Gorka: Left Cares About Alinsky Tactics and Political ‘Triangulation’ More Than Safety of Americans

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Scott Olson/Getty Images

Breitbart, by John Hayward, February 13, 2017:

Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka, formerly National Security editor for Breitbart News, addressed the controversy over National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s pre-inauguration phone calls to Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak on Monday’s Breitbart News Daily.

“I can’t comment on what was said, or what wasn’t said, on those telephone calls even though the good general himself says that he can’t remember all the details,” Gorka said. “All I can tell you is my personal experience. I spent several months working very closely with General Flynn and the transition team, in his National Security Council transition team. He’s a man you would trust with your life. He’s a great patriot, man of honor, worn the cloth of the Republic.

“The bottom line is, he shook things up in the DIA, and there are a lot of people who want to take revenge on him. Names I’m not going to list across the airwaves right now, but people who do a little bit of research can work out. The Establishment doesn’t like General Flynn, and for me, that’s a good thing,” he told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.

Marlow proposed that Flynn was but the latest target of the Left’s “pick a target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it” strategy, as defined by Saul Alinsky in Rules for Radicals.

“You’re absolutely correct,” Gorka said. “Whether it’s Steve Bannon, whether it’s Stephen Miller, whether it was Monica Crowley, or whether it’s General Flynn now. Important point for the listeners, and this is what has to be grasped: it’s never about the issues. It’s not about Russia, it’s not about the safety of Americans, it’s not about preventing attacks like Paris or Nice happening in America. It’s the triangulation. We have to isolate and take down the individuals, separate them from their community, pillory them, and then just make their position untenable. It’s classic Alinsky, and I’m sorry, they’re just picking on the wrong guy, because this guy is as hard as nails.”

[CJR: I feel very bad about Monica Crowley. She deserves her reputation back. Read this – Rising to Monica Crowley’s defense ]

Turning to President Donald Trump’s meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Gorka said “the message that has to be taken home by everybody – our allies, our partners, and our competitors and our potential enemies – is that our relationship with Japan is back on track.

“Do you remember the ‘Asia pivot’ that wasn’t a pivot, that ended in China intimidating all her neighbors, building fake atolls with military installations on top of them? That age is over. Whether it’s sending a message to put Iran on notice, or whether it’s rekindling one of our closest ties in the region with Japan, this is a new age for America in foreign policy.”

Gorka said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s upcoming visit to the White House would cover the “obvious issues,” such as “what can we do, as the outside potential interlocutor, to bring stability, to bring some kind of lasting peace to the region?”

“As part of that, it’s going to have to be a discussion of settlements, what is the status of settlements,” he said. “On top of that, one of the things that we are very keen on is to represent an understanding to the world that Israel isn’t alone. It’s not the threat to Israel from local terrorists. It’s the same thing as Orlando, as the attacks in New York, in Boston. There is this, what I like to call the global jihadi movement, and Israel is as much on the frontline – if not more – than any other country. So we want to bring that international recognition that Israel isn’t just our strongest partner in the region, it’s also really on the frontline of the war against the global jihadists.”

Gorka said the White House was not so much “shifting policy” with its latest statements on Israeli settlements, but offering a “nuanced explication of what our policy is.”

“I’m not part of that team, but I’ve spoken to the people that are working that issue, and it’s a fine line,” he said. “What we have suggested is that when it comes to the settlements, you can build on what you’ve already got. So if you’ve got a building, and you want to go up another story, it’s fine. But going to new territories is not going to help anybody. So we’d like to see a little bit of a snapshot in time. Let’s not have any more territory taken as part of the settlements, so that we can get down to some serious negotiations right now.

“That’s a nuanced policy statement from the team, but I think it bears recognition as acting in good faith, so we can bring the partners to the table.”

Another imminent presidential meeting will involve Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, described by Marlow as “pretty much the anti-Trump” for being “a young man who is very photogenic,” raised in an atmosphere of deep left-wing politics for his entire life.

Gorka thought the two leaders might find common ground by acknowledging “there are issues that have to be dealt with in every country,” including “the tension with regard to the terrorist threat internally.”

“We may be from different political communities, but the bottom line, it’s our northerly neighbor. They share a lot of the same issues that we share, especially when it comes to national security,” he observed. “President Trump is the master of the deal, and he can negotiate with people who even have different political opinions. So let’s see what the day brings, but I think it will be a substantive meeting for both parties.”

Gorka said President Trump will soon decide how to proceed on his immigration executive order, after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a judicial restraining order against it. He praised the analysis Breitbart News has offered on the decision.

“Let’s not talk about the fact that the Ninth Circuit Court has been reversed 82 times. That’s their batting average. What Breitbart has very, very rightly revealed is that of the seven nations on the list that came from the Obama administration, 72 nationals of those nations have been convicted of jihadi terrorist activity in America since September the 11th,” he said.

“This narrative, this politicized narrative that it’s Islamophobic, and it has nothing to do with terrorism, and nobody from those countries has ever committed terrorist acts in America is so totally and utterly fallacious that we need to reset the standard of the discussion. It’s about national security. Seventy-two people – think about that. That’s more than five times the number of hijackers that did September the 11th. So we are going to maintain our commitment to that executive order and those seven countries being on a temporary halt.”

Same interview:

Gorka: Radical Islam Has Grown ‘Much, Much Stronger’ Since 9/11

On Monday’s Breitbart News Daily, SiriusXM host Alex Marlow asked for Deputy Assistant to the President Dr. Sebastian Gorka’s assessment of radical Islam and its position in the world today, compared to its influence on the morning of September 11, 2001. “Is radical Islam stronger now as a movement, or has it been weakened since 9/11?” he asked.

“Superb question,” Gorka replied. “And the answer is unequivocally, without a doubt, much much stronger.”

“Just think about one metric. Let’s look at ISIS. ISIS, the Islamic State, has achieved that which no other jihadi group has been able to do in 90 years since the dissolution of the Caliphate by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1924. He fired the caliph, he dissolved the Caliphate, when he created the secular republic of Turkey. For 90 years, the bad guys – al-Qaeda included – have tried to re-establish a theocratic Caliphate. ISIS didn’t talk about it. They did it,” he noted.

“They did it in 2014 from the pulpit of the Grand Mosque in Mosul,” he continued. “According to our own counterterrorism center – this is open source – ISIS has 18 operational affiliates around the world. Compare that to just three years ago, when they had seven. They are getting stronger.”

“This is why it’s very important to understand, we’re not at war with Islam, but there is a war inside Islam, for which version is going to win. And right now, it’s the wrong version,” he warned. “It’s the seventh-century atavistic bloodcurdling version that is represented by the Islamic State. The version that is portrayed by Jordan, by Egypt, by the Emiratis, that needs our support because we cannot see the Islamic State expand any more. That is why the president used the phrase, ‘We are going to eradicate the Islamic State.’”

Gorka said there were two important conclusions to draw from the foreign policy speech President Trump gave in Youngstown, Ohio, during the campaign, principles that continue to shape his policy outlook since the election.

“Number one, it’s very clear, he’s given the generals 30 days to come up with a war plan to defeat the Islamic State, as the epitome of the threat right now – destroy it in theater with our allies, with our partners,” he said. “But that’s the smaller part. We’re the most powerful nation the world has ever seen. We can do that relatively easily.”

“Long-term victory, if you read General Flynn’s book, you’ll see this explicitly laid out,” he continued, referring to The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who is now national security adviser to President Trump’s. “Long-term victory comes when people don’t want to become jihadis anymore.”

He said this would require a longer and more difficult second-stage strategy to “delegitimize the narrative of jihad.”

“Just as Ronald Reagan undermined the narrative of the communists, we have to help our allies, the Sunnis of the region, make the totalitarian ideology of the jihadists look hollow and crumble in upon itself,” Gorka urged. “The larger part of our task is to have a very, very full-throated counter-propaganda campaign, which means the Islam of our allies against the Islam of groups like the Islamic State.”

Dr. Sebastian Gorka is the author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War and was national security editor for Breitbart News before joining the Trump administration.

Gorka: Trump ‘Incredibly Pragmatic’ About Relations with Russia, Iran

AP

AP

Breitbart, by John Hayward, Feb. 7, 2017:

White House Deputy Assistant Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War and former national security editor for Breitbart News, defended President Trump’s criticism that the media do not cover terrorism adequately.

On Breitbart News Daily, Gorka said the issue is not “how much coverage” terrorism gets, but rather, “the nature of the coverage and how much of it is spin.”

LISTEN:

“Do you recall, after the Orlando attack – 49 Americans massacred in the Pulse nightclub – the mainstream media, for almost two weeks, what was their spin on that attack? Not terrorism. Omar Mateen was clearly a repressed homosexual who was involved in some kind of act of revenge against his Latin lover,” he recalled. “For almost two weeks, that was the message, until the FBI said this is utterly fallacious, not true. But it got to a point where even the transcripts of his calls to the 911 dispatcher were doctored by the administration.”

“There was this kind of complicit relationship between the former administration and the media, downplaying how bad the terrorist threat is. And then when something occurs, just simply misrepresenting it. So that’s what we have a problem with in the White House,” he said.

SiriusXM host Alex Marlow argued that the president’s critique made it sound as if terrorism was not covered at all, prompting the media to respond by listing the stories they wrote about terror attacks throughout the years – a different dispute than Dr. Gorka’s point about misattribution and downplaying of motives in the coverage.

“I’m working on my own list that I’m going to run through the White House of all the attempted attacks,” said Gorka, pointing to another area where he felt media coverage has been insufficient. “We have dozens and dozens of attacks that really are jihadi-motivated, but don’t get reported as such, or are very simply, very rapidly dropped.”

“Let’s just talk about a couple of figures,” he suggested. “Breitbart listeners are, of course, different, but how many general members of the U.S. population know that we have arrested or killed 125 ISIS terrorists in America since the Caliphate was declared? One hundred and twenty-five. And how many people know that in the recent IED attack in New York and New Jersey, when that individual deployed a pressure cooker bomb and some pipe bombs, that only two exploded, but in one weekend, he’d actually deployed almost a dozen devices? A dozen devices in 48 hours – that’s like Beirut in the 1980s.”

“It’s quality of the reporting. It’s the spin and trying to explain it away that is the real issue,” he emphasized.

Marlow asked for Gorka’s take on President Trump’s exchange with host Bill O’Reilly of Fox News, in which O’Reilly referred to Russian President Vladimir Putin as a “killer,” and Trump replied, “We’ve got a lot of killers. What, do you think our country’s so innocent?”

“If you want to know what the White House policy is with regards to Russia or the Kremlin, you can do no better than to listen to the president himself,” said Gorka. “I don’t know if you recall, a few weeks ago, he held a press conference in Trump Tower, and during the Q&A, he was asked explicitly this question about what are our relationships going to be like with Vladimir Putin. And he was very honest. It wasn’t some half-sentence ‘gotcha’ moment on a television interview. He said, ‘Look, there are problems with Russia, I would like to be able to work with Vladimir Putin. I’m not sure if I can, and if I can’t, so be it.’”

“The real answer is, we have a Commander-in-Chief who is incredibly pragmatic. You don’t get to be as successful a businessman as he is without being eminently pragmatic. And his attitude to how we’re going to get along with Russia is, ‘Look, we’d like to, but if we can’t, that’s also a reality.’ We’ve been very clear about that from the beginning,” he said.

Marlow asked if it was fair to say the Trump administration is backtracking on its support for Israel’s construction of settlements.

“There’s a nuanced approach to this, and sometimes I think that gets missed,” Gorka responded. “The policy right now of the White House is, we want to have a little snapshot in time. If there is building to be done, it shouldn’t be on new territories. You can do building to go upwards or to add to something that’s already there, but any new settlements in new territories would be counterproductive to any kind of settlement between the parties.”

“We are very, very vested in bringing some kind of resolution to these issues. We have somebody that’s named as a negotiator who’s going to work on them. But right now, we don’t want to see any new territories with new buildings because otherwise, that’s going to make any kind of long-term resolution very difficult,” he said.

When Marlow asked if there has been any movement on relocating the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem, Gorka replied, “Just wait and see.” He agreed with Marlow and with others, such as frequent Breitbart News Daily guest John Bolton, that moving the embassy is a “simple” process to execute physically, and “the president is committed to that decision,” so “you can take that one to the bank.”

Marlow pointed to news about a surge in anti-Christian attacks in France and asked if the White House was following the “drastically under-reported story” of anti-Christian bigotry around the world.

“Absolutely,” Gorka said. “It goes back to the original story we were discussing. It’s the misrepresentation – one of the most powerful things, one of the greatest powers the media has is not to write stories, but to not write stories about things that are happening.”

“In addition to the spinning or misrepresentation of terrorist attacks, there’s this giant story for the last 15 years. It’s not just about bombs going off in Boston. It’s not just about murder in Orlando. It’s about genocide. It’s about the systematic extermination of religious minorities – not just the Yazidis running up Mount Sinjar; it is the Christians,” he said.

“If you look at what ISIS did after they took over Mosul, they marked every house in that city where a Christian lived with a sign for ‘follower of Nazareth.’ And they gave those Christians a very simple option: convert to Islam, or be killed, or be punished as an infidel, and pay a special infidel tax. That’s systematic genocide,” he contended.

“As you see in Europe and elsewhere, it’s not just in the Middle East. The murder of a priest saying Mass, a Catholic priest, in France – this is what the media should be talking about if they wish to give a truly honest depiction of how serious the global jihadi threat is, Alex,” he said.

Gorka said it was “great news” that Iran has taken to insulting the new U.S. President as a “newcomer” to geopolitics and rattling its ballistic-missile saber.

“They realize that it’s not just about being a newcomer. It’s about the new sheriff in town,” he said. “This is not business as usual. We are not going to underpin and support a theocratic dictatorship – that is the Iranian Republic. The Obama administration’s policy of making the mullahs in Tehran stronger and stronger, in some kind of regional balancing act, those days are over. So for all the bluster, I think the underlying message is, hopefully, they understand it’s not business as usual with regards to Washington.”

Marlow relayed a question from fellow Breitbart News Daily host and Breitbart London editor Raheem Kassam about U.K. House of Commons Speaker John Bercow effectively banning President Trump from addressing both houses of Parliament during an upcoming state visit.

Gorka expressed “disappointment,” speaking as a proud American who grew up in the United Kingdom.

“I can’t recall a Speaker making such an incredibly partisan comment about a duly, democratically elected chief executive, of one of the most important – if not the most important – allies to the United Kingdom,” he said.

He recalled British Prime Minister Theresa May having an “amazing” visit with President Trump recently and said he expected “things to be executed as planned” when Trump makes his visit to London.

Turning to the legal battle over President Trump’s executive order for an immigration pause from seven nations with severe security problems, Gorka insisted the order is “completely constitutional,” adding that the president is completely in his powers to do so, but we are doing this as a preventative measure.”

“Good counter-terrorism is done before an attack, to prevent an attack,” he explained. “The whole logic of this EO, this executive order, is the following: we are going to destroy ISIS. The president has made that commitment to eradicate the Islamic State. But as we ramp up in the near future our approach to ISIS, what’s going to happen? We are going to see an increase in the movement of jihadis further west, further north, into Europe and across the ocean into America.”

“We don’t want to see them use the immigration streams to insert their people into America so they can do things like the Berlin attack, like the Nice attack, like the Paris attacks. This is purely and solely about national security and protecting the citizens of this great nation,” Gorka declared.

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Sebastian Gorka: Trump Order About Safety, Not Religion

Also see:

Implications of Russian Presence in Latin America

putin2Center for Security Policy, January 23, 2017:

The Obama Administration expelled 35 Russian diplomats and imposed new sanctions on Russian spy agencies for espionage and involvement in hacking political sites during the last presidential election.

Let us be clear. Espionage is an act for which the U.S. has every right to take action against the country that perpetrates it. Since the Russians indeed committed these acts of espionage, the actions taken against the diplomats were justified.

Yet, this dramatic step taken by the Obama Administration constituted a rather puzzling action for an Administration that made reconciliation and reaching out to adversaries and enemies, a policy across the board . The “Obama Doctrine” as the journalist Jeffrey Goldberg called it, is that we do not get involved in conflicts that do not directly affect us. Obama believed that for Russia to claim a sphere of influence in the Ukraine is legitimate given the history and geography of both countries. Therefore, according to this view, let us stay away from unnecessary political confrontations, let alone military ones.

Russia later entered the Middle East with troops in support of its old client, the Assad regime. Russia, along with Hezbollah, helped Bashar Al Assad recover lost territory. Obama was not going to put American soldiers at risk in order to prevent genocide or disasters unless the situation constituted a security threat to the U.S. Following the same logic, in exchange for a nuclear deal, Iran was allowed to have influence in the Middle East raising panic among most countries in the region.

Latin America is the geographical neighborhood where the U.S. lives. Latin America is to the U.S. what Obama claimed the Ukraine is for Russia, namely an area where it can claim not necessarily domination but influence.

Two years ago, we reported the existence of Russian military cooperation with countries in Latin America that are hostile to the United States, mainly Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.  This includes agreements between Russia and the above named countries that would enable Russia to place their naval logistic facilities within their territory. Russia clearly seeks to increase its political influence and geo-political strategic depth.

As pointed out in the above referenced article, while Russia views the former Soviet republics as naturally belonging to Russia’s traditional area of domination, the Obama Administration views similar attachment to its neighbors in the Western Hemisphere as antiquated.

Meanwhile, countries such as Brazil, Argentina and certainly Venezuela increased their cooperation with Russia. Venezuela even purchased arms for more than four billion dollars. Part of these weapons was handed over by the Venezuela government to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Brazil, a growing power, supported the idea of “a multipolar world”. On paper multi-polarity could be seen as the recognition of the existence of many world powers and not just one or two. However, in reality, this represents a euphemism for the reduction of American influence.

For many years the leadership of the Workers party in Brazil (2003-2016) along with Hugo Chavez and others ended up creating regional groups where the U.S. was intentionally excluded. Left-wing leaders such as Lula Da Silva from Brazil, Hugo Chavez from Venezuela, Cristina Kirchner from Argentina, Evo Morales from Bolivia, and Rafael Correa from Ecuador dominated the discourse. They all rejoiced over the emergence of a second independence. The first was from the Spanish and Portuguese empires, the second from the United States. That “second independence” did not preclude these countries from increasing alliances with Russia and China precisely because part of the process of seeking “independence” was to establish anti-American political coalitions and alliances. So increasing military cooperation with Russia was an attempt to challenge the traditional influence of the United States in the Western Hemisphere.

The Obama Administration did not think that losing influence in the Western Hemisphere would have consequences. Or if he did, he thought to regain such influence through symbolic gestures. One such “deed’ was the normalization of relations with Cuba, which demanded very little sacrifice on the part of the Castro regime in return. In fact, such sloppy normalization makes us more vulnerable.

Given the presence of so many anti-American dictators, terrorist groups, Iran, and the increasing number of countries that have succumbed to anarchy in our own neighborhood – losing influence in the region is a security liability. Cuba has had relations with all these adverse elements. How exactly does this improve our security, let alone our image in the international arena? As President Donald Trump has pointed out, image is crucial to generate respect. Respect is a function of strength, of assertiveness, of the ability to dissuade the adversary from taking an aggressive stand.

The importance of being influential and having a powerful presence does not mean we are going to fight a war right away. It means we will have a say and we will be an omnipresent force that the Russians or the Chinese will have to take into account before they take any action. Today we are unable to deter the Russians or the Iranians because we do not display the will. This is the source of weakening. We allowed the Russians to do what they wanted in the Ukraine, Syria and in our own hemisphere.

In the Western Hemisphere, we have not been able to daunt the Venezuelan dictatorship. The regime of Nicolas Maduro is not only anti-American but it violates human rights and starves its’ people. Yet, we have failed to recognize the dangers of the regime and the need to at least pressure for the reinstatement of democracy or convincingly frighten them over their heavy involvement in the drug trafficking business. Even Pope Francis, an apologist of populist left-wing regimes, declared that civil disobedience and rebellion against the Maduro regime is legitimate.

In contrast, Russia supports the Maduro regime with a great deal of geo-political conviction. The Obama Administration has not even expressed concern over military exercises and the presence of Russian troops in the continent. According to General John Kelly, formerly the head of the U.S. Southern Command and now the nominee to head the Department of Homeland Security in the Trump Administration, pointed out that since 2008 we are seeing “an increased Russian presence in Latin America through propaganda, military arms and equipment sales”… As part of its global strategy, Russia is using power projection in an attempt to erode U.S. leadership and challenge U.S. influence in the Western Hemisphere”

This does not mean that Russia is a military threat. However, if Russia reinforces military alliances with U.S. enemies such as Venezuela, Bolivia (the so-called Bolivarian Alliance or ALBA), Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Cuba is this a geo-political challenge that we can live with?

As Russian influence increases within the Alba countries, this alliance protects them from human rights condemnations in the Security Council (as journalist Douglas Farrah pointed out) but worse; it secures a Russian strategic advantage in our own backyard.

Trying to find a modus vivendi with Russia is a legitimate goal to pursue but as long as we do it from a position of strength. Denouncing and counteracting cyber-espionage is important. But unfortunately if this is done while ignoring geo-politics altogether, it is not as effective as it could be. The current debate on Russian espionage lacks credibility when we lack the assertiveness that in the past was expected from the United States of America.

Donald Trump may well try to avoid interventionism and seek cooperation with Russia or any other country in the world but giving up our place and leadership in the world should not do such moves.

U.S. Intel Report Says Putin Led ‘Cyber-Enabled Disclosure Operation’ to Help Elect Trump, Discredit Clinton

AP

AP

Washington Free Beacon, by Bill Gertz, January 6, 2017:

The CIA, FBI, and National Security Agency concluded in a report made public Friday that Russian President Vladimir Putin directed a covert intelligence campaign to boost the election of Donald Trump while seeking to discredit Hillary Clinton.

The 23-page unclassified report is part of a longer secret study into a wide-ranging cyber and disinformation campaign similar to the activities during the Cold War of the Soviet KGB intelligence service.

“We assess Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the U.S. presidential election,” the report said.

“Russia’s goals were to undermine public faith in the U.S. democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency.”

The combined cyber and intelligence operation “reflected the Kremlin’s recognition of the worldwide effects that mass disclosures of U.S. government and other private data—such as those conducted by WikiLeaks and others—have achieved in recent years, and their understanding of the value of orchestrating such disclosures to maximize the impact of compromising information,” the report said.

The report warned that Russia will continue “cyber-enabled disclosure operations” to achieve foreign policy goals with relative ease and without causing significant damage to Russian interests.

“We assess Russian intelligence services will continue to develop capabilities to provide Putin with options to use against the United States, judging from past practice and current efforts,” the report said.

The report noted that immediately after the Nov. 8 election, Russia launched an email spearphishing campaign targeting U.S. government employees and Americans at think tanks and non-governmental organizations involved in national security, defense, and foreign policy.

“This campaign could provide material for future influence efforts as well as foreign intelligence collection on the incoming administration’s goals and plans,” the report said.

The report is based in part on top-secret NSA electronic intercepts and analysis of Russian spy tradecraft and other aspects of the operation by CIA and FBI intelligence analysts.

The report also states specifically that the three agencies “did not make an assessment of the impact that Russian activities had on the outcome of the 2016 election.”

President-elect Trump, who was briefed on the top-secret report on Friday, stated on Twitter that he left the briefing convinced that Russian covert action had no impact on the election.

“While Russia, China, other countries, outside groups and people are consistently trying to break through the cyber infrastructure of our governmental institutions, businesses and organizations including the Democrat National Committee, there was absolutely no effect on the outcome of the election including the fact that there was no tampering whatsoever with voting machines,” Trump said.

He noted that Russian attempts to hack the Republican National Committee were unsuccessful as a result of better cyber security than used by the DNC.

The declassified report is titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” and will likely fuel the political debate among some Democrats who have sought to discredit Trump’s election victory.

According to the report, Russia and Putin sought to influence the presidential election in a bid to “undermine the U.S.-led liberal democratic order.”

However, the effort in 2016 began with major cyber intrusions in the summer and “demonstrated a significant escalation in directness, level of activity, and scope of effort compared to previous operations.”

Regarding Trump, the agencies concluded that Putin and the Russian government developed a clear preference for Trump, a judgment the three agencies gauged with “high confidence.”

U.S. officials familiar with the classified version of the report said intelligence indicated Russian officials celebrated Trump’s stunning Nov. 8 election upset, Reuters reported.

The influence program involved “discrediting” Clinton through leaking information obtained from hacks against the DNC and political figures like John Podesta, Clinton’s campaign manager.

The report also said the Russians “aspired” to boost Trump’s election prospects by discrediting and contrasting Clinton unfavorably with Trump. In that judgment, the CIA and FBI voiced high confidence, but the NSA said it had only moderate confidence.

The operation evolved over the course of the election campaign and intensified when it appeared Clinton was likely to win. The report said at that point the Russians’ influence campaign sought to focus on undermining her future presidency.

“Moscow’s influence campaign followed a Russian messaging strategy that blends covert intelligence operations—such as cyber activity—with overt efforts by Russian Government agencies, state-funded media, third-party intermediaries, and paid social media users or ‘trolls,’” the report said.

The main conduits for Russian intelligence, specifically the GRU military intelligence service, were hackers using the online persona Guccifer 2.0 and the website DCLeaks.com. Another main conduit for hacked “victim data” was the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks that the report says cooperated closely with Russia’s main propaganda outlet, RT, formerly Russian Television.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange told Fox News this week that Russia was not the source of the information published by the website. Assange did not reveal who the source was that provided the leaked information.

The report provides details on WikiLeaks close ties to RT.

Additionally, Russian hackers broke into multiple state and local election boards, but did not penetrate systems involved in vote tallying.

The entire influence campaign was orchestrated by senior Kremlin officials and disseminated to Russia’s state-run “propaganda machine,” a combination of both traditional media outlets and social media, including St. Petersburg group Internet Research Agency, to operate a troll network. The operation is funded by a Putin ally with ties to Russian intelligence.

The report concluded that Moscow will use the lessons of the campaign in future influence operations worldwide, including U.S. allies and their elections.

The campaign to influence the election represented a “significant escalation” compared to past Russian influence operations in terms of directness, level of activity, and scope of effort over past election meddling.

Russian deep cover “illegal” intelligence operatives expelled from the United States in 2010 revealed Moscow’s bid to influence the 2008 election.

Also, during the 1970s, the Soviet KGB “recruited a Democratic Party activist who reported information about then-presidential hopeful Jimmy Carter’s campaign and foreign policy plans,” the report said.

Putin’s motive for the campaign was part ideological and part revenge for what the Russian leader believes is U.S. backing for mass democratic protests against his regime in 2011 and 2012. Putin also “holds a grudge for comments he almost certainly saw as disparaging him,” the report said.

Putin in June avoided directly praising Trump as part of the campaign in order to avoid having the campaign backfire in the United States.

Still, Putin during the presidential campaign voiced preference for Trump because he believes the president-elect is more willing to work with Russia and because he perceived Trump would adopt policies more favorable to Russia related to Syria and Ukraine.

By contrast, Putin criticized Clinton for her “aggressive rhetoric,” the report said.

Moscow also believed Trump as president would assist Moscow’s plan to build an international coalition against the Islamic State terror group.

“Putin has had many positive experiences working with western political leaders whose business interests made them more disposed to deal with Russia, such as former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder,” the report said.

Russian diplomats also were employed in publicly denouncing the U.S. electoral process and were ready to question the results if Clinton had been elected.

On social media, pro-Kremlin bloggers also had prepared a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #DemocracyRIP on election night.

The disinformation and influence operation was based on “years of investment” by the Russians and based on experiences used in influencing former Soviet states that Moscow is seeking to control in what is termed the “near abroad.”

“By their nature, Russian influence campaigns are multifaceted and designed to be deniable because they use a mix of agents of influence, cutouts, front organizations, and false-flag operations,” the report said.

An example was the takeover of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 that used a combination of military forces and information warfare operations.

In the presidential campaign operations, leaks from cyber attacks, intrusions into state and local election networks, and overt propaganda were used. Russian intelligence agencies “both informed and enabled the influence campaign,” the report said.

In addition to the DNC and Podesta’s email, the Russians targeted the primary election campaigns, think tanks, and lobbying groups likely to be involved in shaping future policies.

For the DNC, Russian intelligence gained access from July 2015 until at least June 2016, with the GRU launching aggressive attacks beginning in March 2016.

“By May, the GRU had exfiltrated large volumes of data from the DNC,” the report said.

The information was provided to Guccifer 2.0 who claimed to be a Romanian hacker who the report says was likely Russian and probably more than one person.

DCLeaks.com began spreading GRU hacked data in June.

Contrary to Assange’s claims this week, the report said: “We assess with high confidence that the GRU relayed material it acquired from the DNC and senior Democratic officials to WikiLeaks.”

“Moscow most likely chose WikiLeaks because of its self-proclaimed reputation for authenticity,” the report said. “Disclosures through WikiLeaks did not contain any evident forgeries.”

The report noted that in September Putin denied state-level involvement in the Russian campaign to hack the election and stated publicly that it was more important to focus on the leaked data than the source of the leaks.

On Russian ties to WikiLeaks, the report said the Kremlin’s main international propaganda outlet, RT, “actively collaborated with WikiLeaks.”

“RT’s editor-in-chief visited WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London in August 2013, where they discussed renewing his broadcast contract with RT,” the report said.

RT also had an exclusive partnership with WikiLeaks that involved access to secret information. Additionally, RT provided sympathetic coverage of Assange and “provides him a platform to denounce the United States,” the report said.

Sputnik, an online outlet, along with a network of social media trolls are also part of the Moscow propaganda machine.

According to the report, Russian media viewed Trump’s election victory as validating Putin’s advocacy of global populist movements and an example of Western liberalism’s “collapse.”

Negative Russian propaganda coverage of Clinton included highlighting her bout with pneumonia in August.

An RT interview with Assange in August also suggested that Clinton and the Islamic State were funded by the same money. Additional reporting by RT focused on the Clinton Foundation and how all of the foundation’s funds went to the Clintons.

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Also see:

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: After January 20, America Must ‘Jettison Political Correctness’ to ‘Inoculate Ourselves’ Against Jihad

Associated Press

Associated Press

 

Breitbart, by John Hayward, December 20, 2016:

Breitbart News National Security Editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, talked about Monday’s terrorist attacks in Berlin and Ankara on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily with SiriusXM host Alex Marlow.

Gorka noted that, unlike many terrorist attacks, a great deal of information about the Ankara shooting was immediately available to the public because Russian Ambassador Andrey Karlov was murdered in front of a crowd of journalists.

“While there’s lots of jihadi snuff videos out there of hostages being executed, there really is nothing like the video of this ambassador giving a speech at an art gallery, and then being gunned down on camera – and then afterwards having the individual make his statement, his calls of ‘Allahu akbar,’ and his comments on the Syrian conflict actually recorded,” Gorka observed. “Whatever the geostrategic ramifications, that video will be with us for decades, and I’m sure will be used to incite more violence.”

“What we do is that this young man, very well-dressed young man, was part of some special police unit. So he was a Turkish national, and as a result, he represents the epitome of what we call the ‘insider threat,’” he said. “Turkey has suffered from terrorism for decades, but usually it’s by external actors or Kurdish nationals and so forth. In this case, it’s someone who’s in the security services, had some kind of vetting, was carrying a weapon, and then decided to become a jihadi. So this is an insidious threat that all nations have to think about.”

Marlow asked about reports that one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s key political allies is claiming that “shadowy NATO forces” were behind the Ambassador’s murder.

“Well, you know, Moscow loves to perpetuate dezinformatsiya, or disinformation. The whole television network RT is an amazing example of that,” Gorka noted. “The reaction will probably be some spinning of conspiracy theories by the fringes of the administration and those that are acolytes to it. But I think the actual response that we’re waiting for the most is from Putin. Will he use this as he’s used other events to exploit the instability, such as in Ukraine or Syria?”

“This provides for him, if we look at this in the cold light of day, various options to exploit the geostrategic ramifications he can gin up, simply by being the head of state of the country whose ambassador was assassinated,” he said.

Gorka said he “tends to reject the concept of ‘lone wolf’” attacks, so it’s likely just a matter of time before connections between the Ankara shooter and organized terrorism are discovered.

“‘Lone wolf’ was a phrase invented by the Obama administration to make the average American dumber,” he said. “It’s a phrase made to make you disconnect the dots. To me, there is no such thing as a lone wolf because whoever we’re talking about, whether it’s this police officer, the Boston bombers, whether it’s the 9/11 hijackers – whoever it is, they’re all connected. And the connective tissue is, of course, the ideology of jihadism. Let’s wait and see. I think that there may be some kind of broader conspiracy, but let’s just wait a few days and see what the Turkish find.”

Marlow quoted the rant from the Ankara gunman: “We die in Aleppo, you die here.”

“Right, so this is a narrative tag that has been used by jihadis before – that the crimes of the West in the Middle East, interferers, drone strikes, bombings, you name it, must be reflected in violence in the heartland,” Gorka said. “This is all part of the broader combining of philosophies of al-Qaeda originally, that melded the concepts of ‘near enemy’ and ‘far enemy.’ In the fifties and sixties, the jihadists were taking down the near enemy, which is the Arab regimes they saw to be un-Islamic. Now, after Afghanistan, with Iraq and other initiatives and military operations by the West, they want to take the war to the far enemy. That’s us.”

“Take the fight to the heartland of the infidel; this is very much an ISIS tactic. ISIS is fighting on multiple fronts – the Middle East, in North Africa, where it’s building and expanding its Caliphate, but also in the heartland of the United States,” he warned.

Gorka noted that the Berlin truck attack has “already been accepted. The responsibility for that attack has already been taken by an ISIS affiliate.”

“If that turns out to be true, then that just proves once again, we are in a multi-fronted war against a global jihadi movement,” he said, arguing that “the ball is literally in Vladimir Putin’s court, and it will be his reaction that shapes whether or not this has broader ramifications.”

“The only thing that is of note for us is this question of the insider threat,” Gorka added. “Can we put in place better vetting procedures? Are we allowed, as a nation here in America after January 20th, to jettison political correctness and talk about the ideology that motivates people like this police officer? That is something I dearly expect, and it is one of the most important ways to inoculate ourselves from this kind of threat occurring here in America.”

Marlow quoted from President-elect Donald Trump’s reaction to the Berlin attack – that “Islamic terrorists continually slaughter Christians,” and called it a “bold” statement, very different from what President Obama might have said.

“Absolutely,” Gorka agreed. “This is an indicator of how everything will change in just a matter of one short month. And this is very important; let me just give you one data point your listeners should be familiar with: when Iraq was invaded, when we invaded in 2003, there were 1.4 million indigenous Christians in that nation. Iraqi nationals went to church on Sundays. Now, with the rise of ISIS and the declaration of the Caliphate, there are significantly less than 200,000 left.”

“We, as a nation, engaged in Iraq only after the Yazidis – a polytheistic small sect – were hounded up Mount Sinjar. We went to save the polytheists. But there’s a much, much larger story, and that is the concerted targeting of Christians. Of course, a Christmas festival in Germany is an incredibly symbolic target. Let’s not forget this isn’t just about Europe,” he said.

Did Russian’s Half A Million To Her Advisor Influence Hillary On Iran?

hillary

Americans need to know whether Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran.

The Federalist, by Christine Brim, October 27, 2016:

The Clinton campaign has been complaining bitterly about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s possible ties to WikiLeaks’ daily dumps of campaign chairman John Podesta’s emails. My new investigative report, “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat: Thomas Pickering and Russia’s Pipeline Sales to Iran and Syria, exposes Hillary Clinton’s own damaging ties to Russia and Iran while she was secretary of State. Her Foreign Affairs Policy Advisor Thomas Pickering was a paid director for the Russian company Trubnaya Metallurgicheskaya Kompaniya (TMK) from June 30, 2009 to June 26, 2012. TMK is majority-owned by Russian billionaire oligarch Dmitry Pumpyansky, a close Putin ally.

I discovered extensive proof of TMK’s business dealings in Iran and Syria while Pickering was on its board, including TMK sales of oil and gas pipelines to Iran that were specifically prohibited under U.S. laws and executive orders. Pickering was deeply involved with TMK. According to TMK records, he attended 143 of the 145 board meetings. Pickering is estimated to have been paid more than half a million dollars for his service to TMK from 2009 to 2012, based on TMK’s compensation rules. He has since claimed to have donated it all to an unnamed charity.

Clinton’s, President Obama’s, and Pickering’s interests converged during the time Pickering was on TMK’s board of directors. Clinton had announced the Russian “reset” in March 2009; Obama pleaded with Iran for a new beginning two weeks later; and Pickering joined TMK, which was publicizing its sales to Iran and Syria in numerous documents, in June of that year.

Yes, We Sell to Countries Americans Sanction

Pickering combined his commercial, nonprofit, and policy roles into a seamless whole, all with the common goal of ending economic sanctions against Iran and reversing U.S. Iran policies. He was Clinton’s foreign affairs policy advisor and email correspondent, a board member for two Iranian advocacy groups, a paid consultant to Boeing (now a $25 billion Iranian aircraft contractor, thanks to Pickering’s advocacy), a well-known “behind-the-scenes” negotiator with Iranian representatives, and a paid director for a Russian company—TMK—that was actively exporting pipelines to Iran and Syria.

TMK’s customers and sales were not secret. In marketing materials, legal documents, a tenth anniversary PowerPoint presentation, catalogs, and webpages, TMK openly stated it had “major” and “main” pipeline customers in Iran and Syria. Iranian customer websites named TMK as a vendor. Steelorbis.com, an online steel industry newsletter, published six different reports from 2009 to 2013 listing specific prices for TMK pipes delivered to an Iranian port. Here’s just one example, an excerpt from the February 18, 2011 article published when Pickering was a TMK director:

brim1

In a February 5, 2010 $412,500,000 convertible bond offering circular issued by its financing subsidiary TMK Bonds S.A, TMK even formally disclosed that it was selling to Iran and Syria, stating “As a globally operating organization, we also conduct business with customers in Iran and Syria. The U.S. Department of State designates these countries as state sponsors of terrorism and subjects them to export controls.”

TMK’s U.S. division, TMK IPSCO, has plants in Pennsylvania, Texas, Arkansas, Ohio, Iowa, Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Kentucky. TMK pledged its U.S. assets as guarantors for international financing in at least two offers. Several executive orders on Iranian economic sanctions prohibit “any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a United States person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person [company].”

Were Pickering’s Iran Dealings Illegal?

The Iranian ebusiness website pipeiran.com listed the Khatam-al Anbiya as a client and TMK’s Volzhsky Pipe Plant and TMK’s Romanian Division as vendors. Khatam-al Anbiya is the engineering and construction firm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). On October 21, Adam Szubin, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, stated “You cannot do business with IRGC companies….If you do, and you’re doing so knowingly, you are risking the most draconian sanctions in our toolkit, and that governs not just U.S. persons but actors all around the world.”

TMK’s customers in Iran were government-owned companies, and so were the ones in Syria. TMK’s three Iranian customers during the years Pickering served on the board were all listed by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as “Specially Designated Nationals”: the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), Petropars, and Pars Oil and Gas Company. U.S. persons are generally prohibited from conducting any kind of business with “Specially Designated Nationals.”

Similarly, TMK’s three Syrian customers were listed by OFAC as “Specially Designated Nationals” in 2011, while Pickering was on the Board: the Syrian Gas Company, the Syrian Petroleum Company, and the Al Furat Petroleum Company.

Pickering apparently did not disclose his links to TMK and TMK’s sales to Iran when he testified on Iran before Sen. John Kerry’s Senate Foreign Relations Committee on March 28, 2012 while he was still a TMK director. That information might have been relevant (though it wasn’t legally required) for Kerry’s committee, since in his testimony Pickering recommended that, in return for hypothetical limits on Iran’s nuclear program:

Some freezing or easing of sanctions might be a fair quid pro quo for such steps… It would also help if we begin to consider freezing or relaxing the imposition of some sanctions in return for real progress in making their nuclear program more open and more fully inspected and in improving relations with Iran in other areas …My recommendation is that we now take the sanctions pressure and turn it into a useful diplomatic tool to begin serious diplomatic negotiations with Iran.

It Sure Pays to Work in Government

Emails released from Clinton’s private server show that Pickering was emailing, meeting, and coordinating foreign travel with Clinton and her staff from the beginning of her time as secretary of State and arguing for an end to economic sanctions on Iran all during the same years he was on TMK’s board of directors. Starting in December 2011, he also served in official capacity on Clinton’s Foreign Affairs Policy Board. Clinton appointed Pickering chairman for the Benghazi Accountability Review Board three months after he left TMK.

There’s much more in the investigative report “Clinton’s Shadow Diplomat” on these dangerous liaisons between Clinton and Pickering, and Russia’s pipeline sales to Iran and Syria. The bottom line for the American public and policymakers is this: Did Hillary Clinton and Thomas Pickering put America’s interests first, or those of Russia and Iran?

Pickering’s actions with Hillary Clinton, TMK, various Iranian groups, Boeing and all the rest were not an exception to how Washington insiders operate. Pickering’s actions were an exceptionally well-crafted version of what insiders do every day, and not just in Washington—in Moscow and Tehran, too. Some are just better at it, and Pickering is one of the best. Washington insiders don’t want to blow the whistle on Pickering. They want to be Pickering. And some of them are worse.

Christine Brim is a founder of Paratos LLC, a risk communications consultancy. Previously she served at the Center for Security Policy as a vice president and chief operating officer.

Dr. Sebastian Gorka: Hillary Clinton’s Disclosure of Nuclear Response Times During Debate Was ‘Unconscionable’

hc-640x480Breitbart, by John Hayward, October 21, 2016:

On Friday’s Breitbart News Daily, Breitbart News National Security editor Dr. Sebastian Gorka, author of the best-selling book Defeating Jihad: The Winnable War, talked about Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s clash over Russia at the third presidential debate.

“As I’ve said repeatedly, if there is anybody who’s been in the pocket of Vladimir Putin, it is Hillary Clinton. Everybody needs to have out there, the millennials that they know, their nephews, their nieces, just watch Clinton Cash on YouTube,” Gorka said. “The fact that 20 percent of our uranium was sold to Kremlin front companies, in a deal that was signed off by Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, means if there’s anybody who can be bought by the Kremlin, it’s Hillary Clinton.”

“That happened when her husband was receiving $120 million speaking fee from the same companies that bought the uranium,” Gorka noted.

“I have to give great credit to your callers,” he told SiriusXM host Alex Marlow. “Your show is really about the callers. They see through this. They understand that there’s the mainstream media spin, and most often, it is 180 degrees out of phase with reality. If Trump were some kind of puppet for Moscow, wouldn’t this man have casinos in Kaliningrad? Wouldn’t he have giant Trump Towers in Moscow? He doesn’t. That tells you everything you need to know. Reality is completely the reverse of what anybody else inside the mainstream media would have you believe.”

One of those callers joined the conversation at that point to observe that audiences for mainstream media outlets like CNN were given a very different perspective on the debate than people who watched it without such a media filter.

“I think that the real story will be that there is, perhaps, a majority of people out there who simply have had enough,” said Gorka. “Look at the viewing figures for stations like CNN. I think it tells you everything. Look at the figures for Breitbart, the viewers and clicks. I think that’s the hidden story of this election – that the mainstream media believes they still dominate, but I think in two weeks’ time, two-and-a-half weeks’ time, there’s going to be potentially a very big surprise for those people who think they still speak for America and can control what America sees, whether it’s the debates, whether it’s any kind of reporting on any issue, whether it’s the border, or the economy.”

“Just the polls themselves – look at the poll figures, and then look at the Trump rallies,” he suggested. “Again, spin versus reality. Look at the fact that Hillary seems to be leading everywhere, if you listen to the polls, and then just watch the turnout for her campaign events. I think that tells you everything you need to know.”

Gorka was pleased that national security has been such an important theme in the 2016 presidential debates, pausing to issue a disclaimer that he has provided national security advice to Donald Trump in the past, “long before anybody took him seriously.”

“I’m not part of his campaign, but I’ve spoken to this man on more than one occasion about the big issues, such as ISIS, North Korea, Russia, and Iran,” he clarified.

With that disclosure made, Gorka faulted Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and theiradvisers for clumsy handling of major foreign policy issues, agreeing with Donald Trump’s criticism that Clinton and Obama constantly telegraph their moves to the enemy.

“It’s not just Hillary. It’s her coterie. It is the liberal elite. The Obama administration has done exactly the same,” he noted. “Every major deployment in Iraq, every major operation, has been announced in advance, which is anathema to just the most basic principles of warfare. And it’s fascinating. This isn’t a new thing. Her husband did exactlythe same thing, during the Balkan wars. Your callers may not recall, but he actually announced before our engagement in the Balkans, he said, ‘I refuse, and I will never put boots on the ground in Yugoslavia.’ Doesn’t that sound familiar? Haven’t you heard somebody else say that, in this current presidential campaign?”

“Telegraphing in advance what you’re going to do is dynamite for the opposition, for your enemy, because then they will prepare to exploit that against you,” Gorka explained. “Look, even after the WikiLeaks became more and more uncomfortable for Hillary, what did we have the vice president do on national television? Announce that, well, they’ve decided Russia is behind all of this, and we’re going to launch a cyber-attack against them, at a time of our choosing. If you read that in a Tom Clancy novel, you’d say, ‘Has Tom lost it?’ Nobody does this.”

“Mr. Trump’s point that he understands we are at war – I can assure your listeners, he knows we are at war, and he wants to win this war, but he’s not going to tell the enemy what we’re going to do. It’s a very, very, valid point,” he said.

Marlow brought up an overlooked moment from the third debate, when Clinton inadvertently revealed some sensitive information about U.S. response times to nuclear attack. Gorka said he wanted to address this issue “in a certain way, if you’ll permit me, as somebody who actually cares for the security of the Republic and who lives in the national security arena.”

From that perspective, he declined to comment on “the veracity, or lack thereof, of what she said.”

“Just one thing has to be drawn, one conclusion has to be drawn: the whole platform of the Hillary campaign, that Mr. Trump is not fit to serve as commander-in-chief, he’s not stable, he can’t be trusted – all of that applies to her, and solely to her,” Gorka said. “Anybody who puts Top Secret/SCI super-classified information on a private homebrew server, and then talks about our nuclear reaction times on live television, in front of tens of millions of people – that woman should not be allowed – I know this is a line Mr. Trump has borrowed from me, but I have to use it – that individual should not be allowed to run for local dog catcher, let alone the most powerful person in the world. It is unconscionablewhat she did on national television, and the fact the liberal media is giving her heat on that tells you everything you need to know.”

Gorka turned to the chaos currently engulfing two key cities in the Middle East, Iraq’s Mosul and Syria’s Aleppo.

“What we have is this group of – a very heterogenous military force has deployed to Mosul. Again, this was announced weeks in advance by the current administration. We have the Sunni elements of the standing Iraqi army. We have elements of the Kurdish Peshmerga. And, on top of that – this is perhaps the most problematic – we have so-called ‘mobilization forces,’ which are made up Shia former militias, working together, hopefully, to take Mosul with our brave men, and some of our women, as well, as advisers providing training, providing intelligence, and also bombing capabilities for those forces,” Gorka explained.

“The idea is to recapture the second-biggest city in Iraq, which isn’t just important for the size of the city, but because this is the location where, in June 2014, the head of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, declared formally the re-establishment of the Caliphate, the new empire of Islam,” he noted. “So Mosul is very, very important. The problem with this operation is the very mixed nature of who’s fighting. They have very, very different interests in terms of the future of Iraq.”

“And the biggest problem of all: you can launch an attack to capture a city – but what happens if you capture it?” he asked. “Are you going to stay there? Are the local Sunnis going to allow Shia or Kurds to stay in the region? And what happens when the fighters come back? It’s like squeezing a balloon. You can push the fighters out, but sooner or later, if you haven’t killed all of them, they will be back.”

As for Aleppo, Gorka called it a “tragedy,” saying that “the last five years in Syria are truly a humanitarian disaster.”

“Here again, we have reality, and we have spin,” he said. “The idea that somehow, we’re going to have a cooperative Russia assist us in stopping the killing and bring stability to that nation is a fantasy. The whole Obama administration’s policy is based on an article of faith that is, again, just phantasmagorical – the idea that Assad must go.”

“Whatever the desperate situation in Aleppo, Assad is not going anywhere,” Gorka noted regretfully. “As long as that man enjoys the support not only of Russia, but Iran and even China, this is a head of state that isn’t going anywhere – unless, of course, America wishes to go to war with Russia, China, and Iran, which is not advisable right now.”

“So we have to stabilize the region. We have to realize that only a political resolution is realistic. And unfortunately, the current powers-that-be in Washington simply do not understand that,” he said.

Dr. Gorka’s parting thought was to “reinforce that November the 8th is primarily about one issue, as far as I’m concerned, and I think most Americans agree with me: it’s about which person do you think is going to keep you and your family safe.”

“So when you’re going to the polling booth, and please bring as many people with you as you can, remember it’s a choice between Hillary – Servergate, Benghazi, nuclear launch times – and a man who believes we are at war with the jihadists and wishes to win. It really is quite that simple, Alex,” he said.

LISTEN:

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Top 5 Clinton scandals you’re missing due to media bias

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Warning: rough language:

Also see:

Russia makes fools of US in Syria

putflThe Gorka Briefing, by Dr. Sebastian Gorka,  October 4, 2016

audio2

Vladimir Putin will exploit every single vacuum that Obama and Hillary Clinton have created, especially in the Middle East and Europe. And he is doing it very effectively.

I was on the Brian Kilmeade radio show to discuss.

As mentioned in the interview: Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History, by Brian Kilmeade

The Unsolved Mystery Behind the Act of Terror That Brought Putin to Power

vladimir-putin-1999-moscow-apartment-bombing-gennNational Review, by David Satter,  August 17, 2016:

I believe that Vladimir Putin came to power as the result of an act of terror committed against his own people. The evidence is overwhelming that the apartment-house bombings in 1999 in Moscow, Buinaksk, and Volgodonsk, which provided a pretext for the second Chechen war and catapulted Putin into the presidency, were carried out by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). Yet, to this day, an indifferent world has made little attempt to grasp the significance of what was the greatest political provocation since the burning of the Reichstag.

I have been trying to call attention to the facts behind the bombings since 1999. I consider this a moral obligation, because ignoring the fact that a man in charge of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal came to power through an act of terror is highly dangerous in itself.

Russian human-rights defenders Sergei Yushenkov, Yuri Shchekochikhin, Anna Politkovskaya, and Alexander Litvinenko also worked to shed light on the apartment bombings. But all of them were murdered between 2003 and 2006. By 2007, when I testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee about the bombings, I was the only person publicly accusing the regime of responsibility who had not been killed.

The bombings terrorized Russia. The Russian authorities blamed Chechen rebels and thereby galvanized popular support for a new war in Chechnya. President Boris Yeltsin and his entourage were thoroughly hated for their role in the pillaging of the country. Putin, the head of the FSB, had just been named Yeltsin’s prime minister and achieved overnight popularity by vowing revenge against those who had murdered innocent civilians. He assumed direction of the war and, on the strength of initial successes, was elected president easily.

Almost from the start, however, there were doubts about the provenance of the bombings, which could not have been better calculated to rescue the fortunes of Yeltsin and his entourage. Suspicions deepened when a fifth bomb was discovered in the basement of a building in Ryazan, a city southeast of Moscow, and those who had placed it turned out to be not Chechen terrorists but agents of the FSB. After these agents were arrested by local police, Nikolai Patrushev, the head of the FSB, said that the bomb had been a fake and that it had been planted in Ryazan as part of a training exercise. The bomb, however, tested positive for hexogen, the explosive used in the four successful apartment bombings. An investigation of the Ryazan incident was published in the newspaper Novaya Gazeta, and the public’s misgivings grew so widespread that the FSB agreed to a televised meeting between its top officials and residents of the affected building. The FSB in this way tried to demonstrate its openness, but the meeting was a disaster: It left the overwhelming impression that the incident in Ryazan was a failed political provocation.

Three days after the broadcast, Putin was elected. Attention to the Ryazan incident faded, and it began to appear that the bombings would become just the latest in the long list of Russia’s unsolved crimes.

In April 2000, a week after Putin’s election, I decided to go to Ryazan. The residents of 14–16 Novoselov Street, where the bomb had been planted, were suffering from heart problems and depression, and their children were afraid to go to sleep at night. Those I met were completely convinced that the incident had not been a training exercise. “Who can imagine such a thing?” asked Vladimir Vasiliev, whose initial reports of suspicious activity had led to the arrest of the FSB agents. “But the claim that it was a test makes no sense. Does it make sense to test people for vigilance at a time when the whole country is in a state of panic?”

Read more

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Secure Freedom Radio with Frank Gaffney, Aug. 18, 2016:

DAVID SATTER, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, author of “The Less You Know, the Better You Sleep: Russia’s Road to Terror and Dictatorship Under Yeltsin and Putin”:

Podcast: Play in new window | Download

  • Mystery surrounding the apartment bombings Putin blamed on Chechen militants
  • Claim that Ukrainian forces attacked across the Crimean border
  • Advice for the next Commander in Chief on US/Russia policy
  • Putin’s actions in the Middle East designed to promote Russian nationalism

Also see:

WikiLeaks Game Can Turn Kremlin Fortress Into Glass House

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 11, 2016. (ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin attends a meeting with permanent members of the Security Council at the Kremlin in Moscow on August 11, 2016. (ALEXEI DRUZHININ/AFP/Getty Images)

Forbes, by J. Michael Waller, Aug. 16, 2016: (h/t Kyle Shideler)

For the first time since the 1950s, Russian subversion of the American political process has become a presidential campaign issue.

The Kremlin’s latest act of espionage-driven propaganda–document dump of Democratic National Committee emails via WikiLeaks–achieved its desired effect of immediate politicization. We should step back to learn two lessons, and creatively fight back.

The first lesson

Lesson one: Moscow’s subversion of American democracy is nothing new. The Soviet KGB and its successor entities have picked favorites in the past, and at crucial points in history, some American politicians and officials wittingly or unwittingly collaborated. One need only look at the Soviet penetration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration through controlled agents of influence. FBI reports and congressional hearings at the time, Communist defectors and turncoat Soviet intelligence officers, and more recent revelations from Soviet archives and the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ decrypted Venona transcripts prove this beyond any doubt.

Present-day political figures also colluded with the Soviets against their own country. A shining example is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). In the 1980s, after honeymooning in the USSR, Sanders collaborated with the U.S. section of the World Peace Council, a major Soviet front organization that was working to push America to disarm unilaterally and surrender allies to Soviet aggression.

In ways far more damaging than Sanders’ fringe activism, distinguished members of the Clinton political clan benefited from relations with the KGB. The two primary Russia hands for Bill Clinton’s administration owed their political or professional fortunes to Soviet agents. The first was vice president Al Gore, whose father, also a senator, benefited greatly from his special relationship with Soviet agent Armand Hammer in a way that arguably groomed the younger Gore to lead Clinton’s Russia team. The second was Bill Clinton’s roommate at Oxford, Strobe Talbott, who as a cub reporter for Time magazine in Moscow, received the break of his life from Victor Louis, a KGB agent whose job was to recruit rising star journalists. We don’t know whether Talbott allowed the KGB to compromise him, but when asked about it during his Senate confirmation hearing to become deputy secretary of state in 1994, Talbott declined to answer.

Lesson two

The second lesson from the DNC WikiLeaks affair is that history shows that when American leaders resist and make Moscow pay a price, the Kremlin backs off. Strategic-minded leaders, as President Ronald Reagan proved, can even turn tables on the perpetrators and defeat them.

Which is why we should be focusing, not on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, but on the current commander-in-chief. Barack Obama has done nothing to discourage Russian misbehavior that led to the WikiLeaks dump. His passivity arguably encouraged it. He now has the pretext to do something.

Obama is the only person on earth who can respond in-kind to the Putin regime’s egregious intervention in the American democratic process. Putin and his inner circle are vulnerable to exposure of their own shameful actions, habits, actions and fetishes. In the electronic age, the Kremlin fortress has become a glass house.

Next steps

For starters, Obama should order the intelligence community to compile properly-sanitized dumps of emails and social media among select targets in Putin’s inner circle. The personal electronic communications should expose the widely-suspected but seldom proven details of the staggering corruption at the top of the Russian gangster state, including Putin’s family members and loyalists. Judiciously selected, the exposures will show Putin and others that we, too, can play hardball.

If disciplined enough, the U.S. can outplay the Putin-WikiLeaks team. Russia’s political system is far less resilient than ours. The increasingly-centralized yet divided Russian Federation is potentially much more fragile and vulnerable to public exposure of the colossal scale of greed and organized criminal behavior of its national leadership.

And then there are national cultural norms that no present Russian leader could politically survive once the glass of invincibility is electronically shattered. Above almost all else, Putin nurses a deep-seated hostility to male homosexuality. Putin-centric political elites could never endure the humiliation and ridicule following a skillful intelligence dump of their private emails, text messages, social media posts, photos and Web browser histories.

No doubt Putin and his inner circle anticipated a cost-free scheme to embarrass Hillary Clinton and, by extension, Obama. If that is the case, all Americans who strive for political authority are wearing an electronic “kick me” sign on their backs. They should expect Russia and other powers like China to be scooping up and storing their electronic communication for future use. We can’t allow that to continue.

For the sake of America’s democratic society, Obama must strike back hard at Putin and his inner circle. Now.

Mr. Waller is a founding editorial board member of NATO’s Defence Strategic Communications journal. His books include “Secret Empire: The KGB In Russia Today.”

Hillary’s secret ties to Putin will undermine American interests

usa russian flags

Just how far back does the Clinton-Kremlin connection go? It’s worth investigating. 

Conservative Review, by Benjamin Weingarten, Aug. 14, 2016:

Russia’s malignant influence on American foreign policy is finally becoming a relevant issue in the 2016 presidential election, and that is definitely a positive development. Based upon their actions and associations, neither candidate has shown a sufficient understanding of — or worse, they have ignored — the nature of the Russian regime and its threat to America’s national interest. These deficiencies ought to be of grave concern to the American people.

As the Government Accountability Institute lays out in a recent report, Hillary Clinton’s dealings with Russia while serving as secretary of State appear to represent the worst kind of cronyism: sacrificing America’s national interest for her own and Russia’s benefit. As the Executive Summary of the report explains:

  • A major technology transfer component of the Russian reset overseen by Hillary Clinton substantially enhanced the Russian military’s technological capabilities, according to both the FBI and the U.S. Army.
  • Russian government officials and American corporations participated in the technology transfer project overseen by Hillary Clinton’s State Department that funnelled (sic) tens of millions of dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

The report also notes that Hillary’s presidential campaign chairman, Tony Podesta, had dubious ties with the Russian regime:

  • A Putin-connected Russian government fund transferred $35 million to a small company with Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta on its executive board, which included senior Russian officials.
  • John Podesta failed to reveal, as required by law on his federal financial disclosures, his membership on the board of this offshore company.
  • Podesta also headed up a think tank which wrote favorably about the Russian reset while apparently receiving millions from Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs via an offshore LLC.

Building upon Peter Schweizer’s work in his book, “Clinton Cash,” The New York Times revealed another alleged quid pro quo detrimental to America’s national interest — but again, benefitting Hillary and Russia — with the infamous Uranium One deal.

Recall that the Russians took control of Uranium One and thus one-fifth of all U.S. uranium production capacity through three separate transactions between 2009 and 2013. Given the strategic importance of uranium, authorizing Russian control required the approval of various government agencies, including Hillary’s State Department.

Meanwhile, the Clinton Foundation received contributions totaling more than $100 million from Uranium One’s chairman and several of its shareholders in addition to those with ties to Uranium One or UrAsia, which had originally acquired Uranium One’s valuable Kazakh mine assets. Secretary Clinton also received $500,000 for a speech she gave at Renaissance Capital — a Kremlin-linked investment bank, which had recommended purchasing Uranium One stock soon after the Russians announced their intent to acquire a majority stake in the company.

Just how far back does the Clinton-Kremlin connection go? It’s worth investigating.

Concerning Donald Trump, even if we were gracious and excused his praise of Vladimir Putin as mere rhetoric (intended as a dig at Barack Obama and by extension Hillary), or just “Trump being Trump,” his substantive actions and associations are more troubling.

Even though the Trump campaign contributed little to the 2016 Republican Party platform changes, despite protestations to the contrary it did intervene regarding language about American support for Ukraine against Russian aggression. Trump officials reportedly watered down a portion of the platform calling for GOP support of “providing lethal defensive weapons” to the Ukrainians in the face of Russian intervention, replacing the phrase with the softer provision, “appropriate assistance.”

Previously, Trump wavered on whether the U.S. would fulfill its North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) obligations to defend Baltic nations against Russian aggression, giving a standoffish response to The New York Times that amounted to the following: I would not tell Vladimir Putin what we would do in the event of Russian intervention in the Baltics, but we cannot ignore the fact that irrespective of our own treaty obligations, NATO members must fulfill their obligations in terms of funding NATO.

Again, we could charitably chalk this up to mere rhetoric, consistent with Trump’s narrative on globalism and deal-making. By Trump’s logic, NATO is just another international deal in which America has gotten ripped off by freeloader nations, and Trump will be the only negotiator that drives a hard enough bargain to fix the deal — including threats to not fulfill its terms.

Leaving aside the not-so-small issue of honoring treaties, the central problem here is that NATO’s purpose is, in large part, to counter Russia. And Trump’s advisors have significant ties to that nation, casting a pall over everything Trump says and does relating to it.

Trump campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, has done substantial work for Viktor Yanukovych — former president of Ukraine and backed by Putin. That Yanukovych pulled Ukraine closer into Putin’s orbit is well-documented. Manafort has also partaken in business dealings with oligarchs loyal to Putin.

Trump’s advisor on Russia, Carter Page, is a big investor in Gazprom, an energy company and one of the crown jewels of Putin’s kleptocracy. Page has railed against U.S. foreign policy towards Russia with all manner of calumnies — notably at times while in Russia — and called for the easing of sanctions against Russia that affected Gazprom and other companies.

Trump’s personal and professional ties to Russia, though worthy of scrutiny, raise fewer red flags than those of Hillary.

What does Russia itself actually want out of the 2016 presidential election?

Read more

Ben Weingarten is Founder & CEO of ChangeUp Media LLC, a media consulting and publication services firm. A graduate of Columbia University, he regularly contributes to publications such as City Journal, The Federalist, Newsmax and PJ Media on national security/defense, economics and politics. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

About Obama’s Receding Tide of War…

obama-work-here-is-done-610x400PJ MEDIA, BY CLAUDIA ROSETT,  APRIL 19, 2016:

Years ago, looking out at the Pacific surf from a beach in Chile, a friend — alert to the ways of tsunamis — gave me some advice about what to do if suddenly the water all went away. “Run. Run for your life. Because it’s all coming back.”

That advice has come to mind all too often since President Obama made his 2012 reelection campaign proclamations about the receding tide of war. Not that the tide of war has receded anywhere except perhaps in the fantasies of Obama and his followers. But after more than seven years of U.S. policy predicated on such propaganda, it’s getting ever harder to read the daily headlines without the sense that there’s a deluge coming our way.

Just a modest sampling of some of the latest warning signs:

— Russian warplanes have been demonstrating that they can with impunity buzz our military aircraft and ships. Which is by now no surprise, because Russian President Vladimir Putin has already learned — in the flexible era of the Obama “reset” — that the U.S. is no serious obstacle to such stunts as Russia swiping the entire territory of Crimea from Ukraine, moving back into the Middle East, propping up Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, and offering fugitive Edward Snowden a home after the grand hack of the National Security Agency.

— China, while brushing off U.S. protests, keeps pushing its power plays and territorial grabs in East Asia — and has just landed a military jet on an island it has built, complete with runway, in the South China Sea.

— Iran, having pocketed the Obama-legacy rotten nuclear deal, has continued testing ballistic missiles, with Iran’s Fars News Agency advertising that two of the missiles launched just last month were emblazoned in Hebrew with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out.” Presumably these missiles are being developed just in case Iran feels a need to propel toward a target some highly unpeaceful products of its “exclusively peaceful” nuclear program? Meantime, Iran is wielding the nuclear agreement itself as a threat. Just this past week, we had the head of Iran’s Central Bank in Washington threatening that Iran will walk away from Obama’s cherished nuclear deal unless the Obama administration provides yet more concessions — in this instance, a U.S. welcome mat for Iran’s banking transactions, so Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, can avail itself of easy access to dollars.

— Saudi authorities have been threatening that if Congress passes a bill allowing the Saudi government to be held responsible for any part in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, they will dump hundreds of billions worth of U.S. assets. (What’s most arresting here is less the prospect of a self-defeating Saudi fire sale on U.S. assets than the reality that the Saudis — beset by everything from relatively low oil prices to regional tumult, including an aggressively expansionist Iran — feel free to try to bully the U.S.).

— And oh, by the way, North Korea, has been visibly preparing for a fifth nuclear test. If they carry it out during the grand window of opportunity provided by Obama’s final nine months in office, this would be the fourth North Korean nuclear test on Obama’s watch. That’s not a good trend, especially given North Korea’s history of marketing its weapons and nuclear know-how to places such as the Middle East.

That’s before we even get to the carnage and refugee flows spilling out of such places as Syria and Libya; such terrorist outfits and networks as ISIS, the Taliban, Hezbollah, al Qaeda…and the mix-and-match extent to which various states not entirely friendly to the U.S. tend to officially deplore terrorism while also sponsoring or abetting it, as convenient.

Obama likes to lecture us that all these things are transient problems, speed bumps on the road to wherever that utopian arc of history finally bends toward some great big pot of justice at the end of the rainbow. In his view, as he told NBC’s Matt Lauer this past January, “there are no existential threats” confronting the U.S. today. Thus, as Fox News reported earlier this month in a superb documentary on “Rising Threats, Shrinking Military,” Obama is both gutting the U.S. military and reshaping it, the priorities here being not to win wars, but to be, above all, eco-aware and gender malleable.

In a televised inteview April 10, with Fox News host Chris Wallace, Obama opinedthat if you just step back and look at the big picture, there’s not much to worry about: “America’s got the best cards. We are the envy of the world. We have the most powerful military on earth, by a mile.”

That’s true, but it’s not a product of Obama’s brand of leadership, and it’s not enough to have the best cards if your leaders are busy throwing them away. America’s greatness is the incredible legacy of many generations of work and sacrifice under a system of capitalism and freedom, and of leaders willing at crucial moments to stand up for this country. It takes a lot of effort to run that down, but this is what Obama has been doing, with the apology tours, the terrible deals, the fading red lines, the hollow speeches, the inert declarations about standing “shoulder-to-shoulder” with the “international community,” the insults to America’s allies and the come-hither courting of America’s enemies.

None of the nations now defying, threatening or bullying America is likely, individually, to win a war with the United States. But collectively, they keep pushing the envelope, and finding no serious resistance. There is every sign that they are learning from each other, emboldening each other, and in some disturbing matters willing to work together. This is how wars start.

On April 17, novelist and political writer Mark Helprin published an important op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, under the headline “The Candidates Ignore Rising Military Dangers,” with the subhed: “Obama is weakening U.S. defenses and credibility, but there’s little debate about the growing risk of war.” The entire article is worth reading. But if you want a quick summary of what’s out there, it’s in the caption to a photo than ran with the piece: “War games last year in southern Russia involved troops from countries including Russia, China, Pakistan and Venezuela.” You can bet, whatever they are preparing for, it is not a receding tide of war.

Putin: Russia Will Withdraw Most Of Its Military From Syria – But Russian Activity At Tartus Naval Base And Hmeymim Airbase Will Continue As Before

MEMRI, by Jenia Frumin and Elena Voinova, March 15, 2016:

Introduction

On March 14, 2016, Russia announced that the next day, March 15, it would begin its withdrawal from Syria. In a MEMRI report published yesterday, Russian political analyst Sergey Karaganov, who is close to the Kremlin, stated that Russia must be extremely careful not to get “bogged down” in the Syrian quagmire, stressing: “[Russia] should have the courage to withdraw quickly if such a danger appears and to prepare [our] society for such a possibility.”[1]Previously, on March 2, 2016, MEMRI published an interview with Karaganov in which he underlined that Russia must “be prepared to leave Syria at any moment.”[2]

Source: Lenta.ru, March 15, 2016

Source: Lenta.ru, March 15, 2016

Russian Media Reports And Analysis On The Withdrawal Decision

On March 14, the day of the announcement of its withdrawal, Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu; during the meeting, he ordered the Defense Ministry to begin withdrawing the main part of Russia’s military group from Syria and asked the Foreign Ministry to step up Russia’s participation in organizing the peace process to resolve the Syria crisis. Putin then specified that Russia’s naval base at Tartus and its strategic Hmeymin airbase will continue operating as before, saying, “They must be protected securely from land, sea and air.” In a phone conversation the same day with Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Putin said that Russia will maintain an aviation support center in Syria to monitor all parties’ compliance with the ceasefire.

Chairman Of Parliamentary Defense And Security Committee: Up To 1,000 Russian Troops Will Remain In Syria

In accordance with Putin’s orders, the technical staff of the airbase prepared aircraft for the departure to Russia; personnel loaded equipment, logistics gear, and inventory into transport aircraft.[3] The Russian state-owned news agency Ria Novosti[4] wrote that groups of fighter bombers and various types of combat aircraft had already flown back to Russia. The pro-Kremlin news agency Pravda stressed that the military bases would not be shut down, noting, “Russia’s military presence in Syria will be preserved.”

Viktor Ozerov, chairman of the international committee for defense and security in Russia’s upper house of parliament, said that he believes that up to 1,000 Russian troops will remain in Syria.[5] In another interview, Ozerov said that Russia will meet its obligations to the Syrian regime with regard to supplies of military hardware and equipment, commenting, “In any case, [Russia] will be able to quickly strengthen its group there, should the need arise.”[6]

Russian Daily: Anti-Aircraft Systems, Helicopters, APCs, Tanks, SU-35s Will Remain At Hmeymim

The Russian independent daily Vedemosti,[7] citing unnamed Defense Ministry sources, stated that the first stage of the withdrawal is the sending of 30 of Russia’s warplanes home, adding that a new airstrike on terrorist groups is still possible if necessary. However, in Ria Novosti, Deputy Defense Minister Nikolay Pankov stated that airstrikes will continue.[8] Vedemosti also said that Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov doubted that the advanced S-400 surface-to-air missile system will be redeployed to Russia any time soon. This statement was confirmed by the Defense Ministry,[9] and by Kremlin Chief of Staff head Sergey Ivanov, who specified that the S-400 will remain in Syria because it is needed to defend the airbase.

The pro-Kremlin online newspaper Lenta[10] specified that anti-aircraft units will remain in Syria, along with ground protection forces, and that some artillery and helicopter units might also remain. The Russian daily Kommersant[11] said that half of the attack planes will return to Russia, and that anti-aircraft systems, 10 helicopters, BTR-82A APCs, T-90C tanks, four Su-35s (that arrived earlier this month) and perhaps a few more Su-30CM will remain at Hmeymim airbase. Kommersant[12] added that the decision to withdraw was not hasty but had been planned and discussed in the Russian security council.

The Kremlin-funded analytical media outlet Russia-direct commented that Russia had chosen the right moment to withdraw from Syria. It said that the Kremlin’s move would show the international community that Russia seeks to “maintain the peaceful process not only with words,” and that it is ready to take on a role of mediator in the Middle East. In this context, it said, Russia can now present itself as a “neutral force,” which “saved Syria from collapse” while at the same time “shied away” from fighting a war for the Assad regime. Russia-Direct also suggested that Russia’s move is designed to be a “wake-up call” to the “over-confident” Syrian regime, reminding it that “Russian air support is not limitless.”

Pro-Kremlin Newspaper: The Decision To Withdraw Comes Because Russia Doesn’t Want To Be “More Syrian than Syria”

In Vedemosti,[13] the director-general of the pro-Kremlin Russian International Affairs Council, Andrey Kortunov, stated that the main reason for the withdrawal is Assad’s “stubbornness”[14]that could undermine the continuation of the Geneva process and thus damage Russia’s interests in the region. However, Putin spokesman Peskov denied that the withdrawal is aimed at politically pressuring the Assad regime,[15] and that it should not be interpreted as a manifestation of Russian unhappiness with Assad.

Lenta stated that the decision to withdraw is due to the fact that Russia doesn’t want to win the war for Syria, since “Russia won’t be more Syrian than Syria”; furthermore, for Russia, Assad’s personal future is no longer a precondition. According to Lenta, even though the Islamic State (ISIS) has not been completely defeated, Russia has achieved its four goals: the stabilization of the Syrian regime, the strengthening of the Tehran-Baghdad-Damascus axis, strikes by Russian fighters against ISIS in northwestern Syria, and proving that a Russian role in the region is indispensable. It added that Russia will, however, maintain a presence in Syria as a sign of its strategic interest in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.

Additionally, Ria Novosti,[16] cited unnamed diplomatic sources in Brussels as suggesting that the Russian withdrawal from Syria can be seen as a move that could lead to the gradual removal of sanctions on Russia.

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Also see:

US, Russia agree on plan for Syria cease-fire

File photo of the Syrian crisis (Reuters)

File photo of the Syrian crisis (Reuters)

Ahram Online, AP, Feb. 22, 2016:

US officials said Monday that the United States and Russia have agreed on a plan for a cease-fire in Syria starting Saturday that would exclude attacks on the Islamic State group and al-Qaeda’s local affiliate.

The officials said that the two sides have agreed on the terms and conditions for the “cessation of hostilities.” A formal announcement is expected after Presidents Barack Obama and Vladimir Putin speak on the matter by telephone. The officials weren’t authorized to speak about the matter publicly and demanded anonymity.

The announcement would cap weeks of diplomacy that intensified in the past few days, aimed at reaching a temporary truce that would allow the parties to return to the negotiating table in Geneva. A first round of indirect talks collapsed rapidly last month after the government launched a massive offensive backed by Russian airstrikes in the northern province of Aleppo, near the Turkish border.

The leader of a Saudi-backed Syrian opposition alliance said in a statement that rebel factions have agreed “in principle” to an internationally mediated temporary truce. Riad Hijab did not elaborate on the terms, but called on Russia, Iran and the Syrian government to stop their attacks, lift blockades and release prisoners held in Syria.

Residents of the Syrian capital earlier Monday expressed skepticism about talk of a “provisional agreement” for a truce, a day after a wave of Islamic State bombings killed about 130 people in government-held areas near Damascus and another city.

Details of the tentative cease-fire between the government and insurgents, announced in Jordan on Sunday by US Secretary of State John Kerry, have not been made public. Even if a truce were to take hold, IS would not be a party to it.

The Russian Foreign Ministry put out a statement earlier Monday saying that Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Kerry spoke two more times by telephone on Sunday and agreed on the parameters for the cease-fire.

The statement said those parameters were then reported to Putin and Obama. No further details were immediately available.

The UN’s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, told The Associated Press on Monday that this week is shaping up as “crucial” for diplomatic efforts to help end the fighting, though he declined to provide details of the negotiations.

Sunday’s blasts that ripped through the Sayyida Zeinab suburb of Damascus and the central city of Homs were among the deadliest bombings in government-held areas in Syria’s devastating civil war.

The Islamic State group claimed both attacks. The extremists are dug in on the outskirts of the two cities and have repeatedly targeted pro-government strongholds.

De Mistura condemned the bombings and said it suggested the group is feeling “cornered” amid an intensified diplomatic push to end the five-year war. The US also condemned the “barbaric terrorist attacks.”

Inside the Hamidiyeh Souk, a popular Damascus bazaar which is typically crowded with shoppers, people said they were worried that a cease-fire would not be evenly observed and could leave the Syrian authorities vulnerable.

“I hope there will be no cease-fire, because if there is a cease-fire, Turks will increase their support for criminals and traitors,” said Ahmad al-Omar from the northern Aleppo province, adding that Turkey may seek to let opposition fighters in via its border with Syria.

Others at the bazaar echoed President Bashar Al-Assad’s statements that a cease-fire could give an advantage to rebel forces and the Islamic State group.

“I believe that those proposals now are … a pretext to stop the advance of the Syrian army, which is trying to liberate the homeland,” said Ahmad al-Issa.

The Associated Press reported from the bazaar on a government-approved visit.

On Monday, the Kremlin announced that Putin spoke with the emir of Qatar, a key supporter of the rebels fighting to topple Al-Assad. The two sides agreed “to intensify bilateral contacts at various levels to facilitate the settlement of the crisis,” the statement said. Putin also discussed Syria with King Salman of Saudi Arabia, another leading backer of the rebels, in a phone conversation on Friday.

Syrian officials said the government was ready to take part in a truce as long as it is not used by militants to reinforce their positions. Syrian troops backed by Russian warplanes are waging a major offensive in the northern Aleppo province, trying to seal the border with Turkey, a key supporter of the rebels, before any truce is reached.

Meanwhile, the Syrian government’s supply route by land to the city of Aleppo was cut by heavy fighting Monday as the army, supported by allied militias and the Russian air force, fought to consolidate its recent gains in the northern province.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of contacts to monitor the war, said Islamic militias assaulted government-held positions around Khanaser, a town southeast of Aleppo, setting off intense clashes that have lasted through the day. Khanaser lies along the government’s only access route to the city.

Fighting has been fierce in Aleppo province in recent weeks amid a government offensive to cut off the rebel stronghold.

Among the youth sitting around the Syrian capital’s landmark Omayyad mosque, at the entrance of the old souks, few wanted to talk politics.

Those who did expressed their wariness of a political solution after several rounds of unsuccessful peace talks. “It’s good for the Syrians to stop fighting but it will not happen, said Awuj Aqeel, a student.

“Every time they agree on a truce for a period of time and then they break it.”

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