Friday, November 24, 2017

Today's Links

“They are there not only without permission from Damascus, but also in direct violation of the wishes of the Syrian government. In fact, what they are doing could be described as occupation”.  Russian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Maria Zakharova


"The left needs to get beyond its opposition to the war and start pitching in with its own ideas and moral support to try to make lemons into lemonade in Baghdad:


First, even though the Bush team came to this theme late in the day, this war is the most important liberal, revolutionary U.S. democracy-building project since the Marshall Plan. The primary focus of U.S. forces in Iraq today is erecting a decent, legitimate, tolerant, pluralistic representative government from the ground up. I don't know if we can pull this off. We got off to an unnecessarily bad start. But it is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad and it is a moral and strategic imperative that we give it our best shot."  




1-- Putin’s U.N. General Assembly speech (again)


2--US to keep troops in Syria after ISIS defeat


The US plans to keep its troops in Syria long after the defeat of ISIS – the goal used to justify their illegal presence in the first place – because the Syrian government and its ally Iran would “win” if they were withdrawn, the Washington Post reported.
The Trump administration is “expanding its goals” in Syria to include a “potentially open-ended commitment” to support the Kurd-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), the newspaper reported on Wednesday, citing several anonymous US officials. The change comes as the defeat of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) terrorist group in Syria seems imminent

“An abrupt US withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival – an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally. To avoid that outcome, US officials say they plan to maintain a US troop presence in northern Syria… and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas,” the newspaper said.
If true, it means Washington will be actively promoting Kurdish separatism to spite Damascus and Tehran, while paying lip service to preserving Syria’s territorial integrity.


“The conditions are there for the counter-ISIS campaign to morph into a counter-Iran campaign,” Nicholas Heras of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security told WaPo. “By placing no timeline on the end of the US mission… the Pentagon is creating a framework for keeping the US engaged in Syria for years to come.”


3--Biased Reporting on a Bad Guy: Mohammed bin Salman


4--The tyrant Abe Lincoln


There has never been a more substantial threat to a free press in the history of our country than the 16th President of the United States. Lincoln sent soldiers to destroy printing presses and related newspaper publishing tools at outlets which did not support his handling of the Southern secession. In response to negative editorials about the military invasion of the South and his overall war policy, Lincoln also commandeered, and then closed 300 Northern newspapers

President Lincoln did not stop at just destroying private property and commandeering newspapers, he also arrested and imprisoned many of the editors and publishers of those same press outlets.

5--Washington's hand in the Yemeni genocide


The Houthis are not al-Qaida or ISIS. Those are Sunni terrorist groups, and the Houthis detest them....

Are we willing to play passive observer as thousands and then tens of thousands of innocent civilians — the old, sick, weak, and infants and toddlers first — die from a starvation blockade supported by the mighty United States of America?
Without U.S. targeting and refueling, Saudi planes could not attack the Houthis effectively and Riyadh could not win this war. But when did Congress authorize this war on a nation that never attacked us?

6--Putin the world's new energy czar


In December 2016, OPEC, Russia and other major producers agreed to curb production by 1.8 million barrels per day for six months from January 1 to support the market and push prices to $60 per barrel. In May, the agreement was extended by nine months.

7--Insane clown prince calls Iran "new Hitler"


8--US plans to stay in Syria


They are following the call of the Zionist Jewish Institute for National Security of America which is pushing for a war on all Iran related entities and interests in the Middle East. JINSA advertises its huge influence on the higher U.S. officer corps. It is not by chance that a recent speech at the Jewish Policy Center in Washington described The U.S. Military as a Zionist Organization. But like other such wish-wash, it fails to explain why unquestioned support for a colony of east-European racist in west Asia is of "American interest".

A report in today's Washington Post is more specific. The fitting headline: U.S. moves toward open-ended presence in Syria after Islamic State is routed:
The Trump administration is expanding its goals in Syria beyond routing the Islamic State to include a political settlement of the country’s civil war ..
...
With forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian and Iranian allies now bearing down on the last militant-controlled towns, the defeat of the Islamic State in Syria could be imminent — along with an end to the U.S. justification for being there. U.S. officials say they are hoping to use the ongoing presence of American troops in northern Syria, in support of the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), to pressure Assad to make concessions at United Nations-brokered peace talks in Geneva.
...
An abrupt U.S. withdrawal could complete Assad’s sweep of Syrian territory and help guarantee his political survival — an outcome that would constitute a win for Iran, his close ally.
To avoid that outcome, U.S. officials say they plan to maintain a U.S. troop presence in northern Syria — where the Americans have trained and assisted the SDF against the Islamic State — and establish new local governance, apart from the Assad government, in those areas.
...
“By placing no timeline on the end of the U.S. mission . . . the Pentagon is creating a framework for keeping the U.S. engaged in Syria for years to come,” [said Nicholas Heras of the Washington-based Center for a New American Security.]...

The U.S. troops in Syria are allied with the Kurdish YPG. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the internationally designated Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. Only about 2-5% of the Syrian population are of Kurdish-Syrian descent. Under U.S. command they now control more than 20% of Syrian state territory and some 40% of its hydrocarbon reserves. This is thievery on a grand scale.

To disguise its cooperation with the Kurdish terrorists, the U.S. renamed the group into the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF). Some Arab fighters from east Syrian tribes were added to it. These are mostly former foot-soldiers of ISIS who changed sides when the U.S. offered better pay. Other fighters were pressed into service. The people of the Syrian-Arab city Manbij, which is occupied by the YPG and U.S. forces, protested when the YPG started to violently conscript its youth.

New troops were added to the SDF during the last days when ISIS fighters escaped from the onslaught of Syrian and Iraq forces in Abu Kamal (aka Albu Kamla aka Bukamal). They fled northwards towards YPG/U.S. held areas. Like other ISIS fighters the U.S. helped to escape their deserved punishment these forces will be relabeled and reused.


9--The Russia Scandal Just Got Much Worse … For Hillary Clinton And Barack Obama


10--Russia slams US “occupation” of Syria after reports suggest the US will not leave Syria (important) 


11--The way forward in Zimbabwe after Mugabe


12--Russia, Turkey, Iran meet on Syria at Sochi Summit (very important)


The NATO powers do not intend to tolerate a defeat in the Middle East, and are doubtless preparing their next escalation, amid explosive war tensions with Russia in Eastern Europe.Under these conditions, Moscow is clearly seeking to balance between its partners at the Sochi conference and the more openly pro-US regimes in the region. On Tuesday, the eve of the summit, Russian President Vladimir Putin held an hour-long phone call with Trump, in which Syria, where both the US and Russian military are deployed, was a principal point of discussion. He also called the leaders of Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Israel to discuss recent developments in Syria and cooperation on various projects, including in the security and energy sectors, according to a Kremlin statement.

Citing the statement, Sputnik news reported that Putin and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “expressed interest in the further expansion of mutually beneficial cooperation in various areas, including contacts between security services … A substantive exchange of views was held on the prospects for the development of the situation in the Middle East region, primarily in the context of the final stage of the fight against international terrorism in Syria.”

Putin’s press service added that the Russian president had informed the Egyptian dictator Abdel Fattah Sisi “in detail about Russian assessments of the latest developments in the situation in Syria in the context of the final stages of the military operation to destroy terrorists in that country and discussed the results of the recent talks with Syrian President Bashar Assad.”
In their phone call on Tuesday, Putin and Saudi King Salman “continued the exchange of views on the situation in the Middle East region and discussed issues related to the prospects for a long-term settlement of the Syrian conflict in light of recent successes in the fight against terrorist groups there,” the statement continued...



Erdogan raised a central point of conflict, the Kurdish issue: “In this regard, political unity and territorial integrity of Syria and exclusion of the terrorist elements, which threaten the national security of our country, will continue to be among our priorities. No one should expect us to be together under the same roof, to share the same platform with a terror organization. If we express our commitment to the territorial integrity and political unity of Syria, we cannot regard a bloody gang as a legitimate actor.”
Ankara has long considered Syria’s Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD) as a terrorist group and stressed that its militia, the People’s Protection Units (YPG), should withdraw from Afrin, a multi-ethnic region in northern Syria bordering Turkey, where Russian troops are also stationed. Erdogan repeatedly asked Putin to withdraw Russian troops from the region, so that the Turkish army could take its “own measures to secure the borders.” Recently, the Turkish army deployed additional troops near Afrin.

It is not only Ankara that opposes Kurdish autonomy in Syria for fear of provoking separatist moods within its own Kurdish population. For decades, Iran also fought Kurdish separatist groups.

13-- Tom Friedman's lovesong to Saudi tyrant (unreadable gibberish)

Now they have a young leader who is driving religious and economic reform, who talks the language of high tech, and whose biggest sin may be that he wants to go too fast. Most ministers are now in their 40s — and not 60s. And with the suffocating hand of a puritanical Islam being lifted, it’s giving them a chance to think afresh about their country and their identity as Saudis.

Saudi Arabia — I never thought I’d live long enough to write this sentence: The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style.
Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe. Only a fool would predict its success — but only a fool would not root for it.

To better understand it I flew to Riyadh to interview the crown prince, known as “M.B.S.,” who had not spoken about the extraordinary events here of early November, when his government arrested scores of Saudi princes and businessmen on charges of corruption and threw them into a makeshift gilded jail — the Riyadh Ritz-Carlton — until they agreed to surrender their ill-gotten gains. You don’t see that every day.

We started with the obvious question: What’s happening at the Ritz? And was this his power play to eliminate his family and private sector rivals before his ailing father, King Salman, turns the keys of the kingdom over to him?

It’s “ludicrous,” he said, to suggest that this anticorruption campaign was a power grab. He pointed out that many prominent members of the Ritz crowd had already publicly pledged allegiance to him and his reforms, and that “a majority of the royal family” is already behind him. This is what happened, he said: “Our country has suffered a lot from corruption from the 1980s until today. The calculation of our experts is that roughly 10 percent of all government spending was siphoned off by corruption each year, from the top levels to the bottom. Over the years the government launched more than one ‘war on corruption’ and they all failed. Why? Because they all started from the bottom up.”

when his father, who has never been tainted by corruption charges during his nearly five decades as governor of Riyadh, ascended to the throne in 2015 (at a time of falling oil prices), he vowed to put a stop to it all, M.B.S. said:
“My father saw that there is no way we can stay in the G-20 and grow with this level of corruption. In early 2015, one of his first orders to his team was to collect all the information about corruption — at the top. This team worked for two years until they collected the most accurate information, and then they came up with about 200 names.”..

When all the data was ready, the public prosecutor, Saud al-Mojib, took action, M.B.S. said, explaining that each suspected billionaire or prince was arrested and given two choices: “We show them all the files that we have and as soon as they see those about 95 percent agree to a settlement,” which means signing over cash or shares of their business to the Saudi state treasury...

The stakes are high for M.B.S. in this anticorruption drive. If the public feels that he is truly purging corruption that was sapping the system and doing so in a way that is transparent and makes clear to future Saudi and foreign investors that the rule of law will prevail, it will really instill a lot of new confidence in the system. But if the process ends up feeling arbitrary, bullying and opaque, aimed more at aggregating power for power’s sake and unchecked by any rule of law, it will end up instilling fear that will unnerve Saudi and foreign investors in ways the country can’t afford

But one thing I know for sure: Not a single Saudi I spoke to here over three days expressed anything other than effusive support for this anticorruption drive. The Saudi silent majority is clearly fed up with the injustice of so many princes and billionaires ripping off their country. While foreigners, like me, were inquiring about the legal framework for this operation, the mood among Saudis I spoke with was: “Just turn them all upside down, shake the money out of their pockets and don’t stop shaking them until it’s all out!”

(Friedman thinks MBS is a progressive) A lawyer by training, who rose up in his family’s education-social welfare foundation, M.B.S. is on a mission to bring Saudi Islam back to the center. He has not only curbed the authority of the once feared Saudi religious police to berate a woman for not covering every inch of her skin, he has also let women drive. And unlike any Saudi leader before him, he has taken the hard-liners on ideologically. As one U.S.-educated 28-year-old Saudi woman told me: M.B.S. “uses a different language. He says, ‘We are going to destroy extremism.’ He’s not sugar-coating. That is reassuring to me that the change is real.”...

Saudi Arabia would have a very long way to go before it approached anything like Western standards for free speech and women’s rights. But as someone who has been coming here for almost 30 years, it blew my mind to learn that you can hear Western classical music concerts in Riyadh now, that country singer Toby Keith held a men-only concert here in September, where he even sang with a Saudi, and that Lebanese soprano Hiba Tawaji will be among the first woman singers to perform a women-only concert here on Dec. 6. And M.B.S told me, it was just decided that women will be able to go to stadiums and attend soccer games. The Saudi clerics have completely acquiesced.

14--More gems from  Friedman on MBS


He is much more McKinsey than Wahhabi — much more a numbers cruncher than a Quran thumper. And if he did not exist, the Saudi system would have had to invent him. Somebody had to shake up the place....

But he is replacing Wahhabism as a source of solidarity with a more secular Saudi nationalism, one that has a strong anti-Iran/Persian/Shiite tenor. And that is taking him to some dangerous places. To confront Iran, M.B.S. got the Sunni Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad al-Hariri, to quit his office on Saturday while on a visit to Riyadh, and blamed Iran and its Shiite allies for making Lebanon ungovernable — and for a missile attack from Yemen. Lebanon, which had forged a relatively stable balance among Sunnis, Christians and Shiites, is now shaking. M.B.S. also led a Gulf effort to isolate Qatar for being too close to Iran and to crush Iran’s influence in Yemen — and crush Yemen in the process. It’s overreach, and there seems to be no one around to tell him that.
As a veteran Saudi journalist remarked to me of M.B.S.: “This guy saved Saudi Arabia from a slow death, but he needs to broaden his base. It is good that he is freeing the house of Saud of the influence of the clergy, but he is also not allowing any second opinion of his political and economic decisions.”
I worry that those urging M.B.S. to be more aggressive in confronting Iran (whose malign regional influence does need counterbalancing) — like the U.A.E., Trump, Jared Kushner and Bibi Netanyahu — will push M.B.S. into a war abroad and at home at the same time, and we could see Saudi Arabia and the whole region spin out of control at the same time. As I said, I’m worried.

15-- Remember when Friedman said this--


“The war in Iraq is the most important liberal, revolutionary US democracy- building project since the Marshall Plan. It is one of the noblest things this country has ever attempted abroad.” (New York Times)

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