Archive for the ‘Assad’ category

Northern border heating up

June 27, 2017

Northern border heating up, Israel Hayom, Ofek Ish Maas, June 27, 2017

(Please see also, After IDF retaliates for spillover, Syrian army warns Israel.– DM)

In the past few days, the Syrian civil war has been knocking on Israel’s door. On Saturday, 10 errant mortars and tank shells landed in the northern Golan Heights, and at the beginning of the week the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit reported a few more ordnance hits in open areas.

In accordance with policy, the IDF responded by firing at Syrian army targets. But although tenuous quiet has been restored, we cannot discount the possibility that errant fire from Syria will continue and increase.

The army of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which was responsible for the errant fire, is trying to block an attack by rebels, who want to break through and reach the highway that leads from Damascus to the southwestern city of Daraa, which has been the site of heavy fighting for control of southern Syria over the past month.

Since the beginning of June, Daraaa has been subjected to massive bombing by the Syrian regime and its allies. Hundreds of barrel bombs and rockets and dozens of bombs from Syrian and Russian planes have rained down on the city. According to rebel reports, some of the bombs even included phosphorus. Among other things, in an attempt to deter the rebels, the regime intentionally attacked a school in a nearby village, killing more than 20 women and children who had sought shelter there. The worsening situation led the local government to declare Daraa and its surroundings a disaster area.

Daraa, which lies about 30 kilometers (18.5 miles) east of Israel and 13 kilometers (8 miles) north of Syria’s border with Jordan, is a strategic target for the Syrian regime. First, control over border crossings in a symbol of sovereignty and the implementation of Assad’s desire to once again control all of Syria. Second, the regime and its Shiite allies want to reduce the chance of a sustainable security buffer zone under Western, Jordanian, and Israeli influence being established in southern Syria. Assad’s forces reaching the Jordanian border would stop the supply of logistic, military, and humanitarian aid Western and Persian Gulf nations are sending the rebels and would create a divide between the two rebel-controlled areas in southern Syria.

With a goal so important to the regime, and with the increasingly serious stand-off between the U.S., Russia, and Iran in eastern Syria threatening any chances of a peace deal in the south, it appears that nothing is stopping Assad from proceeding full force.

The ramifications for Israel’s security could be heavy. In the short term, if we see a repeat of the images out of Aleppo at the end of 2016 — women and children slaughtered, buildings collapsing with people inside, the use of unconventional weapons against civilians — there will be waves of displaced persons, some of whom might seek shelter along the border, in Israel’s shadow, and even ask for asylum. In the long term, Israel’s northeastern front could become a stronghold of Iran, Hezbollah, and other Shiite militias that would comprise a threat to security and safety in northern Israel.

Israel must decide how it will prepare to prevent these dangerous scenarios. It must choose between increasing support for the Sunni rebels as a buffer against Iran and its satellites, or assenting through silence to Assad returning to power. If Israel wants to stick to the idea of a buffer zone, it will have to increase support for the rebels and provide them with defense coverage, both diplomatic, against Russia, and military, in hope that the U.S. will agree. But diverting American attention to southwestern Syria will hamper its efforts to defeat the Islamic State in the east and prevent Iran from filling the ensuing vacuum. Israel, therefore, would have to roll up its sleeves and plunge its hands into the Syrian mess. On the other hand, if Israel is unwilling to do so, it will have to set clear rules of engagement for the Assad regime, which is regaining ground, by demanding that Iranian satellites not gain a foothold in the region and backing that demand up with military action.

In any case, neither option is certain and each has its risks. But the reality in Syria, especially in the south of the country, is changing fast, and the comparative security that Israel has been enjoying is in danger and requires immediate planning and responses.

Ofek Ish Maas (Riemer) is a research assistant at the Institute for National Security Studies.

Memo Signed By Assad Transfers Command And Financial Responsibility For Syrian Militias To Iran

May 16, 2017

Memo Signed By Assad Transfers Command And Financial Responsibility For Syrian Militias To Iran, MEMRI, May 15, 2017

Throughout the Syria war, Iran has played a central role in establishing the Syrian militias operating alongside the Syrian regime’s regular army and army reserves. These militias are modeled after the Iranian Basij.[1]Recently, a memo was circulated on Facebook ostensibly proving that the Syrian regime is transferring command and financial responsibility for some of these militias to Iran – reflecting the extent of Iran’s control in Syria.

The memo, which is dated April 11, 2017 and bears the signature of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad in his capacity as commander in-chief of the Syrian armed forces, approves the recommendations of a committee responsible for regulating the activity of the armed Syrian forces operating in conjunction with Iran on Syrian territory.

The committee’s recommendations included a call for organizing the nearly 90,000-man-strong armed Syrian forces working in conjunction with Iran under an umbrella framework called the Local Defense Brigades, to operate across Syria under Iranian command and financial responsibility, “until the end of the crisis in Syria or until further notice.”

In addition to the Syrian regime’s consent to Iran’s increasing control in Syria, the memo also reveals the Syrian regime’s difficulty in commanding and funding the local militias, and the grave manpower crisis in the Syrian armed forces throughout the years of the war stemming from the high desertion rate, as well as a widespread unwillingness among draftees and reserve soldiers to be sent to the battle front. According to the information in the memo, of the 88,723 fighters said to be included in the Local Defense Brigades that will be in Iranian hands, half have evaded military service: 14,783 are evading mandatory military service, 16,731 are evading reserve duty, and 8,003 are deserters. The regime has given up trying to draft these men into the army, and instead is trying to draft them into the local militias, where duties are less rigorous because fighters are stationed near their homes. The other half are volunteers, as well as individuals whose “status has been arranged,” that is, who have been given the option to serve in the militias in lieu of being punished for refusing to serve in the military.

On May 2, 2017, a photo of the memo was posted on the Facebook page of the Manjab Tribe Brigade, Ra’d Al-Mahdi, a Syrian militia established recently with Iranian help and operating in the service of the Syrian regime. The text accompanying the photo of the memo shows that the brigades welcome the move and consider it an improvement in their conditions. Likewise, this Facebook page, as well as a pro-regime Syrian news website, published a photo of another official Syrian document that refers to the memo and the transfer of the Syrian militias to Iranian responsibility.

It should be noted that several days after the date on the memo, on May 1, 2017, a Syrian military delegation headed by Syrian Chief of Staff Ali ‘Abdallah Ayyoub visited Iran, and met with Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan and Deputy Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for Coordination Jamaluddin Aberoumand to discuss increasing military cooperation.[2]

The following is a translation of the main points of the two official Syrian documents.

As noted, on May 2, 2017, the Facebook page of the Manjab Tribe Brigade, Ra’d Al-Mahdi published a photo of the memo, which is which is marked “No. 1455” and addressed to “the Honorable Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces and President of Syria.” It states: “With Allah’s help, we will not disappoint you, heroes of Ra’d Al-Mahdi. We have promised and we have kept [our promise].”[3]

The memo states further: “[This is] in accordance with the decision of the Deputy Commander in Chief of the Syrian Army and Armed Forces, Deputy Prime Minister and Defense Minister [Fahd Jassem al-Freij]… to establish a committee headed by the director of [the Syrian military’s] Organization and Administration Department responsible for arranging the forces operating in conjunction with Iran as part of the Local Defense Brigades in the [various] districts, and to publish its recommendations. The committee met several times and examined and discussed every aspect of the matter: organization; command; the supply of military and material needs; the rights of fallen, wounded and missing [fighters]; and arranging the status of draftees, [including] those evading mandatory and reserve service, deserters, and civilians working with the Iranian side. The following are the committee’s conclusions:

“1. The Syrian operatives (civilians and military personnel) who are fighting alongside the Iranian side are to be incorporated in the Local Defense Brigades in the [various] districts as per to the following list:

District Mandatory service evaders Reserve duty evaders Deserters Civilians Persons whose status has been arranged Total in district Comments
Damascus 4106 4824 600 9485 601 19616
Deraa 421 359 658 857 0 2295
Tartus 321 0 0 679 100 1100
Homs 980 1124 1127 4314 1506 9051
Hama 2144 2654 2549 3915 864 12126
Aleppo 3925 5687 1213 10241 4864 35930
Idlib 1123 211 279 2929 3487 8029
Ladhakia 790 302 477 3165 700 5434
Al-Raqqa 214 235 148 220 0 817
Deir Al-Zor 461 870 0 645 0 1976
Al-Hasakah 388 465 952 554 0 2359
Total 14873 16731 8003 37004 12122 88723

 

“2. The status of the army members (deserters) and the draftees who are evading mandatory army service and reserve duty should be arranged, and they should be transferred [to the Local Defense Brigades in their district], and it should be established that these brigades will summon them [for service]. Men whose status has been arranged and who are working with the Iranian side are to be incorporated in the Local Defense Brigades as well, as per the following list:

Explanation No.
Mandatory service evaders 14873
Army deserters 8003
Reserves duty evaders 16731
Persons whose status has been arranged 12122
Total 51729

 

“3. Civilians working with the Iranian side who want to volunteer [to the militias] are to be incorporated in the Armed Forces – Popular Army[4] on a two-year volunteer contract, regardless of the volunteer conditions that are implemented in the armed forces… The contracts should be renewed with the agreement of both sides, as per the following list:

“- Civilians working with the Iranian side – 37,004

“4. The Administration of Officers’ Affairs will be in charge of arranging the status of the 1,650 members of the Class 69 graduates among the officers working with the Iranian side in Aleppo district.”

  1. The Local Defense Brigades in the districts that are working with the Iranian side will remain under the command of the Iranian side until the Syria crisis ends or until further notice, in coordination with the Army and Armed Forces General Headquarters.
  2. Ensuring the supply of all fighting gear and meeting all material needs of the Syrian army personnel and civilians working with the Iranian side will remain the responsibility of the Iranian side after they are incorporated into the Local Defense Brigades in the districts, in coordination with the relevant parties.
  3. Guaranteeing the material rights of the fallen, wounded and missing [fighters] who worked with the Iranian side from the beginning of the [Syria] events will be the responsibility of the Iranian side…”

Syrian Chief of Staff Ali ‘Abdallah Ayyoub and Defense Minister Fahd Jassem al-Freij approved the memo by appending their signatures to it on April 5, 2017, and Assad, in his capacity as Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces, signed it on April 11, 2017.

Official Syrian Document: Do Not Arrest The Elements Working With The Iranian Side

Likewise, both the Facebook page of the Ra’d Al-Mahdi Brigades and the pro-regime Syrian news website Dp-new.com posted a photo of another official Syrian document, referring to the abovementioned memo concerning the transfer of the Syrian militias to Iranian responsibility. This supports the memo’s authenticity.

The document is a letter sent by Gen. ‘Adnan Muhriz ‘Ali, head of the Organization and Administration Department, on behalf of Syrian Chief of Staff ‘Ali ‘Abdullah Ayyoub, to the Ministry of Internal Security, General Intelligence Directorate, Air Force Intelligence Directorate, Political Security Directorate, Criminal Security Department, Immigration and Passport Administration, and the Military Police. The letter said: “As per the decision of the Commander in Chief of the Army and Armed Forces regarding Memorandum No. 1455 of April 4, 2017 and the decision of the Deputy Commander-in-Chief, Deputy Prime Minister and the Defense Minister regarding Memorandum no. 1681 of April 21, 2017, we instruct you not to arrest [army evaders and deserters] working with the Iranian side who hold temporary documents [identifying them as members] of the Local Defense Forces, until their status is arranged…”[5]

 

_____________________________

[1] See MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1242, Syria Regime Establishing Popular Armed Militias Modeled On Iranian Basij, April 25, 2016.

[2] SANA (Syria), May 2, 2017.

[3] Facebook.com/mammer1987, May 2, 2017.

[4] According to reports, the Popular Army was established in 2012 and comprises well-trained and organized fighters, many of them members of the Ba’th party. Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), September 4, 2012; alrai.iq, November 30, 2016.

[5] Facebook.com/mammer1987, April 30, 2017.

Breaking News » US accuses Assad of installing crematorium to hide mass murder

May 15, 2017

Breaking News » US accuses Assad of installing crematorium to hide mass murder, DEBKAfile, May 15, 2017

Stuart Jones, the acting assistant US secretary of near eastern affairs, told reporters Monday, “We now believe that the Syrian regime has installed a crematorium in the Saydnaya Prison Complex which could dispose of detainees remains with little evidence.” He is executing as many as 50 people a day, according to newly declassified US intelligence. Jones added that the regime will put up to 70 prisoners in a cell designed to hold five people before they are killed.

Saydnaya Prison was branded a “human slaughterhouse” by Amnesty International, which estimates that as many as 13,000 people “were extra-judicially executed” between 2011 and 2015.

Jones detailed the information about Assad’s crematorium as part of a condemnation of Russia’s “apparent tolerance of Syrian atrocities” as they support Assad. “We hope that we will now be able to work with the Russians in a constructive way to put pressure on the regime to end these atrocities,” he said. “Russia holds tremendous influence over Bashar al-Assad,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Monday.

Trump-Putin call focuses on Syria, security zones

May 3, 2017

Trump-Putin call focuses on Syria, security zones, DEBKAfile, May 2, 2017

Clearly, Putin was making the point that, just as the US deals with the Syrian issue in alignment with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, Russia coordinates its actions with Iran and Turkey. Since both presidents are similarly weighed down by their allies, the road to a consensus between Washington and Moscow is destined to be long with many convolutions. Therefore, the tension on the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria will continue to escalate before it abates.

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One of the most consequential exchanges on the disposition of Syria’s border lands with Israel and Jordan – and the future of the Syrian conflict at large – took place between Presidents Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin in a phone call on Tuesday, May 2. The call took place when German Chancellor Angela Merkel was visiting Putin at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources reveal that the two presidents focused strongly on an effort to agree on how de-escalate the Syrian conflict now in its sixth year and bring it to an end. The Russian leader proposed drawing armistice lines between the warring sides under the guarantee of a special Russian military mechanism. The Americans have not released any ideas, but they are believed to be contemplating establishing safety zones barred to the Syrian air force. One of those zones would be marked out in the south on Syria’s borders with Israel and Jordan.

The Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, the Iranian military-political command and Hizballah are resisting US feelers for the introduction of these safe zones, regarding the plan as a ploy hatched by the Saudis, Israelis and Jordanians to take control of South Syria by engaging local Syrian rebel groups as their vehicle. Damascus, Tehran and Beirut believe that if they allow the scheme to go forward without resistance, it will be the start of similar off-limits enclaves in other parts of Syria, and the country will quickly fall apart into self-ruling segments.

That is why late last month, Syrian army units, the Shiite militias under Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers’ command and Hizballah combined their resources to push against the local Syrian rebels of the South in the regions of the borders with Israel and Jordan.

It is doubtful whether Trump and Putin were able to work out something tangible in their first phone conversation since the US fired Tomahawk cruise missiles against the Syrian Shayrat air base on April 7. The Russian president used the shock of that event to cultivate closer ties with the Syrian ruler and strengthen his missile defenses, in case of an American repeat attack or Israeli air strikes on military targets in Syria.

At the same time, Putin becamed more careful about infringing on parts of Syria deemed to be under American influence, especially the Kurdish enclaves.

The US president was also careful not to direct personal attacks on Putin or criticize Russia’s military involvement in Syria, merely expressing the hope that at some point the two powers could reach an understanding to end the vicious conflict.

When reporters in Sochi asked the Russian president if he thought he could sell his plan to Assad, he replied: “A ceasefire is the first priority and cooperation with Washington is critical.”

At the same time, Russia operates in tandem with Turkey and Iran and was trying to “create the conditions for political cooperation on all sides,” he said.

Clearly, Putin was making the point that, just as the US deals with the Syrian issue in alignment with Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan, Russia coordinates its actions with Iran and Turkey. Since both presidents are similarly weighed down by their allies, the road to a consensus between Washington and Moscow is destined to be long with many convolutions. Therefore, the tension on the Israeli and Jordanian borders of southern Syria will continue to escalate before it abates.

Yazidi Activist: Islamic State Cut Open My Friend, Raped Her Baby, Then Raped Her

April 15, 2017

Yazidi Activist: Islamic State Cut Open My Friend, Raped Her Baby, Then Raped Her, BreitbartJohn Hayward, April 14, 2017

(What are feminists doing about these atrocities? What more can be done? — DM)

YouTube

Women for Women International has posted an astonishing interview conducted by its founder,Zainab Salbi, of two eyewitnesses to the horrors of the Islamic State.The tale was not easy to tell, as you can see from the video below, and it is not easy to hear.

The interviewees are Shireen Ibrahim, a Yazidi woman who escaped Islamic State slavery, and activist Feryal Pirali, who handles translation duties.

Ibrahim was captured by ISIS in 2014 while attempting to flee their assault on Iraqi Kurdistan. The Yazidis are a religious minority despised by the Islamic State and considered “devil worshipers” by some other Muslims because they pray to an archangel who is often misidentified as Satan. More details about them can be found here.

Ibrahim became one of many Yazidis held as slaves by the Islamic State, with women and even very young girls often used as sex slaves. She was taken to Sinjar and separated from some forty family members taken with her. She said in her interview with Salbi that half of her family is now missing or dead.

Ibrahim avoided rape at the hands of her ISIS captors for a while by pretending to be married to her cousin and claiming her nephew was her son. She was taken to Syria and tormented in various ways, including ISIS fighters shooting guns into the ground around her, while she was wrapped in a blanket while telling her she would be killed, and pouring some unknown substance down her throat. After she was recaptured during an escape attempt, they tortured her with electric shocks.

“They did everything to me,” Ibrahim said. “They did every bad thing you can think of to me because I ran away.”

She said she was sold as a slave five times during her Islamic State captivity. “The first time I got sold was by a doctor, a guy who came to Syria to buy me,” she recalled. “The last time I got sold it was to the same guy, the same doctor.”

Ibrahim said the price of her first sale was just one dollar. The buyer told her she was a cheap purchase.

The last time she was sold, the ISIS militant hired to transport her helped her escape for reasons she does not know. She currently lives in a camp in northern Iraq for Yazidis who have been rescued from the Islamic State. Ibrahim said she is too traumatized and fearful of ISIS to ever return to her family home in Sinjar.

“It’s hard for us,” Ibrahim said of the other women at the camp who escaped from the Islamic State. “Every minute is like a year.”

The most horrifying story in the interview came from Pirali, who is herself a Yazidi from the Sinjar region. She said she left Iraq in 2010, leaving behind a high school friend who got married and was pregnant with a baby girl when ISIS arrived.

“When ISIS took over our town, when they were trying to run away, because she was heavy, she was pregnant, she couldn’t run a lot,” Pirali said. “So she told her family to leave her behind, ‘save yourself, go.’ She was going to walk slowly until she gets to where they are.”

“Unfortunately, she didn’t make it, The ISIS people got her. What they did to her, they opened up her stomach, like from here to here” — Pirali pantomimed a cut horizontally across her entire stomach — “they opened her up, and they got her baby girl out. They raped the baby, and they also raped her. And she survived.”

“The baby did not make it,” she added. “They thought she was dead. They left her behind. The ISIS fighters, they left her. Her family came back, saw her just like that, in that situation.”

Pirali said this was the atrocity that prompted her to become an activist. In 2015, she circulated a petition asking then-President Barack Obama to help women and girls in ISIS captivity. The petition attracted 100,000 supporters.

“The message I want to send to ISIS people is that we are Yazidis, and we are going to be Yazidis. We are not going to change our religion, no matter what,” Ibrahim said defiantly, with Pirali translating her words.

She wept as she passed along her message to the civilized world: “Save our people that is in ISIS captivity. They’re killing kids in front of our eyes, and they’re bombing them.”

On Tuesday, a Kurdish official told CNN that the bodies of between 1,300 and 1,500 Yazidis have been found in the area around Sinjar, interred in 35 mass graves plus over 100 individual graves. The Kurds believe they will find more mass graves as more territory is recaptured from the Islamic State. The official who spoke to CNN believed there are up to a dozen mass graves in a single village still controlled by ISIS and identified as a site of mass killings by the United Nations.

The United Nations has formally accused the Islamic State of committing genocide against the Yazidis.

Unfortunately, Yazidis in northern Iraq who only recently returned to their homes have been displaced again, as Kurdish and Yazidi militia battle ISIS fighters in the region. The Kurdish Regional Government is seeking to persuade armed Yazidis to break away from the PKK — a militant group engaged in separatist violence in Turkey, which recruited and trained many Yazidis to fight ISIS in the Sinjar region — and join the Kurdish Peshmerga instead.

The world’s largest Yazidi temple, seen by many as a sign of renewal for their religion, is currently under construction in Armenia. Yazidis are a large and respected minority in Armenia, but many of them have relocated to Europe, Russia, and the U.S. in search of jobs, due to a slow economy.

Trump’s Strategy for Dividing the Enemy Alliance

April 15, 2017

Trump’s Strategy for Dividing the Enemy Alliance, Iran News Update, April 14, 2017

 

Russia and Iran still needed to be dealt with, so Tillerson met with Putin Wednesday, and Buckley writes, “…from our perspective the possibility of a rapprochement with Russia is greater now than it was before the attack on the Syrian air base: Trump no longer has to worry about critics who say he’s soft on Russia.”

He continues, “As for the Russians, they’re the ultimate realists. We’ve signaled to them that we’re not going to try to dislodge them from Syria. But everything else is on the table. We’re telling them they can move in more civilized company if they want. Only it’s going to cost them, if we’re to accept them as civilized players.”

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The past few weeks were a triumph for America.

“Now what?” asks F.H. Buckley, Scalia Law School professor, and author of “The Way Back: Restoring the Promise of America.”

In an article for the New York Post Buckley writes, “When facing three opponents, as America is with Russia, Syria and Iran, the most obvious response is to try to break them up through a side deal with one of them. That’s the signal Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nicki Haley sent to Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad on March 30 in saying we’d be prepared to live with him.”

In essence, the message was, “Be nice, Assad, distance yourself from Iran and we’ll accept a solution to the Syrian civil war that leaves you in power,” writes Buckley. The offer’s chance of being accepted was slight. Syria, under Assad, is dependent on Iran. More fighters take orders from Tehran than there are members of Assad’s army, including members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards.

No one has asked is why Assad ordered the Sarin attack, but Buckley assumes that it “…had simply been ordered to employ chemical weapons by Tehran, as a means of turning down the American overture. It signaled that the Iranian-Syrian alliance could not be broken.”

Next came our attack on the Syrian Shayrat airbase last week.

However, Russia and Iran still needed to be dealt with, so Tillerson met with Putin Wednesday, and Buckley writes, “…from our perspective the possibility of a rapprochement with Russia is greater now than it was before the attack on the Syrian air base: Trump no longer has to worry about critics who say he’s soft on Russia.”

He continues, “As for the Russians, they’re the ultimate realists. We’ve signaled to them that we’re not going to try to dislodge them from Syria. But everything else is on the table. We’re telling them they can move in more civilized company if they want. Only it’s going to cost them, if we’re to accept them as civilized players.”

Finally, Buckley talks about Iran. He writes, “Of the three countries, only Iran under the mullahs is America’s implacable enemy, one with whom a peaceful resolution of differences is entirely impossible. More than that, the mullahs take our willingness to reach out to them as a sign of weakness they can exploit. They constantly test our resolve, and when we fail to respond, they take it one level further.”

Some options remain, and one of them is to push back when pushed. The Iranian regime’s legitimacy is threatened by liberal opposition groups, particularly the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI). The National Council revealed Iran’s nuclear program in 2002, and it’s been praised by Elie Wiesel, Rudy Giuliani and Michael Mukasey.

Support for the NCRI and other Iranian dissident groups is a good place to begin change, and end the years of acquiescence to Iran.

Tillerson says US-Russia relations at ‘low point,’ calls for improving ties after Putin meeting

April 12, 2017

Tillerson says US-Russia relations at ‘low point,’ calls for improving ties after Putin meeting, Fox News, April 12, 2017

(Please see also, The Real Winner in the Russia Investigations Is Iran.

The best interests of the United States would be to woo Russia away from these maniacs — and we very well could have.  We are, at least for now, still the world’s biggest GNP and control a great deal of the global economy.  Greedy despots like Putin know that as well as anybody.  They may not feel good about it, but to some degree they might play with us.  And if they wanted to enough, if we sweetened the pot enough, they’d even disengage from the mullahs, leaving them with no ally of value, no substantial defender.

Trump — or some people close to him — may have had this in mind when they started speaking with the Russians way back in the Paleolithic Era of the transition days.  They’d have been fools not to.  They wouldn’t have been doing their duty to the United States or to the civilized world for that matter.

Now Trump or his people can no longer even consider making such inroads. They would be accused immediately of treason or something close. The possibility of separating the Russians from Iran has been destroyed by these investigations — first by the House, now by the Senate, and always by the media.

— DM)

 

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson held a hastily arranged meeting in Moscow late Wednesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin as he worked to ease tensions with the country over Syria and other global crises – even as he and President Trump, from afar, continued to pressure Putin over his alliance with Bashar Assad. 

Tillerson, speaking frankly during a joint press conference in Moscow alongside Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, said U.S.-Russia relations have hit a “low point,” while stressing the need to improve ties.

“There is a low level of trust between our two countries. The world’s two foremost nuclear powers cannot have this kind of relationship,” Tillerson said.

Those tensions have mounted since Trump ordered a missile strike on an airbase controlled by the Assad government last week, in response to a chemical weapons attack.

Tillerson and Lavrov spoke after Tillerson met in private with Putin at the Kremlin for nearly two hours.

Tillerson, the first Trump Cabinet official to visit Russia, originally was only slated to meet with Lavrov but spoke with Putin after first sitting down with his Russian counterpart.

Tillerson traveled to Moscow just days after the Trump administration launched missile strikes on an airbase in Syria, angering Bashar al-Assad’s allies in Moscow. The strike was in response to a chemical weapons attack earlier last week.

Tillerson ratcheted up his rhetoric en route to Moscow earlier this week, saying “the reign of the Assad family is coming to an end” and challenging Russia to reconsider its alliance with the government in Damascus.

Trump also told Fox Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo that Putin is backing “an evil person” in Syria, and it’s “very bad for Russia.”

At the same time, Trump made clear he’s pushing for peace in Syria. He said, “we’re not going into Syria,” but said pressure will be on Russia to ensure peace.

“If Russia didn’t go in and back this animal, you wouldn’t have a problem right now,” he said.

Earlier Wednesday, during a forum at The Newseum in Washington, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer was asked about what could be on the table at a Putin-Tillerson meeting. He spoke to their common interests.

“I think there is a shared interest in defeating ISIS in the region that we have a national security concern that should align with their national security concern,” he said.

Spicer had tough words for Russia’s alliance with Assad, however.

“Russia right now is an island,” he said. “It’s Russia, North Korea and Iran … Russia is among that group the only non-failed state.” He said Russia is “isolating” itself by standing by Assad.