The United States has condemned Russia for striking the Western-backed militants in Syria and denied that it is cooperating with Moscow in this regard.
Speaking at a press conference in Rome, Italy, on Wednesday, US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter called the airstrikes against terrorists “a fundamental mistake”.
“I have said before that we believed that Russia has the wrong strategy — they continue to hit targets that are not ISIL. We believe this is a fundamental mistake,” Carter claimed, using an acronym for the Daesh terrorist group.
“Despite what the Russians say we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia so long as they continue to pursue a mistaken strategy and hit these targets,” he added.
Earlier in the day, the Russian Defense Ministry said it was considering proposals from the US to coordinate operations against ISIL terrorists.
“On the whole, these proposals could be put in place,” defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
He added that US and Russian military officials were discussing technical details on Wednesday.
“What we will do is continue basic, technical discussions on the professional safety procedures for our pilots flying above Syria,” Carter said.
“That’s it. We will keep the channel open because it’s a matter of safety for our pilots,” he added.
A new US intelligence assessment has found Russia has targeted militant groups backed by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) in Syria.
The assessment, shared by commanders on the ground, has led American officials to conclude that Russian warplanes have intentionally struck CIA-backed militants in a string of attacks running for days, the Wall Street Journal reported.
Meanwhile, US foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski, a strong supporter of the Obama administration, says the United States should retaliate if Russia does not stop bombing its assets in Syria.
Former US national security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski
Moscow’s apparent decision to strike CIA-trained militants “at best” reflects “Russian military incompetence,” and worst, “evidence of a dangerous desire to highlight American political impotence,” Brzezinski, the national security adviser for former President Jimmy Carter, wrote in an article published by the Financial Times on Sunday.
He added that if Moscow continues to target these people, then Washington should retaliate against Russians.
Obama administration officials are debating how the United States can come to the aid of its proxy forces on the ground without risking a broader conflict, according to the Wall Street Journal.
US officials said Russia’s moves in Syria posed a direct challenge to the Obama administration’s foreign policy on the Middle East.
Iraq is planning to officially ask Russia for airstrikes against Daesh in a bid to purge the Takfiri militant group from the territories it controls in the west and north of the Arab country.
“We might be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes in Iraq soon. I think in the upcoming few days or weeks Iraq will be forced to ask Russia to launch airstrikes and that depends on their success in Syria,” the head of the Iraqi parliament’s defense and security committee, Hakim al-Zamili, said on Wednesday, urging Moscow to play a bigger role than the United States in fighting terrorists in Iraq.
Baghdad has long criticized the ineffectiveness of the aerial military campaign by Washington and its allies against alleged Daesh positions in Iraq. However, Moscow’s recent military intervention against the terrorists in Syria has raised hopes of a similar move in Iraq.
“We are seeking to see Russia have a bigger role in Iraq. … Yes, definitely a bigger role than the Americans,” Zamili said.
The senior Iraqi legislator also expressed hope that a newly-established security and intelligence-sharing command center which includes Iran, Iraq and Syria and Russia and is set to begin work in Iraq, could make the anti-Daesh battle more effective.
“We believe that this center will develop in the near future to be a joint operation command to lead the war against Daesh in Iraq,” he added.
Russia has been pounding the positions of Daesh and other militant groups in Syria for a week, a move which has clearly irritated the United States and other Western governments. Washington accuses Russia of targeting the so-called moderate militants in Syria, but Moscow denies the charges, saying it chooses its targets based on intelligence provided by the Syrian army. Russia has also sought to play down the significance of US-fabricated distinction between militants in Syria.
Earlier in the day, Russian officials said they would consider an airborne operation against Daesh Takfiri terrorists in Iraq if they received a formal request from the Arab country on the issue.
Valentina Matviyenko, the Russian Federation Council speaker, said Russian leaders would be open to study “the political and military expediency” of an operation in Iraq in case of official request by Iraq.
President Barack Obama is turning his back on possibly the last best chance to resolve the bloody Syrian war because he fears a backlash from Official Washington’s powerful coalition of neoconservatives and “liberal interventionists” along with their foreign fellow-travelers: Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf sheikdoms.
The route toward peace would be to collaborate with Russia and Iran to get Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to accept a power-sharing unity government that would fairly represent Syria’s major religious and ethnic groups – Christians, Alawites, Shiites and moderate Sunnis – along with a commitment for free, internationally monitored elections once adequate security is restored.
But for such an arrangement to work, Obama also would have to crack down aggressively on U.S. regional “allies” to ensure that they stopped funding, supplying and otherwise assisting the Sunni extremist forces including Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and the Islamic State (or ISIS). Obama would have to confront the Sunni “allies” – including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – as well as Israel.
His pressure would have to include stern action aimed at the global finances of the Gulf states – i.e., seizing their assets as punishment for their continuing support for terrorism – as well as similar sanctions against Turkey, possibly ousting it from NATO if it balked, and a withdrawal of political and financial support for Israel if it continued helping Nusra fighters and viewing Al Qaeda as the “lesser evil” in Syria. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Al-Qaeda, Saudi Arabia and Israel.”]
Obama also would have to make it clear to Syria’s “moderate” Sunni politicians whom the U.S. government has been subsidizing for the past several years that they must sit down with Assad’s representatives and work out a unity government or the American largess would end.
This combination of strong international pressure on the Sunni terror infrastructure and strong-arming internal players in Syria into a unity government could isolate the Sunni extremists from Al Qaeda and the Islamic State and thus minimize the need for military strikes whether carried out by Russia (against both Al Qaeda and ISIS) or the U.S. coalition (focusing on ISIS).
And, the arrival of Russian military support for the Assad government – as well as the increased backing from Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah – represented the moment when the prospect for peace was brightest, whatever one thinks of those various players. However, instead of working with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, President Obama chose to bend to the pressures of Official Washington.
Appeasing the Warmongers
Thinking he had stretched the tolerance of neocons and liberal hawks as far as he could by pushing through the nuclear deal with Iran, Obama fell in line behind their propagandistic denunciations of Assad and Putin. Obama’s administration joined in promoting the new favorite “group think” of Washington – that Putin had promised to only bomb the Islamic State and then reneged by attacking “moderate” rebels and their more powerful ally, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front.
Conveniently, this storyline doesn’t cite the wording of Putin’s supposed “promise” although some articles do mention him vowing to attack “terrorist” groups, which the mainstream U.S. news media has interpreted as the Islamic State only. But this odd framing accepts the breathtaking premise that Al Qaeda is no longer a terrorist organization – apparently rehabilitated by the fact that Israel has been helping Al Qaeda’s affiliate, the Nusra Front, along the Golan Heights and prefers it to Assad’s continued rule. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “Should US Ally with Al Qaeda in Syria?”]
Among the many purveyors of this “Putin lied” narrative is Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen, who on Tuesday repeated the canard that Putin had “promised” to strike only the Islamic State and then broke that promise. For good measure, Cohen added that the Russians had “invaded” Syria although they were formally invited by the recognized government of Syria.
“Yes, the Russians did invade,” Cohen wrote. “They sent war planes, mechanized units and even troops into Syria. They have begun bombing missions, apparently hitting insurgents seeking to topple Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad and not only, as Russian President Vladimir Putin promised, Islamic State units. Putin – surprise! – lied.”
Normally in journalism, before we accuse someone of lying, we show what they actually said and contrast it with the facts. But Official Washington has long since moved Putin into the free-fire zone of demonization. Anything can be said about him, whether based in reality or not, and anyone who objects to this “group think” is called a “Putin bootlicker” or a “Putin apologist.”
Thus, any reality-based skepticism is ruled out of the frame of debate. Such was the way that the United States plunged blindly into the Iraq War in 2003 when Saddam Hussein was the demonized figure and the Europeans who warned President George W. Bush not to invade were laughed at as “Euro-weenies.” American skeptics were “Saddam apologists.”
Cohen is back at it again in his Tuesday column, which – on the Internet – has the curious title “The High Cost of Avoiding War in Syria.” Cohen throws around the word “invasion” where Russia is involved – even when there was no “invasion” – but he advocates an actual U.S. invasion with cavalier hypocrisy.
Cohen slams Obama for not having established “a no-fly zone” in Syria earlier, which would have involved the United States bombing and destroying Syria’s air force, a clear act of aggression and an obvious boon to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Cohen also says he was for “arming the rebels,” another violation of international law which – when tried by Obama to appease the drumbeat from Cohen and his ilk – led to many U.S.-trained and U.S.-armed rebels taking their equipment and skills to Al Qaeda and ISIS.
Yet, Cohen — on the prized opinion real estate of The Washington Post’s op-ed page and in his nationally syndicated column — unapologetically encourages an illegal invasion of another country while condemning Russia for doing the same except that Russia was following international law by working with the sovereign government of Syria and therefore has not “invaded” Syria.
We also are supposed to forget that Cohen’s ideas would benefit Sunni jihadists, such as the Al Qaeda-dominated “Army of Conquest” which could use the “no-fly zones” to mount a victorious offensive to capture Damascus and create a humanitarian crisis even worse than now.
Possibly with ISIS chopping off the heads of “infidels” – Christians, Alawites, Shiites, etc. – and with Al Qaeda having a new home in the center of the Middle East to plot terror strikes on the West, Cohen’s plan might necessitate a major U.S. military intervention that would get even more people killed and deal the final death blow to the American Republic.
In evaluating Cohen’s lame-brained double-think, it is worth remembering that he was one of the many U.S. opinion leaders who cheered on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s deceptive Iraq War speech to the United Nations on Feb. 5, 2003. Waving “we-love-Colin” pompoms alongside all his esteemed colleagues, Cohen laughed at anyone who still doubted that Saddam Hussein possessed hidden WMD stockpiles.
“The evidence he [Powell] presented to the United Nations – some of it circumstantial, some of it absolutely bone-chilling in its detail – had to prove to anyone that Iraq not only hasn’t accounted for its weapons of mass destruction but without a doubt still retains them,” Cohen wrote. “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman – could conclude otherwise.”
Ha-ha, did you get that clever line – “Only a fool – or possibly a Frenchman” – pretty funny except that by heaping ridicule on those of us who doubted Powell’s evidence, Cohen contributed to the deaths of some 4,500 U.S. soldiers, the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, the cost to U.S. taxpayers of more than $1 trillion, and chaos now spreading across not just the Middle East but into Europe.
In a normal place where there was some modicum of accountability, you would have expected Cohen to be banished to Storage Room B with his red stapler or worse. But no, Cohen is back running with the same juvenile in-crowd, behaving just as stupidly and just as recklessly as he has many times in the past.
But the larger problem is that President Obama appears intimidated by this collection of know-it-alls who preen across the editorial pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times or who hold down prestigious “fellowships” at the Brookings Institution or other big-name think tanks or who self-identify as “human rights activists” advocating “humanitarian” wars.
Arguably, Obama has always had an outsized regard for people with establishment credentials. It is, after all, how he rose through the ranks as first an extremely bright academic and later a talented orator and politician. Without family connections or personal wealth, he needed the approval of various influential individuals. If he offended them in some way, he risked being pigeonholed as “an angry black man.”
Indeed, the comedy duo Key & Peele developed a series of funny skits with Jordan Peele playing the always proper and controlled Obama and Keegan-Michael Key as “anger translator Luther.” Obama even invited “Luther” to translate Obama’s speech to the 2015 White House Correspondents Dinner, except that by the end of that talk Obama was expressing his own anger and Luther peeled away.
The problem in the real world is that Obama remains cowed by the Important People of Washington – represented in that oh-so-important crowd at the dinner – and bows to their misguided thinking.
Obama also is facing a beefed-up lobbying operation for Saudi Arabia to go along with the always formidable Israel Lobby. The Intercept reported that in September the Saudi kingdom added to its large stable of thoroughbred influence-peddlers by signing “Edelman, the largest privately owned public relations agency in the world [and] the Podesta Group … a lobbying firm founded by Tony Podesta, a major fundraiser for the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign.”
Indeed, the repressive Saudi kingdom may need some special P.R. help as it prepares to behead Ali Mohammed al-Nimr whose body would then be attached to a cross or otherwise displayed in a crucifixion that would leave his corpse to rot for several days as a warning to others. Al-Nimr is a Shiite who at the age of 17 in 2012 participated in a pro-democracy demonstration that was viewed as an affront to the monarchy.
The Saudis also have been waging a ruthless air war against impoverished Yemen, attacking Houthis who stem from a branch of Shia Islam which Saudi Sunni Wahhabism considers apostasy. The Saudi bombing campaign, which recently killed some 131 celebrants at a wedding inside Yemen, gets intelligence and logistical support from the Obama administration even though the slaughter of Houthis has benefited their Yemeni rivals, “Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula” who have gained ground behind the Saudi air offensive.
Yet, the Saudis’ P.R. battalions – along with the Israel Lobby – have kept Official Washington’s focus in other directions. Indeed, there are now so many false or dubious narratives dis-informing the capital’s “group think” that U.S. decisions are driven more by mythology than facts.
Obama could begin the process of restoring sanity to Washington by declassifying U.S. intelligence analyses on several key issues. For instance, Obama could release what’s now known about the Aug. 21, 2013 sarin gas attack outside Damascus.
After that attack, there was a rush to judgment at the State Department and within the mainstream U.S. news media to blame that atrocity on Assad’s forces, although I’m told that CIA analysts have since moved away from that view and now agree that the attack was likely a provocation designed to draw the U.S. military into the war on the side of the Sunni jihadists. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Collapsing Syria-Sarin Case.”]
Though Obama and other officials have dropped the sarin accusations from their public speeches – harping instead on “barrel bombs” as if those homemade weapons are some uniquely evil device – Obama has refused to retract the sarin allegations which helped shape the hyper-hostile “conventional wisdom” against Assad.
Similarly, Obama has withheld U.S. intelligence information about the July 17, 2014 shoot-down of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over eastern Ukraine, letting stand hasty accusations blaming Putin. Obama appears infatuated by the trendy concept of “strategic communications” or “Stratcom,” which blends psy-ops, propaganda and P.R. into one noxious brew to poison public opinion about one’s “enemy.”
With the recent Russian military intervention in Syria, Obama had the chance to correct the record on the sarin-gas attack and the MH-17 shoot-down but instead continued the “Stratcom” both in his United Nations speech and his news conference last Friday with more hyperbolic attacks against Assad and Putin. In doing so, Obama apparently bowed to the desired rhetoric of hardliners like U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power and the editorial-page masters of The Washington Post and The New York Times.
Obama may have hoped his harsh language would appease the neocons and their liberal-hawk pals, but the tough-guy rhetoric has only opened him up to new attacks over the disparity between his words and deeds. As the clueless columnist Richard Cohen wrote, “A no-fly zone needs to be established. It is not too late to do something. By doing so little, the United States has allowed others to do so much.” [Emphasis in original.]
In other words, Cohen appears to want the U.S. military to shoot down Russian planes over Syria, even though the Russians have been invited by the recognized government to be there and the U.S. has not. The minor complication of possible human extinction from a nuclear war apparently is of little consequence when compared to the street cred that one gets from such manly talk.
For Official Washington – and apparently Obama – the peace option is regarded as unacceptable, i.e., working with Russia and Iran to achieve a power-sharing unity government in Damascus (with the promise of elections as soon as possible) along with the United States demanding from its regional “allies” a complete shutdown of assistance to the Islamic State, Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front and all other Sunni jihadists.
That option would require Obama and the neocon/liberal-hawk cowboys to get down off their high horses, admit they have been tossing their lasso in the wrong direction – and compromise.
Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his latest book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
The US regime change policy for Syria has been a catastrophe. More than 200,000 killed and an entire country reduced to rubble at least partly because President Obama decided that “Assad has lost his legitimacy.” How is it that the president of a country 6,000 miles away has the authority to decide whether another leader belongs in office or not? What if Rouhani in Iran decided that Obama had lost his legitimacy for killing a number of American citizens by drone without charge or trial? Would we accept that?
At least three years of US efforts to train rebels to overthrow the Syrian government has produced, as General Lloyd Austin, Commander of US Central Command, testified last month, “four or five” trained and vetted “moderates” in Syria. The $500 million appropriated for this purpose has disappeared.
The neocon solution to this failure to overthrow Assad and “degrade and destroy” ISIS is to increase the bombing and lead a ground invasion of Syria. The confusing policy of fighting Assad and also fighting his enemies does not seem to bother the neocons. They want us to forget all about their recent failures in Libya and Iraq and to try the same failed strategy one more time.
But something dramatic happened last week. Russian president Vladimir Putin delivered a speech at the United Nations criticizing the US policy of partnering with one set of extremists – al-Qaeda and its allies – to attack both ISIS and Assad. “Do you realize now what you have done?” asked Putin.
Shortly after Putin’s UN speech, he requested and was granted authority from the Russian parliament to use force in Syria in response to the Syrian government’s request for assistance against the rebels. Russian fighters and bombers began flying sorties over Syria almost immediately. In less than a week of Russian bombing, considerable damage appears to have been done to both ISIS and to al-Qaeda affiliates – some of which are considered allies by the US and were actually trained by the CIA.
It may be tempting to cheer Russian military action in Syria, as it seems ISIS is finally suffering some considerable losses. Press reports suggest large numbers of desertions in their ranks after the Russian attacks. All of a sudden what looked to be an inevitable ISIS takeover of Syria once Assad was overthrown, seems far less likely with the Russians on the scene.
But I cannot cheer the bombs, whether they are Russian bombs or US bombs or French or British bombs. I do not believe a terrorist group created by foreign intervention in the region will be solved by more foreign intervention in the region. Bombs represent a total failure of policy. They destroy a country’s economy and infrastructure.
I wish the American people would finally demand that their government end its destructive policy of trying to change any regime that does not bow to Washington’s demands. I wish Congress respected our Constitution enough to demand that the president seek a declaration of war before attacking a foreign country. I wish President Bush and his neocon advisors had never decided to overthrow the Syrian government. I wish President Obama had fired the neocons who led him from one foolish intervention to another. I wish the CIA had not trained rebels to fight alongside al-Qaeda in Syria. I wish we would reject the shrill cries of the warmongers. I wish the US media was more than just a propaganda arm of the US government.
I am not thrilled that Russia is bombing Syria. I wish nobody was bombing Syria.
Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad © SANA / Reuters
Western countries are using terrorism as an instrument of control, Syrian President Bashar Assad said in a recent interview. He also said that he is ready to step down if his departure is the solution to the four-year-long conflict.
“From the beginning it was clear to us that there were foreign hands behind terrorism in Syria,” Assad said in interview with Iran’s Habar TV.
President Assad thinks that the US-led coalition against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) is ineffective because the West does not want to defeat terrorist groups. In fact, it wants to preserve the balance between the warring sides to “perpetuate the process of erosion in Syria and Iraq and later other countries of the region, so that we all remain weak for decades and maybe generations.”
“How can the United States and its allies fight terrorism or ISIS in Syria and Iraq while their closest allies in the government of Erdogan and Davutoglu are supporting terrorists and enabling them to cross the borders and bring weapons, money and volunteers through Turkey?” he asked.
Since the US-led coalition was formed, terrorism expanded geographically and its recruits multiplied, the Syrian president said.
“God willing it [Syria, Iran and Hezbollah] will be able to defeat terrorism which is a new instrument for subjugating the region,” he stressed.
Unlike the US-led coalition, Russia together with Iran, Iraq and Syria have “great chances of success.”
“It must succeed. Otherwise, the whole region, not only one or two countries, will be destroyed,” Assad said.
Russia, as well the Soviet Union in the past, “[has] never tried to impose anything on Syria, especially in this crisis,” he said stressing that, as opposed to the US, Russia is against interference, hegemony and violations of the UN Charter.
‘If my departure is the solution, I will never hesitate to do that’
President Assad once again stated that he is ready for political dialogue with all Syrians – but not with foreign powers. “Any talk about the political system or the officials in this county is an internal Syrian affair,” he said.
“When the Syrian people decide that a certain individual should stay, he will stay; and when the Syrian people decide that he should go, he will go immediately,” the president said. “If my departure is the solution, I will never hesitate to do that,” he added.
Assad stressed that no state in the world conducts dialogue with terrorists and that they should be subject to the laws and brought to justice.
“However, the state might conduct dialogue with terrorists in one case, when the objective of the dialogue is for the individuals who carried out terrorist acts to lay down their arms and embrace the state and the law,” he added, noting that this has actually happened in Syria, with the government having held talks with various reconciliation-seeking groups, granting them amnesty and giving them an opportunity to go back to their normal lives.
NATO has started its biggest exercise since 2002 with 36,000 international troops from 30 states, including non-NATO nations, participating in the drills which are taking place at sea, in the air and across the territory of three European states.
The alliance has kicked off its massive “Trident Juncture 2015” exercises which will last until November 16. Along with the NATO member states, seven more partner nations are participating in the drills: Australia, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Finland, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Sweden and Ukraine.
Some 36,000 troops as well as more than 60 warships and about 200 aircraft will participate in the drills which makes it the biggest since 2002 when about 40,000 troops took part in NATO’s “Strong Resolve” military exercise.
“The purpose of the exercise is to train and test the NATO Response Force, a highly ready and technologically advanced multinational force made up of land, air, maritime and Special Forces components,” said General Hans Lothar Domrose, the Commander of Joint Force Command Brunssum.
“Enhancing our response forces is a key part of NATO’s overall effort to adapt to emerging security challenges. TRJE15 [Trident Juncture 2015] has been designed to ensure that our concepts and procedures will work in the event of a real crisis because our job is to always be prepared to defend the people, territory, and values of this Alliance,” he added.
The drills will consist of two parts: the Command Post Exercise (CPX) for Strategic and Operational level staff, and the Live Exercise (LIVEX) for tactical level troop engagements.
The CPX, which will last until October 16, will include “training, evaluation and certification activities” of the command structure of the NATO Response Force. The European Union and the African Union are also going to participate in the CPX.
LIVEX will be held in Italy, Portugal and Spain between October 21 and November 6. NATO air forces, land forces as well as maritime forces will conduct a number of exercises – for example, responding to a simultaneous, wide-scale attack of a group of 20 enemy ships, numerous aircraft and four submarines.
In late August-September NATO conducted the greatest airborne drills in Europe since the end of the Cold War. About 5,000 soldiers from 11 NATO member states participated in the “simultaneous multinational airborne operations.”
NATO has significantly stepped up its military presence and activity along the Russian border, including in the Baltic states and eastern Europe, since Russia’s reunification with Crimea and the outbreak of conflict in eastern Ukraine, which the alliance blames on Moscow.
Russia views NATO’s ongoing expansion and constant military activity as hostile and destabilizing, repeatedly warning that Moscow will respond to NATO approaching Russian borders “accordingly.”
Pro-NATO, pro-U.S. ‘socialist’ scholar invited to speak at ‘Socialist Resistance’ conference in London.
The political group ‘Socialist Resistance’ in England held an education conference in London on Sept 26, 2015 featuring a Ukrainian diaspora scholar, Marko Bojcun, who delivered a strong message that the rightist, neo-conservative regime in Kyiv should be supported and that the United States and NATO should be pressured to provide more and heavier arms to it. His talk was titled ‘Russian imperialism today‘. The conference theme was ‘Imperialism, globalisation and climate change’.
Bojcun is Director of the Ukraine Centre, London Metropolitan University. He is a PhD university graduate in Canada. In April 2015, he co-signed an open letter appealing to President Petro Poroshenko not to sign into law anti-communist, thought-control measures which had been approved by the Ukrainian Rada. Poroshenko approved the laws. The result has been a harsh crackdown on political, press and other forms of expression in Ukraine as well as the banning of political parties. Among the parties banned by the Ministry of Justice of Ukraine have been the large Communist Party of Ukraine and two smaller parties calling themselves communist.
In his speech to the conference, Bojcun reviewed the current situation in the countries bordering, or close to, Russia. He reported favorably on the efforts of the U.S. and EU to “aid” these countries in the face of alleged Russian economic ‘pressure’ and ‘aggression’ against them. At the 23′ mark, he reports on the efforts of Western powers to help Azerbaijan “break out” of its economic ties to Russia. (Those trade and other ties, actually, are an important lifeline for the people of that country heavily dependent on oil revenues. Many Azeris live and work in Russia and send home their earnings.)
Bojcun dismissed the argument that NATO is engaged in a military buildup in eastern Europe and a threatening stance against Russia and he argued that NATO should be supplying many more weapons and other military aid to Kyiv. Referring to the NATO summit meeting in August 2014, he lamented that “Poroshenko came away with absolutely nothing that he asked for. He was not going to be armed.
“I know there are American advisers in Ukraine and there are some who are training [Ukrainian] forces there. But neither the U.S. nor NATO are supplying Ukraine with lethal weapons. Some NATO countries, very small countries such as Lithuania, have promised to. But this is really not serious.”
“NATO is concerned, first of all, with securing its own member states. It doesn’t have the capacity to do that, to my way of thinking, should Russia decide to make a move northward [??] to the Baltic states. That is a cause of great concern.”
Bojcun then argued it is Russia which is engaged in a military buildup in eastern Europe. “Russia, on the other hand, has military bases in eight of the former Soviet republics. Eight of them. And it has been building them since 2003…
“So, the Russian capacity to strike in the neighbourhood of Ukraine is far superior than the NATO one, and it is growing. One needs to take that into account.
“Looking into this long argument that has been made about NATO expansion into east-central Europe, I agree, NATO made an expansion into east-central Europe. But, that happened. We are into a period since the 2008 financial crisis and the Russo-Georgian War  where the U.S. is really a reactive force and is not [reacting] in kind to the Russian military buildup.”
Also speaking on Ukraine at the same conference was Catherine Samary, a pro-Maidan French intellectual and leader of the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (NPA) of France. Her talk was titled ‘Socialists’ attitudes to Russian expansionism’.
Socialist Resistance calls itself “An ecosocialist organisation opposed to imperialist wars and capitalism.”
The recordings of the two speeches are posted to the website of the rather mis-named ‘Ukraine Solidarity Campaign’ based in the UK. There is no broadcast of discussion by conference participants following the speech by Bojcun to know what, if any, disagreement with the speech was expressed by conference participants or by his conference co-speaker.
Marko Bojcun spoke in London on May 27, 2014. The talk took place two days after the presidential election in Ukraine. In his speech, Bojcun welcomed the election of Petro Poroshenko. He shared the platform with Gabriel Levy (pseudonym), a pro-Maidan writer who publishes People and Nature.
At an afternoon press conference, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter claimed evidence may show that Russia airstrikes were hitting areas where there were not Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) forces and charged that Moscow’s bolstering of President Bashar al-Assad could backfire if that meant the targeting of what the U.S. considers “legitimate” opposition forces aligned against the Syrian government.
“By supporting Assad and seemingly taking on everyone who is fighting Assad, you’re taking on the whole rest of the country of Syria,” Carter said. “That is not our position. At least some parts of the anti-Assad opposition belong in the political transition going forward. That’s why the Russian approach is doomed to fail.”
With no hint of irony, given that the U.S. has been widely criticized for its bombing of the country, Carter equated Wednesday’s airstrikes by Russian warplanes as “pouring gasoline on the fire” in Syria.
Though Putin has made it plain in previous comments that he would act to defend Assad from the various militias aligned against him, the Foreign Ministry in Moscow rejected claims that the strikes were not focused on ISIS, saying in a statement that all the bombings hit “territory of the international terrorist group Isil.”
Warplanes struck eight targets, the ministry said, including “caches of weapons and ammunition, fuel and oil materials, command centers, and means of transport used by the Isil militants. All the targets were struck.”
Update (12:26 PM EDT):
As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov both spoke during a meeting of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, confirmation came that Russian warplanes have, in fact, launched airstrikes inside Syria and that U.S. officials were given advanced warning about the operations.
The State Department said that U.S.-led coalition forces were continuing their activities “as normal” despite a request from Russia that coalition aircraft stay out of Syrian airspace.
“A Russian official in Baghdad this morning informed U.S. Embassy personnel that Russian military aircraft would begin flying anti-ISIL missions today over Syria,” State Dept. spokesperson John Kirby told reporters at a morning briefing. “[The official] further requested that U.S. aircraft avoid Syrian airspace during these missions.”
Speaking before the UNSC, Kerry said the U.S. would welcome a “genuine commitment” by Russia to combat the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), but said “we must not and will not be confused in our fight against Isil with support for Assad.” The Obama administration, he added, has told Moscow that it “would have grave concerns should Russia strike targets where ISIL and al-Qaida affiliated targets [are not] operating.”
After Putin and Obama met briefly in New York on Monday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Kerry reiterated that the U.S. is prepared to hold “deconfliction talks” with their Russian counterparts as early as “this week,” if possible.
Subsequent to Kerry’s remarks, Lavrov said the Russian government has told U.S. officials and its coalition allies that Moscow stands ready “to forge standing channels of communication to ensure the maximum effective fight against the terrorist groups”—an apparent reference to ISIS but also perhaps other military groups aligned against the Assad government.
Lavrov also said that Russia will now back UN efforts to get the Syrian parties talking and intends to circulate a draft resolution which will aim to foster “an inclusive and balanced outside assistance for the political process” that Syria’s warring factions so desperately need.
Lavrov said the international group should include Russia, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Qatar, the European Union and China.
“We believe that such a composition of outside sponsors acting in a united way are in a position to assist Syrians in reaching agreement based on common objectives to prevent the creation of an extremist caliphate,” Lavrov said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter is now scheduled to brief reporters at the Pentagon at 2:00 PM ET.
Just hours after the Upper House of the Russian Parliament on Wednesday gave President Vladimir Putin the permission he sought to use the nation’s air force to conduct missions against the Islamic State targets inside Syria, news outlets are reporting that the first Russian airstrikes inside Syria may have now taken place.
Both the New York Times and CNN, citing anonymous U.S. officials who were not authorized to speak with the press, report that strikes have been carried out. The Times reports Russian warplanes dropped bombs near the central city of Hom, though further details were not provided.
Wednesday’s vote authorizing the strikes came just two days after Putin spoke to the General Assembly of the United Nations in New York City where he also held a 90-meeting meeting with U.S. President Obama in which the main topic was the ongoing civil war in Syria and how the two world leaders might find a way to get past their differences and help find a possible solution to the crisis which has embroiled the Middle East.
Whereas the U.S. Congress has yet to formally authorize the ongoing U.S. military actions in both Syria and Iraq, Obama has claimed authority to conduct airstrikes in those countries based on previous authorizations of military force (AUMFs) granted in the wake of 9/11 to fight Al-Qaeda. While at the UN, Putin called for an international coalition to come together under the auspices of a new UN Security Council resolution which would give legal sanction to a joint military campaign against ISIS militants.
In comments on Wednesday, Putin’s chief of staff, Sergei Ivanov, said that Russia’s plans at the moment would only include airstrikes, not ground forces engaged in combat inside Syria.
“You all know well that in the territory of Syria and Iraq … a number of countries are carrying out bombing strikes, including the United States,” Ivanov told reporters. “These actions do not conform with international law. To be legal they should be supported either by a resolution of the UN security council, or be backed by a request from the country where the raids are taking place.” What would make Russia’s action legitimate, explained Ivanov, is that the elected president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, has asked for and now welcomes this Russian assistance.
Even as policy experts continue to throw up warnings that there is no military solution to the civil war in Syria and that the introduction of more weapons, additional airstrikes, and new soldiers will only increase the suffering of civilian populations, the main sticking point between the U.S. and Russia remains whether Assad stays or goes as possible attempts at a diplomatic settlement form. Putin has made it clear that as the legitimate leader of Syria—and given the chaos that ensued in both Libya and Iraq after their governments were toppled by force—it would be short-sighted and irresponsible to exclude Assad from negotiations while ISIS and other radical factions stand at the ready to fill the vacuum.
Though the U.S. has maintained an active program to support military factions opposed to Assad, recent statements by both President Obama and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have appeared to soften their strict position on regime change in Syria.
How does the Iranian economy feel after 40 years of the economic blockade? How can Russia and Iran develop cooperation in the future? Pravda conducted an interview on the subject with Rosnano investment director, Vadim Veschezerov.
“A lot has been said recently about the Russian-Iranian cooperation in the field of high technologies. Can Russia and Iran cooperate in the high-tech industry instead of oil and fruit?”
“In my view, this is exactly where we can work together most effectively. Russia and Iran are competitors when it comes to oil. Fruit is growing in many other countries of the world, not just in Iran. Iran is an interesting country, because this is the only highly developed, high-tech country of the Islamic world. In all other countries of the Islamic world, even if they have ultramodern industry, they have achieved it with someone else’s help. Iran has achieved everything alone. In some areas, Iran is a big player. Iran has a very good chemical industry and the world’s only independent pharmaceutical industry.
“I’m not talking about the nuclear program of Iran. Unlike Pakistan and other countries, Iran had no opportunity to borrow – the country was doing everything alone.”
“Has Russia lost the moment for developing cooperation with Iran? We had a unique opportunity, when Iran was living in a blockade, but now there are plenty of Americans and Europeans there.
“We have two or three years. I am personally studying the events that are now happening in the country. Unfortunately, we have very few people in Russia, who realize the peculiarities and structure of Iran, or how to build relationships with the Iranian side.
“Technically, we must explore every area where we can cooperate. In almost 40 years of blockade, the Iranians have learned to do many things and they have reached great progress, but, of course, they can not do everything. For example, their electronics is a very weak point. They are interested in chemistry, mathematics and computer science.
Not that long ago, the secretary of the Supreme Coordination Council of Free and Special Economic Zones of Iran, Akbar Torkan, named five main branches of classical economics that in his view are interesting for foreigners. They are petrochemical, automotive, power generation, steel and cement industries.
“Any industry needs high technologies. In Iran, there is a very strong group of companies working in the field of nanotechnology – this is a priority direction for them. This area is entrusted to the Iranian Council for the development of nanotechnologies.
“We must not forget that the country has been living under the conditions of economic blockade for 40 years. They have learned not only to survive, but to develop independently. As they say: “Thank you, America. You’ve turned us from consumers to entrepreneurs.”
“In what areas does Rosnano intend to cooperate with Iran?”
“We are most attracted to pharmaceuticals. We have something that interests the Iranian side – drugs and medical devices. In Iran, there are very interesting medical devices and medications that can be potential on the international market. In India, the pharmaceutical industry is completely built on copying others, and the Iranians have their own their developments.
“They have a very unique system to encourage scientists and engineers to go into business. For example, if you offer a startup in the high-tech industry, the state can pay a share in the company for you. In three or four years, if you fulfill the agreement with the state, if you create a product, a medication or something else, the state will sell you this share for one real.
“Now that the sanctions are being removed, Russian energy companies have many opportunities in Iran. The USSR had built most of the Iranian energy industry – and they remember that.”
Interview conducted by Said Gafurov
Moscow – Western news agencies reported civilian victims resulting from Russian air strikes in Syria. The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, called such fabrications a dangerous trend.
As stated on Wednesday at a meeting with journalists, Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Maria Zakharova, the propaganda of the anti-Russian campaign against Moscow’s actions in Syria started even before Russia launched an operation to combat ISIS. She called this practice a dangerous but significant trend.
“Numerous fabrications have appeared in the media that in the course of Russian operations, civilians have been killed and that these are aimed at the democratic forces of the country”, – Zakharov clarified in response to questions about whether the Russian military pilots could be eliminating peaceful citizens.
Earlier Reuters, citing unnamed sources, reported that on Wednesday in the Syrian province of Homs, as a result of air strikes, at least 27 people were killed, including six children. The agency did not report whose planes struck the airstrike.
Following this, a number of Western and Ukrainian media outlets reported that as a result of Russian air force sorties around the Syrian city of Homs, at least 30 jihadists were killed, including 12 children. In these publications the source of the information refers to other media, in particular to the newspaper Times of Israel.
“All of this – an information attack, war, of which we have heard of so many times,” – said Zakharov on the occasion.
The representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry recalled that, in contrast to the actions of the ‘international coalition’ formed under the aegis of the United States – which makes airstrikes without the consent of the UN – the Russian military arrived in Syria at the request of the current government of that country. Their targets are the positions of militants of the terrorist organization “Islamic State”, whose activities are prohibited on the territory of Russia, as well as a number of other banned extremist organizations.
If the peevish expression on Barack Obama’s face was any indication, Vladimir Putin is a force in the world who cannot be ignored. Ever since Russia annexed Crimea in response to the United States – and NATO – backed coup in Ukraine, Obama and the corporate media have falsely declared that Putin is isolated from the rest of the world. They claim he is a monster, a despot and an irrelevance on the world stage.
While the G8 member nations turned themselves into the G7 in order to snub Russia, president Putin was making friends elsewhere. He may have been isolated from the United States and its clique, but not from China and the other BRICS nations or Syria or Iran or Iraq. While western nations use the Islamic State (ISIS) as a ruse to exact regime change in Syria, Putin has formed an alliance to carry out the task of eradicating that danger which was created by western intervention.
Presidents Obama and Putin both made their respective cases before the United Nations General Assembly at its annual meeting. Obama’s speech was an apologia for imperialism and American aggression. He repeated the lies which no one except uninformed Americans believe. If he calls a leader a tyrant he claims the right to destroy a nation and kill and displace its people. Despite the living hell that the United States made out of Libya, Obama continues to defend his crime. He blandly adds that “our coalition could have and should have done more to fill a vacuum left behind.” Apparently he hopes that no one is paying attention to the horrors inflicted on Libya or the ripple effect which created numerous other humanitarian crises.
Not content to defend the indefensible, the president made it clear that the Obama doctrine of regime change and terror is alive and well. “I lead the strongest military that the world has ever known, and I will never hesitate to protect my country or our allies, unilaterally and by force where necessary.”
In contrast, the man labeled a dictator acknowledged the importance of respecting every nation’s sovereignty. “Rather than bringing about reforms, an aggressive foreign interference has resulted in a brazen destruction of national institutions and life itself. Instead of the triumph of democracy and progress, we got violence, poverty and social disaster. Nobody cares a bit about human rights, including the right to life.” Making good use of his time in the spotlight, he made clear that he wasn’t fooled or cowed by the United States. “I cannot help asking those who have caused the situation, do you realize now what you’ve done? But I am afraid no one is going to answer that. Indeed, policies based on self-conceit and belief in one’s exceptionality and impunity have never been abandoned.”
Obviously Putin has self-interest in supporting his allies in Syria and for fighting ISIS. He acknowledged that his country is at risk from some of its own citizens who have sworn an allegiance to that group. Nonetheless, it is important that at least one nation in the world is capable of standing up to American state sponsored destruction and is willing to take action in that effort. Before the United Nations proceedings took place, Russia announced that it would share intelligence with Iran, Iraq and Syria in order to combat ISIS. If the United States were true to its word, that alliance would be welcomed instead of scorned.
Not since the late Hugo Chavez declared that George W. Bush left a “smell of sulfur” has an American president been so openly confronted at the United Nations. Putin’s presence makes it clear that Obama can no longer expect to carry out his international dirty work without effective opposition.
While the corporate media noted the tense photo opportunity between the two presidents they neglected to mention the real issues behind the bad feelings. At a press conference after his address Putin was asked about French president Hollande’s insistence that Assad leave the Syrian presidency. “I relate to my colleagues the American and French presidents with great respect but they aren’t citizens of Syria and so should not be involved in choosing the leadership of another country.”
That simple statement explains the totality of American enmity towards Russia. The NATO nations claim a right to choose leaders, create and support their own terrorist groups and destroy anyone who doesn’t do what they want. Putin is making a case for non-interference and that makes him persona non grata in the eyes of the supposedly more democratic West.
The world ought to fear pax Americana, not a Russian military presence in Syria. There cannot be true peace and stability unless nations and peoples are left to their own devices. The helping hand of United States democracy is anything but. It is a recipe for disaster and requires forceful opposition. If Russia can be a reliable counterforce the whole world will benefit, even if Barack Obama frowns before the cameras.
Margaret Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.
The special attention that the United States has been paying to Central Asia, while actively seeking ways to implement a strategy of global leadership in the region that is now fully recognized as the center of Eurasia, has been covered in numerous articles, including those published in NEO.
According to the geopolitical concept of the recognized American political scientist Zbigniew Brzezinski: Those who control Eurasia control the world. Therefore, Washington’s steps to strengthen American influence in the region in the long run are completely predictable. The pivotal role in this policy is played by the US military bases in the region and military cooperation ties. After all, according to the globalist logic of the White House, American influence in any region must be supported by the “adequate” military force. The 9/11 events in the US and the consequent anti-terrorist intervention in Afghanistan have become a pretext for a major military deployment of American and NATO troops in Central Asia.
By the way, the ongoing engagement of US troops in Afghanistan confirms the notion that the presence of US and NATO forces in this country has little to do with the “struggle for democracy”. The true purpose of the military intervention in Afghanistan was the creation of powerful military bases, as the geographical position of this country is pretty unique in terms of the strategic freedom it provides. From this area Washington can launch a massive attack against Russia’s Urals and Siberia, different facilities in Central Asia, Iran, Pakistan, India and China. For this reason from the very start of the US invasion of Afghanistan, Shindand and Bagram Air Bases were transformed into massive construction sites where a large number of surface and underground facilities being built.
It happens so that for Pentagon Central Asia serves as a base for applying pressure on Russia, China, Iran and the entire Eurasian continent, it also plays a pivotal role in the post-conflict settlement in Afghanistan, since it may form a joint military alliance under the banner of opposition to the Islamic state.
In an effort to strengthen its positions in Central Asia under the above mentioned pretext, the United States has sent invitations to join the anti-ISIL military coalition to both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. To add some momentum to the matter the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Central Asia at the U.S. Department of State Daniel Rosenblum has recently visited Tashkent, while the commander of United States Central Command general John Lloyd James Austin III made a trip to Dushanbe. In the course of their visits American emissaries discussed the situation in Afghanistan, regional security, and the advantages of cooperation with the United States “in the fight against international extremism” with regional authorities. Of course, a particular emphasis was made on the “need” to stay away from integration with Russia.
It is clear that in dealing with Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan “messengers of Washington” tried to make active use of the fact that those states today are free from obligations of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, which is headed by Russia, and therefore they are free to pursue military cooperation with the US. Therefore, Washington and Tashkent signed a document that provides the latter with free shipments of military equipment in the next five years. American equipment, trucks, military vehicles for a total worth of 6.2 million dollars will be just granted to this Central Asian state. This year, the United States has handed over to Uzbekistan armored class M-ATV, as well as armored repair and recovery equipment to support them, 308 cars and 20 repairs trucks with a total cost of at least 150 million dollars.
In dealing with Uzbek authorities American envoys had to mind the fact that the country entered the international counter-terrorism coalition immediately after September 11, 2001, while establishing special relations with a number of Western countries. As a result, the territory of the Republic at the time was housing a US military base, while the German Air Force had the opportunity to use the airfield in Termez, near the border with Afghanistan. Cooperation with Germany has been prolonged recently for a couple more years, though Tashkent is stressing the fact that the airfield in Termez is not a foreign military base. There’s little wonder to this fact, since the presence of foreign military bases was prohibited by law in Uzbekistan after the Andijan events, therefore in 2005 at the request of the Uzbek authorities American soldiers had to pack and leave.
Uzbekistan, is seeking ways to retain non-aligned status, and has no plans to allow any foreign military bases on its territory, on top of that it remains reluctant to send Uzbek troops abroad. This was pretty much the answer that the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov has given to Washington’s offer to join a coalition against the Islamic state.
However, Washington’s attempts to strengthen its military and political influence in Central Asia are far from over. Such efforts will certainly continue, despite the apparent reluctance of regional players to burden themselves with military obligations to the United States. America has severely damaged its reputation, therefore nobody believes in its peacemaking aspirations anymore, since the wars it has been waging are only leading to the suffering and misery of the civilian population of the countries it invades.