With America’s focus on Las Vegas, war drums get louder

The national media is focused squarely on the tragedy in Las Vegas last weekend– meanwhile, recent reports from Russia and North Korea indicated that the U.S. may be on the verge of a massive international military conflict.

Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov on Wednesday lobbed serious allegations at the U.S., accusing the Pentagon on waging proxy war against the Syrian government and its allies by directing militants in the region to launch assaults on Syrian forces rather than ISIS militants the Pentagon claims to be targeting in the region.

“In some cases, these forces mount allegedly accidental strikes against the Syrian Armed Forces, after which Islamic State [banned in Russia] counterattacks. In other cases, they inspire other terrorists to attack strategic locations over which official Damascus has restored its legitimate authority, or to stage fatal provocations against our military personnel,” Lavrov said.

According to the Russian official, the assaults endanger the lives of Syrian government forces as well as those of Russian troops in the region he says are working to encourage stability and stem the spread of ISIS.

By engaging in a ‘double standard” when classifying combatants in the region, Lavrov charged that the Pentagon is waging an intentional destabilization campaign in Syria.

“If you apply double standards, divide terrorists into ‘bad’ and ‘very bad,’ force others to enter the coalition on political motives, forgetting about the necessary UN sanction to approve these actions, then it’s hard to speak about the effectiveness of an anti-terror campaign,” he said.

Lavrov’s statements come just after Russian officials threatened to retaliate for what they classified as a “break in” at the Russian consulate in San Francisco which U.S. officials ordered Russian staff to vacate last month.

According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, areas of the post locked by departing Russian diplomatic employees were entered without the country’s permission on Monday.

“After breaking Russian diplomatic property’s gates lock, the intruders got inside,” Lavrov said, adding that the move amounted to U.S. “trespassing on the grounds of the Russian diplomatic facility”

“Despite our warnings, the U.S. authorities did not listen to reason and did not give up their illegal intentions,” it said. “We reserve the right to respond. The principle of reciprocity has always been and remains the cornerstone of diplomacy.”

Expect the drama to heighten as Russian officials return the favor at U.S. diplomatic outposts in regions under their control.

State Department officials, meanwhile, maintain that no such trespassing occurred. According to a spokesman, State officials only entered certain areas of the compound to “physically limit access to the non-residential parts of the Consulate building” because the U.S. made the decision to allow some of the Russian families to maintain residence at the facility a month after the official Oct. 1 closure deadline.

As U.S./Russia relations continue to deteriorate, tensions with North Korea are likely to boil over within the next two weeks.

That’s according to a warning from a top CIA official for the Korean Peninsula who says the Hermit Kingdom is likely to double down on provocations starting Oct. 9, which marks the anniversary of the founding of the country’s ruling political party.

“Stand by your phones,” said CIA Mission Center director Yong Suk Lee told attendees at an intelligence conference at George Washington University.

As North Korea prepares its latest show of force, Russia is quietly helping the country flout international sanctions.

As Reuters reported:

A Russian company began routing North Korean internet traffic this month, giving Pyongyang a second connection with the outside world besides China. Bilateral trade more than doubled to $31.4 million in the first quarter of 2017, due mainly to what Moscow said was higher oil product exports.

At least eight North Korean ships that left Russia with fuel cargoes this year have returned home despite officially declaring other destinations, a ploy U.S. officials say is often used to undermine sanctions against Pyongyang.

And Russia, which shares a short land border with North Korea, has also resisted U.S.-led efforts to repatriate tens of thousands of North Korean workers whose remittances help keep the country’s hard line leadership afloat.

The Kremlin has an interest in keeping the Kim Jong-un government in place because it serves as a buffer to threats of a U.S. military buildup along Russia’s eastern border.

The bottom line here is that peaceful diplomatic relations among nuclear armed countries are currently hanging by a thread. If the U.S. pushes its hand too far in Syria resulting in Russian fatalities, it’s war. If the Russians go too far and harm U.S. officials or assets in their retaliatory diplomatic raids, it’s war. If North Korea barks and the U.S. bites back too hard, it’s war. How big and bloody a war we’re talking about in any of the aforementioned scenarios will only be revealed after it’s too late.

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