All posts by Tyler Durden

Death Knell For Syria Pullout: ‘We Have To Protect Israel’ Says Trump

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After approaching two months of talk of a "full" and "immediate" US troop withdrawal from Syria, first ordered by President Trump on December 19 — which was predictably met with swift and fierce pushback from beltway hawks including in some cases his own advisers — it now appears the death knell has sounded on the prior "complete" and "rapid" draw down order.

Trump said in a CBS "Face the Nation" interview this weekend that some unspecified number of US troops will remain in the region, mostly in Iraq, with possibly some still in Syria, in order "to protect Israel" in what appears a significant backtrack from his prior insistence on an absolute withdrawal. 

“We’re going to be there and we’re going to be staying. We have to protect Israel,” he replied when pressed by CBS reporter Margaret Brennan. “We have to protect other things that we have. But we’re – yeah, they’ll be coming back in a matter of time.” He did note that “ultimately some will be coming home.”

“Look, we’re protecting the world,” he added. “We’re spending more money than anybody’s ever spent in history, by a lot.” Trump's slow drift and change in tune on the subject of a promised "rapid" exit comes after Israeli officials led by Prime Minister Netanyahu alongside neocon allies in Washington argued that some 200 US troops in Syria's southeast desert along the Iraqi border and its 55-kilometer “deconfliction zone” at al-Tanf are the last line of defense against Iranian expansion in Syria, and therefore must stay indefinitely. 

“I want to be able to watch Iran,” Trump said further during the CBS interview. “Iran is a real problem.” He explained that “99%” of ISIS’s territory had been liberated but that a contingency of US troops must remain to prevent a resurgent Islamic State as well as to counter Iranian influence, for which American forces must remain in Iraq as well. 

“When I took over, Syria was infested with ISIS. It was all over the place. And now you have very little ISIS, and you have the caliphate almost knocked out,” the president said. “We will be announcing in the not too distant future 100% of the caliphate, which is the area – the land – the area – 100. We’re at 99% right now. We’ll be at 100.”

However Trump's invoking Iranian influence as a rationale for staying further contradicts his prior December statement that the defeat of ISIS was "the only reason" he was in Syria in the first place. 
MARGARET BRENNAN: How many troops are still in Syria? When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: 2,000 troops.

MARGARET BRENNAN: When are they coming home?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: They're starting to, as we gain the remainder, the final remainder of the caliphate of the area, they'll be going to our base in Iraq, and ultimately some will be coming home. But we're going to be there and we're going to be staying--

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that's a matter of months?

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have to protect Israel. We have to protect other things that we have. But we're- yeah, they'll be coming back in a matter of time. Look, we're protecting the world. We're spending more money than anybody's ever spent in history, by a lot. We spent, over the last five years, close to 50 billion dollars a year in Afghanistan. That's more than most countries spend for everything including education, medical, and everything else, other than a few countries. — CBS "Face the Nation" Feb.3 interview transcript
The Pentagon in recent weeks has reportedly been putting logistics in place for a troop draw down from northern and eastern Syria.

Though it remains unclear just how many troops could remain as the majority possibly begin to pullout toward US bases in Iraq, the Tanf base could remain Washington's last remote outpost disrupting what US defense officials see as a strategic Baghdad-Damascus corridor and highway, and potential key "link" in the Tehran-to-Beirut so-called Shia land bridge. 

Foreign Policy magazine has identified this argument as the final card the hawks opposing Trump's draw down had to play in order to hinder to an actual complete US exit:
'Al-Tanf is a critical element in the effort to prevent Iran from establishing a ground line of communications from Iran through Iraq through Syria to southern Lebanon in support of Lebanese Hezbollah,' an unnamed senior US military source told the magazine.
The Israeli prime minister has pushed hard against the White House pullout plan, and "has repeatedly urged the US to keep troops at Al-Tanf, according to several senior Israeli officials, who also asked not to be identified discussing private talks," per Bloomberg. The Israelis have reportedly argued "the mere presence of American troops will act as a deterrent to Iran" even if in small numbers as a kind of symbolic threat.

The internal administration debate, following incredible push back against Trump's withdrawal decision, has made entirely visible the national security deep state's attempt to check the Commander-in-Chief's power. And now US presence at al-Tanf represents the last hope of salvaging the hawks' desire for permanent proxy war against Iran inside Syria. 

It appears the deep state has won out over Trump's initial policy decision once again; but it remains to be seen if, however slowly on what's clearly a delayed timetable departing from his original plans, all US troops ultimately exit Syria. Until then there'll be more time and perhaps more provocations the hawks can rely on to effectively ensure full circle return to indefinite occupation in Syria.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Twitter Bans 2,000 Pro-Maduro Accounts As Demands For Regime Change Escalate

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On the evening before National Security Advisor John Bolton reiterated that "all options [including, presumably, military intervention] are on the table" regarding the situation in Venezuela, Twitter announced that it had joined the US-backed coup by taking down 2,000 accounts that it said were engaged in a "state-backed influence campaign", according to RT.

In a blog post, Twitter said it removed 1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which it deemed to "appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences." The company also removed another 764 accounts, but said "we are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country."

The purge was part of a crackdown on "foreign information operations", which also serves as a resource for researchers hoping to investigate these operations. In the post, Twitter announced that it was adding five new sets of account sets to its archive of foreign influence campaigns.
Twitter has removed 764 accounts located in Venezuela. We are unable to definitively tie the accounts located in Venezuela to information operations of a foreign government against another country. However, these accounts are another example of a foreign campaign of spammy content focused on divisive political themes, and the behavior we uncovered is similar to that utilized by potential Russian IRA accounts. We are disclosing them out of an abundance of caution and welcome the feedback of researchers.

Additionally, we have removed 1,196 accounts located in Venezuela which appear to be engaged in a state-backed influence campaign targeting domestic audiences. We have shared information on these accounts with our industry peers, and continue to investigate malicious activity originating in Venezuela, both targeting audiences with in Venezuela and abroad.
Abby Martin, host of YouTube series Empire Files, lamented  that amid Twitter censorship of pro-government supporters, "pro-coup Venezuelans and right-wing exiles dominate the media sphere."

While at least one independent journalist accused  Twitter of acting as an "extension" of the US government.

And another journalist highlighted Twitter's caveat that the company wasn't able to "definitively tie" the accounts to the Maduro regime, meaning that some pro-Maduro Venezuelans with no ties to the government may have found their accounts eliminated.

Of course, this isn't the first time Twitter has cracked down on pro-government Twitter accounts. In September, Twitter suspended the official account of the Venezuelan government’s press team, reportedly without giving any explanation. In an interesting twist on a punitive technique often employed against conservatives, Twitter and several other US social media companies also removed the "verified" labels from accounts belonging to Maduro.

But of course anybody who questions Twitter's commitment to open expression is a bigot - and probably a Nazi.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Pence Urges Venezuelans To Rise Up Against ‘Dictator’ Maduro After Failed Military Revolt

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It appears the White House is ready to stoke the flames of anti-Maduro unrest following Monday's dramatic failed military revolt launched by 27 low-ranking officers and their subsequent arrests in the Cotiza neighborhood of Caracas, which sparked overnight protests and sporadic clashes with police after opposition leader Juan Guaido made a broad appeal to the military in a speech, urging them to demand Maduro step down. Guaido and other opposition leaders in the National Assembly have declared Wednesday a nation-wide protest day seeking to topple the regime — itself a historic date commemorating the end of Venezuela's military dictatorship in 1958.

On Tuesday US Vice President Mike Pence urged the Venezuelan people to "make your voices heard" in follow-up to Guaido's risky appeal, which appears a continuation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's comments throwing the United States' full weight behind Venezuela's opposition seeking to depose President Nicolás Maduro, which he made over a week ago while in the Middle East after Maduro was sworn in to a widely contested six-year second term.

VP Pence's words were issued in a video posted to social media wherein he asserted, “Nicolas Maduro is a dictator with no legitimate claim to to power." The video begins with Pence greeting in Spanish “Hola, I’m Mike Pence” but ending with a somewhat grimmer tone: “Vayan con Dios!” or “Go with God.”

Pence also praised Guaido, head of the opposition held National Assembly who previously called himself Venezuela's "legitimate" power, as the "courageous" leader of “the last vestige of democracy in your country,” referencing the legislative body. This week the government-stacked Supreme Court declared it would throw out recent measures by the National Assembly that declared Maduro's presidency illegitimate.

Pence said in the video he was delivering the message on behalf of Trump and the American people. Referencing the planned Wednesday protests, the vice president said:

As you make your voices heard tomorrow, on behalf of the American people, we say to all the good people of Venezuela, ‘Estamos con ustedes,’ we are with you.”

The country remains on edge Tuesday as following the mutiny and subsequent successful government crackdown, which further involved the rebellious unit briefly kidnapping several officials stealing weaponry at a police outpost a mere kilometers from the presidential palace, pockets of anti-Maduro protests were sparked in the capital city demanding the release of the detained soldiers, whose actions the government condemned as "treasonous" and "motivated by the dark interests of the extreme right," according to a statement announced on state TV. Maduro's right-hand man, Diosdado Cabello, also boasted on Twitter while speaking of the rebels: "They were neutralized, surrendered and captured in record time."

Pence's video remarks calling Maduro a "dictator" and essentially calling for a coup comes after months of both the Trump administration and US Congressional leaders becoming increasingly unrestrained in publicly calling for outright regime change. After Monday's coup attempt Florida Senator Marco Rubio went so far as to encourage more such military defections.

Meanwhile Venezuelan Foreign Minister Arreaza just days ago told Democracy Now that "Nothing that the opposition does is without the permission or authorization of the State Department... They say, 'We have to make consultations with the embassy. We have to make consultations with the Dept of State.'"

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Bolton Had Pentagon Draw Up “Far-Reaching Military Options To Strike Iran”

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The Wall Street Journal published an Iran bombshell Sunday morning, confirming the White House had the Pentagon prepare "military options" to strike the country last year. The sudden request, seen as an unprecedented Iraq-style "shock and awe" attack on Iran, caught the Pentagon off guard, to the point that "State Dept. and Pentagon officials were rattled by the request" which officials further told the WSJ was "mind-boggling" and "cavalier" in terms of how brazen it was.

The request for military options came in early September after the United States accused Iran-backed militias in Iraq of firing three mortars at the US Embassy and diplomatic compound in Baghdad, and at a time that riots and political instability were spreading throughout some major cities in Iraq, especially in the south. It was also an opportunity for noted Iran hawk and national security advisor John Bolton to push for "far-reaching military options to strike Iran" — a regime change project he's pushed in public many years prior to taking his White House post last April.

The WSJ reports:
The request, which hasn’t been previously reported, came after militants fired three mortars into Baghdad’s sprawling diplomatic quarter, home to the US Embassy, on a warm night in early September. The shells—launched by a group aligned with Iran—landed in an open lot and harmed no one.

But they triggered unusual alarm in Washington, where Mr. Trump’s national security team led by John Bolton conducted a series of meetings to discuss a forceful American response, including what many saw as the unusual request for options to strike Iran.
Though it's unclear if the strike options ended up on President Trump's desk following the formal request from the National Security Council, or if they were ever seriously considered by the White House, “It definitely rattled people,” one former senior US administration official described. “People were shocked. It was mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran,” the source said.

The WSJ report confirms through admin officials that Bolton has, alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, stuck by his prior public stance of seeking regime change in Tehran, even though Bolton has also acknowledged regime change in Tehran is not part of the president's agenda.

The report continues:
In talks with other administration officials, Mr. Bolton has made it clear that he personally supports regime change in Iran, a position he aggressively championed before joining the Trump administration, according to people familiar with the discussions.

As a think-tank scholar and Fox News commentator, Mr. Bolton repeatedly urged the US to attack Iran, including in a 2015 New York Times op-ed titled, “To stop Iran’s bomb, bomb Iran.”

...Mr. Bolton has said that his job is to implement the president’s agenda, which doesn’t include regime change in Tehran. The State Department declined to comment.
Notably the plans for "military options" requested of the Pentagon included strategies for striking Syria as well.

In the months following September, just prior to Trump's announced US troops pullout of Syria, the State Department and Pentagon began articulating the US mission in Syria as to "counter Iran" now that ISIS forces had been largely defeated.

Perhaps knowing that Trump was leaning toward an eventual full Syria exit, Iran hawks within his own administration were possibly going "rogue" — as Bolton himself has recently been accused of.

The strike plans were reportedly so wide-ranging that they encompassed targeting pro-Iranian elements in Iraq as well, according to the WSJ:
Alongside the requests in regards to Iran, the National Security Council asked the Pentagon to provide the White House with options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well, according to people familiar with the talks.

In one meeting, Ms. Ricardel described the attacks in Iraq as “an act of war” and said the US had to respond decisively, according to one person familiar with the meeting.
Following the Sept. 6 mortar attack on the embassy by unknown militants, but which US officials described as Iran-backed groups, the White House issued an official statement on Sept. 11 that appeared to warn of a possible military action: “The United States will hold the regime in Tehran accountable for any attack that results in injury to our personnel or damage to United States government facilities,” the White House said.

In a follow-up interview about the incident weeks later, Pompeo expressed willingness to target Iran for terrorist actions its proxy groups conduct in neighboring Iraq: “Iran will be held accountable for those incidents,” he said in a Sept. 21 CNN interview. “Even militarily?” questioned CNN’s anchor during the interview. “They’re going to be held accountable,” Mr. Pompeo replied, and followed with, “If they’re responsible for the arming and training of these militias, we’re going to go to the source.”

And as recently as this month, administration officials led by Pompeo have accused Iran of using its space satellite launch program to shield a developing nuclear ballistic missile program.

On Jan. 3rd the Secretary of State threatened Iran via a Twitter statement over plans to fire off Space Launch Vehicles that possessed, as Pompeo claimed, "virtually the same technology as ICBMs" in a "defiant" launch that will "advance its missile program." He added, “We won’t stand by while the regime threatens international security.”

The WSJ described the embassy mortar attack incident as eliciting little coverage in international and US media. Given this, and that it took place in Iraq, yet was still enough for the NSC under Bolton to draw up major military strike plans on Iran, it seems clear that the hawks in the administration are ready to launch the next big regime change war on the smallest provocation.

Might Iran be proven to be behind a more direct attack on American assets abroad (as opposed to accusations against alleged proxies), could the "strike options" fast be put into effect?

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

LinkedIn Co-Founder Who Bankrolled Russian Bot “False Flag” Also Funded Left-Wing Midterm Meddling

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An online disinformation campaign conducted by a former Obama administration official leading up to the 2018 midterm elections was bankrolled by left-wing tech billionaire Reid Hoffman, according to the Daily Caller's Peter Hasson. 

Hoffman, who co-founded LinkedIn, admitted in December to funding American Engagement Technologies (AET) - which is currently embroiled in a "false flag" scandal stemming from the 2017 Alabama special election.

Now, AET and its founder Mickey Dickerson have come under fire for meddling in the 2018 midterm elections. 
American Engagement Technologies (AET), which was founded by former Obama administration official Mikey Dickerson, bought ads for two Facebook pages, “The Daily Real” and “Today’s Nation,” encouraging Republican voters to stay home in the midterm elections, Facebook’s ad archives show.

Both pages appear to be designed to give the impression that they were operated by frustrated conservatives rather than by Democratic operatives.

The American flag-adorned pages encouraged conservative voters to either stay home in November or vote for Democrats to punish Republicans for being insufficiently conservative. Other ads called polls predicting a “blue wave” in the 2018 elections “unreliable” and downplayed the election’s importance.

The misleading ads collectively garnered millions of impressions on Facebook, TheDCNF’s review of Facebook’s archives found. -Daily Caller
What the Caller discovered is that AET's 2018 meddling efforts went further than previously known "in attempting to mislead American voters for the purpose of swinging an election." In one ad campaign designed to convince GOP voters that the Democrats weren't a threat, AET suggested that the Democrat "blue wave" was nothing more than a myth, and that polls showing Democrats leading were "unreliable."

In another campaign aimed to frustrate Republican voters, AET pushed the narrative that congressional GOP were betraying "real conservatives," while in another campaign, the Democratic operatives wrote that: "Some Trump supporters see midterm losses for congressional republicans [sic] as a wake-up call to get serious on the wall," while another one suggested that "Trump is failing us." 

In another ad targeting the midterm elections, AET told voters that "none of this even matters," slamming both sides for "shouting so much." 
One series of ads told voters that there were “No good choices” in the midterm elections. Voting for Democrats to send a message “feels like the best option,” the Democratic operatives wrote.

Other ads linked to an article that urged “Semi-Trumpers” to either cross party lines, vote third-party or stay home in November, rather than vote Republican. “Even more true in light of the recent violence,” read the caption. “If you aren’t helping, don’t show up.”

A similar set of ads linked to an article that called for Republican voters to boycott the GOP. The post was captioned: “I hope folks go for this. Seems like the only thing that can save true conservatives.” -Daily Caller
During the 2017 Alabama special election, AET commissioned cybersecurity firm "New Knowledge" - founded by Jonathon Morgan, who created the technology running the infamous "Hamilton 68" propaganda website which purports to track Russian bot activity. 

Morgan's firm created over 1,000 Russian language Twitter accounts which supported Republican candidate Roy Moore, then Morgan pointed to his own bots following Moore to imply that he was a Russian stooge. 

Hoffman has since apologized, while Morgan was suspended by Facebook for "coordinated inauthentic" behavior.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Cuban Crickets Blamed For Brain-Melting Sonic Embassy Attacks

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Forget Vladimir Putin and hi-tech microwave weapons, the mystery behind US Embassy workers in Havana suffering from "sonic attacks" has apparently been solved.

The culprit of the mystery ailments which include damaged hearing, vision, cognition, balance and sleep? According to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, the mysterious noise heard by dozens of embassy workers may have been crickets. 
[A] new study indicates that the culprit behind this debacle is in fact… a cricket. According to Alexander Stubbs, a scientist in the Department of Integrative Biology and Museum of Vertebrate Zoology at the University of California, Berkeley, the mysterious noise is actually the echoing call of the Indies short-tailed cricket (Anurogryllus celerinictus). Stubbs will present his findings this week at the 2019 Annual Meeting of the Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology in Tampa, Florida, based on a paper that was just released through the bioArxive online database. -NewsWise
Stubbs decided to investigate crickets after the Associated Press (AP) released a recording of the ear-shattering noise in October, 2017, which reminded him of insect calls he had heard while doing field work in the Caribbean. 

What about the US diplomats who have fallen ill in China with similar symptoms?
On May 23, the US State Department announced that one embassy worker in Guangzhou experienced "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure" before being diagnosed with symptoms similar to those found in the diplomatic personnel that were in Cuba, including mild traumatic brain injury.

The New York Times reported Wednesday that at least two more Americans in Guangzhou have experienced similar phenomena and also fallen ill. One of those embassy workers told the Times that he and his wife had heard mysterious sounds and experienced strange headaches and sleeplessness while in their apartment. -Business Insider
While the AP recording didn't match any of the hundreds of insect recordings Stubbs had available, he then realized that the US diplomats made the recordings indoors - and modified the insect calls on indoor speakers. 
Stubbs played the insect calls on indoor speakers, recorded the echoing calls, and performed the analyses again. The new results were noticeably different. Stubbs found that the echoing call of the Indies short-tailed cricket (A. celerinictus) was a near perfect match to the AP recording in pulse structure. Further tests in collaboration with bioacoustics expert Fernando Montealegre-Z at the University of Lincoln (UK) showed that the characteristic frequency decay within each pulse is consistent with the biomechanics of this cricket’s sound production. -NewsWise
Cuban officials submitted a report to the US government in 2018 postulating that a Jamaican field cricket (Gryllus assimilis) was the culprit , however it was disregarded - likely because said cricket's chirp does not match the continuous and grating sound heard in the diplomats' recording. The cricket suspected by Stubbs, on the other hand, has a continuous call that is absolutely horrible to listen to for any length of time. 
Why was the Indies short-tailed cricket not implicated before? A. celerinictus has only been documented in Jamaica and Grand Cayman and is not known to occur in Cuba. But it’s possible that this cricket was actually in Cuba all along. A. celerinictus used to go by a different name: A. muticus, another species that is nearly identical, and that does occur in Cuba. An entomologist at the University of Florida, Thomas J. Walker, distinguished the two species from each other in 1973 based on the frequencies of their wing strokes. But the distinct geographic ranges of the two crickets went unnoticed for over 40 years – until Stubbs used Walker’s field recordings of the crickets, which Walker had made available on his website, to investigate the strange recording from Havana. It is possible that the Cubans actually found the organism responsible but simply mis-identified it. -NewsWise
We guess the US State Department can call off the dogs over Russia or China - though this doesn't rule out Russian crickets trained to imitate their Caribbean counterparts. 

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

‘Secret’ Evidence Vindicates Michael Flynn’s ‘Treasonous’ Dinner With Putin

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Over the last month we have learned much more about the circumstances surrounding the departure of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Flynn pleaded guilty to making false statements to the FBI about a conversation with then-Russian ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak; one on December 29, 2016 in which Flynn urged the Russians to "refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions that the US had imposed against Russia," and another conversation in which Kislyak told Flynn that Russia had decided to moderate its response following the request.

Nothing earth shattering, illegal, or collusive in the "witch hunt" sense - but Flynn was not forthcoming with the Justice Department, or Vice President Mike Pence. He was fired from his post and subsequently pleaded guilty in December 2017 to making false statements to the FBI.

Flynn has been painted as a Russian stooge ever since - with critics pointing to his sitting next to Russian President Vladimir Putin at a Russia Today (RT) dinner as "Exhibit A" that he was clearly a Kremlin puppet. US Green Party candidate Jill Stein was also in attendance.

Except the Obama administration knew everything about the dinner, and Flynn briefed US intelligence officials on the trip, according to The Hill's John Solomon - whose claims his sources told him the contents of a classified briefing to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-IA) in May 2017, which Grassley begged to be released to the public.

"It appears the public release of this information would not pose any ongoing risk to national security. Moreover, the declassification would be in the public interest, and is in the interest of fairness to Lt. Gen. Flynn," wrote Grassley in an August 25, 2017 letter to James Mattis and DIA Director Gen. Vincent Stewart.

Via The Hill:
Were the information Grassley requested made public, America would have learned this, according to my sources:

- Before Flynn made his infamous December 2015 trip to Moscow — as a retired general and then-adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign — he alerted his former employer, the DIA.

- He then attended a “defensive” or “protective” briefing before he ever sat alongside Vladimir Putin at the Russia Today (RT) dinner, or before he talked with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

- The briefing educated and sensitized Flynn to possible efforts by his Russian host to compromise the former high-ranking defense official and prepared him for conversations in which he could potentially extract intelligence for US agencies such as the DIA.

- When Flynn returned from Moscow, he spent time briefing intelligence officials on what he learned during the Moscow contacts. Between two and nine intelligence officials attended the various meetings with Flynn about the RT event, and the information was moderately useful, about what one would expect from a public event, according to my sources.
In other words - when Obama's former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates publicly claimed Flynn had possibly been "compromised" by Moscow, the American public was denied the context surrounding the controversial RT dinner as the Justice Department remained silent.

Solomon notes that "Rather than a diplomatic embarrassment bordering on treason, Flynn’s conduct at the RT event provided some modest benefit to the US intelligence community, something that many former military and intelligence officers continue to offer their country after retirement when they keep security clearances."
Would the central character in a Russian election hijack plot actually self-disclose his trip in advance? And then sit through a briefing on how to avoid being compromised by his foreign hosts? And then come back to America and be debriefed by U.S intelligence officers about who and what he saw?

And would a prosecutor recommend little or no prison time for a former general if that former military leader truly had compromised national security?

Highly unlikely. -The Hill
Of course, "there's no sugar-coating the mistakes Flynn did make," writes Solomon - noting that he misled the FBI and Pence - and that Flynn didn't file foreign-lobbying paperwork for money he received from Turkish business (of course, neither did "Steele Dossier" author Christopher Steele, who influenced the 2016 US election with his largely unverified anti-Trump opposition research).

That said - the narrative that Flynn was a Russian stooge "as evidenced" by the RT dinner is now dead. Moreover, Flynn was never charged with anything remotely related to the event, and he came back to the United States and reported intelligence which would ultimately benefit his country.

As Solomon puts it, "the first accounts of the Russia-Flynn story — like many others in the still-unproven collusion narrative — should be amended to reflect that the retired general acted like a patriot, not a traitor, when he visited Moscow for the RT event."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

The Guardian Faceplants As Manafort’s Passport Stamps Don’t Match ‘Fabricated’ Assange Story

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Further evidence that The Guardian "entirely fabricated" a report that former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort visited Julian Assange in 2013, 2015 and the spring of 2016; his passports...

The Washington Times reports that Manafort's three passports reveal just two visits to England in 2010 and 2012, which support his categorical denial of the "totally false and deliberately libelous" report in The Guardian, which said that Manafort visited Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy - ostensibly to coordinate on the WikiLeaks release of Hillary Clinton's emails. 

The Times does note that Manafort could have conceivably entered the UK from another European country and not received a stamp - however a representative for Manafort insisted to the Times that Manafort has only made those two visits to England since 2008, and that a libel suit against the Guardian is under discussion. 

While two of Manafort's passports were entered as evidence at his tax evasion trial - something that The Guardian's Luke Harding and Dan Collyns could have easily looked up - the Times has obtained a copy of his third passport which confirms the two visits. 
His attorney explained the passports this way: One was lost, one was used to submit to foreign embassies for visas, and one was used as a backup. Manafort later found the third passport. -Washington Times
WikiLeaks immediately fired back at The Guardian - betting the paper "a million dollars and its editor's head that Manafort never met Assange." 

Manafort, meanwhile, issued a statement on Tuesday afternoon through a spokesman, saying: "This story is totally false and deliberately libelous. I have never met Julian Assange or anyone connected to him. I have never been contacted by anyone connected to Wikileaks, either directly or indirectly. I have never reached out to Assange or Wikileaks on any matter. We are considering all legal options against the Guardian who proceeded with this story even after being notified by my representatives that it was false."

Blaming Russia

Following The Guardian's epic faceplant, an ex-CIA agent penned an article in Politico suggesting that Russia tricked The Guardian into writing the Manafort-Assange story. 

Journalist and attorney Glenn Greenwald called them out in a scorching series of tweets - while dismantling The Guardian's original report the day before

As Greenwald notes of Politico's response, it looks like "the whole thing is a fraud."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

MI6 Scrambling To Stop Trump From Releasing Classified Docs In Russia Probe

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The UK's Secret Intelligence Service, otherwise known as MI6, has been scrambling to prevent President Trump from publishing classified materials linked to the Russian election meddling investigation, according to The Telegraph, stating that any disclosure would "undermine intelligence gathering if he releases pages of an FBI application to wiretap one of his former campaign advisers."

Trump's allies, however, are fighting back - demanding transparency and suggesting that the UK wouldn't want the documents withheld unless it had something to hide. 
The Telegraph has talked to more than a dozen UK and US officials, including in American intelligence, who have revealed details about the row. 

British spy chiefs have “genuine concern” about sources being exposed if classified parts of the wiretap request were made public, according to figures familiar with discussions. 

“It boils down to the exposure of people”, said one US intelligence official, adding: “We don’t want to reveal sources and methods.” US intelligence shares the concerns of the UK. 

Another said Britain feared setting a dangerous “precedent” which could make people less likely to share information, knowing that it could one day become public. -The Telegraph
The Telegraph adds that the UK's dispute with the Trump administration is so politically sensitive that staff within the British Embassy in DC haver been barred from discussing it with journalists. Theresa May has also "been kept at arms-length and is understood to have not raised the issue directly with the US president." 

In September, we reported that the British government "expressed grave concerns" over the material in question after President Trump issued an order to the DOJ to release a wide swath of materials, "immediately" and "without redaction." 

Trump walked that order back days later after the UK begged him not to release them.
Mr Trump wants to declassify 21 pages from one of the applications. He announced the move in September, then backtracked, then this month said he was "very seriously" considering it again. Both Britain and Australia are understood to be opposing the move. 

Memos detailing alleged ties between Mr Trump and Russia compiled by Christopher Steele, a former MI6 officer, were cited in the application, which could explain some of the British concern. -The Telegraph
The New York Times reported at the time that the UK's concern was over material which "includes direct references to conversations between American law enforcement officials and Christopher Steele," the former MI6 agent who compiled the infamous "Steele Dossier." The UK's objection, according to former US and British officials, was over revealing Steele's identity in an official document, "regardless of whether he had been named in press reports."

We noted in September, however, that Steele's name was contained within the Nunes Memo - the House Intelligence Committee's majority opinion in the Trump-Russia case.

Steele also had extensive contacts with DOJ official Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie, who - along with Steele - was paid by opposition research firm Fusion GPS in the anti-Trump campaign. Trump called for the declassification of FBI notes of interviews with Ohr, which would ostensibly reveal more about his relationship with Steele. Ohr was demoted twice within the Department of Justice for lying about his contacts with Fusion GPS. 

Perhaps the Brits are also concerned since much of the espionage performed on the Trump campaign was conducted on UK soil throughout 2016. Recall that Trump aid George Papadopoulos was lured to London in March, 2016, where Maltese professor Joseph Mifsud fed him the rumor that Russia had dirt on Hillary Clinton. It was later at a London bar that Papadopoulos would drunkenly pass the rumor to Australian diplomat Alexander Downer (who Strzok flew to London to meet with). 

Also recall that CIA/FBI "informant" (spy) Stefan Halper met with both Carter Page and Papadopoulos in London. 
Halper, a veteran of four Republican administrations, reached out to Trump aide George Papadopoulos in September 2016 with an offer to fly to London to write an academic paper on energy exploration in the Mediterranean Sea.

Papadopoulos accepted a flight to London and a $3,000 honorarium. He claims that during a meeting in London, Halper asked him whether he knew anything about Russian hacking of Democrats’ emails.

Papadopoulos had other contacts on British soil that he now believes were part of a government-sanctioned surveillance operation. -Daily Caller
In total, Halper received over $1 million from the Obama Pentagon for "research," over $400,000 of which was granted before and during the 2016 election season.

Papadopoulos, who was sentenced to 14 days in prison for lying about his conversations with a shadowy Maltese professor and self-professed member of the Clinton Foundation, has publicly claimed he was targeted by UK spies, and told The Telegraph that he demands transparency. Trump's allies in Washington, meanwhile, have suggested that the facts laid out before us mean that the ongoing Russia investigation was invalid from the start. 

In short, it's understandable that the UK would prefer to hide their involvement in the "witch hunt" of Donald Trump since much of the counterintelligence investigation was conducted on UK soil. And if the Brits had knowledge of the operation, it will bolster claims that they meddled in the 2016 US election by assisting what appears to have been a set-up from the start.

Steele's ham-handed dossier is a mere embarrassment, as virtually none of the claims asserted by the former MI6 agent have been proven true. 
Steele, a former MI6 agent, is the author of the infamous and unverified anti-Trump dossier. He worked as a confidential human source for the FBI for years before the relationship was severed just before the election because of Steele’s unauthorized contacts with the press.

He shared results of his investigation into Trump’s links to Russia with the FBI beginning in early July 2016.

The FBI relied heavily on the unverified Steele dossier to fill out applications for four FISA warrants against Page. Page has denied the dossier’s claims, which include that he was the Trump campaign’s back channel to the Kremlin. -Daily Caller
That said, Steele hasn't worked for the British government since 2009, so for their excuse focusing on the former MI6 agent while ignoring the multitude of events which occurred on UK soil, is curious. 

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Iran’s Leadership Must Decide ‘If They Want Their People To Eat’ – Pompeo

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Less than a week after US Secretary of State Secretary Mike Pompeo told Fox News Sunday that the "Iranians are responsible for the starvation' of Yemeni civilians" he's again issued hugely provocative words, telling the BBC during an interview that Iranian "leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat" in reference to the latest round of US sanctions.

As the interview was with BBC Persian, Pompeo's words were immediately translated from English and broadcast to the Iranian public through BBC's Persian-language publication. Pompeo repeated his theme that Iran is the world's foremost state sponsor of terror and a "destabilizing influence" in the Middle East while ultimately blaming the country's economic suffering on the intransigence of the country's leaders.

Pompeo's words came on the heels of Iran's foreign ministry issuing a formal response to this week's US sanctions snap back on the energy sector, publishing a 3-minute video of FM Javad Zarif on Tuesday wherein Zarif emphasized that the sanctions mainly targeted average Iranian citizens, referencing "the economic warfare that directly targets the Iranian people."

The most contentious segment of the BBC interview was as follows:  
QUESTION: You say you are not punishing the people. You say that the sanctions are not targeting the people. But what if --

SECRETARY POMPEO: No, they’re not.

QUESTION: But what if the sanctions hurt the Iranian people, the ordinary lives of them?

SECRETARY POMPEO: The folks who are hurting the Iranian people are the ayatollah and Qasem Soleimani and the Iranian leadership. That’s who is bringing the difficulties to Iran today. And you see this. You see this when you read of the protests. You see this when Iranian people have a chance to speak, although we know the human rights there don’t permit the Iranian people to speak freely. It’s the regime that is inflicting harm on the Iranian people, not the world and not the United States.

QUESTION: But as you – but you say that this is not a democratic regime. You say that the regime doesn’t care for Iranian people. But you say you do care for Iranian people.

SECRETARY POMPEO: We do.

State Dept. transcript of the BBC Persian interview
But with hundreds of thousands of common Iranians reportedly now struggling to find life-saving medicines due to the sanctions, we doubt the Iranian public is going to be convinced of Washington's "care" and "concern" for common Iranians.

In the weeks leading up to the November 5th round of sanctions European governments attempted to persuade the White House to agree to guarantees or waivers of Iranian imports of basic foods and medicine — pleas that were reportedly rebuffed.

Addressing the medicine issue in the BBC interview, Pompeo denied that the US was disallowing the flow of life-saving drugs into the country, and made the following assertion: "Not only are the transactions themselves exempted – that is, the transactions in medicine, for example – but the financial transactions connected to that activity also are authorized," he said.

Pompeo also claimed that "None of the sanctions that have been imposed prevent humanitarian assistance and, indeed, there are big exemptions for medicine for sure, pharmaceuticals, but also more broadly than that for agricultural imports too."

However, Pompeo seemed to contradict his prior denial that the sanctions were impacting medicines, saying it was ultimately up to Tehran to change its behavior in the face of the sanctions. Pompeo said:
Well, remember, just so you remember, the leadership has to make a decision that they want their people to eat. They have to make a decision that they want to use their wealth to import medicine, and not use their wealth to fund Qasem Soleimani’s travels around the Middle East with – causing death and destruction. That’s the Iranian Government’s choice on how to use Iranian wealth.
Recent words out of Tehran suggest that Iranian leadership is prepared to settle in for a "long siege" which could result in a years-long stalemate, while continuing to find ways to circumvent US sanctions and while urging Europe to help it weather the storm.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.