Monday, February 29, 2016

Rebels, Russians Report Violations As Syria Truce Teeters, EU's Plan B: Sutting The Balkan Route Stranding Thousands Of Migrants In Greece



Rebels, Russians report violations as Syria truce teeters


Syria's main opposition grouping recorded 15 violations by government troops and allied forces on the first day of a landmark truce, a spokesman told reporters Sunday, as Russia accused Turkey of breaking the ceasefire.

"There were 15 violations by the regime forces on day one of the ceasefire, including two attacks by (Lebanese militant group) Hezbollah in Zabadani” west of Damascus, said Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee.

Opposition monitoring groups reported earlier Sunday that warplanes had carried out air raids on two villages in northern Syria.


Sunday’s air raids came on the second day of a cease-fire brokered by Russia and the US, the most ambitious effort yet to curb the violence of the country’s five-year civil war.


The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes hit the villages of Daret Azzeh and Qobtan al-Jabal. The group did not say whether the warplanes were Russian or Syrian.
The Local Coordination Committees said the warplanes were Russian.
It was not immediately clear if the warplanes struck areas controlled by al-Qaida’s branch in Syria, known as the Nusra Front. Both the Nusra Front and the Islamic State group are excluded from the truce.
The Russian military meanwhile reported that armed groups had attacked a Syrian town from Turkish territory, adding it had demanded an explanation from the United States.
"Overnight from February 27 to 28 the Russian center for the reconciliation of the warring parties in Syria received information about an attack from Turkish territory on the Syrian town of Tal Abyad by armed units using large-scale artillery,” said the chief of the center, Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko


"This was subsequently verified and confirmed through several channels including representatives of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” Kuralenko was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies from the Hmeimim airbase.
The Syrian Democratic Forces is a US-backed Kurdish-Arab alliance.
“The Russian center has turned for an explanation to the Amman-based US center for reconciliation,” Kuralenko added, stressing that Turkey was a member of a US-led coalition.
No other details were provided by the Russian side.
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the Kurdish forces and their Arab allies successfully pushed back a fierce IS offensive by Saturday night with backing from the US-led coalition.
In a statement published late Saturday, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) accused a group of “IS mercenaries” of launching an attack on Tal Abyad from Raqa to the south and from Turkish territory to the north late Friday.
They said they were able to repel the attack but that clashes were ongoing.











The Feb. 21 front-page article “For Turkey, high stakes as troubles intensify” highlighted a critical development: The growing military alliance between Russia and Armenia is threatening Turkey, an indispensable U.S. ally and partner in the fight against the Islamic State.
The announcement that Russia is sending a new set of fighter jets and combat helicopters to an air base only 25 miles from the Turkish border is just the latest example of this alliance.
The two countries’ economic and military ties run deep, bolstered by economic and security agreements and two military bases — including one just outside the Armenian capital. Most significant, Armenia is the only country in the region that shares a border with Turkey and has Russian troops permanently stationed.



Although Armenia has welcomed thousands of Russian troops and advanced weaponry, these developments seemed to have escaped the notice of U.S. officials, who were settling in for the holidays while Russia and Armenia signed a sweeping air defense agreement two days before Christmas.










The closure of borders in the north of Greece has created chaos: thousands of refugees and migrants wandering from Athens to Idomeni without knowing where to sleep and what to eat, where to lay their kids and elderly to sleep.

FYROM, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria has closed their border today. Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia said on Friday they would each restrict the number of migrants allowed to enter their territories to 580 per day, while Austria already introduced a daily cap of 80 asylum-seekers and said it would only let 3,200 migrants pass through each day. However, FYROM’s borders remained close all day Friday, onloy 150 crossed on Thursday. Albania, that had earlier said to accept refugees, decided otherwise at the end of the day, after the West Ballkan Conference initiated by Austria. Prime Minister Eddi Rama said that his country will not accept any refugees.
Also the push-backs have started: Austria sent back 50 Syrians two days ago, they arrived in Idomeni , Greece a couple of hours ago. According to latest information, Serbia is going to push-back 1,000 people to FYROM and FYROM will forward them to Greece.
Refugees, asylum-seekers, migrants: all in one pot. End of  story:

The Balkan Route is cut. 
20,000-25,000 people are trapped in Greece.

Allegedly concerned that a humanitarian crisis may occur, the European Commission is working out a contingency plan to tackle the crisis and avoid the disaster.
“At this time we are preparing an emergency plan, ‘a humanitarian aid mechanism’ in order to avoid a humanitarian crisis in Greece,” European Commission spokesperson Natasha Bertaud said on Friday, however without elaborating on details. Correspondents of Greek TV channels in Brussels reported later that the “Emergency plan” would rather be in form of financial aid for food, logistics etc of even up to 3 billion euro. Greece has reportedly already submitted the relevant request to Brussels. According to Greek media, the Greek request aims to tackle the Refugee Crisis until March 7th.



“Senior European officials are embracing the so-far taboo idea of cutting off the migrant trail in Greece, a step that they acknowledge could create a humanitarian crisis in the country, says a report in the Wall Street Journal.

This so-called Plan B, floated until now only by Europe’s populist leaders, is a sign of rapidly waning confidence in other European Union policies to deal with the migration crisis—in particular in German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s game plan of relying mainly on Turkey to stem the human tide.”


“Greece wouldn’t be the worst place to have a humanitarian crisis for a few months,” one EU official told WSJ, adding that the population there was much more refugee-friendly than those in the Balkans or Eastern Europe.”Four senior EU officials said that Greece, as an EU member state, could receive more bloc funding and other practical help to cope with the stranded migrants than its Balkan neighbors, where ethnic conflicts could flare up anytime. Once the message trickles through that migrants are stuck in Greece, the officials said the hope is that fewer people would attempt to come in the first place.”

An evil plan smitten in devils’ rooms in Brussels, behind closed doors., by those EU “partners” who do not want to stand to their responsibilities. thus violating the sames rules and the same decisions have have signed and agreed upon.

The European Commission Legal Departmental reportedly consider the border closure by Austria, Croatia and Slovenia as “illegal”.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed concern on Friday over the increasing number of border restrictions targeting migrants in the Balkans and said they ran contrary to the international refugee convention.
 
The border rules in Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and Macedonia “are not in line” with the 1951 convention “because individual determination of refugee status and assessment of individual protection needs are not made possible,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric.






The European Social Fund (ESF) does not intend to provide additional financial support to Germany in the near future amid the ongoing refugee crisis, Marianne Thyssen, EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labor Mobility, said Sunday.

 According to Thyssen, the European Union has already allocated to Germany 7.5 billion (some $8.2 billion) for 2014-2021.

"We cannot transfer more money to Germany to the detriment of other countries, which are less affected by the refugee situation," she said as quoted by Deutsche Welle broadcaster.


However, she noted that the revision of the funding programs scheduled for 2017 could allow Germany to "get a little more" resources.
Germany has become a key destination for hundreds of thousands of refugees and immigrants fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and North Africa since the start of 2015. The country’s interior ministry estimates that Germany received around 1.1 million migrants last year alone.





Sunday, February 28, 2016

Sign Of The Times: Oklahoma Democrats Want Christian Business Owners To Wear A 'Scarlet Letter'



Below we see yet another ominous sign of the times:


Oklahoma Democrats want Christian Business Owners to Wear a Scarlet Letter


Democrats legislators in Oklahoma are tired of all this religious liberty talk, and they’re ready to fight against the 1st Amendment.
Democrat state Rep. Emily Virgin believes that Christian businesses should be forced to post a public notice that they will be discriminating against homosexuals, if those businesses are to be allowed to claim the right to refuse service based on religious beliefs.
That’s right, if you’re a Christian businessman in Oklahoma and you don’t believe that you should be forced to participate in a gay wedding, Democrats want to force your business to post a public scarlet letter detailing your “bigoted” beliefs!
Here’s what Oklahoma’s HB 1371 says:
“Any person not wanting to participate in any of the activities set forth in subsection A of this section based on sexual orientation, gender identity or race of either party to the marriage shall post notice of such refusal in a manner clearly visible to the public in all places of business, including websites. The notice may refer to the person’s religious beliefs, but shall state specifically which couples the business does not serve by referring to a refusal based upon sexual orientation, gender identity or race.”

Virgin introduced the measure in response to a bill that Oklahoma Republicans have pushed that would allow Christian owned businesses, to deny services that ran contrary to their religious beliefs. Oklahoma state senator Joseph Silk argues that laws protecting religious liberty have become necessary due in large part to the tremendous pressure being applied by fascist LGBT groups who are actively destroying the 1st Amendment. “The L.G.B.T. movement is the main thing, the primary thing that’s going to be challenging religious liberties and the freedom to live out religious convictions,” Silk told the New York Times.

Folks, this is a big deal.
The right to practice your faith as you see fit (as long as you aren’t infringing on the rights of others) is the cornerstone of our nation’s stability and health. Along with that, the right to choose who we do business with and when we do business is the very foundation of free market capitalism. The moment we allow the government (or some fascist group of rabid socialists) to force us to act against our religious beliefs, or force us to work as indentured servants at the beck and call of others… that is the moment that we have LOST our nation.



Netanyahu: Syria Truce Must Guarantee Security For Israel, Iran Uses Truce To Deploy Palestinian Terrorists On Golan Border



Netanyahu: Syria truce must guarantee security for Israel


Two days into a shaky ceasefire in Syria, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that while Israel was glad for the prospect of an end to hostilities there, any long-term solution had to provide security for the Jewish state as well.

“We welcome the efforts to attain a stable, long-term and real ceasefire in Syria,” he told reporters at the opening of the weekly cabinet in Jerusalem. “Anything that stops the terrible carnage there is important, first and foremost from a humane standpoint.”

Syria’s fragile ceasefire entered its second day on Sunday, with battle zones across the war-scarred country largely quiet for the first time in five years despite some sporadic breaches. The temporary truce, brokered by Washington and Moscow, is seen as a crucial step toward ending a conflict that has claimed 270,000 lives and displaced more than half the population.
“But at the same time,” Netanyahu continued, “it’s important that one thing remain clear: Any arrangement in Syria must include ending Iranian aggression against Israel from Syrian territory.”
Iranian agents have been said to operate on the Syrian Golan Heights in recent years, seeking ways to attack Israel. Meanwhile, Lebanon-based Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy group that has been fighting rebel forces alongside the Syrian army, has been threatening cross-border attacks.

Jerusalem has long warned that Iran has been delivering advanced weaponry to Hezbollah in a bid to aid its struggle with Israel. The Israeli Air Force has launched multiple airstrikes in recent years in order to thwart such deliveries, according to foreign reports
“We will not abide the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah, from Syria to Lebanon,” Netanyahu said Sunday. “We will not abide the creation of a second terror front in the Golan. Those were the red lines we set, and they remain the State of Israel’s red lines.”



Under cover of the Syrian ceasefire that went into effect Saturday, Feb. 27, and the Russian air umbrella, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps finally managed to secretly install hundreds of armed Palestinian terrorists on the Syrian-Israeli border face-to-face with the IDF’s Golan positions.

These Palestinians belong to Al-Sabirin, a new terrorist organization the Iranian Guards and Hizballah are building in the refugee camps of Lebanon and the Gaza Strip. Their agents clandestinely recruited the new terrorists from among young Palestinians who fled the Yarmouk refugee camp outside Damascus and sought refuge in Lebanon. Hizballah organized their return to Syria through south Lebanon – but not before training and arming them for penetration deep inside Israel to carry out mass-casualty assaults on IDF positions, highways and civilians.

So Iran and Hizballah have finally been able to achieve one of the most cherished goals of their integration in the Syria civil war, namely, to bring a loyal terrorist force right up to Israel’s border.

Israel’s military planners went to extreme lengths to prevent this happening. Last December, Samir Quntar, after being assigned by Tehran and Hizballah to establish a Palestinian-Druze terror network on the Golan, was assassinated in Damascus.

Twelve months before that, on Jan. 18, an Israeli air strike hit an Iranian-Syrian military party surveying the Golan in search of jumping-off locations for Hizballah terror squads to strike across the border against Israeli targets. The two senior officers in the party, Iranian General Allah-Dadi and Hizballah’s Jihad Mughniyeh, were killed.

The hubbub in the run-up to the Syrian truce, coupled with Russia’s protective military presence, finally gave the Islamic Republic and its Lebanese proxy the chance to outfox Israeli intelligence and secretly bring forward a terrorist force to striking range against Israel.

This discovery was one of the causes of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s urgent phone call to President Vladimir Putin Wednesday, Feb. 24, two days before the ceasefire went into effect. He reminded the Russian leader of the understandings they had reached regarding the deployment of pro-Iranian terrorists on the Syrian-Israeli border. He also sent emissaries to Moscow to intercede with Russian officials.

Putin’s answers to Israel’s demarches were vague and evasive, on the lines of a promise to look into their complaints.

He also tried to fob Netanyahu off by inviting President Reuven Rivlin for a state visit to Russia. Putin promised to use that occasion for a solemn Russian pledge of commitment to upholding Israel’s security in a tone that would leave Tehran in no doubt of Moscow support for the Jewish state.
The Rivlin visit has been scheduled for March 16.

But it is clear that the prime minister and defense minister Moshe Ya’alon were too slow to pick up on the new terrorist menace Iran had parked on Israel’s border. Now their hands are tied, say DEBKAfile’s sources. An IDF operation to evict the pro-Iranian Palestinian Al-Sabirin network from the Syrian Golan, before it digs in, would lay Israel open to the charge of jeopardizing, or even sabotaging, the inherently fragile Syrian ceasefire initiated jointly by the US and Russia.   
.



Damascus was quick to jump aboard with the caveat that the fight would continue against all terrorist groups. And Assad has been adamant that no military supplies can be flowing into areas under truce, a tall order in itself, but a critically practical one. Both Turkey and Saudi Arabia had clarified last week that their sending ground forces into Syria would only be done under the US coalition banner — Special Ops troops at first, and for the purpose of fighting ISIL.

Since Syria, Russia and the US have waived the green flag on continuing the ISIL fight, would that allow the Turks and Saudis to bring in outside troops to do it? Would Syrian have no say so? And who would police their compliance to make sure they were not rearming their proxies?

A ceasefire monitoring group was built into the initial process which must start with a careful mapping out of where all the factional groups are located to establish what will not only be one big jigsaw puzzle, but one where some of the pieces will try to move around. Will the various groups in those areas be required to submit rosters as to whom the members of their group are? Will some kind of official IDs have to be created so al-Nusra fighters don’t miraculously become members of non-terrorist groups before Friday, or after?

It seems that all ceasefire violations and actions taken on them will require the joint decision of both Russia and the US, but Syria’s roll is still hazy at this point because there were still ongoing disputes between the two coalitions on the designation of who is a terrorist group. The UN did step up to the plate to announce war crimes investigations would begin with the ceasefire. We hope this was not blustering as that will be a very big job for Syria, and a dangerous one.

The division of responsibilities has the Russians handling the coordination center to monitor violations at its Khmeimin airbase near Latakia. It has not only the necessary facilities but the command staff there knows where all the various conflict lines are. The US gets to manage the hot line, the easy job, but then has a much more fractured coalition, and one that has been supporting the terrorists it claims to oppose.

Expect the outlawed terrorist groups to unleash their revenge on the peace process. That has already started with major bombings in Damascus and Homs. 



Syria’s main opposition grouping records 15 violations by government troops and allied forces on the first day of a landmark truce, a spokesman tells reporters Sunday.
“There were 15 violations by the regime forces on day one of the ceasefire, including two attacks by (Lebanese militant group) Hezbollah in Zabadani” west of Damascus, says Salem al-Meslet, spokesman for the High Negotiations Committee.
The Russian military says on Sunday that a fragile ceasefire in Syria had been breached nine times over the past 24 hours but the truce was mostly holding.
“Over the past 24 hours, nine instances of violations of cessation of hostilities have been uncovered,” Lieutenant General Sergei Kuralenko, head of the country’s coordination center in Syria, is quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. “On the whole, the ceasefire regime in Syria is being implemented.”
Greece on Sunday says the number of refugees and migrants on its soil could more than triple next month, reaching as many as 70,000, as a cap on border crossings by Balkan countries left them “trapped” in the country.
"We estimate that in our country the number of those trapped will be from 50,000-70,000 people next month,” Migration Minister Yiannis Mouzalas says.
“Today, there are 22,000 refugees and migrants,” he adds in an interview with Mega Channel TV.
Some 6,500 people are stuck at the Idomeni camp on Greece’s northern border with Macedonia on Sunday as Macedonian border officials let only 300 refugees and migrants pass the day before.


















Saturday, February 27, 2016

Shocking: UN Persecution Of Whistleblowers, The Quagmire To End All Quagmires




UN Persecution of Whistleblowers Shocks U.S. Congress



The United Nations' persecution of whistle-blowers who expose wrongdoing at the international outfit and its agencies is a major threat, said shocked U.S. lawmakers and former UN officials during a congressional hearing this week investigating the issue. But despite the seriousness of the offenses, this is hardly the first time the UN has been exposed engaging in severe retaliation against those who blow the whistle on UN crimes. The implications of the case are enormous: If left unaddressed, UN officials who know of wrongdoing and criminality will be unlikely to report it, knowing that their lives will be destroyed and nothing will change anyway. But lawmakers did pledge to act.  

The whistle-blower scandal probed this week by Congress — one of many similar scandals at the UN — surrounds the UN's World Intellectual Property Organization, or WIPO, and its director-general, Francis Gurry. According to current and former employees of the agency, which runs the international intellectual-property regime, the UN agency boss sent sensitive U.S. technology to the dictatorships ruling Iran and North Korea, in defiance of U.S. law and international sanctions. The reason, whistle-blowers said, was to secure the votes of those regimes in Gurry's reelection contest. When WIPO officials found out, though, they realized something was wrong, and attempted to take action. In response, Gurry retaliated against them in what observers described as an “outrageous” and potentially criminal abuse of power.

Among those testifying was Miranda Brown (shown), who served as strategic advisor to WIPO boss Gurry. In her testimony, she described retaliation at the hands of the UN agency chief, as well as “an ongoing pattern of abuse of authority and impunity.” When Brown found out about the scheme to transfer American technology to North Korea, at first she thought it was a joke, she told the committee. When she realized it was not, she tried to stop it, and advised Gurry that it was likely a violation of U.S. law and UN Security Council sanctions. The UN agency chief, who also came under fire for threatening a journalist with prosecution for doing his job in recent years, seemed “non-committal.”    
“Despite the fact that WIPO had no whistle-blower policy in place at the time I blew the whistle on the North Korea and Iran shipments, I felt confident that the U.S. Government would use its considerable influence to fully protect me,” said Brown, one of at least three whistle-blowers at WIPO involved in the explosive scandals. “I felt I had a responsibility, as a UN staff member, to blow the whistle and report a UN agency that was supplying high-end American IT equipment to North Korea, in violation of U.S. domestic sanctions and without consulting the UN Security Council Sanctions Committees.”
In response to blowing the whistle, the retaliation was “severe,” Brown told lawmakers. Among other actions, Gurry accused her of “disloyalty” and of “leaking documents” to the U.S. government and the media. Then, in an apparent test of loyalty, he ordered her to help on a secret plot to establish WIPO offices in Beijing and Moscow without approval from agency member states. Gurry told other staffers to avoid Brown or face “consequences,” and finally told her that her contract would not be renewed. Finally, she was forced to resign under duress, she told the congressional committee.   
“Mr. Gurry’s leadership of WIPO is characterized by secrecy and also an extraordinary vindictiveness towards whistle-blowers,” Brown told U.S. lawmakers, adding that the agency chief appears to see the outfit he leads and its resources as his “personal fiefdom.” He also “consistently undermined the internal accountability mechanisms,” she added, citing examples, including one senior official targeted by Gurry who went on to commit suicide. Brown said the suicide should be investigated. Gurry fired and destroyed virtually everyone who tried to stop his lawlessness and abuses, it seems.
And when people dare to continue exposing him, Gurry has the power to destroy them anyway, because it takes three years for whistle-blower cases to be resolved, during which time the whistle-blower would be unemployed and ruined. Brown also said that the retaliation can reach across the UN system, not just at the agency involved, making the prospect of whistle-blowing by those who know of wrongdoing both terrifying and unlikely. “Once the retaliation starts, it's difficult,” she said.
Representative Smith, who chaired the hearing, also sounded incredulous, vowing to do “a great deal of follow up” to ensure the future of whistle-blowing at UN. The UN is “not a sustainable organization” if this sort of behavior continues, he added, calling Gurry “a bureaucrat who, with impunity, is abusing his authority.” Whistle-blowers are some of the most noble people in an organization, he continued. “They are the canary in the coal mine,” he added.
In response to questions by The New American after the hearing ended, Smith praised another UN whistle-blower, Anders Kompass, who recently suffered extreme retaliation for exposing “peacekeeping” troops on a UN mission in Africa raping children. When asked about the “Turin e-mails” exposing top UN officials plotting to silence and destroy Kompass, Smith again expressed major concerns.
While Kompass and the WIPO whistle-blowers are the most recent whistle-blower scandals to surface, they are hardly unique. AsThe New American reported last year, the UN's war on whistle-blowers is massive, systemic, and extreme. According to the non-profit Government Accountability Project (GAP), which works to protect whistle-blowers around the world, between 2007 and 2010, the UN failed to protect more than 98 percent of whistle-blowers from retaliation. Countless more have declined to come forward.   







Turkey is declaring they will not honor the upcoming Syrian ceasefire, claiming dissatisfaction the agreement does not acknowledge the Syrian Kurdish YPG militia as a terrorist group.
Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu threatened that Ankara will take action against the Kurds if they deem it necessary, as reported by TRUNEWS.
“The ceasefire is not binding for us when there is a situation that threatens Turkey’s security, we will take necessary measures against both the YPG [People’s Protection Units] and Daesh [Arabic acronym for Islamic State] when we feel the need to,” Davutoglu said to CNN Turk.
The U.S., an ally of Turkey, considers the YPG to be an important key to winning the Syrian civil war, which has complicated the crisis.
Turkey has been shelling the YPG, which operates near its border, fearing the Turkish Kurds (PKK) could get involved as they have sought autonomy for decades.
The Russians believe Turkey is making things worse and accuses Ankara of having “imperial ambitions”, according to RT.






The “ceasefire” went into effect on Saturday and so far, so good. “Clashes and airstrikes across western Syria largely abated Saturday morning, as an internationally backed truce took hold in parts of the country where rebels have been fighting the regime,” WSJ reported this morning. Although the SAA apparently hit a few rebel positions east of Damascus, overall, “it was a calm morning.”
Russia said it would halt all flights over the country for the first 24 hours to avoid “mistakes” in targeting. "Given the entry into force of the U.N. Security Council resolution that supports the Russian-American agreements on a ceasefire, and to avoid any possible mistakes when carrying out strikes, Russian military planes, including long-range aviation, are not carrying out any flights over Syrian territory on Feb. 27," the Defense Ministry said.
By “mistakes” Moscow means hitting anyone other than al-Nusra or ISIS, who are not included in the agreement. Rebels, not to mention analysts, have argued that Russia and Hezbollah will be able to use al-Nusra as an excuse to continue the offensive against anti-Assad elements. While the ISIS presence is concentrated in eastern Syria, al-Nusra has positions in Aleppo City, the Jabal Turkman region of Northeastern Latakia, the Jabal Zawiya region in Southern Idlib Province, and the Quneitra Province along the Golan Heights. Just to name a few. That effectively means Russia can bomb anywhere along the country’s urban backbone in the west and claim to be targeting the group, which, you’re reminded, is an offshoot of al-Qaeda.
The other important thing to note about the ceasefire is that Russia and Hezbollah were within a month or so of declaring victory when the deal was struck. The Iranians and Hassan Nasrallah had surrounded Aleppo and the YPG were about to cut off the Azaz corridor, the last remaining supply line from Turkey. Backed by Russian airstrikes, the Hezbollah offensive was racking up gains and it was just a matter of time before Aleppo city was recaptured by forces loyal to Assad.
That meant Russia was negotiating from a position of strength. “We are totally in control of the situation in all of the territory of Syria,” Sergei Rudskoi, head of the main operations directorate of the general staff said today.
The rebels echoed that sentiment in the days leading up to the ceasefire. Russia pounded anti-Assad positions all week in an apparent effort to cement gains and ensure the rebels loses are devastating enough that they can’t use the lull in fighting to regroup.  
"We are heading toward being liquidated I think," a former official in a rebel group from Aleppo told Reuters.
In other words, Russia and Iran have the rebels feeling like HY fund managers in a junk bond rout and the opposition is essentially finished.







Syria is a witches’ brew of conflicting internal and external forces. The US has been at odds with its leadership since Hafez al-Assad, father of the current leader, Bashar al-Assad, seized power in 1970. He aligned Syria with the Soviet Union and launched a war against Israel in 1973. He was a standard issue Middle Eastern autocrat in the Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi mold and his son has followed in his footsteps. The Assads’ Alawite Shiite Muslim sect, though a minority amidst a Sunni majority, controls the government and the leadership has fingers in all the worthwhile commercial and industrial pies. It has been religiously tolerant and politically intolerant.
The Obama administration saw an opportunity to change the Syrian regime under cover of the Arab Spring movement in 2011. Initially peaceful demonstrations against Bashar al-Assad soon turned violent as the government cracked down on demonstrators. Within a year, the military attacked resistance strongholds and Syria was engulfed in civil war. The main opposition came from an alliance of Sunni groups, mostly al Qaeda and its offshoots, including ISIS. The Obama administration pursued a confused policy that it advertised as aiding moderate Syrian rebels, who were supposedly opposed to both the Assad government and Islamic extremist groups. In truth, most of the ostensible moderates had ties to the latter. The few that didn’t either joined the extremists when confronted or fled, leaving their US-supplied weaponry and provisions behind.

With his move into Syria and a remarkable speech at the United Nations, Vladimir Putin revealed the US government’s mendacity for all to see, except for the US public, where the mainstream media coverage ignored his speech in favor of the usual government propaganda. (Some questions were asked about the efficacy of US efforts to defeat ISIS after the San Bernardino shootings last December, but they quickly faded.) 

At the invitation of Assad, Russia joined with the Shiites—the Syrian government, Iraq, Iran, and Hezbollah—and Syrian and Iraqi Kurds. The Assad alliance treats all those opposed to Assad as terrorist enemies. The tide has turned and the alliance has regained territory. It is on the verge of recapturing Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city.


Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf States are alarmed that the Islamic extremists they have funded and supported, and the US and its Western allies, have failed to depose Assad. If the Assad alliance cuts the rebels’ supply line from Turkey and takes Aleppo, it will not only solidify Assad’s hold on western Syria, but also solidify the influence of archenemy Shiite Iran in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It is a make or break moment for the rebellion. 



The Sunni nations, especially NATO member Turkey, would dearly love to have their fight become Europe and the United States’ fight, too. If they can ensnare the Western nations, then Syria inevitably becomes the launchpad for World War III.



This next world war’s Archduke Ferdinand moment may come if Saudi Arabia, currently hosting a military exercise in its northern region called “Northern Thunder” involving at least 12 other nations, 350,000 soldiers, 20,000 tanks, 2,450 warplanes and 460 helicopters, leads that force into western Iraq en route to Syria. Or the trigger may come if Turkey, either in conjunction with Saudi Arabia or on its own, invades Syria from the north. With 600,000 troops, Turkey’s has the second largest armed forces in NATO. In addition to its loathing of the Shiites and Iran, Turkey fears Kurd nationalism. The Kurds, who have been the most effective fighting force against ISIS in both Iraq and Syria, have long desired their own state. Kurdish separatists are also a vociferous presence in Turkey. The US government has embraced the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, but like the Turkish government, labels the Turkish Kurds as terrorists. Turkey would probably concentrate on subduing the Kurds before it went after Assad.



The US public is blissfully unaware either that the world is a hair’s breadth away from World War III or that their government has had an outsize role in creating that risk. The US may be dragged in by Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdo?an, a corrupt, megalomaniac autocrat, or the corrupt, repressive House of Saud. The US will be in direct conflict with Russia and Iran, and lurking in the background, perhaps China. Neither the US’s so-called friends nor its foes care one whit about the best interests of the US and will in fact work against them. The blowback created will dwarf current levels of terrorism and refugee flows. The US’s degeneration into a police state will gain new momentum. Other than its deluded wish that both Assad and the Islamic extremists somehow disappear, the US government will have no clear idea of what would constitute victory, and consequently, no ability to attain it. And this war could go nuclear.

It will be the quagmire to end all quagmires, supported by the same coalition of mental and moral midgets who have backed every disastrous US military foray since Afghanistan.

 It’s questionable how long the US will retain the support of Europe. Its refugee flood will turn into a deluge as the war spreads from Syria outward to the rest of the Middle East, central Asia, northern Africa, and quite possibly to Europe itself. Nor is it a sure thing that financial markets will fund this war at today’s rock-bottom interest rates. The conflict will add more trillions to the US government’s current $19 trillion debt, and with a depression looming, the government’s ability to pay will be called into question. There would be no political support for a another protracted, expensive, and bloody military commitment in the Middle East if the American people were explicitly told that just such a commitment is under consideration, especially if they were also told that it could lead to World War III. A populace fooled into war is unlikely to back it for any length of time.

In Syria, the US will either fold or go all in. On past form, it will choose the latter and rue it ever after. Few Americans, inside or outside the government, realize either that those are the choices or that the stakes are so high. Sadly, such realizations may come only when their sons and daughters are drafted, or as the image of a mushroom cloud fills the screens of their mobile devices.
















Escalating War On Cash




An Escalating War on Cash



On February 16th, The Washington Post printed the article, “It’s time to kill the $100 bill.” This came on the heels of a CNNMoney item, the day before, entitled “Death of the 500 euro bill getting closer.” The former cited a recent Harvard Kennedy School working paper, No. 52 by Senior Fellow Peter Sands, concluding that the abolition of high denomination notes would help deter “tax evasion, financial crime, terrorist finance and corruption.” 

In recent days, former Treasury Secretary Larry Summers, ECB President Mario Draghi, and even the editorial board of the New York Times, came out in support of the elimination of large currency notes. Apart from the question as to why these calls are being raised now with such frequency, the larger issue is whether these moves are actually needed or if they merely a subterfuge for more complex economic manipulations by central banks to extend control over private wealth.

In early 2015, it was reported that Spain had already limited private cash transactions to 2,500 euros. Italy and France set limits of 1,000 euros. In France, all cash withdrawals in excess of 10,000 euros in a single month must be reported to government agencies. In the U.S., such limits are $10,000 per withdrawal. China, India and Sweden are among those with plans under way to eradicate cash.
 
On April 20, 2015, the Mises Institute reported that Chase, a subsidiary of JPMorgan Chase and a bailout recipient of some $25 billion (ProPublica, 2/22/16), had announced restrictions on its customers’ ability to use cash in the payment of credit cards, mortgages, equity lines and auto loans. Before that, on April 1, 2015, Chase, in concert with JPMorgan, updated its safe deposit box lease agreement to provide, “You agree not to store any cash or coins [including gold and silver] other than those found to have a collectible value.”
 
The war on cash unquestionably has extended from government into the private banking sector. But the public is predominantly unaware of the ever-increasing encroachment into individual privacy and freedom.
 
On February 5, 2016, The New York Times reported, “the United States could face a new recession in 2016 due to a ‘perfect storm’ of economic conditions.” Ten days later, in an introductory statement, Draghi told a European Parliamentary Committee that, “In recent weeks, we have witnessed increasing concerns about the prospects for the global economy.”
 
When consumers worry about the economy, unemployment and their own finances, spending on non-essentials diminishes. Caution results also in paying down loans and hoarding cash.
 
When economic growth falters, central banks lower interest rates and inject funds into the economy. But if consumer confidence falls further, cash hoarding causes a fall in the velocity of money. This stimulates central banks to discourage the hoarding of cash by introducing negative interest rates to force deposits out of banks. On February 10th, during her congressional testimony, Fed Chair Janet Yellen admitted that there had been a discussion but never fully researched “the legal issues”. However, her Vice-Chair, Stanley Fischer, already had told the Council on Foreign Relations, nine days earlier, that the Fed had discussed negative rate policy all the way back in 2012.
 
Should negative rates fail to force funds out of banks, governments may look to limit, and even forbid, the use of cash in large transactions. This is tantamount to a war on cash as part of an effort to eliminate citizens’ control over their wealth.
 
Furthermore, a war on cash could extend even to seizure of cash deposits under certain circumstances. The confiscation of bank deposits may seem remote to Americans. However, the 2013 Cypriot banking crisis exposed the new central bank stance of ‘bail-ins’ whereby deposits could now be frozen and even confiscated to rescue a bank!
 
Most of the great economic growth and apparent prosperity of the past 45 years, since the U.S. broke its dollar’s last link to gold, has been financed by credit-unimaginable trillions of dollars of credit. At the heart of this massive credit system are the banks.
 
The current collapse of oil prices places pressure on the sovereign wealth funds of oil-rich nations to reduce deposits and to sell securities. Lower deposits reduce the banks’ ability to lend and generate profits. If, simultaneously, a shrinking economy leads to bankruptcies and non-performing loans, banks would appear not only less profitable, but increasingly risky. Currently, banks are experiencing many of these pressures, which threaten a credit shortage just when it is needed most to boost confidence. This helps to explain why the current downturn in markets is being led by the financial sector.
 
To help make sure that depositors’ money stays in banks despite the negative rates, governments have proposed measures to eradicate opportunities to pay in cash. These measures are camouflaged politically as ‘protective’ means against money laundering, especially by terrorists.
 
But perhaps the most insidious of government motivations to ban cash is to increase the capability of surveillance over all spending by citizens and corporations. Undoubtedly, this makes it harder for anyone to shield income from the taxman, but it also makes it more difficult to achieve any type of anonymity in the marketplace. Soon there may be no legal place to shield legitimate wealth or spending patterns from the eyes of politicians.
 
Negative interest rates combined with the eradication of cash appear as a desperate attempt to control global private wealth. Jamie Dimon is one of the world’s most astute and powerful individual bankers.
 
On February 11th, he invested some $26.6 million in the depressed stock of his bank, JPMorgan Chase. Reported as demonstrating confidence, it may be that Dimon sees the stock price recovering strongly when it is realized more widely just how much the banks might benefit from negative rates and the erosion of cash held privately outside the banks.
 
President Nixon’s decision to unilaterally abolish the last remnants of a gold standard in 1971 heralded a nuclear age for international trade in which nations looked to gain advantage through serial debasement of their currencies and make up the difference with massive debt creation, unfettered by any link to gold. Similar to the nuclear strategy of mutually assured destruction, it set international trade on a course of mutually assured economic destruction.
 
The size and scope of the political, economic and financial problems that now challenge the relative stability and tranquility of developed societies are unprecedented. Should the war on cash prove unsuccessful in its early stages, banks could be closed for long periods.
 
Investors should be aware of such possibilities and consider whether to hold cash and precious metals prudently outside the banking system. Better to be even months too early than a second too late should we be left facing a bank’s closed doors.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Syrian Ceasefire: Another Huge Victory For Russia, Europe's Refugee Crisis: From Terrible To Unprecedented










The recent agreement between the USA and Russia really solves nothing, it does not even end the war, and both sides are expressing a great deal of caution about its future implementation.  And yet, this is a huge victory for Russia.  While it is too early to say that “the Russian won in Syria”, I think that it is now fair to say that the Russian position on Syria has won.  Here is why:


First: nobody is suggesting anymore that Assad will be ousted or Damascus taken.  That, in turn, means that everybody has now recognized that Syrian Arab Republic, backed by Russia, has successfully repelled the aggression of the huge coalition the AngloZionists built to overthrow Assad.

Second: Russia has forced the UNSC and the USA to admit that the vast majority of those who fight Assad today are terrorist.  Of course, this is not how this was declared, but if you look at the organizations which the UNSC has already declared as ‘terrorists’ then you already have an absolute majority of the anti-Assad forces.  This means that the moral and legal legitimacy of the anti-Assad forces is lies in tatters.

Third: regardless of what Erdogan does actually try to do next, there are now clear signs that neither NATO, nor the EU nor even the Turkish high military command want a war with Russia.  And that means that Erdogan’s gamble has not paid off and that his entire Syria policy is now comprehensively dead.  Keep in mind that following the treacherous attack on the Russian Su-24 the Kremlin made it a policy goal to “Saakashvilize” Erdogan.  This goal is now almost reached and Erdogan’s future looks very, very bleak: everybody ( except maybe the Saudis) is sick and tired of this maniac.  The best thing which could happen to Turkey now would for the military to get rid of Erdogan and to replace him with somebody willing to repair all the damage he did.

Fourth: all the threats to impose a no-fly zone or to occupy Syria have now been invalidated by an agreement which basically declares that anybody not respecting the cease-fire is a legitimate target for engagement and destruction.

Fifth: the USA had to accept the humiliation of having to agree to all of the Russian terms for the current ceasefire.  Yes, of course, the USA can, and probably will, try renege on part, or all, of this agreement, but the precedent has been set and it will be very hard, if not impossible, for the USA to openly return to the pre-2016 policies.

Sixth: does anybody still remember the rhetoric of Hillary Clinton about Syria and Russia?  Her position was crystal clear: Assad must go and those who support him “punished”.  Even after the Russian military offensive began, the US refused to tell the Russians where the “good terrorists” were and where the “bad terrorists” were.  No exchange of information with Russians was acceptable.  Now the Americans had to agree to work with the Russians on a map of Syria designating where the participants of the ceasefire and were those who were not included in the ceasefire were deployed.  In other words, the US will now have to share with Russia all the info it previously refused to share and work with the Russians on a daily basis.
Seventh: Russia has basically co-opted the so-called “Free Syrian Army”.  How?  By basically forcing every single faction in Syria to chose between one of two possible statuses: being a ‘terrorist’ (and a fair target for destruction) or being a participant in a political process entirely designed by Russia.  The Russians are now even opening a “Truce Center” at the Khmeimin airbase near Latakia which will now “render assistance” to all the parties to the ceasefire.

This, for the time being, mainly a diplomatic victory, of course, but a Russian diplomatic victory made possible by a Russian military victory.  A tiny Russian military contingent has basically completely neutralized the plans of an entire worldwide Empire.  That, in itself, is an amazing achievement.



The other big winner here are, in my opinion, the Kurds who, according to British officials, appear to be coordinating their military operations with the Syrian army and the Russian Aerospace Forces and who now might well even achieve their dreams of joining the Iraqi and Syria regions of Kurdistan.  Which is just about the worst nightmare for the Turks come true, hence the still remaining risk of a Turkish military operation ostensibly to create a ‘buffer zone’ but really to save face.  That kind of intervention will remain a possibility for as long as the Turks can continue to hope to commit aggression against their neighbors under the protection of NATO and the USA.  And that ain’t gonna change anytime in the future.


Yet again the nay-sayers and Putin-haters have been proven wrong.  To be honest, so have I:  I would never have guessed that the Russians could have achieved so much with so little and yet they did pull off this extremely dangerous gamble and they won.  Only an extremely skillful combination of military, economic, diplomatic and political means could have yielded such a remarkable result but Putin, apparently, found this perfect mix.  The path ahead remains extremely dangerous, for sure, but the outcome of the 20 week long Russian military intervention in Syria is nothing short of remarkable.









Europe's refugee crisis is about to go from terrible to unprecedented



Refugees and migrants are heading to Europe at a rate three times greater than last year, according to a new report released by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and are set to shatter a record number of new arrivals reached in 2015.


By the end of 2015, more than 1 million people had made their way to the continent, mostly by crossing the Mediterranean on overcrowded boats, marking the largest refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. But if the volume of new people arriving from war torn nations continues to grow, the refugee crisis is set to explode at a rate never before seen in Europe. 
There have been 102,547 arrivals in the Greek islands since the beginning of 2016. In 2015, the number of arrivals did not reach that threshold until June, according to IOM. 
The growing scale of the crisis has forced a knee-jerk reaction in many countries along the migrant route, which are now imposing arbitrary quotas in order to cope with the influx and closing their borders.
At Austria's southern border, officials have been closing the border if more than 80 people claim asylum in a day, or if more than 3,200 want to transit through to neighboring countries.
The restrictions are having a ripple effect further down the route. At the Greek-Macedonia border, Macedonian authorities have been allowing only Syrians and Iraqis to cross the border, and turning back Afghans and others to Gree
The UN Refugee Agency UNHCR is especially concerned about the situation in the Balkan states, warning that Europe is "backing into an even greater refugee crisis by tightening border restrictions on the hundreds of thousands who have fled war and conflict in Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and other countries."


UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, visited the Greek island of Lesbos on Tuesday and voiced serious concerns about the approach being taken in the Balkans.
"We are worried that these closings are happening and that there are no corresponding openings through relocation and resettlement," said Grandi. "That will create further chaos and confusion and it will increase the burden on Greece which is already shouldering a big responsibility managing these people.