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Tue, 21 Feb 2017
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Snakes in Suits

Jean-Claude Juncker: 'We will need to teach Trump what Europe is' and tears up congratulatory speech for Clinton

© Tobias Schwarz / AFP
The relationship between the EU and newly-elected US President Donald Trump has got off to an inauspicious start, after the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker fired a volley of criticism across the Atlantic.

"We will need to teach the president-elect what Europe is and how it works," Juncker, arguably the EU's most powerful politician, told students during a conference in Luxembourg, his home state. "I think we will waste two years before Mr. Trump tours the world he does not know."

"The election of Trump poses the risk of upsetting intercontinental relations in their foundation and in their structure," said Juncker, and said that his attitude towards joint security obligations was "pernicious."


Comment: Is Junker and the EU worried about not having the US dictate what they should do?


Bad Guys

ISIS prepares sulfur pits and hangs 'traitors' on lampposts as Iraqi troops close in on Mosul

© Alaa Al-Marjani / Reuters
A destroyed car belonging to the Islamic state militants is seen in the town of Bashiqa, after it was recaptured from the Islamic State, east of Mosul, Iraq November 10, 2016.
Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is stockpiling mustard gas, using increasingly brutal tactics against civilians in the Iraqi city of Mosul, while resorting to the use of child soldiers as its ranks are being depleted by the coalition's onslaught.

"On Tuesday, ISIL reportedly shot and killed 40 civilians in Mosul city after accusing them of 'treason and collaboration' with the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF). The victims were dressed in orange clothes marked in red with the words: 'traitors and agents of the ISF'. Their bodies were then hung on electrical poles in several areas in Mosul city," said the latest briefing from the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR), published on Friday.

Later through the week, more than 20 other men were shot dead in three separate executions, as a result of being found with SIM cards, and displayed in public with notes saying "used cell phones to leak information to the ISF."

Question

Canadian oil company seeking to invest $50bn in Russian projects with Chinese investors

© Sergei Karpukhin / Reuters
Canadian engineering technology company Genoil has signed a letter of intent worth $50 billion with Russia's Grozneft. The deal will support what are described as integrated oil projects in Russia.

Genoil will develop oil fields and build clean technology upgraders, refineries and pipelines in Russia, according to the company.

At first, Genoil plans to invest $15 billion into projects in Russia's southern republic of Chechnya. The company will explore ways to link the new project to existing pipeline networks in the region.

"We have good ties to Chinese investors, we are ready to invest into infrastructure development, and we believe that it's possible to increase oil production in Russia by this," a company representative said as quoted by Vedomosti daily.

"First of all, money will be invested into developing reservoirs in the republic to create a refinery with a capacity of 3-6 million tons of oil," said Grozneft chairman Andrey Gusak, stressing that the investors may consider buying mining assets in other regions of the country.

Attention

Trump may seek support from Japan in countering China's growing influence

© KYODO / Reuters
Soldiers from U.S. Marines and Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force.
The US president-elect will likely seek to gain Tokyo's support in countering China's rising influence in Asia despite existing rift over Japanese funding for American troops stationed in that country, according to Donald Trump's security adviser.

A meeting between Trump and Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York next Thursday may include discussing tougher stance on China which seeks to extend its influence over Southeast Asia, Reuters reported on Friday.

Trump wants Japan "to play a more active role in Asia," a security adviser for the US president-elect who chose not to disclose his identity, told Reuters.

Colosseum

Trump, Brexit and the collapse of the Western liberal order

© DonkeyHotey
One of the most confounding aspects of Donald Trump's election as 45th President of the United States is that in the space of a year - indeed less than a year - a man with zero political experience has destroyed two of America's most entrenched political dynasties: Bush and Clinton.

Just pause on this for a moment, and place it in the context of someone who when he first appeared on the political stage as a candidate for the Republican nomination was met with ridicule and scorn. Consequently, a mainstream media and liberal commentators for whom politics is an exclusive club, the preserve of a select group of blessed people who belong to this club as if by divine right, have just been delivered one almighty slap-down.

The sense of entitlement that emanated from the Clinton campaign during this election was astonishing to behold. Hillary Clinton emitted the demeanour of a woman approaching a coronation rather than an election, disdaining not only Donald Trump but also his supporters, whom she infamously described as "deplorables". This was her undoing.

Regardless of the attempt to paint her as someone in touch with the suffering and pain of the millions of Americans who have long been denied a seat at the banquet of US democracy, she came over as the very embodiment of a machine politician, a candidate whose credibility and character was irredeemably tainted by her connections to Wall Street, big business, the Saudis, George Soros, etc.

Cowboy Hat

Duterte humility: 'I'm just small molecule compared to Trump'

© Edgar Su / Reuters
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte
Controversial Philippines leader Rodrigo Duterte has said that compared to Donald Trump he is just a "small molecule." Duterte, known for his harsh rhetoric toward outgoing US President Barack Obama, has hailed Trump's election victory.

"I'm just a small molecule on this planet, he's now the president of the most powerful country in the world," Duterte is cited as saying by ABS-CBN News.

"I am just a president struggling barely above the water," he added.

According to Duterte, he and Trump share the same "passion to serve" the people of their respective countries.

The Philippines leader expressed confidence that Washington will remain Manila's "friend" and "ally" under the new US president, adding that all bilateral agreements between the states will be respected.

Comment: Duterte has a passion to serve the Filipino peoples and is not afraid to take the heat for it.


Chess

Obama directs Pentagon to deploy more drones to eliminate Al Qaeda targets in Syria

© U.S. Air Force / Reuters
A U.S. Air Force MQ-1 Predator
President Obama has reportedly ordered more armed drones and intelligence assets to be deployed to Syria as he tasked the Pentagon to go after Al-Qaeda-linked militants. The move, not formally confirmed yet, could signal a major turn in Obama's approach in Syria.

Several unnamed US officials told The Washington Post that Obama ordered the military's Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) to use additional armed drones and surveillance aircraft in the airspace over northwestern Syria.

According to one official, the president could not deal "with the devil" - meaning the Syrian Al-Qaeda offshoot formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. Fighting against Assad on the side of the US-supported rebels, the group cut ties with Al-Qaeda and changed its name to Jabhat Fateh al-Sham in July.

"The president doesn't want this group to be what inherits the country if Assad ever does fall," a senior US official told The Post. "This cannot be the viable Syrian opposition. It's Al-Qaeda."

Comment: Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said that the possible instruction to kill key leaders of the terrorist group formerly known as the Nusra Front by the United States is welcome news if confirmed officially.
"If in fact we are talking abut such a decision, it can only be welcomed," Ryabkov told reporters, noting that he has not yet seen official confirmation of the media reports.



Attention

Russia will continue to implement 'humanitarian pauses' in Aleppo but won't let terrorists take advantage

© Omar haj kadour / AFP
The Russian military will continue staging 'humanitarian pauses' in the Syrian city of Aleppo, but their length won't be increased. Otherwise terrorists would use them to restore their own battle capabilities, Russia's defense ministry said.

According to the ministry, it received a letter from Senior Adviser to UN Special Envoy for Syria, Jan Egeland, earlier this week, in which he requested that the length of future Russian "humanitarian pauses" be increased.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman, Major-General Igor Konashenkov, acknowledged that "humanitarian pauses" are, "certainly, necessary."

However, he stressed that "simply prolonging them, not for the sake of providing real assistance to the civilian population, but for the terrorists to better restore their combat capability, is counterproductive." The spokesman added that Russia already delivered 100 tons of humanitarian cargo to Aleppo "regardless of any 'humanitarian pauses."

"The 'humanitarian pauses' aren't being introduced overnight. The UN representatives are being informed in advance of their date and time, the placement of humanitarian corridors to be used by civilians and withdrawing militants, the security measures, the number of available buses, ER vehicles, hot food stalls," he said.

Newspaper

General Flynn: The US can assist Turkey by not providing a safe haven for Fethullah Gülen

© Getty Images
Erdoğan and Gülen
It is fair to say that most Americans don't know exactly what to make of our ally Turkey these days, as it endures a prolonged political crisis that challenges its long-term stability. The U.S. media is doing a bang-up job of reporting the Erdoğan government's crackdown on dissidents, but it's not putting it into perspective.

We must begin with understanding that Turkey is vital to U.S. interests. Turkey is really our strongest ally against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), as well as a source of stability in the region. It provides badly needed cooperation with U.S. military operations. But the Obama administration is keeping Erdoğan's government at arm's length — an unwise policy that threatens our long-standing alliance.

The primary bone of contention between the U.S. and Turkey is Fethullah Gülen, a shady Islamic mullah residing in Pennsylvania whom former President Clinton once called his "friend" in a well circulated video.

Comment: Wolf in sheep's clothing: Who and 'what' is Fethullah Gülen?


Chess

How Trump 'shakeups' are already indirectly helping Russia and Syria (and the USA)

© CNN.com
Perhaps the most famous media project of Donald Trump is the reality show The Apprentice on NBC, in which Trump played himself and subjected people wanting to work in his business to various tests. Trump not only played the lead role in the show, but also successfully produced it, which proves that he can not only build hotels, but also very well understands modern show business. This also shows how his opponents greatly underestimated him during the presidential race.

Before Trump launched his presidential slogan "Make America Great Again," in the public's mind he was already associated with another catchphrase: "You're fired!", which he yelled at the careless participants of his TV show. Some American commentators have even written that voters might have voted for him just to see whether he would dress down Washington officials in the same way he did on TV. So far, at least in front of cameras, Trump is behaving relatively restrained, especially since he has no official rights yet. But the press is already leaking information about what he is doing behind closed doors.

For example, USA Today, a newspaper which is very skeptical towards the new president, reports that Trump's first victims are Pentagon generals. He has set before them the unspoken task of working out a plan for mass, effective airstrikes on ISIS. The due date is in 30 days and will have unpredictable, negative consequences for those generals who will not fulfill the order or will handle it poorly. The sources of American journalists are even complaining that these generals could be forced to - get ready - cooperate with Russia and even share information with the Russian air force, something which for many senior US commanders is worse than having to shred their insignia.

Comment: As in good business, waste no time, lay out your terms, demand exemplary execution. Obama is scrambling to play catch-up. What can they do to him now. Fire him?