A former CIA station chief in Moscow is worried that top former intelligence agency officials John Brennan and James Clapper are doing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bidding, when they sound off about their Russia collusion theories without verifying the facts.
The former CIA director and former director of National Intelligence have both been fanning the flames on the notion that Donald Trump’s campaign colluded with Russian officials in order to steal the election away from Hillary Clinton on cable TV and in various media interviews. As a result, the White House threatened to revoke security clearances from these men and a few others for misusing their access to top secret documents to promote their own agenda.
Former CIA case officer Daniel Hoffman, who was stationed in Moscow, told Real Clear Investigates that Brennan and Clapper are doing Putin’s bidding when they speculate without facts.
“In Brennan’s case that Putin could blackmail Trump, and in Clapper’s that the Kremlin’s interference swung the election to Trump,” Hoffman said. “Senior intelligence officers should know we speculate at our own peril.”
“While they get a favorable response from the ‘Amen’ chorus of Trump opponents, we should also consider the risk they are taking of feeding Trump’s speculation they were partisan officials who sought to do him harm,” he said.
Former CIA chief of station Daniel Hoffman on how Russia has undermined Americans’ faith in the U.S. political system.
President Obama’s verbal threat to Vladimir Putin to “cut out” the hacking or face the consequences months prior to the 2016 presidential election only reinforced a lesson learned going back to the days of George Kennan’s containment strategy: Deterring the Kremlin requires action, not just words alone.
It’s a lesson we would do well to keep at the forefront as President Trump and Putin continue their attempted rapprochement.
In Helsinki last week, Putin sought to elevate Russia to the same stature as the United States. He wants to soil U.S. soft power by linking it with Russia’s KGB authoritarianism, thereby ensuring that our allies and Russian human rights advocates threatening Putin’s regime security do not derive inspiration from the United States as a beacon of freedom, liberty and democracy.
Second, Putin wanted to drive a wedge between the United States and our allies. Under the guise of Soviet-style “collaboration,” Putin emphasized the United States could not solve any of the world’s problems without Russia, especially the ones Putin himself exacerbated, such as Syria. Putin wants to entangle U.S. and European foreign policy with Russia to dilute and distort NATO’s influence.
Nothing scares Putin more than neighboring Ukraine, an aspiring NATO and European Union member with a sizable Russian-speaking population and commitment to democracy. Alarmed over the Trump administration’s provision of Javelin anti-tank weapons to Kiev, with whom Russia is at war, Putin wants the United States to be perceived as Russia’s global partner to degrade the U.S.-Ukraine relationship.
Third, Putin wants to soil our democracy. He holds a black belt in Judo, a key principle of which is to use an opponent’s strength against them. Our core strength as a country derives from the First Amendment, freedom of the press, liberty and our democratic institutions. We are inherently vulnerable to influence operations, including disinformation, which quickly gain traction in our free and open cyberspace.
Make no mistake, Putin is ruthlessly focused on shaping our political discourse and stimulating partisan bickering by simultaneously supporting extreme, antithetical positions.
There was no better example of this tactic than the Kremlin bots staging simultaneous post-election rallies in favor of Trump and protesting Trump’s election. Putin deliberately left a trail of breadcrumbs and a Kremlin return address during intrusions in our cyberspace because he knows he can most effectively soil our institutions by adding a measure of conspiracy and association with Russia.
The even bigger prize for Putin would be to fracture the Republican Party of Ronald Reagan, under whose leadership the United States ended the “evil empire” of the Soviet Union — to Putin, the greatest geopolitical catastrophe in the 20th century.
Last week, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats said Russia was the “most aggressive foreign actor” whose cyber threats were “blinking red.” Having missed an opportunity in Finland, President Trump now should publicly announce that we know Russia interfered in our 2016 elections and will make Russia pay a price for continuing what national security adviser John Bolton rightly called an “act of war.” If Russia does interfere in the 2018 midterms, then the United States can take the serious countermeasures that the National Security Agency and Cyber Command have discussed to deter future attacks.
Simply put, Vladimir Putin hates Democrats and Republicans. For Putin, a KGB operative and former Director of Russia’s infamous Federal Security Service (FSB), all of us are the Kremlin’s “Main Enemy.”
We need President Trump to deliver a direct and unambiguous warning to Putin. This might be his last, best chance to induce a change in Russia’s behavior, and unite the Congress and our nation in collective defense before the next Russian cyber onslaught.
Daniel Hoffman is a former chief of station with the Central Intelligence Agency. His combined 30 years of government service included high-level overseas and domestic positions at the CIA. He reported on the Trump-Putin summit from Helsinki for Fox News. Follow him on Twitter @DanielHoffmanDC.
As most of the President’s men and women in senior roles re-iterated and even provided more detail about the Russian threat to U.S. national security in the days following the Helsinki summit, the President tasked his national security advisor to extend an invitation to Russian President Vladimir Putin to visit the White House to continue the dialogue that was started seven days ago.
Meanwhile, the President’s top-serving intelligence and law enforcement leaders rolled out detailed explanations of the threat, including a report released late last week by the Department of Justice that addressed what specific actions the DOJ is taking to address cyber threats.
Former CIA Chief of Station Dan Hoffman talks about the real threat and where the government’s focus should remain while the President sends a different message.
The Cipher Brief: What should the focus of the Intelligence Community be while the President is inviting Putin for a visit to the U.S.?
Hoffman: The first thing I’d say about the Intelligence Community is that there is a flow of intelligence from the IC to the President. The CIA does all-source analysis that informs the President’s decisions. But the IC also relies on policy makers to share what the policy is.
There were countless times when I was serving in senior positions in our headquarters when the director, or the acting director would come back from a meeting downtown and brief us on what was going on so that we would be in the know, and to help us understand what the requirements were for intelligence collection, because at the end of the day, the intelligence community is requirements driven. We send requirements out to the field, with our HUMINT (human intelligence) collectors and foreign sources to collect on what the policy makers, starting with the President, require. So, the first area of concern, and I think it’s reflected in some of the public polling about the way people feel about the Helsinki summit, is that there has been no definitive, detailed statement yet from this administration about what took place. Right now, we’ve ceded the post-summit discourse to Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin. The President said he didn’t want anyone with him because he was concerned about leaks. If I allow myself to be a little bit presumptuous, if I had been asked I would have said, “Mr. President the biggest concern about leaks is that they end up in Vladimir Putin’s hands. You’re in the room with him, the last thing you need to worry about is leaks.
The second thing about the summit is that we have about four areas of concern. One is on Ukraine and the idea that Putin had floated a resolution there where there would be a referendum to deal with pro-Russian separatists. And that is not something that the U.S. government would support, and the Russians got their answer this week when Secretary James Mattis approved $200 Million dollars in security cooperation assistance in the form of advisors and equipment and training for Ukraine. So, we’re standing by Ukraine, and standing by their independence, but I didn’t hear the President make any public statement about that. We don’t know what he said to Putin privately and that’s important to know.
Another issue is Syria, where there was apparently some discussion about a resolution in Syria whereby the U.S. and Israel might together not oppose Assad taking control of the country, including the area around the Golan Heights. The risk there is that I don’t think we can rely on Russia to have any influence over Iran, or Syria not in that sense, and I’d be concerned with any strategic alliance with Russia based on the fact that they’ve been complicit, and in alliance with Syria and have enabled Assad to commit crimes against humanity. The Russians have never had our interests at heart in Syria. They lied to Secretary Kerry when they said there wasn’t a military solution in Syria, when they went ahead shortly thereafter and imposed one. And it certainly didn’t turn out to be the quagmire that President Obama warned it would be for Russia. It’s really been the key that’s unlocked their resurgent leverage in the Middle East. I think the best we can hope for there is the sort of tactical collaboration of the sort we saw recently in Helsinki when General Joseph Dunford met with Russian Army Chief of Staff Gerasimov and talked about de-conflicting military operations, which is good to do. But strategic partnership, not a chance.
Another area of concern is Putin’s odd proposal to allow the Muller team to go to Russia and interview the 12 GRU Military Intelligence Officers, and in turn the Russians would get to have their turn with Ambassador McFaul, and Bill Browder. Browder’s not even an American citizen, and there is no extradition treaty with Russia and the fact that we’d even come close to equating the rule of law in the U.S., with this warped KGB authoritarianism that exists in Russia is not only wildly disconcerting to any of us who lived in Russia, but really quite dangerous. So those are three areas where we have some concern and I wish the administration would have come out and spoken out about those, and anything else that was discussed in the summit.
The last, and fourth area of concern is related to Russia’s cyber intrusions, and I don’t like to use the word meddle, meddle is too soft. We’ve gotten in this habit of saying they are meddling in our affairs, they’re not meddling they are influencing, they are intruding into our cyberspace with espionage purpose. So I think we should be careful to call it what it is, and raise some alarm bells. This week, the National Security Agency, and Cyber Command talked about taking counter-measures in cyberspace against Russia but before you do that, what you really need is for the President to warn Putin. That’s what deterrence is all about. The aggrieved parties, publicly state “if you cross this red line, we will take action.”
The Cipher Brief: But that’s clearly not the President’s strategy, so from a realists perspective, what now?
Hoffman: Right, so he didn’t do that, and so what Putin knows is that the U.S. intelligence community is preparing counter-measures. But when we take them, Putin will come back at us and portray himself as the aggrieved party. What Putin is trying to do here, in my view, is far more subtle and nuanced. He hates us all. He hates democrats, he hates republicans, he hates Secretary Clinton, he hates President Trump. We are all Russia’s main enemy. And, on Russia, we shouldn’t be each other’s enemies. We should be united, maybe with a slightly different take on specific policies, but at the end of the day we should be united with the understanding that Russia presents a threat to us.
There are limited areas in which we can work together like in arms control and counter-terrorism, we all know that. What I think what Putin wants to do, specifically with the idea of the trade of allowing Mueller’s team to speak with the GRU officers, is to divide the republican party. The same republican party of Reagan, that not only called the Soviet Union the evil empire, but was responsible for tearing down the Soviet Union. There are a lot of other reasons the Soviet Union fell apart, certainly Boris Yeltsin was the most important figure in tearing it apart from within. There was also the war in Afghanistan, Chernobyl, a failed economy and they lost the war of ideas to us. But for Putin, who continues to consider the collapse of the Soviet Union the greatest geo-political disaster of the 20th century, he knows that the republican party has been a stalwart defense against Russia’s expansion. And nothing would please him more than to divide the party, and drive a stake through it. And I continue to believe that what Putin is trying to do is to soil our democracy, and divide us by using discoverable influence operations and I think what he’d like to do is to continue to see republicans arguing amongst themselves as we see with Senator Lindsey Graham, vociferously arguing about how the President appears to be confusing what Senator Graham calls meddling with collusion. And there are some in the Republican party who are defending the President, and some who are not. But I think the end game for Putin is to try and do what he can to exacerbate the differences within the party, and try to break it. And I’m saying this because I’m trying to see the world through the twisted KGB eyes of Putin. I’m not an expert on domestic U.S. politics I’m the one who’s focused on understanding what makes Putin tick.
The Cipher Brief:We’ve seen Dan Coats, we’ve seen Christopher Wray and a number of other seniors in the administration reiterate the Russian threat on the heels of the Helsinki summit, so for those who do believe the threat is real, including the IC, that should put their mind at least a little at ease. However, what should we be focused on looking ahead that’s going to move the ball in the right direction for U.S. national security despite whether or not the President pushes forward with his next step, which is inviting Putin to the White House?
Hoffman: Where the IC will play a role right now is on reflections of the summit. That’s the immediate goal. So the IC will collect reflections on how Putin and his team assess the summit. So we’ll learn what was discussed in the summit, but we’ll learn it through Putin’s eyes and I guarantee that he will not accurately describe the results of the summit, even to his own people. That’s why it’s vitally important that we know, from President Trump, what the real facts are so the President can parse the intelligence we obtain from Putin and his team, from the facts.
The Cipher Brief: It sounds like you’re getting to the point of why it’s really so complicated to be the only person in the room when you have a meeting like this. Is the IC now handed a mess to try and figure out?
Hoffman: Yes. President Reagan had one on one meetings with Gorbachev, so it’s not unheard of, and it’s ok, but President Trump needed to have sat down, and maybe he did this, I don’t know, with Director CIA, Secretary of State, the National Security Advisor, and walked them through right away everything that happened. So, to get back to the role of the IC, the first thing is to collect on those reflections and get that back to the President so he is aware what the Russian’s are thinking now about the summit, and their way forward. What does Putin plan on raising in Washington D.C. during the visit? We don’t yet have a date for that summit, but certainly Putin will have his own ideas about what might make sense in terms of the issues he will want to raise and that is up to the IC to think about that. Collection on Russia’s relationships in Europe, and their covert influence operations are always important, never more so than now.
Ukraine is really the canary in the coal mine here. Because they are at war with Russia. I would argue that the country that scares Putin the most is Ukraine. Russia’s neighbor with a sizable Russian speaking population, a commitment to democracy and tilting politically toward the EU, as well as an aspiring NATO member. Putin is trying to influence U.S. political discourse on Ukraine and Europe as well, so collection on how he is going to portray Ukraine, and his plans for influence operations is really important.
Every time you meet with Putin it’s like he’s setting a bunch of traps. It’s like you’re out in the woods someplace, and you wish you had night vision goggles to see all the traps. So for us, the night vision goggles are counter-intelligence and understanding where Putin is trying to hurt us. But if you don’t understand that, you risk getting your leg caught in a whole bunch of traps. He’s setting a whole bunch of traps for us- Ukraine, Syria and this Cyber-Security working group idea, those are all traps that he has set.
The Center for Security Policy’s interim Executive Vice President, Christopher C. Hull, Ph.D, speaks at the Sovereign Nations Conference, which took place at the Trump International Hotel.
The conference confronted the issues, debated the consequences and explored the causes of things that are destroying our liberty in the United States. Specifically, it explored the foundation of, on one hand, George Soros‘ view of the world, in which all individuals and freedoms are ultimately subordinate to and guaranteed by government, and on the other hand, Donald Trump’s view as articulated in his Warsaw speech, with independent sovereign nations acting within constitutional constraints to guarantee rights granted by God to free citizens.
Dr. Hull’s presentation, ‘Who Is Breaking Europe?’ can be found in the video above. In it, he argues that the answer is threefold:
The European illegal immigration crisis, driven at least in part by Islamic holy war, or Jihad;
Politically correct EU leaders and globalist elites like Soros, driven at least in part by cultural Marxism; and
Vladimir Putin’s Russia, driven at least in part by a simple desire to weaken its adversaries by exploiting the divisions among and between them.
n what may turn out to be a major inflection point in the Syrian conflict, an American fighter jet on Sunday shot down a Syrian warplane, which was said to be dropping bombs near U.S.-supported Kurdish and Arab ground forces fighting ISIS in the vicinity of ISIS’s de facto capital of Raqqa. It was the first time during the six year Syrian conflict that a U.S. jet had shot down a Syrian jet. In fact, it has been approximately 18 years since the U.S. had shot down a warplane belonging to any country since a Serbian plane was shot down over Kosovo in 1999.
The U.S. Central Command leading the anti-ISIS coalition effort said the Syrian jet was “immediately shot down… in accordance with rules of engagement and in collective self-defense of Coalition partnered forces.” The statement added that the coalition’s mission was to defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria and was not to fight the Syrian regime or its allies. However, it added that the coalition would not hesitate to defend itself or its partner forces “from any threat,” and that “[T]he demonstrated hostile intent and actions of pro-regime forces toward Coalition and partner forces in Syria conducting legitimate counter-ISIS operations will not be tolerated.”
According to a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, the U.S. had first warned the Syrian plane away from the area, but to no avail. An F/A-18 “Super Hornet” thereupon shot down the Syrian plane.
Syria claimed its plane was targeting ISIS militants at the time, a dubious claim in light of the Assad regime’s long record of bombing civilians and all rebel groups indiscriminately in the name of combating “terrorism.”
Syria’s principal ally Russia regarded the U.S. attack on the Syrian warplane as a hostile act. It said that it would treat U.S.-led coalition planes and drones operating west of the Euphrates River where Russia’s air forces operate as “targets.” Russia also said it would suspend indefinitely the use of the communications channel that had been set up between the two countries for the purpose of reducing the potential for direct military confrontation between U.S. and Russian warplanes. Russia had made a similar threat after the U.S. missile strike on a Syrian airfield in retaliation for the Syrian regime’s alleged chemical attack on civilians last April, which turned out to be a hollow threat.
“All kinds of airborne vehicles, including aircraft and UAVs of the international coalition detected to the west of the Euphrates River will be tracked by the Russian SAM systems as air targets,” the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement. “The US’ repeated combat operations under the guise of ‘combating terrorism’ against the legitimate armed forces of a UN member-country are a flagrant violation of international law and an actual military aggression against the Syrian Arab Republic.”
The Pentagon responded with a stern warning to the Russians that the U.S. would not be deterred in its support of coalition operations against ISIS. Department of Defense spokesperson Maj. Adrian J.T. Rankine-Galloway said coalition aircraft would continue conducting “operations throughout Syria, targeting ISIS forces and providing air support for Coalition partner forces on the ground.”
General Jack Keane (Ret.), a Fox News military analyst, believes Russia is bluffing. “That’s rubbish,” Keane said on “Fox & Friends.”They’re not gonna shoot at U.S. airplanes. They’re not gonna take on the United States. They have very limited capability in Syria by comparison to U.S. capability.”
General Keane may be underestimating Russia’s defense capabilities in Syria, which include surface-to-air missiles. In particular, Russia’s S-400 air defense system is highly sophisticated, with a range of more than 200 miles. Nevertheless, the correct response to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s bullying is to push back in no uncertain terms. The United States cannot allow Russia to declare what amounts to a no-fly zone in Syria that would undermine the U.S.-led coalition’s fight against ISIS. The U.S. has not interfered with Russian aircraft operating in Syria. Nor should Russia interfere with ours. Not only would a surrender to Russian threats simply invite more Russian aggression. It would send a signal of weakness to ISIS and al Qaeda. And it would embolden Iran, a staunch ally of the Syrian regime along with Russia, to continue its quest for hegemony in the Middle East region.
In fact, Iran added to the seething Syrian cauldron on Sunday with its own launching of missiles into Syria. The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps claimed the missiles were aimed at “the headquarters and meeting place and suicide car assembly line” of “ISIS terrorists.” However, nothing the Iranian regime says can be taken completely at face value. Iran is no doubt also sending a message to the U.S.- led coalition members and Israel that the gains the Syrians and Hezbollah forces have been making with Iran’s support in southern Syria, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders, would be defended with Iranian missiles if necessary. “The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Revolutionary Guard told Iranian state TV in an interview, as quoted by the Associated Press. Moreover, whatever territory Iran helps Syrian forces and Hezbollah militia take away from rebel control, including from ISIS, increases Iranian control over strategic positions bridging Iraq and Syria. This in turn would enhance Iran’s so-called “Shia crescent.”
Whether the U.S. downing of the Syrian plane turns out to be just another bump in the road of the long conflict in Syria or represents a true inflection point, accelerating a potential direct collision between the United States and Russia, remains to be seen. However, the Trump administration needs to be clear-eyed in the strategic objectives it seeks to achieve in Syria to avoid getting drawn into a prolonged ground war. Regime change in Syria must not become the objective for its own sake. The disastrous outcomes in Iraq and Libya prove what can lie over the cliff of regime change.
Defeating ISIS should remain the number one objective. Containing Iran is also a key strategic objective, given its hegemonic ambitions and its state sponsorship of terrorism. We should not be fooled into thinking that Iran’s assistance in fighting ISIS will come without a heavy price that may turn out to be even more dangerous in the long run than ISIS to the U.S. national security interest.
As for Russia, we have little choice at this point but to live with its presence in Syria in support of the Assad regime, lest we risk an all-out military confrontation that could spin out of control. Efforts are already underway behind the scenes to lower tensions from the latest incident. A Russian official has clarified that Russia would only threaten coalition jets that “take action that pose a threat to Russian aircraft.” We can take reasonable steps to demonstrate that striking Russian aircraft is not our intention. However, the U.S. should not permit Russia to interfere in any way with the U.S.-led coalition fight against ISIS, which means not allowing Russia to put into effect its own version of a no-fly zone against coalition aircraft operating in support of coalition forces fighting ISIS anywhere in Syria. Russia should also not be permitted to shield the Syrian regime from a further military response if it once again uses lethal chemical weapons against its own people.
Most importantly, we need to stop being reactive and start thinking strategically. As Daniel Nidess, a guest columnist, wrote recently in Foreign Policy:
“We need to get back to playing chess — to deliberately planning several moves ahead and accepting that achieving some interests may mean temporarily sacrificing others. The alternative is to continue the trend of the last decade and a half of U.S. foreign policy, which has alternated between half-heartedly committing to our stated goals and sleepwalking through shortsighted escalations that lack clear objectives, both of which have left the U.S. worse off strategically.”
U.S. President Donald Trump (L) listens as Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin delivers remarks in the US Treasury Department building on April 21, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is making his first visit to the Treasury Department for a memorandum signing ceremony with Secretary Mnuchin. Shawn Thew/Pool/Getty Images.
Daily Caller, by Ginni Thomas, May 6, 2017: (go to Daily Caller for the video)
President Donald Trump’s ideological opponents have opened up a serious challenge to governance since election day, according to one prolific scholar and national security expert.
Dr. J. Michael Waller, who has taught on subversion, propaganda and information warfare, says no other president has had his 100-day honeymoon stolen from him. Additionally, no other president has had their predecessor organizing private funds to undermine him as former President Barack Obama has done in concert with the left’s resistance to Trump.
Waller discusses the weaponization of government by Obama where he used the IRS, Department of Justice (DOJ), FBI and the national intelligence community against his political opponents, in this exclusive video interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation interview.
Did Obama’s FBI, CIA, NSA and DOJ meddle more in our national election than Russia? Did the Obama team use pretexts to allege Russian collaboration in order to spy on their political opponents?
Waller describes the various forces against Trump that make the president appear illegitimate. He names the militant extreme left, the permanent bureaucracy and mainstream elected Democrats who, with varying interlocking narratives, create a climate of fear, suspicion and hatred.
Commenting on the flimsy accusations by Democrats of Russian interference as part of this delegitimization project of the left, Waller reminds us that Democrats were calling conservatives “Russophobes” for holding on to Cold War antagonisms toward Russia recently.
Waller says, “This is the first time you have ever had left-wingers protesting Kremlin subversion of American politics and actually caring about the Constitution.”
The Congress should expand the one-sided Russian subversion probe about 2016, he says, since Russia has worked to subvert American political efforts with propaganda and disinformation since the 1920s. Waller has 13 memory-jarring reasons why the Democrats would find such an expanded probe uncomfortable, if only Republicans would consider such a tact.
Part of Waller’s list includes the “Anna Chapman case” in New York in 2010, where Russians penetrated the Democratic political machine in the Empire State. He also discusses the Clinton “pay for play” uranium deal that seemed to result in zero political outrage from congressional Republicans.
According to Waller, “George Soros is the number one private sponsor of subversion against the United States,” with the Chinese, Saudis and the Russians as the predominant state sponsors of subversion. Soros funds a full range of groups that seek to bring down America, including Black Lives Matter, which promotes murderous violence against police officers, drug legalization, and open border policies that threaten self-government and national security.
Waller thinks he seeks to “cripple institutions of national identity, national security and individual liberty insofar as it protects the constitutional rights of Americans.”
The widely reported Kremlin plan to set up four safe or “de-escalation” zones, that were supposed to have gone into effect in Syria Friday night, May 5, turns out to be nothing but a propaganda ploy. The spin factor leaps to the eye from the small print of the plan that was released by Gen. Sergey Rudskoy, head of Russian General Staffs Operations Division, Friday night. He outlined four steps that may never take off
1. Observation points will be set up to monitor the ceasefire (in the four designated de-escalation zones).
So when the putative safe zones were to have started operating Friday night, there were no observation points to monitor them.
2. The boundaries of the zones will be determined in accordance with the observation points.
This means that the zones don’t exist.
3. By June 4, a working team made up of officers of the three guarantors, Russia, Turkey and Iran, will be created to administer the observation points.
Who can tell what will happen in Syrian in a month’s time.
4. Only after the observation groups of the three sponsor-nations’ armies finish mapping the ceasefire zones can it be determined whether the plan is doable or not.
Still no zones.
The Russian propaganda machine worked overtime this weekend to convince the Western media that the ceasefire zones plan had won the support of the United States and Saudi Arabia.
The truth is that US President Donald Trump did not commit himself one way or another when he talked on the phone with President Vladimir Putin on Tuesday, May 2, although most of their conversation was devoted to Syria, rather than the North Korean crisis. There was no agreement between them on any Syrian issue, except for a decision that American and Russian forces in the war-torn country would stay out of each other’s way.
In sum, Moscow’s ceasefire zones plan, though effectively propagandized, has changed nothing in Syria’s bloody predicament.
With so much still up in the air, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson talked by phone Friday to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, after which he gave the following statement: “The secretary looks forward to further meetings with the foreign minister to discuss the respective roles of the United States and Russia in de-escalating the conflict and supporting the talks in Geneva to move the political solution forward.”
Tillerson made no mention of any safe zones which Moscow claims to be setting up with Ankara and Tehran, or of the Russian-sponsored Syrian peace conference in Astana, Kazakhstan.
Rebel groups, supposed to be holding a dialogue with Assad regime representatives, walked out of its fourth round last week. And the Trump administration appears unwilling to throw its support behind the Russian-sponsored peace initiative, preferring to stand solidly behind the UN-sponsored Geneva process.
Turkey and Iran, the other two “sponsors” of the Astana framework, and putative “guarantors” of the safe zones, are strangely silent about the roles assigned them by the Kremlin. And no wonder. As rivals in the Syrian arena, their forces are ranged against each other in both Syria and Iraq. It is hard to see them working shoulder to shoulder alongside Russian officers to monitor safety zones which are still pie in the sky.
The situation at the moment is this: In Iraq, Turkish and Iranian troops – essentially pro-Iranian militias under the command of Revolutionary Guards officers – glare at each other across two warfronts, Tel Afar and Sinjar. In Syria, each of their armies is poised to grab Al-Bab in the Aleppo province.
The only real change in Syria’s military situation is a surreptitious one, which may present a fresh, wide-ranging peril: The Lebanese Shiite Hizballah has agreed to place the 8,000 members fighting in Syria for Bashar Assad under direct Iranian command. This is part of a radical reorganization of all the military outfits Iran has deployed in Syria, whereby all the Shiite militias including Hizballah fall henceforth directly under a single centralized Iranian command.
This fundamental shift in the military balance in Syria was initiated by Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Suleiman, commander of Iranian forces in Syria and Iraq. He convinced supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that there was no other way to safeguard Iran’s military supremacy in the Syrian war arena, guarantee a land bridge to Lebanon, or mobilize tactically for future confrontations with Israel.
The Syrian ruler also submitted to this step. Therefore, Hizballah and the Shiite militias will henceforth operate under the orders of the Iranian military mission which has its seat at Syrian High Command Headquarters in Damascus.
This “reorganization” opens the door for Hizballah officers to assume Iranian army uniforms and act as “ceasefire monitors” if Russia’s fictitious safe zones ever get off the ground.
With President Trump executing missile strikes in Syria and radical Islamic terrorism being as big a threat as it ever has been, we need to understand how these oppressive regimes and extremist ideologies got started and empowered. Working with Dangerous Documentaries, director Judd Saul and conservative commentator have compiled a team of researchers who have uncovered the history of the Soviet Union’s meddling in Middle Eastern politics, creating a new enemy for the United States, and learned that Russia’s continuing alliance with Islamists is forwarding a radical domestic threat in America today.
“Soviet Islam” is the second episode in the five-part “America Under Siege” documentary web-series releasing over the course of 2017. Each episode profiles the influence of radical Marxists on various segments of American society.