Archive | March 5th, 2020

The Brexit Fallout Gathers Pace

By True Publica

Global Research,

The news of Britain’s economic and political well-being just gets worse and worse as each week parades by. There simply isn’t any Brexit sunlight at the end of any tunnel to bring us news of renewed prosperity and optimism. Project fear is now project reality. Leaving aside the collapse of inward investment, the worst productivity in over 100 years, an emphatic fall in the currency and other solid economic indicators that Brexit is causing real problems to our future – there’s some more news out – and to be fair, it’s just the same old stuff.

NHS

Mass resignations after the Brexit vote have compounded health staffing shortages. Nearly 13,000 EU nationals have left the NHS since the Brexit referendum, including well over 5,000 nurses. Recent figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council show that the number of nurses arriving from the EU dropped by 87% from 2016-17 to 2017-18. It’s simply not possible to overstate what a disaster this is turning out to be.

And, as the NHS emerges slowly out of its now normal annual crisis of the winter months, it hardly needs saying that an epidemic will not be coped with, no matter what the government says. Appeals by the government for retired doctors to step forward to help combat the Coronavirus crisis is not only desperate, it jeopardises their own health – you know, being in the highest mortality group of the virus and all that.

Heavens above

British attempts to rival the European’s Galileo satellite navigation system – hailed as a symbol of post-Brexit independence – has fallen flat on its face after a series of disagreements over the costly space project.

The government had intended to rival the EU’s Galileo system, which will have 24 satellites orbiting the earth to serve satellite navigation systems, as well as high-level encryption services for public service authorities and the military.

One of Johnson’s first acts in office was to back the proposals. “Let’s get going now on our own position navigation and timing satellite and earth observation systems – UK assets orbiting in space with all the long-term strategic and commercial benefits for this country,” he said.

However, space industry insiders have been claiming that there was little understanding of what was actually involved and the Financial Times reports that the costs have risen from approximately £3 billion to £5 billion.

“The problem is that this programme was launched in the political environment of Brexit, but there has been no discussion among stakeholders about what the requirement is,” one space industry expert said.

Work harder

A Tory MP has called for the government to review the EU’s working time directive after Brexit to fill labour expected shortages.

Appearing on the BBC’s Politics South West programme, the Conservative MP for North Cornwall was asked about how the government will solve the problem of shortage of workers once the Brexit transition period ends and the new points-based immigration system is introduced.

Mann admitted that the impact Priti Patel’s proposals will have on the workforce is “one of the biggest challenges has at the moment”. Mann went on to explain how the problem could be solved – “I genuinely think we need to have a serious think looking at the working time directive.” It was then pointed out by the host that these laws were there to protect vulnerable people from excessive hours. Ahh, well, there is that.Britain Lurches Deeper into Brexit Crisis: Its Population Remains Deeply Alienated from the Political Establishment

Peugeot to sue the government

Peugeot could demand compensation from the British government to keep its Vauxhall factory in Ellesmere Port open in the event of a bad Brexit deal, its chief executive has said.

Carlos Tavares, the head of Peugeot’s owner, PSA, said the carmaker’s European workers should not be forced to bear the costs of “customs barriers” between the UK and the EU when the transition period finishes at the end of the year.

The Ellesmere Port factory in Cheshire, employs about 1,000 people and all of their jobs are now on the line.

Far-right resurgence now mainstream

Brexit is causing far-right views on immigration and identity to be drawn into the mainstream, a report has warned this week.

Research by Hope Not Hate found that Britain’s departure from the EU has fuelled discussions of loyalty, elitism and patriotism, “drawing people who might have otherwise have been attracted to the far right back into the mainstream right”.

The blurring of these boundaries has seen mainstream politicians and commentators using language and rhetoric that was previously found only on the far right [and] seen anti-Muslim prejudice, demeaning rhetoric on migrants and refugees and notions of a ‘cultural war’ against social liberalism increasingly being adopted,” the group’s annual report said.

British retailers

This week, the Retail Gazette confirmed that British retailers have to act in order to save their businesses. Multiple threats to retailers as a direct result of Brexit come from additional paperwork, increased delivery times, currency fluctuations, tariffs and what they see as their biggest problem – staffing.

Retail is one of the many sectors that relies disproportionately on international employees, the majority of whom are from the EU and who have previously been able to enter the UK without any visa or requirement for particular qualifications or measurable skills,” said Shara Pledger, an associate at Latitude Law.

This isn’t to say this workforce isn’t skilled, just that the government doesn’t treat it as such.” Pledger went on to warn that – “The government’s points-based immigration system is set to have a significant impact on the retail industry.”

Forms, forms and more forms

Also, this week comes the news that the government now face having to hire and train up 50,000 people in the next six months to process Brexit paperwork for border operations.

But experts have warned it will be a challenge to train enough people in time to be competent in the complexity of customs declarations and the second layer of red tape involving entry and exit declaration forms that are mandatory for trading with the EU.

The Road Haulage Association has warned that the number of declaration forms for tariffs alone will rocket from the current 50m a year to 200-250m a year.

In addition, the exit and entry forms introduced after the 9/11 terror attack in New York to ensure safety on ferries and planes will involve another 100-125m forms being processed every year.

And the extra taxpayer cash required for that – just £1.5billion – each and every year.

UN -“post-Brexit exports could fall by $32 billion

Potential losses under a “no-deal” Brexit from tariffs are estimated at between $11.4 billion and $16 billion of current exports – and the new study says ‘Non-Tariff Measures’ would double those losses.

The study also projects that even if a “standard” free trade agreement were to be signed by the parties, the UK’s exports could still drop by nine per cent, a cost of $32bn.

This is because standard trade deals normally focus on reducing or eliminating tariffs rather than NTMs and Britain has already indicated it will diverge from the EU in terms of regulation.

As the EU market accounts for 46 per cent of the UK’s exports, a no-deal Brexit would deal a major blow to the UK’s economy, according to the study by the Geneva-based agency.

Too few cooks spoil the…

EU citizens make up about a quarter of the 3 million workers in Britain’s hospitality industry, the country’s fourth-biggest employer, according to a KPMG report just out. In London, about 75% of waiting staff and 25% of chefs are from the EU.

Since the Brexit vote, annual immigration from within continental Europe has fallen by more than half.

In response, the Home Office said – “Employers will need to join our mission to level-up skills and economic growth across the whole UK so that we deliver a high-skill, high-wage and highly productive economy.” No-one understands what that means in the hospitality industry when the shortage is so great with no-one to replace the losses. Paying upwards of £26,000 to a waiter might sound good news to waiter’s but not having any restaurants to work in might prove problematic if they all go bust.

Mark Jones, the chief executive of Carluccio’s which runs a chain of Italian restaurants, said he is “hugely disappointed” by the proposed immigration changes. Jones said more than two-thirds of his employees currently come from the EU.

But, but…

Blue passports can be obtained from next month. Embattled Home Secretary, Priti Patel – still clinging on to her job by the tips of her talons said: “Leaving the European Union gave us a unique opportunity to restore our national identity and forge a new path in the world.”

So, we rejected a British manufacturer and went for a European-designed, polish printed version where the profits are routed through Denmark to the bank of a munitions manufacturer in Paris. Daily Express readers were incandescent with rage over this and are demanding the passports are made in old Blighty. In fact, 96 per cent of them in their own poll conducted by the newspaper to their own readers agreed-  according to a completely unbiased journalist.

One devastated reader said – “For the love of mercy, absolutely, how can we be a sovereign nation and NOT produce our own passports!!?? HOW?”

The British company that lost out has now made operational cuts of £20million as the news saw its share price plunge. Soon afterwards, the CEO Martin Sutherland, said there would need to be a big shakeup including a reorganisation of the workforce and then promptly resigned.

Oh and don’t mention the words – ‘farmers’ or ‘fishermen’ – because the government just confirmed this week that they mean nothing to the UK and will be sacrificed in trade negotiations.

Posted in UK0 Comments

Defender 2020: Largest Mobilisation of NATO Troops Against Russia in 25 Years

By Markus Salzmann

Global Research,

The largest deployment of troops across the Atlantic in 25 years entered its main phase last weekend within the framework of the Defender Europe 2020 exercise. The scale of NATO’s provocative military exercise underscores how far advanced the preparations for war are 75 years after the end of World War II.

The United States and 18 other countries are deploying large contingents of troops from America and Western Europe to the Russian border within a short period of time. In total, around 37,000 soldiers are participating in the exercise, which is to continue until June. Their objective is Poland and the Baltic states.

The freight ship Endurance docked in Bremerhaven last week together with four other vessels carrying US tanks and other heavy military equipment. The US alone is deploying 20,000 troops and their armaments to Europe.

Stand-alone infrastructure is being established to facilitate the troop movements. The German army has established a central transport control centre, set up tent camps on military training grounds, and deployed mobile refuelling stations. Although the kilometres-long convoys are generally on the move during the night, they are causing significant disruption to transport.

The German army has remained silent on the cost of the exercise. Referring to sources in the army, the Tagesspiegel newspaper estimates that the cost will be €2.5 million in Germany alone. “This needs analysis by the parts of the armed forces involved based on the deployment of equipment and personnel, accommodation, and the provision of infrastructure. Additionally, further costs could arise,” wrote the Tagesspiegel .

A spokesman for the US military stated that the countries involved would invest in military infrastructure. As an example, he referred to Lithuania, which like Germany is investing in the expansion of its railway network for heavy cargo.

Of the 37,000 soldiers from 19 countries involved in the exercise, more than half, 20,000, come from the United States. 4,000 German soldiers are taking part. In addition, police units are protecting the transportation of materials. Alongside around 33,000 vehicles and containers, some 450 tanks will deploy to the Russian border. Over 100 rail transportation trips will take place. Overall, the troops will move through seven countries and use 14 airports and ports.

Germany is the main hub of the exercise. In the first phase, which runs until April, American weaponry and military equipment will be deployed in Germany, Belgium, and Poland. In stage two, which will run partially in parallel until May, troops will be deployed through Germany to Poland. In the final phase prior to the main exercise all remaining troops will be deployed from Germany to Poland and the Baltic states. The final exercise will take place in Bergen on the Lüneburger moors, Germany, at the end of May, before the withdrawal of all forces is completed by the end of July.

The manoeuvre builds on military exercises held well into the 1990s in Western Europe, some of which involved up to 130,000 troops. Now, for the first time, such a large-scale exercise is being carried out right up to the Russian border and on former Soviet territory.

The manoeuvre is designed to send a message of deterrence, according to the German and US militaries. Lt. Gen. Martin Schelleis commented on this, “The reality is that Russia, with its illegal annexation of Crimea in 2014, provoked this development. But Russia is not the pretext for the exercise; military capacity can only be rebuilt and maintained over an extended period of time.”

NATO’s European supreme commander Gen. Tod. D. Wolters described the exercise as a “platform to strengthen the readiness and interoperability of allied forces.”

Like the Sabre Strike exercise in Lithuania in 2017 and Trident Juncture in 2018, the current manoeuvre aims to test the capacity to rapidly deploy combat-ready troops and equipment to the Russian border, before the “alliance case” is put to the test in a series of combat simulations.

The advanced character of the preparations for war with Russia was underscored last week when US Defence Secretary Mark Esper participated in a war game at the US Strategic Command in Omaha, Nebraska, during which the firing of nuclear weapons against Russia was simulated.

The US military stated that the war game involved an unexpected incident in Europe during which a war is being waged on Russia, and Russia decides to fire a small-scale nuclear weapon on a location in NATO territory.

Two exercises will take place in Latvia on the border with Russia during the early part of this year. A Swift Response Training involving Latvian and international troops will run between April and May. Military units from the United States, Britain, Italy, and Spain will practice aerial manoeuvres in case of a sudden threat.

However, it is not only the Trump administration that is speaking the language of war. Germany and the European powers are attempting to emerge militarily from the shadow of the United States.

This applies above all to Germany. In his speech at the recent Munich Security Conference, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier complained that Russia had annexed Crimea without any regard for international law. Moscow “used military force and the violent redrawing of borders on the European continent as legitimate policy options.”

“Observing is insufficient,” declared Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, Germany’s defence minister, who spoke in Munich on the topic of “Defending the West.” On this issue, she stated her “full agreement” with French President Emmanuel Macron, who called at the Munich Security Conference for a more independent European military policy. The Europeans must not simply “describe their weaknesses, comment on the actions of others or complain about them, but also conduct much more strategic dialogue in Europe and do something concrete for our security.” Germany in particular is “obliged to develop a greater capacity to act and a willingness to take action.”

All political parties in Germany support this drive to war. The formerly pacifist Greens are no exception to this. With their typical demagogy, they have sought to turn events on their head and present the current NATO exercise as a contribution to disarmament. Green party defence spokesman Tobias Lindner stated that one successful outcome of the exercise would be that a permanent stationing of more US troops in Germany and Europe would not be required.

Russia, which was given the assurance 30 years ago when Germany was reunified that NATO would not expand into eastern Europe and certainly not onto former Soviet territory, has responded with alarm to the latest provocation. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov remarked, “Of course we will respond. We can’t ignore developments that cause us concern. But we will respond in a way that does not create any unnecessary risk.”

Posted in USA, Europe, Russia0 Comments

Ending the Myth that Trump Is Ending the Wars

Trump has sent more new troops to the Middle East than he’s bringing home from Afghanistan.

By Khury Petersen-Smith

Global Research,

There was this moment during the State of the Union Address that I can’t stop thinking about.

When President Trump spoke to army wife Amy Wiliams during his speech and told her he’d arranged her husband’s return home from Afghanistan as a “special surprise,” it was difficult to watch.

Sgt. Townsend Williams then descended the stairs to reunite with his family after seven months of deployment. Congress cheered. A military family’s reunion — with its complicated feelings that are typically handled in private or on a base — was used for an applause line.

That gimmick was the only glimpse many Americans will get of the human reality of our wars overseas. There is no such window into the lives or suffering of people in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, or beyond.

That’s unacceptable. And so is the myth that Trump is actually ending the wars.

The U.S. has reached a deal with the Taliban to remove 3,400 of the 12,000 U.S. troops currently in Afghanistan, with the pledge to withdraw more if certain conditions are met. That’s a long overdue first step, as U.S. officials are finally recognizing the war is a disaster and are negotiating an exit.

But taking a step back reveals a bigger picture in which, from West Africa to Central Asia, Trump is expanding and deepening the War on Terror — and making it deadlier.

Far from ending the wars, U.S. airstrikes in Somalia and Syria have skyrocketed under Trump, leading to more civilian casualties in both countries. In Somalia, the forces U.S. operations are supposedly targeting have not been defeated after 18 years of war. It received little coverage in the U.S., but the first week of this year saw a truck bombing in Mogadishu that killed more than 80 people.

Everywhere, ordinary people, people just like us except they happen to live in other countries, pay the price of these wars. Last year saw over 10,000 Afghan civilian casualties — the sixth year in a row to reach those grim heights.

And don’t forget, 2020 opened with Trump bringing the U.S. to the brink of a potentially catastrophic war with Iran. And he continues to escalate punishing sanctions on the country, devastating women, children, the elderly, and other vulnerable people.

Trump is not ending wars, but preparing for more war. Over the past year, he has deployed 14,000 more troops in the Middle East — beyond the tens of thousands already there.

If this seems surprising, it’s in part because the problem has been bipartisan. Indeed, many congressional Democrats have actually supported these escalations.

In December, 188 House Democrats joined Republicans in passing a nearly $740 billion military budget that continues the wars. They passed the budget after abandoning anti-war measures put forward by California Representative Barbara Lee and the precious few others trying to rein in the wars.

It’s worth remembering that State of the Union visual, of Congress rising in unison and joining the president in applause for his stunt with the Williams family. Because there has been nearly that level of consensus year after year in funding, and expanding, the wars.

Ending them will not be easy. Too many powerful interests — from weapons manufacturers to politicians — are too invested. But ending the wars begins with rejecting the idea that real opposition will come from inside the White House.

As with so many other issues — like when Trump first enacted the Muslim Ban and people flocked to airports nationwide in protest, or the outpouring against caging children at the border — those of us who oppose the wars need to raise our voices, and make the leaders follow.

Posted in USA0 Comments

Will Policy of Destabilizing Latin American Countries Help Trump to be Re-Elected?

By Paul Antonopoulos

Global Research,

As the 2020 U.S. Presidential Election campaign heats up, there is every chance that Donald Trump can become a one-term president as the popularity of Bernie Sanders increases despite the sabotage within his own Democrat Party against him. There still remains a strong possibility that Sanders can become the next president sitting in the White House. Sanders continues to grow mass appeal, with former Trump White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon even conceding last month that the Democrat candidate is a “populist,” even if it is different to that of Trump’s. Sanders appeals to the impoverished by directing the frustrations of Middle America to the ultrarich who are fighting tooth and nail to bring the U.S. to Western standards by providing free education and healthcare. This is in contrasts to Trump’s populism which redirects anger of Middle America’s increasing impoverishment to the so-called immigrant “invasion” coming from Latin America.

One of Trump’s main platforms for his seemingly ‘unlikely’ election win, as many so-called experts thought of it back in 2016, was to build a wall traversing the border between the U.S. and Mexico to make it even more difficult for illegal immigrants to enter the North American country. All the slurs and accusations of racism were not able to subdue Trump’s fever as many in Middle America believed they finally found a candidate that spoke their language, addressed their issues and provided a solution to the so-called problem of illegal immigrants “invading” their country. Trump of course knows that illegal immigrants are not the reason for the U.S. problems of de-industrialization, lack of job opportunities, unaffordability and poverty – but it was this rhetoric that projected him into what was an unexpected win for the presidency against Hillary Clinton.

With Sanders speaking of a new populism, not based on a so-called invasion from immigrants, but actually addressing the real issues of the U.S. political and economic system, it is likely that Trump will resort back to the fear of Latin American illegal immigrants to project him to the presidency. This of course may not be necessary in the likely case that the Democrats ignore the popularity of Sanders to go for a Hillary Clinton-like hack and establishment pawn like Joe Biden who will prove unpopular against Trump. None-the-less, Trump will not take chances and will begin using the refugee card, frightening U.S. voters with the threat of new flows coming from Venezuela, Bolivia, Honduras, Mexico and other countries.Trump’s Win Wasn’t Ideological. It Was Brilliant

Meanwhile the world’s focus right now is on the Greek-Turkish border where tens of thousands of illegal immigrants are trying to enter Greece on the orders of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, with a high level of international solidarity going to the European country. However, there are stark differences between the migration crisis between the U.S. and Greece. Greece is an impoverished post-colonial country that was under Turkish occupation for over 400 years and does not have the means to support such large numbers.

Nor is Greece the reason for this migrant crisis as it had not invaded Afghanistan, where the majority of illegal migrants come from despite the incorrect reporting that they are Syrian, nor did Greece invade or apply economic sanctions on Pakistan, Iran, North Africa and Syria where the other illegal migrants are from. In the case of Latin America though, the U.S. is the key country in destabilizing the region and therefore has a responsibility to attend to the refugees that itself created. Although many in Middle America are impoverished, this is a result of their own leaderships economic policies, and rather the U.S. is the world’s richest country and has the means and capabilities of dealing with Latin American migrants it creates.

Non-the-less, as the so-called “invasion” of illegal immigrants has drastically decreased, Trump will be wanting to desperately destabilize Latin American countries to create an atmosphere of fear in the U.S. ahead of the presidential election to show voters that he is their only and sole defender whom they must elect in order to secure their future and safety. It worked in 2016 and he will be betting for it to work again later this year. Trump has already mentioned he has some kind of intentions of doing this during an address to the Latino Coalition Legislative Summit only yesterday.

“We’re with Venezuela all the way, and we’re doing a lot, and we have a lot planned,” said Trump, adding that

“the tragedy in Venezuela is a reminder that socialism and communism bring misery and heartache everywhere they’re tried,” prompting a cry of “gracias” from a member of the audience.

Trump has consistently applied devastating sanctions on Venezuela in an effort to force the removal of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and in support of wannabe president Juan Guaidó.

However, these sanctions have had such a devastating effect on the Venezuelan economy that it has prompted many people from the country to seek a better life in the U.S. Trump has not hidden away from the fact that he has “a lot planned” for Venezuela, which only guarantees further misery in the country. Unlike Greece, the U.S. prompts illegal migration by destroying the very countries that these people come from. Not only does this destruction serve U.S. corporate interests in these countries, it will also serve Trump’s re-election campaign as there is a strong likelihood that a new immigration crisis will appear at the borders between Mexico and the U.S.

Posted in USA, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, C.I.A, CUBA, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru0 Comments

Syria: ‘ We will not withdraw from any areas in Idlib’

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) will not withdraw from any of the areas they have captured since the start of the new year.

The Syrian military will retain their positions past the 2018 Sochi Agreement lines, despite Turkey’s demands that they immediate withdraw from the deescalation zone.

While Zionist puppet Eurdogan repeatedly threatened to launch an operation to push back the Syrian military to the deescalation zone, they were ultimately unable to do so, as their allied militants on the ground struggled to regain territories they lost to the government forces.

For the Syrian military, the ceasefire agreement that was established between Russia and Turkey was a major victory for them, as it forces all militant groups to withdraw from the Aleppo-Latakia Highway (M-4).

This agreement ultimately gives the Syrian government what they have wanted for the entire Idlib operation: control of the M-4 and M-5 highways.

Posted in Syria, Turkey0 Comments

Zionist Erdugan-backed militants attempt to capture strategic city of Saraqib

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ZIONIST PUPPET ERDOGAN WITH NAZI SHAROON

The Zionist Eurdogan-backed Zio-Wahhabi militants have launched a new attack this evening to retake the strategic city of Saraqib in the eastern countryside of the Idlib Governorate.

According to a field source in eastern Idlib, the Zionist Eurdogan-backed National Liberation Front (NLF), backed by Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), launched an attack this evening on the Syrian Arab Army’s (SAA) positions west of Saraqib.

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Zionist Erdogan -backed rebels mobilize near Mount Barsaya

The source said the Zio-Wahhabi militants are currently attempting to advance back into Saraqib, but have so far been repelled by the Syrian Arab Army and Hezbollah.

Despite the ceasefire agreement, the militants will likely try to capture as many areas as possible before it is implemented at Midnight this evening.

On Monday, the Syrian Arab Army retook Saraqib from Zionist Erdogan-backed militants, along with several areas to the west of this strategic city in the eastern countryside of Idlib.

Posted in Middle East, Syria, Turkey0 Comments

Trump’s Afghanistan Deal Prioritizes Bragging Rights Over Lasting Peace

By Prof. Marjorie Cohn

Global Research,

It’s true that the Trump administration signed a “peace deal” with the Taliban — something that eluded both George W. Bush and Barack Obama — but a closer look at the agreement reveals it to be riddled with conditions that are fraught with obstacles.

The terms of the deal suggest that Trump is more interested in boasting that he’s fulfilling his campaign promise to bring the troops home than he is committed to achieving real peace in Afghanistan. This fact has also been noted by Trump’s former national security aides, some of whom have said that the president “is far less interested in an actual Afghan peace” than in claiming he is making good on his vow to withdraw the U.S. troops.

The agreement announced on February 29 should not rightly be called a “peace deal,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-California) said in a statement. Although the agreement “is a step forward,” Lee noted, “It leaves thousands of troops in Afghanistan and lacks the critical investments in peacebuilding, human-centered development, or governance reform needed to rebuild Afghan society.”

Afghan women activists Mary Akrami, Sahar Halaimzai and Rahela Sidiqi criticized the agreement and the process leading to it in USA Today: “Afghan women and representatives from civil society and other minority groups should have been at the table for the U.S.-Taliban talks that led to this agreement, but we were not.”

Trump’s “Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan” sets forth a plan for withdrawing all foreign forces from Afghanistan, a mutual release of prisoners, Taliban prevention of attacks against U.S. and allied forces from Afghan soil, and negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government. Although it claims to be “a comprehensive peace agreement,” as Lee points out, “this so-called ‘peace deal’ is anything but.”

Withdrawal Timeline for All Foreign Forces

The agreement establishes a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan. It says the “United States is committed to withdraw from Afghanistan all military forces of the United States, its allies and Coalition partners, including all non-diplomatic civilian personnel, private security contractors, trainers, advisors, and supporting service personnel” no later than 14 months after the agreement is announced.

Within the first 135 days, the U.S., allies and the Coalition will reduce the number of forces to 8,600 and withdraw all forces from five military bases. The remaining 8,600 forces (the same number that remained when Obama left office) is “the minimum number of Special Operations forces, intelligence officers and support and security personnel that the Pentagon and C.I.A. believe are necessary to hold the capital, Kabul” and fight the Islamic State, David Sanger wrote in The New York Times.

Apparently, the U.S. wants “to keep intelligence operatives on the ground fighting Isis and al-Qaida,” The Guardian reports. While the CIA won’t increase its presence in Afghanistan, it will remove its personnel “more slowly than the military,” according to sourcesquoted by the The New York Times.

The U.S., allies and Coalition will withdraw “all remaining forces from Afghanistan” by the end of the remaining nine and a half months.

But, Sanger cites reports of “a series of not-so-secret annexes to the agreement that allow both Special Operations forces and the C.I.A. to retain a presence in the country.”

Negotiations Between Taliban and Afghan Government

The Taliban will begin “intra-Afghan negotiations with Afghan sides on March 10, 2020.”

But since the contested election between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, it is unclear with whom the Taliban will be negotiating. On February 18, the Independent Election Commission declared Ghani the winner. Abdullah disagrees and is threatening to form a parallel government.

The agreement, which was announced after a seven-day “reduction in violence,” requires “dialogue and negotiations” about “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

Meanwhile, the carnage continues.Observe 9/11 Anniversary by Calling for an End to the Afghan War

Mutual Prisoner Release

The U.S. commits to work on a plan to “expeditiously release combat and political prisoners” by March 10. The Afghan government would release up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and the Taliban would release up to 1,000 prisoners they are holding. The goal of “the relevant sides,” facilitated by the United States, is to release “all the remaining prisoners” within the ensuing three months.

But since the Afghan government was not part of the pre-agreement negotiations, it did not agree to the release. In fact, Ghani said on March 1 that he does not intend to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners by the March 31 date for initiation of negotiations with the Taliban.

The Taliban won’t come to the negotiating table unless the prisoners in Afghan custody are released.

Taliban Agrees to Prevent Attacks Against U.S. From Afghan Soil

According to the agreement, the “Taliban will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qa’ida,” to use Afghan soil “to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.” The Taliban will also instruct members of the Taliban “not to cooperate with groups of individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies.”

Furthermore, the Taliban “will prevent any group or individual in Afghanistan” from threatening U.S. and allies’ security and will block them from training, recruiting and fundraising.

The Taliban also commits that the prisoners it releases won’t pose a threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies. In addition, the Taliban commits to complying with international migration law so that people who are granted asylum don’t pose a threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies. And the Taliban won’t issue passports, visas, travel permits or other legal documents for entry to Afghanistan to anyone who poses a threat to the security of the U.S. and its allies.

But it is unclear whether the Taliban is capable of preventing terrorist groups from launching attacks from Afghan territory. “We will not allow our land to be used against any country including the U.S.,” Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s Qatar office, told The Washington Post, “but I am talking about the area where we have control.”

Indeed, as Douglas London, Georgetown University adjunct professor and former senior CIA officer, wrote in The New York Times, the Taliban is “diverse, decentralized and factionalized,” which leaves enforcement of the agreement in doubt. The Taliban “has historically been controlled by regional warlords with no enduring loyalty to any particular ideology, leader or cause,” London noted. Moreover, members of the Taliban’s negotiating team are “largely disconnected from and disrespected by the Taliban’s senior leadership.”

U.S. Review of Sanctions Against Taliban

The United States will conduct a review of its sanctions against the Taliban “with the goal of removing these sanctions by August 27, 2020.” These include a freeze on financial assets and an arms embargo against the Taliban.

When negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government commence, the U.S. “will start diplomatic engagement” with other Security Council members and Afghanistan to remove the Taliban from the sanctions list.

U.S. Commits to Refrain From Threat or Use of Force Against Afghanistan

In a provision confirming their obligations under the United Nations Charter, the U.S. and its allies “will refrain from the threat or the use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of Afghanistan or intervening in its domestic affairs.”

The U.S. will “seek economic cooperation for reconstruction” from the new Afghan government during their negotiations and “will not intervene in [Afghanistan’s] internal affairs.”

Finally, the United States will ask the Security Council to endorse this agreement.

After 18 Years and Loss of Blood and Treasure, U.S. Hands Afghanistan Back to Taliban

Bush illegally launched “Operation Enduring Freedom” in October 2001, in retaliation for the September 11 terrorist attacks. After 18 years, tens of thousands killed and more than $2 trillion spent, the U.S. government is returning Afghanistan to the Taliban.

“United States went to war against the Taliban, and then almost two decades later, handed Afghanistan back to the Taliban,” Vijay Prashad, foreign policy expert and director of the Tricontinental Institute for Social Research, noted ironically.

More than 100,000 Afghan civilians and over 58,000 Afghan security forces have been killed. About 2,400 U.S. servicemembers have been killed and 20,000 wounded in the United States’s longest war.

After a 10-year preliminary examination, International Criminal Court (ICC) Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda found a “reasonable basis” to believe that U.S. military and CIA forces committed war crimes and crimes against humanity, including torture, in Afghanistan.

The ICC Pre-Trial Chamber agreed with Bensouda but refused to open a formal investigation, citing doubt about whether it could secure “meaningful cooperation from relevant authorities” which limited the “prospects for a successful investigation.” Bensouda appealed the ruling.

On March 5, the ICC Appeals Chamber will issue a judgment affirming or reversing the Pre-Trial Chamber’s refusal to initiate an investigation.

Meanwhile, the Taliban control or claim to control almost half of Afghanistan’s districts, “more territory . . . than at any point since 2001,” according to the Pentagon.

Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, told The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan that the reason the Taliban “got so much out of the deal” is that “after two decades, the U.S. has failed to win an unwinnable war.”

Nevertheless, The Washington Post’s explosive report titled “The Afghanistan Papers” reveals that the Bush, Obama and Trump administrations all lied routinely about U.S. success in the war.

In his op-ed in The Times, London opines that Trump’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the so-called peace deal for the United States, only wants the agreement to survive until the fall election. London wrote that Khalilzad has his sights set on being appointed secretary of state in a second Trump administration.

If the deal falls apart, Trump has threatened to “go back with a force that no one’s ever seen.”

In the meantime, Trump, whose overwhelming motive is to be reelected, can claim bragging rights about securing a “peace deal” with the Taliban.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

Empires of the Steppes Fuel Erdogan Khan’s Dreams

As Putin meeting looms, no one in Moscow believes any word, promise or cajoling from Erdogan anymore

By Pepe Escobar

Global Research,

The latest installment of the interminable Syria tragedy could be interpreted as Greece barely blocking a European “invasion” by Syrian refugees. The invasion was threatened by President Erdogan even as he refused the EU’s puny “offer you can refuse” bribe of only one billion euros.

Well, it’s more complicated than that. What Erdogan is in fact weaponizing is mostly economic migrants – from Afghanistan to the Sahel – and not Syrian refugees.

Informed observers in Brussels know that interlocking mafias – Iraqi, Afghan, Egyptian, Tunisian, Moroccan – have been active for quite a long time smuggling everyone and his neighbor from the Sahel via Turkey, as the Greek route towards the EU Holy Grail is much safer than the Central Mediterranean.

The EU sending a last-minute emissary to Ankara will yield no new facts on the ground – even as some in Brussels, in bad faith, continue to carp that the one million “refugees” trying to leave Idlib could double and that, if Turkey does not open its borders with Syria, there will be a “massacre.”

Those in Brussels spinning the “Turkey as victim” scenario list three conditions for a possible solution. The first is a ceasefire – which in fact already exists, via the Sochi agreement, and was not respected by Ankara. The second is a “political process” – which, once again, does exist: the Astana process involving Russia, Turkey and Iran. And the third is “humanitarian aid” – a euphemism that means, in fact, a NATO intervention of the Libya “humanitarian imperialism” kind.

As it stands, two facts are inescapable. Number one: the Greek military don’t have what it takes to resist, in practice, Ankara’s weaponizing of the so-called “refugees.”

Number two is the kind of stuff that makes NATO fanatics recoil in horror: Since the Ottoman siege of Vienna, this is the first time in four centuries that a “Muslim invasion” of Europe is being prevented by, who else, Russia.

Fed up with sultan

This past Sunday, Ankara launched yet another Pentagon-style military adventure, baptized as Spring Shield. All decisions are centralized by a triumvirate: Erdogan, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and the head of MIT (Turkish intel) Hakan Fidan. John Helmer has memorably called them the SUV (Sultan and the Ugly Viziers).

Behlul Ozkan, from the University of Marmara, a respected Kemalist scholar, frames the whole tragedy as having been played since the 1980s, now back on the stage on a much larger scale since the start of the so-called Syrian chapter of the Arab Spring in 2011.Turkey Deports Syrian Refugees to Idlib During Airstrikes

Ozkan charges Erdogan with creating “conquering troops out of five unlikely fundamentalist groups” and “naming the armed groups after Ottoman sultans,” claiming they are a sort of national salvation army. But this time, argues Ozkan, the results are much worse – from millions of refugees to the terrible destruction in Syria, and “the emergence of our political and military structures affecting national security in a dangerous way.”

To say that the Russian General Staff are absolutely fed up with the SUV’s shenanigans is the ultimate understatement. That’s the background for the meeting this Thursday in Moscow between Putin and Erdogan. Methodically, the Russians are disrupting Turk operations to an unsustainable level – ranging from renewed air cover to the Syrian Arab Army to electronic countermeasures totally smashing all Turkish drones.

Russian diplomatic sources confirm that no one in Moscow believes any word, promise or cajoling emanating from Erdogan anymore. So it’s useless to ask him to respect the Sochi agreement. Imagine a Sun Tzu-style meeting with the Russian side displaying the very picture of self-restraint while scrutinizing Erdogan on how much he is willing to suffer before desisting from his Idlib adventure.

Those non-nonsense proto-Mongols

What ghosts from the past evolve in Erdogan’s unconscious? Let history be our guide – and let’s go for a ride among the empires of the steppes.

In the 5th century, the Juan Juan people, proto-Mongols as much as their cousins the White Huns (who lived in today’s Afghanistan), were the first to give their princes the title of khan – afterwards used by the Turks as well as the Mongols.

A vast Eurasian Turco-Mongol linguistic spectrum – studied in detail by crack French experts such as J.P. Roux – evolved via conquering migrations, more or less ephemeral imperial states, and aggregating diverse ethnic groups around rival Turkish or Mongol dynasties. We can talk about an Eurasian Turk space from Central Asia to the Mediterranean for no less than a millennium and a half – but only, crucially, for 900 years in Asia Minor (today’s Anatolia).

These were highly hierarchical and militarized societies, unstable, but still capable, given the right conditions, such as the emergence of a charismatic personality, to engage in a strong collective project of building political constructions. So the charismatic Erdogan Khan mindset is not much different from what happened centuries ago.

The first form of this socio-cultural tradition appeared even before the conversion to Islam – which happened after the battle of Talas in 751, won by the Arabs against the Chinese.  But most of all it all crystallized around Central Asia from the 10th and 11thcenturies onwards.

Unlike Greece in the Aegean, unlike India or Han China, there was never a central focus in terms of a cultural berth or supreme identity organizing this process. Today this role in Turkey is played by Anatolia – but that’s a 20th century phenomenon.

What history has shown is an east-west Eurasian axis across the steppes, from Central Asia to Anatolia, through which nomad tribes, Turk and Turkmen, then the Ottoman Turks, migrated and progressed, as conquerors, between the 7th and the 17th centuries: a whole millennium building an array of sultanates, emirates and empires. No wonder the Turkish president pictures himself as Erdogan Khan or Sultan Erdogan.

“Idlib is mine”

So there is a link between the turcophone tribes of Central Asia from the 5th and 6thcenturies and the current Turkish nation. From the 6th to the 11th centuries they were set up as a confederation of big tribes. Then, going southwest, they founded states. Chinese sources document the first turkut (Turkish empires) as eastern Turks in Mongolia and western Turks in Turkestan.

They were followed by more or less ephemeral empires of the steppes such as the Uighurs in the 8th century (who, by the way, were originally Buddhists). It’s interesting that this original past of the Turks in Central Asia, before Islam, was somewhat elevated to mythic status by the Kemalists.

This universe was always enriched by outside elements – such as Arab-Persian Islam and its institutions inherited from the Sassanids,  as well as the Byzantine empire, whose structural elements were adapted by the Ottomans. The end of the Ottoman empire and multiple convulsions (the Balkan wars, WWI, the Greek-Turkish war) ended up with a Turkish nation-state whose sanctuary is Asia Minor (or Anatolia) and eastern Thrace, conformed into a national territory that’s exclusively Turk and denies every minority presence that is non-Sunni and non-turcophone.

Evidently that’s not enough for Erdogan Khan.

Even Hatay province, which joined Turkey in 1939, is not enough. Home to the historic Antioch and Alexandretta, Hatay was then re-baptized as Antakya and Iskenderun.

Under the Treaty of Lausanne, Hatay was included in the French mandate of Syria and Lebanon. The Turkish version is that Hatay declared its independence in 1938 – when Ataturk was still alive – and then decided to join Turkey. The Syrian version is that Hatay was acquired via a rigged referendum ordered by France to bypass the Treaty of Lausanne.

Erdogan Khan has proclaimed, “Idlib is mine.” Syria and Russia are responding, “No, it’s not.” Those were the days, when turcophone empires of the steppes could just advance and capture their prey.

Posted in Middle East, Syria, Turkey0 Comments

Video: Turkish Forces Are on ‘Tactical Retreat’. Syrian Army Recaptures More Territory in Eastern and Southern Idlib

By South Front

Erdogan’s forces continue their bloody battle for peace and prosperity for al-Qaeda groups in the Syrian region of Greater Idlib.

On March 3, Turkey shot down an L-39 warplane of the Syrian Air Force in eastern Idlib. The warplane, which was carrying out strikes on al-Qaeda militants, crashed near the town of Maarat al-Numan. One of the ejected pilots landed in the militant-held area and was killed. On the same day, Turkish media released videos showing drone strikes on the Syrian Army convoy supposedly moving near Maarat al-Numan and the destruction of an alleged Pantsir air defense system of the Syrian Air Defense Forces near Saraqib.

Additionally, a large Turkish military column consisting of M113 and ACV-15 armoured vehicles, Leopard 2A4 battle tanks and ALTIGNAN air defense systems entered Batbu village in the northern part of Idlib. Pro-Turkish sources also claimed that the Turkish military will soon deploy Hisar air defense systems to the region in order to put an end to the constant aggression of the Syrian and Russian air power against peaceful al-Qaeda members and their Turkish supporters. Thus far, al-Qaeda members and the Turkish Army are on a ‘tactical retreat’.Video Player00:0004:24

In eastern Idlib, Erdogan’s forces lost the villages of Jawbas, Tarnaba, Dadikh and Kafr Battikh west of Saraqib. Units of the Syrian Army also advanced on the town of Afirs aiming to fully secure the M4-M5 crossroad area. In southern Idlib, the Syrians cleared the villages Kafr Mus, Kawkabah, Amqiyah and Fulayfil of Turkish-led forces. On top of this, the Syrian military shot down 3 Turkish combat UAVs. One of them, the Bayraktar TB2 crashed near Saraqib. According to pro-government sources over 150 militants were killed or injured in recent clashes with the Syrian Army. Taking into account the scale of the ground clashes, this number is likely overestimated.Video: Syrian Army Recaptures Saraqib from Erdogan Forces as Syrian-Turkish Conflict in Idlib Intensifies

However, such claims are a weak shadow of the statements of the Turkish Defense Ministry which is ‘neutralizing’ thousands of Syrian soldiers and hundreds of pieces of military equipment in its statements on a regular basis.

On the morning of March 3, the Turkish military claimed that that during the past 24 hours Turkish-led forces had destroyed a warplane, a UAV, 6 battle tanks, 5 howitzers and artillery pieces, 2 air defense systems, 3 armored combat vehicles, 5 armed pickups, 6 military vehicles and an ammunition depot belonging to Syrian forces. The defense ministry also claimed that 327 Syrian soldiers were “neutralized” during the same period.

On the evening of the same day, when Erdogan’s forces withdrew from another batch of positions, a Turkish soldier was killed and 9 others were injured, so the defense ministry made another Twitter offensive to compensate the setbacks. It said that 299 Syrian soldiers were ‘neutralized’, and 9 battle tanks, 8 artillery pieces and rocket systems and 2 military vehicles were recently destroyed. Thus, the Turkish-claimed number of “neutralized” Syrian soldiers since the start of Operation Piece Spring just reached 3,183.  It doesn’t matter if the Turkish military announces that its forces have destroyed a Syrian carrier strike group ‘Al-Assad’ near Tartus or shot down a dozen Russian-supplied Su-50 fighter jets or even neutralized a detachment of Iranian Rembos, the result will be same –the invincible Turkish forces make no gains on the ground.

Meanwhile, Moscow once again announced that Russia is not planning to cease anti-terrorist efforts in the Idlib region and called Turkish claims about ‘millions’ of refugees fleeing the Syrian anti-terrorist operation in Idlib fake.

Posted in Syria0 Comments

Breaking: Terrorists Attempt Chemical Attack in Idlib

By Miri Wood

Global Research,

Breaking news from Russian Ministry of Defense: A 15-member terrorist group tried to explode ammunition containing chemical substances in vicinity of Saraqib in Idlib countryside.

Yesterday, Syria News wrote that “The possibility of another chemical hoax continues to loom.”

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab visited Turkey to voice support of  Erdogan’s war crimes against Syria; Ambassador Kelly Craft again breached the UN Charter in her support of these same anti-Syria war crimes.

Details to follow.

UPDATE from SANA:

“Russian Defense Ministry said Wednesday that Turkish regime-backed terrorist groups tried to detonate ammunition contain chemical materials near Saraqeb city in Idleb countryside in an attempt to hinder the advance of the Syrian Arab army and to accuse it later of using the chemical weapons.

“The Russian Coordination Center said in a statement that a 15-member terrorist group tried in March /2/ to explode explosive devices near containers that filled with chemical substances with the aim at hindering the advance of the Syrian Arab Army in the western neighborhoods of Saraqeb city and to accuse later the Syrian Army of using chemical weapons.Syria’s SAA Forces Discover ISIS “Chemical Workshop” in Eastern Homs

“The statement pointed out that terrorists failed to tighten the closure of one of the containers which caused the leakage of chemical materials and they have been exposed to severe chemical poisoning and they failed to explode the explosive devices and to carry out their provocative operation.

“It affirmed that the Ministry possesses “irrefutable evidence” that prove the reality that this chemical accident took place, asserting that the Ministry intends to publish those evidence soon.

“The Russian Defense Ministry has stressed repeatedly the existence of laboratories to prepare chemical substances for Turkish regime-backed terrorist organizations in Idleb, asserting that those labs were managed by specialists who received training in Europe and those weapons will be used to carry out fabricated chemical attacks against the civilians to accuse the Syrian State.”

The timing of the planned chemical atrocity conveniently coincided with the American ‘diplomats’ breaching the UN Charter.

Posted in Syria0 Comments

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