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Tue, 22 May 2018
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Did Putin ask for Iran's exit from Syria in meeting with Assad?

Assad and Putin
© SANA
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad paid an unannounced visit to Vladimir Putin on Thursday evening at the Russian president's summer home in the Black Sea resort city of Sochi where the two leaders discussed the process for winding down the war in Syria, and notably the reduction of foreign troop presence in the country.

This marks the third such known meeting inside Russia between Assad and President Putin since 2015, and the first since two major instances of external airstrikes on the Syrian government dramatically escalated the prospect for broader war. The first was the April 13th US-led coalition attack involving over one hundred missiles on sites in and around Damascus; and the second was the May 10 Israeli attack on dozens of targets inside Syria in what was the biggest military escalation between the two countries in decades.

Info

Going nuclear? Pakistan and America are in the throes of a serious diplomatic crisis

American and Pakistan flagged arm wrestling cartoon
The steady deterioration of relations between these two erstwhile long-time allies is continuing with the latest political crisis between them that was sparked by the US' decision to limit the distance that Pakistani diplomats in DC could travel outside the city. Islamabad imposed reciprocal measures against American diplomats located anywhere in the country, and the situation has since remained frozen, but is nowhere near resolved.

While American-Pakistani relations have been worsening for the past couple of years now and especially since Trump's aggressive New Year's tweet against the country, they hit a low point when an American military attaché who had hit and killed a motorcyclist was originally forbidden from leaving the country aboard a US military plane that had come to retrieve him last week. A Pakistani court had ruled that he didn't have full diplomatic immunity but he nevertheless left the country on Monday under unclear circumstances.


It was presumably the legal actions initially pursued against this diplomat that infuriated the US to the point of wanting to humiliate all Pakistani diplomats in the American capital through the imposition of new travel restrictions, but Islamabad had a good reason for broadening its own reciprocal decree to include all American diplomats anywhere in the country. It was reported at the end of last month that the CIA failed in its secret plan to stage a jailbreak to free its local agent who was accused of cooperating with American intelligence in its quest to kill Bin Laden, and it's well-known that US diplomats sometimes clandestinely go beyond their official duties in running spies inside their host nation. That's probably what the Pakistanis are worried about after the news broke that the CIA was trying to organize a jailbreak, one which probably would have been violent and likely resulted in the deaths of some prison guards.

Quenelle

Growing a spine? EU launches steps to fight US sanctions on Iran

 European Union
The European Union took steps Friday to avoid reimposed US sanctions on Iran and save the international nuclear deal as a rift with Washington widened.

The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, moved to help EU firms skirt US penalties and have member governments directly pay Iran's central bank for oil.

The commission, which took two other steps, said it was acting on a "green light" EU leaders gave at a meeting in the Bulgarian capital Sofia on Thursday.

The commission "launched the formal process to activate the blocking statute by updating the list of US sanctions on Iran falling within its scope," it said.

Attention

NATO troops reportedly killed in Donbass, war provocations suspected

Donbass Ukraine soldier
© Fort Russ News
Over the past two days, a number of important developments have taken place in Donbass and Ukraine.

Firstly, on May 17th, a group of NATO troops from the US and Canada stepped into a minefield near Avdeevka, a move which ended in explosions and, according to DPR reports, deaths and woundings. This news was published by Russia's leading news agencies, which is in itself an important development, since earlier such resources had been very cautious in speaking of NATO involvement in the war in Donbass. Most significantly of all, Rossiiskaiia Gazeta, the official organ of the Government of the Russian Federation, shared the news.

To briefly recap, Avdeekva is a small satellite town of Donetsk. Since the very beginning of the conflict, the town has been occupied by the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Avdeekva is known as an industrial giant, whose coke-chemical plant has worked throughout all four years of the war and been a major source of contention between oligarchs. The overwhelming majority of Avdeevka's residents support the DPR, and one of Donetsk's lines of defense runs right in front of the city. It is in this very city that Ukrainian troops and OSCE observers have been spotted collaborating during military operations.

Allow me to draw the reader's attention to the fact that the DPR's military intelligence reported at least two days before the minefield incident that the Ukrainian Armed Forces' command is preparing a provocation involving NATO troops. It seems that they were deliberately sent into the minefield to blame Western troop deaths on DPR military sabotage. Such information was shared with journalists on May 15th by the speaker of the Donetsk People's Republic's army, Eduard Basurin.

Bullseye

Erdogan: Israeli actions against Palestinians are similar to what Nazis did to Jews in WWII

idf carrying palestinian child
© Mohamad Torokman / Reuters
Israeli actions in Gaza are similar to those perpetrated against Jewish people during Nazi persecution, Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. Days earlier, he called Israel a "terrorist" and "apartheid" state.

"There is no difference between the atrocity faced by the Jewish people in Europe 75 years ago and the brutality that our Gaza brothers are subjected to," Turkish President Erdogan said on Friday, as cited by AFP.

"The children of those being subject to all sorts of torture in concentration camps during World War II are now attacking Palestinians with methods that would put Nazis to shame," Erdogan reiterated.

The Turkish strongman was speaking in Istanbul, where presidents, prime ministers and other dignitaries from over 40 Muslim states gathered for an emergency meeting of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). The gathering showed support for Palestinians and condemned the inauguration of the US embassy in Jerusalem. The OIC has also pledged to create an "international peacekeeping force" to protect the Palestinians.

Vader

Israel and US prepare for further attacks on Syria - Israeli warplanes stalk Syrian-Lebanese border

Airstrike in Syria
© iStock
Airstrike in Syria
In 2018, the Syrian war entered into a new phase of the conflict marked by the increased tensions among key powers involved in the standoff. The collapse of ISIS' self-proclaimed Caliphate, which used to be a main formal enemy of both the US-led bloc and the Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance, has sharpened the contrast between the goals of the two sides.

The Damascus government, Iran and Russia seek to solve fully the militancy using depending on the situation both diplomatic and military means and to restore the Syrian territorial integrity. In turn, real goals of the US-Israeli bloc and their allies are to limit the Iranian influence in the region, to prevent the Assad government from restoring full control even in a diplomatic way of the country and to establish a weak puppet government in Damascus, if this would be possible in some case.

This is why President Trump's statements about "withdrawing" US troops are followed by reports about new US military facilities under construction in northern Syria. The same reasons are behind the increased Israeli military activity. Tel Aviv would see any strong Damascus government, especially with close ties to Iran, as a threat to its national security.

Comment: Israeli warplanes once again stalked the Syrian-Lebanese border this weekend amid increased reports of a Syrian military offensive in southern Syria.
Reports from Damascus on Saturday night indicated that the Israeli warplanes flew through the southern Lebanese province of Nabatiyeh to the nearby Beqa'a region, where they flew along the Syrian border for a short period of time.

These flights raised the Syrian military's alert level and more suspicions of a future attack from the Israeli Air Force on the government-held areas of Syria.
The Russian Navy continued their large transport of military equipment to Syria, today, as another vessel was seen traveling through the Bosphorous Strait that links the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea.
According to the Bosphorous Observer's Yoruk Isik, the Russian vessel was identified as the Project 775 BSF Ropucha class LSTM Azov 151.

A large Syrian cargo plane left the Iranian capital for Damascus, the Bosphorous Observer's Yoruk Isik reported this evening.
While the Ilyushin IL-76T is owned by the Syrian Arab Airlines, the plane is mostly used to transport military cargo from the Islamic Republic of Iran to Syria.


See also: Syrian military: Israeli warplanes increase flights over Syrian-Lebanese border amid fears of another big strike


Eye 1

Three members of Congress are trying to visit Gaza - Israel says no

A Palestinian demonstrator
© Reuters / Ibraheem Abu Mustafa
A Palestinian demonstrator shouts during a protest at the Israel-Gaza border on May 14, 2018
Representatives Mark Pocan, Dan Kildee, and Hank Johnson Jr. were denied the opportunity to witness conditions on the ground firsthand.

The Trump administration's response to the killings of dozens of Palestinian demonstrators by Israeli soldiers was to fault the organizers of mass demonstrations by people who are living in nightmarish conditions on the Gaza Strip. While a White House spokesman claimed that "the responsibility for these tragic deaths rests squarely with Hamas," the man Donald Trump has charged with renewing the Middle East peace process, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, literally faulted protesters amid reports of the mass killing and wounding of Palestinian men, women, and children who were objecting to Israeli policies. "As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution," Kushner claimed at a ceremony marking the opening of the new United States embassy in Jerusalem.

But responsible members of Congress-many of them with long experience observing the Middle East-saw the circumstances more clearly, and responded in more realistic terms.

Comment: See also: UN delivers stunning rebuke to Israel: Votes to investigate Gaza massacre


Caesar

Putin is an excellent warrior: 'The Saker isn't just wrong, he's irrelevant'

"The greatest warrior is not he who wins every battle. The most excellent warrior is he who wins without fighting." - Sun Tzu, The Art of War, 600 B.C.
Putin with Gun
I have read The Art of War many times, and you can bet that Vladimir Putin has too. I found the quote above to be the most important maxim in that masterpiece, and I think Putin would agree. And when the "fighting" could potentially lead to the 3rd World War and the extinction of Humanity, then to avoid fighting becomes as important as avoiding defeat, because the 3rd World War is a war no one will win. Once it starts, we all lose. And so far, it is Putin who has prevented the war from starting.

The recent criticism of Vladimir Putin for "betraying" Syria or the Donbass Republics or even Russia itself is as impudent as it is misguided, and it comes from the usual collection of armchair warriors and self-styled pundits who actually seem to think they know more about geopolitics than Vladimir Putin does.

They seem to fail to understand that war requires sacrifices, as well as deception, and that perhaps all may not be exactly as they think it is. They also fail to understand that preventing war sometimes requires distasteful compromises. These self-appointed critics and "strategists" should look at the results of Putin's work, rather than be confused by their amateur interpretation of how he accomplishes it. And they should keep in mind the fact that Putin's objectives may not be the same as their own, and that it is always easy to talk when you have no skin in the game.

Comment: See also:


Document

Letter from Iran on Gaza massacre: Mr. Trump, you have been served

Top officials, including former CIA officers, Pentagon officials, US Army officers and former diplomats demand explanation of Israeli actions
Tayyip Erdogan
© Handout via Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during a protest on May 18, 2018 against the recent killings of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza-Israel border and the US embassy move to Jerusalem.
In a letter addressed to President Donald Trump, with copies to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Security Council, four top former officials at the highest level of the US government have given him legal notice about his duty to advise the US Congress, the ICC and the UNSC, among others, about Israel's actions coinciding with the "70th anniversary of the expulsion of 750,000 Palestinians from their homes."

The letter is signed, among others, by former CIA operations officer Phil Giraldi; former Pentagon official Michael Maloof; former US Army officer and State Department coordinator for counterterrorism contractor Scott Bennett; and former diplomat and author of Visas For al-Qaeda: CIA Handouts That Rocked The World, Michael Springmann.

Maloof, Bennett and Giraldi, as well as Springmann and this correspondent, were among guests at the 6th International New Horizon conference in the holy city of Mashhad, eastern Iran. The top themes of the conference's debates were Palestine and the Trump administration's unilateral exit from the Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Comment: See also:


Black Magic

Mike Pompeo on American exceptionalism: 'Americans must believe in the "essential rightness" of the USA'

Mike Pompeo
Pompeo would like his staff to always carry their "swagger" with them, obeying the idea that America is always right

This may just be a return to traditional American diplomacy a.k.a American exceptionalism; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke of the importance of what he called "America's essential rightness".

That honestly has to be one of the most Orwellian things a Secretary of State has said in recent memory. While it may seem benign at first, if thought about for a moment, what he is saying is that Americans must believe that America is essentially always right.