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Will Syria’s Kurds join with Israel and the U.S.?

kurdnasLogoHiSherkoh Abbas , President of the Kurdistan National Assembly of Syria (KURDNAS), raised in  a recent Jns.com article the tantalizing prospect of a Kurdish- Israel- US Alliance to complete the work of destroying the Islamic State, “Are Syrian Kurds the missing ingredient in the West’s recipe to defeat Islamic State?” The thoughts expressed in this article reflect a recent conversation the author held with Sherkoh Abbas and Dr. Mordechai Nisan, author of  Minorities in the Middle East: A History of Struggle and Self-Expression.

The Kurds have earned political and military capital in both Iraq and Syria as the most effective boots on the ground combating the extremist Salafism of the Islamic State. This largest non Arab ethnic group in the Middle East has long been denied the promised statehood at the Versailles conference of 1919 that ended the First World War and the Lausanne Treaty of 1923 that established the modern Republic of Turkey.

Nevertheless, the Kurds have been resilient despite numerous tragic setbacks in their history over the past century. The establishment of a no fly zone in northern Iraq under US auspices led to the creation the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) and its much praised fighting force, the Peshmerga.

Further, it demonstrated the capabilities of the Kurds to govern themselves, overcoming internal differences and external geo- political threats from a hegemonic Iran and the Ba’athist regime of the late Saddam Hussein. Having vast energy resources helped to fuel the KRG’s development. KRG’s Peshmerga exemplary role in the current battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, in coordination with Iraqi national security and US forces, demonstrated its proficiency. Its humanity was demonstrated providing safe havens for Yazidis, Chaldean Christians and other ethnic non Muslim minorities that brought the KRG global recognition and respect.

On the surface the situation in Syrian Kurdistan, while complicated, has the potential for fostering the development of an autonomous Kurdish region extending across northern Syria from the KRG frontier to the Mediterranean, despite the objections of Erdogan’s Turkey.

We only have to look at recent actions by both Russia and the US. Russia and the YPG concluded an arrangement potentially protecting the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in Northwest Syria. Further, Russian meetings with Syrian Kurdish representatives in Moscow have evinced Kremlin interest in a federalized Syria in any agreement to end the seven year civil war with the Assad regime. After WWII, the Russians established a short-lived Kurdish Republic in Mahabad, Iran.  US Army Brig. General (ret.) Ernie Audino in our December 2015 New English Review interview, “No War Against ISIS Without the Kurds”, noted that history:

The well-educated and well-respected Qazi Muhammad was elected to serve as president of the Mahabad Republic, history’s first and only sovereign, Kurdish state. Knowing he needed a capable army to protect the state he requested help from the great Kurdish nationalist, Mustafa Barzani, who showed up with 5,000 of his peshmerga. During this period, a son was born to Barzani who named him, Masud. That son is now Masud Barzani, the current President of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq.

The U.S. has acted as an umpire between Turkish forces of President Erdogan and Islamist Sunni opposition militia from entering Manbij, liberated by the YPG on the west bank of the Euphrates River.

Moreover, the US sent a message to Ankara that it was backing the YPG led Syrian Democratic Force in the battle to retake the Islamic State administrative capital of Raqqa. The Pentagon has dispatched a US Marine artillery unit. It also alerted a reinforced brigade of the 82nd Airborne Division for possible deployment in Syria.

On the political side of the Syrian Kurdish conundrum there is the daunting task of unifying the tribes, political parties, and the Kurdish National Council.

As Sherkoh Abbas of KURDNAS has pointed out that will require the delinking of the YPG/PYD leadership from outreach and involvement with the PKK, the Assad regime, Iran’s Qods Force, and its proxy, the Iraqi Hashd Shiite Popular Mobilization Force militia. There are indications that the YPG/PYD might consider doing this if there were US, Russian and potentially, Israeli auspices.

Israeli PM Netanyahu, a year and a half ago, issued a statement supporting the establishment of an independent Kurdish state in the region; welcomed by the Kurdish communities.

The benefits would include having a reliable ally in a post Assad Syria with both political and military capacities and a secure source of oil to meet the Jewish nation’s growing domestic and regional demand.

Israel has to take an important step to achieve these desirable results. It has to reach out to both the Syrian Kurds and the Trump Administration to recognize the significant Kurdish role in the final destruction of the Islamic State threatening the security of Israel’s northern Golan frontier.

If that succeeds then both the US and Israel would have an important stable alliance with the largest non Arab ethnic polity in the troubled Middle East.  With the defeat of the Islamic State, that would turn attention to reining in the threat posed by a hegemonic Iran. With the possibility of a triple entente composed of both Iraqi and Syrian Kurdistans, Israel and the US, it raises the future prospect of fostering regime change in Tehran giving rise to the aspirations for autonomy of minorities in Iran- the Kurds, Azeri, Ahwaz and Baluch.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.

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Why Democrats are conspiring with the Russians to discredit President Trump

The Democrats keep yelling “the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.” Why?

There have been many theories about the sudden interest on any and all connections between President Trump and his cabinet with the Russians by Democrats. Among these are: the Russians hacked the election, the Russians stole the election from Hillary Clinton, any contact with any Russian official or surrogate is grounds for dismissal or even impeachment.

Perhaps we should look back at what the Obama administration did to appease, if not become a surrogate for, Russia:

  1. Obama abandoned the missile defense system in Europe shelving deployment of U.S. missiles in Poland and the Czech Republic, citing new intelligence that the missile threat from Iran was minimal. Victory: Russia and Iran.
  2. Obama called for a “reset” of Russian/U.S. relations. On 6 March 2009 in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov with a red button with the English word “reset” and the Roman alphabet transliteration of the Russian Cyrillic alphabet word перегрузка (“peregruzka”.) Victory: Russia and Iran.
  3. Obama tells Russian President Dmitry Medvedev more flexibility after the 2012 election. Obama stated that Vladimir Putin should give him more “space” and that “[a]fter my election I have more flexibility.” Victory: Russia, Iran, Syria
  4. Obama’s “red line” in Syria if Assad used chemical weapons. Red line policy ignored when Assad uses chemical weapons a second time. Victory: Russia and Syria.
  5. Finally, Obama’s deal with Iran on development of nuclear weapons. Victory: Iran, Russia and ISIS.

Democrats consider Obama’s Iran deal his signature foreign policy success. Here are Obama’s remarks on the Iran deal:

Obama’s foreign policy has emboldened Russia as the key force in the Middle East and at the same time given Iran the cover it needs to continue its nuclear program. Iran is now the hegemonic power in the Middle East, with the help of Russia, and is training and exporting radical Islamists to do its bidding globally.

As former Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said July 28, 2009, after the latest of six trips to the Gulf in the last 18 months, that “what I hear is, there is greater fear of Iran than there is animus toward Israel.” He added, “So that is almost a predominant sentiment that I’ve noticed throughout most, if not all, of the Gulf states” (Washington Times, July 29, 2009).

pelosi schumer putinThis is the reason that Democrats have tried to tie President Trump’s hands when it comes to Russia.

For if President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson are successful in engaging Russia in the fight against ISIS and if President Trump can decouple Russia from Iran then the Obama foreign policy legacy will be gone. The Iran deal will be no more. Iran will be de-fanged and will not be the threat that it currently is to its Gulf state neighbors such as Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Israel.

Democrats working with the Russians are doing everything they can to put President Trump into a box when it comes to negotiating with Russia. That is good for Russia, Iran and Syria’s Assad.

Democrats want America to be weak in its foreign policy and weak even before President Trump meets with Russian President Putin.

The Democrats, along with Republican Senators John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Marco Rubio are hurting President Trump’s foreign policy initiatives in the Middle East and with Russia. That is the goal.

That is why the Democrats, and perhaps the “Axis of Evil” Republican Senators McCain, Graham and Rubio, are in effect conspiring with the Russians.

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John-McCain

Dear Senator McCain please follow or get out of the way!

Dear Senator John McCain (R-AZ),

You had your chance to become the leader of the free world. You failed. As General George S. Patton said, “Lead me, follow me, or get out of my way.”

Since you are not President of the United States then you have a duty to follow Donald J. Trump as a Republican, based upon your oath to uphold the Constitution and as an American citizen to allow President Trump to conduct foreign policy as he sees fit.

There is a long standing tradition that members of the Senate do not criticize a sitting President overseas.

Speaking in 1947, Senator Arthur Vandenberg (R-MI), the influential chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, provided key support to Democratic President Harry S. Truman and admonished his colleagues that “[W]e must stop partisan politics at the water’s edge.”

You are the current chairman of the Senate Armed Forces Committee. You have a duty to speak with President Trump privately on issues important to you but you have no right to suggest the POTUS is a dictator or dictatorial in a foreign land.

President Trump has the power to conduct U.S. foreign policy under Article II Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution:

He shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur; and he shall nominate, and by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, shall appoint Ambassadors, other public Ministers and Consuls, Judges of the supreme Court, and all other Officers of the United States, whose Appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by Law: but the Congress may by Law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of Law, or in the Heads of Departments.

Please remember President Trump took the oath of office which states, ”I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Gateway Pundit reports that in a February 2017 recording in what appears to be a conversation between Senator McCain with Russian comedians Vladimir Kuznetsov and Alexei Stoliarov — known as Vovan and Lexus — posing as Prime Minister of Ukraine Volodymyr Groysman in a prank phone call, you discussed key national security issues on U.S. policy towards Ukraine and Russia.

Please understand that President Trump won the election. Therefore you are bound by your oath of office and the rules of the Republican Party to follow the lead of President Trump or get out of the way.

Sincerely,

The American People

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U.S. Allows Russia to Send Iran Enough Uranium for 10 Nuclear Weapons

Meanwhile, the U.S. ships fired warning shots toward Iranian fast-attack vessels that were closing in on U.S. ships and refused to slow down.

Russia is sending a large shipment of natural uranium to Iran in exchange for an Iranian shipment to Russia of nuclear reactor coolant. The shipment of 116 metric tons (130 tons) was approved by the United States and the five other countries involved in orchestrating the nuclear deal with Iran.

United Nations Security Council approval of the shipment is expected soon as a formality.

The shipment is enough to make more than 10 simple nuclear bombs, according to David Albright, an expert with the Institute of Science and International Security, “depending on the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”

Two senior diplomats leaked the information to the Associated Press under the condition of anonymity and said they were not authorized to discuss details of the program.

The Iranian shipment is legal under the terms of the nuclear deal and will be “subject to the careful monitoring and inspections that are included in the deal to ensure that Iran is living up to the commitments that they made,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

An upcoming conference this week of representatives from Iran, the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany in Vienna will focus on alleged violations of the nuclear deal by the United States, following Iranian complaints.

Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama sold the nuclear deal to the American people on the understanding that the deal would make it more difficult, rather than easier, for Iran to build nuclear weapons.

At the same time as receiving huge Iranian shipments while complaining about alleged U.S. violations of the nuclear deal, the Iranian navy has come close to combat with U.S. ships in international waters in the Straits of Hormuz.

Iranian fast attack vessels closed in rapidly to a U.S. destroyer on Sunday and ignored repeated warnings to slow down. This forced the destroyer to fire three warning shots at the Iranian ships.

The Iranian vessels came within 900 yards of the ship according to U.S. Defense officials.

“This was an unsafe and unprofessional interaction, and that is due to the fact that they were approaching at a high level of speed with weapons manned and disregarding repeated warnings,”  Captain Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told media.

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EDITORS NOTE: The featured image of a nuclear reactor  is for illustrative purposes only. Photo: © Reuters.

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‘Trust Me’ Doesn’t Cut It on Russian Hacking: This one-sided report smells like a political hatchet job

Here’s the real problem with the joint intelligence report on alleged Russian hacking: without the classified details, we ordinary citizens are supposed to take the breathless allegations, presented as “high confidence” intelligence judgments, on faith.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and CIA Director John Brennan are crossing their fingers and saying, “Trust us.”

Since both are political appointees – Brennan in particular came directly out of the Obama White House, where he is believed to have orchestrated secret arms smuggling through Libya to Syrian rebels that led directly to the Benghazi disaster – excuse me if I remain skeptical.

Has Russia been engaged in sophisticated disinformation operations in the United States? Well, duh. That’s been going on for decades. During the Cold War, as General Clapper reminded the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday, we had a separate United States Information Agency (USIA) at the State Department to combat Soviet intelligence desinformatziya and, to a lesser degree, maskirovka.

The USIA regularly issued bulletins on Soviet deception operations, and traced how they were laundered through predominantly Third World media (India was a big favorite in the 1980s) until they made it into the United States, generally as part of left-wing conspiracy outlets.

A few examples were fabricated stories that the CIA had invented AIDS, or that Korean Air Lines Flight 007, which was shot down by Soviet fighters in 1983, had been flying a covert U.S. intelligence mission. The KGB also planted forged documents to smear American politicians and then “leaked” them to (usually) unwitting journalists.

But that’s not what happened here. If we are to believe the unclassified Russian hacking report, released on Friday, Russian intelligence agents hacked into the DNC and into the Hillary Clinton campaign servers and then turned over emails it exfiltrated to DCleaks.com and to Wikileaks.

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self- proclaimed reputation for authenticity. Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries,” the report stated.

Note that statement: the Russians didn’t spread obvious falsehoods or sophisticated disinformation. They disseminated the truth – stolen documents, yes. But true.

That is one reason why many Americans are having a hard time getting steamed at the Russians for exploiting the stupidity of John Podesta, who responded to a spearphishing attack by emailing his password, which was the word “password.”

Dumber than that, you die… of ridicule.

RNC Chairman Reince Priebus told FoxNews that the RNC reported similar attempts to penetrate its email to the FBI, and was never successfully penetrated. Why? Because they already had common sense security protocols in place.

Nations spy on each other. Democrat operatives need to get over it – or perhaps, just set aside the roach and revive their collective memories. After all, it was just two years ago that President Obama sent his 2012 campaign field director, Jeremy Bird, and four other political operatives to Israel, with orders to help defeat Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu in his March 2015 re-election effort.

That was direct, overt, U.S. government interference in the election of a U.S. ally. But because it was Obama and Netanyahu, Democrats just didn’t get steamed.

By the way, if the Russians could penetrate the Clinton campaign server, what’s to say they didn’t also penetrate the private email server Mrs. Clinton set up to mask her “private” dealings while she was Secretary of State? And yet, the U.S. hacking report never alleges that this happened, nor does it allege that the Russians disclosed classified U.S. documents.

Perhaps that was a red line the Russians didn’t want to cross? Leaking unclassified emails that revealed the hypocrisy of the Clinton team and the Democrat party could arguably be construed as doing the work the U.S. news media failed to do. Leaking classified documents is another matter entirely.

Fully half of the unclassified U.S. report details the activities of RT television, formerly known as Russia Today.

It’s hard to believe that anyone watching RT is not aware of its strong Russia connection. The U.S. report accurately describes how RT unsurprisingly coordinated its propaganda with the Russian state.

What about MSNBC and CNN coordinating their propaganda with a political party, the DNC?

The U.S. report criticizes Russia because “RT coverage of Secretary Clinton throughout the US presidential campaign was consistently negative.” Somehow I missed the report’s criticism of MSNBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post for their “consistently negative” coverage of Donald Trump.

But I get it: that’s because RT is controlled by a foreign state, and those U.S. media organizations are privately owned.

So why doesn’t the U.S. intelligence report criticize other foreign state-owned media organizations, such as the BBC, or TF1 and France 2 in France, that not only broadcast coverage of Donald Trump that was “consistently negative,” but portrayed him as “emotionally unbalanced,” “unhinged,” “incompetent,” “unqualified to be President,” “racist,” “misogynist,” etc.?

The U.S. report announces on page 1 that it “covers the motivation and scope of Moscow’s intentions regarding US elections and Moscow’s use of cyber tools and media campaigns to influence US public opinion.” Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it odd that U.S. intelligence analysts would put their analysis of Russian motivation before the facts. But that’s the way it reads throughout.

One curious omission: the report contains no assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election. While the report claims this is because it’s not the job of the intelligence community to “analyze US political processes or US public opinion,” I can guarantee you that if they had detected a clear impact of the Russian hacking, they would have spread it like butter on toast.

Michael Moore may have influenced more voters in a YouTube clip from his one-man show in Michigan, than RT did in all of its election coverage. The five-minute segment went viral when it was first released; many people thought they were actually watching left-wing ideologue Moore endorse Donald Trump.

Moore of course had no intention of endorsing Trump, but wanted to show his audience that he “understood” the motivation of Trump voters, and that they were “good” people. From the astonished look on the faces of people in the audience, it’s easy to imagine many of these Michigan voters suddenly realizing it was “okay” for them to vote for Trump, even if they traditionally had identified with Democrats.

The omission of any context in the unclassified version of this report, coupled to the breathless tone of its “high-confidence” conclusions and total lack of factual evidence in the public version, makes it appear like a political hatchet job. That in itself does a disservice to the honest, hard-working intelligence gatherers and analysts of the U.S. intelligence community.

EDITORS NOTE: This column first appeared on FrontPage Magazine.

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Trump: Only ‘stupid people’ are against a ‘good’ but ‘respectful’ relationship with Russia

President-elect Trump has once again showed the world and his supporters that he does not seek confrontation but rather respect for the United States of America. Americans and Westerners have more in common with Russia than with other nations that hate us, for example Iran. A good but respectful bilateral relationship with Russia can open the door to dealing with a common enemy – radical Islam.

In a series of tweets the President-elect once again made it clear to outgoing President Obama, Democrats and some bellicose Republicans that a good relationship is not a bad thing with Russia.

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It is clear that President-elect Trump is not caving into the narrative pushed by the Democrats, Obama, legacy media and Republican Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham. The President-elect will not be boxed into a position that is reminiscent of the Cold War era “better dead than red” mindset. The Soviet Union has fallen. Economically Russia is a shadow of the former Soviet Union before its collapse.

Russia’s GDP calculated for purchasing power parity was $3.5 trillion, while Italy’s was $2.1 trillion. So in 2013, Russia had a higher level of economic activity than Italy, but because goods and services are more expensive in Italy, the overall value (nominal GDP) ended up the same. In contrast, the United States is the world’s largest national economy in nominal terms and second largest according to purchasing power parity (PPP), representing 22% of nominal global GDP and 17% of gross world product (GWP). The United States’ GDP was estimated to be $17.914 trillion as of Q2 2015.

In order to make America great again President-elect Trump understands that we must grow our economy, our military and unlike the Obama administration, reengage in the global political arena. Respect comes from strength. Economic, moral and military strength.

If there is a battle to be waged is must be between the free world led by a strong America against those who hate freedom and liberty. That is what it means to make America great again.

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Remembering the 1979 Russian Invasion of Afghanistan: How Democrats created radical Islamic terrorism

Don Hank in an email titled “This is how the terror started (in 1979)” provided this quote:

In his 1993 memoirs [“From the Shadows“], ex-Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Robert Gates revealed that direct CIA involvement in Afghanistan had commenced almost six months before the Soviet invasion. Jimmy Carter signed a presidential decree in July 1979 to covertly aid the Mujahideen insurgents.

Hank then wrote, “And then came Al-Qaeda and the 9-11 attack, and then ISIS and the invasion of Europe. It all seems to have started with the CIA. If you want a war on terror, you have to start with the people who spawned the terror. A true war on terror would include a war on the CIA. It starts with education.”

Hank provided a link to a Daryl Morini, paper dated January 3rd, 2010 titled “Why Did the Soviet Union Invade Afghanistan?.” Morini wrote:

The Soviet intervention in Afghanistan was a costly and, ultimately, pointless war. Historical hindsight has made this evident. However, exactly why the Red Army wound up in direct military conflict, embroiled in a bitter and complicated civil war—some 3,000 kilometres away from Moscow—is a point of historiographical uncertainty. The evidence available suggests that geopolitical calculations were at the top of the Kremlin’s goals. These were arguably to deter US interference in the USSR’s ‘backyard’, to gain a highly strategic foothold in Southwest Asia and, not least of all, to attempt to contain the radical Islamic revolution emanating from Iran. The subsidiary goal of the invasion was to secure an ideologically-friendly régime in the region.

[ … ]

Following the 1970s period of détente between the United States (US) and the Soviet Union, the latter seemed to be in an advantageous strategic position, compared to the post-Vietnam paralysis which plagued its main opponent. Scott McMichael, a military historian, argued that this “turned out largely to be an illusion,” although there is substance to the claim that the Soviet Union was ahead of the game in the lead u p to 1979. This is exemplified by Moscow’s increasing assertiveness in foreign affairs during this period. As a direct result of the so-called ‘Brezhnev doctrine’, the USSR asserted its “right and duty” to go to war in foreign countries “if and when an existing socialist regime was threatened.” [Emphasis added]

Read more…

Is Russia, under Putin, making the same mistake that his predecessors in the Former Soviet Union made by exerting Russia’s “right and duty” to go to war in foreign countries “if an when an existing socialist regime [like Assad’s Syria] was threatened.” According to Wikipedia:

The Ba’ath Party, and indirectly the Syrian Regional Branch, was established on 7 April 1947 by Michel Aflaq (a Christian), Salah al-Din al-Bitar (a Sunni Muslim) and Zaki al-Arsuzi (an Alawite). According to the congress, the party was “nationalist, populist, socialist, and revolutionary” and believed in the “unity and freedom of the Arab nation within its homeland.” 

[ … ]

The party merged with the Arab Socialist Party (ASP), led by Akram al-Hawrani, to establish the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in Lebanon following Adib Shishakli‘s rise to power. [Emphasis added]

Read more…

Has President Obama made the same mistake as Jimmy Carter did in 1979 by arming the anti-Assad Mujahideen insurgents? Is the CIA complicit, once again, in doing the wrong thing for what it believes is in America’s national interests?

President-elect Donald J. Trump has expressed his doubts about the CIA and other U.S. national intelligence agencies, especially when it comes to Russia, Iran, North Korea, China and Syria.

On January 20th, 2017 Donald J. Trump will be sworn into the Office of the President of these United States. Will a President Trump learn from the failures of both Democratic President’s Carter and Obama? Me thinks so.

RELATED ARTICLE: Secretary of State Kerry’s Speech on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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Cyber Warfare — A Clear and Present Danger

In a January 2014 column titled “The Cyber Attacks are coming, the Cyber Attacks are coming!” I wrote:

According to experts like John Jorgenson, CEO and founding partner of the Sylint Group, our government is woefully behind the times in capability and capacity to deal with the threat of cyber attacks let alone the cyber warfare being conducted on a global scale by nation states such as China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.

[ … ]

“Nothing of substance to protect commercial industry, the countries infrastructure, or the citizen has come out of the [Obama] White House. From the attacks being made on the United States on the Cyber Battlefield our advisories are taking Cyber Warfare seriously while we can’t find a credible Field Marshall let alone decide what needs to be done,” notes Jorgenson.

Read more…

On February 26th, 2016 I was interviewed by Denise Simon on The Denise Simon Experience regarding the issue of cyber warfare. I spoke about the clear and present dangers of enemies, both foreign and domestic, using technology to commit crimes, steal national secrets and impact our way of life.

Denise called cyber attacks “the poor man’s nuclear weapon.”

I talked about the current threat (attacks from nation states, cyber hackers and groups like Anonymous) to the looming future threat of cyborgs, chipping and Internables.

Internables are internal sensors that measure well-being in our bodies may become the new wearables. According to Ericsson’s ConsumerLab eight out of 10 consumers would like to use technology to enhance sensory perceptions and cognitive abilities such as vision, memory and hearing.

Fast forward to December 2016 and the media’s obsession with the successful phishing of the DNC and release of John Podesta’s emails. What they are missing is:

  1. As technology has become ubiquitous, cyber warfare has become the preferred method of attacking one’s enemies.
  2. President Obama turned over control of the Internet to the United Nations in October of 2016, which increases the cyber warfare threat against U.S. public and private entities.
  3. All nation states, with the exception of the U.S., conduct offensive cyber warfare as a matter of public policy including: China, Russia, North Korea, Iran, and ISIS to name a few.
  4. The Obama administration has made neither cyber security nor cyber warfare a priority during the past 8 years.

My greatest concern is that the United States government is only conducting defensive operations against the threat, and not doing that very well. The Obama administration does not conduct effective offensive operations against our enemies which include: China, Russia, Iran, the Islamic State, North Korea and many others.

Our warnings went unheeded by the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate and the White House.

So who really is to blame for these unrelenting cyber attacks?

Why its U.S.!

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How the Collapse of the USSR felt from the inside: A reflection by a witness 25 years later

25 years ago George Bush Sr. was still in office, and so was Saddam Hussein. The European Union didn’t exist and neither did China’s economic powerhouse. The Berlin wall had just come down and Germany had finally reunited. Hillary Clinton was a little-known mouthy First Lady of Arkansas and the media gleefully predicted that Donald Trump would never climb back to the top after his Atlantic City fiasco.

On the other side of the Iron Curtain, the Eastern bloc was in shambles, but the USSR was still standing with Mikhail Gorbachev at the helm. Vladimir Putin dabbled in minor corruption working for the Mayor of Saint Petersburg, which had just been renamed from Leningrad. The KGB meddled in other countries’ affairs as usual, spreading “fake news” and helping leftist politicians to win elections with no objections from the Western mainstream media.

fall-of-the-ussrThen, all of a sudden, the USSR disappeared from the map. How did that happen?

Political scientists have and will continue to write, with varying degree of accuracy, about the details of it. What I’m attempting to do here is describe how it looked and felt from the inside – as seen by me, who at the time happened to be a voiceless, powerless Soviet citizen trying to make sense of the universe.

The Soviet clocks may have been the fastest in the world, but time wasn’t moving and seemed to be broken. With three-fourths of the country overlapping with Asia, where time had stopped a millennium ago, the Soviet Union defied the Western concept of progress. The official TV and radio stations always played old, slow songs with flowing melodies; if their purpose was to set a sluggish rhythm of life for the rest of us, it was working. Even the few semi-unofficial rock bands tried but mostly failed to get a different rhythm out of their instruments. It was as if we all lived in a gigantic aquarium, whose sleepy inhabitants lazily picked slowly descending flakes of bland food, distributed to them by the invisible owner’s hand. It could be quite relaxing if that is your thing, but most of the time I felt like a trapped passenger of the sunken ship at the bottom, next to the fake plastic seaweed.

The textbook date of the end of the USSR is December 26, 1991, but for us, Soviet citizens, the dissolution began a few months earlier and happened in stages.

Very few people feared or believed the Communists any longer, ridiculing their institutions and their lying media. A typical political joke at the time was about a man who always complained that Communists had run out of everything – food, toilet paper, consumer goods, and so on. So the KGB brought him to their office and tried to explain that the country was going through historic changes and we all needed to be patient. “You should be thankful this isn’t the old days when you could be shot,” the KGB officer said, pointing a finger to his head. To which the man responded, “Ah, so you’ve also run out of bullets.”

The Soviets continued to obey the old establishment mostly out of habit and because there was no functioning alternative. We knew something was bound to happen; we just didn’t know when.

To understand the reasons of the breakup, one must remember that the USSR was a union of fifteen ethnic republics that had little in common except for the common misfortune of being absorbed into a messianic empire and subjected to absurd social experiments. Though they were all touted as “equal,” everyone knew that Russia was “more equal” than others.

Officially, the Soviet Union was a model of international solidarity and brotherly love. Unofficially, it was a prison of nations. Any non-Russian nationalist sentiment was viewed as treason and as an attempt to escape. In contrast, Russian nationalism was encouraged; it was a glue that held the country together, which effectively turned ethnic Russians into jailers. What started as a maximum-security prison, however, towards the end degraded into a low-security facility with crumbling perimeter fencing and drunken jailers who no longer wanted their jobs.

The first mortal blow to the system was delivered by the breakout of Ukraine. Technically speaking, the first inmates to get away were the three Baltic states, but those had been known malcontents who always kept to themselves and their escape wasn’t critical to the empire’s survival. But when the second-most powerful republic ran off with its prime real estate, industries, agriculture, and ethically related Slavic population, the compulsory “brotherly union” could no longer exist.

Secession from the USSR had been a matter of hypothetical speculation for months if not years in every Soviet republic. However, after a failed communist coup d’état in Moscow on August 19, that idea was upgraded from hypothetical to absolutely urgent and necessary. The delusional coup members had attempted to bring back a form of Stalinism, but they only succeeded in convincing everyone that the threat of tyranny would always remain as long as there was a USSR in its current form.

A few days later, on August 24, Gorbachev dissolved the Communist Party, ridding the country of a nominal force that held it together. On the same day, no longer bound to the Kremlin’s masters, Ukrainian leadership declared independence from the USSR, pending a popular referendum in December. Other Soviet republics quickly followed suit.

Years later Mikhail Gorbachev said that “the most puzzling development in politics during the last decade is the apparent determination of Western European leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.” I couldn’t agree more. However, back in 1991, Gorbachev campaigned against Ukraine’s referendum to exit the USSR as passionately as today’s European leaders (and even president Obama) campaigned against Brexit – a similar referendum whereby British citizens voted to exit the European Union.

Gorbachev’s hopes to keep the USSR alive were crushed on December 1, when 90% of Ukrainian voters (including me) chose independence. Opponents of the referendum had tried to scare us with the specter of Ukrainian nationalism, which they said was as bad as Nazism. But a 90% vote for exit in a country where only 70% were ethnic Ukrainians proved that people feared staying in the USSR more than they feared the “scary” nationalists. All they wanted was to live as a normal independent European nation.

The U.S. Press Secretary Fitzwater cautiously congratulated us on the results of the referendum, but reminded us that the official recognition of an independent Ukraine would take time. Foreign governments expressed concern about 1.5 million soldiers and 176 nuclear missiles based in Ukraine, as well as about its industry producing aircraft carriers, heavy military planes, and missile launching equipment (these concerns were removed later after the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which Ukraine gave up its nuclear weapons and demilitarized in exchange for guarantees of its territorial integrity).

But the real point of no return was crossed a week later, on December 8, when leaders of the three Slavic republics of the union – Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine – gathered behind Gorbachev’s back at a mansion deep in the Belorussian woods and signed a declaration proclaiming that “the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics no longer exists as a subject of international law and a geopolitical reality.”

The declaration, known as the Belavezha Accords, announced the formation of the Commonwealth of Independent States, or the C.I.S., and welcomed other formerly Soviet republics to join. Ukrainian president Leonid Kravchuk called it a model for the European Community, based on “horizontal relationships” as opposed to the “vertical relationship” with the central government in the form of a pyramid with Gorbachev at the top.

The same night, unsuspecting Gorbachev spoke on TV, warning Ukrainians that if the USSR should dissolve, Russia would most certainly claim possession of eastern Ukraine and Crimea. On Ukrainian TV, a local official representative shrugged him off, calling Gorbachev’s opinion “a tragedy of a man outstripped by his time.” After all, Ukrainian president Kravchuk and Russian president Yeltsin had signed waivers of any mutual territorial claims.

Morning newspapers called the C.I.S. declaration a political bomb laid under Gorbachev’s chair. Instantly, the peak of the tremendous pyramid of power appeared hanging in the air with no support, with an army of bureaucrats crashing down on the ground, screaming in anger and swearing to get their positions back.

Reports from the Wall Street and Tokyo exchanges registered an increase of the dollar against the yen and the German mark, since Germany and Japan were the biggest money lenders to the old USSR. At about the same time, English-speaking Ukrainian diaspora in the U.S., Canada, and Australia made a point that everybody should stop spelling Ukraine with the definite article “the” because it was no longer a province but an independent nation. Native speakers had no idea what that meant since Slavic languages have no articles, definite or indefinite. But the same idea could be expressed with different prepositions, so one could now glean people’s political leanings by their use of grammar.

I remember that it was a Sunday because I spent that day at the airport, seeing off a friend who had traded his Soviet citizenship for a refugee status in America. As it turned out, he fled the USSR on the same day the USSR ceased to exist. We didn’t know it at the time, but on the following day I was thinking that my friend wasn’t the only one who left the old country for good. We all did. In a way, we all received a free ride, only my friend landed in the U.S., and we landed in the C.I.S.

He, a Soviet refugee in the U.S., was entitled to welfare benefits. We, Soviet refugees in the C.I.S, weren’t. There wasn’t a plane nor a train or a ship that could take us back. No amnesty would grant us a return. It was a different form of emigration. The new country looked exactly like the old one: the climate, the buildings, the language, the people and their problems. And yet something was different,  something in the air, something that pioneers must feel in new territories: a chance to start a new life.

Founded by Lenin, expanded by Stalin, and somewhat remodeled by Khrushchev, the USSR remained an impossible, contrived, and hopelessly fake Potemkin village of a country until on its seventy fourth year the “three Slavic leaders” went ahead and cut a slice of it each for himself, leaving the rest for the taking.

For a human civilization, seventy four years is a blink of an eye. For the hundreds of millions of individual souls trapped within its militarized borders, it was the only time they had. Imagine being born and living an entire life in a bomb shelter, seeing everything in the artificial light, breathing filtered air, and learning about the outside world only from military reports. My generation was luckier than others – we were still young, in our early thirties, when we stepped out of the bomb shelter and walked on our shaky legs into the forbidden sunshine. Some of us couldn’t get our eyes off of the sun and went blind, proving that our elders were right – the sun was dangerous! But the rest of us didn’t care. Unlike the bulbs of measured brightness, the sun was also equally bright and warm for everyone.

It was a country of many names. They called it a freak and a prophet, the world’s bogeyman, the cradle of the revolution, the evil empire, the bulwark of peace and socialism, the prison of nations, the embodiment of the brightest dreams of humanity.

It had given me my first notions about the world. I grew up knowing there were things we shouldn’t be talking or thinking about. But when someone tells you not to think about an elephant, all you do is think about an elephant. I figured out early on that no one could check if I wasn’t thinking about the things I shouldn’t be thinking about.

Life would have been easier if the list of forbidden things existed in the form of a spreadsheet with three columns for the name, description, and magnitude, similar to the List of Forbidden Rock Bands. But even if such a list of forbidden things existed, we would by definition be forbidden to see it. All we knew was that things on that list were always changing and so we had to be careful what we say and to whom, which taught us never to trust our own judgment. Instead, we were expected to check the Party newspapers for reliable updates on how to see the reality correctly on any day of the week. Once I entered the workforce, newspaper subscriptions became mandatory.

Our teachers kindly taught us that individual liberties resulted in crime, violence, and depravity. The Communist Party was the only thing that kept us alive, separating us from chaos and certain death. Individual people couldn’t be trusted to make the right choices, which was why we needed a caring government. It was a matter of common knowledge that should the government stop regulating society, the world would almost immediately end in a terrible bloodbath.

At the same time our teachers told us that the Communist ideology was “historically optimistic.” And I remember thinking to myself then that a capitalist society that trusted people with their freedoms was a lot more historically optimistic than the bunch of misanthropic curmudgeons in the Kremlin who taught us to fear freedom and took everything away from us in exchange for a vague utopian promise. Not in these exact words, but that was the general idea.

We were taught to love our country for its beauty, mind, and soul – and so we did, while secretly hating it for its deformity, idiocy, and cruelty. Now this bipolar relationship was over. No longer will the word “USSR” invoke that special paranoid feeling of a humongous monster rising behind my back, depressing me and supporting me at the same time. We called it the Motherland. It will sound like Neverland to my children. They won’t grow up to be Soviets like their parents. We were the last of the Soviet breed. Not of the New Man breed, though, because the promised New Man of Communism – the selfless, multitalented altruist – never emerged despite the seven decades of painstaking indoctrination. At least no one can say he wasn’t given a chance.

The student-age Soviets were thrilled for the hell of it, but they didn’t have much to say. Those closer to retirement felt scared and disoriented, but their long lives had taught them to keep their mouths shut. The ones in between were for the most part too busy with their daily survival. Like working ants, they didn’t care about large distant objects. What could the three presidents offer them apart from changing the name of their anthill? The passing away of the glorious messianic era was met with silence.

Though I was born in Ukraine, I was taught to think of the rest of the USSR as my land as well. My land is your land, and your land is my land, even if I’ll never be able to correctly pronounce your land’s god-awful name or spell it in your ridiculous language. Now the era of many names was over, too. Stretching from Europe to the Pacific, the vast country slept under a white blanket of snow, like an uncharted white spot on the world map – or a gigantic blank page. A nameless country.

Gorbachev resigned seventeen days later, by declaring the president’s office extinct. On the following day the Council of Republics voted the Soviet Union (and itself) out of existence. It was December 26, 1991 – a date forever stamped on the USSR’s official death certificate.

A POSTSCRIPT

I wish I could say “and everyone lived happily ever after,” but that would be a lie.

The official breakup had gone so smoothly in part because the former Communist Party and government bosses were in a hurry to enjoy new opportunities offered by the independent economies within a quickly emerging private sector. The highly centralized Soviet system had been too bulky and riddled with nepotism and corruption, leaving those outside of Moscow fewer chances of advancement. The breakup gave the formerly disadvantaged bureaucrats a chance to be the rulers of their own corrupt domains.

My dreams to see Ukraine develop into a prosperous European country were dashed when I realized how thoroughly corrupted the society had become after decades of socialism. The way most people imagined capitalism was the ugly caricature painted for them by Communist propaganda. Instead of re-examining that wrong image, it was simply assumed that ugly was the new beautiful. So we ended up constructing a caricature of capitalism.

Our former Communist elites found this approach agreeable. In the absence of qualified experts, they were now in charge of transitioning to the market economy, which in their minds was indistinguishable from crony capitalism. Soon the former USSR had become a commonwealth of kleptocracies where billionaire thieves ruled over impoverished subjects, beset by high unemployment and hyperinflation. The only exception were the three Baltic states that had retained some memory of how life was before their 1939 annexation.

Vladimir Putin called the breakup of the Soviet Union “the greatest geopolitical tragedy of the 20th century.” His idea to reassemble the USSR, albeit in a different format, is critical to the survival of the immense centralized kleptocracy he has crafted in Russia. His biggest fear is an emergence of a transparent, functioning government in any of the ex-Soviet states, which will make his loyal subjects wonder why Russia can’t also be like that. Putin’s notion of “maintaining Russia’s sphere of influence” most fittingly translates as “using bribes and threats to keep the neighboring corrupt regimes dependent on Russia’s corruption, thus ensuring the continuation of his power.”

For that very reason, when in 2014 Ukrainians revolted against their pro-Russian corrupt government, Putin punished them by annexing the Crimea and orchestrating a war in eastern Ukraine. His willingness to violate the Budapest accord (and thus suffer international sanctions) prove how critical for his power it is to keep his neighbors corrupt and dependent.

While the extent of Russia’s meddling in American politics this year has been greatly exaggerated (for obvious reasons), such an interference isn’t new and has existed since at least the 1930s. Imagine how much damage Russia’s interference, multiplied tenfold, can do to a weaker neighboring country with a Russian-speaking majority and frail democratic traditions.

In 1994 I emigrated to America, hoping to raise a family in a country ruled by reason and common sense. But lately I’ve been noticing a shortage of these commodities in the U.S. as well. While the ratio of reasonable people in this country may still be greater than elsewhere in the world, the ignorant passion for Soviet-style politics is very alarming.

Just as it was in the USSR, American media now publishes articles that read like Pravda’s updates on this week’s current truth. American entertainers and moviemakers are consistently pushing the politically correct party line. Social media giants are seriously considering political censorship. Indoctrination in American schools and colleges is worse than what I’ve seen in the Soviet Union, where getting a real education was actually important. And finally, just as it was in the USSR, more and more people begin to resent the “progressive” establishment and mock the lying media.

The way I see it, the proliferation of socialist ideas is largely a consequence of the decades-long Soviet meddling in American affairs, aimed at demoralizing the public and promoting the “correct” people and opinions in places where it mattered most. According to KGB defectors, only about 15% of Soviet intelligence activities here focused on actual espionage; the rest were influence operations. Their seeds have now blossomed, long after the “gardeners” have left this earth. Today’s left-wing radicals in the Democratic Party owe Russia a large debt of gratitude for their unearned power. Seeing Russia turn against them in the last election must have felt excruciatingly scary and painful; they still seem to be in shock.

History is still being written. In this country, where a citizen’s voice still means something, we are a part of this writing process. Trump’s victory and the movement it started makes me feel “historically optimistic” again. This winter it is America’s turn to be a blank page. It is up to us what will be written on it.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in FrontPage Magazine.

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Despite what President Obama says, ISIS is striking back in Syria

When President spoke to US CENTCOM troops at McDill Air Base in Tampa, Florida on December 6, 2016, he gave the impression that the 70 nation US Global coalition was winning the war against ISIS. He effusively said:

The results are clear:  ISIL has lost more than half its territory.  ISIL has lost control of major population centers.  Its morale is plummeting.  Its recruitment is drying up.  Its commanders and external plotters are being taken out, and local populations are turning against it.

As we speak, ISIL faces an offensive on Mosul from Iraqi troops and coalition support.  That’s the largest remaining city that it controls.  Meanwhile, in Syria, ISIL’s self-declared capital in Raqqa is being squeezed.  We have attacked ISIL’s financial lifeline, destroying hundreds of millions of dollars of oil and cash reserves.  The bottom line is we are breaking the back of ISIL.  We’re taking away its safe havens.    And we’ve accomplished all this at a cost of $10 billion over two years, which is the same amount that we used to spend in one month at the height of the Iraq War.

The events of less than 10 days later given a significantly troubling situation report in Syria. This despite the defeat of rebel forces in Aleppo by the combined Russia air and Assad regime ground forces after taking the last position held by rebel forces in the last pocket of resistance in Aleppo.  Fighting against the ISIS forces inside Syria is quite another matter. After combined Russian Syrian Armed Forces took back Palmyra on May 2015, an ISIS assault reclaimed it on December 12th, quickly overtaking the Russian-Syria T-4 airbase, with abandoned anti-air defense systems, weapons and armored vehicles.  ISIS forces have moved on to cut off the main supply road between Homs and Palmyra. Moreover, they are engaged in suicide attacks against the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) that is driving to encircle Raqqa from the west preparing for a final assault on the city itself. The SDF Forces had liberated six villages in the vicinity of Raqqa.  The SDF forces are assisted by embedded US Special operators. Outgoing US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter announced an additional allotment of 203 additional US Spec ops troops bringing the total to 503. He calls them the ‘connection’ between the SDF and the US coalition.  The Pentagon announced the take out by air strikes of three key ISIS leaders, involved in the Paris and Brussels attacks on November 2015 and March 2016. Meanwhile, there are reports that the Pentagon is preparing tougher measures for the incoming Trump Administration as options for ostensibly gaining closure in the war against ISIS.

Thus, Obama’s counterterrorism legacy involving letting others doing its fighting in place of sending in US forces appears to be confronting faltering progress and reversals leaving it up to the new Administration on January 21, 2017 to pick up the pace of in terms of force commitments. All of this in retrospect might have been avoided if the outgoing Obama Administration had concluded a status of forces agreement with the corrupt al-Maliki regime in Baghdad in 2011 which might have precluded the mass jail break in 2013 of former Saddam Hussein Ba’athist officers who promptly joined forces with ISIS. There are now upwards of 5,000 US troops in Iraq assisting the combined Peshmerga and Iraq National Forces in the Battle for Mosul, which has slowed against the intense Islamikaze fighting by ISIS, amid reports from Pentagon chief Ashton Carter  at a briefing in Iraq that there an estimated 2,000 ISIS dead.  US Lt. Gen Stephen Townsend commander of Combined Joint Task Force Operation Inherent Resolve estimated there upwards of 6,000 ISIS fighters still in Mosul.

Conclusions

Russian, Iranian and Hezbollah support of Assad forces does not appear to be having much success in fighting ISIS as distinct from the war against Syrian rebels in Western Syria. Whether the suggestions of Operation Inherent resolve US Lt. Gen. Townsend that the coalition can take back Palmyra and destroy the weapons and dangerous air defense systems abandoned by the Russians and Syrians will be a daunting task. The lack of an effective US ground force working with the Kurdish-led SDF to fend off ISIS suicide attacks and take the Administrative Capital at Raqqa is another major concern. This despite their advances to within less than 25 miles and closing the noose in western Raqqa in Operation Wrath of Euphrates.  The Obama Administration strategy of war on the cheap has failed to degrade let alone destroy ISIS.  We’ll see what the Pentagon under the incoming Trump Administration in the first 100 days to achieve operational objectives during the ensuing year ahead.

Note these excerpts ARA News, Debka reports and News Comm.au that present a disturbing picture of the lack of a coordinated strategy to finish the fight against ISIS.

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Women and Children Liberated in Western Raqqa by SDF December 2016. Source: ARA News

December 12, 2016 ARA NEWS: SDF expel ISIS from Six Villages after Launching 2nd Phase of Raqqa Campaign 12-12-16.

After launching the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation against ISIS, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) on Sunday reported new gains in the fight for Raqqa–de facto capital of the Islamic State (ISIS).

The SDF seized control of several villages in western Raqqa in an area measuring approximately 8 square kilometers.

The Kurdish-Arab alliance of the SDF on Sunday captured six villages after clashes with ISIS militants.

“The liberated villages include Merwaniya, Krajah, Hamer Saghir, Hamer Kabir, Qerefdan and Draniya,” a spokesman for the SDF told ARA News at the battlefront of western Raqqa.

According to SDF’s leaders the second phase of the operation is aimed to liberate the western countryside of Raqqa and tighten the siege on the ISIS-held city. Additional to the previous SDF factions, some 1500 new Arab fighters have joined the campaign.

“The time has come to liberate Raqqa and its people from ISIS terrorism. We will enter Raqqa city with help from our Kurdish brothers and the Arab factions of the SDF,” Hussein al-Awak, chief of the SDF Relation’s Office, told ARA News.

Al-Awak confirmed to ARA News that the US-led coalition has provided them with some advanced weapons in support of the Raqqa campaign.

“We have received advanced weapons from the US-led coalition, besides preparing strategic operations against ISIS headquarters,” the SDF official said. “After completing the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath, we’ll move to the final stage of this operation to eliminate ISIS in Raqqa completely.”

During the first phase of Euphrates Wrath, SDF soldiers captured an area measuring approximately 560 km2, containing dozens of towns, villages and farms. Military sources told ARA News that more than 185 ISIS jihadists have been killed since November 6. The operation’s long-term objective is the isolation and elimination of the Islamic State in Raqqa.

palmyra-attack-debka-large12-12-16 ARA News: Retaking Palmyra ISIS Assaults T4 Airbase near Syria’s Homs

Islamic State (ISIS) militants assaulted the T4 Military Airport on Monday, breaching its defenses with mortar batteries and heavy machine guns.

Amro al-Hussein, a media activist, reported that ISIS “destroyed at least three warplanes in the T4 Airport and captured some parts of the base, after clashes with the Syrian Army.”

Located in the Homs’ eastern countryside, the T4 Airport is a critical security installation, providing regime forces with close air support. ISIS jihadists were able to storm into the base after seizing security checkpoints in the nearby Mashtal and Qasr al-Hir Districts.

Monday’s assault came just one day after the hardline group recaptured the ancient city of Palmyra in Homs Governorate. Activists and military sources confirmed the rout, reporting that the army had been forced to withdraw under fire.

“The army withdrew after the clashes reached the city center and it became impossible for them to push ISIS back,” local media activist Abas al-Omar reported.

Regime forces were obliged to evacuate their headquarters in Palmyra, heading westward toward Doua District and the T4 Airbase.

According to al-Omar, ISIS had “continued shelling the army’s positions inside Palmyra with mortars and heavy artillery for hours, causing large losses in the army ranks.” Dozens of soldiers were killed on Sunday and a number of others remain unaccounted for, likely taken as prisoners.

Russia had supported the Syrian Army in Palmyra, with airstrikes and logistical support but their efforts were apparently insufficient to save the city.

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Russian Vehicles taken by ISIS in Palmyra. Source: Amaq

12-12-16 Debka:  ISIS Seizes big Russian Syrian T-4 air base

Islamic State forces pushed their assault forward to retake the central Syrian town of Palmyra Monday, Dec. 12. By evening, they had entered the big Russian-Syrian T-4 air base outside the town, carrying off substantial quantities of Russian armaments. Reporting this, Debkafile’s military sources add that the booty they snatched included different types of ground-to-ground missiles as well as anti-tank and anti-air rockets.

Russian forces manning the base were hurriedly evacuated from Palmyra and the T-4 base, after the worst defeat Russian armed forces had ever experienced at ISIS hands in Syria. Military circles in Moscow commented grimly that the Russian army had suffered “a major disgrace” in Palmyra.
According to our sources, long convoys of ISIS fighters backed by tanks taken booty from the Syrian army, first forced the Syrian 11th Tank Division to abandon the strategic Jhar Crossroad. After that, the way was clear for the jihadis’ column to reach the T-4 base.

12-14-16 Newscom.au: Fleeing Russians leave anti-aircraft missiles to Islamic State

The top US general leading the fight against IS told reporters last night that Syrian Government and Russian forces had “taken their eye off the ball” and fled the ancient Palmyra ahead of a new jihadist attack.

Of greatest concern, however, was the extensive stock of ammunition and weapons the fleeing Russians left behind.

Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend said Russia and Syria was likely to attempt to take the city back again. But if they don’t, he said, the US-led coalition will take action, particularly if insurgents start moving weapons out of the city.

“We believe it includes some armored vehicles and various guns and other heavy weapons, possibly some air defense equipment,” General Townsend said.

“Anything they seize poses a threat to the coalition, but we can manage those threats and we will.”

However speculation has been growing that among the hastily abandoned Russian/Syrian army base was an advanced, long-range mobile anti-aircraft system. Mounted on the back of armored vehicles, these could be deployed against coalition aircraft.

Fox News reports anonymous US defense sources as saying the captured missile system dated from the Soviet era and had the NATO designation SA-3.

General Townsend said he anticipates that the coalition will soon strike the captured Russian equipment and kill the militants operating it.

Islamic State’s Amaq news agency released video of what it claims to be the abandoned Palmyra camp, showing food and Russian-language books left on tables along with other personal items — indicating a rapid, unplanned departure.

Amaq claims to have seized 20 tanks, some armored personnel carriers, antitank guided missiles and howitzers.

12-14-16: ARA News: ISIS militants cut off regime supply route in Syria’s Homs 12-14-16

Homs – Militants of the Islamic State (ISIS) on Tuesday made new gains in their fight with the Syrian Army forces in the central governorate of Homs.

ISIS fighters captured the main road between al-Qaryatain town and Homs city, which used to be a key supply route for the Syrian regime’s army forces.

The radical group seized control of the supply-line after capturing military checkpoints that were previously held by the Syrian regime’s troops.

“Subsequent to clashes with the Syrian Army forces, ISIS fighters took over four checkpoints in the vicinity of al-Qaryatain, which enabled the group to block the army’s supply route,” local media activist Amro al-Hussein told ARA News.

“The route was a main supply line for the Syrian Army in Homs Governorate. The army forces have been relying on this route to send military reinforcements from al-Qaryatain town to the T4 Airbase and further into Homs city,” al-Hussein reported.

12-15-16: ISIS Suicide Bombers hit Kurdish positions West of Raqaa to Impede SDF Progress 12-15-16

Raqqa – The Islamic State (ISIS) radical group launched on Wednesday several suicide attacks in western Raqqa, targeting defenses of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

ISIS suicide bombers targeted security checkpoints of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG)–leading member of the SDF– near Ain Issa town.

“Members of the radical group carried out four simultaneous attacks at YPG checkpoints in the vicinity of Ain Issa,” media activist Jivan Mustafa told ARA News.

The number of casualties remained unknown.

The Kurdish forces have not issued any statements yet with regard to the attack.

This comes days after the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces launched the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation to capture western Raqqa.

“Daesh terrorists try to impede our progress through launching such suicide attacks,” an SDF officer told ARA News in western Raqqa, using another acronym for ISIS. “But such cowardly attacks won’t affect our advance.”

The Syrian Democratic Forces announced the beginning of the second phase of the Euphrates Wrath Operation last Saturday. While the first phase focused on securing both banks of the Balikh River, the second phase aims “at liberating the western countryside of Raqqa.”

RELATED ARTICLE: Aleppo’s Fall Signals Rise of Emboldened Radical Shi’ite Axis by Yaakov Lappin

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The DNC has been planning to play the Russia Card since April, 2016

The media has fanned the fake news flames that Russia has stolen the 2016 election and is responsible for electing Donald J. Trump as the 45th President of the United States.

Since then certain establishment Democrats and Republicans have jumped on board the “Russia stole the election from Hillary” bandwagon.

A leaked Democratic National Committee email shows that this strategy of blame it on Russia was planned and is now being executed with the help of the legacy media.

Here is the email stating, “[T]he pro-Russia stuff ties in pretty well to the idea that Trump is too friendly with Putin/weak on Russia”:

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In the column “Julian Assange associate: It was a leak, not a hack and the DNC insider is NOT Russian”  from BizPac Review reports:

A hole has been blown in the Democratic Party, and mainstream media’s narrative, that Russia was behind the leak of DNC emails to Wikileaks.

On Sunday, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, said he has met the person who gave the DNC emails and it was not the Russians.

“I know who leaked them,” Murray told The Guardian. “I’ve met the person who leaked them, and they are certainly not Russian and it’s an insider. It’s a leak, not a hack; the two are different things.

Murray, who is a close associate of Wikileaks head Julian Assange, explained it further on his website.

Read more…

There are lies, damn lies and then there is fake news.

Fake news is the new propaganda spewed by the media for a political end, in this case to discredit the Trump administration.

So much for working together and giving Mr. Trump a chance to govern.

RELATED ARTICLES: 

Former UK Ambassador Says Source Of Clinton Emails Was “Disgusted” Democratic Whistleblower

Exclusive: Top U.S. spy agency has not embraced CIA assessment on Russia hacking – REUTERS

Key Questions About Russia’s Alleged Hacking of the U.S. Election

Ted Kennedy Made Secret Overtures to Russia to Prevent Ronald Reagan’s Re-Election

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PODCAST: U.S. – Russia – Syria – Iran – Turkey – Israel a ‘Tectonic Policy Shift’

Listen to this compelling, yet disturbing Lisa Benson Show with guests Shoshana Bryen of The Jewish Policy Center and best selling author and investigative journalist Ken Timmerman.

The round table discussion reveals the duplicity of Turkey, with Russia and U.S. complicity in Syria throwing the Kurds under the bus gutting the war against the Islamic State (ISIS).

The discussion revealed how the Obama Administration is:

  • abandoning the Persian Gulf to Iran,
  • destabilizing the world’s energy supply,
  • getting ready to withdraw U.S. Naval assets from the region
  • and avoiding Congressional appropriation authorities by paying Tehran with $1.3 billion from a State Department “slush fund” possibly via the Swiss Central Bank.

Listen to the broadcast and share it widely as this is not being covered by mainstream media in the run up to the Presidential campaign foreign policy debate.

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THE TURKEY-RUSSIA-IRAN AXIS: Dramatic developments alter the strategic balance in the Middle East

A tectonic shift has occurred in the balance of power in the Middle East since the failed Turkish coup of mid-July, and virtually no one in Washington is paying attention to it.

Turkey and Iran are simultaneously moving toward Russia, while Russia is expanding its global military and strategic reach, all to the detriment of the United States and our allies. This will have a major impact across the region, potentially leaving U.S. ally Israel isolated to face a massive hostile alliance armed with nuclear weapons.

Believers in Bible prophecy see this new alignment as a step closer to the alliance mentioned in Ezekiel 37-38, which Israel ultimately defeated on the plains of Megiddo.

Today’s Israel, however, is doing its best to soften the blow by patching up relations with Turkey and through cooperation with Russia.

Here are some of the moves and counter-moves that have been taking place in recent weeks on a giant three-dimensional chessboard with multiple players and opponents.

Russia-Turkey: It now appears that Russian intelligence tipped off Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan just hours before the planned coup against his regime. When the coup plotters got wind of the Russian communications with Erdogan loyalists at the National Intelligence Organization (MIT), they moved up the coup from the dead of night to 9 PM, when the streets were packed.

For Erdogan, the Russian warning came just in the nick of time, allowing him to flee his hotel in Marmaris minutes before twenty-five special forces troops loyal to the coup-plotters roped down from the roof of his hotel to seize him.

With streets in Istanbul full of people, Erdogan’s text and video messages calling on supporters to oppose the coup had maximum impact.

After purging the military and government of suspected enemies, Erdogan’s first foreign trip was to Russia, where on August 8 he thanked Putin for his help. “The Moscow-Ankara friendship axis will be restored,” he proclaimed.

Two days later, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu blasted NATO for its “evasive fashion” of responding to Turkish requests for military technology transfers, and opened the door to joint military production with Russia.

Cavosoglu accused NATO of considering Turkey and Russia “to be second class countries,” and pointed out that Turkey was the only NATO country that was refusing to impose sanctions on Russia for its annexation of the Crimea and invasion of Ukraine.

Russia has also been in talks with Turkey to base Russian warplanes at the NATO air base in Incirlik, Turkey, where some 2400 U.S. personnel have been quarantined since the failed July 15 coup attempt as Turkey continues to demand that the U.S. extradite alleged coup-plotter Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania.

These talks have alarmed the Pentagon, which on Thursday reportedly ordered the emergency evacuation to Romania of the estimated 50-70 nuclear B-61 “dial-a-yield” gravity bombs stockpiled at the base.

If confirmed, the nuclear withdrawal from Turkey constitutes a major strategic setback for the United States, with Russia poised to replace the United States as Turkey’s main military partner after 60 years of NATO cooperation.

Russia-Iran: The warming of the Russia-Turkey relationship comes as Russia simultaneously is making advances in Iran.

The two countries have a long and often troubled history. The 1921 Soviet-Iranian treaty, which ended long-standing tsarist concessions in Iran, also included a mutual defense pact. Triggered briefly during World War II, the Soviets seized the opportunity to foment a Communist coup in Iranian Azerbaijan in 1948 and only withdrew after President Truman threatened to use nuclear weapons.

Successive Iranian regimes remained suspicious of Soviet intentions for the rest of the Cold War.

In recent years, Iran and Russia have joined together to evade international sanctions, with Russian banks clearing payments for Iranian oil purchases and serving as a conduit for Iranian government purchases abroad.

Last week, the specter of the 1921 defense treaty suddenly came alive when the Russia and Iran announced they had signed a new military agreement to allow Russian jets to use the Nojeh airbase in western Iran for attacks on Syrian rebels.

This is the first time that the Islamic regime in Iran has allowed a foreign power to use Iranian territory as a base for offensive military operations against another country in the region, and the move lead to tensions in the Iranian parliament.

For Russia, the move dramatically reduced flight times for the Tu-22 M3 Backfire bombers it had been flying against ISIS targets in Syria from Mozdok airbase in Ossetia, 2000 km away. Iran’s Nojeh air base, outside Hamadan, is less than 900 km from the war zone.

The shorter flight times also meant shorter warning for the Syrian rebels. Russian media reports have alleged that the United States has been providing “satellite surveillance data” to the Syrian rebels of the Russian bombing runs, allowing them to disperse “suspiciously too often” before the heavy bombers arrived on target from Mozdok.

The shorter distance cuts the flight time – and thus the warning time – by 60%, according to former Pentagon official Stephen D. Bryen. “The flight from Iran is between 30 to 45 minutes tops. If, therefore, the US is warning the rebels of impending Russian air strikes, the time to get the message to them and to actually be able to move their forces out of harms way, is far less and maybe too short for finding effective cover,” Bryen wrote in a recent blogpost.

Conclusion: Russia is on the verge of realizing a multi-generational dream of reaching the “warm waters” of the Persian Gulf through Iran.

Iran-Iraq: Adding to these dramatic developments was the announcement last week by a U.S. military spokesman, Colonel Chris Garver, that Iran now controls a military force of 100,000 armed fighters in neighboring Iraq. While the United States has allowed this Iranian expansion under the pretext Iran was helping in the fight against ISIS, clearly Iran can use this massive organized force to exercise its control over Iraq as well.

While none of these events was directly caused by the United States, clearly the lack of U.S. leadership emboldened our enemies, whose leaders have a much clearer strategic vision than ours of where they want the region to go.

Meanwhile, the Russian government continues to pursue the massive ten-year, $650 billion military modernization program that Putin announced in December 2010, despite reduced oil revenues. Those plans include eight new nuclear submarines, 600 new fighter jets, 1000 helicopters, as well as new tanks and other ground equipment.

Most of the new equipment is based on new designs incorporating advanced technologies, not existing weapons systems.

Just this week, U.S. intelligence officials reported ongoing construction of “dozens’ of underground nuclear command bunkers in Moscow and around the country apparently for use in the event of a nuclear wear. General Curtis Scaparrotti, commander of U.S. European Command, called Russia’s evolving doctrine on the first use of nuclear weapons “alarming.”

All of this does not mean that the United States and Russia are headed toward a direct confrontation. The more likely consequence, given the sweeping Russian powerplay with Turkey and Iran, is that the United States will simply abandon the region to Putin’s Russia and his Turkish and Iranian allies.

The consequence of that abandon will undoubtedly motivate Saudi Arabia to develop nuclear weapons as a counterweight to Iran.

Nero fiddled as Rome burned. Obama plays golf. Both leaders will leave ashes in their wake.

RELATED ARTICLE: Iran regime arrests 450 social media users for ‘immoral activities’

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared FrontPage Magazine.

passports

Islamic State Gang Forging Passports for Muslim Migrants

“Officials said some of the fake documents were being also being used by migrants to travel by land to Europe.” How many jihadis have succeeded in getting into Europe by means of one of these passports?

“Gang printing fake passports for ISIS jihadis smashed in huge police raid,” by Tom Batchelor,Express, February 18, 2016:

RUSSIA’S secret service agency says it has smashed an Islamic State gang forging passports for extremists to use for travel to Syria.

The Federal Security Service, or FSB, said 14 suspected members of the group had been arrested and were now in custody.

Secret printing presses and laboratories were discovered during the raid near Moscow – the latest in a string of police swoops on suspected terror cells.

The suspects were accused of forging documents for Russians heading to join ISIS – also known by its Arabic acronym Daesh – in the Middle East warzone.

The gang was also said to be making papers for ISIS militants who were sneaking back into Russia to carry out terror attacks.

Search operations revealed a stockpile of forged papers, forms, stamps and equipment for producing fake documents, as well as extremist literature.

Officials said some of the fake documents were being also being used by migrants to travel by land to Europe.

Terror group Islamic State have gone to extreme lengths on their war against the World, designing and producing outrageous homemade weapons which can cause destruction on a large scale.

A top intelligence official warned last month that Britain was at risk of a Paris-style terror attack by jihadis using fake passports to smuggle themselves into Europe.

ISIS terrorists are said to be masquerading as vulnerable refugees fleeing warzones in the Middle East, to exploit the migrant crisis and Germany’s open borders policy.

The militants are aided by false documents produced in Syria and pressure has been building on the European Union to boost its border controls to stop those using fake documents….

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abu bakar sunni

Weaving a Stronger Sunni Axis

By Gallia Lindenstrauss and Yoel Guzansky:

Gallia LindenstraussYoel Guzansky

Saudi Arabia’s declared objective, driven in part by sectarian fervor, is to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region. To those in charge of making the necessary adjustments to Saudi Arabia’s security and foreign policy in light of regional developments, Turkey is a key player. From Riyadh’s perspective, Turkey is a Sunni regional power that has not realized its potential because it has failed to adopt a more aggressive policy toward Iran. For Turkey, Russia’s military involvement in Syria and the crisis in Turkish-Russian relations following the downing of the Russian fighter jet prompted an adjustment of Ankara’s foreign policy. More specifically, these developments, as well as Ankara’s  diplomatic isolation in the region, have accelerated Turkey’s drive toward a closer alignment with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. Should Saudi Arabia succeed in leveraging the economic assistance it provides to Egypt and mediate effectively between Cairo and Ankara, this could lead to stronger relations between Turkey and other Gulf states, and thereby help weave a stronger Sunni front in the region.

Topics:

Gulf States, Turkey

The nuclear deal signed between Iran and the P5+1 and the initial lifting of the economic sanctions on Iran in January 2016 were formative events for Saudi Arabia that strengthened the supporters in the kingdom of a proactive policy against Iran. Indeed, Saudi Arabia’s declared objective, driven in part by sectarian fervor, is to stop Iran’s growing influence in the region. To those in charge of making the necessary adjustments to Saudi Arabia’s security and foreign policy in light of regional developments, Turkey is a key player. From Riyadh’s perspective, Turkey is a Sunni regional power that has not realized its potential because it has failed to adopt a more aggressive policy toward Iran. For Turkey, Russia’s military involvement in Syria and the crisis in Turkish-Russian relations following the downing of the Russian fighter jet prompted a adjustment of Ankara’s foreign policy. More specifically, these developments have accelerated Turkey’s drive toward a closer alignment with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states. This process reached new heights with the deployment of Saudi fighter aircraft at the Turkish air base Incirlik (which may expand to the deployment of ground forces as well) – officially as part of the struggle against the Islamic State, but in effect, to signal inter-state unity.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu (l) with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz (r) in Riyadh, January 31, 2016. Photo: AFP / SPA / HO

Since King Salman Bin Abdulaziz ascended the Saudi throne in January 2015, there have been noticeable attempts to forge closer relations between Riyadh and Ankara. Already during President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Riyadh in December 2015 (which was the Turkish President’s third visit to the kingdom that year), Turkey and Saudi Arabia decided on the establishment of a council for strategic cooperation. Soon after, Saudi Arabia executed Saudi Shiite cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, and for Riyadh, a nation’s reaction to the execution was akin to a loyalty litmus test. Speaking of the execution, Erdogan said it was “an internal [Saudi] legal matter,” and Ankara condemned the subsequent arson at Saudi Arabia’s missions in Tehran and Mashhad, calling the fire-bombings “unacceptable.” Beyond the rhetorical support for Riyadh, Turkey joined the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism, announced in December 2015 by Saudi Arabia, which includes 34 nations – but not Iran. In addition, as part of their attempt to balance Iran’s influence in Iraq, Turkey and Saudi Arabia have exhibited more public support than in the past for the autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq; this month Saudi Arabia will opening a consulate in Irbil (Turkey has had a consulate there since 2010). Furthermore, Turkey supported Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in Yemen and did not criticize the action’s negative humanitarian repercussions.

Following the late January 2016 visit to Saudi Arabia by Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who was accompanied by several ministers and the head of the secret service, there was renewed speculation about a possible strengthening of cooperation between the two nations.  Particular emphasis may lie on coordinating positions in the (currently suspended) third round of talks in Geneva on efforts to end the civil war in Syria. It seems that both Turkey and Saudi Arabia are frustrated with US policy on Syria, in part because it does not completely rule out Syrian President Bashar al-Assad retaining his position, at least for an interim period, and are trying to use one another to change this policy. Pressure on the United States has already resulted in some success: the decision that representatives of the Democratic Union Party (PYD), though the dominant element among Syria’s Kurds, would not be among those invited to the Geneva talks. This reflects Turkey’s contention that the PYD is an extension of the PKK, the Kurdish underground operating in Turkey, and therefore unacceptable. Moreover, both Ankara and Riyadh are frustrated by Russia’s military intervention in Syria, not only in that this intervention prolongs Assad’s tenure, but also threatens the opposition forces supported by Turkey and Saudi Arabia and the ability to send supplies and other assistance.

Along with its increased closeness with Riyadh, however, Ankara has called on Saudi Arabia and Iran to return to the diplomatic channel and work on reducing tensions between them, evidence of Turkey’s desire to maintain correct relations with Iran and its reluctance to become overly involved in the Riyadh-Tehran conflict. This is not surprising, given Turkey’s need for  energy imports from Iran, especially natural gas (after Russia, Iran is the second most important provider of gas to Turkey; in 2014, Turkey imported about 18 percent of its natural gas from Iran), and Turkey’s desire to increase the scope of trade with Iran with the lifting of the economic sanctions.

While Turkey’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood and its opposition to President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi’s regime in Egypt are an obstacle to closer relations with Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, Saudi Arabia itself is at present exhibiting a more pragmatic approach than in the past toward the Muslim Brotherhood. From its point of view, Iran’s expansionism is the greatest threat, leading it to desire a large, cohesive Sunni bloc in the region. Moreover, alongside the parties’ geostrategic considerations, the Gulf states – especially Saudi Arabia and Qatar – are significant investors in the Turkish economy.

For some years now, Turkey has enjoyed closer relations with Qatar; these reached a new peak in December 2015 when the nations announced the construction of a Turkish military base in Qatar for the stationing of some 3,000 troops. Although Turkey has soldiers stationed in northern Iraq, the construction of the Qatari base and the scope of forces to be stationed there set new precedents in terms of a Turkish military presence in the Middle East. Turkey also committed itself to continue military training for Qatar’s army. In addition to this strategic security cooperation, the two enjoy joint economic and energy ventures. Indeed, Turkey would like to increase the amount of liquefied natural gas it buys from Qatar, but the size of its existing facilities makes this problematic.

Turkey is also making efforts to rebuild its relations with the UAE, and in particular to ease the same tensions that existed with Saudi Arabia, namely Ankara’s intense criticism of Sisi and Turkish support for the Muslim Brotherhood and, conversely, the UAE’s support for the toppling of Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in July 2013. Manifestations of these tensions are the standstill in the scope of trade between Turkey and the UAE (compared to the growth in trade between Turkey and the other Gulf states) and the fact that there has been no UAE ambassador appointed to Ankara for a long time, both prima facie evidence of Abu Dhabi’s dissatisfaction with Ankara’s policy. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu recently stated that he intends to visit the UAE soon, apparently in an attempt to turn over a new leaf.

Another reason for Ankara to want to forge closer relations with the Gulf states concerns its diplomatic isolation in the region. Turkey currently has no ambassador in Israel, Egypt, and Syria. Should Saudi Arabia succeed in leveraging the economic assistance it provides to Egypt into mediating between Egypt and Turkey, which would be manifested by the return of the ambassadors to Ankara and Cairo, this could lead to stronger relations between Turkey and other Gulf states, and thereby help weave a stronger Sunni front in the region. At the same time, some kind of rapprochement between Ankara and Cairo could also allow Israel to rebuild its own relations with Turkey. Currently, one of the deterrents to a normalization agreement between Israel and Turkey is the Egyptian concern that in the context of concessions Israel would provide Turkey, Ankara would gain a more significant role in Gaza, which would strengthen Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. A stronger Saudi-Egyptian-Turkish bond might mitigate some of that concern.

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