Posted tagged ‘Russia and Iran’

Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence

March 5, 2017

Putin ramps up Syria pact with Iran in US absence, DEBKAfile, March 5, 2017

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Constantly bombarded by allegations that his campaign associated with Russian intelligence, US President Donald Trump has held back from going through with his original plan for teaming up with Moscow in Syria for the important campaigns of wiping out the Islamic State and relieving Syria of Iran’s iron grip.

His entire Middle East policy is up in the air, while he grapples with domestic foes. The much talked-of US coalition with its regional allies, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, is also in abeyance.

Amid the uncertainty about the Trump administration’s future steps, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is unlikely to make much headway in his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Thursday, March 9,

DEBKAfile’s intelligence and military sources report that, even if does persuade Putin to stick to his promise to prevent Iran and Hizballah from deploying troops on the Syrian-Israeli border opposite the Golan, he won’t get far in his bid to prevent Iran from establishing a permanent military and naval presence in Syria.

This is the situation stacking up against Netanyahu:

1. The Trump administration has decided not to decide on Middle East policy – and Syria, in particular – while engaged in dodging his domestic enemies’ Russian arrows.

2. Some of the president’s advisers maintain that the state of indecision in Washington may turn out into an advantage. It might not be a bad thing for Moscow to carry the heavy lifting of tackling ISIS, Iran and Hizballah, rather than putting US troops in harm’s way.

3. Putin is not waiting for Trump and is already on the move, DEBKAfile’s sources report.

Friday, March 3, Russian special operations units recovered the Syrian town of Palmyra from the Islamic State.

That day too, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed predominantly of the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia and Arab tribesmen from the north, agreed to hand over their positions in the strategic town of Manjib to the Russians and the Syrian army,

The SDF was created, trained, armed and funded by the United States as the potential spearhead force for the offensive against the Islamic State. This force was able to last year to capture the small (pop: 50,000) northern town of Manjib, 30km west of the Euphrates, thanks only to US aerial bombardments of ISIS positions and American advisers.

How come that this important US ally suddenly surrendered its positions to the Russians and Assad’s army?

There is more than one reason. Firstly, the SDF’s Kurdish and Arab commanders apparently decided to give up on waiting for Washington to come round, especially since the only weapons they had received from the Obama administration for fighting ISIS were Kalashnikov AK-74 rifles.

Moreover, the Kurds’ most implacable arch enemy is breathing down their necks. On March 1, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened to order his army, which has occupied northern Syria since last year, to seize Manjib. He said: “Manjib is a city that belongs to the Arabs and the SDF must not be in Raqqa either.”

The Kurdish-Arab force decided to take the Turkish leader at his word. Believing him to be close to Trump, its leaders decided their services were being dispensed with. They saw no point therefore in wasting and risking their troops in battles in the US interest.  In this situation, Moscow looked like a better bet.

DEBKAfile’s military sources stress that, when the Russians say they are working with the Syrian army, they really mean the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, the pro-Iranian Shiite militias and Hizballah, because most Syrian army’s units were decimated by nearly six years of civil war, or exist only on paper.

That being so, even if Putin does promise Netanyahu to distance Iranian and pro-Iranian troops from the Syrian-Israeli border, he may not be in a position to honor his pledge. With the Americans far away, they are Russia’s main partners on the ground for achieving his future goals in Syria.

Columnist For Russian Daily ‘Kommersant’: ‘ In Tehran, Moscow Has A Capricious And Unpredictable Partner’

March 1, 2017

Columnist For Russian Daily ‘Kommersant’: ‘ In Tehran, Moscow Has A Capricious And Unpredictable Partner’, MEMRI, March 1, 2017

In a recent article, columnist for the Russian daily Kommersant Maxim Yusin analyzed Russia-Iran relations. According to Yusin, Iran has “consistently acted” as a Moscow’s “situational ally,” but this “situational alliance” between the two countries in Syria is not nearly “as firm as it seems.” He added that Moscow considers Iran a “capricious” and “unpredictable” partner, and that this could open a window of opportunity for President Donald Trump’s diplomacy.

Below are excerpts of Yusin’s article:[1]

6808aMaxim Yusin (Source: Kommersant.ru)

“Washington Does Not Offer [Russia] Any Geopolitical Bargain That Could Make Up For A Possible Cooling Of Relations With Tehran”

“Moscow faces a difficult choice resulting from escalating tensions between Washington and Tehran. On the one hand, in many regional conflicts in the Middle East – first of all in Syria – Tehran has consistently acted as Moscow’s situational ally. On the other hand, connections between Moscow and Donald Trump’s administration are just beginning to take shape, and if in the very first serious crisis Russia fails to meet the new president’s expectations and creates the perception of being an opponent rather than a partner, that will dash all hopes for normalization of relations between the two superpowers. For obvious reasons, Russia does not want to jeopardize its ties with Iran – especially when Washington does not offer it any ‘geopolitical bargain’ that could make up for a possible cooling of relations with Tehran, such as acknowledgement of the Kremlin’s special interest in the post-Soviet territory, concessions in Ukraine, or easing of sanctions.

“There is another reason why it would be hard for Moscow to agree with Washington’s position in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear file. The fact is that in negotiations with Tehran on this issues conducted over many years by the six mediators – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany – Russia has always been a key player. Between 2005 and 2013, when Iran’s president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad adopted radical positions, it was Moscow that had saved the negotiations. Russia essentially played the role of an intermediary between Tehran and the Western powers. And the Obama administration officials who had harshly criticized Moscow on many other issues, had repeatedly emphasized its constructive role in negotiations on the Iran’s nuclear file.

“The fact that Donald Trump has dramatically changed the U.S. policy toward Tehran cannot be seen by Moscow as a convincing argument for a radical revision of its own position. And to Russia’s partners in the region, a U-turn like this would come as an unpleasant surprise as well – during the Syrian crisis they have come to rely on Russia’s firmly defending its principles and making no concessions, even under heavy pressure.”

“The ‘Situational Alliance’ Formed Between [Russia And Iran] In Syria Is Not Nearly As Firm As It Seems”

“However, Iran can also hardly count on Moscow’s unconditional support, especially if it were to take drastic steps that would undermine regional security. The ‘situational alliance’ formed between the two countries in Syria is not nearly as firm as it seems. As I was recently told by an informed source in Moscow, ‘mutual complaints keep accumulating, even if they are rarely voiced aloud.’ Tehran, to which Damascus hardliners look, is in favor of the war to the bitter end – to have the Syrian army recapture the whole territory occupied by the opposition forces. For Iranian ayatollahs viewing the Syrian conflict through the lens of the Shia-Sunni confrontation going back millennium and a half, the stakes are much higher. Tehran opposes any concessions to the opposition that unites Sunni groups, and is skeptical of the involvement of Turkey – its traditional opponent – in the peace process.

“At the same time, Moscow’s goals are far less maximalist and more specific: to make peace under conditions acceptable for Damascus while taking into account the interests of the moderate opposition, to keep Bashar Assad in power, and to guarantee the continuing Russian military presence in the country. Unlike Tehran and Damascus, Moscow is carefully avoiding making statements about the unconditional victory over the regime’s opponents and recapturing the whole territory from the opposition forces.

“The differences between Russia and Iran in their approaches to the Syrian conflict are occasionally aired in public. The last time that happened in last August when Hossein Dehghan, the Iranian defense minister, spoke about Moscow with unprecedented harshness. He accused it of ‘posturing,’ ‘ungentlemanly conduct,’ and [of harboring a] ‘desire to prove itself a superpower,’ and as a result, banned Russian aircraft taking part in military operations in Syria from using the Iranian airfield in Hamadan. The scandal was eventually hushed up, but the bitter taste remained – along with Moscow’s understanding that in Iran it has a really capricious and unpredictable partner. That opens a certain window of opportunity for Donald Trump’s diplomacy.”

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[1] Kommersant.ru, February 14, 2017.

Iraq hits ISIS in Syria – with Russia, without US

February 25, 2017

Iraq hits ISIS in Syria – with Russia, without US, DEBKAfile, February 25, 2017

If indeed President Donald Trump gave a quiet nod to the four-way Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi military partnership for fighting this enemy, it would signify the start of US-Russian cooperation for the war on Islamic terror in the Middle East and mean that the two powers were running local forces hand in hand.

But if the Iraqis chose to work in conjunction with Moscow and Tehran, cutting America out, that is a completely different matter. It would indicate that President Vladimir Putin, having noted Trump’s difficulties in lining up his team for a deal with Moscow – and the opposition to this deal he faces from his intelligence agencies – had given up on the US option and was going forward in Syria and Iraq with Tehran instead.

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The Iraqi air force Friday, Feb. 24, conducted its first ever bombardment of the Islamic State in Syria. The target was the southeastern town of Abu Kemal near the Iraqi border, to which ISIS has removed most of its command centers from its main Syrian stronghold in Raqqa. Iraqi Defense Ministry spokesman Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim stated that Baghdad had coordinated the attack with Moscow, Damascus and Tehran using shared intelligence.

When he was asked if the United State military was involved, he said he did not know.

Likewise, in referring to the Abu Kemal attack, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi said: “We are determined to follow the terrorism that is trying to kill our sons and our citizens everywhere.” He made no mention of the United States, despite ongoing US support for the Iraqi army’s long offensive to retake Mosul from ISIS.

This omission is of pivotal importance for the future of the war on the Islamic State and America’s involvement in that campaign.

If indeed President Donald Trump gave a quiet nod to the four-way Russian-Iranian-Syrian-Iraqi military partnership for fighting this enemy, it would signify the start of US-Russian cooperation for the war on Islamic terror in the Middle East and mean that the two powers were running local forces hand in hand.

But if the Iraqis chose to work in conjunction with Moscow and Tehran, cutting Ameica out, that is a completely different matter. It would indicate that President Vladimir Putin, having noted Trump’s difficulties in lining up his team for a deal with Moscow – and the opposition to this deal he faces from his intelligence agencies – had given up on the US option and was going forward in Syria and Iraq with Tehran instead.

The Iraqi prime minister’s actions in this regard must have been critical. He may be playing a double game – working with the US commander in Iraq and Syria, Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, for the capture Mosul from the jihadis, while at the same time, using Russian and Iranian partners on other anti-ISIS fronts.

DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources say that in any event the Iraqi air strike presented a major affront to President Donald Trump’s avowed determination to fight radical Islamic terror to the finish. Its timing is unfortunate: Defense Secretary Gen. James Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford are due Monday to submit the review the president commissioned from the Pentagon on policy planning for Syria and the war on terror. Trump’s foreign policy address to Congress is scheduled for the next day.

If the Pentagon’s recommendations hinge on the enlistment of regional military strength for the campaign against ISIS, then Moscow will be seen to have snatched the initiative first.

There are more signs that the war on ISIS may be running away from Washington. The Trump administration has made it clear that it objects to any role for the Turkish army in the offensive to capture Raqqa from ISIS. However, on Saturday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, after hailing the victory of the Turkish army over ISIS in the northern Syrian town of Al-Bab, announced that Turkey was planning to lead an operation for the recovery of Raqqa, in cooperation with… France, Britain and Germany, after holding consultations with their representatives. America was not mentioned.

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked

February 20, 2017

Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked, Dan Miller’s Blog, February 20, 2017

(The views expressed in this article are mine and do not necessarily reflect those of Warsclerotic or its other editors. — DM)

Evidence of political corruption should be.

It has been obvious since the early Republican primaries that most media coverage of a Trump presidency would be adverse and presented out of context. Perhaps a recent editorial at The Week Magazine explains why, albeit inadvertently. Or maybe this cartoon better explains the media view:

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

Trump and Putin as seen by the lamebrain media

According to The Week Magazineall leaks are equal. However, we approve of those which fit our politics and disapprove of those which don’t.

Live by the leak, die by the leak. When WikiLeaks was releasing a steady stream of embarrassing emails hacked from Democratic officials during the presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton and her supporters cried foul, and urged the press not to report their contents. Donald Trump applauded every new revelation, saying the leaks provided voters with important information, and gleefully invited the Russians to find and publish emails she had deleted. “Boy, that WikiLeaks has done a job on her, hasn’t it?” Trump exulted. Now that it’s Trump who is being tortured by leaks, he’s complaining they’re illegal and “un-American.” Democrats, meanwhile, are welcoming the torrent like a rainstorm after a long drought. (See Main Stories.) When it comes to leaks, everyone is a hypocrite. “Good” leaks are ones that damage our opponents. “Bad” leaks are those that hurt Our Side. [Emphasis added.]

But let’s set partisanship aside for a moment. Is it always in the public interest for government officials to leak, and for the media to publish leaked material? Crusading journalist Glenn Greenwald—who angered the Obama administration by publishing Edward Snowden’s trove of stolen NSA documents—argues in TheIntercept.com this week that all leaks exposing “wrong-doing” are good ones, regardless of the leaker’s motives. “Leaks are illegal and hated by those in power (and their followers),” Greenwald says, “precisely because political officials want to be able to lie to the public with impunity and without detection.” The implication of this argument, of course, is that governments, politicians, and organizations should not keep any secrets—that when people in power conceal documents, emails, or information that could embarrass them, they are by definition deceiving the public. Radical transparency certainly sounds noble—but I suspect it’s a standard no public official, or indeed most of us, could survive. It’s so much more convenient to have a double standard: Transparency for thee, but not for me.

I disagree. Leaks of unclassified materials demonstrating corruption of the political process by either party are necessary for an effectively functioning democracy. Leaks of highly classified national security information — particularly in the area of foreign policy — endanger our democracy, are crimes and the perpetrators should be dealt with accordingly. When the media sensationalize leaks of the latter type, they are complicit and must be criticized vigorously.

The press has long served as an objective fail-safe to protect the public from the powers-that-be. That objectivity is now absent and the media’s role in our democratic society is in jeopardy. Rather than self-reflect as to how they got off course, the press have opted to label the man who exposed this derailment as un-American.

What’s un-American is the belief that the press should be unaccountable for its actions. What’s un-American is the belief that any attempt to criticize the press should be viewed as heresy. What’s un-American is the belief that the press is akin to a golden calf that compels Americans, presidents included, to worship the press.

Two very different types of leaks

a. DNC and Podesta e-mails:

The DNC and Podesta e-mails were released as written and posted by DNC officials and Podesta for transmission on unsecured servers easily hacked by modestly competent teenage hackers. I have seen no suggestion that the e-mails were classified. The intelligence community opined that Russian agents had done the hacking, but offered no significant proof beyond that the methods used by the hacker(s) were comparable to those used by Russian hackers in the past.

They found no discrepancies between the original e-mails and those posted by WikiLeaks (which denied that Russia had been the source). The e-mail leaks damaged the Clinton campaign because they portrayed, accurately — and in their own words —  dishonest efforts of high-level DNC and Clinton campaign personnel to skew the Democrat primary process in Ms. Clinton’s favor. They did not involve American foreign policy until Obama — who had previously done nothing of significance to halt Russia’s hacking of highly classified information from our intelligence establishment beyond asking, “pretty please, stop” — decided that Russia must be punished for Hillary’s loss of the general election through sanctions and by the expulsion of thirty-five of its diplomats.

Russian president Vladimir Putin had been expected to respond in kind, with the expulsion of US diplomats from its territory.

However, he later said he would not “stoop” to “irresponsible diplomacy”, but rather attempt to repair relations once Donald Trump takes office.

Mr Trump praised the decision as “very smart.”

b. Flynn telephone conversations:

Neither transcripts nor audio recordings of the Flynn telephone conversations were released. Instead, conclusions of the leakers were released. According to House Intelligence Chair Devin Nunes,

“I think there is a lot of innuendo out there that the intelligence agencies have a problem with Donald Trump. The rank and file people that are out doing jobs across the world — very difficult places — they don’t pay attention to what is going on in Washington,” the California representative told CBS “Face the Nation” host John Dickerson.

“What we have is we do have people in the last administration, people who are burrowed in, perhaps all throughout the government, who clearly are leaking to the press,” Nunes added. “And it is against the law. Major laws have been broken. If you believe the Washington Post story that said there were nine people who said this, these are nine people who broke the law.” [Emphasis added.]

Nunes said the FBI and other intelligence agencies ought to investigate who has leaked information to the press because so few people in the administration knew these secrets, that it would have had to have been someone at the “highest levels of the Obama administration” who is an acting official until Trump replaces him or her.

Did the leaker(s) try to present the conversations honestly, or to damage President Trump’s efforts to deal with Russia in matters of foreign policy where American and Russian interests coincide? To disrupt America’s badly needed “reset” with Russia which seemed likely to succeed under President Trump after Clinton’s and Obama’s efforts had failed?

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Remember the Obama – Romney debate when Romney characterized Russia as America’s greatest geopolitical threat and Obama responded that the cold war was over and that “the 1980’s are calling and want their foreign policy back”?

The position now asserted by the Democrats and the media seems rather like the position that Obama rejected. If the position(s) of the Democrats and the media are now correct and Russia is again our enemy, might it be due to actions which Obama took or failed to take over the past eight years?

It is unfortunate that there has been a resurgence of Democrat (and some Republican) Russophobia when Russia is reassessing her relationship with Iran and America.

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote. [Emphasis added.]

An American – Russian realignment in areas of mutual concern — which as suggested below had seemed to be progressing well until General Flynn ceased to be involved — would be good, not bad. We have many areas of mutual concern, and Iran is one of them. The war in Syria is another. When were Russians last directed to yell Death to America? Or to refer to America as the “Great Satan?”

c. General Flynn, Russia and Iran

General Flynn had, at President Trump’s request, been dealing with Russia concerning the future roles of Iran, Russia and America in the Syria debacle:

Overlaying US President Donald Trump’s extraordinary, hour-long skirmish with reporters Thursday, Feb. 16, was bitter frustration over the domestic obstacles locking him out from his top security and foreign policy goals. [Emphasis added.]

Even before his inauguration four weeks ago, he had arranged to reach those goals by means of an understanding with President Vladimir Putin for military and intelligence cooperation in Syria, both for the war on the Islamic State and for the removal of Iran and its Lebanese surrogate Hizballah from that country. [Emphasis added.]

But his antagonists, including elements of the US intelligence community, were turning his strategy into a blunderbuss for hitting him on the head, with the help of hostile media.

Thursday, in a highly unconventional meeting with the world media, he tried to hit back, and possibly save his strategy.

That won’t be easy. The exit of National Security Adviser Mike Flynn, the prime mover in the US-Russian détente, sent the Kremlin a negative signal. The Russians began unsheathing their claws when they began to suspect that the US president was being forced back from their understanding. The SSV 175 Viktor Leonov spy ship was ordered to move into position opposite Delaware on the East Coast of America; Su-24 warplanes buzzed the USS Porter destroyer in the Black Sea.

Before these events, Washington and Moscow wre moving briskly towards an understandingdebkafile’s intelligence sources disclose that the Kremlin had sent positive messages to the White House on their joint strategy in Syria, clarifying that Moscow was not locked in on Bashar Assad staying on as president. [Emphasis added.]

They also promised to table at the Geneva conference on Syria taking place later this month a demand for the all “foreign forces” to leave Syria. This would apply first and foremost to the pro-Iranian Iraqi, Pakistani and Afghan militias brought in by Tehran to fight for Assad under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers, as well as Hizballah. [Emphasis added.]

Deeply troubled by this prospect, Tehran sent Iran’s supreme commander in the Middle East, the Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, to Moscow this week to find out what was going on.

Flynn’s departure put the lid on this progress. Then came the damaging leak to the Wall Street Journal, that quoted an “intelligence official” as saying that his agencies hesitated to reveal to the president the “sources and methods” they use to collect information, due to “possible links between Trump associates and Russia.. Those links, he said “could potentially compromise the security of such classified information.”

A first-year student knows that this claim is nonsense, since no agency ever share its sources and methods with any outsider, however high-placed.

What the leak did reveal was that some Washington insiders were determined at all costs to torpedo the evolving understanding between the American and Russian presidents. The first scapegoat was the strategy the two were developing for working together in Syria. [Emphasis added.]

Defending his policy of warming relations with Moscow, Trump protested that “getting along with Russia is not a bad thing.” He even warned there would be a “nuclear holocaust like no other” if relations between the two superpowers were allowed to deteriorate further.

It is too soon to say whether his Russian policy is finally in shreds or can still be repaired. Trump indicated more than once in his press briefing that he would try and get the relations back on track.

Asked how he would react to Russia’s latest provocative moves, he said: “I’m not going to tell you anything about what responses I do. I don’t talk about military responses. I don’t have to tell you what I’m going to do in North Korea,” he stressed.

At all events, his administration seems to be at a crossroads between whether to try and salvage the partnership with Russia for Syria, or treat it as a write-off. If the latter, then Trump must decide whether to send American troops to the war-torn country to achieve his goals, or revert to Barack Obama’s policy of military non-intervention in the conflict. [Emphasis added.]

Substantially more is generally involved in matters of foreign policy than is facially apparent or than government officials should discuss publicly, particularly while negotiations with foreign powers are underway. Leaks by held-over members of the intelligence community did much to reveal the opinions of the leakers but little to reveal what General Flynn had been doing, while upsetting the chances of better American – Russian relations in areas of mutual concern.

Conclusions — The Administrative State

The Federal Government has grown far too big for its britches, giving the unelected “administrative state” substantially more authority, and hence power, than is consistent with a properly functioning democracy. As they have been demonstrating in recent months, holdovers from one administration can succeed, at least partially, in paralyzing a new and democratically elected president. Holdovers with political appointee status can generally be fired. Few others who should be can be.

Getting rid of the obstructionist “civil servants” who have become our masters should rank very high on President Trump’s “to do” list and should be accomplished before it’s too late. The task may be difficult but is not impossible. Perhaps some particularly obnoxious Federal agencies (or departments within those agencies) can be relocated to places less congenial than Washington. Inner City Chicago comes to mind. So do otherwise pleasant cities in California, where housing prices are much higher than in the Washington, D.C. area. How many Federal employees faced with the choice of relocating or resigning would choose the latter option?

There are likely other and probably better ways to get rid of the fatheads. President Trump’s administration should devise them.

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief

February 14, 2017

US-Russian steps vs Iran await new NSC chief, DEBKAfile, February 14, 2016

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Michael Flynn’s abrupt resignation as National Security Adviser Monday night, Feb. 13, was a crippling blow to Donald Trump’s foreign policy strategy, less than a month after he entered the White House. Flynn was the architect and prime mover of the president’s plans for close cooperation with Russian President Vladimir Putin. He was brought down by misinforming Vice President Mike Pence – and very likely the president too – on the content of the conversation he held with the Russian ambassador before Trump’s inauguration.

Although retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg takes over as acting NSA, the White House is urgently considering a permanent replacement to fill Flynn’s large shoes. Former CIA Director David Petraeus’ name has come up, but his indiscretions over state secrets still count against him. Vice Admiral Robert Harward, a former Navy SEAL, is a strong contender, although more may emerge.

Even before picking his next national security adviser, Trump will need to determine how to proceed with his détente with Putin, the highly sensitive details of which were managed personally and confidentially by Mike Flynn as the centerpiece of the new administration’s foreign policy.

His contacts with Moscow were under heavy fire from the president’s friends and foes alike, both before and after the November election. It was defended stalwartly by Trump himself, Pence and Flynn. However, neither the president nor the vice president can tell exactly what Flynn promised the Russians and to what deals he committed them. Therefore, his successor will be required to start building Washington’s ties with Moscow from scratch.

While Flynn’s departure has caused havoc in the Trump administration, it is a catastrophe for the Middle East, because a core objective of the US-Russian partnership, which he shaped as a model for other regions, was to have been to clip Iran’s wings and cut down its standing down as premier Middle East power conferred by Barack Obama.

(How the Flynn mechanism was to work plus detailed analysis of the fallout from his departure will be covered exclusively in the coming issue of DEBKA Weekly out next Friday).

Flynn alone was privy to arrangements concluded with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh, Jordan’s King Abdullah in Amman, President Putin in Moscow, Tayyip Erdogan in Ankara, Abdel-Fatteh El-Sisis in Cairo and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem.

Some of his output began taking shape on the day he stepped down, when Syrian rebel groups led by Jordanian special operations officers attacked Syrian army positions in the southern town of Daraa. This was the start of an operation to drive Syrian government forces and their Iranian and Hizballah allies from the lands bordering on Jordan and Israel.

In Cairo, too, President Michel Aoun of Lebanon and his host, El-Sisi were hashing out a plan for the Egyptian army and Gulf forces to go into action against Hizballah in Syria and Lebanon.

Wednesday, Feb. 15, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu is to visit the White House for his first meeting with Trump as president. They too were scheduled to discuss US operations against Hizballah and the role Israel would play.

In the coming hours, Trump will have to decide whether to go ahead with these initiatives in the absence of Flynn and his detailed knowledge of how they should go forward, or simply put them on hold until his successor is in place and has time for a full study of their complicated ins and outs. At the same time, a different national security adviser in the White house might have different plans to those laid out by his predecessor.

Pro-Kremlin Pravda.ru: ‘ Iran Is Becoming A Major Problem, First And Foremost For Russia’s Interests’

February 13, 2017

Pro-Kremlin Pravda.ru: ‘ Iran Is Becoming A Major Problem, First And Foremost For Russia’s Interests’, MEMRI

On January 22, 2017, the Russian media outlet Pravda.ru published an analysis on Russia-Iran relations. According to the article’s author, Dmitri Nersesov, Iran is becoming a problem for Russian interests. Nersesov also added that Iran wants Russia to choose between Iran and Washington. “Iran wants Russia to recognize that Teheran holds the key to the regulation of the Syrian crisis. Should Russia decide that the real strategy is built on the cooperation between Moscow and Washington, rather than Moscow and Teheran; the Islamic Republic will be extremely disappointed,” Nersesov wrote.

Below are excerpts from Pravda.ru’s article:[1]

putrou(Source: Islam.ru)

‘Observers Testify That Iranian Internal Propaganda Blames Russia For The Rise Of Iranian Military Losses In Syria’

“After the strange story of the Russian ACF [Air-Cosmos Force – in 2015, the Military Air Force and the Cosmos Defense were united] usage of the Iranian Hamadan military airbase, it became absolutely clear that Tehran cannot be fully trusted.[2] Events of the last several days only strengthen that feeling. Russian-Iranian contradictions appear not only in the vicinity of Syria, but also start influence the Russian-U.S. relations. And that is very serious…

“The point is that Moscow intended the Astana negotiations to become the initial platform for establishing a practical dialogue with the new American administration. That is what the Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov sought to convey at his press-conference. Lavrov said: ‘We consider it right to invite the representatives of the UN and the new U.S. administration to this meeting. We expect that new American administration can accept this invitation and will be represented by its experts of any possible level’… The fact that inviting the Americans was coordinated with Ankara must not be ignored.

“What about Tehran?

“The following was stated there: ‘We did not invite them, we are against their presence’. These words by the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are cited by the news agencies. Thus Iran had publicly rejected its allies’ initiative… It seems like that this position of the Iranian leadership does not specifically relate to Syria’s problems. Zarif’s words are a message to Moscow and Washington. We shall try to decipher it.

“The Iranians want Moscow to clearly understand that they intend to control as strictly as possible the implementation of its strategy in Syria, and in the long term– in the Middle East generally. Tehran is able to create problems in fulfilling the combat tasks (by blocking access to the Hamadan airbase), in reaching ceasefire and humanitarian pauses (frequently the pro-Iran Shi’ite units have frustrated these initiatives), and renewing Russia-U.S. contacts on Syria.

“Simultaneously, Tehran’s demarche seemingly forces Moscow to make a choice: between us [Iran], or Ankara define your choice Russians! You can definitely negotiate with the Turks the ceasefire between the Syrian [factions], you can even conduct joint airstrikes against terrorists, but without us, the Iranians, you will not attain any practical goals. Take into account that today Turkey is weak, and it will stay like this indefinitely. And Iran is only getting stronger, as the sanctions against it had been removed, and you will compete with Western corporations for the right to participate in strengthening Iran!

“The Iranians present Moscow with a similar choice regarding the relations with Washington: will Iran or remain Russia’s leading partner in Syria and in the region generally or [will it be] Washington? If Moscow does not fully and decisively acknowledge that the keys to managing the Middle East are in Tehran, and only the intimate team work with Iran makes possible to promote the Russian interests here; if Moscow will ‘suddenly’ decide that the ‘real strategy’ is built not along the Tehran-Moscow axis, but along the Moscow-Washington one – the Islamic Republic will be very disappointed. And will find – definitely find! – the means to punish the ‘arrogant Russians’.

“In this context one should note that during the recent funeral of Hashemi Rafsanjani…was accompanied by the chanting of anti-Russian slogans. Observers testify that Iranian internal propaganda blames Russia precisely for the rise of Iranian military losses in Syria. This should not come as a surprise, because the Russian ACF were kicked out of the Hamadan [military airbase] for ‘ungentlemanly behavior’ and ‘arrogance’. Iran quite willingly believes that any foreigner only thinks about showing them his ‘arrogance’, and they do not forgive this sin. All the more so when it is Russia – the ‘small Satan’ for those who inherited Imam Khomeini’s set of values…

‘It Depends On The U.S. When Iran Will Become A Full-Fledged Nuclear Power’

“Washington? What message did Tehran send to the new president Trump?

“The main thesis is the same: Iran is the leading player in the regional arena, it has the capacity to exert a critical influence on Russia’s position and actions even with regards to Russian-American contacts. In a language resembling Trump’s, it sounds something like this: Tehran is the blocking shareholder in Syria and in the Middle East. Draw your conclusions, Mr. President!

“To talk this way with great powers, Iran must hold strong trump cards. It has them. The main one is the notorious ‘nuclear program’ and the famous deal about it.

“What is the heart of the matter? Ten years of struggle (since Bush-junior) against Iran getting the nuclear missiles brought Iran to the threshold of owning such a weapon. It has the carriers. The warheads which it ostensibly does not have (yet?) can be almost surely made within 15 years, when the limitations imposed as part of the ‘deal’ expire.

“That ‘deal’ was Obama’s favorite baby, his fundamental foreign policy achievement (by his own admission). This achievement means that now it depends on the U.S. when Iran will become a full-fledged nuclear power. For Tehran, just after signing the ‘deal’ (the full text of which no one has seen) had promptly warned everybody: any act which the Iranians will consider to be its violation will mean the abnegation of agreements, and then the Islamic Republic of Iran  will consider itself free to implement its nuclear program.

“Of all the ‘deal’ participants (the U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany, Iran), only the U.S. is interested and capable of provoking Iran to such a step, for even under Obama, Washington did not lift all the sanctions imposed on Iran. And Trump even claims the intent to renege on Iran’s nuclear program agreement. And if he will really do it, Tehran will have carte blanche to continue the work the result of which may become (with intolerably high probability) the appearance of her nuclear weapon.

“In view of this logic, Iran’s message to Trump is: ‘Mr. President! Upon your first signal, we shall do what your predecessors had steadily led us to! To build our blocking shares into controlling ones we need only a nuclear truncheon. When we get it depends on your decision’.

“Against this background, it is desirable to note a significant detail: several weeks ago, Iran announced the beginning of a program for building a nuclear navy. This means its transformation in the near future into an ocean power capable of ‘force projection’ in the Persian Gulf, in the Indian Ocean, and in the Red and Mediterranean Seas.

“It appears that all this suffices to understand: Iran is becoming a major problem, first and foremost for Russia’s interests. Surely, much can be explained by the upcoming May presidential elections in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Nevertheless, it would be useful to find a way of making Tehran politicians understand that their behavior is becoming too provocative.

“Perhaps the launch of cruise missiles from the Caspian flotilla bears repetition?”

___________________________

[1] Pravda.ru, January 22, 2017.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6577, Russian Strategic Bombers Deployed To Iran; Russian Senator Says Nuclear Weapons, Heavy Bombers Will Not Be Permanently Deployed In Syria, August 16, 2016.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6589, Russia This Week – August 22-29, 2016, August 28, 2016.

See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 6582, Russia This Week – August 15 – 22, 2016, August 21, 2016.

The Mainstream Media’s Pointless Fixation on Trump and Putin

February 7, 2017

The Mainstream Media’s Pointless Fixation on Trump and Putin, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, February 6, 2017

(According to several recent DEBKAfile articles, Trump and Putin are already working to restrain Iran in Syria. See, e.g., Russia freezes Syrian, Iranian military movements. — DM)

allies

Meanwhile, in the real world, America and the rest of the West have two serious problems. You could even call them crucial — Iran and ISIS.  Putin can help with both.

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You would think the mainstream media had had a collective lobotomy or is suffering from some mass version of premature Alzheimer’s disease, considering how quickly they have forgotten the red reset button with Russia, the chummy open-mic whisper from Obama to Medvedev, and the even chummier backslapping between John Kerry and Sergey Lavrov in their zeal to poleax Donald Trump for his lax attitude toward Vladimir Putin.

Was Putin less an ex-KGB agent in those not so distant Obama days, less a killer? Surely those same media geniuses are not such historical illiterates they have never heard of the KGB’s bloodthirsty antecedents — the GRU, the NKVD, and the Cheka?  As we all know,  or should, Russians, Soviet and otherwise, have been offing each other for a long time — well before Donald Trump came on the scene, although you wouldn’t believe that, considering the swill currently being written by our residents of digital Grub Street.

Have they actually forgotten that FDR dealt regularly with Stalin (indeed was his ally), a dictator whose despotism dwarfed Putin’s and who ended up murdering more people than Hitler? Estimates range from 30 to 60 million.  Nevertheless, Franklin complimented Uncle Joe on more than one occasion over a number of years to get what the American president wanted.  (Attn.: youthful New York Times reporters — in case this surprises you, you can read about it in “Caught between Roosevelt and Stalin: American Ambassadors to Moscow” by Dennis J. Dunn or, more simply, in the columns of your own monstrous Walter Duranty.)

Roosevelt and Churchill sat with Stalin at Yalta, where they cozied up to the general secretary in manners the MSM, or even the fevered swamps of the alt-left, would not dare contemplate about our current president in their most extreme moments of Trump Derangement Syndrome.

Yet now even the likes of Charles Krauthammer are all in a dither about Trump’s too friendly attitude toward Bad Vlad — Donald’s supposed (actually cherry-picked and virtually non-existent) declaration of moral equivalency between us and them — as are such Republican stalwarts as Mitch McConnell and Marco Rubio. How virtuous of them to remind us ignorant folk of what we have all known for years — Putin’s ugly character and behavior. How astoundingly insightful.  Perhaps they will get a good mention on CNN.

Meanwhile, in the real world, America and the rest of the West have two serious problems. You could even call them crucial — Iran and ISIS.  Putin can help with both. And, as both Vlad and Donald undoubtedly know, Trump has considerable leverage to get that accomplished by muscling Putin economically, if and when Donald chooses to do so.

Horrifying as ISIS is, Iran in particular is becoming increasingly dangerous every day, firing off long-range test missiles right and left that soon will be capable of hitting Europe or even, in one report, Boston. They are also undoubtedly quietly continuing their nuclear research, waiting to mate their spanking new weapons of mass destruction with a 21st century delivery system and become the hegemon of the Middle East.  Obviously Saudi Arabia and other Sunni states are alarmed.  Israel always has been.  The rest of us should be too.

Anyone who believes or trusts in Obama’s Iran deal — clearly the biggest American foreign policy blunder in recent memory — to save us from this situation is, to be blunt, a fool. That deal is our Munich.

Iran must be reined in — and quickly.  Winnowing Russia away from the Islamic Republic is a key part of the solution, though not simple. First the Revolutionary Guards have to be extricated from Syria.  Putin is thought to be nervous about Iranian ambitions himself.  There is opportunity here for Trump.  Instead of blathering on endlessly about how he rates Putin on a scale of ten (Trump has already  stated several times he doesn’t know if he can get along with him), the media should start investigating what’s really happening here geopolitically  and not endlessly parse Trump’s language, looking for an opportunity to pounce.  I can’t imagine anything more useless and self-destructive.