If The Saudi’s Killed A Journalist: So Now What? Answer, Nothing

If The Saudi’s Killed A Journalist: So Now What? Answer, Nothing 

 

In this article today I am not trying to be cold-blooded or hate filled, I’m trying to be honest. Here in the States you have your typical politicians like Lindsey Graham wagging their tongues about “there will be hell to pay if the Saudi government killed this man.” I almost never side with Donald Trump but I do sort of agree with him on this issue. Reality is that many governments kill people every year. How many Journalist’s die in the line of duty every year? The Organization Reporters Without Borders says that 65 Reporters were killed in the line of duty in 2017 plus many more were imprisoned. He was not a Reporter but do you remember the American college kid who tore down a poster in North Korea and spent a year or so in one of their prisons only to be sent back home in a coma where he died a couple of weeks later? Folks, nothing real happened to North Korea because of this because mans murder. Mr. Trump was trying to strike a deal with N.K. President (Dictator) Kim Jung Un to get rid of their Nuclear Weapons. Which was/is more important, one life, or not having a thin-skinned ego maniac with is finger on a Nuke button? By the way, I am speaking of Mr. Kim, not the one that is in Our White House.

 

Now, let us get back to the murder of the Saudi/American Journalist who was murdered inside the Saudi Embassy in Turkey. Here are some realities for us all to think about. Mr. Trump is under pressure to cancel a multi-billion dollar weapons deal with the Saudi government because of them killing this man. Would this action by our President be a wise decision? Would it teach “them” a lesson? My answer is no, it would not. In fact if anything it could/would shift the balance of power on this planet. Here is why I am saying this. First it would shift the Saudi government toward the Chinese. If we do not sell these weapons to the Saudi’s the Chinese would be falling all over themselves to sell weapons to the Saudi government. Honestly I believe that it would be the Chinese and not the Russians who would fill the gap because the Russian government has aligned themselves with the Shiite Nations, mainly Iran and as you know, the Sunni Saudi’s are the enemy of Shiite Islam. China and Russia are allies of each other so it would be more crushing to the U.S. if China filled our void. Plus there is the reality that canceling this contract would put many American workers out of a job which would be felt in the voting booth next month.

 

Think about these things please, what if the Russians and the Chinese governments held complete sway over all of the Middle-East, over all of OPEC? What if China grew close to the Saudi Royal Family by such things as massive weapons sells? China is already building the largest refinery in the world in the Saudi Kingdom. If the U.S Government steps away from the Saudi Royal Family how long will it be before the Saudi’s decide to take their oil off of the dollar standard and put it on the Chinese Yen? If the Saudi’s did this I am sure that the rest of OPEC and the Arab world would very quickly follow suite. Think about it, the dollar not being the “world standard” currency. What if OPEC decided to only take the Yen as trading currency, and decided to either not sell any oil to the U.S. at all, or if they did, only at twice or three times the market rate? What would this do to the U.S. economy, to your job, to your living standard? In 2008 during that “depression” the U.S. economy backed off about 2%, what would things here in the States look like if our economy fell off by 10, 15 or 20%? I am just trying to be honest, I don’t like many realities in our world yet if we decide to change some of the current realities, we must be very careful about the new realities that bloom.

 

 

What If Turkey Did A Full Out Military Attack On The U.S.?

What If Turkey Did A Full Out Military Attack On The U.S.?

 

I know that to most folks this idea sounds absurd, you think that it will never happen. I agree that it will probably never happen, not on a straight up one country against another all out war. Could it happen someday if they joined with all of the other Sunni Arab Nations and attacked us, at least that is the more likely of the two. It is difficult to say what all will happen in world politics in the next 10, 20 or fifty years though. There is a reason that I am bringing up this conversation with you today though. If you remember, a couple of years ago Turkeys President was out of Country when a small sect of the Turkish Military as well as some others throughout the Nation tried to perform a coup, which badly failed. When President Erdogan got back home to Turkey he started a year or more long purge within Turkey. The purge was not only within his military it was also throughout academia and the business world. He has now created for himself quite a Dictatorship within Turkey. President Erdogan says that there is a Turkish Cleric whom lives and teaches here in America in the State of Pennsylvanian whom he fills is responsible for the Coup attempt and President Erdogan has insisted that the U.S. Government turn this Cleric over to the Turkish Government, so far the U.S. Government has steadfastly refused to do so.

 

In the 9/11 attacks in 2001 here in the US. it is said that 2,996 people died, in the Coup attempt in Turkey a little over 300 people died with 2,100 injured. In 2001 when our government figured out that Osama Ben laden was the guilty party leader and that the Government of Afghanistan (The Taliban) was shielding him and refused to give him to us, we attacked Afghanistan in an attempt to get/kill him. Ben Laden has been dead now for almost 6 1/2 years and our military is still in Afghanistan, we have been there now for over 17 years with no real end in sight. My question to everyone is, why do we have the right to do this (killing Ben Laden was something I agreed with) but Turkey doesn’t have the right to do the same thing? If Ben Laden had been hiding in Russia or in China, would we have so eagerly attacked their countries? I am going to finalize this note to you today with a matching question. Is the only reason that President Erdogan of Turkey did not order his military to attack the U.S. and to find and kill this Cleric is because he knew that he had no chance of winning that war? Is the only reason that the U.S. attacked Afghanistan was because we were bigger and badder than them? I’m just wondering, so, what do you think?

How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938: Stalin Murdering 2 Saudi Diplomats Didn’t Help

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF AL JAZEERA NEWS)

 

How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938

Russian-Saudi relations could be very different today, if Stalin hadn’t killed the Soviet ambassador to Saudi Arabia.

by

How Moscow lost Riyadh in 1938
Russian President Vladimir Putin and Saudi Arabi”s King Salman attend a welcoming ceremony before their talks at the Kremlin in Moscow on October 5 [Reuters/Yuri Kadobnov]

Last week, Saudi King Salman was greeted in Moscow with a lot of pomp and media attention. The 81-year-old monarch arrived with a 1,500-strong delegation amid high expectations for major political and trade deals.

The first visit of a Saudi king to Russia was rich in diplomatic courtesies, but it lacked in substance. What came out of the three days of meetings was much more modest than expected.

The two countries signed only a handful of agreements, most of which were memorandum of understanding. An agreement was reached to establish a $1 billion energy investment fund and a $1 bn hi-tech investment fund. The two sides also negotiated the sale of S-400 defense systems. But against the backdrop of the $15 bn-worth of arms contracts the US recently approved for Saudi Arabia, the Moscow-Riyadh agreement seems quite modest. It very much seems like the high-level meetings in the Kremlin failed to create an appearance of a political and economic breakthrough in relations.

This shouldn’t be all that surprising given that Russia and Saudi Arabia had a 54-year break in relations, during which the US became Riyadh’s dominant partner and security guarantor. Perhaps the outcome of King Salman’s visit could have been very different, if it weren’t for an incident that spoiled Russian-Saudi relations 80 years ago and caused the break.

It is a little-known fact that Riyadh and Moscow used to enjoy remarkably warm relations in the 1920s and 30s. The Soviet Union was, in fact, a diplomatic pioneer in Saudi Arabia: It was the first state to recognize Abdulaziz Al Saud (King Salman’s father) as the King of the Hijaz and the Sultan of Nejd in February 1926.

King Abdul Aziz Ibn Saud in 1930 [AP]

The Soviet charm offensive in the Arabian Peninsula in the 1920’s was the culmination of numerous attempts by Moscow to gain a foothold in the region prior to that. As early as 1900, Russian imperial military vessels started frequenting the Gulf and making port calls in Kuwait among other destinations. The famous Russian Varyag cruiser visited Kuwait in December 1901 and its captain was greeted by Emir Mubarak Al Sabah despite his agreement with Great Britain not to receive foreign military guests. It was during this visit that the Russians were first introduced to Abdul Rahman Al Saud who was exiled in Kuwait at that time, along with his elder son Abdulaziz, who a year later retook Riyadh from their rivals, the House of Rashid.

As the House of Al Saud was seeking international backing, London looked at young Abdulaziz with a lot of skepticism, which is why he came in contact with the Russian consul in the Persian city of Bushehr inviting him for a visit. The consul visited Kuwait in 1903 accompanied by a Russian military vessel, which caused an outcry in London.

But it wasn’t until after the Bolshevik revolution that Moscow decided to seriously focus on the Gulf. Just like the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union saw the value of diplomatic presence in the region as a way to stand up to Britain.

Apart from pursuing relations with the House of Al Saud, the Soviet Union looked at the Kingdom of Hejaz whose ruler Sharif Hussein controlled Mecca and Medina as a way to reach out to the entire Muslim world. Being at odds with London, Hussein was on the lookout for strong foreign allies, which is why his representative in Rome engaged in talks with Russia.

Extensive diplomatic communication between Georgy Chicherin, the Soviet People’s commissar for foreign affairs, and Soviet diplomats reveals just how important his vision of the Arabian Peninsula and its role in the Muslim world was. Advocating the appointment of a Soviet Muslim as envoy to Hejaz, Chicherin noted in his memo to Joseph Stalin that “Getting into Mecca is of crucial importance to us because it would increase our influence in Arabia and beyond.” He recognized that the annual pilgrimage to Mecca, the Hajj, was a perfect opportunity to reach out to thousands of Muslims from the British and French colonies and flare up anti-colonial sentiment.

In August 1924, Soviet Consul General Karim Khakimov, a Soviet Muslim of Tatar descent, arrived in Jeddah. Soon after Khakimov’s arrival in Jeddah, Abdulaziz launched his campaign to take over Hejaz, which left newly arrived Soviet diplomats with a dilemma of whom to side with.

Diplomatic dispatches from the Soviet commissar for foreign affairs ordered Khakimov to position himself as an ally of all Arabs without openly showing a preference for either side. “If Ibn Saud pursues a policy of uniting the Arabs, this will be in our interests, and we will also have to try to get closer to him, as we did with respect to Hussein, who tried to unite Arabia,” Chicherin wrote to Khakimov. The Soviet Union saw the unification of Arabs as the first step towards empowering Muslims in the region and undermining British rule over them.

By December 1924, Abdelaziz took Mecca and Khakimov was convinced that the time was right for him to try to introduce himself to Ibn Saud. In April 1925, when Jeddah was under siege, he was allowed to perform Umrah, a pilgrimage to Mecca, where Ibn Saud was based, thus getting a chance to meet him – something that no Western non-Muslim diplomat had been allowed to do. Khakimov’s letters to Moscow reveal that his meeting with Abdulaziz went exceptionally well and that even his idea of Soviet mediation between Hejaz and Nejd was perceived positively by Ibn Saud.

By the end of 1925, Ibn Saud controlled Jeddah, and in February 1926 he declared himself King of Hejaz and Sultan of Nejd. As soon as the Soviet mission learned the news, Khakimov did what ultimately earned him the respect and friendship of Ibn Saud. On February 16, Karim Khakimov drove his personal car mounted with a Soviet flag through gunfire from Jeddah to Ibn Saud’s residence in the desert to hand over a formal note recognizing his status as the king. The Soviet Union was the first state to recognize his new title. Abdulaziz responded with a letter thanking the Soviet Union for its neutrality during the war with Hussein and expressed readiness for “relations with the government of the USSR and its citizens”.

Soviet-Saudi relations improved further when the Pan-Islamic Congress of Mecca was called in June 1926, whose objective was to resolve the dispute over Mecca and Medina. At the time, Ibn Saud’s control over these holy sites had many opponents among Islamic notables, which is why it was paramount for the king to earn recognition at the congress.

Karim Khakimov and Emir Faisal in Moscow in 1932 [Wikipedia]

Realizing this, the Soviet Union did what contradicted the fundamentals of its atheistic ideology: it sent six Soviet Islamic scholars to take part in the congress. Moscow with its 30 million Soviet Muslims threw its weight behind King Abdulaziz, providing the votes for him to be elected the president of the congress. What is more, as a result of Khakimov’s efforts, a Soviet delegate was elected the vice-president of the conference. Having established full diplomatic relations with King Abdulaziz, the Soviet Union dispatched, in 1928, a new head of mission to the kingdom, Nazir Bey Turyakulov.

London’s key concern about the Soviet influence in Jeddah was that it was spreading Communist propaganda among Muslims during the Hajj. Indeed, this was one of the ideas that Moscow had for its diplomats in Jeddah, but in reality, the Soviet mission had a hard time reaching out to both locals and pilgrims.

Faced with a lot of resistance, Soviet diplomats decided to focus on the creation of trade links between Soviet Black Sea ports and Hejaz. Khakimov managed to convince King Abdulaziz to lift restrictions against Soviet goods that existed in the kingdom due to London’s lobbying. In 1929-1930, Soviet goods poured into the kingdom from the port city of Odessa. The biggest achievement of Soviet diplomats in Jeddah was entering the kerosene and benzine market that was almost entirely dominated by the British. The Soviet Union also sent a group of medics to the kingdom to take care of pilgrims during the Hajj.

As a result of Khakimov’s efforts to further develop his ties with Ibn Saud, his son Prince Faisal (who became king in 1969) visited the Soviet Union during his extensive European trip in 1932. Moscow went out of its way to impress Faisal and his entourage by introducing them to the achievements of the Soviet industry, forgiving the Saudi debt that had accumulated by then and, most importantly, offering one million British pounds in financial aid that King Abdulaziz badly needed. While visiting Soviet Azerbaijan, what was going through an oil boom of its own, Prince Faisal was impressed with the country’s oil industry expressing a desire to employ the same technology in the kingdom.

King Faisal meets US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger in Riyadh on March 19, 1975 [AP]

The 1932 visit to the Soviet Union was the highlight of the Saudi-Soviet relations. King Abdulaziz used Moscow’s offer of financial aid to push London to provide aid and never accepted the USSR’s offer. From that point on, the relations between the two states stagnated. As the power of Joseph Stalin was growing stronger, the relationship between the communist regime and Islam was becoming uneasy. In 1932, the Soviet Union unofficially banned its Muslims from performing Hajj.

Soviet medics continued to work in the kingdom and the diplomatic mission continued to function spreading Soviet propaganda among Saudis. In 1937, the wife of the Soviet consul, a doctor herself, even stayed with the favorite wife of Prince Faisal for several months.

After spending a few years in Yemen and Moscow, Karim Khakimov returned to Jeddah as the Head of Mission in 1935, hoping to revitalize the relationship that during his absence gradually came to a halt. Khakimov tried negotiating new trade contracts with the king, but Moscow was no longer interested. It was the time when Hitler was growing stronger in Europe and Stalin, who was skeptical about the USSR’s presence in the Gulf from the beginning, no longer saw the partnership with King Abdulaziz as beneficial. In fact, dropping any political ambitions for the Gulf was a gesture that Moscow thought would help it partner with England, whose support the Soviet Union sought against Hitler.

The career of the Soviet Lawrence of Arabia ended abruptly when he fell victim to Stalin’s political terror in 1937. In September that year, he was recalled to Moscow for a routine visit to the foreign ministry, but upon his arrival, he was arrested on suspicion of being a spy. His colleague Turyakulov who worked with him on the Saudi file was executed in October 1937. Khakimov was executed in January 1938.

King Abdulaziz was outraged at the news that the two Soviet diplomats whom he considered his friends were killed. Two months after Khakimov was executed in Moscow, American geologists discovered the world’s largest deposits of crude oil in Dhahran. This prompted the Soviet Union to appoint a new head of mission in Jeddah in 1938. King Abdulaziz, however, turned the appointment down saying that he does not wish to see anyone other than Khakimov or Turyakulov in Jeddah. He accused Moscow of inciting a revolution in the Muslim world and broke diplomatic ties with the Soviet Union. In September 1938, all remaining Soviet diplomats left Jeddah and the mission was shut down. With the USSR eliminated as a rival, Britain and later the US took over the development and exploitation of Saudi oil.

Relations between Russia and Saudi Arabia were fully restored only in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. It has been 25 years since then and Russian-Saudi relations have not developed beyond symbolic visits. Karim Khakimov’s diplomatic efforts to create strong and lasting ties between Moscow and Riyadh remain unparalleled.

The views expressed in this article are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

Can Russia and Saudi Arabia be allies?

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Can Russia and Saudi Arabia be allies?


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Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU?

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF GLOBAL VOICES)

 

Do Macedonians want their country to join NATO and the EU? A historic referendum will decide

Rally in Skopje, MAcedonia in support for the referendum on EU and NATO accession.

Pro-referendum rally on 16 September 2018 in Skopje. Photo by Andreja Stojkovski via Twitter, used with permission.

On September 30, Macedonians will vote in a referendum to decide whether their country should join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) alliance and the European Union (EU).

The referendum is part of a process that began in 1993, when all political parties in the then newly independent Republic of Macedonia declared joining NATO a key strategic priority. Many believe that membership in the military alliance would help protect Macedonia, located in the volatile Balkans region, from external aggression and civil war. Years later the country made a similar commitment to strive for EU membership.

Admission to both NATO and the EU require the consensus of all existing members, so Macedonia needed first solve bilateral disputes with its neighbors, some of which already belonged the two organizations.

The biggest obstacle was the long-standing naming dispute with Greece, which has hindered Macedonia’s development for 27 years. In June 2018, as a precondition for removing the Greek veto on its EU and NATO membership, Macedonia signed an agreement which obliges the country to change its name to the Republic of North Macedonia.

In spite of the agreement, the name change remains a core issue. The September 30 referendum explicitly asks:

‘Are you in favor of EU and NATO membership by accepting the Agreement between the Republic of Macedonia and the Republic of Greece?’

A majority must participate

The referendum is not legally binding but rather consultative, and will only be considered valid if a majority of registered voters participate. But failure to reach the required 50 per cent voter turnout would not stop the NATO and EU accession process, which requires further action by parliament.

According to one Twitter user:

Мутен@toVornottoV

30 септември дава можност за конечно помрднуење од status quo-то у кое што смо заглавени и конечно ослободуење од бизарен проблем што не влече надоле скоро 30 године. Затоа ќе .

September 30 provides an opportunity to finally move from the status quo which has stymied us, to finally break free from a bizarre problem that has been holding us down for almost 30 years. That’s why #IVote.

For other voters, the referendum is both symbolic and cathartic, representing a return “to the right path” after “the lost decade” of democratic backsliding, and many have been holding their breath in anticipation:

mindрluмbеr@mindplumber

Цела држава се неуротизирала, све се остава за „после 30-ти“.
А бе, сендвич да сакаш да купиш, таа на скарата ќе ти каже „немој сеа, ај после 30-ти, да се расчисти“

The whole state has become neurotic, everything is left [for] ‘after the 30th’. Even if you want to buy a sandwich, the barbecue lady might say, ‘Not now, let’s do it after the 30th, after the situation clears’.

Calls for a boycott

This anxiety may have to do with the boycott campaign being waged by right-wing populist opponents and led by several fringe non-parliamentary parties, including pro-Russian, Euro-skeptic and anti-NATO United Macedonia, which styles itself on Putin’s United Russia.

The campaign stokes the fears of ethnic Macedonians by presenting the country’s name change as the first step along a slippery slope that will lead to genocide, or ethnocentric. The campaign is steeped in disinformation and hate speech, from intentional misinterpretations of the consequences of the agreement with Greece, to claims that the government has given citizenship to Albanians from Kosovo to boost the number of “yes” votes. There have even been suggestions of election fraud, to which one Twitter user replied:

Ленка многу кенка@RedRadish5

Кога стварно мислиш дека ќе местат гласање излегуваш да гласаш за да им отежнеш, а не седиш дома

When you really think that authorities plan voter fraud, citizens go out and vote to make it harder for them, they don’t sit at home.

Meanwhile, the main opposition party VMRO-DPMNE, a member of the conservative European People’s Party (EPP), has sat on the fence, neither openly endorsing the boycott campaign nor encouraging its supporters to participate in the referendum and vote against the agreement with Greece, which it considers “a capitulation”.

Other EPP members have accused VMRO-DPMNE of hypocrisy, as high ranking party officials participated personally in the boycott, and the campaign was vigorously promoted by media outlets reputed for being party mouthpieces.

Representatives of the ruling SDSM have also claimed that VMRO-DPMNE had attempted to make a deal, promising to throw its support behind the referendum if its former party leaders on trial for corruption were given an amnesty. The government refused, and the VMRO-DPMNE’s indecisive position is largely being interpreted as sign of weakness:

НиколаСтрез@NikolaStrez

За едно од најважните прашања за Македонија, вмро нема став и повикува секој да гласа по свое убедување.

Очекувам на следните избори, кога ќе сакаат да дојдат на власт, да излезат со истиот став и да не сугерираат за кого да гласаме.

VMRO-DPMNE has no official position on one of the most important issues for Macedonia, and has declared that people should vote according to their own preference. In the next elections, I expect that they will adopt the same position and won’t advocate whom to vote for.

Social media tactics and allegations about Russia

On social media the “I boycott” campaign (#бојкотирам) started over the summer, and involved mainly anonymous social media profiles and sock puppets from the VMRO-DPMNE troll army. Observers noticed a high number of new profiles appear in August 2018, suspected to be automated bots originating outside the country. The campaign was also shared via profiles linked to specific individuals, including VMRO-DPMNE’s foreign lobbyists, Macedonian nationalist organizations operating in the diaspora, and Macedonia’s president, who gained his position with the party’s support.

Around 50 people attended the Boycott campaign rally in Ohrid on 22 September. Photo by GV, CC-BY.

Western sources alleged that Russia was trying to obstruct the consolidation of the NATO and EU process; when asked, Prime Minister Zoran Zaev diplomatically said that the authorities have not found “evidence of direct Russian influence with fake news” regarding the referendum, and that he trusts Macedonia’s NATO allies on this matter.

Prior to that statement, however, Zaev was less reserved in pointing to Kremlin-related attempts — including the funding of violent protests by a Greek-Russian oligarch — to obstruct the deal with Greece. Moreover, an independent journalist discovered that back in 2015, a Russian troll farm specialist named Anna Bogacheva had visited Macedonia on business. She has since been named as one of 13 Russian nationals indicted over alleged interference in the 2016 United States election.

The “I Boycott” campaign has also employed tactics used by the American alt-right, including use of the Pepe the Frog meme, which was ridiculed even by VMRO-DPMNE members who couldn’t understand how their party’s symbol, the mighty lion, was reduced to a frog.

Ready for change

There have been attempts, mostly through cyber-bullying, to intimidate activists and ‘dissenting’ right-wing figures who have said they will take part in the referendum. Former VMRO-DPMNE government minister Nikola Todorov’s revelation that he would vote “no” exposed him to particularly vicious harassment on Facebook. But in spite of some of the threats issues, observers don’t expect much violence.

Numerous citizens have also expressed their support for both the referendum as the ultimate tool of democracy, and for the government-backed campaign to vote in it:

Бени@Shushmula

Скоро три полни децении живееме во пештера а сакаме светот да не знае и прифати.
Од сето тоа светот знае само дека живееме во пештера.

Almost 3 decades we’ve been living in a cave, while wanting the world to know about as and to accept us.
Out of all that, the world only knows that we’ve been living in a cave.
#IVote!

If surveys conducted in the months before the referendum are anything to go by, most Macedonian citizens are ready for change, even if that means swallowing the bitter pill of the name change in exchange for the long-term benefits of NATO and EU membership.

India set to sign S-400 missile deal during Vladimir Putin’s visit next week

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES OF INDIA)

 

Amid US sanctions, India set to sign S-400 missile deal during Vladimir Putin’s visit next week

India will sign the S-400 missile system deal with Russia during the annual summit between PM Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin next week, hoping for a US sanction waiver, and to prevent Russia from directly selling weapon systems to Pakistan if India says no to the deal.

INDIA Updated: Sep 30, 2018 09:15 IST

Shishir Gupta
Shishir Gupta
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
India,Russia,Narendra Modi
Russian servicemen drive S-400 missile air defense systems during the Victory Day parade, at Red Square in Moscow.(Reuters/File Photo)

India will sign the S-400 missile system deal with Russia during the annual summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Vladimir Putin next week, hoping that it has done enough business with the US to secure a waiver from sanctions, and to prevent Russia from directly selling weapon systems to Pakistan if India says no to the deal.

Hindustan Times had first reported in April that the deal would be signed during the October summit and, in May, that New Delhi would go ahead with the purchase despite US sanctions against countries buying arms from Russia.

South Block officials said that the deal is also in line with India’s efforts to maintain strategic autonomy and not be dependent on any one nation for its military hardware imports.

The South Block officials told Hindustan Times on condition of anonymity that while the purchase of five units of the S-400 missile system was cleared this week by the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS), the deal to build four stealth frigates in collaboration with Russia is stuck on technical aspects.

Even though India has apprised US of its intentions to purchase the S-400 system and has requested a presidential waiver of CAATSA (Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act), the Modi government has had to tread a fine balance between a new partner and an old ally which could cut off hardware spares in case the missile system acquisition is either delayed or shelved.

More than 60% of Indian military equipment, including fighters, tanks and missiles, come from Russia and without the spares, the armed forces’ fighting capability will be significantly emasculated. For instance, the Indian Air Force Sukhois and Indian Army T series of tanks and Indian Navy’s aircraft carrier Vikramaditya are all from Russia.

The other reason why the Modi government is keen to push the deal through is because it is worried, the officials added, that an upset Russia may directly sell arms to Pakistan just as it is doing so to China, skewing the military balance in the region.

Diplomatically too, deferring or shelving the S-400 deal will sour the close relationship shared by Prime Minister Modi and President Putin. PM Modi has personally invested a lot in building close ties with Putin, the officials said, although this has not come at the cost of India’s relationship with the US.

According to the officials, while Russian hardware may not be top of the line as compared to the US platforms in terms of technology, it is much cheaper initially and comes without additional conditionals on the buyer. While the tussle between the US on one side and Russia/China on the other have made a fit case for Indian state-owned defense manufacturers to step up to manufacture indigenous weapons at a rapid rate, the fact is that most have been found wanting.

For instance, the officials pointed out, Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) cannot keep up with the requirements of the Indian Air Force for light combat aircraft (LCA). Nevertheless, the government is clear that the only way out of this imbroglio is to manufacture indigenous systems and platforms rather than be dependent on anyone, the officials admitted.

Meanwhile, the Modi government has deepened its military ties with the Pentagon by placing over $5 billion worth of orders with US defense contractors for strike platforms. India has placed orders for one more C-17 heavy lift transport aircraft (it already has 10), four additional P8I Neptune anti-submarine warfare aircraft, six additional Apache attack helicopters for the army, 24 Sikorsky helicopters for the navy, and M-777 lightweight howitzers. US F-18 and F-35 fighters are also in contention for the additional fighter order the Indian Air Force is evaluating.

First Published: Sep 30, 2018 06:59 IST

The true threat of S-300’s is not that they’re powerful, but that they’re Russian

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL)

 

The true threat of S-300s is not that they’re powerful, but that they’re Russian

The Israeli Air Force likely has the means to work around Russian electronic warfare and Syrian air defenses, but doing so risks inflaming the growing Jerusalem-Moscow crisis

Judah Ari Gross
In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

In this file photo taken on Tuesday, Aug. 27, 2013, a Russian S-300 air defense system is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, File)

Russia’s announcement on Monday that it would be upgrading Syria’s air defenses with its formidable S-300 system within two weeks marked the latest nadir in Israel’s rapidly spiraling relationship with Moscow since the downing by Syria of a Russian spy plane off the Syrian coast last week.

In addition to supplying Syria with the S-300, Russian defense minister Sergei Shoigu also said Monday that Russia would “jam satellite navigation, on-board radars and communication systems of combat aircraft attacking targets in Syria.”

But the greater threat is not the specific tactical hurdle that the system poses for the Israeli Air Force, but rather that this episode could lead to a breakdown of Israel’s relationship with Russia.

Not since the 1960s and 1970’s has Israel had to contend with an antagonistic Moscow actively working against Israeli interests. Though Russia today indeed supplies weapons to many of Israel’s enemies — including S-300 batteries to Israel’s arch-nemesis Iran — the general understanding in Israel is that this isn’t personal, it’s business.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attend an event marking International Holocaust Victims Remembrance Day and the anniversary of the complete lifting of the Nazi siege of Leningrad, at the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center in Moscow on January 29, 2018. (AFP Photo/Vasily Maximov)

The current crisis has the potential to change that, depending on how it is handled by Israel, Russia and the United States.

Though the actions of Russia are some of the most openly hostile toward Israel since the end of the Cold War, they are still reversible, at least to some degree.

For over five years, Russian has been threatening to sell the S-300 anti-aircraft system to Syria, but has backed off each time at the behest of the Israeli, and sometimes the American, government.

The long-range S-300 — with an operational radius of 250 kilometers (150 miles), according to Russia — is a far more advanced form of the S-200 air defense system that Syria currently employs.

For now, Moscow has said it will supply two to four S-300 batteries to Syria, but is prepared to deliver more if necessary. According to Russian media, the systems will be set up on Syria’s western coast and in its southwest, near the Israeli and Jordanian borders, which are the two areas from which the IAF would be most likely to conduct airstrikes.

Russia has yet to indicate which model of S-300 it intends to sell Syria; there are several, each with its own range of capabilities. Even the lowest quality model’s radar would be able to monitor flights around northern Israel — and potentially civilian flights in and out of Ben Gurion International Airport, depending on where the system is placed in Syria.

The threat of the S-300 and electronic warfare

For Israel, the S-300 would represent a significant but not insurmountable obstacle in Syria, where it routinely bombs Iranian and Hezbollah facilities and weapons caches.

While the S-300, known by NATO as the SA-10, is far more powerful than Syria’s current long-range anti-aircraft system, the S-200 or SA-5, the Israeli Air Force has had decades to prepare for it.

A number of Israeli allies operate the air defense system. The IAF has reportedly trained against S-300 batteries that once belonged to Cyprus, but are now owned by Greece, during joint aerial exercises over the years.

In this August 27, 2013, photo, a Russian air defense system missile system Antey 2500, or S-300 VM, is on display at the opening of the MAKS Air Show in Zhukovsky outside Moscow, Russia. (AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev, file)

Israel is also the proud owner of a growing fleet of F-35 fighter jets, a model whose raison d’être is stealth. These fifth-generation jets have already been used operationally, the IAF said earlier this year.

And the Israeli Air Force is also famed for its own electronic warfare capabilities. Indeed, in the 1982 first Lebanon War, the IAF used radar jamming against Syria’s Soviet-supplied air defenses, destroying 29 of the country’s 30 anti-aircraft batteries.

Israeli also reportedly used this type of technology in its attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in Deir Ezzor in 2007, blocking the Syrian military’s air defenses during the raid.

But a Russia-supplied S-300 system is not only an operational challenge — it is a geopolitical one as well.

Though in his announcement Russian defense minister Shoigu said Syrian teams had been training to operate the S-300 system, it was not immediately clear if the batteries would also be staffed by Russian military personnel


If they were, this would make an Israeli decision to destroy Syrian S-300 batteries far more complicated, requiring the direct and intentional targeting of Russian forces.

Russia’s plan to use electronic warfare against Israeli “hotheads” — per Shoigu — serves as yet another obstacle and point of consideration for the Israeli Air Force.

According to Russian media, these electronic warfare systems will create a “radioelectonic dome” with a radius of hundreds of kilometers around western Syria and the Mediterranean coast, which would affect not only Israeli planes but also American and French navy ships, as well as civilian planes in the area.

Here too, the Israeli military would likely have a number of technological and operational means to overcome this challenge, but the top brass would have to weigh the use of those measures against the value of the target.

Earlier this year, when Russia was again threatening to arm Syria with the S-300, Israeli officials said the IAF was prepared to target any anti-aircraft system that fires at its planes, regardless of who supplied it or who was operating it.

“One thing needs to be clear: If someone shoots at our planes, we will destroy them. It doesn’t matter if it’s an S-300 or an S-700,” Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at the time.

While the IAF may be capable of getting around Russian radar jamming and would be well within its rights to destroy a Russia-supplied S-300 battery that fires on its planes, such acts would run the risk of further alienating Moscow and pushing the two countries further to the brink of a full diplomatic break.

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COMMENTS

Israel Shocked by Russia’s Blame for Downing of Plane by Syrian Forces

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

(THIS IS A CASE OF YOUR SISTER SHOT YOU IN THE BACK BUT BECAUSE YOU DON’T WANT TO PISS OFF THE FAMILY, YOU BLAME IT ON THEIR NEIGHBOR.)

Israel Shocked by Russia’s Blame for Downing of Plane by Syrian Forces

Monday, 24 September, 2018 – 10:15
An explosion is pictured at Quneitra at the Syrian side of the Israeli Syrian border, as seen from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, Israel July 22, 2018. (File photo: Reuters)
Tel Aviv- Nazir Majli
Israel was shocked with Russian accusations that it was responsible for the downing of the Ilyushin 20 plane in Lattakia a week ago. Officials declined to comment publicly on the issue, however, they leaked to the media explanations, assessments and political stances that Russians are launching a campaign aimed at establishing a new position that restricts the freedom of the Israeli air force to carry out raids on Iranian bases in Syria.

Former chief of Israel’s air force indicated that Russia received IAF chief Maj. Gen. Amikam Norkin, last Thursday, and listened to his explanations about the downing of the plane.

According to the retired general, Moscow accepted Israeli explanations that the Syrian defenses are responsible for attacking the plane, however, they offered a contradicting rhetoric in their public campaign. He believes Russian officials are in a very difficult position given that their Syrian allies dropped a plane and killed all 15 crew members.

Military expert Ron Ben-Yishai indicated in his op-ed in Yedioth Ahronoth that the most striking thing about the report produced by the Russian Defense Ministry is the fact that it ignores the findings of the investigation conducted in Israel that were presented by Maj. Gen. Norkin and Israeli intelligence officials who accompanied him to Moscow in a bid to lower the ensuing tension.

In an unprecedented diplomatic move, Israel sent its air force commander with authorized and detailed documentation to Moscow which was intended not only to shed light on what transpired, but also on the events leading up to it.

Yet, the Russians ignored Israeli reports and bore Israel the sole responsibility for the incident. The report didn’t even try to refute Israel’s claims or to make counterclaims against the information Russians had been provided just days earlier.

The report seems as though absolutely no attempt to clarify matters was made by the Israeli side.

They demonstrated just how “ungrateful Israel apparently is to the charitable Russians who are trying to protect it and are only repaid in bad faith,” added Yishai.

The expert believes that upon analyzing the Russian position, two major conclusions can be depicted.

First, they are trying to ensure that the Russians did not provide their Syrian allies with the electronic signals to identify their planes. The aim is to show that the incident was not due to Syrian army’s ignorance, but rather that Russian officers who operate jointly with the Syrian air defenses did not train them well or provide them with radars to detect the plane.

The second reason is to solicit new compromises from Israel regarding the situation in Syria. The Defense Ministry did not include in its report any warning or threat of retaliation. “It can be assumed that the Russians will try to use the crisis against Israel to limit the freedom over Syria’s skies which it has been granted by Moscow through new agreements,” he indicated.

The Israeli government must ignore the Russian lies and the refusal to take into consideration the investigation findings, in the hope that this will calm the situation, and it will be possible to fully resume the security coordination with the Russians.

Haaretz’s military correspondent, Amos Harel considered that Russian Defense Ministry’s report should not surprise anyone in Israel, except maybe for a few supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“No matter how good his relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin may be, Netanyahu cannot make the problem disappear,” he said.

An experienced pilot described Russian inquiry’s as “rather dubious”, according to Harel, who added that some of the claims included in its announcement “are strange”.

The bottom line still depends on Putin’s decision, who will probably take the report’s findings and come out with new agreements with Israel in Syria.

The Russian President is aware of an Iranian attempt to smuggle arms into Syria and Israel’s intention to attack the shipment, and this will be another test for the Russia-Israeli agreements, concluded Harel.

China urges US to withdraw ‘sanctions’ on Chinese military

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI SHINE DAILY NEWSPAPER)

(BEIJING KNEW BEFORE THEY PURCHASED WEAPONS FROM RUSSIA THAT THERE WERE SANCTIONS ON RUSSIAN MILITARY EXPORTS YET CHOSE TO BUY THEM ANYWAY. IF THE U.S. HAD NOT PUT SANCTIONS ON CHINA FOR BREAKING THAT EMBARGO THEN BEIJING WOULD HAVE LOOKED AT NOT DOING SO AS A SIGN OF WEAKNESS FROM THE U.S. SO IN REALITY, BEIJING NEEDS TO QUIT WHINING ABOUT EVERYONE WHO DOESN’T KISS THEIR PROVERBIAL ASS!) 

China urges US to withdraw ‘sanctions’ on Chinese military

Xinhua

China’s Foreign Ministry on Friday demanded the United States to immediately correct its wrongdoing and withdraw “sanctions” on the Chinese military.

The US State Department announced Thursday that it would impose sanctions on the Equipment Development Department of the Central Military Commission of China and the department’s director, alleging that China had violated the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act.”

“China is strongly indignant at the unreasonable move on the part of the United States and has lodged stern representations to the US side,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang told a routine press briefing.

“The US move seriously breached the basic rules of international relations and severely harmed relations between the two countries as well as the two militaries,” Geng said.

“We strongly urge the US side to immediately correct its mistake and withdraw the so-called sanctions. Otherwise, the US side must bear the consequences caused thereafter.”

Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE TIMES OF ISRAEL NEWSPAPER)

 

Israel airstrike left Syria arms warehouse in ruins, satellite images show

Syrian soldiers reportedly arrested in connection with downed spy plane; IAF commander to fly to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A before and after photo of an ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a Syrian base in Latakia, September 18, 2018 (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

A munitions warehouse in a Syrian military facility appears to have been completely obliterated in an Israeli airstrike in the Syrian port city of Latakia late on Monday, satellite images released Wednesday show.

A Russian military reconnaissance plane was shot down by Syria during the Israeli strike, killing all 15 crew members.

On Wednesday Syria released video footage from the site of the attack, reiterating its claim that Israel targeted an aluminium factory, not a weapons warehouse in Monday’s strike, according to the Ynet news site. The veracity of the footage could not be independently verified.

On Monday, Syria accidentally shot down the Russian reconnaissance plane when its air defenses swung into action against the Israeli strike on Latakia. The Russian defense ministry initially blamed Israel, saying the IAF jets used the Russian plane as cover.

However, Russian President Vladimir Putin later told reporters that the downing of the plane by Syrian air defenses was a “chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

The remains of a Syrian ammunition warehouse which was destroyed in an Israeli airstrike on a base in Latakia, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

On Wednesday, the Russians approved Prime Minister Netanyahu’s proposal to fly air force commander Major General Amiram Norkin to Moscow to present the findings of Israel’s investigation into the incident.

Syrian media and opposition sources reported Wednesday that several Syrian soldiers who were involved in the downing of the Russian spy plane were arrested and interrogated.

The fighters from the air force base in Latakia were reportedly arrested by members of the Russian military police. A Syrian unit was also reported to have taken part in the arrest, according to Hadashot TV.

Meanwhile, the remains of another plane, a Boeing 747 aircraft that was destroyed in an earlier alleged Israeli strike at Damascus airport on Saturday, and believed to be in the use of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, can be seen in separate images provided by ImageSat International (ISI).

The remains of a suspected Iranian aircraft which was hit in an Israeli airstrike, Damascus, September 18, 2018. (ImageSat International (ISI/Ynet)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke Tuesday with Russian President Vladimir Putin amid the rising tensions between the two countries in the wake of Monday’s airstrike.

In the call, the Israeli leader “noted the importance of the continued security coordination between Israel and Syria that has managed to prevent many casualties on both sides in the last three years,” a statement from Netanyahu’s office said.

The Kremlin said that Putin emphasized that the Israeli attack violated Syria’s sovereignty and also breached the Russian-Israeli agreements on avoiding clashes in Syria. The Russian leader urged Netanyahu “not to allow such situations in the future.”

Israel said its jets had attacked a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Netanyahu told Putin that Israel was “determined” to prevent Iranian military entrenchment in Syria, and the attempts by Iran, which calls for the destruction of Israel, to transfer to Hezbollah lethal weaponry to be used against Israel.

Netanyahu also reiterated that Israel would completely share all the information it had on the circumstances of the raid and suggested sending Israel’s air force chief to Moscow to “deliver all the needed information.”

The conversation came on Tuesday evening just before Israel began observing Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year.

Earlier Tuesday, Putin confirmed that Israel did not shoot down the plane, rejecting any comparisons with the downing of a Russian jet by Turkey in 2015.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (L) attends the inauguration ceremony for Moscow mayor Sergei Sobyaninin on September 18, 2018. (AFP/Sputnik/Alexey Filippov)

“An Israeli jet did not shoot down our plane,” the Russian leader said.

The Russian defense ministry on Tuesday morning had blamed Israel for the accident and warned of reprisals.

Putin said he had signed off on the defense ministry statement. “No doubt we should seriously look into this,” Putin said, speaking at a news conference after talks with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

Israel said its deputy ambassador in Moscow Keren Cohen-Gat was summoned to the Russian foreign ministry. The Israeli Foreign Ministry said there would be no comment on what was discussed.

Putin also said Moscow would beef up security for Russian military personnel in Syria as a priority response. “These will be the steps that everyone will notice,” he said, without providing further details.

He expressed condolences to the families of the victims, calling the accident a “tragedy for us all.”

The incident was the worst case of friendly fire between the two allies since Russia’s game-changing military intervention in September 2015.

The Russian plane was downed by a Russian-made S-200 air defense supplied to Syria.

The Israeli military on Tuesday acknowledged conducting the airstrike the night before and “expressed sorrow” for the deaths of the 15 Russian airmen.

In a statement, however, the IDF denied all responsibility for the downing of the Russian spy plane, saying that Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah were the ones at fault.

“Israel expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members of the Russian plane that was downed tonight due to Syrian anti-aircraft fire,” the IDF said, and noted that the Russian plane that was hit “was not within the area of the operation.”

A photo taken on July 23, 2006 shows an Russian IL-20M (Ilyushin 20m) plane landing at an unknown location.
Russia blamed Israel on September 18, 2018 for the loss of a military IL-20M jet to Syrian fire, which killed all 15 servicemen on board, and threatened a response. (AFP PHOTO / Nikita SHCHYUKIN)

The Israeli strike was conducted at approximately 10 p.m. by four F-16 fighter jets, according to the Russian military.

Syrian air defenses opened fire at the incoming missiles, at the attacking aircraft and — according to Israel — at nothing in particular. The Russian Il-20 was shot down in the air battle.

“The Syrian anti-air batteries fired indiscriminately and, from what we understand, did not bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air,” the army said.

According to the IDF, the target of its Monday night strike was a Syrian military facility that manufactured “accurate and lethal weapons,” which were “about to be transferred, on behalf of Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Explosions seen in the Syrian city of Latakia after an attack on a military facility nearby on September 17, 2018. (Screen capture: Twitter)

The target of the Israeli strike was identified by Syria as a subsidiary of its defense ministry, known as the Organization for Technical Industries, which has suspected ties to the country’s chemical weapons and missile programs.

“These weapons were meant to attack Israel, and posed an intolerable threat against it,” the army said.

Though Israeli officials have said, generally, that the military conducts operations inside Syria against Iranian and Hezbollah targets, the IDF rarely acknowledges specific airstrikes, preferring instead to adopt a formal policy of neither confirming nor denying the attacks attributed to it.

The military said its initial investigation found that its strike was completed before the Russian plane entered the area of the operation and that the reconnaissance aircraft was shot down after the Israeli fighter jets had returned to Israeli airspace.

“Israel holds the Assad regime, whose military shot down the Russian plane, fully responsible for this incident. Israel also holds Iran and the Hezbollah terror organization accountable for this unfortunate incident,” the army added.

This appeared to refute the claim made by Moscow that the Israeli pilots used the surveillance plane as cover for their attack.

A Russian military official gives a briefing on the downing of an IL-20 military plane near Syria on September 18, 2018. (screen capture: Sputnik)

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also accused Israel of failing to inform the Russian military of its plans, which he said would have been in the “spirit” of Israeli-Russian coordination in Syria. The Russian defense ministry said Israel warned them of the impending strike “less than a minute” before it began, which left them insufficient time to clear their personnel from the area.

The Israeli and Russian militaries maintain what they call a “deconfliction mechanism,” which is meant to coordinate their activities in Syria in order to avoid incidents like this one. Until Monday night, these efforts had largely succeeded in preventing direct or indirect clashes since Russia became more deeply involved in the Syrian civil war three years ago.

The Israeli military said it had coordinated with Russia ahead of the attack, though it did not address Moscow’s specific claims about the amount of time between the notification and the airstrike itself.

The IDF also said it would “share all the relevant information with the Russian government to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

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Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE BUSINESS INSIDER)

 

Mueller’s investigation bears the hallmark of an organized crime case

Robert Mueller
Robert Mueller has extensive experience prosecuting organized crime and white collar cases from his time as FBI director.
 Alex Wong/Getty Images

Analysis banner

  • Paul Manafort’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with the special counsel Robert Mueller is the latest indication of how the Russia investigation mirrors an organized crime case.
  • The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case is the use of cooperating witnesses to move up the chain.
  • “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to?” said one Justice Department veteran. “That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”
  • But there are also a few crucial differences that make the Russia probe similar to a complex white-collar investigation.

As the special counsel Robert Mueller works his way through the myriad of threads in the Russia investigation, his approach bears more and more similarities to what prosecutors do when they’re tackling complex organized crime cases.

Mueller’s recent plea deal and cooperation agreement with Paul Manafort, the former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, is just the latest indication of that.

The hallmark of any prosecutor’s approach to an organized crime case, experts say, is the use of cooperating witnesses.

Going up the ladder is critical in these types of cases because the organization typically has a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. It also usually involves wide-ranging, multi-party criminal activity.

“The higher you go, the more insulated those people are,” said Elie Honig, a former federal prosecutor from the Southern District of New York who successfully prosecuted more than 100 members and associates of the Sicilian Mafia. “So the best way to penetrate that closed inner circle is by flipping people, and flipping them up.”

After investigators get a sense of which players are part of a criminal enterprise, they start by targeting those at the lowest levels.

“If they don’t voluntarily cooperate, you get honest leverage on them to compel their cooperation,” said Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor who was part of the team that convicted the Gambino crime family boss John Gotti in the 1990s. “You find their criminal conduct and use that to force them to do what they should have done originally, which is to tell the truth.”

Paul Manafort
Former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort pleaded guilty this week.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Honig said he once nailed a case by flipping someone who was the driver for a more powerful person in the organization.

“That led us right up the chain,” he said. “And you can see that happening in the Russia investigation.”

The first plea deal Mueller’s office announced was that of George Papadopoulos, who served as an early foreign policy aide to the Trump campaign. Next, he looped in Michael Flynn, the former national security adviser who admitted to lying to the FBI.

In February, Rick Gates, the former deputy chairman of the Trump campaign, announced that he would be pleading guilty and cooperating with the special counsel. Gates’ cooperation led prosecutors upstream, and his courtroom testimony against Manafort helped them successfully convict his former boss on eight counts of financial fraud last month.

Likewise, legal scholars say, Manafort’s cooperation, as well as that of Trump’s former longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, will likely help Mueller and New York federal prosecutors get information on an even bigger fish.

“It’s a classic strategy used in organized crime,” Cotter said. “You start low and you ask people: who did you answer to? Who gave you orders? Who did you report to? That’s the only way to get to the top of a criminal organization, and that’s exactly what Mueller’s doing.”

‘When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel’

michael cohen paul manafort
Michael Cohen and Paul Manafort are the two highest ranking people who have flipped.
Associated Press/Craig Ruttle; Associated Press/Alex Brandon; Business Insider

That said, there are two critical differences between Mueller’s approach to the Russia probe and prosecutors’ approach to organized crime cases.

The first is that most criminal enterprises don’t have a clear paper trail.

“Organized crime is particularly dependent on insider witnesses, because everything is kind of hidden and done in the shadows,” said Alex Whiting, a former Justice Department lawyer who prosecuted organized crime and corruption cases when he worked at the US attorney’s office in Boston.

“These cases usually aren’t paper heavy because there’s no email trail or documentation,” he added.

The Russia investigation, by contrast, has often been document-heavy. Prosecutors introduced 400 pieces of evidence at Manafort’s first trial in Virginia last month, and they planned to put forward almost three times that amount at his second trial had he not struck a last-minute plea deal.

Similarly, their charging document against Gates extensively cited his financial records, emails, and communications with other witnesses.

In that sense, Whiting said, certain aspects of the Russia probe make it more like a white-collar case.

The other crucial difference is that organized crime cases cases involve activities that clearly cross legal boundaries.

But Mueller’s team is sifting through a mix of legal political activity and potentially illegal activity.

The prototypical example of that overlay, Whiting said, is Trump himself.

“The president has the legal authority to fire the FBI director, but is it obstruction if he fired him to hamper an investigation into him?” Whiting said. “Trump has the power to pardon anyone for any federal crime, but is he obstructing justice if he does it to prevent them from testifying? Is collusion a crime?”

“There’s a complexity here that you don’t often see with organized crime,” he added. “In that respect, it’s much more like investigating white-collar crime, because the main questions there are, what was the conduct, and did the conduct cross into illegal territory?”

The bottom line in a case like the Russia probe, Honig said, is that there’s no way to tell where it will ultimately lead.

“When you pull at a thread, you never know what you’re going to unravel.”

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