Friday, February 9, 2018

Today's Links

“Israel has an interest in supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory…”...Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria...  "A Clean Break"

“It’s likely that the Americans are implementing a plan to divide the country. They abandoned their assurances that their only goal...was to defeat ISIS.  they are now saying that they will remain until process of a political settlement in Syria starts, which will result in regime change.” Sergei Lavrov

The report that claims that Trump colluded with Russia was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign
The company that claims that Russia hacked DNC computer servers was paid by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign
The surveillance of a Trump campaign member was granted by a FISA court on the basis of  information gathered from a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign
The wider investigation, that involves the CIA, the NSA, the FBI,  and the DOJ-- originated from claims that were made in a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign
The stories that were leaked to the media alleging Russia hacking or collusion can all be traced back to claims that were made in a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign
The Intelligence Community Report that supposedly proves that Russia meddled in the 2016 elections  will eventually be traced back to claims that were made in a report that was paid for by the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign

Nothing to see here, move along

1-- Kurdistan is good for Israel??

"Israel would welcome another state in the region that shares its concerns about the rising power of Iran, including the threat of Iranian-backed Shia militias in Iraq," says Frantzman. "Reports have also indicated that oil from Kurdistan is purchased by Israel

2--Israel supports independent Kurdish state?

it was just this week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared, “the Kurds have been and will continue to be reliable and long-term allies of Israel since they are, like us, a minority group in the region.”
He added that the referendum is “the legitimate efforts of the Kurdish people to attain a state of its own.”

n a bid to stave off the influence of neighboring anti-Zionist Arab countries, Higgins explained, Israel began creating an “alliance of the peripheries.”

“In order to undermine the idea of a united pan-Arab socialist state,” he said, one that supports the Palestinian struggle, “Israel (sought) to make ties with non-Arab Muslim actors.”

That policy of undermining pan-Arabism, which, according to Higgins, has expanded now into undermining the “Axis of Resistance” — that is, Iran, Syria, as well as Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements — explains Israel’s underlying motive for supporting Iraqi Kurds.

Indeed, it was also this month that Israeli General Yair Golan openly said that an independent Kurdish region in Iraq would stem the influence of Iran.

“Given Iran’s presence in the east and instability in the region, a solid, stable, coherent Kurdish entity in the middle of this quagmire is not a bad idea,” the general stated during an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy

3--interview with Philip Giraldi

....another thing I would have liked to seen more of in the (Nunes) memo and the (Graham-Grassley) letter was more talk about what the intelligence community was up to, because John Brennan was clearly going on fishing expeditions with friendly intelligence services in Europe and elsewhere and he was basically digging up information that later surfaced in one way or another . That's an interesting story too.... I am waiting to see what evidence there was of state department collusion and, particularly, the CIA, particularly, John Brennan. This has not come out at all yet, and there is stuff there that could potentially make what we've seen so far look like child's play.

....the fact that Steele was getting info on Trump and Trump associates from the Clinton administration is a bombshell

4--Turkey Establishing Long-Sought US “Safe Haven” in Northern Syria

Turkey’s recent incursion into northern Syria is poised to finally establish the long-sought after “buffer zone” or “safe haven” called for by US policymakers since as early as 2012.

While the US and Turkey are currently feigning a diplomatic row over the incursion – with Turkey’s targeting and displacement of Kurds allegedly backed by the United States – it is clear that recent claims by the US regarding its expanding support of Kurdish militias it has been arming and backing in Syria was done as an intentional pretext for Turkey to justify an otherwise indefensible invasion of Syrian territory.

5-- True US goal in Syria is control over resources, not fighting ISIS – Russian MoD

Damascus has also urged the UN to press the US to leave, especially following the successful defeat of the main IS forces. The US, however, has stated that it may remain in Syria indefinitely to counter what it describes as Iranian influence and to secure “post-Assad leadership” for the country.
Recent developments indicate that the US might be effectively shifting towards partitioning Syria altogether, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned earlier on Wednesday.

“It’s very likely that the Americans have taken a course of dividing the country. They just gave up their assurances, given to us, that the only goal of their presence in Syria – without an invitation of the legitimate government – was to defeat Islamic State and the terrorists,” Lavrov stated.
“Now, they are saying that they will keep their presence until they make sure a steady process of a political settlement in Syria starts, which will result in regime change.”

6--Professor Stephen F. Cohen: Rethinking Putin

7-- Erdogan won't talk with Assad

8-- The bloodiest day

9--- At US outpost in Syria, US general backs Kurdish fighters

10-- Kurdish news here!!

11--  Turkey launches proxy army at Afrin

These aren’t Turkish soldiers, they’re fighters from the Free Syrian Army, the militia that became famous when it started out as the first organized military group to fight Syrian President Bashar Assad. This militia disintegrated into rival militias, some of which became mercenaries in the service of the Turkish army in its war against the Kurds in Syria. Although this is a militia of Syrian Arabs, it has adopted the ideology that the Syrian Kurds are terrorists.

Turkish money also helped, of course. When the Turkish forces began to take action inside Syria in the summer of 2016, the Free Syrian Army became the leaders in this battle, in exchange for Turkish funding and weapons, without which its fate would have been similar to that of other militias. When those militias lost their sources of funding, they were transformed from a fighting force with an ideology and political goal into occasional warriors, who fight in order to pay the salaries of their men

12--  Criminal Referral Confirms Nunes Memo’s Explosive Claims Of FISA Abuse 

confirms that the FBI "relied heavily" on an unverified from the Senate Judiciary Committee declassified documentA nverified dossier in order to obtain FISA surveillance warrants on one-time Trump advisor Carter Page

Unredacted portions of the document reveal the FBI's extensive involvement with the creator of the dossier, former UK spy Christopher Steele

Despite Steele lying to the FBI which led to the agency ending their relationship, they still used his unverified memo and vouched for his reputation to obtain the FISA warrants
The unredacted memo clarifies that the FBI notified the FISA court of the dossier's political origins "to a vaguely limited extent"

The FBI has withheld the notes from their meetings with Steele
Steele received information for an unpublished second dossier from the Obama State Department led by John Kerry at the time

Much of the information in this "Grassley Memo" matches with the contents of the "Nunes Memo" released by the House Intelligence Committee last Fri

13--Criminal referral backs up Nunes on dossier claims, as Dems push rebuttal memo

14--Can Turkey and the US see each other as allies again?

The situation is not limited to U.S. support for the People’s Protection Units (YPG) against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, despite Turkey’s objections as the YPG is the Syrian extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). There is also the question of the lack of legal steps against Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist preacher living in Pennsylvania accused of masterminding Turkey’s July 2016 coup attempt through an illegal network in the state apparatus.

There is also the ongoing New York legal case involving Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab. There is also the issue of Turkey’s impending purchase of the Russian S-400 air defense systems, which President Tayyip Erdoğan says is necessary due to the impossibility of procuring U.S. Patriot defense systems. There is also the continued arrest in Turkey of American pastor Andrew Brunson and two Turkish employees of U.S. diplomatic missions over alleged ties to Gülenists.

Combined together, these issues create a dark cloud, exacerbating the reciprocal lack of trust between Ankara and Washington. That lack of trust seems to be shaking both countries’ threat perceptions of each other, leading to increased cooperation between Turkey and Russia every day.

Erdoğan’s words on Feb. 6, accusing former U.S. President Barack Obama of “lying” to Turkey over cooperation with the YPG, while saying that he fears Trump is “on the same path,” show the dimension of mistrust in Ankara.

15-- Why Does Israel Support an Independent Iraqi Kurdistan?

That policy of undermining pan-Arabism, which, according to Higgins, has expanded now into undermining the “Axis of Resistance” — that is, Iran, Syria, as well as Lebanese and Palestinian resistance movements — explains Israel’s underlying motive for supporting Iraqi Kurds....
“Given Iran’s presence in the east and instability in the region, a solid, stable, coherent Kurdish entity in the middle of this quagmire is not a bad idea,” the general stated during an event at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Iran — which opposes the Sept. 25 referendum — recognizes this alliance. According to an official within Iran’s Expediency Council, Ali Akbar Velayati, the existence of a secessionist Kurdish state in Iraq would only benefit of the United States and the “Zionist regime of Israel,” both of whom seek to “colonize and dominate” the Middle East, Press TV reported.

As Lebanese journalist and political commentator Osama al-Sharif wrote in the Jordan Times, “Netanyahu and his far right allies know very well that a unilateral Kurdish decision to cede from Iraq in the absence of an agreement over a number of contentious issues, least of which is the future of oil-rich Kirkuk province, would trigger a civil war that is likely to spill over.

“Destabilizing the region and weakening central governments will shift attention from Israel’s nefarious policies towards the Palestinians while hastening the process of colonization of what remains of the West Bank,” he continued...

Oil and money
But Israel’s support for Iraqi Kurdistan extends past politics: the two parties have deep-seated economic ties as well.

“The KRG has been quietly making all kinds of money with ties to Israel,” Higgins said.
According to a 2015 report by the Financial Times, Israel imported three-quarters of its oil from Iraqi Kurdistan that year.

Beyond Israel, the oil-rich region and its quest for independence, has already fomented the support of oil corporations, not least of all due to the KRG’s cooperation with their demands....
Beyond economics: from military to intelligence

Beyond economic cooperation, Israel’s ongoing policy of supporting Iraqi Kurdish separatism, has also seen ties in the areas of agriculture, technology, education and sports.
The first official acknowledgment that Israel had provided aid to the Iraqi Kurds also extends as far back as 1980, when Prime Minister Menachem Begin revealed that Israel had supported them during their “uprising against the Iraqis between 1965 and 1975.” Israel had sent arms and ammunition then, later also helping with propaganda campaigns in Europe, courses for Kurdish medics, and creating schoolbooks in Kurdish.

Israel has also used Iraqi Kurdistan as a base from which to obtain intelligence on Iraq, also using it to gather intelligence on Iran when the Islamic Republic came to power in 1979.

Mustafa Barzani himself, the most prominent Iraqi Kurdish nationalist leader, and the father of current KRG President Masoud Barzani, had gained the support of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, during his numerous independence struggles against Baghdad.

According to a 2009 poll, 71 percent of KRG’s residents support establishing diplomatic relations with Israel, while 67 percent said they viewed relations between the two as an important step toward an independent Kurdistan

16--  Get a grip

For Turkey, the knot is three-fold. Firstly, it cannot come to terms with the new reality that Russia (which has civilizational ties with Greece and Cyprus) has today become the dominant power in the Eastern Mediterranean. Secondly, it disapproves of ongoing Syrian military operations, supported by air power, to regain control of Idlib from opposition groups that have enjoyed Turkish support. And, above all, thirdly, Erdogan’s grand design to establish a permanent Turkish foothold in Syria (which was ruled by the Ottomans), will remain a pipedream so long as Russia underpins Syria’s unity and territorial integrity. Turkey has all along viewed Moscow’s links with the Kurds in Afrin suspiciously.

17--archive  Putin’s Line in the Sand: No Regime Change in Syria

18--Apparent collusion between Clinton, UK intelligence: Ex-CIA officer

The criminal referral states that “a friend of the Clintons” approached a State Department official during Barack Obama’s presidency with a document making claims about Clinton’s Republican rival, Trump, which the official then handed over to Steele, who was at the time a paid informant for the FBI.

When I read the Nunes Memo, I felt that there was a lot missing from it. I felt that there were a lot of counter arguments that the FBI and indeed Democrats could have been making to justify the FISA request based on other evidence than the Steele dossier. And I felt that that was some major omissions,” Giraldi said.

“Now the Grassley report fills those holes. It basically says, it demonstrates that the Steele dossier was the principle source of information that was used to obtain the FISA warrants and to obtain the surveillance authority,” he added.

“And this dossier was not valid. It was not checked out at the time it was used. It had a lot of material that even Comey later on described as salacious. And essentially this was used to authorize the surveillance of an American citizen under suspicion of being a Russian agent,” the analyst noted.
“So the whole the scene is a lot worse than it would have appeared from the Nunes Memo. And I think we are basically looking at some level of collusion within the government to damage the Trump campaign in some way or another. And I think that the Grassley Memo essentially validates that argument,” the expert said.

19--US massacre of Syrian troops threatens to unleash wider war

The attack on Deir Ezzor is part of a steady ratcheting up of the multisided conflict in Syria, provoked overwhelmingly by Washington’s announced decision to maintain a permanent US military occupation of the country and pursue a “post-ISIS” policy centered on the original US objectives of Syrian regime change and rolling back Iranian and Russian influence in the region. Until launching the anti-ISIS campaign in 2014, Washington had sought the ouster of the government of President Bashar al-Assad by means of supporting and arming the Al Qaeda-linked militias out of which ISIS itself emerged. This sparked the bloody seven-year-long war that has claimed the lives of some 350,000 Syrians, while displacing millions of others.

Since invading the country over three years ago, the US military has relied primarily on the Kurdish YPG as its proxy ground force, but it also continues to arm and train Islamist militia groups. During the US-backed siege of Raqqa and other formerly ISIS-occupied towns, the US military and its Kurdish proxies organized the evacuation of large numbers of ISIS fighters and their redeployment to Deir Ezzor in order to turn them against the Syrian government forces advancing on the province’s strategically vital oil and gas fields.

To the west, the Turkish invasion of the Kurdish-controlled enclave of Afrin, which came in response to US plans to organize a 30,000-strong “border security force” based largely on the Kurdish YPG and create what Ankara sees as a de facto Kurdish state on its border, threatens to escalate into a direct conflict between the US and Turkey, ostensible NATO allies

20-- Wall Street plunges amid fear and panic

Six days after the Wall Street sell-off began last Friday, some of the market mechanisms driving it have become clearer. The initial fall was triggered by the news that wage growth in the US last year was 2.9 percent, above market expectations. This intersected with a rise in bond market interest rates, with the yield on the 10-year treasury bond rising to its highest point in four years, following earlier forecasts that the decades-long bull-run in bonds, which has seen interest rates fall to historic lows, is coming to an end....

The suppression of wages has been a key factor in the surge in stock prices, fuelled by the quantitative easing policies pursued by the US Federal Reserve and other central banks to pump trillions of dollars into financial markets.
The return of volatility to the equities market last Friday had such a significant impact because of a complex set of new financial products created by the financial markets over the past period, centring on the volatility, or VIX, index.

Through a process of “financial engineering,” finance houses and major banks, including some of the biggest names such as Barclays, Credit Suisse, UBS and Citigroup, created a series of financial products, based on the VIX, that could be traded on the markets. This involved “shorting the VIX,” that is, placing bets that the volatility index, which set record lows throughout 2017, would continue to remain calm....

Exacerbating the sell-off is the fact that much of the trading is based on borrowed funds, subject to margin calls—the borrower has to return cash to the lender if the asset on which the loan is based falls in value. Faced with demands for cash, borrowers have to liquidate investments, leading to a further market downturn and a negative feedback loop as lower asset values trigger further margin calls.

Margin trading is only the tip of the international debt iceberg. The Bank for International Settlements estimates that the ratio of global debt to gross domestic product (GDP) is 40 percent higher today than a decade ago. Standard and Poor’s has reported that global non-financial corporate debt has risen by 15 percentage points to 96 percent of GDP in the past six years, with 37 percent of companies deemed to be “highly leveraged,” compared to 32 percent in 2007. With interest rates on the rise, the ability of companies and even governments to service this debt is called into question.
While trading in complex derivatives based on the VIX has been the immediate trigger for the market plunge, broader developments indicate this is a financial inflection point....

The key factor in sustaining the markets has been the inflow of cheap money from the Federal Reserve, which has expanded its balance sheet from around $800 billion before 2008 to more than $4 trillion today. Speculators have operated on the assumption that the Fed is ready to step in and ensure the market will not fall precipitously, a key factor in the decline in market volatility.


Erdogan's Cakewalk 
Turkey has the second largest standing military force in NATO. The Turkish Armed Forces have an estimated strength of 639,551 military, civilian and paramilitary personnel., including 315,000 combat troops, 3,778 tanks, 7,550 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,013 self-propelled guns, 697 towed-artillery pieces, 400 fighter and attack aircraft and 811 multiple-launch rocket systems. At present,  Turkey's massive army is bogged down in the mountainous terrain surround the city of Afrin Syria where a battle-hardened and determined contingent of the Kurdish People's Protection Units or YPG have stopped the advancing Turks dead-in-their-tracks  preventing them from achieving what many had expected would be a "cakewalk" victory. It has been no cakewalk, in fact, in the three weeks since the invasion began (January 19) the Turkish army and their FSA allies have inched forward at a snails-pace further emboldening their adversaries while casting doubt on the eventual outcome of the conflict.

The Turkish navy has approximately 48,600 personnel, 51 aircraft, and 194 ships (including 16 frigates, 8 corvettes, 13 submarines, 29 coastal defence craft, and 15 mine warfare craft). Turkey has no aircraft carriers

The Turkish government announced the start of the offensive on 19 January 2018, with Turkish Defence Minister Nurettin Canikli stating, "The operation has actually de facto started with cross-border shelling." He added no troops had crossed into Afrin.[34] Turkey intensified its shelling later, while People's Protection Units (YPG) claimed that 70 shells had been fired overnight.[77] After days of shelling, Turkish fighter jets on 20 January 2018 carried out air raids on the border district targeting positions held by the PYD and YPG groups.[23]
turkey has a 750,000 man military with 400,000 active personell  200 fighter aircraft, 200 attack aircraft, and 2,500 combat tanks, 455 helecopters, and 800 missile projectors and 7,500 armored fighting vehicles.

After the failure of an attempted coup by a faction within the Turkish military, we've taken a look at the second largest standing military force in NATO (after the United States).
Last year the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) had an estimated strength of 639,551 military, civilian and paramilitary personnel. It's a large military, made possible by conscription.
The Global Firepower website ranks Turkey 14th in the world for military strength in terms of active military manpower, listing 410,500 people as being militarily active (from a population base of 79,414,269). 185,630 are also listed as being in reserve, ranking Turkey 38th.

President Erdogan's party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has worked to increase civilian control of the military since 2002, and the military's role in internal security has been reduced.

Most military personnel serve in the army, or Turkish Land Forces.

It boasts a strength of approximately 315,000 soldiers, 3,778 tanks, 7,550 armoured fighting vehicles, 1,013 self-propelled guns, 697 towed-artillery pieces, and 811 multiple-launch rocket systems.

The Turkish navy has approximately 48,600 personnel, 51 aircraft, and 194 ships (including 16 frigates, 8 corvettes, 13 submarines, 29 coastal defence craft, and 15 mine warfare craft). Turkey has no aircraft carriers

“This is the world of Otto von Bismarck, who said in 1862: “The great questions of the time are not decided by speeches and majority decisions. .. but by iron and blood.”
It’s the WMD story all over again....
ehind the scenes, anonymous “U.S. officials” are feeding the media evidence-free claims that the Syrian government is rebuilding a chemical weapons program and “developing new munitions to deliver chemical weapons.” They claim the program is “evolving” and using a mix of sarin and chlorine.
The Washington Post story is titled “Trump administration: Syria probably continuing to make, use chemical weapons.” The Reuters story, which was carried by the New York Times, says, “U.S. officials have said the Syrian government may be developing new types of chemical weapons, and President Donald Trump is prepared to consider further military action. President Bashar al Assad is believed to have secretly kept part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile.”
Jerusalem Online says, “A U.S. official says Syrian President Assad’s forces may be developing new types of chemical weapons, which could reach as far as the U.S.” Jane’s Defence Weekly quotes a U.S. official saying, “They clearly think they can get away with this.”...
The accusations follow a long-established pattern of officials making anonymous claims and then ratcheting up tensions and issuing calls for retaliatory action – while the media repeats the claims without the slightest amount of skepticism. The Washington Post article, for example, includes the following statement by an anonymous official: “If the international community does not take action now … we will see more chemical weapons use, not just by Syria but by non-state actors such as ISIS and beyond. And that use will spread to U.S. shores.”

The U.S. previously said they were in Syria to get rid of ISIS but now that ISIS is largely gone, the U.S. military says it is not leaving. On the contrary, the U.S. military helped escort ISIS fighters from Raqqa to al Bukamal and the U.S. is now training ISIS fighters to be reincarnated as yet another anti-Assad “rebel” force.

In December, Col. Ryan Dillon, the chief spokesman for the American-led military campaign in Iraq and Syria, said in a briefing with Pentagon reporters: “Syrian regime commanders in eastern Syria suggest that ISIS fighters” from the Middle Euphrates River Valley “may have slipped through porous Syrian and Russian defenses to arrive in areas near Damascus.”

Asked late last month by The New York Times about indications that as many as 1,000 fighters and family members had fled the Euphrates River area just in recent days, Colonel Dillon’s command replied in a statement: “We know that the Syrian regime has given ISIS the leeway to travel through their area of operations, but we cannot confirm any alleged incidents or operations that are taking place outside our area of operations....
“ISIS nowadays are spreading all over Syria,” he said via Facebook chat.
Government and independent analysts in Syria and in Washington, including the Institute for the Study of War, said there was a thriving trade in smuggling Islamic State fighters across the border into Turkey, where intelligence officials believe they are linking with clandestine cells.
According to the independent British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, senior Islamic State operatives from Raqqa and Deir al-Zour, in the Euphrates River Valley, have paid bribes of $20,000 to $30,000 for safe passage into Turkey.

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