How Russia outplayed America in the Middle East’s great game

The cliché of the Russian chessmaster strategist might be a cliché for a reason. The regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin might have feet of clay, but the man is smart.

By going all-in on the side of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the war in Syria, he has put Russia at the center of the great game in the Middle East.

In Assad’s heartland, villagers see Russians as saviours

The village of Jebleh is a good place for plane-spotters. Last week dozens of Russian fighter-bombers – Sukhoi Su-24s, 25s and 35s – took off from the Bassel al-Assad airbase less than a mile away, roaring through the cloudy autumn skies towards their targets in Syria’s north and east.

Here, people see the Russians as loyal friends who have supported the Assad dynasty for 45 years and who have finally, after four years of civil war, come to their aid.

Former economic adviser to Reagan and Thatcher hired by Ukrainian government

Ukraine’s Minister of Finance, Natalie Jaresko, has hired the prominent U.S. economist, Arthur Laffer, to advise her on tax policy.   Laffer, widely considered the father of supply-side economics, was a member of former U.S. President Ronald Reagan’s Economic Policy Advisory Board from 1981-89. He also advised former U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on fiscal policy.

Saudi Clerics Call for Jihad Against Iran and Russia in Syria

News out of our great “ally” Saudi Arabia from a joint Reuters, Vice report notes that “dozens of conservative Saudi Arabian clerics have called for Arab and Muslim countries to “give all moral, material, political and military” support to what they term a jihad, or holy war, against Syria’s government and its Iranian and Russian backers.

Although the clerics who signed the online statement are not affiliated with the government, their strong sectarian and anti-Christian language reflects a growing anger among many Saudis over Russian and Iranian involvement in Syria’s civil war.”

Ukraine Is Being Told to Live With Putin

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has long had trouble understanding that the Western support of his government is conditional. Now the leaders of France and Germany have told him that in no uncertain terms: The ceasefire agreement for eastern Ukraine has just been recast to put the onus on Poroshenko, rather than on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Which side are we really on in this war of the awful against the evil?

The White House and Downing Street both seethe with genuine outrage about Russia’s bombing raids on Syria.

Yet the people Vladimir Putin bombed have views and aims that would get them rounded up as dangerous Islamist extremists if they turned up in Manchester. So why do British politicians call them ‘moderates’ when Russia bombs them?

Ukraine local polls postponed to ensure ‘undisputed’ vote

The leaders of Russia, Ukraine, France and Germany agreed Friday to delay contentious local elections in Ukraine to ensure that they meet international standards, despite fighting having all but stopped in the country’s separatist east.

Peace appears closer than ever in the 17-month conflict, which has plunged relations between Moscow and the West to post-Cold War lows, with the latest ceasefire called last month having largely been observed by both pro-Russian rebels and Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine crisis: ‘Weapons pullout begins’

Ukraine’s government forces and pro-Russian rebels say they have begun withdrawing weapons from the line of contact in the east of the country.

Ukrainian officials said inventory work began on Saturday morning with the actual pullback to start in the afternoon

New survey of Ukrainians shows high support for end to civil war, low support for political leaders in Kyiv

Seventy eight per cent of respondents want Kyiv to negotiate an end to its civil war in the east of the country. Only 12 per cent want a continuation of war.

Survey published by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, October 5, 2015. Original press release and survey results published here in Ukrainian. The following is a slightly-edited Google translation.

The US and Russia Are Fighting a Cold War on Two Fronts

The United States and Russia are today engaged in a proxy war on two fronts: Ukraine and Syria. On October 1, Nation contributing editor Stephen F. Cohen appeared on The Thom Hartman Program to discuss the obstacles preventing a potential coalition between the US and Russia to fight ISIS.

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