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War in Syria

Trump Escalates Syrian Proxy War   At the start of the Trump presidency, it looked like the U.S. covert “regime change” war in Syria might be ending, but it has returned, zombie-like, in a slightly different form   Steven Chovanec May 18, 2017   Back in February, it was quietly reported that the CIA had discontinued its support program to rebels in Syria. A month later, a knowledgeable source from the region disclosed to me that the Trump administration and the Saudi defense minister, Prince Mohammed bin Salman, had agreed during their meetings in mid-March for the Gulf states to re-open supply channels to their rebel proxies. This was done, the source said, to keep the Syrian government’s army and its allied Russian air force occupied so that the U.S. and its Kurdish allies could continue dividing northern Syria, establishing a zone-of-influence throughout the lands they recapture from the Islamic State. Concurrent with this was a similar effort in the southeast, where U.S. and Jordanian backed forces have been battling ISIS while attempting to establish control over the border with Iraq. The strategy was to use the fight against ISIS as a pretext for establishing a de-facto occupation of Syrian territory, where in the Kurdish-held regions the U.S. has already established multiple military bases and airfields. A major motivation behind Russia’s push to establish de-escalation zones, now implemented after...

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Gore Vidal

An Intellectual and His Lofty Contempt   ‘Gore Vidal: United States of Amnesia,’ a Documentary   Stephen Holden May 22, 2014 When Gore Vidal declared in an old television debate with William F. Buckley Jr. that 5 percent of Americans had 20 percent of the income and the bottom 20 percent had 5 percent, he was raising an alarm. That observation may be the most shocking moment in “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia,” Nicholas Wrathall’s admiring documentary portrait of Vidal, who died in 2012 at 86. Why shocking? It illustrates the astounding degree to which perceptions have changed over time. By the standards of today, when income inequality has widened exponentially and the middle class is shrinking, statistics that infuriated Vidal sound like the answer to a socialist’s prayer. Intellectual celebrities nowadays eschew the lofty, disdainful tones affected by Vidal and Buckley, his conservative opponent, who died in 2008. Public discourse is louder, angrier and coarser. No liberal of comparable eloquence has taken Vidal’s place in the public square, although Christopher Hitchens, who died in 2011, deemed himself Vidal’s heir apparent, until the two men had a falling out. Heavily seasoned with epigrams worthy of Oscar Wilde, this entertaining documentary portrays Vidal as a pessimistic political prophet with streaks of paranoia and misanthropy, but a truth teller nonetheless. In carefully selected excerpts from interviews and conversations conducted...

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War in Syria

The Astana Process: A Possible Solution to An Impossible Situation in Syria   DAMASCUS –  A significant event took place last week, but you wouldn’t know it if you reside in North America or Europe. Patrick Henningsen May 10, 2017 This past Thursday, a three-page memorandum was signed in Astana, Kazakstan calling for the creation of four “De-escalation Zones” in Syria. This latest proposed peace deal is the latest product of the Astana Process chaired by three nations, Russia, Iran and Turkey, an effort designed to support the previous UN Security Council Resolution 2254. This document is controversial to say the least, because it calls for the establishment of “islands of safety,” which are analogous to Washington’s previously called for ‘Safe Zones.’  These four zones include the northwestern province of Idlib, the Al-Rastan Plain just north of the city of Homs, the area of Eastern Ghouta near Damascus, and areas in the Daraa’a and Al Quneitra governorates of southern Syria. According to the memorandum, the aim of the agreement is to try and end violent clashes between militant groups and the Syrian and Russian military, and to “provide the conditions for the safe, voluntary return of refugees.” The ceasefire will also be used to send humanitarian relief and essential supplies to the four de-escalation zones. Critics of the plan are opposing it for a number of reasons, including Iran’s involvement and accusations that it will lead to an eventual break-up of the current Syrian nation state. For the Syrian government...

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Donald Trump

Trump ignores status quo apologists to engage Russia   This week’s visit by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to the White House is raising expectations for July’s historic first meeting between Trump and Putin M. K. Bhadrakumar May 11, 2017     The US President Donald Trump’s decision Tuesday to sack FBI Director James Comey probably had nothing to do with the investigation into Russia’s alleged interference in the November election. But its timing – as Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov flew into Washington for Trump’s first meeting with a top Kremlin official – was highly symbolic. It conveyed Trump’s confidence that the narrative in Washington Beltway, which so far frustrated his grand design to open a new chapter in US-Russia relations in a spirit of constructive engagement, has changed in his favour. Time will tell whether his judgment is impeccable. The odds are that it is. After holding the levers of power for 100 days, Trump would know there isn’t a shred of evidence that can implicate him. Importantly, Russians feel so too. Therefore, Trump has retrieved his road map from the attic. The presence of Henry Kissinger in the Oval Office for an unscheduled meeting with Trump just before Lavrov walked in – accompanied by the famous “Russian spy” Ambassador Sergey Kislayk – has been a deliberate ‘curtain raiser’. Kissinger has longstanding personal equations with Russia’s President...

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Dollar

Petrodollar faces growing threat from the East   Andrew Brenan Apr. 27, 2017   While the recent raft of Sino-Saudi trade agreements benefited Chinese soft power in protecting Xinjiang, and the Saudis by diversifying their economy, China’s slow intertwining with Saudi Arabia complements the Sino-Russo alliance. Primarily, its benefits could lead to a realistic threat to the petrodollar. The Persian rival who showed ‘the way’ In 2012/2013, the US Treasury Department, under the Obama administration, initiated a raft of sanctions in an amateurish fashion against the Central Bank of Iran. As we were told, it was done to tire and bleed Iranian economic and social life enough to draw Tehran into negotiations concerning its nuclear programme. The argument of were they/weren’t they pursuing a weaponized nuclear program isn’t important; how the Iranians circumvented these sanctions is. The sanctions were meant to be stifling, but the Iranians loosened this problematic liquidity noose by using all their banks that weren’t sanctioned, and sold rich Iranian oil to India. Of course, the Indians couldn’t pay Tehran directly. Neither could they pay bilaterally in rupees due to sanctions and infrastructure needed to trade in a bilateral currency. Instead, Iran requested that India pay in gold so India paid Turkey, the Middle East’s gold market, and Turkey gave Turkish gold to Iranian banks, which then swapped with the Central Bank of Iran. Turkey, for its part, may soon...

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