These election experts are predicting a Hillary Clinton landslide over Donald Trump

Donald Trump likes to brag that polls show him beating Hillary Clinton in a head-to-head matchup, even though the opposite is true in most surveys. But polls this early out aren’t particularly useful for predicting what will happen in November, not least because neither Clinton nor Trump has secured their party’s nomination. More to the point, polls reflect the popular vote. “Here at Crystal Ball,” note political prognosticator Larry Sabato and his colleagues, “we are going to cling to one central fact about presidential elections: The only thing that matters is accumulating a majority of 270 votes in the Electoral College.”

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Last May, Sabato and his team at the University of Virginia created a generic Democrat-versus-Republican map that predicted a close election, but now that Clinton and Trump are the likely nominees, they adjusted the map accordingly. The new map “does not show a close and competitive general election,” write Sabato, Kyle Kondik, and Geoffrey Skelley.

Captura de pantalla 2016-03-31 a las 19.38.51.pngSabato’s team leaves a healthy amount of wiggle room for the “unexpected twists and turns” sure to come, including “the shape of the economy or terrorism, or the precise job approval rating of President Obama in the autumn, or the gaffes and scandals that may yet unfold,” calling their electoral map an “extra-early, ridiculously premature projection.” (You can read more about their methodology and assumptions at Sabato’s Crystal Ball.) But they aren’t going out on the Clinton-landslide limb alone:

Captura de pantalla 2016-03-31 a las 19.38.57.pngOr who knows? If Trump’s unfavorable ratings among women keep on their current trajectory, Nate Silver’s slightly facetious alternate map starts to look almost plausible. Peter Weber

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Russian Nuclear Ballistic Missile “Iskander” Spotted In Syria

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Submitted by Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge

There was much surprise in geopolitical circles several weeks ago when, completely out of the blue, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced he would begin withdrawing military forces from Syria at once, a move hailed by some as confirmation Russia had failed to achieve its goals in the civil war-ridden nation which serves as a hotbed of ISIS terrorist attacks around the globe, and by others as victory.

Both camps may have been wrong. According to a Reuters, while the Kremlin announced one thing to the international community behind the scenes it has been doing more of the same: sending even more forces, arms and supplies to Syria.

As Reuters explains “when Vladimir Putin announced the withdrawal of most of Russia’s military contingent from Syria there was an expectation that the Yauza, a Russian naval icebreaker and one of the mission’s main supply vessels, would return home to its Arctic Ocean port. Instead, three days after Putin’s March 14 declaration, the Yauza, part of the “Syrian Express”, the nickname given to the ships that have kept Russian forces supplied, left the Russian Black Sea port of Novorossiysk for Tartous, Russia’s naval facility in Syria. Whatever it was carrying was heavy; it sat so low in the water that its load line was barely visible.

Reuters’ assessment is blunt: Putin lied and has been actively sending more equipment to Syria:

Its movements and those of other Russian ships in the two weeks since Putin’s announcement of a partial withdrawal suggest Moscow has in fact shipped more equipment and supplies to Syria than it has brought back in the same period, a Reuters analysis shows.

 

It is not known what the ships were carrying or how much equipment has been flown out in giant cargo planes accompanying returning war planes.

 

But the movements – while only a partial snapshot – suggest Russia is working intensively to maintain its military infrastructure in Syria and to supply the Syrian army so that it can scale up again swiftly if need be.

 

Putin has not detailed what would prompt such a move, but any perceived threat to Russia’s bases in Syria or any sign that President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s closest Middle East ally, was in peril would be likely to trigger a powerful return.

But while reneging on its promise to withdraw forces from Syria is hardly surprising, what is shocking is what Russia may have been deploying to Syria quietly in recent weeks. According to the Russian military website military-informant.com an Iskander SS-26 Stone short-range ballistic missile complex which has a range of 400 km and is nuclear-capable, was spotted on March 27 near the Hmeymim airbase used by Russia for its airborne attacks.

According to the website, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation conducted a redeployment of missiles of unknown type Hmeymim air base in Syria.  It adds that during during a night-time arrival of two military transport aircraft at the Russian air base, under conditions of high secrecy made military equipment was unloaded.

The combat vehicles were covered with a special tent, which prevented accurate identification of the type and purpose of military equipment. Eyewitnesses report that the two trucks were hidden under an awning and that together with another heavy complex, left the location of the air base accompanied by wheeled armored vehicles moved in an unknown direction.

The launch complex was subsequently spotted in the background of a Russian armed forces video clip published on March 27, and shown below:

The moment when the Iskander launch complex is caught on tape can be spooted 5:22 into the clip below.

If confirmed, it begs the question: how will John Kerry, the state department, and allied forces react once it becomes clear that not only did Putin not withdraw forces from Syria but has added nuclear-capable ballistic missiles to the Russian arsenal in Syria? And, more to the point, how will Turkey respond.

Mozambique: Renamo Opens Fire On Government Convoy in Manica

Some wars never end, when we speak about civil wars it’s a tough story.

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Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique / AllAfrica Global Media

Maputo — Gunmen of the Mozambican rebel movement Renamo on Monday attacked a delegation of the Manica provincial government in the Nhamtema area of Barue district.

The delegation was travelling from the town of Catandica to the Manica provincial capital, Chimoio. The area where it was attacked has been the scene of at least three earlier ambushes.

The most senior figure in the delegation was the Provincial Director of Labour, Mouzinho Carlos, who had represented provincial governor Alberto Mondlane at celebrations earlier in the day in Catanica of the 99th anniversary of the Barue revolt against Portuguese colonial rule.

The ambush occurred at about 16.00, when the delegation was returning to Chimoio. There were dozens of vehicles in the convoy, which was under police escort.

The attackers opened fire as the convoy was passing through a village on a dangerous curve in the road. Villagers panicked and fled from their homes and stalls into the bush. Normal traffic along the road, which links Chimoio to the western city of Tete, was re-established an hour later.

Information received by AIM indicates that some people in the convoy were injured, and received medical treatment at the Manica Provincial Hospital in Chimoio. The police have not issued any figures on the number of people wounded, but promised to speak to the press on Tuesday.

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In the neighbouring province of Sofala, Renamo has dug trenches across the main north-south road on the stretch between the Save river and the small town of Muxungue, thus slowing down the convoys under armed escort which use this road.

According to a report carried by the Portuguese news agency Lusa, citing eye witnesses, three craters have been dug across the road.

A truck driver said this made driving along this stretch of the highway even more difficult and dangerous.

The Save-Muxungue stretch of the road has come under repeated attack from Renamo gangs since mid-February.

This is the third time Renamo has dug trenches across the road. The first occasion was during the war of destabilisation, when Renamo succeeded in halting all overland traffic between Maputo and Beira for a period of about 12 years. Renamo used the same tactic during its mini-insurrection in Sofala in 2013-14.

REPORT Qatar Wants to Buy Dozens of U.S. Warplanes. Why Won’t Washington Sell Them?

The Obama administration is paralyzed over whether to sell dozens of advanced U.S. fighter jets to the tiny kingdom of Qatar, a Persian Gulf ally that houses a strategic American air base but has alarmed Washington by maintaining ties to an array of Islamist militant groups.

The potential deal for up to 73 F-15E Strike Eagle fighter jets, worth billions of dollars, has been on the table for more than two years. The White House has come under fire for the unusual delay from some U.S. lawmakers, who accuse the administration of dithering and breaking its promise to speed up arms sales to Gulf allies anxious about the threat posed by their regional rival Iran — especially as Tehran emerges from economic sanctions and inks arms deals with countries like Russia.

Israel has privately expressed reservations about the deal because of Qatar’s relationships with Islamist groups like the Taliban and Hamas and because of concerns that Israel’s military superiority in the region could be undercut by the sale, congressional aides and former U.S. officials said. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf nations have voiced similar concerns about Qatar’s ties to terrorist groups and its increasingly warm relationship with Tehran.

Qatar, for its part, says that it wants the jets to assert itself as a military power in a region plagued by conflict and instability. Its current air force is tiny, with just a dozen aging French Mirage jets, so the proposed deal would represent a six-fold increase in its military strength. The Qatari government hopes to leverage the help it has provided Washington — from hosting the air base the United States uses to stage strikes against the Islamic State to negotiating the release of captive American soldier Bowe Bergdahl — to secure the aircraft deal.

Faced with a politically fraught dilemma that could either antagonize Qatar or Israel and other Persian Gulf allies, the White House has been unable to make a decision. Senate aides and industry experts said both the Defense and State departments have no objections to the sales, and lawmakers from both parties have pressed the White House to approve the sale. The administration, however, has given no indication if, or when, it plans to do so.

Several U.S. lawmakers, including those with staunch pro-Israel views, have been puzzled by the delay on the Qatar sale — as well as a pending deal with Kuwait — and urged the administration to move forward on both deals.

“These sales have been stuck in the political decision-making process at the White House for a long time now,” Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told Foreign Policy in an email. “Many of us would like to see the White House make a decision soon to move this process along.”

But other lawmakers have said they have reservations about the United States selling weapons to Qatar, given its track record of openly supporting Hamas and turning a blind eye to deep-pocket donors delivering funds to extremists in Syria. In 2014, the U.S. Treasury Department took the unusual step of publicly rebuking Qatar for failing to take decisive action against nationals who are providing funds to militant groups, including the al Qaeda-backed al-Nusra Front in Syria. Last year, meanwhile, the departmentimposed sanctions on two Qatar-based financiers for allegedly raising money for al Qaeda operatives in Syria, Pakistan, and Sudan.

“The Qataris have shown a tolerance for extremism among the groups they have supported within Syria that has caused some real friction with our other regional allies and with the United States,” Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) told FP. He added that Qatar needed to show concrete evidence of a change in behavior before the deal should be approved.

Qatar has said it has not funded terrorists but has defended its relations with Hamas (which the United States lists as a terrorist organization) and other Islamist movements as groups that have popular political support. The Qatari Embassy in Washington did not respond to queries from FP.

Qatar’s monarchy has displayed a canny ability to play both sides of the Middle East’s divide, welcoming leaders of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood along with U.S. Air Force generals and American college professors. And its channels to various Islamist groups — while causing alarm — often have turned the kingdom into a crucial U.S. partner for back-channel diplomacy and securing the release of hostages.

When the United States signaled it was ready to swap Taliban commanders held at the detention facility in Guantánamo Bay for Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, a U.S. soldier captured in Afghanistan and held hostage by insurgents, it turned to Qatar as a go-between to broker a deal with the Taliban insurgents. Qatar has also played a key role in securing the release of a number of Western hostages held by al-Nusra Front or other Syrian rebels, including American journalist Peter Theo Curtis two years ago. And when Secretary of State John Kerry was trying to negotiate an end to fighting between Israel and Hamas militants in 2014, he sought out Qatar to help broker a cease-fire.

The Defense Department’s ties to Qatar run even deeper. In 2013, the Pentagon renewed a defense cooperation agreement that extended the U.S. lease on the al-Udeid Air Base for another 10 years. The deal allows the United States to continue to run its combat air operations center out of the desert base west of Doha, where officers from 30 countries oversee the U.S.-led air war in Iraq and Syria against the Islamic State. In 2014, the United States announced an arms sale with Qatar worth $11 billion for Patriot missile batteries, Apache attack helicopters and other weapons.

Qatar’s aircraft have provided logistical support and flown surveillance missions for the campaign against the Islamic State, and its planes took part in the NATO-led air campaign in Libya in 2011 that toppled dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi.

The long delay of the Qatar deal has opened the White House to criticism that it is backtracking on its 2015 promise to increase security assistance to Persian Gulf nations battling the Islamic State and looking to deter Iran. In May 2015, at a meeting of leaders from the Gulf Cooperation Council at Camp David, Washington pledged to take steps like “fast-tracking arms transfers.”

The meeting was supposed to reassure traditional Gulf Arab allies, who fear Washington is withdrawing from the region and who distrust the nuclear agreement between world powers and Iran.

But with no green light for the fighter jet sales to Qatar and Kuwait, U.S. credibility in the region has been damaged, according to Sen. John McCain, the Republican chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“In the Gulf, the president is failing to live up to the promises made at the Camp David Summit in May 2015,” McCain said at a hearing this month.

A spokesman for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, David McKeeby, told FP it is typical and appropriate for major arms deals to undergo extensive “consideration and consultation.”

He added: “The United States remains committed to the security and stability of the Gulf region.”

As it has weighed the arms sales to the Gulf, the Obama administration also has been negotiating an elaborate memorandum of understanding with Israel that will outline a 10-year U.S. military assistance package for the Jewish state. The memorandum has taken on added importance in light of Israeli opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, which has enabled the lifting of economic sanctions on Tehran. Israel fears that Iran will be able to invest in new weapons — including ballistic missiles — that could target its cities and military bases.

The memorandum reportedly could offer up to $50 billion worth of U.S. military aid to Israel over a decade, but the sale of dozens of fighter jets to Qatar could give the Israelis a rationale to press for bolstering the assistance further, experts and congressional aides said.

U.S. President Barack Obama is due to travel to Riyadh next month to attend a gathering of the GCC, and the meeting could provide an opportunity for the administration to announce a decision on the Qatar sale.

Although U.S. lawmakers are invoking geopolitics in backing the arms sales, many have their eye on domestic politics, as thousands of American jobs could be on the line if the deal is rejected or continues to linger.

The aerospace giant Boeing manufactures the aircraft that would be sold to Qatar or Kuwait under the pending deals. Boeing executives and Pentagon officials argue that the production lines in Missouri for both the F-15 and the F/A-18, older planes slated to be phased out in favor of more advanced jets, might have to close within a few years if the arms sales do not go through. And that would mean layoffs for the thousands of workers who build those planes.

The defense industry, by spreading weapons manufacturing jobs at plants across numerous states, exerts a major influence on Congress. Donors and political action committees from the industry contributed more than $27 million to political candidates in the 2012 election campaign cycle, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Over the past year, Boeing ranked third among defense political contributors, donating $1.61 million to various candidates and groups.

Winning approval for the Qatar deal, however, has already been a tough sell for the kingdom and its allies on Capitol Hill because Qatar’s ruling family has come under consistent criticism from U.S. government officials who say it has tolerated fundraising by its citizens for violent extremists.

After publicly slamming Qatar in 2014, the Treasury Department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence at the time, David Cohen, who is now the CIA’s deputy director, described Qatar as “a permissive terrorist financing environment.”

In September 2014, Treasury officials said an Islamic State commander, known as the “emir of suicide bombers,” received $2 million in cash from a Qatari businessman. Treasury sanctioned the two Qatari financiers less than a year later.

Despite the U.S. sanctions introduced against some Qatari nationals and the criticism, Western firms and banks have not shied away from doing business in the country. Investments by U.S. and other oil firms enabled the kingdom to exploit its vast natural gas reserves for lucrative exports, with GDP growing from $35 billion to $185 billion between 2000 and 2012.

In June 2013, Qatar’s emir, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, abdicated in favor of his son Tamim bin Hamad. The new leader has raised hopes among Western officials that the country will strike a more moderate course when it comes to its relationships with Islamist groups. But the Treasury Department has issued no public statements suggesting Qatar has changed its stripes.

Matthew Spence, formerly the top Pentagon official for the Middle East in the Obama administration, said U.S. weapons sales offer a way of exerting some constructive influence over a country like Qatar.

“Qatar really is an evolving country, and we should look for ways to shape which way they’re evolving,” he told FP. “If the United States doesn’t help shape their direction, Qatar will turn somewhere else.”

The kingdom has already begun to do so. Qatar had previously bought French warplanes for its small air force fleet. Amid uncertainty over the U.S. deal, Qatar announced last year it would buy 24 Rafale fighters from France for $7 billion.

Photo credit: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

The Helicopter Money… very near?

Central banks are already doing the unthinkable – you just don’t know it

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Mehreen Khan, The Telegraph

The lords of finance are losing their touch.

Institutions which dragged the world from its worst depression since the early 20th century are finally seeing their magic desert them, if conventional wisdom is to be believed.

Eight years on the from the Great Recession, voices as authoritative as the International Monetary Fund and the Bank of International Settlements – dubbed the ‘central bank of central banks’ – have called time on the era of extraordinary monetary policy.

Having hoovered up $12.3 trillion (£8.5 trillion) in financial assets and carried out 637 interest rate cuts since 2008, central banks have been stunned back into action in the last six weeks.

The Bank of Japan kicked off a new round of global easing with its decision to cross the rubicon into negative interest rate territory on January 29.

Eurozone policymakers followed suit earlier this month with a triple whammy of interest rate cuts, €20bn in additional asset purchases a month, and an unprecedented move to allow commercial banks to borrow money at negative rates.

The Federal Reserve has also taken its foot off the pedal by slashing its expected interest rate hikes from four a year to just two.

But the new wave of policy accommodation  has ushered in fresh panic that monetary policy is suddenly subject to dwindling returns.

Instead, talk has turned to governments finally pulling their weight to support the shaky global recovery.

Fiscal policy has been largely dormant in the wake of the crisis as countries have concentrated on bringing down debt and deficits levels, binding themselves to stringent spending rules in the process.

But without tax breaks and greater state investment, the world is at risk of another “economic derailment”, the IMF has warned.

In its latest communique the G20 paid lip service to the idea that global governments will adopt policies to “strengthen growth, job creation and confidence”.

Realistically, there are little signs that politicians  are ready to jettison their fixations on low debt and balanced budgets to support global growth.

Central bankers have led the world out of recovery as politicians have stood on the sidelinesCentral bankers have led the world out of recovery as politicians have stood on the sidelines

In Europe, it is an issue which is straining relations between central bankers and their respective governments.

Faced with accusations of impotence, Vitor Constancio, vice president of the ECB,  launched a dogged defence of the central bank’s actions, claiming they have been responsible for two-thirds of all eurozone growth since 2014.

Moreover, the very design of the euro actively prohibits governments from stepping in to stimulate weak economies, says Constancio.

“Stabilising fiscal policy is restricted by law in the EU. Countries that could use fiscal space, won’t; and many that would use it, shouldn’t.”

Amid such constraints, Constancio warns “not only is it wrong to start talking down monetary policy – it’s actually dangerous”.

Thinking the unthinkable

Faced with political intransigence, central bankers are openly talking about the previously unthinkable: “helicopter money”.

A catch-all term, helicopter drops describe the process by which central banks can create money to transfer to the public or private sector to stimulate economic activity and spending.

Long considered one of the last policymaking taboos, debate around the merits of helicopter money has gained traction in recent weeks.

ECB chief Mario Draghi has refused to rule out the prospect, saying only that the bank had not yet “discussed” such matters due to their legal and accounting complexity.  This week, his chief economist Peter Praet went further in hinting that helicopter drops were part of the ECB’s toolbox.

“All central banks can do it”, said Praet. “You can issue currency and you distribute it to people. The question is, if and when is it opportune to make recourse to that sort of instrument”.

Embattled central bankers are beginning their fight back against accusations of impotenceEmbattled central bankers are beginning their fight back against accusations of impotence

With 16 out of Europe’s 28 economies still in deflation and annual eurozone growth set to hit just 1.4pc in the middle of a cyclical upturn, the opportune moment may soon be upon us.

“We have had forward guidance, QE and negative interest rates, says Gabriel Stein at Oxford Economics.

“But none of these has proven a panacea and their shelf-life is getting shorter.”

Helicopter drops by stealth

For some observers, the next phase in extraordinary central bank action is already upon us, and it is Japan which is leading the way.

The Bank of Japan’s move to impose a three tiered deposit rate on banks is a covert attempt to inject funds directly to the private sector, argues Eric Lonergan, economist and hedge fund manager.

He notes that the BoJ’s decision to exempt some reserves from the negative rate represents a transfer of cash to commercial lenders at rate of 0.1pc.

The system “separates out the interest rate on reserves from that which affects market rates”, says Lonergan.

“It is taking the first step along the journey towards helicopter money and opens up a whole new avenue of stimulus”.

 

In the same vein, the ECB has also signaled its intention to move towards targeted attempts to boost private sector credit demand.

From June, eurozone banks will be paid as much as 0.4pc to borrow from the ECB for four years – a scheme dubbed ‘Targeted Long-Term Refinancing Operations’ (TLTRO’s). Lenders who do the most to pass on cheap loans to customers will be rewarded with the most favourable rates.

Erwan Mahe, chief macro strategist at HPC, calls the ECB’s moves a “veritable revolution” in monetary policy which marks the end of an erstwhile central bank taboo.

“For the first time in the history of central banking, private-sector agents will be able to borrow money from the ECB and give back less than the capital borrowed,” says Mahe.

“As long as fiscal authorities do not act to offset the counter-cyclical lag in aggregate demand, [TLTRO’s)] will probably play an increasingly important role” in eurozone policy, he notes.

“I wish they’d done it an awful lot sooner”, says  Lonergan, who says that for all its institutional constraints, the ECB still boasts a number of tools to boost bank lending.

With government borrowing costs at rock bottom across the eurozone,  even more QE would be unnecessary at this stage,  he says.

TLTRO’s however, “open the possibility of two different rates where you can leave the policy rate unchanged but lend to banks at lower and lower rates contingent on them lending to the real economy” he adds.

“It is much cleverer way of doing things because savers do not suffer.”

Smashing the taboo

But central bank ingenuity – however welcome –  raises separate concerns about the accountability of institutions whose independence is sacrosanct but where decision-making is often insulated from public view.

Lord Adair Turner, a former chairman of the Financial Services Authority, and one of the earliest advocates of helicopter money, calls for more transparency in a bid to finally smash the taboos around injecting money straight into the hands of consumers or governments.

“I think it is more dangerous for central banks to forever deny what they are doing,” says Lord Turner.

He calls Japan’s move to issue government debt at a rate of 40 trillion yen, while the central bank expands its balance sheet at a rate of 80 trillion yen a year, “a de facto debt monetisation”.

“You are effectively replacing government debt with central bank money,” says Lord Turner. “It would be better for authorities to publish a statement, laying out the rules and assuring the world it is not too much.”

Lord Adair Turner has been a long standing supporter of a scheme of "money financing" between central banks and governmentsLord Adair Turner has been a long standing supporter of a scheme of “money financing” between central banks and governments

But with much of the global economy witnessing steady if unremarkable expansion, any such admission is unlikely to come before another full-blown crash.

Until then, debate will rage over the optimal way to engineer helicopter drops and the dividends they could bring to a subdued global economy.

For critics, the world’s  recent oil price crash is an ominous sign that consumers are still not ready to spend any free windfalls. The boost to global spending from this effective tax cut has not been as direct as economists would have expected, as people continue to pay down their debts or save for rainy day funds.

In the eurozone meanwhile, still stuck in a low-growth and high unemployment morass, the political barriers to extraordinary measures should not be underestimated.

For all the exasperation aimed at the political class, the ECB still faces insurmountable barriers to action in an incomplete monetary union.

“Where is the government Draghi can turn to if he wanted to fire up his helicopter?” asks Ashoka Mody,  a former assistant director at the IMF.

Seeking technocratic solutions to intractable economic problems also risks further damage to the fabric of the single currency, already facing huge challenges from migration flows and the rise of political extremism.

“By substituting so directly for fiscal policy, helicopter money becomes a profoundly political act”, says Mody, who led the IMF’s bail-out of Ireland from 2011.

“Europe has tried to govern itself through technocratic rules, especially the budget limits, and it has never worked.”

The challenges of the eurozone – where 19 differing governments are under the aegis of one central bank – are a far cry from Japan, where both fiscal and monetary policy are working in tandem to revive the economy.

“I think we will be lucky if Europe does as well as Japan did during its lost decade”, says Mody.

But the debate around helicopter drops has given way to a welcome fightback from central bankers who reassert that they are never powerless to generate inflation.

Citing Milton Friedman’s maxim that “inflation is always and everywhere a monetary phenomenon”, economist Tim Congdon is adamant that monetary policy is still the only game in town.

“Monetary policy can never – repeat, never – ‘run out of ammunition’”, he says.

Second Syria FAIL: U.S. State Dept Spokesman Can’t Answer Question About ISIS Vs. Assad In Palmyra

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By Brandon Turbeville, Activist Post

Shortly after a video emerged showing the Saudi Ambassador to the United Nations, Abdallah al-Mouallimi, failing miserably in an effort to justify his nation’s call for elections in Syria while simultaneously refusing to agree to elections in Saudi Arabia, a new contender for “worst defense of your nation in an interview” emerged. This time, the miserable fail comes from the United States and State Department Spokesman Mark Toner.

In another example of what happens when a Western, GCC, or Israeli political figure is simply asked a real question and even timidly held to the fire, Toner was asked whether or not the recent victory of the Syrian Army over ISIS in Palmyra was a positive development. In fact, the question was direct; did he prefer ISIS or Assad to control Palmyra? Such a question would provoke an easy answer on the side of Assad from any reasonable person. But Toner does not represent a reasonable person or a reasonable government. He represents the U.S. State Department. The transcript of the interview is provided below as well as the video:

Reporter: Do you want to see the regime retake Palmyra?

Toner: Uh . . .

Reporter: Or do you prefer that it stay in Daesh’s hands?

Reporter: You’re not answering my question.

Toner: I know I’m not [laughs] Um . . . I’m giving a broader view. Uh . . . and then we can all increase our efforts to . . . uh . . . to go after Daesh and dislodge it.

Toner: [laughs awkwardly] Uh. . . It’s truly a . . . uh . . .[giggles awkwardly again] . . . uh . . .um . . . Look. Uh. . . I think what we would . . . uh. . . like to see is . . . uh. . . the political negotiations, that political track . . . uh . . . pick up steam. Uh . . . That’s part of the reason the Secretary’s in Moscow today um . . . so we can get a political process underway um . . . and deepen and strengthen the cessation of hostilities into a real ceasefire and then . . . we

Toner later admitted in the press conference that Daesh was “probably” the “greater evil in this case” despite the fact that he also suggested that designation was a close call between Daesh and the “regime” of Bashar al-Assad.

The very fact that Toner could not answer the question in a clear and direct fashion exposes a hard fact about American foreign policy – it is designed to destroy the secular government of Bashar al-Assad. If Toner had readily admitted that the Syrian military’s victory against ISIS was a positive development, he would have effectively admitted that the SAA is the greatest enemy of the terrorist organization bar none and eliminated his State Department’s justification for military intervention and hostility toward the Syrian President.

Still, despite his actual words, Toner’s bumbling response did nothing more than to make it obvious that the United States desires to see the preponderance of terror across Syria but, because of its tangled web of phony narratives, simply cannot admit it outright.

Brandon Turbeville – article archive here – is the author of seven books, Codex Alimentarius — The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident, volume 1 andvolume 2, The Road to Damascus: The Anglo-American Assault on Syria, and The Difference it Makes: 36 Reasons Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Be President. Turbeville has published over 650 articles on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville’s radio show Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV. His website is BrandonTurbeville.com He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

Kerry’s Plan at Balkanising Syria

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Author: Maram Susli / New Eastern Outlook
Last month, US secretary of State John Kerry called for Syria to be partitioned saying it was “Plan B” if negotiations fail.  But in reality this was always plan A. Plans to balkanize Syria, Iraq and other Middle Eastern states were laid out by former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a 2006 trip to Tel Aviv. It was part of the so called “Project For a New Middle East”. This was a carbon copy of the Odid Yinon plan drawn up by Israel in 1982. The plan outlined the way in which Middle Eastern countries could be balkanized along sectarian lines. This would result in the creation of several weak landlocked micro-states that would be in perpetual war with each other and never united enough to resist Israeli expansionism.

“Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan… ” Oded Yinon, “A strategy for Israel in the Nineteen Eighties”,

The leaked emails of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reveal advocates of the Oded Yinon plan were behind the US push for regime change in Syria. An Israeli intelligence adviser writes in an email to Hillary,

“The fall of the House of Assad could well ignite a sectarian war between the Shiites and the majority Sunnis of the region drawing in Iran, which, in the view of Israeli commanders would not be a bad thing for Israel and its Western allies,”.

Kerry’s plan B comment came right before UN’s special envoy de Mistura said federalism would be discussed at the Geneva talks due to a push from major powers. Both side’s of the Geneva talks, the Syrian Government and the Syrian National Coalition flat out rejected Federalism. Highlighting the fact that the idea did not come from the Syrian’s themselves. The Syrian ambassador to the United Nations, Bashar Al Jaafari, said that the Idea of federalization would not be up for discussion. “Take the idea of separating Syrian land out of your mind,” he would say.

But some may not completely understand the full implications of federalism and how it is intrinsically tied to balkanization. Some cite the fact that Russia and the United States are successful federations as evidence that federation is nothing to fear. However the point that makes these federalism statements so dangerous is that in accordance with the Yinon plan the borders of a federalized Syria would be drawn along sectarian lines not on whether any particular state can sustain its population.  This means that a small amount of people will get all the resources, and the rest of Syria’s population will be left to starve. Furthermore, Russia and the US are by land mass some of the largest nations in the world, so federalism may make sense for them. In contrast Syria is a very small state with limited resources. Unlike the US and Russia, Syria is located in the Middle East which means water is limited. In spite of the fact Syria is in the so-called fertile crescent, Syria has suffered massive droughts since Turkey Dammed the rivers flowing into Syria and Iraq. Syria’s water resources must be rationed amongst its 23 million people. In the Middle East, wars are also fought over water.The areas that the Yinon plan intends to carve out of Syria, are the coastal areas of Latakia and the region of Al Hasake. These are areas where a substantial amount of Syria’s water, agriculture and oil are located.  The intention is to leave the majority of the Syrian population in a landlocked starving rump state, and create a situation where perpetual war between divided Syrians is inevitable. Ironically promoters of the Yinon plan try and paint federalism as a road to peace. However, Iraq which was pushed into federalism in 2005 by the US occupation is far from peaceful now.

Quite simply, divide and conquer is the plan. This was even explicitly suggested in the headline of Foreign Policy magazine,  “Divide and conquer Iraq and Syria” with the subheading “Why the West Should Plan for a Partition”. The CEO of Foreign Policy magazine David Rothkopf is a member of to the Council of Foreign Relations, a think tank Hillary Clinton has admitted she bases her policies on.  Another article by Foreign Policy written by an ex-NATO commander James Stavridis, claims “It’s time to talk about partition Syria”.

The US hoped to achieve this by empowering the muslim brotherhood and other extremist groups, and introducing Al Qaeda and ISIS into Syria. The Syrian army was supposed to collapse with soldiers returning to their respective demographic enclaves. Evidence of this could be seen in the headlines of NATO’s media arm in 2012, which spread false rumours that Assad had run to Latakia, abandoning his post in Damascus. The extremists were then supposed to attack Alawite, Christian and Druze villages. The US hoped that enough Alawites, Christians and Druze would be slaughtered that Syria’s minorities would become receptive to the idea of partitioning.

Then NATO planned on shifting narratives from, ‘evil dictator must be stopped” to “ we must protect the minorities”. Turning on the very terrorists they created and backing secessionist movements.  There is evidence that this narrative shift had already started to happen by 2014 when it was used to convince the US public to accept US intervention in Syria against ISIS. The USdesignation of Jabhat Al Nusra as a terrorist organisation in December of 2012 was in preparation for this narrative shift. But this was premature as none of these plans seemed to unfold according to schedule. Assad did not leave Damascus, the Syrian army held together, and Syrian society held onto its national identity.

It could be said that the Yinon plan had some success with the Kurdish PYD declaration of federalization. However, the Kurdish faction of the Syrian national coalition condemned PYD’s declaration.  Regardless, the declaration has no legal legitimacy. The region of Al Hasakah where a substantial portion of Syria’s oil and agriculture lies, has a population of only 1.5 million people, 6% of Syria’s total population. Of that, 1.5 million, only 40% are Kurdish, many of which do not carry Syrian passports.  PYD’s demand that the oil and water resources of 23 million people be given to a tiny part of its population is unlikely to garner much support amongst the bulk of Syria’s population.

Former US National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger understood that the key to dismembering a nation was attacking its national identity.  This  entails attacking the history from which this identity is based upon. In an event at Michigan University Kissinger stated that he would like to see Syria balkanized, asserting that Syria is not a historic state and is nothing but an invention of the Sykes-picot agreement in the 1920’s. Interestingly, Kissinger is using the same narrative as ISIS,  who also claimthat Syria is a colonial construct. In fact, ISIS has been a key tool for Kissinger and the promoters of the project of a New Middle East, as ISIS has waged a campaign of destruction against both Syrian and Iraqi historical sites.

In spite of efforts to convince the world of the contrary, the region that now encompasses modern day Syria has been called Syria since 605 BC . Sykes-Picot didn’t draw the borders of Syria too large, but instead, too small. Historical Syria also included Lebanon and Iskandaron. Syria and Lebanon were moving towards reunification until 2005, an attempt at correcting what was a sectarian partition caused by the French mandate. Syria has a long history of opposing attempts of divide and conquer, initially the French mandate aimed to divide Syria into 6 separate states based on sectarian lines, but such plans were foiled by Syrianpatriots. The architects of the Yinon plan need only have read Syria’s long history of resistance against colonial divisions to know their plans in Syria were doomed to failure.

Maram Susli also known as “Syrian Girl,” is an activist-journalist and social commentator covering Syria and the wider topic of geopolitics. especially for the online magazine“New Eastern Outlook.”