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13 May 2017

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b

I mostly agree with Alastair in his take.

I pointed to a WSJ piece yesterday at my site. It showed some signs of cooperation "lower to the ground". The U.S. and its Kurdish proxies will take Raqqa but it will go back to the Syrian government. The core sentences: "We won’t be in Raqqa in 2020, but the regime will be there.”
In exchange the Syrian government and the Russian government endorsed the SDF. Trump will get his needed victory day at Raqqa.

I believe that the quotes in the piece further mean "no occupation of east-Syria by U.S. forces" in exchange for "the Kurds will have some autonomy".


Now we can wait for the various actors"(Pentagon, Saudis, Turks) trying to sabotage that scheme.

Account Deleted

Posts like this are the reason SST has recently become essential reading for me. Many thanks to Colonel Lang for sharing this. If Mr Crooke is right there appears to be good reason to be more hopeful for the future of Syria and the wider ME.

I note that the Israeli position is missing from this otherwise comprehensive assessment. With Hezbollah advancing towards the Jordanian border at al-Tanf as I write, I'd be interested to know whether we can expect the collective diplomatic magic to have worked on Bibi too. Tactical wrenches are one thing, but Israel surely retains the capability to stick a dirty great strategic one into the works if it is minded to do so.

ann

This article states that the US is arming the militants. Hopefully, it is incorrect. There is the possibility that the CIA or some other group with its capability did not get the directive to leave Assad in power.

http://en.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13960223000712

LeaNder

The encounter with reports or takes on the White House meeting between Trump and Lavov by US media surely was one of the more bizarre moments in my life.

But yes, no doubt, if Trump manages to keep US journalist's focus on minor matters, like one or the other photo of the standard handshake missing, while breaking the US - Russia ice, that sure would be a step ahead.

Admittedly, I doubt I would have voted him, but that was the issue in which he absolutely trumped Hillary.

Babak Makkinejad

Alastair Crooke:

Algeria is supplying oil to SAR.

Valissa

Great post, thanks!
Some related links and excerpts... it appears Henry Kissinger has been actively advising Trump on Russia and ME foreign policy.

More from MK Bhadrakumar …
Trump Ignores Status Quo Apologists to Engage Russia http://www.atimes.com/article/trump-ignores-status-quo-apologists-engage-russia/
The US President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to sack FBI Director James Comey probably had nothing to do with the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the November election. But its timing – as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov flew into Washington for Trump’s first meeting with a top Kremlin official – was highly symbolic.

It conveyed Trump’s confidence that the narrative in Washington Beltway, which so far frustrated his grand design to open a new chapter in US-Russia relations in a spirit of constructive engagement, has changed in his favour.

...Therefore, Trump has retrieved his road map from the attic. The presence of Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office for an unscheduled meeting with Trump just before Lavrov walked in – accompanied by the famous “Russian spy” Ambassador Sergey Kislayk – has been a deliberate ‘curtain raiser’. Kissinger has longstanding personal equations with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, and of course the grey cardinal of US diplomacy had engineered the era of détente with the Soviet Union.

The first meeting between Trump and Putin in July in Hamburg promises to be historic.
------------------

More on this subject by Gilbert Doctorow...
Trump Outmaneuvers the Media — and Sets the Stage for Détente With Russia - Trump shows that he hasn't folded to the anti-Russia war hawks just yet http://russia-insider.com/en/politics/trump-outmaneuvers-media-and-sets-stage-detente-russia/ri19810
Against this background of growing dismay and fear for our country and the world by those of us in the pro-détente camp, it was quite remarkable to see that two days ago, on 10 May, Donald Trump held meetings  in the Oval Office with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, and with Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak, who otherwise is at the center of the storms over “Russiagate.” 

... The bombing, the huffing and puffing over North Korea had one primary objective: to shut up the opponents to Trump in the media and on Capitol Hill, and to give him breathing room to finally achieve something significant on his domestic agenda. 

... The correlation between the 6 April cruise missile strike in Syria and the latest developments in U.S.-Russian dialogue at the highest levels is not something you might expect from a President and an administration that has come in from the business world and has no hands-on experience in government, not to mention in the very special environment of international relations.  Here is where we have to take very seriously the mention in the same Financial Times coverage cited above that Henry Kissinger is frequently consulted by the President these days.  And pointedly, at the meeting with the press two days ago in which Trump responded to questions about the firing of Comey, Henry K. was ensconced comfortably in an armchair just next to the President.

I believe that the bombing of the Shayrat air base, under any pretext, real or manufactured, was precisely the kind of policy that Kissinger would have supported, and possibly would have authored to drive back the hyena-like press and political enemies who had formed a circle around Trump in the period immediately preceding the strike.

... The visit of Angela Merkel to Putin’s residence in Sochi on 2 May was a warm-up exercise. Merkel had her own domestic political reasons for coming, to counter the accusations of her political opponents in the coming federal elections that she was responsible for ruining relations with Russia. But surely the visit was also used to clue-in Merkel, and the European Union behind her, to Russian initiatives under way among the participants in the Syrian conflict.

That same evening, Putin had a phone call with Donald Trump which focused on Syria.  Still more importantly, the next day President Erdogan arrived in Sochi for agreement of the common Russian-Turkish positions at the direct talks in Astana, Kazakhstan between the warring parties in Syria that have been far more substantial and results-oriented than the US and EU sponsored talks in Geneva that get all of the attention of Western media.
--------------

What I found interesting was that Trump was included in the meeting and appeared he was a very active participant. The photos of Trump and Lavrov and other meeting attendees came primarily from Russian media (Tass) and in them both Trump and Lavrov looked very pleased to be there.

In this piece about Trump's recent twitter attacks, a particularly intriguing tweet.

Donald Trump spent the day savaging his critics on Twitter http://theduran.com/donald-trump-spent-the-day-savaging-his-critics-on-twitter/
The opening salvo started with this. "Yesterday, on the same day - I had meetings with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the foreign minister of Ukraine Pavlo Klimkin. LETS MAKE PEACE!"[this tweet includes a photo of Trump and Lavrov, and a photo of Trump and Klimkin]

... The Kiev regime is penniless and frankly brainless. Since Trump appears to be less ideologically inclined to offer them the kind of support his predecessor did, it is likely that the Kiev regime’s collapse is now a question of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.

Because of this, the message of ‘peace’ ought to be understood as a coded term meaning, ‘it is perfectly okay to speak with Russia’.
---------------------

Looks like Trump is using Kissinger to trump at least one of his generals ;)

It's easy to underestimate Trump because of his public persona. Playing this part a good strategy for him since he's not a "smooth and cool guy" like Obama and I'm sure he's aware of that. Trump is crazy like a fox and his enemies underestimate him at their own peril.

Sam Peralta

Valissa

If Trump is able to achieve detente with Russia despite the Russia hysteria here at home, it will be huge!

I am curious how the Izzie/Saudi axis is playing this as they punch well above their weight with massive influence in our MSM and Congress as well as the establishment of both parties.

As I noted in an earlier thread my bet is that Trump will not only not be impeached but will win a second term.

Annem

If Trump and Putin have indeed played his cards as Crooke says, I suspect they have already started working a deal with Israel. What the cost will be, including for the Palestinians, is what we will also have to wait to find out. Any deal with Israel would mean that Israel would have to abandon its sporadic[?] to the jihadis.

If Hezbollah is moving in the direction of Tanf, it might be that their goal is to challenge the ISIS [?] forces that attacked the Tanf joint base, killing Jordanians and Syrians. If that is the case, who knows? Perhaps Hezbollah has also been included in this grand scheme. It may be a way of clearing out the various jihadis from the southern desert areas ultimately out towards Iraq.

It is worth remembering that King Abdullah told Assad that any troops trained in or helped via his country would be aimed at ISIS/AQ, NOT the SAA and its affiliates.

If all this coordination and cooperation despite regional efforts at sabotage starts working, then perhaps "Team Pragmatic" in the ME can work to end the carnage in Yemen.

Chris Chuba

Trump reminds me of a Crow that gets distracted by bright shiny objects, so I believe that a phone call w/Putin could change his mind. I even believe that he has enough critical thinking skills that the more he speaks w/the Russians and compares it to the drivel that he hears at home, the more he will be able to understand things.

This is why I think that the forces of hell will go into overdrive to keep Trump away from all contact from Putin and the Russians. I am not going to say whether I am speaking figuratively or literally.

Thomas

"This is why I think that the forces of hell will go into overdrive to keep Trump away from all contact from Putin and the Russians. I am not going to say whether I am speaking figuratively or literally."

It is figuratively, because when Satan accuses he follows through with proof to get permission from the Celestial Throne to snag the scummy soul for the full roast and toast treatment.
The pathological human freak show only accuses and never proves because it would reveal who the true doers of the dirty deeds are, and after all why should they prove anything, these Exceptionals are only here To Serve Man, those inferior beings.

Valissa

Sam... I would make the same bet! Tho I will continue to vote 3rd party.

As for Israel and Saudi Arabia... they are long established and powerful allies. That can't be changed overnight, but it does seem their influences may be (very) gradually diminishing. The Russians are masters of diplomacy and have good relations with both of those countries. I would be interested to know what Kissinger is advising about relations with those countries.

Marko

I wonder if the Trump/Putin conversation might have included an elaboration by Putin about his now-comprehensive understanding of the April 4th false-flag , backed by unassailable evidence (e.g.,radar tracks,communication intercepts ,etc.), in such a way that it convinced Trump that either: 1) he had been misled by his own intel/military advisors , or , if Trump already knew that it was a false-flag, 2) the jig was now up and it was Trump's choice - conditional , of course - to decide if the rest of the world should see Putin's evidence.

VietnamVet

Alastair Crooke's commentary seems too good to be true. At its heart, it says that President Trump, Rex Tillerson, the Goldman Sachs men and his Generals can stand down corporate media, global capitalists, Israel and the Gulf Monarchies. I wish them Godspeed.

kooshy

Kissinger is master of formulating détentes, my guess is that’s why his advice was asked, a mutually acceptable détente with Russia and her resistance allies over Middle East, he knows the geopolitics of Russia, Iran, KSA and Israel.

Stumpy

Marko,

Interesting angle. Furthermore, Putin would be clever to keep it under the table thus neutralizing the thrust of the chem story as well as putting Trump deeper in the pocket, the Russian pocket, that is.

Trump's meeting with Lavrov and Kislyak had some great optics, especially in light of Obama's disinvitation to Russian embassy staff back in December. Upcoming meeting with Erdogan completes the triangle.

The Porkchop Express

There were a number of commentators, notably Scott Adams, who made similar points about Hair Furor's over the top machismo and generally asinine behavior; it was all in the service of negotiation. Big (or threatening) opening offer to drive any agreement to the point that he wanted to get to all along.

While I'm still skeptical of Trump's overall behavior, if this is the case then good. Interesting way of getting to the point, but sometimes history leaves us the most bizarre of messengers in the strangest of times. I do, however, resent the idea that we're all supposed to sit back and relax while Trump tries to fix everything single handedly.

And Alastair is right, the Manadarins are going to be doing their utmost to throw as many wrenches into the mix as possible. Whether they succeed or not is anyone's guess. I am curious to hear more about how the Israeli/Saudi nexus is going to react to this and what they will, rest assured, try to do to wrench everything right into a cocked hat. I've not seen any hollering as of yet, other than Turkish agita about the YPG.

confusedponderer

Valissa,
"they are long established and powerful allies"

They are powerful because they are rich, and rent a lot of US influence, and have ideological supporters like McCain, Lindsey Graham and the like.

That 'alliance' doesn't mean they have US interests in their focus or their interests.

And then there is Qatar. And then there is Erdogan's new kingdom.

These four 'allies' are so lost in their more mindless policies that they have become dependent on the US (in case of Qatar, the Saudis) to rescue them when they end up losing - like the trouble the Saudis found in Yemen, or when the Israelis once again habitually bomb some targets in Syria or Lebanon, or the 'accidents' that led Turkey to send uninvited (as in 'invasion') troops ... into Syria and Iraq.

I don't see that the Israelis and the Saudis, or the Qataris and Turks, have come to mind. Their folly likely will continue.

They all do things that are alone in their own self-perceived interest, at the expense of someone else.

Well, it is worth keeping in mind that, after all, 15 of the 19 9/11 murderers had saudi passports. I wonder why. Was that an accident or the result of the religious teaching in the kingdom?

"Saudi Arabia acknowledged for the first time that 15 of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers were Saudi citizens, but said Wednesday that the oil-rich kingdom bears no responsibility for their actions.

Previously, Saudi Arabia had said the citizenship of 15 of the 19 hijackers was in doubt despite U.S. insistence they were Saudis. But Interior Minister Prince Nayef told The Associated Press that Saudi leaders were shocked to learn 15 of the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia."

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/2002/02/06/saudi.htm

Ah yes. Quite shocking ... they came from ... an ally country? 'So scary' ... perhaps that's ... 'fake news'? Ah, whatever, it's ... 'so sad'.

As if to add humour to misery, the Saudis said that the 'kingdom bears no responsibility for their actions' on 9/11. Of course. That is because such things just ... happen ... in their country. Well, perhaps not accidentally.

I'll close that with this:

“Thank God for the Saudis and Prince Bandar, and for our Qatari friends.” Senator John McCain
...
McCain was praising Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then the head of Saudi Arabia’s intelligence services and a former ambassador to the United States, for supporting forces fighting Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria. McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham had previously met with Bandar to encourage the Saudis to arm Syrian rebel forces.

But shortly after McCain’s Munich comments, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah relieved Bandar of his Syrian covert-action portfolio, which was then transferred to Saudi Interior Minister Prince Mohammed bin Nayef. By mid-April, just two weeks after President Obama met with King Abdullah on March 28, Bandar had also been removed from his position as head of Saudi intelligence—according to official government statements, at “his own request.” Sources close to the royal court told me that, in fact, the king fired Bandar over his handling of the kingdom’s Syria policy and other simmering tensions, after initially refusing to accept Bandar’s offers to resign.
...
The Free Syrian Army (FSA), the “moderate” armed opposition in the country, receives a lot of attention. But two of the most successful factions fighting Assad’s forces are Islamist extremist groups: Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the latter of which is now amassing territory in Iraq and threatening to further destabilize the entire region. And that success is in part due to the support they have received from two Persian Gulf countries: Qatar and Saudi Arabia.

Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

ISIS, in fact, may have been a major part of Bandar’s covert-ops strategy in Syria.

http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/isis-saudi-arabia-iraq-syria-bandar/373181/

Yes, so it may be, or not. But if that is true, then the Saudis finance and support ISIS and are feeding a monster that will end up coming to bite them, too. Will the Saudis come to see that as ... a 'so sad' 'fake news', yet another odd accident' ... that just happened? Probably.

David Habakkuk

Marko,

You clearly have not read what the Russian Ambassador to the UK, Alexander Yakovenko, wrote in the ‘Telegraph’ on 11 May. An extract:

‘In our view, it is a fair assumption that sarin could have been used in Khan Sheikhoun. The question is who did it and how the toxic substance was delivered. A few versions exist. As the information is accumulated there is more and more grounds to think that the terrorists controlling this area blew up the home-built sarin munition on the ground which resulted in civilian casualties. The “White Helmets” acted too hastily to stir public outrage and posted pre-prepared materials on the internet. However, they made several bad mistakes which point to the staged nature of those materials. In contrast to some other countries who are in a hurry to blame Damascus, we don’t insist on our version, but we believe it should be taken into account.’

(See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/2017/05/11/russian-ambassador-uk-need-full-investigation-chemical-weapons/ )

If you – and anyone else – want to grasp why the Russians, and others, may have been confused about what actually happened at Khan Sheikhoun, you could usefully look at a piece on the ‘Monitor on Massacre Marketing’ site entitled ‘Idlib Chemical Massacre: The When and Where’, which is largely based on material collated on the ‘A Closer Look On Syria’ site.

(See http://libyancivilwar.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/idlib-chemical-massacre-when-and-where.html ; http://acloserlookonsyria.shoutwiki.com/wiki/Alleged_Chemical_Attack_Khan_Sheikhoun_4_April_2017 .)

Incidentally, can I take it from the absence of a denial when I first made the suggestion that you are actually Marko Attila Hoare?

If you are, people here should know it. But I really would not want to accuse anybody of having been a ‘Greater Europe Section Co-Director of the Henry Jackson Society’, or indeed a signatory of the ‘Euston Manifesto’, unjustly.

Valissa

VV, remember that many of the global capitalists want to do more business in Russia, especially Big Oil. I expect most of the corporate elites would support Trump in removing sanctions and opening up Russian markets for them. I'd be willing to bet that Goldman already does business in Russia, very carefully. As no group is a monolith, there are still corporations making more profit due to the sanctions and war mongering, such as big chunks of the MIC.

Furthermore, there are still some FP realists in the Borg, though there numbers appear small (perhaps there are more that are staying silent for career reasons). And there continue to be few articles here and there authored by realists in the standard FP journals. Kissinger probably still respected by much the Borg.

Between the global capitalists that want to engage economically/financially with Russia and the realists still remaining in the Borg, and a president that is actively pushing detente the odds are improved for that to happen.

Valissa

CP, you make many excellent points about our dubious and problematic allies. I don't disagree with you on this from a moral correctness point of view, but I think you are missing the bigger historical picture and the realities of power relations. This is important because it gives context to why the US is continuing these relationship despite the problems they cause.

For a historical overview...
Israel–United States military relations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel%E2%80%93United_States_military_relations
US has the tallest radar towers in the world in Israel...
Dimona Radar Facility https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dimona_Radar_Facility
Saudi Arabia–United States relations https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saudi_Arabia%E2%80%93United_States_relations

While both Israel and Saudi Arabia cause problems for the US, in addition to the weight of long history, Pax Americana benefits from ME military bases, radar installations, intelligence sharing, and weapons sales. The empire uses these as points of power projection into the ME, so it can more freely meddle in ME affairs. Quid pro quo and qui bono and all that.

Germany plays it's economic empire (within the EU) games too. While many Germans may be happy about the results of that, other members of the EU see Germany as a bully. Merkel is respected by other world leaders because she knows how to play power games too. She does this for the benefit of Germany (in her mind) as well as the benefit of her own ambitions. This is human nature, and the nature of nations or tribes. Some will rise to the top and dominate others below them.

Empires will be empires. Empires play power games. All nations play power games as best they can given their resources and economic status. b=But once a nation becomes an empire, dominance and influence become even more imperative. This is historically normal. I may personally disapprove of the cruel harshness of the dominance behaviors of an empire (of whatever kind) but that is meaningless in the greater scheme as reality is what it is.

I "converted" to realism some years back when I finally realized that idealism based FP and power projection games cause more death and destruction in the long run. I cannot wish away the fact that the US is an empire. I can only hope the empire doesn't do too much stupid shit. I prefer to deal with facts as they are and avoid emotional/moral judgements so I can try to minimize biases in analysis. My goal is understanding why things are the way they are. This greatly helps with my inner peace... unrealistic expectations are a ceaseless source of angst and frustration.

kooshy

IMO, at the end of the day the military/security personnel who understand war and cost of war make the recommendations that counts most, we have seen happen numerously especially when the war is with a worthy opponent no matter how much neocons and their subordinates push for one. Iran 2007 comes in mind. As well as Syria a few years back.

Valissa

Tillerson rocks! a very smooth rock too ;)
[my inner realist's heart is a-flutter]

Tillerson responds to McCain: ‘I make a distinction between values and policy’ http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/333349-tillerson-responds-to-mccain-attack-i-make-a-distinction-between
This Sunday, on NBC's "Meet The Press," Tillerson sought to clarify his remarks.

"America's values of freedom, of treatment of people, human dignity, freedom of expression throughout the world, those are our values," Tillerson said.
"Those are enduring values. They are part of everything we do."

Tillerson said those values serve as "the guidepost" and "the boundaries as we develop our foreign policy approaches and our diplomatic efforts."

"But I make a distinction between values and policy," he said.

"A policy has to be tailored to the individual situation. To the country. To its circumstances. To the broader issues that we are addressing in terms of advancing our national security interest, our national economic interest."
The country's policies, he said, have to be adaptable and they have to change. The same isn't true for its values, he said.

"Our values can never change. Our values can never be put in a position of having to be compromised," he said.

"And so the values guide our policy, but if we put our values in the front of our policies and say, 'This is our policy,' we have no room to adapt to changing circumstances to achieve our ultimate objective," he continued.

"And I think if we are successful in achieving our ultimate diplomatic and national security objectives, we will create the conditions for the advancement of freedom in countries all over the world."

Tillerson also said he has great respect for the Arizona Republican.
-------

The classy f-u to McCain at the end is good too.

Patrick Armstrong

Let me drop my hypothesis about the Syria strikes into the discussion. I see nothing in the succeeding month to falsify it.

https://patrickarmstrong.ca/2017/04/12/the-us-missile-strike-on-syria-a-theatrical-production-for-the-simple-minded/6

Account Deleted

This was an excellent piece Mr Armstrong. It has been speculated by another SST contributor (Valissa I think) that the Kissinger's advice may have been behind the mini shock & awe misdirection display. It certainly seemed to have the desired effect on the target audience in the immediate aftermath. However, Trump has undone the benefit somewhat with his more recent actions - all discussed at length in other posts here.

Account Deleted

CJTFOIR just confirmed a strike against Assad forces (first time this has happened?) advancing on Al-Tanf. They say was despite Russia trying to stop the advance and was inside DEZ (must have different map to the ones I've seen).

https://twitter.com/CJTFOIR/status/865264099244036097

pl,

Any chance of a new post to discuss implications of this, as it seems to be a major development?

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