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September 26, 2016 / 23 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Russia’

Moscow Calming Israeli, American Fears of Russia-Turkey-Iran Coalition

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

Tuesday’s meeting in St. Petersburg between the two former feuding foes Russian President Putin and Turkish President Erdogan “drew considerable attention,” government-run news agency TASS reported, noting that the Russian-Turkish rapprochement is coming while Russia has been expanding its relations with Iran and Ankara and Tehran have also been bridging the gaps between them, born by almost four decades of a volatile Islamic Republic on Turkey’s border. In fact, right after the failed coup last month, Erdogan announced, “We are determined to cooperate with Iran and Russia to address regional problems side by side and to step up our efforts considerably to restore peace and stability to the region.”

Should Israel be concerned? Apparently, the Russian news organ is eager to spread a message of calm regarding the new developments in the northern part of the region. And so an unsigned article this week polled experts who were skeptical regarding a developing strategic triangle of those three powers. According to the TASS experts, the most that will come out of the current statements are tactical political interaction and an upturn in economic cooperation. But even if it were true, and Russia, Turkey and Iran were to forge a strategic alliance, TASS continues its calming message, it would be for the best, because “these three countries can play a positive role, for instance, in overcoming the Syrian crisis.”

It isn’t clear who is panicking more at the moment—Jerusalem or Washington—over the possibility that Turkey, a NATO member, would switch sides and coalesce with Russia and Iran. Clearly, the US has a whole lot more to lose from such an emerging outcome. US Middle East policy traditionally relied on the “three-legged stool” comprised of Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey. As long as those three major local powers were in the Western camp, Soviet manipulations elsewhere could be mitigated. When Iran was lost under President Jimmy Carter in 1979, the US attempted for the longest time to substitute Iraq for the missing stool leg, but the Iraqi regime never provided the stability the US enjoyed with the Shah. This is why the US is so determined to keep Turkey in the Western camp, because without a Western-allied Turkey, the US presence in the region would be severely downgraded.

Hence the need for the TASS calming story. It interviewed senior research fellow Vladimir Sazhin, of the Oriental Studies Institute under the Russian Academy of Sciences, who reassured the Western readers “there will be no trilateral union, of course. It should be ruled out for many reasons. At best one can expect some tactical alliance. This is so because Iran, Turkey and Russia have certain problems in their relations with the West and with the United States.” That’s code for Turkey would be punished severely, economically and otherwise, if it ever jumped ship.

Sazhin continued, “If one takes a look at the economic interests they share, it should be remembered that Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan … are countries that produce and export hydrocarbons. They have a great deal to discuss in view of the current strained situation on the world market. As for Turkey, its role in delivering hydrocarbons to the West may be significant. But I don’t think that this triangle will be of strategic importance.”

Sazhin sees no fundamentally new geopolitical aspects in sight. “It’s about getting back to where we had been all the time. Arabs constitute an overwhelming majority of the population in the Middle East. Non-Arab countries are few – Israel, Turkey and Iran. They had very close relations up to [the emergence of] the Islamic revolution in Iran.”

“In Iran, with its 80-million population, Turks and Azerbaijanis, who are ethnically very close to Turkey, constitute an estimated 18 to 25 million,” Sazhin said. “Bilateral relations existed not only at the Tehran-Ankara level. There were very strong people-to-people bonds. Plus the long-standing economic ties. But in politics post-revolution Iran and NATO member Turkey have drifted apart, of course.”

Research fellow Irina Zvyagelskaya, of the Arab and Islamic Research Center at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Oriental Studies Institute told TASS, “I don’t believe in the emergence of new political triangles. I don’t think some strategic changes will follow overnight to bring about changes to the configuration of alliances. A number of steps we’ve seen our friends and partners and those we are not on very friendly terms with us take are tactical. They stem from the current situation.”

Zvyagelskaya believes that to a large extent this is true of Turkey. “It is to be remembered that Erdogan’s wish to have closer relations is a result of certain internal political events, on the one hand, and soaring tensions in his country’s relations with the United States and the European Union, on the other. These steps by Erdogan are purely pragmatic and we should treat them accordingly. As far as I understand, nobody has any illusions on that score.”

JNi.Media

Trump’s Approach To Russia Is Weak And Dangerous

Thursday, August 11th, 2016

There is real danger in Donald Trump’s statements and attitude toward Vladimir Putin and Russia.

“Putin likes me,” glowed Trump in a July 25, 2016 tweet. He elaborated a few days later on ABC’s “This Week”: “He has said nice things about me over the years,” he said. “I remember years ago, he said something, many years ago, he said something very nice about me.”

I think this raises serious questions about whether a Trump foreign policy toward Putin and Russia would be personality-driven as much as (if not more than) policy-driven.

That’s not an unfair assumption to make, and not just in the case of Trump. Any student of international relations knows that personalities and relationships among leaders can influence and even drive policy. It was certainly a factor in the fatal miscalculations in U.S.-Russian relations made by Franklin Roosevelt.

“I think I can personally handle Stalin better than either your Foreign Office or my State Department,” FDR oddly boasted to Winston Churchill on March 18, 1942. “Stalin hates the guts of all your people. He thinks he likes me better.”

“He likes me.” Sound familiar?

Stalin showed his “like” of FDR by rolling over Eastern Europe. Not until literally days before he died did FDR finally admit he had been wrong about Stalin.

“Averell [Harriman] is right,” FDR sighed to Anna Rosenberg on March 23, 1945. “We can’t do business with Stalin. He has broken every one of the promises he made at Yalta.”

FDR’s tragic mistake was thinking the Russian leader liked him and thus would “work with me for a world of democracy and peace” (yes, FDR actually said that about Stalin).

And yet, FDR, mistaken as he was, never suffered the significant personality issues that plague Donald Trump. Trump’s ignorance of policy and lack of any firm grounding in a set of bedrock principles is outdone only by a strikingly excessive sense of self, which would make a President Trump easily open for exploitation by a cynically manipulative foreign leader like a Vladimir Putin – a leader who learned the art of manipulation in the KGB.

Let’s recall what happened with Barack Obama, who likewise was convinced that Putin and the Russians liked him.

On September 17, 2009, our freshman president horrified our post-Cold War allies, Poland and the Czech Republic, former Soviet Bloc captive nations, by canceling plans for a joint U.S. missile shield.

Poles ever since have harbored a deep fear that Obama will not defend them. They see Obama as a weak leader, one whom the Russians realize they can roll right over.

Which brings me to Ukraine. What unfolded in Ukraine was blanket aggression by Putin. Obama had bent over backward to assuage the Russians. And how did Putin thank him for the friendship and goodwill? He invaded Ukraine, surely knowing his accommodating pal in the White House would not do anything to stop him.

Naturally, the neighboring countries around Ukraine were immediately worried. The Estonians were worried. The Latvians were worried. The Poles were worried. The Poles feared not only a Putin invasion; they feared Obama would not lift a finger to help them, even though Poland is a member of NATO.

I’m reminded of a very different worldview toward the Russians by another president.

“If you were going to approach the Russians with a dove of peace in one hand, you had to have a sword in the other,” said President Ronald Reagan. “We had to bargain with them from strength, not weakness.”

Reagan’s motto toward Russia was dovorey no provorey, Russian for “trust but verify.”

That was not what Obama did. He approached Putin with a dove in one hand and a bouquet of roses in the other – and with plenty of promised “flexibility.” Obama showed weakness, not strength. And the Russians exploited it.

Reagan took pride in the fact that the Russians did not gain “one inch of ground” while he was president. Indeed they did not – and this was after they had picked up nearly a dozen satellite states in the immediate years before Reagan was elected, under Presidents Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford.

Which brings me back to Trump. Surely the KGB-trained Putin and his advisers have discerned how obviously easy it is to get Trump on your side. You simply say nice things about him. Just suggest that you like him and you will have him. He is easily flattered, and the Russians are shrewd flatterers.

That being the case, I really worry that Putin would play Trump like a fiddle, maybe even more than he played Obama.

Trump enthusiasts will recoil at the suggestion that their alpha-male strong-man would not stand up to Putin and the Russians if he became president. But I don’t share their confidence at all, especially given Trump’s ongoing soft assessments of Putin’s annexation of the Crimea.

If Putin moved further against Ukraine or even Poland, would a President Trump blithely look the other way because “Putin likes me” and because they have a friendly relationship? Poland is a NATO member, but Trump’s attitude to NATO has been cavalier at best.

Donald Trump needs to remember what Ronald Reagan said. You approach the Russians, and especially a Russian like Vladimir Putin, from a position of strength, not weakness.

Dr. Paul Kengor

ISIS Takes Weapons in US Retreat, But Where Else Are American Arms?

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

The Amaq media outlet of the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorist organization disseminated photos of American arms this past weekend showing the new military treasure it acquired when U.S. troops who were supporting government soldiers in Afghanistan retreated in the face of terrorist fire during a clash that took place in July.

Among the seized items were a rocket launcher, grenades, machine gun ammunition, an encrypted radio and military identification cards, the Washington Free Beacon reported Wednesday. One of the identity cards was that of an American soldier, but U.S. officials denied he was taken prisoner and said he was with his unit.

U.S. Brigadier-General Charles Cleveland, deputy chief of staff for the U.S.-led mission in Afghanistan confirmed the loss, saying the clash had taken place in the eastern province of Nangarhar as American forces were moving a “casualty collection” area. Cleveland said in his statement the soldiers came under “effective enemy fire” and were forced to retreat. “In the course of moving the [casualty collection point] to a safe location, some equipment was left behind. For understandable reasons, the lives of soldiers were not put at risk to recover the equipment,” he said. “The loss of equipment is regrettable but no equipment is worth undue risk to those involved,” Cleveland pointed out. “And we do not expect any measurable operational impact due to the loss.”

This is not the first time that American military hardware and weapons have ended up in hands other than those for whom they were intended.

Weapons that were sent to Syrian opposition forces via Jordan last year by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and Saudi Arabia were reported stolen by Jordanian intelligence operatives, according to an investigative report by the New York Times.

Instead, they ended up in the hands of arms merchants who sold them to the highest bidders on the black market, American and Jordanian officials told the newspaper.

Those same weapons were used by a Jordanian officer to murder two U.S. government security contractors, a South African trainer and two Jordanians in an attack at a U.S.-funded police training facility for Jordanian intelligence in Amman last November, both NYT and Al Jazeera reported. The killer was later shot dead in a shootout.

The site was set up in 2003 as a center for the U.S. to train Iraqi police. It then was used to train Palestinian Authority security forces, who were ultimately equipped with new American military equipment. Although (USSC) U.S. Security Coordinator (2005-2010) Lt. Gen. Keith Dayton repeatedly stated, “We don’t give out any guns or bullets,” the forces received them from Jordan and Egypt with approval from Israel.

Numerous Palestinian Authority security forces have since used their vastly improved military skills to target Israelis in terror attacks.

In his report, The Implications of United States Military Training of Palestinian Security Forces, journalist David Bedein points out that in addition to the United States, the European Union also started training and equipping Palestinian Authority security forces in 2007. (see page six)

Under the European Union Coordinating Office for Palestinian Police Support (EU COPPS), about one thousand police officers were trained and at least a dozen police stations were opened in Judea and Samaria. By mid-2008, European donor states had already pledged $242 million to the Palestinian Authority, all this in addition to the USSC effort.

At present, a similar issue is taking place in Syria with American weapons once again going astray. Western-backed “moderate” opposition forces are fighting government troops defending the regime of President Bashar al-Assad together with Russian, Iranian and the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla terrorist fighters.

The Western-backed opposition forces, supplied in part by the United States, are not in any way linked to Al Qaeda or Da’esh (ISIS). But in the heat of battle and for the purposes of achieving their objectives, all opposition forces often band together as one in Syria — regardless of ideological affiliation.

Hana Levi Julian

Raoul Wallenberg’s Fate Revealed in Diary of Former KGB Chief

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

For the first time ever, historians finally know, without doubt, what happened to the Swedish diplomat who saved so many thousands of Jewish lives from the Nazi hordes in Hungary during World War II.

In the 632-page tome, “Notes From a Suitcase: Secret Diaries of the First K.G.B. Chairman, Found Over 25 Years After His Death,” one finds the memoirs of one of the most important men in Soviet history, and the answer to one of the most painful questions of the last century.

“I have no doubts that Wallenberg was liquidated in 1947,” wrote state security chief Ivan A. Serov, head of the KGB from 1954 to 1958, in a memoir not only rare but in fact probably entirely forbidden to write.

Wallenberg disappeared in Budapest in 1945, and although there have been countless searches for clues to his fate, none have turned up the slightest breath of evidence as to what happened to him.

But his fate is found in this text, because the grandaughter of Ivan A. Serov, 57-year-old retired ballerina Vera Serova was wise enough, and kind enough, not to throw away the papers discovered by workers in suitcases as they renovated a garage four years ago at a “dacha” left to her in northwestern Moscow by her VIP grandfather.

The soldiers of the Soviet Union were occupying Budapest at the time of Wallenberg’s disappearance, and it was known that as a Swedish diplomat, he had strong ties with the Americans and the highest echelons of the Third Reich. That made him suspect to the Russians.

Neither ever gave up a clue, however, until this summer when the diaries of the original head of the clandestine KGB, found tucked into the wall of a little vacation cottage in Russia, were published.

Although few indeed are memoirs written by Kremlin officials – for obvious reasons – this one, penned by Serov, contained a treasure.

The multiple references to previously unknown documents on Wallenberg definitively put to rest the endless questions about the fate of the heroic diplomat. The most important of all is the fact that Wallenberg, though dead at the time of the posthumous investigation, was ultimately found by the USSR not to have been a “spy” after all.

It was Serov who carried out that probe at the behest of Nikita S. Khrushchev, who requested the inquiry after Stalin, telling Serov to respond to Sweden and help in the purge of Molotov. Although he failed to uncover the full circumstances of Wallenberg’s death, he said, he found no evidence of espionage.

There is a mention of the cremation of Wallenberg’s remains. And there is a reference to something said by Serov’s predecessor, Viktor Abakunov, who was tried and executed in 1954, in the final Stalin purge. During the interrogation of the former head of state security, his torturers learned that it was Stalin and then-foreign minister Vyacheslav M. Molotov who had issued the order to “liquidate” Wallenberg.

Serov also said he had read a Wallenberg file — despite the fact the Soviet Security Service had for years denied that any such files existed. Hans Magnusson, a retired senior diplomat interviewed by the New York Times, directed the Swedish side of the Swedish-Russian Working Group and said there should have been a file created for every prisoner. But, he said, “The Russians said they did not find one.”

Vera Serova has one, however, in her grandfather’s memoirs. She has published them now to restore his reputation, she said.

Serov did many evil things in his life: he established the secret police that were used to terrorize the population in Poland and East Germany; he helped deport thousands of minorities considered a threat to Soviet rule in Russia; he wielded enormous power as head of state security.

Hana Levi Julian

Russia Admits the Drone was Theirs

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

On July 17, a drone entered Israeli airspace from Syria and flew over the Golan. As reported in JewishPress.com, Israel launched 2 Patriot missiles at the drone, as well as a missile launched from an aircraft.

All three missile missed, and the drone flew back into Syria.

Fragment from the missiles landed near Kibbutz Ayelet Hashachar, and a 14-year-old girl was injured when one of the missile fragments hit her in the leg.

At the time there was speculation that the drone was Russian.

A report released today in Haaretz says that according to the Israeli Defense Ministry, Russia admitted the drone was theirs and it entered Israeli air space due to human error.

Russia’s admission may explain how, despite three attempts, Israel “missed” knocking down the drone, as Israel wanted to send a message to Russia to stop the overflight, but not cause an international incident by actually knocking the drone down.

The infiltration happened soon after Turkey shot down a Russian plane near the Syrian Turkey, raising tension even higher between those two countries.

Jewish Press News Briefs

5 Dead in Russian Mi8 Helicopter Shot Down in Syria

Monday, August 1st, 2016

Two military officers and three crew members aboard a Russian Mi8 transport helicopter were killed after the Mi8 helicopter in which they were traveling was shot down Monday over Syria.

It is the deadliest incident for the Russian military since the force arrived in the Middle East over a year ago.

The troops were heading back from Aleppo to the Russian “Reconciliation Center” at Hemeimim Air Base on the Syrian coast when the aircraft was shot down over Idlib province.

It is not clear how the two pilots and three crew members died.

Dmitry Peskov, a spokesperson for Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an update, “From what we know from information provided by the Defense Ministry, all those who were on the helicopter died.”

The Russian crew “died heroically because they tried to move the aircraft away to as to minimize losses on the ground,” Peskov said. “The Kremlin conveys its deep condolences to the families of those killed in action,” he added.

The aircraft had allegedly been delivering humanitarian aid to the besieged former commercial hub city of Aleppo, according to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry. There are some 300,000 people still trapped in the opposition section of the city with rapidly depleting supplies and surrounded by intense fighting.

Idlib province is a stronghold of the Al Qaeda-linked Jaish al-Fateh (“Army of Conquest”) groups which have captured most of the province. The Kremlin said in its statement that the helicopter was shot down by ground fire.

The Al Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, which announced it is changing its name and de-linking from the mother group, is part of Jaish al-Fateh.

In the past several months there have been at least three other incidents in which Russian aircraft have been shot down or crashed due to other reasons. Each time, two pilots were killed.

Opposition forces may have received new anti-aircraft weapons, freelance journalist Alaa Ibrahim told RT.com.

“I’ve heard some local sources where the [Russian] helicopter was downed speaking of the possibility of MANPADs – shoulder-mounted surface-to-air missiles – being used in that context,” he said.

Portable surface-to-air missiles would be a game changer in the hands of rebel forces, as such weapons counter air superiority — not only that of the Syrian regime Air Force, but also that of anyone else.

Although Western nations have tried to tease out the differences between “moderate” and “extremist Islamist” groups among the opposition forces, such parsing is not only very hard to do, it also becomes irrelevant as soon as any group faces heavy conflict with Syrian regime forces. At that point, all of the opposition groups tend to band together and share weapons, regardless of their ideological differences. This includes the Da’esh (ISIS) terrorists and Al Qaeda as well as the Free Syrian Army, who are facing the Iranian Islamic Republic Revolutionary Guards and the Tehran-backed Hezbollah guerrilla forces, as well as the Syrian regime forces.

The weapons “sharing” gets worked out after the battle, sometimes peacefully and sometimes not.

At the end of the conflict when the war is at an end, most or all of the groups are likely to aim their arms at the State of Israel.

Hana Levi Julian

Assad to Netanyahu: Help Me Keep my Seat and I Guarantee You a Calm Golan

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

A Kuwaiti news website on Friday cited a source saying Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has received a message from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in which Assad vowed to keep the Golan as a demilitarized zone, and the rest of Syria committed to a cease-fire with Israel, if Netanyahu commits to not engaging Israel in an effort to topple Assad.

The source commented that Assad was saying to Netanyahu, in effect: “Help me to control my region and I guarantee calm for Israel in the Golan Heights.”

Commenting on rumors that former US ambassador to Israel Martin Indyk is slated to be President Hillary Clinton’s special envoy on the peace process between Israel and its neighbors, the source told the news website that Israel is very concerned over a report that was prepared by Indyk for President Bill Clinton about the Golan Heights. Israel is anxious to point US attention to the fact that the situation on south Syria and south Lebanon has been altered by the five-year civil war, and American notions about returning the Golan to Syria are absurd under these circumstances. Assad apparently wishes to take advantage of an opportunity to strike a deal with the Israelis to secure their neutrality in the war.

Meanwhile, Politico.eu reported Saturday that Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir said his country is offering Russia access to the Gulf Cooperation Council Market and regional investment funds in return for pulling its support for the Assad regime.

“We are ready to give Russia a stake in the Middle East that will make Russia a force stronger than the Soviet Union, greater than China’s,” the Saudi minister said, adding, “It would be reasonable for Russia to say, that’s where our relations will advance our interests, not with Assad. We don’t disagree on the end game in Syria but on how to get there. Assad’s days are numbered,” he urged, “so make a deal while you can.”

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/assad-to-netanyahu-help-me-keep-my-seat-and-i-guarantee-you-a-calm-golan/2016/07/30/

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