Aletho News


Japan Regards Russia as a Reliable Hydrocarbons Exporter

By Dmitry Bokarev – New Eastern Outlook – 22.06.2017

As you must know, Japan does not have enough natural resources to ensure its energy security without turning to any foreign players. At the same time, its closest neighbor – Russia possesses impressive hydrocarbon reserves and can be in the list of major exporters of those. Nevertheless, it is difficult to describe the volume of bilateral trade between the two states as impressive, in fact it’s the exact opposite. But it seems that the Japanese government has finally come to grips with the fact that it is missing out on enjoying the benefits of Japan’s geographic location, so Tokyo decided to step up its attempts to pursue economic cooperation with Russia.

In fact, talks about Japan’s increasing imports of hydrocarbons from Russia have been circulating for a long time. There’s no doubt that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster which resulted in the closure of the majority of nuclear power plants across Japan has made Russia even more attractive as a trade partner for Tokyo.

It’s true that Japan imports Russian liquefied natural gas (LNG), on top of taking part in the development of Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 oil and gas fields, and taking part in the construction of a LNG plant within the framework of the Yamal-LNG project. However, the level of bilateral cooperation in that area is miles away from reaching its full potential. Mind you that Russia’s share in the entire volume of Japan’s LNG imports barely reaches 8%. To this date Tokyo has been importing most of the LNG that it buys from Australia, Indonesia and the Middle East, in spite of the mind boggling shipping costs.

This situation is taking a toll on Japan’s budget and there’s no guarantee that Japan could be sure that it would get what it has paid for, since distant sea shipping always goes hand-in-hand with certain risks. Also, it’s pretty much a gamble when you’re getting resources of strategic importance from a limited number of suppliers, as it makes you dangerously dependent on your partners. Even if good relations are maintained between countries, there is always a possibility of unforeseen complications that may hinder the vital supplies.

Japan’s JFE Holdings had to learn this lesson the hard way, in spite of the fact that this company ranks second among local steel producers. To maintain its production levels any company in the steel business needs a lot of fuel. The most commonly used fuel in the steel industry is coking coal, since it’s cheap and reliable. Back in 2016 JFE Holdings acquired a total 60 million tons of this mineral, with more than 70% of this amount purchased in Australia which has traditionally been among the major coal exporters to Southeast Asia. However, a natural disaster damaged the Australian railway network back in March 2017, which obstructed the deliveries that were meant for JFE Holdings, which forced it to turn to Canada, China and the United States. It goes without saying that it had to buy large shipments of coal at a disadvantageous price. After this unpleasant incident Japan has once again realized the need to expand the number of suppliers to reduce its dependency on Australia. In May 2017, JFE Holdings announced plans to diversify imports of coking coal. The company’s management stated that among candidates for future suppliers one can find Canada, Mozambique and Russia. It is noteworthy that these days the Russian Federation is developing new coal deposits in the Far East, not far from Japan.

However, Japan’s steel industry is hardly the only industry that requires large amounts of coal to function properly. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster resulted in Tokyo building a large number of coal-driven CHP plants. In the coming years, Japanese coal imports should increase significantly, and it would only be profitable for Japan to buy coal in Russia.

It should be recalled that as early as 2016 negotiations were held between Tokyo and Moscow about the former making investments in the development of Russia’s Far Eastern ports to ensure that they maintain high transportation levels. Japan wanted to import coal from Yakutia in large volumes thus it decided to sign a number of deals to ensure its energy security. However, the practical implementation of these plans is not going quite as as one would like. For example, the Japanese corporation Tosei Group, through a subsidiary in April 2016, became a resident of the Free Port of Vladivostok with a view to constructing a transshipment complex for coal worth 60 billion rubles. The project was to be financed by the Japanese side. Additionally, construction of a terminal, capable of receiving up to 20 million tons of coal per year, was scheduled for early 2017, but it never started. The beginning of the construction works was delayed for a year, and it can now be made even partially operational by 2020. Despite the delay, the project is likely to be implemented, because the incident with the disruption of supplies of Australian coal shows that Japan really needs diversification of imports.

In April 2017, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin held a meeting with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, that was attended by the Russian Energy Minister, Alexander Novak. It’s been reported that the parties were discussing such projects as the creation of the Sakhalin-Hokkaido gas pipeline, along with a maritime energy bridge for electricity transmission that could be constructed in the foreseeable future. Soon after this meeting, the Japanese Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Hiroshige Seko said that Japan is not satisfied with its dependence on gas and oil shipments from the Middle East, since the political instability of the region has been constantly threatening Japan’s energy security. That is why Japan is really interested in increasing supplies of Russian LNG.

In conclusion, one can note that in spite of the slow development of Russian-Japanese relations in the energy sector, the countries have a great future ahead of them. Japan has already begun rebuilding its nuclear power capabilities, but the demand for electricity overshadows any measure that Tokyo has put in play so far. That is why one can be convinced that the Russian-Japanese energy trade and cooperation will reach a new level.

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Is ‘Tillerson Plan’ for Ties With Russia Connected to New US Sanctions Bill?

Sputnik | June 22, 2017

A leak of the “secret” document on developing US-Russian relations, which was supposedly prepared by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, has prompted a heated debate. Speaking to Sputnik, political analyst Viktor Olevich and Russian academic Andrei Sidorov shed light on what could lie behind “the Tillerson plan.”

A leak of the “secret plan” on developing a working relationship with Russia reportedly prepared by US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson amid the increase in tensions with Moscow is by no means purely coincidental, experts told Sputnik, adding that one of the three paragraphs of the “plan” deserves special attention. On Monday John Hudson of BuzzFeed reported that the media outlet had obtained a document supposedly crafted by Tillerson which envisioned three major steps to further develop Russo-American relations.

The first step was to persuade Moscow to refrain from what the US sees as “aggressive” actions since it will be counterproductive for both sides. The second paragraph envisaged engagement with Russia on issues of strategic interest for the United States, including the ongoing war in Syria, North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, cybersecurity and cyber espionage.

The third paragraph of Tillerson’s plan highlighted the importance of maintaining “strategic stability” with Russia.

“Right now, US-Russia relations are in the gutter. We want to make sure it doesn’t flush into the sewer,” a senior State Department official familiar with the document told the media outlet.

In his interview with Radio Sputnik, Russian political analyst Viktor Olevich noted that the third paragraph of Tillerson’s framework deserves special attention.

“This plan contains no original ideas. One should pay attention to the third point — the maintenance of strategic stability related to the nuclear programs of Russia and the United States; it is the most significant [part of the plan]. This is indeed the point of convergence, where both Moscow and Washington are interested in maintaining a constant dialogue,” Olevich said.

The political analyst noted that it was the US which made an attempt to upset the balance of power by installing elements of its global missile defense system in Europe, near Russia’s borders, following Washington’s unilateral withdrawal from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty in June, 2002. “This issue should become part of the dialogue between Moscow and Washington, because right now the US refuses to discuss it,” Olevich said, adding that one could only hope that the US position regarding these matters will change.

However, according to Olevich, as of yet there is no indication that Washington is interested in the normalization of Russo-American relations.

For instance, he referred to the downing of the Syrian Arab Army’s warplane in southern Raqqa by the US-led coalition’s aircraft.

The move prompted the Russian Defense Ministry to halt cooperation with the US within the framework of the Memorandum on the Prevention of Incidents and Ensuring Air Safety in Syria as of June 19.

Olevich added that the White House has yet to hand back two diplomatic compounds which were seized from Russia under Barack Obama. One is on Long Island and the other is located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The fact that the Trump administration has not yet settled this issue indicates that the US is not ready for the normalization of relations or a serious dialogue with Russia, the political analyst stressed.

For his part, the head of the Department of International Organizations and World Political Processes at Moscow State University, Andrei Sidorov, believes that the leak of the “secret plan” could be considered a signal to Congress that the White House is seeking room for maneuver.

Speaking to Sputnik, Sidorov highlighted that the leak coincided with the decision of House Republicans to block the Russian sanctions bill which had earlier passed the Senate. However, Sidorov assumed that it was not a coincidence. Citing Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), The Hill reported that “the legislation has been flagged” by the House parliamentarian since it violated the constitutional requirement that “revenue bills originate in the House.”

“The development marks a major setback after the Senate overwhelmingly passed the legislation, which also includes new sanctions against Iran, last week in a 98-2 vote,” the media outlet pointed out.

The crux of the matter is that the bill envisions codifying the anti-Russian sanctions into law.

“By now [the anti-Russian sanctions] have been implemented as an executive order which could be canceled anytime by the US president. If they are adopted as a federal law, it would require Congressional approval to abolish them. These sanctions could remain in place for decades,” Russian academic Viktor Kheifets explained in his interview with Radio Sputnik last week.

The legislation targets Russia’s energy projects and debt-financing, most notably, the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline project, which is poised to deliver natural gas from Russia to Europe. According to Zero Hedge, an English-language financial blog, “if the House does pass [the bill], a huge diplomatic scandal would erupt only not between the US and Russia, but Washington and its European allies who have slammed this latest intervention by the US in European affairs… a scandal which the Democrats would also promptly blame on Trump.”

Indeed, Germany and Austria have already slammed the new anti-Russian sanctions, dubbing the US move as “an absolutely new and highly negative aspect of relations between the US and Europe.”

According to Sidorov, if the bill comes into force, it will significantly reduce the room for maneuver for the Trump administration in US-Russian relations and decision-making process.

“This is a good sign for the [Trump] administration that the process [of the consideration of the bill] was suspended in the House of Representatives, but the main task of combating this bill lies with the State Department,” Sidorov told Sputnik.

“Please note that some officials from the administration have already said that US President Donald Trump is not against the tightening of anti-Russian sanctions, but the State Department objects because it is necessary to build new relations. Therefore, the leak that the document [Tillerson’s plan] envisioning building new relations with the Russian Federation is being mulled [by the White House] refers to the internal political struggle within the US,” the Russian academic believes.

According to Sidorov, the document has sent a clear signal to Congress that the State Department is working on the issue of building new relations with Russia. What the Trump administration desperately needs is leeway in determining foreign policy, the academic stressed.


White House Reportedly Seeks to Weaken Senate Bill on Russia Sanctions

US State Secretary Tillerson Reportedly Develops New Plan on Ties With Russia

June 22, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

2 Protesters, Opposition Politician Killed in Venezuela

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim – Venezuelanalysis – June 16, 2017

Two opposition protesters were killed in Venezuela Thursday, in the wake of the assassination of a prominent right-wing politician.

The two latest deaths include 20-year-old protester Luis Enrique Vera Sulbaran and Jose Gregorio Perez Perez.

A university student, Vera died after being hit by a pick up truck while blocking a road in Venezuela’s second largest city, Maracaibo. The pick up truck was then torched by protesters.

Police believe the death occurred after the protesters attempted to loot the pick up truck, which was carrying medical supplies. According to Interior Minister Nestor Reverol, Vera was struck by the truck as the driver attempted to flee the robbery.

Opposition protesters are known to attempt to loot vehicles, and in some parts of the country there have been reports they demand bribes from motorists attempting to pass their barricades.

However, the official account of Vera’s death has been disputed by local opposition supporters, who have claimed the protesters didn’t try to loot the vehicle.

The driver has been charged with homicide.

Meanwhile, another protester has been killed in the violence-plagued state of Tachira. For weeks, Tachira has been one of the epicentres of opposition violence. On Thursday, protester Perez was shot by two unidentified assailants in Tachira’s Junin municipality shortly after taking part in a demonstration. According to El Universal, the two unknown attackers approached Perez in a cafe, and gunned him down without a word.

Some local opposition supporters have blamed government-backed groups for the killing, though they have yet to provide evidence to bolster the accusation.

The public prosecutor’s office has stated it is investigating the case.

“There was an irregular situation in which Perez … was shot in the face. Immediately, the young man was aided and transferred to the Padre Justo hospital in the municipality Junin, where he arrived without vital signs,” the prosecutor said in a statement.

Reverol has condemned the killing, and lamented it comes amid wider political violence in Tachira state. Bordering Colombia, Tachira has long struggled with paramilitary violence.

President Nicolas Maduro has also responded to the deaths, calling for calm and an end to violence.

“I call on the population, for the greatest calm, the greatest prudence and the greatest peace to avoid violence,” he said.

The deaths of Vera and Perez come just days after another high profile killing. On Monday, a prominent member of the right-wing Voluntad Popular party was killed in Puerto Ordaz, Bolivar state. The politician, Jose Santiago Molleton Quintero, was a pre-candidate for the position of mayor in the municipality of Soledad, according to the opposition-aligned El Nacional newspaper. He was also the head of a local union for heavy industrial workers.

According to local media reports, witnesses said Molleton was approached by an unidentified assailant in a restaurant. The attacker fired multiple shots, killing Molleton and injuring one other person.

Authorities say they are investigating the killing.

The latest killings bring the total death toll of the last two months of political unrest to 82, according to data compiled by So far 22 of those deaths are suspected to be linked to the actions of opposition protesters, while 11 may have been caused by authorities. Thirteen were reportedly the result of looting, and two are suspected to have been linked to pro-government civilians. Two other deaths were accidents, while 30 took place under unclear or heavily disputed circumstances.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Zarif advises US counterpart to worry about his own country

Mehr News Agency | June 16, 2017

TEHRAN – In reaction to the latest remarks of US secretary of state at a US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing, Iranian FM Zarif posted some tweets late on Thursday.

“The 1953 coup debacle and the 1979 Revolution proved that Iranian people are impervious to outside attempts to decide their destiny,” Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Minister of Iran, posted on his Twitter account on Thursday.

Zarif’s post came after Wednesday remarks by Rex Tillerson, the United States Secretary of State, at a US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on Wednesday.

The Iranian top diplomat advises US officials to be concerned about their own country where elections turnout are significantly lower than Iran, “For their own sake, US officials should worry more about saving their own regime than changing Iran’s, where 75% of people just voted.”

Mr. Zarif also calls for US apology for all the interventions by the US in Iran’s domestic affairs referring and the support by the US for the former shah of Iran during the uprising of the nation in favor of the then PM Mohammad Mosaddegh; “after decades of failed regime change and sanctions, US had to apologize for ‘1953 coup, and acknowledge diplomacy as the only option.”

Zarif advises the US administration to study and learn from history instead of trying to follow unlawful policy of changing regimes in other countries.

June 16, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

In Continued Targeting of Only Africans, ICC Calls for Arrest of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

teleSUR | June 14, 2017

Just shortly after Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, was released from prison Saturday, the International Criminal Court on Wednesday called for his arrest.

“Libya is obliged to immediately arrest and surrender Mr. Gaddafi to the ICC, regardless of any purported amnesty law in Libya,” ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement.

The body — which in its history has only prosecuted Africans — alleges that Gaddafi suppressed opposition to his father’s rule during uprisings in 2011, accusing him of crimes against humanity.

Gaddafi often spoke out defiantly against attempts to topple the government his father led, having gained prominence as a high-ranking official and spokesman during the NATO-backed campaign against the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.

That campaign soon became a “regime change” effort that led to the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi and Libya’s plunge into all-out civil war.

The North African country has since become a base for various transnational extremist factions such as al-Qaida, the Islamic State group and the Libyan Islamic Fighting group.

The ICC, on the other hand, has largely been discredited in Africa, with Gambia’s Information Minister Sheriff Bojang noting last October that the ICC is, “in fact, an International Caucasian Court for the persecution and humiliation of people of color, especially Africans.”

Earlier this year, leaders from the African Union adopted a non-binding decision to withdraw from the court.

In addition to the ICC’s calls for arrest, a Tripoli court in 2015 sentenced Saif to death in absentia for alleged war crimes as well.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Israel and the Trump Administration Use Saudis for the Next ‘Controlled Chaos’ Project

Sputnik – 14.06.2017

Amid the ongoing diplomatic row between Qatar and a number of Arab states and increased tensions in the Persian Gulf, Sputnik Turkiye talked to Hamide Yigit, a Turkish political analyst and an expert in Middle Eastern affairs, who explained what role the Trump administration will play in this conflict.

Hamide Yigit, a Turkish political analyst and expert in Middle Eastern affairs who has written a number of research papers on the Middle Eastern crises, commented to Sputnik Turkiye on the ongoing diplomatic row in between Qatar and Saudi Arabia and its impact on the region.

The expert stressed that the Trump administration is trying to fully re-carve the Middle Eastern strategy of the Obama administration, which was based on the support of the Muslim Brotherhood, by betting on the control over radical Islamist forces from a new unified center. That is why Trump has focused his new foreign policy line on Saudi Arabia, she said.

“We could say that Trump has signalled a new stage in American Middle Eastern policy after the failure of the Middle Eastern policy of the previous administration, which bet on the structures affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and left the legacy of a weakened US position in Syria against Russia’s strengthened influence in the region,” Hamide Yigit told Sputnik.

The new political line of President Trump, she further elaborated, is aimed at focusing on the Persian Gulf and pivoting towards Saudi Arabia. Such a strategy, however, poses certain difficulties for the US, as Saudi Arabia has suffered both political and economic defeats in Syria and Yemen.

However on the other hand, the polycracy among the jihadists in Syria has hampered US plans in that country. Thus the Trump administration decided to set up a unified control center for dealing with the radical Islamists but opted for the exclusion of Qatar from this system in favor of Saudi Arabia.

The dual power among jihadists, the expert explained, creates certain problems which could escalate into a confrontation. Hence the US has chosen Saudi Arabia to host a center which will incorporate all the levers of a hybrid war.

The crisis in the Persian Gulf, Hamide Yigit told Sputnik, is one of the latest US projects aimed at creating so-called “controlled chaos” in the region.

“At this particular moment it is hard to forecast how long this crisis will last. However if this US’ project, which provokes the escalation of tensions in the region, proves a success, it might hit a serious blow to Turkish positions in the region,” the expert explained.

In current conditions, she further said, Turkey should be aimed at maximum rapprochement with Iran and Russia, up to its accession into the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

On the Iran’s example it is clearly seen how the project of the “controlled chaos” has been started in Syria and gradually embraced other countries of the region. Hence Hamide Yigit suggested that the relations between the Saudi Arabia, Persian Gulf monarchies and Iran will aggravate even further.

The warnings of a number of experts that the Syrian war will further spill over to Iran are visibly becoming a reality. Iran is being virtually dragged into this war, the expert said.

Earlier Israel repeatedly made certain steps aimed at drawing Iran into this war, but the US kept preventing it, the political analyst said.

Now Saudi Arabia is provoking the escalation of tensions. It might certainly want to incite a large-scale conflict as its mere existence is directly dependent on the US-backed project of a large-scale war in the Middle East, Hamide Yigit concluded.

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Mission Complete: What the US Really Had in Mind for Ukraine

A simmering conflict in the center of Europe, which can be re-ignited at any time

Sputnik – June 14, 2017

On Tuesday, political specialists from the Moscow-based advisory group Foreign Policy presented their report on four possible scenarios for the further development of Ukraine. Sputnik Radio discussed the suggested scenarios with political analyst Vladimir Zharikhin, who also explained what the US has already completed in the country.

On Tuesday, Nikolai Silaev, Senior Researcher at the Moscow State Institute of International Relations and Research Director for Foreign Policy, and Andrei Sushentsov, the Valdai Club’s Program Director and a managing partner with Foreign Policy presented their report on four possible scenarios for the further development of Ukraine.Russia’s Kommersant newspaper obtained a copy of the analysis. The authors suggest that both a large hot war and a comprehensive political settlement of the Donbass separatist crisis are equally unlikely to happen in Ukraine in the nearest future.

They put forward the four scenarios they deem possible for the future of the country, based on the assumption that Ukraine will take a back seat in the agendas of the major players – the US, EU and Russia. The authors specifically note that there are no longer people who are interested in Ukraine within US President Trump’s circle, as Joe Biden and Victoria Nuland had been during the Obama administration.

“Without the supervision of the US, the government in Kiev resumed its military and political experiments in Donbass in January-February 2017,” the paper notes.

“The Ukrainian crisis continues to evolve within the boundaries of the constants defined by the spring of 2015: a large hot war is unlikely, the settlement [of the crisis] is frozen, and the Minsk agreements remain the basis of the political process,” the newspaper quotes the report as saying.

The first of the scenarios, entitled “movement in the rut”, suggests the retention of political stability in the country at its current level and ongoing support of the Ukrainian government by the West. The Western leaders, however, silently recognize the weakness of President Poroshenko, the failure of any reforms and the escalating struggle between different political forces.A large-scale offensive of the Ukrainian army in Donbass is unlikely as Kiev fears its defeat.

The second scenario, “Kiev on a trailer,” suggests internal political destabilization in the country. In its mild form, it is a confrontation between the President and the new country’s parliament, due to be formed after early parliamentary elections. In its acute form, it evolves into massive street protests, including armed conflicts, the threat of a coup and the collapse of government agencies.

Under this scenario, the settlement in Donbass is fully blocked, amid an increased risk of the resumption of large-scale military operations. In this case the West can become hostage to its own sluggish foreign policy regarding Ukraine.

In the third variant, “Collapse and indifference,” the US and EU are less interested in Ukraine. Financial aid from the West is shrinking, and Kiev’s authorities face the immediate threat of a new macroeconomic catastrophe. Western mainstream media and politicians criticize Kiev for failed reforms, uncontrolled political violence and the growing influence of radical nationalists.

The summary: the ruling circles lose their key source of power – explicit support from the West. It is no longer possible or becomes very difficult to continue “selling” the conflict in the east of the country as the “defense of Europe from Russian aggression.”

The final scenario, “A threat of isolation”: the political regime in Kiev maintains stability, however its support from the West is declining. The OSCE representatives, leaders of Germany and France (part of the Normandy Four group) publicly nod and comment on situations when Ukraine’s actions contradict its obligations under the Minsk agreements and prevent the settlement of the conflict in Donbass.

“In the rhetoric of the Western politicians, the issue of lifting anti-Russian sanctions is being increasingly separated from the issue of the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis,” the report says. However there are no pre-conditions for the early parliamentary elections. The authorities are still able to keep the country under control. The political influence of the right-wing armed groups is waning. The shelling of Donbass and armed incidents at the line of contact both ebb.

In conclusion, the report suggests that the settlement of the Ukrainian crisis is possible only in the event of a compromise among all the external players. However, the compromise is highly unlikely: Russia does not want Ukraine to be consolidated along Western and anti-Russian lines. The West doesn’t want Ukraine to be consolidated along pro-Russian lines.

Funeral of militia men in Donetsk Region
© Sputnik/ Gennady Dubovoy
The Ukrainian government, in turn, will remain divided over the two options for consolidation. Meanwhile, the external players should take into account the possibility of a new spiral of the Ukrainian crisis amid the electoral cycle of 2018. There is every chance for the repetition of the so-called Euromaidan scenario.

“It is in everyone’s common interest not to turn Ukraine into a battlefield between Russia and the West,” the authors therefore concluded.

Radio Sputnik discussed the report with Deputy Director of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) Institute Vladimir Zharikhin, who suggested that the first scenario is the most probable.

“Unfortunately the Ukrainian leadership has lost its subjectivity, or personality, long ago. I mean that the key decisions in Ukraine are made not by the Ukrainian leaders but by external players. If we suggest that the events will continue to develop in the way they are doing now, the first scenario is the most probable,” he told Sputnik.

The political analyst also noted what the US has already completed in Ukraine.

“Any speculations regarding whether the West has become tired of Ukraine and whether it will now leave it alone have no grounds. The Western countries, at least the US, have completed what they were initially after: they have created a simmering conflict in the center of Europe, which can be re-ignited at any time. However, from their point of view, it’s best to let it simmer for a while,” Zharikhin said.

The expert also pointed out that the Ukrainian conflict won’t resolve itself.

“If the Ukrainian authorities try to follow the wisdom of Chinese general Sun Tzu ‘If you wait by the river long enough, the bodies of your enemies will float by,’ those are irrelevant illusions. They won’t float by,” Zharikhin said.

The political analyst, however, noted that no matter how paradoxical it sounds, the Ukrainian authorities nevertheless strengthen their authority.

“The Ukrainian leaders are destroying their country, but strengthening their own authority. Through destroying of the remains of the democratic order in the country, tightening their authority and intimidating the population, they consolidate power,” he concluded.


Cold Rolled Facts: Ukraine No Longer Top-10 Steel Maker, Metallurgy Sector Dying

Over 10,000 Killed, Nearly 24,000 Injured in Ukraine’s Conflict Since 2014 – UN

June 14, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

Such a “Surprise” in the UK!

By Thomas S. Harrington | CounterPunch | June 12, 2017

I just can’t believe what happened in the British elections.

I can’t get over the fact that that when a politician with real convictions honed over 40 years of political life—generous and forward-looking convictions rooted in an understanding of how social progress for the many has actually been engineered in previous times—speaks out unencumbered by corporate-minded, fraidy-cat image doctors, people actually respond enthusiastically.

It’s shocking, absolutely shocking.

Why am I so confused?

Well, for thirty years, the brilliant people at the NYT, NPR,  PBS,  the BBC and The Guardian  have told me again and again that candidates from Labor in the UK and the Democratic Party  in the US must always  be oh-so-careful careful to not veer too far left in their policy prescriptions,  to not appear too “populist” and, most of all, to not to go “too far outside the mainstream”.

The question of who defines what is the mainstream, or how lavishly-funded pro-business and pro-war think-tanks might actually be the people establishing its functional parameters by funding armies of think-tank “scholars” and “experts” were, of course, a complex hermeneutical problems that I never had the time  nor the energy to ponder or deconstruct.

If those smart Ivy and Oxbridge-type guys and gals in the prestige media were telling us time and again that our societies were all fundamentally center-right collectives with a deep suspicion of government action (except, that is, when it came to making unceasing war on a world-wide scale) who was I, an obscure analyst of Iberian nationalisms and other sundry issues, to say anything about it?

Can you imagine someone like me actually believing he had the right to question brilliant and connected people like David Brooks, Tom Friedman or Jonathan Freeland or Polly Toynbee?

It would have been the height of hubris on my part to do so. After all, unlike them, I don’t spend my time networking each day with ambitious like-minded people deeply enamored of power, nor do I have the option of knowing exactly what stories and messages will provoke society’s centers of financial and military power to pressure a media conglomerate to trim a pundit’s  paycheck or to convince well-heeled seekers of transcendent insight  to stop paying her fat speaking fees.

Because I lack this essential information, I have always assumed my rightful place as an uncritical consumer of their deeply though-out and always prescient nostrums.

True, today I am feeling a little confused and bereft. But I know that by the time the next news cycle comes around they’ll have it all figured out for me, providing explanations that will in no way contradict or vitiate all the brilliant things they’ve been saying over so many years.

June 12, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Syrian Army, Hezbollah reaches border with Iraq for the first time in years

By Chris Tomson | Al-Masdar News | 09/06/2017

DAMASCUS – Late on Friday afternoon, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), Hezbollah and allied Iraqi paramilitary contingents dashed through southeastern Homs and reached an Iraqi border point, thus slicing adrift the frontline between rebel forces based in the Al-Tanf region and ISIS militants in the neighboring Deir Ezzor governorate.

Unopposed by the US Airforce and its vetted Syrian proxies, the SAA and its allies drove through over 40 kilometers of abandoned desert territory and managed to link up with an Iraqi garrison across the border.

The advance was confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense and an Hezbollah-linked outlet moments ago.

Effectively, the SAA is now able to reopen trade between Damascus and Baghdad. Government forces have not controlled any parts of the largely ISIS-controlled border with Iraq since 2014.

In addition, Hezbollah is now able to be supplied with weapons from Tehran via an all-important land route. Previously, the Lebanese group relied on complicated airlifts for new armaments.

June 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , | 1 Comment

The US Hand in the Libyan/Syrian Tragedies

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks at a United Nations Security Council Session on the situation in Syria at the U.N. in New York on Jan. 31, 2012. [State Dept. Photo]
By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | June 9, 2017

Police investigations and media reports have confirmed that two of the bloodiest terrorist attacks in Western Europe — the coordinated bombings and shootings in Paris in November 2015, which killed 130 people, and the May 2017 bombing of the arena in Manchester, England, which killed 23 — trace back to an Islamic State unit based in Libya known as Katibat al-Battar.

Since those attacks, a number of analysts, myself included, have characterized them as a form of “blowback” from NATO’s disastrous campaign to depose Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. By turning Libya into an anarchic staging ground for radical Islamist militants, that intervention set in motion the deadly export of terror back into Western Europe.

But such a Eurocentric critique of NATO’s intervention misses the far greater damage it wreaked on Syria, where nearly half a million people have died and at least 5 million refugees have had to flee their country since 2011. U.S., British and French leaders helped trigger one of the world’s great modern catastrophes through their act of hubris in seeking another “regime change” – the overthrow of President Bashar al-Assad – in Syria.

A decade ago, Libya was a leading foe of radical jihadis, not a sanctuary for their international operations. A 2008 State Department memo noted that “Libya has been a strong partner in the war against terrorism.” It gave the Gaddafi regime credit for “aggressively pursuing operations to disrupt foreign fighter flows,” particularly by veterans of jihadist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

All that came to an end in 2011, when armed rebels, including disciplined members of al-Qaeda and Islamic State, enlisted NATO’s help to topple Gaddafi’s regime.

Western leaders ignored the prescient warnings of Gaddafi’s son Seif that “Libya may become the Somalia of North Africa, of the Mediterranean. . . .You will see millions of illegal immigrants. The terror will be next door.” Gaddafi himself similarly predicted that once the jihadis “control the Mediterranean . . . then they will attack Europe.”

Subsequent terrorist attacks in Europe certainly vindicated those warnings, while discrediting the so-called “humanitarian” case for waging an illegal war in Libya. But the predicted jihadi efforts to “control the Mediterranean” have had far graver repercussions, at least in the case of Syria.

A recent story in the New York Times on the genesis of recent terror attacks on France and Britain noted in passing that the Islamic State in Libya, composed of “seasoned veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan,” was “among the first foreign jihadist contingent to arrive in Syria in 2012, as the country’s popular revolt was sliding into a broader civil war and Islamist insurgency.”

A former British counter-terrorism analyst told the newspaper, “some of the baddest dudes in Al Qaeda were Libyan. When I looked at the Islamic State, the same thing was happening. They were the most hard-core, the most violent — the ones always willing to go to extremes when others were not. The Libyans represented the elite troops, and clearly ISIS capitalized on this.”

These Libyan jihadists leveraged their numbers, resources, and fanaticism to help escalate Syria’s conflict into the tragedy we know today. The mass murder we now take for granted was not inevitable.

Extremist Violence in Syria

Although Syria’s anti-government protests in the spring of 2011 turned violent almost from the start, many reformers and government officials strove to prevent an all-out civil war. In August 2011, leaders of Syria’s opposition wisely declared that calls to arms were “unacceptable politically, nationally, and ethically. Militarizing the revolution would . . . undermine the gravity of the humanitarian catastrophe involved in a confrontation with the regime. Militarization would put the revolution in an arena where the regime has a distinct advantage and would erode the moral superiority that has characterized the revolution since its beginning.”

Largely forgotten today, the Assad regime also took serious steps to deescalate the violence, including lifting the country’s state of emergency, disbanding the unpopular National Security Court, appointing a new government, and hosting a national dialogue with protest leaders.

But on August 18, 2011, the same Western leaders who were bombing Gaddafi announced to the world that “the time has come for President Assad to step aside.” Further energizing Syrian militants, Libyan rebels were just then in the midst of conquering Tripoli with NATO’s help.

“That is an ominous sign for Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad,” reported the Wall Street Journal. “Already there are signs Libya is giving inspiration to the rebels trying to oust Mr. Assad. . . . Syrian protesters took to the streets chanting ‘Gadhafi tonight, Bashar tomorrow.’ . . . The Libyan episode may serve simply to sharpen the conflict in Syria: both spurring on the dissidents and strengthening Mr. Assad’s resolve to hold on.”

Stoking war in Syria was not an unintended consequence of the Libyan campaign, but a conscious part of the longstanding neoconservative ambition to “remake the map of the Middle East” by toppling radical, nationalist and anti-American regimes. The same Journal article described the grandiose aims of some Washington interventionists:

“Beyond Syria, a new dose of energy provided by Libya’s uprising could ripple out to other nations in the region. In particular, U.S. officials hope it will reinvigorate a protest movement that arose inside Iran in 2009 to challenge President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election. . . Syria has served for 30 years as Iran’s closest strategic ally in the region. U.S. officials believe the growing challenge to Mr. Assad’s regime could motivate Iran’s democratic forces.”

Instead of motivating Iran’s democrats, of course, the Syrian conflict motivated Iran’s hardliners to send Revolutionary Guard units and Hezbollah proxy forces into the country, further destabilizing the region.

Following the gruesome murder of Gaddafi in the fall of 2011, Libyan zealots quickly began fueling other terrorist conflicts, ranging from Mali to the Middle East, with arms looted from Gaddafi’s vast stocks.

“The weapons proliferation that we saw coming out of the Libyan conflict was of a scale greater than any previous conflict — probably 10 times more weapons than we saw going on the loose in places like Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan,” observed an expert at Human Rights Watch.

A United Nations investigation determined that “Transfers of arms and ammunition from Libya were among the first batches of weapons and ammunition to reach the Syrian opposition.” It also stressed that Libyan weapons were arming primarily “extremist elements,” allowing them to gain territory and influence at the expense of more moderate rebel groups.

Spreading the War

As early as November 2011, Islamist warlords in Libya began offering “money and weapons to the growing insurgency against Bashar al-Assad,” according to the Daily Telegraph. Abdulhakim Belhadj, commander of the Tripoli Military Council and the former leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, an al-Qaeda affiliate, met secretly with Syrian rebel leaders in Turkey to discuss training their troops. (In 2004, he had been the victim of a CIA kidnap plot and rendition from Malaysia to Libya.)

The commander of one armed Libyan gang told the newspaper, “Everyone wants to go (to Syria). We have liberated our country, now we should help others. . . This is Arab unity.”

In April 2012, Lebanese authorities confiscated a ship carrying more than 150 tons of arms and ammunition originating in Misrata, Libya. A U.N.-authorized panel inspected the weapons and reported finding SA-24 and SA-7 surface-to-air missiles, anti-tank guided missiles, and a variety of other light and heavy weapons.

By that August, according to Time magazine, “hundreds of Libyans” had flocked to Syria to “export their revolution,” bringing with them weapons, expertise in making bombs, and experience in battlefield tactics.

“Within weeks of the successful conclusion of their revolution, Libyan fighters began trickling into Syria,” the magazine noted. “But in recent months, that trickle has allegedly become a torrent, as many more have traveled to the mountains straddling Syria and Turkey, where the rebels have established their bases.”

A Syrian rebel told the newsweekly, “They have heavier weapons than we do,” including surface-to-air missiles. “They brought these weapons to Syria, and they are being used on the front lines.”

A month later, the London Times reported that a Libyan ship carrying more than 400 tons of weapons bound for Syria, including SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades, had docked in Turkey. Such weapons particularly compounded the suffering of civilians caught up in the war. As France’s foreign minister told reporters that October, rebel-held anti-aircraft missiles were “forcing (Syrian government) planes to fly extremely high, and so the strikes are less accurate.”

According to later reporting by Seymour Hersh, most such Libyan weapons made their way to Syria via covert routes supervised by the CIA, under a program authorized by the Obama administration in early 2012. Funding and logistics support came from Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar. The CIA supposedly avoided disclosing the program to Congress by classifying it as a liaison operation with a foreign intelligence partner, Britain’s MI6.

Word of the operation began leaking to the London media by December 2012. The CIA was said to be sending in more advisers to help ensure that the Libyan weapons did not reach radical Islamist forces.

Of course, their efforts came too late; U.S. intelligence officials knew by that time that “the Salafist(s), the Muslim Brotherhood, and (al-Qaeda)” were “the major forces driving the insurgency.” The influx of new arms simply compounded Syria’s suffering and raised its profile as a dangerous arena of international power competition.

Libya’s arms and fighters helped transform the Syrian conflict from a nasty struggle into a bloodbath. As Middle East scholar Omar Dahi noted, “the year 2012 was decisive in creating the present catastrophe. There were foreign elements embroiled in Syria before that date . . . but until early 2012 the dynamics of the Syrian conflict were largely internal. . . . Partly in . . . appropriation of weapons pumped in from the outside and partly in anticipation of still greater military assistance, namely from the West, the opposition decided to take up arms.

“The decision — militarization — had three main effects. First, it dramatically increased the rate of death and destruction throughout the country. . . . By mid-2012, the monthly casualties were almost in excess of the total in the entire first year of the uprising. Militarization gave the Syrian regime a free hand to unleash its full arsenal of indiscriminate weaponry. . . Perhaps most fatefully, the advent of armed rebellion placed much of the opposition’s chances in the hands of those who would fund and arm the fighters. . . . It was then that the jihadi groups were unleashed.”

The collateral victims of NATO’s intervention in Libya now include 6 million Libyans attempting to survive in a failed state, millions of people across North Africa afflicted by Islamist terrorism, 20 million Syrians yearning for an end to war, and millions of innocent Europeans who wonder when they might become targets of suicidal terrorists. There is nothing “humanitarian” about wars that unleash such killing and chaos, with no end in sight.

June 10, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Comey Testimony Subverts Any Case for Impeaching Trump – Ron Paul Institute

Sputnik – 09.06.2017

Former Federal Bureau of Investigations Director James Comey’s testimony pours cold water on any calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment, Ron Paul Institute Executive Director Daniel McAdams told Sputnik.

Earlier on Thursday, Comey told the Senate Intelligence Committee that reports claiming President Donald Trump‘s aides had repeated contacts with Russian intelligence officials prior to the 2016 US election were entirely wrong. Comey also said Trump did not seek to impede the probe into Russia’s alleged interference.

“The Comey testimony if anything undermines any case for impeachment,” McAdams said.

Trump did not obstruct justice, he noted, was never under investigation, and did not interfere with probes into Russia or former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

“In a normal world, that would be an end to the seemingly endless investigations,” McAdams said. “But it won’t be.”

The issue has been framed, he added, that any contacts between the US government or private citizens and Russia are “somehow suspect.”

“It is a kind of hysteria that has gripped the US and is amplified by the mainstream media,” McAdams explained. “In the real world, it is not only normal but desired for incoming administration officials to welcome communications with those who will be their counterparts overseas.”

While the Trump administration may have erred in handling communications with Russia immediately before and after the election, he claimed, the idea that any kind of contact is a high crime is “patently absurd.”

On Wednesday, Congressman Brad Sherman said in a press conference that Congress will possibly start taking action on impeachment resolutions against Trump this year.

Russia has repeatedly denied the allegations it interfered in the US election, characterizing them as absurd and intended to distract public opinion from revealed instances of election fraud and corruption as well as from other pressing domestic concerns.

June 9, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

A confrontation is looming on the Iraq-Syria border

By Mehan Abedin | MEMO | June 6, 2017

Reports that the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have warned Iraqi Shia militias not to enter SDF-controlled territory are, on the face of it, a potential addition to the complexity of the conflict in Syria. The SDF is dominated overwhelmingly by the People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Syrian Kurdish militia which is politically and ideologically aligned to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The YPG is the key US ally in Syria and the spearhead of the imminent assault on the Daesh stronghold of Raqqa.

While it remains to be seen to what extent this belligerent statement by the SDF reflects official YPG policy, there can be little doubt that the inspiration for the move was the United States and the intended recipient of the message is Iran. It is the latest sign of an aggressive US posture in Syria vis-à-vis Tehran and forces aligned with the Iranians. In this instance the primary US objective is to block Iran from constructing a land corridor from Iraq all the way to the Syrian Mediterranean coast.

However, this latest escalation will reinforce Tehran’s determination to press ahead with its plans and to reap the rewards of its considerable investment of blood and money in the Syrian conflict. Iran holds the advantage in this tug of war, for not only is Tehran willing to risk military confrontation but it also has more assets on the ground, as well as greater long-term strategic resolve.

Iraqi dimension

The spectre of Iraqi Shia militias formally organised as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) on the Iraq-Syria border is a clear sign of the shifting balance of power in Iraq in the wake of Daesh’s military collapse. Whilst the biggest winners of this collapse in north-western Iraq are the Iraqi Kurds, in the context of the US-Iran rivalry in the country, the Iranians have managed once again to outmanoeuvre their American foes. Both powers have invested considerable resources in the fight to dislodge Daesh from Mosul with a view to expanding their own influence in Iraq.

As the Iraqi army and specialised units of the federal Iraqi police force have borne the brunt of the fighting inside Mosul, by contrast the PMUs made a strategic push for areas west of the city. In view of the PMU’s multi-level connectivity to the infrastructure of Iranian influence in Iraq, this decision was almost certainly made in Tehran.

Control of sensitive points on the Iraq-Syria border is a key objective of the PMU, for reasons of deterrence and power projection. From a deterrent point of view, the control of borders creates a wider sense of security and deters Daesh and its allies from regrouping in nearby areas. In terms of power projection, the PMU needs to create an impression that it has the ability (if not the volition) to cross the border brazenly in organised form with a view to supporting the Syrian government and allied forces.

The volition aspect is important as hitherto the PMU has not formally crossed the border, even though large numbers of Iraqi Shia militiamen have undoubtedly crossed in order to augment their Syrian allies in multiple battle zones.

The latest belligerent statement by the SDF notwithstanding, in reality there is little risk of an imminent conflict between the PMU and the YPG. Despite their deep political and ideological differences, both sides share pragmatic common interests, not least antipathy towards Syrian rebels and jihadists.

Moreover, inside Iraq the PMU is allied to the Sinjar Resistance Units (SRU), an ideological compatriot of the YPG in so far as both groups are extensions of the PKK. There are reports that the PMU mopping-up operations at key points on the Iraq-Syria border are being supported actively by the SRU.

Syrian dimension

In grand strategic terms, PMU presence at key points of the Iraq-Syria border essentially means that Iran has established partial control over this sensitive border. Whilst this marks an expansion of Iranian influence in Iraq, its real significance lies in the messages it sends across the border in Syria.

In immediate terms, it is a response to recent US escalation, notably last month’s bombing of a pro-Syrian convoy close to al-Tanf. It is a sign of resolve by the Islamic Republic and a message that it will not sit idly by as the US sets about dominating north-east Syria by proxy, principally via the SDF.

At a deeper strategic level, it signifies Tehran’s resolve to construct the land corridor linking Iran to Syria. This project is vital to Iranian national security as well as wider economic and commercial considerations. Furthermore, the Iranians view this corridor as payoff for their unwavering support to the Syrian government from the onset of the conflict.

In view of the fact that a central aim of US concentration of forces, advisors and proxies in areas close to the Iraqi border appears to be to derail the Iranian land corridor project, a clash at some point is inevitable. De-escalation on this front by either party sends an unmistakable message of weakness with wider repercussions for control of post-conflict Syria.

Within Syria, though, the US is playing catch-up following years of relative disengagement. Absent the deployment of a sizeable military force to eastern Syria, the US is set to lose this tug of war with Iran. For a start, local US allies are neither reliable nor necessarily durable. As an umbrella organisation, the SDF is bound to fragment at some point, most likely following the military defeat of Daesh in Syria.

Whilst the core of the SDF, namely the PKK-aligned YPG, will remain a cohesive force, the durability of “Rojava” as a political entity inside Syria is not a valid proposition. All the key stakeholders in the conflict, notably the Syrian government, the Syrian opposition, the Syrian rebels on the ground, and not least Turkey, are fundamentally opposed to a PKK statelet inside Syria masquerading as Kurdish autonomy.

The battle for eastern Syria will begin in earnest following Daesh’s ejection from Raqqa and Deir ez-Zor. Absent a dramatic change in the confluence of perspectives, interests and events, US- and Iranian-aligned forces are set for a major clash in the region.

June 7, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | Leave a comment