If Vladimir Putin was conciliatory in telephone conversations with world leaders shortly after hosting Syrian President Bashir al-Assad in the Kremlin on Tuesday, he was in a verbally combative mood at the #Valdai2015 conference Thursday in Sochi. Both Putin and the Russian Defense Ministry were 'hitting' bloody U.S. failures in Syria and Iraq hard with verbal jabs yesterday -- perhaps to set Uncle Sam up for a knockdown blow later. Indeed, the most memorable line Putin uttered Thursday appeared to be, "50 years ago, the streets of Leningrad taught me if a fight is inevitable, you should punch first." UPDATE Fri. 10/23/15 16:00 EDT: We've added the Ft. Russ version of Putin's remarks with English subtitles at the end of this post.
As W the Intel Insider observed, some of Putin's rhetoric has started to echo that of his old friend George W. Bush: the terrorists hate Russia and mankind for its freedoms, and it's better to fight them 'over there' in Syria (Iraq?) than in Russia (the homeland)
Putin and the Smiling Persian Envoy Larijani Tag Team Slam What's Left of Washington's Tattered Reputation in Sochi
The basic themes of Putin's speech were familiar to anyone who has watched or read a transcript of his complaints about Washington's abuses of its hegemonic power at the Munich Security Conference of 2007 or more recently, his indictment of American failures and chaos-creation in Iraq, Libya and Syria at the United Nations General Assembly on September 28, 2015.
The only difference in terms of substance this time was the venue -- Russia's Olympic city of Sochi, the same place that now deposed Saudi security chief Prince Bandar "Bush" bin Sultan had threatened with terrorist attacks back in 2013 -- and Putin's choice of 'right hand' guest of honor for his speech, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani. Mr. Larijani, for those RogueMoney readers who do not know, is the chief negotiator for Tehran's hard bargain with the United States and its allies to resolve the standoff over Iran's nuclear energy program. It was Larijani who represented both the Islamic Republic of Iran's parliament and its Supreme Leader in the tough talks that led to the Obama Administration agreeing to drop many of the sanctions Washington has levied against the Persians down through the past 35 plus years of Persian Gulf Cold War. Larijani was also, according to his bio, born to Iranian parents in Najaf, Iraq. RogueMoney readers can be sure that particular facet of his biography is also relevant to Putin's plans for a new Mideast coalition forged in the war against the Islamic State, one that includes Iraq and is led by Russia and China.
Larijani's presence shoulder to shoulder with Putin at the Valdai conference is yet another signal that the Russians and Iranians are going to stick together in Syria and Iraq. The prize of a new Middle East where America has been vastly diminished if not soon to be pushed out is too great, and the price of failure too horrible to contemplate, for Moscow and Tehran to pursue any other course now.
Any negotiation the U.S./UK and Sunni-stan Persian Gulf potentates of Saudi Arabia and Qatar should hope to have on the future of Syria will have to go through the two Caspian Sea neighbors, who demonstrated their interlocking defense potential through Russia's use of Iranian and (Tehran friendly government controlled) Iraqi air space to strike ISIS targets with cruise missiles launched from that shared inland body of water. The occasional mainstream media and especially Democrat 'foreign policy hand' fantasy of an Iranian-Russian split due to a gusher of Western oil industry money, or the Persians and Russians having a falling out to Washington's benefit can be safely shelved...indefinitely.
The Qatar-i Mouse That Roared and Mother Russia's Message to the McInsane MANPAD/Neocon TOW Akbar Brigade
Wednesday's announcement by the government of Qatar that they are prepared to directly intervene in Syria to counter Iran's regional ambitions in the war-torn country was likely greeted with laughter in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, and jokes about a turkey shoot of Qatari F-16s among the Russians.
Qatari-funded and supplied jihadists in northeastern #Latakia region, meet Russia's TOS-1 being fired by the SAA to burn out your mountainside foxholes and incinerate or asphyxiate you in sandbagged firing posts. Have a nice day.
If Senator John McCain is infamous for ranting that Russia is a "gas station posing as a country" than the Syrian and Iranian retort is that Qatar is a U.S. air base, an LNG terminal and a royal-family funded Al-Jazeera TV studios masquerading as a nation. Without direct support from the Turks, Israelis and above all the Americans the threat from little Qatar in the Persian Gulf is empty.
Thousands of Syrian nationals live in Qatar. Can Doha's security services watch or deport them all in the event Qatar actually tries to bomb the SAA?
The Qataris claims that their and the Saudis pet jihadis can use MANPADs they send to Syria to do serious damage to Russia's air campaign should also be viewed with skepticism. This is after all not the 1980s, and Syria isn't Afghanistan -- Russia really cannot afford to 'lose', and imagine the jihadists will not follow it back home or to the Muslim majority 'Stans to some extent. Nor are Al-Qaeda's 'moderate' head choppers the mujaheddin of the Reagan era.
The Saudis of Charlie Wilson's War did not have to worry about being repaid in kind for weapons they sent to kill Russian Afgansy in the 1980s by Yemeni Houthi tribesmen receiving new Iranian or Russian arms to kill Saudi soldiers on Saudi soil (to those who believe the Houthi can be successfully disarmed, I give you Yemen's long, for centuries friendly to pirates coastlines and fast cigarette boats carrying anti-tank missiles in from Oman or even across the Red Sea from Egypt for the right amount of bribes). Nor was the Kingdom at that time of moderate to high oil prices preceding the late Eighties crash bleeding cash at an alarming rate as it is today, beset by internal feuds revolving around the low oil price/fiscal imbalances compounded by expensive, failing proxy wars in both Syria AND Yemen.
Don't tell the neocon punks at The Daily Beast, but the Syrian Arab Army is still advancing albeit slowly, while also beating back rebel counterattacks and inflicting heavy losses on the jihadists. Oh, and Russia also bombed ISIS at the besieged Deir-ez-Zor airport in eastern Syria
Perhaps the last and most effective deterrent of all against more direct Saudi and Qatari participation in the war on Assad is the old Texas expression 'Smith and Wesson beats a hand of aces' -- meaning the royals themselves or at least their capitols could come under fire, in addition to military bases and warehouses full of weapons being blown up and looted by brazen Houthi raids. At least one Lebanese politician sympathetic to Hezbollah has warned the Qataris that Doha itself will not be safe from bombings should the ruling al-Thani family decide to push their luck and piss off the Russian Bear.
The deputy supreme commander of NATO has called Russian electronic warfare capabilities 'eye watering'. Pentagon analysts have admitted the U.S. itself cannot counter many of the systems Russia is fielding in Syria yet but the plucky Qataris are gonna take the Russians on? Good luck with that!
We know two spetsnaz operatives were arrested by the Qataris when they assassinated Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, a Chechen commander wanted in multiple terror attacks, with a car bomb in Doha back in 2004. Blowing up a few warehouses full of TOWs and Stingers on Saudi or Qatari soil and letting some previously unknown Shi'a group take credit for it is not outside Russia's covert capabilities, particularly if it's done without harming U.S. personnel (not like what happened at Benghazi, in other words).
To the Lebanese gentleman's tweeted threat, we would have only added: are Qatar, the Pentagon and Lockheed Martin ready for what a great F-16 turkey shoot by Russian Su-30s and S-400s would mean to America's arms 'brand'? Because if the al-Thanis decided to give it a try, they'd soon find out.
Putin Calls the U.S. Government a Liar and Says Claims ABM Defense System Were About Iran Were Lies
In his remarks, Putin implied but did not come out and say that any effort to arm the jihadists with MANPADs would not only be exposed by Russia as American sponsorship of terror (echoing the warning of a senior Russian diplomat that MANPADs in ISIS/AlNusra hands could prompt the Russians to call a special meeting of the UN Security Council), but would probably backfire.
In a line that cleverly echoes the concerns of America's own unnamed commanders speaking to the defense and mainstream press about why the U.S. shouldn't send MANPADs to Syrian jihadis, Putin said that Washington couldn't be sure that the Stingers would not fall into the hands of the West's nominal sworn enemy ISIS. This is the same point we have made for some time, most recently in Thursday's October 22 RM article.
For now, since the Saudis and Qataris are both talking out of the rear ends (insert joke here about the arrested, psychopathic Saudi prince with a fart fetish) the best the mainstream media can do is bitterly cling to illusions that the Russian air strikes and Syrian Arab Army offensives have been ineffective just two weeks in. Or they can tell themselves that the Iranians will not commit significant firepower or reinforce their heretofore limited number of troops on the ground in Syria to get the job done, and that the few thousand Persian boots on the ground cannot possibly become tens of thousands.
Flanked by Larijani, Putin basically called Washington a liar yesterday for continuing to build an Anti-Ballistic Missile interceptor defense system in Europe even with the official threat of an Iranian nuclear bomb removed (note this translation is courtesy of The Saker and/or RT):
Attempts to promote a model of unilateral domination, as I have said on numerous occasions, have led to an imbalance in the system of international law and global regulation, which means there is a threat, and political, economic or military competition may get out of control.
What, for instance, could such uncontrolled competition mean for international security? A growing number of regional conflicts, especially in ‘border’ areas, where the interests of major nations or blocs meet. This can also lead to the probable downfall of the system of non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (which I also consider to be very dangerous), which, in turn, would result in a new spiral of the arms race.
We have already seen the appearance of the concept of the so-called disarming first strike, including one with the use of high-precision long-range non-nuclear weapons comparable in their effect to nuclear weapons.
The use of the threat of a nuclear missile attack from Iran as an excuse, as we know, has destroyed the fundamental basis of modern international security – the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The United States has unilaterally seceded from the treaty. Incidentally, today we have resolved the Iranian issue and there is no threat from Iran and never has been, just as we said.
The thing that seemed to have led our American partners to build an anti-missile defence system is gone. It would be reasonable to expect work to develop the US anti-missile defence system to come to an end as well. What is actually happening? Nothing of the kind, or actually the opposite – everything continues.
Recently the United States conducted the first test of the anti-missile defence system in Europe. What does this mean? It means we were right when we argued with our American partners. They were simply trying yet again to mislead us and the whole world. To put it plainly, they were lying. It was not about the hypothetical Iranian threat, which never existed. It was about an attempt to destroy the strategic balance, to change the balance of forces in their favour not only to dominate, but to have the opportunity to dictate their will to all: to their geopolitical competition and, I believe, to their allies as well. This is a very dangerous scenario, harmful to all, including, in my opinion, to the United States.
The nuclear deterrent lost its value. Some probably even had the illusion that victory of one party in a world conflict was again possible – without irreversible, unacceptable, as experts say, consequences for the winner, if there ever is one.
Putin went on to take his best shot at Washington's word-games, whereby a U.S. general admitted that the Pentagon only managed to fully vet and adequately train a whopping five 'moderate' rebels, who ended up deserting and surrendering their weapons to the jihadists who attacked them. Yet within days if not hours of Russian bombs started falling on Syria both the mainstream media and U.S. State Department could state with confidence exactly which jihadists were 'moderates'.
Why, Reuters can state with confidence Russia had targeted so-called moderates with over 80 and up to 90 percent of its air strikes in Syria since the start of the air campaign, irrespective of the fact that its definition of 'moderate' basically meant, 'everybody who hasn't formally pledged allegiance to ISIS yet'.
Ret. Army Gen. Jack Keane, discussing with the House Armed Services Committee how to use the NATO playbook from the 1990s Yugoslav war to save Washington's jihadi proxies from crushing defeat in the weeks and months to come
Just as in his UNGA speech, Putin took a direct shot at Washington's presumption that it can cynically use one group of jihadists (Al-Nusra front aka Al-Qaeda in Syria) while pretending to fight another organization whose ideology and tactics are nearly identical (ISIS) (translation from Kremlin.ru, with British spellings):
A terrorist organisation, the so-called Islamic State, took huge territories under control. Just think about it: if they occupied Damascus or Baghdad, the terrorist gangs could achieve the status of a practically official power, they would create a stronghold for global expansion. Is anyone considering this? It is time the entire international community realised what we are dealing with – it is, in fact, an enemy of civilization and world culture that is bringing with it an ideology of hatred and barbarity, trampling upon morals and world religious values, including those of Islam, thereby compromising it.
We do not need wordplay here; we should not break down the terrorists into moderate and immoderate ones. It would be good to know the difference. Probably, in the opinion of certain experts, it is that the so-called moderate militants behead people in limited numbers or in some delicate fashion.
In actual fact, we now see a real mix of terrorist groups. True, at times militants from the Islamic State, Jabhat al-Nusra and other Al-Qaeda heirs and splinters fight each other, but they fight for money, for feeding grounds, this is what they are fighting for. They are not fighting for ideological reasons, while their essence and methods remain the same: terror, murder, turning people into a timid, frightened, obedient mass.
In the past years the situation has been deteriorating, the terrorists’ infrastructure has been growing, along with their numbers, while the weapons provided to the so-called moderate opposition eventually ended up in the hands of terrorist organisations. Moreover, sometimes entire bands would go over to their side, marching in with flying colours, as they say.
Why is it that the efforts of, say, our American partners and their allies in their struggle against the Islamic State has not produced any tangible results? Obviously, this is not about any lack of military equipment or potential. Clearly, the United States has a huge potential, the biggest military potential in the world -- only double crossing is never easy. You declare war on terrorists and simultaneously try to use some of them to arrange the figures on the Middle East board in your own interests, as you may think. [emphasis added by JWS]
It is impossible to combat terrorism in general if some terrorists are used as a battering ram to overthrow the regimes that are not to one’s liking. You cannot get rid of those terrorists, it is only an illusion to think you can get rid of them later, take power away from them or reach some agreement with them. The situation in Libya is the best example here.
Larijani himself pulled no punches in his Valdai2015 remarks, despite his status as a smiling, non-cleric envoy for a new Iran that's open for business with the West. For one thing, he took a shot at Saudi Arabia, pointing out that those who do not allow women to drive should not lecture Iranians on democracy, and that the Saudis have held no elections in the past 80 years.
In one of the most pointed parts of his remarks that will likely be ignored by the Western press, Larijani asked rhetorically if American surveillance drones are somehow blind to the enormous number of tanker trucks it must take for the Islamic State to transact with Turkey:
Here's what else Iran's parliamentary speaker said in Valdai: Sunni-Shi'a sectarianism would not prevent a peace settlement in Syria
The Iranians and Russians ideally want to see a federalized Syria, rather than a country partitioned between an Assad rump state, the Kurds and some sort of Sunnistan straddling the old Iraq-Syrian border
As if they were reading off the same sheets as their commander in chief and his Persian guest, the Russian Defense Ministry responded in English on Twitter and its Facebook page to complaints made by Pentagon spokesman USAF Col. Steve Warren, regarding Russia's alleged insufficient targeting of ISIS:
Commenting on the claims of the Pentagon representative Colonel Steven Warren concerning the assessment of the activities of the Russian aviation in the Syrian Arab Republic, it should be mentioned that the Russian unmanned aerial vehicles detect considerable increase in the number of targets of the ISIS terrorist grouping.
ISIS leaders are projecting manpower reinforcements to combat areas from Raqqah and Iraq territories. They are also taking efforts to direct maneuvering automobile caravans with weapons and ammunition to the contact line with the Syrian Armed Forces. Therefore, explanations of the Pentagon representatives concerning sharp flight decrease caused by “no target detection” in Syria are more than just strange.
Airy dreams of Colonel Steven Warren concerning using cluster munitions by the Russian aviation in “inhabited areas” of Syria are absurd.
It appears that the American colleagues have not established their aims in the announced war against the ISIS terrorist organization.
This may be why the terrorists feel comfortable a year after the start of the anti-ISIS coalition’s operations.
Russia Today or RT also pressed home the Kremlin's talking point, which happens to be true, that the United Kingdom and U.S. governments have stubbornly refused to share any target data on the Islamic State with the Russians, citing Moscow's primary motivation of supporting Assad and a limited number of Russian strikes on ISIS positions as their excuses. Even the so-called de-confliction talks may not be reducing the risk of an inadvertent mid-air collision as much as advertised. As we reported here at RM Thursday NATO's complaint that Russian jets have flown over the Baltic Sea with its civilian air corridors with transponders off are mirrored by the Russians' complaints that U.S. jets won't use transponders in the increasingly crowded skies over Syria...
So, to summarize we have Vladimir Putin, Iran's parliamentary speaker, and the Russian Defense Ministry all saying:
1) the U.S. lied about the purpose of its missile defense 'shield' in Europe (which won't stop Russia's Kalibr cruise missiles anyway, but that's a separate post), cynically claiming it was to defend the Continent from Iranian missiles tipped with nukes it agrees Iran won't have with the new peace deal
2) The Americans are trying to label some jihadists as 'moderates' to use them for their own purposes while pretending they aren't very similar in operation and ideology to the Islamic State (and here's a Vice News video that proves Vlad's point, about those 'moderate' Al-Qaeda loyalists in Al-Nusra brainwashing children into becoming suicide bombers)
3) Washington still believes it can prevent 'their guys' from surrendering or selling weapons to ISIS. They're flat out wrong and at times getting 'played' (how Putin's phrase in Russian is translated) by their jihadist proteges
4) The U.S./UK claim Russia isn't bombing the Islamic State, but refuse to provide targeting data on ISIS to allow the Russians to show that they are in fact serious about hitting ISIS hard and cooperation in the anti-ISIL coalition
5) Assad is ready for dialogue with neighboring nations and any non-terrorist opposition that wants to establish peace in Syria. But U.S. MANPAD supplies to 'moderate' rebels will inevitably fall into the hands of the terrorists (Al-Nusra aka Al-Qaeda and ISIS), who could use them against not only civilian airliners but also American jets and helicopters
6) The Pentagon has superb surveillance capabilities (and the Iranians should know) but refuses to bomb tanker trucks full of crude oil being 'smuggled' by the Islamic State to Jordan and Turkey. The number of U.S. sorties against ISIS targets is also inadequate and the Americans have been totally unsuccessful (Putin implies, but doesn't add, on purpose to leave ISIS intact).
The success of the Russian air campaign blowing up so many ISIS arms caches and training camps in Syria, and the Iraqis finally breaking through in Basji against Daesh after the establishment of their combined intelligence center with the Russians, proves the Pentagon has not been hitting the group all that hard (and implies Iraq should make Russia and China its top security partners instead of Washington).
7) U.S. planes are operating without transponder beacons over Syria (despite Assad's forces having never fired upon American jets entering the country's air space without any official permission). This increases the risk that they could collide with Russian or Syrian aircraft bombing ISIS
Does Vladimir Putin Read the @GoldenJackass? Because his Kremlin Speechwriters Sure Do Seem to Listen to Jim Willie's List of German 'Grievances' Against the United States Bullying Germany and Other 'Allies' into Submission
To which we could add an 8th point, and one that has apparently mad the native-level proficient in German Vlad mad -- Washington is not content to pick fights with Russia, it's now screwing over its
Unfortunately, military terminology is becoming part of everyday life. Thus, trade and sanctions wars have become today’s global economic reality – this has become a set phrase used by the media. The sanctions, meanwhile, are often used also as an instrument of unfair competition to put pressure on or completely ‘throw’ competition out of the market. As an example, I could take the outright epidemic of fines imposed on companies, including European ones, by the United States. Flimsy pretexts are being used, and all those who dare violate the unilateral American sanctions are severely punished.
You know, this may not be Russia’s business, but this is a discussion club, therefore I will ask: Is that the way one treats allies? No, this is how one treats vassals who dare act as they wish – they are punished for misbehaving. [Emphasis added to this line by The Saker]
Last year a fine was imposed on a French bank to a total of almost $9 billion – $8.9 billion, I believe. Toyota paid $1.2 billion [and will pay more, as Putin seems to be implying here, for all those ISIS Toyota pick up trucks? - JWS], while the German Commerzbank signed an agreement to pay $1.7 billion into the American budget, and so forth [probably Putin is trying to recall the fines paid by Société Générale and Credit Suisse here - JWS].
We also see the development of the process to create non-transparent economic blocs, which is done following practically all the rules of conspiracy [eg top secret negotiations for the Trans Pacific Partnership or TPP- JWS]. The goal is obvious – to reformat the world economy in a way that would make it possible to extract a greater profit from domination and the spread of economic, trade and technological regulation standards.
The creation of economic blocs by imposing their terms on the strongest players would clearly not make the world safer, but would only create time bombs, conditions for future conflicts.