The Phantoms of the Soviet may be found making messes and stumbling around the places long associated with the Soviet Bloc, its captive states, sphere of influence, and its key trading partners, all linked then by their devotion to a nominal “Communism” and a realpolitik of theft by Party elites, the “nomenklatura” that effectively ran — or rubber-stamped policy — through the Soviet Era. The basket cases that come most quickly to mind: Crimea, Ukraine; Syria, whatever is left of it; Venezuela, where the well-behaved “socialists” beneath the boot of the Maduro regime have been reduced to starvation and flight while the mafia and military and state officials continue to clean up quite nicely between shipments of cocaine bound for El Norte and sex slaves trafficked out to the Caribbean Basin or beyond it.
The Phantom — and the phantoms — have multiple roles to play as the world either continues winding down down into feudal chaos, which is the way some (with the loot) would seem to have it, or as it turns and with anger and resolve recovers from the “Active Measures”, “Hybrid Warfare”, and “Reflexive Control” methods that have brought post-Cold War East-West Conflict back to life with frightful — and unfolding — prospects for the world’s future.
Moscow has returned itself and much that it touches back to political horror. It has been arming the Taliban in Afghanistan; committing murder in Great Britain (and elsewhere); courting Islam and brutalizing it at the same time (in a cosmic sense); ditto for Turkey; and to what end? Only God and Putin know, and of the two and who might know Russia’s future best, I’d rake the chips over to Putin.
Earlier this week, we revealed that US spy agencies had handed the British government high-grade intelligence that the Russian whistleblower Alexander Perepilichnyy, who died in Surrey in 2012, was likely assassinated on the direct orders of the Kremlin – but the authorities sidelined that and other evidence pointing to murder, instead declaring that he had died of natural causes. Today, we can reveal that US intelligence officials suspect a further 13 people – including Berezovsky and eight members of his circle – have been assassinated on British soil by Russia’s security services or mafia groups, two forces that sometimes work in tandem.
The same would seem to be the work of the “phantoms of the Soviet” — GRU, KGB/FSB not only remain in business as in the Soviet Era but may be perhaps insufficiently challenged on their host’s turf. ” The story of this ring of death illuminates one of the most disturbing geopolitical trends of our time – the use of assassinations by Russia’s secret services and powerful mafia groups to wipe out opponents around the globe – and the failure of British authorities to confront it,” wrote Blake back in 2017.
So here on the anniversary of the official announcing of the passing of the Soviet Union into Russia’s history — and the world’s — it would seem the more nefarious of old habits — creating wars, operating in the shadows, dominating and plundering political space with barbarous violence and ruthless ambition remain intact — and, according to BuzzFeed, more covered over by authorities than given the play deserved.
“I think we had forgotten how organically ruthless the Russians could be,” said Peter Zwack, a retired military intelligence officer and former defense attaché at the United States Embassy in Moscow, who said he was not aware of the unit’s existence.
ANKARA, Turkey, and MOSCOW — A number of Turkey’s NATO allies have suspended arms sales to the country in condemnation of its military incursion into Syria, but analysts and officials are shrugging off the embargo, saying it will have a minimal impact on the military’s operational capabilities.
Several countries, including France, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Norway, the Netherlands, Finland, Spain and Germany, imposed arms embargoes against the Turkish government after its troops entered Syria to attack the Kurdish militia, which Turkey views as a terrorist group. Turkey said its military operation, launched Oct. 9, will help create a safe zone in northeastern Syria.
The official presentations of peace have become surreal.
Most understand that with the repression of democracy, especially through the jailing of journalists and the shuttering of publications, Turkish President Tayyip Recep Erdogan has all but denounced democracy for a turn “east” toward dictatorship.
America’s President Trump has agreed to the program but with one difference, i.e., claiming credit for peace in the region. He has nonetheless praised the Turkish leader, essentially hollowing out the meaning of “NATO” and the related Western ideals, principles, and values that were to be defended before the “Phantoms of the Soviet”, i.e., the forces of feudalism and associated criminals, political criminals, and tyrants.
Turkish news channels ran a countdown clock at the top of their screens to let the country know when the ceasefire in northern Syria would end. Military and political commentators tried to outdo each other’s prognostications about what would come out of the meeting between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, in the city of Sochi. In the end, the presidents spent six hours discussing their path forward in northern Syria.
BackChannels expects the powerful mainstream media (Fake News!) to take note of the discrepancies illustrated here by juxtaposition.
It appears some wealthy — way “up there” in wealth born of thuggery — have in some states displaced democratic processes, evolving liberalism, rule of law and become powers unto themselves acting in their own feudal and wholly narcissistic and malign interests.
Yesterday’s morning began with live videos of . . . nothing. “Live from Turkey-Syria border as ceasefire ends” said the Ruptly header. It turns out that while the phlegmatic American Congress had been inquiring about the changed state of affairs between Turkey and the West, Russia and Turkey together had been “taking care of” the Kurds . . . .
Now, the whole rationale Trump put forward for the retreat — to get American troops out of the Mideast and “endless wars” — is in doubt.
Rather than leaving the region, the withdrawing troops will deploy in neighboring Iraq to fight the Islamic State group, which could get new life from the Syrian turmoil. Some U.S. forces are still in eastern Syria, helping Kurdish fighters protect oilfields. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday he was discussing keeping them there.
Trump surprised even his own military on the ground when he agreed to remove U.S. soldiers working with Kurdish-led forces near the border in an Oct. 6 phone call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Three days later, Turkey launched its offensive with heavy bombardment along the border.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense . . . .
While those both enamored and fearful of power have always played “both sides of the street”, Turkey’s drift from a freely speaking, open, and vibrant democracy to one far from NATO ethics, interests, and values should be clear to the free world. Through the power of President Erdogan’s feudal imagination and thuggery, Turkey has been transformed into a politically absolute polity driven by the narcissism of its leader
Worse for the Turks and even his fans: President Erdogan’s toadying before Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Erdogan may appear strong standing up to the west, which today cannot levy enough sanctions on his project (probably hurting the Turks more than the Turkish President), but how may he appear doing Putin’s bidding while his equally enamored — or captive to Moscow — neighbor, Bashar al-Assad AKA “Bashar the Butcher”, continues destroying and strangling Syria — in Turkey’s direction too — under cover of destroying Sunni Islamists?
When Turkish air power rightly downed two Russian MIGs overflying Turkey’s airspace while refusing communications with Turkish air defense, Erdogan refused apology. And what for? He and his military had done everything right for the purposes of Turkish Defense.
The Su-24 shootdown took place on November 24, 2015.
Eight months later, widely reported on June 27, 2016, Erdogan apologized to Putin.
That has turned out a fair demonstration of Russian “realpolitik” and maddening absolute power.
For those watching — and those who knew the facts — “Sultan Erdogan” may just as well have knelt before “Emperor Putin”.
Perhaps President Erdogan has had some household bills yet to pay, and, beside, has needed a certain supply of energy to heat the house.
I hope the excerpts and videos that follow prove helpful as windows into the love fest developed between Ankara and Moscow.
The first direct gas pipeline between Russia and Turkey was the Blue Stream, commissioned in 2005. In 2009, Putin proposed a Blue Stream II line parallel to Blue Stream under the Black Sea. The Blue Stream II project did not carry through and the South Stream project took the lead, until it was abandoned in 2014. The TurkStream (then named Turkish Stream) project was announced by Russian President Vladimir Putin on 1 December 2014, during his state visit to Turkey.
The Russia Defence Ministry denied the aircraft ever left Syrian airspace, counter-claiming that their satellite data showed that the Sukhoi was about 1,000 metres (1,100 yd) inside Syrian airspace when it was shot down. The U.S. State Department said that the U.S. independently confirmed that the aircraft’s flight path violated Turkish territory, and that the Turks gave multiple warnings to the pilot, to which they received no response and released audio recordings of the warnings they had broadcast.
MOSCOW — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan apologized Monday for the downing of a Russian warplane in November and called for Russia and Turkey to mend a bilateral relationship that has become openly hostile over the incident.
Gazprom has started to fill the first branch of the offshore section of the Turkish Stream pipeline with natural gas. This is the final stage of testing the pipeline before putting it into operation later this year . . . .
. . . The first line is intended for the supply of Russian gas to Turkish consumers, the second – for gas supply to the countries of southern and southeast Europe.
Erdoğan says his demand for a safe zone in Syria is rooted in Turkey’s war against terrorism. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), Erdoğan says, is as much a threat as the Islamic State. That is of course nonsense: The SDF formed to fight Al Qaeda affiliates and the Islamic State at a time when Turkey was passively if not actively supporting them. Nor can Turkish officials credibly point to terrorist attacks from Kurdish-governed portions of Syria. Groups that evolved from the PKK are not monoliths: The SDF is progressive and moderate; any visit to the region makes clear that the group does not embrace the PKK’s Cold War-era Marxism. The PKK itself has long sought peace and does not attack civilians. The Kurdistan Freedom Hawks (TAK) splinter group continues to engage in terrorism, but they are based nowhere near Syria nor do they have any links to the SDF.
In a recent article in Foreign Policy, my colleague Steven A. Cook argued that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was playing Washington like a fiddle. With a combination of bluffs, threats, and bluster, Erdogan managed to convince the United States to come up with an arrangement in northeastern Syria to prevent a Turkish invasion—an arrangement that comes at the expense of the Kurds, who have carried the brunt of the fighting against the Islamic State. Whatever one thinks of the Kurds, their determination and sacrifice should be treated as an international public good; they have stopped and destroyed one of the most dangerous and homicidal groups the modern world has known. The Turks by contrast have contributed nothing to this endeavor.
If Erdogan has succeeded in manipulating Washington, however, Russian President Vladimir Putin, in turn, has played him to the hilt.
The great squawk raised against President Trump’s pull-out from Syria after the seemingly finished business of removing ISIS as an area-controlling power in the region may be assuaged by a few cogent and brief observations.
From the Awesome Conversation (on Facebook) —
The Kurds have not been a unified political community.
The PKK is another of the late 1970s-style “liberation” organizations set up by then Communist Moscow.
The regional “balance of power” has included Russian-Turkish animus (for a long time), so a return to that geopolitical fault line may make some historic sense; however, the two former empires appear at present embraced over energy, warm with each the other’s politically absolute character, and cold to the liberal democracies and associated values of the west.
In the “Medieval v Modern” framework often mentioned on BackChannels, arrangements between Russia and Turkey suit the Forward-to-the-Past! ambitions of Presidents Putin and Erdogan (and perhaps Trump as well). Ah, well, the past from the present may seem both a bloodier but also more simple day, so that much more suited to the simple minded among leaders. Be that as it may, the PKK’s historic relationship with Moscow may now bring the Kurdish liberation element into renewed contact with the producers of the”KGB Theater” that brought the murderous Islamic State to their doorstep in the first place.
Putin’s Russia has proven itself a deeply destructive and inhumane force in Syria, one that has encouraged a tyrant to bomb and depopulate substantial portions of his own state, and one that has itself repeatedly bombed hospitals into ruin. Call it “Real Estate Acquisition and Development — Moscow Style”. May such a center of power as Moscow now find the Kurds and the PKK inconvenient?
As captive but perhaps (under the new circumstance) uncontainable ISIS elements melt back into the region (how many may it take to rebuild the movement or otherwise influence the politics of the region?), the perpetuation of conflict may seem to suit the greater “eastern” powers, one of which appears to enjoy the development and suspension of “frozen conflicts”.
At least 40 civilians attending a wedding party were killed in a raid conducted by Afghan government forces and supported by US airstrikes on a Taliban hideout in southern Helmand province, Afghan officials said Monday.
Abdul Majed Akhund, deputy provincial councilman, said that the majority of the dead were women and children. Twelve civilians were also injured.
The Modern West has had little issue investigating and owning up to its own woeful atrocities, including the accidents it may sanitize with the term “collateral damage”.
In fact, it or the liberal democratic populations represented by EU/NATO and assorted coalitions of the willing, may be too good at wearing the mea culpa shawl of self-shaming, but that’s another matter.
For Afghanistan, and for the most part, the damage done has been much less accomplished by the “collateral damage” of the west than by the deliberate design, decision, and application of violence by the Taliban and similar actors bent on the absolute and comprehensive political and social control of targeted states and their resources.
Using Russian-supplied arms and material, Afghanistan’s Taliban have continued a program of bombings and related attacks designed to destroy Afghani civilians without discrimination, forestall peace, discourage and impede elections, and bring general ruin to local economies and lives while proving themselves handsome, protective, strong, and wise.
. . . .
True: a malign narcissism has a great deal to do with the absolute political and social control sought by the Taliban and so many others who at times conflate themselves with God and the work of God’s will on earth.
The Taliban’s demonstrated and backfiring track record in lunacy — and that of other extremist organizations operating in Afghanistan — may finally be reaching them through the mirroring World Wide Web where high-integrity reportage faithfully conveys the character of consistently cruel, crude, and very nearly mindless violence that will in the end have changed nothing but perhaps themselves.
Most who have followed the Afghanistan story in its greater context will recall the story in which Mullah Omar took revenge on a Russian tank crew and its commander — hung from his own tank barrel — for the rape of local village girls. Omar would flee that heroic ending to raise an army to battle back the Soviet invasion of the state — and America’s CIA would step in with the delivery of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles to the Mujaheddin for the comparatively cheap killing of the Soviet’s brutal and expensive helicopter gunships.
One may tire — and perhaps should — of the medieval contests between too many “kingdoms of heaven” and the repeated conflations — Christian, Jewish, or Muslim — of men with God (although Judaism has been always adamant about the separation of the Divine from the mortal).
In any case, among my acquaintance, one stands out as expert on “civilizational narcissism” — his term — and the Taliban. Here is his book from 2010 —
It may be said that all were warned but with one element missing: Soviet / post-Soviet Moscow / Moscow-Tehran.
The Soviet / post-Soviet Arc of Tears (Crimea, Syria, Yemen, for a start) hews to and encourages the despotism (“political absolutism”) so far expressed by the Taliban in Afghanistan but also well on display elsewhere in the world where the deepest and most criminal representatives of civilizational and political narcissism have either set themselves or prevailed.
BackChannels suggests the Taliban may have been taken in — duped — by Russia via al-Zawahiri and Osama bin Laden in the shadow of the Cold War and reshaped for revenge on the west with the intent of sustaining a blind and madding authoritarianism in the world, all the better to plunder it.
President Donald Trump says the U.S.-Taliban talks on ending the fighting in Afghanistan are “dead,” deeply unfortunate wording for the Afghan civilians who have been killed by the tens of thousands over almost 18 years. Many fear his cancellation of negotiations will bring more carnage as the U.S. and Taliban, as well as Afghan forces, step up their offensives and everyday people die in the crossfire.
“We just want to go back to our homes. We don’t ask for much, but this war has made our lives impossible and has torn apart our community.” he says. “We cant go home due to the risk of drones, but after so many years of war, our community is now at war with itself – there doesn’t seem to be any end to bloodshed.”
One could argue that the Taliban is increasingly in a position to outlast the United States and claim a decisive military victory. If today’s Taliban were as cohesive as the Taliban that managed to control Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, that might well be true. But it’s not.
This weekend, Afghanistan will hold its fourth presidential election since the Taliban government’s fall in 2001. Since the U.S. and Taliban’s recent breakdown in negotiations, the Taliban have killed more Afghan civilians than at almost any other point since the beginning of 2018, as you can see in the figure below. The Taliban has killed at least 58 civilians in the last eight days alone.
And that may be about to get worse. In earlier presidential elections, the Taliban has tried not to kill civilians when they go to vote. That may change this weekend.
The U.S. envoy’s team would not elaborate Friday on the nature of the resumed discussions in Doha, but they come after a series of deadly Taliban attacks across Afghanistan. As CBS News correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports, while the Taliban may be talking peace with the U.S., they’re still waging a brutal war on Afghan soil.
A security camera captured dramatic video of a car bomb attack in Kabul on Thursday. The blast near the U.S. Embassy killed one American service member and another NATO soldier, as well as at least 10 civilians.
KABUL — Iran and Russia have stepped up challenges to U.S. power in Afghanistan, American and Afghan officials say, seizing on the uncertainty of future U.S. policy to expand ties with the Taliban and weaken the country’s Western-backed government.
The moves come as tensions have flared between the United States, Iran and Russia over the conflict in Syria, and officials worry that the fallout could hurt Afghanistan’s chances for peace. For years, Iran and Russia have pushed for a U.S. withdrawal.
I am tired of the people, the area, the district and the province. When I go to Wardak, I feel so tired. But what to do? I have to go there and visit their graves. It is not only one person — it is 12 family members. My four daughters, three sons, my wife, and four cousins. I lost all in one day when my house was bombed by the Americans.
I can never forgive the Taliban, but if the peace deal can stop the bloodshed, I can accept them to the country. I don’t want other families to go through what I have.
“Yes, we have reached an agreement in principle,” Khalilzad said, according to TOLOnews. “Of course, it is not final until the US president (Donald Trump) agrees on it. So, at the moment, we are at that stage.”
News of the agreement comes as violence has spiked in Afghanistan, with the latest attack occurring just hours after Khalilzad’s interview. A car bomb targeted an Afghan police station in the capital Kabul on Monday, in an area close to the heavily fortified compound where many foreign embassies and international organizations are based,
“He became known for his ability to weave through warring tribal factions and his ability to quickly get senior Afghan officials on the phone or to summon them to his office, including President Hamid Karzai,” The New York Times reported during Khalilzad’s stint as ambassador to Afghanistan — the country of his birth — from 2003 to 2005.
Robin Raphel, a former assistant secretary of state for South Asia, says Khalilzad’s appointment is a sign that the Trump administration is getting serious about a political solution to America’s longest war.
Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghan reconciliation, is on the verge of an agreement with the Taliban that would pave the way for the withdrawal of some 14,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan in exchange for guarantees that the war-wracked nation would not be used as a haven for international terrorism, according to diplomatic sources.
KABUL, Afghanistan — At first, the man was just walking across the street. Then he was running for his life. He managed four steps before the blast from the car bomb caught him.
Since then, the last few seconds of Akbar Fazelyar’s life, captured on video during a Taliban attack on Sept. 5, have become one of the most scrutinized moments in Afghanistan, slowed down and watched frame by frame on countless mobile phones and computer screens.
The vote, the fourth since the Taliban’s removal from power by a United States-led coalition in 2001, comes as heavy fighting between the armed group and government forces has led to a spike in the number of civilians killed.
The Taliban has already threatened to target election rallies and polling stations, while in recent weeks the US-backed Afghan forces have stepped up air and ground attacks, raising fears of further casualties.
Last week alone, more than 150 people were killed, according to Al Jazeera tally, in Taliban attacks, US drone strikes and raids by Afghan government forces.
The air strike was aimed at destroying a hideout used by Islamic State militants, but it accidentally targeted farmers near a field, Afghan officials were quoted as saying.
“On yet another deadly day in Afghanistan, once again it is civilians who bear the brunt of the violence involving armed groups, the Afghan government, and their backers in the U.S. military,” Amnesty International said in statement.
Our principal failure, in my view, was our refusal to deal with Pakistan’s double game. Even the accelerated drone attacks in western Pakistan under the Obama administration, which were somewhat effective in the fight against al Qaeda, failed to a large extent to target the Taliban, the Haqqani Group, or Hezbe Islami.
The United States also signaled a lack of military resolve. The Pentagon made incautious public statements about the reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. At one point, the combat power of the United States dropped to a single brigade, even as the insurgent threat was rising. The evident lack of U.S. commitment gave Pakistan a green light to step up the Taliban and insurgent offensive in late 2005 and early 2006.
On 17 September 2019, two suicide bombings killed over 48 people in Charikar and Kabul, Afghanistan. The first attack occurred at a rally for presidentAshraf Ghani which killed over 26 and wounded over 42. Ghani was unharmed in the incident. The second bombing occurred in Kabul near the US embassy. In this incident 22 were killed and another 38 were injured in the explosion. Children and women are among the dead and wounded in both attacks, also multiple soldiers were killed. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attacks, and said they will commit more attacks to discourage people from voting in the upcoming presidential elections.