The Dossier Buzzfeed Released Doesn’t Even Pass a Basic Smell Test

How the basic premise of the anti-Trump dossier kicking around D.C. since October 2016 – finally released by Buzzfeed on January 10th 2017 with major caveats that sources were unverified and there were clear errors in the report – does not even pass the smell test.

January 11, 2016

Buzzfeed released a dossier of 17 dated documents ranging from 20 June to 13 December 2016 – apparently summaries from a hired private British intelligence service – that essentially claim that Trump is under the thumb of Putin because of compromising material of a sexual nature the latter has of him.

The 20 June 2016 Doc

The very first document dated 20 June 2016 sets the tone and is the focus of this blog as it sets the basic premise behind the rest.

It claims that

P1. Russia has been cultivating Trump for over 5 years to split the Western alliance. 

P2. Russia has been giving Trump valuable intelligence on his opponents including Clinton for “several years.”


P3. Russia has NOT given Trump “compromising material” on Clinton (ed: thus contradicting 2)

Analysis

The implication of P1 and P2 are that Trump was identified as a mark as early as 2011 to run successfully for POTUS and be amenable to Russian diktats to disrupt the US and the West (to benefit Russia).

This means that the Kremlin had a better idea of the American political landscape of the future that would allow Trump, improbably and astonishingly defeat 17 GOP candidates – ranging from moderates GOP like Jeb Bush,  Chris Christie and John Kasich thru the Marco Rubios to hard right like Ted Cruz and then go on defeat Hillary Clinton –  than every American pundit and pollsters ever.  

One is to believe then that this Manchurian candidate was groomed despite the odds and then told to execute the horrible strategy of insulting every GOP icon, from John McCain’s POW status to Gold Star families, unnecessarily denigrating immigrants, women and pretty much anyone who dared question him in order to win.

And instead of following the politically expedient approach of distancing himself from Russia, as any careful planner would advise, Trump apparently went out of his way and courted controversy and invited suspicion by his stance on Russia and Putin, alienating much of the GOP establishment let alone providing the Dems with a ready attack line of Trump being a Russian puppet (thus diluting Clinton’s own political issues.)

This then was apparently the highly improbable Kremlin “winning” strategy cultivated from 2011.

As per P2, he was thus fed opposition research on opponents and Clinton “for years”.  Can anyone point out any hidden bombshells Trump threw at his opponents once he got into the race in June 2015, whether in the primaries or in the general election based on “opposition research” that his handlers apparently had collated over years?   Where was this vaunted Kremlin supplied opposition research?

Trump won the primaries in spite of, or perhaps because of, insulting his opponents and bringing down the standards to where he could avoid talking about specific policy or much of anything but broad sweeping assurances devoid of any supporting facts.  No one predicted this strategy would work – except apparently his Russian handlers who were more attune to the vagaries of the Electoral College and the sentiments in middle America than the entire DNC/GOP political establishment, pundits and media.

Russia in short is being accused of understanding the American political system and zeitgeist better than any American politican/pundit/campaign strategist/pollster in choosing their assault of the US with the most unlikely figurehead ever from as far back as 2011.

And P3 states that inexplicably the Kremlin at the last stages of an improbable run declined to provide him with key oppo research on Clinton (contradicting P2 which said he had got some).

Conclusion

This document was prepared starting apparently in June 2016 once the GOP and Dem presumptive nominees were known.  It resembles a smear document that is circulated to journalists to poison the well.

It is notable that even in such a highly politicized atmosphere with most major media outlets loathing Trump, this document was not released – no doubt because no one expected it would be needed for Clinton to win.

Now with Dem efforts failing in the post-election swing state recounts, and to prevent both the EC voters from voting for Trump on December 19th and the Senate from ratifying the votes on January 6th, it appears that one last attempt to smear Trump is being executed.

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A look at Proposals and Options for the USG and Russia, as the Battle for East Aleppo Intensifies

A review of the two opposing UN Security Council Draft Resolutions on Syria debated on October 8, 2016 to show how far apart the USG and Russia are in terms of Stated proposals to end the bloodshed in rebel held East and (to a lesser degree) in Government held West Aleppo; what the key sticking points are; Actual intent of both parties; and what happens next.

October 12, 2016

Introduction

As the Syrian Government aims to recapture East Aleppo from Al-Nusra and allied rebel forces with ground troops backed by air bombardment by both its air forces and the Russians, the growing  civilian death toll caused primarily by the air campaign on a dense urban E Aleppo, and secondarily by rebel mortars attacks on Government held West Aleppo, with increasing rhetoric about the US Government need to intervene in some military way and/or punish Russia, it is useful to look at the current stated proposals to end the violence by the Russians, the USG and the UN Special Envoy to Syria, Stefan De Mistura before considering actual intent and motives and what happens next.

A few caveats:

1. Stated proposals does not mean actual intent.  One can make informed speculation about actual intent later.

2. The Current Stated proposal may differ from that of just a few weeks ago.  These will be pointed out where applicable.

3. Proposals another side might find agreeable may be stated within documents that has other non-starter proposals, simply for negotiating or PR purposes knowing that the chances of the overall document being agreed to are nil.

Sources for Stated Proposals

Just over the past two weeks, there have been a multitude of interviews, press conferences given by various Leaders, their Foreign Ministers, their representatives in daily/weekly briefings, as well as representatives of rebel forces in Western, Russian, Arab news outlets.

However the clearest proposals for ending the violence in E Aleppo, not for rhetorics alone but having a written document or clear statement one can critique are:

1. The French-Spanish Western (in reality USG) led proposal UNSC Draft Resolution S/2016/846 vetoed by the Russians (with China abstaining) on October 8, 2016.

2. The Russian led  UNSC Draft Resolution S/2016/847 and vetoed by a USG led bloc (but supported by China) on October 8, 2016.

3. The UN Special Envoy’s De-escalation offer made in a press statement on October 6, 2016 in Geneva.

The term USG Draft Resolution will be used to refer to the S/2016/846.

Where the USG and Russian Stated Positions Agree

There is much verbiage on agreement of preserving the territorial integrity of Syria; declaring ISIS, Nusra and AQ derived groups, terrorists who must be stopped; the need to cut funding to these terrorist groups; the need to stop indiscriminate bombing on all sides (including barrel and tunnel bombs); the need to ensure humanitarian access to all areas without delay; the need to punish violations of humanitarian laws on all sides.

The language used in both UNSC Draft Resolutions on many of these points is identical.

(A reminder again about Caveat 3 above, that stated positions may not reflect how serious either actually is about adherence to some or any of these proposals).

Key Disagreements

The USG Draft Resolution called for:

Demands that all parties immediately end all aerial bombardments of and military flights over Aleppo city; (Ed: ie a No Fly Zone (NFZ) )

The Russian Draft Resolution (emphasis added):

Demands all parties to comply with United Nations requests for humanitarian access by observing the cessation of hostilities as described in resolution 2268 (2016) and the Agreement of 9 September, 2016 

Included in the Russian Draft Resolution is agreements from the USG-Russian CoH agreement (that itself is included as an attachment).

Stresses the urgent need to achieve and verify separating moderate opposition forces from “Jabhat Al-Nusra” as a key priority

and

pullback from Castello Road (Ed: a DMZ) and establishing checkpoints on that road, and to facilitate evacuation of urgent medical cases and also to use for humanitarian and medical purposes the Suleiman al Halabi corridor between Eastern and Western Aleppo

and

Immediate restart of political negotiatons without preconditions of all parties with the Special Envoy as specified in prior resolutions (2254).

and

Welcomes the initiative of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General on Syria of 6 October 2016 on normalizing the situation in Aleppo and requests the Secretary-General to present to the Security Council a detailed plan for its implementation in cooperation with interested parties for the purpose of the endorsement by the Security Council;

The De Mistura Initiative given in a press briefing on October 6, 2016 was (paraphrasing)

al-Nusra in E Aleppo should leave E Aleppo to safe haven of their choice with arms. (De Mistura personally agreed to accompany them, i.e. the old concept of being a willing hostage)

and

Following this agreement, Syria/Russia must stop air campaign.

and

Local administration within E Aleppo should stay intact and not capitulate to the Syrian Government forces with international UN presence, pouring in humanitarian aid.

Commentary

The first thing to note is that the Russians are in essence trying to get the CoH agreement hammered out over months and announced with the USG on September 9, as an approved UN Security Council Resolution.  They had repeatedly called for this to happen even before the CoH fell apart, but the USG insisted on keeping this secret and not table it in the UNSC.

Indeed the Russians included 5 pages (in the English version) of the CoH agreement as an addendum to the main 3 page resolution.

The second thing to note is that the USG in its 4 page resolution has completely ignored the CoH agreement of September 9.  This is literally not mentioned at all, and all the language in the Draft Resolution is fall back to its old position of all parties must stop fighting, with the single key addition of calling for an immediate end to the air campaign.

And while the Russian Draft Resolution shows specific interest in the De Mistura proposal for de-escalation and requests the UN Security General to follow up on it, the USG one does not mention it at all (just language about being appreciative of the Envoy’s role.)

Note on Tone and Additional Differences

The Russian Draft Resolution talks of showing “appreciation the efforts undertaken by the Russian Federation and the United States of America as co-chairs of the International Syria Support Group”.

The USG one has no such flowerly language but instead inserts into otherwise identical language in both Draft Resolutions that “violations and abuses committed in Syria shall not go unpunished”, the phrase “that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.” (Emphasis added).

There’s also a para added (missing entirely from the Russian resolution)

Expresses its intent to take further measures under the Charter of the United Nations in the event of non-compliance with this resolution by any party to the Syrian domestic conflict;

Analysis

The first thing to note is the obvious: these resolutions are all designed to fail having provisos that the other parties will fundamentally find unacceptable.

Russians are not going to agree to a NFZ, least of all because of their desire to avoid another Libyan scenario where they bitterly complain of being duped into assurances that it was not for regime change and abstained from a UNSC Resolution that authorized a No Fly Zone.

USG are not going to agree on committing to separate Nusra from the rebels in a UNSC document which they agreed to do but not been able to achieve in many months, either because they can’t or won’t. They could not even achieve having Castello Road a DMZ.  And this despite a CoH agreement calling for both these actions.

Indeed the USG is not even backing the De Mistura initiative which would put pressure on rebels to distance themselves with Nusra.

The trigger points of each initiative and the offer in return are different:

Russia: FIRST commit to separate out Nusra & Rebels and establish DMZ within a timeframe.  Will pause for only that time. THEN, Russia will commit to extending pause. (ie the CoH agreement).

De Mistura:  FIRST Nusra should commit to leave to a safe haven. THEN Russia should commit to stop. (Russia claims to be interested in exploring this in more detail)

US: FIRST Russia/Syria should stop Aerial Bombing.  THEN..well we’ll see.

The diplomatic situation thus is clearly worse than before.  The USG has in effect torn up the CoH agreement it had signed, terms of which the Pentagon publicly objected to, and the rebels rejected and which the Russians had publicly questioned USG seriousness and commitment towards.

The Russians claim that stopping the bombing without any agreement of what next, means Nusra would simply allow them to regroup and get stronger with aid from the Saudi Arabia and Qatar (which, as the Wikileaks emails have shown, the USG knew were supplying even ISIS, let alone “other radical groups”).  This re-grouping is precisely what happened after the Russians de-escalated following the February 2016 CoH.  And Nusra and the rebels are already attacking W Aleppo with mortars and missiles, and their stated aim is not just capturing W Aleppo but going all the way to Damascus. (Unlike say the Kurds who seek autonomy).

So What Happens Next?

This gets into the realm of informed speculation based not just on public interviews of their officials but what’s happening on the ground.

There is wide agreement across all parties  that the Recapture – avoiding the emotional laden words Liberation or Fall – of E Aleppo by the Syrian Government would be a watershed that would strengthen Assad’s position immensely.

The mainstream US Establishment cannot let this happen for strategic and geopolitical reasons and seem leaning – some would say they never stopped – to fall back to supporting the rebels, either directly or by proxy, with arms knowing full well they will also get to Nusra and perhaps even ISIS with predictable blowback in the future.

But imposing a No-Fly Zone, that is often thrown around casually with little thought of implications, would not just be bombing a few runways.  It would require a full scale commitment and essentially a declaration of war versus not just Syria but Russia, a fact that the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged, the consequences of which no one can quite predict except to say virtually every party will be immeasurably worse than now.

Obama, who is an intellectual, knows the choices for the USG: Bad and Worse.  He clearly does not want to start a war, especially before a new President is announced on November 8 evening. 

But the USG does have potent weapons: diplomatic, economic, information, legal warfare. 

Diplomatically the USG controls a large bloc of countries, specifically most of Europe who will march to the USG drum even when it’s against their individual interests.  The EU – showcasing 27 (-1) nations – can form an impressive bloc to put pressure on Russia.

Economically, though sanctions against Russia have been extended as far as possible without significant blowback to the USG (though not to the EU which reluctantly follows the USG dictats on the matter despite the pain it feels), some more can be found to put immediate pressure.

The USG controls the best information warfare machinery to propagate these views – a fact commented on by Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, who once boasted of creating an Echo Chamber to advocate for the Iranian deal, by enlisting like-minded policy groups and journalists to say “things that validated what we had given them to say.”

Apart from “friendly journalists”, they have the advantage that many Western journalists either have or choose to have extremely poor or selective memories of who did what when. (This fact is shown by recent astonishing “Fact Checks” that the statement that “Assad is fighting ISIS” is False by AP (later amended after ridicule, to Mostly True) and “Mostly Misleading” by the New York Times, mentioning just Deir-Ez Zor ignoring the huge victory over ISIS in Palmyra in March 2016 and on-going battle lines at several places).

The Russians meanwhile have all but stated that they don’t regard the USG as serious, doubt they’re united (ie the White House, State and Pentagon being on the same page), credible partners, who either have no leverage against the rebels and KSA/Qatar or choose not to exercise it, and who play PR games with long hammered out agreements they never intend to keep. They have via their friendly outlets, initimated that the attack on the Aid convoy whch would have little strategic value, was a false flag attacks to blame them.

Hence Russia will press on supporting the Syrian Government battle in E Aleppo without respite aiming for a critical point where the rebels capitulate.


Conclusion

The USG and Russia are as far apart on Aleppo as the beginning of the year. (One can also argue there is a great deal of disagreement on Options within the US Establishment.) 

As can be seen from the Draft Resolution it backed, USG has in effect torn up the terms of the CoH it had previously agreed to with Russia, refusing to consider making it a public UNSC resolution, or even trying anymore to comply with key provisions that the Russians demand in exchange for their compliance: the separation of rebels the USG is backing from Nusra (which even USG agrees is exempt from the CoH) and an DMZ around the key Castello Road necessary for supplies to both W Aleppo with a UN estimated 1.6 million people and E Aleppo with a UN estimated 275,000. The USG instead has fully retreated to the position it has held earlier: Russia and Syria must stop before any negotiations, with no guarantees that these will happen.

Meanwhile Russia continues to back full compliance for the terms of the CoH as can be seen by its efforts to introduce it as part of its UNSC Draft Resolution. These terms have been the Russian position from the beginning of the campaign a year ago.

Thus Russia will continue to support the Syrian Government’s military actions to recapture E Aleppo.  They will accelerate their campaign and push for reconciliation in other areas of Syria, working closer with Turkey who has its own distinct priorities to that of the USG.

A key date for the US is the night of November 8, 2016, when the new President of the United States is announced.  While Clinton will almost certainly win – barring an astonishing collapse – clear steps by the US cannot be taken till that happens. Even if Obama then becomes a lame duck, he can huddle with Clinton to review options.  In 2004, the openly planned for months Second Battle of Fallujah one of the most brutal and destructive urban combat the US military had engaged in decades, was prosecuted 5 days after the sitting President’s victory was announced.

Assuming a Clinton presidency, even she as a hawk will be tempered by starting an overt war the first day when she takes over in late January.  However putting pressure via escalations in other areas of Syria, covert actions to “take out” key personnel while maintaining deniability, “accidental bombings”, false flags, or in the case of Russia in other arenas including economic sanctions, non-political actions are all options that have either been tabled or carried out by past US Presidents.  While it’s debatable they will achieve anything to stop E Aleppo from being recaptured, they will be excuses for such actions from the extreme hawks supporting Clinton.

For the rebels in E Aleppo, the key is holding out till something significantly changes as a result of USG actions to halt the Syrian/Russian advance.  However, once cracks start appearing in the so far united Rebel front – such as a break with Nusra, or a loss of a critical amount of men or materiel, rapid capitulation may quickly follow.

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Hillary Clinton’s Obfuscation about her Health larger issue than the specifics

Why the issue is not so much the perception of Hillary Clinton’s health but the perception of how she handles crises with half-truths and obfuscations.

September 12, 2016

Hillary Clinton’s apparent collapse  leaving the 9/11 memorial service early due to what was at first described as “overheating” and later as “dehydration brought upon by pneumonia” diagnosed two days earlier, has stirred a lot of debate about her health with partisans on all sides weighing in about the seriousness of her condition and whether that merits attention.

Why Does a President’s Health Matter So Much?

One of the questions an observer outside the United States may first have is the American obsession with the health of a President (or Presidential candidate) in the first place.

In the unitary Executive as practiced in the United States, the President serves both as a symbol of the State as well as the executive in charge of creating policy and running the day-to-day Government.  This is unlike say, the British system where the Monarch is the symbol of the State with ceremonial responsibilities (and some emergency powers) and the Prime Minister is the actual executive of the Government.

With these two roles conflated in one person, the US President has come to have the pressure of projecting robust health, cheerfulness and power reflecting the self-importantance, perceived greatness and vitality of the country, while also promoting his or her political and policy expertise to run the country and beyond.

This robust health projection need is why FDR’s polio and ill-health was kept – by mutual consent with the media – out of papers and photographs; and why John Kennedy wore a concealed back brace (including on the day he was shot, something that might have contributed to his head staying upright for the second, fatal headshot after the first went through his chest.)

So whereas Britain could have Gordon Brown as Prime Minister from 2007-10 – man blind in one-eye, such a possibility in the US is remote (apart from the difference in electoral policies where the PM is the elected leader of a parliamentary faction in power versus directly elected by the people as a President is).

Thus the image conscious part of the US President’s role virtually requires the candidate to publicly sport a bright dentist-approved smile and confident, striking body language and robust health and energy at all times, a requirement that disqualifies many deeper thinkers and experienced policy makers from running. (Indeed part of Bernie Sanders anti-establishment persona was his lack of airs about his disheveled hair, tight smile and hunched shoulders.)

Of course Presidents are human and one can feel sympathetic to Clinton’s predicament of apparently coming down with pneumonia in the post-Labor day home stretch to Election Day.

Indeed an argument of many Clinton acolytes who have argued – rather disingenuously – that if anything she should be commended on her strength (rather than weakness) for continuing to show up when she was secretly sick.

The Larger Point: The Obfuscation

But the more pertinent point is that, while opponents will seize her current ill-health as evidence of her “unfitness for office” as part of the obsession with the health of a President,  Clinton’s campaign kept her pneumonia diagnosis secret revealing it only after it could not be publicly hidden.  First they offered “overheating” as an initial (delayed) response and only when even pro-Clinton media outlets commented on her collapsing on a relatively balmy day, was her alleged pneumonia diagnosis revealed many hours later.

The use of the word “alleged” in the last sentence is deliberate because the whole Clinton reponse to what could have been a controlled revelation of her illness is typical of the aura of untrustworthiness and legal chicanery that surrounds her.

It can honestly be argued that her pneumonia or perhaps even something more serious should not be a part of Presidential politics, but instead of fighting that at the get-go, Clinton seems to accept the rules of the game, and only when caught violating them, questions the validity of said rules.  So after denying she sent classified emails from a private server (that she amateurishly administered vs using at least using a more secure corporate account like Google’s), when caught out, part of her response is to question the validity of some of the classifications. (Even as she told her subordinates to follow the rules).

Being a lawyer by training, this kind of three-card-Monty playing with words and definitions to find loopholes and post-facto justifications is second nature to her.  (Parents will recognize this tendency also.) But it is precisely this too-clever-by-half habit and penchant for secrecy that has caused her disapproval ratings to hover near Trump’s.

For example, pneumonia can often be a symptom of an immune system compromised by some underlying, more serious disease.   So if tomorrow an causative disease is revealed, technically Clinton would not have lied about the proximate cause of her illness, just obfuscated the underlying cause.

Conclusion

Clinton’s delay in communicating her health issues – and even this only when publicly forced to –  has given not just new life to various darker theories about her health but have confirmed the worst opinions of those who are even on the fence about her trustworthiness and ability to manage even simple issues with candor rather than Nixonian obfuscation.

And the latter might do more damage than the former.

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AP’s latest report on Russian-Iranian cooperation on Syria typifies media reliance on inconsistent US Government Narratives

AP’s Bradley Klapper’s Big Story on the Russian airstrikes from Iran underscore the confusion and shortcomings in Western media in trying to keep up and amplify the inconsistent, changing US Government ideological “Good-Bad” based narratives to justify its Syria policy, instead of keeping track of actual facts and asking deeper questions from the beginning.

August 17, 2016

Introduction

Of all mainstream Western media outlets, the Associated Press (AP) is the least biased in its Foreign Policy coverage.  It does not have the deeply ingrained establishment narratives of the New York Times, the Washington Post, or the Reuters news agency, all of which peddle US or NATO Government narratives (official or via the wildly popular “anonymous” sources; or from Think-Tank experts from the same echo chamber) without much questioning, but as established truths and received wisdom.

(Note: a recent New York Times article, “How Think Tanks Amplify Corporate America’s Influence” while focusing on them being compromised by Corporate America – a revelation with the same shock value as Casablanca’s  Captain Renault’s exclamation that he is “shocked, shocked, to find that gambling is going on in here!” – stops short of the more obvious facts that many of these Think Tanks serve as Echo Chambers to justify the Government’s Foreign Policy – a fact that mentioned in a New York Times article on how the Iran Deal was sold).

However even the AP doesn’t exist in a vacuum and is part of the same ecosystem and subject to the same groupthink as the rest of Western media.  A look at AP’s Bradley Klapper’s Big Story entitled “Russia-Iran cooperation in Syria sends message to US” with a number of contributing correspondents from Beirut, Washington, Moscow and Dubai shows how particular narratives influence how news is reported.

Deconstructing AP’s Report

The commentary is divided into 8 sections pertaining to various statements and narratives sequentially cited in the report.

The longest and most critical – in both senses of the word – commentary is section 5, refuting the core US narrative on Syria that Western media treats as a truth.

1. On “Sending a Message”

US media and pundits when commenting on a stated US enemies’ actions, act many times as parodies of self-absorbed narcisstic high-school teenagers who think that everything that happens around them is somehow directed either for their benefit or detriment.  The thought that other people have their own lives and interests doesn’t occur to them. (“OMG, Tiffany just went out with Brad just to, like, make me jealous.  That’s, like, SO Tiffany!“)

Just like the United States, Russia has its own stated national security interests, which in the case of Syria,  it has spoken about loudly, clearly and consistently for years now for anyone who chooses to listen.  Indeed its entire stated attitude towards the Syrian position can be summed up in 20 propositions (as it was in October 2015) and it’s remarkable re-reading it now how it has consistently followed it (even 10 months later).

In short, Russia’s stated goal is to ensure that the secular Syrian state does not collapse to the dominant Salafist insurgents who – like ISIS –  will become a greater danger not just to to the majority of Syrians living with reasonable security and stablity under the Assad regime, but ultimately to Russia itself.

Similarly Iran has its own national security interests which in the case of Syria hews closely to Russia’s and is even more urgent and immediate, given the declared and demonstrated antipathy of Salafists to Iran and Shi’ites.

So Russia and Iran have their own dynamic and reasons as neighbours and partners to work together in areas where they share mutual national security goals.

2. On the message: “Join us or we’ll look to your enemies”

The actual message, as per AP,  that Russia is apparently sending is

Join us or we’ll look to your enemies.

So there are two interesting assumptions within this statement:

(a) Russia is trying to blackmail the US and

(b) Iran is an enemy of the US

Taking the second first, Iran is as much an “enemy” to the US Government – which for purely domestic political and military-industrial reasons eagerly seeks “with us or against us” enemies everwhere – as Russia and China are.  And the Obama administration has sought talks with all three countries to varying degrees to make deals – including a politically costly one with Iran –  where deemed acceptable and confrontation where not.

Iran is not directing its Syrian actions against the US anymore than Russia – they are both defending their own perceived national interests and making common cause where there’s mutual benefit.

Which brings one to the first part: that the Russians are trying to blackmail the US.  Firstly it’s apparent that Russia needs the use of its strategic bombers that it used earlier in its intervention by flying all around Europe or from Southern Russia  with mid-air refuelling adding to costs, time and risk.  While demonstrating a proof-of-capability, having more immediate, less costly bombing capability would presumably be desirable as this technical article suggests (60% less flight time, more bombs per flights, more sorties, less cost).

Given that the US has not shown Russia to be a reliable partner to aid in attacking mutually acceptable targets, and its decisions even in the best case are always likely to come up with time consuming caveats, a prudent approach from the Russian point of view is to come up with options to fulfill its tactical imperatives.  Like having a base in Iran.

Note, that after the thundering headine and definitive phraseology about “sending a message” the third para has this (emphasis added)

The bombing runs…may have been a reminder to the Obama administration that Moscow could be cozying up to Iran if Washington doesn’t come around.

So, AP is not asserting that Russia was sending a message, just speculating it may have.  OK.

 3. The standard Expert Quote

In the fourth para, there’s a usual quote from a go-to “Expert”,  Andrew Tabler, who’s part of the same Washington echo chamber.  Tabler is of course famous for giving two contradictory takes on Russian drawdown of its airforce in Syria in March in the space of a few hours to the New York Times.

But there’s the first glimmer of non-US centric thinking with the following statement attributed to the Expert.

He said the operations also cement Russia’s alliance with Iran in the region.

In other words that Russia may have reasons other than thumbing its nose at the US for working with Iran.  (“Hmm..maybe Tiffany is going out with Brad because they like each other.“)

4. The standard Unnamed Diplomat Statements

Next comes the assertion that Russia had “privately assured” the US that its actions would “ultimately sideline” Iran.  This is “according to US and European diplomats” – a standard acceptable phraseology in Western media, which is meant to sideline any questions about

(a) who these diplomats actually are;

(b) what their motives for making these statements to journalists are;

(c) whether it accurately reflects what Russia “privately” said.

Indeed it is my assertion – based on following events and analysis from various sources, Western, Russian, Iranian, Arab, Turkish, for a long time – that Russia, while careful of getting into bed with any one party, sees Iran as a strategic partner much beyond Syria. Iran is a neighbor, shares a Multi-Polar World View concept along with China, are candidates to join the Russia-China backed Shanghai Cooperation Organization, and both Russia’s Collective Security Treaty Organization and the Eurasian Economic Union.

Furthermore, Russia follows a Reality, not Ideological, based Foreign Policy.  It would know that even if it wanted to sideline Iran, it would be impractical given the deep ties that Iran independently has with the Syrian Government including being as crucial a partner to the Syrian military on the ground – having committed (and lost) several Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – as Russia is in the air.

Thus the unnamed diplomats’ assertions about Russia’s private “assurances” are at best misunderstood, or at worst false.

5. The Core US Narrative

The sixth para restates the US narrative which is at the heart of the US involvment in Syria and repeated as truth by US media:

[Russia’s assurance that Iran will be sidelined was one of several such assurances that] U.S. and others have clung to as a potential pathway to peace, and which they hope to test when the U.N. sets up a new round of peace talks in coming weeks, even if they accuse Russia of failing countless previous challenges by persisting in bombing Assad’s more moderate opponents.

This Core Narrative repeated ad nauseum restates basic sub-narratives that

(A) the US primary goal is a political pathway to peace in the region;

(B) Russia doesn’t want, or as to be forced into, a Political Solution;

(C) there are effective “moderate” forces out there;

(D) Russia is bombing these “moderate” forces

and relies on the crucial (but unfortunately accurate) assumption that receivers of said sub-narratives – the Western public at large – are too preoccupied to accurately recall what happened the day before let alone months or years before.

(A) Sub-Narrative:  US primary goal is Peace

To examine (A) in detail would take a while – but the plain fact – not opinion, not “conspiracy theory” – is that US had been looking not just passively forward to regime change in Syria at least since 2006, but actively hoping to exploit both (a) the unrest due to economic hardship as Assad introduced market reforms, as well as (b) the various ethnic fractures that were being held together by an authoritarian, even brutal, Syrian Government in return for stability and security for most. Indeed the cable of December 13, 2006 states this

We believe Bashar’s weaknesses are in how he chooses to react to looming issues, both perceived and real, such as the conflict between economic reform steps (however limited) and entrenched, corrupt forces, the Kurdish question, and the potential threat to the regime from the increasing presence of transiting Islamist extremists. This cable summarizes our assessment of these vulnerabilities and suggests that there may be actions, statements, and signals that the USG can send that will improve the likelihood of such opportunities arising.

See also the commentary on these famous Wikileaks cables.

(And that this push for regime change was borne out of a deep desire for democracy is belied for the US Government’s unstinting support for the absolutist Gulf monarchies, most of which by any human right metric would touted by the US – freedom of the press, women’s rights, respect for religion, minorities – would fall well short of Syria’s).

So when there was a chance to put the first flames out – flames that some assert in detail were actually started via US covert operations –  by working cooperatively with Russia and other powers, the US instead allied with the Saudi, Qatari and Turkish governments and poured gasoline on the whole by overt and covertmilitary  armaments/training/fianncial aid to insurgents, effectively ending up supporting hard-line Salafist groups to overthrow – not just separate from – the authoritarian but secular, modern and relative stable Assad-led multi-ethnic government.

These Salafist groups share the same essential ideology of ISIS and other groups that the US is actively fighting elsewhere in the world.  The argument that just because some of these Salafist groups have only local ambitions – not global – is a cruelly hypocritical and short-sighted one because

(a) it basically says that groups it would never want anywhere near the West are OK to rule over millions of modern, secular Syrians who fear them as much as any in the West would;

(b) it assumes that battle-hardened Salafist groups having taken power of a state would not fight internicine wars for consolidation trying to eliminate not just secular or non-Sunni Syrians, but each other;

(c) it supposes that somehow these Salafists having achieved victory would stay “local” and not be safe havens for attacks outside Syria, but under their sponsors strict control (whose motives and targets are suspect in any case).

That even the Obama administration – coming to power as an antithesis of Bush’s foreign (and economic) policy disasters – did not heed the lessons of the Bush Invasion of Iraq and later of the Clinton-under-Obama Bombing of Libya, shows that regime change has strong establishment backers.  With planners sitting in their cosy Washington offices deeming – God-like – that Assad had to go even as they had no clue as to how and what to replace with him with.  And the best part was that like Banking CEOs, all the rewards would accrue to the policy makers – even if things went South – and the risks to the Syrian population at large.  If a vacuum in central Syrian leadership ended up with internecine warfare and destruction of a middle income secular society back into primitive religious and ethnic enclaves, well it was simply the Arab people’s own fault, not the clearly civilized mandarins who set the wheels in motion and who are now on TV and writing colums justifying the next Intervention.

(B) Sub-Narratives:  Russia doesn’t want a Political Solution

The above points against allowing Salafists to gain victory are part of the basic rationale Putin made as far back as 2012, against regime change.  While not denying Assad’s authoriatism or the desire of some Syrian people for more freedom, he repeatedly asked for logical alternatives for the “day after” regime change. Here he was in answer to a question from the AP’s Moscow Correspondent Vladimir Isachenkov on December 20, 2012.

AP: As you know, western countries, the Arab League, and Turkey are all in favour of Bashar al-Assad stepping down, and say that this is the precondition for peace in Syria. In your opinion, could the fact that Russia disagrees with this premise result in its isolation and a loss of Russian influence, not only in Syria but in the Middle East in general, if Mr al-Assad’s regime falls?

Vladimir Putin: Listen my dear man, haven’t Russia’s positions regarding Libya been lost after the intervention? Whatever is being said now, the country continues to fall apart. Ethnic, clan and tribal conflicts continue. Moreover, the situation has resulted in tragedy, namely the murder of the US ambassador. Is this a result? People have asked me about mistakes; was this not a mistake? Do you want us to repeat these mistakes indefinitely in other countries?

We are not that preoccupied with the fate of al-Assad’s regime. We understand what’s going on there and that his family has been in power for 40 years now. Without a doubt, change is required. We’re worried about something else, about what happens next. We simply don’t want today’s opposition, having come to power, to start fighting with the current authorities, who then become the opposition, and for this to continue indefinitely.

….We advocate finding a solution to the problem which would spare the region and the country from disintegration and never-ending civil war.

That is our proposal and our position; not that al-Assad and his regime remain in power at any cost, but that people first agree among themselves about how they will live, how their security and participation in government will be assured. Only then should they begin to change the existing order in accordance with these agreements. Rather than the reverse, which would be to first drive out and destroy everything, and then try to negotiate. I think that agreements based on a military victory are irrelevant and can’t be effective. And what happens there depends above all on the Syrian people themselves.

Russia pushed hard for Geneva talks for a political settlement to succeed, using itsinfluence  to ensure that the Syrian Government showed up.  But these talks which went nowhere not only because of the various pre-conditions the US Government attached to the talks – Assad must go – but that the US Government itself could not control the myriad rapidly morphing factions on the ground to get an acceptable group to the talks that also had credibility on the ground, as it kept supplying weapons to various “moderate” anti-Assad groups only to see them in either the hands of ISIS or what even the US considered extremist anti-Assad groups.

Thus Russia, before its direct military intervention on the request of the sovereign Syrian Government to save it from falling to ISIS on one hand and the anti-Assad Salafists on the other, had tried to push for negotiations with little but lip service from the US Government.  So any suggestions that Russia did not push for a political settlement is not just wrong, but instead a complete projection of what the US Government was in fact doing.

(C) Sub-Narrative: Effective “moderate” groups Exist

The various re-assuring terms – moderate, vetted, Free, Democratic, New –  that the US Government uses to describe factions it supports are little but branding exercises meant to divert public attention from the clearly advertised religious, if not Salafist,  ideology and aims of these rapidly morphing groups, an exercise that the media instead of questioning, is often complicit in amplifying.

Indeed Russia has repeatedly asked – without success – who these “moderate” groups are and how they differ in practice with ISIS and Al-Nusra two groups that the US agrees are legal targets.  Putin made this memorable reference to differences between these groups in his speech as the Valdai International Discussion Club on October 22, 2015:

We do not need wordplay here; we should not break down the terrorists into moderate and immoderate ones. It would be good to know the difference. Probably, in the opinion of certain experts, it is that the so-called moderate militants behead people in limited numbers or in some delicate fashion.

In actual fact, we now see a real mix of terrorist groups. True, at times militants from the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Al-Qaeda heirs and splinters fight each other, but they fight for money, for feeding grounds, this is what they are fighting for. They are not fighting for ideological reasons, while their essence and methods remain the same: terror, murder, turning people into a timid, frightened, obedient mass.

This was ironically before a faction that the US Government admitted it had supported in the past, al-Zinki was proudly and openly videotaped sadistically beheading a child soldier in July.  AP’s State Department correspondent, the redoubtable Matt Lee, confronted the State Department spokesperson, Mark Toner, on July 19, 2016 who said in part:

QUESTION: I’m wondering if you have seen or you’re aware of this beheading of a child by a group that is supported by the United States.

MR TONER: Yeah. No, thanks. We’ve obviously seen the reports, and we just can’t confirm. We’re seeking more information. We understand from unconfirmed reports that the group, the Free Syrian Army, has appointed a commission to investigate the incident and that they’ve made arrests of those allegedly involved. I’d refer you to – it’s Al Zinki, I guess, is the group —

In early August, the same perpetrators were filmed (again openly) during the battle to break the Government siege in East Aleppo, boasting of their victories showing that far from being imprisoned they were very much on active frontlines. 

Lee challenged the State Department spokesperson again, this time, Elizabeth Trudeau on August 9, 2016.

QUESTION: Just very briefly on Aleppo and this group that is allegedly involved, was involved in breaking the siege – a rebel group, the ones that were accused of beheading this —

MS TRUDEAU: Al-Zenki.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah.

QUESTION: Beheading this child. One, do you know if the reports are true that they are or were involved in the fighting around Aleppo recently?

MS TRUDEAU: So we’ve seen reports that the alleged perpetrators in last month’s video have been seen fighting in Aleppo. I’m not in a position to confirm.

QUESTION: Okay. Should you – should it become confirmed that they are, is that an issue for you guys?

MS TRUDEAU: Yeah. Well, obviously, when reports of the beheading came out is we strongly condemned the barbaric actions seen on that video no matter what group was responsible. We note that that group had also said that they would hold those individuals to account. We’re not in a position to confirm if that’s happened, but we do expect all parties to comply with obligations under the law of armed conflict.

QUESTION: So you’re unaware that there has ever been a resolution to this specific —

MS TRUDEAU: I am not in a position to confirm that, no.

QUESTION: — case. And then just the other thing, which I think you probably won’t answer, but is this group still being supported by or was it ever supported by the United States?

MS TRUDEAU: So for security reasons, we do not comment on which groups are funded by the United States. However, we don’t support groups that commit this sort of barbarity, period.

So not only is the very definition of “moderate” groups unclear, but the US Goverment refuses to say who they fund as “moderate”, what controls they have in place should they prove to be immoderate and indeed, if truly “moderate” rebels exist in any effective sense, ie of being materially relevant to the anti-Assad fight.

Indeed the US Government had to tamp down its supply of weapons to anti-Assad rebels precisely because by its own, undeclared norms, “moderate” groups were few and were just as likely to hand them over to “extreme” groups.  Moreover the US media itself has admitted that the most effective groups fighting Assad are Al-Nusra, and equally hard-line factions like Ahrar Al-Sham (which as this recent in-depth August 16, 2016 Foreign Policy article “Present at the Creation” shows was just another faction that shared ideology with ISIS like al-Nusra, and one that the US has refused to agree to be labelled in the UN as a terrorist organization.  And thus immune from targetting as per the Cessation of Hostilities (CoH) agreement that was signed in February.)

So all word-smithing aside, it seems that not just the Russians but the US Government and its media agree that, at the least, there are no effective moderate anti-Assad forces out there.  Or conversely the effective anti-Assad forces are allied Salafists, with the most effective being Al-Nusra.  Indeed the New York Times White House correspondent, Harris Gardiner,asked John Kerry this question in a joint presser with Sergei Lavrov in Moscow on July 15, 2016

…critics say this deal is a huge boon to the Assad regime by concentrating American firepower against the most effective anti-Assad forces and that you’re basically selling out the rebels. 

In other words, Gardiner was openly asking why Americans, let alone Russians, were targetting al-Nusra, the Syrian spin-off of Al-Qaeda, the group responsible for attacks in Gardiner’s paper’s headquarters in New York in 2001, instead of letting them fight Assad. 

Besides reminding Gardiner – and the critics – that the al-Nusra was on the UN terrorism list and not subject to the CoH, Kerry blunty said:

So if some critic is criticizing the United States or Russia for going after al-Nusrah, which is a terrorist organization, because they’re good fighters against Assad, they have their priorities completely screwed up.

…second is obviously the question of al-Nusrah – which, as you just said, is fighting against Assad and which is providing no peace and security and which, regrettably, some opposition have occasionally chosen to fight with because they are fighting against Assad. But that doesn’t excuse it, and it will not excuse it in our eyes. We saw what happened when people said the same thing about ISIL for a period of time – oh, don’t worry, they’re just a force against Assad, and down the road we can take them on. Well, they became more than just a force. And so I think that it is important for the United States, Russia, the entire coalition of ISSG to stand up against terrorism, and that is what we intend to continue to do.

So  Kerry himself was indicating that not only Al-Nusra but those groups allying with them had themselves to blame if they were targeted. 

(D) Sub-Narrative: Russians are targetting “moderate” rebels

Even assuming that there are some moderate groups out there as the US Government insists there are, why would the Russians target them given that pretty much everyone agrees that even if they exist they are ineffective?  What difference to the war effort would that make?  It’s far more profitable for the Russians to spend their limited sortie capability to target the most effective forces.  Which, as Kerry and the media acknowldges above, are al-Nusra – which happen to be forces even the US Government agrees are fair targets outside of the CoH.

Thus the core narrative by the US Government that Russia is targetting moderate forces does not make any sense, and yet the US media continues to amplify this narrative without any hint of cognitive dissonance.

6. The Beseiged Opposition

Klapper goes on to state

If Russia is moving closer to the Assad-Iran-Hezbollah alliance, it could spell doom for Syria’s besieged opposition.

This phrase depends on a clever sleight-of-hand narrative that has been amplified by the media recently, which is that of the “besieged opposition”.  In factual terms, this “opposition” are the Salafist groups headed by Al-Nusra (now rebranded Jabhat Faten al-Sham), who are trying to link the core base in Idlib province with their beseiged bretheren in East Aleppo (which is estimated to have a population of 250,000 or less) compared to the Government controlled West Aleppo (which is estimated to have 1.5 million) – in other words over 85% of Aleppans are under Government control under threat from the Salafists.

So over the course of the past few weeks, the Western media has started referring to the anti-Assad Salafists as “the opposition” which while strictly true, very deliberately blurs the lines between what the US Government had previously called the “moderate” opposition and the current crew which are essentially Al-Nusra led allied groups.  One may as well call ISIS the opposition (since it opposes the Assad Government as well).

7. State Department Mark Toner’s Briefing

Klapper goes on to comment on the what the State Department spokesman said:

The State Department’s Toner said the Russian cooperation with Iran doesn’t preclude the possibility of a U.S.-Russian partnership in Syria. But such an arrangement would become more difficult if it essentially meant a U.S.-Russia-Iran partnership.

Toner also suggested Russia violated last year’s U.N. security Council resolution enshrining the Iran nuclear deal.

The first sentence is true: Toner did say that about Russian cooperation not being precluded by its deal with Iran.

The second statement about a Russian partnership becoming “more difficult” is pure opinion, something that correspondents tried to make stick on Toner who refused to be drawn in.  Indeed, if the US can take off from Turkish airbases, why can’t Russia from Iranian ones?  What Russia has been saying from the beginning is that if the US Government is serious about defeating ISIS and defanging Al-Nusra, something that is the stated goal of not just the US, but Turkey as well as Iran, why not all work together?

The third statement that Toner suggested Russia violated the deal is delibarately putting words in Toner’s mouth.  Here’s the exchange with Klapper on August 16, 2016.

QUESTION: — there was specific language that carried over from previous resolutions about the use of Iranian territory or even its airspace for combat aircraft. Do you view this as a violation of the UN Security Council – I think it said provided that – it was permissible if the Security Council gave specific permission on a case-by-case basis. I’m guessing that didn’t happen in this case. Correct me if I’m wrong.

MR TONER: I don’t believe it did happen, and we’re looking into it is the short answer to your question. If these reports are true, it could very well be a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which, as you noted, prohibits the supply, sale, or transfer of combat aircraft to Iran unless approved in advanced by the UN Security Council. I just don’t have a definitive answer. I know our lawyers are kind of looking at the – and trying to collect as much – many details as they can at this point.

QUESTION: Well, what would be the real-world ramifications of that? Just great, Russia violated something, but it doesn’t really matter?

MR TONER: Fair question, and I don’t have a complete answer for you. I know that it would be discussed at – obviously at the Security Council level. As to what steps may be taken as a result or as a consequence, if it is even proven that this happened, I can’t give you much detail right now.

8. Iraq’s Permission for Use of Airspace

The last two paras state – as per an anonymous (Ed: of course)  US official – that Russia and Iran had overflown Iraq without the latter’s persmission.  Given that both Russia and Iran are working quite closely to help Iraq defeat ISIS in Iraq, with a Russia-Iran-Syria-Iraq coordinating center set up at the end of September 2015 in Baghdad, it’s more likely that Iraq did give permission at least tacitly if not explicitly.

Conclusion

Klapper’s story shows that the media having bought and amplified the US Government’s initial ideological based narratives about Syria, narratives that the Obama administration is now trying to back out off, finds itself confused and twisted as to who the “good” and “bad” guys are, ie trying to see the world through shifting ideological lenses.  The Russian narrative, based on Realism is much more linear and pragmatic, and ultimately more factual, but one that the media refuses to pay heed to since presumably that is all “Russian propaganda”.

Epilogue

By the time I finished the story,  a few artciles caught my eye that are relevant to the above article:

1. Russian Response to suggestions UN Resolutions Violated

Lavrov not only strongly refuted any suggestion that taking off from Iran did not violate UN Resolution 2231 (on the sale and transfer of arms to Iran) but he hit back saying looking into it would also mean

…we will have to sort out how a vast amount of cash made it to Iran from the US, and why bank transfers from the US to Iran have taken place in dollars – it is strictly prohibited under American laws.

In addition the Russian Defense Ministry observed the fact that the US actions in Syria violate International Law

We’d like to have an answer to a simple question – is there any provision in the UN Charter, or a UN Security Council resolution, or a bilateral US-Syria agreement allowing to bomb Syrian territory … from Turkish airbase Incirlik or any other foreign air bases.

2. Iraq Confirms Opened Airspace

The Iraqi PM confirmed with Iran’s Press TV that Iraqi Airspace was opened to conditional use by the Russians.

3. Washington Post Reminds of decades-long Coup planning in Libya

In an article about how “A former CIA asset has become a U.S. headache in Libya” , Missy Ryan of the Washington Post cheerfully recounts the past history of Khalifa Hifter as a CIA asset and the extensive decade-long efforts that the US Government expended for a coup against Gaddafi and to prepare for the day after.  While the focus is on Hifter now becoming a liability – in other words just like every other regime change agent, it was interesting how all the regime change planning quite openly admitted now, but any suggestions of on-going operations and planning are treated as “conspiracy theories” by not just the US Government but the media as well.

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Theranos Re-branding Bamboozles the Media. Again.

By abandoning the semi-official name Edison to refer to its one-stop mobile bloodwork platform and officially branding it as the Theranos Sample Processing Unit, or miniLab, Theranos seems to have once again confused a lot of the media that it’s doing something different. 

August 1, 2016

After all the skepticism about Theranos, the media went to the AACC conference where founder Elizabeth Holmes publicly talked about the Theranos technology – introducing a new term called miniLab which was enough for many in the media to proclaim “Theranos introduced a brand new technology”.

MiniLab is essentially a technology platform – formally called the Theranos Sample Processing Unit – which allows for a single portable platform “designed to process small sample volumes across a broad set of different test methodologies.”

Now isn’t this exactly what the platform formerly-known-as-Edison was supposed to do?

The answer is: Yes of course.   This is exactly the same vision that Theranos has been hawking for the past few years.

So how is MiniLab different?  As per the media, it’s apparently different because the name is different.  

Here is the interesting thing: Theranos itself did not say it was a new technology platform.  The triumphant announcement on its site simply says this is the first time it is being presented in a public setting (true).

Now no doubt the latest version of the platform, call it Garkle v53 is better than the previous versions, just as Garkle v54 will be better than v53.   Garkle v53 may be better in accuracy, calibration, consistency, volume processing, efficiency etc etc than the previous Garkle versions which didn’t work so well, but the basic concept is still the same: a mobile platform that can do multiple tests using a small amount of blood which would relay data remotely.

Yet because previous versions of Garkle were code-named Edison and the one unveiled today was official named the Theranos Sample Processing Unit – or MiniLab – the media announces “new technology”!  If Theranos called it an updated version of Edison, the media would have reported it with less fanfare as “a new version of their platform.”

Here’s a picture of the previous platform as pictured in October 2015 and what was presented today side-by-side.


So Does miniLab – aka latest version of Edison – work?

Well we don’t know. Theranos presented a bunch of non peer-reviewed data similar to that previously available on its site with graphs and correlations for venous blood draws (and not capillary draws). 

They announced that they are now going to go for peer review and opening up the gates to show their platform.

Holmes also admitted to a sharp question that whatever was presented today did not show that hundreds of tests could be conducted on a couple of drops of blood – that still seemed an aspirational goal.

Even if upgraded Edison works, is it revolutionary?

Again this was not clear.  It was pointed out that there are current FDA approved technologies that were – for example in the case of testing for the Zika virus – 50x more sensitive than still-to-be-approved Theranos tech

So even if miniLab works, whether it works more efficiently than existing tech is not clear.

Conclusion

Essentially Theranos went back-asswards by FIRST commercializing its secret technology platform (then code named Edison) and operations before both were ready, falling on its face and THEN presenting its still work-in-progress and to-be-validated technology platform (now officially branded TSPU or miniLab) as some sort of Big Reveal to say “We have something very exciting” and “we would like to work with you all on it” and “get independent peer review.”

Which is of course what they should have done first.  Before commercializing it.

And it’s still not clear when it will be cleared for the field and even then whether it’s particularly efficient or revolutionary compared to existing technology.

And yet the media seems to have fallen for the latest dog-and-pony show.

Again.

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The Guardian’s Naked Lie on “Russian” Reaction to Brexit

While a clear majority of Britons in a high turn out referendum voted for Brexit, and are presumably delighted at winning, the Guardian bitterly lashes out at its favorite target Russia, by instead nakedly lying about the Russian position as being “delighted” when the official reaction by the top three officials – Putin, Medvedev, Lavrov – was cautious and expressing concern about economic fallout.

June 24, 2016

In the era of the internet where one can simply look up what world leaders are saying themselves, the British establishment outlet, the Guardian still believes that it an get away with lying about what is being said by what the establishment considers “enemies”.
Here’s what the Guardian who had vociferously supported the Remain campaign, announced that “Russia” feels about Brexit.

The above were based on the comments of the mayor of Moscow simply because he is Russian. It’s like focusing on what the Mayor of London Boris Johnson – who having campaigned vigorously for Brexit and a potential candidate for the next British PM is delighted- says as a proxy for “Britain”.

Meanwhile earlier TASS had a report on comments by the Russian Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev which headlined the exact opposite:


Meanwhile the man the Guardian loves to hate, Russian President, Vladimir Putin, said this while in China for an important Shanghai Council Organization with China, India and others:


And the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov made the following remarks.


The Irony

Given the clear majority (52%) of Britons voted to Leave including the Mayor of London, against weighty campaigning by the Western establishment including the Guardian, a more accurate headline would be 

“Britain delights in Brexit”

Yet the Guardian unable to swallow the bitterness of the result it was against, is lashing out at its “enemies” with lies, unable to understand it is precisely this sort of agitprop that makes it inherently untrustworthy to many outside the establishment bubble.

Conclusion

As shown, the top three Government officials who can speak for “Russia” internationally were cautious in their outlook, careful in their comments and stressing that Brexit was an internal matter for the UK and Europeans whose outcome they had nothing to do with.  If anything they expressed concern on any negative effects on the Russian economy, the key thing they would care about. Putin explicitly shrugged off any change that this would have on the sanction policy on Russia, which no Russian official expects will change anytime soon.

Meanwhile it is fair to say that since a majority of UK citizens voted for Brexit, including the Mayor of London who campaigned for it, a headline “the UK is delighted with Brexit” is more accurate.

Yet the Guardian leads with inflammatory messaging about “Russia” being delighted, oblivious to how it’s torpedoing its OWN reputation (not Russia’s) by disseminating agitprop as “news”.

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The Empire Strikes Back: US State Department Seeks Military Solution for Regime Change in Syria

How key factions in the US Establishment, including now the State Department are gearing up to escalate the Syrian conflict, pushing for direct bombings of Damascus and regime change as always, in a preview of how the Clinton administration will act.

June 16, 2016


[NOTE: All bold italic assertions need to be updated with links.]

Introduction

On February 25, 2016, soon after the ceasefire announcement I wrote about the coming Western Disinformation Campaign Regarding the [Syrian] Ceasefire Being Broken.

The key point I made is that because the so-called moderate opposition will not separate out from Al-Nusra, the USG and media, instead of blaming the opposition, will blame Syria and Russia for continuing their attacks on Al-Nusra areas as they are legally entitled to as per the ceasefire agreement.  In particular I wrote What Happened Next

An unexpected thing happened.  Russia instead of pressing their momentum, actually gave time for the ceasefire to work.  Putin announced a drawdown of the military and there were intense efforts to make the ceasefire work and talks started.  

These talks were repeatedly derailed by the Opposition which included extreme Jihadi factions indistinguishable in idealogy from Al-Nusra but protected by the US Government and allies (which vetoed resolutions to put them on the terrorism list along with Al-Nusra.)

Meanwhile Al-Nusra beefed up its forces with help from Turkey, with various Jihadi groups allied to Al-Nusra joining them in attacks on Government held parts of Aleppo and other towns and cities.  The US State Department continued to say that they were “working” to convince the groups to separate but it was “complicated”.

It became apparent that the USG and its allies had no indication to really press the opposition for a ceasefire and were using the time to strengthen forces.

Over the last two weeks, faced with Al-Nusra gains in Aleppo,  Russia started to escalate its Airstrikes along with the Syrian Government to regain the initiative.

And Now

Over the past few days Kerry talked of “US patience thinning” (even as Lavrov kept indicating what was wearing thin was Russia’s patience in waiting for USG to help separate the opposition from Al-Nusra.)  

And then hours ago came the news that 50+ plus US Diplomats sent a note to Obama urging military strikes on Assad.

This is an astonishing move by diplomats and show how warmongering the State Department has become:

1. They are urging a military solution and thus are admitting their own failure as diplomats.

2. Strikes on Assad would violate International Law yet again (after Iraq, Libya, Yemen and on and on), Laws that Diplomats should be very cognizant of.

3. The escalation of the conflict would have unpredictable consequences.

Why Now?

This is ultimately not about Syria.  This is about Russia and the determination of many factions in the United States establishment including media like the New York Times to re-establish “US leadership” – ie “US diktats” – over the region and to show Russia that the unipolar world with USG at its helm is alive and kicking.

This is happening against three key events:

1. Upcoming EU meetings where discussion of extending EU sanctions are going to take place, an event I have already said in January is virtually sure to happen (thanks to USG pressure on a reluctant EU).  A manufactured conflict in Syria is as likely a trigger for extending sanctions as I pointed out then.

2. The upcoming  NATO meeting where more militaristic policies against Russia will be revealed.  Escalation in Syria will only helps NATO’s cause (much like gun deaths in US only help the NRA).

3. The US Presidential elections which pits Clinton – a corrupt, establishment warmonger who seeks to expand US involvement everywhere – versus Trump – a nativist, bigoted, nationalist who questions why the US needs to police the world.

Clinton of course supports a more aggressive policy in Syria and an escalation will help her platform.

Meanwhile in Russia

Putin is increasingly torn between two factions: one that favors accepting that Russia is too weak economically to challenge the West and quietly and meekly accept its fate to be another Western dominated nation, and nationalists who warn that Russia needs to draw a line somewhere and push back hard.

That line in the sand could be Syria.  A USG attack on Damascus would be a direct challenge to Russia’s goal of preserving the state institutions.

Russia’s choice could be to

(a) Let it happen which will expose it’s claim to any power as toothless;

(b) Put pressure on Assad to step down which will not only expose Russia as caving in to pressure but put in jeopardy the millions of Syrians who do support the Assad Government.

(c) Directly or indirectly support Syria’s air defenses to shoot down any planes / missiles.

Option (c) of course can be the spark that can take the whole conflict to another level of chaos.

Conclusion

Various factions in the US establishment have decided that now is the time to escalate the pressure against Russia by proxy.   This thinking gives a preview of how the neo-con backed Clinton administration – which is virtually sure to be elected barring some sort of disqualification – will act.

And most of the Western media will fall lock step into this warmongering policy as they did for Iraq and Libya.

And so it goes.

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