Posted tagged ‘Russia and Trump’

The Real Winner in the Russia Investigations Is Iran

March 31, 2017

The Real Winner in the Russia Investigations Is Iran, PJ MediaRoger L Simon, March 30, 2017

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.

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While the Evil Party and the Stupid Party continue to bludgeon each other into extinction over whether Putin was manipulating our election, the real winner from our politicians’ current endless Russia-fixation is the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Sound like a stretch? Not at all. The reasons should be evident.

Russia is not rich. It currently ranks 12th  in overall GNP, about even with Australia, which has roughly one-seventh Russia’s population. It’s a dismal 47th in per capita GNP — unimpressive, to say the least, for the world’s largest country with immense natural resources spread over 11 time zones.

And things have not been looking up. Their population has been declining since 1991.  The price of oil — by far their largest export -0 is down.  Making matters worse, Donald Trump, allegedly Putin’s best friend, has opened the U.S. energy spigots, threatening to drive that price even lower. (Putin would have done a lot better with Hillary’s anti-fracking position, assuming that wasn’t a phony.)

Yes, they have a powerful nuclear arsenal with potent missiles to deliver them, but Russia needs friends, badly — especially to shore up its forces in the seemingly never-ending civil war in Syria. Enter Iran.  From Reuters Monday:

Iran’s president met Russia’s prime minister on Monday in a bid to develop a warming relationship that has been greatly strengthened by both sides’ involvement on the same side of the war in Syria.

Beginning a visit to Moscow, President Hassan Rouhani told Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev: “I hope that a new turning-point in the development of our relations will be reached.”

Iranian arms purchases and Russian investment in the Iranian energy sector are likely talking points for Rouhani, less than two months before Iran’s May 19 presidential election.

Iranian media say he will discuss several economic agreements – potentially valuable prizes for the moderate leader [sic], who is keen to show his people that Iran is benefiting from its 2015 deal with world powers to rein back its nuclear programme in returning for an easing of international sanctions.

Aside from Reuters’ credulous nonsense that Rouhani is in any way moderate, where did all the mullahs’ new deal-making money come from in the first place?  Well, we know.  Iran, for reasons still unfathomable, received huge amounts — sometimes in cold, hard cash — from the Obama administration after the Iran deal and later apparently to preserve it. (The contents of that deal, unknown to all but a few, are what really deserve a congressional investigation, not the present kangaroo court.) What did the mullahs do with the cash? Help their impoverished citizens or buy $10 billion worth of modern weapons from the Russians? Well, we know that too. Obama’s deal helped create a match made in Hell.

And the worse part of this Hellish match is Iran, not Russia (although she’s no picnic).  Vladimir Putin is obviously a dictatorial plutocrat with massive ambitions, but he’s more or less sane.  The mullahs of Iran are also dictatorial plutocrats, but they’re not (sane).  Some of them believe absolutely delusional theories dreamed up in the seventh century and have set out to prove them true — in Iran, in Syria, in Yemen, in North Korea, in South America,  and on and on.  They are as crazy as ISIS and far more dangerous because they already have a large country from which to enact their imperialist/millennialist fantasies.

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. They go on and on even though there has been no genuine evidence of collusion between the Trump team and the Russians. By now it’s like a bad mini-series that somehow wound its way onto your Netflix queue and you can’t get rid of it. Eventually, I suppose, someone, somewhere will be caught with his or her hand in the cookie jar.  It will be highly ambiguous and most likely for minor personal gain, but nevertheless he or she will will be endlessly excoriated in the press, ever anxious to prove themselves right.  But it will all be a meaningless waste of time in the end.

Meanwhile, Iran has won big.

Still, there has been one valuable piece of information to emerge from this pointless muddle.  Which leads me to a last question.  Who, in the final analysis, spied more on our government — Putin or Obama?  I bloviate. You decide.

Trump’s Greatest Deal

March 24, 2017

Trump’s Greatest Deal, Front Page MagazineCaroline Glick, March 24, 2017

(Before the Flynn debacle, Trump’s efforts to get Russia to divorce itself from Iran appeared to be proceeding well. Please see, Highly Classified National Security Information Must Not be Leaked. Part b of the article is titled “Flynn telephone conversations.” Part c is titled “General Flynn, Russia and Iran.” Flynn’s departure from the Trump administration and America’s current Russophobia do not augur well for future success in pushing for the divorce. — DM)

Originally published by the Jerusalem Post

If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

***************************************

What can be done about Iran? In Israel, a dispute is reportedly raging between the IDF and the Mossad about the greatest threat facing Israel. IDF Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot thinks that Hezbollah is the greatest threat facing Israel. Mossad Director Yossi Cohen thinks Iran’s nuclear program is the greatest danger facing the Jewish state.

While the media highlight the two men’s disagreement, the underlying truth about their concerns has been ignored.

Hezbollah and Iran’s nuclear program are two aspects of the same threat: the regime in Tehran.

Hezbollah is a wholly owned subsidiary of the regime. If the regime disappeared, Hezbollah would fall apart. As for the nuclear installations, in the hands of less fanatical leaders, they would represent a far less acute danger to global security.

So if you undermine the Iranian regime, you defeat Hezbollah and defuse the nuclear threat.

If you fail to deal with the regime in Tehran, both threats will continue to grow no matter what you do, until they become all but insurmountable.

So what can be done about Tehran? With each passing day we discover new ways Iran endangers Israel and the rest of the region.

This week we learned Iran has built underground weapons factories in Lebanon. The facilities are reportedly capable of building missiles, drones, small arms and ammunition. Their underground location protects them from aerial bombardment.

Then there is Hezbollah’s relationship to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF).

For more than a decade, the Americans have been selling themselves the implausible claim that the LAF is a responsible fighting force capable and willing to rein in Hezbollah. Never an easy claim – the LAF provided targeting information to Hezbollah missile crews attacking Israel in 2006 – after Hezbollah domesticated the Lebanese government in 2008, the claim became downright silly. And yet, over the past decade, the US has provided the LAF with weapons worth in excess of $1 billion. In 2016 alone the US gave the LAF jets, helicopters, armored personnel carriers and missiles worth more than $220 million.

In recent months, showing that Iran no longer feels the need to hide its control over Lebanon, the LAF has openly stated that it is working hand in glove with Hezbollah.

Last November, Hezbollah showcased US M113 armored personnel carriers with roof-mounted Russian anti-aircraft guns, at a military parade in Syria. The next month the Americans gave the LAF a Hellfire missile-equipped Cessna aircraft with day and night targeting systems.

Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun is a Hezbollah ally. So is Defense Minister Yaacoub Sarraf and LAF commander Gen. Joseph Aoun.

Last month President Aoun told Sen. Bob Corker, the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, that Hezbollah serves “a complementary role to the Lebanese army.”

And yet the Americans insist that it continues to make sense – and to be lawful – to arm the LAF.

You can hardly blame them. Denial is an attractive option, given the alternatives.

For the past eight years, the Obama administration did everything in its power to empower Iran. To make Iran happy, Obama did nothing as hundreds of thousands of Syrians were killed and millions more were forced to flee their homes by Iran and its puppet Bashar Assad.

Obama allowed Iran to take over the Iraqi government and the Iraqi military. He sat back as Iran’s Houthi proxy overthrew the pro-US regime in Yemen.

And of course, the crowning achievement of Obama’s foreign policy was his nuclear deal with the mullahs. Obama’s deal gives Iran an open path to a nuclear arsenal in a bit more than a decade and enriches the regime beyond Ayatollah Khamenei’s wildest dreams.

Obama empowered Iran at the expense of the US’s Sunni allies and Israel, and indeed, at the expense of the US’s own superpower status in the region, to enable the former president to withdraw the US from the Middle East.

Power of course, doesn’t suffer a vacuum, and the one that Obama created was quickly filled.

For decades, Russia has been Iran’s major arms supplier. It has assisted Iran with its nuclear program and with its ballistic missile program. Russia serves as Iran’s loyal protector at the UN Security Council.

But for all the help it provided Tehran through the years, Moscow never presented itself as Iran’s military defender.

That all changed in September 2015. Two months after Obama cut his nuclear deal with the ayatollahs, Russia deployed its forces to Syria on behalf of Iran and its Syrian and Lebanese proxies.

In so doing, Russia became the leading member and the protector of the Iranian axis.

Russia’s deployment of forces had an immediate impact not only on the war in Syria, but on the regional power balance as a whole. With Russia serving as the air force for Iran and its Syrian and Hezbollah proxies, the Assad regime’s chances of survival increased dramatically. So did Iran’s prospects for regional hegemony.

For Obama, this situation was not without its advantages.

In his final year in office, Obama’s greatest concern was ensuring that his nuclear deal with Iran would outlive his presidency. Russia’s deployment in Syria as the protector of Iran and its proxies was a means of achieving this end.

Russia’s alliance with Iran made attacking Iran’s nuclear program or its Hezbollah proxy a much more dangerous prospect than it had been before.

After all, in 2006, Russia supported Iran and Hezbollah in their war against Israel. But Russia’s support for Iran and its Lebanese legion didn’t diminish Israel’s operational freedom. Israel was able to wage war without any fear that its operations would place it in a direct confrontation with the Russian military.

This changed in September 2015.

The first person to grasp the strategic implications of the Russian move was Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu recognized that with Russian forces on the ground in Syria, the only way for Israel to take even remedial measures to protect itself from Iran and its proxies was to drive a wedge between President Vladimir Putin and the ayatollahs wide enough to enable Israel to continue its raids against weapons convoys to Hezbollah and other targets without risking a confrontation with Russia. This is the reason that Netanyahu boarded a flight to Moscow to speak to Putin almost immediately after the Russian leader deployed his forces to Syria.

Israel’s ability to continue to strike targets in Syria, whether along the border on the Golan Heights or deep within Syrian territory, is a function of Netanyahu’s success in convincing Putin to limit his commitment to his Iranian allies.

Since President Donald Trump entered the White House, Iran has been his most urgent foreign policy challenge. Unlike Obama, Trump recognizes that Iran’s nuclear program and its threats to US economic and strategic interests in the Persian Gulf and the Levant cannot be wished away.

And so he has decided to deal with Iran.

The question is, what is he supposed to do? Trump has three basic options.

He can cut a deal with Russia. He can act against Iran without cutting a deal with Russia. And he can do nothing, or anemically maintain Obama’s pro-Iran policies.

The first option has the greatest potential strategic payoff. If Trump can convince Russia to ditch Iran, then he has a chance of dismantling the regime in Tehran and so defusing the Iranian nuclear program and destroying Hezbollah without having to fight a major war.

The payoff to Russia for agreeing to such a deal would be significant. But if Trump were to adopt this policy, the US has a lot of bargaining chips that it can use to convince Putin to walk away from the ayatollahs long enough for the US to defuse the threat they pose to its interests.

The problem with the Russia strategy is that since Trump defeated Hillary Clinton in the presidential race, the Democrats, their allied media outlets and powerful forces in the US intelligence community have been beset by a Russia hysteria unseen since the Red scares in the 1920s and 1950s.

The fact that Obama bent over backward to cater to Putin’s interests for eight years has been pushed down the memory hole.

Also ignored is the fact that during her tenure as secretary of state, Clinton approved deals with the Russians that were arguably antithetical to US interests while the Clinton Foundation received millions of dollars in contributions from Russian businessmen and companies closely allied with Putin.

Since November 8, the Democrats and their clapping seals in the media and allies in the US intelligence community have banged the war drums against Russia, accusing Trump and his advisers of serving as Russian patsies at best, and Russian agents at worst.

In this climate, it would be politically costly for Trump to implement a Russian-based strategy for dismantling the Iranian threat.

This brings us to the second option, which is to confront Iran and Russia. Under this option, US action against Iran could easily cause hostilities to break out between the US and Russia. It goes without saying that the political fallout from making a deal with Russia would be nothing compared to the political consequences if Trump were to take the US down a path that led to war with Russia.

Obviously, the economic and human costs of such a confrontation would be prohibitive regardless of the political consequences.

This leaves us with the final option of doing nothing, or anemically continuing to implement Obama’s policies, as the Americans are doing today.

Although tempting, the hard truth is that this is the most dangerous policy of all.

You need only look to North Korea to understand why this is so.

Seemingly on a daily basis, Pyongyang threatens to nuke America. And the US has no good options for dealing with the threat.

As Secretary of State Rex Tillerson acknowledged during his recent trip to Asia, decades of US diplomacy regarding North Korea’s nuclear program did nothing to diminish or delay the threat.

North Korea has been able to develop nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles while threatening the US with destruction because North Korea enjoys the protection of China. If not for the Chinese, the US would long ago have dealt a death blow to the regime.

Israel has moved Russia as far away from Iran as it can on its own. It is enough to stop convoys of North Korean weapons from crossing into Lebanon.

But it isn’t enough to cause serious harm to Tehran or its clients.

The only government that can do that is the American government.

Trump built his career by mastering the art of deal making. And he recognized that Obama’s deal with Iran is not the masterpiece Obama and his allies claim but a catastrophe.

The Iran deal Trump needs to make with the Russians is clear. The only question is whether he is willing to pay the political price it requires.

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.”

_____________________________

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

Russian Reactions To Flynn’s Resignation

February 21, 2017

Russian Reactions To Flynn’s Resignation, MEMRI, February 21, 2017

(Please see also, Is a Trump-Putin Detente Dead? — DM)

While part of Russian officialdom dodged comment on Michael Flynn’s resignation from the post of national security adviser or downplayed its importance, the consensus view was that this represented a negative signal for Russia. Russia would have to retrench its hopes for improved Russia-US relations under President Trump as the new president was finding it difficult to exercise control over an anti-Russian establishment. Some commentators believed that an anti-Russia cabal was behind Flynn’s ouster and that Flynn was merely the appetizer with Trump being the main course. These rogue officials backed by the media would not rest till they had ousted Trump and set back Russian-American relations.

We present a sampling of official and press reactions to the Flynn resignation.

trumpandflynn1Source: Gazeta.ru)

Senator Pushkov’s Tweetstorm

Senator Alexey Pushkov, a member of the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on International Affairs and an avid tweeter, took to Twitter to present his categorical assessment of the forces behind the resignation and their motivation:

“Flynn ‘was forced out’ not due to his missteps, but due to a vast aggressive campaign. “Russian –get out ” clamored the newspapers. This is paranoia and witch hunt.”

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, February 14, 2017)

“Flynn leaves, but the Russian problem at Trump’s White House persists” – his enemies write. Flynn’s banishment was only the first act. Now – Trump is the target.”

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, February 13, 2017)

“Flynn’s departure is probably the earliest resignation of a US National Security Advisor in history. Yet, Flynn was not the target, relations with Russia were.”

(Twitter.com/Alexey_Pushkov, February 13, 2017)

“It’s not going to end  with Flynn’s resignation. Trump’s enemies with the help of the security special services and media will eradicate him ( Trump) until the impeachment. Trump himself is now the objective.”

impeach(Twitter.com, February 14, 2017)

“Lots of money invested in the new cold war against Russia. Those who oppose the war are at high risk. Flynn’s massacre is clear evidence.”

(Twitter.com, February 14, 2017)

push-shove(Alexey Pushkov, Source: Pravda-tv.ru)

Senator Kosachev: ‘Russophobia Has Already Engulfed The New Administration From Top To Bottom’

Russian Senator Konstantin Kosachev, who chairs the Russian Federation Council’s Committee on International Affairs, wrote on his Facebook page: “Dismissing the national security adviser for contacts with Russia’s ambassador (ordinary diplomatic practice) is not just paranoia, but something much worse.” He then added: “Either Trump has not gained the desired independence and he is being consistently (and not unsuccessfully) pushed into a corner, or Russophobia has already engulfed the new administration from top to bottom.”

(Tass.com, February 14, 2017)

kosKonstantin Kosachev (Source: Rt.com)

Valery Garbuzov, Director of the Institute for US and Canada Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told Russian news agency TASS: “I believe the Russian issue is one of the most difficult for the U.S. administration in the sense that it has not yet developed recipes for tackling the Russian issue in general and in particular. These are the issues of sanctions, the issue of Ukraine, Crimea and so on.” He then said: “The U.S. president’s national security adviser is a significant figure who, along with the US secretary of state, takes part in shaping the country’s foreign policy. Flynn’s resignation indicates that internal contradictions, perhaps, internal struggles, begin to appear in the emerging US administration. Flynn’s resignation was a manifestation of this struggle. He was considered if not a pro-Russian member of Trump’s team, then a person who was committed to resuming pragmatic dialogue with Russia.”

(Tass.com, February 14, 2017)

The Deputy Chair of the Duma’s International Affairs committee, Alexey Chepa: “Flynn has just begun working, he did not have an opportunity build himself a reputation. Before the inauguration he’d had some consultations with our ambassador Kislyak. I don’t know to what extent he informed his superiors regarding the consultations. I don’t know either how it could lead to a possible blackmailing… In general, there was not enough time to arrange improved contacts, so I think this [resignation] won’t strongly affect [our relations with the US]”

(Ria.ru, February 14, 2017)

Presidential spokesperson Dmitri Peskov declined comment on Flynn’s resignation: “We do not want to comment on it in any manner. It’s America’s internal affair, the Trump administration’s internal affair. It’s not our business.”

(Ria.ru, February 14, 2017)

The Resignation Reduces Russia’s Confidence In The Trump Administration

According to Leonid Slutsky, chair of the Duma’s International Affairs Committee: “The situation regarding the resignation of national security advisor Michael Flynn, bears a provocative character. This is a form of negative signal concerning the building of a Russia-US dialog. It’s obvious that Flynn was forced to write the resignation announcement under pressure. Trump received this resignation. The excuse, which was chosen, is contacts with the Russian ambassador, though it’s common diplomatic practice.  In these circumstances, the conclusion arises that the Russia-US relations were the set target. This erodes confidence in the US administration”.

(Ria.ru, February 14, 2017)

The TASS agency quotes Slutsky a bit differently: “Flynn’s resignation might be a provocation – it could well be that he will pop up again in US public administration. At the moment, it looks like a thrust and a sort of  negative signal towards Russia, implying that we had discussed something improper with the US national security advisor, for which he paid for with his job … It’s an incredible assumption that Flynn, a very experienced person, divulged some state secrets”. According to Slutsky, “the whole buzz is aimed at Russia’s positioning as a strategic opponent amongst the American establishment”.

(Tass.ru, February 14, 2017)

slutLeonid Slutsky (Source: Polytika.ru)

According to Vladimir Batyuk, head of the Center for Military-Political Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ US and Canada Institute and professor of world politics at the Higher School of Economics :

“Flynn’s resignation is a powerful blow to the US administration. Flynn, as a national security advisor, was one of the key figures. Given that this man turned out to be undisciplined and incompetent, it’s a definite blow to the administration’s authority and to US-Russia relations. Moscow, from now on, will have far less confidence in the new administration and its ability to conduct confidential negotiations on delicate international matters and problems of bilateral relations. It will have negative consequences for the future Russo-American dialog.”  Representatives of the Russian Federation will now fear approaching Trump administration officials. “When Ambassador Kislyak communicated with Flynn he was completely sure that he was talking to the Trump’s representative, rather than to private person, Mr. Flynn. Now, it’s not the case as it turns out and this is a blow to Moscow’s trust in the new administration. This trust usually carries high importance in diplomacy.”

(Ria.ru, February 14, 2017)

The Russian government daily Rossiiskaya Gazeta published an article by Igor Dunaevsky, where the author assumes that Flynn’s resignation was initiated by the secret services:

“It can’t be excluded that Flynn was “taken out” by the secret services. His Russian connections presented themselves as an excuse and were not the real reason. According to local media publications, Flynn, who headed MOD intelligence department in the Obama administration, was not popular in the American intelligence community and he reciprocated this attitude.  Flynn’s resignation will not extensively affect White House’s approaches towards a dialog with Russia, but rather it will prove instrumental for those who want to impede that process.”

(Rg.ru, February 14, 2017)

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?

resetbutton

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

flynnout_eng_480

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.