last remaining taboos between the US and Japan, symbolizing the reconciliation between former enemies who have become close allies the FT adds.

"I'll visit Pearl Harbor with President Obama. This will be a visit to console the souls of the victims," Abe told reporters. "I would like to show to the world the resolve that horrors of war should never be repeated."

Attention

Russian MoD reports 2 paramedics killed, 1 more injured in militant attack on hospital in Aleppo

© Lizzie Phelan / Twitter
A female Russian medical specialist has been killed and two more medics have been injured in a militant shelling of a mobile military hospital in Aleppo, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

Two Russian medical specialists were killed and another injured when militants shelled a mobile military hospital in Aleppo, Russia's Defense Ministry said, while calling on the international community and human rights organizations to condemn the attack.

One Russian medic was killed immediately at the Russian military mobile hospital set up in western Aleppo, and another died later in a hospital after succumbing to her injuries, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The doctors are now fighting for the life of Russian pediatrician, who was also severely injured in the attack.

"Today, between 12:21 and 12:30pm [local time], a medical center of the Russian Defense Ministry's mobile hospital in Aleppo was shelled by the militants during the reception time," ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov told journalists, adding that "as a result of the direct hit of the reception ward, one female Russian military medic was killed [and] two medical specialists were severely injured."

Some local residents attending medical appointments were also injured during the shelling that targeted one of the field hospitals set up in the government held part of the city, the ministry added.

Comment: Proof of who is actually bombing hospitals in Aleppo.


Attention

Germany's Schaeuble gives ultimatum to Greece: Reform or leave Eurozone

© Gregor Fischer / AFP / Getty Images
German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble told Greece to carry out unpopular reforms if it wants to stay in the Eurozone, ruling out debt relief for Athens. The warning may signal yet another emergency in the continent already beset by multiple crises.

As Eurozone finance ministers prepare to meet in Brussels on Monday to discuss short-term debt relief for Greece, Schaeuble delivered an ultimatum to Athens: the country, which already has a staggering €330 billion ($349 billion) debt burden, must reform or face an exit from the EU.

"Athens must finally implement the needed reforms," Schaeuble told Bild am Sonntag on Sunday. "If Greece wants to stay in the euro, there is no way around it - in fact completely regardless of the debt level."

Comment: Greece is back in the spotlight. Here are the consequences:
Consequences

If Greece does not get debt relief, the IMF said it would drop out of the program.

If the IMF drops out of the program, Germany will have to pony up more money.

At one point the IMF worried about Greece having debt to the tune of 110% of GDP. Now, 140% seems acceptable and the IMF is even willing to wait until 2030 for such progress.

Schäuble's Game

Schäuble has caught the IMF bluffing several times on such threats. Schäuble has caught Greece bluffing countless times.

Flashback May 24, 2016: Germany Calls IMF's Bluff and Wins: Greece Screwed Again

Nonetheless, Schäuble's timing appears to be perfect. Angela Merkel will not exactly be pleased if the IMF drops out of the Troika at this moment given all that is going on with Italian banks, the Italian referendum, Beppe Grillo, and Marine le Pen.



Clipboard

Jill Stein's Wisconsin recount backfiring? Donald Trump nets 3 additional votes

Clinton gained 3 votes. Trump gained 6 votes. Net Trump gain of 3 votes on Day 2.

The Wisconsin recount vote is not turning out quite how Jill Stein, Hillary Clinton or George Soros had hoped.

With day 2 now in the books, Donald Trump has moved ahead by a three more additional votes.

After a second day of wasting everyone's time and money, Wisconsin now has Trump ahead by an additional three votes.

Comment: There's still time for Killary's cronies to pull some strings, all in the name of freedom and democracy of course.


Dollars

Turkey needs trade with Russia & China in local currencies

© AP Photo/ Presidential Press Service/Kayhan Ozer
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country was moving towards allowing trade with Russia, China and Iran to be conducted in local currencies, as he continues his efforts to strengthen the falling lira.

"If we buy something from them, we will use their money, if they buy something from us, they will use our currency," he said, ahead of a trip by Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim to Russia for meetings on Tuesday.

Erdogan -- who previously said discussions were underway with Moscow, Beijing and Tehran on the issue -- added that instructions related to this proposal had been given to the central bank.

Erdogan repeated a call for Turks to convert the euros, dollars and other foreign currency "under their pillows" into Turkish lira during a speech in the central city of Kayseri.

"Our Turkish lira is blessed," he told a cheering, flag-waving crowd after opening a museum in the city named after his predecessor and long-time friend Abdullah Gul.

Comment: See: Turkey wants to reach $100billion in trade with Russia by 2023


Bad Guys

Netanyahu to discuss to Trump about West's 'bad' nuclear deal with Iran

© Reuters
Donald Trump and Benjamin Netanyahu
Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu says he will speak to Donald Trump about the West's "bad" nuclear deal with Iran after he becomes president. Meanwhile, US Secretary of State John Kerry defended the deal at a separate conference.

"Israel is committed to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. That has not changed and will not change. As far as President-elect Trump, I look forward to speaking to him about what to do about this bad deal ," Netanyahu told the Saban Forum, a Washington conference on the Middle East, via satellite from Jerusalem on Sunday.


"The problem isn't so much that Iran will break the deal, but that Iran will keep it because it just can walk in within a decade, and even less... to industrial-scale enrichment of uranium to make the core of an arsenal of nuclear weapons," Reuters reported Netanyahu as telling the forum.

Under the deal between Iran and six major world powers, including the US, Tehran agreed to reduce the number of its centrifuges by two-thirds, cap its uranium enrichment below the level needed for bomb-grade material, reduce its enriched uranium stockpile from around 10,000 kg to 300 kg for 15 years, and agreed to international inspections. In return, the Western countries agreed to lift international sanctions on Iran.

Comment: See also: