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Sat, 22nd July 2017

Anirudh Sethi Report

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Archives of “Moscow Kremlin” Tag

“Islamic State Leader Baghdadi Is Still Alive” Iraq, Kurds Claim

Less than a week after Reuters confirmed a previous report from the Russian foreign ministry, that Islamic State head Aby Bakr al-Baghdadi had been killed during an airstrike in Syria, conflicting reports have emerged about Baghdadi’s death, with the Iraqi interior ministry first cited by Al-Arabiya that the terrorist group head is “likely still alive and hiding near Raqqa”, and subsequently a top Kurdish counter-terrorism official echoing the same, and telling Reuters that “he was 99 percent sure that Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was alive and located south of the Syrian city of Raqqa, after reports that he had been killed.”

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“Baghdadi is definitely alive. He is not dead. We have information that he is alive. We believe 99 percent he is alive,” Lahur Talabany told Reuters in an interview, adding “don’t forget his roots go back to al Qaeda days in Iraq. He was hiding from security services. He knows what he is doing.”

 By now, however, it no longer matters whether the “leader” is alive or dead: after Iraqi security forces retook Mosul from ISIS control last week, and the group under growing pressure in Raqqa, ISIS is scattered and on the run. If anything, Baghdadi has become a liability to others and himself.

Recall that it was the Islamic State which originally reported Baghdadi’s death, perhaps as a means of easing the blow from the ongoing ISIS failure:

“Daesh organisation (IS) circulated a brief statement through its media in the (IS-held) town of Tal Afar in the west of Mosul, confirming the killing of its leader al-Baghdadi without giving further details,” Xinhua news agency cited Iraqi news agency al-Sumaria News as saying. “Daesh called on the (IS) militants to continue their steadfastness in the redoubts of the caliphate and not being dragged behind the sedition.”

Still, Talabany said the Islamic State was shifting tactics despite low morale and it would take three or four years to eliminate the group. After defeat, Islamic State would wage an insurgency and resemble al-Qaeda on “steroids”, he said. Which likely means more unrest in Europe.

As Reuters also adds, the future leaders of Islamic State were expected to be intelligence officers who served under former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, the men credited with devising the group’s strategy.

Meanwhile, the Kremlin which originally reported news of Baghdadi’s death now appears to be backing off, with spokesman Dmitry Peskov saying the Kremlin has “no precise info on ISIL leader al-Baghdadi’s death”, adding that “conflicting reports on the matter keep coming.”

Trump Said To Weigh More Sanctions Against Russia, Iran For Supporting Syria

In addition to presenting a strategy on Syria that appeared to be the opposite of what Rex Tillerson said earlier, when on Sunday the US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told CNN that regime change is now a key priority for Trump (on Saturday, Tillerson said that Washington’s first priority is the defeat of Islamic State), Haley also said that Trump is considering implementing new sanctions against Russia and Iran. 

“I think that’s conversations that he [Trump] will be having and have started to have, going forward. But I think he will have to look at the situation,” Haley told CNN’s Jake Tepper when asked whether Trump “wants tougher sanctions on Russia and Iran.”

Nothing “is off the table at this point,” she added and said that “the discussions are linked to the situation in Syria.”

“You saw this terrible tragedy on innocent people, a lot of them children, and the first reaction from Russia wasn’t ‘how horrible,’ it wasn’t ‘how could they do this,’ it wasn’t ‘how did this happen,’ it was: ‘Assad didn’t do it.’ Why was that the reaction?” Haley said.

The US ambassador to the UN went on to suggest that such a reaction from Moscow prompted “the investigation on Russia.”

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said “no evidence whatsoever” has been presented by Washington to prove that the Shayrat airfield had any chemical weapons. Not so according to Haley who said that “we’ve seen the evidence on Assad, we know exactly what happened.”

We’ve seen similar evidence before. 

Putin Calls Trump To Congratulate President Elect, Renormalize Relations

Moments ago the Kremlin released a statement in which the Russian presidency reported that Putin and Trump held a conversation, in which the Russian leader congratulated his American counterpart again on his victory in the presidential election, wished him “success in the implementation of the pre-election program, and noted his willingness to build a partnership dialogue with the new administration on the principles of equality, mutual respect and non-interference in the internal affairs of each other.”

During the conversation, Putin and Trump “not only agreed to assess the current unsatisfactory state of bilateral relations, but also spoke in favor of active joint work to normalize relations and aim for constructive cooperation on a wide range of issues. The call emphasized in particular the importance of creating a solid foundation of bilateral ties through the development of trade and economic relations.

 In the call, it was also noted that that “next year marks 210 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and the United States, which in itself should stimulate a return to pragmatic, mutually beneficial cooperation, which would meet the interests of both countries, stability and security throughout the world.”

Putin and Trump shared thoughts on the need for joint efforts in the fight against the common enemy number one – international terrorism and extremism. In this vein, and discussed issues of the settlement of the crisis in Syria.

The two agreed to continue contact by phone and agreed to meet in person in the future.

And here is the just released readout of the call from the Trump transition team side:

Current International Situation ‘More Dismal’ Than During Height of the Cold War

In an interview with Sputnik, political analyst Vitaly Zhuravlev pointed to the latest developments in the world, which he said indicate an ever-growing level of confrontation.

His remarks came after Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an exclusive interview with the Russian TV Channel First One that Washington’s current actions damage Russia’s national security. Moscow has repeatedly showed “strategic patience” over Washington’s unilateral unfriendly steps, but now it’s time to admit that drastic changes have taken place in relations between the two countries, according to Lavrov. Commenting on this, Vitaly Zhuravlev said that Lavrov’s interview can be seen as a message to both the Russian public and world leaders, including those from the United States. “His message to the world leaders makes it plain that the Kremlin is ready to take a tough stand. Moscow rejects claims that Russia is a regional power and that its interests can be neglected,” Zhuravlev said. According to him, Russia makes it clear that it is poised to uphold its interests by all possible means, and punitive measures such as anti-Russian sanctions and NATO’s enlargement can’t compel Moscow to change its policy. Zhuravlev expressed concern about the increasingly alarming situation that he said is currently taking shape in the world.

Putin Sends Telegram of Greetings to Merkel, Gauck on Day of German Unity

Putin’s message was conveyed in a telegram to Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Joachim Gauck on the occasion of the national Day of German Unity.

“The Russian president stressed that in the current difficult international environment it is extremely important to keep the positive potential of Russian-German partnership and continue constructive dialogue,” the Kremlin said. Putin noted that the reunification of Germany marked the beginning of a new stage in the history of relations between the two countries

Russia Deploys S-400 Missile System To Crimea, As Tensions With Ukraine Soar

In the latest escalation between the Kremlin and Kiev, yesterday we reported that Ukraine had put its troops near the Russia border on combat alert, following an incident that according to Russia was an attempted terrorist attack. Recall that Russia’s secret service, the Federal Security Service, said on Wednesday that it had foiled “terrorist acts” prepared by Ukrainian military intelligence against infrastructure in the territory, with the aim of disrupting Russia’s parliamentary elections due on 18 September. Kiev denied the allegations. In response to the alleged operation, Putin said he was pulling out of international peace talks on the conflict in eastern Ukraine. He said he was no longer ready to meet his Ukrainian counterpart, Petro Poroshenko, and German and French leaders in the so-called Normandy format, which has been used for negotiations.

As such the Minsk peace process, which one can argue neither side had wanted, has been effectively put on hold (for more on the speculation behind the peace process fallout, read here).

 Ukraine promptly denied all accusations, when president Petro Poroshenko and Ministry of Foreign Affairs sternly rejected Putin’s accusations that Kiev is committing terrorist acts in the disputed peninsula. “Accusations against Ukraine of terrorism in occupied Crimea sound as preposterous and cynical as the statements of the Russian leadership about the absence of Russian troops in [eastern Ukraine’s rebel-controlled] Donbass [region],” Poroshenko said.

Putin Orders Start of Withdrawal From Syria Beginning Today

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced that Moscow will begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria.

On Monday, President Putin indicated that the Kremlin will start withdrawing its main forces in Syria, saying that the military has largely achieved its objectives.

“I think that the task that was assigned to the Ministry of Defense and the armed forces as a whole has achieved its goal, and so I order the defense minister to start tomorrow withdrawing the main part of our military factions from the Syrian Arab Republic,” President Putin said during a meeting with the Russian Defense and Foreign Ministries, according to RIA Novosti.

The withdrawal will begin on Tuesday.

“With the participation of the Russian military…the Syrian armed forces and patriotic Syrian forces have been able to achieve a fundamental turnaround in the fight against international terrorism and have taken the initiative in almost all respects,” the Russian president said.

“There has been a significant turning point in the fight against terrorism,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said.

Russia Imposes Economic Restrictions Against Turkey After Downing of Su-24

Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree on Saturday to boost national security and introduce economic measures against Turkey, the Kremlin press service said.

 “Russian President V.V. Putin has signed a Decree ‘On Measures to Guarantee National Security in the Russian Federation and Protect Russian Citizens Against Criminal and Other Illegal Actions, and on Special Economic Measures Against the Turkish Republic,” the statement said.

The visa-free regime between the countries will be partially suspended.

Russian travel agencies will have to stop selling tours to Turkey after January 1, 2016, according to Kremlin.

Charter air transportation between Russia and Turkey will also be banned.

Moreover, Russia will restrict import of certain Turkish goods, the statement said.

A First-Hand Look Inside Russia’s Forward Operating Base In Syria- VIDEO

When the first reports began to trickle in regarding a possible Russian military buildup at Bashar al-Assad’s seaside stronghold at Latakia, the scramble to “prove” that forces from Moscow had indeed arrived in Syria led directly to a string of conflicting reports and grainy satellite images purporting to detail the scope of Russia’s involvement. 

As the weeks went by, and as rumors of a Russian presence were confirmed by The Kremlin, the world became even more fascinated by the idea that Moscow has officially launched an air war in a foreign country. Indeed, Russia’s overt involvement on behalf of the Assad regime marks a change of strategy for Putin, who has been careful to dispel accusations that his forces are directly involved in the fighting in eastern Ukraine. 

Now that Russia has officially commenced combat operations, Moscow is wasting no time showing off its new staging ground. For those curious to know what a Russian forward operating base in a Middle Eastern warzone looks like, we present the following clip from RT: