2/18 US "moving in Ukraine to contain Russia"... on "the road to Damascus"

US playbook "...moving from passive stance to use of covert involvement to contain Russia in Ukraine"

New Dimensions of U.S. Foreign Policy Toward Russia,
2/11/14 By George Friedman, Stratfor, Geopolitical Intelligence, www.stratfor.com/ weekly/ new-dimensions-us-foreign-policy-toward-russia -

The struggle for some of the most strategic territory in the world took an interesting twist this week. Last week we discussed what appeared to be a significant shift in German national strategy in which Berlin seemed to declare a new doctrine of increased assertiveness in the world -- a shift that followed intense German interest in Ukraine. This week, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, in a now-famous cellphone conversation declared strong contempt for the European Union and its weakness and counseled the US ambassador to Ukraine to proceed quickly without the Europeans to piece together a specified opposition coalition before the Russians saw what was happening and took action.

This is a new twist...because it puts US policy in Ukraine in a new light and forces us to reconsider US strategy toward Russia and Germany. Nuland's cellphone conversation is an additional indicator of US strategic thinking....Russia is not a global power, its military has many weaknesses, but it is by far the strongest in the region, able to project power in the former Soviet periphery, as Georgia showed. At the moment, the US military also has many weaknesses....direct intervention is not an option... Instead, the US did the same thing it did prior to the Orange Revolution... its financial and psychological support for demonstrators protesting Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich's decision to reject a closer relationship with Europe...preserved the possibility of regime change in Ukraine, with minimal exposure and risk to the United States....If demonstrators can unseat an elected president because they disagree with his actions, they have set a precedent that undermines constitutionalism....From a balance-of-power strategy, however, it makes great sense. A pro-West, even ambiguous, Ukraine poses a profound strategic problem for Russia. It would be as if Texas became pro-Russian, and the Mississippi River system, oil production, the Midwest and the Southwest became vulnerable. The Russian ability to engage in Iran or Syria suddenly contracts. Moscow's focus must be on Ukraine.
Using demonstrations to create a massive problem for Russia does two things. It creates a real strategic challenge for the Russians and forces them on the defensive. Second, it reminds Russia Washington has capabilities and options that make challenging the US difficult...it can be framed in a way human rights advocates will applaud in spite of constitutional issues, that enemies of the Iranian talks will appreciate and Central Europeans from Poland to Romania will see as a sign of US commitment. The United States will re-emerge as an alternative to Germany and Russia. It is a brilliant stroke.
Its one weakness, if we can call it that, is that it is hard to see how it can work. Russia has significant economic leverage in Ukraine, it is not clear pro-Western demonstrators are in the majority, and Russian covert capabilities in Ukraine outstrip US capabilities... We would expect after the Olympics in Sochi, that the Russians could play their trump cards.
On the other hand, even if the play fails, the US will have demonstrated it is back in the game and the Russians should look around their periphery and wonder where the US will act next.
Of course, the question is whether and where the Russians will answer the Americans, or even if they will consider the US actions significant at all. In a sense, Syria was Moscow's move and this is the countermove. The Russians can choose to call the game. They have many reasons to. Their economy is under pressure. The Germans may not rally to the United States, but they will not break from it. And if the US ups the ante in Central Europe, Russian inroads there will dissolve.
If the Russians are now an American problem, which they are, and if the United States is not going to revert to a direct intervention mode, which it cannot, then this strategy makes sense. At the very least it gives the Russians a problem and a sense of insecurity that can curb their actions elsewhere. At best it could create a regime that might not counterbalance Russia but could make pipelines and ports vulnerable - with U.S. help.
The public interception of Nuland's [State Dept. Victoria] Nuland's 'fuck the EU'] phone call was not that embarrassing. It showed the world the United States, not Germany, leads the way in Ukraine. And it showed the Russians that the Americans care so little, they will express it on an open cellphone line. Nuland's obscene dismissal of the European Union and treatment of Russia as a problem to deal with confirms US policy... passivity is over.

thug diplomacy, not satire: 'stop al-qaeda in Syria from hitting US
Two Senators: Kerry Admits Obama's Syria Policy Is Failing
In a closed-door meeting, two senators said, in a private, off-the-record meeting, the Secretary of State admitted to them he no longer believes the administration’s approach to the crisis in Syria is working. Peace talks have failed, he conceded, and now it's time to arm the moderate opposition—before local al Qaeda fighters try to attack the United States. Kerry also said he believes the Assad regime is failing to give up its chemical weapons according to schedule; that the Russians are not being helpful in solving the Syrian civil war; and that the Geneva 2 peace talks he helped organize are not succeeding....according to the senators, Kerry now wants to arm Syria's rebels—in part, to block local al Qaeda affiliates who have designs on attacking the U.S. Shortly after Sens. Graham and John McCain described the meeting to The Daily Beast, The Washington Post, and Bloomberg View. Given new intelligence on the growing al Qaeda presence in Syria, as well as shocking new evidence of Syrian human rights atrocities, the senators said they agreed with Kerry that the time had come for the US to drastically alter its approachar.“Kerry acknowledged that we are at a point now where we are going to have to change our strategy.”
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told Congress last week al Qaedas affiliates in Syria “have aspirations for attacks on the homeland.” “Kerry confirmed that. The first thing [Kerry] said [to the lawmakers] is, ‘The al Qaeda threat is real. It is getting out of hand'...
Kerry's spokesperson, Jen Psaki, (also Obama's campaign spokesperson, WH and State Department spokesperson)said the senators are confusing their views with the Secretary of State's. "This is a case of members projecting what they want to hear and not stating accurate facts of what was discussed. It’s no secret some members of Congress support this approach, but at no point during the meeting did Secretary Kerry raise lethal assistance for the opposition.He was describing a range of options the Administration has always had at its disposal..."

UPDATE: Sens. Sheldon Whitehouse and Chris Murphy issued the following statement Monday about the Kerry meeting: “We were both surprised that contents of our off-the-record meeting with Sec Kerry were made public. The characterizations reported today do not reflect the conversation we heard. Neither of us recall the Secretary saying the policy of the administration in Syria was failing, nor proposing new lethal assistance for Syrian opposition groups.”

digest background note
The secular Syrian Baath Party stated objective is defense of Syrian unity, progress and sovereignty...Arab nationalist opposition to political Islam ("Islamism"). Like other US 'Arab Springs', The ruling Assad government was democratically elected (the 2012 elections on the basis of a secular constitution, gave the Bath party 134 seats, along with the other6 parties in the National Progressive Front, a total of 160 of 250 seats). To US imperialism, 'democracy' means subservience to the dictatorship of US finance capital -- China, Russia, Iran, N. Korea and Syria are thus 'threats to US national security' and dealt with accordingly.
Syria is geostrategically crucial for regional and global supremacy. Since World War 2 when the US replaced Britain as #1 imperialist power, Arab and Persian nationalism has been a major danger to US regional control, thus its support for "Islamist" jihadist groups (beginning with US/Brzezinski under Carter organizing mujahideen/ Bin Laden in Afghanistan to defeat its then-socialist biggest rival, the Soviet Union. Ever since, the US government and foundations, have directly and/or indirectly worked inside and outside Syria to undermine Russia via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED)., Freedom House, the Council on Foreign Relations(CFR) and the Soros Open Society Institute/Foundations, the Jamestown Foundation etc...
Syria is crucial to the US geostrategic agenda on "the road to Damascus". Iran is the linchpin to US global domination in the face of its worsening crisis of upstart imperialist powerhouses China & Russia -- but most importantly, the resistance ("terrorism") of billions who will never stop fighting and dying against the US-led world-destroying fascist dictatorship.

Putin sparks fury amid claims Russia could build a second nuclear reactor in Iran in return for oil
2/17/14 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2561217/Putin-sparks-fury-amid-c...
Mehdi Sanaei the Iranian ambassador to Moscow today ...a day before the six powers including Russia resume talks with Tehran on a nuclear deal... evealed a plan to update Iran's Bushehr nuclear power plant, one of many being discussed by the allies Reuters reports...sparking fears it would undermine Western efforts to maintain pressure on Tehran to curb its nuclear programme.

Full Text of Iran-Powers Nuclear Deal
Farsnews http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13920903000397
TEHRAN (FNA)- Full Text After White House Release of Modified Version...
Geneva, 24 November 2013 Joint Plan of Action
Preamble: The goal for these negotiations is to reach a mutually-agreed long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran's nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful. Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons. This comprehensive solution would build on these initial measures and result in a final step for a period to be agreed upon and the resolution of concerns. This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein...

Obama considering new pressure on Syria's Assad
.... as he pledged more U.S. assistance to Jordan's King Abdullah, whose country is reeling from the Syrian civil war...Obama announced at the outset of their talks he intends to provide the strong U.S. ally with $1 billion in loan guarantees...in addition the US will renew a five-year agreement locking in the annual US $660 million aid..which expires at the end of September... did not say what funding level he would urge Congress to back in new five-year agreement.... with Abdullah seated beside him Obama told reporters he does not expect the conflict to be resolved any time soon and "there are going to be some immediate steps we have to take to help the humanitarian assistance there."... Kerry said earlier while traveling in Asia "We have been ramping up our support to the moderate opposition and Jordan has its own strong role to play in relationship to the moderate opposition," a senior Obama administration official said after Obama and Abdullah held two hours of talks. The official said the two leaders also discussed the rising extremist threat emanating from Syria and what might be done to counter it..."Helping the position of the Syrian opposition is certainly part of the overall calculation," said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity....Government insiders said possible actions against Assad's government has gained backing with U.S. armed forces and intelligence...
Last week, top spy officials from state adversaries of the Syrian regime discussed extensively potentially providing more sophisticated arms to Assad's opponents, the New York Times reported Monday. Any new assistance could include portable anti-air interceptors

Syrian Army Gains Ground In Key Region
2/13/14 By Tim Marshall, Diplomatic Editor | Sky News, http://uk.news.yahoo.com/syrian-army-gains-ground-key-region-130711641.h...
The fight for Qalamoun began last summer and a string of government victories followed, most notably with the capture of the town of Qusair. The offensive to take Yabroud began in December...The Syrian Army is gaining ground in a crucial battle against opposition forces which has significant strategic implications fighting to retake control of the rebel-held town of Yabroud near the border with Lebanon. Yabroud is the last opposition stronghold in the mountainous Qalamoun region....Whoever controls Qalamoun can control the motorway from the capital Damascus to the city of Homs and then on to the coastal region of the Latakia government-held area...

Russia says Syria aid resolution creates 'grounds for future military action'
2/12/14 http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/russia-says-syria-aid-resolution-create...
"Its whole purpose and aim is to create grounds for future military action against the Syrian government if some demands it includes are not met... and we, of course, will not let it through." " Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said in Geneva, according to state-run news agency RIA.

2012 Russia, China veto UN resolution on Syria
2/4/12, AP, http://cnsnews.com/news/article/russia-china-veto-un-resolution-syria-1
Susan Rice, US ambassador to the United Nations, said "For months this council has been held hostage by a couple of members. These members stand behind empty arguments and individual interests while delaying and seeking to strip bare any text that would pressure Assad to change his actions. Any further bloodshed that flows will be on their hands," ...
Chinese Ambassador Li Baodong said his country voted against the resolution because proposed amendments... Rice described as "unacceptable" ...were not taken into account....
French Ambassador Gerard Araud said Russia and China "made themselves complicit in a policy of repression carried out by the Assad regime."...Human Rights Watch (HRW) monitor at the United Nations, Philippe Bolopion, said "The risk is high the Assad regime will see this double veto as a green light for even more violence"

2 years later in its losing war in Syria 'on the road to Damascus'
Russia and China veto UN resolution on Syria demanding President Bashar al-Assad step down.
2/12/14 http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/9061622/Russi...

Iran Sends Warship Fleets to US Maritime Borders
2/8/14 http://english.farsnews.com/newstext.aspx?nn=13921119001013
"The Iranian Army's naval fleets have started their voyage towards the Atlantic Ocean via the waters near South Africa," Commander of Iran's Northern Navy Fleet Admiral Afshin Rezayee Haddad announced Saturday. Admiral Haddad, also commander of the Iranian Army's 4th Naval Zone said, "Iran's military fleet is approaching the United States' maritime borders, and this move has a message. "The US Navy's 5th fleet based in Bahrain - across the Persian Gulf from Iran - is where the US has conducted two major maritime war games in the last two years. Iran first announced in July, 2011 it was going to send "a flotilla into the Atlantic"...In September 2011, Iran Navy Commander Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayyari announced Iran planned to move vessels into the Atlantic Ocean to start a naval buildup "Like the arrogant powers present near our maritime borders, we will also have a powerful presence close to the American marine borders," In September 2012, Commander Sayyari reiterated Iran's plans for sailing off the US coasts to counter the US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.

WHITE PAPER – The American Security Project: The New Public Diplomacy Imperative
The New Public Diplomacy Imperative takes a look at the strategic necessity for strong American public diplomacy. Author Matthew Wallin examines many of the issues in contemporary public diplomacy, and recommends best practices for policy makers and public diplomacy practitioners.This white paper also provides case studies, as well as insight and guidance to strengthen the effectiveness of American messaging overseas...
Reports include: Propaganda: Tool of Strategic Influence; Academic Exchange: Pillar of Public Diplomacy; Iran Public Diplomacy; Public Diplomacy Challenges of the Internet and Social Media

consolidating information war aka strategic communications/public diplomacy
Politico's Mike Allen about Pentagon press operations in this morning's Playbook: "Brent Colburn joins the Defense Department a 2012 reelect, and has become known for taking on big management challenges: He was FEMA's director of external affairs, the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs at DHS, s Assistant to the Secretary for Public Affairs. As the head of Secretary Hagel's public affairs operation, Colburn will oversee Pentagon communications, media and public outreach. Colburn was communications director for 2013 Reelect and most recently Secretary Shaun Donovan's Chief of Staff at HUD

trusty polls
Where is the tipping point for America's trust in the military? And are we near it?
By Jim Gourley, Best Defense chief military culture correspondent

In 2011,Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey wondered aloud at a National Guard leadership conference why the U.S. military scored the highest among Americans polled on what institutions they trusted most. "... Despite highly unfavorable public opinion of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, June 2013 Gallup and Pew polls showed public confidence in the
military still holding above 75 percent....

American Opinion of Putin and Russia at 20 Year Low
WASHINGTON — With the eyes of the world trained on the Winter Olympics in Sochi, American opinions of Russia and its leader Vladimir Putin reached their lowest point in 20 years, according to a survey released by the U.S. pollster Gallup. Both Putin and Russia registered their highest "unfavorable" ratings — 63 percent and 60 percent, respectively — since Gallup began surveying Americans about Russia in 1994.The results follow a Gallup poll in September showing for the first time in 15 years more Americans view Russia as an unfriendly or enemy nation than as a US ally or friend."Over the past year, Russia has pursued a much more aggressive stance on the world stage than at any time in the new millennium. In his first term in office, Putin was viewed more favorably than unfavorably by the American public, but Americans now see him in a clearly unfavorable light. While American sentiments have been mostly favorable over the past 20 years, it is obvious Americans will react strongly when Russia clashes with the U.S.," Gallup managing editor Art Swift wrote. Thirty-four% of the respondents in the Gallup poll, conducted Feb. 6 to Feb. 9, said they have a favorable opinion of Russia,19% said they have a favorable opinion of Putin... down from 2002 highs of 66% and 41%, respectively.

The Moscow Times is a leading English-language newspaper published in Moscow since 1992, originally created for foreigners living and working in Moscow, but in recent year attracting a Russian readership as well and is an invaluable research tool for Russia-watchers worldwide.

Baltic Surveys Ltd. / The Gallup Organization, Institute of Polling And Marketing, funding from United States Agency for International Development

U.S. Department of State and U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
2/20/13 oig.state.gov/documents/organization/206900.pdf
Voice of America (VOA) has four Nigerian contract stringer funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts to Nigeria via affiliate stations are one of the few ways of maintaining communication with Nigerian populations. A 2012 Gallup study found approximately 88 percent of the population .The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) pursuing an aggressive marketing strategy produced several new programming affiliations despite restrictive broadcasting laws and increasing extremist violence...

USAID's Troubles ...
When Bolivian President Evo Morales expelled USAID... he complained Washington "still has a mentality of domination and submission" in the region... a familiar charge for the State Department's principal foreign aid agency. In the last two years booted out of Russia, snubbed in Egypt and declared unwelcome by a bloc of left-leaning Latin American countries...anxieties were intensified by G.W. Bush's aggressive advocacy of a "freedom agenda," calling for democratic transformation in the Middle East-North African Arab (MENA) world, and President Obama's expanded support in 2011 "Arab Spring" revolts that toppled or challenged MENA leaders. The backlash has been dramatic. About 50 countries adopted laws to limit foreign funding of civic NGO groups and more strictly control their activities. About 30 other countries are considering restrictions according to the president of the D.C. International Center for Not-for-Profit Law..."This is a much broader attack on civil society," said Douglas Rutzen... USAID-backed groups helped draft the Russian Constitution and tax code....US support for GOLOS an independent election-monitoring and anti-corruption organization...Russian president Putin expelled USAID in September finding it had funneled nearly $3 billion into remote corners of Russian society...."Our people can distinguish between the desire for renewal and political provocation that has but one goal: to destroy Russia's statehood and usurp power" Putin said....
Ted Piccone, deputy director of foreign policy at the Brookings Institution "this is the most sensitive kind of assistance out there. We are intervening directly in their political affairs."

now on front burner post-Chavez starring US' Leopoldo López
USAID: “Strategic Venezuelan Plan”
11/6/13 Eva Golinger Artículo en español con documento
In the past few months the Venezuelan government led by President Nicolas Maduro has denounced multiple incidents of sabotage against the country’s electrical infrastructure along with an ongoing campaign to undermine the nation’s economy. A majority of international media, together with private media in Venezuela, have ridiculed the Venezuelan President’s accusations, and attempted to pin responsibility on the government for the instability and harm caused by these actions....
An internal document, titled “Strategic Venezuelan Plan”, dated June 13, 2013, was developed in a meeting with the Director of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) for Latin America, Mark Feierstein, and Venezuelan opposicion leaders, including Maria Corina Machado, Julio Borges, Ramon Guillermo Avelado, and psychological operations expert J.J. Rendon...the Democratic Internationalism Foundation, headed by ex Colombian president Alvaro Uribe, with the First Colombia Think Tank and US Consulting firm, FTI Consulting)... to “Create situations of crisis in the streets that will facilitate US intervention, as well as NATO forces, with the support of the Colombian government. Whenever possible, the violence should result in deaths or injuries”....“a military insurrection... contacting active military groups and those in retirement to amplify the campaign to discredit the government inside the Armed Forces...It’s vital to prepare military forces so that during a scenario of crisis and social conflict, they lead an insurrection against the government, or at least support a foreign intervention or civil uprising”....
This confirms the veracity of the accusations made by President Nicolas Maduro. Venezuela is under attack, as it has been throughout the past 14 years since the beginning of the Bolivarian Revolution with the recovery of Venezuela’s sovereignty, independence and dignity....

Venezuelan Intelligence Official Arrested in Connection with 12 February Violence in Caracas,
Ewan Roninson, 2/17/14
Venezuela’s Maduro Holds Mass Rally to Reject Violence as Protests Continue (+video)
...While direct US actions have maintained a constant rhythm of pressure against Venezuela, Washington’s hopes of removing Chávez from power undoubtedly lie in the possibility of the conservative Democratic Unity Table (MUD) opposition coalition defeating Chávez in this year’s presidential election. According to investigative journalist Eva Golinger, the US is providing the opposition in Venezuela with political advice and financial support to the tune of US$20 million $20 million this year. This funding for anti-Chávez groups comes from the US national budget, State Department-linked agencies, the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and USAID, along with the US Embassy in Caracas....US funding has also followed fellow primaries candidate Leopoldo López throughout his political career, first in Primero Justicia, then in Un Nuevo Tiempo from 2002, before receiving NED and USAID funding to support his own organisation Voluntad Popular.
MUD National Assembly deputy and primaries candidate Maria Machado Corina has also received heavy US financial support, as well as holding a private meeting with George W Bush in 2004. Machado has recently been appointed as a coordinator for Radonski’s “Tricolour Command” presidential election campaign, while Leopoldo López is now a member of the Radonski campaign’s select Political Strategic Command. The Political Strategic Command is headed by experienced opposition figure Professor Ramón Guillermo Aveledo, who with his close political colleagues “assists US sponsors in pouring money into the MUD,” according to analyst Nil Nikandrov.
The importance of US funding to shape the current Venezuelan opposition should not be underestimated. According to US Embassy 2009 cables US Embassy chargé d’affaires John Caulfield argued for increased US funding of opposition groups, as “without our continued assistance, it is possible that the organizations we helped create … could be forced to close…Our funding will provide those organizations a much-needed lifeline”....

U.S. Military Intervention, Done Right, Could Boost African Stability