Russian paper tries to tie Tsarnaevs to Georgia and Zbigniew Brzezinski

Izvestia, one of Russia's largest broadsheets, has apparently joined the "false flag" conspiracy crowd with a very weird article (translated here) that suggests a link between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and U.S. intelligence agencies through a very long list of dubious connections.

The article cites secret documents from Georgia's Ministry of Internal Affairs claiming that when Tsarnaev visited the Caucasus in 2012, he took classes organized by the Jamestown Foundation -- a U.S. think tank -- and the "Fund for Caucasus," a Georgian group whose "main purpose is to recruit young people and intellectuals of the North Caucasus to enhance instability and extremism in the southern regions of Russia." According to the article, the seminars were engaged in "recruiting residents of the North Caucasus to work in the interests of the United States and Georgia" and "preparing acts of terrorism."

Remarkably, there does seem to be a Georgian organization that goes by the gramatically awkward English name "Fund of Caucasus." The group, which describes its mission as "To popularize the phenomenon of Caucasian peoples' cultures and 'Caucasian civilization' all over the world," has put out a statement about Izvestia's article denying any connection with Tsarnaev:

The 'Fund of Caucasus' rejects the accusation about being involved in promoting extremist intentions and encouraging destabilization in south regions of Russia.  

The group also suggests that the story may have been motivated "by the fact that in 2013 the President of the 'Fund of Caucasus' was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by the famous scientists and public figures of the South and North Caucasus, Israel and Poland." Not quite sure about that one. 

Izvestia also makes a big deal out of the fact that the Jamestown Foundation's board includes former U.S. National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the main "ideologists of U.S. foreign policy." Alex Jones's conspiracy theory clearinghouse Infowars, which has, not surprisingly, picked up on this, takes things a step further by describing Jamestown as a "known CIA front." For what it's worth, a Jamestown employee denied to FP that the group was involved in running training programs in the Caucasus, and there don't appear to be any links between the two organizations.

The Izvestia article doesn't quite explain how Georgia would benefit from any of this or why shadowy anti-Russian forces would want to pin the attack on Chechen extremists -- not exactly the Kremlin's favorite people. 



The three key words of Obama’s ‘red line’ on Syria

The White House has long insisted that President Barack Obama's "red line" that would trigger ... something ... on Syria is crystal clear.

But as my Washington Post colleague Max Fisher notes, it's about as clear as mud. Obama first said in August: "We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus."

Many have interpreted this line to mean that if Assad moved or used chemical weapons, Obama would act. And on several occasions, the president or other U.S. officials have made more aggressive statements. Here's Obama on March 21:

I've made it clear to Bashar al-Assad and all who follow his orders:  We will not tolerate the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian people, or the transfer of those weapons to terrorists.  The world is watching; we will hold you accountable.

But it seems to me that the key words in Obama's August statement were "a whole bunch." And if you read between the lines of the White House's letter to several senators today, that still seems to be the real red line, assuming it actually exists, because the letter stresses that the purported use in question was, or may have been, "on a small scale."

And even if the White House does go ahead and decide that Obama's murky, pinkish-reddish-orange line has in fact been crossed, it doesn't seem prepared to do much about it. The plan is to press for a United Nations investigation of the alleged chemical-weapons use, not to fire up the B-52s. The odds of Assad letting that happen are extremely low, not to mention the time it would take for an investigation to reach a clear conclusion one way or the other. And even if an investigation does conclude that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons against its people, does anyone still think Russia and China are going to dump Assad and authorize some kind of response through the U.N. Security Council?

Now, maybe all this murkiness is defensible and sincere, and certainly the American people aren't clamoring for another U.S. intervention in the Middle East, even though many in Washington are. But the point is, maybe the game hasn't changed as much as today's news reports would have us believe.