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December 10, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Dec 4 - Yemen Without Saleh

The unexpected end of Yemen's former president Saleh was followed by a Houthi campaign against his functionaries in Sanaa. At the same time the Saudi and UAE proxy forces in south-Yemen renewed their attacks towards Sanaa. The Houthi need to hold back on revenge against Saleh followers and concentrate on defense against the advancing enemy forces.

Dec 5 - Slapstick In Kiev

Saakashvili escaped the police, first by fleeing over the roofs of Kiev and then by being freed from a police car through the help of his supporters. He has since been apprehended again and is now in jail. No noise was heard from those foreign powers who supported the 2014 coup in Kiev. Only a few neocons still seem to hope that Saakashvili can play a role in their games. But without a big push from outside in favor of Saak the nazis and oligarchs that rule Kiev will let him rot in jail. That would a well deserved end of his career.

Dec 6 - Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

The "Arab leaders", aka the Gulf sheiks, have been mostly mum about Trump's prostration to the Zionists. The mildly criticizes his Jerusalem decision but took no action at all. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and leaders of militia in Iraq and Syria have publicly shown some backbone and called fro active resistance. They have a long-term strategy of building up forces to tackle Israel. The decisive action following from Trump's remarks on Jerusalem is still years away.

Dec 7 - Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

Republican's betray their voters. Nothing new here, so do the Democrats. A welcome side-effect of the whole Russia-gate theater is to detract from the Democrats support for the Republican agenda.

Dec 8 - Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

Yesterday the WSJ and the NYT had pieces on the changed atmosphere between Trump and the Saudis. But just like us they found no clue of what is really going on behind the scene. A head-fake?

Dec 9 - Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Iranian General Soleimani is warning the U.S. military to leave Syria. He predicts that it can not hold the ground. The Kurds are slowly moving back into the Syrian-Russian-Iranian camp. The neocons at the British Henry Jackson Society are already up in arms about this and foresee the end of the U.S. occupation. How do they feel about being in the same camp as Soleimani?

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:13 AM | Comments (30)

December 09, 2017

Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Islamic State in Syrian and Iraq is officially defeated. The UN resolution which allowed other countries to fight ISIS within Syria and Iraq no longer applies. But the U.S. military, despite the lack of any legal basis, wants to continue its occupation of Syria's north-east. The attempt to do so will fail. Its Kurdish allies in the area are already moving away from it and now prefer Russian protection. Guerrilla forces to fight the U.S. "presence" are being formed. The U.S. plan is shortsighted and stupid. If the U.S. insists on staying there many of its soldiers will die.

Two days ago the Syrian Arab Army closed the last gaps on the west bank of the Euphrates. Having fought all the way from Aleppo along the river towards the east the Tiger Force reached the liberated Deir Ezzor from the west. All settlements on the way are now controlled by the Syrian government. The remaining Islamic State fighters were pushed into the desert where they will be hunted down and killed.


Map via Southfront - bigger

Two days ago the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared a "complete victory" in Syria:

“Two hours ago, the (Russian) defense minister reported to me that the operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates have been completed with the total rout of the terrorists,” Putin said.

“Naturally, there could still be some pockets of resistance, but overall the military work at this stage and on this territory is completed with, I repeat, the total rout of the terrorists,” he said.

Today the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory and the 'end of the war' against ISIS on the Iraqi side:

"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh (IS)," Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

North of the Euphrates the U.S. proxy force SDF had recently negotiated another agreement (42) with the remaining Islamic State fighters there. ISIS allegedly handed over a border crossing with Iraq to the SDF and in exchange was guaranteed free passage through SDF controlled areas. This agreement came after an earlier one in which the U.S. and SDF let 3,500 ISIS fighters flee from Raqqa to fight the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor. That was a U.S. attempt to delay or prevent the victory of Syria and its allies. It failed.

Shortly after the claimed new ceasefire between the U.S. SDF proxies and ISIS, Russian officers met with officials of the Kurdish YPG, the central force of the SDF. The talks completely changed the situation. In a joint press conference the Kurds and the Russians committed to work together to fight ISIS east of the Euphrates. It seems that the YPG is no longer convinced that the U.S. is willing to do so. The Russians took command and the Russian air forces has since supported the YPG in its fight against ISIS in Deir Ezzor governate on the eastern bank of the river:

Cont. reading: Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

Posted by b at 11:37 AM | Comments (71)

December 08, 2017

Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

The Trump administration seemed to get along very well with the Saudi tyrant and his son Mohammed bin Salman. They together admired the orb and joined up to bash Iran. But now the Trump administration scolded and embarrassed MbS three times in as many days. One wonders what is going on behind that scene.

In mid November a mysterious buyer bought a probably fake Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ for a cool $450 million. On December 6 the New York Times reported that some Saudi prince was the front-man for the purchase:

He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The NYT did not explain how it had gained access to the documents it reviewed. Later that day Bloomberg reported that the painting would be shown in Abu Dhabi. This somewhat diverted from the trail to MbS:

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is getting Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold last month at a Christie’s auction for $450 million, the most ever paid for a work of art.

Christie’s said the artwork will be going to the museum, but declined to say whether the Louvre Abu Dhabi bought the painting. The Louvre Abu Dhabi said in a tweet Wednesday: “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi.

A day later, on December 7 the Trump administration gave a tip to the Wall Street Journal's Shane Harris. The real buyer, it confirmed, was the Saudi clown prince:

Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, was identified as the buyer of the 500-year-old painting, “Salvator Mundi,” in U.S. intelligence reports, according to people with direct knowledge of the information. American officials have closely watched the activities of the 32-year-old, who is trying to portray himself as a reformer determined to root out corruption in the oil-rich kingdom.

The NYT had already hinted at MbS as the real buyer. But it did not say from where it had that information. The WSJ confirmed the buyer and made explicit that the Trump administration was behind the embarrassing leak.

A few weeks ago MbS arrested 200 of the richest and most powerful people in his country. He locked them in a hotel and is fleecing them for their money which, he says, was gained though corruption. That claim is nonsense. He simply wants to steal that money and let them know who the boss is.

The Saudis have a budget problem and are cutting on social spending in the country they rule. It does not look good to cut money from the poor, fleece other members of the wider family and to then waste a large fortune on a picture that might even be fake. On top of that owning that picture is religiously problematic for MbS. Under Wahhabi doctrine no visual portrayals of prophets like Jesus Christ are allowed.

The UAE again came to the rescue. Today the museum tweeted:

Louvre Abu Dhabi @LouvreAbuDhabi - 1:57 PM - 8 Dec 2017
Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum.

The Department of Culture and Tourism seemed to confirm (ar) that, but when the museum was directly asked by the AP it went mum:

Jon Gambrell جون @jongambrellAP - 8:07 AM - 8 Dec 2017
The Louvre Abu Dhabi refused to say whether they made the $450 million bid or if someone gave the Department of Culture and Tourism the painting when asked by the @AP.

Hmmm ... this is a cover up. Why is the UAE doing this?

The de-facto ruler of the UAE is the 56-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. He is the mentor of (and brain behind) the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. Did MbS buy a little Christmas gift for MbZ, but was embarrassed when the Trump administration let the world know about it? Or is MbZ running covering for an outrageous buy MbS made for himself?

The buying of the picture is not the only issue at hand. Just the day before the administration leaked to the WSJ about the art deal, President Trump had publicly  scolded MbS about the situation in Yemen:

Cont. reading: Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (60)

December 07, 2017

Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

The Republican way of governing.

  • This deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut taxes to spur growth. This will help to lower the deficit.
  • [Cut taxes, increase deficit.]
  • The deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut Social-Security, Medicare and Medicaid to lower the deficit.
  • (rinse, repeat)

Ryan: Tax cuts have to be deficit neutral to conform with reconciliation - Sep 28 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday said the tax cuts included in the tax reform package Republican lawmakers crafted in conjunction with the Trump Administration have to be deficit neutral so as to conform with budget reconciliation rules.

GOP tax plan unlikely to swell deficit: Speaker Ryan tells Reuters - October 25, 2017

The U.S. Republican tax cut plan that President Donald Trump wants passed by the end of the year is unlikely to trigger a big deficit expansion because it will spur more investment and job growth, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Ryan: I'm a deficit hawk and 'a growth advocate' - Nov 5 2017

"Paul Ryan deficit hawk is also a growth advocate. Paul Ryan deficit hawk also knows that you have to have a faster growing economy, more jobs, bigger take-home pay, that means higher tax revenues," Ryan told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

Ryan Dismisses Deficit Concerns to Chase a Political Win on Taxes - Nov 27 2017

The tax overhaul legislation that Ryan shepherded through the House -- the Senate takes up its version this week -- would add at least $1 trillion to budget deficits over the next decade, even when accounting for economic growth, according to independent tax analysts.

CBO: Senate tax plan would increase deficit by $1.4T over 10 years - Nov 27 2017

The Senate GOP's tax plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 - Dec 6 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show.

And no. The Democrats aren't any better. Look at the trillions Obama handed to Wall Street. That wasn't even a tax cut, it was a give-away. Obamacare is a sham,  willfully constructed in way that makes sure it can't survive. The Democrats only pretend to care for the people. As soon as they again have a majority and fake intent for pro-social reforms the Repubs will again whine about the deficit and the Democrats will be happy to fold.

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (50)

December 06, 2017

Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

U.S. President Trump announced today a change in the official U.S. view of the city of Jerusalem in Palestine:

President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said Mr. Trump.

This is not Trump's lone doing. The position has long had support of both parties in Congress:

The Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Tuesday that he had advised Trump to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.
...
A 1995 law declares that Jerusalem should “remain an undivided city” and “be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” but allows the president to issue waivers every six months delaying the move of the embassy for national security reasons. The Senate reaffirmed that law in June.
...
Maryland senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, reiterated his support for recognizing Jerusalem when asked Monday about the president’s potential announcement.

“I believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so to me, that’s not news,” he told TWS.

In 2008 then presidential candidate Obama pandered to the Zionist Lobby in the U.S.:

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

Obama though left it at that speech and never made it official policy. Officially declaring Jerusalem an "undivided city" and capital of the Zionist entity means that there is no room for a Palestinian capital in east-Jerusalem. It buries the (fairy-)tale of a sovereign Palestinian state.

But that idea had been dead all along. The only reasons for U.S. presidents to circumvent the 22 year old law by issuing waivers was to pretend that the U.S. would be a neutral broker towards some peace between the (east-)European colonists and Palestinians. That was from start to end a deception. Congress and U.S. presidents are under control of the Zionist Lobby which can marshal enormous amounts of money to make or defeat candidates for legislative or executive offices. The Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who also sponsors the fascist Israel Prime Minister Netanyahoo, donated more then $100 million to the Trump campaign and tens of millions to Congress races. Today was time for Trump to settle some of that debt.

With the increasing buildup of Zionist settlements in the Palestinian West Bank areas under Netanyahoo, the two state solution had long been killed. The Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas, who let this happen without resistance, is just a kapo used by the Israelis to keep the Palestinians down. The Palestinians in Gaza which defied the Zionist occupation were bombed whenever an Israeli Premier needed some diversion from domestic political trouble.

The U.S. is alone in its move. The global consensus and international legal status is that the issue of Jerusalem must be decided through negotiations. A city divided into of two capitals is the most expected outcome. The EU nations and other countries rejected the move. The Pope and other dignitaries spoke out against it.

The Trump declaration only reveals the true long-standing U.S. position but it still matters. It provides without doubt that the U.S. is the enemy of the people on the Middle East. It exposes those Arab rulers that seek to ally with the U.S. It elevates all those who have been fighting the U.S. all along.

The tyrant of Saudi Arabia and his clown prince son have agreed to Trumps move. Instead of declaring retaliatory measures they only issued pro-forma condemnations. Other Arab rulers which depend on Saudi money, like the Jordan King "Playstation" Abdullah, will likewise stay mostly quiet.

There will likely be only little violence in the immediate aftermath of the Trump declaration. The long term effects though will be significant. The Arab public, which gets little coverage in the "western" press, is seething. Professor Assad AbuKhalil reports:

Cont. reading: Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (203)

December 05, 2017

Slapstick In Kiev

Today a slapstick comedy played out in Kiev. It's background though is mysterious.

In 2015 the billionaire currently ruling the Ukraine by the grace of Washington, Petro Poroshenko, invited the disgraced former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to run the city and region of Odessa. Saakashvili is charged in is home country Georgia with abuse of office and he has lost his Georgian citizenship.

The administration of Odessa is as corrupt as any other in the Ukraine but the money was flowing into the wrong pockets. Saakashvili set out to change that. He soon stepped on the sensible toes of some mighty people. After a year Poroshenko dismissed him. Saakashvili moved to the capital Kiev and started a ruckus against his former benefactor. Soon he was under investigation and accused of this or that criminal deed. When as he traveled outside of the country his Ukrainian passport was revoked and his reentry into the Ukraine was prohibited. Saakashvili entered anyway under the protection of some mysteriously paid supporters and moved back to Kiev. He recently led several protests marches against Poroshenko. Saakashvili was again indicted, this time for allegedly being paid by Moscow to arrange for a "Russian winter" coup against Poroshenko in Ukraine. Today the police went to arrest him at his apartment in Kiev.

When the police arrived Saakashvili fled onto the roof of the eight story house where he was caught (vid) by the police.

He was brought to the ground and pushed into a police van.

His supporters, who somehow had arrived in mass, blocked the road. After an hour and some clashes with the police they freed him (video) from the vehicle.

Saakashvili and his supporters went to hold a protest in front of the parliament. At the same time the Ukrainian Prosecutor General reported inside the parliament of tapped phone-calls in which some Russian middleman agrees to pay Saakashvili half a million for running more protests. Local TV transmitted a split-screen live stream of both.

One wonders what this really is about.

Who pays Saakashvili and his "protesters"?

What does Saakashvili, or the people behind him, want?

Why doesn't Poroshenko arrest Saakashvili in some unsuspicions moment?

Why not let him have an 'accident'?

Why not deport him to Georgia where he would likely go to jail?

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (56)

December 04, 2017

Yemen Without Saleh

Updated below

The former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed today. He was 75 years old but still very active in Yemeni politics. Video of his dead body being thrown onto the back of a pickup is making the rounds. One hears Houthi slogans shouted in the background. The pictures show a gun wound on the chest and at the side of the head. The face is easily recognizable. There are also pictures of his ID card.

Though several media report his death there is no confirmation yet from his GPC party or his family.

Over the last few days Houthi media had announced several times that Saleh had been killed. This morning Saleh's house was blown up. This time the Houthi news proved right. The circumstances of Saleh's death are not yet known, but it was said that he was fleeing Sanaa when fate caught up with him.

As we wrote in our recap on Saturday, Saleh had suddenly made peace with the Saudis and asked his followers to take up arms against his former allies. For more than two years he had allied with the Houthi against the U.S. and UK supported Saudi invasion and proxy forces. On Friday, after several days of local clashes with the Houthi, he had called for his followers to throw the Houthi out of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

For a day his fighters, led by some 1,000 soldiers of Saleh's personal guards, were successful and the Houthi were kicked out of many of their positions. But they were not defeated. They called up more of their troops and on Sunday regained the lost ground and buildings. They occupied Saleh's media. His TV station started to transmit his enemies chants. Over the last night and throughout today they defeated Saleh's troops.

It is yet a mystery why not more of Saleh's supporters came to his help. Sanaa is his home turf and whenever he had called for demonstrations in the city, hundreds of thousands attended. For much of his 34 years of rule as president and even after his forced resignation Saleh could call on the seven "collar tribes" who's territory surround the capital. This time they did not come to his aid. Saleh also continued to command significant parts of the former Yemeni army. These currently hold positions far outside of Sanaa against Saudi proxy forces who try to conquer the mountainous territory of northwest Yemen. One wonders why he had not called them back in time. 

It may be that his unexpected turn-on-a-dime towards a new alliance with the eternal enemies of Yemen, the Saudis, has alienated his followers.

The Saleh family and clan is quite big and resourceful. Many of his relatives have held high military positions in the Yemeni army and keep enough money to pay for their troops loyalty. Some nephew of his may take up his banner. It is unsure though if such a replacement could gain the following of the former army units Ali Abdullah could call on.

The Saudis had recently bet on Saleh to end the stalemate in their war on Yemen. Had he won out, it could have meant a pause in the war and probably its end. With the Houthi now having the upper hand in Sanaa, the war, the permanent Saudi bombing and the blockade of Yemen are likely to continue. The Houthi will continue to attack within Saudi Arabia and the fight against the Saudi proxy forces on the ground will go on.

It will need another breakthrough event for the war to stop.

Update:

In previous pieces on Yemen MoA had quoted Haykal Bafana and Iona Craig. Both live in Yemen. Here are their first thoughts on Ali Abdullah Saleh's death:

@BaFana3 - 6:49 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I cannot describe the deep grief I feel. Ali Abdullah Saleh was the greatest leader #Yemen ever had. He never surrendered: He died a martyr in his homeland Yemen, as a Yemeni fighting for Yemen's cause. I salute Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, both in life and in death.

 

@ionacraig - 6:13 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I was 1st foreign journalist to interview Saleh after he stepped down. He said his memoirs wouldn't be published until after his death as they contained secrets about many people. I responded "So a lot of people should be afraid the day that you die?" He laughed & said "InshAllah"

Followers of Saleh and his family will now consider revenge against the Houthi for Saleh's death as their highest priority:

@SaadAbedine - 2:21 PM - 4 Dec 2017

Unconfirmed reports that Ahmed, #Saleh’s eldest son & former commander of #Yemen’s Republican Guard, will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM local & that he was released from his house arrest in #UAE, en route to Marib to lead the fight & seek revenge from #Houthi rebels

Posted by b at 08:23 AM | Comments (205)

December 03, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-44

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 27 - Saudi Arabia - Budget Dilemma Escalates - Salmans Resort To Product Placement?

That question was, of course, not  serious. But the issue documented in those pictures is still a true mystery to me. Why do the Saudi tyrants insist of prominently placing trivial Cisco phones in their official pictures of international meetings? What are the phones supposed to symbolize? Wealth? Style? Command authority? Power?

Nov 28 - Turning The Corner In Afghanistan

The U.S. has "turned the corner" in Afghanistan so often that it is now too dizzy find an exit.

Nov 28 - Last Call - Please Support This Unique Endeavor

Moon of Alabama asked for donations. The response has been uplifting. (If you haven't donated yet, please click above.) It will take weeks until the last donation arrives and a finally tally can be made. A heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who donated and helps to keep this site going. Related - sometime  yesterday this blog broke the 25 million pageviews mark! 

Nov 29 - State Department Condemns* Designation Of Media As Foreign Agents (*only applies to Russia)

The U.S. started a spat with Russia by designating Russia Today as a "foreign agents". It laments about press freedom when Russia does likewise. Hypocrites. The latest U.S. move was to deny Russia Today access to the Congressional Gallery and the White House. Russia will retaliate in kind. All "western" media will be banned from reporting from the Russian Duma. To what end was this nonsense started?

Nov 30 - North Korea: "The Missile Program Is Now Complete

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea aka North Korea demonstrated a new missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.. The huge new missile was the last item missing in its arsenal. It is now a fully nuclear capable. Washington is still in denial of that and speaks of an illegal "preemptive strike" against North Korea. Such a strike would risk the loss of one or more U.S. cities to a nuke shot off in retaliation. The only path forward is through negotiations.

Dec 1 - Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The plea deal of Trump's former National Security Advisor turns out to be nothing-burger with regards to the alleged "collusion" with Russia. Flynn lobbied the Russians ambassador in favor of Israel and to fulfill Trump's campaign promise of better relations with Russia. Flynn was stupid enough to lie to the FBI about the content of phone-calls that the FBI had transcripts of. Robert Parry rightly argues that Flynn was intentionally set-up and trapped by operatives of the outgoing Obama regime.

Dec 2 - Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

Yesterday's post said that former president Saleh was recovering the capital Sanaa from his previously ally, the Houthi. It may have been premature. After having been ousted from most of their positions in Sanaa, the Houthis called up reinforcements and came back with vengeance. As of now they recovered some positions and took over the TV station and other media of Saleh's GPC party. Fighting in Sanaa is ongoing. If Saleh loses this fight the war on Yemen is likely to continue.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (61)

December 02, 2017

Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

The war on Yemen has finally taken a turn towards an end. Former President Saleh is back in his leading position. They Saudis accepted their defeat. The Houthis will be thrown out of the capital Sanaa and return to their northern areas. Yemen is devastated and will need to rebuild. Everyone who participated in this war has lost. The only winner is Russia.

A recap:

During the "Arab spring" (U.S.) induced Yemeni revolution President Saleh was kicked out after ruling the country for 34 years. In 2012 the former Vice-President Hadi was "elected" as the new president on a one choice ballot. With U.S. support the system prevailed.


bigger

As I noted at that time:

The U.S. missed the chance to use the movement against Saleh for some real transition in Yemen. This will come back to bite.

Hadi was a Saudi puppet unable to rule the country. He tried to form a unity government under the National Dialogue Conference sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council. But two major constituencies were left out of the effort: the northern Yemeni Houthis of Zaidi belief, who for years had fought against Saudi-Wahhabi indoctrination in Yemen, and the followers of the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis and Saleh had fought each other for over a decade. Now they had a common enemy and united their efforts.

In 2015 the Houthi and Yemeni army troops loyal to Saleh took over the capital Sanaa. Hadi resigned (twice), fled to Aden in the south and later onto Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were afraid to lose influence over their dirt poor but self-confident neighbor. They falsely alleged that the Houthis were supported by their perceived arch-enemy Iran. They declared war on the country and tried to invade it. The U.S. and the UK supported and still support the Saudi war with intelligence, refueling flights for Saudi bombers and massive weapon supplies.

The Saudis sent their troops to invade the country, their neighboring United Arab Emirates sent its forces and additional mercenaries were hired from Sudan, south America and where ever they could be found. All to no avail. While the Saudis dropped more than 100 bombs per day onto Yemen their forces were defeated every time they tried to enter the mountainous heartland. The Houthi counterattacked within Saudi Arabia. They had no shoes but huge balls. Hundreds of Saudi border posts and military checkpoints were destroyed by them.

The Saudis tried to starve the Houthis of weapons, food and other supplies. They blockaded the country and bombed weapon depots, factories and all infrastructure. They completely destroyed Houthi cities in the north and tried to assassinate the leaders of the rebellion. Tens of thousands of Yemenis died in the often indiscriminate attacks. But the Houthi held out. For decades Yemen had been filled up with weapons. During his decades long rule former president Saleh had stashed ten-thousands of tons of ammunition and equipment. Additional supplies were captured or bought from the Saudi mercenaries.

The former Yemeni army units loyal to Saleh, as well as Saleh himself, stayed in the background. Their most visible contribution to the war was the launch of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) against Saudi cities and military positions. These weapons had been bought earlier and were modified to have extended reach (see the excursion below).

The Saudi were stuck in a stalemate that cost them over $800 million per month. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were flourishing in the south which the Saudis and their allies nominally controlled. Saudi proxies were infighting with troops from the UAE. Missiles were falling down on Saudi cities. While only few missiles hit their targets each of them demonstrated the impotence of the Saudi rulers.

The Saudis finally send out peace feelers to former president Saleh. The Russians, who had kept their embassy in Sanaa open throughout the war, acted as the middleman. In mid October the first results of the diplomatic efforts became visible:

Cont. reading: Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

Posted by b at 12:41 PM | Comments (127)

December 01, 2017

Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The anti-Trump "resistance" campaign alleges that the Russian government tried to "influence" the U.S. election. It insinuates that Trump "colluded" with the Russians in these alleged attempts. It has no evidence for any of its claims. The intent of this campaign is to handicap the Trump administration as much as possible and to prevent better U.S. relations with Russia.

A witch hunt was launched in which the Mueller investigation in the alleged election manipulation as well as Congress hearings are used to throw as much dirt as possible into the direction of the Trump administration to then see what might stick. 

While retired army-general Michael Flynn worked for the Trump campaign he was also a lobbyist for a rich person near to the Turkish government. He made $600,000 off that gig. The Trump campaign did not know about this. Flynn also attended an anniversary celebration for Russia Today in Moscow. He had been hired as a paid speaker for the occasion and his speaker agency charged $40,000 for it.

Flynn was fired from the job as National Security Advisor 24 days after Trump#s inauguration. He had been stupid enough to announce that he wanted to reform the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. Those agencies made sure that such would not happen.

Flynn was questioned by the FBI in connection with the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian influence on the 2016 election campaign. He lied to the FBI about some diplomatic contacts he had made on request of the then incoming Trump administration. The FBI managed to prove that he had lied. In the U.S. lying to the FBI is a serious crime. (I am not aware of other country that has such a stupid rule.) Flynn was offered a plea deal. He is supposed to tell Mueller what Mueller wants to hear in exchange for a lower penalty for his "crime" of lying to the FBI.

But look what the real issues were Flynn lied about:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and authorities indicated in court he was acting under instructions from senior Trump transition officials in his dealings with the diplomat.

Flynn contacted the senior Russian diplomat in Washington DC. He was surely aware that the NSA and CIA notice and listen in to all such contacts. Flynn had no reason to believe that such contacts were out of norm because they ain't. Incoming administrations need such contacts to prepare their polices.

There are two different issues about which Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador:

In one of the conversations described in court documents, the men discussed an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.
...
Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, took the lead in those efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said.

The Security Council vote was on December 23 2016. The Israeli government lobbied the incoming administration to influence that vote in the Israeli government's interest. The Trump administration in-waiting could not influence the Obama administration which had decided to abstain. It contacted the Russian ambassador to influence the Russians to block the vote in the UNSC. The Russian's did not do such.

The "collusion" here is between the Israeli government and the Trump campaign. The "influence" is two part. A successful Israeli attempt to influence the incoming Trump administration and an unsuccessful attempt by Trump people to influence the Russian UNSC vote. The issue has absolutely zero to do with the U.S. election.

Now onto the second issue:

Cont. reading: Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (93)

November 30, 2017

North Korea: "The Missile Program Is Now Complete"

Last night the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea (DPRK) launched another nuclear capable missile. It was a new type never shown before. Its name is Hwasong-15 and it is a beauty.


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The new missile is huge. Note Kim Jong Il in his black coat on the left. He is 5'7 or 1.70 meters. The transporter-erector vehicle with the missile must be nearly 20' or 6 meters high and the missile must have a diameter of 2+ meters.


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The vehicle is a modified copy of a Chinese WS51200. North Korea once bought 5 or 6 of these to "haul lumber from the mountains". All were of course used as missile transporters. A ninth axle has been added to the original design to carry the additional load of the huge missile and its firing table. The vehicle is not a TEL, a transporter, erector and launcher, but a TE. The missile is erected and set vertical on the firing table. The vehicle is removed for the launch.

The first guestimates for the total weight of the missile currently vary between 45 and 60 metric tons. I believe it is a bit more. My thumb-rule says that a heavy military truck can haul 10 metric tons of cargo per axle. Nine axles times 10 minus the weight of the firing table and the erector system could leave some 70 tons for the missile. They did not add the ninth axle for nothing.

The missile looks like a Titan II missile shrunken by 30%. The Titan II was U.S. intercontinental nuclear missile developed in the 1960s. It is not the most modern concept but solid.

Cont. reading: North Korea: "The Missile Program Is Now Complete"

Posted by b at 02:39 PM | Comments (97)

November 29, 2017

State Department Condemns* Designation Of Media As Foreign Agents (*only applies to Russia)

UPDATED below
---

Today the U.S. State Department hit the ball of hypocrisy out of the park.

It remarked that "legislation that allows .. to label media outlets as 'foreign agents' ... presents yet another threat to free media".  It noted that "freedom of expression—including speech and media ... is a universal human rights obligation". 

The remark came after the U.S. Department of Justice required the Russian outlet RT America to register as a 'foreign agent' under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). RT registered as ordered on November 13.

But the State Department statement was NOT in response to the DOJ requirement against RT. The State Department reacted to a new Russian law that was issued in response to the demand against RT. The new Russian law is a mirror to the U.S. FARA law. It demands that foreign media which are active in Russia register as 'foreign agents'. (The EU poodles followed the State Department nonsense with an equally dumb statement.)

With its criticism of the Russian version of the FARA law while ignoring the U.S. FARA action against RT, the State Department confirmed the allegations of hypocrisy RT and other media have raised against the U.S. government.

The whole issue started with the notable liar James Clapper under the Obama  administration. He and other 'intelligence' people found that RT was too truthful in its reporting to be allowed to inform the U.S. public. Publication of criticism of the U.S. government based on verifiable facts is seen as an unfriendly act which must be punished.

Congress and the U.S. Justice Department under the Trump administration followed up on that. FARA is originally NOT directed against foreign media. The Trump Justice Department circumvented the spirit of the law to apply it to RT.

The Russian government had warned several times that the application of FARA against RT would be followed up on with a similar requirement against U.S. media in Russia. The Trump administration ignored those warnings. It now condemns the Russian move.

Here is timeline of the relevant events:

Cont. reading: State Department Condemns* Designation Of Media As Foreign Agents (*only applies to Russia)

Posted by b at 01:27 PM | Comments (94)

November 28, 2017

Last Call - Please Support This Unique Endeavor

This blog was founded in June 2004 as a substitute for the closed comment section of Billmon's Whiskey Bar blog. The Bar was since shut down and this blog developed its own standing.

Since its beginning the Moon of Alabama blog received 24,923,925 pageviews. 6,838 posts were published and 327,800 valuable comments contributed to it.

The quality of the content increased over time. The general subjects continue to be the wars and propaganda of the U.S. empire. The McCarthyrite PropOrNot, (promoted by the Washington Post) described this site as a "U.S. facing Russian propaganda outlet". They disliked the warning about false flag attacks in Syria.

Moon of A is not Russian propaganda. But it takes a wider perspective than other media. Here are some recent examples:

Where else could you read such pieces?

For me, Bernhard, the writing, editing and managing of this blog has turned into a full time endeavor. That is why I need and ask for your support. Every donation to this Poor Poet, be it €5, $50 or £500, is welcome and needed.

Transaction costs are smallest when you send cash or a check. You can also use a bank-wire transfer. Send email to MoonofA @ aol.com for the necessary details. (They are the same as before.) You can use a credit card or other means when you donate through the PayPal button below.

Thanks!

Bernhard aka b.

Posted by b at 03:17 PM | Comments (27)

Turning The Corner In Afghanistan

The news about the wars the U.S. is waging all over the world is unreliable. The same statements of progress are repeated year after year. The official numbers, be they of civilian casualties or deployed troops, are mere lies. Every news presentation should be engraved with a warning: "Assertions and numbers are not what they appear." Consider, for example, the various "turned corner" statements officials have made about Afghanistan.

 

On October 5 2017 the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani confirmed to the BBC that Afghanistan has "turned the corner":

... when I ask whether he is saying Afghan forces have turned the corner in the fight against the Taliban, there is no hesitation: "Yes," he says.

On October 24 the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan General John Nicholson agreed with President Ghani:

"With the mounting military, diplomatic, and social pressure that is building – that we all are collectively committed to sustaining over the coming years – the enemy will have no choice but to reconcile. I believe, as President Ghani says, 'we have turned the corner,’” he concluded.

But a month later General Nicholson seemed to disagreed with his earlier statement:

"We are still in a stalemate," Nicholson, a four-star Army general said in an exclusive interview.

Today, five days after his "stalemate" statement, the general's opinion has changed again. Kevin Baron, the editor of Defense One, reports:

‏JUST IN: Top US general in Afghanistan says war has "turned a corner... " The momentum is now with the Afghan security forces." ...

The General seems confused. But he is not the first to have such a change of mind.

On February 3 2010 then U.S. commander General Stanley McChrystal was cautious about the proverbial corner:

General Stanley McChrystal also expressed confidence that Afghan forces would grow quickly enough to allow a reduction in U.S. troop numbers to begin on schedule in 2011. ... “I‘m not prepared to say we have turned the corner,” he added.

Only twelve days later the turn had been made:

Cont. reading: Turning The Corner In Afghanistan

Posted by b at 02:47 PM | Comments (44)

November 27, 2017

Saudi Arabia - Budget Dilemma Escalates - Salmans Resort To Product Placement?

Once upon a time owning a clock was a status symbol. Only the very wealthy and powerful could afford one. Ordinary people had to rely on the church- or town-clock. Privately owned clocks were only found in the finest places and were displayed in prominent positions for all to admire.

The expensive clock on the mantelshelf is no longer distinguishing. New artifacts have replaced them as status symbols.

The House of Saud under King Salman and his son Clown Prince Mohammed bin Salman have developed a taste for a specific type of these. They can be seen at the center of dozens of official photos of the Salmans meeting foreign and domestic dignitaries. Unlike decent clocks these artifacts are of little use within the staged context.

The various artifacts the Salmans collected are of different designs but are all sourced from the same manufacturer. Their inevitable center place stinks of product placement. We know that the Salmans need money. They nab, incarcerate and torture the richest people of their country to rob their wealth and assets. The Salmans originally expected to make $800 billion from the current raid. They now cut their expectations down to a mere $100 billion. In the end it will less than half of that. It will not be enough to fill the holes in the Saudi budget.

But paid for product placements in official pictures? The few million dollars such product placements bring are like a drop of rain in the Najd. It evaporates before it reaches the ground. Are the Salmans THAT broke?

Spot the artifacts here:

Cont. reading: Saudi Arabia - Budget Dilemma Escalates - Salmans Resort To Product Placement?

Posted by b at 02:56 PM | Comments (47)

November 26, 2017

Please Support This Poor Poet

A recent BBC Breaking "Exclusive" showed how the U.S. and its proxy forces made a deal with the Islamic State. Under U.S. supervision hundreds of ISIS fighters in Syria were allowed to leave the besieged Raqqa. This site reported the *breaking* news when it happened, a full month earlier than the BBC.

Moon of Alabama provides news and analysis which mainstream media cover late, or not at all. That's not an easy feat. This site is free. It offers information which is hard to find elsewhere. It offers original thought and no-nonsense writing on a (nearly) daily basis. It has an open and lively comment section. It is the full-time effort of this single person.

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The growing readership of the blog and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. I have little other income. Thus every donation to this Poor Poet, be it $5, $50 or $500, is welcome and needed. A recurring contribution or institutional sponsorship would be great.

Cont. reading: Please Support This Poor Poet

Posted by b at 07:58 AM | Comments (48)

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-43

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 20 - The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

Nov 21 - Russia In Syria - Military 'Failure' Sets Off Intense Diplomacy

Nov 22 - Google Does Evil

Nov 23 - Syria - This U.S. Occupation - Or "Presence" - Is Unsustainable

Nov 24 - And Then The Clown Prince Told Friedman: 'Suck On This.'

Nov 25 - Trump Wants Peace With Erdogan - The Miltary Wants To Sabotage It

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (45)

November 25, 2017

Trump Wants Peace With Erdogan - The Miltary Wants To Sabotage It

President Trump is attempting to calm down the U.S. conflict with Turkey. The military junta in the White House has different plans. It now attempts to circumvent the decision the president communicated to his Turkish counterpart. The result will be more Turkish-U.S. acrimony.

Yesterday the Turkish foreign minister surprisingly announced a phone call President Trump had held with President Erdogan of Turkey.

United States President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone on Nov. 24 only days after a Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria, with Ankara saying that Washington has pledged not to send weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) any more.

“President Trump instructed [his generals] in a very open way that the YPG will no longer be given weapons. He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters after the phone call.

Trump had announced the call:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
12:04 PM - 24 Nov 2017

During the phone call Trump must have escaped his minders for a moment and promptly tried to make, as announced, peace with Erdogan. The issue of arming the YPG is really difficult for Turkey to swallow. Ending that would probably make up for the recent NATO blunder of presenting the founder of modern Turkey Kemal Atatürk and Erdogan himself as enemies.

The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the Turkish-Kurdish terror group PKK. Some weapons the U.S. had delivered to the YPK in Syria to fight the Islamic State have been recovered from PKK fighters in Turkey who were out to kill Turkish security personal. Despite that, supply for the YPG continued. In total over 3,500 truckloads were provided to it by the U.S. military. Only recently the YPK received some 120 armored Humvees, mine clearance vehicles and other equipment.

The generals in the White House and other parts of the administration were caught flat-footed by the promise Trump has made. The Washington Post writes:

Initially, the administration’s national security team appeared surprised by the Turks’ announcement and uncertain what to say about it. The State Department referred questions to the White House, and hours passed with no confirmation from the National Security Council.

The White House finally released what the Associated Press called:

a cryptic statement about the phone call that said Trump had informed the Turk of “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.”

Neither a read-out of the call nor the statement AP refers to are currently available on the White House website.

The U.S. military uses the YPG as proxy power in Syria to justify and support its occupation of north-east Syria, The intent of the occupation is , for now, to press the Syrian government into agreeing to a U.S. controlled "regime change":

U.S. officials have said they plan to keep American troops in northern Syria — and continue working with Kurdish fighters — to pressure Assad to make concessions during peace talks brokered by the United Nations in Geneva, stalemated for three years now. “We’re not going to just walk away right now,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week.

To solidify its position the U.S. needs to further build up and strengthen its YPG mercenary forces.

When in 2014 the U.S. started to use Kurds in Syria as its foot-soldiers, it put the YPG under the mantle of the so called Syrian Democratic Forces and paid some Syrian Arabs to join and keep up the subterfuge. This helped to counter the Turkish argument that the U.S. was arming and supporting terrorists. But in May 2017 the U.S. announced to arm the YPG directly without the cover of the SDF. The alleged purpose was to eliminate the Islamic State from the city of Raqqa.

The YPG had been unwilling to fight for the Arab city unless the U.S. would provide it with more money, military supplies and support. All were provided. The U.S. special forces, who control the YPG fighters, directed an immense amount of aerial and artillery ammunition against the city. Any potential enemy position was destroyed by large ammunition and intense bombing before the YPG infantry proceeded. In the end few YPG fighters died in the fight. The Islamic State was let go or eliminated from the city but so was the city of Raqqa. The intensity of the bombardment of the medium size city was at times ten times greater than the bombing in all of Afghanistan. Airwars reported:

Since June, an estimated 20,000 munitions were fired in support of Coalition operations at Raqqa. Images captured by journalists in the final days of the assault show a city in ruins.

Several thousand civilians were killed in the indiscriminate onslaught.

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is defeated. It no longer holds any ground. There is no longer any justification to further arm and supply the YPG or the dummy organization SDF.

But the generals want to continue to do so to further their larger plans. They are laying grounds to circumvent their president's promise. The Wall Street Journal seems to be the only outlet to pick up on the subterfuge:

President Donald Trump’s administration is preparing to stop sending weapons directly to Kurdish militants battling Islamic State in Syria, dealing a political blow to the U.S.’s most reliable ally in the civil war, officials said Friday.
...
The Turkish announcement came as a surprise in Washington, where military and political officials in Mr. Trump’s administration appeared to be caught off-guard. U.S. military officials said they had received no new guidance about supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces. But they said there were no immediate plans to deliver any new weapons to the group. And the U.S. can continue to provide the Kurdish forces with arms via the umbrella Syrian militant coalition.

The "military officials" talking to the WSJ have found a way to negate Trump's promise.

A spokesperson of the SDF, the ethnic Turkman Talaf Silo, recently defected and went over to the Turkish side. The Turkish government is certainly well informed about the SDF and knows that its political and command structure is dominated by the YPK. The whole concept is a sham.

But the U.S. needs the YPG to keep control of north-east Syria. It has to continue to provide whatever the YPG demands, or it will have to give up its larger scheme against Syria.

The Turkish government will soon find out that the U.S. again tried to pull wool over its eyes. Erdogan will be furious when he discovers that the U.S. continues to supply war material to the YPG, even when those deliveries are covered up as supplies for the SDF.

The Turkish government released a photograph showing Erdogan and five of his aids taking Trump's phonecall. Such a release and the announcement of the call by the Turkish foreign minister are very unusual. Erdogan is taking prestige from the call and the public announcement is to make sure that Trump sticks to his promise.

This wide publication will also increase Erdogan's wrath when he finds out that he was again deceived.

Posted by b at 12:14 PM | Comments (38)