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Friday, 4 September 2015

Putin: Assad Would "Accept" Snap Elections To Avoid "Total Chaos"

Overnight, we brought you the latest on the “friggin mess” (to quote the Pentagon) that is Syria, where Bashar al-Assad is desperately clinging to power while his depleted army fights a three-front war against a dizzying array of “freedom fighters”, jihadists, former CIA strategic assets, current CIA strategic assets, the Kurds, and god only knows who else. 

The Assad regime is (literally) surrounded by hostile states who are angling for his ouster and if you had any lingering doubts about why it is that everyone wants Syria’s strongman gone, look no further than this map:

Note the purple line which traces the proposed Qatar-Turkey natural gas pipeline and note that all of the countries highlighted in red are part of a new coalition hastily put together after Turkey finally (in exchange for NATO’s acquiescence on Erdogan’s politically-motivated war with the  PKK) agreed to allow the US to fly combat missions against ISIS targets from Incirlik. Now note which country along the purple line is not highlighted in red. That’s because Bashar al-Assad didn’t support the pipeline and now we’re seeing what happens when you’re a Mid-East strongman and you decide not to support something the US and Saudi Arabia want to get done. 

Of course if that pipeline gets built, it means Gazprom’s leverage over Europe is over and that’s bad news for Vladimir Putin and for Vladimir Putin’s personal money vault which is why Russia has so far stood behind Assad and also explains why now, the Russian military is operating in Syria alongside regime forces. 

But make no mistake, the Kremlin isn’t naive enough to miss the writing on the wall. Restoring the Assad of yesteryear likely isn’t an option here unless the Russians intend to take this all the way and engage in open combat with the US and its regional allies. Instead, it looks like Russia will do the following: send in the military using the very same excuse that everyone else has used (i.e. fighting ISIS, which at this point has been reduced to the scapegoat everyone uses whenever they want to do something that’s otherwise absurd) while hoping against hope that some manner of political compromise can be found that keeps Assad in power. On that latter point, we go to Bloomberg:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to share some power with his opponents, a concession that may facilitate a broader international coalition against Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia would consider participating in the coalition and the Russian president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Putin told reporters in Vladivostok on Friday. Russia has been pushing for a wider campaign against Islamic State that would include Assad, something the U.S. and Europe have opposed.

“There is a general understanding that joint efforts in the fight against terrorism should go hand by hand with the political process in Syria,” Putin said. Assad “agrees to this,” and has also agreed to early parliamentary elections and to include “healthy opposition” in the government, said Putin, a key ally of the Syrian president. Four Syrian lawmakers couldn’t be immediately reached for comment.

Putin’s comments came after reports this week that Russia is ramping up its involvement in Syria. Russian troops are fighting with Assad’s forces and images of what appeared to be Russian planes and drones in the skies over Syria have been published, the U.K.’s The Telegraph newspaper reported on Sept. 2. Russia’s Defence Ministry has denied any direct military intervention.

Putin’s comments indicate he’s not ready to accept U.S. and European demands for Assad’s departure at this stage, said Irina Zvyagelskaya, a senior fellow at the Russian Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow. Even so, Russia isn’t committed to preserving his rule indefinitely, she said.

“It’s a signal that we won’t stick to Assad at all costs, but we consider the most important thing is to preserve Syria as a state,” Zvyagelskaya said. “Otherwise you risk total chaos.”

Now obviously, the idea that somehow Syria is going to be able to organize and carry out any kind of elections amid the violence is beyond ridiculous or, as Sami Nader, head of the Beirut-based Levant Institute for Strategic Affairs politely puts it, "how can you organize a fair election in a country that’s shattered by war, with no security, fair electoral law or freedoms?”

Well, you can't, which is why there will be no political solution here and Putin will eventually (and it now looks like "eventually" means "sooner rather than later") have to decide whether to draw a line in the sand (perhaps literally) and tell anyone and everyone including ISIS, al-Nusra, the US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Qatar that Assad is staying in power and that's that.

In the end, the more likely scenario is, as we've always predicted, that the Assad regime falls and (very) shortly thereafter, US marines storm in to "liberate" Damascus at which point a puppet government will be installed - a puppet government which will coincidentally see the utility in allowing the Qatar-Turkey pipeline to be run through Syria.


UK report on ham and cheese pizza found they often contain neither


Attention, residents of Derbyshire, England! You may already know this, but the local pizza is bad.

In an unbylined report, The Derby Telegraph exposes two-thirds of local pies as containing undisclosed substitutes.

Of the samples tested, eight were found to contain a mixture of cheese and cheese substitute rather than 100% cheese, five contained turkey ham instead of ham and one pizza contained salt higher than the recommended amount. The council’s trading standards team is also investigating a supplier who misled a business by claiming they were selling real cheese.

Further tests revealed it was a mixture of cheese and cheese substitute. It is now issuing reminders to food businesses warning them that they could face prosecution under the Food Safety Act if they do not describe food correctly or properly label it for sale. Councillor Dave Allen, cabinet member for health and communities, said: “It’s important that we keep consumers safe from any misleading or false information when it comes to what’s in their food.



Texas Sheriff Says You Have To Obey the Police Because Their ‘Authority Comes From God’


A Texas sheriff recently lashed out at critics, saying that citizens have a moral obligation to “obey the police” because their “authority comes from God.”

Randy Meeks is the Hunt County sheriff, and he believes he is doing “God’s work.”

Meeks recently published a guest editorial in the local Herald-Banner. In it, he cited Bible verses that he claims argue that any one the government puts in charge of you must be obeyed.

The article was run in print only, but photographed by our friend Brett Sanders. Check out those images below…



Brett posted these photographs just days after a grand jury cleared one of Meeks’ deputies for beating a pregnant Air Force veteran, which we reported on the same night that Brett informed us of this incident.

Meeks decided that now was the time to break his silence on the role of police in the community.

“Due to recent events, I can no longer be silent concerning what our country allows,” Meeks stated. “It is amazing to me that the criminals who break into our homes and steal from us, those who sell drugs to our children, those who abuse innocent and defenseless children, those who rape our wives and daughters, those who commit cold-blooded murders are all innocent until proven guilty.”

“Yet, law enforcement officers are found guilty as soon as it ‘appears’ that the officer has done something wrong,” he continued. “Way before the whole incident can be reviewed and the TRUTH obtained, that officer is found guilty and nobody cares what the facts are. This folks, is a travesty!”

Meeks asked rhetorically, “What has our country come to? When will we wake up to the fact that a country established ‘under God’ is now a Godless nation. People evidently don’t want law and order. They want to kill, threaten and to harm the very officers who are in place to protect them.”

Hoping to deal the final blow to his critics, he cited Paul’s letter to the Romans, saying: “Guess where that authority comes from to law enforcement? It comes from God,” Meeks wrote. “Read Romans 13:1 in the Bible. And while you are at it, you folks in Ferguson, Baltimore, Arlington and here, take a Gander at Romans 13:2.”

The sheriff added that anyone who criticizes the police is defying God, and that this is merely “the ignorance of some people.” He urged officers to “hang in there” while Godless citizens criticize them for punching pregnant women in the belly.

Do you agree with the Sheriff and his use of the Bible to justify police brutality? 

Flashpoint: White House Confirms Russian Presence In Syria, Warns It Is "Destabilizing"

Two days ago we reported something which we had anticipated for a long time but nonetheless did not expect to take shape so swiftly: namely, that with Assad's regime close to collapse and fighting a war on three different fronts (one of which is directly supported by US air and "advisor" forces), Putin would have no choice but to finally intervene in the most anticipated showdown in recent history as "Russian fighter pilots are expected to begin arriving in Syria in the coming days, and will fly their Russian air force fighter jets and attack helicopters against ISIS and rebel-aligned targets within the failing state."

This was indirectly confirmed the very next day when an al-Nusra linked Twitter account posted pictures of a Russian drone and a Su-34 fighter jet - the kind which is not flown by the Syrian air force - flying over the Nusra-controlled western idlib province.

Another twitter account said to have captured Russian soldiers in Zabadani "while fighting for Assad"


Also, one day after our report, the Telegraph reported that "Syrian state TV reportedly broadcasts footage of Russian soldiers and armoured vehicle fighting alongside pro-Assad troops." According to the article, "the video footage claimed to show troops and a Russian armoured vehicle fighting Syrian rebels alongside President Bashar al-Assad's troops in Latakia. It is reportedly possible to hear Russian being spoken by the troops in the footage."

It added that "a Russian naval vessel was photographed heading south through the Bosphorus strait carrying large amounts of military equipment, according to social media and a shipping blog" while "an unnamed activist with the Syrian rebel group the Free Syrian Army told The Times: “The Russians have been there a long time."

"There are more Russian officials who came to Slunfeh in recent weeks. We don’t know how many but I can assure you there has been Russian reinforcement.” "

Then earlier today we got the closest thing to a confirmation from the White House itself which confirmed that "it was closely monitoring reports that Russia is carrying out military operations in Syria, warning such actions, if confirmed, would be "destabilising and counter-productive."

Obama spokesman Joshn Earnest essentially confirmed Russia was already operating in Syria when he said that "we are aware of reports that Russia may have deployed military personnel and aircraft to Syria, and we are monitoring those reports quite closely."

"Any military support to the Assad regime for any purpose, whether it's in the form of military personnel, aircraft supplies, weapons, or funding, is both destabilising and counterproductive."

And another confirmation: "a US official confirmed that "Russia has asked for clearances for military flight to Syria," but added "we don't know what their goals are."

"Evidence has been inconclusive so far as to what this activity is."

Other reports have suggested Russia has targeted Islamic State group militants, who have attacked forces loyal to Russian-backed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

Both the White House and the Pentagon refused to say whether they had intelligence suggesting the reports were accurate.

Of course, what is left unsaid is that since Russia is there under the humanitarian pretext of fighting the evil ISIS, the same pretext that the US, Turkey, and the Saudis are all also there for, when in reality everyone is fighting for land rights to the most important gas pipeline in decades, the US is limited in its diplomatic recoil.

Indeed as we sarcastically said last week: "See: the red herring that is ISIS can be used just as effectively for defensive purposes as for offensive ones. And since the US can't possibly admit the whole situation is one made up farce, it is quite possible that the world will witness its first regional war when everyone is fighting a dummy, proxy enemy which doesn't really exist, when in reality everyone is fighting everyone else!"

* * *

Which now effectively ends the second "foreplay" phase of the Syrian proxy war (the first one took place in the summer of 2013 when in a repeat situation, Russia was supporting Assad only the escalations took place in the naval theater with both Russian and US cruisers within kilometers of each other off the Syrian coast), which means the violent escalation phase is next. It also means that Assad was within days of losing control fighting a multi-front war with enemies supported by the US, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, and Putin had no choice but to intervene or else risk losing Gazprom's influence over Europe to the infamous Qatari gas pipeline which is what this whole 3 years war is all about.

Finally, it means that the European refugee crisis, which is a direct consequence of the ISIS-facilitated destabilization of the Syrian state (as a reminder, ISIS is a US creation meant to depose of the Syrian president as leaked Pentagon documents have definitively revealed) is about to get much worse as 2013's fabricated "chemical gas" YouTube clip will be this years "Refugee crisis." It will be, and already has been, blamed on Syria's president Assad in order to drum up media support for what is now an inevitable western intervention in Syria.

The problem, however, has emerged: Russia is already on the ground, and will hardly bend over to any invading force.

Finally, while we have no way of knowing how the upcoming armed conflict will progress, now may be a safe time to take profits on that oil short we recommended back in October, as the geopolitical chess game just shifted dramatically, and with most hedge funds aggressively short, any realization that the middle east is suddenly a far more violent powderkeg - one which may promptly include the Saudis in any confrontation - could result in an epic short squeeze.