Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 04, 2015

More Saudi Losses In Yemen, Washington Warns Riyadh To Tow Its Line

The U.S.-Saudi-UAE campaign against Yemen has failed to achieve its aims. While the bombing of Yemen continues and the nation is blockaded an all sides the losses on the Saudi side are also increasing.

The UAE attack from the south is now stuck in Taiz and skirmishes there continue. Strong UAE lobbying power in Washington does not make up for a lack of military capacity. The attack from the north-east towards Sanaa is stuck in Marib. Over the last weeks the Saudis, UAE troops and hired Yemeni tribal forces build up a huge force east of Marib. It includes Apache helicopter and now nearly two brigades of motorized troops. During the last few days these troops, while preparing to attack Sanaa, were themselves under attack from Houthi and Yemeni army forces.


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Today a SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missile was launched by the Yemeni army and hit the invaders camp. According to a report and tweets from Yemen two Saudi Apache helicopter, armored vehicles and an ammunition dump were blown up. The United Arab Emirates announced that at least 22 of its troops were killed. The Saudis have not yet announced their casualties.

Mortar attacks by Houthi forces also hit (vid) more Saudi border station and military outposts within Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi king just arrived for a visit in Washington. The U.S. takes part in the Saudi campaign against Yemen by providing ammunition, air refueling, intelligence and targeting capabilities. With criticism of the campaign and warning of imminent mass starvation in Yemen coming from various international organizations the U.S. would probably like to wrap up the Yemeni issue and to stop the war. But the Saudis seem so far unwilling to concede that they will not achieve their aims.

This is the context in which was has to read Wednesday's NYT column by Tom Friedman:

[I]f you think Iran is the only source of trouble in the Middle East, you must have slept through 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment.

It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia.

And we, America, have never called them on that — because we’re addicted to their oil and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.

Strong stuff coming from a columnist with good direct contacts in the White House. The oil argument though fails to hit the mark. There is enough oil available on the markets and even more capacity coming online from Iran and Iraq so that the Saudi oil role is now diminished.

It is unlikely that Friedman would have written that column on the eve of the Saudi king's arrival and in such strong words without some White House nudging. This is a message to Saudi Arabia to cut back on its unilateral activities. Its unconditioned support for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is out of line of U.S. plans and the bombing of Yemen has gone out of hand.

The message Washington is sending via Friedman is: "Stick to our line or we will move on to Iran."

Together with the losses in Yemen the warning may indeed lead to changes in the Saudi stand. A likely casualty would be the Saudi deputy crown prince, the "young general" Mohammad Bin Salman.

Posted by b at 07:50 AM | Comments (19)

September 03, 2015

Who Runs The Migrant Media Campaign And What Is Its Purpose?

The current moral hand-wringing media campaign around migrants from Syria has some similarities with the propaganda campaign that accompanied the putsch in Ukraine and the attack on Libya. It includes false information, photos of unknown provenance, lame "heartbreaking" personal stories and no mentioning or questioning at all of the real reasons why people are moving.

That the U.S., Turkey and the GCC countries are actively waging war against Syria and causing the plight is not discussed at all. That these "refugees" are now mostly migrants coming from rather safe places in Turkey is left out. Instead we get, at least in Europe, a sudden barrage of the-sky-is-falling coverage in all media all the time.

There will be over time a huge backlash against European politicians who, like Merkel, practically invite more migrants. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still much too high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support. Why is Merkel willing to pay this price?

Though I can not pinpoint it, the feeling I and others get is that this campaign is directed and has some certain aims.

Help me here. What is behind this campaign?

Is Erdogan pushing refugees out of Turkey towards Europe because of criticism against his policies?

Is the campaign intended to gain public support in Europe for a big intensification of the war on Syria?

@EjmAlrai
The war in #Syria is due to escalate as never seen before with #Turkish & #Arab forces are drawing plans to enter the country "2fight #ISIS"

The migrants media campaign does not feel like a normal headline rush but like a planned information operation. Who is behind this campaign and what is the intent?

Posted by b at 10:15 AM | Comments (107)

September 01, 2015

Petraeus' Trial Ballon - "Let's Work With Al-Qaeda"

An ex-CIA boss, fired for divulging secrets to his lover, wants the U.S. to ally with al-Qaeda to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

Petraeus is thus providing material support for a terrorist organization. Some judge should put him finally where he belongs.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

Yeah, because that worked so well. Many of those Sunni militias Petraeus temporarily bribed to not attack U.S. occupation forces in Iraq are now part of the Islamic State. So look up "What could possible go wrong" Volume 7 page 133 and you will find that any such alliance always ends in a worse situation. But that may the intent of Petraeus paymasters':

The concept of arming one purported enemy of the United States, which itself emerged out of a prior enemy (al-Qaeda in Iraq), in order to destroy the latest enemy ensures an environment of constant enemies, and thus warfare.

You may ask who gave Petraeus this lunatic idea? Well:

Neri Zilber @NeriZilber
Fwiw many in Israeli army-intel-media circles argue same thing as Petraeus re. Nusra. thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/…

Indeed the Israeli military has been working with al Qaeda for quite some time. It enabled al-Qaeda in Syria to take over large parts of the Golan heights by providing it with healthcare as well as artillery support against the Syrian Arab Army.

Petraeus and Hillary Clinton early on argued for arming and supporting Syrian "rebels". Much of such arming and supporting has been going on clandestinely through the CIA which Petraeus then led. Since at least 2012 the CIA  trained and payed some 10,000 anti-Syrian fighters many of whom, with their CIA provided weapons, moved on to join Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State.

The U.S. has also somewhat openly worked with al-Qaeda though so far mostly unofficially and through the Free Syrian Army proxies it provides with weapons:

Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.

But it is one thing to work clandestinely with nefarious forces and a completely different issue to do so publicly. Just think of the legal implication. The Obama administration claims to have legal backing for fighting the Islamic State on the basis of the 2003 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists which holds:

Joint Resolution [...] [t]hat the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The Department of Defense usually uses the phrases "Al-Qaeda and associated forces" or "affiliated forces" when it describes those defined in the AUMF. How then can one legally claim to fight the Islamic State under the AUMF when an ally in that fight is the major enemy cited under said AUMF?

And what would be planned for the case that al-Qaeda would actually win?

There is no way that Obama would officially declare to work with al-Qaeda or "former" al-Qaeda forces to fight against the Islamic State. "You are either with us or against al-Qaeda" won't work. The public and Congress would rip him apart.

Petraeus and his handlers know this. But why then are they launching this trial balloon?

Posted by b at 10:52 AM | Comments (75)

August 31, 2015

Netanyahoo Gives Up On Iran Deal Opposition

Netanyahoo concedes that he lost the fight against Obama:

Israel is not opposed to an Iranian nuclear program that is civilian in nature, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, during a visit to Florence on Saturday.

The Iranian nuclear program is of course exclusively civilian in nature:

United States intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and, even in the abstract, that its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons, despite the technical capacity to do so inherent in having a functional nuclear energy program.

Netanyahoo and anyone else of relevance knows this. When he no longer opposes a civilian nuclear program in Iran he has nothing left to complain about the agreement which six world powers negotiated with Iran.

The Israel lobby attack against the Iran agreement did not have the results Natanyahoo had hoped for. It was a major bust. Some of his followers in the Democratic Party, like Senator Schumer and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will probably loose their leadership positions for their open stand against the Democratic president on this issue. Good.

For a while the lobby's loss may dampen the influence Israel has over U.S. foreign policy. But in a year or two the Iran deal will be out of the news headlines and the lobby will have spent enough money to recuperate its influence.

 

Posted by b at 08:49 AM | Comments (89)

August 30, 2015

Pentagon Needs More Money To Counter Chinese Submarine Threat

 


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That the Chinese military comes up with this devious idea demonstrates that we urgently need to marshal new resources to counter this imminent threat.

No longer are the Chinese hiding their submarines in the mountains, woods or bathtubs. No. They found a new hideout for this menace:

“The South China Sea would be a good place to hide Chinese submarines,” said Carl Thayer, a U.S.-born security specialist who has taught at the University of New South Wales and other Australian institutions. The sea floor is thousands of meters deep in places, with underwater canyons where a submarine could easily avoid detection.

Putting submarines below the sea surface to avoid detection is indeed a brilliant idea. How come we did not think of this?

But don't fear. A few hundred billion dollars more for the Navy will be a great first step to counter this Chinese threat.

One or the other presidential candidate will soon make such bolstering of the Navy a core tenet of his or her program.

Posted by b at 04:29 AM | Comments (42)

August 27, 2015

The Wars In Syria And Iraq Are Also Water Wars - More Will Come

Foreign Affairs has a recommendable piece on the water wars between Turkey, Syria and Iraq: Rivers of Babylon.

Turkey has build many, many dams throughout the country to provide electricity but also for farming. When I traveled in the Turkish east in the 1990s many new projects, parts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) were visible and newly dammed water was provided to the dry regions in the south-east through open channels. A lot of this water was wasted due to vaporization but also due to the choice of water intensive news crops in a hot and often desert like region.

The water newly provided to farmers in Turkey used to flow down the Euphrates and Tigris to Syria and Iraq. Three drought years in Syria, 2006-2009, induced many farmers to leave their dry field and to move to cities where they found little work:

By 2011, drought-related crop failure had pushed up to 1.5 million displaced farmers to abandon their land; the displaced became a wellspring of recruits for the Free Syrian Army and for such groups as the Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda. Testimonies gathered by reporters and activists in conflict zones suggest that the lack of government help during the drought was a central motivating factor in the antigovernment rebellion. Moreover, a 2011 study shows that today’s rebel strongholds of Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, and Raqqa were among the areas hardest hit by crop failure.

The situation is Iraq is similar if not worse. Major regions have lost the basis for their agriculture and the farmers ask for solutions and more support.

In Karbala, Iraq, farmers are in despair and are reportedly considering abandoning their land. In Baghdad, the poorest neighborhoods rely on the Red Cross for drinking water. At times, the Red Cross has had to supply over 150,000 liters a day. Further south, Iraq’s central marshes, the Middle East’s largest wetlands, are disappearing again after being re-flooded after Saddam Hussein was ousted. In Chibayish, a town in the wetlands that one of the authors of this piece recently visited, buffalo and fish are dying. Currently, agriculture there supports at least 60,000 people. Those and hundreds of thousands more will face great hardship as water resources continue to decline.

The lack of water is not the only reason for the wars in Syria and Iraq. But it made these countries prone to inner conflicts and vulnerable to outside meddling.

But the governments of Syria and Iraq can do little to help their farmers. While there are agreements about a minimum waterflow between Turkey, Syria and Iraq there is no ways Syria and Iraq could actually press Turkey to deliver the agreed upon waterflow.

Although current agreements between Syria and Turkey provide for 500 cubic meters per second, 46 percent of which goes to Iraq, summer flows can be far less. According to Jasim al Asadi, a hydrologist with Nature Iraq, by the time the Euphrates reaches Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq, a minimum of 90 cubic meters per second is required for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use. Sometimes, the flow can be as low as 18 cubic meters per second, so unsurprisingly the marshes are receding rapidly. Before major dam construction in the 1970s, the average flow in the Euphrates was about 720 cubic meters per second. Now it is about 260 as it enters Iraq.

Nearly two-third of the waterflow Iraq used to get is gone. There is no way to replace it. Moreover what little water is currently still flowing may soon be gone too:

Turkish dams, of which there are over 140, have far more storage capacity than those downstream. And when the new Turkish dam projects are completed in the next few years, as much as 1.2 million additional hectares inside Turkey will be irrigated—an eightfold increase from today.
...
Given Turkey’s relatively better water health, it might be reasonable to think that it would stop building dams at the expense of its downstream neighbors. Instead, it has done the opposite, planning to complete 1,700 new dams and weirs within its borders.

Missing in the Foreign Affairs piece is another Turkish project which diverts even more water away from its southern neighbors. In 1974 Turkey invaded and since occupied the north of Cyprus. The occupied parts  of the island were ethnically cleansed of Greek people and as many as 150,000 Turks were transferred from Turkey and settled on their land.

Turkey has now built a pipeline to provide water from onshore Turkey to the Turkish occupied part of the island:

A recently completed pipeline crossing beneath the Mediterranean will carry 75 million cubic meters of fresh water annually from Turkey to the northern i.e. Turkish part of the divided island of Cyprus.
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The water coming through the pipelines will make the Turkish Cypriots, who already count on subsidies from Ankara for their economic survival, even more dependent on Turkey. One scenario is, therefore, that being more closely bound to the mainland, Turkish Cypriots will have less freedom when negotiating reunification with their Greek Cypriot compatriots, which will make it difficult to reach a solution.

Another Turkish project, on, off and on again over the years, are plans to lay water and gas pipelines to Israel. Israel hopes to deliver gas to Turkey and Turkey would provide water to Israel. Water that would additionally be missed in Syria and Iraq.

We need a global solution process, with enforcement instruments, to regulate natural waterflows that cross borders. The alternative is a serious of widening wars between those countries who extensively use water in their own land while downstream countries dry up.

The Turkey, Syria, Iraq situation is not the only active water war. Pakistan and India are fighting over India occupied Kashmir which holds the headwaters of the Indus river system. The Indus is Pakistan's sole water lifeline and India has used its control over Kashmir to pressure Pakistan. The next war between India and Pakistan might be just a drought away and such a war could go nuclear.

Another water war is looming between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Ethiopia is building a mega-dam on the Nile which threatens Egypt's main water supply. It is doubtful that Egypt will allow the dam to be finished. All these cases have already or will lead to wars between countries and/or civil wars over (the lack of) water.

The flow of water between countries is one of the few issue that need global governance. A rule book and a global judicial body which provides that all people along a water stream shall benefit from it. Mega-projects like the GAP in Turkey should be tested in front of such a court and its binding rulings should be backed by significant coercive powers.

The alternative not only may but will be intense wars over access to water.

Posted by b at 12:58 PM | Comments (68)

August 26, 2015

Open Thread 2015-32

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:43 PM | Comments (89)

August 24, 2015

The Trump Dystopia

 


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Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty (via Gregory Djerejian)

So THAT is the real America?

The above impressive but somewhat disturbing picture inspired some creative variations of the scene.

Cont. reading: The Trump Dystopia

Posted by b at 10:46 AM | Comments (201)

August 23, 2015

How The Saudi/UAE Invasion Of Yemen Fails

The predicted cauldron of a ground attack in Yemen is taking its toll of the invaders of the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi army. Their invasion is stuck. News and videos from the last few days show that the fighting is quite kinetic and not to the invaders advantage.


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In Aden, through which the UAE troops invaded, al-Qaeda blew up a security headquarter (video 1 min) and took over several parts of the city. AQAP militants allegedly also blew up three Yemeni coast guard vessels in Aden. There are rumors of some cooperation between UAE troops and al-Qaeda. UAE special forces freed one Robert Stuart Douglas in Aden. Douglas is a British hostage held by al-Qaeda since 2014. Was this "hostage rescue" part of a deal?

In southern Yemen a convoy of UAE mine resistant armor protected (MRAP) vehicles was ambushed on a long and windy road up into the mountains. At least three MRAPs were destroyed (video 7 min).

In another incident at least three UAE MRAPs were captured intact by Houthi forces and are now used by them (video, 2 min). Four more destroyed UAE MRAPs are visible in the clip.

Near Lawdar in Abyan, Central Yemen, another UAE patrol with at least three armored vehicles was destroyed by Houthi aligned forces using Russian made Kornet anti-armor missiles (video 3 min). This was again in mountainous terrain where road bound armored vehicles are sitting ducks for small groups armed with anti-armor missiles.

Around Jizan in Saudi Arabia, former Yemeni territory, a Saudi engineering platoon was ambushed in leafy terrain (video 3 min, photos). One M88A1 armored recovery vehicle, 1 M2A2 infantry fighting vehicle, 1 Al Shibl armored fighting vehicles, 3 armored bulldozers and 1 smaller tactical vehicle were destroyed.

A Saudi soldier was killed at the border after shelling from the Yemeni side.

Some 50 armored vehicles of Saudi backed and trained forces arrived in Marib under air cover from Saudi Apache helicopters. photo. In total some 150 such vehicles are said to have arrived in Marib. This is the brigade that days ago crossed from Saudi Arabia. The way from the Saudi desert to Marib is mostly through flat desert. From thereon to the Yemeni capital Sanaa is an uphill fight through the mountains. Few, if any, of the armored vehicles now arriving in Marib will ever reach Sanaa.

The Houthi claim that they shot down four Saudi Apache helicopters so far. At least one loss has been confirmed by the Saudi side. There is video of one Apache falling down but the moment it was hit and any the traces of the weapons used seems to have been edited out from the video video 2 min). Someone does not want the Saudis to know what anti-air toys are used against them.

When the UAE troops landed in Aden video showed a convoy of main battle tanks in battalion size. There have been no new pictures of these MBTs since then. As the above reports demonstrate taking those tanks into the mountains towards Sanaa would be a bloody mess. What then are the plans for these units?

The U.S. is supporting the Saudis and the UAE. U.S. cluster bombs are used to kill Yemeni civilians. The White House is faking concern about Yemeni civilians while doubling its support for the Saudi campaign.

It is obvious that the U.S/Saudi/UAE campaign against Yemen will not achieve any of its aims. The former U.S. installed Yemeni president Hadi will never be welcomed back in Yemen. The country is on the edge of a large scale famine. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Yemen are taking over more territory. What then is the real aim the White House is trying to achieve here?

Posted by b at 05:47 AM | Comments (71)

August 21, 2015

Syria: Is Israel Planing To Escalate?

Yesterday four rockets or mortars fired from the Syrian side of the Golan heights landed on Israel occupied parts of the Syrian Golan without causing any damage. A recent report cited the Israeli defense expert Tzvi Yechezkieli:

He noticed that all terrorist activity directed at Israel on the Golan Heights is the work of Hezbollah and not of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate that is in control of the border with Israel.

If al Qaeda is in control of the Golan border how would Hizbullah fire small, short ranged missiles over it?

And if Hizbullah could do this why would the Israeli official accuse the Islamic Jihad group?

The Israeli army warned the government in war-wracked Syria it will "suffer the consequences" after four rockets crashed Thursday into the north of the Jewish state and the occupied Golan.

"This was the work of Islamic Jihad, an organisation financed and working for Iran, and we consider the Syrian government responsible for the firing and it will suffer the consequences," the army said in a statement.

It was referring to a Palestinian militant group which is based in the Gaza Strip.
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The Islamic Jihad denied the military's accusation, saying it was not behind the rocket fire.

So how did the Islamic Jihad fire from Jabhat al Nusra, i.e. their enemies, occupied Syrian border when they are based in Gaza?

It is much more likely that the mortars were fired by al Qaeda to "request" fire support against the advancing Syrian Arab Army. Such has happened before to support Nusra advances and indeed the Israeli forces again obliged. At least 14 attacks against Syrian Army positions were flown and one additional attack against a civil car:

Israel said it carried out an air raid Friday that killed up to five Iran-backed militants it said were behind a rare rocket attack from across the border in Syria.

The strike came a day after Israel launched a dozen air raids on the Syrian-side of the occupied Golan Heights, raising concerns about a possible escalation.
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Syrian television identified them as unarmed civilians, the Israeli military source said they were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group spoke of pro-regime National Defence Forces.

Israel earlier said that it hit 14 Syrian army positions in the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan on Thursday night in response to the rocket attacks.

There is indeed fear that this could be the start of a larger Israeli operation against the Syrian government and in support of al Qaeda.

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai
Keep an eye on what is happening in #Israel and on the #Syria/n borders. Israel is deploying Iron Dome and Syria+allies on full alter now.

Over 10 #SAA positions facing Syrian rebels were air strikes by #Israel. Syrian allies believe this is not a normal #israeli response +

Front from #Syria to #Lebanon is boiling. #Hezbollah declared full alert ...

Israel is not the only entity supporting Jabhat al Nusra. In southern Syria the CIA trained mercenaries fighting against the Syrian army largely fought together with Jabhat al Nusra. They shared their CIA provided resources and their advances along the Golan height had Israeli fire support.

The Pentagon trained mercenaries who recently were infiltrated from Turkey into Syria before they got routed also had tight coordination with Nusra. Their leader said:

“We were surprised by the attack by Nusra, because we coordinated in advance with Nusra,” Abu Iskandar said. “Four months ago, Nusra showed great admiration for the training project. Nusra said . . . go get guns and come fight [the Islamic State].”

So the very selected "moderate rebels" the Pentagon trained claim tight "coordination" with al-Qaeda. One wonders how those in the U.S. military who spent the last 14 years fighting this or that al Qaeda entity feel about that.

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (41)

August 19, 2015

Yemen: U.S. Doubles Down, Saudi-UAE Invasion Stuck

The U.S./Saudi/UAE attack on Yemen continues. The air attacks on various Yemeni cities are hitting more and more civilians and few fighters. The U.S. doubled the number its "advisers" that select targets for the Saudi airforce to bomb. Recent targets include a group of 40 fighters allied with the Saudis. Another target was the port of Hodeida, the last access point through which aid could be transported into the norther part of Yemen. The four harbor cranes and the piers were destroyed. Today the airport of the capital Sanaa was again bombed and the terminal building set on fire. One wonders why as the Yemeni airspace is under complete control of the U.S. and Saudi airforces. Smaller cities from which little reporting is coming through also get hit. Julien Harneis, a UNICEF staff member in Sanaa, tweeted today:

Yesterday in Amran an airstrike killed 20 & injured 30 educators and children who were preparing exams for students who had missed the year

Over 3600 schools in Yemen are closed down and some kids get recruited by the various militia.


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The ground attack into the cauldron of Yemen by UAE and Saudi forces makes little progress. Aden and the al-Anad Air Base were cleared from Houthi forces in a well equipped campaign by the invading UAE forces and some local proxies. But where the Houthi forces left AlQaeda and local gangs of southern separatists have taken over. Further UAE attacks northward against Taizz and Ibb got stuck. Under pressure the Houthis forces melted away only to come back in the rear of the advancing UAE forces. At least three UAE vehicles were hit and destroyed.

There is no news available of the Saudi move from the north towards Marib. These forces may have been pulled back after the Houthis turned the table and invaded Saudi Arabia. They claim to have taken the Saudi Shirfa military base and are now broadcasting their successes on TV from a high point above the Saudi city of Najran.

The "young general" in Riyadh must be furious over such a disgrace. But how can he respond? There is nothing left to destroy in Yemen from the air, the ground troops are not successful and he burned all bridges with the UN so there is no one left to mediate. Washington, with zero regard to Yemeni casualties, seems to be willing to give him more rope with which, the White House may hope, he will hang himself.

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (37)

August 17, 2015

Obama Announces Readiness To Accept Another $1 Billion In Bribes

U.S. President Barack Obama declared his willingness to take in another $1 billion in bribes. He intends to use the money to bolster his ego.

As service in return Obama is offering certain political preferences during the rest of his time in office as well as selected lobbying activities after he leaves office. Bribes from particular industrial sectors will be considered as privileged.

The above is the translated content of a NYT piece today which describes Obama plans after leaving his office. For comparison parts of the long form follows:

Privately, [Mr.Obama] is preparing for his postpresidency with the same fierce discipline and fund-raising ambition that characterized the 2008 campaign that got him to the White House.
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[T]he president, first lady and a cadre of top aides map out a postpresidential infrastructure and endowment they estimate could cost as much as $1 billion.
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Shailagh Murray, a senior adviser, oversees an effort inside the White House to keep attention on Mr. Obama’s future and to ensure that his final 17 months in office, barring crises, serve as a glide path to his life as an ex-president.
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[O]fficials in the West Wing said the president’s thinking about some of his signature issues — including health care, economic inequality and fighting climate change — also involves considering their incorporation into his life after January 2017.
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The heart of the postpresidential planning is Mr. Obama’s own outreach to eclectic, often extraordinarily rich groups of people.
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The advisers said [the director Steven] Spielberg was focused on helping to develop a “narrative” for Mr. Obama in the years after he leaves office.

At a dinner this year at Spruce, a restaurant in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Mr. Obama urged technology executives to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping government become more efficient, giving some the impression that the topic would most likely be a theme of his agenda after leaving office.

The "technology executives" will have understood. Pay Obama and he will take care that the government will have to buy many more of their technology products to "become more efficient". Ditto for the other sectors mentioned.

Posted by b at 12:25 PM | Comments (74)

August 16, 2015

Trump/Kane: "If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged ..."

The U.S. presidential campaign season is usually a drag. It is much too long and the lies and false promises get so obvious that refuting them is no fun and senseless.

But watching Donald Trump is fun. He seems to be unbriefed and says whatever he thinks in that moment. His foreign policy opinions are refreshing. Here he is bashing the Saudis:

Trump called on Riyadh to share its vast wealth with the U.S. in exchange for the alliance between the two nations.
“They make a billion dollars a day,” he told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Saudi Arabia, if it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be here,” Trump said. “They wouldn’t exist.”
“They should pay us,” he added. “Like it or don’t like it, people have backed Saudi Arabia. What I really mind though is we back it at tremendous expense. We get nothing for it.”

The Saudis would of course disagree. The U.S. weapons industry is making lots of profits by selling its useless junk to the Saudis and other Gulf countries. But anyway this point is smart.

“Look, Saudi Arabia is going to be in big trouble pretty soon,” he added. “And they’re going to need help. I think Saudi Arabia is a major target, a major target.”

I agree.

Trump does not care about the Ukraine joining NATO. He seems to find it a rather useless country. He is right in that too. No wonder Trump was rated public enemy no. 9 and a "Kremlin agent" on some Ukrainian list.

The Republican party apparatus will do everything to make a Trump candidacy impossible and to put one of its pliant usual suspects into the front position. But Trump could run on his own. And that would mean more fun.

Someone compared Trump to the Citizen Kane character in the 1941 Orson Wells movie. Citizen Kane was a portrait of the rightwing newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In the Cítizen Kane movie there is a line that Donald Trump would probably use to explain why he is running at all. Mr. Kane therein says of himself:

Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel, his paper should be run out of town; a committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars. On the other hand, I am the publisher of the Inquirer! As such, it is my duty - and I'll let you in on a little secret, it's also my pleasure - to see to it that the decent, hard-working people in this community aren't robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because - they haven't anybody to look after their interests. I'll let you in on another little secret, Mr. Thatcher. I think I'm the one to do it; you see, I have money and property. If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will - maybe somebody without any money or property - and that would be too bad...

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (78)

August 14, 2015

Narrative And Reality Of The U.S. War On Syria

The Washington Post "It Never Happened" piece on Syria documented yesterday is far from the only one that avoids to mention the intimate U.S. involvement in waging war on Syria.

A New York Times piece today falsely claims:

The United States avoided intervening in the civil war between rebels and the government of Mr. Assad until the jihadist group took advantage of the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

McClatchy, which is usual better, currently has two pieces by Hannah Allam looking into U.S. involvement in the war on Syria. Unfortunately these are also full of false narratives and unchecked administration propaganda. Obama administration still predicts ‘Assad’s days are numbered’ is a take of what administration officials now claim about their early believes of the war on Syria. It also includes this whoopers:

The Americans were determined to keep the United States out of an armed conflict in Syria, but turned a blind eye as Persian Gulf allies sent weapons to hardline factions with ties to al Qaida.

Years ago the NYT and several other outlets reported that the CIA was the entity which organized the weapon transfers, thousands of tons, for the Saudis and other Gulf countries. The U.S. did not turn a blind eye. It was actively organizing the whole war from the very beginning.

In The ‘magic words:’ How a simple phrase enmeshed the U.S. in Syria’s crisis Hannah Allam lets the former ambassador to Syria Ford claim that the administration never really wanted to ouster Assad but was pressed into it:

Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria at the time, said he initially opposed calling for Assad’s ouster for two reasons: it was clear to him that sanctions were the only punishment the White House was willing to use, and that such a call would kill his efforts to start a dialogue with the regime.

Ford said he was up against the same outside pressures other officials listed – influential Republicans, a few senior Democrats, the “very loud” Syrian-American community and foreign governments – but he added one force that’s often overlooked.

“To be very frank, the press, the media, was baiting us. It’s not like the media was impartial in this,” Ford said. “Because once the Republicans started saying he has no legitimacy, the question then became at press conferences every day: Do you think he has legitimacy? What are we supposed to say? Yes, he does?”

Hogwash. Ford was one of the first to press for the ouster of Assad. He even organized the early demonstration and the media training for the "peaceful demonstrators" who were early on killing policemen and soldiers. One of the "revolutionaries" reacts to Ford's claims:

The 47th
Out of all ppl, Robert Ford is talking about Syrians being mislead by the magic words? Ford "promised" us Syrians full support in 2011.

The 47th
In private meetings In damascus, Robert Ford promised his syrian oppo friends full U.S. Support and encouraged Syrians to go on.

The 47th
He even went to fucking Hama, during the biggest protest in Syria's modern history youtu.be/AP1vGBJM4NU

The 47th
I wdnt talk abt ppl misinterpreting U.S public statements, U were ur Admin's amb, say the truth: u promised Syrians the moon, gave them shit

All these media pieces, yesterday's WaPo piece, today's false NYT claims, the McClatchy pieces, are part of the Obama strategy to play as if it was/is doing "nothing" or "just something" while at the time time running a full fledged proxy war against the Syrian government.

Joel Veldkamp lays out and analyses that strategy:

Why does the U.S. only have sixty fighters to show for its $500 million, year-old training program? Because it reinforces the narrative – nurtured by a raft of previous hopelessly inadequate, publicly-announced and -debated programs to support the opposition – of the U.S. as a helpless bystander to the killing in Syria, and of President Obama as a prudent statesman reluctant to get involved. While the Senate berates the Pentagon chief over the program’s poor results, the U.S. is meanwhile outsourcing the real fight in Syria to allies with no qualms about supporting al Qaeda against their geopolitical opponents – unless the U.S. is, as before, cooperating directly or indirectly in that support.

Once it is recognized that the “helpless bystander” narrative is false, and that the U.S. has been deeply involved in the armed conflict almost from the start, it becomes both possible and necessary to question that involvement.

What I find astonishing is that the U.S. media are able to have it both ways on Syria. Every other day there is a piece with the false narrative that the U.S. is not and has not been involved in Syria while at the same time the very same media, NYT, WaPo, McClatchy, publish other pieces about the massive "secret" military effort with thousands of tons of weapon shipments and billions of dollars the Obama administration pushes into Syria to wage war against the Syrian people.

The media know that the "helpless bystander” narrative is false. But Joel Veldkamp's hope that this would make it "possible and necessary to question that involvement" is not coming true. Besides in fringe blogs like this one there is no such public discussion at all.

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (53)

August 13, 2015

U.S. War On Syria - For WaPo's Erin Cunningham "It Never Happened"

At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget, ...
 
U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.
Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut
Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, June 12 2015

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The ambiguity of the mission has highlighted concerns about the United States’s growing involvement in the Syrian conflict, which is estimated to have killed more than 230,000 people since 2011.

The United States has so far played a limited role, training a handful of Syrian rebels who it says were vetted for ties to extremists.

U.S. said it will create a safe zone on Syrian border. But nobody knows how.
Erin Cunningham, Washington Post, Aug 13 2015

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It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the U.S. throughout the world have been systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless, and fully documented but nobody talks about them.
It Never Happened, Harold Pinter, 1997

Posted by b at 08:01 AM | Comments (19)

August 12, 2015

Open Thread 2015-31

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:16 PM | Comments (90)

August 10, 2015

Turkey Invades Syria, Goes For Aleppo

Today al Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al Nusra which the U.S. has nurtured since 2012, pulled back from its areas in Aleppo governate. The Turkish president Erdogan wants these areas to block a Kurdish autonomous area in north Syria but also as a supply zone for his forces which those will need to later take Aleppo city, Erdogan's real strategic target.

Nusra claims that the retreat was because it would not support Turkey's attack on Syria and/or fight against the Islamic State for solely Turkish and U.S. gains. But the timing makes it clear that it had simply received an order or an offer it could not refuse: "Move now or we will cut you off from the money and logistics you have received for so long."

A few hours after Nusra pulled away from the fronts in Aleppo governate and moved towards Idlib the Turkish invasion started:

@sayed_ridha
Reports of first Turkmen Battalion from the #Turkey backed Sultan Murad Army entering #Syria via Bab Al-Salame #Aleppo

@SerioSito
BREAKING Kurdish ANF: "occupying forces organized by MİT" entered Syria from the Bab Al-Selamê border gate #TwitterKurds #Turkey #Syria 1/2

@SerioSito
ANF: (Turkmen) “Sultan Murat Brigade” & “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade” entered #Syria via Bab al-#Salameh + one group coming from Idlib 2/2

@SerioSito
Al-Nusra leaves N Aleppo 4 Idlib, Turkmen groups leave Idlib 4 N Aleppo = preparation 4 Turkish controlled Safe-Zone

U.S. Air Force fighter jets have arrived at Incerlik air-base in Turkey and provide air cover for the Turkish invasion.

The Turkish intelligence service M.I.T. has trained some 5,000 Turkmen, allegedly Syrians of Turkish heritage and speaking the Turkish language, to take Erdogan's corridor to Aleppo:

Touching the Turkish border at the provinces of Kilis and Gaziantep, it is nearly 100 km in width, from Azaz in the west and Cerablus in the east and with an approximate depth of 40 km. Turkish jets (and artillery when necessary) will hit targets mostly in this region for “cleaning” it of ISIL forces. This is planned to be executed with the help of a 5,000 strong army mainly consisting of Turkmens living in Syria. One source said that this force, which has been assisted by Turks, would be in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition. (Turkish government had announced earlier that the ammunition carried by the trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization and seized by gendarmerie on their way to Syria in January 2014 were not going to ISIL nor al-Nusra related groups but Turkmens defending themselves.)

Many of these "Turkmen" will simply be relabeled Jabhat al Nusra mercenaries and jihadists, others will be Turkish special forces. They are to hold the ground for the coming Turkish "moderate rebel" attack to take all of Aleppo.

Meanwhile international negotiations over ending the war on Syria are proceeding. Some interesting new information came to light today.

From Al-Akhbar but with Mujtahid quoted tweets… nevertheless… an interesting turn we are seeing in many media reports – the essence is a way to get an Arab agreement on Bashar staying (for now) and stopping this war.

Translated by mideastwire.com in tonight’s Daily Briefing: “…The first reaction came from within the Kingdom through the tweets of famous Saudi Tweeter, Mujtahid, who revealed the existence of “an Emirati, Egyptian, Jordanian, Omani agreement to rehabilitate the Syrian regime; and attempts at convincing Saudi Arabia to approve the plan.”
...
“Mujtahid indicated that the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince promised that the Kingdom will not object to the rehabilitation of the Syrian regime and the return of the ambassadors of any country to Damascus “provided that the Saudi participation in this arrangement is delayed.” He added that “Ben Salman has no reservations and the reason for his hesitation is because the American and Turkish intelligence services believe that Al-Assad will not be lasting for much longer and that it’s wrong to bet on him….”

The Arabs dictators who wanted Assad to go have changed their opinions. Russia (and Iran) nudge them along. They are ready to again accept Assad and the Syrian state. As they are mostly paying all the mercenaries fighting against the Syrian state this would be a real step towards peace.

But the Turks and the U.S. have different plans. How else could they now insist that Assad will soon fall? Something they have predicted since 2011. They must have their plans to continue the war and Erdogan's attack on Syria today is exactly into that direction.

As the Arabs are now turning away from regime change in Syria the U.S. and Turkey come under time constrains. They will now move faster to achieve their aims.

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (97)

August 08, 2015

Nine Crazy Men ... And Donald Trump


GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential election after their first debate.

Nine dull and rather crazy men. And Donald Trump.

;-)

Posted by b at 07:05 AM | Comments (89)

 
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