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Syria: UN, US Try To Delay Idlib's Liberation

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The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and his Special Advisor, Jan Egeland, held a press conference (vid) today. They appealed to the Russian President Putin and President Erdogan of Turkey to find a solution for Idleb province that would avoid the upcoming Syrian army attack on the province ruled by al-Qaeda.
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Still Dying for Nothing in Afghanistan

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It wasn’t until history class in college that I heard of the Thirty Years War. My immediate reaction was: No way! It just wasn’t possible that a war could last 30 years. Nobody would be that dumb.

But given that the US war in Afghanistan has now been going on for 17 years, it’s now easier for me to understand how a war could go on for 30 years. Just think: Another 13 years, and the US government can tie that record.

Over the past weekend, another US soldier was killed in Afghanistan and another was wounded in what the media calls an “insider attack.” That means that a member of the Afghan military or police was the one who killed and wounded those two soldiers. At the risk of belaboring the obvious, it is rather difficult to protect against an attack from your friends.

That was the sixth US soldier killed in Afghanistan this year, bringing the total death toll to 2,200.
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Ambassador Kurt Volker: US to Drastically Expand Military Assistance to Ukraine

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Washington is upping the ante in Ukraine. Kurt Volker, US Special Representative for Ukraine Negotiations, said in an interview with the Guardian published on September 1 that “Washington is ready to expand arms supplies to Ukraine in order to build up the country’s naval and air defense forces in the face of continuing Russian support for eastern separatists.” According to him, the Trump administration was “absolutely” prepared to go further in supplying lethal weaponry to Ukrainian forces than the anti-tank missiles it delivered in April. “They need lethal assistance,” he emphasized. Mr. Volker explained that “[t]hey need to rebuild a navy and they have very limited air capability as well. I think we’ll have to look at air defense.” The diplomat believes Ukraine needs unmanned aerial vehicles, counter-battery radar systems, and anti-sniper systems. The issue of lethal arms purchases has been discussed at the highest level.

The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 allocated $250m in military assistance to Ukraine, including lethal arms. The US has delivered Javelin anti-tank missile systems to Kiev but this time the ambassador talked about an incomparably larger deal. Former President Barack Obama had been unconvinced that granting Ukraine lethal defensive weapons would be the right decision, in view of the widespread corruption there. This policy has changed under President Trump, who — among other things — approved deliveries of anti-tank missiles to Kiev last December.

Ukraine has officially requested US air-defense systems. According to Valeriy Chaly, Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, the Ukrainian military wants to purchase at least three air-defense systems. The cost of the deal is expected to exceed $2 billion, or about $750 million apiece. The system in question was not specified, but it’s generally believed to be the Patriot.
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Can’t We Just Leave Syria Alone?

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Assad was supposed to be gone already. President Obama thought it would be just another “regime change” operation and perhaps Assad would end up like Saddam Hussein or Yanukovych. Or maybe even Gaddafi. But he was supposed to be gone. The US spent billions to get rid of him and even provided weapons and training to the kinds of radicals that attacked the United States on 9/11.
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Will Someone in Washington Play the Ace of Spades before November?

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With regard to American foreign and security policy, President Donald Trump presents a paradox. Aside from some harsh bluster (“fire and fury” directed towards Pyongyang in the lead-up to an unprecedented US-North Korea summit), Trump generally seems to want more peaceful ties with the rest of the world and an end to wasteful and dangerous conflicts. On the other hand, if that is his intention, he’s been unable to make much headway with an establishment that constitutionally is totally under his authority but in practice seems to be almost entirely independent of his supervision.

For example, Trump expresses his desire the get US forces out of Afghanistan but then announces that contrary to his own preferences he’s putting more troops in. He meets in Helsinki with Russian President Vladimir Putin to achieve détente but then the State and Treasury Department immediately poison the well with more sanctions and evidence-free accusations of Russian meddling in the upcoming Congressional elections. Trump announces his willingness to meet with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani without preconditions but then is immediately overruled by über-President (a/k/a Secretary of State) Mike Pompeo.

Much of this reflects the nature of his appointments. As Lawrence Wilkerson details (“The Neoconservative Comeback”), Trump’s foreign and security policy apparatus is dominated by “the reentry into critical positions in the government of … the people who gave America the 2003 invasion of Iraq, [even] those many of them who declared ‘Never Trump’” in 2016. Indeed, it’s hard to think of a single member of his top team, or even anyone identifiable in the secondary rank, who agrees with the Trump campaign vision of an “America First” national interest-based strategy that means getting along with Russia and China, versus unending, reckless, global hegemonism.
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'Have You Committed your Three Felonies Today?' - Jim Jatras At RPI's Media & War Conference

What can we do to resist the dark clouds of war and oppression that are gathering overhead? Former US diplomat, Republican Senate official, and attorney Jim Jatras joins the Ron Paul Institute's "Media & War" conference this month with a powerful - and humor filled! - presentation on Russiagate, neocons, and the Orwellian machinations of the US global empire...
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Sources Go Quiet in Moscow

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A quite astonishing article recently appeared in the New York Times, astonishing even by the standards of that newspaper, which featured Judith Miller and Michael Gordon in the Pentagon-sponsored lie machine that led up to the catastrophic war against Iraq. The article, entitled “Kremlin Sources Go Quiet, Leaving CIA in the Dark about Putin’s Plans for Midterms,” claims that the United States has had a number of spies close to the Russian president “who have provided crucial details” that have now stopped reporting at a critical time with midterm elections coming up. The reporting is sourced to “…American officials familiar with the intelligence” who “…spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to reveal classified information.”

After reading the piece, my first reaction was that Judith Miller was back but the byline clearly read Julian E. Barnes and Matthew Rosenberg. Noms de plume, perhaps? The article is so astonishingly bad on so many levels that it could have been featured in Marvel Comics instead of the Gray Lady. First of all, if American intelligence truly has in the Kremlin high level human agents, referred to as humint, it would not be publicizing the fact for fear that Moscow would intensify its search for the traitors and discover who they were. No intelligence officer speaking either openly or anonymously would make that kind of fatal mistake by leaking such information to a journalist.

If indeed the source of the leak was a genuine intelligence officer it suggests a different, more plausible interpretation. The CIA might, in fact, have no high-level agents at all at the Kremlin level and is intent on having the Russians waste time and energy looking for the moles. There is additional evidence in the article that the agent story might be a fabrication. The authors assert that the CIA agents in Moscow provided critical information relating to the alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
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How the Department of Homeland Security Created a Deceptive Tale of Russia Hacking US Voter Sites

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The narrative of Russian intelligence attacking state and local election boards and threatening the integrity of US elections has achieved near-universal acceptance by media and political elites. And now it has been accepted by the Trump administration’s intelligence chief, Dan Coats, as well.  But the real story behind that narrative, recounted here for the first time, reveals that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) created and nurtured an account that was grossly and deliberately deceptive.
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US Military Presence in Africa: All Over Continent and Still Expanding

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Around 200,000 US troops are stationed in 177 countries throughout the world. Those forces utilize several hundred military installations. Africa is no exemption. On August 2, Maj. Gen. Roger L. Cloutier took command of US Army Africa, promising to “hit the ground running.”

The US is not waging any wars in Africa but it has a significant presence on the continent. Navy SEALs, Green Berets, and other special ops are currently conducting nearly 100 missions across 20 African countries at any given time, waging secret, limited-scale operations. According to the magazine Vice, US troops are now conducting 3,500 exercises and military engagements throughout Africa per year, an average of 10 per day — an astounding 1,900% increase since the command rolled out 10 years ago. Many activities described as “advise and assist” are actually indistinguishable from combat by any basic definition.

There are currently roughly 7,500 US military personnel, including 1,000 contractors, deployed in Africa. For comparison, that figure was only 6,000 just a year ago. The troops are strung throughout the continent spread across 53 countries. There are 54 countries on the “Dark Continent.” More than 4,000 service members have converged on East Africa. The US troop count in Somalia doubled last year.

When AFRICOM was created there were no plans to establish bases or put boots on the ground. Today, a network of small staging bases or stations have cropped up. According to investigative journalist Nick Turse, “US military bases (including forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations) in Africa number around fifty, at least.” US troops in harm’s way in Algeria, Burundi, Chad, Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan Tunisia, and Uganda qualify for extra pay.
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