Pindostan steps up anti-Russian rhetoric over Syria
Robert Stevens, WSWS, Oct 17 2016
Talks over Syria were held in London Sunday between Jackass Kerry and EU foreign ministers. The London talks were nominally convened by UK FM Boris Johnson, but representatives of 10 countries gathered to hear Jackass report on his previous day’s talks in Lausanne with Sergei Lavrov. Present in London were FMs Ayrault, Steinmeier and Gentiloni of France, Germany and Italy respectively. In addition, there were representatives from a number of Gulf States which play a key role in backing the militias fighting to remove Assad. At the Lausanne meeting, which lasted four-and-a-half hours without reaching any agreement, were Turks, Toads, Thanis, Jordanians, Egyptians, Iraqis & Iranians. EU reps did not attend, at the insistence of Russia. Lavrov stated that the only basis for a ceasefire in Syria was the separation of the so-called “moderate” rebels from Nusra. In the run-up to the weekend’s talks, with the backing of the Labour Party right wing, Johnson had led calls for Moscow to be indicted for “war crimes” in Syria, describing Russia as a “pariah” state. He told parliament it was not realistic for the opposition fighters in eastern Aleppo to disentangle themselves from Nusra in advance of a ceasefire. The London talks would include discussions on further “military options,” he added. On Sunday, ahead of the talks, the Guardian reported:
(Johnson has) formed an axis with Jackass Kerry and the French government to consider the longer-term viability of imposing a no-bombing zone in Syria. A no-bombing zone would cover the whole of Syria and would prohibit bombing from all aircraft. Monitoring would be conducted by existing western assets in the region, with any breach of the ceasefire leading to a reprisal on Syrian targets such as runways or regime installations, but not on Russian targets.
In the press conference after the foreign ministers meeting, Johnson made a few cursory remarks, after which only Jackass spoke. Johnson spoke of “appalling slaughter by the Assad regime and its puppeteers in the form of the Russians and the Iranians.” Jackass described the situation in Syria as “the largest of humanitarian disasters” since WW2 and said:
We are considering additional sanctions and we are also making clear that Pres Obama has not taken any options off the table.
He warned that Syria risked not only “lighting a fire” under a larger Middle Eastern war, but risked a confrontation “between superpowers.” He pledged that Pindostan would continue to oppose Assad and Russia, even in the event of Aleppo falling to government forces, saying:
The Russians should understand, and Assad needs to understand, that that does not end the war.
His bellicose comments underscore the White House’s strategy of demonising Russia in an attempt to create a climate in which it can justify a confrontation with Moscow. Speaking to NBC Meet the Press on Sunday, Biden said that Pindostan could retaliate against Russia, which he accused of a series of cyber-attacks targeting the DNC and other political institutions. On Friday, NBC reported that Pindostan is preparing a CIA-led cyber-attack on Russia. Biden said:
We’re sending a message. We have the capacity to do it… It will be at the time of our choosing, and under the circumstances that have the greatest impact.
On Friday, Obama met his NSC to discuss stepping up military efforts in Syria. According to a Reuters report:
One set of options includes direct military action such as airstrikes on Syrian military bases, munitions depots or radar and anti-aircraft bases (boxtops said). They consider it unlikely that Obama will order airstrikes on Syrian government targets.
The London talks were in anticipation of further discussions over the Syrian conflict between EU foreign ministers being held today in Luxembourg. Later this week a two-day summit in Brussels is to centre on the EU’s broader relationship with Russia. The Obama administration is doing everything possible to build support for stepped-up military action against Assad that would mean direct confrontation with Russia. Central to this goal is to secure a common position among the European powers, who are not all in agreement with Pindo policy over Syria or Russia. Ahead of today’s meeting of EU foreign ministers, ForeignPolicy.com wrote that under the pressure of Pindostan and its main vassals, EU FMs are planning to formally and explicitly admonish Russia for “supporting the Syrian government’s deadly assault on Aleppo, an attack that ‘may amount to war crimes.’ The article reveals:
An earlier draft of the EU statement did not include a direct reference to Russia, but has been added at the insistence of the French, British and German governments. (They are) also expected to support the imposition of sanctions on as many as 20 Syrian government officials who have had a role in the bombardment.
The article cites Jeff Rathke, a former State Dept official who is now employed developing strategies on Europe at CSIS, as saying:
As Pindostan appears to be reviewing its options, it’s important to send a message that Russia could face costs for its actions. So the more clear Europe is about a hardening line, the better.
Another dilemma facing Pindo imperialism is the deep opposition among the world’s population to its war drive, especially in Europe. Asked by a journalist from Sky News when he would say “enough is enough” and not be “beholden to Russia,” Jackass acknowledged this opposition, stating:
I haven’t seen a big appetite in Europe of people to go to war. I don’t see the parliaments of European countries ready to declare war. I don’t see a lot of countries deciding that that’s the better solution here.
Notwithstanding Jackass’ comments, the goal of Pindostan is to assert its control over the entire Eurasian landmass. It is determined to press ahead with confronting and defeating Russia militarily in order to achieve this, with humanity confronted with the prospect of a devastating war between two nuclear-armed powers. No matter the outcome of this week’s talks, Pindostan will respond even more aggressively in order to secure its overall goals.
Here’s what happened:
EU Scolds Russia as It Urges Moscow to Stop Bombing Aleppo
AP, Oct 17 2016
LUXEMBOURG — Eurostan urged Russia to bring about a swift end to the bombing of Aleppo in Syria but refrained from imposing any sanctions on Moscow, even though it said the attacks on the city could amount to war crimes. At a regular meeting of foreign ministers from the EU’s 28 member states on Monday, several ministers said sanctions against Russia would have no impact and could even be counter-productive in the search for an overall settlement to the conflict in Syria. German FM Steinmeier said:
At present, I don’t see how sanctions with a possible long-term effect are supposed to contribute to improving supplies to the civilian population. So I am not the only one who, in this case, is rather skeptical about sanctions.
In a statement following their meeting, ministers said the Syrian “regime and its allies, notably Russia,” had used “clearly disproportionate” violence in Aleppo. It said the offensive targeting hospitals, schools, were part of attacks that “may amount to war crimes.” While EU ministers were discussing Syria, the head of Russia’s military general staff said Russian and Syrian forces are preparing a “humanitarian pause” for the besieged city on Thursday. Lt-Gen Sergei Rudskoi was quoted as saying Monday that Russian and Syrian forces will halt their fighting from 0800 to 1600 on Oct 20 in order to allow civilians and rebels safe passage out of the city as well as for the evacuation of the sick and wounded. EU’s Federica Mogherini described the apparent Russian move as “a positive step” but noted that UN agencies have indicated that at least 12 hours would be needed for such an operation to be successful. She said:
I believe that there will be a little bit of work to be done to find the common ground.
The EU is looking for a lot more than just a temporary pause and in a common statement ministers called on Russia to (force Syria to surrender – RB). Even though Russia was not threatened with measures, the ministers are targeting more Syrians. They said:
(We will act) swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria, targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues.
The EU sanctions are likely to include travel bans and a freeze of assets belonging to political figures and top military officials accused of crimes. EU sanctions on Syria were extended at the end of May until Jun 2017. More than 200 people and 70 entities including companies and associations have been targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze over the violent repression of civilians. French FM Ayrault said Russia can count on the West to help in counter-terrorism efforts but insisted at the same time:
Everything possible must be done to stop the bombing and allow humanitarian aid to get to the population.
Likening the attacks on Aleppo to Russia’s destruction of the Chechen capital Grozny in 1999 and 2000, Ayrault said Russia is locked in “the logic of destruction, alongside the Assad regime.” Talks over the weekend failed to secure any breakthrough likely to lead to a fresh cease-fire or open up access for humanitarian aid. But like the major powers directly involved in Syria talks, EU countries are divided over the best way ahead. And possible sanctions against Russia showed that division. Austrian FM Kurz said:
Sanctions against Russia don’t ease the suffering of the civilians in Aleppo. Rather the contrary. This can lead to a further escalation.
EU condemns Russia over Aleppo, to impose more Syrian sanctions
Robin Emmott, Reuters, Oct 17 2016
LUXEMBOURG – The EU on Monday condemned Russia’s air campaign in Syria, saying it may be guilty of war crimes, and it vowed to impose more sanctions on Assad’s government. Calling for an immediate ceasefire in rebel-held east Aleppo, the EU’s 28 foreign ministers said in a statement:
Since the beginning of the offensive by the regime and its allies, notably Russia, the intensity and scale of the aerial bombardment of eastern Aleppo is clearly disproportionate. The deliberate targeting of hospitals, medical personnel, schools and essential infrastructure … may amount to war crimes.
The EU said the atrocities in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court, although it was unclear how or when. It called for an immediate end to conflict, seeking a wider role for EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to talk to regional powers including Turks, Toads & Iranians. The statement marked the EU’s harshest criticism of Russia’s role in Syria and came after days of negotiations and resistance from Russia’s allies in Europe. It was Europe’s second attempt to isolate Russia diplomatically this month, after France and Spain led a push for a UN-backed ceasefire in New York, which Russia vetoed. Relations have sunk to lows not seen since the Cold War over the crisis in Ukraine. Some countries, including Austria and parts of the German government, worry about worsening ties even further. France and Britain pushed hard for the support of all the bloc’s 28 governments. French FM Ayrault said the EU had a moral obligation to act, “to stop the massacre of the population of Aleppo.” A briefing by de Mistura at the meeting in Luxembourg appeared to help swing doubters. He warned:
Between now and December, if we don’t find a solution for Aleppo, Aleppo won’t be there anymore.
The EU also said it was ready to put more Syrians suspected of directing attacks on civilians in Aleppo under travel bans and asset freezes, in addition to the existing sanctions list of 208 people and 69 companies under sanctions which is likely to grow, diplomats said, in addition to its oil and arms embargo. In their statement, EU foreign ministers said:
(We will act) swiftly … with the aim of imposing further restrictive measures against Syria, targeting Syrian individuals and entities supporting the regime as long as the repression continues.
Britain has also raised the prospect of sanctions on Russians involved in the Syrian conflict, diplomats told Reuters, although that had less support on Monday. Boris Johnson, who held talks with Jackass Kerry on Sunday in London, said London was considering imposing additional sanctions on Assad’s supporters, without naming Russia. Spain would back Russian sanctions if they helped “bring Russia’s position closer to ours,” acting FM Garcia-Margallo said. EU leaders will discuss Russia and possibly talk about new sanctions at a summit on Thursday. Russia’s closest EU allies Greece, Cyprus and Hungary oppose such penalties. Austria, a transit point for flows for Russian gas to Europe, also voiced its opposition on Monday. Austrian FM Kurz told reporters:
The idea to have additional sanctions against Russia would be wrong. We do not need a further escalation.
German FM Steinmeier rejected imposing more punitive measures on Russia, although a German newspaper cited sources saying that Merkel favoured the idea.
Russia says to halt Aleppo strikes for eight hours on Thursday
Reuters, Oct 17 2016
Russian and Syrian armed forces will pause attacks on Aleppo for eight hours on Thursday to allow civilians and rebels to leave the city, the Russian Defence Ministry said on Monday. But Moscow ruled out a lasting ceasefire, saying that would only give rebels in the city an opportunity to regroup. The UN, which has long called for weekly 48-hour humanitarian pauses in the fighting, welcomed the Russian announcement. UN spox Stephane Dujarric told reporters:
Any lessening of the violence, lessening of the fighting, any pause that’s actually implemented, would be very much welcome. We will use whatever pause we have to do whatever we can. Obviously there is a need for a longer pause in order to get trucks in.
Speaking at a briefing in Moscow, Lt-Gen Sergei Rudskoy said:
Given the situation, a unilateral ceasefire makes no sense: Jabhat al-Nusra and groups allied to it will once again be given a breather, will regroup and restore their military capability. Russia is working with other powers to achieve a peace deal for Aleppo, but that will take time, so in the meantime we have decided to initiate a humanitarian pause. The pause is intended first and foremost so that civilians can move freely, for the evacuation of the sick and wounded, and also for the removal of rebels. On Oct 20 from 0800 until 1600, a humanitarian pause will be implemented in the area of Aleppo. For that period, Russia’s air force and Syrian government forces will halt air strikes and firing from other weapons.