All posts by Tyler Durden

Trump Warns Russia ‘Missiles Are Coming’ At Syria After Moscow Vows To Shoot Them Down

undefined

A shooting war between the US and Russia appears imminent.

Following overnight speculation that the US may launch an airstrike on Syria at any moment, this morning, in his latest fiery tweetstorm, after slamming the failing New York Times and again lashing out at the Russia collusion probe and Cohen's office raid, Trump tweeted that "Russia vows to shoot down any and all missiles fired at Syria. Get ready Russia,  because they will be coming, nice and new and “smart!” You shouldn’t be partners with a Gas Killing Animal who kills his people and enjoys it!"

The tweet prompted several observers to point out the following Trumps statement from the historical archives:
In any case, Trump's comment came in response to a statement by the Russian ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin who said overnight that any U.S. missiles fired at Syria will be shot down and their launch sites targeted in response to Trump promise of a forceful response to an alleged chemical attack on a rebel enclave near Damascus.

"If there is a strike by the Americans, then we refer to the statements of President [Vladimir] Putin and the chief of staff that the missiles will be downed and even the sources from which the missiles were fired," Zasypkin told Hezbollah's al-Manar TV.

In response, Russian foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that US "smart missiles should fly towards terrorists, not a legitimate government that has been fighting international terrorism for several years on its territory" and sarcastically noted that the US "smart missiles" could be an attempt to destroy evidence of the alleged "chemical attack" on the ground in Syria.

Earlier, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that Russia “categorically” disagrees that a chemical attack took place in Syria. "I still want to hope that all parties will avoid any steps, which in reality aren’t provoked by anything, that can destabilize the already fragile situation in the region."

Peskov also said that Putin has no plans so far for phone talks with Donald Trump, while adding that Russian market volatility is partly emotional, partly speculative; Russian economy has sufficient durability, Peskov says.

Meanwhile, indicating that a US strike on Syria is imminent, on Tuesday Trump canceled a trip to Latin America to focus on the Syria incident, the White House said. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis also canceled plans to travel to California in the coming days, as Trump told reporters all options were on the table regarding Syria.

As we reported on Monday, the USS Donald Cook, a Navy destroyer, left a port in Cyprus on Monday. The guided missile destroyer is armed with Tomahawk cruise missiles, which were used a year ago after an alleged sarin gas attack on Syrian civilians.

Also overnight, Eurocontrol, the European air traffic control agency, warned airlines Tuesday to exercise caution in the eastern Mediterranean due to possible airstrikes in the next 72 hours.

Retired Adm. James Stavridis, a former head of NATO and an NBC News analyst, warned that any U.S. strike on Syria would likely require manned aircraft and characterized it as a "high-risk operation."

“Last year was about sending a signal,” Stavridis said, referring to the April 2017 strike ordered by Trump. “This year its about destroying actual Syrian capability."

Of course, if Russia is serious and it intends to shoot down not only US missiles but their sources - including ships and fighter jets -what happens in the next several hours could unleash World War III. Which would be bizarre if the only purpose for that is for Trump to prove to Mueller that he is not, in fact, a Russian puppet, even as the Military Industrial Complex enjoys its final victory.

Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, futures did not like the news that war between the US and Russia may be coming, and slumped to session lows.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump Threatens Putin, ‘Animal Assad’ Over Syrian ‘Chemical Attack’; Russia Warns Of ‘Grave’ Response If US Launches Strike

undefined

It's deja vu all over again.

Remember when the US admitted Syrian "Rebels" have used chemical weapons? Or when earlier this year, now former Secretary of State blamed Russia for an alleged Syrian chemical attack despite admitting he doesn't know who actually did it? Or when the US finally admitted there was "no evidence" Assad used sarin gas? Or just last week, when Trump said that the US is finally pulling out of Syria as a result of the defeat of ISIS (much to the Pentagon's fury and open-ended timetable for extracting Syrian resources)?

Well, maybe you do, but the neocons back in charge of US war preparations foreign policy - now that war hawk John Bolton is Trump's National Security Advisor - are so stuck with the age-old narrative that Assad is desperate to be bombed at any cost, that none of this actually matters, and instead the big story overnight is once again that, lo and behold, Assad decided to gas some "rebels" again, despite now overwhelmingly winning the war against US-backed insurgents, and despite knowing very well that exactly one year ago an alleged "chemical attack" prompted Trump to launch dozens of Tomahawks at Syria.

This is what happened (if you've seen this script played out before, you are not alone).

On Saturday night, an alleged chemical attack on a rebel-held town in eastern Ghouta reportedly killed dozens of people, according to US-linked medical services with Washington immediately responding that the reports - if confirmed - would demand an immediate international response. Actually scratch the "if confirmed" part - after all, the last time the US "intervened" in Syria, on April 7, 2017, the US did not need confirmation; Trump just needed a geopolitical distraction.

It seems that he needs another one again, and ideally one that shows just how angry he is with Putin now that an interview with Mueller is reportedly imminent.

A joint statement by the medical relief organization Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the civil defense service, which operates in rebel-held areas, said 49 people had died in the attack late on Saturday. Others put the toll at 150 or more.

The response from the Assad side was similarly predictable: the Syrian regime, whose overthrow the US failed to achieve in the course of the 6 year proxy war in order to facilitate the transport of Qatari natural gas to Europe, denied its forces had launched any chemical attack as the reports began circulating and said the rebels were collapsing and fabricating news.

The Syrian state news agency SANA said Jaish al-Islam was making “chemical attack fabrications in an exposed and failed attempt to obstruct advances by the Syrian Arab army,” citing an official source.

Meanwhile, Reuters said it could not independently verify the reports. Others did the same: The Syrian Observatory said it could not confirm whether chemical weapons had been used in the attack on Saturday.

But, as we noted above, who needs confirmation: after all, if the 2013 "chemical attack" that started it all and was later proven to be a hoax was sufficient, just do the same. And sure enough, a video uploaded by "local media activists" allegedly showed bodies of victims - including women and children - of the reported chemical attack in Douma. Once again, nobody has actually confirmed if anyone has died.

Meanwhile, the US, itching for that military spending GDP boost was ready with the outraged retort: the U.S. State Department said reports of mass casualties from the attack were “horrifying” and would, if confirmed, “demand an immediate response by the international community”. At the same time, Britain’s Foreign Office also called the reports, if confirmed, “very concerning” and said “an urgent investigation is needed and the international community must respond. We call on the Assad regime and its backers, Russia and Iran, to stop the violence against innocent civilians.”

Note the "if confirmed" part, and keep an eye on how the narrative switches from that to "the attack was confirmed." If the Skripal case is any indication, just repeating it often enough, should be sufficient.

Trump already did his part on Sunday morning, when he tweeted several statements on the alleged attack as if it was already confirmed,just as one would expect to accelerate the escalation:
Many dead, including women and children, in mindless CHEMICAL attack in Syria. Area of atrocity is in lockdown and encircled by Syrian Army, making it completely inaccessible to outside world. President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay. Open area immediately for medical help and verification. Another humanitarian disaster for no reason whatsoever. SICK!
Then, for good measure, Trump decided to throw Obama under the bus for not crossing his "red line in the sand", once again assuming the attack was confirmed.
If President Obama had crossed his stated Red Line In The Sand, the Syrian disaster would have ended long ago! Animal Assad would have been history!
After the alleged attack, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauret recalled a 2017 sarin gas attack in northwestern Syria that the West and the United Nations blamed on Assad’s government. “The Assad regime and its backers must be held accountable and any further attacks prevented immediately,” she said adding that “The United States calls on Russia to end this unmitigated support immediately and work with the international community to prevent further, barbaric chemical weapons attacks."

The US also said yet again that Russia is "ultimately bearing responsibility" for all chemical incidents in Syria, regardless of who carried them out, after rebel sources accused Damascus of gassing dozens in Eastern Ghouta's Douma.  In other words, even if the "chemical attack" was carried out by US-backed "rebels", or better yet "ISIS", it's Putin's fault.
'The regime's history of using chemical weapons against its own people is not in dispute,' said the US State Department, indicating, however, that it was relying on 'reports,' being unable to confirm the incident. 'Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the brutal targeting of countless Syrians with chemical weapons.'
As for Russia, its Defense Ministry immediately denied and dismissed as false reports that the Syrian government had carried out a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta's Douma: "We strongly refute this information," Major General Yury Yevtushenko, head of the Reconciliation Center in Syria, said in a statement on Sunday. "We declare our readiness, after Douma is liberated from the militants, to immediately send Russian radiation, chemical and biological protection specialists to collect data that will confirm the fabricated nature of these allegations," he stated.

Yevtushenko said that "a number of Western countries" are trying to prevent the resumption of an operation aimed at driving militants from the city of Douma.

"For this purpose, the use of chemical weapons by Syrian government forces – one of the most widespread claims in the West – is being used," he added.

And, knowing where this is all headed, Russia’s Foreign Ministry says in statement on website that reports of chemical weapons attack in rebel-held town of Douma are fabricated, and any military operations against Syria on false pretenses may lead to “gravest consequences,”

The Russians added that "The goal of such reports is to aid terrorists and justify possible military strikes from outside Syria."

Russia is correct, and it is now just a matter of time before Trump unveils his next grand diversion from the chaos at home and the trade war with China, by launching another 50 or so Tomahawks at some venue deep inside Syria, in a carbon copy repeat of what happened exactly one year ago.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Obama State Department Spent $9 Million With Soros To Meddle In Albanian Politics

undefined

President Obama's State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) spent nearly $9 million on an Albanian political reform campaign coordinated with billionaire George Soros, according to 32 pages of State Department documents obtained by Judicial Watch via a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. 

Working with Soros' Open Society Foundation, USAID channeled the funds into a "Justice for All" campaign aimed at reforming the socialist government's judicial system in 2016.

"The Obama admin spent at least $9 million in tax dollars in direct collusion with left-wing billionaire George Soros to back socialist gov in Albania," wrote Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton in a statement. "The records also detail how the Soros operation helped the State Department review grant applications from other groups for taxpayer funding," Fitton added.

“George Soros is a billionaire and he shouldn’t be receiving taxpayer support to advance his radical left agenda to undermine freedom here at home and abroad,” said Fitton.

A memo from April 2016 also reveals that the US Embassy in Tirana "sponsored" a survey with the Open Society Foundation to determine whether Albanians had "knowledge, support and expectations on judicial reform." The survey revealed that 91 percent of respondents believed in the need for judicial reform. A corresponding memo obtained by Judicial Watch dated February 2017 corroborates the arrangement.

The State Department pushed back following the Judicial Watch publication - telling Fox News that the agency did not directly provide grants to Soros's Open Society Foundation (OSF) in Albania. Instead, as the documents show, the US embassy in Tirana and the OSF "each provided funding to a local organization to conduct a public opinion poll on attitudes towards the Judicial Reform effort," according to a February 2017 document. 

Last year Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) and five other Senators called on Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to immediately investigate how US taxpayer funds ended up supporting Soros-backed, leftist political groups in several Eastern European countries including Macedonia and Albania.  According to the letter, potentially millions of taxpayer dollars are being funneled through USAID to Soros' Open Society Foundations with the explicit goal of pushing his progressive agenda.

“Foundation Open society-Albania and its experts, with funding from USAID, have created the controversial Strategy Document for Albanian Judicial Reform,” the letter read. “Some leaders believe that these ‘reforms’ are ultimately aimed to give the Prime Minister and left-of-center government full control over the judiciary.”

As the Daily Caller's Andrew Kerr notes, Albanian opposition leaders to the ruling left-wing party took to calling the judicial reform effort a “Soros-sponsored reform.”

USAID and Soros

As Fox News pointed out at the time, USAID gave nearly $15 million to Soros' Foundation Open Society - Macedonia, and other Soros-linked organizations in the region, in the last 4 years of Obama's presidency alone.
The USAID website shows that between 2012 and 2016, USAID gave almost $5 million in taxpayer cash to FOSM for 'The Civil Society Project,' which 'aims to empower Macedonian citizens to hold government accountable.' USAID’s website links to www.soros.org.mk, and says the project trained hundreds of young Macedonians 'in youth activism and the use of new media instruments.'

The State Department told lawmakers that in addition to that project, USAID has recently funded a new Civic Engagement Project which partners with four organizations, including FOSM. The cost is believed to be around $9.5 million. -Fox News
Similar efforts in Hungary were blasted in early 2017 by Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who expressed concern about Soros meddling in his country’s political fights, and warned about Soros’ “trans-border empire.” Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó told Fox News last month that they hoped that with a change in administration in Washington, the Soros-led push against their government would decrease.
'I think it is no secret and everyone knows about the very close relationship between the Democrats and George Soros and his foundations. It is obvious that if Hillary Clinton had won then this pressure on us would be much stronger. With Donald Trump winning we have the hope that this pressure will be decreased on us,' he said.
Widely cited as an example of Soros’ influence during the Obama administration was a 2011 email, published by WikiLeaks, in which Soros urged Hillary Clinton to take action in Albania over recent demonstrations in the capital of Tirana. Among other things, Soros urged Clinton to “bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama."
Dear Hillary,

A serious situation has arisen in Albania which needs urgent attention at senior levels of the US government. You may know that an opposition demonstration in Tirana on Friday resulted in the deaths of three people and the destruction of property. There are serious concerns about further unrest connected to a counter-demonstration to be organized by the governing party on Wednesday and a follow-up event by the opposition two days later to memorialize the victims. The prospect of tens of thousands of people entering the streets in an already inflamed political environment bodes ill for the return, of public order and the country's fragile democratic process.

I believe two things need to be done urgently:

1. Bring the full weight of the international community to bear on Prime Minister Berisha and opposition leader Edi Rama to forestall further public demonstrations and to tone down public pronouncements.

2. Appoint a senior European official as a mediator.

While I am concerned about the rhetoric being used by both sides, I am particularly worried about the actions of the Prime Minister. There is videotape of National Guard members firing on demonstrators from the roof of the Prime Ministry. The Prosecutor (appointed by the Democratic Party) has issued arrest warrants for the individuals in question. The Prime Minister had previously accused the opposition of intentionally murdering these activists as a provocation.

After the tape came out deputies from his party accused the Prosecutor of planning a coup d'etat in collaboration with the opposition, a charge Mr. Berisha repeated today. No arrests have been made as of this writing. The demonstration resulted from opposition protests over the conduct of parliamentary elections in 2009. The political environment has deteriorated ever since and is now approaching levels of 1997, when similar issues caused the country to slide into anarchy and violence. There are signs that Edi Rama's control of his own people is slipping, which may lead to further violence.

The US and the EU must work in complete harmony over this, but given Albania's European aspirations the EU must take the lead. That is why I suggest appointing a mediator such as Carl Bildt. Martti Ahtisaari or Miroslav Lajcak, all of whom have strong connections to the Balkans.

My foundation in Tirana is monitoring the situation closely and can provide independent analysis of the crisis.

Thank you, George Soros
Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Interventionistas Outraged Over Trump’s Syria Withdrawal: ‘We Took The Oil. We’ve Got To Keep The Oil’

undefined

Regime change advocates, neocon beltway hawks, and all the usual armchair warrior zero-skin-in-the-game think tank interventionistas are in continued meltdown mode after Trump confirmed plans to withdraw American forces - some 2000+ troops and personnel - from Syria. On Friday the president told senior White House aides that US forces will be exiting Syria after public comments made earlier.

In statements carried by Reuters, Trump said, “Let the other people take care of it now. Very soon, very soon, we’re coming out. We’re going to get back to our country, where we belong, where we want to be.” As we noted last week, the timing of Trump's dramatic Syria turn corresponded with news of an American soldier killed in Manbij in northern Syria (killed likely by an IED alongside a British coalition soldier overnight last Thursday).

Perhaps to be expected, the weekend editorials and cable news pundit shows reacted in disbelief and horror - with charges of "chaos" at the Trump White House over Syria policy, and claims that "ISIS will come back" if America leaves. Nevermind the fact that Trump himself while on the campaign trail in 2016 stated in public speeches and in a tweet (and linking to a declassified intelligence memo) that US support to jihadists in Syria under President Obama is precisely what fueled the rise of ISIS in the first place

CNN, for example, painted a picture of mass revolt among the ranks of military officers and career State Department officials, asserting that, "Any decision by Trump to pull out of Syria would also go against the current military assessment, a fact that left some national security officials concerned about the impact of a withdrawal, another senior administration official told CNN."

No, there's no "chaos" when it comes to Syria policy at the White House - Trump is doing exactly what he pledged to do while previously on the campaign trail, and he's further continuing what he started when he nixed the CIA's regime change program last summer.

But it's funny and very telling how brazenly honest interventionistas and deep state bureaucrats suddenly become in their motives whenever Trump speaks truth on Syria. Consider prominent Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, who the day after Trump's announcement of leaving Syria lamented while quoting a pro-regime change activist, “We took the oil. We’ve got to keep the oil.”

That's right, the mask of pseudo-humanitarian high-minded noble ideals comes off (the Josh Rogins of the world care nothing about actual Syrians), and we learn that it's actually all about...

Oil! Oil! Oil! Iran! Iran! Iran!
No more pretense and the slick language of R2P military intervention for the sake saving civilians in Syria... Rogin's op-ed is aptly titled, In Syria, we ‘took the oil.’ Now Trump wants to give it to Iran. 

Rogin, like other interventionistas, has no more cards to play, thus we find these straightforward admissions in his column:
Perhaps he would back off his urge to cut and run if he knew that the United States and its partners control almost all of the oil. And if the United States leaves, that oil will likely fall into the hands of Iran...

Control over oil is the only influence we have in Syria today...

“We have this 30 percent slice of Syria, which is probably where 90 percent of the pre-war oil production took place,” said David Adesnik, director of research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is leverage.”
Astoundingly, these words are still being published 15 years after the myriad lies of the Iraq invasion ...no shame, no regrets. And a host of other mainstream journalists in New York and DC greeted Rogin's column as "refreshing" and respectable "essential reading" (as if it's not the same pro-regime-change script which has dominated talking points for years).

Meanwhile, a well-known Syrian-American Middle East analyst and actual expert on Syria effortlessly shreds Rogin's supposed "realist" points with ease (Rogin likes to think of himself as a foreign policy 'realist' ...he's no such thing):
Whenever one thinks Syria analysis has hit bottom, nonsense like comes along to remind us otherwise. Josh Rogin's piece makes a set of outrageous observations that has become a mainstay of Syria’s war coverage over the years. Let’s establish the facts first.

Iran’s expansion that Josh Rogin wants to 'counter' did not start with Syrian war but started in the aftermath of the ill-advised Iraq invasion that opened the pandora box which we are still dealing with today (Birth of ISIS is another). Interventionists have a short memory.

Syria’s alliance with Iran did not start with the Syrian war. It was cemented after Damascus decided to side with Iran during its war with Saddam’s Iraq in early 80’s. At start of Syrian war, Tehran decided to pay back the favor and came to Assad’s aid when no one did.

What Josh Rogin still can’t comprehend is that countering Iran is positively correlated with ending the Syrian war and not by adding more fuel to it. Iran’s influence grows when Damascus is threatened and not the other way around.

Syria is not Saudi Arabia. Even before the war, it’s oil production was mere 150K barrels a day. This is a drop in the ocean when it comes the regional oil producers. Asking Trump to grab the oil shows total lack of understanding of scale or strategic importance.

Indeed, by grabbing what little oil Syria has all you are doing is giving Iran and other allies of Syria more leverage. The more Syria can stand on its feet the less it needs those allies like Iran that you want to counter.
So it's not only his conclusions, but every assumption of Rogin and his ilk concerning the Middle East is simply dead wrong. But at the very least these moments serve to remind us of what morally corrupt failures the Washington class of inverventionistas have been, and that it's certainly not their own skin in the game when they argue for "taking action" whether in Syria or other parts of the world (the establishment political and pundit class is all too willing to send the sons of others to die in foreign quagmires with dubious aims).

Finally, it should be noted that Josh Rogin published his piece the same day Master Sgt. Jonathan J. Dunbar died in Syria (identified by the Department of Defense on Saturday). Rogin is ultimately arguing that more Americans must stay in harm's way for "control over oil... the only influence we have in Syria today."

* * *

With that, we'll leave off with the following excerpted wisdom from Nassim Nicholas Taleb's Skin in the Game:
What you had historically is warmongers were warriors. And he who lives by the sword, dies by the sword… Now suddenly–and that’s only recent–we developed all these weapons and technologies and stuff like that, so you can have people cause wars and not be exposed. And not only that, but as was Bill Kristol… he’s a prime example.

The people who caused the war in Iraq… absolutely no cost to them. Or a cost that’s very small, very tiny reputational cost… And then after they cause a war in Iraq–and of course we have a disaster–they will intervene again… in Libya and of course in Syria.

What happens with these people is that given that there is no skin in the game, there’s no learning… In the real world, these people should be dead, because basically, if you cause a disaster… so many of them would be… pruned out that way instead of letting others die.
Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Trump To Expel ‘Dozens Of Russian Diplomats’ In Response To Skripal Poisoning

undefined

On Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron and German leader Angela Merkel said that following a meeting of the European Council, that UK PM Theresa May had shared "proof" of Russia's involvement in the assassination attempt against former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter, "convincing" the two leaders that Russia was behind the attack. And yet, despite the "convincing" evidence, no "proof" has yet been publicly disclosed. Furthermore, even as all leaders said they are in agreement that Russia was "the only reasonable culprit", the EC opted not to take any immediate action against Moscow, except issue a harshly worded statement.

Here things get even more bizarre because the EC statement issued said that it "agrees with the United Kingdom government's assessmentthat it is highly likely that the Russian Federation is responsible and that there is no plausible alternative explanation."

Wait, there is either proof that Russia did (or did not do) the attack, or there isn't.

Claiming that something is "highly likely" and that "there is no plausible alternative explanation" is what you say when there is no proof, and when you send in Colin Powell to the United Nations to lie to the world that a vial of sand is really anthrax and one should immediately launch a war to crush an evil regime just because, well, a vial of sand.

It also explains why on Saturday, the Russian Embassy in the UK once again demanded that London produce the complete UK info on "Skripal's Case" and disclose details on a program to produce weapons-grade toxic substances in Porton Down. The UK has so far refused to comply.

* * *

In any event, with the UK yet to publicly present proof that Russia was behind the attack, and as Boris Johnson claimed, Putin himself that was behind the nerve agent attack on the former Russian double agent, on Saturday morning Bloomberg reported that President Donald Trump is "preparing to expel dozens of Russian diplomats from the U.S." in response to the nerve-agent poisoning of a former Russian spy in the U.K.

Quoting two people "familiar with the matter", Bloomberg reports that Trump agreed with the recommendation of advisers and the expulsions are likely to be announced on Monday. And while the aides said that Trump is prepared to act, he wants to be sure European allies will take similar steps against Russia before he does so, which could be prolematic since Russia controls roughly a third of Europe's natural gas supplies and thus the volume of any potential response (and also why despite "proof", Europe responded with nothing more than a harshly-worded statement).

The advisers reached recommendations for a U.S. response to the U.K. attack at a National Security Council meeting on Wednesday and honed the proposals on Friday.

Among the advisors that Trump approached on Friday to discuss the matter were U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, outgoing National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and others.

In other words, virtually everyone in Trump's inner circle is desperate for the president to engage in damage control for last week's gaffe in which he congratulated Putin on his election victory despite being ordered by his anti-Russian wing "do not congratulate."

Trump has agreed to adopt increasingly tough policy stances on Russia, but - infuriating the Military-Industrial Complex, after all the stock price of Boeing must go up not down, and the neocons - the president places a priority on maintaining a personal relationship with the Russian president, refuses to publicly attack him, and doesn’t see any benefit to the U.S. in confronting Putin in one-on-one encounters, one administration official told Bloomberg on Thursday.

Trump defended his call with Putin on Twitter Wednesday, dismissing those who “wanted me to excoriate him.”

“They are wrong!” Trump wrote. “Getting along with Russia (and others) is a good thing, not a bad thing.”

We can assume that if Trump again refuses to do as his advisors urge him to demonstrate just how opposed to Russia he is, that his new National Security Advisor, John Bolton - with the full blessing of the US establishment - will demand nothing less than a nuclear strike somewhere in Siberia to finally prove to Mueller, and the world, that Trump is not a Russian operative.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Russia Claims US Deploys Warships For Imminent Attack On Syria, Trains Militants For False Flag Attack

undefined

Last April, in one of the Trump administration's first "diplomatic" ventures, the US fired 59 Tomahawk missiles on Syria, in stated retaliation for the latest alleged chemical attack by the Assad regime, the same "false flag" excuse which was used by the US to officially enter the conflict back in 2013 when military tensions between the US and Russia nearly resulted in a regional war.

Well, it appears that Assad is a relentless glutton for punishment, because not even a year later, the WaPo reported two weeks ago that the US is considering a new military action against Syria for - what else - retaliation against Assad's latest chemical attack, which took place several weeks earlier.

How do we know Assad (and apparently, Russia) was behind the attack? We don't: in fact, former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, in a moment of bizarre honesty, admitted that he really doesn't know much at all about "whoever conducted the attacks." But hey: just like it is "highly likely" that Russia poisoned the former Russian double agent in the UK - with no proof yet - so it is "highly likely" that a clearly irrational Assad was once again behind an attack which he knew would provoke violent and aggressive retaliation by the US, and once again destabilize his regime.

And so we now wait for that flashing, red headline saying that US ships in the Mediterranean have launched a missile attack on Syria, just like a year ago. Only this time Russia - which is allied with the Assad regime - is not planning to be on the defensive, and according to Russia’s Defense Ministry, "US instructors" are currently training militants to stage false flag chemical attacks in south Syria, i.e., the catalyst that will be used to justify the US attack on Assad. The incidents, the ministry said, will be used a pretext for airstrikes on Syrian government troops and infrastructure.

“We have reliable information at our disposal that US instructors have trained a number of militant groups in the vicinity of the town of At-Tanf, to stage provocations involving chemical warfare agents in southern Syria,” Russian General Staff spokesman General Sergey Rudskoy said at a news briefing on Saturday.

According to the Russian, "early in March, the saboteur groups were deployed to the southern de-escalation zone to the city of Deraa, where the units of the so-called Free Syrian Army are stationed."
They are preparing a series of chemical munitions explosions. This fact will be used to blame the government forces. The components to produce chemical munitions have been already delivered to the southern de-escalation zone under the guise of humanitarian convoys of a number of NGOs.
And, using the exact same worn out narrative as last April, and every prior "chemical attack by the Assad Regime", the "planned provocations will be widely covered in the Western media and will ultimately be used as a pretext by the US-led coalition to launch strikes on Syria", Rudskoy warned.
The provocations will be used as a pretext by the United States and its allies to launch strikes on military and government infrastructure in Syria.
Confirming the WaPo's report from early March, it now appears that an attack is imminent.

“We’re registering the signs of the preparations for the possible strikes. Strike groups of the cruise missile carriers have been formed in the east of the Mediterranean Sea, Persian Gulf and Red Sea.”

Rudskoy also warned that another false flag chemical attack is being prepared in the province of Idlib by the “Al-Nusra Front terrorist group, in coordination with the White Helmets.” The militants have already received 20 containers of chlorine to stage the incident, he said.

Moscow and Damascus have repeatedly warned about upcoming chemical provocations, and have highlighted that banned warfare agents have been used by the militants. Of course, none of that matters to the Western press which has its marching orders to expose the bloodthirsty killer Assad as an irrational despot who will use the exact same military method month after month and year after year, knowing well the response he will get from the US.

Meanwhile, just a few days ago, Syrian government forces reportedly captured a well-equipped chemical laboratory in Eastern Ghouta. Footage from the facility has been published by the SANA news agency.

The installation contained modern industrial-grade hardware of foreign origins, large amounts of chemical substances as well as crude homemade munitions ad their parts. It was unclear if the chemical lab was capable of synthesizing the novachok nerve gas used in the attempted murder of the Russian agent in the UK that has resulted in the latest diplomatic scandal involving Russia and the west.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Russia Blamed For Italian Election Outcome

undefined

If there is a European election, and the anti-establishment parties score a stunning victory (as just happened in Italy, and a few months prior, in Austria), who're you gonna blame? Vladimir Putin (of course)!

That's what Samantha Power, one of the top diplomats in the Obama administration, did when she shared an article by Spain's El Pais newspaper about how Russia predetermined the outcome of Sunday's election by spinning an immigration discourse in Italy: "Italy’s joins long list of elections influenced by Russia. Sputnik will do what Sputnik does. The question is: what are our democracies going to do about it? Will voters repudiate candidates who seek to benefit from Russian interference?"

You see, it had nothing to do with the 38% youth unemployment, the stagnant economy, the record debt load, the record number of young people living with their parents, the meager opportunities for career advancement and the sense that everything is rigged. It was... Russia!

In fact, it is safe to assume that without Russia, and its subversive trolls, operatives - and of course RT and Sputnik - western democracies would all be one endless utopia, with no economic, social or political disagreements, and without such central-bank created artifacts as record wealth and income divisions resulting in unprecedented ideological and political polarization.

The Spanish article promoted by Power was a hit piece based on social media analysis done by a private firm, claiming the Russian news outlet Sputnik and the almighty Russian bots made the discourse in Italy radicalized on the issue of immigrants. Because Italians, obviously, cannot be genuinely unhappy to be living in a country that also happens to be a primary destination for refugees departing across the Mediterranean Sea from Libya and have no right to feel betrayed by Brussels’ immigration policies, which last summer threatened Italy with the "Nuclear Option", equating it with a B-status European nation.

But wait, the irony is just starting: recall that Samantha Power has been a fervent supporter of US “humanitarian interventions” by the military since Yugoslavia and onwards. During her tenure as member of the National Security Council and later ambassador to the UN in the Obama administration, this pretext of sovereign intervention was used to destroy Libya, which had served as a buffer for irregular immigration to Europe under Muammar Gaddafi, and which has now turned into a hotbed for people smugglers. It was also used to justify the arming of militants in Syria, perpetrating the war that displaced millions of people and sent several millions Syrians fleeing to Europe. Power advocated a direct military intervention, Iraq-style.

Power's post has gained plenty of angry responses, with people eager to remind Power of numerous interventions Washington had its fingerprints on, calling her position ‘ludicrous’. Although you can just ignore them: surely they are all surely just Russian bots doing the Kremlin’s bidding.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s election - just like the recent elections in Germany and Austria - has shaken the political scene in Italy, seeing voters ditch the ruling center-left parties and switch to anti-establishment forces. The Euroskeptic Five-Star Movement came out as the top individual party, winning over 32% of the vote, while anti-immigrant Lega Nord party outperformed expectations, garnering over 17%. The center-left bloc led by ex-Prime Minister Matteo Renzi from Italy's Democratic Party, gained some 23 percent, admitting “a very clear defeat” in the election.

Political analyst Daniele De Bernardin believes that people voted for change on Sunday, not for a particular party.

“In the last five years we had a lot of party switching in the country. Five Star Movement is a movement that puts together very different people with different views,” he said, adding that the party can be viewed as a “post-ideological movement.” What’s putting people together is in fact “a sentiment of changing the country,” he concluded.

A few hours after his humiliating defeat, Matteo Renzi resigned. That, of course, was Russia's fault too.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Schiff’s Latest Bizarre Claim: Russian Ads Promote 2nd Amendment ‘So We All Kill Each Other’

undefined

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms... and, as The Duran's Alex Christoforou writes, according to California Congressman Adam Schiff, those pesky Russians are using bots to promote the second amendment with an ultimate goal of having Americans ‘kill each other.’

Once again, another brilliant plan hatched by Putin... good thing Schiff caught on to it and can now begin seizing American’s guns so as to thwart Russia’s evil plan.

On Thursday Democrat Schiff spoke to a crowd at the University of Pennsylvania, where the TDS – "Russia hysteria virus" infected Schiff told the crowd Russian ads promoted the Second Amendment during the 2016 election “so we will kill each other.”

NTK Network reports...

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Thursday that Russia promoted content that supported the Second Amendment on social media during the 2016 election because they wanted Americans to kill one another.
'You had the content that was clearly anti-Hillary, and you had the content that was very pro-Trump. But even the bigger quantity of content that was being pushed through social media was just content designed to pit us against each other,' Schiff said while speaking at the University of Pennsylvania.
Which is false!

Facebook executive Colin Stretch told the US Senate Judiciary Committee in November that the total number of those illegitimate ads are a drop in the ocean — less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items.

Russia didn’t flip the election.

And then Schiff exclaimed:
'They also trumpeted the Second Amendment. Apparently Russians are very big fans of our Second Amendment. They don’t particularly want a Second Amendment of their own, but they’re really glad that we have one.'

'The Russians would be thrilled if we were doing nothing but killing each other every day, and sadly we are.'
'Mr. Schiff's constant delusional comments are so irrelevant to most Americans - and so unbelievable to many - that it should be no surprise to anyone that The Democrats favorability is sliding and Trump's is rising. But it certainly seems to have shocked Brookings' Benjamin Wittes: "Almost unfathomably, both Trump’s and the congressional Republicans’ position in polls seems to be improving."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Schiff’s Latest Bizarre Claim: Russian Ads Promote 2nd Amendment ‘So We All Kill Each Other’

undefined

The Second Amendment (Amendment II) to the United States Constitution protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms... and, as The Duran's Alex Christoforou writes, according to California Congressman Adam Schiff, those pesky Russians are using bots to promote the second amendment with an ultimate goal of having Americans ‘kill each other.’

Once again, another brilliant plan hatched by Putin... good thing Schiff caught on to it and can now begin seizing American’s guns so as to thwart Russia’s evil plan.

On Thursday Democrat Schiff spoke to a crowd at the University of Pennsylvania, where the TDS – "Russia hysteria virus" infected Schiff told the crowd Russian ads promoted the Second Amendment during the 2016 election “so we will kill each other.”

NTK Network reports...

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) said Thursday that Russia promoted content that supported the Second Amendment on social media during the 2016 election because they wanted Americans to kill one another.
'You had the content that was clearly anti-Hillary, and you had the content that was very pro-Trump. But even the bigger quantity of content that was being pushed through social media was just content designed to pit us against each other,' Schiff said while speaking at the University of Pennsylvania.
Which is false!

Facebook executive Colin Stretch told the US Senate Judiciary Committee in November that the total number of those illegitimate ads are a drop in the ocean — less than 0.004 percent of all content — or about 1 in 23,000 news feed items.

Russia didn’t flip the election.

And then Schiff exclaimed:
'They also trumpeted the Second Amendment. Apparently Russians are very big fans of our Second Amendment. They don’t particularly want a Second Amendment of their own, but they’re really glad that we have one.'

'The Russians would be thrilled if we were doing nothing but killing each other every day, and sadly we are.'
'Mr. Schiff's constant delusional comments are so irrelevant to most Americans - and so unbelievable to many - that it should be no surprise to anyone that The Democrats favorability is sliding and Trump's is rising. But it certainly seems to have shocked Brookings' Benjamin Wittes: "Almost unfathomably, both Trump’s and the congressional Republicans’ position in polls seems to be improving."

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.

Mattis Threatens Military Action Over Syria Gas Attack Claims, Then Admits ‘No Evidence’

undefined

"I don’t have the evidence,” Mattis said. “What I am saying is that other groups on the ground - NGOs, fighters on the ground - have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.”

This week the American public was once again bombarded by fresh headlines alleging the Syrian government under President Bashar al-Assad gassed its own people. And in predictable fashion the usual threat of US military force soon followed.

Except of course rather than "alleging" a chemical incident, all the usual suspects from CNN pundits to State Department bureaucrats to Pentagon officials in typical fashion are opting for the simpler "Assad did it" narrative. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauertstated Thursday, "Russia is making the wrong choice by not exercising its unique influence. To allow the Syria regime to use chemical weapons against its own people is unconscionable. We will pursue accountability."

Nauert's statement was a repeat of talking points from last week's chemical attack claims, wherein both she and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson ultimately blamed Russia. But like with other recent chemical attack allegations, the claims couldn't be more vague or poorly sourced, yet was still enough for U.S. officials to issue more direct threats of US military action against Assad.

While addressing the prior East Ghouta incident during a talk on January 23rd, Tillerson let slip that he didn't actually know much about the supposed earlier January attack at all while still putting blame squarely on Syria and Russia, saying at the time, "Whoever conducted the attacks Russia ultimately bears responsibility for the victims in eastern Ghouta and countless other Syrians targeted with chemical weapons since Russia became involved in Syria."

This week the "evidence" doesn't appear to be any clearer or narrowed.

On Friday Defense Secretary Jim Mattis addressed the latest claims, confidently asserting the Syrian government had as a matter of routine used chlorine as a weapon against the remaining pockets of opposition areas of the country - specifically in the Damascus suburb of East Ghouta, but it appears at this point that even Reuters has suddenly found its journalistic skepticism... Yes, actual knowledge on whether or not there was even a chemical attack to begin with is indeed thin enough for Reuters to headline its own report with "Mattis says has no evidence of sarin gas used in Syria, but concerned".

Mattis, in line with the rest of the administration - especially the State Department - did his best to paint a scenario of the case being all but certain that the Syrian Army has been using chlorine gas to attack civilians, while also suggesting Sarin may have been deployed as well, which could serve as a "red line" triggering US military attack on the Syrian government. 

But Mattis was also forced to admit the following, according to Reuters:
Mattis, speaking with reporters, said the Syrian government had repeatedly used chlorine as a weapon. He stressed that the United States did not have evidence of sarin gas use.

'We are even more concerned about the possibility of sarin use, (but) I don’t have the evidence,' Mattis said. 'What I am saying is that other groups on the ground - NGOs, fighters on the ground - have said that sarin has been used, so we are looking for evidence.'
And according to CNN, Mattis is now merely going on "open source" information, which essentially means anything from media reports to YouTube to Twitter to mere "opposition sources say...". CNN reports the following:
'You have all seen how we reacted to that [referencing the April 2017 US airstrike], so they'd be ill advised to go back to violating the chemical convention'... Mattis acknowledged that the US has not seen direct evidence of the use of Sarin gas but pointed to open source reports. 'I don't have the evidence... We are looking for evidence. I don't have evidence credible or uncredible.'
Like with previous allegations, US government officials are issuing threats of military action based on NGO's and fighters on the ground.

In this case it once again appears to be the word of the White Helmets, which it seems just about every other week issue new and unverified claims of chemical weapons attacks by the Syrian government. As is now generally well-known the White Helmets are funded by US and UK governments to the tune of many tens of millions of dollars, and have further been frequently filmed and documented cooperating closely with al-Qaeda factions on the ground in Syria.

Indeed the group only operates in areas controlled by al-Qaeda (HTS) and other anti-government insurgents, especially in the locations of recent alleged attacks - Idlib and East Ghouta.

Now that unverified claims of chemical attack incidents in Syria (and their subsequent uncritical amplification by media and politicians) have become routine, the following somewhat obvious observations need to be recalled:
  • The Assad government has long been winning the war, what incentive does it have to do the one thing (use CW) that would hasten its demise?
  • The US is a party to the conflict, so its claims must be evaluated accordingly.
  • The "NGOs and fighters on the ground" (in Mattis' own words) are an even more direct party to the conflict.
  • The only way anti-Assad fighters can survive at this point is by triggering massive US military intervention (by claiming "Assad is gassing his own people!").
  • The greater the momentum of Syria/Russia/Iran forces in defeating jihadists on Syrian territory, the more frequent the claims of chemical attacks  become - issued from those very jihadists suffering near certain defeat.
  • In the midst of a grinding 7-year long "fog of war" conflict involving constant claims and counterclaims, mere "open source" information means nothing in terms of proof or hard evidence.
  • Al-Qaeda administers the locations from which chemical attack allegations are being made. 
  • US officials stand ready to make use of "chemical attack" claims with or without "evidence credible or uncredible" (in Mattis' words) anytime further pressure needs to be applied toward Russia or Syria.
  • Extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence (Iraq WMD anyone?).
For its part, Russia alongside the Syrian government and other regional allies have long accused the US of blindly trusting opposition sources inside Syria concerning claims of chemical weapons attacks, including the April 2017 incident in al-Qaeda controlled (HTS) Idlib, which resulted in the US attacking an airbase in central Syria.

Last October, the US State Department admitted that anti-Assad militant groups operating in Syria, especially in Idlib, possess and have used chemical weapons throughout the war - something which the US government previously said was impossible, as it consistently held the position that only the Assad government could be to blame.

Reprinted with permission from ZeroHedge.