Thursday, 24 September 2015

The New Cold War - 09/23/2015

Stephen F. Cohen on the new cold war



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Endgame: Putin Plans To Strike ISIS With Or Without The U.S.


23 September, 2015

On Sunday, we noted that Washington’s strategy in Syria has now officially unravelled.

John Kerry, speaking from London following talks with British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond, essentially admitted over the weekend that Russia’s move to bolster the Assad regime at Latakia effectively means that the timing of Assad’s exit is now completely indeterminate. Here’s how we summed up the situation:







Moscow, realizing that instead of undertaking an earnest effort to fight terror in Syria, the US had simply adopted a containment strategy for ISIS while holding the group up to the public as the boogeyman par excellence, publicly invited Washington to join Russia in a once-and-for-all push to wipe Islamic State from the face of the earth. Of course The Kremlin knew the US wanted no such thing until Assad was gone, but by extending the invitation, Putin had literally called Washington’s bluff, forcing The White House to either admit that this isn’t about ISIS at all, or else join Russia in fighting them. The genius of that move is that if Washington does indeed coordinate its efforts to fight ISIS with Moscow, the US will be fighting to stabilize the very regime it sought to oust. 

Revelations (which surprised no one but the Pentagon apparently) that Moscow is coordinating its efforts in Syria with Tehran only serve to reinforce the contention that Assad isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, and the US will either be forced to aid in the effort to destroy the very same Sunni extremists that it in some cases worked very hard to support, or else admit that countering Russia and supporting Washington’s regional allies in their efforts to remove Assad takes precedence over eliminating ISIS. Because the latter option is untenable for obvious reasons, Washington has a very real problem on its hands - and Vladimir Putin just made it worse.

As Bloomberg reports, The Kremlin is prepared to launch unilateral strikes against ISIS targets if the US is unwilling to cooperate. Here’s more: 







President Vladimir Putin, determined to strengthen Russia’s only military outpost in the Middle East, is preparing to launch unilateral airstrikes against Islamic State from inside Syria if the U.S. rejects his proposal to join forces, two people familiar with the matter said.
Putin’s preferred course of action, though, is for America and its allies to agree to coordinate their campaign against the terrorist group with Russia, Iran and the Syrian army, which the Obama administration has so far resisted, according to a person close to the Kremlin and an adviser to the Defense Ministry in Moscow.
Russian diplomacy has shifted into overdrive as Putin seeks to avoid the collapse of the embattled regime of Bashar al-Assad, a longtime ally who’s fighting both a 4 1/2 year civil war and Sunni extremists under the banner of Islamic State. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu flew to Moscow for talks with Putin on Monday, followed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday.
Putin’s proposal, which Russia has communicated to the U.S., calls for a “parallel track” of joint military action accompanied by a political transition away from Assad, a key U.S. demand, according to a third person. The initiative will be the centerpiece of Putin’s one-day trip to New York for the United Nations General Assembly on Sept. 28, which may include talks with President Barack Obama.
Russia is hoping common sense will prevail and Obama takes Putin’s outstretched hand,” said Elena Suponina, a senior Middle East analyst at the Institute of Strategic Studies, which advises the Kremlin. “But Putin will act anyway if this doesn’t happen.”

And that, as they say, it that. Checkmate.

The four-year effort to oust Assad by first supporting and then tolerating the rise of Sunni extremists (presaged in a leaked diplomatic cable) has failed and the Kremlin has officially served a burn notice on a former CIA “strategic asset.”
There are two things to note here. 

First, Russia of course is fully aware that the US has never had any intention of eradicating ISIS completely. As recently as last week, Moscow’s allies in Tehran specifically accused Washington of pursuing nothing more than a containment policy as it relates to ISIS, as allowing the group to continue to operate in Syria ensures that the Assad regime remains under pressure. 

Second, even if Russia does agree to some manner of managed transition away from Assad,you can be absolutely sure that Moscow is not going to risk the lives of its soldiers (not to mention its international reputation) only to have the US dictate what Syria’s new government looks like and indeed, Tehran will have absolutely nothing of a regime that doesn’t perpetuate the existing Mid-East balance of power which depends upon Syria not falling to the West. Additionally - and this is also critical - Russia will of course be keen on ensuring that whoever comes after Assad looks after Russia’s interests at its naval base at Tartus. This means that even if the US, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are forced to publicly support a managed transition, Washington, Riyadh, and Doha will privately be extremely disappointed with the outcome which begs the following question: what will be the next strategy to oust Assad and will it be accompanied by something even worse than a four-year-old bloody civil war and the creation of a band of black flag-waving militants bent on re-establishing a medieval caliphate?


The Obama Two-Step on Syria
by AJAMU BARAKA

obamajordan


23 September, 2015


It was a pathetic spectacle, another black face in a high place in the person of General Lloyd J. Austin III, head of the United States Central Command, came before the Senate’s Armed Services Committee to report to incredulous members that the 500 million dollar program to train 5000 so-called moderate rebels in Syria had only resulted in the training of a few dozen.

He went on to report that of that number, half had already been either captured, or some say “integrated,” into the al-Qaeda’s official Syrian affiliate, the al-Nusra Front, leaving just four or five individuals in what must be a record for the most expensive training process in human history.

With howls of criticism coming from right-wing democrats and republicans, the impression developing in congress and the general public is that similar to the debacle that Iraq and Afghanistan became for George Bush, Syria is Obama’s foreign policy нdisaster.

Strangely however, while General Austin was falling on his sword on front of the Senate committee, spokespersons for Barack Obama were busy telling anyone who would listen that President Obama could not be blamed for the calamity unfolding in Syria.

The White House claimed that it is not to blame on the training issue. In what some are calling his “the devil made me do it” defense, Josh Earnest, the White House press secretary argued that the finger should be pointed at those who convinced President Obama to get directly involved in training Syrian rebels, including by implication the former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.

And on the general Syrian issue, the Administration appears to be trying to put distance between itself and its own policies.

But facts can be stubborn things, even when the interpretative framework for assessing facts is different. For many of us, the historical record is clear – this war was/is Mr. Obama’s. And what we are witnessing in Syria today is the human and political consequences of his administration’s decision to embrace a policy of regime change in Syria.

Plan A: Regime Change; Plan B: the Destruction and Dismembering of the Syria State and Society

This notion that Obama was a reluctant warrior who only got involved in Syria recently is a fiction.

From the very beginning of the phony Arab spring actions in Syria, it was not even necessary for former general Wesley Clark to reveal that Syria was on a hit-list of governments slated for subversion to see the reactionary presence of U.S. intelligence agencies in the “rebellion” in Syria.

Former French Foreign Minister, Roland Dumas blew the whistle on
Western war plans against Syria, long before the first “spontaneous” protests erupted in 2011. While Dumas told a story of British and French intrigue, it was always clear that those two sub-imperialist nations would not have been engaged in anything of that magnitude and sensitivity without a green light from the U.S. hegemon.

WikiLeaks conformed those plans when it released over 7000 secret diplomatic cables that documented that from 2006 to 2010, the US spent 12 million dollars in order to support and instigate demonstrations and propaganda against the Syrian government.

Millions were spent to support dissident groups and for disinformation campaigns targeting the corporate media in the U.S. and Western Europe.

Once the destabilization plan was launched reports in the alternative press immediately emerged of CIA involvement with illicit arms being funneled to Syria opposition fighters, including tons of equipment from Libya that had been destroyed by NATO forces.

Seymour Hersh the Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporterrevealed that President Obama and the Turkish PM, Erdogan concluded a secret deal in the beginning of 2012 in which the CIA and the British M16 would move heavy weapons out of Libya to supply the Free Syrian Army. This was the activity that Chris Stevens, the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, was providing political cover for in Benghazi when the CIA annex and diplomatic compound was attacked by one of the disaffected armed groups that the U.S. was dealing with.

Those reports became so wide-spread in media outlets globally that finally even the New York Times could no longer avoid the reports and ran a story that essentially corroborated reports of CIA involvement in support of Syrian opposition forces.

But clearly the most damaging information that revealed the extent of the Obama’s administration moral complicity with the carnage that it unleased in Syria was the report from the Defense Intelligence Agency ( DIA) written in 2012 that clearly documented that “the Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI [Al- Qaeda in Iraq] are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria,” being supported by “the West, Gulf countries and Turkey.” And like the report that exposed that white terrorist organizations represented a major threat to domestic security in the U.S., this report was also ignored by the administration.

When retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn, former head of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), was asked why the Obama administration didn’t act on his agency’s concerns, his response was that the administration apparently decided to ignore the findings, “I think it was a willful decision.”

The DIA report was ignored because the Obama Administration had already decided on its course of action. The strategy that the administration was implementing was detailed in another piece of reporting by Seymour Hersh

Hersh revealed that the strategy first formulated in the latter years of the Bush administration and carried over into the Obama Administration, was that radical jihadists would be used in a manner similar to how they were used in Afghanistan in the 80s, as the “boots on the ground” for the U.S. in Syria.

Embracing this strategy was not a very difficult one for the Administration, especially since Obama and many others in his administration believed that the creation of a “moderate” force of what Obama divisively referred to as former doctors, farmers and pharmacists capable of dislodging Assad was a fantasy.

The geo-strategic objective for the Obama Administration was regime change, therefore, the plan implemented for that objective had nothing to do with wanting to liberate Syrians. In their cynical calculations, eliminating al-Assad outweighed any considerations for the longer term interests of the Syrian people. For the cold-hearted strategists of the Obama Administration, the talk of a people’s revolution was only a ploy to obscure their real intentions and confuse liberals and even some leftists.

The Administration peddled the outrageous fiction that there was a viable force of so-called moderates in Syria that they were supporting at the same time that they knew that the al-Nusra Front, and the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) had emerged as the central forces in the anti-Assad insurgency.

And by early 2013 when it became clear that the al-Assad government would not surrender, the destruction and dismemberment of the Syria State became the goal of U.S. policy. The impact that this decision would have on the people of Syria was of no concern for U.S. planners.

It would not be an exaggeration to argue that despite whatever contradictions existed in Syria, and there were many, without the subversion by the U.S./EU/NATO axis of domination and its allies, it is highly unlikely that any social upheaval that might have developed in the country as part of a pro-democracy movement would have reached the scale of suffering experience by the people of Syria today.

No, the devil did not make Obama engage in the incredible cynicism that sacrificed an ancient culture and the lives of so many. It was the imperatives of empire and the ethical position that Westerners have the right to determine the leadership of states and what lives have value.

Being the self-centered narcissist and operating from a colonialist, Eurocentric mindset, Obama is now taking a familiar position that European imperialists have taken for years after committing unspeakable crimes against humanity – they feign innocence.

But this is Obama’s war and while he may escape prosecution as the war criminal that he is, the consequences and moral condemnation that it has generated is inescapable. It is his legacy, a legacy written in blood that no amount of slick public relations will be able to erase from the pages of history. 

Ajamu Baraka is a human rights activist, organizer and geo-political analyst. Baraka is an Associate Fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington, D.C. and editor and contributing columnist for the Black Agenda Report. He is a contributor to “Killing Trayvons: An Anthology of American Violence” (CounterPunch Books, 2014). He can be reached atwww.AjamuBaraka.com

Putin: Does anyone even listen to us?


Putin answers questions from a US journalist in relation to his intentions of getting along with the US





Moscow's Moves in Syria: 5 Messages Russia Is Sending to the World

Nikolas K. Gvosdev



11 September, 2015


As Russian ships and planes continue to deposit additional personnel and equipment in Syria, here are five geopolitical messages Russian president Vladimir Putin is sending to the world:

One: Reports of Russia’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. In other words, the narrative that Western sanctions plus falling oil prices combined with China’s economic slowdown have brought the Kremlin to the edge of collapse is quite premature. Russia has only a fraction of U.S. global power projection capabilities but in its ability to send forces to Syria it still ranks among a select few countries—with more European countries prepared to fall off that list—who can send and sustain military forces beyond their immediate borders. The Kremlin is clearly signaling that it plans to take an active role in setting the agenda in the Middle East—and not to passively accept an American vision for how the future should unfold.

Second: Putin is making it clear that he will not accept Washington's default position that the removal of a brutal strongman from power is a path to greater long-term stability in the Middle East. And while the United States and Europe continue to debate their next moves, particularly in the wake of the migrant crisis, Russia is prepared to act on its assessment that more direct military assistance to aid Assad in combating the Islamic State is the best way to end the conflict. Putin has repeatedly indicated that if the goal of Western policy is to reduce the flow of refugees and decrease the threat of Islamic terrorism gaining a new Afghanistan-style base of operations, then the experience of Iraq and Libya suggests that overthrowing Assad and hoping the opposition can form a more effective and stable state administration will not achieve these ends. Having reached this conclusion, Putin is uninterested in asking for the West's permission or Washington's blessing.

Third: Russia is more confident of its position in Ukraine. The uptick in violence over the summer has receded, with the cease-fire again largely appearing to be holding. At the same time, Ukraine’s ongoing domestic political and economic woes suggest that there will be no major breakthrough that will solidify the Maidan revolution and put the country on an irreversible path towards closer integration with the Euro-Atlantic world. Instead, things appear to be settling down into a protracted frozen conflict where Moscow retains most of the leverage.

Forth: The Kremlin enforces its red lines. Just as Moscow would not permit the separatists to face catastrophic defeat last summer in Ukraine, Russia has signaled that it will not sit by and allow Bashar al- Assad to be overthrown or removed by outside military action. With more Russian forces on the ground, and reportedly augmenting Assad's air defense capabilities, the risk calculus for any sort of U.S. or NATO action against Assad's government has dramatically increased. Even more limited proposals; such as enforcing a no-fly zone to create protected space on the ground for refugees now opens up the possibility for a clash with Russian forces.

And Fifth: Russia's willingness to put "boots on the ground" in Syria, in contrast to a increasingly desperate search on Washington's part for local proxies willing and able to fight both Assad and ISIS and the reluctance of key U.S. allies to take on more of the burden, serves several purposes. It reassures Russian partners that Moscow is prepared to meet its pledges even if there is a cost in terms of resources, lives, and reputation. This has not gone unnoticed in places like Egypt and Azerbaijan, where governments question the depth of the American commitment to their well-being. For Middle Eastern countries that have opposed Russian policy in Syria, Putin's decision to up the ante may lead them to reassess whether the path to a viable settlement resides not in Washington, soon to be increasingly distracted by an election campaign, but through Moscow.

Putin's decision reflects an assessment that the risk of greater Russian involvement in Syria is outweighed by the dangers to Russian interests if Assad should fall. Russia will not be persuaded by strongly worded demarches to reverse its deployment. The United States, in charting its response, needs to be guided by a similar calculation of the ends it hopes to achieve with the means it is prepared to commit.




Russia Could Scrap INF Treaty If US Deploys New Nuclear Bombs to Germany
Moscow could drop out of a Soviet-era nuclear treaty with Washington if the United States moves new B61-12 guided nuclear bombs to Germany, the chairman of Russia's upper chamber defense and security committee said Wednesday.


23 September, 2015

MOSCOW (Sputnik) — German media reported on Tuesday that the United States would station 20 next-generation nuclear weapons at the Buechel military air base in western Germany, information obtained from a line item included in the 2015 US budget.

"Should they follow through on this decision, this could prompt Russia to exit the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty," Viktor Ozerov told RIA Novosti.

The United States and Russia signed the INF Treaty in 1987 to eliminate the threat of nuclear missiles capable of striking targets on the European continent.

Washington's deployment of nuclear weapons in Germany disrupts the balance in Europe, and Moscow will have to respond, the Kremlin spokesperson said.

Following German media reports, US Department of Defense spokesman Army Lt. Col. Joe Sowers told Sputnik that Washington believed that its nuclear weapon deployments were fully compliant with US treaty obligations.

The Russian Foreign Ministry expressed concern about upgraded US nuclear deployment plans, saying this would also infringe on the 1970 nuclear non-proliferation treaty, ratified by more than 190 states



Kremlin promises ‘counter-steps’ in reply to US deploying nuclear weapons to Germany


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