Thursday, September 20, 2018

Establishing Turkish Protectorate of Idlib

Gift to the Sultan - Text of Russia-Turkey Agreement of September 17, 2018, Establishing Turkish Protectorate of Idlib

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


September 20, 2018

Moscow - A copy of the Russian-Turkish agreement, negotiated on Monday in Sochi by President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has appeared. If its authenticity is confirmed, it will mark the first official Russian acknowledgement of partition of Syria, allowing Turkey to resume control of the Ottoman territory in northwestern Syria which was lost following the Turkish defeat in World War I.

According to the published terms, Putin has agreed to Turkey playing the role of “guarantor” of ceasefires throughout Syria.

Putin has also accepted reinforcement and expansion of Turkish military forces in the Idlib governorate according to the formula of “fortification” of Turkish “observation posts”; their number, already twelve, has not been restricted in area or limited in manning and firepower in the new pact.

Putin also agreed to “take all necessary meassures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided and the existing status quo will be maintained.” This is Russia’s undertaking to prevent the Syrian Government and its forces from reclaiming Syrian territory and resuming sovereingty lost to the US and NATO-backed forces seeking to take power in Damascus.

The full extent of the new Turkish-ruled territory has been postponed, according to the wording of the Sochi pact. “The delineation of the exact lines of the demilitarised zone will be determined,” Point 4 says, “through further consultations.” This proviso allows Turkish forces to consolidate their territorial control eastward towards Aleppo, under Russian cover, ignoring the Syrian government.

The one-page English-language version of the agreement of September 17 has been published by an English-language website based in Abu Dhabi called The National. The text claims two language versions, Russian and English, have “equal legal force”. No Turkish version has been issued officially. A translation into Turkish has been circulating on the internet; this twitter feed source, taking its Arabic name from a town in the Hama governorate of Syria, appears to be hostile to the Syrian Government. The English version has been reproduced by Al-Jazeera but without authentication.


Official photograph of the exchange of agreement texts in Sochi published by 
the Turkish state news agency Anadolu -- left front, Turkish Defence Minister 
Hulusi Akar; right front, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. 
Behind them, Presidents Erdogan and Putin.

The text of the Sochi agreement now in circulation is an attachment to a letter from the Russian and Turkish representatives to the United Nations (UN), Vasily Nebenzia and Feridun Sinirlioglu, relaying the agreement to the President of the UN Security Council – currently the US – and the UN Secretary-General. Their letter is dated September 18. Read the letter of relay and the text of the Sochi Agreement in full here.



At the UN in New York, Nebenzia’s office was asked to authenticate his letter and the text of agreement; he refused. Sinirlioglu was also asked for authentication of the documents; he too refused.


Left: Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia; 
right, former Turkish Foreign Minister, now UN Permanent Representative, Feridun Sinirlioglu.

An accompanying note from the UN Security Council (UNSC) President, relaying the documents to the fifteen member states of the Council says: “this letter and its enclosure will be issued as [sic] document of the Security Council under the symbol S/2018/852”. This missing word may be a typo; it may indicate fabrication of the document. When a check for the document S/2018/852 was run through the UN document archive, this is the report:



A panel of six Russian military and security experts in Moscow was asked to review the document and say if they and their sources believe it to be genuine. Five of the experts were unwilling to respond. A sixth said it was up to the Defence Ministry to verify the document. The Defence Ministry’s press office requested the question by email but didn’t reply.

Independent Turkish reporting of the negotiations between Putin and Erdogan on Monday called the outcome “a major diplomatic win for Ankara”.

The Turkish state news agency Anadolu has published a map it claims to illustrate the Sochi agreement, with Turkish territory coloured green on the map, moving eastwards into the Syrian province of Aleppo. The Syrian Government is referred to on the Turkish map as “regime”.


CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE

“What Erdoğan did was simply reap the fruits of his own specific foreign policy”, reported one of his media supporters in Istanbul.

“That this result was achieved in the bilateral meeting with Putin and not at the summit attended by the Iranian leader ten days ago is certainly a matter that requires attention.”

The Sochi agreement means Turkish consolidation of Syrian territory and military occupation until the ouster of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus: this is the assessment of the Turkish government media. “The Idlib agreement also protects the gains procured through the Afrin and Euphrates Shield operations,” reported Mehmet Acet, a state television veteran. “The communication of demands between Putin and Erdoğan turned the Damascus regime’s desire to capture the remaining Syrian territory into a mere dream. [Until Assad is removed] it will not be an option for Turkish forces to withdraw from Syria.”

A Turkish military analyst for Al-Monitor commented that the terms of the agreement are favourable to Erdogan, if ambiguous at the moment, perhaps temporary. “The question now is how this comprehensive plan will be implemented in one month. Less than two weeks ago, at a meeting in Tehran, Putin had objected to Erdogan’s call for a cease-fire, saying, ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [HTS] and other radicals aren’t at the [negotiating] table. We cannot give guarantees on their behalf.’ In return for the one month it gained at Sochi, Ankara is giving those guarantees on behalf of radical groups in Idlib. Perhaps Moscow has realized it couldn’t cope with a humanitarian tragedy at Idlib and wants to guarantee the security of its military presence in northern Syria, notably Khmeimim air base, with Ankara’s assurances.”

“Now the most argued critical issue is, how can Ankara assure Moscow that Idlib radicals will agree to a demilitarized zone and removal of their heavy weapons? One likely answer is that Ankara will rely on its military power and its substantial influence on the armed opposition groups to convince them. Ankara primarily reinforced each of its 12 military outposts with 80 to 1,000 mechanized infantry and commando troops (totaling 1,200-1,300) and equipped the outposts with multiple rocket launchers and other protection measures, and seriously buttressed its military presence around Idlib. Ankara also sealed off the border west and north of Idlib [city] with military reinforcements.”
“But Turkey’s increased military preparations in Idlib province are only for defensive action, as its 12 outposts insulate Idlib from pro-Iran militias south of Aleppo and those controlled by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the southeast. There are also restraints on Ankara’s military capabilities at Idlib, most notably the absence of air superiority. The Sochi summit didn’t refer to air superiority.”

Military observers believe the Israeli air attack on Latakia on Monday, supported by the French Navy, as well as US, Italian and British Air Force aircraft (according to this independent tracker), has sharply curtailed Russian air superiority in Syria. For details of the Latakia operation, read this. On Russian air superiority in Syria since April, click.

In Point 2 of the agreement with Erdogan, Putin agreed to halt Russian air sorties against targets in Idlib, conceding that “all necessary measures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided” will now mean that Turkish-occupied Idlib is a no-fly zone for the Russian Air Force.

MAP OF TURKISH “OBSERVATION POSTS” ALONG THE DEMILITARIZED ZONE OF IDLIB, THIS WEEK



In Point 7, Putin agreed to patrols of Idlib by Turkish forces and patrols by Russian military police of the demilitarization lines. Russian air operations will be limited to “monitoring with UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, drones] along the boundaries of the demilitarised zone.” The Turkish Army has already started sending drones to the south of its southernmost “observation post” towards the Orontes River, in Syrian territory.

What's Wrong With The Picture: The Reporters are Missing

Hold the Front Page: The Reporters are Missing

by John Pilger - Special to Consortium News 


September 19, 2018

So much of mainstream journalism has descended to the level of a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is “perception,” says John Pilger.

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House.

In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism sites such as wikileaks.org, consortiumnews.com, wsws.org, truthdig.com, globalresearch.org, counterpunch.org and informationclearinghouse.com are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

Propaganda Blitz


In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, The Guardian, Channel 4 News.


Cromwell and Edwards (The Ghandi Foundation)

Their method is simple.

Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards is a former teacher, David Cromwell is an oceanographer. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings” (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilized life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but is it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy,” the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

Media and Iraq Invasion 



 Blair: Lawless (Office of Tony Blair)

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by the University of Wales, Cardiff, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing. Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to The Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous.” They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the U.S. embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.”

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote,

“I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse.”

Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronizing.” Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive.” What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox News, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom The Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism.”

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian‘s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.


 Leni Riefenstahl (r.) 

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency called Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defense” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organizations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government.”

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception.”

When he was U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media.” What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerized the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell is published by Pluto Press.
John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: www.johnpilger.com. His latest film, “The Coming War on China,” is available in the U.S. from www.bullfrogfilms.com

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Brazil's El Trumpo Leading the Polls

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil’s Far-Right Version of Trump Leads the Presidential Race

by TRNN


September 18, 2018

We update our profile of Jair Bolsonaro, who is leading in the presidential race in opinion polls, now that Workers Party candidate Lula da Silva was forced out of the race on corruption charges.



He’s been called the Donald Trump of Brazil. He is one of the country’s most controversial political figures, and he’s a shoo-in to make it to the 2nd round of the presidential elections. Michael Fox reports.

Russia Drops Ball on Syria Jet Downing

PUTIN’S FORFEIT – From Strategic Mistake to Strategic Defeat in 24 Hours

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


September 19, 2018

Moscow - “When people die, especially in such unfortunate circumstances,” President Vladimir Putin said at a Kremlin press conference on Tuesday afternoon, “it is always a tragedy”.

The president was responding to the destruction of a Russian reconnaissance aircraft and the deaths of fifteen crew members during an Israeli Air Force attack on Syria Monday evening. The Israeli operation was coordinated with British and French commands to spoof, confuse and overwhelm Russian and Syrian air defences.

“It is always a tragedy,” Putin went on – “a tragedy for all of us, for the nation and for the families of our people who lost their lives… In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft.”

“It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me. As for reciprocal action, this will be primarily aimed at ensuring additional security for our military and our facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These steps will be seen by everyone.”

What will be seen by everyone has already been registered. According to Turkey, Putin has conceded Turkish military occupation of the Idlib governorate of northwest Syria, allowing Turkish Army reinforcements from the west and north, but preventing Syrian Army operations in defence of Syrian territory.

According to Israel, Putin has accepted the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) air superiority over central as well as southern Syria and a free-fire zone for any target in Syria which Israel regards as hostile, including Russian military operations. According to the Russian military command, Putin has forfeited his defence of Russian forces in Syria to the combination of Israel, France and the UK, which coordinated the combat against Syria on Monday evening.

Putin began on Monday in Sochi with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.



By the early evening of Monday, Putin called his Turkish pact a “Memorandum of Understanding on Stabilization of the Situation in Idlib’s De-escalation Zone”. This allows Turkey open western and northern borders through which to reinforce its occupation of the province. Turkish forces and the Turkish campaign to take over deployment, armament and control of opposition Arab groups in Idlib have been accepted by Putin in this formula:

“Russia and Turkey have reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism in Syria in all its forms and guises.”

MAP OF TURKISH OCCUPATION OF IDLIB, AUGUST 27, 2018


A southern line of restriction, to be patrolled by lightly armed Russian military police, will protect the Turks and Turkish-supported forces from operations by the Syrian Army to recover their sovereignty of the province.

The partition line for Idlib, Putin announced, will be “a demilitarised area 15–20 km deep along the contact line between the armed opposition and [Syrian] government troops, with radical militants to be withdrawn from the area, including al-Nusra. Also by October 10, based on the Turkish President’s proposal, to secure the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, tanks, multiple rocket launchers, cannon and mortars of all opposition groups.”

Southbound, the M5 highway between Aleppo and Hama, and westbound, the M4 route from Aleppo to Latakia, Putin announced, would be reopened by the end of this year “at the suggestion of the Turkish side”.

Putin conceded these terms have not been agreed with the Syrian government in Damascus. That might come later, Putin claimed. “This approach is generally supported by the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic. We will soon hold additional consultations with the Syrian government.” So far there has been silence from the Syrian Government.

Putin and Erdogan wound up their talks late on Monday afternoon. After dark, the IDF, the French Navy and the British air command in Cyprus began their operation against Latakia.

RUSSIAN DEFENCE MINISTRY MAP OF THE LATAKIA ATTACK ON SEPTEMBER 17, 2018

CLICK ON MAP TO ENLARGE
Source: https://sputniknews.com/ 

The red line shows the flight path of the Russian Ilyushin-20 from take-off at the Khmeimim air base at 2031 until, shortly before landing at base, it was hit by a Syrian missile at 2207. The red X marks the location of the downing at sea. The dotted blue line shows the flight path of four Israeli F-16s between 2200 and 2210. The blue vessel is the French Navy frigate Auvergne. The red vessel on the map is the Russian Navy frigate Pitlivy.


Source: BBC. 

Missing from the Russian map and the BBC translation and commentary are the two British Air Force planes reported in Israel to have taken off from the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, and to have maintained a holding pattern above the flight path of the Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers as they moved into their firing positions.

Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles protect the Khmeimim airbase; their radar and strike ranges are at least 400 kilometres. On Monday evening this meant that Russian air defence crews and the Khmeimim base command tracked the Israeli aircraft from their takeoff positions out into the Mediterranean, and then as they turned north on their attack run. The S-400 crews were also tracking the British aircraft as they took off from Cyprus. When the French frigate Auvergne fired missiles, the S-400 crews at Khmeimim tracked their flight paths. Subsequent Russian press reports and Defence Ministry releases say the timing of the IDF firing at Latakia, the French missile launches, and the destruction of the Il-20 occurred within seconds of one another.

As the four Israeli F-16s approached Latakia, the Russians could have fired in defence except that their orders from Moscow are not to lock and fire on the IDF unless Russian forces are directly under threat. That was precisely the situation for the crew on board the Ilyushin-20, which the S-400 crews were also tracking. But they were required to hold their fire. That is the standing Kremlin order.


The S-400 at Khmeimim airbase. For details of the S-400 system’s capabilities 
for simultaneous tracking and multiple targeting, as well as range, read this

The targets struck by the IDF on Monday night were all within 50 kilometres of Khmeimim. Israeli reporting noted “the attack near Latakia is especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base”.

When Tuesday began in Moscow, Putin did not call his Security Council into emergency session. Four days before, it had met for its weekly routine session; that was on Friday September 14. There had been time to exchange birthday banter with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who turned 53. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was absent in Berlin, meeting German officials; for assessment of his Idlib strategy, read this.

At the Security Council meeting there was an “exchange of views”, according to the Kremlin record, “on the situation around Idlib (Syria). They expressed concern over the high concentration of terrorists in this place together with their destabilising activities.” If Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the intelligence chiefs and former chief of staff Sergei Ivanov told Putin their views on strategy towards the Turks in Idlib, and what they proposed for Putin’s next meeting with Erdogan, the Kremlin record has erased it publicly.

At 19:35 on Tuesday the Kremlin posted this communiqué of Putin’s telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Vladimir Putin noted that operations of this nature by the Israeli Air Force are in violation of Syria’s sovereignty. In this particular case, Russian-Israeli agreements on preventing dangerous incidents had not been observed either, and that resulted in the Russian aircraft coming under Syrian air defence fire. The Russian President called on the Israeli side to prevent such incidents in the future.” The last sentence was the only one the Israelis take seriously. And not very seriously at that.


Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin at their last Kremlin meeting, 
July 11, 2018. For details, click.

Israeli officials and military sources told Haaretz:

“The Syrian and Russian air forces and air-defense batteries work together, in joint operation rooms and air-traffic control centers. The Syrians use Russian-made aircraft and missiles. The Ilyushin would have been equipped with IFF (identification, friend or foe) transponders and both militaries will have procedures to prevent ‘friendly fire’ incidents. A Syrian anti-aircraft missile, made in Russia, should not have shot down a friendly Russian aircraft.
The incident could have been caused in part by (intentionally) late notification by Israel – but it certainly was a screw-up between the Russian and Syrian allies. The British aircraft in the area seemed to be prepared to keep out of trouble, so why not the Russians? The speed with which Russia rushed to blame Israel, before a proper operational investigation of Monday night’s events could be held, points to a screw-up of the kind Russia never likes to admit to in public.”
“The Russians know the truth, but in public [they] have to blame someone for their high-profile setback and human tragedy. They can’t blame their Syrian allies. Israel will have to take the rap in public, but if the close relationship between Netanyahu and Putin is anything to go by, they’ll find a way to get over this and Israeli aircraft will again be striking Iranian targets in Syria in the not-too-distant future.”

Two hours before Putin and Netanyahu made their telephone pact about the future, the Russian Foreign Ministry had summoned the Israeli Embassy chargé d’affaires, Karen Cohen-Gat. The words reported in the Russian communiqué of the meeting with Deputy Minister Sergei Vershinin omitted incidents, accidents, tragedy.

Karen Cohen-Gat leaving Foreign Ministry in Moscow with bodyguard. 
Source: Getty

“During the conversation the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V. Vershinin has emphasized that in Moscow [the Foreign Ministry has] regarded as irresponsible and unfriendly the actions of the Air Force of Israel, as a result of which under a strike by the Syrian air defenses the Russian Il-20 plane has been downed, and 15 Russian servicemen have died.
It has been noted that the Russian side will take all necessary measures to stop the threat to life and safety of the Russian military rendering assistance to the Syrian people in the fight against terrorism.”

Five hours earlier, the Russian Defence Ministry statement, which Putin claimed to have been “fully coordinated with me”, was issued at 11 in the morning by Major General Igor Konashenkov (right).

He accused the Israelis of spoofing Syrian air defences and creating an ambush for the Russian aircraft.

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

 Konashenkov went on:

“The Israeli jets used the Russian plane as a cover, thus exposing it to Syrian air defence fire. As a result, the Ilyushin-20, its reflective surface being far greater than that of [the Israeli F-16s], was shot down by a missile launched with the S-200 system.
We regard these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. As a result of irresponsible actions by the Israeli military 15 Russian military servicemen were killed. This by no means agrees with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to a proportionate response.”

An hour later, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced:

“The responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft and the death of its crew lies solely with Israel. .. we reserve the right to take retaliatory steps.”


At the end of the day Shoigu reiterated his message.

“It’s clear to any specialist the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defence systems would not act in that direction…
We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us.”

Shoigu was repeating himself after Putin had been asked at his Kremlin press conference “will this complicate our relations with Israel? One cannot help recalling the recent incident with Turkey. What kind of response measures can be expected from Russia?” Putin’s answer was:

“As for your comparison with the downing of our plane by a Turkish fighter, this was a different situation. The Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft. In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft. It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me.”

The last four words misrepresented what had been happening in Moscow. Unlike the last fatal aircraft incident at Khmeimim in March of this year, Putin avoided making public his contact with Shoigu, if there was one.

Following the crash of an An-26 Antonov troop transport, the Kremlin record claimed at the time:

“[D]uring a telephone conversation with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu Vladimir Putin received the latest information on the crash of a Russian An-26 military transport aircraft in the Syrian Arab Republic…
The head of state expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire staff of the Defence Ministry on the loss of their comrades.” 

In that incident, 39 on board were killed, including a major general. The Defence Ministry investigation concluded that wind shear as the aircraft was landing had accidentally caused the crash. In March Putin publicized his agreement with Shoigu on wind shear; on Tuesday he kept secret his refusal to agree with Shoigu on Israel.

Putin’s answer yesterday is the only one the Israelis accept. Dismissing the Russian General Staff and Defence Minister in the confidence that Putin controls them, Haaretz editorialized:

“In Rush to Blame Israel for Downed Plane Near Latakia, Russia May Be Conducting Face-saving Op… Israel may now have to lay low for a while and let Russian pride recover.”

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Terry Wolfwood, Jon Valentine, Christina Nikolic September 20, 2018

This Week on Gorilla Radio

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


September 20, 2018

With neo-colonialism's second wave currently rolling across Africa, it serves well to remember, for one People the first wave never crested.

Western Sahara is home to the Saharawi, who have fought, and continue to fight for their independence, first from Spanish, then Moroccan occupiers.

Their self-declared Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic is recognized by more than fifty of nations, and yet they still suffer the most extreme deprivations, unable to profit from the wealth stolen from their ancestral lands.

Sirocco: Winds of Resistance is a Canadian-made film about the role Canada plays in the colonization of Western Sahara and how that effects the lives of two Saharawi women and their grandmothers. The BC premier will screen next Friday, September 28th at Cafe Simpatico, 1923 Fernwood Rd.

Terry Wolfwood is Director and co-founder of the Barnard-Boecker Centre Foundation, and a writer, photographer, and long-time activist who has traveled to Western Sahara, and documented the plight of the people there. Her articles and pictures have appeared at Briarpatch, Peace News, and Third World Resurgence among other places, and at the BBCF.ca website.

Terry Wolfwood in the first half.


And; whether the Panic of 1907, Wall Street Crash of 1929, or the recently remembered, Financial Crisis of 2008, Autumn has historically been unkind to market capitalists. While those cyclical reversals, or "haircuts", visited through the vagaries of the stock market on investors may be mere "bumps in the road" for the monied class, for the rest of us those crashes can mean life-altering disaster. So why then do we abide this financial catastrophe creating system continue; is there no other way!?

The folk behind the 13th Annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair think there is, and as ever their Bookfair presents workshops and speakers on a wide range of topics. The collective says, "We seek to challenge colonial attitudes, introduce anarchism to the public, foster dialogue between various political traditions, and create radical, inclusive, anti-oppressive spaces."

Jon Valentine is a long-time volunteer with the Victoria chapter of Food Not Bombs, members of the 13th Anarchist Bookfair collective, kicking off this weekend in Fernwood at 1240 Gladstone. Jon is too a dedicated social activist and two-time Victoria candidate for City Council.

Jon Valentine and a festival of anarchy in Fernwood in the second half.

And; Victoria horticulturalist and greentrepreneur extraordinaire, Christina Nikolic at the bottom of the hour with the Left Coast Events Bulletin of some of the good things to get up to in and around our town in the coming week. But first, Terry Wolfwood and Western Sahara's winds of resistance.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Camp Namegans II Eviction at Regina Park in Saanich

Camp Namegans II Eviction at Regina Park in Saanich

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla Radio


September 18, 2018

For the second time in less than a week, the residents of ‘Camp Namegans’ have been uprooted and moved along from their latest “home” in Regina Park.

Pro bono lawyer for the residents, John Heaney said the BC provincial government ordered Saanich Police clear ‘Namegans Nation’ from the B.C.’s transportation ministry land.

The ministry insists the eviction is a safety issue, and argued that before a judge when seeking a ruling for an interim injunction to be put in place while the status of the encampment was argued in a separate case.


Photo: Pete Rockwell

The judge allowed a ten month injunction, making a provision that the point of Charter rights in the case could be argued further at that time.

Heaney says,

“An injunction of this type…is essentially a final order, because once you’ve dispersed people, you don’t anticipate that they’re gonna wait for the time it takes to have a court case, and if they’re victorious, come back to the same place; they need somewhere to live now.”

[Listen to lawyer, John Heaney here.]

 

Heaney called the decision an “unfortunate contrast” to how the courts had handled similar requests for injunctions against the so-called, ‘Super Intent City’ behind the Provincial Court a few years ago. In that instance, he says,

“The court initially denied the injunction, and said, ‘We’re gonna go to trial on these issues.’ Including: Is your constitutional right a defense to being trespassers? Or said, ‘We’re gonna have a trial of whether there’s a Section 7 right to be encamped in the daytime.’

It’s not clear just where the 40+ campers at Namegans Nation, many who consider themselves a community, are to go to next. Victoria CBC radio quotes camp resident and homelessness activist, Chrissy Brett saying,

“At the end of the day, there weren’t housing options that were made available to people who were at [the previous site].”

The original Namegans provided a sheltering place for more than 100 people.

The housing situation in Greater Victoria mirrors that of other Canadian and North American cities, where booming real estate and building markets by turns raise rents, while renovating and demolishing affordable housing spaces across regions.

Brett says,

“This is a provincial problem, this is a national problem and people really need to start changing the way that they look at one-size-fits all model of housing.”

13th Annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair

13th Annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair

by Bookfair Collective 


September 19, 2018

We are pleased to announce the thirteenth annual Victoria Anarchist Bookfair, located on unceded Coast Salish Territory in Victoria, British Columbia.

The Bookfair is for anarchists and non-anarchists, with participants from all over North America and beyond. Events include book and information tables, workshops, readings, films, presentations, and much more!



Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Answering MH17 Claimes: Russia Provides Counter Narrative to Jet Liner Shootdown

The MH17 Missile Goes Home to Ukraine

by Max van der Werff via Dances with Bears


September 18, 2018

Amsterdam*  - Today was a remarkable day. For the first time the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation held a press conference about the MH17 case in which it took a pro-active stance, instead of responding, as it has before, to challenges from its “partners” in the west.

Two of my previous articles discussed studies which pretended to dissect trolls disrupting the honest flow of information in the MH17 debate.

In “Weaponizing info about MH17” I dissected a study published by Chatham House; “Dutch journos trolling Russia” gave the lie to outlandish claims by the Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer.

I mention these two articles about the trolling phenomenon on purpose. Let me explain why while you watch the Defence Ministry press conference given on September 17 by Lieutenant General Nikolai Parshin and Major General Igor Konashenkov; Parshin (pictured below, left) is head of the Ministry’s Missile and Artillery Directorate; Konashenkov (right) is chief spokesman of the Ministry.



From the start Parshin spends no less than a staggering twelve minutes to explain that the Buk missile casing and the venturi, the exhaust nozzle, presented at the Joint Investigation Team’s MH17 press conference of 24 May 2018 were delivered by rail on 29 December 1986 to military unit 20152 of the Ukrainian Army and never sent back to Russia.

Click to view the video film of the press conference, which runs for almost 37 minutes and includes English voiceover.






One of my tweets about the 24 May 2018 presser of the Joint Investigation Team.

Twitter exploded and following claims initially dominated social media from euphoric:

Kiev is doubtlessly guilty of MH17 tragedy.

to neutral:

Russia’s MOD claims that the missile that shot down Mh17 had been produced in 1986 and was owned by Ukrainian authorities.

to bitter:

Russia has cited its own documents to claim the missile that downed MH17 was delivered to Ukraine in 1986 & never left. Also did some incomprehensible “analysis” of videos of the Buk coming from Russia to Ukraine to claim they’re falsified.

Actually, all three are wrong.

The first twelve minutes of the press conference today were no less than major league Russian trolling against the MH17 JIT. Here’s why, JIT now has these three options:

1) Admit a Ukrainian Buk missile shot down the Malaysian Boeing. (not gonna happen)
2) Admit the items presented at the 24 May presser were just props. (Oops, why?)
3) Let the crickets do the talking or come with a lame excuse.

Konashenkov moves to the next subject and claims that videos submitted to the Joint Investigation Team are falsified. [12min40secs]. In this section of the presser the talk is about incompatible perspective lines and incorrect lighting, which most people will not fully understand. Clearly an opportunity for tea leaf readers to make some Russia-lies-again-claims.

This dissecting of SBU fakeries goes on until [18min26secs] and is well worth watching. From my own visits to the crash site area, interviews and observations, in the long read MH17 – 1,000 Days I explain in detail why all data about photos and videos presented by JIT is highly suspect to put it mildly.

Audio between Ukrainian servicemen and top ranking army officials


The Ministry of Defence further played an audio fragment allegedly of Ukrainian Armed Forces Colonel Ruslan Grinchak telling the person at the other side of the line:

“If this goes on we’ll take down another Malaysian Boeing and everything will be great again. That’s what we will tell them”.

According to Konashenkov this conversation took place in 2016 near Odessa and that Russian experts did a forensic audio analysis and established without any doubt this is the voice of Ruslan Grinchak.




Then in an important part of the presser a map is shown with positions of Ukrainian army units responsible for monitoring of the air space. Konashenkov states:

“It is worth noting that July 2014 he was the commander of the 164th radio technical brigade, nr A1451 of the Ukrainian Air Force. […] In other words Grinchak knew exactly what was happening in the air over Donbass, because it was his job.”

Without mentioning it, Konashenkov’s words imply the Russians have overwhelming evidence Ukrainian radars were functioning on 17 July 2014. This contradicts the Ukrainian claim that all its primary radars were switched off for maintenance.

Konashev continues:

“Ukraine has not given any information about the positions of its Buk units on the day of the crash. It has not responded to questions regarding the increased activity of its Kupol radar stations, nor has it published the records of conversations between Air Traffic Controllers. This clearly proves that Ukraine is abusing its position as a member of the Joint Investigation Team, seeking to manipulate the investigation.”
“Why the international investigation team tolerates this is a separate issue.”

“Russia has repeatedly expressed its doubts as to whether the JIT did the right thing to allow Ukraine to participate in the investigation and trust it to be a valid partner in JIT’s process.”

Instead of transcribing Koneshenkov’s final words, I suggest you listen and look for yourself.

Wrap up


– Today it became very clear Russia has a lot more evidence than it is willing to show for now.
– Malaysia already indicated there is no conclusive evidence to blame Russia.
– The pseudocide of the Babchenko ‘stunt’ by the Ukrainian SBU must have sent shivers down the spines of the Dutch and Australian JIT investigators and made them very insecure about what other disasters are still to be expected from this JIT member.

I agree with Russia that the official MH17 investigation is fundamentally flawed.

To be continued.


[*]NOTE: This has been republished from Max van der Werff’s website, Kremlin Troll. Clarification of errors in the Defense Ministry presentation will follow from van der Werff shortly. For a comprehensive examination of the fabrications of evidence which the Dutch-led Joint Investigation Team (JIT) has relied on for its allegations of cause and culpability, as well as the faking by NATO outlet Bellingcat, read this. For the concealment of US and NATO intelligence evidence and public lying by the JIT’s Australian delegation, led by ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and ex-Attorney-General George Brandis, click to open.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Wrapping the IWC 67: What Next for the World's Whales?

IWC 67 Day Five: Going for Broke

by Paul Spong - Orcalab


September 14, 2018

Florianopolis, Brazil  - There was a slightly unreal feeling in the room at the start of today’s final session of IWC 67. Everyone knew that Japan was laying everything on the table but no-one including me was totally sure of the outcome.

The day started off tidying up unfinished business from the days before. The Sub Committee on Special Permit whaling had run into a road-block and its report had not been adopted. The obstacle came in the form of a report from a specially convened group of experts who were tasked with evaluating Japan’s “research” whaling programs.

The experts had given Japan a thumbs down on pretty much every element of the program, which unsurprisingly upset Japan. For a while there was a bit of a log jam that stalled the meeting, but Chairman Morishita solved it by proposing to list countries supporting Japan’s objection in his report of the meeting.

Here they are: Norway, Marshall Islands, St. Lucia, Nicaragua, Iceland, Solomon Islands, St. Vincent, Senegal, Kiribati, Tuvalu, Côte d’Ivoire, Antigua and Barbuda, Cambodia, Liberia, Surinam, Togo, Palau, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Laos. No surprise that it was precisely the same list that has supported Japan regardless of topic throughout the meeting.

The Chair then got down to the real business of the day.

Those of us in the room on the whales’ side felt confident but weren’t sure. At the outset Japan tabled an amendment to it’s proposal, in essence saying that if the requested Schedule amendment failed to achieve a simple majority the accompanying resolution would not be put to a separate vote. Given the slim chance the Schedule amendment would achieve the required ¾ majority I took this as a good sign. Just the same there was tension in the room as the vote proceeded.

It was relieved when Mexico answered “Si” to the question put by the Secretary. There was a chorus of “What?” accompanied by disbelief and then laughter as the Secretary asked Mexico again. This time Mexico did as expected and answered NO. A ripple of chuckles continued for a few more moments.

The rest of the vote went pretty much in the manner of previous votes in the meeting, so in the end Japan lost. The vote was 27 in favour, 41 against with 2 abstentions. Because Japan achieved only 40% support its entire reform package was lost. Phew. I was glad to see Switzerland and South Africa rejoining the majority. The abstentions were again interesting, this time Korea and Russia. In explaining its vote, Russia said it didn’t like the split in the Commission so had abstained.

I think there was a collective sigh of relief in the room after that vote because things got a lot lighter after the coffee break. The Chair quickly got through the rest of the agenda, approving reports, appointing officers and committee chairs, approving venues for the next meetings of the Commission and Scientific Committee, and generally wrapping things up.

There was even a touch of levity from Japan. It came during voting in a contest organized by Luxembourg for the best cetacean jewelry. Two years ago the contest was for the best whale tie and Japan won. The pieces were displayed on the screen one by one. When the image of a small dolphin appeared Japan raised a point of order, saying small cetaceans were outside the competence of the Commission. The room broke up.

It was difficult to know Japan’s thinking coming into this meeting. It brought such a huge delegation, which I gather included 9 Diet members and at least one senior government official. It was hard to avoid the feeling something was up. Sport and gambling terms come to mind. Japan is not alone in this forum but it might as well be. Meeting after meeting it fails to achieve its core objectives. Japan lost at virtually every turn at IWC 67.

I’m not alone in wondering what comes next.



IWC 67 Postscript: Two Dolphins  

by Paul Spong  - OrcaLab


September 16, 2018

The morning after IWC 67 ended Helena and I decided to take a last walk on the lovely long sandy beach that fronts the resort where the conference was held.

We got to the path leading down to the beach and decided to turn right towards the etchings in stone that had been left by former inhabitants of the area 6,000 or more years ago.

The ocean was still energetic, producing waves that hit the rocky shore and flung fountains of spray almost to our feet. Suddenly Helena exclaimed “I think I saw something!”

We stopped walking and looked out over the ocean, as we’d often done hoping to see a right whale without having the luck of some at the conference. Moments later two dolphins surfaced then disappeared and surfaced again. The sight was a total thrill. They were swimming quietly along parallel to the shore between big rolling waves. At one point I thought they were going to catch a wave and surf, though they didn’t and kept swimming quietly along. We headed further up the path hoping to see more of them and encountered other people, in couples and clumps staring out to sea like us, enjoying the presence of the dolphins. It was a marvelous affirmation of what had happened inside the meeting as it tilted towards enjoying rather than exploiting cetaceans.

Looking back on IWC 67 I have to characterize it as the best run and most interesting with the most agreeable outcomes of any I’ve attended in the last couple of decades. For sure everything didn’t go perfectly but it seldom does in life and at this stage in human relations with whales that would be asking too much. Among noteworthy details was a Secretariat that operated smoothly, making bits like registration and security easy and uncomplicated, a technical team that not only made following what was happening possible, but with the aid of a group of great interpreters seamless in four languages, and rapporteurs who managed to follow everything that was said regardless of language or accent.

For NGOs there were tables to sit at and microphones for requesting the floor, both unheard of previously. The performance of Chairman Morishita was masterful. Being Japanese there was some concern that he would be biased but he was not – rather, he was scrupulously fair. His command of English was impressive and impeccable, even down to idioms and jokes. He kept the complicated agenda to its schedule, adding just a couple of hours at the end of day four when he got concerned about finishing on time. He need not have worried.

For me, the highlights of the meeting were choosing the Florianopolis Declaration over Japan’s attempt to overturn the Moratorium, and the rejection in so many ways of Japan’s agenda – from the harsh scientific judgment of its “research whaling” to it’s proposal to solve the problems of the Commission by bringing high level diplomats into the picture. As I said previously, that last was my biggest worry, but for the moment at least it’s gone. It’s difficult to know what Japan will do in the face of such clarity. Achieving even a simple majority vote in the future will be difficult to impossible. Gone are the days when a bag of cash delivered at the last moment could add a voice and vote, and though the current pattern of voting causes suspicion about votes for aid there is no proof. If that has been Japan’s approach, quite clearly it has failed. So the big question now is, what will Japan do next?

I first went to Japan in 1974 hoping to convince it to stop killing whales because of what we were learning about them. Obviously I failed, but in the process I was told that the way the Japanese mind works is to carefully consider a complicated issue from all sides over whatever time it takes and then finally make a decision. Could now be the time?

When I put this question to Chairman Morishita after the meeting, he looked me in the eye and calmly said:

“No comment”.

A MEMO From Henry Kissinger to Vladimir Putin

MEMO From Henry Kissinger to Vladimir Putin on Idlib - A Reminder of How the Turks and Americans Do Things Together

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


September 17, 2018

Moscow - Greek investigative journalist Michalis Ignatiou revealed on Sunday the classified White House document of August 13, 1974, in which Henry Kissinger persuaded then-US President Gerald Ford that Turkey should be supported by the US in their two-wave invasion of Cyprus, seizing and occupying over a third of the island, deterring the Greek defence of Cyprus, and encouraging the Turks to ignore United Nations (UN) condemnation.

According to Kissinger,

“the Turkish tactics are right — grab what they want and then negotiate on the basis of possession. But if the Turks run loose on Cyprus, the Greeks could come unglued. We certainly do not want a war between the two, but if it carne to that, Turkey is more important to us and they have a political structure which could produce a Qadhafi.”

This month the Kissinger scheme is being revived by the US, with support from Germany, France and the UK, to support Turkey in its seizure of the city and governorate of Idlib, in northwest Syria. Threats of US and NATO missile attacks have deterred the Syrian Army from attempting to reclaim its own territory. President Vladimir Putin has been pressured by the Turks, the US and NATO to delay Russian military support for the recovery of Idlib.

“There is no American reason why the Turks should not have one-third of Cyprus,” Kissinger told Ford in the Oval Office forty-four years ago. Substitute Idlib for Cyprus today, and there is no American reason why the Turks should not have Idlib, no matter what UN resolutions on Syrian sovereignty require and the Kremlin supports.

Today, as Putin meets the Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Sochi, the question to be decided is whether the Kissinger scheme will prevail again.

The Kissinger-Ford briefing, kept classified for thirty years and then redacted by the Ford presidential library until now, took place at 9 in the Washington morning, 4 in the Cyprus afternoon, on August 13. That was between the two waves of the Turkish invasion of Cyprus, known as Operation Attila.

The first wave, Attila-1, involving 40,000 Turkish ground troops, air and naval forces, took place on July 20, 1974. The second wave, Attila-2, with another 40,000 invaders, commenced on August 14. That was fifteen hours after Kissinger and Ford had agreed to give the Turks their go-ahead; at the same time ordering the British not to defend Cyprus by engaging the Turkish attackers; Cyprus had been a British colony and by the 1960 treaty of guarantee Cyprus remained a protectorate of the British who kept two military bases on the island. For a brief account of Attila, read this. The outcome of the US-backed invasion was Turkish occupation of more than 36% of the island.

For continuing US attempts to compel the Republic of Cyprus and the Greek Cypriots to capitulate and accept Turkish occupation under Turkish and NATO flags, and at the same time preserve the British bases on the island, read this archive of President Nikos Anastasiades’s negotiations with the Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland.


Left: Kremlin record of Henry Kissinger at the Kremlin with Vladimir Putin, 
February 3, 2016. They met again at the Kremlin on June 29, 2017
Right: President Erdogan last met Kissinger in New York, September 23, 2016.

Read the document in full, including the hand-written notes on which the typescript of the conversation was based. Kissinger, then Secretary of State and Ford’s national security advisor, did most of the talking; General Brent Scowcroft, the deputy national security advisor, came in late, managing to squeeze in only nine words during the hour.

NODIS, the classification designation at top and bottom of every page, meant that the secrecy Kissinger intended for his discussion with Ford should be preserved by not distributing the document to any other US Government official. XGDS in the US Government’s classification manual meant the Kissinger-Ford document was exempt from the general declassification schedule. Secret forever, almost.

Kissinger assured Ford the Soviet Union would react against the Turks with angry words at the UN, but pose no military risk.

“We have been trying to bail the Cyprus situation out after it got out of control. The British have made a mess of it. If the Turks move to take what they want, they will be condemned in the Security Council and the Soviet Union will beat them over the head with it. Some of my colleagues want to cut off assistance to Turkey — that would be a disaster. There is no American reason why the Turks should not have one-third of Cyprus.”

The clock, Kissinger told Ford, should be allowed to run because it was running to the Turkish advantage. “Let’s wait a bit. If we come out of the Cyprus thing all rlght, we will have more leverage.” Kissinger already knew that Attila-2 was about to be launched, but he didn’t reveal that to Ford.

On August 13, 1974, Ford had been president for just four days, following the forced resignation of Richard Nixon on August 9. Ford had also had no time to decide whether to separate the Secretary of State and National Security Advisor posts and promote another official to rival Kissinger’s power; in time Ford decided against doing that.

On September 7, 2018, at the summit conference on Syria held in Tehran with the Iranian and Turkish presidents, Putin sought to keep the record of direct negotiations secret. The Iranians decided to broadcast the proceedings.


Kremlin photo of the Tehran summit meeting, September 7, 2018
Note the Russian seating arrangements – the President was flanked by 
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on his right; Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu 
on his left. Immediately behind Putin sat Dmitry Peskov. Officially the President’s 
spokesman, Peskov is a Turkish speaker and the most prominent pro-Turk in the 
Kremlin; Peskov’s daughter Elizabeth (Liza) is a lobbyist for Turkish clients; for details, read this.

Putin’s remarks at the subsequent press conference emphasized the gradualism of his plan for Idlib, and played down disagreement with Erdogan on the timetable for restoration of Syrian sovereignty and the planned offensive of the Syrian Army.

“We discussed specific measures for gradual stabilisation in the Idlib de-escalation zone, which, among other things, provide opportunities for the conciliation of those who are ready for dialogue. As President of Turkey, Mr Erdogan, has said, we call on all conflicting parties to cease fire and stop the violence. At the same time, we consider unacceptable any attempts to spare terrorists or inflict damage on Syrian government troops under the pretext of protecting the civilian population. This seems to be the objective of the attempts to fabricate chemical attacks allegedly perpetrated by the Syrian government. We have irrefutable proof of militants preparing such operations and such provocations.”

AL-JAZEERA MAP OF CONTROL ZONES OF SYRIA, SEPTEMBER 2018 

 


On the issue of whether Idlib should be liberated by the Syrian Army now or later, gradually or without delay, Foreign Minister Lavrov has been accused in the press of changing his position. Last month Lavrov was in favour of speed. “This is the last hotbed of terrorists who are trying to speculate on the region’s status as a de-escalation zone, who are trying to hold the civilian population hostage as human shields and bend to their will those armed groups ready to engage in dialogue with the government. So from all points of view, this festering abscess needs to be liquidated.”

On September 3 Lavrov said delay in the Syrian operation could not be tolerated “indefinitely”.

In Berlin on September 14 Lavrov said a great many things on Idlib, some of which have been interpreted as a Russian concession to delay the Syrian offensive in Idlib because of the threats of military retaliation by US and NATO forces.

In his Berlin speech on Friday what Lavrov did was to illustrate the differences between Russia’s military and security policymakers on the one hand, and the pro-Turkish lobby led by Dmitry Peskov in the Kremlin and major Russian business figures. Lavrov warned the Turks against adding forces and extending their occupation of Idlib beyond the mutual agreement on “observation posts”. “We speak with our Turkish colleagues who know that their territory sometimes is used by bad people to complicate situations in Syria. They provide additional control measures on the border. Now in Idlib twelve observation posts have been established by Turkey by the agreement which we have reached. This calms the situation a little. Turkey has undertaken obligations to try to achieve differentiation between that armed opposition which is ready to have dialogue with the [Syrian] Government and the terrorists who have tried to crush under themselves those armed groups which aren’t extremist.”

AL-JAZEERA MAP OF CONTROL ZONES IN IDLIB GOVERNORATE 



Lavrov tried explaining what the military implications of this “differentiation” mean to the Russian command.

“It is necessary to understand what has been agreed in all cases of the creation of de-escalation zones. There the truce …doesn’t extend to terrorists. Oppositional groups are called to separate themselves from terrorists and to make contact with the government forces with our mediation, with the mediation of Turkey or Iran, and to agree [terms] for local reconciliation. Certainly, we will do everything that we are doing now, taking into full consideration the problems of the civilian population. Besides, by efforts for the organization of local arrangements with these or those groups which are in the Idlib area, a humanitarian corridor [has been established] for those who wish to leave [the area] just as we did in the zones in the south — in the province of Homs and the creation of the East Guta zone”.

Lavrov described the discussion in Tehran as one to “solve the problems in the Idlib zone to minimize risks for the civilian population. Now between us and the Turks there is a dialogue in the area of diplomats and the military. Next Monday [September 16] the presidents will consider this situation.”

Lavrov also claimed that western and Turkish press charges that Russia intends to give full air and ground support for the Syrian operation to retake Idlib is “an unfair representation of the facts.” Russian operations were limited, he told his Berlin audience on Friday, to defensive responses to the drone attacks launched from within Idlib against the Russian base at Khmeimim, south of Latakia.

“As soon as we obtain such information [on drone production and deployment], we suppress the underground factories making the lethal weapons. I assure you that we will approach most precisely these questions, to create humanitarian corridors, to encourage so-called local conciliation, to do everything to ensure the civilian population will not suffer.
We won’t act as the [Anglo-American] coalition did in Iraqi Mosul or Syrian Raqqa when there were no negotiations on local truces with the armed opposition; no humanitarian corridors were created. Raqqa is roughly comparable in size to Idlib city. It was razed to the ground … we are waiting for information from the UN on what is evolving there…”

So what is Russian strategy towards the Turks and other NATO forces in Syria?

[Let us] not divide the Syrian territory into ‘good’ and ‘bad’. Now our western colleagues, for example from the EU and, the US, say they will provide only humanitarian aid (and not too much to the [Syrian] government). As for restoration of [Syria’s] infrastructure and the economy, that [the EU and US say] can be only after the so-called political transition begins and when they are convinced that this transition goes in the ‘correct’ direction. And here in the territory which is illegally occupied now by the US, together with opposition groups under their control and the Kurds, on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, they invest millions and tens of millions of dollars doing exactly what the West refuses to do in other parts of the Syrian territory. In other words… it is a plan which at its root contradicts the sworn assurances of our western colleagues that they will respect the territorial integrity of the SAR [Syrian Arab Republic].”

In the old Kissinger formula it was accepted that Turkish territorial expansion by military means was in line with US strategy. For the moment Lavrov is leaving it to Putin to make clear with Erdogan if that’s still so – and if it is, whether Russia will do more about it than Kissinger expected at the UN.