The Struggle continues!

The Struggle continues!

June 27, 2017

Michael Roberts on Marx vs. Keynes and why Marx was closer to the truth


Monday, June 26, 2017, link: http://bit.ly/2rYAzlp
In 1926, John Maynard Keynes, already the most celebrated economist and political writer of his time, reviewed the competing ideas of conventional economics (which he called ‘laisser-faire’) and its revolutionary alternative (Marxism).  In his book, Laisser-faire and Communism, Keynes, a contemporary of the Bolshevik leaders Lenin and Trotsky, sought to dismiss the Soviet revolution that had shocked the ruling groups of the rest of the world just a few years before.
His attack was that: how could anything worthwhile come out of communism, based as it was on the ideas and theories of Karl Marx?  “How can I accept the [Communist] doctrine,” Keynes wrote, “which sets up as its bible, above and beyond criticism, an obsolete textbook which I know not only to be scientifically erroneous but without interest or application to the modern world?”  And more: “Even if we need a religion, how can we find it in the turbid rubbish of the red bookshop? It is hard for an educated, decent, intelligent son of Western Europe to find his ideals here, unless he has first suffered some strange and horrid process of conversion which has changed all his values (Keynes, Laissez-Faire and Communism, quoted in Hunt 1979: 377).
Keynes was writing some 60 years after Marx’s Capital was first published.  As the 150th anniversary of the first publication of Capital approaches, can we agree with Keynes damning judgement of Marx’s ideas? Marx’s Capital was a critique of the political economy of his time but it is also a searing analysis of the nature of what we now call capitalism.  Based on a labour theory of value, Marx attempted to show how labour is exploited even though exchange in markets appears to be one of equality.  Above all, Marx’s analysis suggests that capitalism has irreconcilable contradictions that can only be overcome by the replacement of private production for profit with production for need through common ownership and control.
Keynes accepted the mainstream marginal utility theory
In contrast, to this ‘illogical and obsolete’ labour theory of value, Keynes accepted the mainstream marginal utility theory.  When this became the dominant explanation for prices of production in an economy, replacing the labour theory in the later 1870s, Engels remarked: “The fashionable theory just now here is that of Stanley Jevons, according to which value is determined by utility and on the other hand by the limit of supply (i.e. the cost of production), which is merely a confused and circuitous way of saying that value is determined by supply and demand. Vulgar Economy everywhere!” (22 MECW, vol.48, p.136).
Marginal utility theory quickly became untenable even in mainstream circles because subjective value cannot be measured and aggregated, so the psychological foundation of marginal utility was soon given up, but without abandoning the theory itself.  Thus Keynes continued to hold to a scientifically erroneous theory of prices, which was untestable while rubbishing Marx’s objective and testable theory of value based on labour time expended.
For Marx, the driver of capital accumulation is profit.  Profit calls the tune.  Marx explained in Capital and other works that there was an inherent tendency for profitability to decline over time and this downward pressure on profitability would eventually cause a fall in the mass of profits and a crisis and slump would ensue. Think of how a capitalist crisis caused by falling profits can be solved if Marx is right. The only way that it could be ended was if enough capitalists went bankrupt, enough old machinery and plant were close down and enough workers were laid off. Then eventually, the costs of production and investment would be sufficiently reduced to raise the profitability of production for those capitalists still surviving to start to invest again. After a while, however (maybe years, even decades), the law of profitability would again exert its power and the whole ‘crap’, as Marx called it, would start again. Thus we have cycles of booms and slumps.
In contrast, Keynes, denying that profits come from the unpaid labour of the production process, reckoned that it is overall ‘effective demand’ that causes crises, in particular slumps in investment and consumption that lead to reductions in employment, wages and profit. Who is right?  Keynesian theory would suggest that we just have to ‘manage’ the economy it starts slipping into recession and all will be well. This economic management would be: easy money at low interest rates and fiscal stimulus through increased government spending and budget deficits. Well, look what happened from the late 1960s, when Keynesian economics was all the rage and government management of the economy was the order of the day. Even President Nixon then declared that we are ‘all Keynesians now’.  By the end of the 1970s, the strategists of capital had ditched Keynes and opted for what we now call ‘neoliberal’ policies of cutting back on the size of government, privatising, weakening the trade unions, liberalising markets (including financial markets) and imposing tight monetary and fiscal austerity (or at least in part – austerity did not apply to defence and wars!). Why was this? It was because Keynesian policies had failed to avoid new crises, indeed, the biggest worldwide economic slump in capitalism since the war in 1974-75 and then a deeper and more damaging slump in 1980-2. How could there be these new crises if Keynesian economic management was in operation everywhere? Keynesian economics had no answer.
Keynesian policies could even delay the capitalist recovery
What could Marxist economics offer to explain the crisis of the 1970s where Keynesianism had failed?  Marx said that the key to understanding the capitalist mode of production lay in the nature of production to sell commodities on a market for profit. Profit was the key. Marx says: let’s start with profits. If profits fall, then capitalists would stop investing, lay off workers and wages would drop and consumption would fall. And it was not just the slumps of the 1970s.  If we analyse the changes in investment and consumption prior to each recession or slump in the post-war US economy, we find that consumption demand has played little or no leading role in provoking a slump. It is investment that is the crucial swing factor. Take the last Great Recession. A downward movement in corporate profits led investment and GDP by up to two years and the recovery in profits did likewise on the period after 2009. Policies designed to reduce interest rates, or even get some government spending going, namely Keynesian policies, would not avoid these slumps or even get recovery going. Indeed, more spending on welfare and unemployment benefits could drive up taxes and extra borrowing could drive up interest rates. And more government investment that replaced or encroached on private sector investment could be actually damaging to the profitability of capital. So Keynesian policies could even delay the capitalist recovery.
Indeed, the austerity policies of most governments are not as insane as Keynesians think. Keynesians say: why can’t the capitalist sector see that it is their interests for governments to spend more, not less, in a slump?  But neo-liberal policies follow from the need to drive down costs, particularly wage costs, but also taxation and interest costs, and the need to weaken the labour movement so that profits can be raised. It is a perfectly rational policy from the point of view of capital, which is why Keynesian policies were never introduced to any degree in the 1930s or in current Long Depression. Only Marx’s economics could explain the 1970s, not Keynes. Indeed, in a way, the strategists of capital recognised that too. Their aim was to raise the profitability of capital at all costs as the only way out – not to revert to Keynesian ‘demand management’.
Actually, Keynes himself was not on the side of the workers in a solution to a slump. “In emphasising our point of departure from the classical system, we must not overlook an important point of agreement. … with a given organisation, equipment and technique, real wages and the volume of output (and hence of employment) are uniquely correlated, so that, in general, an increase in employment can only occur to the accompaniment of a decline in the rate of real wages. Thus I am not disputing this vital fact which the classical economists have (rightly) asserted as indefeasible.” So cutting real wages was part of the solution to a slump for Keynes, just as it was with neo-liberal austerity measures.
Keynes also had a theory of declining profitability.  But he saw the decline of the rate of profit not as pointing toward a revolutionary transformation in the mode of production, but rather as representing a progressive softening in the antagonism between the capitalists and the working class.  As capital becomes “less scarce” relative to labour, the rate of profit will fall and real wages will rise. More of the total product will therefore go to the working class and less will go to the capitalists – inequality would decline. As the “scarcity-value” of capital dissipated, according to Keynes, economic growth would peter out. Interest rates would fall to zero or very close to zero, causing the gradual extinction of the hateful “money capitalists.” This would leave the industrial and commercial capitalists able to earn a little extra profit by taking on “entrepreneurial” risks.  Wages up, profits up - in a ‘stationary’ world of superabundance. In 1931, at the depth of the Great Depression, Keynes told his students at Cambridge University, many of whom were becoming attracted to the ‘obsolete’ theories of Marx, that they should not worry.  The Great Depression would pass: it was a ‘technical problem’ that could be corrected.  “I draw the conclusion that, assuming no important wars and no important increase in population, the economic problem may be solved, or be at least within sight of solution, within a hundred years. This means that the economic problem is not – if we look into the future – the permanent problem of the human race.” The long-term future under capitalism through an expansion of technology, and assuming no more wars (!) and population control, would be a world of leisure with a 15-hour week and superabundance for all, well before Marx’s 200th anniversary.  This is the opposite of what Marx predicted. Who was right?
 The level of poverty within ‘rich’ modern economies is still high
The evidence since Keynes dismissed Marx’s theories is that, far from finance capital being consigned to history, finance capital has never been more powerful globally; and inequality of wealth and incomes within national economies and globally has never been more extreme since capitalism became the dominant mode of production. Also, most people in the Western world are still working 40-hour weeks and the level of poverty within ‘rich’ modern economies is still high. In the rest of the world, unemployment, sweated labour and poverty are the modal experience. No world of leisure there. For Keynes, capitalism was the only possible system of human social organisation that delivered economic and political power to people like him. Marxism and communism was a threat to that belief. “How can I adopt a creed which, preferring the mud to the fish, exalts the boorish proletariat above the bourgeoisie and the intelligentsia, who with all their faults, are the quality of life and surely carry the seeds of all human achievement?”
In Laisser-faire and Communism, Keynes concluded: “For the most part, I think that Capitalism, wisely managed, can probably be made more efficient for attaining economic ends than any alternative system yet in sight”; while Socialism “is, in fact, little better than a dusty survival of a plan to meet the problems of fifty years ago, based on a misunderstanding of what someone said a hundred years ago.” As we approach Marx 200, the evidence tells the opposite. Marx was closer to the truth.

THREE FAVOURITE TEXTS ON THE TOPIC:

Paul Mattick Snr, Marx and Keynes: the limits of the mixed economy, Horizon Books Boston 1969
Geoff Pilling, The crisis of Keynesian economics; a Marxist view, Croom Helm, London 1987
John Maynard Keynes,The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money, Macmillan, Cambridge, 1936

The Morning Star Jun 26 2017: Why Is Marxist Philosophy Interested In Materialism?


JUN
2017
Monday 26TH
posted by Morning Star in Features
This week, the MARX MEMORIAL LIBRARY describes what Marx’s materialism is and what it meant at the time

LET’S start with “materialism” first. We’ll follow up with the “dialectical” bit in the next instalment.
Colloquially, the terms materialism and materialistic are often used in a pejorative way to mean “concerned or preoccupied with material things” at the expense of values and ideas. But in philosophy the term materialism is used rather differently.
Materialism holds that the world, the universe and “nature,” actually exist. Beyond this, it holds that that all phenomena — including consciousness — are ultimately the outcome of (though not reducible to) material processes. And that humans can, in principle, understand that world — often incorrectly and never completely, but that over time we can collectively work towards a better knowledge of what reality is and how it functions.
That sounds pretty obvious now, but in Karl Marx’s time (1818-1883), there were, as there are today, philosophers who argue that ideas are primary and that it is impossible to ever “know” the world — all we can be sure of are our sensations — or even to know that we exist. Others argue that ideas (consciousness) can exist independently of the brain, books or other physical entities.
And, of course, most religions posit a non-material god (or gods) which operates via mechanisms which, by definition, are incomprehensible to the human mind.
An example of an idealist approach is Bertrand Russell’s The Problems of Philosophy, first published in 1912 and reprinted many times since. The book is still used as an introductory text to philosophical thinking.
Russell’s first chapter, entitled Appearance and Reality, asks whether the table that we sit at corresponds to what we experience with our senses. It concludes that “doubt suggests that perhaps there is no table at all.”
The book’s final paragraph ends: “Philosophy is to be studied, not for the sake of any definite answers to its questions, since no definite answers can, as a rule, be known to be true, but rather for the sake of the questions themselves […] but above all because, through the greatness of the universe which philosophy contemplates, the mind is also rendered great, and becomes capable of that union with the universe which constitutes its highest good.”
That’s fine, of course, for academic or self-funded philosophers. It can be quite fun too for us ordinary folk who occupy a lower station in life. But it’s not much help in actually changing the world.
Marx famously declared that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however is to change it.” Russell to his credit, and despite his doubts about existence, did try to change the world, opposing World War I, engaging in direct action for nuclear disarmament and leading opposition to US war crimes in Vietnam. He spent time in prison as a consequence.
All this doesn’t mean, of course, that “reality” and what we perceive with our senses are the same.
We’ve probably all wondered at times whether things are really as they seem. Marx himself argued that this was rarely the case, famously stating that “all science would be superfluous if the outward appearance and the essence of things directly coincided.”
Science is precisely that — the endeavour to go beyond the superficial appearance of things and to understand their essence, whether this is in physics, chemistry, biology, the environmental sciences or in those sciences which deal with human affairs.
Marx’s own great contribution was to articulate a materialist approach to history (“historical materialism”) in which the production and reproduction of human existence (the “economic base” of society) are fundamental to an understanding of its culture, ideas, and politics (sometimes called “the superstructure”). This is broadly accepted today, although there are still those who present history solely in terms of “great minds” or the actions of individuals independent of their material environment.
Let’s end here before we proceed to look at dialectics in the next instalment by challenging dictionary definitions of philosophical materialism that go something along the lines of “the philosophical belief that nothing exists beyond what is physical.”
Marxists of course are hugely concerned with ideas, values and ethics and they would dispute any suggestion that these don’t exist, or that they can be reduced merely to physical processes.
Marxists would insist, however, that knowledge, ideas, values and ethics cannot exist independently of the physical world.
They have a dialectical relationship with the material world and, like that world, they are constantly changing. They need to be understood in their material context.
Engels put this as well as anyone else since in his speech at Marx’s graveside in 1883:
“Just as Darwin discovered the law of development or organic nature, so Marx discovered the law of development of human history: the simple fact, hitherto concealed by an overgrowth of ideology, that humankind must first of all eat, drink, have shelter and clothing, before it can pursue politics, science, art, religion, etc; that therefore the production of the immediate material means, and consequently the degree of economic development attained by a given people or during a given epoch, form the foundation upon which the state institutions, the legal conceptions, art, and even the ideas on religion of the people concerned have been evolved, and in the light of which they must, therefore, be explained, instead of vice versa, as had hitherto been the case.”

June 26, 2017

Trump‘s Red Line, by Seymour M. Hersh 25.06.2017

A stunning investigative report by Seymour Hersh detailing how the decision to strike the Shayrat Air Base in Syria was taken by Trump, despite the fact the CIA knew very well that there was no evidence sarin gas was used by the Syrian Air Force in the strike on Khan Sheikhoun which targeted a jihadist meeting on April 4, 2017. The US military apparently managed to carry out an attack that would do the least damage, only to please an emotional Trump who already made up his mind.

Trump‘s Red Line
by Seymour M. Hersh | 25.06.2017

Retaliation: Tomahawk missiles from the "USS Porter" on the way to the Shayrat Air Base on April 6, 2017
Quelle: picture alliance / Robert S. Pri/dpa Picture-Alliance / Robert S.
President Donald Trump ignored important intelligence reports when he decided to attack Syria after he saw pictures of dying children. Seymour M. Hersh investigated the case of the alleged Sarin gas attack.

On April 6, United States President Donald Trump authorized an early morning Tomahawk missile strike on Shayrat Air Base in central Syria in retaliation for what he said was a deadly nerve agent attack carried out by the Syrian government two days earlier in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun. Trump issued the order despite having been warned by the U.S. intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.

The available intelligence made clear that the Syrians had targeted a jihadist meeting site on April 4 using a Russian-supplied guided bomb equipped with conventional explosives. Details of the attack,  including information on its so-called high-value targets, had been provided by the Russians days in advance to American and allied military officials in Doha, whose mission is to coordinate all U.S., allied, Syrian and Russian Air Force operations in the region.
Some American military and intelligence officials were especially distressed by the president's determination to ignore the evidence. "None of this makes any sense," one officer told colleagues upon learning of the decision to bomb. "We KNOW that there was no chemical attack ... the Russians are furious. Claiming we have the real intel and know the truth ... I guess it didn't matter whether we elected Clinton or Trump.“

Within hours of the April 4 bombing, the world’s media was saturated with photographs and videos from Khan Sheikhoun. Pictures of dead and dying victims, allegedly suffering from the symptoms of nerve gas poisoning, were uploaded to social media by local activists, including the White Helmets, a first responder group known for its close association with the Syrian opposition.


Seymour M. Hersh exposed the My Lai Massacre in Vietnam 1968. He uncovered the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and many other stories about war and politics
Quelle: Getty Images/Getty Images North America
The provenance of the photos was not clear and no international observers have yet inspected the site, but the immediate popular assumption worldwide was that this was a deliberate use of the nerve agent sarin, authorized by President Bashar Assad of Syria. Trump endorsed that assumption by issuing a statement within hours of the attack, describing Assad’s "heinous actions" as being a consequence of the Obama administration’s "weakness and irresolution" in addressing what he said was Syria’s past use of chemical weapons.

To the dismay of many senior members of his national security team, Trump could not be swayed over the next 48 hours of intense briefings and decision-making. In a series of interviews, I learned of the total disconnect between the president and many of his military advisers and intelligence officials, as well as officers on the ground in the region who had an entirely different understanding of the nature of Syria’s attack on Khan Sheikhoun. I was provided with evidence of that disconnect, in the form of transcripts of real-time communications, immediately following the Syrian attack on April 4. In an important pre-strike process known as deconfliction, U.S. and Russian officers routinely supply one another with advance details of planned flight paths and target coordinates, to ensure that there is no risk of collision or accidental encounter (the Russians speak on behalf of the Syrian military). This information is supplied daily to the American AWACS surveillance planes that monitor the flights once airborne. Deconfliction’s success and importance can be measured by the fact that there has yet to be one collision, or even a near miss, among the high-powered supersonic American, Allied, Russian and Syrian fighter bombers.

Russian and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the carefully planned flight path to and from Khan Shiekhoun on April 4 directly, in English, to the deconfliction monitors aboard the AWACS plane, which was on patrol near the Turkish border, 60 miles or more to the north.
The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.

"The rebels control the population by controlling the distribution of goods that people need to live – food, water, cooking oil, propane gas, fertilizers for growing their crops, and insecticides to protect the crops," a senior adviser to the American intelligence community, who has served in senior positions in the Defense Department and Central Intelligence Agency, told me. The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons and ammunition, as well as products that could be distributed for free to the community, among them medicines and chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial. The meeting place – a regional headquarters – was on the floor above. “It was an established meeting place,” the senior adviser said. “A long-time facility that would have had security, weapons, communications, files and a map center.” The Russians were intent on confirming their intelligence and deployed a drone for days above the site to monitor communications and develop what is known in the intelligence community as a POL – a pattern of life. The goal was to take note of those going in and out of the building, and to track weapons being moved back and forth, including rockets and ammunition.

One reason for the Russian message to Washington about the intended target was to ensure that any CIA asset or informant who had managed to work his way into the jihadist leadership was forewarned not to attend the meeting. I was told that the Russians passed the warning directly to the CIA. “They were playing the game right,” the senior adviser said. The Russian guidance noted that the jihadist meeting was coming at a time of acute pressure for the insurgents: Presumably Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham were desperately seeking a path forward in the new political climate. In the last few days of March, Trump and two of his key national security aides – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and UN Ambassador Nikki Haley – had made statements acknowledging that, as the New York Times put it, the White House “has abandoned the goal” of pressuring Assad "to leave power, marking a sharp departure from the Middle East policy that guided the Obama administration for more than five years.” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer told a press briefing on March 31 that “there is a political reality that we have to accept,” implying that Assad was there to stay.
Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region" – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on. The Russians gave the Syrian Air Force a guided bomb and that was a rarity. They’re skimpy with their guided bombs and rarely share them with the Syrian Air Force. And the Syrians assigned their best pilot to the mission, with the best wingman.” The advance intelligence on the target, as supplied by the Russians, was given the highest possible score inside the American community.

The Execute Order governing U.S. military operations in theater, which was issued by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,  provide instructions that demarcate the relationship between the American and Russian forces operating in Syria. “It’s like an ops order – ‘Here’s what you are authorized to do,’” the adviser said. “We do not share operational control with the Russians. We don’t do combined operations with them, or activities directly in support of one of their operations.  But coordination is permitted. We keep each other apprised of what’s happening and within this package is the mutual exchange of intelligence.  If we get a hot tip that could help the Russians do their mission, that’s coordination; and the Russians do the same for us. When we get a hot tip about a command and control facility,” the adviser added, referring to the target in Khan Sheikhoun, “we do what we can to help them act on it." “This was not a chemical weapons strike,” the adviser said. “That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon – you’ve got to make it appear like a regular 500-pound conventional bomb – would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear. Military grade sarin includes additives designed to increase toxicity and lethality. Every batch that comes out is maximized for death. That is why it is made. It is odorless and invisible and death can come within a minute. No cloud. Why produce a weapon that people can run away from?”

The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered  a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92. A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that “eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.” MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.
The internet swung into action within hours, and gruesome photographs of the victims flooded television networks and YouTube. U.S. intelligence was tasked with establishing what had happened. Among the pieces of information received was an intercept of Syrian communications collected before the attack by an allied nation. The intercept, which had a particularly strong effect on some of Trump’s aides, did not mention nerve gas or sarin, but it did quote a Syrian general discussing a “special” weapon and the need for a highly skilled pilot to man the attack plane. The reference, as those in the American intelligence community understood, and many of the inexperienced aides and family members close to Trump may not have, was to a Russian-supplied bomb with its built-in guidance system. “If you’ve already decided it was a gas attack, you will then inevitably read the talk about a special weapon as involving a sarin bomb,” the adviser said. “Did the Syrians plan the attack on Khan Sheikhoun? Absolutely. Do we have intercepts to prove it? Absolutely. Did they plan to use sarin? No. But the president did not say: ‘We have a problem and let’s look into it.’ He wanted to bomb the shit out of Syria.”
At the UN the next day, Ambassador Haley created a media sensation when she displayed photographs of the dead and accused Russia of being complicit. “How many more children have to die before Russia cares?” she asked. NBC News, in a typical report that day, quoted American officials as confirming that nerve gas had been used and Haley tied the attack directly to Syrian President Assad. "We know that yesterday’s attack was a new low even for the barbaric Assad regime,” she said. There was irony in America's rush to blame Syria and criticize Russia for its support of Syria's denial of any use of gas in Khan Sheikhoun, as Ambassador Haley and others in Washington did. "What doesn't occur to most Americans" the adviser said, "is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar, the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?”
Trump, a constant watcher of television news, said, while King Abdullah of Jordan was sitting next to him in the Oval Office, that what had happened was “horrible, horrible” and a “terrible affront to humanity.” Asked if his administration would change its policy toward the Assad government, he said: “You will see.” He gave a hint of the response to come at the subsequent news conference with King Abdullah: “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies – babies, little babies – with a chemical gas that is so lethal  ... that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line . ... That attack on children yesterday had a big impact on me. Big impact ... It’s very, very possible ... that my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”
Within hours of viewing the photos, the adviser said, Trump instructed the national defense apparatus to plan for retaliation against Syria. “He did this before he talked to anybody about it. The planners then asked the CIA and DIA if there was any evidence that Syria had sarin stored at a nearby airport or somewhere in the area. Their military had to have it somewhere in the area in order to bomb with it.” “The answer was, ‘We have no evidence that Syria had sarin or used it,’” the adviser said. “The CIA also told them that there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian SU-24 bombers had taken off on April 4] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.” Everyone involved, except perhaps the president, also understood that a highly skilled United Nations team had spent more than a year in the aftermath of an alleged sarin attack in 2013 by Syria, removing what was said to be all chemical weapons from a dozen Syrian chemical weapons depots.
At this point, the adviser said, the president’s national security planners were more than a little rattled: “No one knew the provenance of the photographs. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.” The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead. And yet it was impossible for the experts to persuade the president of this once he had made up his mind. “The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity,” the senior adviser said. “It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit.’”


The national security advisers understood their dilemma: Trump wanted to respond to the affront to humanity committed by Syria and he did not want to be dissuaded. They were dealing with a man they considered to be not unkind and not stupid, but his limitations when it came to national security decisions were severe. "Everyone close to him knows his proclivity for acting precipitously when he does not know the facts," the adviser said. "He doesn’t read anything and has no real historical knowledge. He wants verbal briefings and photographs. He’s a risk-taker. He can accept the consequences of a bad decision in the business world; he will just lose money. But in our world, lives will be lost and there will be long-term damage to our national security if he guesses wrong. He was told we did not have evidence of Syrian involvement and yet Trump says: 'Do it.”’
On April 6, Trump convened a meeting of national security officials at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. The meeting was not to decide what to do, but how best to do it – or, as some wanted, how to do the least and keep Trump happy. “The boss knew before the meeting that they didn’t have the intelligence, but that was not the issue,” the adviser said. “The meeting was about, ‘Here’s what I’m going to do,' and then he gets the options.”
The available intelligence was not relevant. The most experienced man at the table was Secretary of Defense James Mattis, a retired Marine Corps general who had the president’s respect and understood, perhaps, how quickly that could evaporate. Mike Pompeo, the CIA director whose agency had consistently reported that it had no evidence of a Syrian chemical bomb, was not present. Secretary of State Tillerson was admired on the inside for his willingness to work long hours and his avid reading of diplomatic cables and reports, but he knew little about waging war and the management of a bombing raid. Those present were in a bind, the adviser said. “The president was emotionally energized by the disaster and he wanted options.” He got four of them, in order of extremity. Option one was to do nothing. All involved, the adviser said, understood that was a non-starter. Option two was a slap on the wrist: to bomb an airfield in Syria, but only after alerting the Russians and, through them, the Syrians, to avoid too many casualties. A few of the planners called this the “gorilla option”: America would glower and beat its chest to provoke fear and demonstrate resolve, but cause little significant damage. The third option was to adopt the strike package that had been presented to Obama in 2013, and which he ultimately chose not to pursue. The plan called for the massive bombing of the main Syrian airfields and command and control centers using B1 and B52 aircraft launched from their bases in the U.S. Option four was “decapitation”: to remove Assad by bombing his palace in Damascus, as well as his command and control network and all of the underground bunkers he could possibly retreat to in a crisis.
“Trump ruled out option one off the bat,” the senior adviser said, and the assassination of Assad was never considered. “But he said, in essence: ‘You’re the military and I want military action.’” The president was also initially opposed to the idea of giving the Russians advance warning before the strike, but reluctantly accepted it. “We gave him the Goldilocks option – not too hot, not too cold, but just right.” The discussion had its bizarre moments. Tillerson wondered at the Mar-a-Lago meeting why the president could not simply call in the B52 bombers and pulverize the air base. He was told that B52s were very vulnerable to surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) in the area and using such planes would require suppression fire that could kill some Russian defenders.  “What is that?” Tillerson asked. Well, sir, he was told, that means we would have to destroy the upgraded SAM sites along the B52 flight path, and those are manned by Russians, and we possibly would be confronted with a much more difficult situation. “The lesson here was: Thank God for the military men at the meeting,” the adviser said. "They did the best they could when confronted with a decision that had already been made."
Fifty-nine Tomahawk missiles were fired from two U.S. Navy destroyers on duty in the Mediterranean, the Ross and the Porter, at Shayrat Air Base near the government-controlled city of Homs. The strike was as successful as hoped, in terms of doing minimal damage. The missiles have a light payload – roughly 220 pounds of HBX, the military’s modern version of TNT. The airfield’s gasoline storage tanks, a primary target, were pulverized, the senior adviser said, triggering a huge fire and clouds of smoke that interfered with the guidance system of following missiles. As many as 24 missiles missed their targets and only a few of the Tomahawks actually penetrated into hangars, destroying nine Syrian aircraft, many fewer than claimed by the Trump administration. I was told that none of the nine was operational: such damaged aircraft are what the Air Force calls hangar queens. “They were sacrificial lambs,” the senior adviser said. Most of the important personnel and operational fighter planes had been flown to nearby bases hours before the raid began. The two runways and parking places for aircraft, which had also been targeted, were repaired and back in operation within eight hours or so. All in all, it was little more than an expensive fireworks display.
“It was a totally Trump show from beginning to end,” the senior adviser said. “A few of the president’s senior national security advisers viewed the mission as a minimized bad presidential decision, and one that they had an obligation to carry out. But I don’t think our national security people are going to allow themselves to be hustled into a bad decision again. If Trump had gone for option three, there might have been some immediate resignations.”
After the meeting, with the Tomahawks on their way, Trump spoke to the nation from Mar-a-Lago, and accused Assad of using nerve gas to choke out “the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many ... No child of God should ever suffer such horror.” The next few days were his most successful as president. America rallied around its commander in chief, as it always does in times of war. Trump, who had campaigned as someone who advocated making peace with Assad, was bombing Syria 11 weeks after taking office, and was hailed for doing so by Republicans, Democrats and the media alike. One prominent TV anchorman, Brian Williams of MSNBC, used the word “beautiful” to describe the images of the Tomahawks being launched at sea. Speaking on CNN, Fareed Zakaria said: “I think Donald Trump became president of the United States.” A review of the top 100 American newspapers showed that 39 of them published editorials supporting the bombing in its aftermath, including the New York TimesWashington Post and Wall Street Journal.

Five days later, the Trump administration gathered the national media for a background briefing on the Syrian operation that was conducted by a senior White House official who was not to be identified. The gist of the briefing was that Russia’s heated and persistent denial of any sarin use in the Khan Sheikhoun bombing was a lie because President Trump had said sarin had been used. That assertion, which was not challenged or disputed by any of the reporters present, became the basis for a series of further criticisms:
     - The continued lying by the Trump administration about Syria’s use of sarin led to widespread belief in the American media and public  that Russia had  chosen to be involved in a corrupt disinformation and cover-up campaign on the part of Syria. 
     - Russia’s military forces had been co-located with Syria’s at the Shayrat airfield (as they are throughout Syria), raising the possibility that Russia had advance notice of Syria’s determination to use sarin at Khan Sheikhoun and did nothing to stop it.
      - Syria’s use of sarin and Russia’s defense of that use strongly suggested that Syria withheld stocks of the nerve agent from the UN disarmament team that spent much of 2014 inspecting and removing all declared chemical warfare agents from 12 Syrian chemical weapons depots, pursuant to the agreement worked out by the Obama administration and Russia after Syria’s alleged, but still unproven, use of sarin the year before against a rebel redoubt in a suburb of Damascus.

The briefer, to his credit, was careful to use the words “think,” “suggest” and “believe” at least 10 times during the 30-minute event. But he also said that his briefing was based on data that had been declassified by “our colleagues in the intelligence community.” What the briefer did not say, and may not have known, was that much of the classified information in the community made the point that Syria had not used sarin in the April 4 bombing attack.

The mainstream press responded the way the White House had hoped it would: Stories attacking Russia’s alleged cover-up of Syria’s sarin use dominated the news and many media outlets ignored the briefer’s myriad caveats. There was a sense of renewed Cold War. The New York Times, for example – America’s leading newspaper – put the following headline on its account: “White House Accuses Russia of Cover-Up in Syria Chemical Attack.” The Times’ account did note a Russian denial, but what was described by the briefer as “declassified information” suddenly became a “declassified intelligence report.” Yet there was no formal intelligence report stating that Syria had used sarin, merely a "summary based on declassified information about the attacks," as the briefer referred to it.
The crisis slid into the background by the end of April, as Russia, Syria and the United States remained focused on annihilating ISIS and the militias of al-Qaida. Some of those who had worked through the crisis, however, were left with lingering concerns. “The Salafists and jihadists got everything they wanted out of their hyped-up Syrian nerve gas ploy,” the senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told me, referring to the flare up of tensions between Syria, Russia and America. “The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The White House did not answer specific questions about the bombing of Khan Sheikhoun and the airport of Shayrat. These questions were send via e-mail to the White House on June 15 and never answered.   

June 24, 2017

Seven Myths about the USSR, By Stephen Gowans in what's left


Seven Myths about the USSR


By Stephen Gowans in what's left





The Soviet Union was dissolved 22 years ago, on December 26, 1991. It’s widely believed outside the former republics of the USSR that Soviet citizens fervently wished for this; that Stalin was hated as a vile despot; that the USSR’s socialist economy never worked; and that the citizens of the former Soviet Union prefer the life they have today under capitalist democracy to, what, in the fevered parlance of Western journalists, politicians and historians, was the repressive, dictatorial rule of a one-party state which presided over a sclerotic, creaky and unworkable socialist economy.
None of these beliefs is true.
Myth #1. The Soviet Union had no popular support. On March 17, 1991, nine months before the Soviet Union’s demise, Soviet citizens went to the polls to vote on a referendum which asked whether they were in favor of preserving the USSR. Over three-quarters voted yes. Far from favoring the breakup of the union, most Soviet citizens wanted to preserve it. [1]
Myth #2. Russians hate Stalin. In 2009, Rossiya, a Russian TV channel, spent three months polling over 50 million Russians to find out who, in their view, were the greatest Russians of all time. Prince Alexander Nevsky, who successfully repelled an attempted Western invasion of Russia in the 13th century, came first. Second place went to Pyotr Stolypin, who served as prime minister to Tsar Nicholas II, and enacted agrarian reforms. In third place, behind Stolypin by only 5,500 votes, was Joseph Stalin, a man that Western opinion leaders routinely describe as a ruthless dictator with the blood of tens of millions on his hands. [2] He may be reviled in the West, not surprisingly, since he was never one after the hearts of the corporate grandees who dominate the West’s ideological apparatus, but, it seems, Russians have a different view—one that fails to comport with the notion that Russians were victimized, rather than elevated, by Stalin’s leadership.
In a May/June 2004 Foreign Affairs article, (Flight from Freedom: What Russians Think and Want), anti-communist Harvard historian Richard Pipes cited a poll in which Russians were asked to list the 10 greatest men and women of all time. The poll-takers were looking for significant figures of any country, not just Russians. Stalin came fourth, behind Peter the Great, Lenin, and Pushkin…much to Pipes’ irritation. [3]
Myth #3. Soviet socialism didn’t work. If this is true, then capitalism, by any equal measure, is an indisputable failure. From its inception in 1928, to the point at which it was dismantled in 1989, Soviet socialism never once, except during the extraordinary years of World War II, stumbled into recession, nor failed to provide full employment. [4] What capitalist economy has ever grown unremittingly, without recession, and providing jobs for all, over a 56 year span (the period during which the Soviet economy was socialist and the country was not at war, 1928-1941 and 1946-1989)? Moreover, the Soviet economy grew faster than capitalist economies that were at an equal level of economic development when Stalin launched the first five year plan in 1928—and faster than the US economy through much of the socialist system’s existence. [5] To be sure, the Soviet economy never caught up to or surpassed the advanced industrial economies of the capitalist core, but it started the race further back; was not aided, as Western countries were, by histories of slavery, colonial plunder, and economic imperialism; and was unremittingly the object of Western, and especially US, attempts to sabotage it. Particularly deleterious to Soviet economic development was the necessity of diverting material and human resources from the civilian to the military economy, to meet the challenge of Western military pressure. The Cold War and arms race, which entangled the Soviet Union in battles against a stronger foe, not state ownership and planning, kept the socialist economy from overtaking the advanced industrial economies of the capitalist West. [6] And yet, despite the West’s unflagging efforts to cripple it, the Soviet socialist economy produced positive growth in each and every non-war year of its existence, providing a materially secure existence for all. Which capitalist economy can claim equal success?
Myth #4. Now that they’ve experienced it, citizens of the former Soviet Union prefer capitalism. On the contrary, they prefer the Soviet system’s state planning, that is, socialism. Asked in a recent poll what socio-economic system they favor, Russians answered [7]:
• State planning and distribution, 58%
• Private property and distribution, 28%
• Hard to say, 14%
• Total, 100%
Pipes cites a poll in which 72 percent of Russians “said they wanted to restrict private economic initiative.” [8]
Myth #5. Twenty-two years later, citizens of the former Soviet Union see the USSR’s demise as more beneficial than harmful. Wrong again. According to a just-released Gallup poll, for every citizen of 11 former Soviet republics, including Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, who thinks the breakup of the Soviet Union benefited their country, two think it did harm. And the results are more strongly skewed toward the view that the breakup was harmful among those aged 45 years and over, namely, the people who knew the Soviet system best. [9]
According to another poll cited by Pipes, three-quarters of Russians regret the Soviet Union’s demise [10]—hardly what you would think of people who were reportedly delivered from a supposedly repressive state and allegedly arthritic, ponderous economy.
Myth #6. Citizens of the former Soviet Union are better off today. To be sure, some are. But are most? Given that more prefer the former socialist system to the current capitalist one, and think that the USSR’s breakup has done more harm than good, we might infer that most aren’t better off—or at least, that they don’t see themselves as such. This view is confirmed, at least as regards life expectancy. In a paper in the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet, sociologist David Stuckler and medical researcher Martin McKee, show that the transition to capitalism in the former USSR precipitated a sharp drop in life-expectancy, and that “only a little over half of the ex-Communist countries have regained their pre-transition life-expectancy levels.” Male life expectancy in Russia, for example, was 67 years in 1985, under communism. In 2007, it was less than 60 years. Life expectancy plunged five years between 1991 and 1994. [11] The transition to capitalism, then, produced countless pre-mature deaths—and continues to produce a higher mortality rate than likely would have prevailed under the (more humane) socialist system. (A 1986 study by Shirley Ciresto and Howard Waitzkin, based on World Bank data, found that the socialist economies of the Soviet bloc produced more favorable outcomes on measures of physical quality of life, including life expectancy, infant mortality, and caloric intake, than did capitalist economies at the same level of economic development, and as good as capitalist economies at a higher level of development. [12])
As regards the transition from a one-party state to a multi-party democracy, Pipes points to a poll that shows that Russians view democracy as a fraud. Over three-quarters believe “democracy is a facade for a government controlled by rich and powerful cliques.” [13] Who says Russians aren’t perspicacious?
Myth #7. If citizens of the former Soviet Union really wanted a return to socialism, they would just vote it in. If only it were so simple. Capitalist systems are structured to deliver public policy that suits capitalists, and not what’s popular, if what’s popular is against capitalist interests. Obamacare aside, the United States doesn’t have full public health insurance. Why not? According to the polls, most Americans want it. So, why don’t they just vote it in? The answer, of course, is that there are powerful capitalist interests, principally private insurance companies, that have used their wealth and connections to block a public policy that would attenuate their profits. What’s popular doesn’t always, or even often, prevail in societies where those who own and control the economy can use their wealth and connections to dominate the political system to win in contests that pit their elite interests against mass interests. As Michael Parenti writes,
Capitalism is not just an economic system, but an entire social order. Once it takes hold, it is not voted out of existence by electing socialists or communists. They may occupy office but the wealth of the nation, the basic property relations, organic law, financial system, and debt structure, along with the national media, police power, and state institutions have all been fundamentally restructured. [14]
A Russian return to socialism is far more likely to come about the way it did the first time, through revolution, not elections—and revolutions don’t happen simply because people prefer a better system to the one they currently have. Revolutions happen when life can no longer be lived in the old way—and Russians haven’t reached the point where life as it’s lived today is no longer tolerable.
Interestingly, a 2003 poll asked Russians how they would react if the Communists seized power. Almost one-quarter would support the new government, one in five would collaborate, 27 percent would accept it, 16 percent would emigrate, and only 10 percent would actively resist it. In other words, for every Russian who would actively oppose a Communist take-over, four would support it or collaborate with it, and three would accept it [15]—not what you would expect if you think Russians are glad to get out from underneath what we’re told was the burden of communist rule.
So, the Soviet Union’s passing is regretted by the people who knew the USSR firsthand (but not by Western journalists, politicians and historians who knew Soviet socialism only through the prism of their capitalist ideology.) Now that they’ve had over two decades of multi-party democracy, private enterprise and a market economy, Russians don’t think these institutions are the wonders Western politicians and mass media make them out to be. Most Russians would prefer a return to the Soviet system of state planning, that is, to socialism.
Even so, these realities are hidden behind a blizzard of propaganda, whose intensity peaks each year on the anniversary of the USSR’s passing. We’re supposed to believe that where it was tried, socialism was popularly disdained and failed to deliver—though neither assertion is true.
Of course, that anti-Soviet views have hegemonic status in the capitalist core is hardly surprising. The Soviet Union is reviled by just about everyone in the West: by the Trotskyists, because the USSR was built under Stalin’s (and not their man’s) leadership; by social democrats, because the Soviets embraced revolution and rejected capitalism; by the capitalists, for obvious reasons; and by the mass media (which are owned by the capitalists) and the schools (whose curricula, ideological orientation and political and economic research are strongly influenced by them.)
So, on the anniversary of the USSR’s demise we should not be surprised to discover that socialism’s political enemies should present a view of the Soviet Union that is at odds with what those on the ground really experienced, what a socialist economy really accomplished, and what those deprived of it really want.
1.”Referendum on the preservation of the USSR,” RIA Novosti, 2001,http://en.ria.ru/infographics/20110313/162959645.html
2. Guy Gavriel Kay, “The greatest Russians of all time?” The Globe and Mail (Toronto), January 10, 2009.
3. Richard Pipes, “Flight from Freedom: What Russians Think and Want,” Foreign Affairs, May/June 2004.
4. Robert C. Allen. Farm to Factory: A Reinterpretation of the Soviet Industrial Revolution, Princeton University Press, 2003. David Kotz and Fred Weir. Revolution From Above: The Demise of the Soviet System, Routledge, 1997.
5. Allen; Kotz and Weir.
6. Stephen Gowans, “Do Publicly Owned, Planned Economies Work?” what’s left, December 21, 2012.
7. “Russia Nw”, in The Washington Post, March 25, 2009.
8. Pipes.
9. Neli Espova and Julie Ray, “Former Soviet countries see more harm from breakup,” Gallup, December 19, 2013, http://www.gallup.com/poll/166538/former-soviet-countries-harm-breakup.aspx
10. Pipes.
11. Judy Dempsey, “Study looks at mortality in post-Soviet era,” The New York Times, January 16, 2009.
12. Shirley Ceresto and Howard Waitzkin, “Economic development, political-economic system, and the physical quality of life”, American Journal of Public Health, June 1986, Vol. 76, No. 6.
13. Pipes.
14. Michael Parenti, Blackshirts & Reds: Rational Fascism and the Overthrow of Communism, City Light Books, 1997, p. 119.
15. Pipes.

June 23, 2017

Turkey may be subtly changing sides in the Syrian conflict - Adam Garrie

Turkey may be subtly changing sides in the Syrian conflict

ADAM GARRIE in The Duran


The unthinkable has become the conceivable.

Between the Syrian victory in the Battle of Aleppo in December of 2016 and the signing of the Astana Memorandum on the creation of de-escalation zones in Syria in May of 2017, Turkey was one of the biggest obstacles to peace in and freedom for Syria.

The Battle of Aleppo was in many ways the Stalingrad moment in the Syrian war on al-Qaeda/al-Nusrea. It was a point of no return in respect of al-Qaeda/al-Nusrea’s long term desire to conquer and subjugate important population centres in western Syria.
It was during the interim period between the end of 2016 and the spring of 2017 that Turkey increased its own illegal war against Syria using its own jihadist proxies, the so-called FSA.
Since Turkey so-signed the Astana Memorandum in May of this year, Turkey’s position has subtly shifted.

Geo-politically, the Astana process has led Turkey to technically side with Russia and Iran, two unambiguous supporters of the rule of international law in Syria and consequently, supporters of the legitimate Syrian government.
Knowing that illegal regime change in Damascus is now all but an impossibility, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has attempted militarily to work with the US in capturing the self-proclaimed ISIS capital of Raqqa. Erdogan was not only totally disregarded by the US in this respect but the US has openly aligned itself with Kurdish forces in Syria who are sworn enemies of Turkey.
With Kurds acting in manners which are increasingly hostile to not only Turkey but also to Syria, it is clear that Ankara and Damascus both have a common enemy who seek to annex parts of both Turkey and Syria. Kurds in Iraq may unilaterally declare independence in northern Iraqi regions as early as September of this year.
Iran which for years has had to deal with its own Kurdish insurgency is dead set against Kurdish nationalism in Iraq, Syria and Turkey for the obvious reason that it opposes such moves on Iranian territory.
In this sense, Turkey, Iran, Syria and indeed Iraq are all on the same page. In each instance the US is an enemy for very different reasons. Iran is a country that the US seeks to discredit, defame and possibly make war upon. Syria is a country that under President Obama, the US illegally invaded and occupied with the intent to create a Salafist state in Damascus. Under Donald Trump this plan has changed to one of more or less helping the Kurds to annex Syria east of the Euphrates, something Turkey in particular deems totally unacceptable.
Turkey of course has been in NATO since 1952 and has been a traditional US ally, but recent events may be changing this more than previously imaginable.
In backing the Kurds so heavily and openly, America is backing Turkey’s supreme regional and internal enemy. Not only is this a potential straw to break the camel’s back in respect of Washington’s relationship with Ankara, but it would have been sufficient to cause a major rift in bilateral and intra-NATO relations even without the current and most recent former US President having a personally poor relationship with President Erdogan.
In Aleppo Governorate where Kurds are attempting to make a push to the Mediterranean through Arab territory in an attempt to solidify the expansionist borders of a would-be Kurdish state, Turkish troops have shifted their focus to fighting Kurdish forces.
According to Al-Masdar, a generally reliable source for information on the ground in Syria and an outlet that is anything but pro-Erdogan, the arrival of Turkish troops in Aleppo who are now fighting Kurds, were welcomed by the local Arab population, something which would have been virtually inconceivable just two months ago.
If Turkey and Syria and indeed Iran now have a common enemy, the only thing stopping them from forming a united front is a great deal of bad blood, particularly in respect of Syria. Relations between Iran and Turkey by contrast, continue to improve.
While a formal alliance between Damascus and Ankara against Kurds still seems difficult to imagine so long as Erdogan is in power, a covert or even unspoken agreement to allow Turkey to target Kurds in Syria may well be something that could happen. The tentative groundwork for such a reality is already starting to occur, albeit more by necessity than by design.
The biggest factor here is Russia. Russia like Iran supports the Syrian government and has partnered with Syria to form an anti-terrorist coalition that is for all intents and purposes, winning the war against Salafism.
Russia unlike Turkey and Iran, does have normal relations to Kurdish forces in the region, in spite of the fact that Kurdish loyalties are now fully in-line with American interests which run contrary to that of almost every other party in Syria.
Russia has not and will not stop Turkey from fighting Kurds in Syria, nor will Russia advocate for a Kurdish state against the wishes of Syria, Turkey or Iran.
Therefore, while Russia’s position on the Kurds is more agnostic than that of Turkey, Iran or Syria, Russia will not advocate for the Kurdish cause without reason and it is unlikely that Russia ever will have a reason to do so.
It is therefore conceivable that Turkey, Syria, Iran and Russia may end up on the same side of a conflict in which Gulfi money is slowly but surely being redirected out of and where America and its Kurdish proxies stand alone as the last major obstacles to a mutually agreeable peace for Syria.
Al-Qaeda has been largely decimated, the FSA can only do what Turkey allows it to do and ISIS is on its final breath in Syria.
In this sense, America will not have only failed to gain the vast majority if not all of Syria, but in the process America will have lost Turkey as an ally.

Erdogan entered the war in the most alienating fashion possible and it backfired. Now though, Erdogan’s pride and his reputation may be partly saved due to the fact that however arrogant Erdogan has behaved, America is in reality, far worse and far more dangerous to the region. The fact that America is totally foreign to the region, automatically gives Turkey more credibility even now than America has ever or ever will have.

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A timely reminder:: Seymour M. Hersh on the chemical attacks trail back to the Syrian rebels, 17 April 2014

Seymour M. Hersh on Obama, Erdoğan and the Syrian rebels Vol. 36 No. 8 · 17 April 2014  London Review of Books pages 21-24 | 5870 words ...