Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Today's links

1--  16 Russian Spetsnaz hold off 300 jihadists in Aleppo

The commander of the group who was named a Hero of the Russian Federation said earlier that they were part of a 16-strong Russian military unit which managed to successfully repel attacks by 300 jihadists.

2--Superpowers at War--US-led coalition fights Russia-led coalition in Syria  (sanctions represent economic warfare)

Thus in some ways the current military situation is vastly better than it was in October of last year, thanks to the liberation of Aleppo, the reduction of several rebel-held enclaves, and the heavy losses inflicted on ISIS on several fronts. The operations of the next six months will potentially have to contend with a factor that hitherto was absent, namely the growing presence of US-led coalition troops on Syrian territory.

The US-led coalition has responded to the SAA victories with intensification of operations in southeastern Syria with a goal to build a buffer zone between Syrian government forces and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units that are rapidly growing to the most influential force in Iraq. The Syrian-Iranian-Russian alliance realized the thereat and intensified operations in the area. At the same time, the Syrian Democratic Forces with a large support of the US-led coalition’s airpower, artillery and special forces troops are preparing to storm the ISIS self-proclaimed capital of Raqqah. The competition for the Syrian-Iraqi border and for the oil-reach Deir Ezzor province has officially started.

3--Trump’s scorched-earth budget: $1.7 trillion in cuts to vital social programs (must read)

4--Ex-CIA director’s testimony fuels new round of anti-Russian agitation

The chronology outlined by Brennan actually suggests that alleged Russian interference in the 2016 campaign was not considered an urgent issue by the Obama administration and the US intelligence apparatus during that period, despite claims to the contrary more recently.

Brennan indicated that the CIA was the first US government agency to become aware of alleged Russian efforts to interfere in the election campaign during July 2016. That was when, on the eve of the Democratic National Convention, the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party first made the claim that the Russian government was responsible for hacking Democratic National Committee emails and collaborating with WikiLeaks to leak them, so as to embarrass Clinton and tip the election to Trump.

In his testimony Tuesday, Brennan said he raised the matter with the White House and on August 4 gave a warning to his Russian counterpart, Alexander Bortnikov, head of the Russian intelligence agency FSB. The warning came at the end of a phone call in which the main subject was Syria, with Russian harassment of US diplomats in Moscow and Russian actions in relation to the US elections raised only at the end—an indication that the matter was not a high priority or considered a serious danger.

“I believe I was the first US official to brace Russia on this matter,” Brennan added, an assertion that makes the chronology even more curious. According to the semi-official narrative, the FBI learned of hacking attacks on the Democratic National Committee in the summer of 2015 and the attacks were supposedly linked soon after to two units of Russian military intelligence.
If that story is true, why did Brennan become the first US official to raise the issue with Moscow, a full year later?

Moreover, if Brennan’s call to Bortnikov on August 4, 2016 was an expression of great concern on the part of the Obama administration, why did Obama wait until December 29, 2016 to take any retaliatory action? The time sequence actually suggests that the White House regarded Russian actions around the US elections (if any) as a minor irritant, fully expecting a Clinton victory, until after the actual debacle for the Democrats on Election Day

5--Media meltdown over President Trump

The ravening MSM types in most of the available platforms for propaganda are eagerly awaiting DT's return from overseas so that it can get on with the its basic objective - impeachment.  Neither CNN nor MSNBC makes any effort in disguising their essential focus on impeachment.  The level of their fascination with this now extends to their network  news services own advertising.  MSNBC now runs a staged ad in which a woman reporter is portrayed as chasing a congressman down a hallway while badgering him for "answers" to hypotheticals as to what he will do if Trump is "proven" to have obstructed justice.  It is now evident (to me) that "obstruction of justice" will be the main thrust of the impeachment drive.  Mueller's investigation of Comey's various statements, memos and the like now seems to be intended to elicit evidence of President Trumps supposed obstruction.  Since he has a grand jury at his disposal and is conducting a criminal investigation (as opposed to the congressional counter-intelligence investigations) Mueller's investigation could easily result in an indictment of President Trump if that is legally possible with a sitting president.  IMO that would trigger a resolution of impeachment in the House of Representative.  DNI Dan Coats declined this morning before the US Senate to state whether or not Trump had tried to persuade him to help in shutting down the Russia collusion investigations.  This is probably a preview of what others may say to Mueller under oath.  This may well be the crack of doom for Trump

6--Draining the swamp in Saudi Arabia?

7--Trump Lets Saudis Off on 9/11 Evidence

8--Growing Poverty Fuels Europe’s Extremism

9--New Cracks in Russia-gate ‘Assessment’

President Obama’s ex-intelligence chiefs admit they limited input into the Russia-gate “assessment,” which was handled by “hand-picked” analysts, raising the specter of politicized intelligence

Pre-Cooked Intelligence

However, the restricted nature of the Jan. 6 report – limiting it to analysts from CIA, NSA and FBI – blocked the kind of expertise that the State Department, the Defense Department, the Department of Homeland Security and other agencies might have provided. In other words, the Jan. 6 report has the look of pre-cooked intelligence.

That impression was further strengthened by the admission of former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 8 that “the two dozen or so analysts for this task were hand-picked, seasoned experts from each of the contributing agencies.”
Yet, as any intelligence expert will tell you, if you “hand-pick” the analysts, you are really hand-picking the conclusion. For instance, if the analysts were known to be hard-liners on Russia or supporters of Hillary Clinton, they could be expected to deliver the one-sided report that they did.

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