Voices from Russia

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Putin Warned Netanyahu About Syria

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In the aftermath of the shooting down by Syria of an Israeli F-16, President Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu had a telephone conversation. Even by its standards, the Kremlin’s summary of the conversation is extremely short:

The discussion focused on the actions of the Israeli Air Force, which carried out missile strikes in Syria. The President of Russia spoke out in favour of avoiding any steps that could lead to a new round of confrontation, which would be dangerous for everyone in the region.

This pithy report of the conversation between the Russian and Israeli leaders matches the scant information the Russians provided of the talks between Putin and Netanyahu in January. However, it isn’t difficult to understand current Russian policy with respect to the conflict between Syria and Israel, and it puzzles me that there’s so much confusion about it. The first point is that Russia is now the guarantor of the survival of President Assad and of his government. Constant speculation that the Russians might abandon President Assad in order to achieve peace in Syria, or might force a loose decentralised structure upon Syria, which the Syrian government doesn’t want, is misplaced. Prior to Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict in September 2015, Russia consistently resisted pressure from the USA and its allies to agree to the ousting of President Assad. Russia repeatedly vetoed Resolutions presented to the UN Security Council by the Western Powers intended to achieve the ousting President Assad. After Russia intervened in the Syrian conflict in 2015, Russia resisted further pressure from the USA to agree to President Assad’s ouster, whether in return for a junior place in the USA’s anti-ISIS coalition or in return for the promise of joint military operations between Russia and the USA against al-Qaeda. I discussed the failure of former US Secretary of State John Kerry’s attempt in Moscow in July 2016 to get the Russians to agree to the ouster of President Assad here.  In a follow-up article I said this:

The story of the diplomacy of the Syrian conflict is a continuous repetition of the same mantra… the USA pushes Russia to agree to have President Assad removed. The USA makes various offers or threats to Russia to cajole or force their agreement. Russia responds that President Assad’s future is a strictly Syrian internal matter, which they won’t involve themselves in. The USA walks away, baffled and angry. In truth, the inability of the US and its Western and Arab allies to accept that Russian opposition to their policy in Syria and elsewhere is for real and that they can’t bully or bribe Russia to change it is one of the oddest things about the whole Syrian conflict. Despite the fact that Russia has gone repeatedly out of its way to explain their policy, the USA and its allies seem incapable of believing that Russia is serious about it. They always seem to think that Russia is just playing some cynical game and that if they make the right sort of offer, or put under it the right sort of pressure, it can bring Russia around and make it agree to let Assad go.

If Russia wasn’t prepared to agree to force President Assad’s ouster when his government controlled only a small strip of territory along Syria’s coast and when Aleppo… Syria’s biggest city… seemed to be about to slip out of President Assad’s control, then, they aren’t going to agree to force President Assad’s ouster now, when they helped him secure control of all of Syria’s main cities… including Damascus and Aleppo… and when his army has reached the Iraqi border in Syria’s farthest east. After investing so much in President Assad’s survival and in the survival of his government, it’s inconceivable that Russia would abandon him now, and I’m sure that no one in any position of authority in Moscow is considering it. At the same time, no one in Moscow wants to see Russia embroiled in the Syrian-Israeli conflict, which far predates Russia’s intervention in Syria, and which goes back all the way to the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Following the 1967 Six Day War, the Russians did commit themselves wholeheartedly to one side in the Arab-Israeli conflict… backing the Arabs diplomatically, arming the Arabs intensively, sending a strong military force to defend Egypt in 1970 from Israeli air attack, and breaking off diplomatic relations with Israel. The result for Moscow was a catastrophe. It alienated the USSR’s large Jewish community and it found that by making an enemy of Israel it further poisoned its relations with the Western powers at precisely a time when it was seeking détente with them. The USSR quickly discovered that its Arab “allies”, in whom it had invested so much, were both ungrateful and treacherous so that by 1980 the USSR’s entire position in the Middle East completely collapsed. The final straw came after the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan in 1979, when volunteers from across the Arab world rushed to fight in Afghanistan, in a way that they’d never shown the slightest indication of wanting to do against Israel on behalf of the Palestinians. Not surprisingly, since the mid-1980s, therefore, Russia determined never to become directly involved in any part of the Arab-Israel conflict again. Thus, whilst Russia maintains good relations with Arab states, and whilst Russia continues to voice support for the Palestinians, Russia always strove to maintain good relations with Israel as well, forging significant economic links with Israel.

Beyond this, given that Russia already has its hands full in Syria, fighting all sorts of Jihadist and proxy forces there on behalf of President Assad and his government, it has no wish or need to complicate this already complicated task further by taking on Israel… the Middle East’s military giant, with nuclear weapons and the Middle East’s strongest air force… on behalf of Syria as well. Therefore, provided Israeli attacks on Syria don’t go beyond the routine attacks which Israel has launched against Syria for decades, which long predate Russia’s intervention in Syria, and provided the Israelis take no step to threaten the existence of the Syrian government or interferes in Syrian military operations against the Jihadist groups Russia is fighting, Russia will do nothing about them. However, conversely, if Israeli attacks on Syria threaten either the Syrian government or interfere in Syrian military operations against the Jihadist groups Russia is fighting, then, Russia will respond sharply, as they did in March last year when they summoned the Israeli ambassador for a dressing down at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after an Israeli airstrike against the Tiyas airbase, which appeared to have the intent of interfering with the Syrian offensive against ISIS.

Right at the start of the Russian intervention in Syria, on 21 September 2015, President Putin had a series of meetings and conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu over the course of which he would’ve carefully explained Russian policy to the Israeli leader, setting out the ground rules. The Russian and Israeli leaders agreed during that summit to a “deconfliction” mechanism; which confirmed that Russia made it clear over the course of that meeting that they weren’t interested in and wouldn’t interfere in “routine” Israeli air strikes against Syria. Here’s how Reuters reported it:

On Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said during a visit to Moscow that Israel and Russia agreed to coordinate military actions over Syria in order to avoid accidentally trading fire. Recent Russian reinforcements for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, which regional sources say include warplanes and anti-aircraft systems, worry Israel, whose jets have on occasion bombed the neighbouring Arab country to foil suspected handovers of advanced arms to Assad’s Lebanese guerrilla ally Hizbullah. Briefing Israeli reporters after he met President Putin, Netanyahu said he’d come with the goal of “prevent(ing) misunderstandings between IDF units and Russian forces” in Syria, where Assad is fighting Islamist-dominated insurgents in a civil war. Netanyahu added that he and Putin “agreed on a mechanism to prevent such misunderstandings”. He didn’t elaborate. There was no immediate comment from the Kremlin. In earlier remarks, as he welcomed Netanyahu to the presidential residence in Novo-Ogaryovo, outside Moscow, Putin said Russian actions in the Middle East would always be “responsible”. Underlining the importance of Netanyahu’s one-day visit to Moscow, Israel’s premier took along its armed forces chief of and the general in charge of Israeli military intelligence. Putin, who shares the Western concern about the spread of Islamic State influence, pledged to continue military support for Assad, assistance that Russia says is in line with international law. Russia focused its forces on Syria’s coast, where Moscow keeps a Mediterranean naval base. The USA, which along with its allies has been flying missions against Islamic State insurgents in Syria, also held so-called “deconfliction” talks with Russia.

This report of the agreement Putin and Netanyahu reached on 21 September 2015 confirms that Russia made clear to Israel that they had no interest in preventing “routine” Israeli strikes against Syria, and that their intervention in Syria didn’t intend to prevent such strikes. At the time, Russia would also have said the same thing to President Assad and to the Iranian government: Russia intervened in Syria to save a Syrian government under attack by Jihadist terrorists and threatened with régime change by the USA, not to help Syria prosecute its longstanding conflict with Israel. However, the other side of the coin is that just as the Russians won’t act to stop “routine” Israeli airstrikes against Syria, so they won’t act to stop whatever actions Syria takes to defend itself from such strikes. Both “routine” Israeli actions and Syrian counter-actions are part of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Israel-Syria conflict, which doesn’t involve Russia.

Certainly, Russia wasn’t involved in the recent Syrian shooting down of the Israeli F-16 and no one concerned… not the Syrians nor the Israelis… is saying that they were. At the same time, and consistent with its policy, whilst Russia won’t act to stop the Israelis carrying out “routine” airstrikes against Syria or the Syrians shooting down Israeli aircraft which engage in such strikes, Russia will react sharply to any Israeli action that threatens the existence of the Syrian government or which interferes in Syrian military operations against the Jihadists Russia is fighting, just as they did last March. The following words in the Kremlin summary confirm that Putin reminded Netanyahu of this over the course of their recent call:

The President of Russia spoke out in favour of avoiding any steps that could lead to a new round of confrontation, which would be dangerous for everyone in the region.

In other words, Putin told Netanyahu to moderate his reaction to the shooting down of the F-16, and Israel’s relatively mild reaction to the shooting down of the F-16… the retaliatory airstrikes Israel launched after the shoot-down didn’t go beyond the level of “routine” strikes, and didn’t threaten Syrian military operations against the Jihadists (which continue unabated) or the existence of the Syrian government… shows that despite his public bluster, Netanyahu heeded Putin’s call. Almost certainly, Russia balanced this warning to Netanyahu with equivalent warnings to Damascus and Tehran, warning them that they should avoid further escalation. Since it isn’t in Syria’s or Iran’s interests that Syria, which is still in a state of civil war, with large areas under control of the Kurds and the Syrian government’s Jihadist enemies, and with US and Turkish troops on its territory a current threat, should find itself in an all-out conflict with Israel, it’s a certainty that all concerned are heeding these Russian warnings.

If Russia is loathe to take sides in the Arab-Israeli conflict or in the conflict between Israel and Syria, the events of the last few days show how the mere fact of its presence in Syria is nonetheless changing the dynamics of the conflict. As I recently wrote, Syria’s success in shooting down an Israeli F-16 provides confirmation that the military balance in the Middle East is shifting. Something that was beyond Syria’s capabilities until very recently… the shooting down of an Israeli fighter in Israeli-controlled airspace… has now happened. Russia’s intervention in the Syrian conflict brought this about. Without Russia’s intervention, there’d be no Syrian military to shoot down Israeli aircraft, and Russian training, advice, and technical support gave the Syrian military the ability to shoot down Israeli aircraft. Shifting the balance of military power in the Middle East wasn’t the intention behind Russia’s intervention in Syria; however, it’s the product of it. Similarly, Russia warning Israel against taking action in response to the shooting down of the F-16 which might escalate the situation isn’t a case of Russia taking sides in the longstanding conflict between Israel and Syria; however, its effect is to protect Syria from Israeli actions which might’ve happened in response to the shooting down of the F-16 as part of that conflict, if Russia hadn’t been present in Syria and hadn’t given Israel a warning. The result is that Syria successfully shot down an Israeli F-16 and suffered no significant consequences from it. Although the Arab-Israeli conflict continues, and although Israel and Syria will continue to take actions against each other, the dynamic of the conflict has changed.

12 February 2018

Alexander Mercouris

The Duran

http://theduran.com/f-16-shoot-down-putin-warns-netanyahu/

Monday, 8 August 2016

Hillary, Queen of War: The Road Map Ahead

00 Give Peace a Chance. atomic fireball. 21.09.13

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It All Starts With a Wahhabi-Zionist Lovefest

The Saudi Foreign Ministry had to go on non-denial denial overdrive about a visit to Israel on 22 July by a delegation led by retired General Anwar Eshki. Eshki happens to be close to Saudi intel superstar and onetime close Osama bin Laden pal Prince Turki bin Faisal, who recently met in the open with former Israel Defence Forces (IDF) generals Yaakov Amidror and Amos Yadlin. Whilst in Israel, Eshki met with Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold, and Major General Yoav Mordechai, the top IDF honcho in the West Bank. There’s absolutely no way the House of Saud wouldn’t have given a green light for such a visit… and such a high-level meeting. By the way, the Interior Ministry in Saudi Arabia bans all travel to Israel… as well as to Iran and Iraq. So what’s the big deal? The Israelis spun it as the Saudis… fronting for the Arab League… offering normalisation of ties with the Arab world without Israel abdicating from anything on the Palestinian front. The only thing Tel Aviv would have to do, later, is to adopt the 2002, Saudi-proposed Arab peace initiative.

That’s nonsense. For starters, the ultra right-wing Zionists in power in Tel Aviv will never accept reverting to the pre-1967 borders and recognising the state of Palestine. What was “discussed” was a non-deal, even as Tel Aviv gloats:

Important Arab states are willing to openly embrace us, even though we haven’t given up one inch of the West Bank and even as we continue to control al-Aqsa Mosque.

If the Arab League ever embarked on such a blatant non-deal, forever throwing the Palestinians under myriad bulldozers, chances are oligarchies and petromonarchies all across the spectrum would start booking that one-way ticket to London.

That Moscow-Tehran-Ankara Alliance

So what did they actually talk about? Predictably, they talked about the imminent prospect of the Full Spectrum Dominatrix finally taking over the White House. The Obama administration reduced both Bibi Netanyahu in Tel Aviv and de facto House of Saud ruler and Prince of War Mohammad bin Salman in Riyadh to the status of proverbial euphemistic “estranged allies”. Between them, they’re de facto allies… even as they can’t admit it to the Arab street. Both are dead sure, under the Queen of War, there’d be… what else… war. The question is against whom.

Informed speculation has it that the common enemy of the Saudis and Israelis, Iran, would be the target. That’s complicated. Indeed, the joint Saudi/Israeli strategy across the Middle East is in tatters. Tehran isn’t stuck in a quagmire… neither in Syria nor in Iraq. ISIS/ISIL/Daesh and assorted “moderate rebels”… covertly supported by the Saudi/Israeli axis… are on the run, even if they insist they aren’t “al-Qaeda” anymore. In fact, an unwinnable war on Yemen entraps Prince of War bin Salman. Then, there’s the spectacular post-coup pivot by Sultan Erdoğan in Turkey… for all practical purposes abandoning those elaborate no fly zone dreams of annexing a post-Assad Syria to his neo-Ottoman set up. The House of Saud is livid, as Turkish diplomats have started to spread this blockbuster news… Erdoğan proposed to Iran’s Rouhani an all-embracing alliance with President Putin to find a definitive solution to the Middle East riddle.

However erratic Erdoğan’s agenda may be, the upcoming Putin-Erdoğan face-to-face meeting may de facto discuss a possible icebreaking new deal between Moscow and Ankara. All geopolitical signs at this stage point…  albeit tentatively… towards a revived Russia/Iran/Turkey alliance, even as a horrified House of Saud is going no-holds-barred to gain Moscow’s trust by offering “untold wealth” and privileged access to the GCC market. As confirmed by a top Western intel source:

The Saudis are definitely keeping all contacts open with the Kremlin. The Saudi King is in Tangiers now and met Russian envoys there. They mean what they say. However, Putin won’t abandon Assad. There has to be a compromise. Both need it.

President Putin is in a privileged spot. Even without accepting the Saudi offer… it’s just a promise, with no ironclad guarantees… Russia holds the best cards, as in a quite problematic but ultimately possible Moscow-Tehran-Ankara alliance that is all about Eurasian integration (and a future seat for Turkey, alongside Iran, in the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, SCO). For its part, a Saudi-Moscow alliance  would inevitably lead a Queen of War administration towards… what else… régime change in Riyadh disguised as R2P; “responsibility to protect” the Saudi populace. One should expect Hillary crony Samantha Power to defend it vehemently at the UN.

It’s All About the Three Harpies

Yet, considering the Queen of War’s instincts, all signs do point towards Iran. The manual/blueprint/road map for Hillary’s wars is arguably here, in this very dangerous intersection between American neocons and neoliberalcons. The head of the CNAS think tank one-third (Michele Flournoy) of what I dub The Three Harpies; Hillary Clinton, Flournoy and… the most terrifying words in the English language… probable US Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the possible lethal trio in charge of foreign policy under a Clinton Three administration. In fact, this is PNAC (the Project for a New American Century) on steroids, with echoes of the warlike 1992 US Defence Planning Guidance disguised under the soothing rhetoric of benevolent hegemony and “rules-based international order”. If the Trump campaign managed to restrain his motor-mouth and/or motor-tweet instincts and focus on what this warmongering opus means for the USA and the world at large, they’d strike a chord with millions of undecided American voters. For all her bluster, and that rise to unheard-of hysterical levels, the Full Spectrum Dominatrix won’t be foolish enough to launch a war…one that’d inevitably be nuclear… against either Russia (Baltics as a pretext) or China (South China Sea as a pretext), the Pentagon’s top two “existential threats”. In Syria, on the other hand, by January 2017 al-Qaeda/not al-Qaeda goons formerly known as “moderate rebels” will be mostly six feet under.

Erdoğan may be making NATO’s life in Turkey unbearable. As the Queen of War is in AIPAC’s pocket, and considering the Clinton Foundation’s by now legendary cosy ties with the House of Saud, the war target would have to be the Saudi/Israeli preferred target, on top of it pro-Damascus and in close touch with both Ankara and Moscow… Iran. However, how does one pull it off? One avenue, already being explored, is to bomb by all means… and not figuratively… the Iran nuclear deal. A concerted campaign in American mainstream media is already burying the deal; and even Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei… as reported in the USA… is on the record saying one can’t trust Washington:

They tell us, “Let’s talk about regional issues, too”. However, the experience of the nuclear deal suggests this is deadly poison… in no way can you trust the Americans.

So, expect from Team Clinton the proverbial media barrage of dodgy spin, baseless accusations, and the occasional, perfectly positioned false-flag to lure Tehran into a trap, like, for instance, in neoliberalcon wishful thinking, Iran reviving its nuclear programme. Of course, this won’t happen, but the powerful anti-Iran lobby in the US Congress will use a Hellfire barrage of disinformation to sort of make it happen, even as an illusion. All this while Iran, amongst other development matters, is busy planning a new transportation corridor from the Persian Gulf to the Black Sea, connecting to Armenia, Georgia, and Bulgaria, and positioning the nation as a key trade hub connecting the Arab world in the south and west, Central Asia in the north, and Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east, all the way to Europe. Once again, Eurasian integration on the move. Tehran has myriad reasons to be on red alert if the Full Spectrum Dominatrix gets her hands on the nuclear codes (how’s that not scarier than Trump?)  She’d act as a surefire faithful servant of the Saudi/Israeli alliance. The road map is ready. Moreover, neocons and neoliberalcons alike can hardly contain their excitement at seeing in action “a force that can flex across several different mission sets and prevail”.

4 August 2016

Pepe Escobar

Sputnik International

http://sputniknews.com/columnists/20160804/1043937453/hillary-clinton-war-queen.html

Thursday, 2 April 2015

BREAKING NEWS! Tehran and World Powers Reach Solutions on Iranian Nuclear Programme

00 Iran nuclear programme. political cartoon. 02.12.13

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On Thursday, according to a joint statement issued by negotiators, Iran and other international powers reached “solutions on key parameters” of Tehran’s nuclear programme following eight-day talks in Switzerland. The agreement envisages converting the Fordow facility into a nuclear physics centre with no fissile material. The parties agreed that the Natantz facility would remain as the only nuclear power plant in the country. Under the deal, Tehran agreed not to create nuclear weapons. Earlier, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Twitter that drafting an agreement should start immediately, with a June 30 deadline to finish the process. In a Tweet, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said ahead of the press conference on the results of the talks in Switzerland on Thursday, “Found solutions. Ready to start drafting immediately”. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini tweeted that the final ministerial meeting of the talks was over, adding, that there was “good news”. Iranian media reports suggest that the parties reached a deal on centrifuges; Tehran agreed to slash centrifuges to 6,000 from the current 19,000. Reportedly, the agreement will be in force for ten years. Press-TV reported the joint statement would announce the lifting of multilateral European and unilateral US financial sanctions against Iran.

2 April 2015

RT

http://rt.com/news/246297-iran-nuclear-talks-lausanne/

Editor:

Now, it’s obvious why Boehner invited Satanyahu to address the Congress. He wanted to knacker the agreement between Iran and the West. Let’s face it, he has moles and ratfinks in Foggy Bottom; he didn’t like what he heard from them. Therefore, in an attempt to knacker the pact before it even got off the ground, he invited his pal Bibi. Unfortunately for Boehner, Bibi was in the midst of an election (and subsequent coalition building), which meant that Bibi would be out of the loop for at least three weeks whilst he cobbled together a governing coalition. The EU, Russians, and Chinese took their chance… Israel can do nothing, as the Shin Bet, Aman, and Mossad are all against a strike on Iran, and Bibi’s tied up in horse-trading with political rivals. This leaves the US Republican Party holding the bag. Watch Cruz, Rubio, Cotton, et al make jackasses of themselves (just watch them try to take the praise for this and try to placate their Israeli pals at the same time… of course, they can’t do it… their attempt will be pathetic, funny, and fitting).

It’s going to piss off Satanyahu… but as the most junior partner in the concern, well, his voice isn’t much heeded outside of the US Congress (who, like all their predecessors, are bought n’ paid-for whores of the first water). Iran gets sanctions lifted… Russia and China cement their relationship with Iran… France and Germany get exports to Iran… Barack Obama gets another feather in his cap… John Boehner et al get the cardboard box. Payback is a motherfucker, ain’t it?

BMD

Thursday, 15 January 2015

US Government Lacks Moral Authority to March for Freedom of Speech

00 free speech march in paris. 14.01.15

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On Monday, Daniel McAdams, Executive Director of the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity, told Sputnik in an interview that the current US administration doesn’t have the moral right to take part in rallies for freedom of expression like the one held in Paris on Sunday, saying, “The Obama Administration invoked the Espionage Act more times than all its predecessors combined to silence or imprison whistleblowers. Why would a representative of one of the worst violators of the US First Amendment have any moral authority to march in a rally for free speech?” The unity rally in Paris had the aim of expressing solidarity with the victims of last week’s terror attacks on the office of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the hostages killed during a subsequent attack on a kosher supermarket outside Paris. Over a million people attended the unity march, including 40 top world officials. British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel, and Minister of Foreign Affairs S V Lavrov showed up at the rally, however, the USA didn’t send a leading figure to the event, only sending US Ambassador to France Jane Hartley. According to McAdams, some foreign leaders present at the march for “freedom of speech”, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ukrainian President (sic) P A Poroshenko, are responsible for “innumerable violations of free speech in their own countries”.

He also emphasised that France, Germany, and the UK routinely imprison their own citizens for expressing opinions that the government finds objectionable, noting, “France has gone so far as to ban a comedian from performing in the country, because his controversial speech was not of the approved variety”, adding that in addition to disrespecting the freedom of speech, Western governments, including the USA, “arm and support terrorists. France, the UK, Germany, and the USA actively supported terrorists in Syria and Libya for years in their efforts to overthrow governments they don’t like”. According to McAdam, the Kouachi brothers, the suspects in the attack on the Charlie Hebdo office, later killed by French police, “were essentially promoting French foreign policy when they were in Syria last summer fighting against the Assad government. They may have even used French weapons in Syria, as France shipped plenty of weapons to terrorists fighting there”.

On Monday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said during a press briefing that the USA should’ve sent a higher profile official to the Paris unity march. According to Earnest, US President Barack Obama didn’t attend the event because of security concerns.

13 January 2015

Sputnik International

http://sputniknews.com/analysis/20150113/1016824462.html

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