Posts Tagged ‘White House’

After a White House official used the term ‘alternative facts’ to refute accusations of White House falsehoods, sales of the 1949 dystopian science fiction novel 1984 spiked to the top of Amazon.com’s best-seller list.

The exchange quickly became infamous: on NBC’s Sunday show “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd interviewed Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway about her colleague, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, who offered “provable falsehoods” during his very first meeting with the press: namely, the size of the crowd that watched President Trump’s inauguration.

After some arguing, Conway said: “You’re saying it’s a falsehood… Sean Spicer, our press secretary, gave alternative facts to that.”

“Wait a minute,” said Todd with an incredulous chuckle. “Alternative facts? Alternative facts?… Alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”

Conway’s comment was widely derided by Trump opponents, and many claimed that the phrase “alternative facts” sounded like a comment from the oppressive police state known as Big Brother in Orwell’s famous novel.

That novel contains the line, “The party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command.” Many compared this to Spicer”s comments about the inauguration, despite photographs clearly demonstrating fewer attendees to Trump’s inauguration than to Obama’s eight years prior.

In 1984, society is controlled by a totalitarian government that watches nearly every aspect of human life. The main character, Winston Smith, is a minor bureaucrat with the Ministry of Truth whose job is to rewrite historical events to fit Big Brother’s version of events, including erasing all evidence that certain people ever existed.

A major theme of the novel is Big Brother’s manipulation of the truth to better suit the policies of the authoritarian state. Facts and reality are irrelevant, and only what Big Brother says is true matters. The novel coins many terms to describe this behavior, including “goodthink” (thought approved by Big Brother), and its opposite, “thoughtcrime.”

Orwell, a democratic socialist, was distressed by atrocities committed by both Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union, and believed the western world was beginning to move down a similar path. Orwell died shortly after the book’s publication. 1984 is frequently read in the west by high school students, making it one of the most popular novels of the 20th century.

Spikes in 1984’s popularity often follow moments of distrust in the government. Sales increased significantly following the 2013 leak of NSA documents from Edward Snowden and others.

In the west, it has become common to compare governments the author dislikes to Orwell’s worst-case-scenario. A 2014 Forbes story had the headline, “Obama’s Corruption of the English Language Comes Right From Orwell’s ‘1984.’” A 2002 article from SFGate was entitled “Learning to love Big Brother / George W. Bush channels George Orwell.”

The U.S. Army is ranked “weak” and the other branches of services “marginal” when it comes to military power, according a new think tank report. Military.com reports that overall, American military power is just “marginal” and trending toward “weak,” according to the 2017 Index of U.S. Military Power, released Wednesday by the Heritage Foundation.

The scores are based on the military’s “capability or modernity, capacity for operations, and readiness to handle assigned missions successfully,” the document states.

The group’s Army assessment is the same from last year (the index began in 2015) and stems from the service’s decision to decrease the size of the force and delay equipment upgrades to improve readiness — yet only a third of its units are prepared for war, according to the document.

“Even for units deployed abroad, the Army has had to increase its reliance on contracted support to meet maintenance requirements,” the report states. “In summary, the Army is smaller, older, and weaker, a condition that is unlikely to change in the near future.”

Military Boost

Based on the U.S. military fulfilling the strategic goal of waging two major wars at the same time, Heritage argues the size of the military must be increased to include 50 brigade combat teams in the Army, 346 surface combatants and 624 strike aircraft in the Navy, 1,200 fighter and ground-attack aircraft in the Air Force and 36 battalions in the Marine Corps.

Similarly, President-elect Donald Trump has called for increasing the size of the Army to about 540,000 active-duty soldiers, the Marine Corps to 36 battalions, the Navy to 350 surface ships and submarines, and the Air Force to at least 1,200 fighter aircraft.

The Obama administration in 2012 argued for changing the force-structure model based on the two-war scenario. The proposal came after Congress and the White House approved decade-long spending caps known as sequestration.

The Pentagon’s $583 billion budget proposal for fiscal 2017, which began Oct. 1, requests funding for 460,000 active soldiers, 24 Marine infantry battalions, 287 naval ships and roughly 1,170 fighter aircraft (excluding A-10 ground attack aircraft) — all for the active component. The figures don’t take into account additional troops and equipment for the Guard and Reserve.

The United States spends more on defense than the next several nations combined, with annual outlays of more than $600 billion — three times more than China and seven times more than Russia, according to figures compiled earlier this year by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

Other Service Rankings

The sea service is sacrificing long-term readiness to meet short-term needs, according to the Heritage report. “While the Navy is maintaining a moderate global presence, it has little ability to surge to meet wartime demands,” it states. “Deferred maintenance has kept ships at sea but is also beginning to affect the Navy’s ability to deploy.”

Despite an inventory of nearly 1,600 combat aircraft — including fifth-generation fighters such as the F-22A Raptor and the F-35A Joint Strike Fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp., the Air Force is facing a shortage of 700 pilots and 4,000 maintainers, affecting its ability to generate combat power, according to the report.

“The lack of ability to fly and maintain [aircraft], especially in a high-tempo/threat combat environment, means that its usable inventory of such aircraft is actually much smaller,” it states.

The Marine Corps also faces a partially utilized aviation fleet, with less than a third of its F/A-18 Hornets made by Boeing Co. about a quarter of its CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters made by Lockheed’s Sikorsky unit available to fly operational missions, according to the report.

While its modernization programs are relatively on track, the Corps “has only two-thirds of the combat units that it actually needs, especially when accounting for expanded requirements that include cyber units and more crisis-response forces,” it states.

Strategic Threats

Even the nation’s nuclear forces only received a score of “marginal,” according to the document.

While the delivery platforms such as the B-2 Spirit bomber “are good, the force depends on a very limited set of weapons (in number of designs) and models that are quite old, in stark contrast to the aggressive programs of competitor states,” it states.

“Russia has rattled its nuclear saber in a number of recent provocative exercises; China has been more aggressive in militarily pressing its claims to the South and East China Seas; North Korea is heavily investing in a submarine-launched ballistic missile capability; and Iran has achieved a nuclear deal with the West that effectively preserves its nuclear capabilities development program for the foreseeable future,” the document states.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has made the case for a down payment of $108 billion over the next five years in the long-term effort to modernize the nation’s nuclear triad that will eventually cost hundreds of billions.

Notably, while Trump has taken a softer approach toward Russia — he recently talked to Russian President Vladimir Putin on the telephone about possible ways to combat terrorism and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS — the Heritage report states “Russia and China continue to be the most worrisome, both because of the investments they are making in the modernization and expansion of their offensive military capabilities and because of the more enduring effect they are having within their respective regions”

Following Friday’s accusation by US “intelligence services” that Russia was behind the hacking of US political organizations – which took place just minutes before the first Wikileaks data dump of John Podesta emails – even though the US government did not directly accuse Putin of being the party responsible, today curious journalists demanded more information from White House spokesman Josh Earnest after Monday’s holiday.

What he told them is that, according to Reuters, Barack Obama will consider a variety of responses to Russia’s hacking of political party organizations and it is possible that any action may not be announced publicly, the White House said on Tuesday.

“There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that is proportional,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters on Air Force One. “It is certainly possible that the president can choose response options that we never announce,” he said.

In other words, the US very well could – and will – do nothing, especially if as the lack of public evidence indicates, the Russian government, which has laughed the whole thing off,  was not in any way responsible.

Meanwhile, over in the UK, ministers have been banned from wearing Apple Watches during Cabinet meetings amid concerns they could be used by Russian spies as listening devices. According to the Telegraph, Theresa May’s government has barred the watch over concerns its microphone could be hacked by spies who would be able to listen in to high-level policy discussions.

“The Russians are trying to hack everything,” one source told the newspaper.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova took a humorous approach to the latest McCarthyian witch hunt.

“Apple Watch, easy. It is strange that the Daily Telegraph do not know that ‘Russian secret agents’ can hack Breguet even better,” she wrote on Facebook according to RT, referring to a Swiss manufacturer of luxury watches.

Under former Prime Minister David Cameron, several cabinet ministers wore the watches, including Justice Secretary Michael Gove. Gove reportedly interrupted one meeting by inadvertently playing a Beyonce song. Sarah Vine, his wife, said he had been “surreptitiously checking his emails,” but pressed the wrong button when a message came through.

“So the cabinet was treated to the first few bars of a song from Beyonce,” she said. Mobile phones have previously been barred from the Cabinet because of similar concerns.

The Apple Watch has also been banned from Australian cabinet meetings.

Four days after publicly accusing the Russian government of hacking into the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the Obama Administration has announced plans for what it terms a “proportional” response.
On Friday, the US Department of Homeland Security and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a statement formally accusing Moscow of attempting to influence the US election by hacking into servers belonging to the DNC. It followed a series of informal accusations against Russia for the hacks, also made without evidence.
 On Tuesday, the White House offered some idea of how it plans to respond.
“There are a range of responses that are available to the president and he will consider a response that is proportional,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters.
“The president has talked before about the significant capabilities that the US government has to both defend our systems in the United States but also carry out offensive operations in other countries.”
 He added that whatever action the US decides to take will not be announced to the public in advance.
Speaking to Radio Sputnik, Ohio State University Professor Emeritus of International Law John Quigley pointed out that the basis for the decision is largely ungrounded.
“Well, it seems a bit ambiguous. The statement said that it is consistent with methods used which is a formulation that falls short of saying that they definitely know what is going on,” Quigley said.
“Speculation a week or so ago was that the United States would not come out with these accusations because it raises the question of what it could do next,” he added. “The likelihood is that it will not do much. I think that probably the president wanted to make this information public but that he doesn’t really have in mind any specific countermeasure.”
 The Russian government has dismissed the allegations against it as part of a “hysterical campaign.” Speaking to Russia’s Channel One broadcaster, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated, ‘When I discussed the issue with US Secretary of State [John] Kerry last time, I told him that we have had some consultations. After all, we also do not want our nationals to engage in cybercrime. This can be turned against Russia.”
“We do not want to cause any damage to other countries as well,” Lavrov detailed, adding, “It is funny, that there is quite a hysterical campaign underway in the context of the elections debates [suggesting] that we have hacked the sites of the Democratic Party and Pentagon.”
Lavrov said that Kerry expressed interest in bilateral consultations over the issue, but apparently the White House derailed the overture.

As the US slams Russian bombing in Aleppo, accusing Putin of “crimes against humanity” and in the process sending US-Russian relations to levels not seen since the Cold War, it quietly sells billions in weapons and equipment to Saudi Arabia, a nation which as Hillary Clinton revealed in a “private setting” to the 2014 Jewish United Fund Advance & Major Gifts Dinner, has “exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years.” It also happens to be one of the biggest state donors to the Clinton Foundation. Which may explain why as Reuters reported in an exclusive story today, the Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year despite misgivings and warnings from some officials that the United States could be implicated in war crimes for supporting a Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen that has killed thousands of civilians.

Citing government documents and the accounts of current and former officials, Reuters reveals that while the Obama administration and the Pentagon rail against Russian bombing in Syria, State Department officials have been skeptical – in private of course – of the Saudi military’s ability to target Houthi militants without killing civilians and destroying “critical infrastructure” needed for Yemen to recover.

However, and this may be where Saudi funding for Hillary’s campaign – according to a recent report, Saudi Arabia funded 20% of Hillary’s presidential campaign – and her election came into play, government lawyers ultimately did not reach a conclusion on whether U.S. support for the campaign would make the United States a “co-belligerent” in the war under international law, Reuters said citing four current and former officials. Such a finding would have obligated Washington to investigate allegations of war crimes in Yemen and would have raised a legal risk that U.S. military personnel could be subject to prosecution, at least in theory.

The findings emerge days after an air strike on a wake in Yemen on Saturday that killed more than 140 people renewed focus on the heavy civilian toll of the conflict. The Saudi-led coalition denied responsibility, but the attack drew the strongest rebuke yet from Washington, which said it would review its support for the campaign to “better align with U.S. principles, values and interests.”

What Reuters’ report reveals is that instead of Russia being the war criminal, as the US has now alleged, the real aggressor would be Saudi Arabia, and the US – whose actions have enabled Saudi war crimes – would be a “co-belligerent” participant.

Reuters notes that a 2013 ruling from the war crimes trial of former Liberian president Charles Taylor significantly widened the international legal definition of aiding and abetting such crimes. The ruling found that “practical assistance, encouragement or moral support” is sufficient to determine liability for war crimes. Prosecutors do not have to prove a defendant participated in a specific crime, the U.N.-backed court found.

Ironically, and exposing the unabashed hypocrisy behind the US political system, the U.S. government already had submitted the Taylor ruling to a military commission at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to bolster its case that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other al Qaeda detainees were complicit in the Sept 11, 2001 attacks.

The previously undisclosed material sheds light on the closed-door debate that shaped U.S. President Barack Obama’s response to what officials described as an agonizing foreign policy dilemma: how to allay Saudi concerns over a nuclear deal with Iran – Riyadh’s arch-rival – without exacerbating a conflict in Yemen that has killed thousands.

Exposing the selective morality of the US government, the documents, obtained by Reuters under the Freedom of Information Act, date from mid-May 2015 to February 2016, a period during which State Department officials reviewed and approved the sale of precision munitions to Saudi Arabia to replenish bombs dropped in Yemen. The documents were heavily redacted to withhold classified information and some details of meetings and discussion.

It gets better. While the US would take even the slightest opportunity to slam Russia for allegations of civilian deaths, State Department lawyers “had their hair on fire” as reports of civilian casualties in Yemen multiplied in 2015, and prominent human rights groups charged that Washington could be complicit in war crimes, one U.S. official said. That official and the others requested anonymity. During an October 2015 meeting with private human rights groups, a State Department specialist on protecting civilians in conflict acknowledged Saudi strikes were going awry.

The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles,” the specialist said, according to a Department account of the meeting.

Ah, the old, they are not bloodthirsty murderers (whom we are supplying), they are just incompetent, defense. At least the US did not blame Putin’s crack team of hackers for this fiasco as well.

Meanwhile, truly pleading stupidity, the Saudi government called allegations of civilian casualties fabricated or exaggerated and has resisted calls for an independent investigation – considering the civilian death toll is estimated to be over 10,000 one can see why. The humor continued when the Saudi-led coalition has said it takes its responsibilities under international humanitarian law seriously, and is committed to the protection of civilians in Yemen. The Saudi embassy in Washington declined further comment.

In a statement issued to Reuters before Saturday’s attack, National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said, “U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check. … We have repeatedly expressed our deep concern about airstrikes that allegedly killed and injured civilians and also the heavy humanitarian toll paid by the Yemeni people.”

The Saudi “cooperation” with the US most certainly is not a blank check: since March 2015, Washington has authorized more than $22.2 billion in weapons sales to Riyadh, much of it yet to be delivered. That includes a $1.29 billion sale of quote-unquote precision munitions announced in November 2015 and specifically meant to replenish stocks used in Yemen.

The billions in recycled petrodollars may explain why the Pentagon and the State Department’s Near East Affairs bureau leaned toward preserving good relations with Riyadh “at a time when friction was increasing because of the nuclear deal with Iran.” That’s the pretext: the real reason why it was critical to preserve good relations with Riyadh despite risks of being branded a war criminal, is to keep the money rolling in.

Still, not everyone was corrupt: the State Department’s Office of the Legal Advisor, backed by government human rights specialists, expressed concern over U.S. complicity in possible Saudi violations of the laws of war. As Reuters adds, U.S. refueling and logistical support of Riyadh’s air force – even more than the arms sales – risked making the United States a party to the Yemen conflict under international law, three officials said.

The estimate of Yemeni casualties range from 3,800 to over 10,000, with Saudi-led airstrikes on markets, hospitals and schools accounting for 60 percent of the death toll, the United Nations human rights office said in August. However, unlike the Syria campaign, there is hardly a mention of US support of Saudi Arabia anywhere in the prime time media.

Still, in a surprising move, the UN just stopped short of accusing  accusing either side of war crimes, saying that was for a national or international court to decide. No international court has decided yet.

Reuters also reports that in August 2015, the White House convened a meeting on how best to engage the Saudis over rising civilian casualties in a sign of mounting concern over the issue. That same month, State Department officials gathered to discuss how to track those casualties. What Obama decided on was not to halt arms sales but to provide Saud Arabia with… no strike lists.

While preserving military ties with Riyadh, the Obama administration has tried to reduce civilian casualties by providing the Saudis with “no-strike lists” of targets to avoid, dispatching to Saudi Arabia a U.S. expert on mitigating civilian casualties and pressing for peace talks, the officials said.

“If we’re going to be supporting the coalition, then we have to accept a degree of responsibility for what’s happening in Yemen and exercise it appropriately,” a senior administration official said.

Did Saudi Arabia follow the no strike lists? Nope

 After ceasefire talks collapsed in August and airstrikes resumed, coalition bombs destroyed the main bridge from the port of Hodeidah to the capital of Sanaa, a main supply route for humanitarian food aid, Oxfam International said.

Another U.S. official said the bridge was on a U.S. no-strike list

Meanwhile, the sales go on. As we reported previously, despite demands to halt it, the Obama administration went ahead with a $1.3 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia last year. More than 60 U.S. House of Representatives members urged Obama not to do the deal, but the push to block that sale failed in the U.S. Senate on Sept. 21.

Some critics say the administration’s approach has failed.

In the law of war, you can be guilty for aiding and abetting war crimes and at some point the … evidence is going to continue to mount and I think the administration is now in an untenable situation,” said Congressman Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and former military prosecutor.

Of course, if and when the evidence becomes too big to ignore, whoever is the prosecutor will simply be replaced, bought out or silenced by other more unconventional means, because if there is anything the past few months of Clinton scandals have shown us, it is that US foreign policy goes to the highest bidder, a list topped by – you guessed it – Saudi Arabia.

Following the White House’s decision to suspend talks with Russia regarding the ongoing conflict in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the “efforts to end Syria’s war must continue.”

Contending Russia’s approach to the Syrian civil war is “irresponsible” due to Vladimir Putin’s support for President Bashar al-Assad, the U.S. government accused Moscow of “not living up to its commitments to halt fighting and ensure aid reached besieged communities.” Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., called Russia’s bombing of Aleppo an act of “barbarism.”

The decision to halt communications with Russia “on the re-institution of the cessation of the hostilities agreement,” Kerry said, did not “come lightly.He vowed to continue “to try to find a way forward in order to end this war” some other way.

But despite the United States’ vows to continue to pursue an end to the Syrian war, it’s difficult to ignore the U.S. government’s decision to halt any bilateral talks with Moscow. This is mainly because, since 2015, the Obama administration has been calling on Assad to step down, often arguing “that the dictator serves as a magnet and recruiting aid for the jihadists of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and other groups engaged in the conflict.”

Unless the United States is willing to remove itself from the conflict entirely, it might be difficult for the Obama administration to “pursue peace” without being involved in regime changeespecially since the U.S. Syria campaign continues to be heavily criticized for the U.S. government’s lack of concern regarding the unintended consequences of their interference.

Furthermore, Kerry also accused Russia and Assad of “[rejecting] diplomacy in furtherance of trying to pursue a military victory over the broken bodies, the bombed-out hospitals, the traumatized children of a long-suffering land.” With these comments, Kerry seemed to sidestep the U.S. role in the suffering of the same people he professes to be concerned about, ignoring the U.S. botched military campaigns in the region — many of which targeted forces fighting terrorist groups like ISIS.

With what some might call Russia’s ongoing struggle to become less isolated at play, many believe Putin sees the support for the Syrian regime as a way to exert more power and influence in the region. But while Russia’s intentions may or may not be as honorable as its government professes, the country still has a lot to lose with the spread of Islamic terrorist forces in the region — a problem that does not impact the United States.

While the United States accuses Russia of “[bombing] civilian populations into submission,” the U.S. runs the risk of being called out for its own record of aggressive and unsuccessful military interventions in the Middle East in the past decades. But instead of admitting to its mistakes and living up to the administration’s vows to steer away from becoming more heavily involved in the Syrian civil war, the U.S. government, according to Russian officials, is pursuing a more “threatening” approach despite its promise of working for peace, using “a language of sanctions and ultimatums” and taking part in “selective cooperation with [Russia] … where this cooperation [only] benefits the United States.

While members of U.S. military leadership push back against the U.S. government’s intrusive tactics, we’re left wondering whether President Obama will escalate the American military’s involvement in Syria during his last months in office.

Instead of pushing for more involvement, he could simply be buying the government some time until the next president takes over, as Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton’s own campaign admits her policy toward Syria would include regime change.

The fate of the relationship between Russia and the United States may soon be in the hands of Obama’s pick, and as many have repeatedly pointed out, that could put the two major world powers at odds, igniting a conflict that could even trigger war beyond the Syrian conflict.

Washington looks to have shifted its approach to Russia to language of intimidation and threats. On Wednesday, US State Department Spokesman John Kirby said that if the Syrian army’s offensive does not stop, Russian cities may be faced with the threat of terror attacks. Russian terrorism experts respond, commenting on the implicit threat.
Speaking at a press briefing, Kirby suggested that if Russian-supported Syrian military operations aren’t halted immediately, “extremist groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which could include attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities. Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and will continue to lose resources, perhaps even aircraft.”

The Syrian Army’s successful offensive against the eastern, militant-controlled portion of the city of Aleppo is the reason for this new aggressive tone, according to Russian observers. On Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov revealed that his counterpart, John Kerry, had threatened to halt cooperation with Russia unless the Syrian military’s offensive, backed by Russian air power, was stopped.

Svobodnaya Pressa columnist Andrei Polunin suggested that Washington’s concerns are entirely understandable, even if their rhetoric is unacceptable. “If Bashar Assad’s army manages to capture Aleppo, Syria’s second city, it will mean a turning point in the war, resulting in Damascus regaining control over the country’s strategic centers. This, in turn, will be a huge blow to the opposition forces supported by Washington.”
Naturally, this scenario does not suit the White House, Polunin added. In addition to Secretary of State Kerry’s warning, White House Spokesman Josh Earnest threatened “additional sanctions” against Russia in the event that hostilities are not stopped.
On Thursday, Reuters reported, citing anonymous officials, that the US response might include allowing Gulf States to supply the rebels with more sophisticated weapons, or even a deliberate US Air Force attack on a Syrian air base.
In this situation, Polunin suggested that Kirby’s threats “appear to be a kind of final warning. The question then arises: What is behind his words? Let’s begin with the fact that a limited Russian continent has been fighting in Syria for over year, and terrorist attacks inside Russia have yet to occur. Why would they start now? Is Washington threatening to give the go-ahead for the groups it controls in Syria to hit Russian territory?”
Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova couldn’t help but get the sense that this may very well be the case. In a Facebook post on Wednesday, she noted that all this “ventriloquism about ‘body bags’, ‘terrorist attacks in Russian cities’ and ‘loss of aircraft’ sounds more like a ‘get ’em’ command, rather than a diplomatic comment.”
Speaking to Svobodnaya Pressa, Alexei Filatov, a retired FSB Lieut. Col. and vice president of the International Association of Veterans of the Alpha Anti-Terror Unit, suggested that first and foremost, it’s necessary to understand that “terrorism has long been a business.” Accordingly, “terror attacks and the threat of terror attacks have been used to deal with many serious economic and political issues.”
This reality of global geopolitics began to emerge with the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan, which eventually mutated into the Taliban, “not without the participation of foreign ‘investors’, including the United States,” and also includes terror groups al-Qaeda and Daesh, the analyst explained. “I believe that even Daesh was a direct consequence of policy pursued by NATO countries, led by Washington.”
In the current situation, Filatov suggested that any Russian action in Syria will necessarily result in a reaction. “Only a blind man cannot not see the connection between the beginning of our campaign in Syria and the destruction of the Russian Airbus A321 over the Sinai Peninsula. I think, unfortunately, that these are related events. The explosion onboard the aircraft was [Daesh’s] response to our active participation in the Syrian conflict. Moreover, I think that the more serious our participation, the higher the probability that various attacks against Russian citizens will be planned.”
With regard to Kirby’s remarks, the FSB officer suggested that “they sound like a direct threat. I have good reason to suppose that some terrorist acts planned by Daesh or the remnants of the Caucasus Emirate can take place with a certain level of participation by US agencies responsible for fighting terrorism.”
“In the best case, these US structures will not react to signals about imminent terror attacks on Russia; at worst they may even fund such activities. Again, I cannot exclude the possibility our foreign colleagues becoming involved in the preparation of terrorist attacks on Russian territory.”
Ultimately, Filatov emphasized that Russia’s security forces have had over 20 years of experience fighting terror. “Our experience in this area is huge. Russia today practically does not face the threat of complex, large-scale terrorist attacks. This speaks to the fact that our security services have learned how to deal with terrorism effectively. On the other hand, unfortunately, no security service can guarantee 100% protection against terror, especially in a situation where the risk of terror attacks is increased for political reasons.”
For his part, Stanislav Tarasov, director of the Middle East – Caucasus Research Center, suggested that Kirby’s words were extremely undiplomatic, to say the least, especially considering that Moscow still maintains a level of anti-terror cooperation with the United States.
“It’s worth recalling that Americans have been victims of acts of terror for which radical Islamists were responsible. But instead of cooperating with Moscow, including on the Syrian track, Washington arranges such provocations,” the analyst complained.
Ultimately, Tarasov suggested that Kirby’s statement seemed a kind of “a sign of the death throes of American policy in the region, and of US foreign policy in general.”
In any case, the analyst suggested that if Washington’s plans involve shifting militants from Syria to Russia, the recently reestablished cooperation between Ankara and Moscow, including anti-terrorist cooperation, should undermine such plans. “It’s necessary to understand that today, Moscow and Ankara are not interested in each other’s destabilization. Besides, relations between Turkey and the US today are not so trouble-free as they were before,” Tarasov noted.