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FTR #1024 Ukrainian Fascism, Maidan Snipers and Implications for the Syrian War, Part 2

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This broadcast was recorded in one, 60-minute segment.

Introduction: On the 17th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, we continue with analysis of the Maidan shootings–an apparent “false flag” operation–and muse about the implications of that for the conflict in Syria, as well as Russian and American political life.

In the first part of the program, we finish reading the poster presentation that professor Ivan Katchanovski, PhD of the University of Ottawa presented at The 2018 Conference of American Political Science Associates.

Katchanovski has done a deep, detailed forensic study of the evidence in the Maidan sniper attacks. He has a rigorous, succinct digital multimedia ‘poster’ (an ‘iPoster’) for his finding that the Maidan sniper attacks were a false flag operation. That poster was presented during the 2018 American Political Science Association conference in Boston. It gives a high level overview of his research and is heavily embedded with substantive, documentary videos. Here are the contents of the poster. Be sure to check out the numerous images and videos included in the actual iPoster online.

He concludes his presentation with: “ . . . . The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation . . . . ”

In addition to the systematic manipulation of evidence to support the “Berkut/Yanukovych did it” hypothesis, the cover-up of contrary findings and the Western media silence about the realities of the Maidan killings are significant.

Note: Since FTR #1023 was recorded professor Katchanovski has posted a 59-minute-long video of the Maidan shootings. The video features TV footage from that day, with many clips clearly showing snipers operating from Maidan-controlled buildings. It also includes English subtitles and forensic descriptions of scenes. The footage includes a number of people being shot and killed–a grizzly 59-minutes, but absolutely invaluable in terms of establishing what actually happened.

The presentation of professor Katchanovski’s research in this program begins with the section titled “Cover-Up and Stonewalling.”

Additional perspective on the apparent non-investigation of the Maidan sniper shootings is provided by Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s Deputy Prosecutor and Chief Military Prosecutor:

Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, gave an extensive interview where he said that Jews are behind all wars and want to “drown ethnic Slavs in blood.”

Also recall the cryptic statement Matios made back in 2016 about the identity of the people involved with the 2014 sniper attacks: “When public learns who is involved in this, people will be very surprised.” In FTR #’s 982993,  1004, 1023we examined evidence that Ukrainian fascists may well have executed those sniper attacks. It is ominous that the chief military prosecutor who is involved in that investigation is a neo-Nazi. ” . . . . In an extensive interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Insider, Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which he implied that Jews want to drown ethnic Slavs in blood. . . .”

Returning to professor Katchanovski’s thought-provoking conclusion to his online poster: “ . . . . The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation . . . . ”

With the Syrian government apparently commencing an offensive to vanquish Al-Qaeda jihadis in Idlib province (with Russian military support), the stage is set for a possible Russian-U.S./Western military conflict.

Against the background of the Maidan sniping as a probable false flag provocation, the impending Syrian offensive to re-capture the last territorial enclave of the Islamists in Syria should be viewed with apprehension. As noted in the article we present, the so-called “rebels” are Al-Qaeda offshoots. Ominously, they have apparently successfully executed false-flag chemical weapons attacks before, including in Idlib province.

Russia has warned that such a provocation is in the wings–an unremarkable deduction in light of past history. In turn, the West has warned of retaliatory action if such actions are undertaken.

The stage appears set for an Islamist/Al-Qaeda chemical weapons false flag/provocation, upon which U.S., British and French military intervention will be predicated.

In this context, one should not lose sight of the fact that Chechnyan Islamist veterans of the Syrian war have already made their appearance in the combat in Eastern Ukraine, partnering with Pravy Sektor in their deployments. (The Chechen/Right Sector/Islamist link is discussed in FTR #’s 857, 862, 863, 872, 878, 893, 911.)

We note possible outcomes of U.S./Western Russian combat:

  1. If the Western/U.S. forces are victorious, this will cover Trump’s rump  with regard to the “Russia-Gate” so-called investigation and bolster the GOP’s position in upcoming 2018 midterm elections.
  2. If the Western/U.S. forces prevail, it will weaken Putin politically, which is a goal of the West.

The last part of the program consists of a partial reading of an article by CFR member Bruce Hoffman. Noting Al Qaeda’s resurgence and Al Qaeda’s emphasis on the Syrian conflict, Hoffman cites the so-called “Arab Spring” as the key event in Al Qaeda’s resurgence. ” . . . . The thousands of hardened al-Qaeda fighters freed from Egyptian prisons in 2012–2013 by President Mohammed Morsi galvanized the movement at a critical moment, when instability reigned and a handful of men well-versed in terrorism and subversion could plunge a country or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syria, or Yemen, their arrival was providential in terms of advancing al-Qaeda’s interests or increasing its influence. . . . It was Syria where al-Qaeda’s intervention proved most consequential. One of Zawahiri’s first official acts after succeeding bin Laden as emir was to order a Syrian veteran of the Iraqi insurgency named Abu Mohammad al-Julani to return home and establish the al-Qaeda franchise that would eventually become Jabhat al-Nusra. . . .”

In FTR #’s 733 through 739, we presented our view that the so-called Arab Spring was a U.S. intelligence operation, aimed at placing the Brotherhood in power in Muslim countries dominated either by a secular dictator or absolute monarchy.

Ibn Khaldun: Muslim Brotherhood economics role model, regarded by the IMF as the first advocate of privatization

It is our view that the Brotherhood was seen as useful because of its military offshoots (Al-Qaeda in particular) were useful proxy warriors in places like the Caucasus and the Balkans and because the Brotherhood’s corporatist, neo-liberal economic doctrine was in keeping with the desires and goals of the trans-national corporate community.

In FTR #787, we solidified our analysis with definitive confirmation of our working hypothesis presented years earlier.

About the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic doctrine” . . . . The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood hails 14th cen­tury philoso­pher Ibn Khal­dun as its eco­nomic guide. Antic­i­pat­ing supply-side eco­nom­ics, Khal­dun argued that cut­ting taxes raises pro­duc­tion and tax rev­enues, and that state con­trol should be lim­ited to pro­vid­ing water, fire and free graz­ing land, the util­i­ties of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khal­dun the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion. [Empha­sis added.] His found­ing influ­ence is a sign of mod­er­a­tion. If Islamists in power ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over com­merce. . . .”

Stephen Glain’s citation of Ibn Khaldun resonates with Ronald Reagan’s presentation of “supply-side economics.” ” . . . . Responding to a question about the effects of tax and spending cuts that began taking effect yesterday, Mr. Reagan said the supply-side principle dated at least as far back as Ibn Khaldun, who is generally regarded as the greatest Arab historian to emerge from the highly developed Arabic culture of the Middle Ages. . . .”

1. Canadian academic Ivan Katchanovski has done a deep, detailed forensic study of the evidence in the Maidan sniper attacks. He has a rigorous, succinct digital multimedia ‘poster’ (an ‘iPoster’) for his finding that the Maidan sniper attacks were a false flag operation. That poster was presented during the 2018 American Political Science Association conference in Boston. It gives a high level overview of his research and is heavily embedded with substantive, documentary videos. Here are the contents of the poster. Be sure to check out the numerous images and videos included in the actual iPoster online.

“ . . . . Maidan massacre trial and investigation evidence have revealed various evidence that at least the absolute majority of 49 killed and 157 wounded Maidan protesters on February 20, 2014 were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings. Such evidence includes testimonies of the majority of wounded protesters and many witnesses, forensic medical and ballisitic examinations, and investigation own finding that about half of Maidan protesters were wounded from other locations than the Berkut police. Various indications of stonewalling of the Maidan massacre investigations and the trials by the Maidan government officials and by far right organizations. Various indications of the cover-up of much of the key evidence of the massacre. Such revelations from the Maidan massacre trials and investigations corroborate previous studies findings that this massacre was a false flag mass killing with involvement of elements of Maidan leadership and the far right and that it included the massacre of the police. The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation . . . . ”

Note: Since FTR #1023 was recorded professor Katchanovski has posted a 59-minute-long video of the Maidan shootings. The video features TV footage from that day, with many clips clearly showing snipers operating from Maidan-controlled buildings. It also includes English subtitles and forensic descriptions of scenes. The footage includes a number of people being shot and killed–a grizzly 59-minutes, but absolutely invaluable in terms of establishing what actually happened.

The presentation of professor Katchanovski’s research in this program begins with the section titled “Cover-Up and Stonewalling.”

“Ivan Katchanovski, PhD. The Maidan Massacre in Ukraine: Revelations from Trials and Investigations.” Poster presented at: 2018 Conference of the American Political Studies Associates; 2018 Aug 30-Sept 1; Boston, MA

Previous Studies

The Maidan massacre in Ukraine in February 2014 led to or contributed to

* Violent overthrow of the semi-democratic pro-Russian government
* Russian annexation of Crimea
* Civil war in Donbas
* Russian covert military intervention in Donbas in support of separatists
* Conflict between the West and Russia

(See Black and Johns, 2016; Hahn, 2017; Katchanovski, 2015a, 2015b, 2016a, 2016b, 2017; Kudelia, 2016, 2018)

Only a few previous scholarly studies of this crucial case of political violence

* All by political scientists

Most previous studies find that this was a false flag mass killing involving sections of Maidan leadership and far right and involved the massacre of the police (Hahn, 2017; Katchanovski, 2015, 2016)

Kudelia (2018) argues that the violence was initiated by the Maidan protesters, who killed and wounded many policemen and that the Berkut police then massacred unarmed protesters in turn

* But the previous studies did not examine systematically evidence revealed by Maidan massacre trials and investigations
* Many scholars uncritically cited Maidan politicians, government officials, and the media concerning this massacre without examining evidence, including from trial and investigations, for example, misattributing the massacre to government snipers (See, for example, Marples and Mills, 2015; Wilson, 2014).

Ukrainian and Western governments and media dominant narratives

* Government snipers and/or a Berkut anti-riot police unit massacred peaceful Maidan protesters on a Yanukovych order
* Killed protesters commemorated by the government and media in Ukraine as national heroes
* Limited media reporting and official statements about the Maidan massacre trial even though this is the trial of the century in Ukraine
* Charges against Yanukovych, his internal affairs and security ministers, and a special Berkut unit are generally taken at face value
* With some limited exceptions, no media reporting or officials statements about revelations of evidence at the trial regarding snipers in Maidan-controlled locations or such evidence is dismissed as a conspiracy theory or fake

Research Question & Data

Research Question

* What does evidence made public by the Maidan massacre trials and Ukrainian government investigations reveal about which of the parties of the conflict was involved in this mass killing?

Data and Methodology

* Several hundred hours of online video recordings of Maidan massacre trials
* Over 2,000 court decisions concerning investigation of the massacre from the official court decisions database in Ukraine
* Focus on the Maidan massacre trial of 5 Berkut policemen charged with the massacre on February 20, 2014

Qualitative and quantitative interviews analysis

* Examines trial and investigation testimonies of more than 100 wounded protesters and relatives of the killed protesters, Yanukovych, and his Internal Troops commander
* Testimonies by witnesses at the trial, investigation, media, and social media

Content analysis

* Analysis and synchronization of videos, audio recordings, and photos of the Maidan massacre shown during the trial, in the media, and social media
* Comparisons of the trial and investigation data with other evidence, such as synchronised videos of the massacre and testimonies of witnesses in the media and social media
* Comparison with results of forensic ballistic and medical examinations and investigative experiments made public at the trial
* Online video appendixes with English-language subtitles contain relevant video segments from the Maidan massacre trial, the media, and social media for analysis and replication purposes

Revelations about Snipers
The Maidan massacre trial & investigation revealed various evidence that Maidan protesters on February 20 were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings

* At least 25 out of 66 wounded Maidan protesters, with whose shooting Berkut policemen are charged, testified at the trial & investigation that they were shot from Maidan-controlled buildings/ areas & 29 testified that they witnessed snipers there or were told about them by other protesters (See Video Appendix D)
[see video]
* Many witness testimonies at the trial & investigation about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings (Video Appendix E)
[see video]

Such testimonies are consistent with some 200 witness testimonies in media and social media about snipers in Maidan areas, including over 70 video testimonies.

* Six Maidan politicians and activists publicly testified that they witnessed involvement of specific top Maidan leaders in the massacre, such as their deployment of snipers and evacuation of snipers who were captured by Maidan-protesters
* An ex-sponsor of the Right Sector to testify at the trial

(See Video Appendix B).
[see video]

They are also generally consistent with testimonies of 5 Georgian ex-military in Italian, Israeli, Macedonian, & Russian media and their depositions provided to Berkut lawyers for the trial. They testified that their groups received weapons, payments, & orders to massacre both police and protesters from specific Maidan and Georgian politicians & instructions from a far-right linked ex-US Army sniper and then saw Georgian, Baltic States, and specific far right Right Sector-linked Ukrainian snipers shooting from specific Maidan-controlled buildings (see Italian & Israeli TV documentaries (English language versions))
[see video]
[see video]
[see video]

These Georgians revealed in the media their names, passport numbers & border stamps, copies of plane tickets, videos and photos in Ukraine or Georgian military, and other evidence in support of their testimonies

* Identities, presence in Ukraine, and Georgian military service of some of them corroborated by evidence & other sources
* Maidan massacre trial decision authorised two of them testify at the trial via video link from Armenia

The Prosecutor General Office investigation revealed in October 2016 that one of the leaders of far right Svoboda and its member of the parliament occupied a Hotel Ukraina room from which a sniper in reported Maidan style green helmet was filmed shooting by BBC and ICTV in the direction of the Maidan protesters and the BBC journalists. (See Video Appendix A)

Three Maidan snipers admitted in BBC and Ukrainian media interviews that the massacre on February 20 started with them and other Maidan snipers shooting at the police from the Music Conservatory and forcing the police units to flee the Maidan square which they besieged (see BBC report and Katchanovski, 2015b)
[see video]

* Investigation determined that one of them killed two policemen during the massacre from a hunting version of Kalashnikov assault rifle
* Kyiv court decisions revealed that the Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigated leaders and members of the far right Right Sector, neo-Nazi “Warriors of Narnia,” Sokil, a youth affiliate of far right Svoboda party, far right Bratstvo and other unidentified Maidan activists for their suspected involvement in the killing and wounding of the Interior Troops servicemen and the Berkut police on February 18-20 (see, for example, Ukhvala, 2016a).
* Right Sector members match killers of two Interior Troops members on February 18

The Prosecutor General Office of Ukraine investigation determined based on their testimonies and investigative experiments that almost half of protesters (77 out of 157) were wounded on February 20 from other sectors than the Berkut police and did not charge Berkut with their shooting

* Since the investigation determined that government snipers did not massacre the Maidan protesters this suggests that these protesters were wounded from the Maidan-controlled buildings/areas
* E,g., a female #Maidan medic, whose wounding on Maidan was widely blamed by Western & Ukrainian media and politicians on government snipers
[see video]

No such testimonies admitting involvement in the massacre or knowledge of such involvement by the Berkut policemen, ex-police and security services commanders, and ex-Yanukovych government officials

* This includes both those charged with the massacre and those not charged and serving the new Maidan government or remaining in Ukraine
* Charged Berkut policemen denied that they massacred protesters
Their lawyers argue at the trial that both protesters and police were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings
* Yanukovych and his commander of Internal Troops testified at the trial as witnesses via video link from Russia the same and that they did not give orders to massacre protesters.
* They were only charged in 2017 in absentia with ordering the massacre
* Such testimonies of policemen and senior ex-government officials publicly accused or charged with the mass killing are in line with their personal, political, and monetary incentives but they are generally consistent with various other evidence

No specific evidence of orders by then president Yanukovych, his internal affairs and security service ministers, or police and security service commanders to massacre unarmed protesters has been revealed at the trials or made public by the prosecution or other sources

A minority of wounded protesters testified at the trial and investigation that they were shot by government snipers or Berkut police

* Most of these testimonies are not consistent with forensic medical examinations, in particular, about their steep/slope wound directions and their positions in videos, investigation finding that protesters were not massacred by government snipers
* There is lack of such forensic examinations, videos, and witness testimonies is a many of these cases or the evidence is contradictory
* Such testimonies by wounded Maidan protesters are much more likely to be biased because of personal, monetary and political incentives to corroborate the dominant government, media and prosecution narrative of the massacre compared to opposite incentive of testimonies by wounded Maidan protesters about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and areas

Investigation by the Military Prosecutor Office in Lviv found that the Maidan protesters in Khmelnytskyi were killed and wounded by unidentified Maidan shooter from the Security Service of Ukraine regional headquarters porch that was occupied by Maidan protesters. This is consistent with the content analysis of videos of this massacre (see Video Appendix C).

Forensic Examinations

Official forensic medical examinations

* Absolute majority of protesters shot on February 20 from side & back directions
* 40 out of 48 killed protesters, with whose murder Berkut policemen are charged, had slope wounds & 1 even
* 36 with slope wounds were killed when police was on similar level on the ground
* E.g. 3 protesters in US architecture company 3-D model for Maidan lawyers but their wounds made nearly straight

Locations & directions of Dmytriv wounds in forensic medical reports (Report, 2015a) & Krovavyi (2014) & Trial (2016) videos & their & bullet direction misrepresentations by SITU (2018), New York Times (2018), BBC (2014) & prosecution
[see image]
They are consistent with bullet trajectories in videos & photos (see Video Appendix C)
[see video]

Forensic examinations and a video of his shooting suggest that one protester shot in his side at nearly even level was killed from a Maidan direction

Out of 7 killed protesters with no forensic information about their wounds direction made public:

* Three were shot by hunting pellets before the Berkut special company appeared in the Maidan area
* One was shot by an expanding hunting bullet of a US caliber which does not match caliber of government units firearms
* One was killed, inter alia, by a handgun bullet behind a wall that made it physically impossible to shoot him from Berkut positions
* Two other were killed at the same time and place as the many other protesters

(See Video Appendix A)

Similarly, 48 out of 51 wounded protesters, whose wound directions were revealed at the trial and with whose shooting on February 20th Berkut policemen were charged, had wounds at significant slopes.

* Common sense and forensic textbooks suggest that this is consistent with shooting by snipers in/on buildings.

Sideways and back locations and directions of their wounds in the absolute majority of cases also point to shooting from Maidan-controlled buildings located on both sides and in the back of advancing protesters and not from their front by the Berkut police (see Map).

* One does not need to be a forensic expert to determine whether overall locations and directions of wounds at the times and spots identified at the trial and in synchronized videos of the massacre point to the Berkut positions on the ground in front of the protesters or to Maidan-controlled buildings on the protesters’ left and right sides and in the back of the protesters

Forensic ballistic examinations

* Reported that 19 protesters were killed on February 20 by 7.62x39mm caliber bullets
* Stated that they could not determine if the bullets were fired from Kalashnikov assault rifles of this caliber, hunting versions of Kalashnikov assault rifles, or other weapons of this caliber, such as Simonov carbine (SKS)
* They indicated that one protester was killed from Vepr carbine, a hunting version of Kalashnikov machine gun
* Three other protesters were killed by pellets used in hunting.
* Two protesters were killed by expanding hunting bullets. Their caliber did not match calibers of weapons used by the special Berkut company, whose members were charged with killing them.
* A forensic ballistic examination conducted by government institute experts on the prosecution request with use of an automatic computer based IBIS-TAIS system in January 2015 found that bullets extracted from killed protesters, trees, and the Hotel Ukraina rooms did not match police database of bullet samples from any 7.62×39 caliber Kalashnikov assault rifles of members of the entire Kyiv Berkut regiment, including the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters
* Findings of this computer-based ballistic examination and results of some 40 other ballistic examinations were reversed in a couple of ballistic examinations conducted manually in the very end of the investigation
* This suggests that these reversals are unreliable, and ballistic experts could not explain them at the trial

Forensic examinations along with testimonies of wounded protesters & witnesses, locations & positions of the killed & wounded protesters in videos & photos, & Google Earth map of the massacre site suggest that at least absolute majority of protesters, including Dmytriv, were shot by snipers in the Maidan-controlled buildings (See map and Video Appendix A)

[see Map of the Maidan massacre on February 20]

Killing and wounding of a small minority of protesters by the Berkut police, in particular, by ricochets or in cross-fire with snipers in the Maidan-controlled buildings, cannot be excluded because of lack of data or contradictory data

* But their killing and wounding in the same locations and at the same time as other protesters suggest that most of them were also likely shot by the Maidan snipers.

Government investigation determined that most of protesters killed on February 18-19 were shot with hunting pellets and smoothbore rifles used in hunting

The government investigation revealed that the absolute majority of 11 policemen killed on February 18-19, and all 4 policemen killed on February 20 were shot from similar types and calibers of hunting pellets and bullets, handgun bullets, and 7,62×39 bullets as the protesters

Court rulings revealed that the weapons used by two wounded Right Sector activists in a separatist checkpoint attack in April 2014 were the same weapons from which two Internal Troops servicemen were killed and three other policemen wounded on the Maidan on February 18 (Ukhvala, 2016b).

Cover-up & Stonewalling NB–We began this week’s presentation with a reading of Professor Katchanovski’s presentation from this point.

* Investigation denies that there were snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings & not investigates them in spite of overwhelming evidence revealed by investigation & trial & publicly available evidence, such as testimonies by over 100 wounded protesters & over 200 witnesses, & videos, photos & audio of snipers in/on these buildings, including their shooting at protesters & police (Video Appendix A).
[see video]

The Prosecutor General of Ukraine, who was one of the top Maidan politicians, declared that the investigation of the Maidan massacre is de facto completed

* Public statements by 6 Maidan politicians and activists and 5 Georgians about involvement of snipers and Maidan leaders in the massacre and its cover-up have not been investigated
* Ex-president of Georgia hastily detained and expelled from Ukraine a day before his testimony concerning “Georgian snipers” at the Maidan massacre trial
* Similarly, a public statement by a Maidan member of the parliament that one of titusky leaders, who was involved in killing of a journalist on February 19, worked for a business of leading Maidan activists and that they knew about the massacar in advance also has not been investigated

Failure by the investigation to determine bullet trajectories with help of forensic ballistic experts even after the Maidan massacre trial ordered such examinations, specifically to determine if these trajectories were from the Maidan-controlled buildings

* The investigation instead of ballistic experts used complex forensic examinations by medics to determine sectors of fire without on-site visits and any measurements and explanations provided
* At least several dozens of such examinations were conducted by the same three medical experts during the last weeks of the investigation
* Not ballistic experts but architects from a US architecture company were hired by Maidan victims lawyers with involvement of the prosecution to determine bullet trajectories of 3 selected killed protesters out of 49 killed and 157 wounded protesters for the trial concerning February 20th Maidan massacre
* Both these complex medical examinations and the 3-D model by New York architecture company provided practically identical bullet trajectories/sectors of fire from Berkut barricades on the ground in cases of these 3 killed protesters.
* But wounds locations and steep slopes of the entry and exit wounds in forensic medical examinations used both by the medical and architectural experts in determining these ballistic trajectories differ significantly from their locations and nearly horizontal levels in the 3-D model by SITU Research
* This concerns not only Dmytriv wounds but also Dyhdalovych and Parashchuk wounds
(See images concerning Dmyriv above and Dyhdalovych below, Report (2015a, 2015b); SITU (2018)).
[see image of Dyhdalovych wounds locations and directions and their misrepresentation in SITU model]

Bullet wounds locations and their steep slopes along with bullet holes appearing in shields right after their killings in the same spot within 2 minutes and a testimony of a protester who was in the same spot that he saw Dyhdalovych shot by a sniper on the Bank Arkada point to the top of this building as a location of snipers who killed both Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv.

(See Map, Video Appendix A).

* These bullet holes and the testimonies of two protesters, who witnessed their killings, about snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings shooting Dyhdalovych and Dmytriv were not mentioned at the trial
* Similarly,videos and audio recordings of snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings and publicly available testimonies of numerous other Maidan protesters about such snipers were not mentioned by the investigation and at the Maidan massacre trial

The landscape, the street, & trees on the site of the massacre would be almost completely changed into a park and a new Maidan massacre museum by February 2019 and it would be physically impossible to conduct on-site investigative experiments to determine bullet trajectories.

A new ballistic expert examinations of bullets that was ordered by the Maidan massacre trial has not started for more than 1 year after the court decision.

No forensic video and audio examinations were conducted by the investigation.

The Prosecutor General Office reversed without any explanations their own previous investigation findings.

* Admissions that protesters were massacred by snipers from the Hotel Ukraina from SKS carbines and that at least 3 protesters were killed from this hotel and 10 others were also killed from significant heights
* Investigations of the massacres of the police and the protesters were separated even though they happened on the same days and in the same places
* No forensic examinations comparisons of bullets extracted from bodies of the police and the protesters in spite of various evidence that they were shot by same groups of snipers
* Similar unexplained reversals of forensic examinations of bullets and directions of wounds of protesters a few weeks before the investigation submitted the case to a court for trial
* Similar unexplained reversals at the trial testimonies of many wounded protesters previously provided to the investigation

The Prosecutor General Office has been headed by Maidan politicians or close allies of the current president of Ukraine and the investigation of the massacre has been under control of Maidan government leaders from the start.

Two factions of main ruling Maidan parties blocked creation of a parliamentary commission concerning Maidan massacre investigation.

Key pieces of forensic evidence of the massacre on February 20 disappeared when it was under the Maidan opposition or Maidan government control or when it was in the possession of the Maidan government investigation without anyone responsible identified and prosecuted.

* Almost all shields and helmets of killed and wounded protesters since bullet holes in them or their absence could identify locations of the shooters
* Many bullets extracted from bodies of the protesters and the police, trees, soil, a flower box, and the Maidan buildings
* Some trees with bullets and/or bullet holes were cut soon after the massacre, and the prosecution admitted this three years afterwards
* Recordings of live online streams and other videos from the time of shooting at the police from the Maidan-controlled buildings in the early morning of February 20
* Security cameras recordings from the Hotel Ukraina, the Bank Arkada, and other Maidan-controlled buildings at the time when snipers were located there
* Bullets extracted from bodies of protesters in Khmelnytskyi
* A leader of a Maidan organization and its members were revealed and investigated by the Prosecutor General Office for evacuating and hiding firearms of the special Berkut company charged with the massacre of the protesters on February 20

No one was charged with killing and wounding the majority of Maidan protesters on February 18-19.

* Berkut policemen charged with killing the first 3 protesters and wounding 33 protesters on February 18 were released by the courts and allowed by the law enforcement to flee Ukraine
* The same concerns a Berkut commander whose company was charged with killing of 48 protesters on February 20
* Forensic evidence in killings protesters and the police on February 18-19 has not been made public
* A protester who killed another protester by driving him over in a seized truck and was tried was released under an amnesty law for crimes committed by Maidan protesters during the “Euromaidan”

Nobody is charged with killing of a Georgian protester on February 20 and circumstances of his killing and its investigation are not made public.

Nobody is charged and tried for killing and wounding policemen on February 18-20.

* Charges of killing two policemen against one Maidan sniper who publicly admitted in the Ukrainian media this were dropped and replaced by milder charges by the Prosecutor General of Ukraine

The Maidan massacre trial was restarted from the beginning, has not completed testimonies of relatives of killed and wounded protesters, and it would not produce a verdict before the 2019 presidential elections

Several attacks by the neo-Nazi C14 and other far right groups disrupted and threatened the trial.

* C14 took refuge in the Canadian Embassy shortly before the Maidan massacre, and one of its ex-leaders stated that the C14 knew about the massacre in advance.

No such evidence of systematic cover-up by the Yanukovych government leaders and Berkut members.

* Yanukovych treason trial revealed various evidence that he fled Ukraine following several assassination attempts by Maidan forces, including far right.
* He, his ministers and Internal Troops ex-commander volunteered to testify via video links about the massacre at the trials.
* Absolute majority of Berkut members, who were charged with the massacre did not flee Ukraine until they were to be charged with the massacre or after they were charged.

Not a single person is convicted for killing and wounding some 100 protesters and the police on February 18-20, 2014.

Conclusion

Maidan massacre trial and investigation evidence have revealed various evidence that at least the absolute majority of 49 killed and 157 wounded Maidan protesters on February 20, 2014 were massacred by snipers in Maidan-controlled buildings.

* Such evidence includes testimonies of the majority of wounded protesters and many witnesses, forensic medical and ballisitic examinations, and investigation own finding that about half of Maidan protesters were wounded from other locations than the Berkut police.

Various indications of stonewalling of the Maidan massacre investigations and the trials by the Maidan government officials and by far right organizations.

Various indications of the cover-up of much of the key evidence of the massacre.

Such revelations from the Maidan massacre trials and investigations corroborate previous studies findings that this massacre was a false flag mass killing with involvement of elements of Maidan leadership and the far right and that it included the massacre of the police.

The puzzling misrepresentation of the Maidan massacre, its investigation, and the trial by Western media and governments require further research concerning reasons for such misrepresentation.

2a. Of significance for our purposes is the cryptic statement of Chief Military Prosectutor Anatoliy Matios: ” . . . . Earlier, Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said: ‘When public learns who is involved in this, people will be very surprised.’ According to him, information to be published may cause rejection, ‘but the truth is the truth.” . . . .

“Prosecutors say public to face unpleasant surprise in Maidan killings probe”; Unian.info; 07/24/2016

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko says that the man who helped so-called “black hundred” of police task force Berkut, who had been shooting at protesters during the Revolution of Dignity, flee Kyiv and deliberately drowned their weapons to conceal evidence, was himself one of the participants of the Maidan protests.

“With the help of military counterintelligence, we have found weapons of the “black hundred,” including a sniper rifle, which the entire country saw on footage showing the shooting at the protesters from outside the October Palace,” he told the 112 Ukraine TV channel.

“We found it with a large number of automatic rifles on the bottom of one of Kiev’s lakes. They were cut and drowned in one batch by a single group, whose leader is one of the targets of our investigation. Unfortunately, this man who, according to our version, upon the orders of [former Interior Minister Vitaliy] Zakharchenko helped the “black hundred” flee Kyiv, destroyed and drowned their weapons, he, himself, was with us on the Maidan,” Lutsenko said.

As UNIAN reported earlier, the Prosecutor General’s Office July 14 conducted searches at the houses of persons involved in assisting the troops from Berkut police special forces’ “black hundred” in fleeing Kyiv after the bloody killings of the Maidan activists and subsequent destruction of their weapons.

Earlier, Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine, Chief Military Prosecutor Anatoliy Matios said: “When public learns who is involved in this, people will be very surprised.” According to him, information to be published may cause rejection, “but the truth is the truth.” . . . .

2b. Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, gave an extensive interview where he said that Jews are behind all wars and want to “drown ethnic Slavs in blood.”

Also recall the cryptic statement Matios made back in 2016 about the identity of the people involved with the 2014 sniper attacks: “When public learns who is involved in this, people will be very surprised.” In FTR #’s 982993, 10041023we examined evidence that Ukrainian fascists may well have executed those sniper attacks. It is ominous that the chief military prosecutor who is involved in that investigation is a neo-Nazi.

“Jews Want to Drown Ukraine in Blood, Ukraine’s Military Prosecutor Says Amid Wave of Racist and Anti-Semitic Attacks” by Cristina Maza; Newsweek; 06/27/2018

In an extensive interview with the Ukrainian news outlet Insider, Anatoliy Matios, Ukraine’s chief military prosecutor, espoused anti-Semitic conspiracy theories in which he implied that Jews want to drown ethnic Slavs in blood.

Referring to Alexander Parvus, a Belarussian-born Marxist theoretician who was active in Germany’s Social Democratic Party in the late 19th century, and who also happened to be Jewish, Matios claimed that Jews can be found financing all great conflicts.

“In each war, there is always a Parvus, who brought Lenin money for a revolution which flooded Slavs with blood for decades. Parvus was also Jewish. In this case, they want to do the same to Ukraine,” Matios told the Insider. . . .

3. Note that the Azov’s number two man–Ihor Mosiychuk–was sentenced to prison for a planned bombing in January 2014. His supporters demonstrated on his behalf on the Maidan, helping to create the turmoil that led to Yanukovich’s overthrow.

” . . . [On] January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the ‘movement fighting for democracy.’ . . .”  

“Ukrainian Patriots”; german-foreign-policy.com; 7/30/2014.

. . . .He [Oleh Lyashko] is also co-founder and supporter of the Azov Battalion, a militia of over one hundred – mainly fascist – combatants, including a Swedish Neo-Nazi sniper. He has reported that other snipers had already been in action for the opposition during the Maidan protests.It has never been revealed, who fired the fatal shots on February 20. In this highly charged atmosphere, the Ukrainian government is taking steps that indicate a political cultural development even further to the right. It is planning to censure films and books from Russia or to restrict their sales. . . .

. . . .  The Swedish neo-Nazi Mikael Skillt is a member of the Azov Battalion. Skillt, a member of the fascist Svenskarnas Parti (Party of the Swedes), says that he has “at least” three purposes in the unit: commander of “a small reconnaissance unit,” a “sniper” and sometimes he works “as a special coordinator for clearing houses and going into civilian areas.” The person, who is rumored to have been captured by East Ukrainian insurgents, had been a sniper for six years in the Swedish military. He says, he has only been engaged in the Ukrainian conflict since March. He admits, however, to having spoken to at least two snipers, who, during the Maidan protests had shot at police from the Trade Union House in Kiev – at the time, the headquarters of the protestors. “Their mission was to take out Berkut’s snipers,” explained Skillt.[7] The deadly shots from the Maidan, which in Western propaganda had been used to legitimize the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych, have never been investigated by the putsch regime, and Berlin has never applied pressure for an investigation.

Political Prisoners

The Azov Battalion has close ties to Oleh Lyashko, whose “Radical Party,” would currently be able to poll a fourth of the votes if elections were held. Lyashko is considered to be one of the Azov’s founders. For internet videos, he allows himself to be filmed at joint actions with Asov combatants. The Azov Battalion’s second in command, Ihor Mosiychuk, had been elected to Kiev’s Municipal Council on the electoral list of Lyashko’s Radical Party. This was not the first time Lyashko had intervened on his behalf. January 10, 2014, Mosiychuk and two other fascists had been found guilty and sentenced to several years in prison for a planned August 2011 bombing attack. On the evening of January 10, ultra-right-wingers staged demonstrations protesting the sentence. The demonstrations degenerated into violent confrontations with the police. These confrontations, in turn, were then used by Berlin, Brussels and Washington to accuse Yanukovych of excessive use of force on the “movement fighting for democracy.” The protests were unsuccessful. However, immediately after the Kiev coup, Mosiychuk and his accomplices profited from the amnesty, the pro-western Ukrainian parliament granted on February 24, 2014 to “political prisoners”. Due to Lyashko’s decisive engagement, Mosiychuk profited from the amnesty, was liberated from prison and could participate in the organization the Azov Battalion. . . .

. . . . . [1] Jakov Devcic: Jazenjuks Rücktrittsversuch. www.kas.de 29.07.2014.
[2] Ukraine will russische Kultur zurückdrängen. www.n-tv.de 29.07.2014.
[3] S. dazu Termin beim Botschafter.
[4] Dina Newman: Ukraine conflict: “White power” warrior from Sweden. www.bbc.co.uk 16.07.2014.
[5] Daniel McLaughlin: Foreigners join far-right militias in Ukraine’s fight against rebels. www.irishtimes.com 17.07.2014.
[6] Hal Foster: A special-forces unit, started from scratch, wins a key battle in Ukraine. en.tengrinews.kz 21.06.2014.

[7] Swede Patrols Ukraine’s Streets with Right-wing Paramilitaries. www.friatider.se 26.03.2014.

4. Against the background of the Maidan sniping as a probable false flag provocation, the impending Syrian offensive to re-capture the last territorial enclave of the Islamists in Syria should be viewed with apprehension. As noted in the article below, the so-called “rebels” are Al-Qaeda offshoots. Ominously, they have apparently successfully executed false-flag chemical weapons attacks before, including in Idlib province.

Russia has warned that such a provocation is in the wings–an unremarkable deduction in light of past history. In turn, the West has warned of retaliatory action if such actions are undertaken.

The stage appears set for an Islamist/Al-Qaeda chemical weapons false flag/provocation, upon which U.S., British and French military intervention will be predicated.

In this context, one should not lose sight of the fact that Chechnyan Islamist veterans of the Syrian war have already made their appearance in the combat in Eastern Ukraine, partnering with Pravy Sektor in their deployments. (The Chechen/Right Sector/Islamist link is discussed in FTR #’s 857, 862, 863, 872, 878, 893, 911.)

“Rebels;” German Foreign Policy; 9/03/2018.

Berlin and the EU are intensifying pressure on Damascus in view of the Syrian troops’ presumed imminent offensive in Idlib against the jihadi militias, including al-Qaeda’s Syrian offshoot. According to a German government spokesperson, it is “anticipated” that the Russian government will “restrain the Syrian regime’s escalation.” Washington is threatening with an unspecified intervention, should chemicals weapons be used. Syrian jihadists have used chemical weapons in the past, and would be in a position to provoke this US intervention. Since last summer, the Syrian al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham is in control of Idlib Province, with some 30,000 combatants. Additional smaller, mostly salafist jihadi militias are also ready to battle the Syrian army. By referring to them as “rebels,” politicians and media are downplaying the jihadists – including al-Qaeda – as the 17th Anniversary of the 9/11 attacks approaches.

The Jihadi Emirate Idlib

Already in the summer of 2017, the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly al-Nusra) had prevailed over rival insurgent militias in fierce battles in Idlib Province. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham was tolerating some other armed cliques – as long as they were essentially submitting to its rule. “But there is no longer any question, who is ultimately in charge” in Idlib Province, the Syrian expert Aron Lund wrote in August 2017, calling Idlib a de facto “jihadi emirate.”[1] At the time experts on the region assessed that the western powers could have no interest in defending the al-Qaeda regime. Al-Qaeda is temporarily refraining from large-scale terrorism in the West, because it prioritizes the stabilization of its structures, the US American Council on Foreign Relations wrote in March. The terror attack against the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and the St. Petersburg Metro bombing – both being ascribed to al-Qaeda – prove that the organization has not given up its old strategy.[2] The Syrian expert Sam Heller, who, today, is working for the International Crisis Group, speculated in Mai 2017 that “someone” will most likely put an end to those activities in Idlib soon. It could be either the West or the Syrian government with support from Moscow because for both “a big jihadist safe haven is intolerable.”[3]

Under al-Qaeda Control

Slightly more than a year later, it is unclear whether this assessment still holds true. The situation in Idlib has not fundamentally changed, in spite of some shifts in power while the Syrian government is preparing to recapture the province, with Russian support. The al-Qaeda offshoot Hayat Tahrir al-Sham suffered minor setbacks for two reasons. On the one hand, small fractions have split off because of internal dissention. After invading parts of Idlib, Ankara, on the other hand, has begun to strengthen militias, which had been marginalized by Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and merge them into a new alliance. Its members are, to a large part – such as Ahrar al-Sham or Jaysh al Ahrar – salafist jihadi oriented like the Hayat Tahrir al-Sham’s split-offs. Militias who are oriented otherwise – such as those close to the Muslim Brothers – are in the minority.[4] Experts report that the al-Qaeda offshoot now controls nearly 60 percent of Idlib province and consists of about 30,000 fighters, according to the London based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights , which western media and government agencies often quote as their source of information on Syria.[5] Thus, al-Qaeda has about one percent of Idlib’s current population under arms – shortly before the 17th anniversary of the attacks on September 11, 2001.

“Very Worried”

And yet, currently western politicians and media are against Syria and Russia much more than al-Qaeda. Thus, al-Qaeda-predominated jihadi militias in Idlib are regularly euphemized as “rebels,” and the province, itself, as a “rebel stronghold.” If one goes along with this terminology – which comes quite close to the way the jihadis see themselves – then al-Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and his predecessor Osama bin Laden must be “rebel leaders,” and the terrorists of Paris and St. Petersburg would have been acting in the name of a “rebel organization.” Otherwise, this pattern of argumentation resembles that during the combat waged by the Syrian army against Salafist and jihadis for East Alleppo, for East Ghouta and more recently for Daraa. Warnings of massacres at the hands of Syrian troops and the supporting Russian military are already being propagated in advance. According to a German government spokesperson, who expressed that the government is “very worried about the escalation of the situation in northwest Syria” and “anticipates” that Moscow “will restrain the Syrian government from an escalation thereby averting a humanitarian catastrophe.”[6] “We must prevent military engagements in Idlib that could lead to a humanitarian catastrophe,” announced Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security.

“Worse than Auschwitz”

Further escalation of this argumentation is easily possible. For example, in German media, it was claimed during the battle over East Aleppo that the Syrian military was committing “genocide” in the city. What was happening there was “worse than Auschwitz.” (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[7]) On the other hand, German politicians and media, have had no criticism of the bloody battles waged for Falluja, Mossul, and Raqqa, which had been carried out by western military forces. Aside from regrets at the loss of civilian lives, these battles are still today being celebrated as heroic victories over jihadis. But in fact, the battles waged by the West have differed little from those waged by Syria and Russia, in terms of the number of deaths and the extent of destruction. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) A team of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) even declared in the spring, that the extent of destruction in Raqqa had “exceeded anything” they had “ever seen before.”[9] Raqqa had not been devastated by Syrians and Russians in the course of the war against the IS but rather by western air strikes using reconnaissance data provided by the Bundeswehr in collaboration with pro-western troops on the ground.

Ready for Intervention

Whether this will simply remain a case of negative coverage of the upcoming battle for Idlib or whether individual western powers will intervene, remains uncertain. A few days ago, the USA, Great Britain and France published a statement, wherein they expressed their “serious concern over reports,” according to which, “the Syrian regime is preparing a military offensive against civilians and the civilian infrastructure in Idlib.” They are also “worried” that the Syrian military forces will probably use chemical weapons. If this happens, the three countries are “determined to take action.”[10] Subsequently, US President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor, John Bolton affirmed that the USA would react “very strongly” should there be a chemical weapons attack.[11] In fact, the western powers are giving jihadi militias in Idlib an option: should they not be able to vanquish the Syrian military, they can feign a chemical weapons attack and the West will intervene on their side. That Syrian jihadis have already used chemical weapons and, therefore, know how to do it, is well known. A western attack against Syrian forces in or around Idlib would, in the current situation, help the Syrian offshoot of al-Qaeda.

[1] Aron Lund: New order on the border: Can foreign aid get past Syria’s jihadis? irinnews.org 15.08.2018.

[2] Bruce Hoffman: Al Qaeda’s Resurrection. cfr.org 06.03.2018.

[3] twitter.com/AbuJamajem/status/864575114511253504

[4] Bruce Hoffman: Al Qaeda’s Resurrection. cfr.org 06.03.2018.

[5] Hayat Tahrir al-Sham: Syria Regime’s Toughest Foe in Idlib. military.com 01.09.2018.

[6] EU warnt vor Katastrophe in Idlib. handelsblatt.com 31.08.2018.

[7] See also Die Schlacht um Mossul (IV).

[8] See also Double Standards and Die präzisen Luftangriffe des Westens.

[9] Zitiert nach: Amnesty International: “War of Annihilation”. Devastating Toll on Civilians, Raqqa – Syria. London 2018.

[10] US, UK, France statement on the chemical weapons attack in Syria. reliefweb.int 21.08.2018.

[11] Sommer Brokaw: Bolton: U.S. will act ‘strongly’ if Syria uses chemical weapons again. upi.com 22.08.2018.

5. The last part of the program consists of a partial reading of an article by CFR member Bruce Hoffman. Noting Al Qaeda’s resurgence and Al Qaeda’s emphasis on the Syrian conflict, Hoffman cites the so-called “Arab Spring” as the key event in Al Qaeda’s resurgence. ” . . . . The thousands of hardened al-Qaeda fighters freed from Egyptian prisons in 2012–2013 by President Mohammed Morsi galvanized the movement at a critical moment, when instability reigned and a handful of men well-versed in terrorism and subversion could plunge a country or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syria, or Yemen, their arrival was providential in terms of advancing al-Qaeda’s interests or increasing its influence. . . . It was Syria where al-Qaeda’s intervention proved most consequential. One of Zawahiri’s first official acts after succeeding bin Laden as emir was to order a Syrian veteran of the Iraqi insurgency named Abu Mohammad al-Julani to return home and establish the al-Qaeda franchise that would eventually become Jabhat al-Nusra. . . .”

In FTR #’s 733 through 739, we presented our view that the so-called Arab Spring was a U.S. intelligence operation, aimed at placing the Brotherhood in power in Muslim countries dominated either by a secular dictator or absolute monarchy.

It is our view that the Brotherhood was seen as useful because of its military offshoots (Al-Qaeda in particular) were useful proxy warriors in places like the Caucasus and the Balkans and because the Brotherhood’s corporatist, neo-liberal economic doctrine was in keeping with the desires and goals of the trans-national corporate community.

In FTR #787, we solidified our analysis with definitive confirmation of our working hypothesis presented years earlier.

“Al Qaeda’s Resurrection” by Bruce Hoffman; Council on Foreign Relations; 3/6/2018.

While the self-proclaimed Islamic State has dominated the headlines and preoccupied national security officials for the past four years, al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding. Its announcement last summer of another affiliate—this one dedicated to the liberation of Kashmir—coupled with the resurrection of its presence in Afghanistan and the solidification of its influence in Syria, Yemen, and Somalia, underscores the resiliency and continued vitality of the United States’ preeminent terrorist enemy.

Although al-Qaeda’s rebuilding and reorganization predates the 2011 Arab Spring, the upheaval that followed helped the movement revive itself. At the time, an unbridled optimism among local and regional rights activists and Western governments held that a combination of popular protest, civil disobedience, and social media had rendered terrorism an irrelevant anachronism. The longing for democracy and economic reform, it was argued, had decisively trumped repression and violence. However, where the optimists saw irreversible positive change, al-Qaeda discerned new and inviting opportunities.

The successive killings in 2011 and 2012 of Osama bin Laden; Anwar al-Awlaki, the movement’s chief propagandist; and Abu Yahya al-Libi, its second-in-command, lent new weight to the optimists’ predictions that al-Qaeda was a spent force. In retrospect, however, it appears that al-Qaeda was among the regional forces that benefited most from the Arab Spring’s tumult. Seven years later, Ayman al-Zawahiri has emerged as a powerful leader, with a strategic vision that he has systematically implemented. Forces loyal to al-Qaeda and its affiliates now number in the tens of thousands, with a capacity to disrupt local and regional stability, as well as launch attacks against their declared enemies in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Russia. Indeed, from northwestern Africa to South Asia, al-Qaeda has knit together a global movement of more than two dozen franchises.* In Syria alone, al-Qaeda now has upwards of twenty thousand men under arms, and it has perhaps another four thousand in Yemen and about seven thousand in Somalia.

The Arab Spring’s Big Winner

The thousands of hardened al-Qaeda fighters freed from Egyptian prisons in 2012–2013 by President Mohammed Morsi galvanized the movement at a critical moment, when instability reigned and a handful of men well-versed in terrorism and subversion could plunge a country or a region into chaos. Whether in Libya, Turkey, Syria, or Yemen, their arrival was providential in terms of advancing al-Qaeda’s interests or increasing its influence. The military coup that subsequently toppled Morsi validated Zawahiri’s repeated warnings not to believe Western promises about either the fruits of democracy or the sanctity of free and fair elections.

It was Syria where al-Qaeda’s intervention proved most consequential. One of Zawahiri’s first official acts after succeeding bin Laden as emir was to order a Syrian veteran of the Iraqi insurgency named Abu Mohammad al-Julani to return home and establish the al-Qaeda franchise that would eventually become Jabhat al-Nusra.

Al-Qaeda’s blatantly sectarian messaging over social media further sharpened the historical frictions between Sunnis and Shias and gave the movement the entrée into internal Syrian politics that it needed to solidify its presence in that country. Al-Qaeda’s chosen instrument was Jabhat al-Nusra, the product of a joint initiative with al-Qaeda’s Iraqi branch, which had rebranded itself as the Islamic State of Iraq (ISI). But as Nusra grew in both strength and impact, a dispute erupted between ISI and al-Qaeda over control of the group. In a bold power grab, ISI’s leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, announced the forcible amalgamation of al-Nusra with ISI in a new organization to be called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Julani refused to accede to the unilateral merger and appealed to Zawahiri. The quarrel intensified, and after Zawahiri’s attempts to mediate it collapsed, he expelled ISIS from the al-Qaeda network.

Although ISIS—which has since rebranded itself the Islamic State—has commanded the world’s attention since then, al-Qaeda has been quietly rebuilding and fortifying its various branches. Al-Qaeda has systematically implemented an ambitious strategy designed to protect its remaining senior leadership and discreetly consolidate its influence wherever the movement has a significant presence. Accordingly, its leaders have been dispersed to Syria, Iran, Turkey, Libya, and Yemen, with only a hard-core remnant of top commanders still in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Advances in commercial digital communication tools, alongside successive public revelations of U.S. and allied intelligence services’ eavesdropping capabilities, have enabled al-Qaeda’s leaders and commanders to maintain contact via secure end-to-end encryption technology.

The Importance of Syria

The number of top al-Qaeda leaders sent to Syria over the past half-dozen years underscores the high priority that the movement attaches to that country. Among them was Muhsin al-Fadhli, a bin Laden intimate who, until his death in a 2015 U.S. air strike, commanded the movement’s elite forward-based operational arm in that country, known as the Khorasan Group. He also functioned as Zawahiri’s local emissary, charged with attempting to heal the rift between al-Qaeda and ISIS. Haydar Kirkan, a Turkish national and long-standing senior operative, was sent by bin Laden himself to Turkey in 2010 to lay the groundwork for the movement’s expansion into the Levant, before the Arab Spring created precisely that opportunity. Kirkan was also responsible for facilitating the movement of other senior al-Qaeda personnel from Pakistan to Syria to escape the escalating drone strike campaign ordered by President Barack Obama. He was killed in 2016 in a U.S. bombing raid.

The previous fall marked the arrival of Saif al-Adl, who is arguably the movement’s most battle-hardened commander. Adl is a former Egyptian Army commando whose terrorist pedigree, dating to the late 1970s, includes assassination plots against Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and al-Qaeda’s post-9/11 terrorist campaigns in Saudi Arabia and South Asia. He also served as mentor to bin Laden’s presumptive heir, his son Hamza, after both Adl and the boy sought sanctuary in Iran following the commencement of U.S. and coalition military operations in Afghanistan  in late 2001. The younger bin Laden’s own reported appearance in Syria this past summer provides fresh evidence of the movement’s fixation with a country that has become the most popular venue to wage holy war since the seminal Afghan jihad of the 1980s.

Indeed, al-Qaeda’s presence in Syria is far more pernicious than that of ISIS. Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the latest name adopted by al-Qaeda’s local affiliate, is now the largest rebel group in the country, having extended its control last year over all of Idlib Province, along the Syrian-Turkish border. This is the culmination of a process al-Qaeda began more than three years ago to annihilate the Free Syrian Army and any other group that challenges al-Qaeda’s regional aspirations.

Filling the ISIS Vacuum

ISIS can no longer compete with al-Qaeda in terms of influence, reach, manpower, or cohesion. In only two domains is ISIS currently stronger than its rival: the power of its brand and its presumed ability to mount spectacular terrorist strikes in Europe. But the latter is a product of Zawahiri’s strategic decision to prohibit external operations in the West so that al-Qaeda’s rebuilding can continue without interference. The handful of exceptions to this policy—such as the 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris and the 2017 St. Petersburg Metro bombing in Russia—provide compelling evidence that al-Qaeda’s external operations capabilities can easily be reanimated. Yemen-based al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula’s capacity to commit acts of international terrorism—especially the targeting of commercial aviation—was recently the subject of a revealing New York Times story.

Al-Qaeda’s success in resurrecting its global network is the result of three strategic moves made by Zawahiri. The first was to strengthen the decentralized franchise approach that has facilitated the movement’s survival. Over the years, the leaders and deputies of al-Qaeda’s far-flung franchises have been integrated into the movement’s deliberative and consultative processes. Today, al-Qaeda is truly “glocal,” having effectively incorporated local grievances and concerns into a global narrative that forms the foundation of an all-encompassing grand strategy.

The second major move was the order issued by Zawahiri in 2013 to avoid mass casualty operations, especially those that might kill Muslim civilians. Al-Qaeda has thus been able to present itself through social media, paradoxically, as “moderate extremists,” ostensibly more palatable than ISIS.

This development reflects Zawahiri’s third strategic decision, letting ISIS absorb all the blows from the coalition arrayed against it while al-Qaeda unobtrusively rebuilds its military strength. Anyone inclined to be taken in by this ruse would do well to heed the admonition of Theo Padnos (née Peter Theo Curtis), the American journalist who spent two years in Syria as a Nusra hostage. Padnos related in 2014 how the group’s senior commanders “were inviting Westerners to the jihad in Syria not so much because they needed more foot soldiers—they didn’t—but because they want to teach the Westerners to take the struggle into every neighborhood and subway station back home.”

A parallel thus exists between the U.S. director of national intelligence’s depiction of the al-Qaeda threat today [PDF] as mainly limited to its affiliates and the so-called Phoney War in western Europe between September 1939 and May 1940, when there was a strange lull in serious fighting following the German invasion of Poland and the British and French declarations of war against Germany. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain visited British forces arrayed along the Franco-Belgian border that Christmas. “I don’t think the Germans have any intention of attacking us, do you?” he asked Lieutenant General Bernard Law Montgomery, the commander of an infantry division defending the front. The Germans would attack when it suited them, Montgomery brusquely replied. It is a point worth keeping in mind as al-Qaeda busily rebuilds and marshals its forces to continue the war against the United States it declared twenty-two years ago.

6. About the Muslim Brotherhood’s economic doctrine:

“Islam in Office” by Stephen Glain; Newsweek; 7/3–10/2006.

Judeo-Christian scrip­ture offers lit­tle eco­nomic instruc­tion. The Book of Deuteron­omy, for exam­ple, is loaded with edicts on how the faith­ful should pray, eat, bequeath, keep the holy fes­ti­vals and treat slaves and spouses, but it is silent on trade and com­merce. In Matthew, when Christ admon­ishes his fol­low­ers to ‘give to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s,’ he is effec­tively con­ced­ing fis­cal and mon­e­tary author­ity to pagan Rome. Islam is dif­fer­ent. The prophet Muhammad—himself a trader—preached mer­chant honor, the only reg­u­la­tion that the bor­der­less Lev­an­tine mar­ket knew. . . .

. . . In Mus­lim liturgy, the deals cut in the souk become a metaphor for the con­tract between God and the faith­ful. And the busi­ness model Muham­mad pre­scribed, accord­ing to Mus­lim schol­ars and econ­o­mists, is very much in the laissez-faire tra­di­tion later embraced by the West. Prices were to be set by God alone—anticipating by more than a mil­len­nium Adam Smith’s ref­er­ence to the ‘invis­i­ble hand’ of market-based pric­ing. Mer­chants were not to cut deals out­side the souk, an early attempt to thwart insider trad­ing. . . . In the days of the caliphate, Islam devel­oped the most sophis­ti­cated mon­e­tary sys­tem the world had yet known. Today, some econ­o­mists cite Islamic bank­ing as fur­ther evi­dence of an intrin­sic Islamic prag­ma­tism. Though still guided by a Qur’anic ban on riba, or inter­est, Islamic bank­ing has adapted to the needs of a boom­ing oil region for liq­uid­ity. In recent years, some 500 Islamic banks and invest­ment firms hold­ing $2 tril­lion in assets have emerged in the Gulf States, with more in Islamic com­mu­ni­ties of the West.

British Chan­cel­lor of the Exche­quer Gor­don Brown wants to make Lon­don a global cen­ter for Islamic finance—and elic­its no howl of protest from fun­da­men­tal­ists. How Islamists might run a cen­tral bank is more prob­lem­atic: schol­ars say they would manip­u­late cur­rency reserves, not inter­est rates.

The Mus­lim Broth­er­hood hails 14th cen­tury philoso­pher Ibn Khal­dun as its eco­nomic guide. Antic­i­pat­ing supply-side eco­nom­ics, Khal­dun argued that cut­ting taxes raises pro­duc­tion and tax rev­enues, and that state con­trol should be lim­ited to pro­vid­ing water, fire and free graz­ing land, the util­i­ties of the ancient world. The World Bank has called Ibn Khal­dun the first advo­cate of pri­va­ti­za­tion. [Empha­sis added.] His found­ing influ­ence is a sign of mod­er­a­tion. If Islamists in power ever do clash with the West, it won’t be over com­merce. . . .

7. Stephen Glain’s citation of Ibn Khaldun resonates with Ronald Reagan’s presentation of “supply-side economics.” ” . . . . Responding to a question about the effects of tax and spending cuts that began taking effect yesterday, Mr. Reagan said the supply-side principle dated at least as far back as Ibn Khaldun, who is generally regarded as the greatest Arab historian to emerge from the highly developed Arabic culture of the Middle Ages. . . .”

“Reagan Cites Islamic Scholar” by Robert D. McFadden; The New York Times; 10/02/1981

President Reagan, in his news conference yesterday, cited a 14thcentury Islamic scholar as an early exponent of the ”supply-side” economic theory on which his Administration bases many of its policies. An authority on the scholar later said that the reference seemed accurate.

Supply-side theory, among other things, holds that a cut in tax rates will stimulate the economy and thus generate even greater tax revenues.

Responding to a question about the effects of tax and spending cuts that began taking effect yesterday, Mr. Reagan said the supply-side principle dated at least as far back as Ibn Khaldun, who is generally regarded as the greatest Arab historian to emerge from the highly developed Arabic culture of the Middle Ages. . . .

Discussion

6 comments for “FTR #1024 Ukrainian Fascism, Maidan Snipers and Implications for the Syrian War, Part 2”

  1. Here’s something to keep in mind regarding the possibility of staged chemical weapons attack by the rebels in Idlib and a much deeper US involvement in Syria: According to the following Politico report, President Trump has soured on Secretary of Defense James Mattis over the last few months and is looking to replace him after the mid-terms. Why? Because Trump has concluded that Mattis’s political views are too moderate. He’s even apparently started calling him “Moderate Mattis”, a play of Mattis’s “Mad Dog Mattis” nickname. So as insane as this sounds, Mad Dog Mattis isn’t mad enough for Trump and he’s looking for a Madder Dog to replace him soon:

    Politico

    GOP senators: No Sessions replacement could get confirmed

    The possible axing of Jeff Sessions is giving Republican senators a migraine.

    By BURGESS EVERETT and ELIANA JOHNSON

    09/12/2018 07:11 PM EDT

    Senate Republicans are in a jam when it comes to Jeff Sessions.

    While resigned to President Donald Trump firing the attorney general after the midterm elections, they suspect that perhaps only a sitting senator could win confirmation as Sessions’ successor — that is, someone they could trust not to interfere with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. But no one from their ranks seems to want the job.

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) said any new nominee must pledge to protect the Mueller investigation, and that it would help if that person were “somebody from the body or someone who has had experience … or somebody you know personally, you know what you’re getting.” But he said it’s not going to be him, despite private belief among his colleagues he’s eyeing the job.

    “No. I like being a senator. There are plenty of more qualified people than me. Bunches of them, thousands,” Graham said Wednesday.

    Asked about Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas, a fellow Senate lawyer who was considered as FBI director, Graham said: “He’d be great if he wanted to do it.”

    No dice, said Cornyn.

    “We already have an attorney general,” said Cornyn, who some colleagues think could be confirmed to succeed Sessions. “I love my job.”

    And Mike Lee (R-Utah), who some Republicans think might be interested in the job, is “very happy” in his current role as senator, a spokesman said.

    With few obvious potential applicants for a job that seems to come with built-in clashes with the president, some senators even suggest Trump might have to nominate a Democrat to have any hope of getting a new attorney general confirmed.

    “Trump may very well want a change,” said retiring Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). “If I was the president, I’d even consider picking a Democrat if I thought I couldn’t get anybody else through.”

    The president, however, is looking for a staunch defender like Eric Holder was to Barack Obama, or a “guy looking out for his own interests,” said a Republican close to the White House. This person said that perhaps a senator could be persuaded to take the job, but was unsure anyone could meet Trump’s criteria of loyalty.

    “I’m not sure that there’s anybody in the Senate besides maybe Lindsey Graham that Trump would want and even Lindsey, he really likes Lindsey, but I don’t know if he trusts him,” this person said. “I don’t know that there’s anybody in the Senate he feels that way about or that they feel that way about him.”

    One Republican senator said a senator nominated as attorney general would have to have a squeaky clean record of praise for Trump and estimated that perhaps only four members of the Senate would qualify, calling it a “pretty small universe” of candidates.

    The problem is acute enough that Republicans are pessimistic about a confirmation in the lame duck, when there will be little political imperative for red-state Democrats to go along with a new attorney general. And if Republicans lose the Senate majority, an attorney general confirmation becomes even more difficult, if not impossible.

    It’s a problem compounded by the fact that some Republican senators, like Ben Sasse of Nebraska, have already said it would be “really difficult” for them to support a successor should Trump fire Sessions. Asked this month whether he was confident he could confirm a Sessions successor, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell instead defended the attorney general and said he hopes he sticks around.

    “Assuming that the Democrats voted together against the nominee, I think you would have some Republicans who may well vote against the new nomination,” said Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.).

    The most optimistic Republicans say that the cloud may lift after the election, especially if Mueller’s investigation concludes. Many Republicans are worried about the politics of confirming a new attorney general amid the sensitive probe.

    One out could be if Sessions leaves his job voluntarily. Firing Sessions seems to be a red line for some in the GOP.

    Sasse “finds it difficult to envision a circumstance where he would confirm a successor to Attorney General Sessions if he is fired for faithfully executing his job. Attorney General Sessions has allowed Mr. Mueller to do his work, and Sen. Sasse believes that’s the way it should be,” said James Wegmann, a Sasse spokesman.

    The problem for the White House extends beyond filling the top job at the Justice Department. Trump has for months been mulling the prospect of replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is now expected to be dismissed or to resign after the midterm elections, too. Once enamored of the retired Marine general and his nickname, “Mad Dog,” the president bragged to donors, “The guy never loses a battle, never loses.” But Trump has slowly come to realize that Mattis’ political views are more moderate than his sobriquet suggests, and the president has taken to referring to him behind closed doors as “Moderate Dog.”

    The White House’s short-list of prospective replacements for Mattis includes two Republican senators who have signaled they aren’t interested in the job, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Graham, both of whom are up for re-election in 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. And Cotton has already announced his campaign for reelection.

    Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), the newly installed Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, said he’s advocating for Mattis to stay and that whether he stays may “depend on whether I have anything or not to say about it.”

    “He does a great job,” said Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.). Mattis should “absolutely” stay on, he said.

    ———-

    “GOP senators: No Sessions replacement could get confirmed” by BURGESS EVERETT and ELIANA JOHNSON; Politico; 09/12/2018

    “The problem for the White House extends beyond filling the top job at the Justice Department. Trump has for months been mulling the prospect of replacing Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who is now expected to be dismissed or to resign after the midterm elections, too. Once enamored of the retired Marine general and his nickname, “Mad Dog,” the president bragged to donors, “The guy never loses a battle, never loses.” But Trump has slowly come to realize that Mattis’ political views are more moderate than his sobriquet suggests, and the president has taken to referring to him behind closed doors as “Moderate Dog.”

    Also note how there’s no obvious replacement for Mattis that would fit the criteria of being ‘madder’ than Mattis but still able to get a Senate confirmation. So who is replacement might be remains a largely a mystery. A very scary mystery:


    The White House’s short-list of prospective replacements for Mattis includes two Republican senators who have signaled they aren’t interested in the job, Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Graham, both of whom are up for re-election in 2020, according to people familiar with the matter. And Cotton has already announced his campaign for reelection.

    So Trump has apparently been mulling replacing Mattis “for months”, which would suggest his change in attitude towards Mattis wasn’t just in response to the recent Bob Woodward book, Fear. We don’t know who that might be, we just know that it will be someone who will presumably be less inclined to act as a check on Trump’s crazier impulses. Impulses like assassinating Bashar al-Assad in response to the last alleged Syrian government chemical weapons attack:

    Vox

    5 stunning Trump foreign policy moments from Bob Woodward’s new book
    The book excerpts from Fear show Trump is not handling foreign policy all that well.

    By Alex Ward
    Updated Sep 4, 2018, 6:35pm EDT

    Nearly canceling America’s involvement in a crucial trade deal. Believing diplomacy with North Korea comes down to his personal relationship with Kim Jong Un. Wanting to kill a foreign leader for using chemical weapons.

    Those are just some of the surprising details about President Donald Trump in Bob Woodward’s anticipated book Fear. Excerpts have started to leak in multiple outlets, and they show how tumultuous — and potentially dangerous — Trump’s foreign policy has been.

    The book comes out next week, which means the following accounts are still incomplete and devoid of full context. Still, the excerpts show how US foreign policy under Trump’s has nearly turned into a full-blown disaster on numerous occasions.

    Below are just some of the major foreign policy and national security tidbits from the newly released excerpts of Woodward’s book.

    1) Trump wanted to assassinate Syrian President Bashar al-Assad

    In April 2017, the US launched a cruise missile strike against a Syrian regime airbase airbase — the first intentional US strike on Bashar al-Assad’s forces since the Syrian war began in 2011. The strike was in direct response to a chemical weapon attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed at least 85 civilians.

    But Woodward reports that Trump wanted the strikes to be a lot more punitive.

    “Let’s fuc king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fuc king lot of them,” Trump told Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, referring to Assad and his forces. After hanging up with Trump, according to Woodward, the secretary told one of his senior staffers: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

    Mattis’s more restrained response is what Trump ultimately authorized. But it’s completely possible that without Mattis’s intervention, the US would’ve launched a larger-scale strike to try to kill Assad. That would certainly have angered Assad’s main backer, Russia, and may have led to a broader Washington-Moscow confrontation.

    So Trump is apparently fine with assassinating foreign leaders — at least in theory. That’s quite an insight into how Trump wants to use his military.

    Perhaps that should be expected: In 2011, Trump said that former President Barack Obama should kill then-Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi.

    “Now we should go in, we should stop this guy, which would be very easy and very quick,” Trump said in a video blog. “We should do on a humanitarian basis, immediately go into Libya, knock this guy out … and save the lives.”

    3) Trump tried to withdraw the US from a trade deal with South Korea

    America’s strong relationship with South Korea boils down to two main components: defense and trade.

    The greatest example of that second component is the US-Korea Free Trade Agreement, under which both countries trade around $145 billion in goods and services a year mostly tariff-free. That deal helps the US keep its ally’s economy thriving, and maintains a key friend in the region — all while stimulating the US economy back home.

    Yet it appears Trump was very close to removing the US from that agreement. According to Woodward, Trump had a letter on his desk that — had he signed it — would’ve withdrawn the US from the free-trade deal. Trump has previously expressed a desire to leave that accord.

    Gary Cohn, then Trump’s top economic adviser, was so fearful Trump might sign it that he removed the letter from the president desk.

    “I stole it off his desk,” Cohn told someone close to him. “I wouldn’t let him see it. He’s never going to see that document. Got to protect the country.”

    Stealing documents, Woodward notes, is something Trump staffers repeatedly do to keep the president from harming US national security. Woodward described the tactic as “no less than an administrative coup d’état.”

    There may have been serious repercussions had Trump signed the letter.

    For one, the US would’ve lost a staunch ally and an important partner in talks with North Korea. Second, Seoul may have kicked out America’s roughly 28,500 troops from the country. And third, it likely may have hurt a secret US program to detect a North Korean missile launch within seven seconds.

    Trump could still decide to withdraw from the deal in the future. If that’s the case, his staffers will surely have to give him a letter to sign.

    5) Mattis thinks Trump acts like “a fifth- or sixth-grader”

    Mattis almost never criticizes the president in public. In private, though, it seems to be a different story.

    Woodward recounts that after a testy meeting on South Korea — in which Trump questioned why the US backs it financially and militarily — Mattis told associates that the president acted and understood things like “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

    “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis reportedly joked to friends in another instance.

    The Secretary denied making these statements. “The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said in a Tuesday statement.

    The secretary has so far avoided Trump’s anger, in part because he keeps out of the spotlight by not making comments like that. But Woodward’s book threatens to put Mattis in Trump’s crosshairs — and therefore possibly out of the Pentagon soon.

    ———-

    “5 stunning Trump foreign policy moments from Bob Woodward’s new book” by Alex Ward; Vox; 09/04/2018

    ““Let’s fuc king kill him! Let’s go in. Let’s kill the fuc king lot of them,” Trump told Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, referring to Assad and his forces. After hanging up with Trump, according to Woodward, the secretary told one of his senior staffers: “We’re not going to do any of that. We’re going to be much more measured.”

    So Trump told Mattis to assassinate Assad, and Mattis basically just ignored him. Might that be one of the incidents that led Trump to conclude that Mattis isn’t mad enough? It seems like a likely candidate.

    And, of course, after the publication of Woodward’s book Trump is probably going to want to get rid of Mattis simply as a response to Woodward’s claims that Mattis thinks Trump acts like “a fifth- or sixth-grader”:


    5) Mattis thinks Trump acts like “a fifth- or sixth-grader”

    Mattis almost never criticizes the president in public. In private, though, it seems to be a different story.

    Woodward recounts that after a testy meeting on South Korea — in which Trump questioned why the US backs it financially and militarily — Mattis told associates that the president acted and understood things like “a fifth- or sixth-grader.”

    “Secretaries of defense don’t always get to choose the president they work for,” Mattis reportedly joked to friends in another instance.

    The Secretary denied making these statements. “The contemptuous words about the President attributed to me in Woodward’s book were never uttered by me or in my presence,” Mattis said in a Tuesday statement.

    The secretary has so far avoided Trump’s anger, in part because he keeps out of the spotlight by not making comments like that. But Woodward’s book threatens to put Mattis in Trump’s crosshairs — and therefore possibly out of the Pentagon soon.

    That’s all something to factor into the battle over Idlib and the potential for a staged chemical weapons attack by the al Qaeda or one of its affiliates for the purpose of drawing the US into the war on their side. And you have to wonder if the rebels are factoring this in too. Because if they are considering staging such an attack, doing it after Trump has replaced Mattis seems like the better timing on their part. But they don’t know when, or if, Mattis’s replacement will actually take place. It sounds like it could be a couple months away if it does take place after the mid-terms, but who knows. Maybe it will take much longer to find a ‘madder’ replacement, the rebels may not have the luxury of waiting.

    So that’s one of more insane aspects of this incredibly dangerous period: it would probably be a lot more insane by now if it wasn’t for the relative sanity of “Mad Dog” and from Trump’s perspective that’s a problem that needs fixing.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 13, 2018, 1:34 pm
  2. Like a slow-motion hurricane, we have another twist in the #TrumpRussia investigation: Paul Manafort flipped! Except maybe not very much. It’s unclear at this point.

    Yes, just days before his second trial was set to start, Manafort stuck a plea deal with the Mueller team. So the trial of his role in foreign lobbying and the “Hapsburg Group” won’t actually happen, thus ensuring that the extensive evidence that Manafort was working to move Ukraine closer to the EU won’t be argued in court. That said, the Mueller team did just release a 76 page document detailing their charges regarding the Hapsburg Group and other actions by Manafort during his time consulting the Yanukovych government. But any sort of courtroom moments where Manafort’s team point out they were trying to move Ukraine close to the EU aren’t going to happen.

    The plea deal requires Manafort’s cooperation, but it’s ambiguous in terms of what kind of cooperation will be required. The deal drops the 10 charges from Manafort’s previous trial that the jury didn’t convict him on (due to the one holdout juror), but it says these charges will only be dropped after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe. And a source close to Manafort’s defense team told Politico that “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”

    And while this might seem like bad news for Trump, the article also notes that this turn of events could even be like a last favor to Trump. Why? Because it’s going to avoid this messy trial right before the mid-terms less than two months away. Plus, the Trump team appears to have already voiced quasi-approval of the move. Rudy Giuliani told Politico, “We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial?…They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. The judge should decide this. Not Mueller. I think it’s pretty clear if they were going to get anything from him, they’d have gotten it already….From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself.” So Manafort appears to have somehow pleased almost all sides with this move:

    Politico

    The Manafort plea deal: Your questions answered

    The pact has surprised some, given President Donald Trump’s effusive praise of Manafort’s willingness to fight special counsel Robert Mueller in court.

    By JOSH GERSTEIN and DARREN SAMUELSOHN

    09/14/2018 10:11 AM EDT

    Updated 09/14/2018 12:39 PM EDT

    Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman, had struck a plea deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.

    The agreement comes just days before Manafort is set to face foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges in a Washington, D.C., court room. The pact has surprised some, given President Donald Trump’s effusive praise of Manafort’s willingness to fight Mueller in court.

    Last month, Manfort was found guilty in a Virginia trial on eight counts of bank and tax fraud, while the judge declared a mistrial on 10 other charges after the jury couldn’t reach a unanimous verdict.

    After the decision, Trump called Manafort “a brave man” on Twitter.

    Manafort’s charges came out of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with the Kremlin on its efforts. Trump has regularly decried the investigation as a “witch hunt.”

    What’s in Manafort’s potential plea deal?

    The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier trial, but only after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did not immediately expand on what cooperation is required under the deal.

    However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”

    Separately, the agreement calls for a 10-year cap on how long Manafort will be sent to prison, and for Manafort to serve time from his separate Virginia and Washington cases concurrently. The deal also calls for Manafort to forfeit four properties.

    But it will not release Manafort from jail, where he has been held since Mueller’s team added witness tampering charges during the run-up to Manafort’s trial.

    Why would Manafort plead guilty?

    The outcome of the Virginia case might have actually made a plea deal for Manafort more attractive, since he already faces substantial prison time — perhaps on the order of eight to 10 years — on his convictions there. That sentence could amount to life for a 69-year-old.

    And prior to any plea deal, lawyers said, Manafort was exposed to another sentence of a decade or more if convicted on the Washington charges, which include conspiracy against the United States, failing to register as a foreign agent, money laundering and witness tampering. It would be up to the second judge who sentenced Manafort to decide whether the sentences would run concurrently or consecutively.

    Also, a plea deal limits Manafort’s legal bills.

    “Manafort might be saying, ‘Enough is enough. I spent $1 million, or $500,000 on legal fees and got eight convictions,'” said Fordham law professor Jed Shugerman. “This is someone who seems to have cared a lot about money, and he may now be trying to shield some amount of money for his family.”

    If Manafort pleads guilty, does that mean he will help Mueller?

    While the dismissal of the earlier charges against Manafort is conditional on his cooperation with Mueller, it was unclear what that cooperation would entail.

    Usually, plea deals require a defendant to share information useful to prosecutors, but prosecutors will typically give some concessions to someone who won’t cooperate but is willing to plead guilty to some of the charges they face.

    When Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and co-defendant, agreed in February to plead guilty to two felony charges and cooperate with investigators, Manafort professed to be mystified by the development. Gates went on to serve as the star witness at Manafort’s trial.

    “I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort wrote. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface, he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

    Why would Mueller accept a plea deal if Manafort doesn’t have useful information?

    Mueller’s team has shown a desire to put its findings on the public record even if it has little or no chance of getting the defendants in a courtroom. For instance, the special counsel’s team filed exhaustive indictments detailing Russia’s online disinformation and hacking schemes during the election, even though legal experts say the individuals named in the documents will never stand trial in the U.S.

    Given that background, it might seem confusing why Mueller would allow Manafort to plead guilty if he’s not willing to offer worthwhile information in the special counsel’s Russia probe.

    But legal experts note that the government can benefit from avoiding the hassle of Manafort’s Washington trial, especially considering it already obtained guilty pleas in the Virginia case.

    “Even if there’s not a cooperation agreement, it’s always to the government’s benefit to negotiate a plea to avoid the time and resources necessary to do a trial and to get the certainty of a conviction. Every trial is to some extent a crapshoot,” said former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason. “I expect they would consider letting him plead guilty to some counts in exchange for dropping some charges.”

    Still, won’t this anger Trump?

    It could, but scuttling Manafort’s upcoming trial is also advantageous for Trump, lawyers close to the case say.

    Trump will avoid a distracting, high-profile political spectacle just weeks before midterm elections in which GOP losses could severely crimp his power and might lead to his impeachment.

    “It’s a big win for Trump to get this trial off the calendar in late September or early October without cooperation,” Jed Shugerman said. “Manafort might just be doing one last solid for Trump.”

    So what does the plea deal mean for Manafort’s chance at a presidential pardon?

    We’ll see. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has indicated he understands Manafort’s impulse to plead guilty.

    “We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial?” he told POLITICO on Wednesday. “They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. The judge should decide this. Not Mueller. I think it’s pretty clear if they were going to get anything from him, they’d have gotten it already.”

    Giuliani added that, “From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself.”

    But after a plea deal, could Manafort be forced to testify against the president?

    The former Trump campaign chairman might now be in a spot where he can more easily be compelled to testify about the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts, including the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians that Manafort attended in June 2016.

    Lawyers have said a deal could expose the former Trump campaign chief to more questioning, although the same issue could have come up even if Manafort had been convicted at a second trial and Trump granted a pardon. Mueller could grant Manafort immunity and force him in front of a grand jury.

    “A pardon would remove any Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” said Phil Lacovara, who served on the Watergate Special Prosecution team. “Accordingly, Manafort could be ordered to testify about what he knows concerning the president‘s knowledge of any active cooperation between his presidential campaign and Russian agents. Any lies during that testimony would expose him to new prosecutions for perjury or making false statements.”

    ———-

    “The Manafort plea deal: Your questions answered” by JOSH GERSTEIN and DARREN SAMUELSOHN; Politico; 09/14/2018

    The agreement comes just days before Manafort is set to face foreign-lobbying and money-laundering charges in a Washington, D.C., court room. The pact has surprised some, given President Donald Trump’s effusive praise of Manafort’s willingness to fight Mueller in court.”

    Yes, one of the biggest ‘WTF’ aspects of this entire saga – Manafort’s role in trying to move Ukraine close to the EU and away from Russia – isn’t going to get the big courtroom hearing that was scheduled for just days from now. That’s undoubtedly going to please many sides.

    Making it all the more remarkable is that while Manafort has to cooperate in order to get the deadlocked charges from the previous trial dropped, it doesn’t sound like that cooperation actually involves the Trump campaign. As Manafort’s side put it to Politico, “there was no collusion with Russia”:


    What’s in Manafort’s potential plea deal?

    The deal dismisses deadlocked charges against Manafort from an earlier trial, but only after “successful cooperation” with Mueller’s probe into Russian election interference and whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Moscow on its efforts. Mueller prosecutor Andrew Weissmann did not immediately expand on what cooperation is required under the deal.

    However, a source close to the defense told POLITICO, “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.”

    Separately, the agreement calls for a 10-year cap on how long Manafort will be sent to prison, and for Manafort to serve time from his separate Virginia and Washington cases concurrently. The deal also calls for Manafort to forfeit four properties.

    But it will not release Manafort from jail, where he has been held since Mueller’s team added witness tampering charges during the run-up to Manafort’s trial.

    If Manafort pleads guilty, does that mean he will help Mueller?

    While the dismissal of the earlier charges against Manafort is conditional on his cooperation with Mueller, it was unclear what that cooperation would entail.

    Usually, plea deals require a defendant to share information useful to prosecutors, but prosecutors will typically give some concessions to someone who won’t cooperate but is willing to plead guilty to some of the charges they face.

    When Rick Gates, Manafort’s business partner and co-defendant, agreed in February to plead guilty to two felony charges and cooperate with investigators, Manafort professed to be mystified by the development. Gates went on to serve as the star witness at Manafort’s trial.

    “I continue to maintain my innocence,” Manafort wrote. “I had hoped and expected my business colleague would have had the strength to continue the battle to prove our innocence. For reasons yet to surface, he chose to do otherwise. This does not alter my commitment to defend myself against the untrue piled up charges contained in the indictments against me.”

    So why might Mueller accept a plea deal if Manafort doesn’t have useful information? The example reasons listed in the article is that it will free up resources. What isn’t listed in the obvious benefit of not having the nature of that Hapsburg Group initiative debated in the courtroom. What would prosecutors have said if Manafort’s defense team pointed out that he was basically working in US and EU interests during that saga? We’ll never know:


    Why would Mueller accept a plea deal if Manafort doesn’t have useful information?

    Mueller’s team has shown a desire to put its findings on the public record even if it has little or no chance of getting the defendants in a courtroom. For instance, the special counsel’s team filed exhaustive indictments detailing Russia’s online disinformation and hacking schemes during the election, even though legal experts say the individuals named in the documents will never stand trial in the U.S.

    Given that background, it might seem confusing why Mueller would allow Manafort to plead guilty if he’s not willing to offer worthwhile information in the special counsel’s Russia probe.

    But legal experts note that the government can benefit from avoiding the hassle of Manafort’s Washington trial, especially considering it already obtained guilty pleas in the Virginia case.

    “Even if there’s not a cooperation agreement, it’s always to the government’s benefit to negotiate a plea to avoid the time and resources necessary to do a trial and to get the certainty of a conviction. Every trial is to some extent a crapshoot,” said former federal prosecutor Randall Eliason. “I expect they would consider letting him plead guilty to some counts in exchange for dropping some charges.”

    And as was point out, this could end up helping Trump (and the rest of the GOP) too by getting this high-profile trial out of the headlines. As one person put it, “Manafort might just be doing one last solid for Trump.” And even Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lawyer, basically gave his blessing to Manafort pleading guilty on Wednesday. Now, it’s possible that the Trump team was expecting a guilty plea but not an agreement to cooperate and perhaps they’re stunned today with that cooperation agreement. But as we saw, that cooperation apparently doesn’t involve the Trump campaign, so maybe the Trump team is quite pleased today:


    Still, won’t this anger Trump?

    It could, but scuttling Manafort’s upcoming trial is also advantageous for Trump, lawyers close to the case say.

    Trump will avoid a distracting, high-profile political spectacle just weeks before midterm elections in which GOP losses could severely crimp his power and might lead to his impeachment.

    “It’s a big win for Trump to get this trial off the calendar in late September or early October without cooperation,” Jed Shugerman said. “Manafort might just be doing one last solid for Trump.”

    So what does the plea deal mean for Manafort’s chance at a presidential pardon?

    We’ll see. Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has indicated he understands Manafort’s impulse to plead guilty.

    “We can see a reason why he might want to do that. What’s the need for another trial?” he told POLITICO on Wednesday. “They’ve got enough to put him in jail. His lawyer is going to argue they shouldn’t. The judge should decide this. Not Mueller. I think it’s pretty clear if they were going to get anything from him, they’d have gotten it already.”

    Giuliani added that, “From our perspective, we want him to do the right thing for himself.”

    At the same time, it sounds like this plea deal still means Manafort could be forced to testify against Trump whether or not there’s an eventual pardon:


    But after a plea deal, could Manafort be forced to testify against the president?

    The former Trump campaign chairman might now be in a spot where he can more easily be compelled to testify about the Trump campaign’s Russia contacts, including the now infamous Trump Tower meeting with Russians that Manafort attended in June 2016.

    Lawyers have said a deal could expose the former Trump campaign chief to more questioning, although the same issue could have come up even if Manafort had been convicted at a second trial and Trump granted a pardon. Mueller could grant Manafort immunity and force him in front of a grand jury.

    “A pardon would remove any Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination,” said Phil Lacovara, who served on the Watergate Special Prosecution team. “Accordingly, Manafort could be ordered to testify about what he knows concerning the president‘s knowledge of any active cooperation between his presidential campaign and Russian agents. Any lies during that testimony would expose him to new prosecutions for perjury or making false statements.”

    So those are all some of the reasons Manafort may have been willing to plead guilty and agree to cooperate. It’s a move that potentially pleases everyone, although it sounds like how much it pleases the interested parties in the long-run will depend heavily on the nature of his cooperation.

    And then there’s the fact that if Manafort was indeed involved with orchestrating the initial crackdown on Maidan protesters and/or the subsequent sniper attacks, a legal strategy based on the argument that he was actually trying to move Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and into the arms of the EU might have been rather risky.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 14, 2018, 1:32 pm
  3. @Pterrafractyl–

    Bear in mind that Manafort, like the late Edwin Wilson, is a spook, jailed by the authorities for performing the task he was ordered to do.

    “Rolling over” on the part of Manafort is to be expected–otherwise (if he is lucky and doesn’t die of “apparently natural causes” or a “prison suicide”)he figures to spend the rest of his life in prison.

    In addition, he has a family who might be endangered if he does not cooperate.

    Lastly, don’t forget that Manafort has the example of Lee Harvey Oswald, another spook who was doing what he was ordered to do and was framed for a crime and jailed–ever so briefly–for it.

    At times, I actually feel sorry for Manafort. That most “special” of prosecutors–Robert “Pan Am 103, BCCI, Operation Green Quest” Mueller has him by the short hairs.

    THAT is the ultimate “short leash.”

    Keep up the great work!

    Dave

    Posted by Dave Emory | September 14, 2018, 2:51 pm
  4. @Dave: Note that it also sounds like the statements to Politico from a source close to Manafort’s defense team that “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia,” is just false. That same claim has been pushed by Rudy Giuliani repeated over the last day. Interestingly, just two days ago we got reports that Manafort’s and Trump’s defense teams were cooperating with each other via a joint-defense agreement that allows them to share information. So you have to wonder if that source to to Manafort’s defense team was in fact a member of Trump’s defense team just putting a positive spin on the situation.

    If that wasn’t a Trump team person putting out that meme, it’s pretty remarkable that Manafort’s defense team is continuing to send out ‘don’t worry, Trump’ messages even at that this point. As Josh Marshall noted, one of the most remarkable things about this plea agreement was that all of the news leading up to actual announcement suggested that it was going to be a plea agreement without cooperation. So it’s almost as if Manafort’s team was putting out disinformation targeting Trump in the days leading up to the guilty plea. And that ‘don’t worry, Trump’ messaging is still emanating from the someone close to Manafort’s defense team. It’s a confusing set of signals.

    Giuliani has actually taken that message somewhat further, telling reporters the Manafort is only going to cooperate in relation to the issues involved in this indictment (i.e. Hapsburg Group stuff) and not about the Trump campaign or Trump. As Giuliani told Business Insider below, “Paul Manafort is not going to talk to [the special counsel] Robert Mueller about Trump or the Trump campaign…His cooperation deal does not include an agreement to do that. He’s only cooperating on matters related to the two indictments against him and others named in those indictments.”

    But according to the legal experts in the following article, the actual language of the plea agreement in no way suggests that it doesn’t involve the Trump campaign. According to Jeffrey Cramer, a former federal prosecutor, while Giuliani’s statement could theoretically be true, it’s unlikely that Mueller would agree to a cooperation deal with Manafort if it didn’t “help him snag a bigger fish”. Of course, not publicly investigating the pro-EU nature of the Hapsburg Group lobbying effort could itself be a pretty big “fish to fry”. And that’s going to make it extra interesting if it turns out in the end that Manafort doesn’t actually give investigators any information regarding Trump-Russia collusion, or much of anything else that leads to a “bigger fish” getting ensared.

    As the article also notes, there’s one other area where Manafort could provide information that ‘snags’ Trump that doesn’t haven’t to do with the Trump campaign activity: information about Trump dangling pardons in front of Manafort and Michael Flynn, which could be used for obstruction of justice charges against Trump. And there’s absolutely no reason to believe at this point that Trump didn’t dangle pardons to Manafort and Flynn at this point. There are already reports about Trump talking to his lawyers about pardoning Manafort and Giuliani himself commented, “The real concern, is whether Mueller would turn any pardon into an obstruction charge.”

    Another factor in all this is that Mueller’s team presumably already knows what it was that Manafort could tell them before they reached this cooperation agreement. So we have a situation where it’s presumed that Mueller would only reach such an agreement with Manafort if Manafort did indeed have very useful information. And while that’s being widely interpreted as suggesting that Manafort has lots of information about Russian collusion, it’s going to be worth keeping in mind that Manafort is currently well positioned to implicate Trump in potential obstruction of justice charges without verifying anything about Russian collusion. And in that sense, it’s entirely possible that the source close to Manafort’s defense team, claiming the cooperation isn’t going to involve the Trump campaign, is possible if Manafort has already agreed to implicate Trump on obstruction of justice but nothing else.

    And that raises an intriguing possibility: did Mueller’s team reach an agreement with Manafort where Manafort is going to cooperate on obstruction of justice but not cooperation on what transpired during the 2016 campaign? Because such an arrangement would still ‘snag’ Trump, just not for collusion. Would Mueller be willing to take such a deal? If so, that’s perhaps that one scenario might explain that odd message from the source close to Manafort’s defense team that doesn’t assume it was just disinformation:

    Business Insider

    ‘It’s not even a close call’: Giuliani is pushing a dubious theory about Paul Manafort’s plea deal that experts say is bogus

    Sonam Sheth
    09/15/2018

    * Rudy Giuliani told Business Insider that Paul Manafort’s cooperation deal with the special counsel Robert Mueller does not include an agreement to share information about President Trump or the Trump campaign.
    * Manafort’s plea agreement does not include an exception for topics related to Trump or his campaign.
    * A prosecutor on Mueller’s team also told a federal judge that Manafort will cooperate “in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant,” including “testifying fully, completely” before a grand jury.
    * Justice Department veterans cast additional doubt on Giuliani’s claims, saying that Mueller would not have agreed to a cooperation deal with the former Trump campaign chairman if he didn’t think it could snag him a bigger fish.

    Following news on Friday that Paul Manafort had struck a plea deal with prosecutors and agreed to cooperate with the Russia investigation, President Donald Trump’s personal defense attorney said he wasn’t worried about the president’s potential legal exposure.

    “Paul Manafort is not going to talk to [the special counsel] Robert Mueller about Trump or the Trump campaign,” Rudy Giuliani told Business Insider in a phone interview Friday evening. “His cooperation deal does not include an agreement to do that. He’s only cooperating on matters related to the two indictments against him and others named in those indictments.”

    The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson pointed out that Giuliani and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the same claim to NPR and Politico.

    Giuliani doubled down on his statement Saturday morning, tweeting, “According to sources close to Manafort defense: ‘The coooeration [sic] agree does not involve the Trump campaign….There was no collusion with Russia.’ Another road travelled by Mueller. Same conclusion: no evidence of collusion President did nothing wrong.”

    Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, said that while Giuliani’s statement could theoretically be true, it’s unlikely that Mueller would agree to a cooperation deal with the former chairman of the Trump campaign if it didn’t help him snag a bigger fish.

    “If you’re Mueller, the reason you pursue this against Manafort, and appropriately so, is to squeeze him,” Cramer said.

    Crucially, Manafort’s plea agreement with Mueller’s office does not include an exception for information related to his time on the Trump campaign.

    And Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor working for Mueller, told US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort will cooperate “in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant,” including “testifying fully, completely” before a grand jury.

    “Take Weissmann’s sentence and juxtapose that with what Giuliani said,” Cramer said. “As a general rule, you go with the people arguing before a judge in court, and who have the evidence to back up their claims.”

    Weissmann headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005, for which he oversaw the prosecutions of 34 people connected to the collapsed energy company. He also spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the eastern district of New York, where he specialized in prosecuting mafia members and bosses from the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese families.

    “Weissmann is a respected prosecutor who has worked some massive cases,” Cramer said. “And he’s not going to make a representation in court if it’s isn’t 100 percent true. Between what he said and what Giuliani said, it’s not even a close call.”

    ‘The way it works with federal cooperation is it’s all or nothing’

    In addition to giving Mueller more information about his own case, Manafort could also help him connect the dots on several pivotal events that occurred while he was spearheading the Trump campaign and even after.

    Those include Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee; his offer of “private briefings” about the campaign to a Russian oligarch; and former Trump lawyer John Dowd’s reported efforts to dangle pardons for him and former national security adviser Michael Flynn last summer if they stayed mum during the investigation.

    Most importantly, he can give Mueller a firsthand account of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top campaign officials and two Russian lobbyists.

    Manafort attended the meeting along with Donald Trump Jr. and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Trump Jr. initially released a statement saying the meeting was a non-event and unrelated to campaign business.

    He had to amend the statement several times as new details about the meeting spilled out in public view. Eventually, it emerged that Trump Jr. agreed to the meeting after he was offered kompromat on Hillary Clinton as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for Trump’s candidacy.

    The president and his lawyers said at first that they had no knowledge of the meeting until The New York Times first reported it last July. But The Washington Post later reported that Trump “dictated” the initial statement his son put out about the meeting.

    Elie Honig, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted hundreds of organized crime cases, said there was no doubt that Manafort would talk to Mueller about the campaign meeting.

    “The way it works with federal cooperation is it’s all or nothing,” he said. “The cooperator doesn’t just talk about select people or categories. They have to talk about everything they’ve ever done, all the criminal activity they knew about, every crime they’ve committed.”

    Circling back to Giuliani’s claim, Cramer said, “One of two things is true here. Either Rudy is wrong, or Mueller doesn’t think the meeting with Russians and Trump officials during the campaign is relevant. I’m going with, Rudy is wrong.”

    ———-

    “‘It’s not even a close call’: Giuliani is pushing a dubious theory about Paul Manafort’s plea deal that experts say is bogus” by Sonam Sheth; Business Insider; 09/15/2018

    “Paul Manafort is not going to talk to [the special counsel] Robert Mueller about Trump or the Trump campaign…His cooperation deal does not include an agreement to do that. He’s only cooperating on matters related to the two indictments against him and others named in those indictments.”

    That was Rudy Giuliani’s message and he’s apparently sticking with it: the cooperation deal does not include an agreement to talk about Trump or the Trump campaign at all. Which goes further than the statement to Politico made by the source close to Manafort’s defense team, which simply stated “the cooperation agreement does not involve the Trump campaign. … There was no collusion with Russia.” Only the Trump campaign would be excluded from the cooperation agreement, not topics involving Trump himself, according the source close to Manafort defense.

    So Giuliani’s statement actually goes much further than that defense team source. And it’s worth noting that Giuliani just cited that source in tweet, so he appears to have based his claims on that source’s claims, suggesting that Giuliani’s statement was just an exaggerated (and inaccurate) version of that source’s statement:


    The New Yorker’s Adam Davidson pointed out that Giuliani and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders made the same claim to NPR and Politico.

    Giuliani doubled down on his statement Saturday morning, tweeting, “According to sources close to Manafort defense: ‘The coooeration [sic] agree does not involve the Trump campaign….There was no collusion with Russia.’ Another road travelled by Mueller. Same conclusion: no evidence of collusion President did nothing wrong.”

    And as former federal prosecutor Jeffrey Cramer puts it, while it’s theoretically possible that Giuliani’s assertions are true, it’s highly unlikely that Mueller would agree to a cooperating agreement if it doesn’t somehow help him ‘snag a bigger fish’:


    Jeffrey Cramer, a longtime former federal prosecutor who spent 12 years at the Justice Department, said that while Giuliani’s statement could theoretically be true, it’s unlikely that Mueller would agree to a cooperation deal with the former chairman of the Trump campaign if it didn’t help him snag a bigger fish.

    “If you’re Mueller, the reason you pursue this against Manafort, and appropriately so, is to squeeze him,” Cramer said.

    As Cramer noted, the actual statements from the prosecutors in court was that Manafort for cooperate “in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant,” including “testifying fully, completely” before a grand jury:


    Crucially, Manafort’s plea agreement with Mueller’s office does not include an exception for information related to his time on the Trump campaign.

    And Andrew Weissmann, a prosecutor working for Mueller, told US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson that Manafort will cooperate “in any and all matters as to which the government deems the cooperation relevant,” including “testifying fully, completely” before a grand jury.

    “Take Weissmann’s sentence and juxtapose that with what Giuliani said,” Cramer said. “As a general rule, you go with the people arguing before a judge in court, and who have the evidence to back up their claims.”

    Weissmann headed up the Enron Task Force between 2002 and 2005, for which he oversaw the prosecutions of 34 people connected to the collapsed energy company. He also spent 15 years as a federal prosecutor in the eastern district of New York, where he specialized in prosecuting mafia members and bosses from the Colombo, Gambino, and Genovese families.

    “Weissmann is a respected prosecutor who has worked some massive cases,” Cramer said. “And he’s not going to make a representation in court if it’s isn’t 100 percent true. Between what he said and what Giuliani said, it’s not even a close call.”

    And while Manafort could possibly provide all sorts of tantalizing information regarding topics like what transpired during the infamous June 9th, 2016, Trump Tower meeting, as the article also notes, there’s also the topic of Trump dangling pardons to Manafort and Michael Flynn, something that happened after the Trump campaign:


    ‘The way it works with federal cooperation is it’s all or nothing’

    In addition to giving Mueller more information about his own case, Manafort could also help him connect the dots on several pivotal events that occurred while he was spearheading the Trump campaign and even after.

    Those include Russia’s hack of the Democratic National Committee; his offer of “private briefings” about the campaign to a Russian oligarch; and former Trump lawyer John Dowd’s reported efforts to dangle pardons for him and former national security adviser Michael Flynn last summer if they stayed mum during the investigation.

    Most importantly, he can give Mueller a firsthand account of a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between top campaign officials and two Russian lobbyists.

    Manafort attended the meeting along with Donald Trump Jr. and senior adviser Jared Kushner. Trump Jr. initially released a statement saying the meeting was a non-event and unrelated to campaign business.

    And it’s that potential for Manafort to implicate Trump on obstruction of justice that took place after the campaign is perhaps the one scenario where that mysterious statement from the Manafort defense source could turn out to be accurate.

    Also keep in mind that whatever shenanigans Trump’s campaign was involved in – whether it involved Russian collusion, independent hacking-related efforts (like the Peter Smith team that included Flynn and Steve Bannon), Cambridge Analytica dirty-tricks, or right-wing shenanigans at the FBI (including Rudy Giuliani’s claims of insider FBI knowledge) – those shenanigans don’t just implicate Trump. We have no idea how deep this goes, but there have been plenty of hints that it goes well beyond the Trump campaign. Even if Russia was interfering in the US campaign there’s no reason to assume that didn’t overlap with plenty of other GOP dirty-tricks that could come out. Or dirty tricks from other actors, including other foreign countries. Don’t forget that Cambridge Analytica was originally working for the Cruz campaign in 2016 and the Robert Mercer promoting Republicans in the 2014 midterms. Then there’s the whole ‘Seychelles backchannel’ drawing in Eric Prince, the UAE, and the Saudis. And the Ukrainian ‘peace plan’/nuclear-power gambit involving Michael Cohen and Felix Sater. Let’s also not forget about Michael Flynn’s ‘Nuclear Marshall Plan for the Middle East’ scheme. Or the UAE/Saudi/Israeli early August 2016 meeting in Tower Tower where the Trump team was offered foreign assistance in some sort of social media campaign. All of these scandals could implicate people far beyond Trump and his inner circle.

    And then there’s the whole ‘maybe Manafort did actually arrange for Maidan sniper attacks/protester crackdowns’ issue that would obviously be highly explosive if true.

    So if Manafort can effectively give Mueller what he wants in a manner that doesn’t help Mueller explore all these various other threads, that might be a highly preferable situation for a whole lot of powerful entities, both within the US establishment and in governments around the world.

    Let’s also keep in mind that, whether or not the Russian government was actually actively colluding with the Trump team on things like the hacked documents, it’s pretty unambiguous that the Trump team was willing to collude. At least Don Jr. certainly sounded open to the idea based on the emails correspondences with Rob Goldstone in the lead up to the Trump Tower meeting. In other words, while Manafort’s cooperation could in theory be very useful for establishing some sort of Russian collusion, it’s not like his cooperation is necessarily for the Mueller team to paint a picture that makes it clear that the Trump campaign tried to collude. There’s plenty of circumstantial evidence that could be be used to intimate there was collusion even if they don’t get actual evidence. And perhaps that circumstantial evidence, combined with Manafort’s and/or Flynn’s cooperation on obstruction of justice, will be seen as an adequate case. A case against Trump that would appear to conclusively back up the larger narrative (massive Russian interference and Trump campaign collusion) without actually detailing what went on with all of these other threads that could implicate parties that go far beyond the Trump team.

    In other words, as long as Trump at least gets conclusively nailed on obstruction of justice it’s possible the broader American public will be satisfied with that without ever really learning about all of these other sub-plots. And Manafort could theoretically provide what is needed for Mueller pull that off without ever cooperating on the Trump campaign activities (or cooperating but not giving any sort of ‘smoking gun’ evidence).

    And that’s all why Donald Trump might want to be extra scared about Manafort’s cooperation: it’s not necessarily that Manafort will blow the lid off of some sort of Russian collusion. It’s also possible that Manafort will provide Mueller with what he needs to keep the lid on what was actually going on while still nailing Trump. We’ll see.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 15, 2018, 3:12 pm
  5. Posted by Susan Shpak | September 21, 2018, 10:06 pm
  6. Here’s a set of articles hinting at a ramping up of regime-change operations against Iran worth keeping in mind in the context of the US potentially getting drawn further into Syria:
    First, it looks like there are a number of problems in the attempt by ISIS to claim responsibility for the recent terror attack against a military parade in Iran. Another group, Ahvaz National Resistance which is believed to be financed by Iran’s Gulf rivals, also claimed responsibility, so at this point there’s still a big question over who carried out the attack:

    The Independent

    Iran mourns terror attack victims, as confusion swirls over Isis’s claim of responsibility

    The men in the Isis video, speaking Arabic and Persian, never mention Isis or make a religiously valid oath loyalty to the group

    Borzou Daragahi Istanbul
    Monday 24 September 2018 16:45

    Isis released a video purporting to show the militants who staged the deadly 22 September attack on a military parade in the Iranian city of Ahvaz, adding to confusion about responsibility for an attack which left 29 people dead and 53 injured.

    Iran officials have called for retribution for the attack, as its ramifications reverberated throughout the country and the region. “Revenge Time,” blared the headline on the front page of the conservative daily paper, Siyasat-e Ruz.

    Iran’s state television broadcast footage of the victims’ funerals and declared Monday a nationwide day of mourning.

    “All people across the country are upset and worried about this attack,” Mahdi Khalil, a reformist politician and analyst based in Tehran, told The Independent.

    “The whole nation is in mourning and condemns this attack.”

    Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, en route to New York for the UN General Assembly gathering, was quoted as saying the attack was “Americans’ work.” Other Iranian political and military officials blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

    The Iranian foreign ministry summoned UAE diplomats to berate them over comments by a political scholar that appeared to justify the attack by insisting the target was legitimate. “An attack on a military target is not a terrorist act,” wrote Abdul Khaleq Abdullah. “Moving the battle to deep inside Iran is an option that has been publicly declared and will increase in the coming phase.”

    An Arab Iranian separatist group, Ahvaz National Resistance, believed to receive support from Tehran’s Persian Gulf rivals, originally claimed to have been behind the attack.

    Among the victims were children, a journalist, and at least 10 members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), a parallel branch of the armed forces.

    The three men in the Isis video, speaking Arabic and Persian, never mention Isis or make a religiously valid oath loyalty to the group, which terrorism experts consider unusual.

    Though the video carried the imprimatur of Isis’s Amaq news platform and was distributed through its normal channels on the Telegram messaging app, some Iranians on social media said photos of the corpses did not match the figures on the video.

    The attack was the most significant act of terror inside the country since last year, when Isis militants killed 17 people at the parliament and at the shrine of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of Iran’s Islamic system, in Tehran.

    Iran’s minister of intelligence said Monday a number of individuals tied to the attack had been rounded up, while the perpetrators were dead.

    Iran very likely will not directly retaliate for the attack. But the widespread perception in Iran that the US and its allies were upping support for militant groups along its borders adds to existing pressure on Tehran to challenge Washington’s aims in other venues, including Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

    “Iran may now strengthen the Taliban, and consequently the war in Afghanistan will further intensify,” military expert Atiqollah Amarkhel, told the Shamsad news channel in Kabul on Sunday.

    For now Mr Khalil said the Iranian leadership would pursue diplomatic means of pressure, with Mr Rouhani likely speaking about the attack at the General Assembly this week.

    The secretary of Iran’s powerful Expediency Council, Mohsen Rezaee, called on Mr Rouhani’s government to demand that Denmark, Netherlands and the UK hand over “terrorists” within their borders affiliated with the organisation.

    The UK hosts a Persian-language Iranian exile satellite television station that broadcast an interview with a leader of the separatist group shortly following the attack.

    ———–

    “Iran mourns terror attack victims, as confusion swirls over Isis’s claim of responsibility” by Borzou Daragahi; The Independent; 09/24/2018

    “Iran’s president, Hassan Rouhani, en route to New York for the UN General Assembly gathering, was quoted as saying the attack was “Americans’ work.” Other Iranian political and military officials blamed Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.”

    So right off the bat we have Iran’s president exclaiming the attack was “Americans’ work”, while other Iranian officials pointed towards Saudi Arabia and the UAE. And an Iranian separatist group thought to receive support from Iran’s Gulf adversaries, Ahvaz National Resistance which based in the town where the attack took place, also claimed responsibility:


    An Arab Iranian separatist group, Ahvaz National Resistance, believed to receive support from Tehran’s Persian Gulf rivals, originally claimed to have been behind the attack.

    A UAE scholar also declares it not a terrorist attack at all but a legitimate attack:


    The Iranian foreign ministry summoned UAE diplomats to berate them over comments by a political scholar that appeared to justify the attack by insisting the target was legitimate. “An attack on a military target is not a terrorist act,” wrote Abdul Khaleq Abdullah. “Moving the battle to deep inside Iran is an option that has been publicly declared and will increase in the coming phase.”

    And then ISIS claims responsibility. But those claims have problems:


    The three men in the Isis video, speaking Arabic and Persian, never mention Isis or make a religiously valid oath loyalty to the group, which terrorism experts consider unusual.

    Though the video carried the imprimatur of Isis’s Amaq news platform and was distributed through its normal channels on the Telegram messaging app, some Iranians on social media said photos of the corpses did not match the figures on the video.

    So at that point what we can say with confidence is that there’s no shortage of suspects for the attack.

    And then Rudolph Giuliani, current President Trump’s lawyer, gave a speech the next day to members and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, which is basically the political wing of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK. It was the kind of speech that isn’t going to do anything to dissuade people from assuming the US played a role in the attack because Giuliani basically declared that Iran was going to experience a revolution soon, telling the group, “You are a threat. It is a reality. The protests are getting worse. I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen. They’re going to be overthrown.”:

    Associated Press

    Trump attorney blasts Iran’s ‘outlaws and murderers,’ Promises Revolution

    By VERENA DOBNIK
    September 23, 2018 9:25 am

    NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s attorney, Rudolph Giuliani, told members of Iran’s self-declared government in exile on Saturday that the U.S. sympathizes with their efforts to overthrow that country’s official government.

    The former New York mayor spoke to members and supporters of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the biggest opposition group to Iran’s Islamic regime. Two U.S.-based members who joined the gathering have been targeted for assassination by alleged Iranian agents named last month in criminal complaints issued by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

    “So I say to the Iranian government, you must truly be afraid of being overthrown,” Giuliani said. “We will not forget that you wanted to commit murder on our soil.”

    Giuliani said the Paris-based opposition organization is the democratic answer to an Iranian regime he called “a group of outlaws and murderers and people who pretend to be religious people and then have so much blood on their hands it’s almost unthinkable.”

    Instead, Giuliani said, “Iran is entitled to freedom and democracy.”

    At one point in his remarks, Giuliani told his audience: “You are a threat. It is a reality. The protests are getting worse. I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen. They’re going to be overthrown.”

    Several months ago, Trump withdrew from a nuclear deal with Iran put in place by President Barack Obama and sanctions were reinstated.

    The National Council comes to New York annually during the United Nations General Assembly, staging protests outside the world body against Iran’s leaders who are in town.

    The U.S. government considered the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, linked politically to the council, to be a terrorist group the U.S. State Department removed from its list of such organizations in 2012.

    Since the beginning of the year, Iranians have kept protesting and marching against the clerical regime, and the national currency has lost about two-thirds of its value, said Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, and the declared president-elect in exile of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

    Speaking via video, she said: “The regime is surrounded, politically and internationally, and in economic terms it is on the brink of collapse.”

    The new Iran, she said, would be based on free elections resulting in the separation of religion and state, human rights including equal participation of women in politics and the abolition of the death penalty.

    ———-

    “Trump attorney blasts Iran’s ‘outlaws and murderers’” by VERENA DOBNIK; Associated Press; 09/23/2018

    “At one point in his remarks, Giuliani told his audience: “You are a threat. It is a reality. The protests are getting worse. I don’t know when we’re going to overthrow them. It could be in a few days, months, a couple of years. But it’s going to happen. They’re going to be overthrown.””

    That was Rudy’s message to the National Council of Resistance of Iran, the political wing of the MEK. And note how Maryam Rajavi, the leader of the MEK, is the National Council of Resistance of Iran’s declared president-elect in exile:


    The U.S. government considered the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, linked politically to the council, to be a terrorist group the U.S. State Department removed from its list of such organizations in 2012.

    Since the beginning of the year, Iranians have kept protesting and marching against the clerical regime, and the national currency has lost about two-thirds of its value, said Maryam Rajavi, leader of the People’s Mujahedin of Iran, or MEK, and the declared president-elect in exile of the National Council of Resistance of Iran.

    So a day after this terror attack we have Giuliani giving a speech to the MEK’s political wing where he declares that this group is going to overthrow the Iranian government “in a few days, months, a couple of years.”

    And while statements from Giuliani, currently acting as Trump’s lawyer, can’t necessarily be interpreted as the position of the Trump administration, we have to keep in mind that everything Giuliani expressed during that speech would probably be echoed by Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton who is one of the biggest MEK-boosters in the world:

    The Washington Post

    John Bolton wants regime change in Iran, and so does the cult that paid him

    By Jason Rezaian
    Global Opinions writer
    March 24, 2018

    President Trump’s appointment of John Bolton as his new national security adviser has created a stir among foreign policy experts. He is known for expressing extreme skepticism about international institutions (including the United Nations, where he served as U.S. ambassador in the George W. Bush administration). He has advocated a preemptive strike against North Korea. And he has also repeatedly proposed “regime change” (meaning “war”) in Tehran.

    Since the latter issue is one of the trickiest facing the Trump administration, it’s worth taking a closer look.

    Bolton’s hawkish views on Iran mirror those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and one of his key ideological partners, the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK).

    Today the MEK bears little resemblance to the highly organized, influential and militant opposition force that it was in Iran while seeking to topple the shah during the 1979 revolution. Initially it worked in cooperation with the clerical government. In fact, children of several top officials in the Islamic Republic joined the MEK.

    When it became clear that the MEK could no longer coexist with the ruling Islamic Republic Party, some MEK members withdrew from the group, while others were imprisoned. They either recanted and returned to society or were executed.

    Those who were left fled to Iraq, where Saddam Hussein, who invaded Iran in 1980, gave them a haven. Many took up arms and fought against their Iranian countrymen, earning the group the unofficial nickname monafegheen, or the “hypocrites.” That title has stuck, and most Iranians inside the country, regardless of their political tendencies, refer to them as such.

    The group is loathed by most Iranians, mainly for the traitorous act of fighting alongside the enemy.

    But it is the group’s activities in the decades since that have cemented its reputation as a deranged cult. For decades its command center was a compound in Iraq’s Diyala province, where more than 3,000 members lived in virtual captivity. The few who were able to escape told of being cut off from their loved ones, forced into arranged marriages, brainwashed, sexually abused and tortured.

    All this was carried out under the supervision of the group’s leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the husband and wife at the top of the organization’s pyramid. He has been missing since the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is presumed dead. She now runs the group and makes regular public appearances with her powerful friends from the West — such as Bolton.

    The group was long a fixture on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations for having killed American citizens. Bolton and others successfully lobbied to have the designation removed in 2012. That did little to change how average Iranians think of the organization.

    In the seven years I lived in Iran, many people expressed criticism of the ruling establishment — at great potential risk to themselves. Some hoped for regime change by military force, others dreamed of a return of the monarchy and many more wanted to see a peaceful transition to a secular alternative to clerical rule. In all that time, though, I never met a person who thought the MEK should, or could, present a viable alternative.

    But apparently that doesn’t matter to its supporters in Washington.

    Of course they were paid for their loyalty. “Very few former U.S. government officials shilled pro bono for the MEK,” said a former State Department official who worked on Iran. Among the long bipartisan list of people who have taken money from the group in exchange for speaking at its events are former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani and former Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean. Bolton, the former official told me, was also paid.

    Their many efforts failed to the block the nuclear deal with Iran. Despite the long list of nefarious acts still carried out by Tehran, the biggest threat that Iran posed to international security — the issue that our allies and other world powers all agreed needed to be resolved — has been resolved.

    Based on U.S. assessments and those of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran appears to be complying with the nuclear deal.

    To those who claim that the nuclear deal isn’t working, regime change remains the only solution. For the MEK, and Bolton, if his words are to be taken at face value, the only path to that could be war. The group has long been prepared to do whatever it takes to see that happen, including presenting fake intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

    The MEK is the type of fringe group that sets up camp across the street from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and hands out fliers filled with unsubstantiated claims. This is America — we let crazy people talk. That’s their right, and I would never suggest that they be prohibited from doing that. But giving the MEK a voice in the White House is a terrible idea.

    In John Bolton they have someone who will do it for them.

    ———-

    “John Bolton wants regime change in Iran, and so does the cult that paid him” by Jason Rezaian; The Washington Post; 03/24/2018

    “Bolton’s hawkish views on Iran mirror those of Israel, Saudi Arabia and one of his key ideological partners, the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK).

    Yep, John Bolton isn’t just channeling the desires of Saudi Arabia and Israel when he advocates for regime change in Iran. He’s channeling one of his key ideological partners, the MEK cult. A cult accused of forced arranged marriages, brainwashing, sexual abuse, and torture. And it’s long been run by Maryam Rajavi – the current president in exile by this organization – after her husband disappeared in 2003:


    The group is loathed by most Iranians, mainly for the traitorous act of fighting alongside the enemy.

    But it is the group’s activities in the decades since that have cemented its reputation as a deranged cult. For decades its command center was a compound in Iraq’s Diyala province, where more than 3,000 members lived in virtual captivity. The few who were able to escape told of being cut off from their loved ones, forced into arranged marriages, brainwashed, sexually abused and tortured.

    All this was carried out under the supervision of the group’s leaders, Massoud and Maryam Rajavi, the husband and wife at the top of the organization’s pyramid. He has been missing since the U.S. invasion in 2003 and is presumed dead. She now runs the group and makes regular public appearances with her powerful friends from the West — such as Bolton.

    The group was long a fixture on the State Department’s list of terrorist organizations for having killed American citizens. Bolton and others successfully lobbied to have the designation removed in 2012. That did little to change how average Iranians think of the organization.

    And now that the Iran nuclear deal has been shredded by the Trump administration, the only solution left is regime change from the perspective of the MEK, a view Bolton appears to wholeheartedly agree with:


    To those who claim that the nuclear deal isn’t working, regime change remains the only solution. For the MEK, and Bolton, if his words are to be taken at face value, the only path to that could be war. The group has long been prepared to do whatever it takes to see that happen, including presenting fake intelligence about Iran’s nuclear program.

    And that’s all part of the reason Iranian fingers almost immediately started pointed into the US’s direction following the terror attacks. A crazy cult dedicated to overthrowing the Iranian government happens to have substantial backing in the US at the highest levels of government.

    Still, for all we know this really was an ISIS attack. Either way, if some sort of serious regime change operation that relies on military force does get underway in Iran it seems likely that the US, and probably much of the Western community, will be pushing for MEK to play a significant role in any sort of new government, which seems like a general strategy for sending the country into a civil war given how loathed the MEK appears to be by Iranians.

    And the backing of a group like MEK – which might voice pro-democracy slogans but in reality appears to be an authoritarian cult – raises an interesting question: While it’s not inconceivable that the US or Israel would be fine with a genuinely democratic revolution in Iran, you have to wonder how authoritarian theocratic monarchies like Saudi Arabia and the UAE would feel about such a turn of events if some sort of ‘Persian Spring’ really too place. If Iran became a become of democracy in the Middle East, what would that do to the standing of the Saudis and their Gulf partners? Wouldn’t that make them look much, much worse in comparison? Because right now we have the insanely brutal Saudi theocracy monarchy juxtaposed to with an authoritarian theocratic quasi-democracy in Iran. The Saudi model of government looks somewhat less bad as long as it’s in a neighborhood where authoritarian models are the norm. But what happens to the perceived legitimacy of that brutal Saudi theocracy if it suddenly gets juxtaposed to a post-theocratic Iranian democracy?

    It would obviously be great to see another authoritarian theocracy be replaced, but as is always the case with these kinds of situations, the question of what it would be replaced with looms large and yet is rarely publicly discussed until after some sort of conflict is already underway. But the governments of the regime advocating regime change clearly have a preferred type of replacement government in mind. So we have to ask, just how much do the advocates of regime change want to ensure that there’s regime change in Iran but not the kind of regime change that results in a modern secular democracy? Given the outrageous nature of groups like the MEK that seems like a question worth asking. Especially now that it’s looking like some sort of regime change operation could be getting underway.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 25, 2018, 3:00 pm

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