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October 22, 2017

Open Thread 2017-38

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 16: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Ahab Jezebel dissects the bullshit the Washington Post peddles on Syria.

October 16/17: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Egged on by Netanyahoo the Barzani mafia made a bid to steal Kirkuk and its oil from Iraq. The Iraqis disagreed with being robbed and took back their land. Barzani failed. The Kurdish bubble deflated. There will be no Kurdish independence.

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Background analysis on the failure of Barzani's bid and thoughts on the consequences in Iraq and Syria.

October 18: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

After having bused out the remaining ISIS fighter, the U.S. declared victory in Raqqa. But after more than 20,000 bomb impacts the city lies in ruins. U.S. envoy McGurk brought in the Saudis to pay for rebuilding it. They will pay, but only for new Wahhabi mosques that will then create the next incarnation of ISIS.

October 19: The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

Members of the U.S. military are well cared for and mostly live a safe life. There is factually little 'sacrifice' in being a U.S. soldier. While one side of the propaganda depicts the military as 'heroic', another side emphasis the ever growing 'fears' it allegedly has. That doesn't compute.

October 20: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Three op-eds in four days? Clearly, someone hired Emma Sky for an influence campaign. She argues for keeping U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and Emma Sky's very active role in it, created the mess in the first place.

October 21: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

The generals have consolidated their power within the White House. They are now moving to extend it over the public.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:32 AM | Comments (30)

October 21, 2017

"Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

In an advertising campaign in 2008 the U.S. Air Force declared itself to be "Above All". The slogan and symbol of the campaign was similar to the German "Deutschland Über Alles" campaign of 1933. It was a sign of things to come.

On Thursday Masha Gessen watched the press briefing of White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly and concluded:

The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
  1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. ...
  2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. ...
  3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs. ...
  4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. ...

Gessen is late. The coup happened months ago. A military junta is in strong control of White House polices. It is now widening its claim to power.

All along Trump has been the candidate of the military. The other two power centers of the power triangle, the corporate and the executive government (CIA), had gone for Clinton. The Pentagon's proxy defeated the CIA proxy. (Last months' fight over Raqqa was similar - with a similar outcome.)

On January 20, the first day of the Not-Hillary presidency, I warned:

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet.

With the help of the media the generals in the White House defeated their civilian adversary. In August the Trump ship dropped its ideological pilot. Steve Bannon went from board. Bannon's militarist enemy, National Security Advisor General McMaster, had won. I stated:

A military junta is now ruling the United States

and later explained:

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

The military took full control of White House processes and policies:

Everything of importance now passes through the Junta's hands ... To control Trump the Junta filters his information input and eliminates any potentially alternative view ... The Junta members dictate their policies to Trump by only proposing certain alternatives to him. The one that is most preferable to them, will be presented as the only desirable one. "There are no alternatives," Trump will be told again and again.

With the power center captured the Junta starts to implement its ideology and to suppress any and all criticism against itself. 

On Thursday the 19th Kelly criticized Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of South Florida for hearing in (invited) on a phone-call Trump had with some dead soldiers wife:

Kelly then continued his criticism of Wilson, mentioning the 2015 dedication of the Miramar FBI building, saying she focused in her speech that she “got the money” for the building.

The video of the Congresswoman's speech (above link) proves that Kelly's claim was a fabrication. But one is no longer allowed to point such out. The Junta, by definition, does not lie. When the next day journalists asked the White House Press Secretary about Kelly's unjustified attack she responded:

MS. SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think that that -- if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

It is now "highly inappropriate" to even question the Junta that rules the empire.

Cont. reading: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

Posted by b at 03:58 PM | Comments (63)

October 20, 2017

Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

While the Iraqi government forces sweep Kirkuk clean of the Kurdish occupation, one writer strongly pushed pro-Kurdish/anti-Iranian views. Three pieces by Emma Sky appeared in three prestigious imperial outlets within just four days. They are noticeable for the slander and lies. Obviously they are part of a well prepared lobbying campaign.

The author is not an neutral observer or academic specialist. Emma Sky is the person most responsible for messing up Kirkuk. She is also a 'Mother of ISIS'.

On October 16 Emma Sky published in Foreign Affairs: Mission Still Not Accomplished in Iraq - Why the United States Should Not Leave.

On October 18 she plants the same notion in The Atlantic: America Has Become Dispensable in Iraq. The subtitle reveals what it is really about:

The conflict in Kirkuk offers further evidence of Iran’s steady rise.

Sky pushes hard to implant a sectarian, anti-Iran meme. Consider this howler:

Once more, Iran is playing the key role, helping to broker a deal between the PUK and the Iraqi government and guiding the Shia militias supporting the Iraqis.

What nationality please to the "Shia militia" in Iraq have? Are they from Mars?

When ISIS rose in 2014 U.S. President Obama held back support for the Iraqi government to get rid of the just reelected Prime Minister Maliki:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.

Iran with its Revolutionary Guards jumped in and hastily trained and equipped volunteers into Popular Mobilization Units. These groups managed to stop ISIS from taking Baghdad. The PMU  are under the exclusive command of the Iraqi government. They are official Iraqi government forces, not exclusively Shia and no longer accompanied by Iranian advisors. No Iranian troops or advisers were involved in the liberation of Kirkuk. Sky's claim is all wrong. Sky has a hobby horse:

A compromise of some sort could be reached on confederation for Kurdistan and a special status for Kirkuk.

On October 19 Emma Sky appears in The Guardian: Iraq’s Kurds have overplayed their hand. Now both sides must talk. Within that piece she claims:

When the Iraqi security forces fled in the face of Isis in 2014 it was the Kurds, with support from the US-led coalition, who fought back and pushed them out of Kirkuk.

That was definitely not the case. ISIS never touched Kirkuk. Indeed the piece Emma Sky links to as reference never says so. It mentions that Iraqi army deserters were fleeing from ISIS in Mosul towards Kirkuk. In June 2014 the Kurdish Peshmerga invaded Kirkuk, threw out disoriented Iraqi government forces and occupied the city. This was at the very same time as ISIS took Mosul. ISIS and Peshmerga fighters delineated their borders and had their checkpoints only a few meters apart. Video showed them inviting each other for dinner. Sky's core point in the piece is that the Kurds, for their falsely claimed "rescue" of Kirkuk from ISIS, now deserve some part of it:

It is time to revisit the idea of a special status for Kirkuk, with power-sharing between the different communities

A "special status" for Kirkuk is not reasonable. It is a normal Iraqi city and, like many others, has a religiously and ethnic diverse population. That Sky tries to justify a special status for Kurds in Kirkuk with a fight against ISIS that never happened demonstrates how dishonest the claim is.

The "special status" idea for Kirkuk came up in 2003 when an ignorant British governor of Kirkuk, imposed by the U.S./UK occupation, was lost in internecine claims to the oil rich province between Kurdish expansionists and local Arabs. That governor was one Emma Sky.

Like other imperial freaks Sky later found a warm place at Yale.

An extensive discussion of Emma Sky's prior misdeeds in Iraq was published in June 2016 by Maniza Naqvi. The author summarized:

Emma Sky—the woman who assisted in the unraveling of Iraq and the region, who became the right hand of General Odierno in Iraq—and the architect of the ‘Sunni Awakening'---is perhaps, the Mother of Daesh, the word for terror in Iraq and Syria and the entire region or as the West calls it, ISIS.

The piece follows Sky's way as imperial overlord throughout the U.S. occupation. It quotes from her questioning in front of the the British Iraq Inquiry Committee. The transcripts reflect how completely unprepared the U.S. and its British stooges were when they arrogantly imposed themselves onto the country.

Cont. reading: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Posted by b at 03:43 PM | Comments (67)

October 19, 2017

The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

The U.S. military is a socialist paradise:

Service members and their families live for free on base. People living off base are given a stipend to cover their housing costs. They shop in commissaries and post exchanges where prices for food and basic goods are considerably lower than at civilian stores. Troops and their families count on high-quality education and responsive universal health care. They expect to be safe at home, as bases, on average, have less violence than American cities of comparable size. And residents enjoy a wide range of amenities—not just restaurants and movie theaters but fishing ponds, camp sites, and golf courses built for their use.

Of course, some bases are better than others. But even the most austere provides a comprehensive network of social welfare provisions and a safety net that does not differentiate between a junior employee and an executive.

For those who stay on, the military provides a generous retirement pay.

"But life in the military is dangerous!"

Not so.

According to a 2012 study by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) the risk to ones life is lower for soldiers than for civilians:

In the past two decades (which include two periods of intense combat operations), the crude overall mortality rate among U.S. service members was 71.5 per 100,000 [person-years]. In 2005, in the general U.S. population, the crude overall mortality rate among 15-44 year olds was 127.5 per 100,000 p-yrs.

The huge difference is quite astonishing. The death rate for soldiers would still have been lower than for civilians if the U.S. had started another medium size war:

If the age-specific mortality rates that affected the U.S. general population in 2005 had affected the respective age-groups of active component military members throughout the period of interest for this report, there would have been approximately 13,198 (53%) more deaths among military members overall.

Those working in the U.S. military, even when the U.S. is at war, have a quite pampered life with lots of benefits. They have less risk to their lives than their civilian peers. But when some soldier dies by chance, the announcements speak of "sacrifice". The fishermen, transport and construction workers, who have the highest occupational death rates, don't get solemn obituaries and pompous burials.

There may be occasions where soldiers behave heroic and die for some good cause. But those are rather rare incidents. The reports thereof are at times manipulated for propaganda purposes.

The U.S. military spends more than a billion per year on advertisement.  It spends many uncounted millions on hidden information operations. These are not designed to influence an enemy but the people of the United States. In recent years the U.S. military and intelligence services have scripted or actively influenced 1,800 Hollywood and TV productions. Many of the top-rated movie scripts pass through a military censorship office which decides how much 'production assistance' the Department of Defense will provide for the flick.

A rather schizophrenic aspect of its safe life is the military's fear. Despite being cared for and secure, the soldiers seem to be a bunch of scaredy-cats. The military's  angst is very ambiguous. It meanders from issue to issue. This at least to various headlines:

Members of the U.S. military live quite well. They are safe. Their propaganda depicts them as heroes. At the same time we are told that they are a bunch of woosies who fear about anything one can think of.

I find that a strange contradiction.

/snark

Posted by b at 12:32 PM | Comments (118)

October 18, 2017

Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

There is dangerous news evolving from Raqqa, Syria. While ISIS is largely defeated seeds get sown for its reappearance.

The Kurdish forces under the label SDF and led by U.S. special forces have defeated ISIS in Raqqa. Cleanup operations continue. The victory came only after the the U.S. and its proxies agreed to give free passage to the last few hundreds of foreign and Syrian ISIS fighters and their families. Since these boarded buses and were moved out of Raqqa on Saturday night nothing has been heard of them.

On Monday the U.S. coordinator for the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, brought an unwelcome visitor to Syria.

Raqqa24 @24Raqqa - 9:49 AM - 17 Oct 2017

Brett McGurk visited Ayn Issa today with the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan (former Ambassador to Iraq) & joined 3 different meetings. #R24

First meeting was with the local council of #Raqqa then with reconstruction committee at the least they met with elders of Raqqa

Picture of the visit of Brett McGurk and Thamer al-Sabhan. Source: Unknown


via Raqqa24 - bigger

The visit was confirmed by a (pro Kurd) journalist:

Wladimir‏ @vvanwilgenburg - 5:06 PM - 17 Oct 2017
Wladimir Retweeted Raqqa24

I was there. No pictures allowed. Meeting was indeed about reconstruction.

Thamer al-Sabhan is the Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs. He is known to be extremely sectarian and anti-Shia.

In 2015 Thamer al-Sabhan was appointed as the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq since the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait in 1990. He made no friends in Baghdad when he ranted against the Popular Mobilization Units, which had stopped and fought back ISIS. He denigrated the most revered religious scholar in Iraq:

Cont. reading: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (58)

October 17, 2017

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

The bid of the Kurdish Barzani clan for an independent Kurdistan in north Iraq and beyond has utterly failed. Masoud Barzani, the strongman of the Iraqi Kurdish  region, had called for the referendum to divert from his government's financial problems. Other Kurdish powerhouses saw it as a last attempt by Barzani to save his failing political position. The referendum asked for independence including in "Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region". It was an annexation bid. National Iraqi forces as well as the international powers turned against it. Masoud Barzani and his family are now likely to lose their leading position.

The various unilateral Kurdish assertions since 2003 will be driven back. The dream of Kurdish independence in Iraq and Syria is, for now, dead. This is a positive development for both countries.

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Since 2003 and especially since 2014 the Kurds had pushed far beyond their original borders. They occupied areas with diverse populations and with critical Iraqi oil reserves. With backing from the Iraqi parliament, public opinion and international support the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Abadi had for months demanded a return of the 2003 borders. It condemned the illegal independence bid.

The ruling Barzani family mafia sold the oil and pocketed the money that by law was owned to Iraq's federal government. The Barzani militia mafia occupied the federal border stations to neighboring countries and kept all custom income to themselves. Meanwhile teachers and other public workers in the Kurdish region went unpaid.

The Barzani family clan is only one of the powers in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Historically its main competitors are the Talabani clan. Both clans control their own political parties (KDP and PUK) and militia. Both had been fighting against each other during a civil war in the 1990s. Then the Barzanis called in help from Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to defeat their local enemies.

Over the last decade the Talabanis were handicapped by their ailing patriarch Jalal Talabani. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq he eschewed a major role in the Kurdish region in exchange for the ceremonial position of a president of Iraq. When Jalal Talbani died on October 2 his family immediately asserted its position. It negotiated a deal with the central Iraqi government to reign in the Barzanis' quasi dictatorial powers. The Iranian General Qassam Suleiman helped to arrange the agreement.

When the Iraqi government forces, as previously announced, moved to retake Kirkuk from the Kurds the Kurdish militia forces (peshmerga) under PUK/Talibani command retreated as planned. The militia under KDP/Barzani command were left in an indefensible position and had to flee in haste.

Yesterday and today Iraqi national forces retook control of various large oil fields the Kurds had occupied. They are also back in control of border stations with Syria and Turkey. After three years the Yazidi can finally go back to Sinjar. The Mosul Dam is again in government hands. Without oil and customs dues the Kurdish region lacks the assets and income to finance any regional independence. While his project collapsed in front of everyone's eyes, not a word was heard from Masoud Barzani.

The Iraqi government will not only retake full control of the areas the Kurds under Brazani had illegally usurped. It will also demand new regional elections. It is doubtful that Masoud Barzani, or any of his sons, can win such local elections after all the mismanagement and disasters they caused.

In Syria the Kurdish YPG/SDF forces today took full control of Raqqa. It will take months to clear the last remands ISIS left behind. It will take years to rebuild the city as it was largely destroyed by U.S. air support during the fight against ISIS.

Cont. reading: Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (81)

October 16, 2017

How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

by Ahab Jezebel

One of the most prestigious US medias, The Washington Post clearly has no built-in review mechanism for monitoring the quality and veracity of its source material relating to the coverage of war zone news. This is particularly apparent with regard to the reporting of the ongoing war situation in Syria. At present these professional standards have slipped and the paper has placed itself outside the ranks of real journalism and professionalism on which it built its enviable reputation - long before the war in Syria.

Spreading propaganda, and relying only on activists, is not professional. It resembles paid publicity, designed to affect public opinion, and it takes advantage of less informed readers and politicians.

We can open a small window into one of the latest articles on Syria by The Washington Post entitled:”Civilian casualties spiral in Syria as air raids target areas marked for cease-fire”. The article was not written from Syria but from Beirut (Lebanon), although it speaks authoritatively about Syria in great detail – and this from a journalist who has never been to Syria, and certainly not during the six years of the war.

In its second paragraph the newspaper talks of "groups monitoring the conflict": but every single human being on Earth interested in the Syrian war is monitoring the conflict - including my 87 year-old neighbour, Louise (her name). She is able to tell me stories about daily bombing and "Daesh" (The "Islamic State" – ISIS) attacking "every day and maybe coming to Europe," according to her conclusions drawn from monitoring mainstream media. She believes Syria is a country of ghosts and that Assad, Daesh and the US are "working together against evil Russia".

The Washington Post further undermines its own credibility by quoting the “White Helmets,” who apparently report that “80% of ... attacks targeted civilian areas”. Not everybody knows how biased the White Helmets are: in fact some of their histrionic performances have been said to rival Shakespeare. Professional journalism by a reputable newspaper should be ill at ease when quoting “a fake professional exhibitionist group.” And where, indeed, in Syria were the White Helmets based? In an al-Qaeda controlled city, working very closely with that terrorist group- the very same group responsible for 9/11!

The newspaper doesn’t stop at that: it insinuates - according to its title and introduction - that "pro-government forces launched hundreds of bombing raids across areas marked for international protection": yet the same journalist who wrote that article re-tweeted that "there were also 1,278 declared Coalition strikes in Syria last month".

Cont. reading: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Posted by b at 09:21 AM | Comments (58)

Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Today the Iraqi government took Kirkuk back from occupying Kurdish forces. This marks the end of the Kurdish independence project in Iraq.

in 2014 the Islamic State occupied Mosul.  At the same time the regional Kurdish government under Masoud Barzani sent its Peshmerga troops to take the oil rich city of Kirkuk from the collapsing forces of the central Iraqi government. There were plausible allegations and some evidence (vid) that the Kurds had made a deal with ISIS and coordinated the move.

In 2016 and 2017 Iraqi forces defeated ISIS in Mosul. Kurdish groups took the opportunity of the ISIS defeat to occupy further land, even as that did not have a Kurdish majority population and did not belong to their autonomous region.

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The red lined area is the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq as accepted by the Iraqi constitution. The red dotted line is the additional area the Kurds intended to take and at times controlled.

The Iraqi government insisted that the situation be turned back to the pre-2014 lines. The vast majority of the people in Kirkuk are Arab and Turkmen. Kirkuk produces two-third of all oil in north-Iraq. There was not a chance that any central government of Iraq would leave the city and these riches to Kurdish occupiers. The central government move to reassert federal authority is backed by parliament decisions and was announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

bigger

But the Kurdish leaders did neither think nor listen. The leading Barzani clan and his KDP party, long associated with Israel, tried to solidify their resource robbery. On September 25 they held an "independence referendum" in all areas under their control. All countries, except Israel, spoke out against this move.

But Barzani was urged on by the Zionists and international neo-conservatives:

Cont. reading: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Posted by b at 04:38 AM | Comments (58)

October 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-37

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

October 7 - Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

Turkish forces eventually entered Idleb (see below). But not as the Astana agreement had foreseen.

October 8 - Missing - A Motive For The Las Vegas Killing Spree

There has been no new information on the massacre in Las Vegas. No new gun laws to restrict (semi-)automatic weapons seem to be forthcoming. The whole affair has vanished from the news.

October 9 - Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda could do so much damage to Turkey that Erdogan has to ally with it. Here are details of the Idleb arrangement between Turkey and al-Qaeda as narrated by an al-Qaeda member. Turkey will not touch al-Qaeda and enters Idleb only to besiege the Kurds.

October 10 - Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

The fires are still raging - 6,000 house so far have been completely destroyed (vids). Only the chimneys are left.

October 11 - Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

The latest Russia nonsense comes from CNN which, in the headline and lede, say that Russia used the Pokemon game to influence Americans, but down in the piece admits that it has no evidence for the claim.

October 12 - Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

The U.S. secret services dislike the Kaspersky anti-virus package presumably because it is difficult to hack. They use their bullhorns to practically ban it from the market. This makes the Kaspersky suite the most recommendable anti-virus snake-oil.

October 13 - 8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Recent examples of headlines asserting facts that the pieces below those headlines do not back up or even refute.

October 14 - Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump acts like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Fun to watch - until one is part of the china.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:33 PM | Comments (95)

October 14, 2017

Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

After free passage negotiations with the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy forces, ISIS is moving its fighters out of Raqqa city. When the Syrian government reached similar agreements the U.S. childishly criticized it. The U.S. coalition claims that it was "not involved in the discussions" that led to the Raqqa free passage agreement. A BBC News report shows that the opposite is true.

Over the last two years the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy force in Syria made several deals with the Islamic State. In 2016, for example, they negotiated a deal with Islamic State fighters to move from Manbij to the Turkish border to avoid further casualties in the fight about the city.

But when in August 2017 Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian government negotiated a deal with some 300 besieged ISIS fighters and their families at the Lebanese-Syria border, the U.S. loudly protested. The U.S. military blocked and threatened to bomb the evacuation convoy over several days and the U.S. envoy McGurk ranted against it:

7:20 AM - 30 Aug 2017 - Brett McGurk @brett_mcgurk

Irreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent 1/2
Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling "caliphate." 2/2

Over the last months U.S. supported Kurdish proxy fighters besieged the city of Raqqa and fought to take it from ISIS. An immense amount of U.S. bombs was released to lower the casualty numbers of the U.S.proxy forces. The city was literally "destroyed to save it". Many of its civilian inhabitants were killed. During the last days rumors abounded that a deal was made between the U.S. and ISIS. It would give ISIS fighters free passage when leaving the city. Today these rumors were confirmed:

Cont. reading: Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (80)

October 13, 2017

Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump hates the international nuclear deal with Iran.  The agreement put temporary restriction of Iran's nuclear program and opened it up to deeper inspections. The other sides of the deal committed to lifting sanctions and to further economic cooperation. Trump wants to get rid of the deal; but he is unwilling to pay the political price.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was negotiated and signed by the five permanent UN Security Council members (U.S., Ch, Ru, UK, F), Germany, the EU and Iran. If the U.S. defaults on the deal it will be in a lone position. The diplomatic isolation would limit its abilities to use its influence on other issues.

Trump has little knowledge of Iran, the nuclear deal, the Middle East or anything else. What he knows comes from Fox News and from Netanyahoo and other Zionist whisperers who get to his ear. All he heard is that the deal with Iran is bad. Therefore, he concluded, it must end.

The White House handed a paper to the media which is supposed to describe President Donald J. Trump's New Strategy on Iran. But there is no strategy in that paper. It list a number of aims the Trump wants to achieve. But it does no explain how he plans to do that. It is a wish list, not a program to follow.

The "Core Elements of the Presidents New Iran Strategy" are:

Cont. reading: Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (87)

October 12, 2017

8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Headlines lie to catch attention. Only few read beyond them.

They will miss the facts, and the falsehood of the headlines. It is a dangerous development.

Here is an Australian example of current headline writing:


Top secret information about Australia’s military hacked

The lede:

TOP secret technical information about new fighter jets, navy vessels, and surveillance aircraft has been stolen from an Australian defence contractor.

The story could be relevant - if true. But it does not hold what the headline promises. The text says:

  • ".. the firm was subcontracted four levels down from defence contracts."
  •  ".. a mum and dad type business ... with about 50 employees"
  • "the admin password, to enter the company’s web portal, was ‘admin’ and the guest password was ‘guest’"
  • "the information ... included a diagram in which you could zoom in down to the captain’s chair and see that it was one metre away from the navigation chair"
  • "the information disclosed was commercially sensitive, it was unclassified"

The last snippet completely rebuts the headline. It appears in 18th of the 20 paragraph story.

A truthful (but boring) headline might have said: "Mechanics rat-shop puts marketing stuff on open website". No one would have clicked on it.

Headlines disproved by the following text have become common:

"It was not immediately clear what Trump was responding to."
"A large number of ads appeared in [other] areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections."
"It is too soon to map out exactly how the drug war will affect the health of Filipinos."

News content is now of lesser relevance than ever. "Clicks" are generated by headlines:

"Clicks" generate "visits" which convert into advertising revenue. Such headlines make economic sense - short-term. But the best paying advertisers seek a quality audience. In the long-term they will avoid such sites.

Once upon a time sensationalist false headlines were the loony realm of tabloid media. That is unfortunately no longer the case. Headlines of even reputable media no longer transmit facts. One has to dive deep into the stories to get to real information.

This trend will lead to a further stultification of the population. It makes it easier to manipulate the plebs.

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (42)

October 11, 2017

Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Since May 2017 certain U.S. circles openly campaign against security products provided by the Russian company Kaspersky Labs. Three recent stories claim involvement of the software in rather fantastic "Russian hackers" stories. It is renewed attack after a silent spy campaign in 2015 against Kaspersky had failed. The current stories seem inconsistent, lack logic and evidence.

If one believes all the now made claims then Israel hacked Kaspersky, which was hacking an NSA employee who had stolen NSA hacks, while being hacked by Russia which was hacked by the NSA, while the NSA was warned by Israel about Russian hacks. Makes sense?

The Russian company Kaspersky Lab makes and sells the probably best anti-virus protection software available. All anti-virus software packages need full access to the system they run on. It is the only way to assure that the packages themselves are not compromised by some super-virus. Anti-virus packages upload malware they find for further analysis. They also update themselves through a secure internet connection. This enables the product to detect new viruses soon after they have been discovered in the wild. Both of the characteristics, full system access and online-update, make these tools inherently dangerous. They can be abused either by their producer or by someone who infiltrates the producers systems.

Computer geeks call such products "snake-oil" as they promise a grade of security that can not be guaranteed, even while they themselves constitute a significant security risk. One either must trust such anti-virus packages or not use them at all.

Since May 2017 Congress made noise about banning Kaspersky products from the U.S. Defense Department and other government entities. In September the Department of Homeland Security order all federal agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their system. Kaspersky Lab makes some 60% of its total revenues in the United States. The DHS order and the resulting press reports will do very serious damage to its business. It will help to sell competing U.S. products.

Eugene Kaspersky, the owner of the company, has offered to provide the source code of the products for review by U.S. government specialists. He also offered to testify before Congress. Both to no avail.

There is fear mongering, without any evidence, that Kaspersky may cooperate with the Russian government. Similar accusations could be made about any anti-virus product. U.S. and British spies systematically target all anti-virus products and companies:

The British spy agency regarded the Kaspersky software in particular as a hindrance to its hacking operations and sought a way to neutralize it.
...
An NSA slide describing "Project CAMBERDADA" lists at least 23 antivirus and security firms that were in that spy agency's sights. They include the Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure, the Slovakian firm Eset, Avast software from the Czech Republic. and Bit-Defender from Romania. Notably missing from the list are the American anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee as well as the UK-based firm Sophos.

That the NSA and the British GCHQ did not list U.S. and British made anti-virus products on their "to do" list lets one assume that these packages can already be controlled by them.

In February 2015 Kaspersky announced that it found U.S. and UK government spying and sabotage software infecting computers in some 42 countries. It released a detailed report about the "Equation group", its name for NSA and GCHQ spy tools. In June 2015 Kaspersky Lab detected a breach in its own systems by an Israeli government malware. It published an extensive autopsy of the breach and the malware programs used in it. Meanwhile the NSA attacked Kaspersky products and customers:

The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.

Later that year the CIA and FBI even tried to recruit Kaspersky employees but were warned off.

That the U.S. government now attempts to damage Kaspersky is likely a sign that Kaspersky Lab and its products continue to be a hard-target which the NSA and GCHQ find difficult to breach.

To justify the public campaign against Kaspersky, which began in May, U.S. officials recently started to provide a series of cover stories. A diligent reading of these stories reveals inconsistencies and a lack of logic.

On October 5 the Wall Street Journal reported: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense:

Cont. reading: Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (58)

October 10, 2017

"Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

After the ludicrous "Russian hacking" claims have died down for lack of evidence, the attention was moved to even more ludicrous claims of "Russian ads influenced the elections". Some readers are upset that continue to debunk the nonsense the media spreads around this. But lies should not stand without response. If only to blame the reporters and media who push this dreck.

As evidence is also lacking for any "Russian interference" claims the media outlets have started to push deceiving headlines. These make claims that are not covered at all by the content of the related pieces. The headlines are effective because less than 20% of the viewers ever read beyond them.

On the NYT Homepage today we find another one of these: Google Finds Russia Bought Ads to Interfere in Election.

Google has found no ads that "Russia", the state or nation, has bought. There is also no evidence that the ads in question interfered in any way with the election. There is evidence that any of the ads in questions aimed to achieve that. The opener of the piece repeats the false headline claims. But now we have "Russian agents", not "Russia", which allegedly did something.

Google has found evidence that Russian agents bought ads on its wide-ranging networks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.

The term "Russian agents" is not defined at all. Where these "secret agents" or Public Relation professionals in Washington DC hired by some Russian entity?

Using accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government, the agents purchased $4,700 worth of search ads and more traditional display ads, according to a person familiar with the company’s inquiry ...

"Accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government." Believed by whom? And how is "connected" defined? Isn't any citizen "connected" to his or her government?

Those believed, connected accounts bought a whopping $4,700 of ads? Googles 2016 revenue was $89,000,000,000. The total campaign expenditures in 2016 were some $6,000,000,000. The Clinton campaign spent some $480,000 on social network ads alone. But something "Russian" spending $4,700 was "interference"?

But wait. There is more:

Google found a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material that were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency. It is not clear whether any of those were connected to the Russian government, and they may have been purchased by Russian citizens, the person said.

So now we are on to something. A full $53,000 worth of ads. But ....

The messages of those ads spanned the political spectrum. One account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped,” a film about Donald J. Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline. Another spent $36,000 on ads questioning whether President Barack Obama needed to resign. Yet another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Mr. Obama.

The film is anti-Trump. Obama not resigning would have been anti-Trump. Selling Obama merchandise may have been good business, but is certainly not pro-Trump. So at least $43,000 of a total of $53,000 mentioned above was spent by believed, connected "Russians" on ads that promoted anti-Trump material. How does that fit with the claims that "Russia" wished to get Trump elected? Putin pushed the wrong button?

The allegedly "Russian" Facebook ads were just a click-bait scheme by some people trying to make money. The allegedly "Russian" Goggle ads were of a volume that is unlikely to have made any difference in anything. They were also anti-Trump.

Clinton lost because people on all sides had learned to dislike her policies throughout the years. She was unelectable. Her party was and is acting against the interest of the common people. No claim of anything "Russian" can change those facts.

Posted by b at 11:37 AM | Comments (55)

Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Below the fold:

An impressive video of a ten minutes bicycle ride, at night, through a burning Santa Rosa neighborhood.

The people got out. But those plywood buildings had no chance. (One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments.)

Cont. reading: Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Posted by b at 02:21 AM | Comments (59)

October 09, 2017

Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Yesterday Turkish army forces entered the Syrian Idleb governate from the west. The move is officially part of a de-escalation supervision process agreed upon between Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran. One point of the agreement is to continue the fight against al-Qaeda in Syria, currently operating under the name Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS controls large parts of Idleb governate.

This is confirmed in the official Turkish Idleb Operation Explanation. "To purge terrorist organisations, especially DAESH, PKK/PYD-YPG and HTS from the region," is  describes as one aim of its de-escalaton force.

But the Turkish forces have made a deal with HTS. When their reconnaissance teams entered Idleb yesterday they were escorted by heavily armed HTS forces (video). According to their agreement with the terrorists the Turkish forces will only take up three positions. All of these will be bordering the Kurdish enclave Efrin (Afrin).


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An (anti-Syrian government) journalist reports:

Hassan Hassan‏ - Verified account @hxhassan - 5:22 PM - 8 Oct 2017

1. Turkey established three checkpoints in Darat Izzat, west of Aleppo, in coordination with HTS.
A senior HTS official tells @MousaAlomar Turkish forces won't be present anywhere other than those checkpoints "for now."
2. Mousa asks a series of questions to the HTS official:
 Q. Will the Turkish army enter [rebel-held] areas?
 A. Yes (but not beyond the three areas agreed with HTS)
 Q. Any imminent battle in Idlib?
 A. No. So far things are good, unless Turkey changes its position
My own sources confirm that an effort to keep things peaceful between Turkey and HTS is so far successful.

The purpose of this Turkish incursion is obviously not to counter al-Qaeda/HTS but only to surround the Kurdish held enclave around Efrin.

An aggressive Turkish move could now  try to cut of the Kurdish Efrin area (yellow) from the Syrian government held areas (red) by connecting the Turkish controlled rebel area in the north (blue) with the al-Qaeda controlled Idleb governate (green). Such a move would encounter fierce resistance not only from Kurdish elements and the Syrian government but also from Iran. Auxiliary Iranian troops hold the government corridor between Aleppo and Efrin to protect some important Shia villages in the area.

On one side one can understand the Turkish abrogation of its duties under the Astana agreement. Erdogan is afraid of the domestic backlash a real fight against  HTS would likely cause. But it was Turkey that created the mess by supplying al-Qaeda in Syria with men and goods for nearly six years. It is its duty to kill the monster it created. It also has to uphold its diplomatic agreements.

Turkey has proven again that it is not trustworthy. Erdogan may hope to get NATO cover should he incur new Russian wrath about his breach of trust and his abrogation of the de-escalation agreement. But the expanding spat between the State Department and the Turkish government, as well as low Turkish standing within NATO populations, do not bode well for any bet on that alliance.

Posted by b at 05:35 AM | Comments (88)

October 08, 2017

Missing - A Motive For The Las Vegas Killing Spree

The currently known tale of the Las Vegas mass murder feels astonishingly incomplete. Several rumors and reports appeared about a potential second shooter. But there is no hard evidence. The police keeps saying there was only one person involved. It claims to have copious video evidence of that. None has yet been released.

It seems possible that one person alone did this. A large, densely packed crowd, a position high up, automatic weapons - it was a "shooting fish in a barrel" situation - not a chance to miss.

The shooter was white. He was therefore mentally disturbed. Would he have been black, he would have been an evil terrorist. But being mentally disturbed or under pharmaceutical influence doe not fit with the long planning and the diligence of preparation.

Stephen Paddock, the allegedly lone shooter, is a curious personality. Only bits of his life seem to be known. An accountant who, on the side, made millions in real estates? He must have been a thrifty person do achieve that, with a good sense for numbers. Why would such a person go to casinos and put money into video poker machines? It is a sure way to lose and any sane persons knows this.

The above gives rise to dozens of crazy theories. The man must have been CIA. ISIS ordered him to do it. Putin must have done it to somehow sow discord in America.

All these theories miss the same decisive detail that is lacking in the prevalent tale. A rational motive.

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (252)

October 07, 2017

Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

The Turkish President Erdogan announced the start of a Turkish operation in Idleb province of Syria. Idelb has been for years under the control of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently under the label Hayat Tahrir al-Sham.

In the talks in Astana, Turkey, Russia and Iran agreed on a deescalation zone in Idelb to be supervised by all three of them. But the fight against al-Qaeda, aka HTS, would continue. Turkey is supposed to control the western part of the province including the city of Idleb. But the Turkish government is afraid to go there.

During the last days there have been many reports and lots of pictures of Turkish force movements along the north-western Syrian border. But Turkey made no attempt to enter the country and it is doubtful that it will.

Erdogan's announcement needs some parsing:

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

Posted by b at 12:04 PM | Comments (59)

 
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