Clinton Campaign ‘Concerned’ by Arizona Election Fraud – Vows to Address It Once Hillary Is the Democratic Nominee

Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

Shortly after it was clear that the results in the Arizona Democratic primary were completely fraudulent, Hillary’s general counsel, Marc Elias, took to Reddit to make the case that, in solidarity with thousands of furious Sanders supporters, the Clinton campaign was “concerned” by reports of widespread voter suppression and election fraud:

I wanted to weigh in here because I know that many people have serious concerns about yesterday’s primary in Arizona, and the frustrations voters there encountered while trying to exercise their basic right to vote.

I share those concerns — and I know the rest of the HFA team does, too.

The way Arizona administered its elections last night is absolutely, unequivocally unacceptable. It’s the result of a larger Republican effort to make it harder for people to vote…

Yes, any and all blame can be laid squarely at the feet of Republicans, according to the general counsel for the establishment Democratic candidate. (We’ll return to this accusation in a little bit.) But Elias saved the best for last:

What happened in Arizona is bad for BOTH Senator Sanders and Secretary Clinton, and supporters of both campaigns should come together to make sure this is addressed before November.

*by the way, if you’re wondering, Secretary Clinton’s got a plan to address this, but I’m really not here to plug my boss!

Holy guacamole.

First of all, the idea that Hillary was negatively affected by the election fraud that occurred in Arizona is a bold, but nonetheless laughable claim. As we previously reported, Clinton held a commanding lead among early voters who cast their ballot by mail. Since the majority of Clinton supporters had voted early, Sanders led decisively in Election Day voting.

In Maricopa County, which has roughly 50% of Arizona’s registered Democrats, Sanders led Clinton in Election Day votes by a 20% margin, 60-40%.

maricopa.png

(Sources: 2008 results vs 2016 results)

Early voting in Maricopa County increased by nearly 45,000 this year compared to 2008 — but Election Day turnout plummeted by more than 80,000. 

Do you see where this is going? With numerous reports claiming that up to 60% of voters were turned away on Election Day because they were incorrectly registered as independents or Republicans, it’s been calculated that Sanders was robbed of approximately 146,000 votes, and would have defeated Clinton, 51%-49%.

This could be an extremely conservative estimate, though. A sampling of 151 reports of voters being denied the right to cast a ballot includes 2 Clinton supporters and 111 Sanders supporters

According to the official results, Clinton won Arizona 57.6%-39.9%. In other words, Elias is telling very tall tales about Hillary being “hurt” by the Election Day results.

But Elias really shows his true colors when he urges “supporters of both campaigns” to “come together to make sure this is addressed before November”, while reminding Sanders supporters that Hillary “has a plan [!]” to fix this injustice.

Yes, the fact that tens of thousands of voters were denied the right to vote cannot be properly addressed until after the Democrats choose a nominee in July. To paraphrase Marc Elais, you’re vote is extremely important — once Hillary is declared the Democratic nominee! (P.S. — she totally has a plan to “address” the election fraud that gave her the nomination.)

As for blaming the Republicans for everything, are we supposed to believe that Clinton’s well-oiled political machine, with the full backing of the Democratic Party, didn’t know exactly what would happen on Election Day? Are we really expected to believe that Clinton, who enjoyed a lead in early voting, was deeply concerned about polling stations in Maricopa County being reduced from 200 in 2012 to 60?

Is this real life? What are we supposed to take away from Elias’ declaration of solidarity with disenfranchised voters, aside from the fact that the Clinton campaign clearly thinks we’re all a bunch of chumps?

Arizona’s Secretary of States has acknowledged that even members of her own staff were denied the right to vote — and that the decision to hold a re-vote can only be made by the Democratic Party.

The ball’s in your court, Hillary. If your campaign is so sure that voter suppression occurred, how can you stand by the official results?

Sorry for the naive rhetorical question.

Schwarzenegger Receives Gift of ‘Russian Terminator’ Putin T-Shirt (Video)

It seems the frenetic efforts of the Western corporate media to demonize Putin and turn him into an untouchable pariah are having little effect, even in America.

When a Russian athlete attending a bodybuilding and strongman contest in the US presented Arnold Schwarzenegger with a T-shirt displaying Putin, the response was positive all around.

Rather than refusing the gift or casting it aside, Arnie did not display a negative reaction. The media and people around him at the time gave a positive response, and this was the general response of Americans at the event to Russia and Putin.

So judging by this, the efforts at demonizing Russia and Putin by the corporate media are falling flat on their face.

How the US Continues to Arm Al-Qaeda

According to rebels in the Turkish border zone, weapons have flowed steadily into Syria since the ceasefire began. Even those who hope for a political settlement aren’t betting on one any time soon. Instead they’re stockpiling for the next round, which they expect will be as desperate as the last. 

We ask the Friends of Syria and they give us,” [Colonel Hassan Rajoub, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Division 16], said with a smile. “They have just now given us new supplies of everything. But we want some special weapons to give us a little bit of leverage.” 

[S]everal FSA commanders said the United States had been forthcoming during the ceasefire period, replenishing arms stocks and leaving open the possibility that some anti-aircraft missiles might be released into northern Syria.

“We expect a surprise,” said one satisfied commander. 

The U.S. military commanders are always with us,” Rajoub said. “We ask. They are very cooperative. They understand our needs.”


Around Aleppo, It’s Not Peace—Just a Break, Thanassis Cambanis, Century Foundation, March 28 2016

Stephen F. Cohen: Palmyra — Why Is Obama Silent on ISIS’ Biggest Defeat to Date?

John Batchelor has an extremely popular political talk show on America’s largest radio network, WABC.

He has Stephen Cohen on live in the studio almost every week for a full 45 minute segment, the only guest he gives that much time to. 

Why? Because Cohen’s appearances are killing the ratings. America seems to be thirsting for an alternative and critical view of Obama’s Russia policy. 

See below for a summary of this program courtesy of The Nation.

Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen and John Batchelor continue their weekly discussions of the new US­-Russian Cold War. (Previous installments are at TheNation.com.)

By regaining control of Palmyra, a major and ancient city, Cohen argues, the Syrian army and its ground allies, backed by Russian air power, have dealt ISIS its most important military defeat.

The victory belies the US political-media establishment’s allegations that Putin’s six-month military intervention was a sinister move designed to thwart the West’s fight against terrorism.

Instead, it has gravely wounded the Islamic State, whose agents were behind the terrorist assaults on Paris and Brussels.

Indeed, Cohen points out, US–Russian cooperation in Syria, which includes the Geneva peace negotiations, is the result of a kind of mini-détente brokered by Secretary of State Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

Not surprisingly, these positive developments are being assailed by the American-led war party, which has redoubled its vilification of Russian President Putin, preposterously accusing him, for example, of “weaponizing the migration crisis” in Europe, even though the crisis began long before Russia’s intervention in Syria.

Putin clearly backs Lavrov’s initiatives, even meeting with Kerry several times. Obama’s stance, it seems to Cohen, remains unclear.

Neither he nor the American commander of NATO congratulated or otherwise applauded the Syrian-Russian victory in Palmyra, and Obama again went out of his way to insult Putin (twice).

With US backing, the Kerry-Lavrov mini-détente might extend to the political epicenter of the new Cold War, Ukraine.

Instead, Cohen explains, Washington is seeking to make the US-born Natalie Jeresko prime minister of Ukraine, putting an American face on the ongoing Western colonization of the Kiev government. 

Jaresko is also the candidate of the US-controlled IMF, on which Kiev is financially dependent but whose demands for economic austerity measures and “privatization” of state enterprises will almost certainly further diminish the government’s sharply declining popular support and further abet the rise of ultra-right-wing Ukrainian forces and Kiev’s conflict with Russia.

Meanwhile, in recent interviews, Donald Trump has emerged as the only US presidential candidate to challenge Washington’s bipartisan foreign policies that contributed greatly to the new Cold War.

As Cohen predicted last week, the American national security establishment has reacted to Trump as an “anti-Christ,” along with the equivalent of the preceding Cold War’s redbaiting.

Thus, Hillary Clinton charged that Trump’s less militarized proposals would be like “Christmas in the Kremlin.”

The mainstream media has taken the same approach to Trump, thereby continuing to deprive America of the foreign policy debate it urgently needs.

How Russia’s Air War in Syria Made Its Air Force Stronger

Russia is using the real world experience its has gained in its air campaign over Syria to improve its warplanes. While Moscow’s air war no doubt furthered the Kremlin’s political objectives on the international stage, the campaign also served as a de facto live-fire operational test and evaluation period for Russia’s newest warplanes.

Indeed, the Syrian campaign showed that Russia’s new advanced Sukhoi Su-34 Fullbacks, Su-35S Flanker-E—and possibly the Su-30SM Flanker-H—required minor tweaks to their systems as a result of their recent combat experience. The aircraft required modifications to their flight controls and engines as result of the lessons learned during their deployment.

“The failures were in the control system and the engine. In general, they are not critical,” a Russian defense source told Russian-language Rambler news service. Another source told the Russian news agency that most of the glitches were “little things” and “were eliminated on the spot.” Overall, the feedback from the combat pilots was that the new Flankers performed very well.  “All the pilots noted the high quality of aircraft,” a source told Rambler.

It’s not unusual to discover glitches during real world combat operations especially on a new aircraft. In fact, problems are often discovered even on mature aircraft that have been in service for years under wartime conditions. What this does is demonstrate that the Russians are taking home the lessons learned from their Syrian adventure and incorporating that knowledge. Ultimately, that means that the Russian Air Force will only grow more formidable as a threat as it continues to refine its procedures and operating concepts as a result of its real world experiences.

Indeed, the Su-34 was among the best performers during the Russia’s Syrian air campaign—carrying out the bulk of Russian precision guided weapons strikes using weapons like the KAB-500S GLONASS-guided bomb and guided missiles like the Kh-25ML and the Kh-29L. The Russian government is so pleased with the bombers’ performance that it giving Sergei Smirnov, the director of the Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Association, an award as a result of the Su-34’s performance.

However, Russia now acknowledges that only a fraction of its airstrikes used precision-guidance. The rest of the munitions were dumb bombs like the OFAB-250-270.  Moscow also asserts that their GLONASS-aided SVP-24 Gefest target-acquisition system affords them the ability to drop conventional dumb bombs with greater accuracy. However, such claims are dubious at best—many bomb sights have claimed such capability in the past. But without some means to correct the weapons course on the way down, there is no way to drop unguided aerial munitions from above 10,000ft with any degree of accuracy.

ISIS vs 3D Printing: New Technologies Could Restore Palmyra Ruins

For once, there is no doubting the drive. Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamun Abdelkarim, is visiting Palmyra this week to survey the wreckage of his celebrated site, pleading for its rebuilding. His benefactor and Syria’s principal ally, Russia, has compared Palmyra’s restoration with that of Leningrad after the second world war. In Italy, the former culture minister Francesco Rutelli has ambitious plans to use digital “printing” to reconstruct Palmyra’s fallen temples from their rubble and dust.

Private initiatives aren’t far behind. Oxford’s Institute for Digital Archaeology is the creation of American lawyer/archaeologist Roger Michel, with help from Harvard and Dubai. Michel is currently using similar technology to Rutelli’s – better, he claims – to build a 3D facsimile arch from Palmyra’s destroyed Temple of Bel. It is to be unveiled in London’s Trafalgar Square on 19 April and will then travel on to New York. “My intention,” declares Michel, “is to show Islamic State that anything they can blow up we can rebuild exactly as it was before, and rebuild it again and again. We will use technology to disempower Isis.”

With the recapture of Palmyra all these ambitions must confront reality. The talk stops and something must happen. New 3D printing technology in particular opens a new front in the old argument among conservationists: between restoration and “conserve as found”, or between treating heritage as “done and dusted” as opposed to seeing it as an opportunity to discover new meaning, and new enjoyment, in the past.

Michel claims his printers can reproduce not just the texture and surface contour of stone but its physical make-up. They can extrude layers of the same sand, water and sodium bicarbonate that formed the artificial stone often used by the ancients. They can reconstitute the original dust of a ruin in situ. It is no different in concept from French archaeologists who, in the last century, re-erected Palmyra’s colonnade.

Meanwhile in a quarry in Carrara outside Rome, the decorative features of the Bel temple uprights are being etched by a CNC router-engraver. They are, says Michel, “completely indistinguishable from the original”. He is offering the Syrians two printers that, he claims, can operate at a speed that “should enable us to rebuild what has been destroyed inside six months”. Robotic artificial intelligence can be an aide to art as well as science.

Michel is backed by London mayor Boris Johnson, an enthusiastic sponsor of the Trafalgar Square arch. Johnson demanded that “British archaeologists be in the forefront of the project”, especially given Britain’s “ineffective” role in failing to defend the site in the first place. David Cameron has yet to respond.

In Italy Rutelli’s 12 metre-high Big Delta printer is built by the Wasp Corporation and was first displayed at Rome’s Faire Maker digital fair last year. It has already been used to recreate portions of Pompeii and is being used to recreate the 4 metre-high winged bull of Nimrud in Iraq, smashed by Isis last year. While both Michel and Rutelli are handicapped by the lack of 3D scans of Palmyra, hundreds of photographs coupled with the new accessibility of the ruins should make amends.

At this point difficulties arise. First is that of sovereignty. Italy and Britain may have the technical edge, but the Russians are on the ground. Moscow has shown open contempt for the west’s actions in leaving Syria’s army unsupported last year, when it had secured the ruins against Isis. For fear of seeming to back President Assad, American and British air cover was denied him, and the Syrians had to retreat. Isis moved in and began its orgy of destruction.

The director of the Hermitage museum, Mikhail Piotrovsky, has no intention of relinquishing Russia’s triumph. Last week he declared: “We will never find anything more beautiful in the annals of Russian history in the Middle East” than the liberation of Palmyra. His museum already houses a collection of artefacts from the city, including the Silk Road’s “Palmyra Tariff”, round which the museum has built a computerised market place. With Putin’s explicit support, Piotrovsky sees Russia’s “reconstruction and restoration” of the temples as a project “to raise the spirit of not only the Syrian people but of all mankind”.

The Palmyra ruins are supposedly under the aegis of Unesco as a “world heritage site”. Few hold out much hope that this body, to whom all parties pay lip service, will be an agile party to what happens next. With security uncertain and Syria’s government beholden not to the west but to Russia, the likelihood is that Unesco will retreat into its familiar indecision and bickering. It has already fallen back on what it does best, summoning a conference later in the spring.

So far Unesco’s director, Irina Bokova, has struggled to hold the ring. She spoke at the weekend to Putin, who promised to de-mine the Palmyra site and send experts from the Hermitage. Where that leaves Italy’s current culture minister, Dario Franceschini, is unclear. He claims to have a unit of 60 “blue helmets for culture” on standby to protect the site.

Also champing at the bit are Michel and Rutelli, both with their machines at the ready, though Michel appears to have his dispositions most in place. He is proposing to bring his arch direct to Palmyra after London and New York and erect it near the site as a demonstration of what can be done. He is determined that his 3D machines be available to rebuild the new town as well as the old. At present Palmyra is reportedly a ghost town, its population forced to drive east by the retreating Isis. The danger is that, if Abdelkarim does not see his temples rebuilt in the current wave of enthusiasm, the moment will pass. Palmyra could then sink into the same looting and decay as have afflicted Iraq’s monuments since 2003 – and the indecision that hovers over Afghanistan. In the latter case, the sixth-century Bamiyan buddhas, destroyed by the Taliban, have lain in rubble since 2001. When western forces subsequently liberated the country, the new Afghan government and the local Hazara people pleaded for the statues to be reinstated. They had been much restored before and were much-loved and a potential tourist site.

Initially German archaeologists began reconstruction, under the conservation NGO, ICOMOS. Unesco intervened, an argument ensued and work was stopped. A decade of fruitless debate resulted in a 2012 Unesco order that any work on the site would be “inauthentic”.

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Top: the Temple of Bel in March 2014. Bottom: the same site two years later

It added none the less that it was in principle “neither for nor against reconstruction”. Le Monde reported “endless dithering, underhand rivalry, pointless discord and mistakes” in Unesco’s handling of the site. Similar feuding enveloped the reconstruction of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat following the ousting of the Khmer Rouge regime in the 1990s.

After the destruction of the second world war, the Council of Europe evolved what amounted to a new ideology towards heritage. It should be stabilised and “conserved as found”. The Victorians might rebuild, but the 20th century should enshrine its destructive urges as memorials. The Romantics’ cult of the ruin was reborn as a cult of penitence.

This “modernist” approach infused Britain’s failure to restore the towns destroyed in the Blitz. It had less impact on defeated nations, frantic to repair the emotional wounds of war by rediscovering the familiar from the past. French, German and Polish cities struggled to rebuild what bombs had destroyed, witness Caen, Dresden and Warsaw. As a result, Germany’s destroyed but rebuilt town of Lubeck is now a world heritage site; Britain’s Coventry certainly is not.

What in most of Europe was seen as recovered memory was in England seen as meaningless nostalgia. At least in matters of archaeology, the British approach won. The reconstruction in the 1900s of Minoan Knossos by Sir Arthur Evans was never to be repeated.

The sheer nihilism of what Isis has done in Iraq and Syria may yet shift the terms of this debate. Why should the forces of darkness be allowed to determine what we may experience of the past? The former British Museum expert John Curtis, doyen of Iraq’s ruined sites, declares himself ready to welcome Michel and others to Palmyra. “Many of these ruins had been restored over the years,” he says. “Provided we know exactly what we are doing, I would certainly favour restoring them to what they were a year ago.” Curtis can add more than a hundred sites and shrines in Iraq that appear to have gone for good, and might be added to Michel’s list.

They include “all the Christian churches in Mosul, most of the monasteries – some of the earliest Christian sites in the world”. He offers as a starter for reconstruction the ancient al-Arbain mosque in Tikrit, “then Nimrud, then perhaps Hatra, almost entirely a rebuild before its destruction by Isis”.

In Syria perhaps the greatest task lies in Aleppo. Its ancient Silk Road market lies in ruins, as does the great Umayyad mosque and its 11th-century minaret, felled by artillery in 2013. Not to rebuild the minaret would be as unthinkable as to not to have rebuilt St Mark’s campanile in Venice after its collapse in 1902.

In this, archaeologists still seem to have a terror of “going back too far”. Curtis finds restoration “after overnight destruction” fine, but “so far and no further”. It seems likely that Unesco would take the same view. It is hard to imagine what it would make of the renewal of Gothic cathedrals and abbeys in 19th-century Europe. It leaves out of account Chinese and Japanese historicism, which rebuilds constantly, finding meaning in design and setting rather than in physical fabric – and finding none in ruins.

The possibility is now that 3D printing technology can restore whole swaths of 20th-century ruination. It can recapture artistry and a sense of place, much as photography can recapture forgotten faces and disseminate great paintings. Of course it is a “copy” and thus lacks “authenticity”, but so what? Photography did not die for want of authenticity.

The west has visited political and military catastrophe on the Middle East. The obligation to rectify that seems overwhelming. Even now, western (and Saudi Arabian) jets are pulverising the ancient Arab city of Sana’a in Yemen. More recently, drones and manned bombers have been targeting Isis-related sites in northern Libya. That coastline is probably the richest resource of undiscovered archaeology in the Mediterranean. Deep-action munitions can destroy any site in seconds. Are steps being taken even now to record what our bombers ape Isis in destroying?

This is a world that dates from the earliest eras of classical, Christian and Muslim cultures. It is everyone’s heritage. Perhaps from these wars could emerge the greatest enterprise of historical revival since 1945.

In the regions concerned, there seems a craving for normality, to put back the clock on the destruction wrought by Isis. The obstacle is not the will or the means. Both are now present in abundance. The obstacle could yet be an inability on the part of so many enthusiasts to work together, and an obtuse academic dismissal of a technology that can release to the world a new delight in the past.

Fur Coats Are a Russian Girl’s Best Friend (Video)

Ever wonder why Russian women are so obsessed with fur coats? Despite the stereotype about severe Russian winters, it’s not that cold, at least in the Western part of the country. What’s absolutely clear is that one can survive without wearing such an expensive garment.

But those who have ever been to Moscow or Saint-Petersbourg during winter could not help but notice that a substantial number of women were wearing fur coats.

So what’s all the fuss about this clothing? The explanation goes deep into Russian history. Fur coat – it’s more than just a coat protecting you from cold. It’s a huge part of Russian culture and traditions.

A fur coat for Russian women is like an expensive Swiss watch on your wrist – you just can’t be more clear in showing your status to the rest of the world.

Judo Black Belt Putin ‘Throws’ the West Again!

William Wedin is a licensed clinical psychologist and long-time activist for progressive causes who lives and practices in New York


On Wednesday, September 30, 2015, a Russian general walked into the US Embassy in Baghdad to announce on Putin’s orders: “We launch Syria air strikes in one hour. Stay out of the way.”

On Monday, March 14, 2016–exactly 5.5 months later–Putin “threw” the West again by informing reporters that most Russian forces would be leaving Syria–starting tomorrow!

TOMORROW?

Putin–as always–was true to his word.  The very next day, waves of Russian jets roared off towards home–where proud, tearful crowds clapped and cheered and threw the young pilots high in the air.  Putin had kept his promise to the Russian people once again!  He had said that the pilots would accomplish their mission in a brief time span.  And brief it proved to be.  The main strike force was back in Russia in under 6 months–leaving their foes on the run!  And for the first time in a very long time Russian troops returned to cheering crowds as medal-bearing heroes of Mother Russia!

The world was stunned!  Putin had turned the tide of battle in 5 short months.  A feat that the United States had not accomplished since it defeated Japan in World War II.  And that took 4.5 years and two atomic bombs.

How could Putin have succeeded with such a pint-sized force so fast?  It was as fast as a Putin Judo match!  

“A snow leopard,” his longtime trainer and “second father,” Anatoly Rakhlin, once called him.

Two weeks later the world is still debating why the Snow Leopard leapt when he did.

Whatever the reason may be, Putin knows the power of surprise.  As both a sportsman and as a statesman, Putin is the Master of Surprise.  The Judoka of Surprise.

Message to Erdogan – Regime Change in Syria is Off the Agenda

A couple of weeks ago I wrote for Russia Insider that I thought it unlikely President Erdogan would send the Turkish army into Syria and that the talk of his doing so in alliance with the Saudis was probably bluff.

For the moment that is how it has turned out. 

As I also predicted fears Erdogan might also close the Straits to Russian ships have also proved groundless.  Though there seems to have been some petty harassment by and large Russian ships en route to Syria have been able to pass through the Straits without difficulty.

Though there remains a remote possibility that Erdogan might decide to intervene that is now looking increasingly unlikely. 

If he has ever considering intervening then his window for doing so is closing fast and he must know it.

That begs the question why did Erdogan not intervene when the opportunity to do so presented itself?

First and most obviously, it is clear that neither he nor the Turkish military were prepared to risk an armed clash with the Russian military.

The recently announced withdrawal of part of the Russian strike force from Syria has not changed that position.

Putting aside the threats that may have been made by the Russians to use tactical nuclear weapons if Turkey attacked their strike force, the Russians have retained their powerful air defence assets – their Su-35 and Su-30 fighters and their S-400, BUK and Pantsir-1 anti aircraft missiles – in Syria, and their powerful cruiser Varyag with its S300 anti aircraft missiles off the Syrian coast.

There are now also known to be an unknown number of Russian Special Forces or Spetsnaz troops on the ground in Syria helping the Syrians with reconnaissance.

This remains a powerful force which is many orders of magnitude more technologically sophisticated than anything the Turks have to throw at it.

The Russians have pointedly reminded everyone that they are able to reinforce this force in Syria in just a few hours. They have also beefed up their air base in Armenia with MiG-29 fighters creating a potential threat to the Turks in their rear.

A Turkish advance into Syria would also encounter stiff opposition from the Syrians themselves and from the Russians’ Kurdish allies, who confusingly are also allies of the US.

This is a powerful array of opponents against whom in an all-out military contest the Turks would be unable to prevail.

Unsurprisingly the Turkish military – with its past history of fraught relations with Erdogan – has categorically ruled out any intervention in Syria, publicly saying it will only intervene in Syria if it is given a mandate to do so by the UN Security Council.

Since Russia has a power of veto on the UN Security Council that simply won’t happen and the Turkish military knows it.

The reality is that a Turkish military intervention in Syria – whether in alliance with Saudi Arabia or not – only makes sense if it is undertaken in alliance with the US.

The military reality of the modern world is that apart from China only the US is able to match Russia militarily.  Any other country crazy enough to go to war with Russia on its own without the backing of the US is setting itself up for inevitable – and catastrophic – defeat.

In the case of Turkey the catastrophe might be very great indeed with Armenia, Syria and the Kurds all having claims on Turkish territory and with Cyprus having claims on Turkish occupied northern Cyprus.  

In the event of Turkey’s military defeat by Russia all these parties might be all only too willing to press their claims in which case the entire future survival of the Turkish state within its existing borders might be in jeopardy and might come to depend on the extent to which Russia decided that the continued survival of the Turkish state within its existing borders was in its own interests.

Needless to say this is not a scenario any genuine Turkish patriot would want to contemplate.

The Turkish military know all this which is why they have so publicly ruled an intervention out.  The fact they have done so publicly may have been intended as much as a warning to Erdogan as anything else.

The big question is why is the US refusing to back Turkey in a military clash with Russia?

The short answer is that US public opinion would strongly oppose any possibility of the US going to war with Russia on Turkey’s behalf in a contest over Syria.  

If anything has been made clear by the US Presidential election it is that the US public’s enthusiasm for more military adventures is exhausted.  

As for the idea the US public would willingly contemplate World War III so Erdogan and the neocons might achieve some geopolitical play in Syria, that is simply fantastic. 

Comments on discussion threads in the US media anyway show significant and unsurprising support by a substantial and vocal part of the US public for what Russia is doing in Syria.

That is the overriding political reality any US President contemplating a confrontation with Russia in Syria must face.

Farther afield, the angry criticism in Europe at the EU’s latest refugee deal with Turkey shows how little support there is for Turkey in Europe on the part of the European public.

The quickest and most certain way of galvanising the European public’s opposition to NATO – and of ensuring Marine Le Pen’s victory in next year’s French Presidential election – would be to threaten to go to war with Russia in Syria on behalf of Turkey.

Beyond that it is now clear from his interviews with The Atlantic that Obama has a tetchy relationship with Erdogan – whom he apparently considers a “failed authoritarian” – and that Obama is fundamentally opposed to further adventures in Syria.

As discussed previously, so far from Obama wanting to stir the Syrian crisis up, all the indications are he wants to close it down.

Lastly – and possibly most important of all – articles Seymour Hersh has published have confirmed the strong opposition to the whole regime change policy in Syria of at least a part of the US uniformed military.

Whilst it seems that most of the higher ranking officers at the forefront of this opposition have been replaced, it is a certainty there are many others who privately share their views and who would be utterly horrified – and would strongly oppose – drifting into an armed confrontation with Russia that might risk World War III so that President Erdogan could achieve his neo-Ottoman ambitions in Syria.

Obama himself is not going to be President for much longer and it is possible the new President who will emerge in November – especially if she is Hillary Clinton – will take a more confrontational line.

However even in that case many of the facts that have prevented a US intervention on Turkey’s behalf up to now will remain in place.  Indeed the probability is that by the time the new President takes over next January more facts will have been created on the ground that will make US backing for a Turkish military intervention in Syria even more difficult.

Ultimately the very fact the US is supporting the Russian truce plan and the Russian dictated negotiations that are now underway in Geneva shows how limited the US’s options have become.  

For a new US President to tear all that up and to switch back to the policy of externally imposed regime change as if the fundamental change in the situation caused by the Russian intervention in September had not happened is probably too dangerous to be practical even if the next US President is Hillary Clinton.

What that means is that the most dangerous point in the Syrian crisis has now probably passed.  

It would be unwise to be complacent.  However as the weeks and months pass it is starting to look increasingly as if Syria has survived and has been saved and that the Syrian government and army and probably President Assad are here to stay.

If so then it is probably only a matter of time before the whole idea of regime change in Syria is finally and once and for all taken off the agenda.

Is It Russia That Wants War?

The author is a Russian born American and an RI contributor who shares her multicultural experience with our readers


Do Russians want war? This question can only arise in America – a country that never experienced foreign war on its soil. The Cold War was based on one main assumption: the Russians/Soviets want war!

After losing more than 20 million people in World War II, experiencing hunger and the devastation of industries and infrastructure, the last thing the Soviet Union wanted was another war. It took the country decades to rebuild. People lived in deep poverty and everyone longed for a normal life. Yes, Russia was building up its defense industry, because it didn’t want to be attacked again.  Generations of Russians were raised on movies and songs about war (WWI, the civil war, WWII).  Aversion to war is part of Russia’s national psyche.

So why did paranoia of Russia take over the United States?

Shortly after the end of the World War II, the alliance between the United States and the Soviet Union against Hitler soon became irrelevant. Soviets got a new face: “evil Russians” wanted only one thing: world domination. This would be laughable if it didn’t have such dire consequences: years of fear on both sides and resources which could have been spent improving people’s lives, wasted on arms.  Undoubtedly, Stalin’s regime was cruel to its own citizens, but the Soviet Union never planned to wage offensive war.

Fear of the Soviet Union was initiated by George Kennan’s “Long telegram”, later reprinted as an article titled “The Sources of Russian Conduct”, which he described as too “insecure and untrusting and too obsessed with protecting their borders.” Parts of Kennan’s ‘Long Telegram’ were selectively released to the public to create the image of an evil Russia that wanted to take over the world.

Another part of the telegram, stating that the Soviet Union was actually much weaker than the US and didn’t pose a threat was omitted: “Gauged against the Western World as a whole, Soviets are still by far the weaker force.” Not just weaker: the economy of the Soviet Union after the war was a fraction of the American economy. But that part was ignored and the telegram was enough to send the Pentagon and propaganda machine into motion. Building weapons is a profitable business.

One piece of paper justified the greatest arms buildup in history! Of course, it provided jobs for millions of people in the United States, but the main beneficiaries were the arms mnufacturers.

Why are we fighting the new Cold War?

Twenty years ago, did anyone expect that Russia and US would be fighting another Cold War? Some, like Steven Cohen, argue that old one never ended.

There are several reasons for the new confrontation, but the main one is that United States failed to understand Russia’s willingness to cooperate with the West in the early 1990s. It continued to treat Russia with mistrust and a looser. Its attempt to cooperate with the West was perceived as a sign of economic weakness. Russia was treated as a beggar wanting to be liked, accepted into the “gentlemen’s club”. It was accepted, with much condescendence from the “civilized” to sit at some of their fine tables, as long as the clumsy Russian bear was on a leash.

When the bear started growling once in a while, showing its teeth, the gentlemen began to wonder if they had made a mistake in dealing with such a brutish creature. They didn’t care that the bear meant no harm – a beast is a beast and should be dealt with accordingly!

So the taming of the beast began. Slowly but surely, an image of ‘aggressive Russia’ was created. Thanks to misinformation about the real causes of the war in Georgia and Ukraine, we got what CNN, the Washington Post and the New York Times were “predicting” all along: a ‘resurgent Russia’.

How can we avoid a confrontation between the two nuclear superpowers when Washington is determined to continue its information warfare, portraying Russia in a bad light no matter what Russia does?

Just like the original Cold War, the current one has an ideological underpinning, except that now it’s not about communism versus capitalism, it’s about multipolarity versus unipolarity. It just so happens that Russia is not willing to be part of a unipolar world. And nuclear weapons came in handy for protecting its national pride and its national interest in the face of America stomping into Russia’s spheres of interest.

The current U.S./Russia state of relations is a result of the U.S. blindly following its own grand strategy at any cost. According to the Wolfowitz doctrine, states are not allowed to have their own national interests, and no one can stand in the way of US global preeminence:

“Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival, either on the territory of the former Soviet Union or elsewhere, that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union.”

With respect to the Middle East and Southwest Asia, the Wolfowitz doctrine is clear:

“Our overall objective is to remain the predominant outside power in the region and preserve U.S. and Western access to the region’s oil.”

It goes on to state that

“We must maintain the mechanism for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.”

Russia is definitely a stumbling block to America’s goal of “dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power.”

Could someone in Washington please think outside the box and see where we’re heading?

Top Russian Politician Nikolay Starikov Calls for Congress of Opposition Parties of Europe

Nowadays we all have become witnesses of political processes which are not designed to promise humanity any assurance. As instability is increasing, local military conflicts are flaring up here and there, the world economy is experiencing a significant downshift.

All of these issues will have to be solved by politicians. Why? Because all of them were created by politicians. But the other ones. Apparently the contemporary politics of the European elite no longer meets the expectations of the majority of Europeans. The growth of unemployment, the influx of millions of unidentifiable migrants, economic struggles – these are the results of the actions of European politicians in power today.

Considering these realities, we must find a solution that will allow us to decrease tension on the European continent and streamline free-trade processes in the best interests of all European countries. It is impossible to solve these issues without the participation of Russia.

Unavoidable changes in Europe are approaching. New characters will appear in the place of bankrupt politicians. Unpopular parties will be replaced by new ones. In the present situation, it is imperative to open a dialogue and meet with those who will take a lead in Europe in the near future.

This is a reason we have decided to create a new communication platform – CONGRESS OF OPPOSITION PARTIES OF EUROPE (COPE). We plan to invite those parties and politicians that are not yet a significant part of their state parliament but are growing and becoming influential, and are moving forward.

COPE is viewed by us as a place where the representatives of growing political forces can get to meet each other, identify the most topical issues, and find the best solutions. Most Importantly, they will be able to become acquainted with the Russian point of view firsthand.

Syria: How the Palmyra Victory Changes the Narrative

The liberation of Palmyra is a decisive turning point in the war on Syria. While there were earlier military successes by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the publicity value of securing the valued Roman ruins of Palmyra is much higher than any earlier victory. It will change some of the false narratives of the conflict.

The Syrian government is no longer “the Assad regime” and the Syrian Arab Army no longer the “Assad forces”. Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, congratulated the Syrian government to its success:

One important part of liberating Palmyra was the use of Russian electronic warfare equipment to interfere with electromagnetic signals around Palmyra. The Islamic State rigged the ruins with improvised explosive devices but was unable to remotely detonate them.

The myth that the Syrian and Russian government are in cahoots with the Islamic State, told by variouspropagandist as well as the British and U.S. government, has now proven to be false. But other false claims are still made:

That depiction of the battle is pure nonsense. The Islamic State offensive that ended with its occupation of Palmyra took thirteen days from May 13 to May 26 2015. Heavy fighting and several Syrian army counter offensives took place during those days. After the Islamic State finally captured the city, the Syrian army immediately prepared for a larger operation to regain the city. This was launchedsuccessfully in July 2015 but for lack of air support the gains made were again lost a week later.

Throughout the 2015 fighting around Palmyra the U.S. air force, which claimed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, did not intervene at all. ISIS was free to resupply through the open east-Syrian desert.

The sole reason that the Islamic State could successfully attack Palmyra was a very large ongoing attack by al-Qaeda Jihadists and CIA mercenary forces on the Syrian government forces in Idleb governate. The Syrian army moved troops from Palmyra to defend Idleb and Latakia and the forces left behind were no longer large enough to repel the Islamic State attack.

The attack on Idleb, for which the CIA allowed its proxy forces to directly cooperated with al-Qaeda, was supported by electronic warfare from Turkey which disrupted the Syrian military communication. The attack and the obvious cooperation between the Jihadists and Turkish and U.S. secret services wasthe reason that Russia and Iran decided to intervene in the conflict with their own forces. It had crossed their red line.

What followed was the roll up of all “rebels” that posed an immediate danger to the Syrian government. After Turkey ambushed a Russian jet all “rebel” forces supported by Turkey became priority targets. When the success of large scale offensives in Latakia and around Aleppo was established, Russia imposed a cease fire on the U.S. supported forces and on the Syria government. This cease fire freed up the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces needed to successfully take back Palmyra. From there on the attack will progress eastward to Deir Ezzor and later on to Raqqa.

The Palmyra victory was the biggest defeat yet of the Islamic State. It poses a problem for the Obama administration:

Congratulations, though still with loads of obligatory anti-Assad rhetoric, are now coming from unexpected corners like the conservative mayor of London:

I cannot conceal my elation as the news comes in from Palmyra and it is reported that the Syrian army is genuinely back in control of the entire Unesco site.

There may be booby traps in the ruins, but the terrorists are at last on the run. Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

I concur.

Is Trump Right About NATO?

Of NATO, where the U.S. underwrites three-fourths of the cost of defending Europe, Trump calls this arrangement “unfair, economically, to us,” and adds, “We will not be ripped off anymore.”

Beltway media may be transfixed with Twitter wars over wives and alleged infidelities. But the ideas Trump aired should ignite a national debate over U.S. overseas commitments – especially NATO.

For the Donald’s ideas are not lacking for authoritative support.

The first NATO supreme commander, Gen. Eisenhower, said in February 1951 of the alliance: “If in 10 years, all American troops stationed in Europe for national defense purposes have not been returned to the United States, then this whole project will have failed.”

As JFK biographer Richard Reeves relates, President Eisenhower, a decade later, admonished the president-elect on NATO.

“Eisenhower told his successor it was time to start bringing the troops home from Europe. ‘America is carrying far more than her share of free world defense,’ he said. It was time for other nations of NATO to take on more of the costs of their own defense.”

No Cold War president followed Ike’s counsel.

But when the Cold War ended with the collapse of the Soviet Empire, the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact, and the breakup of the Soviet Union into 15 nations, a new debate erupted.

The conservative coalition that had united in the Cold War fractured. Some of us argued that when the Russian troops went home from Europe, the American troops should come home from Europe.

Time for a populous prosperous Europe to start defending itself.

Instead, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush began handing out NATO memberships, i.e., war guarantees, to all ex-Warsaw Pact nations and even Baltic republics that had been part of the Soviet Union.

In a historically provocative act, the U.S. moved its “red line” for war with Russia from the Elbe River in Germany to the Estonian-Russian border, a few miles from St. Petersburg.

We declared to the world that should Russia seek to restore its hegemony over any part of its old empire in Europe, she would be at war with the United States.

No Cold War president ever considered issuing a war guarantee of this magnitude, putting our homeland at risk of nuclear war, to defend Latvia and Estonia.

Recall. Ike did not intervene to save the Hungarian freedom fighters in 1956. Lyndon Johnson did not lift a hand to save the Czechs, when Warsaw Pact armies crushed “Prague Spring” in 1968. Reagan refused to intervene when Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, on Moscow’s orders, smashed Solidarity in 1981.

These presidents put America first. All would have rejoiced in the liberation of Eastern Europe. But none would have committed us to war with a nuclear-armed nation like Russia to guarantee it.

Yet, here was George W. Bush declaring that any Russian move against Latvia or Estonia meant war with the United States. John McCain wanted to extend U.S. war guarantees to Georgia and Ukraine.

This was madness born of hubris. And among those who warned against moving NATO onto Russia’s front porch was America’s greatest geostrategist, the author of containment, George Kennan:

“Expanding NATO would be the most fateful error of American policy in the post-Cold War era. Such a decision may be expected to impel Russian foreign policy in directions decidedly not to our liking.”

Kennan was proven right. By refusing to treat Russia as we treated other nations that repudiated Leninism, we created the Russia we feared, a rearming nation bristling with resentment.

The Russian people, having extended a hand in friendship and seen it slapped away, cheered the ouster of the accommodating Boris Yeltsin and the arrival of an autocratic strong man who would make Russia respected again. We ourselves prepared the path for Vladimir Putin.

While Trump is focusing on how America is bearing too much of the cost of defending Europe, it is the risks we are taking that are paramount, risks no Cold War president ever dared to take.

Why should America fight Russia over who rules in the Baltic States or Romania and Bulgaria? When did the sovereignty of these nations become interests so vital we would risk a military clash with Moscow that could escalate into nuclear war? Why are we still committed to fight for scores of nations on five continents?

Trump is challenging the mindset of a foreign policy elite whose thinking is frozen in a world that disappeared around 1991.

He is suggesting a new foreign policy where the United States is committed to war only when we are attacked or U.S. vital interests are imperiled. And when we agree to defend other nations, they will bear a full share of the cost of their own defense. The era of the free rider is over.

Trump’s phrase, “America First!” has a nice ring to it.

Palmyra Liberation Means No Less Than Human Rights or Democracy

It is good news because it brings closer the day of Daesh’s eventual collapse, opening the way for the lifting of the siege of Deir Ez-Zor and the liberation of Raqqa.

Palmyra’s liberation is also good news for all humanity and not just because it hastens the day of Daesh’s final collapse. Palmyra is one of the greatest archaeological sites in the world, concentrating within itself some of the greatest monuments of classical Antiquity.

It is a site of tremendous historical importance, the capital of the great Arab Queen Zenobia who defied the Romans. It is first and foremost the property of the Syrian people and of the Arab nation, but it is also in the truest sense the property of all humanity.

Any civilized person would earnestly wish to see Palmyra preserved. Its threatened destruction by Daesh would have been a cultural calamity comparable to the sack of Rome by the Goths or the sack of Baghdad by the Mongols.

Those who say they value Palmyra’s preservation less than human rights or democracy fail to understand that it is precisely when places like Palmyra are destroyed that human rights and democracy — and indeed human life itself — are most threatened.

Acting with indifference to the threatened destruction of a place like Palmyra is not the conduct of a humane, civilized and democratic person even — or especially — if it is done behind a mask of humanitarianism. It is the conduct of a barbarian.

The leaders of the West claim to be civilized people. When last May Palmyra was captured by Daesh they sent up a wail of pretended horror.

They then did precisely nothing though saving Palmyra was well within their power.

Instead they doubled down on their calamitous regime change policy: shipping more weapons to the Syrian opposition, renewing their demand President Assad step down, and threatening him with a no-fly zone if he didn’t.

Meanwhile their bombing of Daesh was sporadic and ineffective, failing even to interrupt its oil trade.

Daesh in Palmyra was left alone to carry on with its gruesome murders and to blow up monuments there.

Matters got so bad that last summer the Western powers told the Russians that instead of being chased out of Palmyra Daesh would be in Damascus by October.

When Russia intervened in September to prevent this calamity it came under a storm of criticism.

They criticized Russia for saving Bashar Assad though he is Syria’s legitimate president whose army is actually fighting Daesh. They criticized Russia for bombing President Assad’s opponents instead of Daesh, as if many of President Assad’s opponents are not also jihadi terrorists as bad and dangerous as Daesh.

Six months later, as a direct result of Russia’s intervention, Damascus has been saved, a truce brokered by Russia has brought peace to most of Syria, negotiations without preconditions aimed at finding a political settlement to Syria’s conflict are at last underway and Daesh is on the run, with Palmyra liberated and preserved mostly intact.

None of this would have happened if Russia had not intervened when it did.

By contrast, at the rate they were going, if it had all been left to the Western powers, Syria would have been destroyed and by the time Daesh finally left Palmyra at some point in the remote future it’s doubtful whether there would have been so much as a stone there left standing.

Has the US Finally Cut off Syrian Rebels’ Weapons?

Washington and Moscow had to cooperate in order to get that ceasefire along with the jump-starting of intra-Syrian negotiations, now scheduled to begin next month, according to UN special envoy Steffan de Mistura.  But the diplomatic maneuvering did not involve equal influence on each other’s policies.  Putin’s Russia has now demonstrated that it has effective leverage over the policy of Kerry and the United States in Syria, whereas Kerry has no similar leverage over Russian policy.

Kerry had appeared to be the primary driver of a political settlement last year, propelled by a strategy based on exploiting the military success of the Nusra Front-led opposition forces, armed by the United States and its allies, in northwestern Syria.  Kerry viewed that success a way of put pressure on both the Assad regime and its Russian ally to agree that Assad would step down.

But that strategy turned out to be an overreach when Putin surprised the outside world by intervening in Syria with enough airpower to put the jihadists and their “moderate” allies on the defensive.  Still pursuing that strategy, we now know that Kerry asked US President Barack Obama to carry out direct attacks on Assad’s forces, so he could have some “leverage” in the negotiations with the Russians over a ceasefire and settlement. But Obama refused to do so, and the Russian success, especially in January and February, conferred on Putin an even more clear-cut advantage in the negotiations with the United States over a Syrian ceasefire.

The US-Russian agreement on a ceasefire has proven to be far more effective than anyone had expected, and it is now clear that the reason is that Putin was able to convert his new-found leverage into the one US diplomatic concession that is necessary to any possibility of ending the war. The agreement between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Kerry was more far-reaching than what has been made public. According to a report last week by Elijah J Magnier, who writes on regional politics and diplomacy for Al Rai, Kuwait’s leading daily newspaper, “high officials present in Syria” – which his report makes clear were Iranian – said that the United States had pledged as part of the ceasefire deal to “enforce on its regional Middle Eastern allies the cessation of the flow of weapons” into Syria.

In response to an e-mail query from this writer, Magnier said he had learned from his sources that no weapons have crossed the border into Syria from either Turkey or Jordan since the ceasefire went into effect. This crucial element of the US-Russian understanding, about which the Obama administration has maintained a discrete silence, evidently left the leadership of Nusra Front and its allies with little choice but to go along with the ceasefire for an indeterminate period. The entire armed opposition has thus apparently been shut down in Syria on the insistence of the United States because it was a requirement for the Russians to halt the offensive against them. 

That far-reaching US concession explains why Putin surprised the entire world by announcing on 14 March that he was withdrawing the bulk of the Russian aircraft participating in the offensive. Contrary to the speculation of many pundits about his motive in doing so, Putin was actually enhancing his leverage over both the military situation and the political negotiations still to come. Magnier’s sources told him that when Putin had informed Iran of his intention to withdraw the planes, he had emphasized that they could be returned to Syria within 24 hours if necessary.

Magnier’s Iranian sources also made it clear that Iran was unhappy about the timing of Putin’s decisions on the ceasefire. They believed that it came at least a month too soon, just as Iranian forces were in a position to gain significantly more territory. But Putin’s agreement to the ceasefire and partial withdrawal on condition that outside patrons would not move to resupply their clients served the larger Russian strategy of checkmating the aim of Turkey and Saudi Arabia of bringing down the Assad regime – an aim in which the United States had become deeply involved, even as it insisted it wanted to preserve the structure of the Syrian state security apparatus. 

Coming after a demonstration of the effectiveness of Russian airpower in frustrating the 2015 ‘s jihadist-led offensive, Putin’s seizing the opportunity to nail down the agreement with Washington and then pulling out most of his airpower conveyed a message to the jihadist’s external patrons that it was in their interets not to restart the war. 

By shifting the conflict to the negotiating table, Putin’s moves have also added to Russian leverage on the Assad regime, and the Russians can be expected to be active in suggesting ways to craft a Syrian agreement on new elections and constitutional reform. The Russians have ruled out any requirement for Assad to resign, but the Iranians are afraid that assurance is not ironclad. Iranian officials strongly hinted privately in Vienna that they believed the Russians made a deal with the United States on a key sanctions relief issue at Iran’s expense in the final stage of the nuclear negotiations. They fear something similar may happen on Syria.

Iran has long regarded Assad and his regime as a key in the “axis of Resistance,” so it views his removal from power under any formula as unacceptable. Magnier’s sources told him that Iran believes Putin would accept a formula under which Assad would name someone else to run for president in a future election, according to Magnier.

Once the negotiations reach that stage of the negotiations, however, Putin will have a range of options for compromise that wouldn’t require Assad’s withdrawal from the regime. In a new constitution, for example, Assad could assume the role of chief of state with more ceremonial functions and an “advisory” role, while policymaking powers are assumed by a prime minister. Such a compromise could be seen as preserving the legitimacy and stability of the present regime, even though Kerry could claim that the opposition’s main interest had been achieved.

Of course, despite the remarkable diplomatic leverage Putin has achieved, the negotiations could still fail. That could happen because the opposition’s negotiators are unwilling to agree to a settlement that appears to preserve the Assad regime more and because the Obama administration proves unwilling to compel its allies to maintain the arms supply suspension. But the longer the negotiations continue, the greater John Kerry’s personal stake in seeing them reach a compromise agreement and thus avoiding the resumption of full-scale war.

All Quiet on Western Front After Syrian Army Liberates Palmyra From ISIS

Indeed, it must have been a tough weekend for Western media’s favorite Syria pundits. It’s hard to fathom that any observer — regardless of their particular leanings — could feel anything other than relief at such a victory.

Yet, there’s a strange sense that some pundits might actually be a little bit disappointed. Not to see the back of ISIS in the city, of course, but to be faced with the uncomfortable reality that their narrative is quickly unraveling.

No word from the grand coalition

Given the monumental importance of this latest victory in Syria’s war, you would expect at least a comment or two from Barack Obama, who more than a year and a half ago solemnly swore that his grand coalition would “degrade and destroy”the terror group. You might also expect a few words from David Cameron, who, like Obama, has seemed so terribly concerned by the humanitarian situation in Syria and so determined to “defeat” ISIS. But the two of them must have been having a bit too much fun this past Easter weekend, because there wasn’t a peep out of them. In a way, they’ve done us a favor, because their silence speaks far louder than their words ever could.

The reality is, while the Syrian army, supported by Russian air power, was advancing on ISIS positions, Cameron and Obama were busy trying to figure out how they could get you to believe that Russia was actually helping ISIS. When they weren’t doing that, they were busy plotting how best to topple the Syrian president, who controls the one and only fighting force that is capable of defeating on the ground the barbaric terror group they claim to be so “shocked and concerned” by. Yes, such valiant determination they have shown in their quest to rid the world of terrorism.

A blow to the Western narrative

Unfortunately, the loud but duplicitous proclamations from Washington and London were gobbled up whole by a pliant media, and so, for a while we were treated to headlines about the Russians “helping” ISIS, or “giving ISIS and air force” and other such nonsense which now looks rather embarrassing in hindsight. In this context, the recapture of Palmyra was not just a mortal blow to ISIS, it was also a mortal blow to the West’s entire rotten narrative on Syria.

One of the other favorites, was the line that Putin was “weaponizing” refugees, shamelessly propagated by NATO chief General Philip Breedlove. This one was particularly deceitful as it utterly disregarded the hundreds of thousands of refugees who fled nations torn apart by NATO interventions well before Russia entered the Syrian war.

When Palmyra was taken by ISIS, Western media gave the story extensive coverage. They were outraged when the militants blew up the 2,000-year-old Arch of Triumph. They were sickened when ISIS publicly beheaded 82-year-old renowned antiquities scholar Khaled al-Asaad and hung his body in the main square. Given their obvious distress at what had happened to this place of such huge historical significance, you would think they’d have been delighted to see it liberated from the group of jihadis currently terrorizing not only Syria, but Europe, too.

Instead, they can barely stomach it.

Sure, they covered it. They had to. But in contrast to the coverage the city was given when it was captured, the initial reaction to its liberation was fairly subdued. Some of the initial reports yesterday did not even mention the word Russia, while others used the Syrian army’s success to cast doubt over Assad’s commitment to fighting the terror group.

But just let’s imagine for a moment that it had been British and American warplanes involved in the battle to retake Palmyra. The front pages of Western newspapers would be overflowing with self-congratulations. Someone would probably be running in to drape an American flag over the ancient ruins. Neocons and liberals alike would be making the TV rounds, happily predicting the beginning of a new dawn for the Syrian people. The usual script.

What will the pundits do now?

One of the rare analysts who has actually been right on Syria time and again is Max Abrahms, political science professor and terrorism expert at Northwestern University. Abrahms recently commented on Twitter that it would be interesting to see whether the media would make any changes to their punditry lineups, given that so much of their previous Syria analysis is “now debunked”. Sadly, there will likely be no change at all. The same pundits will continue to appear.

Watch as they try to minimize the importance of the Syrian and Russian achievement at Palmyra. Watch as they try to extricate themselves from the quagmire of their own misinformation campaign. Watch as they engage in ever more impressive mental gymnastics, trying desperately to prove they were, of course, right all along. They simply cannot highlight Russia’s role in this kind of victory, because in doing so, they would highlight their own failure.

All talk, little action

If Washington truly wants to wipe out ISIS, both their actions and their chosen allies of Turkey and Saudi Arabia would seem to raise some uncomfortable questions. Russian warplanes carried out 41 sorties in 24 hours to support the Syrian army’s Palmyra offensive. American planes carried out two. As veteran reporter Robert Fisk wrote in The Independent yesterday: “[The Americans] wanted to destroy ISIS, but not that much.”

Now, while Assad’s forces push on towards the self-proclaimed ISIS ‘capital’ of Raqqa and Russia sends robots and engineers in to help de-mine Palmyra, what will Cameron and Obama be doing? They’ll be scrambling for new talking points — and to their relief, the same pundits who peddled lies about this war for years will no doubt come to their aid and continue to obscure basic facts. But as the latest victory shows, it will become harder and harder to convince the masses when the truth becomes plainer and plainer to see.

Fortunately however, there are some who aren’t as afraid to give credit where it is due. London Mayor Boris Johnson admitted that the Russians have “made the West look relatively ineffective; and so now is the time for us to make amends, and to play to our strengths”.

He went on: “If Putin’s troops have helped winkle the maniacs from Palmyra, then – it pains me to admit – that is very much to the credit of the Russians. It is alas very hard to claim that the success of the Assad forces is a result of any particular British or indeed western policy.”

Just like Iraq, when the veil of lies and deceit is finally lifted, the truth will be plain to see.

Why Is David Cameron so Silent on the Recapture of Palmyra From the Clutches of ISIS?

The biggest military defeat that Isis has suffered in more than two years. The recapture of Palmyra, the Roman city of the Empress Zenobia. And we are silent. Yes, folks, the bad guys won, didn’t they? Otherwise, we would all be celebrating, wouldn’t we?

Less than a week after the lost souls of the ‘Islamic Caliphate’ destroyed the lives of more than 30 innocent human beings in Brussels, we should – should we not? – have been clapping our hands at the most crushing military reverse in the history of Isis. But no. As the black masters of execution fled Palmyra this weekend, Messers Obama and Cameron were as silent as the grave to which Isis have dispatched so many of their victims. He who lowered our national flag in honour of the head-chopping king of Arabia (I’m talking about Dave, of course) said not a word.

As my long-dead colleague on the Sunday Express, John Gordon, used to say, makes you sit up a bit, doesn’t it? Here are the Syrian army, backed, of course, by Vladimir Putin’s Russkies, chucking the clowns of Isis out of town, and we daren’t utter a single word to say well done.

When Palmyra fell last year, we predicted the fall of Bashar al-Assad. We ignored, were silent on, the Syrian army’s big question: why, if the Americans hated Isis so much, didn’t they bomb the suicide convoys that broke through the Syrian army’s front lines? Why didn’t they attack Isis?

“If the Americans wanted to destroy Isis, why didn’t they bomb them when they saw them?” a Syrian army general asked me, after his soldiers’ defeat  His son had been killed defending Homs. His men had been captured and head-chopped in the Roman ruins. The Syrian official in charge of the Roman ruins (of which we cared so much, remember?) was himself beheaded. Isis even put his spectacles back on top of his decapitated head, for fun. And we were silent then.

Putin noticed this, and talked about it, and accurately predicted the retaking of Palmyra. His aircraft attacked Isis – as US planes did not – in advance of the Syrian army’s conquest. I could not help but smile when I read that the US command claimed two air strikes against Isis around Palmyra in the days leading up to its recapture by the regime. That really did tell you all you needed to know about the American “war on terror”. They wanted to destroy Isis, but not that much.

So in the end, it was the Syrian army and its Hizballah chums from Lebanon and the Iranians and the Russians who drove the Isis murderers out of Palmyra, and who may – heavens preserve us from such a success – even storm the Isis Syrian ‘capital’ of Raqqa. I have written many times that the Syrian army will decide the future of Syria. If they grab back Raqqa – and Deir el-Zour, where the Nusrah front destroyed the church of the Armenian genocide and threw the bones of the long-dead 1915 Christian victims into the streets – I promise you we will be silent again.

Aren’t we supposed to be destroying Isis? Forget it. That’s Putin’s job. And Assad’s. Pray for peace, folks. That’s what it’s about, isn’t it? And Geneva. Where is that, exactly?

Palmyra: ISIS Has Lost a Battle Not the War

The recapture of Palmyra by the Syrian army is an important defeat for Isis, but does not mean it is disintegrating as it is pressed back into the self-declared Caliphate. 

Although Isis is reported to have left the bodies of 400 of its fighters in and around the ancient city, it appears to have withdrawn most of its forces before they were destroyed. This is inkeeping with its tactics over the last year whereby it does not fight to the last man defending fixed positions against prolonged air strikes by Russian and US-led aircraft. 

The successful advance of the Syrian army – though just how far it is in control of the Palmyra area is still unclear – marks an important victory for President Bashar al-Assad just as the loss of the city ten months ago underlined the ebbing strength of his forces. The reversal of his military fortunes stem from the start of the Russian air campaign on 30 September last year and a less well-publicised increase in support from the Shia axis led by Iran and including Hezbollah in Lebanon and Iraqi paramilitary units. Despite the official end of Russian military intervention, its aircraft evidently played a central role in retaking the city.

A striking feature of the Isis victory in May last year was that its fighters were able to advance without being bombarded by US aircraft because the US did not want to be accused of doing anything that would help the Assad government, whom it accused of never fighting Isis. The claim was in part propagandistic since the Syrian army had suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Isis in 2014 as was shown by Isis atrocity videos in which Syrian soldiers taken prisoner are shown being decapitated or shot. 

Western governments and the Syrian opposition accused Russia of focusing solely on non-Isis targets during its air campaign in support of the Syrian army. In reality, the Russians launched air strikes on whatever elements of the armed opposition that were the greatest threat to Syrian army positions in all parts of the country. These included air attacks in northern Latakia province, around Aleppo and east of Homs and Hama. At the high point of its advance last year, Isis was able to threaten the main north-south M5 highway linking Damascus and Homs and, more recently, briefly cut the alternative route linking Homs to Aleppo.

Isis has lost a battle, but it has not necessarily lost the war and it will be difficult for the Syrian army to advance east of Palmyra as it presses into hardcore Syrian Arab areas and will become vulnerable to guerrilla attacks. The same is true of the heavily populated rural Sunni areas of Idlib province and east Aleppo where the armed opposition are coming under pressure from Syrian army and the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). 

The political and military situation in Syria and Iraq remains unstable with local and foreign players all pursuing different strategies. The Iraqi and Syrian Kurds have provided ground forces that are closely allied to the US-led air campaign, but both are conscious that the international support they are currently enjoying will not continue after the defeat of Isis. They will also be vulnerable to re-empowered central governments in Damascus and Baghdad seeking to reassert control over their Kurdish provinces or areas in dispute better between Kurds and Arabs. 

Russia is showing that it is happy to act in concert with the US in arranging a “cessation of hostilities” on 27 February between the Syrian army and the armed opposition – aside from Jabhat al-Nusra and Isis. It is seeking to give substance to peace negotiations in Geneva which envisage some form of power sharing in Syria either on a geographical or institutional basis. But this is not a policy favoured by Iran or the Shia axis which in the long term remain the Assad’s government’s most committed allies. The civil war is far from over.

Kosovo: An Evil Little War (Almost) All US Candidates Liked

The US-led NATO operation that began on March 24, 1999 was launched under the “responsibility to protect” doctrine asserted by President Bill Clinton and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair. For 78 days, NATO targeted what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia – which later split into Serbia and Montenegro – over alleged atrocities against ethnic Albanians in the southern province of Kosovo. Yugoslavia was accused of “ethnic cleansing” and “genocide” as bombs rained on bridges, trains, hospitals, homes, the power grid and even refugee convoys.

NATO’s actions directly violated the UN Charter (articles 53 and 103), its own charter, the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and the 1980 Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The war was a crime against peace, pure and simple.

Though overwhelmed, Yugoslavia did not surrender; the June 1999 armistice only allowed NATO to occupy Kosovo under UN peacekeeping authority, granted by Resolution 1244 – which the Alliance has been violating ever since.

US Secretary of State at the time, Madeleine Albright, was considered the most outspoken champion of the “Kosovo War.” She is now a vocal supporter of candidate Clinton, condemning women who don’t vote for her to a “special place in Hell.”

Clinton visited the renegade province in October 2012, as the outgoing Secretary of State. She stood with the ‘Kosovan’ government leaders – once considered terrorists, before receiving US backing – and proclaimed unequivocal US support for Kosovo’s independence, proclaimed four years prior.

“For me, my family and my fellow Americans this is more than a foreign policy issue, it is personal,” Clinton said. Given the Kosovo Albanians had renamed a major street in their capital ‘Bill Clinton Avenue’ and erected a massive gilded monument to Hillary’s husband, her comments were hardly a surprise.

She is unlikely to be condemned for those remarks by her rival for the Democratic presidential nomination, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders. While arguing that Congress should have a say in authorizing the intervention, Sanders entirely bought into the mainstream narrative about the conflict, seeing it as a case of the evil Serbian “dictator” Slobodan Milosevic oppressing the unarmed ethnic Albanians. He saw “supporting the NATO airstrikes on Serbia as justified on humanitarian grounds.”

One Sanders aide, Jeremy Brecher, resigned in May 1999 arguing against the intervention as it unfolded, since the “goal of US policy is not to save the Kosovars from ongoing destruction.”

Trouble is there was no “destruction.” Contrary to NATO claims of 100,000 or more Albanians purportedly massacred by the Serbs, postwar investigators found fewer than 5,000 deaths – 1,500 of which happened after NATO occupied the province and the Albanian pogroms began.

Western media, eager to preserve the narrative of noble NATO defeating the evil Serbs, dismissed the terror as “revenge killings.” NATO troops thus looked on as their Albanian protégés terrorized, torched, bombed and pillaged across the province for years, forcing some 250,000 Serbs, Jews, Roma, and other groups into exile.

After George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, his administration adopted the Clinton-era agenda for the Balkans, including backing an independent Albanian state in Kosovo. None of the Republicans, save 2012 contender Ron Paul, have criticized the Kosovo War since.

Billionaire businessman Donald Trump actually has been critical – though back in 1999, long before he became the Republican front-runner and the bane of the GOP establishment. In October that year, Trump was a guest on Larry King’s CNN show, criticizing the Clintons’ handling of the Kosovo War after a fashion.

“But look at what we’ve done to that land and to those people and the deaths that we’ve caused,” Trump told King. “They bombed the hell out of a country, out of a whole area, everyone is fleeing in every different way, and nobody knows what’s happening, and the deaths are going on by the thousands.”

The problem with Trump, then as now, is that he is maddeningly vague. So, these remarks could be interpreted as referring to the terror going on at that very moment – the persecution of non-Albanians under NATO’s approving eye – or the exodus of Albanians earlier that year, during the NATO bombing. Only Trump would know which, and he hasn’t offered a clarification. 

Though he has the most delegates and leads in the national polls for the Republican nomination, the GOP establishment is furious with Trump because he dared call George W. Bush a liar and describe the invasion of Iraq as a “big fat mistake.” According to the British historian Kate Hudson, however, the 2003 invasion was just a continuation of the “pattern of aggression,” following the precedent set with Kosovo.

Last week Secretary of State John Kerry reluctantly branded the actions of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) in Iraq and Syria “genocidal” towards the Christians, Yazidis, Shiites and other groups. He cited examples of how IS destroyed churches, cemeteries and monuments, and murdered people simply because of who they were.

It was March 17, eight years to the day since 50,000 Albanians began a three-day pogrom in Kosovo, doing the very same things – while their activists in the US were raising funds for the very same John Kerry, as he ran for president as the Democratic candidate.