Jumping to conclusions in Idlib, pushing us over the cliff

BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:47 P.M.) – At least 58 people were killed in a horrific gas attack in the Idlib Governorate this morning. However, even before investigations could be conducted and for evidence to emerge, Federica Mogherini, the Italian politician High Representative of the European Union (EU) for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, condemned the Syrian government stating that the “Assad regime bears responsibility for ‘awful’ Syria ‘chemical’ attack.”

The immediate accusation from a high ranking EU official serves a dangerous precedent where public outcry can be made even before the truth surrounding the tragedy can emerge

Israeli President, Benjamin Netanyahu, joined in on the condemnation, as did Amnesty International.


Merely hours after the alleged chemical weapons attack in Khan Sheikhun, supposedly by the Syrian government, holes are beginning to emerge from opposition sources, discrediting the Al-Qaeda affiliated White Helmets claims.

For one, seen in the above picture, the White Helmets are handling the corpses of people without sufficient safety gear, most particularly with the masks mostly used , as well as no gloves. Although this may seem insignificant, understanding the nature of sarin gas that the opposition claim was used, only opens questions.

Within seconds of exposure to sarin, the affects of the gas begins to target the muscle and nervous system. There is an almost immediate release of the bowels and the bladder, and vomiting is induced. When sarin is used in a concentrated area, it has the likelihood of killing thousands of people. Yet, such a dangerous gas, and the White Helmets are treating bodies with little concern to their exposed skin. This has to raise questions.

It also raises the question why a “doctor” in a hospital full of victims of sarin gas has the time to tweet and make video calls. This will probably be dismissed and forgotten however.

It is known that about 250 people from Majdal and Khattab were kidnapped by Al-Qaeda terrorists last week. Local sources have claimed that many of those dead from the chemical weapons were those from Majdal and Khattab.

This would suggest that on the eve of upcoming peace negotiations, terrorist forces have once again created a false flag scenario. This bares resemblance to the Ghouta chemical weapons attack in 2013 where the Syrian Army was accused of using the weapons of mass destruction on the day that United Nations Weapon’s Inspectors arrived in Damascus.

Later, in a separate chemical weapon usage allegation, Carla del Ponte, a UN weapons inspector said that there was no evidence that the government had committed the atrocity. This had however not stopped the calls for intervention against the Syrian government, a hope that the militant forces wished to eventuate from their use of chemical weapons against civilians in Khan-al-Assal.

Therefore, it is completely unsurprising that Orient TV has already prepared a “media campaign” to cover the Russian and Syrian airstrikes in Hama countryside against terrorist forces, with the allegations that the airforces have been using chemical weapons. And most telling, there announcement of covering the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government, hours before this allegation even emerged…….. Seems like someone forgot to tell him that it would not occur for a few more hours before his tweet.


The New Civil War Has Begun

[SEE: Obama Rallies the Radical Left, Expecting To Wage Political Civil War Upon Trump PresidencyAmerica is in a pre-Civil War Statethe Coming Civil WarAmerica, It Has Come To This—Revolution Or Civil War ; The Next American Civil War ]

The New Civil War

A civil war has begun.

This civil war is very different than the last one. There are no cannons or cavalry charges. The left doesn’t want to secede. It wants to rule. Political conflicts become civil wars when one side refuses to accept the existing authority. The left has rejected all forms of authority that it doesn’t control.

The left has rejected the outcome of the last two presidential elections won by Republicans. It has rejected the judicial authority of the Supreme Court when it decisions don’t accord with its agenda. It rejects the legislative authority of Congress when it is not dominated by the left.

It rejected the Constitution so long ago that it hardly bears mentioning.

It was for total unilateral executive authority under Obama. And now it’s for states unilaterally deciding what laws they will follow. (As long as that involves defying immigration laws under Trump, not following them under Obama.) It was for the sacrosanct authority of the Senate when it held the majority. Then it decried the Senate as an outmoded institution when the Republicans took it over.

It was for Obama defying the orders of Federal judges, no matter how well grounded in existing law, and it is for Federal judges overriding any order by Trump on any grounds whatsoever. It was for Obama penalizing whistleblowers, but now undermining the government from within has become “patriotic”.

There is no form of legal authority that the left accepts as a permanent institution. It only utilizes forms of authority selectively when it controls them. But when government officials refuse the orders of the duly elected government because their allegiance is to an ideology whose agenda is in conflict with the President and Congress, that’s not activism, protest, politics or civil disobedience; it’s treason.

After losing Congress, the left consolidated its authority in the White House. After losing the White House, the left shifted its center of authority to Federal judges and unelected government officials. Each defeat led the radicalized Democrats to relocate from more democratic to less democratic institutions.

This isn’t just hypocrisy. That’s a common political sin. Hypocrites maneuver within the system. The left has no allegiance to the system. It accepts no laws other than those dictated by its ideology.

Democrats have become radicalized by the left. This doesn’t just mean that they pursue all sorts of bad policies. It means that their first and foremost allegiance is to an ideology, not the Constitution, not our country or our system of government. All of those are only to be used as vehicles for their ideology.

That’s why compromise has become impossible.

Our system of government was designed to allow different groups to negotiate their differences. But those differences were supposed to be based around finding shared interests. The most profound of these shared interests was that of a common country based around certain civilizational values. The left has replaced these Founding ideas with radically different notions and principles. It has rejected the primary importance of the country. As a result it shares little in the way of interests or values.

Instead it has retreated to cultural urban and suburban enclaves where it has centralized tremendous amounts of power while disregarding the interests and values of most of the country. If it considers them at all, it is convinced that they will shortly disappear to be replaced by compliant immigrants and college indoctrinated leftists who will form a permanent demographic majority for its agenda.

But it couldn’t wait that long because it is animated by the conviction that enforcing its ideas is urgent and inevitable. And so it turned what had been a hidden transition into an open break.

In the hidden transition, its authority figures had hijacked the law and every political office they held to pursue their ideological agenda. The left had used its vast cultural power to manufacture a consensus that was slowly transitioning the country from American values to its values and agendas. The right had proven largely impotent in the face of a program which corrupted and subverted from within.

The left was enormously successful in this regard. It was so successful that it lost all sense of proportion and decided to be open about its views and to launch a political power struggle after losing an election.

The Democrats were no longer being slowly injected with leftist ideology. Instead the left openly took over and demanded allegiance to open borders, identity politics and environmental fanaticism. The exodus of voters wiped out the Democrats across much of what the left deemed flyover country.

The left responded to democratic defeats by retreating deeper into undemocratic institutions, whether it was the bureaucracy or the corporate media, while doubling down on its political radicalism. It is now openly defying the outcome of a national election using a coalition of bureaucrats, corporations, unelected officials, celebrities and reporters that are based out of its cultural and political enclaves.

It has responded to a lost election by constructing sanctuary cities and states thereby turning a cultural and ideological secession into a legal secession. But while secessionists want to be left alone authoritarians want everyone to follow their laws. The left is an authoritarian movement that wants total compliance with its dictates with severe punishments for those who disobey.

The left describes its actions as principled. But more accurately they are ideological. Officials at various levels of government have rejected the authority of the President of the United States, of Congress and of the Constitution because those are at odds with their radical ideology. Judges have cloaked this rejection in law. Mayors and governors are not even pretending that their actions are lawful.

The choices of this civil war are painfully clear.

We can have a system of government based around the Constitution with democratically elected representatives. Or we can have one based on the ideological principles of the left in which all laws and processes, including elections and the Constitution, are fig leaves for enforcing social justice.

But we cannot have both.

Some civil wars happen when a political conflict can’t be resolved at the political level. The really bad ones happen when an irresolvable political conflict combines with an irresolvable cultural conflict.

That is what we have now.

The left has made it clear that it will not accept the lawful authority of our system of government. It will not accept the outcome of elections. It will not accept these things because they are at odds with its ideology and because they represent the will of large portions of the country whom they despise.

The question is what comes next.

The last time around growing tensions began to explode in violent confrontations between extremists on both sides. These extremists were lauded by moderates who mainstreamed their views. The first Republican president was elected and rejected. The political tensions led to conflict and then civil war.

The left doesn’t believe in secession. It’s an authoritarian political movement that has lost democratic authority. There is now a political power struggle underway between the democratically elected officials and the undemocratic machinery of government aided by a handful of judges and local elected officials.

What this really means is that there are two competing governments; the legal government and a treasonous anti-government of the left. If this political conflict progresses, agencies and individuals at every level of government will be asked to demonstrate their allegiance to these two competing governments. And that can swiftly and explosively transform into an actual civil war.

There is no sign that the left understands or is troubled by the implications of the conflict it has initiated. And there are few signs that Democrats properly understand the dangerous road that the radical left is drawing them toward. The left assumes that the winners of a democratic election will back down rather than stand on their authority. It is unprepared for the possibility that democracy won’t die in darkness.

Civil wars end when one side is forced to accept the authority of the other. The left expects everyone to accept its ideological authority. Conservatives expect the left to accept Constitutional authority. The conflict is still political and cultural. It’s being fought in the media and within the government. But if neither side backs down, then it will go beyond words as both sides give contradictory orders.

The left is a treasonous movement. The Democrats became a treasonous organization when they fell under the sway of a movement that rejects our system of government, its laws and its elections. Now their treason is coming to a head. They are engaged in a struggle for power against the government. That’s not protest. It’s not activism. The old treason of the sixties has come of age. A civil war has begun.

This is a primal conflict between a totalitarian system and a democratic system. Its outcome will determine whether we will be a free nation or a nation of slaves.

Comparing “War Crimes”—200+ Civilians Bombed In Mosul -vs- Gas Attack In Idlib

U.S. Investigating Mosul Strikes Said to Have Killed Up to 200 Civilians


Residents in western Mosul on Friday carried the bodies of people killed in fighting between Iraqi security forces and the Islamic State. Scores of residents are reported to have been killed by coalition airstrikes in the area this month. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

Col. John J. Thomas, a spokesman for the United States Central Command, said that the military was seeking to determine whether the explosion in Mosul might have been prompted by an American or coalition airstrike, or was a bomb or booby trap placed by the Islamic State.

“It’s a complicated question, and we’ve literally had people working nonstop throughout the night to understand it,” Colonel Thomas said in an interview. He said the explosion and the reasons behind it had “gotten attention at the highest level.”

As to who was responsible, he said, “at the moment, the answer is: We don’t know.”

Iraqi officers, though, say they know exactly what happened: Maj. Gen. Maan al-Saadi, a commander of the Iraqi special forces, said that the civilian deaths were a result of a coalition airstrike that his men had called in, to take out snipers on the roofs of three houses in a neighborhood called Mosul Jidideh. General Saadi said the special forces were unaware that the houses’ basements were filled with civilians.

A man is helped after identifying the body of a relative who died in the Mosul Jidideh neighborhood. Residents there said airstrikes hit a number of houses in recent days, killing dozens, including children. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

“After the bombing we were surprised by the civilian victims,” the general said, “and I think it was a trap by ISIS to stop the bombing operations and turn public opinion against us.”

General Saadi said he had demanded that the coalition pause its air campaign to assess what happened and to take stricter measures to prevent more civilian victims. Another Iraqi special forces officer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject, said that there had been a noticeable relaxing of the coalition’s rules of engagement since President Trump took office.

Before, Iraqi officers were highly critical of the Obama administration’s rules, saying that many requests for airstrikes were denied because of the risk that civilians would be hurt. Now, the officer said, it has become much easier to call in airstrikes.

Some American military officials had also chafed at what they viewed as long and onerous White House procedures for approving strikes under the Obama administration. Mr. Trump has indicated that he is more inclined to delegate authority for launching strikes to the Pentagon and commanders in the field.

This is the second time this week that the military has opened an investigation into civilian deaths reported to have been caused by American airstrikes. On Tuesday, Central Command said it was investigating an American airstrike in Syria on March 16 that officials said killed dozens of Qaeda operatives at a meeting place that activists and local residents maintain was part of a religious complex.

While Defense Department officials acknowledged that the building was near a mosque, they called it an “Al Qaeda meeting site” in Jina, in Aleppo Province.

Pentagon officials said that intelligence had indicated that Al Qaeda used the partly constructed community meeting hall as a gathering place and as a place to educate and indoctrinate fighters.

A man exits a house in Mosul damaged in the fighting. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

But the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said that 49 people had been killed in what the group described as a massacre of civilians who were undergoing religious instruction in an assembly hall and dining area for worshipers. The group has produced photos taken at the site after the strike that show a black sign outside a still-standing adjoining structure that identified it as part of the Omar ibn al-Khatab mosque.

Chris Woods, director of Airwars, a nonprofit group that monitors civilian deaths from coalition airstrikes in Syria and Iraq, said that in March alone the number of reported civilian fatalities has shot up to 1,058, from 465 in December, the last full month of the Obama administration.

“We don’t know whether that’s a reflection of the increased tempo of the campaign or whether it reflects changes in the rules of engagement,” he said. But, he added, the recent spike in numbers “does suggest something has shifted.”

American military officials said that what has shifted is that the Iraqi military, backed by the American-led coalition, is in the middle of its biggest fight so far — the battle to retake Mosul from the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.

In particular, the campaign for West Mosul has involved block-by-block fighting in an urban environment.

“There’s been no loosening of the rules of engagement,” said Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman. “There are three major offensives going on right now, at the same time,” he said, citing the battle for West Mosul; the encirclement of Raqqa, Syria, the Islamic State’s de facto capital; and the fight for the Tabqa Dam in Syria.

A prayer service for a man who friends and relatives say was killed by a sniper on the western side of Mosul. Credit Felipe Dana/Associated Press

“There are other people on the battlefield, too,” he said. “It’s close quarters.”

American officials said that even the timing of the strike was still in question. Col. Joseph E. Scrocca, a spokesman for the American-led command in Baghdad, said in a statement Friday that the strike under investigation happened between March 17 and Thursday.

The civilian death toll in Mosul was already widely described as heavy on account of Islamic State snipers and bombs, and intensified urban fighting in which artillery has been used. But there have been numerous reports from witnesses, including rescue workers and residents fleeing the fighting, about bodies being buried under rubble after heavy air bombardment.

Many of the reports centered on the Mosul Jidideh neighborhood, where residents said airstrikes hit a number of houses in recent days, killing dozens, including many children.

Capt. Ahmed Nuri, a soldier with Iraq’s elite counterterrorism forces, who work closely with the American military and call in airstrikes, said on Thursday that his men, facing heavy sniper fire, helped collect five bodies from the rubble of a destroyed home. He said four of them were brothers — named Ali, Omar, Khalid and Saad — whose bodies were delivered to their grieving mother.

The mother, Captain Nuri said, identified the fifth dead body as that of an Islamic State sniper who had been firing at advancing Iraqi forces from the roof of their house.

Local officials have reacted with outrage at the latest civilian deaths, warning that they will make it more difficult to fully take the city, and will alienate civilians still in Mosul, whom the Iraqi government is counting on for assistance.

“The repeated mistakes will make the mission to liberate Mosul from Daesh harder, and will push civilians still living under Daesh to be uncooperative with the security forces,” said Abdulsattar Alhabu, the mayor of Mosul, using the Arabic acronym for the Islamic State.

Mr. Alhabu estimated that at least 200 civilians had been killed in airstrikes in recent days in Mosul.

Correction: March 28, 2017
Because of an editing error, an article on Saturday 25 about an American investigation of airstrikes in Mosul, Iraq, misidentified the monitoring group led by Chris Woods, who said that reported civilian fatalities from coalition airstrikes had increased. He is the director of Airwars, which tracks airstrike casualties in both Syria and Iraq, not the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which tracks only those in Syria.

Danger Looms As Trump Hands the Pentagon the Keys To the Family Car

Danger Looms As Trump Outsources Military Decisions To Pentagon


In a recent interview with Shadowproof, Professor Joshua Landis noted that President Donald Trump basically handed the war in Syria over to the military. Landis argued that, other than mentioning a few platitudes about “winning,” Trump was seemingly disinterested in actually managing the war.

That attitude has manifested itself as essentially a policy of outsourcing what are traditionally commander-in-chief presidential responsibilities to the Department of Defense.

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump said he would “listen to the generals” and empower the military to “win”—a talking point which plays into a long-held (albeit thinly sourced) claim by the Right that the United States’ military failures have primarily been the result of weak-willed civilian interference with military officials. It was and is a particularly common explanation for why the U.S. lost the war in Vietnam.

Much like his predecessor, Trump has no personal experience with the military or with military strategy. So it is prudent for him to respect advice from the Department of Defense.

But Trump’s policies go beyond showing deference to U.S. military officials’ expertise. President Trump is increasingly giving more and more power for command military decisions to the Pentagon.

As the Associated Press reported, “Week by week, country by country, the Pentagon is quietly seizing more control over war-fighting decisions, sending hundreds more troops to war with little public debate and seeking greater authority to battle extremists across the Middle East and Africa.”

The defense department is defending the power grab by saying military officials, including lower-level commanders, need more “flexibility” and, on paper, it would appear the department is complying with caps on the number of U.S. forces in Syria and Iraq (503 and 5,262, respectively).

Yet the Pentagon is extremely adept at playing games with numbers, which they are reportedly already doing by labeling increased forces that come into the MENA region as “temporary” and, therefore, not counted under the caps. Hundreds or thousands more U.S. troops could be in Syria and Iraq than the cap allows under the temporary designation.

Not that the public would know in any case, as the Trump Administration will no longer be disclosing troop deployments.

Though the appeal of “leaving the war to the generals” is understandable, it is actually a lot riskier than Trump and friends may believe. There is a reason countries, especially democracies, have political officials in control of the military. The reasons go beyond civic principles about letting the people rule. The military is focused primarily on destroying the enemy, and less concerned with the political fallout of civilian and U.S. casualties.

A recent U.S. bombing in Mosul, Iraq provides an illustrative example of the risks of unrestrained military action. U.S. airstrikes reportedly killed up to 200 Iraqi civilians who are trapped in the crossfire between U.S.-led coalition and ISIS forces.

While ISIS may have also suffered losses from the attacks, the large loss of civilian life will erode support for the mission and possibly create sympathy for U.S. enemies. It is that political dimension to the conflict that military commanders are typically not fully considering when engaging in military operations.

In that same vein, it is worth remembering that ISIS came to power in Iraq and Syria partly because of the political failures of the government in Baghdad, which left the Sunni population feeling angry and insecure. The military ultimately cannot solve political problems.

So President Trump may soon learn to regret giving so much unchecked power to the Pentagon. It’s one thing to win battles; it’s another to win a war.

Afghan Police Report Russian Advisors Visit Taliban Training Camp In N. Waziristan

Critics said that Moscow’s increasing involvement with the Taliban could threaten Afghanistan’s security in future.

Following reports of a Russian delegation’s visit to northern Waziristan in Pakistan, a senior Afghan police commander claimed the Russian delegation along with Pakistani military had visited a number of ‘Taliban training centers’ in the remote region across the Durand Line.

“They [the Russian delegation] have been seen at Taliban training centers along with the Pakistani military,” said General Assadullah Sherzad, commander of 303 Police Zone, overseeing the entire police force in eastern Afghan provinces.

“People who have come from there [other side of the Durand Line] have said they have seen the delegation with the Taliban. But there is no information on whether the delegation promised help the Taliban or give them weapons,” said Nadir Khan Katawazi, an MP from Paktika.

The Russian embassy in Kabul and Pakistani government have not reacted to the claims. Moscow has previously confirmed that they are in ‘contact’ with the Taliban.

Meanwhile, Nahid Farid, an MP said on Wednesday the recent activities of Russia in Afghanistan could threaten Afghanistan’s security in the future if not managed properly.

She said Russia is on the verge of entering a proxy war in Afghanistan.

“Russia unfortunately enters into a proxy war in Afghanistan – a proxy war which Afghanistan has been a victim of for many years. We have been victims of a proxy war for four decades and this war is among regional intelligence agencies. This is a conspiracy which now Pakistan is trying to bring Russia into,” she added.

“Both Pakistan and Russia are trying to support the Taliban with one way or another. These visits and efforts will not help peace and stability in Afghanistan,” said Mohammad Natiqi, an international affairs analyst.

Russia’s new great game in Afghanistan

The recent Russian diplomatic overtures towards Afghan peace and its secret rapprochement with the Taliban show that Russia wants to play a new Great Game in Afghanistan.

In this regard, Russian President Vladimir Putin seems to have capitalised on the fateful election of Donald Trump as the US president to steadily outsmart Uncle Sam in Afghanistan. Under President Xi Jinping, China is also poised to stand by this ‘Russian strategic adventure’ against US preeminence in the region.

This emerging new Great Game is likely to result in the formation of a new security partnership in South Asia, making the region a major centre of power politics for two to three decades. Given its vital geostrategic location, Pakistan should brace itself diplomatically and militarily because the projected Russo-American muscle-flexing and saber-rattling will have adverse impacts on the country’s security dynamics and economy.

The Russian strategic incursion in Crimea and its successful bolstering of the tottering Assad regime in Syria have ‘potentially’ emboldened Putin to smartly play his diplomatic cards with regard to the lingering Afghan stability. This Russian diplomatic manoeuvring is chiefly calculated to outweigh the US’s diminishing military presence in Afghanistan.

Russia began its new Great Game in Afghanistan in 2007 when it established communication with the Taliban. When a delegation from the Afghan Taliban’s Qatar office visited Iran in May 2015 for talks on countering Daesh in Afghanistan, some Russian officials are believed to have taken part in the deliberations. The Taliban have lately disclosed that Russia provided tactical support to them for the takeover of Kunduz in October 2015.

Russia’s ongoing flirtations with the Taliban and its sudden interest in Afghan peace are designed to attain some economic and military objectives in the region. First, resurgent Russia cherishes the grand dream of watching American failure in terms of defeating the Taliban in Afghanistan. Moscow considers Afghanistan a suitable war theatre to ravage its cold war rival that trained and funded the mujahideen to defeat the Red Army in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

To maximise this objective, Russia is believed to have supplied arms to the Taliban for the takeover of the northern city of Kunduz. Russia will presumably continue to maintain intelligence coordination with the Afghan Taliban and support the group with arms and ammunitions against US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

Second, Russia not only wishes to dominate Afghanistan’s uranium resources, it also wants to spread its economic and military wings to the Persian Gulf via the Chabahar Port. Moscow has already connected itself with Afghanistan by means of road and rail links through energy-rich Central Asia. India, Russia’s long-standing regional partner, has built a 600-kilometre-long highway linking Chabahar to Zahedan in Iran’s north. New Delhi has also completed the Delaram-Zaranj Highway in the Nimruz province of Afghanistan, thus connecting the Delaram district in Afghanistan to the northern border of Iran.

Given the long-lasting friendship and convergent strategic interests between Iran and Russia in the region, Tehran is likely to permit Moscow to use its transport and port infrastructure to access the warm waters of the region. But insecurity and insurgency in Afghanistan will create impediments to the Russian dream of reaching the Persian Gulf. Russia has, therefore, decided to reset its relations with the Taliban so as to rely on the insurgent group to safeguard its supply line through Afghanistan.

Third, Russia is highly apprehensive about the spillover effects of Daesh over the Central Asian Republics (CARs). As per latest estimates, there are about 2,700 Russians and nearly 4,000 Central Asian fighters within the fold of the militant group. So far, America and the Afghan government have displayed a lack of seriousness to flush Daesh out of terror-infested Afghanistan.

Russia is suspicious that the US may have allowed Daesh to overtly establish its foothold in Afghanistan so as to weaken the Taliban and create debilitating instability in the Russian backyard. The Kremlin has decided to partner with the Taliban in order to weaken Daesh in Afghanistan so that it cannot pose a security threat to the Russian peripheries.

Fourth, Russia has shown concern over the supply of Central Asian gas to South Asia through the US-sponsored Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) Pipeline. Russia is opposed to Tapi because it wants the CARs to remain dependent on it as the main purchaser of natural gas. Such reliance will help Russia play an overriding role in the security matters of the region. Moreover, Moscow is fearful of US interference in Central Asian security domain because Washington has already shown its willingness to acquire Turkmenistan’s Mary airbase for the security of Tapi.

Russia has continued to use backstairs influence to discourage the CARs from diversifying their natural gas markets to energy-starved South Asia. To divert Pakistan’s attention from Tapi, Moscow has repeatedly offered Islamabad all-out assistance for the construction of Islamabad’s share of the IP gas pipeline. However, the PML-N government has not shown the inclination to complete its portion of the IP due to the apprehension that economic sanctions could be snapped back on Iran anytime in the future.

Now, Moscow is trying to these if the Afghan Taliban can block the supply of Central Asian energy resources to South Asia. In this regard, Russia has taken a surprising step by burying the hatchet with those Taliban leaders who once played a pivotal role in inflicting a humiliating defeat on the Russian predecessor – the Soviet Union – in Afghanistan. Apparently, the failure of Tapi will compel the CARs to remain heavily dependent on Russia as the main buyer of their natural gas.

Fifth, more and more Central Asian states are falling under China’s economic influence in the region. If China continues increasing its economic footprint, Russia will probably lose its hegemonic role in the region. This has prompted Putin to merge the Russian-backed Eurasian Economic Union with the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC). Therefore, Putin is trying to reset relations with the Taliban so that the insurgent groups will support Russia for the protection of this grand connectivity initiative in Afghanistan.

Lastly, the cultivation of drugs in Afghanistan has severely impacted Russia over the past five decades. Russia is not only a transit route for Europe-bound Afghan opiate, it is also a major consumer market. According to some estimates, the Russians consume around a fifth of the world’s opiate supply. For the Kremlin, it is imperative to partner with the Taliban and work with them to block opiate smuggling to mainland Russia.

The Trump administration is increasingly perturbed over the Russian inclination towards Afghan reconciliation and its geostrategic interests in the region. What is important to note is that the US is inclined to stay in Afghanistan to contain China’s influence and monitor Iranian and Pakistan’s nuclear programmes.

So, Russia’s new Great Game will prompt the Trump administration to increase its military and intelligence presence in Afghanistan. The declining superpower will evidently employ punitive diplomacy, disruptive power and deliberately meddle in China’s Xinjiang unrest, Balochistan’s low-intensity insurgency and Iran’s clandestine nuclear programme.

Pakistan should move cautiously and avoid siding with any of the two rival powers with regard to the unfolding new Great Game in Afghanistan. The government needs to take only those diplomatic steps which serve the country’s greater national interests.

The writer is an independent researcher.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @ayazahmed66665