Archive | October 9th, 2017

US, Turkey suspend visa services amid arrested employee row

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DAILY SABAH 

The U.S. embassy in Ankara said Sunday that all non-immigrant visa services in its diplomatic facilities in Turkey were suspended after the arrest of one of its employees over the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) ties.

A statement released by the embassy said: “Recent events have forced the U.S. government to reassess the commitment of the Government of Turkey to the security of the U.S. Mission facilities and personnel.”

The statement said the suspension, effective immediately, is intended to minimize the number of visitors to the consulate and embassy buildings.

Hours after the U.S. decision, Turkey said it has halted processing visa applications from the U.S. The move, announced online by the Turkish embassy in Washington, applies to visas in passports, electronic visas and visas at the borders, and is also effective immediately.

Metin Topuz, a Turkish employee working in the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul was arrested on charges of espionage and links to FETÖ, the group blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people in Turkey.

According to the indictment, the suspect was in contact with a number of former police chiefs in Istanbul where he worked, and all those police chiefs involved in the 2013 coup attempts were FETÖ members in the judiciary and law enforcement.

He was also in touch with Oktay Akkaya, a former lieutenant colonel who was among the main actors in the 2016 coup attempt.

“The suspect acted as a liaison between members of FETÖ and its leader, Fetullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania,” the indictment adds, claiming there is strong evidence to justify Topuz’s arrest.

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REVEALED: U.S. Tested Carcinogenic Chemicals On Unknowing Canadian Civilians During The Cold War

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By Aaron Kesel | Activist Post 

The U.S. Army secretly tested carcinogenic chemicals on unknowing residents of Canada in Winnipeg and Alberta during the Cold War in testing linked to weaponry involving radioactive ingredients meant to attack the Soviet Union, according to classified documents revealed in a new book Behind the Fog: How the U.S. Cold War Radiological Weapons Program Exposed Innocent Americans by Lisa Martino-Taylor, an associate professor of sociology at St. Louis Community College.

The incidents occurred between July 9, 1953 and Aug 1, 1953 when they sprayed six kilograms of zinc cadmium sulfide onto unsuspecting citizens of Winnipeg from U.S. Army planes. The Army then returned 11 years later in 1964 and repeated the experiments in other parts of Canada including  Suffield, Alta. and Medicine Hat, Alta., according to Martino-Taylor, National Post reported.

“In Winnipeg, they said they were testing what they characterized as a chemical fog to protect Winnipeg in the event of a Russian attack,” Martino-Taylor said. “They characterized it as a defensive study when it was actually an offensive study.”

Canada knowingly participated in this experiment as part of an agreement it held with the U.S. and England but was allegedly not told about what was being sprayed on its citizens, according to Martino-Taylor.

In 1964, a memo from Canadian officials expressed concern that an “American aircraft was emitting distinctly visible emissions,” Martino-Taylor said.

In Canadian and U.S. documents, the tests were referenced as biological and chemical when documents suggest they actually involved combining the two with radiological components to form a combined weapon.

The U.S. was working on producing a radioactive nerve agent that combined the dangerous phosphorus-32 and VX chemical compounds.

“The zinc cadmium sulfide acted as a fluorescent tracer which would help the U.S. Army determine how the radioactive fallout from a weapon used on the Soviets would travel through wind currents,” Martino-Taylor said.

An additional 1964 memo from Suffield mentions that the U.S. Army wanted to travel Suffield to “discuss the use of radioactive tracer techniques in chemical weapons trials.” While preparing for other tests involving BG, a bacteria, the U.S. Army drafted the number of hospitals and hospital beds available in the area, showing a potential further connection to the CIA’s human experimentation MK-Ultra project.

It’s a known fact the Allan Memorial Institute in Royal Victoria Hospital is seen as the cradle of modern torture, and that Scottish-born Dr. Donald Ewen Cameron was heavily involved in subproject 68. Cameron also had partial funding funneled by the CIA (approx. $62,000) and the Canadian government for its brainwashing experiments and torture, according to The McGill Daily.

So was the U.S. planning on expanding its torture experiments into Suffield?

For decades the massive Suffield Base in Alberta was one of the largest chemical and biological weapons research centers in the world. A 1989 Peace Magazine article explained, “For almost 50 years, scientists from the Department of National Defence have been as busy as beavers expanding their knowledge of, and testing agents for, chemical and biological warfare (CBW) in southern Alberta,”Global Research reported.

“The U.S. was very aggressive,” Martino-Taylor said. “Canada seemed less on board as I read through the documentation.”

Until now it was thought the U.S. only experimented on its own people, but it’s now known that they also experimented on their neighbors in Canada and tried to expand that experimentation to the levels it did in the U.S.

The CIA did several unethical human experiments in the United States. In one instance they injected radioactive material into hospital patients without their consent at all. While other experiments were performed on pregnant women in Nashville who were given a radioactive iron cocktail to ingest so that researchers could determine if cancer could be passed on to their offspring. Even children were fed radioactive oatmeal as part of a “science club,” Martino-Taylor said.

Yes, this is your secret history of previous deep state experiments. Another by the U.S. Army inside the continental United States revealed by Martino-Taylor also involved spraying the same zinc cadmium sulfide particles over much of the U.S. across several cities including  St. Louis and Texas; that project was known as Operation LAC (Large Area Coverage.)

The public was tricked and told the experiment was to set up smokescreens that the Army could deploy to shield the U.S. from any nuclear assault by Russia at the time. In reality, they were testing biological agents on the population harming their health.

“The study was secretive for a reason. They didn’t have volunteers stepping up and saying yeah, I’ll breathe zinc cadmium sulfide with radioactive particles,”  St Louis Professor, Martino-Taylor told KSDK. “This was a violation of all medical ethics, all international codes, and the military’s own policy at that time.”

The report didn’t note whether the experiments in Canada were connected to Operation LAC, though it has several similarities to the project, or whether this was a bigger part of Project 112. However, for years the Canadian government has denied that it tested any bioweapons in Alaska and Alberta as well as spraying “simulated bio-weaponry across North American cities, including Winnipeg.”

Pathogens for War, by University of Western Ontario historian Donald Avery, notes that Canadian scientists were intimately involved in U.S. bioweapons research until 1969, when then-president Richard Nixon unilaterally ended the program. Significant quantities of toxins, including sarin and the nerve agent VX, were stockpiled at Suffield until at least 1989, The Star reported.

The U.S. government has a longstanding policy for human experimentation, experimenting on its civilian population for decades since the 1950s (Cold War) doing a total of 239 “germ-warfare” tests over populated areas.

The United States scrapped its biological weapons program in the late 1960s and agreed in a 1997 treaty, the “Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons” to destroy all its chemical weapons.

The goal “was to deter the use of biological weapons against the United States and its allies and to retaliate if deterrence failed,” the government explained. “Fundamental to the development of a deterrent strategy was the need for a thorough study and analysis of our vulnerability to overt and covert attack.”

A 1997 report from the National Research Council concluded that the Army’s secret tests “did not expose residents of the United States and Canada to chemical levels considered harmful.” However, the same report admitted that there was little research on the chemical used and mostly based on very limited animal studies.

Three House Democrats who represent areas where testing occurred — William Lacy Clay of Missouri, Brad Sherman of California and Jim Cooper of Tennessee — have expressed outrage by the revelations, NY Post reported.

Cooper’s office plans to seek more information from the Army Legislative Liaison, spokesman Chris Carroll said.

“We are asking for details on the Pentagon’s role, along with any cooperation by research institutions and other organizations,” Carroll said. “These revelations are shocking, disturbing and painful.”

“I join with my colleagues to demand the whole truth about this testing and I will reach out to my Missouri Delegation friends on the House Armed Services Committee for their help as well,” Clay said in a statement.

Yet the government today still denies spraying death dumps of chemicals across the sky and calls the belief a conspiracy theory, ridiculing those who accuse such practice as a “conspiracy theorist,” despite the fact that they did unethical human experimentation through the spraying of chemicals 50 years ago.

 

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‘Untangling the Syrian Knot’: Russia-Turkey Coordination in Idlib Pivotal

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Sputnik

If Russia and Turkey launch a joint military operation in the Syrian province of Idlib, mostly controlled by Tahrir al-Sham, a militant group led by the al-Nusra Front, there will be a major military victory that would also pave the way for the political settlement of the crisis, experts told Sputnik.

“Apparently, the final agreement on this issue [situation in Idlib] was reached during a meeting in Ankara between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. We can now say that all military actions are being coordinated by these two parties,” Oytun Orhan, an expert on the Middle East, told Sputnik Turkey.

He pointed out that bringing peace to Syria requires both military and political actions, and currently there are three countries, namely Russia, Turkey and Iran, that can resolve the Syrian crisis.

After his talks with Erdogan in Astana on September 28, Putin said that Moscow and Ankara had reaffirmed readiness to implement the final agreements reached in mid-September in Astana about four de-escalation zones, including the largest one in Idlib.

On Saturday, Erdogan announced plans to deploy Turkish forces to Idlib, where the Free Syrian Army rebel fighters backed by Ankara have launched an operation. He also said that Russia has agreed to provide air support to the operation; however, there has been no official comment yet by the Russian Defense Ministry supporting the claim.

Meanwhile, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier this week that Russia is ready to support armed groups fighting the al-Nusra Front in the Idlib de-escalation zone.

Commenting on the possible Russia-Turkey coordination in Idlib, Orhan said, “Russian forces could deploy along the external perimeter of the de-escalation zone, with Russian aviation likely to bomb al-Nusra Front positions. At the same time, the Turkish military could launch an operation within Idlib. What is also possible is a joint operation between Turkish forces and the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the terrorists.”

The expert suggested that joint military actions in Idlib would reduce the territory controlled by the al-Nusra Front and finally result in the defeat of the terrorist group in the region.

“Regarding the fate of terrorists after the liberation of Idlib, there could be several scenarios – some groups may integrate into the Syrian military, some other groups may continue minor activities in certain areas or lay down their arms in exchange for some political concessions,” Orhan said.

According to Turkish journalist Hüsnü Mahalli, the terrorist stronghold in Idlib is the last major obstacle to resolving the Syrian crisis.

“The situation in Deir ez-Zor will be resolved within two or three weeks. There will be only Raqqa left. Currently, the southern part of Raqqa is controlled by the Syrian Army while its north part is controlled by Kurdish forces. [After the liberation of Idlib] Syrian forces will control almost 99 percent of the territory. In fact, the resolution of the Idlib situation would mean the untangling of the Syrian knot,” Mahalli said.

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Hezbollah chief says US helps Daesh, does not allow it to be eliminated

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Image result for Daesh CIA CARTOON

The secretary general of the Lebanese Hezbollah says the United States does not want Daesh Takfiri group to be destroyed and is providing Takfiri terrorists with assistance through its bases in Syria.

Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah made the remarks while delivering a speech at a ceremony held in al-Ain town in North Bekaa region to commemorate two martyred members of the resistance movement.

The ceremony was held after Hezbollah commander, Ali al-Hadi al-Asheq, and Hezbollah fighter, Mohammad Nasserdine, were killed, along with five other fighters, while fighting the Takfiri terrorists in Syria last week.

“It is only the United States, which does not let Daesh be totally annihilated,” Nasrallah said in his speech.

The Hezbollah leader added that the US was helping Daesh through its base in the Syrian city of Raqqah and also through a base it runs near Syria’s border with Jordan where Daesh terrorists are trained.

“US Air Force does not allow the Syrian army and resistance groups to advance toward positions occupied by Daesh,” he added.

Stressing the need to continue the ongoing fight against Daesh despite efforts made by the US, Nasrallah said, “If we do not continue the war against Daesh, the Takfiri group will hit again and resume its campaign of massacre and terror.”

Nasrallah emphasized that Daesh would return to all areas it had lost if the fight against the group stopped, because Daesh was like a malignant cancer, which must be uprooted.

Nasrallah stated that the US did not want the Lebanese army to fight Daesh in those areas, which had been occupied by the Takfiri group, and to achieve this goal, it even stopped its aid to the Lebanese army for a period of time.

The leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah stated that the “Wahhabi Takfiri Daesh” group was only present in small parts of Iraq and Syria, but the group must be totally annihilated, because if not, it would continue to threaten Iraq and Syria.

He noted that the main strategy followed by Daesh was to extend its existence, so that, it could launch new battles to reclaim liberated towns and villages.

Elsewhere in his remarks, Nasrallah noted that the Middle East region was facing a new scheme devised by the United States and Saudi Arabia, which was mainly aimed at Iran.

He stated that Washington and Tel Aviv kept lying about Tehran’s nuclear program as they were outraged by the Islamic Republic’s influential role in the Middle East.

The Hezbollah chief said the main problem between the US and Iran was that the Islamic Republic had caused the Saudi-US plot to crash across the region.

He added that the Riyadh regime’s policies would eventually fail in Syria despite the fact that the Saudi authorities were funneling huge sums of money and munitions to Takfiri terrorists there.

Nasrallah then stressed that Hezbollah was a popular movement, which enjoyed great support both inside Lebanon and across the Middle East, noting that US policies and sanctions would fail to change the group’s positions.

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Red star over Nepal

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By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline 

The Communist Party of Nepal-UML led by KP Oli, Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Centre) led by Prachanda and the breakaway Naya Shakti Nepal led by Baburam Bhattarai have announced on October 3 the formation of a grand leftist alliance for the forthcoming provincial and federal elections in Nepal on November 26 and December 7 under the new constitution. The polarization of Nepal’s fragmented political spectrum on ideological lines makes the forthcoming elections a watershed event.

In reaction to the unexpected development, the Nepali Congress is reportedly planning to assemble a motley coalition of right-wing forces with some smaller parties to counter the grand leftist alliance. Interestingly, the constituents of the right-wing alliance may include the Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, which was formed in April with the merger of six “pro-India” Madhesi parties on the advice of their mentors in India. Even more interesting is the prospect of the Hindu right-wing, cultural conservative and royalist Rastriya Prajatantra Party Democratic – a veritable clone of India’s Bharatiya Janata Party – joining the Nepali Congress-led alliance.

It doesn’t require much ingenuity to figure out that the leitmotif of the polarization into two grand alliances lies in their respective disposition toward India. The announcement of the formation of the leftist alliance on October 3 seems to have taken not only the Nepali Congress but Delhi also by surprise. The Nepali Congress is scrambling to come up with a credible contestation – conceivably, with some encouragement from Delhi.

The polarization in Nepali politics is a good thing to happen since it presents a clear-cut choice to the electorate. The blurring of the ideological divide through the period of democratization in Nepal had been a major factor breeding the politics of expediency resulting in instability in the past. The big question is whether political stability as such guarantees good governance and can deliver on growth and development. India’s current experience speaks otherwise.

To be sure, the Leftist alliance is ideologically motivated and can be trusted to be far more cohesive and capable of offering a stable government. It will be campaigning on the plank of social justice, egalitarianism and Nepali nationalism. The alliance hopes to secure a two-thirds majority in the new Parliament which will strengthen their hands to steer future amendments to the Constitution smoothly, unlike in the past. During the general election, 165 members of the National Parliament will be elected by simple vote, while another 110 will be appointed through a system of proportional representation.

Based on the performance of the two main communist parties in the elections for the constituent assembly in 2013 and this year’s local polls, the leftist alliance has a distinct chance of winning a majority in the forthcoming elections. (The communists also have a strong party machinery all over the country.) If so, Nepal will be coming under communist rule – an unprecedented political feat not only for Nepal’s fledgling democracy but for the South Asian region as a whole. Importantly, based on the leftist alliance’s performance in the November elections, they intend to form a united Nepal Communist Party. It will be a big rebuff to the Indian establishment, which succeeded so far in splintering the Left in Nepal by fuelling internecine feuds and personality clashes.

These are early days but a communist government in Nepal will profoundly impact the geopolitics of South Asia. It is useful to factor in that Nepal took a neutral stance on the India-China standoff in Doklam. India’s capacity to influence Nepal’s foreign policies under a communist government will be even more limited. Equally, it remains to be seen how Nepal’s ‘defection’ from the Indian orbit might have a domino effect on Bhutan.

A ‘tilt’ toward China may well ensue under a communist government in Nepal.  The country may embrace China’s Belt and Road Initiative unequivocally. Chinese investments can phenomenally transform Nepal. And comparisons will be inevitably drawn with the neighboring impoverished regions of Bihar and UP, which are run by India’s ruling party.

The forthcoming elections in Nepal assume great importance for India’s neighbourhood policies under the Modi government. The right-wing Hindu nationalist forces mentoring the Modi government will have a hard time in accepting the prospect of a communist government ruling the abode of the god Shiva. Will they attempt to interfere in the elections? Any overt Indian interference risks  a furious backlash, given the pervasive anti-India sentiments in the country.

On the other hand, while the BJP is unable to tolerate a communist government even in the tiny southern state of Kerala, ironically, the Modi government may have to drink from the chalice of poison by doing business with a sovereign communist government in next-door Nepal. Read, here, an interview by Baburam Bhattarai, the well-known Marxist ideologue of Nepal, on the dramatic political developments in the country.

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Vladimir Putin’s 17 years in power: the scorecard

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By Alex Krainer | The Naked Hedgie 

Mr. Putin can’t seem to get a break in the western media. I watched his recent interview with CBS’s Megyn Kelly with her tiresome, boring questions like, “did Russia interfere in our election,” “did your ambassador meet with Trump’s election officials,”  “isn’t it true that you’re a corrupt murderous thug,” etc. Only in response to Kelly’s last question did Mr. Putin get to name a handful of his achievements in Russia. But someone ought to better prepare his talking points on this score. The below excerpt from my upcoming book summarizes how Russia has changed during the 17 years since Mr. Putin has been at helm.

On 26th July 2014 British magazine “The Economist” published an article titled “A web of lies,” opening with the following two sentences: “In 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path.” Well, we have already seen how Russia fared in the 1990s after Soviet communism collapsed. For some reason, the bright minds at The Economist thought this path was so promising, it was a real shame – a disaster, no less – that Vladimir Putin took Russia on a different one. Let’s take a closer look, shall we, at Mr. Putin’s “disastrous contribution.”

To start with, Putin played the pivotal role in keeping the country from disintegrating. When he came to power, Russia’s regional governors were writing their own laws, disregarded presidential instructions and were not even returning their republics’ tax receipts to the Federation’s purse. Mikhail Gorbachev stated that Putin “saved Russia from the beginning of a collapse. A lot of the regions did not recognize our constitution.” [1] But this historical feat was only the starting point of the subsequent renaissance of the nation. Its economy returned to growth and became more vibrant and diverse than it had been perhaps since the reforms of Pyotr Stolypin of the early 1900s.

Economic reforms

In 2000, Russia was one of the most corrupt countries in the world. Without instituting draconian purges Putin took on the oligarchs and steadily curtailed their power, gradually returning Russia to the rule of law. By 2016 his government reduced corruption to about the same level as that of the United States. That was the empirical result of the annual study on corruption published in 2016 by Ernst & Young.[2] The global auditing consultancy asked respondents around the world whether in their experience, corruption is widespread in the business sector. Their survey, which was conducted in 2014, indicated that only 34% of their Russian respondents thought so, the same proportion as in the United States, and below the world average of 39%. Things have probably improved further since then as Vladimir Putin stepped up a high-profile anti-corruption campaign that led to investigations and prosecution of a number of high level politicians around Russia. Even highly ranked members of Putin’s own political party were not spared.[3] The unmistakable message of such campaigns was that corruption would not be tolerated and that it would be aggressively investigated and prosecuted. Some of the best evidence that Putin’s various anti-corruption measures have had effect can be found in World Bank’s Enterprise Surveys which ask businessmen the question, “was a gift or informal payment expected or requested during a meeting with tax officials?” In 2005, nearly 60% of respondents answered affirmatively. By 2009 this number was 17.4% and by 2012 it had dropped to only 7.3%.

VVP_CorruptionTrends

Putin’s government also made impressive advances in making it easier for entrepreneurs and small businesses to set up shop, raise capital and operate in Russia. According to World Bank’s annual “Doing Business” report, which ranks 190 world economies on a set of attributes such as the ease of starting a business, obtaining construction permits, obtaining electricity, raising credit, and enforcing contracts. On all the metrics combined, Russia managed to climb from 124th place in the world in 2012 to 40th in 2017.[4] Thus, within only five years, Russia had vaulted an impressive 84 positions in World Bank’s ranking. This was not a random achievement but the result of President Putin’s explicit 2012 directive that by 2018 Russia should be among the top 20 nations in the world for ease of doing business.

One of the strategically important sectors where Russia has made striking progress is its agricultural industry. After the disastrous 1990s when she found herself dependent on food imports, Russia again became self-sufficient in food production and a net food exporter. By 2014, Russian exports of agricultural products reached nearly $20 billion, almost a full third of her revenues from oil and gas exports. Not only is Russia now producing abundant food for its own needs, the government is explicitly favoring production of healthy foods, a strategy which includes a ban on the cultivation of genetically modified (GMO) crops, introduced by the State Duma in February of 2014. According to official Russian statistics, the share of GMO foods sold in Russia declined from 12% in 2004 to just 0.1% by 2014.

These and many other constructive reforms have had a very substantial impact on Russia’s economic aggregates as the following examples show:

  • Between 1999 and 2013, Russia’s gross domestic product (GDP) leaped nearly 12-fold from $1,330 per capita to more than $15,560 in 2013, outpacing even China’s remarkable economic growth.
  • Russia reduced its debt as a percentage of GDP by over 90%, from 144% in 1998 to less than 14% in 2015!
  • Gross national income per capita rose from $1,710 in 2000 to $14,810 in 2013.
  • Unemployment fell from 13% in 1999 to below 5% in 2014. Among the working population (those aged 15-64), 69% have a paid job (74% of men).
  • Only 0.2% of Russians work very long hours, compared to 13% OECD average
  • Poverty rate fell from 40% in the 1990s to 12.5% in 2013 – better than U.S. or German poverty rates (15.6% and 15.7%, respectively)
  • Average monthly income rose from around 1,500 rubles in 1999 to nearly 30,000 rubles in 2013.
  • Average monthly pensions rose from less than 500 rubles to 10,000 rubles.

Social and demographic improvements

Putin’s economic reforms included also a more equitable distribution of wealth. As hopelessness faded and standard of living improved, Russian society started to heal: suicides, homicides, and alcohol poisonings declined dramatically. Over the twenty-year period between 1994 and 2014, suicides declined by 56%, homicide rate by 73%, and alcohol poisonings by 83%!

VVP_MiseryStats

The chart below shows the evolution of these improvements over time:

VVP_SuicidesHomicidesEtc

As we can see, these misery statistics rapidly deteriorated with the introduction of shock therapy in 1992, but the trend sharply reversed soon after Putin took charge. By 2014, these figures reached their lowest values since even before 1992. Along with these improvements, the nation’s demographic trends also experienced a dramatic turnaround. Russian life expectancy, which sunk to an average of barely 64 years (57 for men), rose steadily from the early 2000s to reach almost 72 in 2016, the highest it has ever been in Russia’s history.

VVP_LifeExpectancy

Looking at the way life expectancy in Russia changed over time, we see again that it had collapsed in the early 1990s but the trend turned around sharply under Vladimir Putin’s leadership of the country. Similarly fertility rate, which dropped to 1.16 babies per woman in 1999, increased by almost 50% to 1.7 babies by 2012, comparing favorably to European Union’s average of 1.55 babies per woman of childbearing age. Abortions declined 88% from a harrowing 250% of live births in 1993 to 31% in 2013.

VVP_Fertility

Not only are Russians living longer than ever before and enjoying much better quality of life, they also feel freer and happier. In 2014, Gallup Analytics reported that 65% of Russians, more than ever before, answered “Yes” when asked, “are you satisfied … with your freedom to choose what you do with your life?” Meanwhile, Russia’s happiness index rose more than tenfold, from 6 in 1992 to 70 in 2015. Happiness index, compiled by VCIOM[5] adds the proportion of the respondents reporting that they feel decidedly happy or generally happy and deducts those that report feeling generally unhappy or decidedly unhappy.

VVP_Happiness

The next chart further corroborates the idea that under Putin’s leadership, Russia has been developing as a sane and prosperous society, not only for the benefit of a narrow ruling class and at everyone else’s expense, but for the vast majority of ordinary Russians.

VVP_Satisfaction&Direction

By 2014, the great majority of Russians felt satisfied with their lives and believed that things in Russia were moving in the right direction. These figures only tapered off after the 2014 western-sponsored coup in Ukraine and the subsequent economic sanctions imposed on Russia. At the same time, the price of oil – still one of Russia’s largest export – collapsed from over $100 per barrel to under $40. Economic sanctions and the oil price collapse triggered a significant crisis in Russia’s economy. However, in spite of the continuing sanctions regime imposed on the country, its economy started improving again in 2016, thanks to its diverse industrial base that includes a developed commercial and consumer automotive industry, advanced aircraft and helicopter construction based largely on domestic technologies, world’s leading aerospace industry building satellites and top class rocket engines, and advanced industries in pharmaceutical, food processing, optical device, machine tools, tractors, software and numerous other branches. Indeed, Russia is far from being just the “Nigeria with missiles,” or a “gas station with an army,” as many western leaders like to characterize it.

Insofar as a population’s sentiment is a valid measure of its leadership’s performance, Russia’s development under Vladimir Putin stands in sharp contrast with the weak performance of most other developed nations, including those that most vehemently criticize Russia and its president. According to polls conducted by Ipsos Public Affairs in 25 different countries in November 2016 and published by the World Economic Forum, almost two thirds of the people in the world believed that their countries were moving in the wrong direction. The leading western nations scored just as badly, while some among them did flat out dismally.

VVP_RussiaRightDirection

Evidently, Russians feel much better about the way their nation is shaping up than do constituents of many western nations[6] whose sanctimonious leaders like to lecture their Russian counterparts about prosperity, freedom, democracy and other exalted values they purport to cherish.[7] It may thus only surprise the most credulous consumers of western propaganda that a high proportion of Russian people trust Vladimir Putin and approve his job performance. In the early 2017, Putin’s job approval stood between 80% and 90% and has averaged 74% over the eleven years from 2006. During this period, no western leader has come even close to measuring up with Vladimir Putin.

VVP_Trust&Approval

Over the years, I’ve heard depressingly many intellectuals attempt to dismiss Putin’s achievements and Russian people’s contentment as the product of Russian government propaganda. Putin the autocrat, you see, keeps such tight control over the media that he can deceive his people into believing that things in the country are much better than they really are. But the idea that government propaganda can influence public opinion in this way is just silly. If the majority of people thought their lives were miserable, state propaganda could not persuade them that everything is great. On the contrary, most people would conclude that the media is deceiving them and might feel even less positive about things as a result.[8] It is sillier still to think that western intellectuals should have a better appreciation of what it is like to live in Russia than the Russian people themselves. Rather than buying the truth from their media, such intellectuals would do well to take a trip and visit Russia, speak to ordinary people there, and reach their own conclusions. My own travels in Russia, as well as reports from other visitors largely agree with the positive picture that emerges from the statistics we’ve just examined.

Notes:

[1] (Gorbachev: Putin saved Russia from disintegration 2014)

[2] (Stulb 2016)

[3] Some of the names arrested in 2016 surprised even the Russian public as they included such high caliber individual as the Mayor of Vladivostok, Igor Pushkarev; Governor of the Kirov region, Nikita Belykh; Governor of the Sakhalin region, Alexander Khoroshavin, Deputy Minister of Culture Grigory Pirumov and Minister for Economic Development, Aleksey Ulyukaev.

[4] (Romer 2016)

[5] ВЦИОМ – Russian Center for Research on Public Opinion

[6] A different, Associated Press – GfK poll in July of 2016 uncovered an even darker public sentiment in the United States: “A stunning 79 percent of Americans now believe the country is heading in the wrong direction, a 15-point spike in the past year…” (J. Pace 2016)

[7] VCIOM’s figures for November 2016 are somewhat higher than those of Ipsos (62% vs. 58%).

[8] This, for instance, was the situation in the late 1990s when only 5 to 10 percent of Russians thought that the country was heading in the right direction in spite of the ruling elite’s nearly total control of the media.

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The Guardian Exposed – Conning Public into Financing “Independent Journalism”

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21st Century Wire 

On the 21st of September The Guardian put out a funding campaign on Twitter. It explained that if we wanted to “help secure the future of progressive, independent journalism” we should donate £5 per month to shore up The Guardian’s resources. We should do this because The Guardian, according to The Guardian, offers us “quality, investigative journalism”.

The Guardian, according to their advertisment, “holds power to account”,  and that “takes time, money and hard work”. Apparently, a very nifty graph tells us that more people than ever are reading The Guardian but advertising revenue is tumbling. The Guardianneeds our support to keep their journalism “open to everyone”. When “others stretch the truth”, the Guardian doesn’t “distort facts”. We are urged to “defend independent journalism”. At The Guardian “no billionaire owner pulls the strings” and “noone edits their editor”. Now is the time to act, support The Guardian for a fiver a month.

The Tweet is here and below you will find the huge number of replies, pretty much all saying a big, very fat NO!

Help secure the future of progressive, independent journalism

Almost in response to the funding request from The Guardian, the following article appeared in Medialens today:

“The corporate media have swiftly moved on from Peter Oborne’s resignation as chief political commentator at the Telegraph and his revelations that the paper had committed a form of fraud on its readers over its coverage of HSBC tax evasion.

But investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed has delved deeper into the HSBC scandal, reporting the testimony of a whistleblower that reveals a ‘conspiracy of silence’ encompassing the media, regulators and law-enforcement agencies. Not least, Ahmed’s work exposes the vanity of the Guardian’s boast to be the world’s ‘leading liberal voice’.

Last month, the corporate media, with one notable exception, devoted extensive coverage to the news that the Swiss banking arm of HSBC had been engaged in massive fraudulent tax evasion. The exception was the Telegraph which, as Oborne revealed, was desperate to retain advertising income from HSBC.

But now Ahmed reports another ‘far worse case of HSBC fraud totalling an estimated £1 billion, closer to home’. Moreover, it has gone virtually unnoticed by the corporate media, for all the usual reasons.

According to whistleblower Nicholas Wilson, HSBC was ‘involved in a fraudulent scheme to illegally overcharge British shoppers in arrears for debt on store cards at leading British high-street retailers’ including B&Q, Dixons, Currys, PC World and John Lewis. Up to 600,000 Britons were defrauded.

Wilson uncovered the crimes while he was head of debt recovery for Weightmans, a firm of solicitors acting on behalf of John Lewis. But when he blew the whistle, his employer sacked him. He has spent 12 years trying to expose this HSBC fraud and to help obtain justice for the victims. The battle has ruined his life’, he said during a brief appearance on the BBC’s The Big Questions, the only ‘mainstream’ coverage to date.

Ahmed writes that the ‘most disturbing’ aspect of ‘HSBC’s fraud against British consumers’ is that it ‘has been systematically ignored by the entire British press’.

He adds:

‘In some cases, purportedly brave investigative journalism outfits have spent months investigating the story, preparing multiple drafts, before inexplicably spiking publication without reason.’

Examples include BBC Panorama, BBC Newsnight, BBC Moneybox, BBC Radio 5 Live, the Guardian, Private Eye and the Sunday Times.

The Sunday Times is the most recent example. A couple of weeks ago, the paper had a big exposé on the HSBC consumer credit fraud ready to go. But it was ‘inexplicably dropped’ at the last minute. Ahmed writes:

HSBC happens to be the main sponsor of a series of Sunday Times league tables published for FastTrack 100 Ltd., a “networking events company.” The bank is the “title sponsor” of The Sunday Times HSBC Top Track 100, has been “title sponsor of The Sunday Times HSBC International Track 200 for all 6 years” and was previously “title sponsor of The Sunday Times Top Track 250 for 7 years.”

Ahmed reports that the Sunday Times journalist preparing the spiked story did not respond to a query asking for an explanation.

THE WORLD’S ‘LEADING LIBERAL VOICE’… LOSES ITS VOICE

But surely the Guardian would go where other papers fear to tread? After all, says Ahmed, the paper:

loudly and triumphantly congratulated itself for reporting on the HSBC Swiss bank scandal despite the bank putting its advertising relationship with the newspaper “on pause.” Yet the newspaper has refused to cover Wilson’s story exposing HSBC fraud in Britain. Why?

Perhaps there is no definitive answer to that question. But as Ahmed points out, the Guardian just ‘happens to be the biggest recipient of HSBC advertising revenue: bigger even than the Telegraph‘, which is ‘something you won’t read in the Guardian’. The Guardian’s ‘partnership’ with HSBC even helped fund the paper’s crucial move into the US market, according to the Guardian Media Group’s financial report last year.

However, the Guardian’s links with HSBC go beyond advertising and extend to the very corporate structure of the newspaper. As Media Lens noted when we wrote about Nafeez Ahmed’s sacking from the Guardian last December, the paper’s journalistic freedom is supposedly secured under the auspices of Scott Trust Limited, the company that replaced the much-vaunted Scott Trust in 2008. We added:

The paper, therefore, might not at first sight appear to be a corporate institution. But the paper is owned by the Guardian Media Group which is run by a high-powered Board comprising elite, well-connected people from the worlds of banking, insurance, advertising… and other sectors of big business, finance and industry.

Ahmed has done further extensive digging, revealing, in particular, the Guardian’s specific corporate ties with HSBC, past and present. For instance, the chair of the Scott Trust Ltd board is Dame Liz Forgan. She has links with St Giles Trust and the British Museum, two institutions that are ‘sponsored’ by HSBC.

Consider, too, Anthony Salz who sits alongside Forgan on Scott Trust Ltd. He is a senior investment banker and executive vice chairman of Rothschild, and a director at NM Rothschild and Sons. Salz was previously a corporate lawyer with Freshfields, a member of the ‘Magic Circle’ of elite British law firms. HSBC is one of Freshfield’s most prominent long-term clients.

Philip Tranter is another board member of Scott Trust Ltd. He is a former partner and head of corporate law at Boyes Turner. HSBC is one of their clients.

As well as past and present relationships with HSBC, there are also wider connections between Scott Trust Ltd board members and elite corporate and financial circles. For example, Jonathan Scott is chairman of Ambac Assurance UK, and a former director at KPMG Corporate Finance. Ambac was ‘at the heart of the 2008 subprime mortgage crisis, and was implicated in fraud to save its skin as the crisis kicked off’.

Andrew Miller, another board member, was chief financial officer of Autotrader publisher, Trader Media Group. Until early last year, TMG was jointly owned by the Guardian Media Group and the giant private equity firm, Apax Partners. One early director of an Apax Fund, David Staples, is now a director of HSBC Private Bank Ltd. When the Guardian Media Group sold its 50.1% stake in TMG, one of the firms that provided advice for the sale was Anthony Salz’s former firm, Freshfields. Freshfields also advised HSBC over a government inquiry into competition in the banking sector last year.

And so it goes on… and on. Far from being some kind of benign charitable operation, the Guardian newspaper is deeply embedded in elite networks of corporate and financial muscle.

Ahmed notes the consequences of all this for Guardian journalism. The company board members running the newspaper:

must juggle the task of operating the Guardian “as a profit-seeking enterprise,” while securing its “financial and editorial independence” — goals that as the HSBC case illustrates, are ultimately mutually incompatible.

He summarises Nicholas Wilson’s revelations on HSBC fraud in Britain as ‘the worst and largest single case of banking fraud to have ever emerged in this country. They make the Swiss leaks case look like peanuts.’

And yet the fraud has been entirely ignored by the ‘free press’. Our searches of the Lexis newspaper database yield not a single article. In particular, there has been no corporate media response to Ahmed’s careful investigative journalism since his article was published in March. ‘Even’ the Guardian, the supposed ‘flagship’ of liberal journalism, has looked away.

We would challenge Alan Rusbridger, the outgoing Guardian editor-in-chief (he will replace Forgan as the chair of the Scott Trust Ltd in 2016). But he hasn’t responded to our emails for years and he has long blocked us on Twitter. Perhaps this is because he finally tired of us highlighting examples of his paper’s propaganda role as a ‘guardian of power’. The last straw for Rusbridger appeared to follow our exposure of the paper’s dishonest attempts to smear Noam Chomsky in 2005.

However, when one of our readers challenged Rusbridger this week that he felt ‘conned’ that the Guardian is actually owned by a company and not a trust, Rusbridger did reply – although rather evasively:

It looks, swims, quacks and acts like a Trust. But, no, it’s not a charity. Nor does it hv anytg to do w HSBC

‘Nor does it have anything to do with HSBC’? To put it kindly, it would appear that the Guardian editor-in-chief is ignorant of the HSBC links of his fellow company board members, as spelled out in Ahmed’s piece.

Ahmed himself then directly challenged Rusbridger via Twitter:

‘.@arusbridger great that guardian covered #SwissLeaks. Why ignore bigger story of £1bn #HSBC fraud in UK? https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/death-drugs-and-hsbc-355ed9ef5316

At the time of writing, Rusbridger has not responded.”

Posted in MediaComments Off on The Guardian Exposed – Conning Public into Financing “Independent Journalism”

What Saudis hope to get out of Russia ties

NOVANEWS
Image result for Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz CARTOON
Zionist King Salman bin Abdulaziz
By M.K. Bhadrakumar | Asia Times 

The mishap at the Moscow airport on Wednesday when the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz arrived on a historic visit, was a wake-up call that even the most carefully choreographed enterprises may hold unpleasant surprises.

When Salman exited his plane and stepped out onto the special escalator he travels with, something went wrong. It malfunctioned halfway down, leaving the king standing awkwardly for about 20 seconds before he decided to walk the rest of the way. For ordinary mortals, this wouldn’t have been an uncommon occurrence but divinity ordains when a king is involved.

The Russian-Saudi entente is not going to be smooth. The climactic event last week drawing Saudi Arabia into President Vladimir Putin’s Middle East sphere of influence, must be assessed with a sense of proportions.

Salman had hardly departed from Russian soil when the Pentagon issued a statement announcing that the State Department had on Friday approved a possible US$15-billion sale of Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) systems to Saudi Arabia. The statement recalled that Saudi Arabia had requested to purchase from America 44 THAAD launchers, 360 missiles, 16 fire control stations and seven radars.

The US officials confirmed that the sale was part of the $110-billion package of defense equipment and services initially announced during US President Donald Trump’s trip to Saudi Arabia in May. The Pentagon statement said, “This potential sale will substantially increase Saudi Arabia’s capability to defend itself against the growing ballistic missile threat in the region.”

The timing of the US announcement is highly significant. It comes in the wake of claims by Russian officials that Saudi Arabia had shown interest in buying the S-400 missile defense system from Russia. The Saudis have successfully pressured the Trump administration to approve the sale of the THAAD system. And Washington has signaled that the US will not let Russia make an entry into the Saudi arms bazaar.

Hard-nosed realpolitik

The hard-nosed realpolitik in the Saudi-Russian entente had a dramatic start when the then Saudi intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan visited Russia and held a four-hour meeting with Putin at the latter’s dacha outside Moscow in early August 2013. According to media leaks from Russian sources, the Prince allegedly confronted the Kremlin with a mix of inducements and threats in a bid to break Russia’s support for the Syrian regime, which Riyadh was trying to overthrow.

Bandar’s package was riveted on the alluring proposal of a unified Russian-Saudi strategy to keep oil production quantities at a level that keeps the price stable in global markets via an alliance between the OPEC cartel and Russia. And, in return for throwing the Syrian regime under the bus – thereby leaving Iran to face the brunt of the ISIS threat – Bandar promised that Russia could retain the naval base in Tartus under a successor regime in Damascus and be assured of security from a ‘jihadi’ backlash.

The Kremlin apparently spurned the overture in a huff. At any rate, by the beginning of 2014, symptoms of a new Cold War began appearing in Russia’s relations with the West following the regime change in Ukraine. The year 2015 also saw a ‘transition’ in Saudi Arabia with the death of King Abdullah. Of course, the year ended with Russia’s military intervention in Syria.

However, the seeds left behind by Bandar began sprouting and with the Russian economy feeling the crunch from Western sanctions, the fall in oil prices on the world market assumed an existential overtone for the Kremlin. The challenge of the US oil shale industry also meant that Saudi-Russian cooperation became a practical necessity. The rest is history.

Agreement to cut oil production

Indeed, the hallmark of Salman’s visit to Moscow has been the pledge by the two countries to carry forward their agreement to cut oil production. Putin disclosed that the deal to cut oil output to boost prices could be extended till the end of 2018, instead of expiring in March 2018.

Putin described his talks with the Saudi king as “very substantive, informative and very trusting”. And Russian commentators have hyped up that Saudi Arabia is “leaning toward Moscow in solving the Syrian crisis”. The Russian reports mentioned that Moscow and Riyadh are eyeing cooperation on nuclear energy, space exploration, plus infrastructure and arms deals.

However, Bandar’s proposal on oil production still remains the leitmotif of Saudi-Russian cooperation, as apparent from the rise in oil prices this week – as word came that Saudi Arabia and Russia would limit oil production through next year. (Brent crude was up 70 cents at $56.50 per barrel on Thursday.)

The point is, how do the Saudis view their ties with Russia? Are they aiming at a geopolitical shift in the Middle East? Evidently, Salman’s visit underscores that the Saudi and Russian leaders have decided to shift their focus toward common interests rather than let disagreements crowd the centre stage of relations. But then, the THAAD deal signals that Saudi Arabia also has a ‘big picture’ of itself being a major regional and international player.

Suffice to say, the Saudis are shifting away from their special relations with the West to a balanced foreign policy by opening up with Russia and creating multiple options for pursuing national interests. To be sure, the Saudis hope to diversify their partnerships based on common interests. While disagreements remain with Moscow over Syria – and notwithstanding the close ties between Moscow and Tehran – the Saudis have adopted a realistic policy toward the Kremlin.

Most certainly, the Saudi expectation is that at some point, the prospect of lucrative business opportunities would encourage the Kremlin to balance Russia’s relations with Iran. Basically, Bandar’s overture to Putin remains the bottom line.

Posted in Saudi ArabiaComments Off on What Saudis hope to get out of Russia ties

Catalan Police in I$raHell: repression courses

 NOVANEWS

Image result for Catalan Police CARTOON

Comments

  1. This is disturbing as hell…and the reference to “2011” is perhaps most disturbing to me. I don’t pretend to understand all the action I saw — e.g., play acting? real-life situations? — and am hoping for some elucidation by others with better eyes and discernment than I have….

    Comment by roberthstiver | October 9, 2017 | Reply

  2. I believe the American police have been receiving training in Israel in “Crowd Suppression”…..Gee, I wonder why American police would need to suppress the American population, especially when the American police(Dept of Homeland Security) are armed to the teeth with ex military equipment, and BILLIONS of bullets…….
    When the American population are viewed as ‘The enemy’, since ‘9/11’, it’s not hard to work out “who did 9/11″…
    The USA(People) are in deep trouble.

    Comment by Brian Harry, Australia | October 9, 2017 | Reply

Posted in SpainComments Off on Catalan Police in I$raHell: repression courses

Syria – Erdogan Is Afraid of Entering Idleb

The Turkish President Erdogan announced the start of a Turkish operation in Idleb province of Syria. Idelb has been for years under the control of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently under the label Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

In the talks in Astana, Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed on a deescalation zone in Idelb to be supervised by all three of them. But the fight against al-Qaeda, aka HTS, would continue. Turkey is supposed to control the western part of the province including the city of Idleb. But the Turkish government is afraid to go there.

During the last days there have been many reports and lots of pictures of Turkish force movements along the north-western Syrian border. But Turkey made no attempt to enter the country and it is doubtful that it will.

Erdogan’s announcement needs some parsing:

“There’s a serious operation in Syria’s Idlib today and it will continue,” Erdogan said in a speech to his AK Party, adding that Turkey would not allow a “terror corridor” on its border with Syria.”For now Free Syria Army is carrying out the operation there,” Erdogan said. “Russia will be protecting outside the borders (of the Idlib region) and we will handle inside,” he said.

Russia is supporting the operation from the air, and our armed forces from inside Turkey’s borders,” he added.

“[F]rom inside Turkey’s borders” means of course that the Turkish army will not (again) enter Syria. At least not now.

Turkey has transferred some 800 of its “Turkmen” mercenaries from the “Euphrates Shield” area north-east of Aleppo [green] to the western border next to Idleb. “Euphrates Shield” was a fight against the Islamic State with the aim of interrupting a potential Kurdish “terrorist” corridor from north-east Syria to the north-western Kurdish enclave Afrin [beige]. Turkey lost a bunch of heavy battle tanks and some 70 soldiers in that fight. Erdogan was criticized in Turkey for the somewhat botched operation.

The Turkish proxy fighters now sent into Idleb belong to the Hamza Brigade, Liwa al-Mutasem and other Turkish “Free Syrian Army” outfits. They will have to go in without tanks and heavy weapons. Some Turkish special forces with them might be able to call up artillery support from within Turkey. But no Turkish air support will be available as Syria and Russia insist of staying in control of the airspace.

A recent video shows a group of HTS maniacs attacking an outpost like professional soldiers. They are equipped with AT-4 anti-tank missiles, 60mmm mortars, light machine guns and Milkor grenade launcher. They have good uniforms, fairly new boots and ammo carrier belts. This is not equipment captured from the Syrian army or second hand stuff from some former eastern-block country. It is modern “western” stuff. These folks still have some rich sponsor and excellent equipment sources.

Russia has in recent weeks extensively bombed al-Qaeda positions in Idleb. Turkish intelligence may have helped with that. But AQ still has a very decent fighting force. The Turkish supported forces are likely no match for well equipped and battle hardened al-Qaeda fighters.

Turkey had for nearly six years supplied and pampered al-Qaeda in Syria. The group has many relations and personal within Turkey. The Astana agreement now obligates Turkey to fight HTS. Erdogan sits in a trap he set up himself. Should it come to a conflict between HTS and Turkish forces in Syria, the fight would soon cause casualties in Ankara and Istanbul.

Erdogan might still believe that he can somehow domesticate HTS. The government controlled Anadolu agency does not even mention the al-Qaeda origin of the group nor its long control of the area. It is trying to paint a somewhat rosy picture of HTS as an anti-American outfit:

Tahrir al-Sham, an anti-regime group, has come to the forefront with increasing activity in Idlib recently. Tahrir al-Sham has not made a direct statement against the deployment of Turkish troops to the region.On the other hand, the group and some opponents oppose the entry of various Free Syrian Army groups to Idlib, which are prepared to come from the Euphrates Shield Operation Area.

The group justifies the opposition, saying that other groups expected to arrive in the region get support from the United States.

The Turkish paper Hurriyet is less sensible with Erdogan’s needs:

Idlib is largely controlled by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), spearheaded by a former al-Qaeda affiliate that changed its name last year from the Nusra Front.HTS is not party to a deal brokered by Russia, Turkey and Iran for the safe zone in the province, one of four such “de-escalation” zones nationwide.

Ousting HTS forces from the area will be needed to allow the arrival of Iranian, Russian and Turkish forces to implement a de-escalation zone.

In Astana Erdogan was given the task to clean up the mess he earlier created in Idleb by supporting the Jihadis. Erdogan does not like the job but has no choice.

If the de-escalation fails because HTS stays in control, Syria and its allies will move into Idleb. Turkey will then have to cope with thousands of battle seasoned Jihadis and a million of their kinfolk as refugees. If Erdogan moves Turkish forces into the Idleb area it will become a very costly fight and he will soon be in trouble in his own realm. Making peace with HTS is not an option. HTS rejected all offers to “change its skin” and to melt away. Iran, the Astana agreement and a number of UN Security Council Resolutions also stand against that.

Posted in Syria, TurkeyComments Off on Syria – Erdogan Is Afraid of Entering Idleb


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