Friday, February 22, 2019

Today's links

“Against stupidity, no amount of planning will prevail.”
- Carl von Clausewitz

Partition would leave Israel surrounded by “small tranquil states,” he said. “I can assure you that the Saudi kingdom will also be divided, and the issue will reach to North African states. There will be small ethnic and confessional states,” he said. “In other words, Israel will be the most important and the strongest state in a region that has been partitioned into ethnic and confessional states that are in agreement with each other. This is the new Middle East.”  Hasan Nasrallah the redirection 

 "Russia wants to have sound, equal and friendly relations with the USA. Russia is not threatening anyone, and all we do in terms of security is simply a response, which means that our actions are defensive. We are not interested in confrontation and we do not want it, especially with a global power like the United States of America. However, it seems that our partners fail to notice the depth and pace of change around the world and where it is headed. They continue with their destructive and clearly misguided policy. This hardly meets the interests of the USA itself. But this is not for us to decide." Vladimir Putin, State of the Nation 

“We have evidence that US companies and their NATO allies are working on the issue of acquiring a large batch of weapons and ammunition in an Eastern European country for their subsequent transfer to Venezuelan opposition forces”,  Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stressed.

too bad the Obama administration invoked Executive powers to declare a "National Emergency" in 2015 classifying Venezuela as an "extraordinary and unusual threat to US national security", which gave way to the slew of sanctions that have aided Venezuela's crisis. eva golinger, twitter 

This is now playing out in real time. US forces are ready for a regime change operation in Venezuela. Next 24 hours will be decisive., eva golinger, twitter

After this meeting, Amnesty issued a denunciatory report ignoring the US economic war on Venezuela and a statement supporting Trump's interventionist "aid" sham. No surprise to seem them pumping up another R2P extravaganza against a regime change target. , max b


1--The QE unwind is still on autopilot

That the QE unwind would continue on autopilot at least until the next meeting was clear from the post-meeting Implementation Notes, released on January 30. And it was repeated in the minutes – same language as it has been since late 2017.
“The Committee directs the Desk to continue rolling over at auction….” Up to $30 billion in Treasury securities and up to $20 billion in mortgage-backed securities would be allowed to mature and roll off the balance sheet without replacement, same as before....

The Fed laments that “market commentary” blamed the selloff on the QE unwind.

Participants discussed market commentary that suggested that the process of balance sheet normalization might be influencing financial markets. Participants noted that the ongoing reduction in the Federal Reserve’s asset holdings had proceeded smoothly for more than a year, with no significant effects on financial markets.

2--From the Horse's mouth--Presidential Address to Federal Assembly

The President of Russia delivered the Address to the Federal Assembly. The ceremony took place in Gostiny Dvor.

3--Valdai, 2018

We are not creating any problems for anyone Are we the ones creating problems? No. Instead, we are being accused of things. They say that Russia was “highly likely” to have done this or that, intervened at one place and wreaked havoc at another. But, no one believes it is necessary to produce any evidence.

For me it is clear, and I have said this: this is the result of the internal political struggle in the Western world as a whole. Now they are fighting over the conditions for Britain’s exit from the EU; the Democrats and the Republicans are fighting in the United States, and there is controversy among the Republicans themselves. So someone has apparently decided that playing the anti-Russia card would be a very convenient way to resolve domestic political problems. This is bad for everyone.

I hope this will pass, but apparently we need to wait for internal political crises to be resolved. Whether this will happen after the Congressional election or not, I do not know yet, but maybe. Or maybe it will happen in 2020, with the next US presidential election, and then he will no longer have to constantly deal with those who speculate with anti-Russia rhetoric.

4--US Transferring Special Troops, Weapons Close to Venezuela - Moscow

The United States' provocations in Venezuela, if implemented, would dramatically increase the level of tension and confrontation in the world, the Russian Foreign Ministry has said in a statement.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova stated that US plans to deliver humanitarian aid to Venezuela could lead to clashes and would create a convenient pretext for the removal of Nicolas Maduro from power.

"The development of events in Venezuela has come to a critical point, everyone understands this. On 23 February, a dangerous large-scale provocation is set to take place, instigated by the Washington-led crossing of the Venezuelan border with a so-called humanitarian convoy, which may lead to clashes between supporters and opponents, forming a convenient pretext for military action to remove the current legitimate president from government", Zakharova said in the briefing.

The US is planning to transfer weapons and special troops close to Venezuela, according to the spokeswoman.

"We have evidence that US companies and their NATO allies are working on the issue of acquiring a large batch of weapons and ammunition in an Eastern European country for their subsequent transfer to Venezuelan opposition forces", she said during the briefing.

5--Trump to Withdraw U.S. Forces From Syria, Declaring ‘We Have Won Against ISIS’  archive  Original story  excludes any mention of threatening phone call with Erdogan 4 days earlier

6--Around 200 US troops to remain in Syria after pullout: White House


What about the 8 US military bases?


7--Erdoğan, Trump discuss Syria, economic ties over phone


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and U.S. President Donald Trump discussed Washington's planned troop withdrawal from Syria in a phone call on Feb. 21.
The two leaders agreed that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria should be carried out in line with common interests, stressing the need to support the political process in the war-torn country, according to Turkish presidential sources.
They reiterated their countries' determination to fight all forms of terrorism...

 They also agreed to further enhance economic relations, setting a goal of $75 billion in bilateral trade.


The White House said separately in a statement that Erdoğan and Trump agreed to continue coordinating on the creation of a potential safe zone in northern Syria.
It also noted that Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford would host their Turkish counterparts within the week for further talks.

8--On to Caracas and Tehran!

Nancy Pelosi’s House just voted to cut off U.S. support for the Saudi war against the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Senate may follow.
Yet Trump is prepared to use his first veto to kill that War Powers Resolution and retain the right to help the Saudi war effort.

What is our vital interest in Yemen’s civil war? Why would Trump not wish to extricate us from that moral and humanitarian disaster?
Answer: Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his regime would sustain a strategic defeat should the Houthis, supported by Iran, prevail....

U.S. relations with Russia, which Trump promised to improve, have chilled to Cold War status. The U.S. is pulling out of Ronald Reagan’s INF treaty, which bans land-based nuclear missiles of 300 to 3,000 mile range.
Putin has said that any reintroduction of land-based U.S. missiles to Europe would mean a new class of Russian missiles targeted on Europe — and on the United States.

Today, the U.S. maintains a policy of containment of Russia and China, which are more united than they have been since the first days of the Cold War. We are responsible for defending 28 NATO nations in Europe, twice as many as during the Cold War, plus Japan, South Korea, the Philippines, Australia and New Zealand.

9--No troops have been withdrawn

Turkey is firm in wanting to form a safe zone, and messages coming from Syria are positive. On Tuesday, U.S. State Department deputy spokesperson Robert Palladino said in a press conference: "We are actively engaging with Turkey on this and that is part of our efforts to ensure a safe withdrawal of the U.S. and a stabilized northern Syria. Washington takes Ankara's legitimate security concerns seriously."...

since Donald Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal, three months have passed. Since then, no troops have been withdrawn, and the Pentagon confirmed only last month that additional troops were being sent to protect American forces. So the process might be much longer than expected; so long in fact, that forces may leave after the formation of a new Syria!

10--archive--Trump decided on Syria pullout during phone call with Erdogan, ignored advisers


11--Turkey, U.S. agree roadmap to avert crisis in Syria's Manbij, few details


12--Putin's endgame in syria?

It is obvious that Putin has an endgame in Syria on the basis of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria, but it is far from what people think. I believe he doesn't want to carry Assad as a burden on his shoulders, and also he wants to show that Russia can bring stability to a war-torn country in the Middle East where the Americans could never succeed. But the main issue is to build a security force for the future of Syria, as the Baath regime has lost too many people during the civil war. Which group or groups will be part of the Syrian army once the country is stabilized and begins to go back to normal is what I bet Putin is working on right now and most probably he is talking directly with Erdoğan and indirectly with Trump 

13--US Gen. Votel meets Turkey’s most wanted terrorist, head of PKK-led SDF


14--The end of optimism in US foreign policy


Overall there is little trust for U.S. foreign policy among its allies and a lowering of expectations about the potential role of the U.S. around the world in the coming decades. Despite this chaotic scene, in the last one year, the three documents that were published by the most significant agencies of the U.S. put forward a rather coherent approach on U.S. foreign policy.

The National Security Strategy (NSS) announced by the White House, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) published by the Department of Defense and the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) all point out similar threat perceptions for the future of U.S. foreign policy....

The Defense Strategy stated, "We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by the decline in the long-standing rules-based international order – creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security."...

The National Security Strategy document mentions: "The United States will respond to the growing political, economic and military competitions we face around the world. China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. "...

The same competition is mentioned in DNI's Threat Assessment Report as, "Threats to U.S. national security will expand and diversify in the coming year, driven in part by China and Russia as they respectively compete more intensely with the United States and its traditional allies and partners. This competition cuts across all domains involves a race for technological and military superiority, and is increasingly about values."
The NDS report characterizes the current state of U.S. defense policy as follows, "Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding."
The challengers that the report points out are again China and Russia. Accordingly "China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors."...

According to the NSS for instance China and Russia "are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence" whereas the DNI's report indicated that "Russia and China seek to shape the international system and regional security dynamics and exert influence over the politics and economies of states in all regions of the world" and "The post-World War II international system is coming under increasing strain."

Furthermore, the reports also point out the potential threats that these two countries can pose for the economic well-being of the American people.

Accordingly, as Russia and China try to reduce the access of the U.S. to the international markets, "the U.S. economy will be challenged by slower global economic growth and growing threats to U.S. economic competitiveness" and this will in turn "contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living." What will make this situation for the U.S. more challenging will be the "complex security environment" which has become more difficult to manage with the introduction of cyberthreats to security threats around the world....

All three reports and statements by U.S. policymakers signal a more coherent view of U.S. foreign policy. Despite all the different tensions, disputes and competitions within the administration, most of the security establishment seems to focus on interstate competition for the new period. The era of optimism of a liberal international order and responsible stakeholders looks like something from the past.

Although President Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria generated a lot of criticism and resistance among the different institutions of the U.S., at the end of the day many of these agencies seem to be in line with shifting U.S. attention from the long wars of the Middle East, toward nation building to a new great power rivalry of the 21st century.

 15-- Erdogan’s Checkmate: CIA-Backed Coup in Turkey Fails, Upsets Global Chessboard draitser 2016


Twitter posts--

"Analysts call the U.S. sanctions that target Venezuela’s key oil sector some of the strongest ever imposed by Washington... they are also likely to deepen the suffering of the Venezuelan people." aaron mate, twitter

If reports are true that Mueller is about to submit his report, obvious point to stress is that he has not yet made a single indictment alleging a Trump-Russia conspiracy (as noted below by NBC News 2/14; WP 2/19). Do Russiagate peddlers believe that's going to change." aaron mate, twitter

"DOJ officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Mueller nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference..." - unless there's a sudden spate of arrests & indictments, zero Americans will have been indicted for criminally conspiring with Russia on 2016 election" glenn Greenwald, twitter

I honestly think that if the Mueller investigation really does end next week as CNN and WashPost are claiming, and nothing major changes (such as, say, Trump Jr. or Jared's arrest), they should send therapy dogs to the MSNBC & CNN headquarters to help with the coping process." glenn greenwald, twitter

CNN has begun contemplating "Life without Mueller." I predict a prolonged period of agony followed by clinical depression." michael tracy, twitter

The US economic war has prevented Venezuela from paying debts, sending athletes to compete abroad, importing anti-malaria medicine, and blocked 400,000 kilos of food for its poorest citizens. The US & Colombia even created an intel group to prevent the import of food & medicine. max blumenthal, twitter

Monday, February 18, 2019

Today's Links

"Unfortunately, the fact that the situation is quite uncertain as it was mentioned once again this afternoon. Americans said that they will withdraw, but their president says one thing, people working with him do something entirely different. We do not know how they will proceed, because of this, there is uncertainty."  Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov 


1--Imperialist conflicts dominate Munich Security Conference


US Vice President Mike Pence revealed the sharp differences between the US and Germany and other European powers.

Pence came directly from Warsaw, where he had forged an alliance with Israel, Poland and a number of Arab states to wage war against Iran. In Warsaw, Pence had ordered the United States’ European allies to “stand by our side” and threatened them indirectly with the breakup of the NATO alliance if they refused. “If you stand with us in this noble cause, we will stand with you,” he declared.
Pence spoke in the same arrogant commanding tone in Munich. He accused Iran of planning a new holocaust and seeking to obliterate Israel. He hinted that the US was preparing regime change in Tehran and demanded that Europe ditch its nuclear agreement with Iran and support American sanctions instead.

Pence also vehemently attacked the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, which is already under construction and connects Germany directly with Russia via the Baltic Sea. “We cannot ensure the defence of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” he threatened

2--Safe zone must be for Syrians, not protection for YPG terrorists

Stating that Turkey only postponed the operation to Syria after the U.S. decision to withdraw, Özkızılcık said that Ankara would unilaterally opt for launching an operation if its security needs are not me...

Agreeing with Orhan, Ali Çınar, the president of the U.S.-based Turkish Heritage Organization said that "The U.S. understands the safe zone as protecting YPG-PKK, however Turkey will not accept this format. Turkey was very clear from the beginning. Turkey has two clear objectives: Clearing the terrorist elements from the border and having refugees go back to Syria safely. 

Any moves that would lead to protection for YPG terrorists under the guise of a safe zone plan will not be accepted, Ankara says, further underlining that the proposed zone must be under Turkey's control

High-level U.S. officials have been signaling in recent remarks that the U.S. will seek the involvement of European countries in the process of forming a safe zone along Turkey's Syrian borders; yet Ankara has clearly stressed that a zone free from the PKK-linked People's Protection Units (YPG) should be set up under its control in order to establish security in a region grappling with instability. Since the presence of the YPG just on the other side of the border is a direct threat to Turkey, officials in Ankara have been stressing that a safe zone should be under the control of Turkey, which is the main party concerned in the issue....

. In relation to the period ahead after the withdrawal, U.S. Vice President Mike Pence told journalists on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference on Saturday that "We are asking other nations to join us and provide the resources and the support and the personnel necessary to secure the area and prevent [Daesh] or any other extremist organization from rising up and retaking their territory."...

"A 440-kilometers long (273-mile) safe zone in the east of Euphrates should be cleared of YPG terrorists and should be patrolled by Turkish forces," Akar said on Saturday highlighting Turkey's expectations.
Furthermore, U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Friday at the Munich Security Conference that Trump would ask European countries to send troops to establish a safe zone in Syria.
"I'm hoping that President Trump will be coming to some of you and asking for your help and you'll say 'yes' and in return, the capability we have that's unique to the U.S. will still be in the fight in Syria," Graham said. He pointed out that Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would discuss the issue with his counterparts....

Graham said the YPG for Turkey is "an offshoot of the PKK," and that Turkey "will not withstand the YPG on their border."
"We owe it to Turkey, an ally, to fix this problem. We owe it to the SDF [Syrian Democratic Forces] not to leave and let another war come that could destroy them. Who will help us in the future if we do that? So we need a safe zone to deal with that problem," he added, clearly saying that the U.S. will continue to protect the terrorist group.

3--Over 300,000 Syrians returned home after Turkey's operations, interior minister says


The returns of Syrian refugees have been possible recently thanks to Turkey's two operations: Operation Olive Branch and Operation Euphrates Shield. Turkey launched Operation Euphrates Shield in 2016 to clear western Euphrates provinces such as al-Ban and Jarablus from Daesh and the PKK's Syrian affiliate People's Protection Units (YPG)...


Following the operations, Turkey continued its activities in the provinces by putting emphasis on reconstruction, infrastructure and the formation of local administrations. The end result is rewarding for Turkey as Syrian refugees who were displaced from the region started to return to their liberated hometowns and restart their lives.  ...

Soylu underlined that there are currently 3,644,342 Syrian refugees living in Turkey. The refugee flow to Turkey started at the beginning of Syrian crisis in 2011. So far, Turkey has spent some $30 billion for the needs of refugees living in tent camps as well as those living outside the camps on their own.


4--US won’t sell arms to Turkey, but gives freely to YPG, Erdoğan says


"What kind of NATO alliance is this? You give terrorists around 23,000 truckloads of weapons and tools through Iraq but when we asked, you won't even sell them to us," Erdoğan said during an election campaign rally in southwestern Turkey's Burdur.

Erdoğan said Turkey expects Syria's Manbij to be cleared of YPG terrorists and to be left to local people as soon as possible, as promised.

The June 2018 Manbij deal between Turkey and the U.S. focuses on the withdrawal of YPG terrorists from the city to stabilize the region, which is located in the northern part of Syria's Aleppo province.
The president criticized countries "thousands of kilometers away" planning to conduct operations in Syria, while Turkey is constantly "under threat" with its 911-kilometer border with Syria....

In December, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from Syria, saying that Daesh was defeated. This development was quickly also interpreted as an intention to halt U.S. support for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), which is an umbrella group consisting mostly of PKK-affiliated YPG terrorists....
The U.S., however, while listing the PKK as a terrorist group, opted to continue its steadfast militarily support for the terrorist organization under the pretext of fighting Daesh despite the warnings of its NATO ally

5--Fascinating interview Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov

 Do you believe the Americans are really pulling out of Syria?

A: The U.S. has become the most unpredictable country. For example our president is the president, he does what he says, and he makes others do what he says. The U.S. is in a deep crisis, we do understand the hardships they are going through, but we are also impatiently waiting.

Q: Even if they withdraw their soldiers, would they sustain their presence by other means?

A: Where will they pull out to, will someone else replace them, who will they leave the arms, will their presence continue? When they pull out, their presence will most probably not end, it will continue in some way. All these questions are on the agenda, the presidents are talking about them. The general attitude is the same, there is no reason for optimism, and uncertainty is troubling. And this situation is not helping the crisis in Syria and hope for a solution at all.

 unfortunately, the fact that the situation is quite uncertain as it was mentioned once again this afternoon. Americans said that they will withdraw, but their president says one thing, people working with him do something entirely different. We do not know how they will proceed, because of this, there is uncertainty....


a deal was signed in 1998 between Turkey and Syria.

Q: Adana agreement

A: Yes, according to the agreement, Turkey can carry out cross-border operations and doing so is deemed legal. Consequently, the legal ground is evident, and there is no need for a new ground.

Q: In a sense, does Kremlin signal to do an operation without establishing a safe zone by emphasizing the Adana agreement? And of course, there is the matter of pointing to the Damascus administration for a solution…

A: As you know, the agreement is already between Ankara and Damascus.

Q: In other words, is pointing to Damascus for a solution the most important message of the emphasis on the Adana Agreement? A: Of course. Damascus at the time said that if there is something bothering you, if you see terrorists on our soil, you can conduct a cross-border operation by entering to a certain degree. 

Why should we not benefit from this legal ground? We should most definitely benefit from it. Do we need another zone to do this? If yes, what should be the depth of this zone? All of these matters are being discussed between leaders and a solution is being sought. 

6--US Patriot offer not good enough for Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s comprehensive statements on Turkey’s determinacy in purchasing and deploying Russia’s sophisticated S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems have hit the headlines in recent days.

Erdoğan has informed that the systems will be deployed in July 2019, a few months earlier than scheduled, reiterating: “We made the S-400 deal with Russia, so it out of the question for us to turn back. That’s done.”

On questions about negotiations for the purchase of the U.S.-made Patriot air defense systems, Erdoğan implied that that the offer made by the Americans was not good enough.

A reaction to statements by Erdoğan was delivered by U.S. Vice President Mike Pence, who said: “We will not stand idly by while NATO allies purchase weapons from our adversaries. We cannot ensure the defense of the West if our allies grow dependent on the East,” at the Munich Security Conference over the weekend....

Turkey seems to have closed the Patriot subject with the Americans while accelerating the S-400 deployment process. This may lead to important consequences in defense ties between the two countries as well as on political bonds.
Turkey’s deployment of S-400s would activate a new set of sanctions against Turkey and would complicate its continued participation to the F-35 project. Accompanied with a number of other problems stemming from Syria and the U.S. support to the YPG, the S-400s sale obviously constitutes yet another major challenge in front of Turkish-American relations in 2019.

 7--Doug Noland--Credit Bubble Bulletin

Bubbles have become a fundamental geopolitical device – a stratagem. Things have regressed to a veritable global Financial Arms Race. As China/U.S. trade negotiations seemingly head down the homestretch, each side must believe that rallying domestic markets beget negotiating power. Meanwhile, emboldened global markets behave as if they have attained power surpassing mighty militaries and even nuclear arsenals....

Today’s Bubble in leveraged lending and M&A is greater than 2006/2007. The Bubble in corporate Credit dwarfs that from the mortgage finance Bubble period. Excesses throughout the securities markets phenomenally exceed those from the prior Bubble period. Moreover, I suspect the current level of derivatives-related speculative leverage could be multiples of 2007....

Policymakers continue to throw enormous stimulus at global markets and economies. Instead of stabilization, we’ve witnessed ongoing Bubble inflation and intensifying Monetary Disorder. And the more Bubbles inflate, the greater the underlying financial and economic fragilities – and the quicker the Fed was to conclude “normalization” and China was to, once again, aggressively spur lending. ...

U.S. small business optimism tumbled last month to its lowest level since President Donald Trump’s election more than two years ago amid growing uncertainty over the economic outlook.
The outlook for Wall Street earnings has deteriorated significantly in recent months, data shows, raising the risk that companies in the United States may slip into recession before its economy does – with Europe close behind.

8-- Facebook Censorship of Alternative Media “Just the Beginning,” Says Top Neocon Insider


 9--The U.S. deputy attorney general discussed how many cabinet members would support removing U.S. President Donald Trump from office in 2017, the FBI's former acting director said in an interview airing Sunday.

Andrew McCabe said invoking the 25th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution was raised by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein after Trump fired FBI director James Comey on May 9, 2017.

"Rod raised the issue and discussed it with me in the context of thinking about how many other cabinet officials might support such an effort," McCabe told CBS's "60 Minutes" news show.

A clip of that part of the interview was run early Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation" show, the first time McCabe's actual comments on the explosive subject have been aired.

10--Turkey awaits full implementation of Manbij deal, enhancing efforts with US


11--Russia Probe Backfire

Sharyl: In the simplest of terms if possible, what do you think is the story that's been uncovered in the past two years?

Sidney Powell: That the entire Russia collusion narrative was made up. That the FBI and the intelligence community and the Department of Justice began an investigation against four American citizens simply because they worked for the opposition political candidate, that being Donald Trump.

Powell, who calls herself politically independent, served as an assistant prosecutor under nine U.S. Attorneys, both Democrats and Republicans. Where many see “Russia collusion” she sees systemic corruption inside the Justice Department and intelligence community. A topic she writes about in “Licensed to Lie.” Crucial evidence, Powell claims, lies within these little-reported court documents— where our intel agencies get lambasted— not by partisans, but by the lead judge in the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Sidney Powell: —A 99-page opinion, in which she is taking the FBI to task for having given unlimited, unsupervised access to raw intelligence, that means the database of everything the NSA, the National Security Agency, collects on everybody. Word searches, keystrokes, what do you look at in Google, telephone information, calls, texts, you name it. Everything, every nightmare anybody has of information being collected by big brother, the FBI gave three private contractors unlimited, unsupervised access to that as far back as 2015.

In an opinion dated October 2016, Judge Rosemary Collyer writes that an Inspector General found the FBI and National Security Agency—NSA—had committed “widespread” violations of key protections for Americans. And because they waited to notify the court until days before the election— many months after government watchdogs discovered the abuses— Collyer said the NSA was guilty of “institutional ‘lack of candor’ ” and “This is a very serious Fourth Amendment issue.”



Saturday, February 16, 2019

Today's links

  The “communications of Roger Stone with Wikileaks” were revealed a year ago. They show WL urging Stone to stop making “false claims of association” between them:   aaron mate, twitter


"McCabe confirms that the Comey firing created a retaliatory investigation based on nothing more than the Steele dossier. It’s unbelievable — it was about overturning an election by the holdover bureaucrats." mark penn, twitter


 "The Warsaw summit was part of a stillborn project with no real connection to the situation on the ground. Sochi, by contrast, represented an effort to foster international cooperation to end bloodshed." The Daily Sabah






1--Tulsi Gabbard introduces bill to uphold INF treaty (to prevent nuclear annihilation)


Gabbard said she was introducing the bill, called the “INF Treaty Compliance Act,” not only to prevent the escalation of a new Cold War, but to “stop more American taxpayer dollars from being wasted on military adventurism that makes our people and our country less safe.”


2--How BBC depicted staged hospital scenes as proof of Douma chemical attack--Fake news to promote corporate war agenda


Riam Dalati is on the BBC production team based in Beirut and describes himself, on his Twitter page, as an “esteemed colleague” of Quentin Sommerville, the BBC’s Middle East correspondent. Dalati broke ranks with his UK Government-aligned media, on Twitter, to announce that “after almost 6 months of investigation, I can prove, without a doubt, that the Douma hospital scene was staged.”...


he tweeted out his frustration that “activists and rebels” had used “corpses of dead children to stage emotive scenes for Western consumption.” The emotive wording of Dalati’s tweet, he was “sick and tired” of such manipulation of events, suggested that this was not the first time children had been used as props in a macabre war theatre designed to elicit public sympathy for escalated military intervention in Syria disguised as a necessary “humanitarian” crack down on “Assad’s gassing of his own people.”...


Robert Stuart, has made it his life’s work to present a compelling argument that “sequences filmed by BBC personnel and others at Atareb Hospital, Aleppo on August 26, 2013 purporting to show the aftermath of an incendiary bomb attack on a nearby school are largely, if not entirely, staged.”  


3--Mueller cheated on FISA warrants


there was a pattern of some incidents of omission that were of concern to the FISA court that resulted in former Director Mueller actually appearing before the FISA court

,Robert Mueller,  the former FBI director and current special prosecutor in the Russia case, once was hauled before the nation’s secret intelligence court to address a large number of instances in which the FBI cheated on sensitive surveillance warrants, according to evidence gathered by congressional investigators....

thanks to recent testimony from a former FBI lawyer, we now have a rare window into documented abuses of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants and how the courts handled the matter....

The sin that plagued the FBI two decades ago, and that now lingers over the Russia case, involves the omission of material facts by agents applying for FISA warrants in sensitive counterterrorism and counterintelligence cases.
Such omissions are a serious matter at the FISC, because it is the one court in America where the accused gets no representation or chance to defend himself. And that means the FBI is obligated to disclose evidence of both guilt and innocence about the target of a FISA warrant....

we know from sources that the FBI had other evidence suggesting the innocence of two Trump campaign aides it targeted — Page and George Papadopoulos — that wasn’t provided to the court.

4--Is Trump backtracking on promise to withdrawal? Senator Lindsey Graham says the US is looking for its allies to deploy hundreds of troops to Syria following the withdrawal of American soldiers from the Arab country.

Senator Lindsey Graham says the US is looking for its allies to deploy hundreds of troops to Syria following the withdrawal of American soldiers from the Arab country.
Speaking on a panel discussion at the 2019 Munich Security Conference on Friday, Graham announced that US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford would call on Washington's partners during the event to send forces to Syria.

Dunford, he said, “would be coming to some of you in this room, and he will be asking for a contribution of forces to stabilize the region, post destruction of the caliphate,” established by the Daesh terrorist group.

Graham also claimed that the US would consider keeping some troops in Syria if Washington's allies agreed to the deployment meant to help create a buffer zone near the Turkish border.
The US senator said he had discussed the Syria plan with President Donald Trump and General Joseph Votel, the head of US Central Command.

"I'm hoping that President Trump will be coming to some of you and asking for your help and you will say yes. And in return, the capability that we have that is unique to the United States will still be in the fight in Syria," Graham said.
Trump ordered the withdrawal of all 2,000 American forces from Syria in December 2018 amid preparations by Turkey to launch an operation against US-backed Kurdish militants in northern Syria

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen criticized the idea that European forces would stay in Syria after the US exit, saying the alleged anti-Daesh mission should be "in together, out together."
Additionally, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian described the US approach in northeastern as a "mystery."
"It is totally out of the question to have French troops on the ground without the Americans there. It's just 'no'," a French government source said....

The US and its allies have been bombarding what they call Daesh positions inside Syria since September 2014 without any authorization from the Damascus government or a UN mandate.
The aerial assaults have failed to fulfill their declared aim of countering terrorism, but destroyed much of Syria's infrastructure and left many civilian casualties.

5--Syrian Army not given green light on Idlib offensive

...the Syrian government believes Turkey is trying to rebrand the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham as ‘moderates’ so that they could be part of the peace process in Syria.
The Syrian government currently views Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham as a terrorist group along with their political wing.

6--The Expanding Global Footprint of U.S. Special Operations--

US Special Forces deployed to 70% of the world in 2016

Just as the FBI, NSA and CIA have grown in power, influence and unaccountability since their creation, SOCOM seems poised to follow the same model to the detriment of the Republic that it was created to serve.

Major Michael Weisman stated,
“Outside of Russia and Belarus we train with virtually every country in Europe either bilaterally of through various multinational events. The persistent presence of U.S. SOF alongside our allies sends a clear message of U.S. commitment to our allies and the defense of our NATO alliance.”

Conventional Warfare Atrophy

In a detailed analysis posted late last year, “Why the U.S. Military is Woefully Unprepared for a Major Conventional Conflict”, I outlined the causes and effects of the decline in U.S. conventional warfare capabilities. There is undoubtedly a direct correlation between the reliance upon and exponential growth of U.S. special operations forces, and the decline in conventional force readiness and capability. This is evident in all service branches and has had a negative effect on the ability of the U.S. Armed Forces to carry out future offensive and defensive combat operations against peer adversaries. The U.S. military will have very little hope of achieving decisive military victories in either Russia’s or China’s backyard. Any assertion to the contrary is delusory.

The U.S. military obsession with counterinsurgency and occupation stemming from one U.S. invasion or regime change operation after another, has left a once cutting edge, combined-arms conventional force gutted materially and low in morale....

In an attempt to “be everywhere and know everything”, SOCOM has moved further away from its subordinate position in the Department of Defense, and pursued a more independent and unaccountable path, similar to that of the CIA or NSA, two organizations that it has increasingly worked closely with. SOCOM has even forged close ties with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, whose prevue is supposed to be limited to U.S. domestic crime investigations and the enforcement of federal laws.There should be some apprehension at both the Pentagon and in the halls of Congress, of the growing power of this new military within the military.

7--The Real Motive Behind the FBI Plan to Investigate Trump as a Russian Agent

Excerpts of former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker’s testimony published by CNN make it clear that the group spoke about Trump’s policy toward Russia as a basis for a counter-intelligence investigation. Baker said they “discussed as [a] theoretical possibility” that Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

Baker went on to explain that this theoretical possibility was only “one extreme” in a range of possibilities discussed and that “the other extreme” was that “the President is completely innocent.” ...

Ohr’s first contacts at FBI headquarters regarding Steele and his dossier came Aug. 3, 2016, with Page and her boss McCabe. Ohr later met with Strzok. 
Ohr said he told them that Steele’s work on the dossier had been financed by the Clinton campaign through the Perkins-Cole law firm.  He also told them that Steele, in a July 30, 2016 meeting, told him he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to Ohr’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting. 

So, key figures in the discussion of Trump and Russia in May 2017 knew that Steele was acting out of both political and business motives to come up with sensational material. 

Strzok and Page may have started out as true believers in the idea that the Russians were using Trump campaign officials to manipulate Trump administration policy.  However, by May 2017, Strzok had evidently concluded that there was no real evidence.

In a text message to Page on May 19, 2017, Strzok said he was reluctant to join the Mueller investigation, because of his “gut sense and concern” that “there’s no big there there.

Brennan’s notion of “unwitting collaboration” with Russian subversion is illogical.  Although a political actor might accidentally reveal information to a foreign government that is valuable, real “collaboration” must be mutually agreeable. A policy position or action that may benefit a foreign government, but is also in the interest of one’s own government, does not constitute “unwitting collaboration.”

The real purpose of that concept is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government. ...

The revelation that it was turned against a sitting president, however briefly, is a warning signal that national security bureaucrats and their media allies are now moving more aggressively to delegitimize any opposition to the new Cold War.

8--Trump’s state of emergency  A step towards presidential dictatorship

16 February 2019
President Trump’s proclamation of a state of national emergency on the southern US border is a frontal assault on constitutional norms and democratic rights in America. It is the first time in American history that a president has sought to usurp the constitutional prerogative of Congress to decide how public funds are to be spent.

Most fundamentally, Trump’s order is in direct defiance of the US Constitution. Article I, Section 9, Clause 7 of the Constitution reads, in part: “No Money shall be drawn from the Treasury, but in Consequence of Appropriations made by Law …” This language has invariably been understood to mean that the legislature possesses the “power of the purse,” and that the executive branch (which includes the Treasury) may spend money only as authorized by Congress....

Neither Pelosi nor Schumer, nor any other leading congressional Democrat, has suggested that Trump’s action is an impeachable offense, or that the president should be removed from office for a flagrant violation of his sworn oath to uphold and defend the US Constitution...

The United States is teetering on the brink of dictatorship. There is a colossal disparity between the seriousness and urgency of this danger, and the complacency of the response by the Democrats and the media.

...What is happening in the United States is part of an international process. Under the impact of the global economic crisis of capitalism, and the increasingly violent and reckless clashes between the major powers—spearheaded by the United States—democratic forms of rule are breaking down. This is accelerated, above all, by the growing social tensions within every capitalist country, as economic and social inequality reaches unheard-of proportions.

9--Munich Security Conference

German defence minister advocates German-European war policy

By Johannes Stern
16 February 2019
In her opening address to the Munich Security Conference yesterday, German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen declared that “the most prominent characteristic of the new security landscape” is “the return of competition between the major powers.” She followed this up by adding, “Our American friends recognised this early on. We also recognise and see, whether we like it or not, that Germany and Europe are part of this competitive struggle. We are not neutral.”
Von der Leyen’s entire speech made very clear what this means. Almost 75 years after the end of World War II, the imperialist powers are openly preparing for a new round of military conflicts. In front of over 600 politicians, military personnel and intelligence service operatives, including 35 heads of government and 80 defence and foreign ministers, von der Leyen appealed for an independent German and European defence policy to enable Berlin and Brussels to play an independent role in the coming struggle

10--Former FBI deputy director confirms FBI, Justice officials discussed removing Trump


In an interview with CBS News’ “60 Minutes” program, to be aired on Sunday, former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe confirms previously published reports that he and top Justice Department officials discussed invoking the 25th Amendment to the US Constitution to remove Trump from office.

McCabe also describes how, two days after President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in May of 2017, he secretly launched a criminal obstruction of justice investigation and a counterintelligence investigation against Trump. McCabe became acting FBI director following Comey’s ouster, carried out by Trump in an attempt to block the intelligence agencies’ investigation into allegations of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump election campaign.

McCabe makes it clear in the interview, an excerpt of which was broadcast Thursday on the “CBS This Morning” television program, that he was motivated by political opposition to Trump’s evident reluctance to aggressively pursue the policy of confrontation with Russia in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, initiated by the Obama administration and supported by the intelligence agencies and the Democratic Party


In the clip from the interview shown on “CBS This Morning,” McCabe tells interviewer Scott Pelley he was “troubled greatly” by the fact that “the man who had just run for the presidency and won the election for the presidency… might have done so with the aid of Russia, our most formidable adversary on the world stage.”
In other words, the official who then headed the state organization historically most directly associated with illegal spying and the persecution of civil rights, anti-war and socialist organizations did not accept the legitimacy of the results of the election. He acted, with other unelected officials, including Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, to overturn them....

These officials launched an investigation based on the far-fetched premise that the billionaire real estate mogul and TV celebrity was a Russian spy. Their anti-democratic conspiracy was aimed at replacing Trump with a politician, such as Vice President Mike Pence, who would differ from Trump chiefly in his readiness to act even more provocatively against Russia.

No credible evidence has been produced substantiating the trumped-up claims that Russian President Vladimir Putin massively intervened in the election to secure the elevation of his ally, if not direct agent, Donald Trump to the White House. Nevertheless, this narrative advanced by the intelligence agencies has served as the basis for the campaign against Trump waged by those agencies. It has been the focus of the Democrats’ opposition to his administration, rather than his far-right policies and attacks on the working class....

Pelley elaborated on the main content of McCabe’s upcoming “60 Minutes” interview on Thursday’s “CBS This Morning” broadcast. “There were meetings at the Justice Department at which it was discussed whether the vice president and a majority of the cabinet could be brought together to remove the president of the United States under the 25th Amendment,” he said. (The 25th Amendment, ratified in 1967, provides for replacing a president who becomes incapacitated and unable to carry out the responsibilities of his office.)

In its account of McCabe’s interview posted Thursday, the New York Times quotes part of an excerpt from McCabe’s contemporaneous memos written at the time of these secret discussions, held during the eight days between the firing of Comey and the appointment of Mueller as special counsel
“We discussed the president’s capacity and the possibility he could be removed from office under the 25th Amendment,” McCabe wrote. The newspaper adds that, according to the memo, Rosenstein indicated he had looked into the issue and determined he would need a “majority of the 15 cabinet officials.”

Pelley also said that, in the interview, McCabe confirms earlier press reports that Rosenstein, who at the time was in overall charge of the Russia investigation, suggested he could wear a wire in White House meetings with Trump. The Justice Department and Rosenstein have sought to undercut such claims, insisting that Rosenstein only made the suggestion in jest.

However, Pelley said on Thursday, “McCabe in the interview says no, it came up more than once and it was so serious that he [McCabe] took it to the lawyers at the FBI to discuss it.”

The McCabe interview confirms a front-page article published by the Times last month revealing the FBI’s secret counterintelligence investigation of Trump. The article detailed the FBI’s close monitoring of the actions of the Republican and Democratic parties. It noted that FBI officials “watched with alarm as the Republican Party softened its convention platform on the Ukraine crisis in a way that seemed to benefit Russia.” The counterintelligence investigation they launched was to determine whether the president “had been working on behalf of Russia against American interests.”

The World Socialist Web Site wrote of the Times article: “While there is no evidence of a conspiracy between Trump and Moscow, the Times report itself is evidence of a conspiracy involving the intelligence agencies and the corporate media to overturn the 2016 presidential election… A secret security investigation by a powerful police agency directed against an elected president or prime minister can be described as nothing other than the antechamber to a coup by the military or intelligence agencies.

The preview of McCabe’s interview came on the same day that Trump signed a national emergency declaration circumventing Congress and mobilizing the military to build his wall on the border between the US and Mexico—a major step on the road to dictatorial rule. The coincidence of the confirmation of the Democratic-backed conspiracy of the intelligence agencies to remove Trump from office and Trump’s extra-constitutional assertion of authoritarian powers underscores the utterly reactionary character of both factions in the intensifying political warfare in Washington

11--Bezos to New York, "Drop Dead!"

Maybe this is a sign that we’ve hit Peak Amazon. 

Bezos runs into limits of his bullying? Bezos is a particularly nasty boss. The press in the US and abroad has run many stories on the oppressive, backbreaking conditions in Amazon warehouses. In fact, Bezos is an equal opportunity abuser; we wrote about how Whole Foods employees were reduced to tears and quitting as a result of numerous new procedures Bezos put in place, virtually none of which seemed designed to improve customer service or even profits. As we wrote a year ago:
But first to Bezos’ general pattern of employee mistreatment.

It’s bad enough that Bezos engages in the worst sort of class warfare and treats warehouse workers worse than the ASPCA would allow livery drivers to use horses. Not only do horses at least get fed an adequate ration, while Amazon warehouse workers regularly earn less than a local living wage, but even after pressure to end literal sweatshop conditions (no air conditioning so inside temperatures could hit 100 degrees; Amazon preferred to have ambulances at ready for the inevitable heatstroke victims rather than pay to cool air),

 Amazon warehouse workers are, thanks to intensive monitoring, pressed to work at such a brutal pace that most can’t handle it physically and quit by the six month mark. For instance, from a 2017 Gizmodo story, Reminder: Amazon Treats Its Employees Like Shit:

Amazon, like most tech companies, is skilled at getting stories about whatever bullshit it decides to feed the press. Amazon would very much prefer to have reporters writing some drivel about a discount code than reminding people that its tens of thousands of engineers and warehouse workers are fucking miserable. How do I know they’re miserable? Because (as the testimony below demonstrates) they’ve told every writer who’s bothered to ask for years....

For a good overview of the how Amazon goes about making its warehouse workers’ lives hell, see Salon’s Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers.

Mind you, Amazon’s institutionalized sadism isn’t limited to its sweatshops. Amazon is also cruel to its office workers. The New York Times story that Gizmodo selected, based on over 100 employee interviews, included:
Bo Olson…lasted less than two years in a book marketing role and said that his enduring image was watching people weep in the office, a sight other workers described as well. “You walk out of a conference room and you’ll see a grown man covering his face,” he said. “Nearly every person I worked with, I saw cry at their desk.”
While that paragraph was the most widely quoted from that story, some reporters reacted strongly to other bits. For instance, from The Verge:
Perhaps worst of all is Amazon’s apparent approach when its employees need help. The Times has uncovered several cases where workers who were sick, grieving, or otherwise encumbered by the realities of life were pushed out of the company. A woman who had a miscarriage was told to travel on a business trip the day after both her twins were stillborn. Another woman recovering from breast cancer was given poor performance rankings and was warned that she was in danger of losing her job.
The Business Insider story on Amazon, ‘Seeing someone cry at work is becoming normal’: Employees say Whole Foods is using ‘scorecards’ to punish them, is another window on how Bezos thinks whipping his workers is the best way to get results from them.

12--Dershowitz says if the DOJ tried to use the 25th Amendment to oust Trump they have attempted a 'coup d'état'

13--It was a coup after all

The most egregious anti-democratic actions ever taken by the what can now fairly be called the Deep State are confirmed with the publication of fired FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe’s new book detailing how the FBI and Justice Department plotted to remove President Trump from office for firing FBI Director James Comey.

Justice Department and FBI officials spied on U.S. citizens with false warrants, gave a pass to one presidential campaign with a predetermined investigation, investigated another political campaign on the basis of no verified evidence, and illegally leaked information on investigations. They discussed wiretapping and using the 25th Amendment to the Constitution to remove President Trump, and appointed a special counsel as a retaliatory move for Comey’s firing.

It is now crystal clear that the highest echelons of the Justice Department and FBI had morphed from the world’s most professional law enforcement organization into a Third World rump group. They had the hubris to believe that they – not the American people or their duly elected representatives – should decide who governs and how.

They upended our election process, fanned partisan political flames, distorted our foreign policy by isolating us from Russia, and abused the powers of their office.
Remember that McCabe, Comey and the intelligence community heads all publicly testified to Congress even after the Comey-Trump meetings and memos that no investigation had been tampered with in any way. None.
Yet upon President Trump’s firing of Comey, the remaining officials didn’t wait for the proper appointment of a new FBI head. Instead, they worked themselves up into an unfounded hysteria and acted to create an independent counsel over obstruction that never happened – and was never happening.

McCabe said he was concerned that the Russia investigation might be snuffed out – but it wasn’t. It was untouched. You need a crime to appoint a special counsel, not a belief that a crime might be committed sometime in the future.

Had FBI officials waited for a new director to be confirmed by the Senate, they might have had a new boss who looked over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) warrants and discovered that the key evidence for them was an unverified dossier from a fired source who had materially lied to the FBI.

Officials might have discovered that the supporting Yahoo News story was actually an echo created by their source and not independent evidence. The new FBI director might have figured out that the dossier came to the FBI not through actual intelligence channels but through an official’s wife who was on the payroll of the dossier-creating company, Fusion GPS.

The new FBI director might have even discovered that dossier was an opposite research operation from Trump opponents instead of real intelligence. The new director might have legitimately pulled back from this reckless course.

But Justice Department and FBI officials – egged on by the infamous Lisa Page and Peter Strzok of the FBI – knew better than to follow the Constitution. They were now on a mission to remove Trump from office for daring to fire Comey; they even thought they were part of the 25th Amendment, which empowers only the Cabinet and Congress to remove the president from office in extraordinary circumstances.

Realizing that approach wouldn’t work, the FBI and Justice Department officials acted to keep the investigation they created under their supervision and with their friends whom they would appoint. And so rather than allow the new incoming head of the FBI to make these decisions, they acted to empower their buddy Robert Mueller as a special counsel.

Mueller, in turn, hired only Democrats, including a lawyer for the Clintons, and the “insurance policy” was launched and ensconced in power. So a counterintelligence investigation that was formed without probable cause now became the largest criminal investigation in history of a campaign and a presidency, dragging on since May 2017....

McCabe and others say Rosenstein was deadly serious when he discussed invoking the 25th Amendment and wiretapping against President Trump in an effort to remove the president from office. Rosenstein says he was just joking around....

McCabe and Comey appear on TV, write books, and have become nakedly partisan, revealing political attitudes no different from Strzok and Page. They readily believed unsubstantiated information and then took power into their own hands.

Every Democrat, Republican and independent should stop angling for partisan advantage and agree, regardless of who is helped or hurt, that these officials acted without proper authority and are responsible for unprecedented damage to our democracy and our political system.

14--Security zone should be under Turkey’s control

Erdoğan also answered questions on Turkey’s demand to set up a security zone along the Syrian border upon a proposal by U.S. President Donald Trump.
The security zone should be under Turkey’s control so that its borders can be secure against the presence of the YPG, Erdoğan said, vowing that Ankara will never allow efforts to turn this security zone into a protection shield for the YPG.

“We are very determined on this. This should be well-known. This is also required for the safety of Syrian Kurds,” Erdoğan said, expressing his disappointment over the continued reference to guarantee the well-being of Kurds by international actors.

“Who has been protecting the rights of the Kurds until now? The YPG/PYD? Where have they been? How long will they exist?” Erdoğan said, recalling that it was him who asked the Syrian government to issue identity cards for Syrian Kurds in the past.

Although Russians are not against Turkey’s plans to set up a security zone through an existing agreement between Ankara and Damascus, dubbed the Adana Protocol, they are trying to limit the depth of this corridor, Erdoğan said.

“Our relevant institutions are now working on this protocol. We will exert efforts to use it as a tool in our fight against terror. We have taken all our measures and we are ready for anything,” he stressed.

Erdoğan slams US over Manbij

On a question over a U.S. plan to deploy an observation force made by coalition countries into this zone, Erdoğan said Turkey does not approve such a plan. “The east of Euphrates should be cleared of terror organizations,” he said.

Erdoğan also complained about the pace of the implementation of a road map for the withdrawal of the YPG from Manbij city of Syria. “It’s also very important. There is a delay. They have said 90 days [for the withdrawal] but it has been nearly a year. They still say they will implement it,” he stressed....

No step back from S-400s

Erdoğan also answered questions on Turkey’s deal with Russia for the purchase of the $2.5 billion S-400 anti-ballistic missile systems despite the opposition of its NATO ally, the U.S.
“We have made the S-400 deal with Russia. Therefore, a step back is out of question. This is over,” Erdoğan stressed. “We are working for the deployment of S-400s in July as promised.”

15--US not united on Syria withdrawal: Erdoğan


"Manbij is actually not the place of these terror organizations," he said, adding the population there was 85-90 percent Arab.      
"We will do whatever it takes for our national security," he asserted, noting Ankara would continue to strive for finding mutual ground as long as Tehran and Moscow maintained their attitude.      
Erdoğan slammed Washington for arming YPG militants, saying it had sent 23,000 trucks loaded with weapons to them....
Syrian refugees in Turkey  
Underlining Turkey's efforts to resettle the 3.6 million Syrian refugees residing within the country's borders, Erdoğan said 310,000 Syrians had returned home and $35 billion had been spent on the needs of refugees.      

 On Turkey's ascension to the European Union, Erdoğan accused European countries of not being sincere with all the requisites and said they had another agenda.       

"There is only one reason they don't take us [into the EU]: because we are Muslims," he said, noting that even some former EU foreign ministers had said that

16--Russia, Iran mount pressure on Turkey over Idlib

All three leaders have conveyed, at the press conference, their skepticism about the pace and the scope of the U.S. withdrawal, with Russia and Iran insisting that the Syrian army should take the control of territories to be abandoned by the American troops.

In relation to this, the communiqué also addressed the situation in the northeast of Syria, an area where Turkey wants to set up a security zone against the presence of the YPG. It said the presidents “agreed to coordinate their activities to ensure security, safety and stability in this area including through existing agreements while respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the country.”

The existing agreements referred to in this communiqué is the 1998-dated Adana accord between Turkey and Syria that stipulates the latter’s responsibilities in stopping the use of its territories as a launch pad by terrorist organizations to attack Turkey.

It should be noted that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani echoed Russian President Vladimir Putin that the Adana accord would best serve to address Turkey’s legitimate security concerns. Russia and Iran have urged, once again, that dialogue between Ankara and Damascus was necessary to quell new sources of conflicts and tension in the war-torn country.

Neither Russia nor Iran have been observed as giving a full green light to Turkey’s aspirations in setting up a security zone throughout the summit, although President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan expressed his satisfaction over Moscow’s approval of Turkish plans in northeastern Syria. The Russian position is still softer than the Iranian one as Moscow seems to be ready to negotiate for a limited setting along the Turkish-Syrian border.

The issue that dominated the Sochi Summit, however, was the situation in Idlib. The three presidents examined in detail the situation in the de-escalation area, read the communiqué, as they “denounced and expressed serious concern with the attempts of the terrorist organization ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’ to increase its control over the area, and agreed to effectively counter these attempts as well as to take concrete steps to reduce violations” in the enclave.

“They also reaffirmed the determination to continue cooperation in order to ultimately eliminate DAESH/ISIL, Al-Nusra Front and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al-Qaeda or DAESH/ISIL, and other terrorist groups, as designated by the U.N. Security Council,” it added.

Putin and Rouhani have strongly recalled that measures taken in Idlib were temporary and that patience on the continued presence of jihadist radical groups was wearing thin.

Putin made clear that the attacks of the terrorists will not go unpunished and that the ceasefire agreement brokered between Ankara and Moscow was about to turn into a problem in itself.
“We should not put up with the presence of terrorist groups in Idlib,” Putin said at the summit. “That’s why I propose we consider practical concrete steps that Russia, Turkey, and Iran can take to completely destroy this hotbed of terrorists.”

Rouhani did not say anything very different and strongly accused the U.S. and Israel of supporting these terrorist groups.

Erdoğan, however, insisted on the continuation of the implementation of the protocol, equally accusing the Syrian regime of breaching the Turkish-Russian ceasefire deal. Unlike Putin and Rouhani, Erdoğan highlighted that peace in Syria had never been so close, indirectly urging his partners not to ruin this window of opportunity by suggesting a hasty operation into Idlib.

17--Did the Sochi summit fulfill ‘high hopes?’

Turkey’s position on this issue is crystal clear. President Erdoğan stated that “safe zone must be under the control of Turkey. It must not turn to a safe haven for the PYD and YPG groups, which are affiliated with the terrorist organization PKK.”

From Turkey’s point of view, the Syrian regime has no legitimacy, and the Adana accord is a “hot pursuit” agreement allowing the Turkish military to chase terrorists within Syria. On the way back from Sochi I asked President Erdoğan if there was a distance limit that Turkey can pursue terrorists within Syria, he replied, “There is no definition of the distance and no limit in terms of kilometers written in the accord.” Turkey for this reason assumes that attacking terrorist groups within Syria is legally legitimate and there is no need for further negotiations with the regime. Turkey has its own understanding of the Adana accord and will continue to act according to its own version.

18--Trump quietly amasses military forces near Venezuela


"Between Feb. 6 and 10 military transport aircraft have flown to the Rafael Miranda Airport of Puerto Rico, the San Isidro Air Base, in the Dominican Republic and to other strategically located Caribbean islands, probably without knowledge of the governments of those nations," the declaration alleged. "These flights originated in American military installations from which units of Special Operations and Marine Corps operate, which are used for covert actions," it said.

In addition, deployment readiness of U.S. military forces to Colombia has stirred further concerns over a possible U.S. intervention. The latest reports suggested that U.S. Navy vessels are quietly moving closer to Venezuela as they are approximately 5-7 days' sailing time from Colombian waters, just over 400 miles (640 kilometers) from the Venezuelan border.

The S-400 factor

The supply of Russian high-tech missile defense systems, the S-400, created loud statements in the United States, and for many years the U.S. denied Turkish requests to sell their own Patriot system. It did not happen because the Russian systems will "spy" on NATO defense and collect sensitive information. It is clearly because the Russian-Turkish deal threatens to interrupt the many years of hegemony by the United States in the field of military-technical relations with Turkey. Unilateral dictation and control of the development of Turkey by the Americans is difficult to call "cooperation." Capitol Hill, until today, tries to define what Turkey should know and what it should be able to produce and what it shouldn't.


The parties also agreed to jointly implement the TurkStream project, which foresees that Russian gas not only goes directly to Turkey, reducing cost for Turkish consumers, but also goes to Europe through Turkish territory

19--Sochi and Warsaw: Two summits with competing agendas

To be clear, that three countries with conflicting interests in Syria have been working together for two years is a major accomplishment. Obviously, some issues are still on the table: Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, or HTS, grows stronger in Idlib. There are disagreements over the proposed members of the constitutional committee. Russia is committed to keeping Bashar Assad in power. Finally, the future of the PKK's Syrian branch, the People's Protection Units (YPG), remains unclear. Yet, the Astana process is absolutely crucial for success in Geneva.

The Warsaw and Sochi summits did not just take place on the same day. They also embody two opposite approaches to the future of the Middle East. Turkey is crucial for both sides. In light of the country's unwillingness to jump on the anti-Iran bandwagon, Israel and the Gulf designated it as a threat. From the Gulf perspective, Turkey is now a regional power that must be contained. As such, the UAE has stepped up its smear campaign against Turkey and Erdoğan through lobbyists and think tanks in Washington. This is no surprise, as counter-revolutionary forces in the Middle East have long viewed Turkish democracy and Erdoğan's popularity as a threat.

Here's the takeaway: The Warsaw summit was part of a stillborn project with no real connection to the situation on the ground. Sochi, by contrast, represented an effort to foster international cooperation to end bloodshed

20--The end of optimism in US foreign policy

There are many different debates and discussions on the direction of U.S. foreign policy among scholars and practitioners of international relations today. In most of these debates the general idea is on the unpredictability of U.S. policy, absence of U.S. strategy and presence of interagency rivalry in Washington, D.C....

The National Security Strategy (NSS) announced by the White House, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) published by the Department of Defense and the Worldwide Threat Assessment Report prepared by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) all point out similar threat perceptions for the future of U.S. foreign policy.

The shift in foreign policy

One of the most important aspects of these strategies is the shifting of U.S. attention to foreign policy with nation states and diplomacy rather than toward counterterrorism operations.

The Defense Strategy stated, "We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by the decline in the long-standing rules-based international order – creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Interstate strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security."

Thus especially after the territorial defeat of Daesh, terrorism may have to go back to its default settings and may become more of a policing issue for the U.S. In all of these three documents, there is a very strong emphasis on the emerging competition between the U.S. and Russia and China.

All three documents mentioned these emerging and present competitions in their introductions. The National Security Strategy document mentions: "The United States will respond to the growing political, economic and military competitions we face around the world. China and Russia challenge American power, influence and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. "

The same competition is mentioned in DNI's Threat Assessment Report as, "Threats to U.S. national security will expand and diversify in the coming year, driven in part by China and Russia as they respectively compete more intensely with the United States and its traditional allies and partners. This competition cuts across all domains involves a race for technological and military superiority, and is increasingly about values."

The NDS report characterizes the current state of U.S. defense policy as follows, "Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding."

The challengers that the report points out are again China and Russia. Accordingly "China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors."

Although these threat assessments have been present previously in the last reports of the U.S. government, the threats are directed at not only U.S. foreign policy but the international system that the U.S. had built as well....

Although President Trump's decision to withdraw from Syria generated a lot of criticism and resistance among the different institutions of the U.S., at the end of the day many of these agencies seem to be in line with shifting U.S. attention from the long wars of the Middle East, toward nation building to a new great power rivalry of the 21st century





US congresswoman introduces bill to uphold INF Treaty