G20, as regards Putin, and the toads

Tillerson: Russia Should Decide Assad’s Fate
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jul 3 2017

And so, three months after the State Dept famously flip-flopped, when first at the end of March Rex Tillerson said at a news conference that “the longer term status of Pres Assad will be decided by the Syrian people … our priority is no longer to sit and focus on getting Assad out,” only to follow one week later with Tillerson’s warning to Russia that “coalition steps are underway to remove Assad,” which in turn segued into the first attack on Syrian soil with the launch of no less than 59 cruise missiles, Pindostan has done it again and according to ForeignPolicy.com, Tillerson has once again told UN Sec-Gen Guterres that Assad’s fate now lies in the hands of Russia, and that the Trump administration’s priority is limited to defeating Daesh. The striking reversal was announced during a private State Dept meeting last week, according to three diplomatic sources cited by FP. And, as FP adds:

The remarks offer the latest stop on a bumpy Pindosi policy ride that has left international observers with a case of diplomatic whiplash as they try to figure out whether the Trump administration will insist that Assad step down from power. Nearly three months ago, Tillerson had insisted that Assad would have to leave office because of his alleged use of chemical weapons.

The news, which will again be met with an angry response by neocons like John McCain, as happened in March , signaled the Trump administration’s increasing willingness to let Russia take the driver’s seat in Syria. Tillerson also signaled that military action against Assad’s forces in recent months is intended to achieve only limited tactical goals: deterring future chemical weapons attacks and protecting forces fighting Daesh in Syria, not weakening the Assad government or strengthening the opposition’s negotiating leverage. And a startling admission by the website owned by the Slate Group:

Tillerson’s position reflects a recognition that Syria’s government, backed by Russia and Iran, is emerging as the likely political victor in the war. It also marks a further retreat from the 2012 Geneva Communique, which called for the establishment of a transitional government with members of the regime and the opposition. The Geneva pact, according to the Obama administration and its Western vassals, was to result in Assad’s departure from power.

When asked for a comment, a State Dept official said:

Pindostan remains committed to the Geneva process and supports a credible political process that can resolve the question of Syria’s future. Ultimately, this process, in our view, will lead to a resolution of Assad’s status. The Syrian people should determine their country’s political future through a political process.

Some more details:

The decision to cede ground to Russia on the question of Assad’s future comes on the eve of Pres Trump’s first face-to-face meeting next week with Pres Putin on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Hamburg. It also comes at a time when the Trump administration is seeking to repair relations with the Kremlin despite a series of scandals that have plagued the White House since Trump’s election. Tillerson said earlier this month that Trump tasked him with repairing the broken Pindo-Russia relationship. He has also cautioned Congress that new sanctions against Russia for its alleged role in interfering in the election could undercut efforts to cooperate with Moscow on Syria.

And this is the part the neocons will hate the most. Tillerson made clear to Guterres that Pindostan was once again shifting gears. One source said Tillerson said in last week’s meeting that what happens to Assad is Russia’s issue, not Pindostan’s, and that the latter would respond to the terrorist threat, but was largely agnostic about whether Assad goes or stays. Tillerson’s retreat suggests the State Dept is willing to skirt the ethical morass of what to do about the Assad regime as it navigates the dense thicket of conflicting alliances fighting in Syria. State Dept Spox Heather Nauert told reporters Wednesday:

The reason that Pindostan is involved in Syria is to take out Daesh. That’s why we care and that’s why we are there.

Fred Hof, a former State Dept advisor on Syria, called the Trump administration’s stance on Russia in Syria “confusing.” He pinned the blame on Trump’s lack of a coherent, overarching national security strategy, saying:

There’s no hymnal that’s supposed to guide how everybody sings. The fact that there are multiple voices and stances coming out on this doesn’t surprise me. It is one thing to walk away from the problem and say let the Russians take care of it. It’s another thing to assume you can actually get somewhere policy-wise by relying on the Russians to deliver good results.

FP observes the anger already building following the latest pivot, mostly among legacy staffers from the Obama administration.Former senior Pindo boxtops are vexed by how the Trump administration is ceding political ground on Syria to the Kremlin for almost nothing in return. Evelyn Farkas, former deputy asst sec def for Russia, said:

The things we’re hearing coming out of the administration have mainly to do with what Pindostan might offer Russia, and not the other way around. Moscow stands to benefit the most from the contradictory messages coming out of Faschingstein. Without a clear agenda going into the meeting next week with Putin at the G20, there’s a danger the president will get outfoxed.

The latest pivot by the Trump administration means that it is only a matter of time before yet another staged “chemical attack” is widely publicized by the press, greenlighting yet another escalation of hostilities against the Assad regime, and so on, because to those in the deep state hell bent on preserving the New Cold War between Pindostan and Russia, there is no such thing as a discredited narrative.

Trump To Talk Syria, Ukraine With Putin At G20; “Russian Meddling” Reportedly Not On The Agenda
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jul 3 2017

Last week we quipped that it appeared as though Trump had officially scheduled his first kick-off planning session for the 2020 presidential elections when NBC News confirmed that he and Putin would meet later this week at the G-20 Summit in Hamburg. While details are still scarce on the agenda for the meeting, the White House is now saying that discussions between the two controversial world leaders will center around Syria and Ukraine. Per The Hill:

Pres Trump reportedly plans to talk with Pres Putin about Syria and Ukraine when the two leaders meet later this week. Two admin boxtops told CNN the talks will likely focus around the disputes in Syria and Ukraine, but there has not yet been a formal outline for the meeting. Trump is expected to talk to Putin about Russia’s support for Pres Assad and Moscow’s actions in Ukraine.

Unfortunately, and much to the chagrin of CNN, “Russian meddling” will apparently not be a topic of conversation.

Admin boxtops also don’t expect Trump will bring up the Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election during his meeting with Putin, the network reported.

Of course, while the media is intensely looking for hints of what will be discussed, McMaster told reporters last Thursday:

There is no specific agenda. It’s really going to be whatever the president wants to talk about.

But while the White House is planning to improvise, The Guardian notes this morning that Moscow has been planning how to address this first meeting for months now.

Maxim Suchkov, a member of the Moscow-based Russian International Affairs Council, said foreign policy experts had been invited by the foreign ministry as early as March to “brainstorm” ideas about what Moscow should be offering and asking for. Suchkov said that Russian diplomats were thinking about the relationship in “four big baskets”, including regional issues such as Ukraine and Syria, establishing military channels of communication, and economic relations. The biggest and vaguest of the four involved the contours of the international order, and in particular “what world would Pindostan & Russia want to live in peacefully.” Lavrov, set out in a speech on Friday what such a new order would look like. In place of the west seeking to impose “pseudo-liberal values” across the globe there would be a balancing of the national interests of major powers, he said.

One of Moscow’s immediate demands is the return of two Russian diplomatic compounds, in Maryland and New York, from where its officials were expelled by the Obama administration in December. The White House led by Trump has explored handing back the sites, perhaps stripped of diplomatic immunity, but the issue is politically fraught in Faschingstein at a time when the city is gripped by the Russia investigations. Meanwhile, with the Senate already voting 98-2 to strengthen sanctions against Russia, all eyes will also be watching to see whether Trump’s views on potentially relaxing those sanctions shift. The House is expected to vote on the measures in the days following the Trump-Putin meeting. Any unilateral action by Trump in Hamburg to relax pressure on Moscow is liable to cause a backlash in Faschingstein.

Toads Grant Qatar 2-Day Ultimatum Extension As Toad King Unexpectedly Skips G20 Summit
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jul 3 2017

With the original ultimatum issued by four Arab states accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism, expiring at midnight on Sunday, the Toad-led coalition agreed to extend the deadline for Doha to comply with its list of demands until late on Tuesday, even as Pres Trump voiced concern to both sides about the dispute. According to a joint statement posted on Toad state news agency SPA, the four countries agreed to a request by Kuwait to extend by 48 hours Sunday’s deadline for compliance. They have not specified what further sanctions they could impose on Doha, but commercial bankers in the region believe that Toad, Emirati and Bahraini banks might receive official guidance to pull deposits and interbank loans from Qatar. As Reuters adds, foreign ministers from the four countries will meet in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss Qatar, while Arab media reported that the Qatari foreign minister arrived in Kuwait on Monday to deliver Doha’s formal response to the Arab demands. Mediation efforts, including by Pindostan, have so far proven fruitless after the four states cut diplomatic and commercial ties with Qatar on June 5, accusing it of supporting terrorism, meddling in their internal affairs and advancing the agenda of regional foe Iran, all of which Qatar denies. The White House said:

Pres Trump spoke to the Toad King, the Emir of Qatar and the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi (of his) concerns about the ongoing dispute. He reiterated the importance of stopping terrorist financing and discrediting extremist ideology. The president also underscored that unity in the region is critical to accomplishing the Riyadh Summit’s goals of defeating terrorism and promoting regional stability. Pres Trump nevertheless believes that the overriding objective of his initiative is the cessation of funding for terrorism.

Meanwhile, Qatari boxtops say the demands are so strict that the four countries never seriously intended them as a negotiating position and see them as being aimed at hobbling Doha’s sovereignty. As we reported over the weekend, Qatar called the charges baseless and said the demands, which include closing al-Jazeera TV and ejecting Turkish troops based there, are so severe that they seem intended to be rejected, with the Qatar Foreign Minister saying:

There is no fear from our direction. We are ready to face the consequences.

Still, Qatar said it is interested in negotiating a fair and just solution to “any legitimate issues” of concern to the GCC. As we discussed last weekend, the UAE’s minister of state for foreign affairs, Anwar Gargash, has played down the chances of an escalation, saying that the alternative is not escalation but parting ways. Qatar may be forced out of the GCC. Gulf countries have insisted the demands were non-negotiable. While it appears that neither side is particularly interested in escalating the Qatar “crisis” to its next level, whatever it may be, the most interesting news came out this morning when Reuters reported that the Toad King will not attend a Jul 7-8 summit of the G20 in Hamburg, a German government spox said on Monday, providing no reason for the decision. Steffen Seibert said the Toad government had notified Berlin that the 81-year-old monarch would not participate in the annual meeting of G20 leaders. It was not immediately clear what prompted the monarch’s sudden change in plans.

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