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American Resistance To Empire

US May End-Up Unhappy If It Forces Russia’s Hand In Syria

Chart of SU-24M Flight Path Released by Russian Ministry of Defense.  Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Chart of SU-24M Flight Path Released by Russian Ministry of Defense. Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Considering the remarkable success of the Russian intervention in Syria, at least so far, it should not have come as a surprise that the AngloZionist Empire would strike back. The only question was how and when. We now know the answer to that question.

On November 24th the Turkish Airforce did something absolutely unprecedented in recent history: it deliberately shot down another country’s military aircraft even though it was absolutely obvious that this aircraft presented no threat whatsoever to Turkey or the Turkish people. The Russian Internet is full of more or less official leaks about how this was done. According to these versions, the Turks maintained 12 F-16 on patrol along the border ready to attack, they were guided by AWACS aircraft and “covered” by USAF F-15s in case of an immediate Russian counter-attack. Maybe. Maybe not. But this hardly matters because what is absolutely undeniable is that the USA and NATO immediatley took “ownership” of this attack by giving their full support to Turkey. NATO went as far as to declare that it would send aircraft and ships to protect Turkey as if it had been Russia which had attacked Turkey. As for the USA, not only did it fully back Turkey, it now also categorically denies that there is any evidence that Turkey is purchasing Daesh oil. Finally, as was to be expected, the USA is now sending The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group into the eastern Mediterranean, officially to strike Daesh but, in reality, to back Turkey and threaten Russia. Even the Germans are now sending their own aircraft, but with the specific orders not to share any info with the Russians.

So what is really going on here?

Simple: the Empire correctly identified the weakness of the Russian force in Syria, and it decided to use Turkey to provide itself an element of plausible deniability. This attack is probably only the first step of a much larger campaign to “push back” Russia from the Turkish border. The next step, apparently, includes the dispatching of western forces into Syria, initially only as ‘advisors’, but eventually as special forces and forward air controllers. The US and Turkish Air Forces will play the primary role here, with assorted Germans and UK aircraft providing enough diversity to speak of an “international coalition”. As for the French, stuck between their Russian counterparts and their NATO “allies”, they will remain as irrelevant as ever: Hollande caved in, again (what else?). Eventually, NATO will create a de-facto safe heaven for its “moderate terrorists” in northern Syria and use it as a base to direct an attack on Raqqa. Since any such intervention will be completely illegal, the argument of the need to defend the Turkmen minority will be used, R2P and all. The creation of a NATO-protected safe heaven for “moderate terrorists” could provide the first step for breaking up Syria into several smaller statelets.

If that is really the plan, then the shooting down of the SU-24 sends a powerful message to Russia: we are ready to risk a war to push you back – are you ready to go to war? The painful answer will be No, Russia is not prepared to wage a war against the entire Empire over Syria, simply because she does not have the capabilities to do so.

As I have already mentioned many times now, Syria is beyond the Russian power projection capability (roughly 1000km), especially if that power projection has to be executed through hostile territory (which Turkey most definitely is). So far, the Russians have succeeded, brilliantly, in organizing and supporting their small force in Syria, but this in no way indicates a Russian capability to support a major air operation over Syria or, even less so, a ground operation. The fact is that the Russian intervention in Syria was always a risky and difficult one, and it did not take the Empire much time to capitalize on this. I get a lot of flak from flag-wavers and “hurrah patriots” for saying this, but the fact is that Russia cannot ‘protect’ Syria from the US, NATO or even CENCTOM. At least not in purely military terms. This does not mean that Russia does not have retaliatory options. Russia has already engaged in the following:

Economic sanctions: Russia has declared a number of sanctions against Turkey, including the freezing of the Turkish Stream project. Furthermore, Russian tourism in Turkey – a huge source of revenue – is most likely to dwindle down to a tiny fraction of what it used to be: Russians will not be banned from going to Turkey, but no tours or packages will be offered by Russian travel agencies. Some Turkish goods will be banned in Russia, and Turks will not be invited to bid for various types of contracts. All in all, these sanctions will hurt Turkey, but not in a major way.

Political sanctions: here Russia will use one of her most terrifying weapons: the truth. The Russian military presented a devastating series of photos and videos shot by Russian air and space assets proving that Turkey does, indeed, purchase oil from Daesh. What was especially shocking about this evidence is that it showed the truly immense scale of the smuggling: one photo showed 1,722 oil trucks in in Deir Ez-Zor region while another one showed 8,500 oil tankers are used by Daesh to transport up 200,000 barrels of oil. What these figures mean is that not only is this smuggling organized at the level of the Turkish state, but it is also absolutely obvious that the USA knows everything about it.

Predictably, the western media made no mention of the actual evidence, it only spoke of “images the Russians claim to show”, but the damage is still done, especially in the long term. Now everybody with a modicum of intelligence knows that Erdogan is a lying crook. More importantly, it has now become undeniable that Turkey is not only an ally, but a patron and sponsor of Daesh. Finally, in the light of this evidence, it also becomes rather obvious why Turkey decided to shoot down the Russian SU-24: because the Russians were bombing the Daesh to Turkey smuggling routes.

The final blow to the prestige and credibility of Erdogan and Turkey came from Vladimir Putin himself who, in his annual address to the Parliament said:

We know who are stuffing pockets in Turkey and letting terrorists prosper from the sale of oil they stole in Syria. The terrorists are using these receipts to recruit mercenaries, buy weapons and plan inhuman terrorist attacks against Russian citizens and against people in France, Lebanon, Mali and other states. We remember that the militants who operated in the North Caucasus in the 1990s and 2000s found refuge and received moral and material assistance in Turkey. We still find them there.

Meanwhile, the Turkish people are kind, hardworking and talented. We have many good and reliable friends in Turkey. Allow me to emphasize that they should know that we do not equate them with the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.

We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.

I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.

But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it.

Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.

Of course, in a society thoroughly habituated to lying, dishonesty and hypocrisy, these are “only” words, and they shall be ignored. But in the Middle-East and the rest of the world, these are powerful words which the Turks will have a very hard time “washing off” from their reputation.

Military measures: these are limited, of course, but not irrelevant. First, Russia has now admitted that S-400 are now in Syria (I suspect they were there all along). Second, Russia has began building a 2nd air base, this time in Shaayrat, in central Syria. If this base is indeed built, then bringing in a few Russian AWACS and/or MiG-31s would make sense. Third, Russia will now use more modern SU-34s equipped with advanced air-to-air missiles in northern Syria and Russian strike aircraft will now be escorted by dedicated SU-30SM fighters. This combination of measures will make it much harder for the Turks to repeat such an attack, but I personally doubt that they have any such intentions, at least not in the immediate future.

Evaluation:

In order to fully understand what is happening now we need to look at the bigger picture. The first major consequence of the shooting down of the Russian SU-24 is that NATO has now become an impunity alliance. Now that the precedent has been set by Turkey’s act of war against Russia, because that is what this shooting down undeniably was, any NATO member can now do the same thing while feeling protected by the alliance. If tomorrow, say, the Latvians decide to strafe a Russian Navy ship in the Baltic Sea or if the Poles shoot down a Russian aircraft over Kaliningrad, they will immediately get the ‘protection’ of NATO just like Turkey now did: the USA will fully endorse the Latvian/Polish version of the events, the Secretary General of NATO will offer to dispatch more forces to Latvia/Poland to “protect” these countries from any “threat” from “the east” and the world’s corporate media will turn a blind eye to any evidence of Latvian/Polish aggression. This is an extremely dangerous development as it gives a strong incentive to any small country to deal with its inferiority complex by showing its “courage” and “determination” to challenge Russia even if, of course, this is done by hiding behind NATO’s back.

NATO is also deliberately escalating its war on Russia by admitting Montenegro into the Alliance and by re-starting talks about admitting Georgia. In a purely military sense, the incorporation of Montenegro into NATO makes no difference whatsoever, but in political terms this is yet another way for the West to thumb its nose at Russia and say “see, we will even incorporate your historical allies into our Empire and there is nothing you can do about it”. As for Georgia, the main purpose behind the discussion of its incorporation into NATO is to vindicate the “Saakashvili line”, i.e. to reward aggression towards Russia. Here again, there is nothing Russia can do.

We thus are facing an extremely dangerous situation:

  • The Russian forces in Syria are comparatively weak and isolated
  • Turkey can, and will, continue its provocations under the cover of NATO
  • The West is now preparing an (illegal) intervention inside Syria
  • The western intervention will be made against Syria and Russia
  • NATO politicians now have an easy way to score “patriotic” points by provoking Russia

If we strip all the NATO verbiage about “defending our members” what is happening now is that the Empire has now apparently decided that going down the road to war is safe because Russia will not dare to “start” a war. In other words, this is a game of chicken in which one side dares the other to do something about it. This is exactly what Putin was referring to when he said:

If they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it. Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people

What the imperial deep state is missing is the fact that Russia might not have a choice but to confront the Empire. Yes, the Russians do not want war, but the problem here is that, considering the absolutely reckless arrogance and imperial hubris of the western elites, every Russian effort to avoid war is interpreted by the western deep state as a sign of weakness. In other words, by acting responsibly the Russians are now providing an incentive for the West to act even more irresponsibly. This is a very, very, dangerous dynamic which the Kremlin will have to deal with. Putin, apparently, does have something in mind, at least this is how I understand his warning:

But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.

I have no idea as to what he might be referring to, but I am confident that this is not some empty bluster: this was not a threat to Russia’s enemies, but a promise to the Russian people. I sure hope that there is a plan because right now we are on a collision course leading to war. In conclusion, here is a short quote by Putin western leaders might want to ponder:

Gulf Allies Funding Widespread Terrorism, While Feigning An Anti-Terrorist Fight

Sunni tribesmen training
Sunni tribesmen take part in military training, as they prepare to fight against militants of the Islamic State, on the outskirt of Ramadi, west of Baghdad, Nov. 16, 2014. Reuters/Ali al-Mashhadani

In the days following November’s brutal attacks in Paris at the hands of Islamic State group militants, Riyadh’s skyscrapers blazed blue, white and red in a public display of solidarity with France. The message from the Saudi capital was clear: “We support you, people of France, against terrorism.”

Leaders from across the Gulf were quick to condemn the assaults. The UAE President, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed, sent a telegram to French President Francois Hollande, pledging his support “to face terrorism and eliminate it.” The leaders of Dubai, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi followed suit.

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The Gulf states are key members of the U.S.-led coalition against the group known as ISIS. Bahrain and UAE were among the first countries to take part in anti-ISIS airstrikes and, in his first visit to Washington in September, the Saudi King told President Obama that the Kingdom would play a major role in Syria. But that alliance is under threat as wealthy donors across the Gulf are lining the pockets of the terrorists their leaders have professed to fight.

The battle for Ramadi, in Iraq’s western Anbar province, is illustrative of this duplicity. The city’s Sunni officials, in a series of interviews conducted over a period of five months, told International Business Times that Sunni tribal leaders, funded by Gulf businessmen, helped ISIS take over the provincial capital in May. Seven months later, ISIS controls an area stretching from the Syrian border, east of Iraq’s second-largest city Mosul, to the outskirts of Baghdad.

U.S. military advisors are training local Sunni forces to recapture the strategic city, but those efforts have so far failed to expel the group, which is one of the best equipped and wealthiest in the region. The tribal leaders provide ISIS with intelligence, cash and weapons that help it to stave off U.S.-backed Iraqi military forces and ensure the group retains the upper hand in battle. Many leaders have formally pledged allegiance to the militant group.

RTR45WEC Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud sits before a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry at the Royal Palace in Jeddah September 11, 2014. The United States signed up Arab allies to a “coordinated military campaign” against Islamic State fighters, a major step in building regional support for President Barack Obama’s plan to strike both sides of the Syrian-Iraqi frontier. After talks in Saudi Arabia’s summer capital Jeddah, Kerry won backing from 10 Arab countries.  Reuters/Brendan Smialowski  A combination of money and willful blindness has ensured that Sunni businessmen in the Gulf, who are funding ISIS through Sunni tribesmen intermediaries, go almost unchallenged, Eissa al-Issawi, Head of Fallujah local council, told IBT.

Lucrative trading ties with the terrorist group mean that few are willing to stand against them. Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq’s former national security advisor under former Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki, said a number of the government offices in Anbar province’s other cities — Haditha, Hit and Fallujah — deal directly with ISIS and transfer money to the militants.

Tribal leaders in the region take up to $1,000 from civilians who want to leave ISIS-controlled territory and hand it back to the group, Sheikh Naim al-Gaoud, a tribal leader in Hit, said. Sunni tribal leaders not only give weapons to ISIS, but also send money donated by prominent Iraqi Sunni businessmen such as Khamis al-Khanjar and Imad Mohammadi, who have previously given financial support to anti-government demonstrators.

It’s a testament to the strength and wealth of the ISIS network not only in Iraq, but throughout the Middle East, that the group is able to draw on such wide support. Analysts say it underscores the direct connection between ISIS strongholds that are fueled by a robust local system of taxation, extortion, oil production and sales, and also through Gulf businessmen and charities. Despite U.S. efforts to blacklist ISIS financiers, those funds are connected to the global banking system because Gulf states are not enforcing the laws that are supposed to crack down on citizens financing terror groups — and the U.S. has so far not convinced them to do otherwise.

Historical Ties with the Gulf

Gulf businessmen have a long history of funding the tribes in Anbar, as well as Sunni militant groups around the world, by sending them donations through intermediaries, usually charities, in support of a religious ideology that mirrors their own. Citizens of Saudi, along with Qatar, stand accused of financing militant groups in Syria such as Jabhat al-Nusra, an al Qaeda offshoot.

Saudi Arabia has begun to criminalize financiers of terrorism, while others, especially Qatar and Kuwait, have a long way to go, analysts say. Gulf countries have arrested financiers of ISIS, but those arrests have rarely led to prosecutions and trials.

“All of the Gulf states have good laws on the books by now,” said Lori Plotkin Boghardt, an expert on ISIS financing from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank in Washington. “But each makes decisions about whether they should jail extremist financiers because they’re a terrorist threat, or whether it’s more savvy to allow extremist financing because it helps certain foreign policy objectives like defeating Assad, or because it’s politically expedient not to crack down on certain citizens funding these jihadi groups.”

RTR4D4KH A rocket believed to have been launched by Islamic State forces flies from the east to the west side of the Syrian town of Kobani during fighting on November 6, 2014.  REUTERS/Yannis Behrakis

Qatar and Kuwait remain problematic jurisdictions in regard to terrorist financing and although Saudi Arabia has made some strides in cracking down domestically, “radical deep pocket donors in Saudi Arabia still wishing to transfer money to Syria often do so through Kuwait,” Matthew Levitt, an expert on ISIS financing from the Washington Institute on Near East Policy, said in his briefing to the House Armed Services Committee last year.

“Most of the Gulf states have put new laws in place or revised old laws or taken new measures to crack down on terrorist financing.  But it’s a matter of implementation,” said Plotkin Boghardt. “Actual implementation of these laws falls along a continuum in the Gulf.”

Kuwait did not criminalize terrorist financing until 2013, after ISIS had already made plans to seize territory in Syria. The new law allows for immediate freezing of terrorist assets and created a Financial Intelligence Unit — an office established in government bureaucracies across the globe as an epicenter for reports and investigations of terrorist financing — similar to the law Qatar passed in 2010. But both countries have not fully implemented the law .

The State Department recently reported that Doha’s general enforcement and implementation of its money laundering and terrorist financing law was “lacking” and marked by “significant gaps.” Emir of Qatar Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, in his first interview last year, denied claims that people in his country were supporting terrorists.

Saudi Arabia Saudi Arabia’s King Salman called on the world to combat terrorism Monday. Above, U.S. President Barack Obama shakes hands with Salman at their meeting during the G-20 summit in Antalya, Turkey, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.  Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

Kuwait has yet to bring any terrorist financiers to trial. In a report published in April, the Middle East and North Africa Financial Action Task Force, the intergovernmental body developing and promoting policies to combat money laundering and terrorist financing, Kuwait was still working on correcting its previous ratings. In its 2011 report it was “partially compliant” and “noncompliant” on a total of 38 recommendations.

Saudi Arabia has arrested hundreds of alleged ISIS supporters, but most that go to trial have no financial ties to the group, and ISIS continues to enjoy popular support among a large swath of the Gulf’s population who follow Wahhabism, a brand of puritanical Islam that ISIS also has its roots in.

“It’s very hard to convince Sunnis in the Gulf [ISIS] is a bad thing,” said Tom Sanderson, an expert on terrorism financing at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington.

Failed U.S. Efforts To Pressure Gulf Allies

The U.S. has fared little better at convincing its Gulf State allies to crack down on individuals who fund terror. A leaked State Department document from 2009 published on WikiLeaks shows that the U.S. has struggled to persuade Gulf States to crack down on financiers.

“While the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) takes seriously the threat of terrorism within Saudi Arabia, it has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority,” the document said. “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide. Continued senior-level USG engagement is needed to build on initial efforts and encourage the Saudi government to take more steps to stem the flow of funds from Saudi Arabia-based sources to terrorists and extremists worldwide.”

The document also said that Kuwait was more concerned with addressing financiers of terrorism domestically than internationally and that Qatar “has adopted a largely passive approach to cooperating with the U.S. against terrorist financing.”

Robert Jordan, the U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia during the beginning of the Iraq War, told IBT that when he was stationed in Riyadh, the Saudis had “little way of oversight” in tracking al Qaeda financiers. “They decided to handle [tracking terrorists’ finances] through the Ministry of Interior, but they didn’t have anyone in it that knew much about it. It was not very successful,” he said.

RTR42MDO Ali Hatem Suleiman, head of the Dulaimi tribe that dominates the Sunni heartland Anbar province, speaks during an interview with Reuters in Arbil, capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq, August 15, 2014. Suleiman, one of Iraq’s most powerful Sunni tribal leaders, said on Friday he was ready to work with the new prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, provided he protected the rights of the minority sect, which was marginalized by his predecessor. Picture taken August 15, 2014.  Reuters/Stringer The Saudis eventually shut down a large charity known for funneling money to terrorists, Al Haramain, and stopped collecting money in mosques — but even those two small steps took years to accomplish. At one point, Jordan said, the then secretary of treasury, Paul O’Neil, arrived in Riyadh with a list of names of al Qaeda financiers that the U.S. wanted Saudi officials to arrest and take to trial. But American officials stationed in Saudi persuaded O’Neil not to present the list to officials in fear that the list would lead to wrongful convictions.

“I said, ‘Are you sure you have the right name on these lists? You better think twice because you can’t falsely accuse these people,’” Jordan said of his conversation with O’Neil. “There could have been 30,000 Abdullah Muhammad’s. It is almost impossible to match up a particular name with an ID card and someone on the ground.” The list was never revisited during Jordan’s time in office, he said.

Few Gulf countries are actively working to cut ISIS off from the global banking system, despite their membership in the Counter ISIL Finance Group, an international coalition lead by the U.S., Saudi Arabia and Italy that focuses on targeting ISIS oil revenues. Those countries are also members of the inter-governmental Financial Action Task Force, which sets standards for combating money laundering.

Non-Existent Paper Trail

U.S. efforts to cut off ISIS’ finances have been limited by the challenges of tracking the group’s financial movements. A senior U.S. treasury official told IBT that the group’s paper trail is almost non-existent, just as the transactions of al Qaeda, the group it grew out of, are.

The U.S. has sought to make ISIS funds useless outside of the area it controls, sanctioning individuals involved in transactions with the U.S. This year, the treasury sanctioned 30 individuals connected to ISIS and its finances, and froze their assets; last week, the U.S. Office of Foreign Asset Control, the department that monitors illegal transactions, blacklisted a Syrian-Russian businessman for providing money to fund ISIS oil operations.

But a department spokesman told IBT that the group’s success at extracting wealth from the territories it controls — through taxes, looting and kidnapping for ransom — makes it difficult to cut off funding from the outside.

In Iraq, the Treasury said it has worked closely with authorities to ensure that 90 bank branches within ISIS-controlled territory are cut off from Iraqi and international financial systems. But, there are some reports from the ground that suggest civilians are being forced to travel outside ISIS territory to access banks and bring the cash back into ISIS land.

The U.S. is also working to stop the ISIS militants in Iraq from acquiring American tender — there are a number of exchange houses within Iraq that permit the group access to several million dollars. But the U.S. has yet to target ISIS the same way in Syria and a porous border between the two countries allows for easy transfers of weapons and cash.

U.S. officials say their efforts won’t stop the group from getting richer until their Gulf allies, and Turkey, do more to stop the flow of cash, oil and weapons into ISIS-held territory.

“We need the Turks to be doing a lot more. There’s pretty much a consensus that a lot of money and other things are moving across the Turkish border,” Levitt said. “International banks are not allowing their banks in ISIS-controlled areas to send or receive money, [but] the fact that you don’t see massive inflation suggests money is moving in and out.”

Michael Kaplan contributed to this report. Laith al-Ameery reported from Baghdad.

DAESH, TALIBAN Declare Jihad Upon Each Other

“When the matter of peace talks between government and Taliban comes into discussion some intelligence agencies make new groups to keep the war ongoing in Afghanistan.”

ISIS, Taliban announced Jihad against each other

Khaama

By Khaama Press

ISIS (2)Mashaal Radio has published a report stating that Daesh and Taliban group have announced Jihad against each other.

Nabi Jan Mullahkhil, police chief of southern Helmand province has told Mashaal Radio during an interview that he has received documents in which both the terrorist groups have announced Jihad against each other.

Mashaal Radio which is related to Azadi Radio quotes Mullahkhil as saying when the matter of peace talks between government and Taliban comes into discussion some intelligence agencies make new groups to keep the war ongoing in Afghanistan.

Reports of minor clashes between the fighters of Taliban group and the newly emerged Daesh have published in the past.

Both groups oppose each other.

Abdu Bakar Al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS has called Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar “a fool and illiterate warlord”.

Al-Baghdadi has said that Mullah Omar does not deserve a spiritual or political credibility. While on the other hand Taliban fighters have been ordered by their leaders not to let Daesh flag raise in Afghanistan.

Russia To Build Gwadar To Lahore LNG Pipeline

Pak-Russia gas pipeline: Is another strategic alliance in the offing in South Asia?

shafaqna

PUT

 

Pakistan and Russia signed a government-to-government deal on Friday to construct a pipeline to transport liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Karachi to Lahore. Moscow will lend Islamabad $2 billion for the project. Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to visit Pakistan within the next four months to perform the groundbreaking of the pipeline project, for which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had handed over the framework to the Russian president in Ufa earlier this year. Moscow had then sought some time to get a nod from its competent forum. A senior government official said that Pakistan had formally invited Putin to visit Pakistan for the groundbreaking. Russian energy minister has also assured Islamabad of Putin’s visit, he added. During the previous government, the Russian president was to visit Pakistan to sign the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline financing deal but Islamabad only wanted to sign some memorandums of understanding (MoUs), which upset Russia. “Moscow wanted concrete agreements,” the official said. “Putin postponed his scheduled visit to Pakistan after this.” While Pakistan and Russia have signed a defence cooperation deal earlier, this is first energy deal between the two countries after 30 years which shows the shift in Pakistan’s policy to attract investment to overcome its energy crisis. It is helpful to remember though, that states do not get directly involved in the economic affairs of another country without some sort of geopolitical interest at work. In Russia’s case, these interests are clearly built around promoting stability in Afghanistan, and choking extremist activity within Pakistan. President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly warned of violence and militant activity in Afghanistan spilling over into Central Asia and potentially into Russia as well. Pakistan has a special role to play in promoting stability in the region, and a closer relationship with Russia should help further align our interests around the maintenance of stability in Afghanistan and the elimination of extremist threats from our midst. It is also important to bear in mind that infrastructure investments, particularly in the energy sector, will not yield any benefit if they are not accompanied by domestic reforms, particularly in the pricing regime for natural gas and other fuels. The case of the LNG import terminal, which is continuing to function under ad hoc supplies, is a case in point. Imported gas will be a non-starter in Pakistan so long as it faces a large price difference with domestic gas. For the pipeline that the Russians are offering to build to be a real opportunity, the mistakes of the LNG terminal must be avoided. A lot of homework will be necessary before gas flows can materialise, including price reforms, and the government ought to focus on these right away. A proper model for importing the gas, from third-party access rules to pipeline capacity, and sharing of costs will need to be developed. The project should also seek to eventually take input from the Iranian gas supposed to be piped through the IP pipeline.

 

pk.shafaqna.com

 

Russian Warplanes Targeting Ankara’s Turkmen Terrorists In Northern Syria

Russia appears to have ‘gone ballistic’ in Syria — and it may be helping ISIS

business insider

vladimir putin reutersREUTERS/Maxim ZmeyevRussian President Vladimir Putin.

Russia is showing no signs that it intends to forgive and forget Turkey’s decision to down a Russian warplane two weeks ago.

Moscow has chosen to retaliate for the incident asymmetrically, hitting Turkish economic and military interests instead of engaging in a direct conflict with Ankara that might lead to a military confrontation with NATO.

But the Russians appear to have “gone ballistic” in their determination to wipe out Turkish influence in northern Syria and help regime forces reach Aleppo, a UN official told McClatchy on Monday.

A stepped-up Russian bombing campaign in the Bayirbucak region of northwest Syria, near the strategically important city of Azaz, has primarily targeted the Turkey-backed Turkmen rebels and civilians — and the Turkish aid convoys that supply them.

The strikes are in-line with an objective Russia has had since the beginning of its air campaign in Syria — namely, to undermine Turkey’s Syria policy of bolstering rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime and to prevent the Turks from establishing a “safe zone” for displaced Syrians that might hinder the regime’s efforts to take Aleppo.

That city is the second-largest in Syria and divided between government and rebel forces. The Assad regime launched a large-scale offensive to retake the city in mid-October with help from Russia and Iran.

Syria mapGoogle Maps

“There has been an uptick in bombing in northern Syria as part of the reaction to the downing of the Su-24,” Boris Zilberman, a Russia expert with the Washington, DC-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider in an email.

He continued: “Providing an opening for Assad to advance to Aleppo or any other advances is consistent with Russia’s strategy all along. The situation with Turkey is an excuse to double down.”

Indeed, the increased airstrikes on Turkish interests and allies in northern Syria is as much about hastening a vital win for the Russia-backed Syrian regime as it is about getting back at Ankara.

“If there is going to be a partition in Syria, and Assad is going to build his own state in Latakia, Bayirbucak is a strategic point and the Turkmen will have to be driven out,” Abdurrahman Mustafa, president of the Syrian Turkmen Assembly, told the Independent last week.

Syria airstrikes Dec 3 2015Reuters

Russia, for its part, insists that its planes have only ever targeted “terrorists.” But Turkey had complained previously about Russia bombing villages in northwestern Syria that are predominantly inhabited by civilians and Turkmen rebel brigades battling Assad — not members of al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra or ISIS.

“Putin’s larger immediate goal is to shut down Turkey’s link to Aleppo, thereby preparing the way for Assad (perhaps even in coordination with the PKK-affiliated Kurds) to besiege and eventually recapture the city,” Middle East expert Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, wrote last week in Tablet.

Metin Gurcan, a Turkish military expert, expressed a similar sentiment in Al-Monitor late last month. He noted that the Russian operation near the border helps Russian and Syrian troops clear northern Latakia of opposition fighters — a necessary prerequisite to “further Syrian regime and Russian moves toward Idlib and Aleppo.”

Additionally, Gurcan wrote, the bombing campaign helps the Assad regime “secure more defensible, expanded territory before an eventual cease-fire, as recommended in the Vienna meetings, goes into effect.”

There is little Turkey can do about Russia’s bombing campaign near its border without provoking a situation in which NATO would be forced to come to its defense.

In moves evidently meant as a message to deter Turkish jets from shooting down Russian planes in the future, Russia reportedly equipped its jets flying in Syria with air-to-air missiles for self-defense. It also sent a state-of-the-art S-400 missile system to the Russian Hemeimeem air base near Latakia — about 30 miles south of the Turkish border.

A Russian S-400 defense missile system drives out of a cargo plane at Hmeymim airbase in Syria. REUTERS/Ministry of Defence of the Russian FederationThomson ReutersAn S-400 defense missile system appears to be driving out of a cargo plane at Hmeymim airbase.

The US-led anti-ISIS coalition — of which Turkey is a part — may intervene, however, if it sees that the Russian airstrikes have created an opening for ISIS to make significant gains near Azaz and advance toward Aleppo.

“Everyone knows that any wrong move creates a vacuum, and the Islamic State will capitalize on it,” the UN official told McClatchy. “In fact IS has taken quite a bit of ground” near Azaz.

In Tablet, Badran argued that this consequence was deliberate on Russia’s part.

“By creating an opening for ISIS to make a push toward Azaz, Putin will leverage the US and Europe to pressure Turkey to shut down this section of its border. If ISIS actually makes it to Azaz, Russia can then invite the US and the Europeans to join it in strikes against ISIS, and in support of the Kurds,” he wrote.

Zilberman said it would be in the anti-ISIS coalition’s interest to shut down this vulnerable section of Turkey’s border anyway.

“The United States should be pushing the Turks to close the border and stem the flow of fighters and terror financing crossing the border,” Zilberman told Business Insider in an email. “That is in the interest of US and EU national security.”