Can Trump, Israel, and Gulf Allies Get Putin to Turn On Iran?

Trump will meet with Putin this week in Helsinki. But despite talk of a “grand bargain” that enlists Russia in helping the US-Israel-Saudi-UAE front against Iran, don’t expect it to happen, says professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut, nonresident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, and syndicated columnist Rami Khouri in this Real News Network interview.

Jerri-Lynn here: I found the discussion of the Yemen catastrophe particularly informative– especially the reminder that this policy didn’t start on Trump’s watch.

AARON MATE: It’s The Real News. I’m Aaron Mate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to meet U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki, but that is not the only high-profile encounter on Putin’s calendar. This week, Putin hosted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Moscow. The meeting came just as the New Yorker magazine reported that Israel has joined Saudi Arabia and the UAE to encourage Trump to strike a grand bargain with Putin over Syria. Under the reported proposal, the U.S. would lift sanctions on Russia over its actions in Ukraine in exchange for Russian help expelling Iranian forces from Syria. As he left Moscow, Netanyahu said he has no problem with the Assad regime in Syria and is not seeking its removal. But yet Israeli strikes on Syria continue. This week, Israeli forces fired on the Syrian army inside Syria after it said a drone approached Israeli airspace.

Joining me is Rami Khouri, syndicated columnist, professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut, and non-resident senior fellow at Harvard Kennedy School. Welcome, Rami. Let’s start with your assessment of what is at play here. Assuming that these reports are true, what is Israel, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia trying to convince Trump to do when it comes to making a deal with Putin, and how that would impact both Syria and Iran’s presence there?

RAMI KHOURI: Well, thank you for having me. This is a reflection of really the four major trends that are shaping the Middle East, that have been manifesting themselves in recent years. The U.S. gradually reducing its footprint and involvement in the area, especially getting out of Syria soon; the Russians filling that vacuum, playing a much bigger role and being the major broker now in the region; the Iranians continuing to expand their strategic relationships with many people, all over the Arab world, primarily; and the Emiratis and Saudis trying to join the big leagues and play hardball all over the region, making war on Yemen and laying siege to Qatar, trying to overthrow the Syrian regime, and now trying to join forces with Trump and his group to do their bidding against Iran. So these things are all now coming together at this moment.

AARON MATE: One follow up. When you say the U.S. is reducing its footprint in the Middle East, how so? I mean, one could look at Trump’s policies in the Middle East right now and say the exact opposite.

RAMI KHOURI: Well, it’s clear the U.S. is gradually pulling out of Iraq. And there’s not much left, there’s still some presence, but not much. They want to get out of Syria. He said they want to get out. They have around 2200 troops or so, probably more, because there’s always more than the government admits. But they clearly said, Trump has said they want to get out of Syria. And they want to also try to avoid the problems that happened when Obama got out of Iraq too quickly and left a bit of a vacuum. But generally speaking, the U.S. is not interested in what’s going on in the Middle East other than to support Israel, make sure the oil is flowing, and sell lots of arms to Arab governments who really can’t do very much with them, unfortunately. And that’s basically what it’s-. And fighting terrorism, fighting ISIS. And that battle has pretty much succeeded, only remnants of that left.

In terms of-. The Americans are not major diplomatic players anymore. When people want something done in the Middle East they think of the Russians first, and they then think of the Americans, and they try to play them off against each other if they can. So that’s what I mean. They’re not leaving the Middle East, but they’re having a smaller military, direct military presence. They’re using more drones, for instance, instead of armies on the ground. And they’re also not the major broker anymore that they used to be.

AARON MATE: OK, right. But in terms of what their priorities are in the Middle East, is not another one also trying to destabilize and possibly overthrow the government in Iran? And on this front, can Putin-. Say Putin wanted to, could Putin help them in this goal, as seems to be the intent of Netanyahu’s visit to Moscow this week. And this, this report in The New Yorker saying that Trump came under pressure to strike a deal with Putin for exactly that purpose, of removing Iran from Syria.

RAMI KHOURI: Well, this is the perception that dominates the American media, which is very much shaped by what the Israelis want people to believe. The reality is that the Russians are in the midst of negotiating, you know, maybe $15 billion worth of oil and gas investments in Iran to compensate for some of the people who are leaving Iran because of the American sanctions the the Iranians, and the Russians have been dealing with nuclear issues for some time.

And also, Iran is a major regional player, as is Turkey. Two non-Arab powers who are very powerful in the region, and use their militaries in different places, especially Syria. And Russia is on good terms with both of them. And therefore the, the Russians are not going to tame Iran or sell out Iran or drop Iran or contain Iran just because Netanyahu or Trump or somebody else wants this for their own purposes. The Russians are far more sophisticated than any Americans are, for instance, clearly, and probably more sophisticated than Netanyahu. They are patient. They’re like the Iranians and the Turks are kind of patient, they cultivate long term relations. They develop their strengths, they take advantage of other people’s weaknesses.

So they’re going to negotiate, for sure. Trump, I mean, Putin wants nothing more than to sit with Trump and negotiate, because he’s certain he’s going to get a better deal than Trump is going to. The Russians are gaining strategic advantage and regional connections all the time, and this will accelerate now. The question is what exactly will they negotiate on. I doubt Ukraine is going to have any role in this right now. They’re talking about Syria, basically; they’re basically talking about southern Syria, northern Syria, and eastern Syria where the U.S. has a small base and some troops at a place called Tanf, which is right on the Iraqi-Syrian border. And they’re going to talk about those issues.

It’s certain that the outcome of these negotiations are going to see a strengthened Russian presence and diplomatic capabilities inside Syria, and some new form of relationships with Iran, and continuing close consultations with the Israelis, which has been one of the great developments of the last couple of years. And Netanyahu has gone to Moscow, I think, eight or nine times in the last year and a half or so. And so these the relationships that Russia has developed with Iran, with Israel, with Turkey, and of course with the Syrian government, are profoundly important for Russia. And, and we’re going to see this continuing in the Helsinki summit.

AARON MATE: And in terms of what drives this underlying animus toward Iran on the part of all these different players. The concern expressed by Israel is that Iranian forces present, inside Syria present a threat to Israel, even though it’s been Israeli forces that have been bombing Syria, you know, dozens of times over the past years. The UAE and Saudi Arabia are also working overtime to curb Iran’s role in the region. What drives the hostility towards Iran on the part of these players?

RAMI KHOURI: I think several different factors over time. One of them is they they all need to have a major external threat that they can use to rally support and to maybe take away attention from some of the more important issues they face at home and in terms of their foreign policies. The Iranians are a very dynamic, sometimes aggressive, power. The Iranians have taken actions all across the Middle East since the Iranian revolution of ’79, which has given them huge strategic linkages and connections all across the Arab world. And the Israelis don’t like this and the Arab conservative Gulf states don’t like it. They think that this is part of an Iranian hegemonic plan to dominate the region.

The Israelis in particular complain about Iranian rhetoric that they want to eliminate Israel, or you know, annihilate it, which is, which is total nonsense in terms of any Iranian thinking they would never do that. But you know, they’re using rhetoric which is very strong, and the Israelis and the Americans in some cases are responding, taking this literally when it shouldn’t be taken literally. But there is a battle, a political battle, going on between Iran and the conservative Arab countries, and between Iran and Israel. And of course, Israel and the conservative Arabs, the Saudis, Emiratis, and others spend half their waking days making attacks, insults and rhetorical attacks and threats, and trying to create coalitions to fight Iran.

So there’s a battle. There’s a political battle going on here. And the way to resolve this is to have a serious mediation by a serious external power, which doesn’t-. That power, external power, doesn’t really exist right now. The Obama administration with the nuclear negotiations that took place were a great example of how do you deal with Iran? You recognize their legitimate needs and rights, and you tell them about what they’re doing that you don’t like, which you think is illegal or unethical, and you negotiate and you come up with an agreement, which is what happened. The Iranians are very rational, very careful negotiators. The Iranians from their perspective feel, and I think rightly so, that they’ve often been attacked and threatened by people in the region like Iraq, like Israelis, like others, while they haven’t directly aggressively attacked other people. Now, that’s a debatable question, because Iran has links with Hezbollah, and Hezbollah and Israel have fought wars.

But the point is there’s a war. There’s a political war going on. And neither Israel nor Iran nor the Arab Gulf states are innocent bystanders. The American Israeli press, and the Saudi Emirati increasingly, make it look like they’re all angels and the Iranians are the bullies on the block that have to be controlled. Most of the rest of the world doesn’t buy that propaganda. So I think we have to be careful about accepting the accusations that are made against Iran. Some of them are probably correct and need to be addressed. Most of them are exaggerated, slightly hysterical. And the fact is that the best way to deal with Iran, or with any country, is to engage it in a negotiation based on international law, recognizing that both sides in a negotiation have reasonable issues that they want to discuss, and behavior that they must change if they’re going to be accepted as peaceful partners.

So I would not take very seriously this idea that the Gulf Arabs and the Israelis and the Americans are together going to create a great new front that is going to push back Iran. They’ve been trying to do this since 1979, and they haven’t-. And Iran has only grown stronger in its regional strategic relations around the Middle East. It’s only grown stronger in its international relations, for instance now with China and with Russia, and with many Europeans. Iran has only grown stronger in the face of nonstop Israeli, American, Saudi, and other Arab rhetorical attacks and threats against it. So I think people should wake up at some point and realize, you know, what works and what doesn’t work.

The difficulty is if you use the American press as your navigation tool to understand what’s going on in the Middle East, you’re going to just go around in circles and then get dizzy and then fall off the ship and sink, because the American is woefully imbalanced, unaccurate, unfair, and incomplete. And biased, for the large part. With some exceptions. But for the large part the American press is not what you want to be using as your navigation tool to understand the Middle East.

AARON MATE: Your caveat about exceptions will lead me to take the opportunity to mention The Real News. I do think we count among those exceptions. But let me put a point to you.

RAMI KHOURI: Yes, I agree.

AARON MATE: When you mention the Obama administration as an example of sort of forward thinking when it comes to engaging with Iran, and it did that with the nuclear deal, to me, while that’s true, it also illustrates the extreme constraints on what’s possible inside the U.S. policy spectrum. Because as we know from Trita Parsi’s book Losing an Enemy, the Obama administration only chose to make that deal with Iran after it concluded that it couldn’t collapse its economy through sanctions fast enough. And even after making that deal, and this speaks to the role of the Saudis, even after making that deal with Iran and possibly engaging with it to placate the Saudis, as we know now from reporting since, the Obama administration made a deliberate decision to then support the Saudi attack on Yemen as a way to sort of compensate Saudi Arabia for its positive engagement with Iran.

RAMI KHOURI: Yes. And that’s a sign of incoherence in the American foreign policy process in relation to the, to the whole Middle East. What the Americans and British have done in assisting the Saudis and Emiratis in carrying out this really cruel, criminal war on Yemen is atrocious, and it’s a war crime. But the world doesn’t care.

See, one of the lessons of the last four or five or six years in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Gaza, I would mention, with the Israeli attacks on Gaza, one of the lessons is most of the world doesn’t care about war crimes, international law, the humanitarian rules of law. You can do whatever you want, as long as you don’t use chemical weapons against your own people or the enemy. And as long as you don’t carry out many genocides against, like Islamic State did against the Yazidis, where you try to wipe out a whole people; or what happened with the Rohingyas in Burma. So if you don’t do those things, you can do anything else you want. You can kill hundreds of thousands. You can displace millions, as has happened in Syria and Yemen, and on a smaller scale in Gaza. The Israelis injured 13000 Palestinians in Gaza who were more or less peacefully demonstrating on the borders in May and June. Thirteen thousand were injured, and 140, I think, Palestinians were killed by the Israelis. And the world doesn’t particularly care about this.

So this is one of the lessons, I think, that is so depressing for people in the Middle East, looking at developments in the Middle East; that people can use brute force as much as they want. The other side of that, though, is that military force is almost never going to achieve your political aims. The Americans learned this in Vietnam. They’re learning it in Afghanistan. They’re learning it in Syria. The Arabs who supported the rebels in Syria are learning this. The Israelis have been trying to wipe out the Palestinian resistance movements for 50, 60 years, and they’re not able to do it.

So militarism unbridled is only going to create massive suffering, and increase the resistance against the person using the military action. So Obama supporting the Saudis and Emiratis in Yemen is a sign, really, of incoherence on the part of the United States, and its continued willingness to use military force, directly or indirectly, as the primary instrument of its engagement in the broader Middle East. And this is a lesson that the Americans still haven’t learned. People like the Russians, the Iranians, the Turks, they’re a little bit more subtle than this. They use military force when they need to, but they also use diplomacy, they use soft power, they use economic-. They use energy policy, economic policy, and many other, other things. So watching the Russians work the Middle East now is really one of the most fascinating examples of, you know, international relations theory being put into practice. And you’re going to see it in a few days in Helsinki, when Putin and Trump meet and come up with another, some kind of deal.

The last point on this, and the particular issue of, of southern Syria. The Israelis want the Iranians to be away from the border, from the Syrian-Israeli border. And they are, they wanted Iran totally out of Syria, but that’s not going to happen. The Russians have told them we’ll push them away from the border, and we’ll see what happens. The Iranians have been in Syria since since 1979, since 1980. The Syrian-Iranian strategic alliance has been very, very close for for a long time. And it’s not going to end suddenly because Netanyahu suddenly decides he controls the sovereignty of Syria. Russia and Israel do not control the sovereign decisions of Syria. Israel and Russia have issues they need to deal with, but they can’t dictate to Syria or to Iran what to do.

And this is really one of the things that the Israelis are having trouble getting used to, both with Hezbollah and with Iran, now with the Russians, maybe in the future with other people, is that the Israelis no longer have this overwhelming military dominance that will allow them to do anything they want in the region. They’ve been able to do that against the traditional Arab countries that they fought wars with; the Syrians, the Jordanians, the Palestinians, the Egyptians, for many years. But the equation is changing. Hezbollah, Iran, Russia represent new, different foes with different capabilities. And the Israelis are still figuring out how to adjust to this. The answer, of course, is a negotiated peace agreement where everybody lives in peace. That’s not easy to do. But I still say if the South Africans did it, the Northern Irish did it, in Burma they did it, in Colombia they’re trying to do it. You can solve these tough conflicts with tougher diplomacy.

AARON MATE: Right. But- and going back to my earlier question about what drives the animus towards Iran, I think you just hit on it right there, in terms of because Israel no longer has a monopoly on force, especially because of the proxies that Iran supports, that drives Israel’s strong determination to undermine Iran at every turn that it can, certainly joined by the neocons in Washington towards that goal.

But we’re going to wrap there for Part 1, and in Part 2 we’re going to pick up this discussion in terms of, when it comes to Israel joining with Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration and the UAE, how that dynamic, that alliance, impacts the Palestinians, and what outside powers are trying to impose on Palestinians right now. My guest is Rami Khouri, syndicated columnist, professor of journalism at the American University of Beirut, nonresident senior fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School.





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  1. PlutoniumKun

    And this is really one of the things that the Israelis are having trouble getting used to, both with Hezbollah and with Iran, now with the Russians, maybe in the future with other people, is that the Israelis no longer have this overwhelming military dominance that will allow them to do anything they want in the region.

    I think this is a key point thats so often overlooked – and you could replace ‘Israel’ with ‘the US’. Conflicts generally last as long as one side thinks it can win through force. Once that time passes, pragmatism comes into play. The greatest contribution Putin has made to the Middle East is in balancing up the military odds for everyone. He has shown in Syria that even the combined weight of the US, the Gulf States, and Israel can’t prevail when the Russians and Iranians decide it won’t prevail.

    Netanyahu’s anxiety to get Putin on side shows that it is slowly dawning on him that this is the case – we don’t know much about internal Israeli politics, but I suspect that the lack of any assault on Hizbollah or Syria over the last few years indicates that the Israeli military has been telling its politicians that they can’t guarantee success. It may take a few years, but we are inching to the point where the Israelis may realise they need a grand bargain to guarantee peace.

    The big obstacle of course are the neocons in Washington, who still don’t seem to understand that the Middle East is now in a very different dynamic. Unfortunately, it may require another war and lots of body bags before they realise it too. But eventually I think it will happen. We can only hope that Trumps better instincts (wherever they lurk) prevail over those chomping at the bit for a go at the Iranians.

    1. pretzelattack

      The big obstacle of course are the neocons in Washington
      interesting, because i thought the neocons in d.c. shaped their agenda according to what israel wants. if netanyahu is not fully informing them of the changing strategic position, it suggests he doesn’t value them as highly. reminds me of the way stalin threw communists in germany under the bus when he formed the alliance with hitler. otoh, the dc neocons are capable of reading the tea leaves, themselves, and i haven’t seen them throttling back. a divergence in interests? or is it just that the main point of the anti russia campaign is the desired effect on domestic u.s. politics, by getting rid of trump and replacing him with someone more predictable, which means a more useful ally–while israel itself pursues whatever policies it feels it needs to in the middle east vis a vis russia.

      the way i understand it, the neocons were originally trotskyists, born in opposition to stalin, and have been consistent in opposing the ussr,and now, russia while they moved their base of operations from the conservative democrats (scoop jackson) to the even more bellicose republicans, under reagan. now they’re comfortably ensconced in both parties. many of netanyahu’s supporters, otoh, are more recent russian emigres, and their hostility to russia may be based more on straight antisemitism they faced in russia, and not as much on ideology–the neocons are more likely to be locked in to opposing russia,

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        There are probably some, but Israel’s purpose is to provide a put upon minority the U.S. needs to protect with the idea of Israel being under siege. Israel also provides a permanent base for U.S. operations. A multicultural single state would be an unmitigated disaster for the U.S.

        Without Israel, the American people would be less supportive to be there than they already are. We aren’t in Afghanistan to save young girls. We are there to sow chaos and to have forward bases for full spectrum dominance, ignorant of the supply line issues if there ever was a conflict against a real power.

        Don’t forget the very real real but much less advertised “pivot to Asia.” The Chinese aren’t stupid, just like the Russians. Are there corporate or state owned industries willing to offer better service for less costs than Western corporations? The Iranian sanctions were dropped because Europe didn’t want to be overly reliant on Russian gas and refused the hideous prices of U.S. fracking operations. Europe was going to make a move, and fracking is a domestic problem. Obama had no choice. By DC standards, Obama is pretty bright, so guys like Schumer are going to do what America’s fossil fuel companies want which is to keep alternative energy supplies (green or other supplies) from dropping the price. Americans won’t fight for a cause that involves polluting our waters to make a rich guy richer, but we might fight to protect the oppressed. Remember LGBTQ types have a tough time in Russia and Iran, but our ally Saudi Arabia just gave permission for women to drive. What reformers! Israel is simply defended as the guardians of hokey shrines people believe are real instead of 4th century guesses by the mother in law of the emperor who didn’t even convert until his death officially.

        TPP was basically a series of U.S. concessions to get Pacific countries and corporations to agree to not do business with China securing the U.S. status as the center of finance and the arms industry, the only growth spots in recent years as well as cutting the Chinese out from important Pacific resource centers, leaving them under U.S. control. The neoconservatives are comically anti-Russian, but a small, police state and a few jaded immigrants aren’t shaping U.S. policy. It’s the other way.

        In Iraq, there were no WMDs, so we were given stories about needing to protect the democracy and stories about purple fingers. The presence of troops meant we couldn’t simply forget it unlike Libya.

      2. SoldierSvejk

        The analogy to Stalin throwing German communists under a bus makes no sense. How many communists you think were left in Germany by 1939, when the M/R pact was signed? That is – alive and/or with any power? And not killed, imprisoned, or exiled? Exactly… there was not much to throw under any bus.
        Neocons are an obstacle, but a much bigger obstacle is the MIIC. Without an outward enemy, why have the bloated MIIC?
        Things haven’t changed much. In JFK and the Unspeakable, the author (James Douglass) referred to a letter, sent by a CEO of an arms manufacturer, panicking because ‘what will happen to us, when the peace breaks out?’ As Chomsky asserted, the post-war US economy was largely based on direct and indirect spending on matters military. That is the real enemy of peace. (Remember the ‘peace dividend’ after the fall of socialist republics? Where is it now?)

        1. USSA MIC

          “The post-war US economy was largely based on direct and indirect spending on matters military.”

          It still is. Here are the September 2017 figures for the number of federal employees:

          Rounding the numbers, there are 2,820,00 people working for the US government.

          Of these, 621,500 are civilian employees of the Army/Navy/Air Force, and another 381,500 work for the VA. This adds up to just over a million military-related jobs.

          There are 1,330,400 active-duty military.

          Altogether, direct or related military employment = 2,333,400.

          Consider this along with the civilian MIC employment at Raytheon, Boeing, etc (+ all the gazillions of $$$ the elites make in MIC profits); the 200,000 employees at Homeland Security (and where do all the all the people at CIA/NSA/etc fit in??); + all the $$$$$$ subsidies to controlled assets in academia/the MSM/etc — GFG, it’s no wonder that the USSA is a rogue predator nation terrorizing the world!!!

          A huge proportion of the entire Amerikan economy and governing apparatus is designed for solely that function.

          Kinda eye-opening to study these figures….

          Obviously there is no hope for peace on this planet until this situation changes — and nothing will change voluntarily. Only a complete collapse and total reset will change the above numbers.

        2. pretzelattack

          i believe the warming of relations began considerably earlier, for one thing. the hunt for german communists certainly wasn’t strongly opposed by him. so the date of the signing of the later pace isn’t really that significant. it was a slow process based on economic interests taking place during the 30’s. i agree that the mic is the biggest obstacle to peace of all, but in regard to israeli intransigence or flexibility, with the related issue of u.s. policy toward israel and the middle east, the neocons are the biggest obstacle.

          1. SoldierSvejk

            Call me crazy, but speaking of “warming of relations” between S and H is just too funny. What warming?! Stalin was well aware of what H. was planning, and frantically tried to pull GB and France into a defensive alliance. For a number of reasons, that did not happen (not the least, opposition by the Poles). Plus, in the 1930s, S had other things to worry about than German communists. Unfortunately, they lost in 1932 (while the parties representing labour got about the same number of votes as Nazis in the 1932 election, German business threw them under the bus (to use your image) because they feared labour more).
            With elevating the neocons’ influence, one misses forest for the trees (although, it is true that many neocon “think” tanks are funded by MIIC).

      3. John k

        Real neocons use Israel’s political power to wage endless war, not least because donors. A deal between Israel and Russia is anathema to them because it reduces the push for war in ME while also reducing the already flimsy justification for major weapons systems such as f35, apparently intended for dogfights over Ukraine.

        New signals from Israel that Russia is ok will not be happily received in DC… note that their saying Assad can have all of Syria has not received much publicity.
        There has never been such a poor player of the great game as the US… the required skills, patience, focus on a country’s long term self interest, an ability to maintain a strategy over decades, are not our strong suits.
        New direction is encouraging, the ME has long needed a better player.

      4. clarky90

        Re “the neocons were originally trotskyists”. I agree with you.

        Irving Kristol (January 22, 1920 – September 18, 2009) was an American journalist and former Communist who was dubbed the “godfather of neoconservatism”

        Bill Kristol is Irving Kristol’s son.

        This is how I make sense of the seemingly, stupid/insane/nonsensical mantra of “Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia!” (It is like being at a soccer game, that NEVER ends); The Trotskyite angle is the key.

        Vlad Putin grew up in the Soviet Union. He became a KGB agent. Putin understands the machinations of Soviet Communist internecine conflict- Not because he read about it, but because he grew up within the very heart of it- And managed to survive (not be shot or sent to a Soviet concentration camp!) A very big deal. The Soviet Communists ate their own, “at the drop of a hat”.

        Putin understands USAian Neo Cons/Libs (Trotskyites), very well; their intentions, their methods, their propaganda…

        I am sure that Putin will have some great words of advice for President Donald Trump, Re Rosenstein, Strzok and the rest of the crew, in the Neo-USAian Cheka-NKVD-KGB cabal. (the FBI/CIA etc)

        Russia is no longer Godless and totalitarian. Communism was overthrown by the Russian People in 1991 (27 long years ago).

          1. clarky90

            Hi NTG
            You are probably strictly correct. My interest/knowledge in the Soviet Union is primarily, 1900 to 1945. Thanks for the lead!


            “Communist party poll-ratings rise after non-communist contender enters fray”
            Feb 2018

            “A survey by the All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center showed that the ratings of the CPRF (Communists) have reached 11 percent, with the Communists surpassing the Liberal Democrats (10.2 percent) as Russia’s second most popular political party. The ruling United Russia remains far ahead, with the support of 51.6 percent, according to the survey.


  2. Kevin C Smith

    “Show me a guy who’s afraid to look bad, and I’ll show you a guy you can beat every time.” – Lou Brock

  3. The Rev Kev

    I am beginning to wonder how the development of technology is also having an effect on how wars play out now, in particular, missile technology. Trump broke the treaty with Iran unless they accepted new demands. The main centerpiece was getting out of nuclear technology but there was also the demand that the Iranians give up on their extensive missile program which I think was the real key demand here. Consider how missile technology is having an effect on recent wars.
    The Houthis cause chaos in Saudi Arabia by lobbing over missiles based on 1970s technology as well as sinking a few of their ships. Syria was wining against the Jihadists until the US flooded the country with anti-tank missiles which turned the balance against government forces.The Israelis almost lost a ship to a Hezbollah in their last war against Lebanon which caused a lot of angst as well as having so many tanks knocked out of action by Hezbollah anti-tank missiles.
    It is this factor, I believe , that is curtailing the interests of the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia hence their seeking to try diplomatic channels to achieve what is much more difficult to win on the battlefield due to the presence of missile technology. Israel knows that all of their country is within range of Hezbollah missiles which makes them more reluctant to invade again. Missiles are taking their toll on Saudi coalition forces and even the US thought it prudent to evacuate their aircraft carrier from the Gulf when the Russians launched their Kaliber missile attack against the Jihadists.
    There used to be a saying ‘Peace through superior firepower. but we may be seeing a form of ‘peace through equal firepower’ now at work.

    1. Norb

      Peace through superior firepower is the ideology of Empire. Military parity brings about a multipolar world where dialog, mutual interest, and peace become the main driving ideology.

      Maybe these developments will bring about the conditions for a sane political discussion in America. If not, the US will be doomed to bankruptcy- moral bankruptcy. The nation will go on its merry way stoking the military machine while the rest of the world quietly works out more stable relationships among themselves, all the while spending whatever resources needed to maintain defensive parity, which will be considerably less, with more emphasis spent on improving the lives of their own citizenry. A citizenry dedicated to protecting their homeland cannot be beat.

      American citizens are caught in a case of Stockholm Syndrome- corporate interests outweigh the needs of the citizenry, and they accept it.

      It will be interesting to see this all play out. People are becoming weary of constant warfare and technology as some point reaches a plateau. If a nation cannot maintain internal stability, escalation in military capability is counterproductive. This is why the Space Command is so insane. The US- as a nation- will face greater internal threats than any supposed external hostile force.

      The bigger picture is about the evolution of human society. A society based on militarism and offensive war is not long for this world.

  4. linda amick

    Aaron Mate is a gem. He shows us true journalistic integrity.
    Such a breath of fresh air in our totally corrupt main stream media.

    1. Anonimo2

      I would agree with you if he were not trying to push again the narrative: the USA wanted to defeat the very same organizations it created in the first place.

      Nobody buys this BS anymore. Luckily the grown ups joined the game and saved the day.

  5. timbers

    The article is a nice watch.

    However the headline asking if Putin can be persuaded to throw Iran under the bus…everyone must know if Russia turns on Iran not only will Iran possibly fall and maybe turn into up updated Western aligned Shah of Iran, but Syria too will fall and the next target will be Russia itself with the US massing troops in Iran threatening Russia’s underbelly, maybe with the same swarms of paid and well armed mercenaries aligned with today’s inheritors of today’s 9/11 and Ql-Qeada terrorists that plundered Syria pouring at/into the Russia border and perhaps Ukraine.

    1. The Rev Kev

      Spot on comment that and it should be noted, per your last sentence, that Jihadists did put in an appearance in the Ukraine about two or three years ago but I don’t know if they are still there or not.

    2. Andrey Subbotin

      Iran was standing under UN sanctions and before Russia started working with it – why would it fall now, under much lesser pressure?

      And, I do not see what Trump can offer as a serious tradeable concession – Crimea recognition is IMO not his to grant, evacuating Tanf/Rojava is valuable for Syria, not so much for Russia. Giving anything in exchange for reducing anti-Russian sanctions would in effect be paying danegeld, and therefore unwise for Russia.

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        Iran will be fine. Russia would immediately be recognized as “agreement incapable,” a situation Putin and Lavrov would recognize this. Not to mention the Saudi support for the Sunni Islamic terrorists over the years. Islamic terror has been a concern for the former Soviet states going back to the 1970’s.

        Last year, Trump was meeting with Kissinger, and my sense was Kissinger was offering up his advice of Nixon going to China, recognizing a key to Chinese power is Russia and Iran junior partners, being more self sufficient than the UK and France without their colonies. They can provide a counter for smaller countries fearful of a Chinese dominated Eurasia. Some years ago, the Russians would have been down for a true junior partner status (versus Yeltin’s lackey status) with the U.S. to block out China, but Libya largely demonstrated the U.S. political and foreign policy establishment is far too twisted to ever agree to this kind of arrangement.

    3. Schmoe

      There has been speculation that Russia’s intervention in Syria was not motivated by any desire for military bases but by Putin’s desire to fight Islamist jihadis in Syria, on the assumption that if they succeed in Syria Chechnya will eventually be a target. There have been reports of significant numbers of Chechens in Syria. I find that explanation more plausible than any desire for bases in a country with, for Russia, limited strategic significance. Also, Putin might be concerned about allowing a successful use of “Regime Change 2.0,” where a country hires mercenaries to overthrow a government (a Reuters article last month said the US pays salaries of FSA fighters in Syria).
      This article does not mention China. Will China permit all of its oil suppliers to be vassals of the US?

      1. NotTimothyGeithner

        The Russians are allies of Syria. “Agreement incapable” is how Lavrov described the U.S. There are no international laws, just trust. If Russia stiffed Syria, there is only one court, public opinion. Country X simply won’t make a deal with Putin’s Russia. Trust is still the number one asset anyone can have. Putin can’t go to arms bizarres with hardware if he backed out of Syria. He can’t make economic deals if he backs out of Syria and so forth. Everything else is irrelevant to the issue of trust. Russia can’t operate in a multi-polar world if there is no trust.

    4. TimmyB

      Bingo. Additionally, the US can not be trusted as a negotiating partner because it does not adhere to the agreements it makes. Russia certainly learned this lesson again and again, as it watched NATO absorb its former Warsaw Pact allies after it was promised NATO wouldn’t expand if Russia withdrew from Europe and most recently saw Qadaffi killed and Libya destroyed after being promised that NATO air power would only be used to protect civilians in Libya.

      All that was before my country elected an infamous liar to lead it. There is nothing Trump can promise to Putin in exchange for Russia abandoning Iran because no sane person would ever believe Trump’s promises.

      Finally, there is nothing the US can actually provide, never mind promise, Russia that would get Russia to abandon Iran to the wolves. Iran and Russia share a long border. What could Trump give Russia that would cause Russia to exchange a stable country on its borders for a US created dystopian wasteland? I’ll tell you-absolutely nothing.

  6. Carolinian

    Re “the world doesn’t care”….perhaps it would be more accurate to say that the world doesn’t know. We have a global MSM that increasingly exists to put a spotlight on places like Syria or Ukraine–where regime change is on the ruling class agenda–and ignores places like Yemen or Latin America. This may be an area where those billionaires that Sanders talks about really are the primary culprits. The barriers to entry in creating a major newspaper or cable outlet are considerable. It’s possible that one reason even sophisticated people obsess about Russia or Trump is this constant barrage of propaganda. Meanwhile alternative outlets like R.T. are attacked.

    Of course most media owners have always had a political agenda and perhaps the lockstep simply represents increasing groupthink among the Western world’s elites. Will the unreported disasters that they willfully ignore finally bring the whole house of cards down? The hysteria over Trump’s every move suggests they worry about this themselves.

    1. NotTimothyGeithner

      I disagree about propaganda and the sophisticated people. Focusing on Trump, the charicature versus the mainstream Republican, and a secure foreign entity beyond the traditional cultural/travel arrangements is easy. As my dad always said, “thinking is hard, most people choose to not do it.”

      Membership in the #resistance is earned by simply marching on a Saturday morning and lamenting missing brunch at a late lunch. “Did you see that dope Palin? Where are all the moderate Republicans like John McCain?” is the kind of garbage spewed by this crowd. I think they find security in villains they can’t do anything about or easy fixes.

      Demanding a trolley style service is a practical operation, but people would rather discuss Elon Musk’s transportation revolution, a car in space! They do it because it’s easy and requires no effort. With a return to civility, we will have a golden age. All we have to do is be polite! “Waiting for Superman” was a brilliant title because it explains the issue with change. Collective action is hard. Shouting “help me superman” is easy. Yes, I’m aware that mockumentary then provides a great deal of easy answers which reduces the onus for a society’s education from society and puts it on kids and mercenary minders desperate for a resume enhancer, but the title is important.

      Superman is polite and wears glasses. Trump doesn’t seem like a reader and is crass. Joe Scarborough seems polite and wears glasses. “Did you see Rachel last night? It was powerful” is easy. Going over her Glenn Beck routine is hard.

    2. Donald

      It’s slightly more complicated. The press does cover Yemen— Jane Ferguson had a series about it last week on the Newshour and she was clear that US policy is responsible for children starving. And at this point most Democrats in Congress at least pretend to oppose US policy, along with a few Republicans. Some of them are even sincere.

      That said, Russiagate gets about 100 times more attention and on networks like MSNBC the literal ratio of coverage time is probably thousands to one. FAIR actually counted the minutes given to our war in Yemen and it was literally just a few minutes in all of 2017. So you are basically right. I also think ordinary liberals only seem to care about issues if they see them in a partisan way. People think that Trump is uniquely evil on the immigration issue and so it is common to see full throated denunciations and Nazi comparisons aimed at Trump, but it is difficult ( though a few people have tried) to denounce the American role in Yemen without noticing that Obama started it. One can argue that Obama slapped Saudi wrists a couple of times and people have done this, but it is easier to ignore the issue altogether rather than try to argue that there was a significant difference between Obama and Trump in Yemen.

    3. EoinW

      Excellent article. The one thing I’d take exception to is the singling out if the US media. It is the MSM of the entire western world that has become an echo chamber for political propaganda. The question of whether the world(westerners) doesn’t care or doesn’t know is a fascinating moral issue. The temptation to generalize is great but the answer does vary depending on individuals. But that is a cop out as there must be a reason why our political elites have become so violent and we’ve gone along for the ride. I would guess that the majority don’t know because they don’t want to know. Thus they also don’t care.

      One sees something similar with our democracies. People vote for personalities, rather than political issues – mainly because we are not offered meaningful issues to vote on. To me that is very ignorant – willful ignorance. Yet all the people I know are proud Canadians who dutifully vote every election and believe they live in the greatest, democratic country in the world. It seems people are moving into a area where they believe what they want to believe and filter out anything which contracts that belief. The West can’t be responsible for all the death and destruction in Yemen because the West is good. Just like those economic sanctions against Venezuela are because we care about them so much, not because we want to destroy their economy.

      I have to conclude that we are an immature society of 6 year old children. When I was 6 I couldn’t have cared less about Vietnam. All that mattered was that I had a nice home, lots of food(and candy) to eat and plenty of toys to play with. A regular update of new toys being essential for my entertainment. Plus there was tv and those 13 channels. You know, cartoons, Gilligan’s Island and the start of programming me into a lifetime sports fan. On all those issues I didn’t care how they were provided to me. As long as my parents provided them I was happy.

      I have to think 21st century westerners function the same way mentally. We’ve simply replaced our parents with Big Government. So long as our material needs are provided for we give them carte blanche to deal with other matters. That often requires lying to us about those other issues. However it’s better if we believe the lie rather than be shocked by reality. If the Baby Boomers were spoiled rotten and never had to grow up then what chance does their children, grandchildren and great grand children have to be responsible adults?

      I suspect I’m being harsh, even cynical. One could make the counter argument that they don’t publicly oppose what’s going on because it is a lost cause. If one assumes the majority of citizens like the set up then why waste one’s time and energy fighting it. Well we are wasting our time and energy by making posts like this one. I guess we will do what we can do, so long as it’s not too inconvenient for us. We certainly aren’t sacrificing our lives nor our standard of living to take on Big Brother. In a way we aren’t that different from the sheeple who find reality too inconvenient to believe in. Is it really only about convenience? It is human nature to take the path of least resistance. At least we have the intellectual reward of knowing what’s really going on. That’s some consolation.

      Do we care? Do we know? Great questions. Are we in a post democratic society? A post moral society? I don’t have the answer. I can only form an opinion which may be correct or incorrect by varying degrees. However this situation in the western world has been going on my entire lifetime. That’s a half century decline. I really doubt we are ever coming back. But then, do the majority of people want to be introduced to reality?

  7. Summer

    I don’t think there is anything incoherent about US foregin policy in the ME. But then, I don’t operate from the assumption that the intent is to “spread democracy and freedom.”

      1. pretzelattack

        well a coherent policy that has been beneficial to arms sellers and the mic. that’s how i make sense of it. “f-35’s don’t work, let’s make our allies buy ’em”. and of course the numerous invasions have fattened the coffers of so many, in different ways.

      2. JTMcPhee

        Yes, “War is a racket.” Serves the “interests” of corporate supranationals who value money profits above everything, and dominance and monopoly as the True Path.

        And “globalized trade” including the logistics and supply chains that go along with foreign wars, are a big part of that “business plot.”

  8. Bernard

    Americans havne’t a clue about what going on in the rest of the world. nor do they have the energy/focus to do so. that is the point of the bread and circuses our Elites use to control the narrative. Americans have been reared to be blood thirsty/never admit to losing Wars/aka Korea/Vietnam/Afghanistan, that any sense of “losing” is immediately countered. like the adage of “Conservatism being failed, never admit that Conservatism is inherently a failed concept in a societal or global context, i.e., it fails so completely for the 99%, just like our Military Empire has failed after winning the “ground” part of colonizing and recovering “Our” oil in the Middle East or elsewhere.

    the Media will not ever show what is truly going on. the Elites know not to have body bags on TV, which they have avoided doing since Vietnam. Vietnam was the cornerstone on how to fight a win the propaganda
    Wars, turn dissent into “Commie/Russia” sympathizers and co opt the narrative. like the “embedding” of the Media in the Iraq Wars proved, control the Media, show Israel under attack from the “islamic” fundies , and the MIC can run wars until the cows come home. that’s the present mode of operation in the Empire. Now isn’t America Great?

    Americans have enough problems with America today that these outside “adventures” are not anywhere on the American radar. the Circuses are well done, and almost completely effective in keeping Whites fighting Blacks, Deplorables vs. The Acela Corridor Intelligentsia, the Divide and Conquer Strategy. Americans are so easy. Gosh, if that is the Stockholm syndrome, it really works. i bet most Americans have no clue where Yemen is, or where the Yukon, the Straits of Hormuz, or where Manitoba is for that matter.

    now after decades of Class warfare/austerity, a lot more of Americans are feeling the crunch and now finally, there’s a lot of angst. Fortunately Trump is there to refocus the Angst, with the outright craven greed, stupidity and focused con, aka The Art of the Deal” manipulation of a Sociopath to scoop up and divert attention from what is really the matter, what needs to be done and/or what can be done. The NeoCons set up the game and until they can’t go on, they will. More wars, like protect the “Savior state Israel” and get bad “Iran” Just hearing Trump talking to Kissinger shows the game is still on. or Bomb, Bomb, Bomb Iran from Sen. Martyr McCain.

    this capacity to continue the “con” on Americans, and on the World, Clinton’s and Newt Gingrich’s “Contract on America,” comes to mind,” will continue until the last dollar is gotten from the poor and working classes. Watching Trump is just a sideshow illumination just how bad thing really can get. and they will get worse, a lot worse until we can stop this Game of Thrones behavior. Maybe we could learn from the East Europeans and the fall of t he Soviet Empire time. How and what did the Europeans do to break the hegemony of the Society Union? Or did they do anything enough other than wait till the time was right? do we have to wait till the Empire implodes? otherwise, what will it take to stop the American Empire?

    How much fracking, pollution, climate change, Brown people Wars here and worldwide, the endless deaths, how much will it take till the Empire is either stopped or implodes is what i wonder.

    1. Allegorio

      Change is happening one funeral at a time. The Baby Boomer generation has been the most catered to and most ignorant generation this country has ever seen. Mesmerized by the get rich quick glamour of Rock Star celebrity, they dropped the ball in the sixties. Ruled by nihilism, sex drugs and rock and roll they retreated from politics to materialism, McMansion land. The biggest mistake the ruling class made was financializing college. Now a whole generation understands how debt slavery and the US economy works. The Boomers know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Coming generations are realizing that there is more to life than getting rich, much much more.

  9. Unna

    Nixon went to China to peel off the less powerful member of the Soviet China team. In our own time Trump wanted to go to Russia to do the same. But it most likely won’t work because that move is too transparent at this point. The Obama pivot to Asia plus TPP was aimed at China, and the Obama Ukraine fiasco trying to get the whole of Ukraine with NATO membership, military bases, the Crimea navel base etc was aimed at Russia. Thus winning for Obama the Kaiser Bill geopolitical stupidity award for needlessly threatening your two major competitors at the same time. Obama’s Ukraine move promptly sent Putin running into the arms of China’s president where they signed the biggest gas deal in history or so I read. And these two guys seem to really love one another, you can see it in their eyes and smiles. As far as Trump is concerned, you had to have had doubts about the opening to Russia thing when at the same time Trump et al were threatening regime change in Iran. Russia does not want to see Iran have nuclear weapons but sees it as an economic and strategic partner. Intact and healthy Syria and Iran mean less chance of Western supported Islamic radicals coming to Russia. Besides, there’s China, and Iran has a very important role in China’s Belt Road initiative, and Russia’s support of China is important to Russia’s own security. If Russia didn’t abandon Syria, why would they abandon Iran? Right now, China and Russia hang together or they hang separately. And Iran knows this too. They would love to do business with the West but they won’t be enticed away from their Russia China military and political association. And that’s because the Iranians also know, as Putin might say, that Comrade Wolf knows who to eat.

  10. RMO

    “The other side of that, though, is that military force is almost never going to achieve your political aims. The Americans learned this in Vietnam. They’re learning it in Afghanistan. They’re learning it in Syria.”

    In my view I think that one of the most significant developments of the half century plus following the second world war that will be remarked upon by future historians (assuming of course there are any) is the rapidly declining ability of massive military force to impose a political outcome. So I think that first sentence is one I agree with. The following sentences however are (presumably unintentionally) hilarious. It’s rare that you get to see someone so clearly state and then undermine a hypothesis so quickly. It would be like watching someone repeatedly putting their hand on a red hot stove element and every time the pull their burnt hand away and head to the ER for treatment you say they’ve learned that hot things burn skin. Historical evidence and the statement itself illustrate pretty clearly that the DC brain trust are learning absolutely nothing.

  11. mrtmbrnmn

    Since the end of World War 2, the US has had an unfailing instinct for where the wrong side of history is and have rushed helter skelter to always be on it. The Middle East is a continuing tragic example of that.

    Just in this century, we (and our various loathsome “partners”) have turned this region (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and still counting) into Ground Zero for mass destruction and dislocation, murderous mayhem and madness.

    Trump is not Putin’s puppet or poodle. He is Satanyahu’s and the Saudis’ ventriloquist dummy. “The Iranians are coming! The Iranians Are Coming!” is the biggest case of crying wolf since….oh… “The Russians Are Coming! “The Russians Are Coming!”

    As for the Israel/Palestinian “peace process”, every dollar has long since been squeezed out of that sad charade. The Palestinians are poorer for it. And the Israelis are too (tho they may not realize it).

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