Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 30, 2015

Death Of Mullah Omar Will Make Afghan Peace More Difficult And ISIS Stronger

Yesterdays some announcements were made that the leader of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar died. It was the fifth or sixth time that Mullah Omar was said to have died so I ignored it. But today the official Taliban political office confirmed the news and said that Mullah Omar had died on April 23 2013 in south Afghanistan.

This confirmation, and the date of the death, will have all kinds of ramifications. Not only in Afghanistan but also in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

A few weeks ago an official Taliban Eid message that was attributed to Mullah Omar. It endorsed negotiations with the Afghan government. Some negotiations were already happening through the good office of the Chinese and with participation of Pakistani and (likely) U.S. government officials. What will happen with those is now up in the air. As Barnett Rubin explains:

The death of Mullah Omar may allow Pakistan to put leaders it controls more fully in charge of the Taliban. It may also cause the Taliban to splinter. Some may stop fighting and enter the system, while others may join even more extremist groups, such as the Islamic State, and fight the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the two governments cannot gain the willing participation of most of the Taliban in the peace process, Kabul may demand that Islamabad use force to shut down whatever part of the Taliban’s military machine it does not control directly. But the Pakistani Army [...] will be reluctant to take on a battle-hardened Afghan group, some of whose members it hopes to use as future agents of influence.

Michael Semple adds:

[F]or many involved in the conflict, Mullah Omar’s Islamic Emirate has been a flag of convenience. They should be expected to defy any attempt by his successors to impose a ceasefire. Acknowledgement of Omar’s death is likely to hasten the shift to a multi-actor insurgency in Afghanistan. That would be a bitter reality for Afghans who hope for peace. But ultimately the Afghan government, with continuing international support, should be far more confident of ultimately prevailing over a fragmented insurgency than in a fight against a unified Taliban movement.

I doubt that a fragmented insurgency is more easy to overcome than a united one. With whom will you talk about peace when the Taliban fall apart?

The Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur as new leader of the Taliban but not (yet) as Emir of the Islamic Emirate. He has been the acting deputy Taliban leader for some time. His rise to power is explained by two huge mistakes in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Anand Gopal gives this short biography of Mullah Mansur:

  • Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur is from Band-i-Timor, Maiwand, Kandahar. He fought in 80s jihad in taliban fronts
  • Most notably, he fought for a time under Mullah Faizlullah Akhundzada, alongside Mullah Omar
  • During the Taliban regime he was head of the air force and also the (often absent) head of the civil aviation ministry
  • In 2002 he surrendered & retired to his home in Kandahar, agreeing to abstain from politics. However, the US did not accept reconciliation
  • Militias/US raided his home repeatedly. Final straw came when the US killed Hajji Burget Khan, revered leader of Mansur’s Ishaqzai tribe
  • He asked friends in the Afghan gov’t to protect him, and they advised that he flee to Pakistan. There, he reconnected with old comrades
  • As other important leaders (Osmani, Obaidullah, Beradar) were eliminated, Mansur rose steadily up the ranks to become de facto leader

In 2002 and 2003 U.S. special forces went after former Taliban leaders who had given up fighting and retired. This revenge driven campaign reignited the Taliban. They went back underground and again took up weapons. Then the manhunt campaign against Taliban leaders targeted the most experienced leaders who were in control of the fighters. These were the grown ups one could have talked with. Instead younger, more fierce leaders took over after the elder ones were killed and these are now less likely to agree to compromises. U.S. tactics in Afghanistan restarted a war against the Taliban that had been over and prolonged the new war by killing the leadership ranks of the Taliban who could have made peace.

Like Osama bin Laden the current head of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri had pledged allegiance (bay'a) to the Emir of the Islamic Emirate Mullah Omar. He renewed that pledge only last fall. He and his followers now learns that his pledge has been to a dead man. That is a huge disgrace. Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as well as al-Qaeda in Yemen had prevented their fighters to give bay'a to Caliph Baghdadi and the Islamic State with the argument that al-Qaeda had already given bay'a to Mullah Omar. That argument is now more than dead and the leaders who used it are discredited. A lot of Jabat al-Nusra fighters will now turn towards the Islamic State giving more power to that already quite strong group.

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (5)

Human Rights Watch Markets ISIS As Safe Haven, Then Laments About It

A piece in the New York Times reports about second generation immigrants in Britain who now emigrate to the Islamic State:

Leaving behind the Western opportunities their parents came to Britain for, those young Muslims make for a promised land of religious virtue, Muslim community and righteous revolution.

“It’s the ultimate marketing success,” said Mr. Akunjee, who represents the families of three teenage girls who recently absconded to Syria. “They manage to sell a war zone as a Muslim safe haven.

One Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, finds that lamentable:

“They manage to sell a war zone as a Muslim safe haven.” says the NYT quote. But who are "they"? is t the Islamic State? Are the dozens of beheading videos the Islamic State publishes really promoting a safe haven? Why would anyone feel safe with all such killing and gore? Are "they" maybe others involved in such a lying "safe haven" marketing campaign?

How about the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch?

Cont. reading: Human Rights Watch Markets ISIS As Safe Haven, Then Laments About It

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (9)

July 29, 2015

Open Thread 2015-30

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (27)

July 27, 2015

The U.S. and Turkey Have A *Something* Plan

According to several news reports the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to do something in north Syria. But  there seems to be no agreement on anything else. There is disunity about the aim of something as well as on the target of any something operation. The means of achieving something are in dispute. Even the geographic space in which something is supposed to happen is undefined. The only agreed upon issue besides doing something is to throw the Kurds, the most successful force against the Islamic State so far, under the bus. 

Consider all the caveats and general vagueness in the NYT report about the "agreement":

BAGHDAD — Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border, American and Turkish officials say.

The plan would create what officials from both countries are calling an Islamic State-free zone controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents, which the Turks say could also be [...]

[...] many details have yet to be determined, including how deep the strip would extend into Syria, [...]
[...]
“Details remain to be worked out, [...]
[...]
[...] the plan faces the same challenges that have long plagued American policy in Syria.
[...]
Whatever the goal
,[...] raising the question of what they will do [..]
[...]
[...] questions also remain about which Syrian insurgents and how many will be involved in the new operation. [...] relatively moderate have been trained in a covert C.I.A. program, but on the battlefield they are often enmeshed or working in concert with more hard-line Islamist insurgents.

In another complication, gains for such insurgents would come at the expense of Syrian Kurdish militias
[...]
Turkish officials and Syrian opposition leaders are describing the agreement as something [...] But American officials say [...] it was not included in the surprise agreement reached last week
[...]
[...]  United States officials said Turks and Americans were working toward an agreement on the details of an operation [...]
[...]
That is an ambitious military goal [...] American officials emphasized that the depth of the buffer zone to be established was one of the important operational details that had yet to be decided.
[...]
Insurgents, as well as their supporters in the Syrian opposition and the Turkish government, are already envisioning the plan as a step toward [...]
[...]
American officials in recent months have argued to Turkish counterparts [...]
[...]
But until now [...]
[...]
By contrast, the new plan [...]
[...]
“Any weakening of ISIS will be a privilege for us on the battlefield,” Ahmad Qara Ali, a spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, an insurgent group that often allies with the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate. [...]
[...]
Such Syrian Arab insurgents would gain at the expense of the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia known by the initials Y.P.G. that is seeking to take the same territory from the east. While the United States views the group as one of its best partners on the ground, Turkey sees it as a threat; [...]
[...]
[...] challenges to this border strategy still remain, American officials acknowledged. [...] American officials [...] conceded [...]

(Did we notice the new "relative moderate" category the NYT introduced here for anti-Syrian insurgents? This especially for Ahrar al Shams like ilk who are nearly indistinguishable from AlQaeda.)

The vagueness of this "agreement" lets me assume that the Turks railroaded the U.S. negotiators with their surprise announcement about the use of Incirlik airbase last week. That announcement came after a phonecall between Obama and Erdogan. Did they really agree on anything but throwing the Kurds under the bus, with Turkey now shelling their positions in Syria?

Or is this vagueness about the strategy an administration ploy to make it look as if it is dragged into its policy by an ally. If things go wrong it could then always blame Turkey for overreaching.

Or the administration intentionally committing to nothing and just giving Erdogan enough rope to hang himself?

Would the Obama administration even have the legal authority to support the "moderate" AlQaeda "rebels" with airstrikes? So far it could not name any.

Whatever.

This something plan has little chance of achieving anything but more war and chaos in Syria, Turkey and Iraq. Something will fail.

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (83)

July 26, 2015

Turkey's War On Kurds Realigns Syrian Kurds With Their Government

A short update to yesterday's (corrected) post on the situation in Turkey and Syria.

Last weeks suicide attack on a meeting of young, mostly Kurdish socialists attributed to the Islamic State was probably a false flag operation initiated by Erdogan's secret service. I discussed the possibility of such an attack a month ago: The Turkish Military Rejects Erdogan's War Plans - "False Flag" Needed?. The attack on the Kurds was then used to justify an operation against the Islamic State. But that operation is only pretended. That Erdogan's claim of attacking the Islamic State is only theater and that his real aim is a war on the Kurds who fight the Islamic State can be seen best in these tweets:

@SlemaniTimes
Turkey arrests 593 individuals on terrorism charges, though only 32 are #ISIS members, the rest are from Kurdish parties.

(The expression "Kurdish parties" is not completely correct here. Some people from the marxist DHKP-C party, which is mostly not Kurdish, were also arrested.)

From yesterday:

@CNNTURK_ENG:
#BREAKING Sources tell CNN Türk last night Turkish jets made 159 sorties against #PKK camps in N.Iraq&hit 400 targets pic.twitter.com/oGVJmKsGbs

@CNNTURK_ENG:
#BREAKING Sources tell CNN Türk last night there was no air strike against #ISIS, targets were hit by tank fire near #Kilis.

In yesterday's post I named as one of Erdogans aims as to: "Rally nationalist for a new round of elections to Erdogan's side. Shut out the Kurdish HDP from the next election to again win an outright AKP majority."

Today the leader of rightwing-nationalist MH Party and a vice leader of Erdogan's AK Party called for prohibiting the leftist HDP from taking part in the next elections likely this fall. The HDP won 12% in the last election and is the party that is also representing the PKK Kurds. Kicking out the HDP would assure that Erdogan's AKP could again achieve an outright majority of parliament seats. It could then continue with Erdogan's plan to change the constitution and to move all executive powers to the president's office which he occupies.

Two soldiers killed, 4 others injured in car bombing in Turkey’s southeast which guarantees a further tit-for-tat escalation of the revived conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish state.

Turkey has called for NATO consultative meeting under chapter 4. I doubt very much that his operations, obviously in support of the Islamic State, will get official help from NATO.

In Syria President Assad held a public speech and described the current situation in the country. Reuters headlines: Syria's Assad: Army focusing on holding most important areas

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday the army had been forced to give up areas in order to hold onto more important ones in its fight with insurgents ...

Reuters, and others who now report this, are a bit late to the game. That the Syrian government had decided to keep the army mostly to holdable defensive positions was reported and explained here on June 4(!):

The parallel onslaught of U.S., Turkey and GCC supported al-Qaeda "moderate rebels" and Islamic State Jihadists necessitates that the Syrian government concentrates its capabilities and assets and moves into a defensive stand.

This is not a strategic change of course or a sign of weakness but a tactical move. To sacrifice exhausted army units in further defending outlying and thereby indefensible minor parts of the country would simply be unwise.

The Kurds in Syria and their leader Salih Muslim are under attack from the Islamic State and now also from Turkey. They have now offered to reconcile with their only reliable partner, the Syrian government. Salih Muslim said that the Kurds would join the Syrian army if that army would show a "new mentality". He spoke favorably of the father of Bashar al Assad and his relations with the Kurds and discussed various forms of federalism.

THIS IS HUGE!

Should the Syrian government take up this offer for talks (likely!) and guarantee some kind of Kurdish autonomy within some federal Syrian structure the Syrian army would regain the manpower to again go on the offense. Supported by Iran and Russia and united with the Kurds the Syrian army would again be dominant power in the country and likely be able to retake the insurgency and islamist occupied areas.

Posted by b at 01:36 PM | Comments (45)

July 25, 2015

Turkey Lauches War On Islamic State's Worst Enemies - The Kurds

Since 2013 a ceasefire between the state of Turkey and Kurdish PKK rebels in south-east Turkey held up well. The government pledged some support for Kurdish cultural autonomy and in return the ruling AK Party gained votes from parts of the Kurdish constituency. The AKP government also has good relations with the Kurds in north Iraq. It buys oil from the Kurdish regional government and supports the kleptocracy of the ruling Barzani clan in that autonomous Iraqi region.

The PKK is a militant Kurdish organization in Turkey. The equivalent in Syria is known as YPG. In Iran the group is called PJAK and in Iraq HPG. The HDP party in Turkey is the political arm of the PKK. The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian YPG. All these are essentially the same egalitarian, secular marxist/anarchist organization striving for Kurdish autonomy or independence.

[Correction per CE in comments:
The PKK is main Kurdish party in Turkey. Its military arm is the HPG. Usually though only PKK is used to identify both. The equivalent in Syria is the PYD as the party and the YPG as its military arm. The HDP that now sits in the Turkish parliament after wining 12% of the vote is not the political wing of the PKK (which is itself a political party). HDP is an umbrella party of several far-left secular parties, including Kurdish, and is for minority rights including and foremost those of Kurds. (Confused? So was I.)]

Turkey has now reopened its war on the PKK Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and in Syria. Turkish police rounded up hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and tonight dozens of Turkish fighter planes attacked PKK positions in Syria and Iraq. This war is likely to escalate and will be long and bloody. It will be mostly fought on Turkish ground. How did it come to this?

The war on Syria and support by Turkey for even the most radical islamists fighting the Syrian government changed the relations with the Kurds. It is undeniable that Turkey not only supports the Free Syrian Army but also the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is the transit country for international suicide bomber candidates joining these organizations. Weapons, ammunition and other goods are smuggled into Syria with the help of the Turkish secret services and the Islamic State exports oil to Turkey. The Islamic State is recruiting in Turkey and is believed to have many sleeper cells throughout the country.

When the Islamic State attacked Kurdish positions in Kobane in north Syria the U.S. intervened on the side of the Kurds. Turkey was miffed and at first blocked all support. The Kurds in Kobane are, like the Kurdish rebels in Turkey, organized in the PKK/YPG. They want an continuous autonomous region in north Syria connecting all Kurdish enclaves along the Turkish Syrian border.

Ankara fears that such a region could be joined by the Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey. This would be a threat to the Turkish state. Turkey wants to gain land in the war on Syria not lose any. Idleb and Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are regions that Erdogan would like to add to his realm.

Cont. reading: Turkey Lauches War On Islamic State's Worst Enemies - The Kurds

Posted by b at 04:03 AM | Comments (38)

July 24, 2015

Blog Trouble (Meta) II

In March we had payment problems with Typepad, the provider of the hosting service for this blog. After some hefty discussions they admitted that the fault was on their side and they again made the blog accessible. The same problem recently reappeared and the same discussion started all over again with the same result.

One would hope that organizations, or at least the people talking with their customers, are somewhat learning entities. Unfortunately, most are not.

 

Posted by b at 10:27 AM | Comments (25)

July 21, 2015

Hiding Its Own Role NYT Publishes Anonymous Officials' Snowden Smears

What do certain U.S. administration officials do when they want to push a line of propaganda out to the world? They call up some willing stenographer from the New York Times. The NYT stenographers guarantee anonymity to the government officials and they certainly do not check the logical or factual plausibility of the fairy tales they are told. Instead they write up what they whatever is said as exclusive and a scoop.

In today's fairy tale, by Eric Schmidt and Ben Hubbard, we are told that the Islamic State leader "takes steps to ensure [his] groups survival".

Funny idea. Why would a group that survived the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the years since under constant, intensive military pressure NOW take steps for its survival? I had imagined it had taken such steps years ago. Otherwise how would it still exist?

But asking real questions is not a NYT journalist's job:

The Islamic State’s reclusive leader has empowered his inner circle of deputies as well as regional commanders in Syria and Iraq with wide-ranging authority, a plan to ensure that if he or other top figures are killed, the organization will quickly adapt and continue fighting, American and Iraqi intelligence officials say.

The officials say the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delegates authority to his cabinet, or shura council, which includes ministers of war, finance, religious affairs and others.

The Islamic State has deputy leaders which run various different parts of the organization? Wow. How would we ever have known this without anonymous "American and Iraqi intelligence officials" explaining such?

Any bigger organization has a leadership that delegates to deputies who run various parts of the business. That's how people organize and how they have done about anywhere and anytime. Would anyone, and for what reason, have expected something different from the Islamic State? Why then are we presented such a story?

There is nothing really new in the piece. It says that IS is run as a large organization and has somewhat autonomous branches in various countries. That was all well known. But the real agenda of the whole story may be condensed in just one paragraph which stands out as an obvious lie:

The Islamic State has also studied revelations from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about how the United States gathers information on militants. A main result is that the group’s top leaders now use couriers or encrypted channels that Western analysts cannot crack to communicate, intelligence and military officials said.

IT IS ALL SNOWDEN'S FAULT say anonymous government officials and the NYT's voice activated tape recorders, aka <I>journalists</I>,  write it down and publish it.

But Osama Bin Laden was killed before Snowden left the NSA. Did he use cell phones or did he fear that those would be used to trace him? Have AlQaeda and the Islamic State started to use encryption only after the Snowden revelations? No :

[AlQaeda] ditched cell phones in favor of walkie-talkies and coded names. Information was passed through intermediaries. If someone needed to send an email, it was shielded by highly sophisticated encryption software.

That quote is from 2011, years before Snowden. But protecting communication started even earlier. In 2008 the Taliban in Afghanistan shut down cell phone towers that traced their movements. Such groups always protect their communication because they know that their enemies will use those to find and kill them. There is nothing new about this and whatever Snowden did has nothing to do with that. The NYT stenographers surely know this but they still write down the smears they are told without examining and explaining the actual facts.

And by the way - what secret did Snowden actually publish? He gave NSA papers to reporters and newspaper and they are the ones who selected some and made them public. One of those papers was the New York Times. The sentence inculpating Snowden should thereby have said:

The Islamic State has also studied revelations published by the New York Time about how the United States gathers information on militants.

That the NYT was involved in the same issue that is now used by anonymous officials to smear Snowden is of course not mentioned in the story.

The New York Times fired Judith Miller who wrote down fairy tales told by anonymous administration officials about no existing Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. How was whatever she did different from the stenographing Schmidt and Hubbard are doing in today's piece?

Posted by b at 12:29 PM | Comments (19)

July 20, 2015

U.S. Military Seeks Reasons To Prolong Afghanistan Occupation

When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan the purpose was to remove the Taliban government which had given guest status to the AlQaeda leadership. Only a few weeks later, that job was done.

The alleged purpose of the occupation of Afghanistan then changed into hunting down AlQaeda remnants. But those had already fled to Pakistan and elsewhere.

The U.S. military instead started to hunt and kill former Taliban members even when those were just local farmers or former Taliban leaders who had given up any fighting and were willing to cooperate. This manhunt and the accompanying torture and killing of civilians revived the Taliban movement and a new revolt, now against the U.S. occupation and its puppet government, started. The alleged purpose of the U.S. military in Afghanistan changed again.

The task was now to fight the new anti-government forces while building an Afghan army that would be able to later take care of that job. But finally peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership started. An end of the inner Afghan conflict is slowly coming into sight.

But now, as pressure on the military to leave Afghanistan grows, a new threat conveniently springs up just in time to argue for a further occupation:

The emergence of militants in Afghanistan claiming allegiance to Islamic State could disrupt White House plans to remove the remaining U.S. troops in that country by the end of next year.

Islamic State has provided new ammunition to Pentagon and Afghan officials seeking to persuade the White House to reverse its decision to pull out U.S. troops. Their argument, in effect, is that Islamic State could grow and the same security collapse that occurred in Iraq could happen in Afghanistan if the U.S. removes its troops as planned.

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday that President Obama’s pledge to withdraw most of the 9,800 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2016 was made before the appearance of Islamic State. He said the militant group has contributed to a worsening overall security situation in the country this year.

The threat of the somewhat imaginary Islamic State group in Afghanistan is vague. Those who are said to have joined it are former Taliban. The overall picture and number of potential enemies has thereby not changed at all. There has also been no significant operation yet of Islamic State followers in Afghanistan. They have likely killed less Afghan troops and civilians than the U.S. does with its regular friendly fire mistakes:

NATO forces launched an airstrike on an Afghan army outpost Monday, killing eight Afghan soldiers and wounding five others in an apparent friendly-fire incident, local officials told NBC News.
...
A later statement by Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense said that helicopters belonging to the U.S.-led military coalition had come under enemy attack in the area and returned fire, mistakenly hitting the army post, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. military has recently intensified its air strikes in Afghanistan. But air strikes can never solve the issues on the ground nor can foreign troops. Only the local people can. There are no real justifications for the U.S. military to stay in Afghanistan. The inner Afghan conflict has been going on since at least 1978. It will take another decade or even longer to calm down. There will always be this or that group that disagrees with the Afghan government and takes up arms. Outer forces with whatever motive would only prolong that time frame.

The U.S. military should be ordered out of Afghanistan and the country shielded from further outer military intervention. Only then can it find back to peace.

Posted by b at 12:31 PM | Comments (29)

July 18, 2015

Open Thread 2015-29

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (104)

July 17, 2015

U.S. Air Force Is Supporting AlQaeda In Yemen And - Coming Now - Also In Syria

A few days ago newly Saudi trained Yemeni forces were inserted into the southern harbor city Aden to fight against Houthi and parts of the Yemeni army loyal to the former president Saleh. The inserted forces had brand new mine resistant vehicle and were led by special forces from the United Arab Emirates. With Saudi and U.S. air support they managed to push the Houthis from several Aden quarters. But after a day of fighting the attack got stuck and the Houthi hit back. An Emirati officer, likely acting as Forward Air Controller providing target designation for the air attacks, was killed. The Wall Street Journal notes that AlQaeda was part of the Saudi/U.S. supported forces:

Local militias backed by Saudi Arabia, special forces from the United Arab Emirates and al Qaeda militants all fought on the same side this week to wrest back control over most of Yemen’s second city, Aden, from pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, according to local residents and Houthi forces.

The U.S. is providing the ammunition, refueling and targeting intelligence for the "Saudi" campaign. Not only did it help to recently destroy various important bridges, hospitals and all three cement factories in Yemen, it is now actively giving air support to AlQaeda.

The same is likely to happen in Syria:

They arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, the favored vehicle of Islamist fighters in the Middle East and South Asia. But these men, the first graduates in the faltering U.S. train-and-equip program, were traveling into Syria to fight against an extremist insurgency, the Islamic State. The U.S. military calls them the “New Syrian force” and disclosed that they are to coordinate with rebel forces already on the ground who have a different objective – to fight the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The goal, a spokesman said, is to expand the effectiveness of all moderate forces.

Who please are the "moderate forces" in Syria? The clowns from Jaish al Fatah, Jabhat al Nusra (AlQaeda) and their best friends, the Brookings favorite Ahrar al-Shams, come to mind.

These groups, supported with the help of U.S. intelligence by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, last month took Idlib in northern Syria. As reaction to that the Syrian government received additional support from its allies and pulled back to defensive positions. Since then new Jihadist attacks against Aleppo, Daara and in the Golan heights all failed with high casualties on the attackers side.

So now it is time to insert those "new" forces and, like in Yemen, offer AlQaeda the help of the U.S. air force:

[Maj. Curtis J. Kellogg, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told McClatchy] “However, it is anticipated that New Syrian Force personnel will coordinate with other moderate opposition forces to build trust between organizations that are countering ISIL and apply the skills they have learned through the train-and-equip program to increase the combat effectiveness of all forces they operate with.”
...
The “New Syrian Force” will be able to call in U.S. airstrikes, as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, a militia that has captured dozens of villages from the Islamic State in recent weeks. A U.S. government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss details of the program said the force on the ground will communicate with a U.S. military officer who’ll pass requests for air support to coalition commanders.

The "new" forces the U.S. is inserting will thereby be the Forward Air Controllers who will call in the U.S. air force "to increase the combat effectiveness of all forces they operate with". They will join the other insurgents on the ground, AlQaeda and other Jihadis, who have the premier aim of overthrowing the Syrian government.

Does anybody believe that the targeting data the "new" U.S. trained forces in Syria will be submitting will be solely of Islamic State targets?

But while the U.S. is giving air support to AlQaeda in Yemen and in Syria the lunatics of the Washington Post are threatening Iran for "meddling" in the Middle East:

Stopping Iran’s destabilizing behavior is the priority in the Middle East, as senior Israeli, Saudi and Emirati officials agree privately, whatever the public commotion about the nuclear deal. This essential task of confronting Tehran should be easier now that the Iranian nuclear program is capped for at least a decade.
...
What’s the best way to confront Tehran on these regional issues? As with the nuclear problem, the right strategy is a combination of pressure (including possible military force) and diplomacy.

"So yeah. Let's bomb Iran so we can help AlQaeda to swallow up Yemen and Syria."

I remember from years ago travel that the water in Washington DC is heavily chlorinated. Since then, it seems, they added LSD to it.

Posted by b at 11:46 AM | Comments (46)

July 16, 2015

Billmon: The Eurosystem's (Monetary) Control of Europe's Politics

Note: This post was composed from a Twitteressay by Billmon.

J.W. Mason lists some Lessons from the Greek Crisis:

Before the crisis no one even knew that national central banks still existed — I certainly didn’t. But now it’s clear that the creditors’ unchallenged control of this commanding high ground was decisive to the outcome in Greece. Next time an elected government challenges the EU authorities, their first order of business must be getting control or cooperation of their national central bank.

The quote says "control or cooperation," but I can guarantee the latter is never going to happen.

It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the degree to which the campaign for central bank "independence" has made them the enemies within for any left governments.

The central bankers waged a 50-60 year political war to wrest back the monetary flexibility that the break down of Bretton Woods gave to national governments. Having won that war across most of the developed world in the 70s and 80s, they extended the battlefield to the emerging markets in '90s and '00s.

The autonomy of central banks (meaning the political allegiance to Wall Street/London City/Frankfurt etc.) was maybe the biggest neoliberal victory of all. If rightwing political victories (Reagan, Thatcher et. al.) were the beachheads of the Great Counterattack on social democracy then "independent" central banks became the citadels of the occupation forces: Neoliberalism's "Republican Guard."

Ironically, the ECB was originally conceived - or at least was sold to the European left - as a way for governments to regain monetary flexibility at a higher level. As a way to a) escape US dollar hegemony and to b) outflank the Bundesbank by formalizing the joint political control of European monetary policy. I do not know if the hack establishment Social Democrats who sold that vision ever believed it, but if so, more fool them. Because what the European Monetary Union became, obvious now, was a way to turn the vision on its head: formalize joint MONETARY control of Europe's politics.

The "Eurosystem", the network of national central banks governed by the European Central Bank, gives central bankers unprecedented ability to squeeze and manipulate national governments in a coordinated way. It is as if every government in the Eurozone ALREADY has a colonial entity watching it like the Troika's agents are supposed to watch Syriza in Athens. And, since the ECB Governing Council (like other EU institutions) tries to operate by a non-transparent "consensus" (i.e. the votes are not revealed), the degree to which national central bank heads are representing the ECB in their countries, rather than the other way around, is often not clear.

As long as the cozy comprador system tied peripheral governments to the core (i.e. Berlin), the role of the ECB and the Eurosystem could be obscured. Peripheral governments appointed "made guys" (i.e. banksters and/or their technicians) to national central bank boards and pretended to govern. Core politicians and their local comprador politicians let the Eurosystem technicians in Frankfurt tell them what "structural reforms" they should push to make the EMU "work."

But the moment an outsider government like Syriza came to power, the role of the Eurosystem and the national central banks in it could no longer be hidden. The fact that the Greek National Bank was an instrument of the ECB in Frankfurt, not of the Greek government in Athens, became obvious to everybody. The ECB's role as the muscle behind the Eurogroup's (Berlin's) diktats put the Greek National Bank in the position of helping to choke its own banks and terrorize its own citizens. And under the rules of EMU the Greek government was completely powerless to do anything about it. A defining moment.

The inescapable conclusion is that the allegedly "independent" Eurosystem now operates not as a network of central banks but as a parallel government.

The role of the Eurosystem within the half-hidden political order of the eurozone really is comparable to the Soviet or Chinese Communist Party. Like the Communist Party, the Eurosystem is now the "leading organ" of the neoliberal order, operating at all levels of the EU structure and providing "guidance" to elected political structures which are not formally under its legal control, but in reality are dominated by it. And behind the administrative apparatus of the party (Eurosystem) is the Central Committee (Eurogroup) and the Politburo (the key creditor government officials). And behind THEM is the real locus of the party's centralized power: the General Secretary (Germany/Merkel).

So J.W. Mason is quite right: it is impossible for any left government to attack the dictatorship of finance unless it controls its national central bank. But while control of the national central bank is necessary, it is hardly sufficient. As long as the EMU exit is off the table, verboten, so to speak, control of the national central banks only eliminates the "near enemy."

Ultimately it comes down to political will, which in parliamentary democracies, comes down to public support. As long as the majority (of all voters or of propertied influentials, depending on the system) is more loyal to the Euro than to national sovereignty an effective challenge to the dictatorship of finance is impossible - no matter how many national central banks the left controls.

Posted by b at 06:57 AM | Comments (230)

July 14, 2015

First Thoughts About The Iran Deal

Some deal was agreed upon between Iran and some security council countries. It will take some time to read and understand the full paper and the annexes, some 160 pages, to judge the outcome. What the media will write about it will be mostly spin from either side and the devil is as always in the details.

The deal itself is a major infringement on Iran's sovereignty extorted though a manufactured crisis about an Iranian nuclear weapons program that does not and did not ever exist. To see the hypocrisy of it just count the nukes:


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The U.S. has a bad record of sticking to international deals it made. North Korea was promised two civil nuclear electricity plants to be build by the United States for stopping its nuclear activities. None was build and North Korea restarted its weapon program. Libya agreed to give up the tiny preliminary nuclear program it had and the U.S. destroyed the state.

Netanyahoo's puppets in the U.S. congress will do their best to blockade the current deal. Should they not be able to do so attempts will be made to press the next U.S. president into breaking the agreement.

Iran must now be very careful to not get trapped into more concessions or even a war.

Posted by b at 06:36 AM | Comments (80)

EU To Greece: Capitulate Or We Will Send In The Turks

"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt." - John Adams (1735-1826) When the threat of debt slavery not immediately worked some EU "leaders" threatened Greece with war.

Are threats of war now again a "European value"?

During a pivotal meeting with Merkel, French President François Hollande and European Council President Donald Tusk, Tsipras at one point received a thinly veiled threat that if he walked away and left the euro, Greece risked going it alone geopolitically, too.

According to two officials in Brussels with knowledge of the exchange, the specter was raised of aggression from Turkey — a neighboring nation viewed in Greece as a historic antagonist.

Even if Tzirpas manages to get the dictates from Brussel through the parliament in Athens no problem will be solved. Debt that can not be paid back will not be paid back. There is no chance that Greece will ever be able to come up with the money it formally owns. There is an assumption that some €50 billions can be raised through a sell off of state assets. Zero to may be €5 billion is realistic. No money will be available for economic expansion. Austerity will kill the sick and old.

That or the Turks are coming? I am not sure what I would choose.

Posted by b at 06:06 AM | Comments (67)

July 12, 2015

Greece: Schaeuble's Track

by Harm Bengen

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (111)

July 11, 2015

Washington Post Promotes Al-Qaeda Affiliate As "Moderate"

The Fred Hiatt funny pages, aka the Washington Post Opinon page, has a leader of Ahrar al-Shams writing against the official definition of "moderate rebels" in Syria.

Ahrar al-Shams is a violent Salafi terrorist group in Syria which was co-founded by an old time Al-Qaeda member:

Abu Khalid al-Suri, also known as Abu Omeir al-Shami : Suri was a co-founder of Ahrar al-Sham and acted as Ayman al-Zawahiri’s representative in Syria, charged with facilitating reconciliation amongst Islamist militants in the region. Suri was killed in a suicide bombing against Ahrar al-Sham’s headquarters. Ahrar al-Sham and other militant organizations blamed ISIS. Suri's close ties with Al Qaeda became clear after his death, when AQ commander Ayman al-Zawahiri published a eulogy for the fallen Ahrar al-Sham leader and AQ posted a video documenting his participation in Al Farouq training camp in Afghanistan, including photos of him with Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.

While al Suri is dead the group he founded has not "moderated" one bit. It regularly cooperates and fights together with Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda arm in Syria. Here is recent a picture of both groups leaders affirming their allegiance to each other.

Keep that in mind when the Ahrar al-Shams ideologue writes:

[T]he United States has defined the term “moderate” in such a narrow and arbitrary fashion that it excludes the bulk of the mainstream opposition.

The group to which I belong, Ahrar al-Sham, is one example. Our name means “Free Men of Syria.” We consider ourselves a mainstream Sunni Islamic group that is led by Syrians and fights for Syrians. We are fighting for justice for the Syrian people. Yet we have been falsely accused of having organizational links to al-Qaeda and of espousing al-Qaeda’s ideology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Washington Post now prints op-eds by one of the most despicable terrorist groups in Syria and allows it to spew pure lies. Ahrar al-Shams has no links to al-Qaeda? Except that it was founded by a top al-Qaeda guy and cooperates, like in the recent attack on Idleb, with the official al-Qaeda arm in Syria.

Time for a joke?

  • This weekend the Washington Post has Ahrar al-Shams writing: "We are moderates. At least we're not Al-Qaeda. Support us."
  • Next weekend the Washington Post will have a Jabhat al-Nusra op-ed claming: "We are moderates. So at least we're not ISIS. Support us.
  • Then, a week later, the Washington Post will print an op-ed by ISIS leader al- Baghdadi: "We at least are honest."

There has been a campaign, in several phases, to portrait first the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood with its bloody history and later al-Qaeda aligned Salafi terrorists as Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda. Qatari and Saudi money was involved in these campaigns.

One wonders how much the Washington Post was paid to let such dreck appear in a U.S. mainstream paper.

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (25)

July 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-28

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:37 PM | Comments (145)

July 08, 2015

U.S. Wants To Trick Iran Into Never Ending Nuclear Talks

The talks between the P5+1 and Iran about the nuclear issues have been prolonged and prolonged. The U.S. does not get what it wants, total Iranian capitulation, and is not ready to find real compromises.

It seems that the Obama administration now wants to trick the Iranians into never ending talks and to thereby keep Iran under those restrictions that were agreed upon when the talks started:

[T]he White House may allow Iran nuclear talks to continue indefinitely under an interim agreement that already limits Iran's nuclear program.

While the pressure of deadlines set for June 30 and Tuesday succeeded in squeezing important concessions from Iran, "we haven't gotten everything that we wanted yet," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"What we want to make sure of is that we continue to …keep in place, an agreement that freezes Iran's nuclear program, rolls it back in some key areas, while we continue to have these conversations," he said.

This may have been the plan all along.

The idea to keep the talks and the restrictions on Iran forever as An Alternative to the Iran Deal? was first published by one Yishai Schwartz on the conservative lawfareblog in May:

First, American negotiators would have to allow the current round of negotiations to fail, but without blowing up or reneging on any already-made commitments. Doing so should not be too difficult. ... Every few months, the sides will hold a summit and announce progress. Occasionally, limited sanctions relief will be exchanged for better inspections and increased constraints. In a few years, when memories have faded and sanctions are once again strangling the Iranian economy, we might pursue another comprehensive deal on more favorable terms. But more likely, we will continue to muddle along for years to come, exchanging limited relief for limited constraints---always keeping Iran from a nuclear capability, but never fully relaxing the vise.

Ali Gharib pointed out at that time that the Iranians are unlikely to go with such a plan:

Hardliners in Iran have already, for two years, been sniping and attacking negotiations, attacking Iran’s moderate president Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. For the moment, Iran’s chief hardliner, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has backed his negotiating team, but with caution and reservations. What the JPOA held for Iran was a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not clear that Khamenei will simply hang on if Iran fails to get closer to it. If the big prize—lifting the harshest sanctions—remains elusive, Iran’s incentive to check itself will fade.

It is quite clear who is stalling the talks now. Iran wants all UN sanctions, including those on its weapon purchases and ballistic missiles, lifted. Those sanctions were put onto Iran over the nuclear issue dispute. The U.S. does not want to lift those, as it earlier agreed to, even when the nuclear dispute is resolved:

Russia and China have expressed support for lifting the embargo, which was imposed in 2007 as part of a series of penalties over Iran's nuclear program.

But the U.S. doesn't want the arms ban ended because it could allow Tehran to expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled government, for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

What have these issues to do with the nuclear agreement? Nothing. The U.S. is now trying to abuse the 2007 UN sanctions over nuclear activities to press completely unrelated issues. This may well be part of a strategy to forever prolong the talks.

The hawks in Iran as well as the Supreme Leader will not agree to such U.S. trickery. They will end all talks and return the nuclear program to its earlier status lifting all restrictions. The rather liberal Rouhani government will be damned as having fallen for the U.S. negotiation ploy.

Posted by b at 02:54 PM | Comments (56)

 
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