Thursday, June 1, 2017

Today's links

1--  How the Syrian Government Pushed East Along Three Axes

Syria endgame now in sight

2--US-backed Militants Attack Syrian Army At Damascus-Baghdad Highway. Russia Responds With Airstrikes

3--Iraqi-Syrian War Report – June 1, 2017: PMU Preparing For Further Advances In Border Area

4--Hillary Clinton: I was victim of ‘1,000 Russian agents’ & ‘broad assumption’ I would win

5--After Riyadh summit, Sunni unity crumbles

It wasn’t just Qatar and the MB in Saudi sights – the regional uprisings, particularly in Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, threatened to shift the region in a direction that benefited Iran, Saudi Arabia’s biggest regional adversary....

In fact, most of the Sunni states that attended the Riyadh summit are flat-out furious about the violent sectarianism and extremism that has emerged in the past few years. And many of them blame the Saudis for it...

But in an effort to bulldoze through a “Sunni consensus” under the umbrella of “Saudi-American power,” the Saudis ignored every gorilla in that summit room. Not only do many of the meeting’s participants blame the Saudis for unleashing the jihadi genie, but most of them also wouldn't for a minute look to Saudi ‘leadership’ if it weren’t for Saudi cash. Case in point, Sunni regional giants Turkey and Egypt. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan didn’t even show up to Riyadh, citing other engagements. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi did attend – he was one of three invited to press his palms upon the ‘glowing orb’ to inaugurate the Saudi counterterrorism-something-or-other....

The Saudis recently hired Pakistan’s former army chief General Raheel Sharif to head up their 39-nation “Muslim NATO” construct to fight terrorism, but now rumors are rife that he will resign amidst a national uproar over his decision. Pakistanis, like other straight-thinking Muslims, are uncomfortable about the prospect of a military alliance that appears to have been conceived primarily to fight Iran – and Shiites.

Dead On Arrival

On the surface, the purpose of the Riyadh summit was to amass a coalition of like-minded Arab and Muslim partner-states, under a Saudi-American banner, to wage war against terror. In fact, this is a Saudi and American-led initiative created not to tackle terror, but to ‘reframe’ it to encompass political adversaries...

This is not the war against terror that the heads of states gathered in Riyadh anticipated. This is a sectarian war, conceived by a sectarian state that has funded, armed and organized the very global terrorism it purports to fight. And every single US administration since the events of 9/11 has acknowledged this direct Saudi role in terror.

In Riyadh, the show went on anyway. But there’s not a person in that room who didn’t understand the game. Forget the ‘Sunni consensus’ after Riyadh. Of the 55 nations represented at the summit, the Saudis will be lucky to retain five

6--The US plan to remain in Syria

The United States is unlikely to withdraw its troops from Syria once the devastating six-year war in the Arab country is over, former senior security policy analyst to the US Secretary of Defense Michael Maloof told Radio Sputnik.

"President [Bashar al-Assad] wants all of Syria back, but I think the reality is that you are never going to see the same Syria that you did prior to the civil war. The United States is going to want to occupy certain portions. Syria will not be the autonomous state that it once was. I think what is evolving is the partitioning. The Kurds are going to want something out of this. Russia in the past has proposed, over Assad's objections, an autonomous region in the north, which Turkey will violently oppose. So this struggle is going to go on. The future of Syria as an autonomous state is going to be a very big question for probably years to come," he said

7--Senator McCain solicits support in Australia for Trump’s removal

The people to whom McCain and the Times are making their appeal know what such language means: The knives are out at the highest level of the American state.
Political division on this scale can emerge only under conditions of the most acute social crisis. Powerful factions in the US state believe the policies of the Trump administration threaten a complete breakdown of Washington’s global authority and hegemonic interests. They are at the same time concerned over increasingly explosive social conditions within the US, and the fact that the ability of the ruling elite to contain these contradictions is gravely undermined by the precipitous decline of America’s global prestige.

The conflict rending the American state is between two reactionary factions, each engaged in conspiracies and prepared to use unconstitutional means to reach its ends.

Such an atmosphere creates the conditions for the emergence onto the political scene of the working class, which cannot remain a bystander in this war between contending right-wing sections of the ruling elite, much less side with one or the other. As McCain and his collaborators seek alliances among different groups of imperialists, American workers must seek allies among the international working class and pursue their own revolutionary and socialist strategy—for jobs, an end to war and the defense of democratic rights

8--Germany turns to Asia--Germany embraces "Greater Europe"

Shortly after the inauguration of Donald Trump, Gabriel announced the development of a German and European strategy for Asia in order “to exploit the spaces vacated by America.”
Gabriel then officially announced on March 24 “a new orientation” for Germany’s “Asia policy,” and “the establishment of a new Asia and Pacific department” at the Foreign Ministry. He stated in a Foreign Ministry press release: “In many areas of international politics, we are currently experiencing crises, turmoil and new dynamics. One gets the impression that the world is being measured anew—and everyone is using his own tape measure. One thing is clear: the rising states of Asia will assume a key position in this new measuring of the world.”

It was necessary for Germany “to intensify relations with Asia and organize them more strategically so as to do justice to this region of 4 billion people and rapidly growing markets,” according to Gabriel. He had “therefore decided to build an Asian department in the Foreign Ministry for the first time in order to better pool and further develop our regional competencies.” It was “high time for us to do justice to Asia’s growing weight by changing the composition of our team in the Foreign Ministry.”
Later that day, Gabriel declared in a programmatic speech delivered to the 97th annual meeting of the German Asia-Pacific Business Association in Hamburg: “Asia is a key region for our future here at home, because the routes to resolve our global challenges can no longer be developed only by the old structures from the post-World War II period. Rather, the routes to resolve our global challenges run through Asia.”....

Today, German imperialism is pursuing its geopolitical ambitions in Asia even more systematically and aggressively than at the beginning of the 20th century. On April 5 and 6, the Foreign Ministry brought together Germany’s 40 ambassadors in the Indian Ocean region for an extraordinary regional conference in the Sri Lankan capital, Colombo, to inform them about the new global orientation of German policy.....

Under Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama, the US announced its “pivot to Asia,” aimed at economically isolating and militarily encircling China. The US government is ever more openly preparing for direct military conflict with Iran, North Korea, and China.
Germany’s goal is to intervene in this explosive region and pursue its geostrategic and economic interests, including by military means.

Germany’s economic relations with China are more extensive than with any other country outside the European Union. Regular government consultations have taken place between both countries since 2011. China was Germany’s most important trading partner last year, ahead of both France and the United States, with total trade approaching €170 billion.

Cooperation is now to be deepened. Deutsche Bank announced prior to Li Keqiang’s arrival in Berlin that it intends to finance infrastructure projects as part of the “new silk road” initiative in the coming five years with a €3 billion loan agreed jointly with the China Development Bank. The Chinese government’s “One Belt, One Road” strategy is based on the historical Silk Road of the Middle Ages. It includes plans for the construction of a series of ports, railways and roads to connect the major economic centers of China with Europe.

9--'Axis of love': Saudi-Russia detente heralds new oil order

10-- The FISC (The FISA court) is virtually owned by the NSA. That court has granted 99.9 percent of requests made by the NSA since the court was created

We know from the Susan Rice admissions that folks in the government can acquire intelligence-generated data – emails, text messages, recordings of telephone conversations – and use that data for political purposes. Just ask former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn. ...

. The FISC is virtually owned by the NSA. That court has granted 99.9 percent of requests made by the NSA since the court was created. Despite all the public revelations, the FISC looks the other way at non-FISC-authorized NSA spying. The judges of the FISC have become virtual clerks for the NSA. And the FISC has become an unconstitutional joke.
Where does all this leave us? It leaves us with a public recognition that we are the most spied-upon people in world history and that the president himself has been a victim.

11--Syrian troops advancing towards US and British special forces

12--Just don't mention Seth Rich;  July 22, 2016: WikiLeaks starts publishing DNC emails

no proof-- “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC e-mails that were leaked,” President Obama said....

Recall that in June 2016, the DNC had acknowledged its computer network had been breached, a conclusion that led the DNC to hire cybersecurity expert CrowdStrike that investigated and reported the Russian government had had used two separate hacker groups, identified as “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear,” to hack the DNC computer.

As reported in the second article on this series, the CrowdStrike report appears to have been the basis the DNC and U.S. intelligence used to conclude incorrectly that Guccifer 2.0 was responsible for providing the DNC emails WikiLeaks started making public on July 22, 2016, despite the fact there is no evidence Guccifer 2.0 ever hacked into any Democratic email server

Oct. 7, 2016: WikiLeaks begins publishing Podesta emails

When WikiLeaks began publishing the Podesta emails in October 2016, the Democrats reacted once again to claim the Russians had used Guccifer 2.0 to hack Podesta’s emails....

“Guccifer 2.0 has already proven the warnings of top national security officials that documents can be faked as part of a sophisticated Russian misinformation campaign,” Caplin continued....

What happened in May 2016?
The Democratic Party Indiana Primary took place on May 3, 2016.
Sanders achieved a 5 point victory upset over Clinton in Indiana, winning 52.46 percent to 47.54 percent, but the “superdelegates” swung to Clinton, giving Clinton a total of 46 delegates from the Indiana primary, compared to 44 to Sanders.

What in May was clear was that the Democrats had stacked the deck for a DNC-preferred candidate to win the nomination, with the clear majority of the 712 superdelegates (about 15 percent of all delegates) would vote for Clinton, such that Sanders could earn a majority of the 1,670 delegates up for grabs in popular voting during the primaries, and still lose the nomination.
By June 7, 2016, in the early hours of counting the ballots in the Democratic Party California primary, the Associated Press declared that Hillary Clinton had won enough delegates and superdelegates to win the Democratic Party nomination for president.
The likely scenario is that a leaker internal to the Democratic Party released to WikiLeaks both the DNC emails and the Podesta emails at one time in late May or early June 2016....

Then, on his own initiative, without being specifically asked, Assange began talking about Seth Rich.
“Whistleblowers go to significant efforts to get us material, and often very significant risks,” Assange volunteered.
“There’s a 27-year-old that works for the DNC who was shot in the back, murdered, just a few weeks ago, for unknown reasons, as he was walking down the streets in Washington,” Assange continued.
Van Rosenthal objected that the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich was a robbery.
“No, there’s no findings,” Assange answered.
“What are you suggesting?” Van Rosenthal interjected.
“I’m suggesting that our sources take risks – and they become concerned to see things occurring like that,” Assange responded....

There was no reason for Assange to have spontaneously brought up Seth Rich in the context of the risks his leakers take if Rich were not the leaker involved in the DNC and Podesta emails that WikiLeaks published.
On Aug. 9, 2016, WikiLeaks offered a $20,000 reward “for information leading to the conviction for the murder of DNC staffer Seth Rich.”
Again, why would WikiLeaks do this if Seth Rich were not the leaker in question?
Repeatedly, Assange has denied that the Russians “or any state party” supplied WikiLeaks with the DNC and/or Podesta emails.
The attempt to distinguish is disingenuous, suggesting the Russians may have been responsible for the hack, turning the information to a third party, not the Russians or a state actor, who handed WikiLeaks the emails and thus became “the source.”
Speaking plainly, Assange – a political operative with an established reputation of telling the truth – has denied the Russians or any state actor was involved, knowing he was leaving the clear impression the DNC and Podesta emails traced back to a leaker internal to the DNC – the same conclusion President Obama suggested in his final press conference...

These articles have argued a tighter, forensic case, premised on examining the content and context of each known cyberattack against the Clinton campaign so as to determine the most likely means required to pull the cyberattack off successfully and, from there, to determine the most likely perpetrator.
The conclusion of these three articles is that the DNC and Podesta emails published by WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential campaign were stolen and leaked by an operative within the Democratic Party, with the likely perpetrator of the leak being Seth Rich

13--Putin is popular.

Depending on who you ask, Putin’s popularity seems to range between 60 and 80 percent. There are two reasons: First, since he became leader the economy has stabilized, corrupt oligarchs were brought into check, and the standard of living dramatically improved. Second, Putin is credited with restoring international respect for Russia and national pride for Russian citizens. Some say, “During the 1990s we were a beggar nation.” Russians have a strong sense of national pride and Putin’s administration has restored that.
Some people think Putin deserves a break from the intense pressure and workload. That does not mean everyone likes him or is afraid to say that. Our official Moscow guide took delight in showing us the exact spot on the bridge outside the Kremlin where she believes Putin had one of his enemies assassinated. Other Russians we spoke with mock these accusations, which are widely believed in the West. As to the accusations that Putin is a “dictator,” about 75 students in Crimea openly laughed when they were asked about this Western belief.

There has been a resurgence of religion in Russia.

Russian Orthodox Churches have been revitalized and gold leaf glistens on the church domes. Muslim mosques have also been refurbished and rebuilt. A brilliant new mosque is a prominent part of the Kremlin in Kazan, Tatarstan. There are many Muslim in Russia. This research puts the number at ten million though we heard estimates much higher. We saw numerous examples of interfaith unity and cooperation, with Muslim Imams working side by side with young Russian Orthodox priests. We also heard stories of how churches had been used as prisons or food warehouses during the Stalin era.
—Russia increasingly looks east.

The Russian emblem of a double-headed eagle looks both east and west; it is a Eur-Asian country. While Europe is still important politically and economically, Russia is increasingly looking to the east. Russia’s “strategic partner” is China – economically, politically and militarily. There are increasing numbers of Chinese tourists and education exchanges with Russia. In the United Nations Security Council the two countries tend to vote together. Huge investments are planned for the transportation network dubbed the “Belt and Road Initiative” connecting Asia with Europe.

–Russia is a capitalist country with a strong state sector.

Government is influential or controls sectors of the economy such as public transportation, military/defense industry, resource extraction, education and health care. State-owned enterprises account for nearly 40 percent of overall employment. They have universal health care in parallel with private education and health care facilities. Banking is a problem area with high interest rates and the failure/bankruptcy of numerous banks in the past decade. We heard complaints that foreign multinational companies can enter and control sectors of the economy, drive out Russian competitors and take the profits home

Russians see themselves being threatened.
While Western media portrays Russia as “aggressive,” most Russians perceive the reverse. They see the U.S. and NATO increasing military budgets, steadily expanding, moving up to the Russian border, withdrawing from or violating past treaties and conducting provocative military exercises. This map shows the situation.

14--Railroading Noriega

Whatever Noriega’s involvement with drug traffickers, as I have shown elsewhere, the Bush administration displayed unbelievable cynicism when, even before his capture, it swore in a new president of Panama who had sat on the board of one of the most notorious drug-money-laundering banks in the country. His attorney general, who unfroze the bank accounts of Cali traffickers, later became legal counsel for the Cali Cartel’s top smuggler in Panama.

Following Noriega’s ouster, not surprisingly, cocaine trafficking began surging in the country. A year and a half after his arrest, unnamed “U.S. experts” told Time magazine that “the unexpected result . . . is that the rival Cali cartel established a base in Panama and has since inundated the country, along with Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean, with vast quantities of cocaine destined for the U.S. and Europe.”

Today, though, all that is forgotten, along with the questionable course of justice during Noriega’s trial. Noriega, even in death, deserves no eulogies, but he does deserve a more balanced judgment of history.

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