All posts by Nauman Sadiq

Covert Warfare: How NATO’s Defense Contractors Assisted Ukraine in War

British special forces were training Ukrainian troops in Kyiv since early this month, Ukrainian commanders told The Times in mid-April. Captain Yuriy Myronenko, whose battalion is stationed in Obolon on the northern outskirts of Kyiv, told the news outlet that military trainers had come to instruct new and returning military recruits to use NLAWs, British-supplied anti-tank missiles that were delivered in February as the invasion was beginning.

Former British soldiers, marines and special forces commandos are also in Ukraine working as training contractors and volunteers, but the Ukrainian officers were adamant that their training this month was carried out by serving British soldiers.

“The elite SAS special forces units [a British army special forces unit] have been present in Ukraine since the start of the war, as have the American Deltas [a US special forces unit],” Georges Malbrunot, a reporter for French Le Figaro newspaper, citing a French intelligence source, tweeted on April 9. The reporter spilled the secret the same day when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson made his surprise visit to Kyiv. The British leader was reportedly surrounded by guards from the elite SAS force.

The veteran French journalist who returned from Ukraine after arriving with volunteer fighters told broadcaster CNews that Americans were directly “in charge” of the war on the ground. “I had the surprise, and so did they, to discover that to be able to enter the Ukrainian army, well it’s the Americans who are in charge,” said Malbrunot.

Adding that he and the volunteers “almost got arrested” by the Americans, who asserted they were in charge, the journalist then revealed that they were forced to sign a contract until the end of the war. “And who is in charge? It’s the Americans, I saw it with my own eyes,” said the French reporter, adding, “I thought I was with the international brigades, and I found myself facing the Pentagon.”

In addition to British SAS units and United States special forces and covert CIA operatives, approximately 6,824 “foreign mercenaries” from 63 countries came to Ukraine to fight for the Zelensky government, the Russian Defense Ministry revealed last week. Of these, 1,035 have been “eliminated,” while several thousand remain. Four hundred foreign fighters are holed up in Mariupol, where ultra-nationalist forces, including the neo-Nazi fighters, have refused to surrender.

The most numerous group of foreign fighters, numbering 1,717, arrived from Poland, while around 1,500 came from the US, Canada and Romania. Up to 300 people each came from the UK and Georgia, while 193 arrived from the Turkish-controlled areas of Syria.

These figures were announced on April 17 by Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov. According to the general, 1,035 “foreign mercenaries” had been killed by Russian forces and 912 fled Ukraine, leaving 4,877 active in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Nikolaev and Mariupol.

The largest undercover force the world has ever known is the one created by the Pentagon over the past decade. Some 60,000 people now belong to this secret army, many working under masked identities and in low profile, all part of a broad program called “signature reduction,” and a substantial number of these defense contractors have been assisting Ukraine’s security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias for over eight years in the proxy war against Russia since the Maidan coup toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych in 2014.

The force, more than ten times the size of the clandestine elements of the CIA, carries out domestic and foreign assignments, both in military uniforms and under civilian cover, Newsweek reported last May.

The unprecedented shift has placed an ever greater number of soldiers, civilians, and contractors working under false identities, partly as a natural result in the growth of secret special forces but also as an intentional response to the challenges of traveling and operating in an increasingly transparent world.

The covert warfare operations mounted by the Pentagon’s “secret army” in conflict zones across the world is not just a little-known sector of the American military, but also a completely unregulated practice. No one knows the program’s total size, and the explosion of signature reduction has never been examined for its impact on military policies and culture. Congress has never held a hearing on the subject. And yet the military developing this gigantic clandestine force challenges US laws, the Geneva Conventions, the code of military conduct and basic accountability.

The signature reduction effort engages some 130 private companies to administer the new clandestine world. Dozens of little known and secret government organizations support the program, doling out classified contracts and overseeing publicly unacknowledged operations. Altogether the companies pull in over $900 million annually to service the clandestine force.

Special operations forces constitute over half the entire signature reduction force, the shadow warriors who pursue terrorists in war zones from Pakistan to West Africa but also increasingly work in unacknowledged hot spots, including behind enemy lines in places like North Korea, Ukraine and Iran. Military intelligence specialists—collectors, counter-intelligence agents, even linguists—make up the second largest element: thousands deployed at any one time with some degree of “cover” to protect their true identities.

Since the harrowing Nisour Square massacre in Baghdad in 2007, the Blackwater private military contractor, renamed as Academi in 2011 and becoming a subsidiary of Constellis Group following a merger with Triple Canopy in 2014, has built quite a business empire for itself. In 2013, Academi subsidiary International Development Solutions received an approximately $92 million contract for State Department security guards.

After selling Blackwater to a group of investors in 2010, Erik Prince, a former US Navy Seals officer and the swashbuckling founder of Blackwater, has founded another security company Frontier Services Group, registered at Hong Kong Stock Exchange, that advises and provides aviation and logistical solutions to Chinese oligarchs for the security of their lucrative business projects in Africa.

Furthermore, besides advising and assisting the UAE’s petro-monarchy in strengthening the police state, Erik Prince also reportedly provided weapons and modified aircraft to eastern Libya’s warlord and former CIA asset Khalifa Haftar, backed by Egypt and UAE, in his thwarted military campaign against the Tripoli government lasting from April 2019 to June 2020.

Using the good offices of his sister Betsy Devos, who worked as Trump’s secretary of education, Erik Prince even made an offer to Trump for outsourcing of the Afghanistan war to private military contractors advising and assisting Afghan security forces following the withdrawal of US troops. But Trump reached a peace agreement with the Taliban in Feb. 2020 and then lost the re-election bid before he could consider the bizarre proposal.

Although the Pentagon’s military contractors have known to be training and advising several brigades of neo-Nazis backed by Ukraine’s security forces in the Donbas region since 2014, Erik Prince, alongside top executives of leading private security firms providing military contractors to the US Department of Defense, personally visited Kyiv in early February following the Russian troop build-up and met with security officials of the Zelensky government, according to informed sources.

Before embarking on the clandestine Kyiv visit, Erik Prince consulted with Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Director National Intelligence Avril Haines, with whom his relationship goes a long way back to early nineties after she purchased a bar in Fell’s Point, Baltimore, which had been seized in a drug raid. She turned the location into an exotic bookstore and café, offering “erotica readings,” among other licentious pastimes.

In his meetings with the high-ups in the US national security agencies, Erik Prince reportedly obtained a “gentleman’s promise,” though without any documentary assurances due to secretive nature of the Faustian pact, that he and his associates would not be held legally liable for the dirty work they do in Ukraine’s proxy war.

In fact, private military contractors in close co-ordination and consultation with covert operators from the CIA, special forces and Western intelligence agencies are not only training Ukraine’s largely conscript security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias in the use of over 60,000 anti-tank weapons and 25,000 anti-aircraft weapons collectively provided as military assistance to Ukraine by NATO countries but are also directing the whole defense strategy of Ukraine by taking active part in combat operations in some of the most hard fought battles against Russia’s security forces at Mariupol, Kharkiv and Donbas region in east Ukraine.

In a bombshell scoop, The Times reported on March 4 that defense contractors were recruiting former military veterans for covert operations in Ukraine for a whopping $2,000 a day: “The job is not without risk but, at almost $60,000 a month, the pay is good. Applicants must have at least five years of military experience in Eastern Europe, be skilled in reconnaissance, be able to conduct rescue operations with little to no support and know their way around Soviet-era weaponry.”

Russian media alleged last month that the United States security agencies had launched a large-scale recruitment program to send private military contractors to Ukraine, including professionally trained mercenaries of Academi, formerly Blackwater, Cubic and Dyn Corporation.

Russia’s Defense Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned that foreign mercenaries in Ukraine would not be considered prisoners of war if detained in line with international humanitarian law, rather they could expect criminal prosecution at best.

Speaking to CNN’s Dana Bash on April 3, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that “NATO allies have supported Ukraine for many, many years,” adding that military aid has been “stepped up over the last weeks since the invasion.” The official clarified that “NATO allies like the United States, but also the United Kingdom and Canada and some others, have trained Ukrainian troops for years.”

According to Stoltenberg’s estimates, “tens of thousands of Ukrainian troops” had received such training, and were now “at the front fighting against invading Russian forces.” The secretary general went on to credit the Brussels-based alliance with the fact that the “Ukrainian armed forces are much bigger, much better equipped, much better trained and much better led now than ever before.”

In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While The United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters, as noted by NATO’s informed secretary general.

In an explosive scoop, Zach Dorfman reported for the Yahoo News on March 16: “As part of the Ukraine-based training program, CIA paramilitaries taught their Ukrainian counterparts sniper techniques; how to operate U.S.-supplied Javelin anti-tank missiles and other equipment; how to evade digital tracking the Russians used to pinpoint the location of Ukrainian troops, which had left them vulnerable to attacks by artillery; how to use covert communications tools; and how to remain undetected in the war zone while also drawing out Russian and insurgent forces from their positions, among other skills, according to former officials.

“When CIA paramilitaries first traveled to eastern Ukraine in the aftermath of Russia’s initial 2014 incursion, their brief was twofold. First, they were ordered to determine how the agency could best help train Ukrainian special operations personnel fight the Russian military forces, and their separatist allies, waging a grinding war against Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region. But the second part of the mission was to test the mettle of the Ukrainians themselves, according to former officials.”

Besides the CIA’s clandestine program for training Ukraine’s largely conscript military and allied neo-Nazi militias in east Ukraine and the US Special Forces program for training Ukraine’s security forces at Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the western part of the country bordering Poland that was hit by a barrage of 30 cruise missiles killing at least 35 militants on March 13, Dorfman claims in a separate January report that the CIA also ran a covert program for training Ukraine’s special forces at an undisclosed facility in the southern United States.

“The CIA is overseeing a secret intensive training program in the U.S. for elite Ukrainian special operations forces and other intelligence personnel, according to five former intelligence and national security officials familiar with the initiative. The program, which started in 2015, is based at an undisclosed facility in the Southern U.S., according to some of those officials.

“While the covert program, run by paramilitaries working for the CIA’s Ground Branch — now officially known as Ground Department — was established by the Obama administration after Russia’s invasion and annexation of Crimea in 2014, and expanded under the Trump administration, the Biden administration has further augmented it.”

By 2015, as part of this expanded anti-Russia effort, CIA Ground Branch paramilitaries also “started traveling to the front in eastern Ukraine” to advise and assist Ukraine’s security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias there. The multiweek, US-based CIA program included “training in firearms, camouflage techniques, land navigation, tactics like cover and move, intelligence and other areas.”

One person familiar with the program put it more bluntly. “The United States is training an insurgency,” said a former CIA official, adding that the program has taught the Ukrainians how “to kill Russians.” Going back decades, the CIA had provided limited training to Ukrainian intelligence units to try and shore up a US-allied Kyiv and undermine Russian influence, but cooperation ramped up after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 following the Maidan coup toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a former CIA executive confided to Dorfman.

The post Covert Warfare: How NATO’s Defense Contractors Assisted Ukraine in War first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan

Days before Imran Khan’s ouster on April 10 as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament orchestrated by foreign powers, two impersonators were arrested in Washington for posing as US federal security officials and cultivating access to the Secret Service, which protects President Joe Biden, one of whom claimed ties to Pakistani intelligence.

Justice department assistant attorney Joshua Rothstein asked a judge not to release Arian Taherzadeh and Haider Ali, the men arrested on April 6 for posing as Department of Homeland Security investigators for two years before the arrest, the Guardian reported on April 8.

The men also stand accused of providing lucrative favors to members of the Secret Service, including one agent on the security detail of the first lady, Jill Biden. Prosecutors said in court filings they seized a cache of weapons from multiple DC apartments tied to the defendants.

Federal prosecutor Rothstein alleged one of the suspects, Haider Ali, “made claims to witnesses that he had connections to the ISI, Pakistan’s military intelligence service.” The Department of Justice (DoJ) is treating the case as a criminal matter and not a national security issue. But the Secret Service suspended four agents over their involvement with the suspects.

“All personnel involved in this matter are on administrative leave and are restricted from accessing Secret Service facilities, equipment, and systems,” the Secret Service said in a statement.

Clearly, planning and preparations were underway to declare Pakistan a rogue actor sponsoring acts of subversion against the United States. Soon after the US-led “regime change” in Pakistan and the formation of government by imperialist stooges, however, the tone of the judge and prosecutors changed. The defendants were released on bail and placed in home detention, though they will not be allowed to go to airports or foreign embassies or to talk to any of the federal agents they allegedly duped.

During his hour-long ruling, Magistrate Judge Michael Harvey lambasted the Justice Department’s claims that the men were dangerous, were trying to compromise agents and were tied to a foreign government, the CNN reported on April 13.

Before his ouster as prime minister in a no-trust motion in the parliament on April 10, Imran Khan claimed that Pakistan’s Ambassador to US, Asad Majeed, was warned by Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu that Khan’s continuation in office would have repercussions for bilateral ties between the two nations.

Shireen Mazari, a Pakistani politician who served as the Federal Minister for Human Rights under the Imran Khan government, quoted Donald Lu as saying: “If Prime Minister Imran Khan remained in office, then Pakistan will be isolated from the United States and we will take the issue head on; but if the vote of no-confidence succeeds, all will be forgiven.”

During Imran Khan’s historic two-day official visit to Moscow on the eve of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, besides signing several bilateral contracts in agricultural and energy sectors, President Putin reportedly offered Imran Khan the S-300 air defense system, Sukhoi aircraft as replacement for the Pakistan Air Force’s dependence on American F-16s and an array of advanced Russian military equipment on the condition that Pakistan abandons its traditional alliance with Washington and forge defense ties with Russia, according to two government officials who accompanied Imran Khan on the Moscow visit.

Alongside China, India and Iran, Pakistan under the leadership of Imran Khan was one of the few countries that adopted a non-aligned stance and refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite diplomatic pressure from Washington.

After the United States “nation-building project” failed in Afghanistan during its two-decade occupation of the embattled country from Oct. 2001 to August 2021, it accused regional powers of lending covert support to Afghan insurgents battling the occupation forces.

The occupation and Washington’s customary blame game accusing “malign regional forces” of insidiously destabilizing Afghanistan and undermining US-led “benevolent imperialism” instead of accepting responsibility for its botched invasion and occupation of Afghanistan brought Pakistan and Russia closer against a common adversary in their backyard, and the two countries even managed to forge defense ties, particularly during the four years of the Imran Khan government from July 2018 to April 2022.

Since the announcement of a peace deal with the Taliban by the Trump administration in Feb. 2020, regional powers, China and Russia in particular, hosted international conferences and invited the representatives of the US-backed Afghanistan government and the Taliban for peace negotiations.

After the departure of US forces from “the graveyard of the empires,” although Washington is trying to starve the hapless Afghan masses to death in retribution for inflicting a humiliating defeat on the global hegemon by imposing economic sanctions on the Taliban government and browbeating international community to desist from lending formal diplomatic recognition or having trade relations with Afghanistan, China and Russia have provided generous humanitarian and developmental assistance to Afghanistan.

Imran Khan fell from the grace of the Biden administration, whose record-breaking popularity ratings plummeted after the precipitous fall of US in Kabul last August, reminiscent of the Fall of US in Saigon in April 1975, with Chinook helicopters hovering over US embassy evacuating diplomatic staff to the airport, and Washington accused Pakistan for the debacle.

Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley squeamishly described the Kabul takeover in his historic Congressional testimony that several hundred Pashtun cowboys riding on motorbikes and brandishing Kalashnikovs overran Kabul without a shot being fired, and the world’s most lethal military force fled with tail neatly folded between legs, hastily evacuating diplomatic staff from sprawling 36-acre US embassy in Chinook helicopters to airport secured by the insurgents.

Apart from indiscriminate B-52 bombing raids mounted by Americans, Afghan security forces didn’t put up serious resistance anywhere in Afghanistan and simply surrendered territory to the Taliban. The fate of Afghanistan was sealed as soon as the US forces evacuated Bagram airbase in the dead of the night on July 1, six weeks before the inevitable fall of Kabul on August 15.

The sprawling Bagram airbase was the nerve center from where all the operations across Afghanistan were directed, specifically the vital air support to the US-backed Afghan security forces without which they were simply irregular militias waiting to be devoured by the wolves.

In southern Afghanistan, the traditional stronghold of the Pashtun ethnic group from which the Taliban draws most of its support, the Taliban military offensive was spearheaded by Mullah Yaqoob, the illustrious son of the Taliban’s late founder Mullah Omar and the newly appointed defense minister of the Taliban government, as district after district in southwest Afghanistan, including the birthplace of the Taliban movement Kandahar and Helmand, fell in quick succession.

What has stunned military strategists and longtime observers of the Afghan war, though, was the Taliban’s northern blitz, occupying almost the whole of northern Afghanistan in a matter of weeks, as northern Afghanistan was the bastion of the Northern Alliance comprising the Tajik and Uzbek ethnic groups. In recent years, however, the Taliban has made inroads into the heartland of the Northern Alliance, too.

The ignominious fall of Kabul clearly demonstrates the days of American hegemony over the world are numbered. If ragtag Taliban militants could liberate their homeland from imperialist clutches without a fight, imagine what would happen if the United States confronted equal military powers such as Russia and China. The much-touted myth of American military supremacy is clearly more psychological than real.

Imran Khan is an educated and charismatic leader. Being an Oxford graduate, he is much better informed than most Pakistani politicians. And he is a liberal at heart. Most readers might disagree with the assertion due to his fierce anti-imperialism and West-bashing demagoguery, but allow me to explain.

It’s not just Imran Khan’s celebrity lifestyle that makes him a progressive. He also derives his intellectual inspiration from the Western tradition. The ideal role model in his mind is the Scandinavian social democratic model which he has mentioned on numerous occasions, especially in his speech at Karachi before a massive rally of singing and cheering crowd in December 2012.

His relentless anti-imperialism as a political stance should be viewed in the backdrop of Western military interventions in the Islamic countries. The conflagration that neocolonial powers have caused in the Middle East evokes strong feelings of resentment among Muslims all over the world. Moreover, Imran Khan also uses anti-America rhetoric as an electoral strategy to attract conservative masses, particularly the impressionable youth.

It’s also noteworthy that Imran Khan’s political party draws most of its electoral support from women, youth voters and Pakistani expats residing in the Gulf and Western countries. All these segments of society, especially the women, are drawn more toward egalitarian liberalism than patriarchal conservatism, because liberalism promotes women’s rights and its biggest plus point is its emphasis on equality, emancipation and empowerment of women who constitute over half of population in every society.

Imran Khan’s ouster from power for daring to stand up to the United States harks back to the toppling and subsequent assassination of Pakistan’s first elected prime minister, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, in April 1979 by the martial law regime of Gen. Zia-ul-Haq.

The United States not only turned a blind eye but tacitly approved the elimination of Bhutto from Pakistan’s political scene because, being a socialist, Bhutto not only nurtured cordial ties with communist China but was also courting Washington’s arch-rival, the former Soviet Union.

The Soviet Union played the role of a mediator at the signing of the Tashkent Agreement for the cessation of hostilities following the 1965 India-Pakistan War over the disputed Kashmir region, in which Bhutto represented Pakistan as the foreign minister of the Gen. Ayub Khan-led government.

Like Imran Khan, the United States “deep state” regarded Bhutto as a political liability and an obstacle in the way of mounting the Operation Cyclone to provoke the Soviet Union into invading Afghanistan and the subsequent waging of a decade-long war of attrition, using Afghan jihadists as cannon fodder who were generously funded, trained and armed by the CIA and Pakistan’s security agencies in the Af-Pak border regions, in order to “bleed the Soviet forces” and destabilize and weaken the rival global power.

Karl Marx famously said: “History repeats itself, first as a tragedy and then as a farce.” In addition to a longstanding CIA program aimed at cultivating an anti-Russian insurgency in Ukraine by training, arming and international legitimizing neo-Nazi militias in Donbas, Canada’s Department of National Defense revealed on January 26, two days following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, that the Canadian Armed Forces had trained “nearly 33,000 Ukrainian military and security personnel in a range of tactical and advanced military skills.” While the United Kingdom, via Operation Orbital, had trained 22,000 Ukrainian fighters.

A “prophetic” RAND Corporation report titled “Overextending and Unbalancing Russia” published in 2019 declares the stated goal of American policymakers is “to undermine Russia just as the US subversively destabilized the former Soviet Union during the Cold War,” and predicts to the letter the crisis unfolding in Ukraine as a consequence of the eight-year proxy war mounted by NATO in Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine on Russia’s vulnerable western flank since the 2014 Maidan coup, toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and consequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia.

Nonetheless, regarding the objectives of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979, then American envoy to Kabul, Adolph “Spike” Dubs, was assassinated on the Valentine’s Day, on 14 Feb 1979, the same day that Iranian revolutionaries stormed the American embassy in Tehran.

The former Soviet Union was wary that its forty-million Muslims were susceptible to radicalism, because Islamic radicalism was infiltrating across the border into the Central Asian States from Afghanistan. Therefore, the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December 1979 in support of the Afghan communists to forestall the likelihood of Islamist insurgencies spreading to the Central Asian States bordering Afghanistan.

According to documents declassified by the White House, CIA and State Department in January 2019, as reported by Tim Weiner for the Washington Post, the CIA was aiding Afghan jihadists before the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979. President Jimmy Carter signed the CIA directive to arm the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the former Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in December the same year.

The revelation doesn’t come as a surprise, though, because more than two decades before the declassification of the State Department documents, in the 1998 interview to CounterPunch magazine, former National Security Advisor to President Jimmy Carter, Zbigniew Brzezinski, confessed that the president signed the directive to provide secret aid to the Afghan jihadists in July 1979, whereas the Soviet Army invaded Afghanistan six months later in December 1979.

Here is a poignant excerpt from the interview. The interviewer puts the question: “And neither do you regret having supported the Islamic jihadists, having given arms and advice to future terrorists?” Brzezinski replies: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet Empire? Some stirred-up Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?”

Despite the crass insensitivity, one must give credit to Zbigniew Brzezinski that at least he had the courage to speak the unembellished truth. It’s worth noting, however, that the aforementioned interview was recorded in 1998. After the 9/11 terror attack, no Western policymaker can now dare to be as blunt and forthright as Brzezinski.

Regardless, that the CIA was arming the Afghan jihadists six months before the Soviets invaded Afghanistan has been proven by the State Department’s declassified documents; fact of the matter, however, is that the nexus between the CIA, Pakistan’s security agencies and the Gulf states to train and arm the Afghan jihadists against the former Soviet Union was forged years before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Pakistan joined the American-led, anticommunist SEATO and CENTO regional alliances in the 1950s and played the role of Washington’s client state since its inception in 1947. So much so that when a United States U-2 spy plane was shot down by the Soviet Air Defense Forces while performing photographic aerial reconnaissance deep into Soviet territory, Pakistan’s then President Ayub Khan openly acknowledged the reconnaissance aircraft flew from an American airbase in Peshawar, a city in northwest Pakistan.

Then during the 1970s, Pakistan’s then Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government began aiding the Afghan Islamists against Sardar Daud’s government, who had toppled his first cousin King Zahir Shah in a palace coup in 1973 and had proclaimed himself the president of Afghanistan.

Sardar Daud was a Pashtun nationalist and laid claim to Pakistan’s northwestern Pashtun-majority province. Pakistan’s security agencies were alarmed by his irredentist claims and used Islamists to weaken his rule in Afghanistan. He was eventually assassinated in 1978 as a consequence of the Saur Revolution led by the Afghan communists.

It’s worth pointing out, however, that although the Bhutto government did provide political and diplomatic support on a limited scale to Islamists in their struggle for power against Pashtun nationalists in Afghanistan, being a secular and progressive politician, he would never have permitted opening the floodgates for flushing the Af-Pak region with weapons, petrodollars and radical jihadist ideology as his successor, Zia-ul-Haq, an Islamist military general, did by becoming a willing tool of religious extremism and militarism in the hands of neocolonial powers.

The post Pakistan’s Pivot to Russia and Ouster of Imran Khan first appeared on Dissident Voice.

NATO’s “Weapons for Peace” Program and Russia’s Diplomatic Demarche

Karen DeYoung reported for the Washington Post Thursday that Russia sent a formal diplomatic note to the United States on Tuesday, accusing Washington and its NATO clients of insidiously subverting peace process with Ukraine initiated at the Istanbul talks on March 29, and the subsequent withdrawal of Russian forces from the outskirts of Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy, thus ending the month-long offensive in Ukraine.

The document, titled “On Russia’s concerns in the context of massive supplies of weapons and military equipment to the Kiev regime,” was forwarded to the State Department by the Russian Embassy in Washington, in which Russia accused NATO of trying to “pressure Ukraine to abandon peace negotiations with Russia in order to continue the bloodshed.”

Moscow also warned Washington that US and NATO shipments of the “most sensitive” weapons systems to Ukraine were “adding fuel” to the conflict and could bring “unpredictable consequences.” Russia experts suggested Moscow, which had labeled weapons convoys coming into the country as legitimate military targets but had not thus far attacked them, might be preparing to do so.

“They have targeted supply depots in Ukraine itself, where some of these supplies have been stored,” George Beebe, former director of Russia analysis at the CIA and Russia adviser to former vice president Dick Cheney, told the news outlet. “The real question is do they go beyond attempting to target the weapons on Ukrainian territory, try to hit the supply convoys themselves and perhaps the NATO countries on the Ukrainian periphery” that serve as transfer points for the US supplies.

If Russian forces stumble in the next phase of the war as they did in the first, “then I think the chances that Russia targets NATO supplies on NATO territory go up considerably,” Beebe said. “There has been an assumption on the part of a lot of us in the West that we could supply the Ukrainians really without limits and not bear significant risk of retaliation from Russia,” he said. “I think the Russians want to send a message here that that’s not true.”

Among the items Russia identified as “most sensitive” were “multiple-launch rocket systems,” such as Slovakia’s illicit deal with NATO for transferring its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in return for the transatlantic military alliance delivering four Patriot missile systems to Slovakia, and the Soviet-era Strela-10, SA-8, SA-10, SA-12, SA-13 and SA-14 mobile air defense systems, with range higher than Stingers and having capability to hit cruise missiles, and myriads of other advanced multiple rocket launchers, that NATO covertly provided to Ukraine.

The Czech Republic had delivered tanks, multiple rocket launchers, howitzers and infantry fighting vehicles to Ukraine among military shipments that had reached hundreds of millions of dollars and would continue, two Czech defense sources confided to Reuters.

Defense sources confirmed a shipment of five T-72 tanks and five BVP-1, or BMP-1, infantry fighting vehicles seen on rail cars in photographs on Twitter and video footage last week. “For several weeks, we have been supplying heavy ground equipment – I am saying it generally but by definition it is clear that this includes tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, howitzers and multiple rocket launchers,” a senior defense official said.

“What has gone from the Czech Republic is in the hundreds of millions of dollars.” The senior defense official said the Czechs were also supplying “a range of anti-aircraft weaponry.” Independent defense analyst Lukas Visingr said “short-range air-defense systems Strela-10, or SA-13 Gopher in NATO terminology, had been spotted on a train apparently bound for Ukraine.”

Russia accused the Western powers of violating “rigorous principles” governing the transfer of weapons to conflict zones, and of being oblivious to “the threat of high-precision weapons falling into the hands of radical nationalists, extremists and bandit forces in Ukraine.”

Washington, the diplomatic demarche said, was pressuring other countries to stop any military and technical cooperation with Russia, and those with Soviet-era weapons to transfer them to Ukraine. “We call on the United States and its allies to stop the irresponsible militarization of Ukraine, which implies unpredictable consequences for regional and international security,” the note added.

Russia’s “paranoid attitude” accusing Washington and its NATO clients of scuttling peace process with Ukraine and orchestrating a proxy war on Russia’s vulnerable western flank by funding, training, arming and internationally legitimizing Ukraine’s ultra-nationalist militias in order to destabilize and provoke Russia aside, in the spirit of apparent “reconciliation and multilateralism” defining the Biden administration’s approach to conducting international diplomacy, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken handed over the “power of attorney” to the Ukrainian leadership to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia without any pressure, whatsoever, from Washington to escalate hostilities with its arch-rival.

On April 3, confirming in an NBC News interview that Ukrainian President Zelensky had Washington’s full confidence to reach a peaceful settlement with Russia, Blinken, while assuming the air of “magnanimity and rapprochement,” revealed that President Joe Biden’s administration would support whatever the Ukrainian people wanted to do to bring the war to an end.

“We’ll be looking to see what Ukraine is doing and what it wants to do,” Blinken said. “And if it concludes that it can bring this war to an end, stop the death and destruction and continue to assert its independence and its sovereignty – and ultimately that requires the lifting of sanctions – of course, we will allow that.”

Blinken argued with overtones of diplomatic sophistry that although Putin had allegedly “failed to accomplish his objectives” in Ukraine – “subjugating Kyiv, demonstrating Russia’s military prowess and dividing NATO members” – he said it still made sense to pursue a negotiated settlement.

“Even though he’s been set back, even though I believe this is already a strategic defeat for Vladimir Putin, the death and destruction that he’s wreaking every single day in Ukraine … are terrible, and so there’s also a strong interest in bringing those to an end.”

Lending credence to ostensible “American neutrality” and “hands-off approach” to the Ukraine conflict, the Wall Street Journal published a misleading report on April 1 that German chancellor Olaf Scholz had offered Volodymyr Zelensky a chance for peace days before the launch of the Russian military offensive, but the Ukrainian president turned it down.

The newly elected German chancellor told Zelensky in Munich on February 19 “that Ukraine should renounce its NATO aspirations and declare neutrality as part of a wider European security deal between the West and Russia,” the Journal revealed. The newspaper also claimed that “the pact would be signed by Mr. Putin and Mr. Biden, who would jointly guarantee Ukraine’s security.”

However, Zelensky rejected the offer to make the concession and avoid confrontation, saying that “Russian President Vladimir Putin couldn’t be trusted to uphold such an agreement and that most Ukrainians wanted to join NATO.”

While making the preposterous allegation that the hapless Ukrainian leadership vetoed NATO’s “flexible and conciliatory approach” to peacefully settle the dispute in order to absolve the transatlantic military alliance for its confrontational approach to Russia since the inception in 1949, the Journal report conveniently overlooked the crucial fact that last November, the US and Ukraine signed a Charter on Strategic Partnership.

The agreement unequivocally confirmed “Ukraine’s aspirations for joining NATO” and “rejected the Crimean decision to re-unify with Russia” following the 2014 Maidan coup. Then in December, Russia, in the last-ditch effort to peacefully resolve the dispute, proposed a peace treaty with the US and NATO.

The central Russian proposal was a written agreement assuring that Ukraine would not join the NATO military alliance and, in return, Russia would drawdown its troop buildup along Ukraine’s borders. When the proposed treaty was contemptuously rebuffed by Washington, it appeared the die was cast for Russia’s inevitable invasion of Ukraine.

Following the announcement of drawdown of Russian forces in Ukraine, specifically scaling back Russian offensive north of the capital, by the Russian delegation at the Istanbul peace initiative on March 29, the Ukrainian delegation, among other provisions, demanded “security guarantees in terms similar to Article 5 of the NATO charter,” the collective defense clause of the transatlantic military alliance.

CNN reported on April 1 that Western officials were taken aback by “the surprising Ukrainian proposal.” “We are in constant discussion with Ukrainians about ways that we can help ensure that they are sovereign and secure,” White House communications director Kate Bedingfield said. “But there is nothing specific about security guarantees that I can speak to at this time.”

“Ukraine is not a NATO member,” Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab told the BBC when asked whether the UK is prepared to become a guarantor of Ukrainian independence. “We’re not going to engage Russia in direct military confrontation,” he added.

While noting that Russian peace negotiations were “nothing more than a smokescreen,” Western diplomats contended that an Article 5-type commitment to Ukraine was unlikely given that the US and many of its allies, including the UK, were not willing to put their troops in direct confrontation with Russian forces. The theory that Russia would not attack Ukraine if it had Western security guarantees appears to still be a bigger risk than the US and its allies are willing to take.

As a way for Russia to “save face in the negotiations,” the Ukrainians even went to the extent of suggesting that any such security guarantees would not apply to the separatist territories in the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine. However, a number of US and Western officials have taken a skeptical approach to potential security guarantees, with many saying it is still premature to discuss any contingencies as the negotiations proceed.

Contradicting the misleading reports hailing Ukraine’s political and military leadership as purported “masters of their own destinies,” President Joe Biden told the EU leaders at a summit last month in Brussels that “any notion that we are going to be out of this in a month is wrong”, and that the EU and NATO needed to prepare for “a long-term pressure campaign against Russia.”

US and European officials voiced skepticism over Russia’s “sincerity and commitment” towards the peace talks, underlining that only a full ceasefire, troop withdrawal and return of captured territory to Ukraine would be enough to trigger discussions over lifting sanctions on Russia’s economy.

“The notion that you would reward Putin for occupying territory doesn’t make sense … it would be very, very difficult to countenance” a senior EU official told the Financial Times. “There’s a disconnect between these negotiations, what really happens on the ground, and the total cynicism of Russia. I think we need to give them a reality check,” the official added.

Western countries were discussing both “enforcement of existing sanctions” and drawing up “potential additional measures” to increase pressure on Russian president Vladimir Putin, senior EU and US officials told the British newspaper. They were not discussing a possible timeframe for easing sanctions, they said.

Advising Ukrainians to hold out instead of rushing for securing peace deal with Russia, the Sunday Times reported, senior British officials were urging Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to instruct his negotiators to refuse to make concessions during peace negotiations with Russian counterparts.

A senior government source said there were concerns that allies were “over-eager” to secure an early peace deal, adding that a settlement should be reached only when Ukraine is in the strongest possible position.

In a phone call and subsequently during a surprise visit to Kyiv, Boris Johnson warned President Zelensky that President Putin was a “liar and a bully” who would use talks to “wear you down and force you to make concessions.” The British prime minister also told MPs it was “certainly inconceivable that any sanctions could be taken off simply because there is a ceasefire.” London was making sure there was “no backsliding on sanctions by any of our friends and partners around the world,” he added.

Considering the backdrop of the Russo-Ukraine War that was deliberately orchestrated by NATO powers to insidiously destabilize and internationally isolate Russia, it stretches credulity that the powerless Ukrainian leadership “wields veto power” over NATO’s policy to reach a negotiated settlement with Russia.

Are readers gullible enough to assume the Ukrainian proposals for a peace treaty with Russia were put forth without prior consultation with NATO patrons and the latter cannot exercise enough leverage to compellingly persuade the impervious Ukrainian leadership to reach a peaceful settlement with Russia?

In conclusion, it’s obvious the credulous Ukrainian leadership’s insistence on seeking the EU membership amidst the war and demanding security guarantees in terms similar to Article 5 of the NATO charter instead of imploring for immediate ceasefire to save Ukrainian lives were clearly the deal-breaker stipulations that were deliberately inserted in the draft of Ukrainian proposals by perfidious NATO advisers to the naïve Ukrainian politicians in order to sabotage the peace negotiations with Russia.

The post NATO’s “Weapons for Peace” Program and Russia’s Diplomatic Demarche first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How US Intelligence Leaks to Media Backfired in Ukraine War?

In a bombshell NBC scoop published Wednesday, the authors of the report alleged that US spy agencies used deliberate and selective intelligence leaks to monopoly news outlets to mount an information warfare campaign against Russia during the latter’s month-long military offensive in Ukraine, despite being aware the intelligence wasn’t credible.

The US intelligence assessment that Russia was preparing to use chemical weapons in the Ukraine War, that was widely reported in the corporate media and confirmed by President Biden himself, was an unsubstantiated claim leaked to the press as a tit-for-tat response to the damning Russian allegation that Ukraine was pursuing an active biological weapons program, in collaboration with Washington, in scores of bio-labs discovered by Russian forces in Ukraine in early days of the military campaign.

The crux of the NBC report, however, isn’t what’s being disclosed but rather what’s still being withheld by the US intelligence community that the monopoly news outlets are not at liberty to report on.

Despite being aware of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s major unilateral concession to Kyiv, halting Russian offensive north of the capital and focusing on liberating Russian-majority Donbas in east Ukraine, practically spelling an end to Russia’s month-long offensive in Ukraine, US security officials are still deceptively asserting that Russia’s pullout from areas around Kyiv “wasn’t a retreat but a strategic redeployment” that signals a “significant assault on eastern and southern Ukraine,” one that US officials believe could be a “protracted and bloody fight.”

Regarding the malicious disinformation campaign mounted by Western media on behalf of NATO powers, the report notes: “The idea is to pre-empt and disrupt the Kremlin’s tactics, complicate its military campaign, undermine Moscow’s propaganda and prevent Russia from defining how the war is perceived in the world, said a Western government official familiar with the strategy.”

It has become clear now the “40-mile-long Trojan Horse” of battle tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery that descended from Belarus in the north and reached the outskirts of Kyiv in the early days of the war without encountering much resistance en route the capital was simply a power projection gambit astutely designed as a diversionary tactic by Russia’s military strategists in order to deter Ukraine from sending reinforcements to Donbas in east Ukraine where real battles for territory were actually fought and scramble to defend the embattled country’s capital instead.

But US security agencies insidiously kept feeding false information of impending fall of the Ukrainian capital to the monopoly media throughout Russia’s month-long military campaign in Ukraine. Only two conclusions could be drawn from this scaremongering tactic: either it was a massive intelligence failure and Western security agencies weren’t aware the “40-mile-long Trojan Horse” approaching the capital was a ruse; or the NATO’s spy agencies had credible intelligence since the beginning of Russia’s military campaign that real battles for territory would be fought in Donbas in east Ukraine and the feigned assault on the capital was simply a diversionary tactic but they exaggerated the threat in order to vilify Russia’s calculated military offensive in Ukraine, and win the war of narratives that “how the war is perceived across the world.”

Except in the early days of the military campaign when Russian airstrikes and long-range artillery shelling targeted military infrastructure in the outskirts of Kyiv to degrade the combat potential of Ukraine’s armed forces, the capital did not witness much action during the month-long offensive. Otherwise, with the tremendous firepower at its disposal, the world’s second most powerful military force had the demonstrable capability to reduce the whole city down to the ashes.

By mid-March, after the “40-mile-long” column of armored vehicles that created panic in the rank and file of Ukraine’s security forces and their international backers and that didn’t move an inch further after reaching the outskirts of Kyiv in the early days of the war, it became obvious even to the lay observers of the Ukraine War that it was evidently a diversionary tactic.

But Western security agencies and the corporate media kept propagating the myth that the purported assault on the Ukrainian capital was stalled by alleged “fierce Ukrainian resistance,” and if it were up to Russian forces, they would “ransack the capital Kyiv” and “overrun the whole territory” of the embattled country.

Even a week after the unilateral Russian peace initiative on March 25, scaling back its blitz north of the capital and focusing instead on liberating Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine, a task that has already been accomplished in large measure, Western intelligence community and the monopoly media kept warning the gullible audience Russia’s pullout from areas around Kyiv “wasn’t a retreat but a strategic redeployment” and that Russian forces had withdrawn back into Belarus and Russia simply to “regroup, refit and resupply.”

Last week, US officials told reporters they had intelligence suggesting “Putin was being misled” by his own advisers, who were “afraid to tell him the truth.” “The degree to which Putin is isolated or relying on flawed information can’t be verified,” Paul Pillar, a retired career US intelligence officer, confided to NBC. “There’s no way you can prove or disprove that stuff,” he said.

Two US officials said the intelligence about whether “Putin’s inner circle was lying to him wasn’t conclusive” — based more on “analysis than hard evidence.” Multiple US officials acknowledged that the US had used “information as a weapon” even when “confidence in the accuracy of the information wasn’t high.” Sometimes it had used low-confidence intelligence for deterrent effect, as with chemical agents, and other times, as an official put it, the US was just “trying to get inside Putin’s head.”

While attempting to play mind games with Putin, the US intelligence community must’ve overlooked “an inconsequential detail” that before venturing into politics, Putin himself led the Cold War’s premier Russian intelligence agency, the KGB, for many years, and the puerile psyops orchestrated by the CIA and NSA were nothing more than child’s play for the seasoned Russian strongman.

Based on declassified intelligence, the New York Times reported last week: “The Russian military’s stumbles have eroded trust between Mr. Putin and his Ministry of Defense. While Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu had been considered one of the few advisers Mr. Putin confided in, the prosecution of the war in Ukraine has damaged the relationship. Mr. Putin has put two top intelligence officials under house arrest for providing poor intelligence ahead of the invasion, something that may have further contributed to the climate of fear.”

Other American officials, as reported in the mainstream media, had said that “Putin’s rigid isolation during the pandemic” and willingness to publicly “rebuke advisers who did not share his views” had created a degree of wariness, or even fear, in senior ranks of the Russian military. Officials believe that Putin had been getting “incomplete or overly optimistic reports” about the progress of Russian forces, “creating mistrust with his military advisers.”

The corporate media’s psychological warfare campaign, in collaboration with Western intelligence community, after the successful culmination of Russia’s month-long military offensive in Ukraine must have upset the Russian leader to the extent that instead of summarily sacking and court-martialing the military’s top brass, he has decided to celebrate May 9 as the Victory Day by announcing to organize a Russian Armed Forces parade in Moscow, and is reportedly considering rewarding battlefield commanders who valiantly fought in the Russo-Ukraine War with promotion in ranks and pecuniary benefits.

All the media hype in order to misguide gullible audiences following the stellar Russian victory in the Ukraine War aside, the fact remains it’s old wine in new bottles. The intelligence wasn’t declassified last week, it was declassified a month ago, but nobody paid much attention to the asinine assertion of an alleged rift between Putin and the Russian military leadership.

The Politico reported as early as March 8, in an article titled “Putin is angry,” that the US intelligence heads warned before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence during the panel’s annual hearing on worldwide threats that Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine was not going as planned and it could “double down” in Ukraine.

“Although it still remains unclear whether Russia will pursue a maximalist plan to capture all or most of Ukraine, Director National Intelligence Avril Haines said, such an effort would run up against what the U.S. intelligence community assesses is likely to be a persistent and significant insurgency by Ukrainian forces.”

Clearly, DNI Avril Haines spilled the secret before the House Select Committee on Intelligence that the US intelligence was in dark whether the Russian forces would overrun the whole of Ukraine, or the Russian blitz north of the capital was only a diversionary tactic meant for tying up Ukrainian forces in the north, while Russia concentrated its efforts in liberating Donbas in the east.

Echoing the “recently declassified intelligence” disclosed by NYT the preposterous claim that Putin’s rigid self-isolation during the COVID pandemic allegedly created a rift between him and Russia’s military leadership, the Politico report from a month ago presciently endorsed the inane intelligence assessment:

“William Burns, the CIA director, portrayed for lawmakers an isolated and indignant Russian president who is determined to dominate and control Ukraine to shape its orientation. Putin has been ‘stewing in a combustible combination of grievance and ambition for many years. That personal conviction matters more than ever,’ Burns said.

“Burns also described how Putin had created a system within the Kremlin in which his own circle of advisers is narrower and narrower — and sparser still because of the Covid-19 pandemic. In that hierarchy, Burns said, ‘it’s proven not career-enhancing for people to question or challenge his judgment.’”

The most notable success of the US information warfare campaign based on misleading declassified intelligence to media outlets, as claimed by the NBC report, may have been delaying the invasion itself by weeks or months, which officials believe they did with accurate predictions that Russia intended to attack, based on definitive intelligence. By the time Russia moved its troops in, “the West presented a unified front.”

“A former U.S. official said administration officials believe the strategy delayed Putin’s invasion from the first week of January to after the Olympics and that the delay bought the U.S. valuable time to get allies on the same page in terms of the level of the Russian threat and how to respond.”

Contradicting the NBC claim, however, The Intercept reported on March 11, citing “credible intelligence sources,” that despite staging a massive military buildup along Russia’s border with Ukraine for nearly a year, “Russian President Vladimir Putin did not make a final decision to invade until just before he launched the attack on February 24,” senior current and former US intelligence officials told the Intercept. “It wasn’t until February that the agency and the rest of the US intelligence community became convinced that Putin would invade,” the senior official added.

Last April, US intelligence first detected that “the Russian military was beginning to move large numbers of troops and equipment to the Ukrainian border.” Most of the Russian soldiers deployed to the border at that time were later “moved back to their bases,” but US intelligence determined that “some of the troops and materiel remained near the border.”

In June 2021, against the backdrop of rising tensions over Ukraine, Biden and Putin met at a summit in Geneva. The summer troop withdrawal brought a brief period of calm, but “the crisis began to build again in October and November,” when US intelligence watched as Russia once again “moved large numbers of troops back to its border with Ukraine.”

Extending the hand of friendship, Russia significantly drawdown its forces along the western border before the summit last June. Instead of returning the favor, however, the conceited leadership of supposedly world’s sole surviving super power turned down the hand of friendship and haughtily refused to concede reasonable security guarantees demanded by Russia at the summit that would certainly have averted the likelihood of the war.

After perusing such contradictory reports, citing “credible intelligence estimates,” it appears the US intelligence community has developed a novel espionage technique of playing both ends against the middle. The world’s leading US spy agencies seem to have this uncanny ability of predicting with absolute certainty that an event is as likely to happen as it is likely that it may not happen. And since the media watchdog has been tamed to the point where it dares not question the authority, therefore security agencies would get the credit whether or not they performed their duties diligently.

The post How US Intelligence Leaks to Media Backfired in Ukraine War? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Biden Shoot Himself in the Foot to Impose Sanctions on Russia?

On Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered the largest release ever from the US emergency oil reserve in a futile attempt to bring down gasoline prices that have soared to record levels following the Russo-Ukraine War. Starting in May, the United States will release 1 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil for six months from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), amounting to 180 million barrels in total, which is equivalent to only two days of the global demand.

Invoking the fabled trope of American patriotism, Biden urged the consumers not to hesitate from paying twice the amount while filling gas tanks in order for the military-industrial complex to reap billions of dollars windfalls by providing anti-aircraft and anti-armor munitions to NATO’s proxies in Ukraine. “This is a moment of consequence and peril for the world, and pain at the pump for American families. It’s also a moment of patriotism,” Biden said at an event at the White House.

The US announcement came a day before the International Energy Agency member countries were set to meet on Friday to discuss a further emergency oil release that would follow their March 1 agreement to release about 60 million barrels that would cover only two-third of a single day’s oil demand, as the global net oil consumption per day is over 90 million barrels. With over 10 million barrels daily oil production capacity, Russia, alongside Saudi Arabia, is the world’s largest oil producer accounting for providing over 10% of the world’s crude oil demand.

As far as military power is concerned, Russia with its enormous arsenal of conventional as well as nuclear weapons more or less equals the military power of the United States. But it’s the much more subtle and insidious tactic of economic warfare for which Russia seems to have no answer following the break-up of the Soviet Union in the nineties and consequent dismantling of the once-thriving communist bloc, spanning Eastern Europe, Latin America and many socialist states in Asia and Africa in the sixties.

The current global neocolonial order is being led by the United States and its West European clients since the signing of the Bretton Woods Accord in 1945 following the Second World War. Historically, any state, particularly those inclined to pursue socialist policies, that dared to challenge the Western monopoly over global trade and economic policies was internationally isolated and its national economy went bankrupt over a period of time. But for once, it appears Washington might shoot itself in the foot by going overboard in its relentless efforts to punish Russia for invading Ukraine.

On March 17, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe and Anoosheh Ashoori, two British-Iranian nationals held in Iran since 2016 and 2017, respectively, were unexpectedly set free and were permitted to travel to the United Kingdom. In return, the British government, in what gave the impression of a ransom payment, triumphantly announced it had settled a £400m debt owed to Iran from the seventies.

The thaw in the frosty relations between the Western powers and Iran signaled that a tentative understanding on reviving the Iran nuclear deal was also reached behind the scenes, particularly in the backdrop of the Ukraine crisis and the Western efforts to internationally isolate Russia. After sanctioning Russia’s 10 million barrels daily crude oil output, the industrialized world is desperately in need of Iran’s 5 million barrels oil production capacity to keep the already inflated oil price from causing further pain to consumers.

Last month, Venezuela similarly released two incarcerated US citizens in an apparent goodwill gesture toward the Biden administration following a visit to Caracas by a high-level US delegation, despite the fact that Washington still officially recognizes Nicolas Maduro’s detractor Juan Guaido as Venezuela’s “legitimate president.” Nonetheless, Venezuela is one of Latin America’s largest oil producers and opening the international market to its heavy crude might provide a welcome relief in the time of global oil crunch.

Niftily forestalling the likelihood of strengthening of mutually beneficial bonds between China and Russia when the latter is badly in need for economic relief, the United States pre-emptively accused China of pledging to sell military hardware to Russia, when the latter, itself one of the world’s leading arms exporters, didn’t even make any such request to China.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan held an intense seven-hour meeting in Rome with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi on March 15, and warned China of “grave consequences” of evading Western sanctions on Russia. Besides wielding the stick of economic sanctions, he must also have dangled the carrot of ending trade war against China initiated by the Trump administration and continued by the Biden administration until Russia invaded Ukraine in late February.

Despite vowing to treat the Saudi kingdom as a “pariah” in the run-up to November 2020 presidential elections, the Wall Street Journal reported last month the White House unsuccessfully tried to arrange calls between President Biden and the de facto leaders of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates as the US was working to build international support for Ukraine and contain a surge in oil prices.

“Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and the U.A.E.’s Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al Nahyan both declined U.S. requests to speak to Mr. Biden in recent weeks, the officials said, as Saudi and Emirati officials have become more vocal in recent weeks in their criticism of American policy in the Gulf.

“‘There was some expectation of a phone call, but it didn’t happen,’ said a U.S. official of the planned discussion between the Saudi Prince Mohammed and Mr. Biden. ‘It was part of turning on the spigot [of Saudi oil].’

“But the Saudis and Emiratis have declined to pump more oil, saying they are sticking to a production plan approved by OPEC. Both Prince Mohammed and Sheikh Mohammed took phone calls from Russian President Vladimir Putin last week, after declining to speak with Mr. Biden.”

To add insult to the injury, Saudi Arabia has reportedly invited Chinese President Xi Jinping for an official visit to the kingdom that could happen as soon as May, and is also considering pegging its vast oil reserves in yuan, a move that could spell end to the petrodollar hegemony.

The United States and Britain were ramping up pressure on Saudi Arabia to pump more oil and join efforts to isolate Russia, while Riyadh had shown little readiness to respond and had revived a threat to ditch dollars in its oil sales to China, Reuters reported last month.

“If Saudi Arabia does that, it will change the dynamics of the forex market,” said a source with knowledge of the matter, adding that such a move—which the source said Beijing had long requested and which Riyadh threatened as far back as 2018—might prompt other buyers to follow.

Trump aptly observed: “Now Biden is crawling around the globe on his knees begging and pleading for mercy from Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela.” It appears quite plausible that in its relentless efforts to internationally isolate Russia, the Biden administration is likely to unravel the whole neocolonial economic order imposed on the world after the signing of the Bretton Woods Accord following the Second World War in 1945.

In order to bring home the significance of the Persian Gulf’s oil in the energy-starved industrialized world, here are a few stats from the OPEC data: Saudi Arabia has the world’s largest proven crude oil reserves of 266 billion barrels and its daily oil production is 10 million barrels; Iran and Iraq each has 150 billion barrels reserves and has the capacity to produce 5 million barrels per day each; while UAE and Kuwait each has 100 billion barrels reserves and produces 3 million barrels per day each; thus, all the littoral states of the Persian Gulf, together, hold 788 billion barrels, over half of world’s 1477 billion barrels proven oil reserves.

In many ways, the current oil crunch caused by Washington’s unilateral decision to impose economic sanctions on Russia’s vital energy sector is similar to the oil crisis of 1973. The 1973 collective Arab oil embargo against the West following the Arab-Israel War lasted only for a short span of six months during which the price of oil quadrupled, but Washington became so paranoid after the embargo that it put in place a ban on the export of crude oil outside the US borders, and began keeping sixty-day stock of reserve fuel for strategic and military needs dubbed the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR).

Regarding the reciprocal relationship between Washington and the Gulf’s autocrats, it bears mentioning that in April 2016, the Saudi foreign minister threatened that the Saudi kingdom would sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets if the US Congress passed a bill that would allow Americans to sue the Saudi government in the United States courts for its role in the September 11, 2001 terror attack – though the bill was eventually passed, Saudi authorities have not been held accountable for nurturing terrorism.

It’s noteworthy that $750 billion was only the Saudi investment in the United States, if we add its investment in the Western Europe and the investments of the oil-rich U.A.E, Kuwait and Qatar in the Western economies, the sum total would amount to trillions of dollars of Gulf’s investments in the economies of North America and Western Europe.

Additionally, regarding the Western defense production industry’s sales of arms to the Gulf Arab States, a report authored by William Hartung of the US-based Center for International Policy found that the Obama administration had offered Saudi Arabia more than $115 billion in weapons, military equipment and training during its eight-year tenure.

Similarly, the top items in Trump’s agenda for his maiden visit to Saudi Arabia in May 2017 were: firstly, he threw his weight behind the idea of the Saudi-led “Arab NATO” to counter Iran’s influence in the region; and secondly, he announced an unprecedented arms package for Saudi Arabia.

The package included between $98 billion and $128 billion in arms sales and, over a period of 10 years, total sales could reach $400 billion, as Donald Trump himself alluded to in his conversations with American journalist Bob Woodward described in the book Rage.

President Donald Trump boasted that he protected Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi, who was murdered at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018.

“I saved his ass,” Trump said in 2018, according to the book. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.” When Woodward pressed Trump if he believed the Saudi crown prince ordered the assassination himself, Trump responded: “He says very strongly that he didn’t do it. Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time,” Trump said.

“And you know, they’re in the Middle East. You know, they’re big. Because of their religious monuments, you know, they have the real power. They have the oil, but they also have the great monuments for religion. You know that, right? For that religion,” Trump noted. “They wouldn’t last a week if we’re not there, and they know it,” he added.

In this reciprocal relationship, the US provides security to the ruling families of the Gulf Arab States by providing weapons and troops; and in return, the Gulf’s petro-sheikhs contribute substantial investments to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars to the Western economies.

All the recent wars and conflicts aside, the unholy alliance between the Western powers and the Gulf’s petro-monarchies is much older. The British Empire stirred uprising in Arabia by instigating the Sharifs of Mecca to rebel against the Ottoman rule during the First World War, as the Ottoman Empire had sided with Germany during the war.

After the Ottoman Empire collapsed following the war, the British Empire backed King Abdul Aziz (Ibn-e-Saud) in his violent insurgency against Sharif of Mecca Hussein bin Ali, because the latter was demanding too much of a price for his loyalty, the unification of the whole of Arabian peninsula, including the Levant, Iraq and the Gulf Emirates, under his suzerainty as a bribe for stabbing the Ottoman Empire in the back during the First World War.

Consequently, the Western powers abandoned the Sharifs of Mecca, though the scions of the family were rewarded with kingdoms in Iraq and Jordan, imposed the Sykes-Picot Agreement of 1916 dividing Arabs into small states at loggerheads with each other, and lent their support to the nomadic Sauds of Najd.

King Abdul Aziz defeated the Sharifs and united his dominions into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 1932 with the financial and military support of the British Empire. However, by then the tide of the British Imperialism was subsiding and the Americans inherited the former territorial possessions of the British Empire.

At the end of the Second World War on 14 February 1945, President Franklin D. Roosevelt held a historic meeting with King Abdul Aziz at Great Bitter Lake in the Suez Canal onboard USS Quincy, and laid the foundations of an enduring alliance which persists to this day. During the course of that momentous meeting, among other things, it was decided to set up the United States Military Training Mission (USMTM) to Saudi Arabia to “train, advise and assist” the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces.

Aside from USMTM, the US-based Vinnell Corporation, which is a private military company based in the US and a subsidiary of the Northrop Grumman, used over a thousand Vietnam War veterans to train and equip 125,000 strong Saudi Arabian National Guards (SANG) which is not under the authority of the Saudi Ministry of Defense and acts as the Praetorian Guards of the House of Saud.

In addition, the Critical Infrastructure Protection Force, whose strength is numbered in tens of thousands, is also being trained and equipped by the US to guard the critical Saudi oil infrastructure along its eastern Persian Gulf coast where 90% of 266 billion barrels Saudi oil reserves are located.

Currently, the US has deployed tens of thousands of American troops in aircraft carriers and numerous military bases in the Persian Gulf that include sprawling al-Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi, al-Udeid airbase in Qatar and a naval base in Bahrain where the Fifth Fleet of the US Navy is based.

The post Will Biden Shoot Himself in the Foot to Impose Sanctions on Russia? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Why is Washington Hampering Russia’s Peace Initiative to Ukraine?

In a bizarre turn of events Tuesday, Russian and Ukrainian delegations taking part in peace negotiations in Istanbul appeared to have reached a breakthrough. But following a tepid response by Secretary of State Antony Blinken, contemptuously dismissing Russian peace overtures as nothing more than “delaying tactics” meant to “deceive people and deflect attention,” head of the Russian delegation Vladimir Medinsky walked back the earlier optimistic remarks, saying “a gradual military de-escalation does not necessarily mean an immediate ceasefire.”

Hours later on Tuesday evening, in what appeared to be either a coincidence or a sabotage attempt, an ammunition depot across the Ukraine border in Russia “mysteriously exploded,” sending thick plumes of smoke into air, visible in videos posted on social media, injuring four Russian soldiers, and effectively pouring cold water over the optimism generated by the likelihood of the success of the peace process between Ukraine and Russia.

A Ukrainian missile appeared to have hit a temporary Russian military encampment outside Belgorod, in Russia’s village of Krasny Oktyabr, about 40 miles from the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, said the Russian state-run news agency Tass. The strike would only be the second that struck a military target inside Russia and wounded soldiers. Last week, Tass reported two men were hurt when a shell from Ukraine exploded in the same area.

The generous Russian offer scaling back its blitz north of the capital and focusing instead on liberating Russian-majority Donbas region in east Ukraine, a task that has already been accomplished in large measure, isn’t the first time the Kremlin extended the hand of friendship to Kyiv. Last week, Russia made a similar peace gesture that wasn’t even dignified with a response by Western policymakers and went almost unheeded in the establishment-controlled media.

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Alexander Fomin said the offer to scale back military operations was a confidence building step for the ongoing negotiations with Ukrainian officials in Istanbul. “In order to increase mutual trust and create the necessary conditions for further negotiations and achieving the ultimate goal of agreeing and signing an agreement, a decision was made to radically, by a large margin, reduce military activity in the Kyiv and Chernihiv directions,” Russian Deputy Defense Minister leading the Russian peace delegation told reporters.

Ukrainian negotiators said that under their proposals, Kyiv would agree not to join alliances or host bases of foreign troops, but would have security guarantees in terms similar to Article 5, the collective defense clause of the transatlantic NATO military alliance.

The proposals, which would require a referendum in Ukraine, mentioned a 15-year consultation period on the status of Crimea, annexed by Russia in 2014. The fate of the southeastern Donbas region, which Russia demands Ukraine cede to separatists, would be discussed by the Ukrainian and Russian leaders.

Kyiv’s proposals also included one that Moscow would not oppose Ukraine joining the European Union, Russia’s lead negotiator Vladimir Medinsky said. Russia has previously opposed Ukrainian membership of the EU and especially of the NATO military alliance. Medinsky said Russia’s delegation would study and present the proposals to President Vladimir Putin.

Welcoming the Russian peace initiative, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Tuesday the signals from peace talks with Russia “could be called positive” but added that Ukraine would not slacken its defensive efforts until it noticed “concrete actions.”

It would be prudent, however, of the Ukrainian leader to get rid of the duplicitous NATO interlocutors and try reaching a political settlement to the conflict with Russia bilaterally if he wishes peace and stability to prevail in the embattled country, because opportunistic NATO leaders have their own axe to grind by taking advantage of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ukraine.

The Biden administration doesn’t seem particularly enamored of Russian peace proposal that could bring much-needed relief to the war-ravaged country because, as the seasoned American politician and peace activist Ron Paul aptly observed, Washington’s policy appeared to be “fighting Russia down to the last Ukrainian.”

While on a whirlwind Middle East trip in Morocco, Antony Blinken, the charismatic secretary of state idolized by diplomatic community for wavy salt-and-pepper hair and suave Parisian etiquette who has childishly refused to diplomatically engage with his counterpart Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov since the start of the conflict on February 24, derisively mocked the diplomatic breakthrough achieved in Istanbul as nothing more than “delaying tactics” meant to “deceive people and deflect attention.”

Paranoidly echoing the secretary of state’s imagined apprehensions, the Pentagon said Russia had started moving very small numbers of troops away from positions around Kyiv, describing the move as more of a “repositioning” than a withdrawal. “We all should be prepared to watch for a major offensive against other areas of Ukraine,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told a news briefing. “It does not mean that the threat to Kyiv is over.”

Not to be left behind in the collective Russophobic hysteria inflicting Western policymaking circles and the mainstream media alike, Britain’s defense ministry said Moscow was being “forced to pull out troops” from the vicinity of Kyiv to Russia and Belarus, to resupply and reorganize after “taking heavy losses,” adding that Russia was likely to compensate for its reduced ground maneuver capability through “mass artillery and missile strikes.”

“The combat potential of the Ukrainian Armed Forces has been significantly reduced, which allows us to focus our main attention and efforts on achieving the main goal—the liberation of Donbas,” Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu proudly boasted Tuesday. He added that 123 of Ukraine’s 152 fighter jets had been destroyed, as well as 77 of its 149 helicopters and 152 of its 180 long- and medium-range air defense systems, while its naval forces had been totally eliminated.

It’s worth recalling that the Russian special military operation, dubbed “Operation Z” by Vladimir Putin, wasn’t a full-scale war. It was a calculated military incursion having well-defined security objectives: the liberation of Donbas and denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine.

Those military objectives have already been achieved in large measure, as not only the Russian-majority Donbas including Kherson and Mariupol have been liberated but the battles are ongoing in the adjacent areas in the northeast, Kharkiv and Sumy, that will hopefully fall soon.

Sergey Shoigu has already proved through facts and figures how the country has been demilitarized with the combat potential of Ukraine’s armed forces significantly reduced. As for denazification, Donbas was the hub of neo-Nazi Azov, Right Sector, Dnipro 1 and 2, Aidar and myriad of other ultra-nationalist militias funded, armed and trained by the CIA since the 2014 Maidan coup toppling Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and consequent annexation of the Crimean Peninsula by Russia. With the liberation of Donbas and deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces, neo-Nazi militias wouldn’t find a foothold, at least, in east Ukraine bordering Russia’s vulnerable western flank.

As for the “40-mile-long” convoy of battle tanks, armored vehicles and heavy artillery that descended from Belorussia in the north and reached the outskirts of Kyiv in the early days of the war without encountering much resistance en route the capital, that was simply a power projection gambit astutely designed as a diversionary tactic by Russia’s cunning military strategists to deter Ukraine from sending reinforcements to Donbas in east Ukraine, where real battles for territory were actually fought, and scramble to defend the embattled country’s capital instead.

Except in the early days of the war when Russian airstrikes and long-range artillery shelling targeted military infrastructure in the outskirts of Kyiv to reduce the combat potential of Ukraine’s armed forces, the capital did not witness much action during the month-long offensive. Otherwise, with the tremendous firepower at its disposal, the world’s second most powerful military had the demonstrable capability to reduce the whole city down to the ashes.

What further lends credence to the indisputable fact that the Russian assault on Kyiv was meant simply as a show of force rather than actual military objective to occupy the capital is the factor that Belarusian troops didn’t take part in the battle despite staging military exercises alongside Russian forces before the invasion and despite the fact that Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko is a dependable ally of the Russian strongman, Vladimir Putin.

Although Russia lost the lives of 1,351 soldiers during the war, as candidly admitted by the Russian defense ministry, the myth of countless charred Russian tanks, armored vehicles and artillery pieces littering the streets of Ukraine’s towns and cities is a downright fabrication peddled by the corporate media as a psychological warfare tactic to insidiously portray the losing side in the conflict as a winning side.

Besides the handful neo-Nazi militias and foreign mercenaries fighting pitched battles against Russian forces in Donbas, the much-touted “resistance” was nowhere to be found in the rest of Ukraine. As soon as the war began last month, the “valiant resistance” fled across the border to the safety of Poland, Romania and neighboring countries.

The opportunistic militant leaders of the virtually nonexistent “resistance” are reaping windfalls by reportedly selling caches of anti-aircraft and anti-armor munitions provided by NATO countries in the thriving arms markets of Eastern Europe and buying opulent mansions in southern France and Italy.

In the 2001 census, nearly a third of Ukraine’s over 40 million population registered Russian as their first language. In fact, Russian speakers constitute a majority in urban areas of industrialized eastern Ukraine and socio-culturally identify with Russia. Ukrainian speakers are mainly found in sparsely populated western Ukraine and in rural areas of east Ukraine.

Russian, Belarusian and Ukrainian together belong to the East Slavic family of languages and share a degree of mutual intelligibility. Thus, Russians, Belorussians and Ukrainians are one nation and one country whose shared history and culture goes all the way back to the golden period of the 10th century Kyivan Rus’.

In addition, Russians and Ukrainians share Byzantine heritage and together belong to the Greek Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian denominations whose history can be traced back to the Christ and his apostles. Protestantism and Catholicism are products of the second millennium after a Roman bishop of the Byzantine Empire declared himself Pope following the 1054 schism between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches.

In comparison, what do Ukrainians have in common with NATO powers, their newfound patrons, besides the fact that humanitarian imperialists are attempting to douse fire by pouring gasoline on Ukraine’s proxy war by providing caches of lethal weapons to militant forces holding disenfranchised Ukrainian masses hostage.

While addressing a meeting on socioeconomic support for the constituent entities of the Russian Federation on March 16, Russian President Vladimir Putin succinctly elucidated the salient reasons for pre-emptively mounting a military intervention in Ukraine in order to forestall NATO’s encroachment upon Russia’s security interests. Here are a few trenchant excerpts from the lucid and eloquent speech:

We are meeting in a complicated period as our Armed Forces are conducting a special military operation in Ukraine and Donbass. I would like to remind you that at the beginning, on the morning of February 24, I publicly announced the reasons for and the main goal of Russia’s actions.

It is to help our people in Donbass, who have been subjected to real genocide for nearly eight years in the most barbarous ways, that is, through blockade, large-scale punitive operations, terrorist attacks and constant artillery raids. Their only guilt was that they demanded basic human rights: to live according to their forefathers’ laws and traditions, to speak their native Russian language, and to bring up their children as they want.

Kiev was not just preparing for war, for aggression against Russia – it was conducting it … Hostilities in Donbass and the shelling of peaceful residential areas have continued all these years. Almost 14,000 civilians, including children have been killed over this time … Clearly, Kiev’s Western patrons are just pushing them to continue the bloodshed. They incessantly supply Kiev with weapons and intelligence, as well as other types of assistance, including military advisers and mercenaries.

Just like in the 1990s and the early 2000s, they want to try again to finish us off, to reduce us to nothing by turning us into a weak and dependent country, destroying our territorial integrity and dismembering Russia as they see fit. The failed then and they will fail this time … Yes, of course, they will back the so-called fifth column, national traitors – those who make money here in our country but live over there, and live not in the geographical sense of the word but in their minds, in their servile mentality.

Image credit: iNews

The post Why is Washington Hampering Russia’s Peace Initiative to Ukraine? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Polish Brinkmanship: De Facto Leader Settling Score with Putin

In a highly symbolic move expressing solidarity with Ukraine, the prime ministers of Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovenia traveled together to the embattled Ukrainian capital of Kyiv and met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on March 15.

The three leaders took hours-long train trip on their journey from the west Ukrainian city of Lviv to the capital Kyiv, allegedly “endangering their lives” due to security risks involved in traveling within a war zone, though there was no risk to their lives as such because they had requested prior permission for the official visit from the Kremlin, which was graciously granted keeping in view diplomatic conventions.

Accompanying the trio of premiers was a “special guest” of the Ukraine government, Jaroslaw Kaczynski—the deputy prime minister of Poland, the head of Law and Justice (PiS) Party to which the president and prime minister of Poland belong and the infamous “puppet master” who hires and fires government executives and ministers on a whim.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski is the twin brother of the late President Lech Kaczynski, who died in a plane crash at Smolensk, Russia, in 2010 along with 95 other Poles, among them political and military leaders, as they traveled to commemorate the Katyn massacre that occurred during the Second World War.

Subsequent Polish and international investigations led by independent observers conclusively determined that the crash-landing was an accident caused by fog and pilot error. Still, Kaczynski, 72, has long suspected that Russian President Vladimir Putin had a role in provoking the accident, and is harboring a personal grudge against the Russian president.

Speaking alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at Kyiv, Kaczynski said: “I think that it is necessary to have a peace mission—NATO, possibly some wider international structure—but a mission that will be able to defend itself, which will operate on Ukrainian territory.”

Kaczynski’s escalatory rhetoric isn’t merely a verbal threat, as a secret plan for a “peacekeeping mission” involving 10,000 NATO troops from the member states surreptitiously occupying Lviv and the rest of towns in western Ukraine and imposing a limited no-fly zone is allegedly being prepared by the Polish government that could potentially trigger an all-out war between Russia and the transatlantic military alliance.

The plan is seemingly on hiatus due to a disagreement between figurehead Polish President Andrzej Duda and Jaroslaw Kaczynski, as Duda wanted Washington’s approval before going ahead, whereas Kaczynski appeared keen to obtain political mileage from the Ukraine crisis and was also desperate for settling personal score with Putin, even if his impulsive and capricious attitude risked triggering a catastrophic Third World War.

In another diplomatic fiasco involving Kaczynski’s shady hand in the Polish policymaking, Secretary of State Tony Blinken suggested early this month that Poland could hand over its entire fleet of 28 Soviet-era MiG-29s to Ukraine, and in return, the United States government would “backfill” the Polish Air Force with American F-16s.

“We are looking actively now at the question of airplanes that Poland may provide to Ukraine, and looking at how we might be able to backfill it should Poland decide to supply those planes,” Blinken told a briefing in Chisinau on March 6.

The transfer might have been possible if the deal was kept under wraps, but that became impossible after Josep Borrell, the EU’s foreign affairs and security policy chief, declared unequivocally to reporters on Feb. 27 that the bloc would provide Ukraine with fighter jets.

The Ukraine government heard the proposal and ran with it, producing infographics claiming they were about to receive 70 used Russian fighter jets from Poland, Slovakia and Bulgaria. A Ukrainian government official told Politico that Ukrainian pilots had even traveled to Poland to wrap up the deal and bring the planes back over the border.

Upon getting wind of the illicit deal, Russian defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov issued a stark warning that any attempt by an outside power to facilitate a no-fly zone over Ukraine, including providing aircraft to Kyiv, would be considered a belligerent in the war and treated accordingly.

Hours after the Russian warning, the Polish Foreign Ministry issued an emphatic denial, saying providing aircraft to Ukraine was out of question as the MiG-29 fleet constituted the backbone of the Polish Air Force.

The deal was categorically scuttled on March 3 by Polish President Andrzej Duda: “We are not sending any jets to Ukraine because that would open military inference in the Ukrainian conflict. We are not joining that conflict. NATO is not party to that conflict,” Duda said.

In a bizarre turn of events overriding its own president’s categorical statement, the Polish government announced on March 8 that it was ready to transfer the aircraft to the Ramstein Air Base in Germany at the disposal of the United States which could then hand them over to Ukraine.

Clearly, there was a disagreement between Poland’s figurehead President Duda and de facto leader Jaroslaw Kaczynski over the aircraft transfer deal, too. Ultimately, Kaczynski prevailed and the Polish government announced it was ready to transfer the aircraft to Ukraine via an intermediary.

The denouement of the comedy of errors, however, came a day later on March 9, after the United States, while occupying a high moral ground, unequivocally rejected the “preposterous” Polish offer, initially made on Warsaw’s behalf by none other than the EU’s foreign affairs head and the US secretary of state.

The prospect of flying combat aircraft from NATO territory into the war zone “raises serious concerns for the entire NATO alliance,” the Pentagon sanctimoniously revealed on March 9. “It is simply not clear to us that there is a substantive rationale for it,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby dignifiedly added.

The only conclusion that could be drawn from the reluctant Polish offer of transferring its entire fleet of MiG-29s to Ramstein at the disposal of the United States is that it was simply a humbug designed to provide face-saving to its NATO patron while it was already decided behind the scenes that Washington would spurn Poland’s nominal offer.

Nonetheless, CNN reported March 6 Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley visited a week before an undisclosed airfield near the Ukraine border that has become a hub for shipping weapons. The airport’s location remains a secret to protect the shipments of weapons, including anti-aircraft and anti-armor missiles, into Ukraine. Although the report didn’t name the location, the airfield was likely in Poland along Ukraine’s border.

“US European Command (EUCOM) is at the heart of the massive shipment operation, using its liaison network with allies and partners to coordinate ‘in real time’ to send materials into Ukraine, a Defense official said. EUCOM is also coordinating with other countries, including the United Kingdom, in terms of the delivery process ‘to ensure that we are using our resources to maximum efficiency to support the Ukrainians in an organized way,’ the official added.”

Besides deploying 15,000 additional troops in Eastern Europe last month, total number of US troops in Europe is now expected to reach 100,000. “We have 130 jets at high alert. Over 200 ships from the high north to the Mediterranean, and thousands of additional troops in the region,” NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told CNN.

A spokesman for US European Command told CNN the United States was sending two Patriot missile batteries to Poland, and was also considering deploying THAAD air defense system, a more advanced system equivalent in capabilities to Russia’s S-400 air defense system.

Famous for hosting CIA’s black sites where alleged al-Qaeda operatives were water-boarded and tortured before being sent to Guantanamo Bay in the early years of the war on terror, in Poland alone the US military footprint now exceeds 10,000 troops as the majority of 15,000 troops sent to Europe last month went to Poland to join the 4,000 US troops already stationed there.

The airfields and training camps in the border regions of Poland have a become a hub for transporting lethal weapons and heavily armed militants to Lviv in west Ukraine, who then travel to the battlefields in Kyiv and east Ukraine.

President Biden arrived in Poland Friday and spoke to American troops bolstering NATO’s eastern flank. Biden shared a meal with soldiers from the US Army’s 82nd Airborne Division stationed in southeastern Polish city Rzeszow, which has been acting as a staging area for NATO’s military assistance to Ukraine while also serving as a waypoint for refugees fleeing the violence.

Ahead of the NATO summit attended by President Biden Thursday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg announced the transatlantic military alliance would double the number of battlegroups it had deployed in Eastern Europe.

“The first step is the deployment of four new NATO battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia, along with our existing forces in the Baltic countries and Poland,” Stoltenberg said. “This means that we will have eight multinational NATO battlegroups all along the eastern flank, from the Baltic to the Black Sea.”

NATO issued a statement after Thursday’s emergency summit attended by Joe Biden and European leaders: “In response to Russia’s actions, we have activated NATO’s defense plans, deployed elements of the NATO Response Force, and placed 40,000 troops on our eastern flank, along with significant air and naval assets, under direct NATO command supported by Allies’ national deployments. We are also establishing four additional multinational battlegroups in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia.”

In an interview with CBC News on March 8, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg warned that a Russian attack on the supply lines of allied nations supporting Ukraine with arms and munitions would be a dangerous escalation of the war raging in Eastern Europe. “Russia is the aggressor and Ukraine is defending itself. If there is any attack against any NATO country, NATO territory, that will trigger Article 5.”

Reminiscent of the Three Musketeers’ motto “all for one and one for all,” Article 5 is the self-defense clause in NATO’s founding treaty which states that an attack on one member is an attack on all 30 member nations. “I’m absolutely convinced President Putin knows this and we are removing any room for miscalculation, misunderstanding about our commitment to defend every inch of NATO territory,” Stoltenberg said.

NATO chief said there’s a clear distinction between supply lines within Ukraine and those operating outside its borders. “There is a war going on in Ukraine and, of course, supply lines inside Ukraine can be attacked,” he said. “An attack on NATO territory, on NATO forces, NATO capabilities, that would be an attack on NATO.”

On March 13, Russian forces launched a missile attack at Yavoriv Combat Training Center in the western part of the country. The military facility, less than 25 km from the Polish border, is one of Ukraine’s biggest and the largest in the western part of the country. Since 2015, US Green Berets and National Guard troops had been training Ukrainian forces at the Yavoriv center before they were evacuated alongside diplomatic staff in mid-February.

The training center was hit by a barrage of 30 cruise missiles launched from Russian strategic bombers, killing at least 35 people, though Russia’s defense ministry claimed up to 180 foreign mercenaries and large caches of weapons were destroyed at the training center.

International diplomacy is predicated on the principle of quid pro quo. Russia evidently has no intention of mounting an incursion into NATO territory. But if the duplicitous Polish leadership is hatching treacherous plots to clandestinely occupy western Ukraine and impose no-fly zone over it, then Russia obviously reserves the right to give a befitting response to perfidious henchmen and their international backers, irrespective of the “sacrosanct and inviolable red lines” etched in the institutional memory of servile lickspittles of the transatlantic military alliance.

The post Polish Brinkmanship: De Facto Leader Settling Score with Putin first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Russia Strike Slovakia if it Transfers S-300 to Ukraine?

In a significantly escalatory move, potentially giving Russia justifiable pretext to mount an incursion in Slovakia, Bratislava appears to have struck a deal with NATO for transferring its Soviet-era S-300 air defense system to Ukraine in return for Netherlands and Germany delivering three Patriot missile systems to Slovakia.

Although NATO has provided thousands of anti-aircraft MANPADS to Ukraine’s security forces and allied neo-Nazi militias, those are portable surface-to-air missiles, whereas S-300 air defense system, equivalent in capabilities to American Patriots, is a large and advanced system that constitutes a nation’s backbone of air defense capabilities.

The Kremlin would definitely view any potential move involving transferring S-300 batteries to Ukraine with as much alarm as it viewed the scuttled Polish deal of transferring its entire MiG-29 fleet of 28 aircraft to Ukraine in return for American F-16 fighter jets.

The Dutch government said Friday, March 18, it would send a Patriot missile defense system to Sliac, Slovakia, as part of NATO moves to strengthen air defenses in Eastern Europe. “The worsened safety situation in Europe as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine makes this contribution necessary,” Dutch Defense Minister Kajsa Ollongren said in a statement. Germany was also sending two Patriot missile systems to Slovakia, the statement added.

Along with the Patriot batteries, the Dutch will also send a small contingent of 150-200 troops, who would operate and also train Slovak forces in operating the American air defense system, as the forces of Slovakia as well as Ukraine are only trained to operate Russian-made military equipment, which many NATO countries that are former Soviet states possess.

Texas Rep. Mike McCaul, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told Politico: “The U.S. was working with allies to send more S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Ukraine. The country has had the S-300 for years, so troops should require little-to-no training on how to operate the Soviet-era anti-aircraft equipment. CNN reported that Slovakia had preliminarily agreed to transfer their S-300s to Ukraine.

A Western diplomat familiar with Ukraine’s requests said Kyiv specifically has asked the U.S. and allies for more Stingers and Starstreak man-portable air-defense systems, Javelins and other anti-tank weapons, ground-based mobile air-defense systems, armed drones, long-range anti-ship missiles, off-the-shelf electronic warfare capabilities, and satellite navigation and communications jamming equipment.

To further help, there is a push to get Eastern European allies to send new air defense systems to Ukraine that the U.S. doesn’t have. At the top of the list are mobile, Russian-made missile systems such as the SA-8 and S-300. Like the S-300, Ukraine also possesses SA-8s. The SA-8 is a mobile, short-range air defense system still in the warehouses of Romania, Bulgaria and Poland. The larger, long-range S-300 is still in use by Bulgaria, Greece and Slovakia.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s trip to Europe this week will include not only NATO headquarters in Brussels, but also stops in Bulgaria and Slovakia — countries that own S-300s and SA-8s — before heading back to Washington.

Previously, Slovakia’s defense minister said Thursday, March 17, that the country was willing to give Ukraine its S-300 surface-to-air missile defense systems if it receives a “proper replacement.” Speaking at a press conference in Slovakia alongside US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Slovak Defense Minister Jaroslav Nad said Slovakia was discussing the S-300s with the US and Ukraine. “We’re willing to do so immediately when we have a proper replacement. The only strategic air defense system that we have in Slovakia is S-300 system,” he added.

Lloyd Austin declined to say whether the United States might be willing to fill the gap. “I don’t have any announcements for you this afternoon. These are things that we will continue to work with all of our allies on. And certainly, this is not just a US issue. It’s a NATO issue,” Austin said while diplomatically evading confirming the barter deal for which he had traveled all the way from Washington to Eastern Europe.

NATO member Slovakia has one battery of the S-300 air defense system, inherited from the Soviet era after the break-up of Czechoslovakia in 1993. Following the Slovakia visit, Lloyd Austin also visited Bulgaria on Friday, March 18. Bulgaria has S-300 systems, but the country made it clear it had no plans to send any to Ukraine.

Bulgarian President Rumen Radev prudently said that any arms supplies to Ukraine were equivalent to the country being dragged into war. Ultimately, he said, such an issue should be decided by the parliament. He also said that Bulgaria needed its S-300 for its own air defense, particularly for the Kozlodui nuclear power plant.

On Wednesday, March 16, President Biden announced an unprecedented package of $800 million in military assistance to Ukraine, which includes 800 Stinger anti-aircraft systems, 2,000 anti-armor Javelins, 1,000 light anti-armor weapons, 6,000 AT-4 anti-armor systems and 100 Switchblade kamikaze drones.

The $800 million will mean more than $2 billion in the US military assistance has gone to Ukraine since Biden entered office in Jan. 2021, as the Biden administration had previously pledged $200 million days before announcing the $800 million package, $350 million were disbursed immediately following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, and the administration provided $650 million in military assistance to Ukraine during Biden’s first year in office. In addition, the European Union pledged to commit nearly 500 million euros for its own military aid package.

The United States and its allies have reportedly infused over $3 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since the 2014 Maidan coup. Recently, the Congress announced $1.5 trillion package for funding the federal government through September, boosting national defense coffers to $782 billion, about a 6 percent increase.

On top of the hefty budget increase, the package is set to deliver $13.6 billion in emergency funding to help Ukraine, nearly twice the assistance package initially proposed, including $3 billion for US forces and $3.5 billion for military equipment to Ukraine, plus more than $4 billion for US humanitarian efforts.

In an explosive scoop, the Sunday Times reported on March 4 that defense contractors were recruiting former military veterans for covert operations in Ukraine for a whopping $2,000 a day: “The job is not without risk but, at almost $60,000 a month, the pay is good. Applicants must have at least five years of military experience in Eastern Europe, be skilled in reconnaissance, be able to conduct rescue operations with little to no support and know their way around Soviet-era weaponry.”

Russian media alleged that the United States security agencies had launched a large-scale recruitment program to send private military contractors to Ukraine, including professionally trained mercenaries of Academi, formerly Blackwater, Cubic and Dyn Corporation.

Russia’s Defense Ministry’s spokesman Igor Konashenkov warned that foreign mercenaries in Ukraine would not be considered prisoners of war if detained in line with international humanitarian law, rather they could expect criminal prosecution at best.

In fact, private military contractors in close co-ordination and consultation with covert operators from CIA and Western intelligence agencies are not only training Ukraine’s military and allied neo-Nazi militias in the use of caches of MANPADS and anti-armor munitions provided by the US, Germany and the rest of European nations as a military assistance to Ukraine but are also directing the whole defense strategy of Ukraine by taking active part in combat operations in some of the most hard fought battles against Russia’s security forces north of Kyiv and at Kharkiv and Donbas.

In order to create an “international legion” comprising foreign mercenaries, Kyiv lifted visa requirements for anyone willing to fight. “Every friend of Ukraine who wants to join Ukraine in defending the country, please come over,” Ukrainian President Zelensky pleaded at a recent press conference, adding “We will give you weapons.”

Ukraine has already declared martial law and a general mobilization of its populace. Those policies include conscription for men aged 18-60 and the confiscation of civilian vehicles and structures, while Ukrainian convicts with military experience are being released from prison to back up the war effort.

In a show of solidarity with Ukraine, several European nations recently announced they would not only not criminalize but rather expedite citizens joining the NATO’s war effort in Ukraine.

United Kingdom’s Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said she supported individuals from the UK who might want to go to Ukraine to join an international force to fight. She told the BBC it was up to people to make their own decisions, but argued it was a battle for democracy. She said Ukrainians were fighting for freedom, “not just for Ukraine but for the whole of Europe.”

Favoring providing lethal weapons only instead of deploying British mercenaries as cannon fodder in Ukraine’s proxy war, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace took a nuanced approach and said Ukraine would instead be supported to “fight every street with every piece of equipment we can get to them.”

Buzzfeed News revealed on Feb. 27 thousands of foreign fighters had flocked to Ukraine since Russia’s war against the country began in 2014. While most of them had been Russians and citizens of other former Soviet republics, hundreds had come from the European Union.

“This is the beginning of a war against Europe, against European structures, against democracy, against basic human rights, against a global order of law, rules, and peaceful coexistence,” Ukrainian President Zelensky said in a statement announcing a decree on the creation of a foreign legion. “Anyone who wants to join the defense of Ukraine, Europe, and the world can come and fight side by side with the Ukrainians against the Russian war criminals.”

The news of an official foreign unit was met with excitement by members of the Georgia National Legion, an English-speaking force of volunteers with Western military experience who train Ukrainian troops and sometimes deploy to the front line with the country’s marines. “This is what we have waited for. It’s very good,” Levan Pipia, a legion soldier and Georgian army veteran of the 2008 war with Russia, told BuzzFeed News.

In an exclusive report on March 8, Reuters noted although the US and UK governments had nominally discouraged citizens from travelling to Ukraine to combat Russian forces, others, such as Canada or Germany, had cleared the way for citizens to get involved.

Despite formal directive by the UK government urging citizens against traveling to Ukraine, Reuters spilled the beans that among those who had arrived to fight for Ukraine were dozens of former soldiers from the British Army’s elite Parachute Regiment, according to an ex-soldier from the regiment. Hundreds more would soon follow, he said.

Often referred to as the Paras, the regiment has in recent years served in Afghanistan and Iraq. “They’re all highly trained, and have seen active service on numerous occasions,” the ex-soldier from the regiment said. The Ukraine crisis will give them purpose, camaraderie and “a chance to do what they’re good at: fight.”

With a vast mobilization of Ukrainian men underway, the country has plenty of volunteer fighters. But there is a shortage of specialists who know how to use Javelin and NLAW anti-tank missiles, which professional soldiers train for months to use properly.

Anthony Capone, a wealthy healthcare entrepreneur in New York City, said he was providing funding for hundreds of ex-soldiers and paramedics who wanted to go to Ukraine. Capone added he was only funding ex-soldiers whose military credentials he could verify, or paramedics who currently worked in an emergency trauma setting. About 60% of those who had been in touch were American and 30% European.

The post Will Russia Strike Slovakia if it Transfers S-300 to Ukraine? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Will Iran Strike at Global Oil Supply if Russia Invades Ukraine?

Following Russia’s troop build-up along Ukraine’s borders portending imminent invasion, Houthi rebels in Yemen backed by Iran, which is Russia’s most dependable regional ally in the decade-long Syrian conflict, have significantly escalated missile strikes on the oil-rich Gulf States with a nod of approval from the Kremlin in order to take pressure off Russia in the Ukraine stand-off by opening a second front in the veritable Achilles’ heel of the energy-dependent industrialized world.

To buttress the defenses in the Gulf, US F-22 fighter jets arrived in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Saturday, Feb. 12, as part of an American defense response to recent missile attacks by Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeting the country. The Raptors landed at Al-Dhafra Air Base in Abu Dhabi, which hosts 2,000 US troops. American soldiers there launched Patriot interceptor missiles and briefly had to take shelter after the missiles exploded in the airspace above the military base last month.

The deployment came after the Houthi rebels launched three attacks targeting Abu Dhabi last month, including one targeting a fuel depot that killed three people and wounded six. The attacks coincided with visits by presidents from South Korea and Israel to the UAE. Though overshadowed by the Ukraine crisis, the missile strikes targeting the Emirates has sparked a major US response. The American military has sent the USS Cole on a mission to Abu Dhabi.

To return the favor of opening a second front in the Gulf and acknowledging Russia’s steadfast strategic alliance with Iran in the region, the Kremlin issued rare condemnation of recent Israeli airstrikes in Syria as “crude violation” of Syria’s sovereignty on Thursday, Feb. 10, that up until now were tacitly tolerated by the Russian forces based in Syria’s Tartus naval base and Khmeimim airbase southeast of Latakia, and also pledged last month that the Russian Air Force would conduct joint air patrols alongside the Syrian Air Force that would pre-empt the likelihood of further Israeli airstrikes in the future.

“Israel’s continuing strikes against targets inside Syria cause deep concern,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said. “They are a crude violation of Syria’s sovereignty and may trigger a sharp escalation of tensions. Also, such actions pose serious risks to international passenger flights.”

Although Israel claims its air campaign in Syria is meant to target Iran-backed militias, the airstrikes often kill Syrian soldiers. Syrian state media said one soldier was killed and five more were wounded in the latest Israeli attack at Damascus, which occurred Wednesday, Feb. 9.

Russia has held talks with Israel on Syria, and said last month it would begin joint air patrols with Syria. The patrols will include areas near the Golan Heights in southern Syria bordering Israel, a frequent site of the Israeli airstrikes, and Israel is said to be considering discontinuing the strikes altogether or slowing them down significantly.

The Times of Israel noted that this marked a momentous change in policy for Russia: “Following the patrol, Ynet reported that Israeli military officials were holding talks with Russian army officers to calm tensions.”

The report added, “Israeli officials were struggling to understand why Russia, which announced that such joint patrols were expected to be a regular occurrence moving forward, had apparently changed its policy toward Israel.” The report claimed that Israel might limit its air campaign in Syria as a result of Russia’s “mystifying” change in the Syria policy.

Over the years, Israel has not only provided material support to militant groups battling Damascus – particularly to various factions of the Free Syria Army (FSA) and al-Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate al-Nusra Front in Daraa and Quneitra bordering the Israel-occupied Golan Heights – but Israel’s air force has virtually played the role of the air force of the terrorists and mounted hundreds of airstrikes in Syria during the decade-long conflict.

In an interview to New York Times in January 2019, Israel’s former Chief of Staff Lt. General Gadi Eisenkot confessed that the Netanyahu government approved his recommendations in January 2017 to step up airstrikes in Syria. Consequently, more than 200 Israeli airstrikes were launched on the Syrian targets in 2017 and 2018, as revealed by the Israeli Intelligence Minister Israel Katz in September 2018.

In 2018 alone, Israel’s air force dropped 2,000 bombs in Syria. The purported rationale of the Israeli airstrikes in Syria has been to degrade Iran’s guided missile technology provided to Damascus and its Lebanon-based proxy, Hezbollah, which poses an existential threat to Israel’s regional security.

Nevertheless, Israeli military strategists’ “concerns” aside, it’s worth recalling that a joint American-Israeli program, involving a series of short-of-war clandestine strikes, aimed at taking out the most prominent generals of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and targeting Iran’s power stations, industrial infrastructure, and missile and nuclear facilities has been going on since early 2020 after the commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in an American airstrike at the Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020.

As the US presidential race heated up in the election year, the pace and sophistication of the subversive attacks in Iran picked up simultaneously. In the summer of 2020, “mysterious explosions” were reported at a missile and explosives storage facility at Parchin military base on June 26, at power stations in the cities of Shiraz and Ahvaz, a “mysterious fire” at Bushehr port on July 15 destroying seven ships, and a massive explosion at the Natanz nuclear site on July 2, 2020 that reportedly set back Iran’s nuclear program by at least two years.

Besides wooing the Zionist lobbies in the run-up to the US presidential election, another purpose of the subversive attacks appeared to be to avenge a string of audacious attacks mounted by the Iran-backed forces against the US strategic interests in the Persian Gulf that brought the US and Iran to the brink of a full-scale war in September 2019.

In addition to planting limpet mines on oil tankers off the coast of UAE in May 2019 and the subsequent downing of the American Global Hawk surveillance drone in the Persian Gulf by Iran, the brazen attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia on September 14, 2019, was the third major attack in the Persian Gulf against the assets of Washington and its regional allies.

That the UAE had the forewarning of the imminent attacks was proved by the fact that weeks before the attacks, it recalled forces from Yemen battling the Houthi rebels and redeployed them to defend the UAE’s territorial borders.

The September 14, 2019, attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility in eastern Saudi Arabia was an apocalypse for the global oil industry because it processed five million barrels crude oil per day, almost half of Saudi Arabia’s total oil production.

The subversive attack sent jitters across the global markets and the oil price surged 15%, the largest spike witnessed in three decades since the First Gulf War after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, though the oil price was eased within weeks after industrialized nations released their strategic oil reserves.

It bears mentioning that alongside deploying several thousand American troops, additional aircraft squadrons and Patriot missile batteries in Saudi Arabia in the aftermath of the Abqaiq attack, several interventionist hawks in Washington invoked the Carter Doctrine of 1980 as a ground for mounting retaliatory strikes against Iran, which states:

“Let our position be absolutely clear: an attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force.”

Although the Houthi rebels based in Yemen claimed the responsibility for the September 2019 complex attack involving drones and cruise missiles on the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia, Washington dismissed the possibility. Instead, it accused Tehran of mounting the complex attack from Iran’s territory.

Nevertheless, puerile pranks like planting limpet mines on oil tankers and downing a $200-million surveillance aircraft can be overlooked but the major provocation of mounting a drone and missile attack on the Abqaiq petroleum facility that crippled its oil-processing functions for weeks was nothing short of showing red rag to the bull.

Unless Iran got the green light to go ahead with the attacks from a major military power that equals Washington’s firepower, such confrontation would have amounted to a suicidal approach.

Considering such a co-ordinated escalation in the Gulf by Iran and Russia, it seems a forgone conclusion that if the Kremlin decided to invade Ukraine, Iran, too, would mobilize its forces in the critically important volatile region to disrupt the global oil supply and put pressure on the energy-dependent industrialized powers to carefully consider their retaliatory measures against the Russia-Iran military alliance.

In fact, this was the precise message conveyed to Washington’s military strategists by the last month’s audacious Houthi attacks on targets in UAE, specifically the one targeting al-Dhafra airbase hosting US forces.

Regardless, the acts of subversion in the Persian Gulf in 2019 culminating in the “sacrilegious assault” on the veritable mecca of the oil production industry in Sept. 2019 should be viewed in the broader backdrop of the New Cold War that has begun following the Ukraine crisis in 2014 after Russia occupied the Crimean peninsula and Washington imposed sanctions on the Kremlin.

In addition, Russia’s membership in the G8 forum was suspended by the Western powers in March 2014 and Russian President Vladimir Putin was snubbed at international summits by the Western leaders, by then-President Obama in particular, an insult that the Russian strongman took rather personally.

The Kremlin’s immediate response to the escalation by Washington was that it jumped into the fray in Syria in September 2015, after a clandestine visit to Moscow by General Qassem Soleimani, the slain commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force.

When Russia deployed its forces and military hardware to Syria in September 2015, the militant proxies of Washington and its regional clients were on the verge of drawing a wedge between Damascus and the Alawite heartland of coastal Latakia, which could have led to the imminent downfall of the Bashar al-Assad government.

With the help of the Russian air power, the Syrian government has since reclaimed most of Syria’s territory from the insurgents, excluding Idlib in the northwest occupied by the Turkish-backed militants and Deir al-Zor and the Kurdish-held areas in the east, thus inflicting a humiliating defeat on Washington and its regional allies.

Finally, a word about the venerated commander of IRGC’s Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani who was assassinated in an American airstrike on a tip-off from the Israeli intelligence at the Baghdad airport on January 3, 2020. Soleimani was the most trusted aide of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his main liaison for holding consultations with Russia.

Not only did he convince Kremlin with his diplomatic skills to strike at Washington’s vulnerability in the Syrian conflict but he was also the chief architect of the audacious September 2019 attacks at the Abqaiq petroleum facility and the Khurais oil field in the oil-rich Eastern Province of Saudi Arabia.

Reportedly, Trump initially rejected the Pentagon’s option to assassinate General Soleimani on December 28, 2019, due to apprehensions over full-scale confrontation with Iran, and authorized airstrikes on Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq instead.

But after one of frequent rocket attacks at the US embassy in Baghdad claimed by Iran-backed forces, Trump succumbed to pressure from the American deep state, led by the powerful top brass of the Pentagon, which had a score to settle with General Soleimani for giving the global power a bloody nose in Syria’s war.

The post Will Iran Strike at Global Oil Supply if Russia Invades Ukraine? first appeared on Dissident Voice.

How Erdogan Scapegoated ISIS Caliph to Appease Biden?

Whilst Turkish President Erdogan was in Kiev on Thursday, ostensibly brokering a peace deal between Russia and Ukraine to defuse escalating tensions following the Russian troop build-up along Ukraine’s borders and the deployment of 3,000 US forces in Poland and Romania, Biden announced that the Islamic State leader had been killed in a special-ops raid in northwest Syria along the Turkish border.

“Last night, operating on my orders, US military forces successfully removed a major terrorist threat to the world: the global leader of ISIS. Thanks to the bravery of our troops, this horrible terrorist leader is no more,” a visibly jubilant Biden tweeted.

The details of the raid were sketchy but there were civilian casualties and one of the choppers involved in the operation encountered mechanical failure and had to be destroyed, as in the Bin Laden raid at Abbottabad, Pakistan, in May 2011 when one of the Black Hawks involved in the “secret operation” also encountered malfunction and was blown up by the Navy Seals Team Six that awakened the whole sleepy town.

According to the US government documents released in September 2020, Islamic State leader Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Quraishi, whose real name was Amir Muhammad Sa’id Abdal-Rahman al-Mawla, snitched for the US military and identified dozens of fellow militants as well as the structure of al-Qaeda in Iraq, after he was arrested in 2008 and detained at Camp Bucca.

Three Tactical Interrogation Reports released by the Combating Terrorism Centre (CTC) alleged that al-Baghdadi’s successor al-Mawla, who at the time was an al-Qaeda judge, gave the US occupation forces in Iraq the names of 68 al-Qaeda fighters that led to the deaths of several al-Qaeda members after the US military conducted raids to hunt them down.

According to the documents, al-Mawla was arrested in 2008 by the US forces and interrogated at Camp Bucca, a facility in Umm Qasr, southern Iraq, where Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was also incarcerated. Several officials have since referred to it as a “Jihadi university” because of the training provided there.

The CTC said that al-Mawla was released in 2009 and only came to prominence when he became the leader of the Islamic State following the death of al-Baghdadi in October 2019.

As in the special-ops raid eliminating al-Baghdadi’s successor al-Mawla in the densely populated town of Atmeh along Turkish border in northwest Syria, it’s important to note in the news coverage of the killing of al-Baghdadi that although the mass media was trumpeting for several years before the raid that the Islamic State’s fugitive chief was hiding somewhere on the Iraq-Syria border in the east, he was found hiding in northwest Idlib province, under the control of Turkey’s militant proxies and al-Nusra Front. He was killed while trying to flee to Turkey in Barisha village, just five kilometers from the border.

The reason why the mass media scrupulously avoided mentioning northwestern Idlib province of Syria as the most likely hideout of al-Baghdadi and his successor was to cover up the collusion between the militant proxies of Turkey and the jihadists of al-Nusra Front and the Islamic State.

In fact, the corporate media takes the issue of Islamic jihadists “commingling” with Turkey-backed “moderate rebels” in Idlib so seriously – which could give Damascus the pretext to mount an offensive in northwest Syria – that the New York Times cooked up an exclusive report in October 2019, days after the Special Ops night raid eliminating al-Baghdadi, that the Islamic State paid money to al-Nusra Front for hosting al-Baghdadi in Idlib.

The morning after the night raid, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported in October 2019 that a squadron of eight helicopters accompanied by warplanes belonging to the international coalition had attacked positions of Hurras al-Din, an al-Qaeda-affiliated group, in Idlib province where the Islamic State chief was believed to be hiding.

Despite detailing the operational minutiae of the Special Ops raid, the mass media news coverage of the raid deliberately elided the crucial piece of information that the compound in Barisha village, just five kilometers from Turkish border where al-Baghdadi was killed, belonged to Hurras al-Din, an elusive terrorist outfit which had previously been targeted several times in the US airstrikes.

Although Hurras al-Din is generally assumed to be an al-Qaeda affiliate, it is in fact the regrouping of the Islamic State jihadists under a different name in northwestern Idlib governorate after the latter terrorist organization was routed from Mosul and Anbar in Iraq and Raqqa and Deir al-Zor in Syria in 2017 and was hard pressed by the US-led coalition’s airstrikes in eastern Syria.

It’s worth noting that although the Idlib governorate in Syria’s northwest has firmly been under the control of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) led by al-Nusra Front since 2015, its territory was equally divided between Turkey-backed rebels and al-Nusra Front.

In a brazen offensive in January 2019, however, al-Nusra Front’s jihadists completely routed Turkey-backed militants, even though the latter were supported by a professionally trained and highly organized military of a NATO member Turkey. Al-Nusra Front now reportedly controls more than 70% territory in the Idlib governorate.

The reason why al-Nusra Front was easily able to defeat Turkey-backed militants appeared to be that the ranks of al-Nusra Front were swelled by highly motivated and battle-hardened jihadist deserters from the Islamic State after the fall of the latter’s “caliphate” in Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria in July and October 2017, respectively.

In all likelihood, some of the Islamic State’s jihadists who joined the battle in Idlib were part of the contingent of thousands of Islamic State militants that fled Raqqa in October 2017 under a deal brokered by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

The merger of al-Nusra Front and Islamic State in Idlib didn’t come as a surprise, though, since the Islamic State and al-Nusra Front used to be a single organization before a split occurred between the two militant groups in April 2013 over a leadership dispute. In fact, al-Nusra Front’s chief Abu Mohammad al-Jolani was reportedly appointed the emir of al-Nusra Front by Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the deceased “caliph” of the Islamic State, in January 2012.

Al-Jolani returned the favor by hosting both the hunted leaders of the Islamic State for months, if not years, in safe houses in al-Nusra’s territory in Idlib, before they were betrayed by informants within the ranks of the terrorist organization who leaked the information of the whereabouts of al-Baghdadi and his successor, leading to the killing of the Islamic State leaders in special-ops raids in October 2019 and on February 3.

In the book Rage, American journalist Bob Woodward has corroborated what was long known to be an open secret: the existence of a Faustian pact between Donald Trump and President Erdogan of Turkey in which the latter agreed to cover up the brutal murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October 2018 and also let Washington hunt down Islamic State chief Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi hiding in Syria’s Idlib, bordering Turkey, in October 2019. This was in return for Turkey mounting Operation Peace Spring in northeast Syria with the permission of the Trump administration.

In an informal conversation with Woodward, Donald Trump boasted that he protected Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman from congressional scrutiny after the brutal assassination of Saudi dissident Jamal Khashoggi. “I saved his ass,” Trump said in 2018, according to the book. “I was able to get Congress to leave him alone. I was able to get them to stop.”

When Woodward pressed Trump if he believed the Saudi crown prince ordered the assassination himself, Trump responded: “He says very strongly that he didn’t do it. Bob, they spent $400 billion over a fairly short period of time,” Trump said.

“And you know, they’re in the Middle East. You know, they’re big. Because of their religious monuments, you know, they have the real power. They have the oil, but they also have the great monuments for religion. You know that, right? For that religion,” Trump noted. “They wouldn’t last a week if we’re not there, and they know it,” he added.

Regarding the murder of Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, the Erdogan administration released American pastor Andrew Brunson on October 12, 2018, which had been a longstanding demand of the Trump administration, and also decided not to make public the audio recordings of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi implicating Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in the assassination.

In return, the Trump administration promised to comply with Turkish President Erdogan’s vehement demand to evacuate American forces from the Kurdish-held areas in northeast Syria, and the withdrawal was eventually effected an year later in October 2019.

In the Operation Peace Spring in October 2019, the Turkish armed forces and their Syrian proxies invaded and occupied 120 kilometers wide and 32 kilometers deep stretch of Syrian territory between the northeastern towns of Tal Abyad and Ras al-Ayn. It’s worth pointing out that although Turkish forces invaded northeast Syria in October 2019, the negotiations went on for almost an year since December 2018.

Trump immediately announced the withdrawal of American troops from Syria after losing the midterm elections in November 2018. But the Pentagon kept delaying the evacuation of American forces from northern Syria to appease Washington’s Kurdish allies.

However, once Turkish armed forces and allied militant proxies invaded northeast Syria in October 2019, the Pentagon was left with no other choice than to redeploy American forces to Kurdish-held areas al-Hasakah and Qamishli in northeast Syria.

Donald Trump’s abrupt decision to withdraw American troops from Syria was reportedly made during a telephonic conversation with Turkish President Erdogan on December 14, 2018, before President Trump made the momentous announcement in a Tweet on December 19. The decision was so sudden that it prompted the resignation of Jim Mattis, then the Secretary of Defense, according to a December 22, 2018, Associated Press report.

Considering the events surrounding the killing of al-Baghdadi in October 2019, it’s obvious that his successor, too, was betrayed by the Turkish patrons to extract geo-strategic concessions from the Biden administration. Due to Erdogan’s personal friendship with Biden’s political rival Trump, Turkish leader has repeatedly been snubbed by Biden throughout the maiden year of his administration.

But after letting the Biden administration eliminate the Islamic State leader and offering to mediate in the dispute between Russia and Ukraine to defuse mounting tensions in the Eastern Europe, Erdogan is trying desperately hard to prove to the Biden administration that Turkey is still a reliable NATO ally that could play a vital role in the global power rivalry.

The post How Erdogan Scapegoated ISIS Caliph to Appease Biden? first appeared on Dissident Voice.