[Photo credit for the Trump-Lavrov handshake picture above: TASS/Russian Foreign Ministry]
Back in the early 1980s, the Soviet Politburo was impressed with the newly elected President Ronald Reagan showing spine by firing striking air traffic controller union members. Trump, who has often compared his policies with those of Reagan, may have intended to show the Russians and Chinese by firing Comey that he is very much in charge of the executive branch, contrary to the rumors that National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, various neocon infiltrators, and his own investor visa promoting in Beijing Kushner in-laws have usurped his authority.
After the false dawn of Trump’s election and anger in Moscow over the al-Shayrat Tomahawk missile strike launched on the basis of a manufactured chemical weapons incident, the two sides of Cold War 2.0 now have an opportunity to seriously negotiate. Talks between Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Lavrov which began with Trump’s post-election phone calls with Vladimir Putin followed by Tillerson being the guest of Putin and Lavrov in Moscow last month now appear to be bearing fruit. While the conflict in Ukraine remains unresolved but drifts into frozen status, the horrific war in Syria driven by the ambitions of the globalists and their neocon and Mideast Sunni powers frontmen to topple the Assad government at any cost may be approaching an end game.
Can a Soft Partition Via So-Called ‘Safe Zones’ End the War in Syria?
In northern Syria, the signs of at least quiet collusion between Moscow and Washington were evident when Russian and American units simultaneously placed themselves and their flags between the Kurdish YPG/SDF forces and the Turkish military. This has effectively bottled up any Turkish plans to advance further south toward ISIS held territory around Raqqa or disrupt the destruction of the Islamic State through spoiling attacks on the U.S. special forces-allied Kurds supply lines. Washington has added insult to the injury perceived by the Turks of limiting their freedom of action, by announcing that it will be officially arming the YPG/SDF, something it and NATO allies like Germany have been doing unofficially for months already.
Ankara has responded by making threats to reevaluate its strategic alliance with the U.S., since it considers the YPG to merely be a front for the PKK ‘terrorists’ who are waging a decades-old insurgency against Turkish troops and police inside Turkey. As the Russia Analyst wrote in a prior article, Washington’s moderate jihadi lobby aka supporters of the Syrian jihadists not officially affiliated with Al-Qaeda like the Middle East Institute’s Charles Lister are sympathetic to the Turks talking points regarding the YPG.
The only territory left for further Turkish Army operations on Syrian soil, by Moscow and likely the Trump Administration’s design, is now Idlib province. Not coincidentally, where the chemical false flag attack took place at Khan Sheikhoun in early April. That is, where the various non-ISIS jihadists have been crowded together following numerous truces with Damascus to evacuate from encircled enclaves with their families, transported north on the Syrian government’s green buses.
The result of concentrating so many jihadists in a relatively small corner of northern Syria is that the leaders still loyal to the ‘ex’ Al-Qaeda franchise of Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) are easier pickings for drone strikes, even as the safe zones agreement abjures the use of Russian, Syrian or U.S. Coalition jets in the designated areas. The jihadis are also infighting among themselves inside Deraa province in southern Syria, after being similarly squeezed into a small pocket where various warlords are competing for scarce resources from the civilian population. Also in the south, the ‘moderate rebels’ attempted a mini-offensive against Syrian Arab Army troops earlier this week, only to be repulsed. This failed attack appears to have been an attempt by the so-called ‘moderates’ acting under orders of their Sunni Gulf sponsors in Riyadh and Doha to spoil the SAA’s drive on territory sparsely controlled by the Islamic State, south of Palmyra.
Russian-Backed Syrian Push Against ISIS Imminent in the Desert Toward Deir Ez Zor
As veteran Mideast reporter Elijah J. Magnier writes this week, a major Syrian government offensive aided by Russian airpower and advisers is imminent to advance across the desert from Palmyra to the town of Al-Suknah. After many false starts, delays, and the temporary loss of Palmyra to an ISIS counteroffensive last year, it now appears Damascus and more importantly Moscow are committed to lifting the ISIS siege of Deir Ez Zor. The eastern Syrian city, the linchpin to Damascus maintaining an overland route to friendly Iraqi Shi’a forces, has been under siege by ISIS terrorists for over two years.
While American, Jordanian and so-called moderate Syrian rebel forces mass in battalion strength or a push north toward the city, the Syrians and Russians appear to be ready to win the race advancing from the west (and with the help of Iraqi Shi'a PMU forces, perhaps from the east as well). Another tool likely to be used according to Magnier in the Russian-aided Syrian/Hezbollah and even Iraqi Shi’a militia advance across the desert may be paradrops (and no doubt, spetsnaz units operating) behind ISIS lines. Meanwhile, the U.S. is not letting up pressure on ISIS in the north, near Raqqa, thereby preventing the terrorists from easily shifting manpower around to counter SAA advances, as they did routinely when the Obama Administration went easy on them in 2015-16.
How Legacy Media and Twitter RUSSIANS! Hysteria is a Useful Distraction from U.S.-Russia Talks
Bringing the subject from the battle fields of the Mideast back to the White House, it appears the focus of Wednesday’s in person talks between Trump and Lavrov has been coordinating the fight with ISIS. Firing the corrupt, Swamp creature and leaker protecting FBI director Comey, when viewed this week from Moscow’s perspective, may be a cunning move on Trump’s part to distract his soft on ISIS political adversaries such as Sen. McCain from further U.S.-Russian cooperation in the eastern Syrian deserts.
Thus far, the best the neocons and their mainstream media allies could muster in response to Comey is Twitter outrage and too deranged for MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann going full Louise Mensch in tweeting to Trump that he’s a ‘m-fing traitor’. The fact that the White House requested the exclusion of the reporters (too many shouted questions about Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 election that Lavrov would predictably deny or ignore, like playing coy about Comey’s firing to troll the press corps) and that per diplomatic protocol the Russians were permitted one photographer from TASS to match the single White House photojournalist documenting the event, was spun into a tale of outrage. How dare Trump remove the American press from the kind of sensitive talks previous Presidents had with the Russians during the first Cold War! It’s treason! And what the hell was a smiling nonagenarian doing in the Oval Office, just to complete the arc of his March and May 2014 meetings with first Putin in Moscow and then Trump in New York, if not to make The Donald look more like his friend Roger Stone’s hero and Henry K’s former (nominal boss) Nixon?
A Russian photographer from the TASS news agency, who was the official photographer for Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov during his US trip, has spoken out about the hype surrounding his recent work assignment, describing the criticism as "absurd and ludicrous."
On Wednesday, photographer Aleksandr Shcherbak, together with an American photojournalist, were in the Oval Office ahead of the closed-door meeting between Lavrov and US President Donald Trump and tasked with taking official pictures to be distributed to international media.
"Proper protocol was followed in this procedure," the White House Deputy Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said at a Thursday press briefing, adding that the White House also "had an official photographer in the room."
However, the routine assignment triggered hysteria in the US media and spurred a range of conspiracy theories. There was even a suggestion that Shcherbak could have planted a spying device in the Oval Office.
“I cannot understand the hysteria around this issue,” Shcherbak told RT, rejecting such insinuations as ridiculous. “Everyone who’s has to undergo a standard screening procedure. First they checked me, then my belongings and devices, and only afterwards took me to the Oval Office.”
“I think this media outcry is due to their anger of not being allowed in for such an important meeting. But I’m not surprised anymore by what Western media outlets say. As we have seen they do not hold themselves to any ethical standard,” the photographer added.
Nonetheless, the legacy media’s tendency to play to the now cokehead levels of Cold War 2 paranoia for #TrumpRussia clicks and retweets distracted both Congress and Trump’s opposition from the substance of U.S.-Russia cooperation in Syria. Which for now, may be a good thing. Because at least, after so many months of fits and false starts, the adults are talking -- and achieving some positive results in the Middle East.