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NONE OF THE ABOVE: THOUGHTS ON TWO ELECTIONS

BY PAUL ROBINSON | IRRUSIANALITY | SEPTEMBER 18, 2021

Citizens of Russia and Canada go to the polls over the next few days to elect new parliaments – the Duma in Russia’s case, the House of Commons in that of Canada. It’s fair to say that neither is generating a lot of international excitement. In Russia’s case, because the result is (within certain boundaries) a foregone conclusion; and in Canada’s case because nobody cares.

Insofar as the Canadian press is covering the Russian election, it’s to portray it as fundamentally flawed, if not downright corrupt – a pretence at democracy rather than the real thing. Typical is the latest by the CBC’s new Moscow correspondent Briar Stewart, which starts off by quoting the campaign manager of the liberal Yabloko party in Krasnodar, saying that, “the State Duma election is the most terrible election I have seen since my birth.” The rest of the article then hammers home the point in case any readers hadn’t got it already.

There’s an element of truth to the complaints about the Russian elections, although it’s worth noting that the authorities’ manipulation of the system occurs primarily before votes are cast rather than after. That’s to say that the ‘managed’ party of ‘managed democracy’ mainly involves making life difficult for opposition candidates, limiting their access to the media, and things like that, rather than practices like ballot stuffing or falsifying the count (not to say that these practices don’t happen, but the general feeling is that the authorities prefer to limit them so as to avoid ridiculous results that lack legitimacy).

Nevertheless, although the playing field is far from a level one, when Russian voters head into the booths to cast their ballots, they have quite a lot of choice.

It’s reckoned that four or five parties will gain seats in the Duma via the proportional representation system that assigns half the total to those parties that win over 5% (the other half are chosen by first-past-the-post constituency elections). Most of these likely winners fall, I would say, in the left-conservative bracket, but there’s a lot of variation – from the hard left Communist Party of the Russian Federation (CPRF), through the also fairly left wing Just Russia party, the centrist United Russia, the centre-right New People (the least likely to pass the 5% hurdle), and the nationalist LDPR.

If those aren’t to your liking, there’s another 9 parties on the ballot papers. Most are no-hopers, though one or two might win a constituency here or there. For instance, if you’re the kind of person who thinks that the CPRF has sold out communism, you can vote for the more hardcore Communists of Russia. Or, likewise, if you think that the LDPR are a bunch of softies and you want tougher action on issues like immigration, you can throw your support behind Rodina. Or, if you’re liberally-inclined and think that New People are Kremlin stooges, you can put your cross next to the name of Yabloko (also Kremlin stooges according to the bizarre logic of the Navalnyites) or the more free market-inclined Party of Growth.

In other words, despite all the manipulations of the authorities, even if the final result is not in doubt (United Russia will win a majority), once you’re in voting booth ready to cast your secret ballot you actually have a lot of options open to you.

Now, let’s look at Canada.

Outside of Quebec (where you also have the separatist Bloc Quebecois), there’s only three options if you want to vote for somebody who win will a seat: Liberal, Conservative, and NDP (Green might pick up one seat, but overall are somewhere around 3% in the polls). The only other party likely to get a reasonable number of votes is the People’s Party of Canada, which is enjoying a surge (6-7%), primarily, it seems, by appealing to anti-vaxxers. But it has no chance of winning any seats and is thus a wasted vote except as a protest.

In other words, in real terms you have a choice of three parties. Let’s see what distinguishes them. As far as I can see, their platforms run roughly as follows:

Party A: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend. Party B: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend, and spend! Party C: Money grows on trees. Spend, spend, spend, and spend some more!

Party A: Here’s the list of interest groups I want to throw money at. Party B: Here’s my list. Look it’s even longer. Party C: Hah, you think your list is long – look at mine!

Party A: Woke is good. Party B: Woke is extra good. Party C: Woke is extra, extra good.

Party A: Russia is evil. Party B: Russia is very evil. Party C: Russia is very super evil.

Party A: We’ll be tough on China. Party B: We’ll be extra tough on China. Party C: We’ll be extra, mega tough on China. (Of course, in practice, none of them will!)

By now you get the point. It doesn’t really matter who you vote for, you end up with pretty much the same thing. That’s not to say that there are no differences, but they’re not on fundamentals. Basically, it’s three variations of a theme.

So there you have it. In one country, you have lots of choice, but the system’s fixed to make sure the same guys always win. In the other, it’s a fair fight – anyone can win – it just doesn’t matter who does – they’re all the same. You might say that one is rigged at the micro level, while the other is rigged at the macro level.

Which is better? I’ll leave it to you to decide. Meanwhile, I have the difficult decision as to whether Party A, Party B, or Party C is more worthy of my vote on Monday. What a choice!

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September 18, 2021 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | 2 Comments

SCO Officially Accepts Iran Permanent Membership

Al-Manar | September 17, 2021

The Islamic Republic of Iran has been accepted as a permanent member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) in the 21st SCO Summit in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Friday.

The Islamic Republic of Iran has so far been named as an observer member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization since 2005.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi addressed other heads of state and delegations present in the event, expressing hope that the Shanghai Cooperation Organization continues its progressive path, which has in a short time led to attaining distinguished regional and international position.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who takes part in the summit through video conference, congratulated Iran for the permanent membership in the organization.

The 21st summit of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) opened in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, on Friday, with participation of heads of 12 member and observer states.

According to Tajikistan’s media, this year’s summit is going to review results of 20 years of the SCO’s activities, as well as the current situation and future outlook of multilateral cooperation of the member states of the organization.

The heads of states will also discuss regional and international collaborations and hold talks on joint acts in order to control the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the member states.

The SCO consists of eight permanent member states, including India, Kazakhstan, China, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Russia, and Uzbekistan. Four states of Afghanistan, Belarus, Iran and Mongolia are still observer members and six countries of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka are dialogue partners.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an effective regional and intra-state organization, which was established by leaders of China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan in 2001.

September 17, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | 2 Comments

Coup in Guinea, led by Israeli trained Colonel, hurts Russian interests 

Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya along with US Africa Command soldiers
By Lucas Leiroz | September 8, 2021

A recent coup in Guinea has left the world surprised and unanswered about what is really happening in the region. The military overthrew the president and seized power after some controversies involving alleged attempts by the former leader to perpetuate himself in power. Regardless of political factors on the domestic scene, the coup appears to have great international relevance, as it strongly harms Russian interests in Guinea.

On Sunday, Guinea’s armed forces arrested the country’s then president, Alpha Conde, and announced the dissolution of the government. According to witnesses, during the president’s detention, at least two people were injured in an intense firefight in and around the presidential palace, located in Conakry, the country’s capital. The military official who led the coup was Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya, who, in statements to the local media, said that there will be a major reform in the country, with the formation of a new government, promulgation of a new constitution and beginning of a military administration.

Doumbouya heads a dissident military group that calls itself the “National Committee of Reconciliation and Development” (CNRD, in its French acronym). So far, little is known about such organization, which appears to have been formed a few days before the coup and does not seem to have a formal ideology or agenda to be defended, just joining soldiers dissatisfied with Conde’s government. The CNRD released videos proving that the former president is alive and safe, but there is still not enough information to affirm the conditions under which he is being treated.

To understand the case, we must pay attention to the background of the coup. Alpha Conde was elected for a third presidential term in October 2020 and was declared president the following month, in November. The opposition claimed fraud during the elections and initiated a crisis of legitimacy. The point most criticized by his opponents was Conde’s decision to amend the constitution so that he could be perpetuated in power. Guinea’s constitution forbade a president to run for office three times in a row, but Conde made a change in the legal text in order to be able to run and defeat his opponents. Despite being a complicated and controversial legal maneuver, Conde gained strong popular support and his permanence in power was the preference of most of the Guinea’s people, according to surveys carried out at the time.

On the other hand, the leader of the coup, Colonel Doumbouya, was until then a rather obscure figure to the national political scenario. Doumbouya is a former member of the French Foreign Legion, having served in military operations in Afghanistan and African countries. He received military training in Israel before returning to his country and assuming command of the special forces. There are photos circulating on the internet showing Doumbouya along with US Africa Command soldiers at the US embassy in Guinea – the circumstances are unknown but reveal some degree of connection between military dissidents and foreign agents.

The reason that explains why the strong opposition occurred between Condé and Doumbouya may be precisely in their foreign connections. Guinea is one of the largest aluminum and bauxite suppliers in the world. The coup strongly impacted the metals industry, which reached record highs in the price of aluminum. And one of the main aluminum and bauxite explorers in Guinea is the Russian company Rusal, which has been operating in the country for two decades and is responsible for managing several local firms and industries.

Obviously, there wasn’t a coup d’état just to stop Rusal’s actions in Guinea. The tension is due to the level of collaboration between the African country and Russia. Conde was interested in taking advantage of the partnership in the aluminum and bauxite business to increase economic cooperation and seek more Russian investments in Guinea. In June of this year, Conde sent a delegation of officials to Russia, during the 24th St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, with the intention of starting a bilateral dialogue to attract more investment in Guinea, mainly in the infrastructure sector, which is a strategic point for the implementation of national development policies. In fact, Conde saw Russia as an opportunity for strategic international cooperation between two emerging nations, just as other African countries have seen in China, for example.

Certainly, no Western country will publicly support the coup, but the unstable situation in national politics will already be enough to prevent Russian investments in Guinea, so Guinea has been “neutralized” in this regard. Perhaps, in addition to Latin America, Africa is also in Washington’s plans since the US has lost strength in Asia. If this is confirmed, it is possible that in the near future we will see new coups taking place in other African states.

Lucas Leiroz is a research fellow in international law at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro.

September 8, 2021 Posted by | Economics | , , , , | Leave a comment

Moscow bothered by ‘uncontrolled, unrestricted expansion’ of US military biolab network near Russia

By Ilya Tsukanov – Sputnik – 06.09.2021

A Ukrainian lawmaker blew the lid off how many US military biological experiments took place in Ukraine last year, pointing to repeated outbreaks of otherwise inexplicable dangerous diseases in the country since the labs were opened. Similar facilities operate in other countries near Russia, including Georgia, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Moscow and the international community at large have reason to be concerned over US military biological laboratories’ operations near the Russian Federation, the deputy chairman of the Russian Investigative Committee, Alexander Fedorov, has suggested.

“The concern among Russian specialists, and among the international community, is caused by the uncontrolled and unrestricted expansion of foreign biological infrastructure belonging to the US military in states adjacent to the Russian Federation and located near the borders of the Russian Federation,” Fedorov said, speaking at a forum dedicated to the history of Imperial Japan’s WWII-era bacteriological warfare programme in Khabarovsk on Monday.

Fedorov is the latest Russian official to express his apprehensions over the US’ widespread deployment of military biolabs in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus. In April, the Russian Security Council’s secretary, Nikolai Patrushev, told a Russian newspaper that Moscow was aware of the creation of new US military biolabs near Russia and China, and warned that Russian officials had reason to believe that biological weapons were being developed there.

“We have been assured that these are research centres where the Americans help local scientists to develop new ways to combat dangerous diseases. But in truth the authorities of those countries where these facilities are based have no idea what’s going on within their borders. Naturally, we and our Chinese partners have questions. We are told that the facilities operating near our borders are peaceful sanitary and epidemiological stations, but for some reason they are more reminiscent of Fort Detrick in Maryland, where the Americans have been working in the field of military biology for decades,” Patrushev warned.

In May, the Russian Security Council’s deputy chief Yuri Averyanov told Sputnik that Moscow has every right to be concerned about the presence of US and NATO military biological programmes near its borders, given the fact that the deadly microorganisms created at or studied in such facilities could “accidentally” be released into the environment, potentially causing mass casualties among civilians.

US Biolabs Dot the Globe

The United States has pushed the creation of biolabs via its so-called ‘Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction’, as well as bilateral ‘Joint Biological Commitments and Joint Threat Reduction’ programmes with individual nations. Washington has long insisted that these programmes, which started being implemented after the end of the Cold War, are designed only to reduce biological weapons proliferation and production.

However, Russia, China, politicians in some of the countries in which the labs are situated, and reporters – led by independent Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva – have questioned these claims.

Last year, Ukrainian opposition politician Viktor Medvedchuk revealed to parliament that as many as 15 US-sponsored biological laboratories were operating on Ukrainian territory, with some of them said to be engaged in the storage of pathogens hazardous to humans and animals. Medvedchuk accused US and Ukrainian authorities of seeking to cover up the extent of these activities, and warned that some of the labs may be experimenting on human beings. He also highlighted repeated mysterious outbreaks of dangerous diseases in the country between 2009 and 2017, including haemorrhagic pneumonia, cholera, and hepatitis A. In 2016, he noted, at least 20 Ukrainian servicemen died from a strange flu-like virus, with 364 more people succumbing to swine flu the same year. Medvedchuk has been under house arrest since May 2021, ostensibly over an unrelated matter.

Along with Ukraine, the nation of Georgia has repeatedly come up in reporting on US military. In 2018, the country’s former minister of state security implored then-US President Donald Trump to open a formal investigation into worrying reports that personnel from the US’ Lugar Center biological lab outside Tbilisi were engaging in experiments on live human test subjects.

Russian officials have repeatedly expressed concerns about the Lugar lab. Last year, the Russian foreign ministry warned Washington that it was fully aware of US efforts to expand military-related research at the facility, and alleged that the US had substantially expanded dual-use biological research at labs across the former Soviet space under the pretext of combating bioterrorism.

Fears COVID-19 May Be US Bioweapon

Iran has voiced its own fears over the extent of US biolab activities in countries near its borders. In March 2020, in the early weeks of the spread of COVID-19, a group of 101 Iranian doctors penned a joint letter addressed to the leaders of Afghanistan, Georgia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Pakistan urging them to take immediate action to destroy “all of the US biological laboratories” on their territory amid fears that the coronavirus pandemic may have originated as a form of biological warfare.

China has also tried to shed more light Washington’s highly secretive military biological programmes. This summer, Chinese media and officials fingered Maryland’s Fort Detrick as where the global coronavirus pandemic originated, pointing to the lab’s unexplained mid-2019 shutdown and the appearance of mysterious flu-like symptoms in communities nearby shortly thereafter.

Amid US and World Health Organization demands to continue an investigation into whether the Wuhan Institute of Virology may have been the origin of the coronavirus pandemic, Chinese officials have urged a probe into Fort Detrick, pointing to US researchers’ work in synthesising SARS-related coronaviruses going back to at least 2003, and bat-related coronavirus since at least 2008.

September 6, 2021 Posted by | Deception, Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 5 Comments

Arctic has enough reserves to supply Russia for centuries – Russian official

RT | September 5, 2021

Russia will step up development of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic, which are sufficient to last the country centuries, according to Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak.
“The potential of the Arctic zone is huge. Speaking about offshore resources only, those are 15 billion tons of oil and around 100 trillion cubic meters of gas. That will suffice for decades, hundreds of years if they are required and it is economically reasonable,” Novak said during the educational marathon ‘New Knowledge’ earlier this week, as cited by TASS.

These resources are too costly to extract so far, but Novak says the government is optimistic and has already taken steps to develop the means for it.

“Those are rather expensive projects, which require provision, certain subsidies, including on taxes, return on investment. The government has provided such incentives for projects like that. Certain taxes have been slashed to zero for offshore projects,” Novak stated, noting, however, that Russia will only dip into its Arctic resources in the case that other regions fail to provide them.

At the Eastern Economic Forum that took place in Russia’s Vladivostok this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that the country bears a “huge responsibility” to have a “prudent” attitude toward natural resources of the Arctic.

“For Russia, this is of tremendous importance – the development of the region… The Arctic accounts for 18% of our territory and [its] reserves of raw materials are necessary not only to our country, but to the whole world,” the head of state said at the plenary session of the EEF.

“In this sense, we have a huge responsibility to treat this wealth prudently and thoughtfully,” Putin stressed.

September 5, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | | 2 Comments

US has NO mandate to keep troops in Syria & it’s interpretation of international law is ‘ridiculous’: Russian ambassador

By Jonny Tickle | RT | August 10, 2021

Washington has no legal mandate to keep its armed forces in Syria, and the presence of American soldiers in the country contradicts the 2015 UN Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire and a political settlement.

That’s according to the Russian embassy in Washington, which responded to a tweet by Wayne Marotto, the official military spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve, the American campaign in the Middle East to defeat ISIS.

Writing on social media, Marotto said that the US has a “clear mandate under international law” to keep boots on the ground in Syria.

On Monday night, the Russian Embassy publicly disagreed.

“It’s a matter of fact that US armed forces have no legal mandate to stay in Syria. Your interpretation of UNSCR 2254 is just ridiculous. Please, read the document thoroughly,” the diplomatic mission said, including a link to the text.

Passed in 2015, UNSCR 2254 calls for all parties to immediately end attacks against civilian targets but allows offensives against groups determined to be “terrorists” by the UN Security Council, such as ISIS. It also planned to create a Syrian-led political transition with free and fair elections.

As things stand, both Moscow and Washington have troops on the ground in Syria. The Russian operation began in 2015, after Syrian President Bashar Assad requested military aid from the Kremlin, in a legal move. However, according to international law, the US military presence is an illegal occupation, because the American troops entered the country without an invitation from the government.

August 10, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 9 Comments

No indication of Iran’s involvement in Israeli tanker attack: Russia

Press TV – August 2, 2021

A senior Russian foreign ministry official strictly rejects existence of any indications pointing to Iran’s likely involvement in a recent attack on an Israeli oil tanker off the Omani coast.

“We have not the slightest reason to believe [that Iran was involved in the attack],” the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Second Asian Department Director, Zamir Kabulov told Russia’s Sputnik news agency on Monday.

In a statement on Friday, Zodiac Maritime, the Israeli-owned firm managing the tanker, said that two crewmen, a Briton and a Romanian, had been killed in the assault.

The Israeli regime and its sworn allies, the United States and the UK, rushed to accuse Iran of having a role in the incident, without providing any evidence. The Romanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has also alleged that the attack was deliberate and coordinated by Tehran.

Kabulov, however, reiterated Russia’s stance, saying Moscow’s refusal to corroborate such accusations was because “we have no facts.”

“When there are facts, then we will work out our position,” he added.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry has summoned Britain’s chargé d’affaires and Romania’s ambassador to convey Tehran’s strong protest, reminding the envoys that the source of instability in the Persian Gulf was not the Islamic Republic, but actually extra-regional presence.

Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has also refuted such accusations as “absolutely groundless,” saying they feature “contradictory,” “hollow,” and “provocative” claims.

The official also sounded a strong warning against any act of adventurism targeting the Islamic Republic’s interests based on the unfounded claims.

August 3, 2021 Posted by | Wars for Israel | , , , , | 3 Comments

Russia rejects Dutch court ruling to hand $5 BILLION of taxpayers’ cash to ex-oligarchs over collapse of Yukos

RT | July 29, 2021

Officials in Moscow have vowed to vigorously appeal a judicial ruling in an international arbitration court that would bind Russia to hand over billions of dollars to the former shareholders of the collapsed Yukos energy giant.

The office of the country’s Prosecutor General said on Thursday that it does not acknowledge the validity of the decision, by the International Arbitration Court in The Hague. Authorities said that Russia would “appeal the decision without fail,” questioning both the basis of the judges’ jurisdiction and the claims themselves.

Earlier that day, representatives of the shareholders who lost cash when the former oil and gas conglomerate collapsed claimed victory in legal proceedings that handed them a total of $5 billion in compensation. A separate claim, for a total of $57 billion, is currently being heard by the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.

The ex-shareholders say that the Russian government “expropriated” the assets of Yukos when the firm was bankrupted by a multi-billion dollar tax bill. The private company had been formed after a controversial auction of state assets following the fall of the Soviet Union, and quickly became one of the world’s most valuable companies despite investors picking it up for a fraction of its worth.

The founder of the energy empire, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, later served time in prison on fraud charges, which he claims were a response to his political activity. However, the London-based businessman asserts he has no direct interests in the lawsuit, and the case has been brought by other financiers including influential businessman Leonid Nevzlin.

Russia has insisted that the judgements are “politically motivated,” and in December the country’s Justice Minister, Konstantin Chuychenko, told journalists that the case was part of a “legal war that has been declared on Russia.” He added that “Russia must adequately defend itself and, sometimes, even attack back.”

Moscow denies the charges and says that foreign courts have not considered that national laws around fraud and other wrongdoing might have been broken. However, in December, the Constitutional Court, one of Russia’s highest judicial authorities, ruled that Russia could refuse to pay any settlement imposed by Dutch judges. The basis for the arbitration is the terms of the Energy Charter Treaty, which Moscow signed but never ratified.

In their adjudication, the judges found that while the country’s government of the day began the process of signing up to the pact in 1994, they did not have the authority to make national laws inferior to international agreements, or to “challenge the competence” of Russian courts. Therefore, the jurists conclude, adhering to the Dutch court’s demands would be “unconstitutional.”

There have, however, been a number of attempts to confiscate Russian state assets in case the country refuses to honor any eventual settlement. To date, though, these have ultimately been rapidly overturned by courts. The case is expected to be settled by the Netherlands’ highest court later this year.

July 29, 2021 Posted by | Economics, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Russia’s about-face on Syria’s Idlib is the opening gambit of a larger diplomatic chess game

By Scott Ritter | RT | July 17, 2021

The Russian vote at the UN Security Council in favor of extending a humanitarian air corridor into Syria has been touted by the US government as a victory of American diplomacy. Moscow might have other ideas.

In a rare display of diplomatic cooperation, the US and Russia agreed last week on a one-year extension of the UN Security Council authorization for humanitarian aid supplies to reach northern Syria through the Bab al-Hawa crossing on the border with Turkey.

The Biden administration had made the extension of this authorization its highest priority when it came to US-Syrian policy. For its part, Russia had long been hesitant to allow such an extension, insisting it should be replaced by cross-line humanitarian deliveries.

It’s been alleged that the Bab al-Hawa crossing point was being used to resupply Islamic militant groups opposed to the Syrian government of President Bashar Assad that are operating inside Idlib province, which borders Turkey.

Russia’s vote in favor of the extension for up to 12 months took many observers by surprise, given Moscow’s past objections.

The US media called it a victory for the Biden administration, underscoring the importance of the June summit meeting between the US president and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in Geneva, Switzerland. The US made Syria, and in particular the issue of continued access by humanitarian organizations to refugee camps located in Idlib, a high priority at that meeting. The fact that Moscow and Washington have reached a compromise on the operation of the Bab al-Hawa crossing, from the perspective of Russia, was a clear sign regarding the efficacy of the Geneva process.

“We hope that it might be a turning point that is indeed in line with what Putin and Biden discussed in Geneva,” Russia’s UN Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters after the vote.

The situation, however, is far more complicated than the zero-sum diplomatic game being promoted in the US mainstream media. Idlib isn’t just a repository of internal refugees from the decade-long civil conflict that has wracked Syria since 2011 – it is the final redoubt of foreign-backed Islamic militants who have been waging a bloody fight against the Russian-backed Syrian government. The Islamic militant groups, many of which are allied with Al-Qaeda, once controlled much of the Syrian countryside and were operating in the suburbs of the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The decision by the Russian government to intervene militarily on the side of Assad in September 2015 helped turn the tide against the Islamic militant forces. Over the course of the next three years, the Syrian army, backed on the ground by Hezbollah and pro-Iranian militias, and in the air by the Russian Air Force, was able to recapture all of the militant-held territory save for the last remaining bastion in Idlib.

The situation inside Idlib is complex, with the various factions among the Islamic militants fighting among themselves to establish primacy. Many of these groups, including Al-Qaeda affiliate Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), are reportedly reliant upon foreign support for their survival and have been linked to both Turkey and the US in terms of serving as an anti-Assad proxy force. Recent claims by the exiled Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker regarding the alleged shipment of “billions of dollars” worth of military equipment disguised as humanitarian aid to HTS and other anti-Assad groups operating inside Idlib only reinforced the concerns of the opponents to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open.

There is a real humanitarian crisis ongoing inside Idlib, where millions of Syrian citizens remain housed in refugee camps that are little more than tent cities erected in open fields. The refugees are totally dependent upon international aid groups for the essentials of life, including food, water, shelter and medicine. With the restoration of central government control over much of Syria, however, and the willingness on the part of the Syrian government to resettle these refugees back in their original homes without any threat of retribution or retaliation, there is a growing sentiment among the Russian and Syrian government that the refugees have become little more than political pawns used by Syria’s many enemies, including Turkey and the US, to create the perception of a despotic regime while fostering continued instability inside Idlib that serves as an engine to motivate and recruit new anti-Assad fighters.

This reality served as the core argument underpinning the Russian objection to keeping the Bab al-Hawa crossing open. There is another reality, however, which also guided the Russian decision, namely the lack of a viable military solution to the problem of Idlib. Russia and the Syrian government are committed to a course of action that has the Syrian government asserting control over the totality of Syrian sovereign territory – including Idlib.

While Russia and Syria continue to conduct airstrikes against Islamic militant positions inside Idlib, and the Syrian army and its allies likewise exert pressure on Islamic militant forces on the ground, the feeling in both Moscow and Damascus is that the problem of Idlib cannot be resolved through force of arms unless one is willing to unleash a bloodbath that would cause more problems than it would solve.

The key to a solution in Idlib is for both Turkey and the US to recognize the futility of continuing to use it as a base of anti-Assad activity, and to finally give up on their dreams of regime change in Damascus. Such a policy change, however, will not happen overnight and will require considerable diplomatic cooperation on the part of all parties involved – including Russia. The Russian agreement to keep the Bab al-Hawa crossing open for another year, when seen in this light, represents the opening round of a lengthy diplomatic battle over the future of Idlib, Syria and the Middle East as a whole.

Scott Ritter is a former US Marine Corps intelligence officer and author of ‘SCORPION KING: America’s Suicidal Embrace of Nuclear Weapons from FDR to Trump.’ He served in the Soviet Union as an inspector implementing the INF Treaty, in General Schwarzkopf’s staff during the Gulf War, and from 1991-1998 as a UN weapons inspector.

July 17, 2021 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 4 Comments

Putin: Kiev would rather play the ‘victim’ than work for peace

Reunification with Donbass now nearly a lost cause

RT | July 12, 2021

Russian President Vladimir Putin has blasted Ukraine’s apparent lack of interest in striking a deal to resolve the bloody civil war in the east of the country, saying that Kiev politicians are using it to score political points.

In a lengthy article published on the Kremlin’s website on Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said that much of modern Ukraine had been formed out of his country’s historical territories, and at Moscow’s expense. Arguing that the two nations shared deep historical and cultural roots, he said that modern conflicts were derived from the fact that Ukraine was “the brainchild of the Soviet era” and effectively an experiment by “Bolsheviks” who drew its borders.

However, Putin said, the implications of ongoing disputes within the Eastern European nation were catastrophic. “According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the total number of victims associated with the conflict in Donbass has exceeded 13,000 people,” he said. “Among them are elderly people and children. Terrible, irreparable losses.”

“Russia did everything to stop fratricide,” he went on, arguing that Moscow sees no other way out of the bitter dispute than for Kiev to honor the Minsk Agreements that were intended to provide a roadmap to ending the conflict. However, he said, talks with Ukrainian officials have fallen flat because “they prefer to exploit the image of a ‘victim of external aggression’ and trade in Russophobia.”

Insisting that Kiev is using the conflict to its advantage in dealing with the West, Putin also claimed that “they arrange bloody provocations in the Donbass” and, “in a word, are trying to attract the attention of their external patrons and masters by any means necessary.”

“I am more and more convinced that Kiev simply does not need Donbass,” the president went on. “Why? Because, firstly, the inhabitants of these regions will never accept the rule they are trying to impose by force, blockades and threats.” In addition, he said, the Minsk protocols could be readily implemented but, in his words, “contradict the whole logic of the anti-Russia project” and would undermine “the constant cultivation of the image of an internal and external enemy.”

Fighting between Kiev’s forces and those loyal to the two breakaway self-proclaimed Donbass Republics has escalated in recent months, with a number of civilian casualties reported. A tense standoff between Ukrainian forces and Russian soldiers across the frontier sparked concerns of an all-out conflict earlier this year, until Moscow announced that its units would be redeployed and that readiness exercises had been concluded.

Last month, Putin said that he saw little point in meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, to discuss the situation in the east of Ukraine given, he alleged, that much of the country’s policies were imposed from abroad.

“Why should I meet Zelensky?” the Russian leader asked. “If he has given up his country to full external control, the key issues about life in Ukraine are resolved not in Kiev but in Washington, and, to some extent, in Berlin and Paris. What then would we talk about?”

July 13, 2021 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , , , | 3 Comments

Syrian Kurds say ready to talk with Damascus government

Press TV – July 4, 2021 

The so-called Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria, commonly known as Rojava, has said it is open to negotiations with the Syrian government which is in the final stages of purging foreign-sponsored Takfiri militants.

The foreign relations department of Rojava, in a statement issued on Saturday, responded positively to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s request for negotiations with the Damascus government, Kurdish Hawar news agency reported.

“The Syrian crisis can only be resolved through dialogue and a Syrian-Syrian understanding,” the statement read, adding that Syrian Kurds will make every effort to achieve such a goal, including talks with Damascus.

The report came a day after Lavrov said Moscow is ready to facilitate dialogue between Damascus and the Syrian Kurds provided that both sides stick to coherent positions.

“We are ready to encourage contacts and consultations but the sides need to have coherent positions,” he said on Friday, while warning that the Americans were pushing a considerable part of the Syrian Kurds towards separatism.

“I hope very much that those Kurds, who are interested in normalizing relations with Damascus, understand the provocative nature and see a big danger here,” the top Russian diplomat noted.

“Throughout the entire period of the crisis, especially after our military contingent was dispatched to Syria at the request of the legitimate government, we have been encouraging, even through our contacts on the ground, direct relations between Kurdish representatives and Damascus so that they could begin talks on how to live together in their country,” Lavrov said.

MEP: EU sanctions against Syria crime against humanity

Separately, a member of the European Parliament condemned EU sanctions against Syrian government officials, businesses and entities, terming the restrictive measures as a punishment against ordinary people in the war-battered Arab country.

Independent Irish politician Mick Wallace wrote in a post published on his official Twitter page on Saturday that the EU sanctions, with their main aim to change the Damascus government, are a crime against humanity.

“EU [countries] must end their illegal regime change sanctions on Syria. They are a collective punishment against the people; they are a crime against humanity,” Wallace said.

The MEP called upon European countries to observe international law, and respect Syria’s sovereignty.

The EU imposed the first round of its sanctions against Syria in May 2011. They include travel bans, asset freezes and measures targeting operations like oil imports, certain investments as well as technology transfer.

The Syrian government has repeatedly condemned the US and the EU for waging economic terrorism on the country through their unilateral sanctions, holding them responsible for the suffering of the Syrian people, especially now that the country is grappling with a deadly coronavirus outbreak.

Damascus has also been critical of the United Nations for keeping silent on the destructive role of the US and EU, among other parties supporting terrorism in Syria.

July 4, 2021 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , | 1 Comment

Russian diplomats say Moscow not behind cyberattacks on US targets, but is itself constantly bombarded by Americans

By Jonny Tickle | RT | July 2, 2021

One day after the US accused Moscow of being behind cyberattacks on both government bodies and private business, the Russian Embassy in Washington has pointed the finger at the Americans, accusing them of hacking Russian targets.

Writing on Facebook, the diplomatic mission rejected accusations that Russian state structures are involved in targeting trans-Atlantic IT infrastructure.

“We strictly deny the involvement of Russian government agencies in attacks ‘on government and private facilities in the United States and abroad,’” the statement said.

“Besides, it’s high time to put things in order on the American soil, from where constant attacks on critical infrastructure in Russia emerge,” the embassy said, turning the focus back on the US.

On Thursday, multiple American intelligence agencies, along with Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, released a joint document alleging that Russia had carried out hundreds of attempted cyberattacks worldwide against government and private targets, from early 2019 to early 2021.

The Russian side has repeatedly denied involvement in hacking.

“We emphasize that fighting against cybercrime is an inherent priority for Russia and an integral part of its state policy to combat all forms of crime,” the embassy statement said.

Last month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and his US counterpart Joe Biden met for a landmark summit in the Swiss city of Geneva. At the meeting, the two leaders discussed cybersecurity, among other issues, and the embassy revealed its hope that this could eventually lead to better cooperation between the two countries.

“We hope that the American side will abandon the practice of unfounded accusations and focus on professional work with Russian experts to strengthen international information security,” the statement said.

Following the Geneva summit, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov revealed that Moscow sent more than 40 appeals to Washington regarding American cyberattacks, but received very few responses.

July 2, 2021 Posted by | Russophobia | , | 4 Comments