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August 16, 2018

Syria - Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

The U.S. aim in Syria is still 'regime change'. The Pentagon has made it clear that it wants to stay in the country even after the Islamic State vanished. A little propaganda trick is now used to create a justification for its continuing occupation.


The report by the UN Security Council's Sanctions Monitoring Team on ISIS, in parts discussed here, includes a number that smells of bullshit and manipulation:

3. Some Member States estimate the total current ISIL membership in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly equally distributed between the two countries. Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters.2

Footnote 2 gives as source:

2 Member State information.

The high number given by a "Member State" exceed all prior assessments. The original strength of ISIS was estimated as a few thousand  and it swelled as it took more land and incorporated local auxiliary forces and newly arriving foreign fighters. In September 2014, when ISIS was near its peak, the CIA estimated a total of 31,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq. The number shrank as ISIS was kicked out of more places it earlier occupied while it lost ten thousands of its fighters to Russian, Syrian, Iraqi and U.S. bombs, artillery and other military means. In July 2017 the commanding general of U.S. Special Forces said that 60 to 70,000 ISIS fighters had been killed.

The numbers in the UN Sanctions Monitor report simply make no logical sense. It is also contradicted by earlier estimates that put the number of current ISIS fighters in the low thousands. In December 2017 President Trump claimed that only "1,000 or so" fighters remained in Iraq and Syria. In a June 5 Pentagon press conference the spokesman was asked about the number of ISIS fighters left in Syria. He responded:

As far as the numbers, there's -- there's been some numbers thrown out there over the past few months. You've heard the previous spokesmen range from 1,000 to 3,000. You've seen a lot of subject matter experts say something like that. I have nothing to add to that. What I will say is one ISIS fighter is one too many, and that's what we're pursuing. We're pursuing their defeat.

But there must of course be a reason why "some Member States" would give the UN Monitor team such an absurdly high number.

The U.S. is justifying its occupation of north-east Syria by claiming to fight ISIS under the legal cover of two UN Security Council resolutions. Now, as ISIS in Syria has shrunk to a few dozens of fighters, that justification is wearing thin. It is immensely important for the Pentagon to present a high number, as ISIS is its only legal justification to stay in Syria. It is doubtful that Congress would agree to a prolonged occupation if ISIS vanished.

To publicize a high number the Pentagon used an old propaganda trick, fake "multi-sourcing".

This trick was extensively used in the run up to the war on Iraq. Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, would call up pliant journalists, Judith Miller of the New York Times comes to mind, and tell them about a "top secret" assessment that Iraq bought aluminum tubes to build centrifuges for Uranium enrichment. (Experts knew that Iraq bought these tubes to make military mortars.) But the New York Times printed the 'nuclear' nonsense on page one of its Sunday edition. A few hours later Dick Cheney and other Bush administration members appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and confirmed the story they had planted.

The tale of the 'nuclear' aluminum tubes was then perceived to have come from two independent entities and sources, the New York Times, and Vice President Cheney and other members of the Bush administration. It was thus widely believed.

We now see a similar scheme. A dubious fact, coming from a single source, is depicted as being multi-sourced. Another pliant journalist, this time Liz Sly of the Washington Post, is used to spread the fake news:

The Islamic State may still have in excess of 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq and appears to have rebounded from some of its worst setbacks, according to two new reports that call into question whether the militants are as close to defeat as the U.S. military has suggested.
...

Cont. reading: Syria - Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

Posted by b at 01:21 PM | Comments (23)

August 15, 2018

Los Angeles Is First In US To Install Intrusive Subway Security - All Riders Will 'Volunteer'

The frog supposedly does not feel the slow increase of temperature until the water it sits in boils. In a similar vein people to not feel the loss of their freedoms when the observation and control instruments used on them are slowly more and more intrusive. The city of Los Angeles ratchets the screws up a few notches: Los Angeles is first in US to install subway body scanners

Los Angeles’ subway will become the first mass transit system in the U.S. to install body scanners that screen passengers for weapons and explosives, officials said Tuesday.
...
The machines scan for metallic and non-metallic objects on a person’s body, can detect suspicious items from 30 feet away and have the capability of scanning more than 2,000 passengers per hour.

The capacity to check 2,000 passengers per hour is way too small for a subway line which usually has between 20 and 30,000 passengers per hour. While the system is software supported it will still need a lot of paid staff to watch the screens and to bother all the people who might carry something 'suspicious'.  There will likely be dozens if not hundreds false alarms per day.


Pic: Thruvision - bigger

This is supposedly to prevent someone with an explosives belt or an automatic rifle from entering the subway with the intend to commit mass murder. But how often does that happen? Globally its probably once per decade with zero to a few dozen casualties in any such incident. The risk of an accident or fire is much higher. It is doubtful that the expenditure and operating costs are justifiable.

Such security theater has the effect and purpose to make people feel afraid. It also makes a few people very rich.

But we are told that it is good for us. And taking part in this nonsense it is of course completely "voluntary":

Signs will be posted at stations warning passengers they are subject to body scanner screening. The screening process is voluntary, Wiggins said, but customers who choose not to be screened won’t be able to ride on the subway.

The poor have little choice but to use the subway and to get 'voluntarily' screened. The rich though will not be bothered at all.

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (56)

August 14, 2018

UN Sanction Monitor: U.S. Stands By While ISIS In Syria Recuperates, Gains Money From Oil

Since November 2017 the U.S. largely stopped the fight against ISIS in north-east Syria. It gave ISIS the chance to regain power. A new report to the UN Security Council now confirms that ISIS in north-east Syria recuperated. It again profits from oil extraction under the nose of U.S. forces.

As noted here in April:

The U.S. military in Syria has refrained from fighting ISIS for months. The map of the territory held by ISIS (grey) at the Syrian-Iraqi border in the U.S. controlled zone north of the Euphrates (yellow) has not changed since November 2017.

Livemap: Nov 30 2017, Apr 24 2018 - bigger, bigger

(The yellow corridor going south east towards Iraq on the map is misleading. The U.S. has no forces there and ISIS crossed it several times to attack Syrian forces (red) across the river.)

The British group Airwars documents the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. ... The U.S. strikes hit, if anything, only very minor targets.
...
It is obvious that the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive and well to again use it, if need be, against the Syrian and Iraqi government.

The Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council recently released its 26nd report (pdf). It notes in the summary:

[The] Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), having been defeated militarily in Iraq and most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, rallied in early 2018. This was the result of a loss of momentum by forces fighting it in the east of the Syrian Arab Republic, which prolonged access by ISIL to resources and gave it breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network. By June 2018, the military campaigns against ISIL had gathered pace again, but ISIL still controlled small pockets of territory in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Iraqi border. It was able to extract and sell some oil, and to mount attacks, including across the border into Iraq.

Under the nose of more than 2,000 U.S. forces in north-east Syria ISIS recuperated and again gained force. It is still able to pump oil from the ground and sell it into the local market.

In the details of its report the Sanctions Monitor writes:

Cont. reading: UN Sanction Monitor: U.S. Stands By While ISIS In Syria Recuperates, Gains Money From Oil

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (56)

August 12, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-40

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Three weeks before the current Canadian-Saudi spat, the Canadian Revenue Agency took away the charity status of an Islamic center and mosque in Ottawa. The mosque had received largess from foreign donors and, it is alleged, featured radical preachers. The event may have caused the otherwise inexplicable Saudi behavior.

Just now the U.S. occupation suffers a new defeat.

On Friday some 1,000 Taliban infiltrated into Ghazni, an important city on the ring-road between Kabul and Khandahar. They have since taken most of the city:

Accounts from residents leaving the city said the only areas still being held by the government were the governor’s office, police and intelligence agencies headquarters, an ancient fort called the Bala Hisar and a few other government facilities.

Early today the Taliban brought the police headquarter under their control:

Intense fighting continues in Ghazni, the police HQ caught fire and collapsed to the Taliban. 113 dead bodies and 142 wounded were taken to Ghazni hospital. The hospital is running out of the capacity for treatment, they are using corridors and other available space.

Only the province government headquarter is still defended. More than 100 police and soldiers have been killed so far. Relief forces sent from Kabul are holed up in an army headquarter some five kilometers away. Telephone communication with the city is down. Some bridges were blown up by the Taliban which makes it difficult for the army bring in more re-enforcements. Some 150,000 civilians live in the city and bombing it to hit a few hundred Taliban would be catastrophic and of little use.  Additionally to the city 15 of the 18 districts of Ghazni province are under Taliban control and it is obvious that they have the support of a significant part of the population.


bigger

The U.S. occupation forces and their Afghan proxy government have long been in denial about the Taliban forces in Ghazni province as well as elsewhere. With the Taliban sitting on the ring-road, the south of Afghanistan is cut off from the center. They may eventually be evicted from the city but the attack is already a huge propaganda success for the Taliban and the negative moral effect on Afghan government forces will be huge. Another U.S. war that the empire obviously lost.

Right now Erdogan is holding a speech in Trabzon. He is defiant:

DAILY SABAH - @DailySabah
LIVE — President Erdoğan: The fluctuation in Turkish lira is a plot against Turkey, but Turkish people will not give in
LIVE — President Erdoğan: We might as well say goodbye to those who sacrifice their strategic partnership with a country of 81 million, alliance over 50 years for links with terror groups

Does that sounds like "Good bye NATO"? The Turkish military would not be happy with that. But by now it is presumably under Erdogan's full control.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:26 AM | Comments (153)

August 10, 2018

How Turkey's Currency Crisis Came To Pass

Updated below
---

President Erdogan of Turkey often asserts that 'foreign powers' (meaning the U.S.) want to bring him down. He says that the 'interest lobby' (meaning (Jewish) bankers), wants to damage Turkey. He is somewhat right on both points.

Since last week the Turkish lira is on an extended down-slide. Today alone it lost nearly 20% of its value. It will likely take the Turkish economy with it and Erdogan need someone to blame for it.

But while foreign powers and banks surely use the crisis for their own aims, it its Erdogan's economic policy that is foremost to blame. The long boom he created with borrowed foreign money is finally turning into a bust.

Here is a recap of how it came to this.


The larger political picture:

During the U.S. induced 'Arab Spring' U.S. President Obama joined with Qatar and Turkey in an attempt to install Muslim Brotherhood governments throughout the Middle East. When Hillary Clinton left the position of Secretary of State and John Kerry took over, the Obama administration changed its position. It endorsed the coup against the elected Egyptian President Morsi and it refrained from actively using the U.S. military to bring the Syrian government down.

Especially with regards to Syria Turkey was left holding the bag. Erdogan had bet on the U.S. plan to overthrow the Syrian government. His invitation of Syrian refugees and support of radical Islamists fighting in Syria had cost a significant amount of money and brought a lot of trouble with it. The Turkish trade route through Syria to the Gulf countries was closed. Economic relations with Iran suffered. Erdogan needed to get something out of it.

But U.S. policies had turned against him. The Gezi protests in 2013 had all the signs of a  U.S. color revolution attempt. They failed. In 2014 the Obama administration began to support the Kurdish PKK/YPG forces in Kobane, east Syria. The PKK is a terrorist organization which tries to create its own country in the eastern part of Turkey, north Syria and north Iraq. The U.S. alliance with and arming of the Kurds created a PKK/YPG dagger pointed at Turkey's underbelly.

In response to a Turkish led attack on Latakia and Idleb in mid 2015 Russia deployed its forces to Syria. In hindsight it was the point where Erdogan's game in Syria was over. The U.S. would not launch a war against the nuclear armed Russia. Syria would not fall. But Erdogan played on.

In November 2015 the Turkish air defense ambushed and shot down a Russian jet. Russia responded with a total stop of all economic exchanges with Turkey.  These were not the needle prick sanctions the U.S. often uses, but a total abrupt end of all trade relations including millions of Russian tourist visits in Turkey. The economic damage for Turkey was huge. Erdogan had to submit to Russia. Putin was gracious and allowed Erdogan to save his face. The Russian government offered a lucrative pipeline deal and other sweeteners. In mid 2016 the CIA arranged for a hard coup against Erdogan but Russian intelligence warned Erdogan and the coup failed. Turkey is asking the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gulen which it accuses of instigating the coup. Gulen is a Turkish preacher with a large following and a long time CIA asset who resides in Pennsylvania.

Flipping Turkey from the "western" to the "eastern" camp can be seen as part of Russia's Black Sea strategy. It is repeat of a mid 19th-century plan executed under Tzar Nicholas I. The current plan is so far successful. But it collides with the U.S. plans to revive NATO for another lucrative Cold War. Thus the current U.S. plan is to use Turkey's economy problems to finally bring Erdogan down.


The larger economic picture:

Cont. reading: How Turkey's Currency Crisis Came To Pass

Posted by b at 04:20 PM | Comments (200)

August 09, 2018

U.S. 'Fine Tuning' Of Saudi Airstrike Target List Creates Results

U.S. Deepens Role in Yemen Fight, Offers Gulf Allies Airstrike-Target Assistance - Wall Street Journal - June 12, 2018

The U.S. military is providing its Gulf allies with intelligence to fine-tune their list of airstrike targets ...
---

Saudi-led coalition claims deadly Yemen attack - Daily Mail - August 9, 2018

A Saudi-led coalition battling in Yemen said it carried out a deadly attack in the rebel-held north on Thursday, which the Red Cross said hit a bus carrying children.
...
"Following an attack this morning on a bus driving children in Dahyan Market, northern Saada, (an ICRC-supported) hospital has received dozens of dead and wounded," the organisation said on Twitter without giving more details.

Cont. reading: U.S. 'Fine Tuning' Of Saudi Airstrike Target List Creates Results

Posted by b at 02:59 PM | Comments (105)

August 08, 2018

Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

A new excerpt from a book by C.J. Chivers, a former U.S. infantry captain and New York Times war correspondent, tells the story of a young man from New York City who joined the U.S. army and was send to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. While the man, one Robert Soto, makes it out alive, several of his comrades and many Afghans die during his time in Afghanistan to no avail.

The piece includes remarkably strong words about the strategic (in)abilities of U.S. politicians, high ranking officers and pundits:

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.

That description is right but it does not touche the underlying causes. The story of the attempted U.S. occupation of the Korengal valley,  which Civers again describes, has been the theme of several books and movies. It demonstrates the futility of fighting a population that does not welcome occupiers. But most of the authors, including Chivers, get one fact wrong. The war with the people of the Korengal valley was started out of shear stupidity and ignorance.

The main military outpost in the valley was build on a former sawmill. Chivers writes:

On a social level, it could not have been much worse. It was an unforced error of occupation, a set of foreign military bunkers built on the grounds of a sawmill and lumber yard formerly operated by Haji Mateen, a local timber baron. The American foothold put some of the valley’s toughest men out of work, the same Afghans who knew the mountain trails. Haji Mateen now commanded many of the valley’s fighters, under the banner of the Taliban.

Unfortunately Chivers does not explain why the saw mill was closed. Ten years ago a piece by Elizabeth Rubin touched on this:

Cont. reading: Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

Posted by b at 04:00 PM | Comments (62)

August 07, 2018

Repost: Saakashvili Wants War? He Will Get It.

This is a repost. The original was published 10 years ago, just a few hours after that little war in Georgia began.
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Despite yesterday's announced ceasefire, the government of Georgia today launched an all out military attack on the breakaway region South Ossetia in northern Georgia.

There are multiple reasons for this conflict. South Ossetia declared itself independent in the early 1990s. Ossetians are a distinct ethnic group with some 60,000 living in South Ossetia and some 500,000 living in North Ossetia which is a part of Russia. Most people in South Ossetia have a Russian passport and there are UN mandated Russian peacekeepers there.

In the bigger picture Georgia is supported by 'the west' as part of an energy transport corridor from the Caspian to the Black Sea.

In 2003 the U.S. engineered Rose revolution brought the U.S. trained lawyer Mikheil Saakashvili to the top of Georgia. He since ruled with a dubious civil rights record. When opposition demonstrations in November 2007 became too big he imposed a state of emergency and suppressed the media.

Why Saakashvili decided to escalate this conflict right now is a bit mysterious. He may hope that the Olympics will distract from the conflict. He seems to have some 'western' support for this escalation:

At the request of Russia, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency session in New York but failed to reach consensus early Friday on a Russian-drafted statement.

The council concluded it was at a stalemate after the U.S., Britain and some other members backed the Georgians in rejecting a phrase in the three-sentence draft statement that would have required both sides "to renounce the use of force," council diplomats said.

For internal reasons as much as on foreign policy ground Russia will not allow Saakashvili to take over South Ossetia. It will either support the Ossetians with weapons which may lead to a prolonged guerrilla war, or it may even invade on its own.

Saakashvili already claims Russian intervention in form of air assaults and uses this as a pretext for mobilization of reserves. I'd take that with some grains of salt as it sounds like coming from the Gleiwitz radio station. If three Russian planes really bombed Georgia, they would have left damage. So far none was shown.

Saakashvili may hope for physical help from 'the west', but neither NATO nor the EU has any appetite to support his escapades.

What has led him to this miscalculation?

---
So far the repost. Saakashvili's little war unfolded pretty much as foreseen above. After the Georgian artillery attack on Russian peacekeepers the Russian army responded and within five days Georgia was defeated and disarmed. The status quo ante was reinstated. Saakashvili ate his tie (vid).

After the short war Russia diligently analyzed its losses and failures. The war gave impetus to the development of new weapons and tactics. Russian airplanes were equipped with new electronics. Better communication and coordination within the ground troops was emphasized. The high operational capabilities the Russian military demonstrates in Syria would not exist to their extend had that little war not happened.

The other side of the war - the U.S., NATO and Georgia - seems to have learned nothing from it.

Posted by b at 08:00 AM | Comments (66)

August 06, 2018

Codename Acor Sycamore - The Saudi-U.S.-Al-Qaeda Plan To Reconquer Canada

Official news of the Saudi-U.S.-Al-Qaeda alliance was probably not enough to make the point. Anyone who crosses a U.S. or Saudi red line will be punished with by al-Qaeda .

Canada crossed such a line. That is what a verified Saudi propaganda account @infographic_ksa expressed today when it published this photo:


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There is little subtlety in showing an airliner flying into the CN Tower in Toronto. (The tweet, and a follow up without the plane, have since been deleted. Earlier today the account called for murdering Iran's supreme leader. That tweet is still up. Update: The account was deleted.)

The 9/11 like tweet was part of a Saudi response to Canada's "overt and blatant interference in the internal affairs of the Kingdom of #SaudiArabia".

On July 30 Saudi Arabia incarcerated the activist Samar Badawi, a sister of the Saudi dissident Raif Badawi. Raif Badawi himself has been in prison for several years. His wife Ensaf Haidar and their three children found asylum in Canada. They live in Sherbrooke in Québec.

On August 3 Canada's government expressed its displeasure with the recent arrest:

Cont. reading: Codename Acor Sycamore - The Saudi-U.S.-Al-Qaeda Plan To Reconquer Canada

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (74)

Yemen - The Saudi-U.S.-Al-Qaeda Alliance Is Now Official 'News'

When in March 2015 the U.S and Saudi Arabia launched their war on Yemen, Moon of Alabama noted:

[T]he U.S. supported Saudi campaign is actually in support of their Wahhabi Al-Qaeda brethren, not in support of the majority of Yemenis.

In April 2015 evidence emerged that Saudi Arabia hired al-Qaeda in Yemen to fight the Houthi movement and its allies.

At that time al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (APAQ) captured the military base, refinery and port of Mukala in south Yemen. The Yemeni soldiers guarding those facilities had orders not to resist the move. They were under command of a Muslim Brotherhood officer who resides in Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda immediately renamed itself "Sons of Hadramaut" while the Saudis announced that they would support the new "Popular Committees". 

To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are "extremist groups". Al Qaeda, especially in the form of "popular committees" like the "Sons of Hadhramaut", are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure, the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.

The hiring and arming of al-Qaeda by Saudi Arabia and others has since been a frequent occurrence. But the mainstream media hardly ever reported the issue. It was a 'conspiracy theory' peddled by lowly bloggers like yours truly.

Now it is official news. The Associated Press headlines: Yemen: US allies don’t defeat al-Qaida but pay it to go away.

Even though the AP headline and the first paragraphs are somewhat misleading, the piece is well worth the read:

Cont. reading: Yemen - The Saudi-U.S.-Al-Qaeda Alliance Is Now Official 'News'

Posted by b at 07:22 AM | Comments (41)

August 05, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-39

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The talk in U.S. media is all about "denuclearization". But denuclearization is the last step in the four step Joint Statement Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un signed in Singapore. "New US-DPRK relations", "a lasting and stable peace regime" and "security guarantees to the DPRK" come before "denuclearisation". They are preconditions. The U.S. side tries to skip over them. At the current ASEAN Regional Forum the Foreign Minister of North Korea Ri Yong Ho again emphasized the sequencing:

Confidence is not a sentiment to be cultivated overnight. In order to build full confidence between the DPRK and the U.S., it is essential for both sides to take simultaneous actions and phased steps to do what is possible one after another.

We believe that the only practical way for moving forward is to take a new approach of giving priority to confidence-building and implementing all items of the Joint Statement in a balanced, simultaneous and phased way.

Only when the U.S. ensures that we feel comfortable with and come close to it, will we be able to open our minds to the U.S. and show it in action.

This is the core essence of the spirit of the agreement shared by the leaders of the DPRK and the U.S.

The New York Times report on that Ri Yong Ho speech is repeating the false emphasis on "denuclearization". Its characterization of the four steps of the Singapore Statement is wrong:

Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim held their historic summit meeting in Singapore on June 12, signing a document in which Mr. Kim committed to work toward a “complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula” while Mr. Trump promised to provide security guarantees to the North and to build “new” bilateral relations. They recognized that “mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.”

The NYT sets denuclearisation first and security guarantees and relation building as second. The "building of a peace regime", i.e. the formal ending of the Korea War by a peace treaty, is not mentioned at all. The relevant facts a reader needs to understand the North Korean complain are simply left out.

Aaron Maté interviewed Professor Isa Blumi, the author of "Destroying Yemen", on The Real News Network: The Saudi-US Agenda Behind Destroying Yemen. Blumi talks of the larger "western" motives in supporting the Saudi/UAE assault on Yemen: resources, fishing rights, sea control and more.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 09:20 AM | Comments (77)

August 04, 2018

Washington Post Blames Iran For Trump's Unilateral Sanctions Against It

Who is to blame for the Trump administration's revocation of the nuclear deal with Iran? Who is to blame for the sanctions the Trump administration is unilaterally imposing on Iran, parts of which go into effect today?

According to Jason Rezaian, it is the Iranian government.

Jason Rezaian was the Washington Post bureau chief in Tehran. In July 2014 he was arrested in Tehran for espionage and sentenced to prison. In a side deal to the nuclear agreement he was released in 2016 in exchange for Iranians held in the United States.

Rezaian now writes a Global Opinion column for the Post. His latest is headlined: I lived in an Iran under sanctions. Here’s what it’s like.

I lived in Tehran then and reported extensively on the impact the sanctions had.

If that experience is a predictor of what is about to hit the people of Iran, here’s a preview of what ordinary Iranians can expect in the weeks and months ahead.

He lists a number of issues that sanctions will cause: the rial will fall further, some medicines will be difficult to get, there will be other shortages, black markets will reappear, a few will profit from them:

That small but not inconsequential segment of the population will see its wealth balloon as it did in 2012 and 2013. There will be a disproportionate number of the most expensive luxury cars on Earth sitting in Tehran's perpetual traffic.

Sounds like London or New York to me. Indeed, as one commentator to that op-ed remarks:

Cont. reading: Washington Post Blames Iran For Trump's Unilateral Sanctions Against It

Posted by b at 02:40 PM | Comments (64)

August 03, 2018

Saudi Coalition Renews Attack On North Yemen's Lifeline

The war on Yemen, which has been ongoing for three years, gets way too little mention in "western" media:

The reason for inattention is obvious: The United States bears real responsibility for the crisis. A quote from a Yemeni doctor found in PBS reporter Jane Ferguson’s piece sums it up:

“The missiles that kill us, American-made. The planes that kill us, American-made. The tanks … American-made. You are saying to me, where is America? America is the whole thing.”

The war is also complicate and difficult to explain. The alliances are opaque and make little sense. Individual events conceal the big picture.

The Saudis started the war after a Zaidi Shia movement from Yemen's northern highlands, the Houthi, pushed the Saudi proxy-government under the former president Hadi out of the capital Sanaa. The exiled Hadi government is still internationally recognized but under complete Saudi control.

The Saudis want to control all of Yemen. While Yemen is geographically smaller and dirt poor it has an equal number of citizens and some valuable resources. The Saudis have for decades financed Wahhabi preachers to proselyte in Yemen. But Yemen has its own milder style of Islam and the Wahhabis were generally not welcome. There are also plans for a Saudi pipeline to Yemeni ports which would allow Saudi exports to bypass the Strait of Hormuz. For their war on Yemen the Saudis allied with the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE have their own plans for Yemen. They wants to control south Yemen and the port of Aden as a gemstone in their expansionary Dubai Port World conglomerate.

Both have hired Yemeni tribal proxies and foreign mercenaries to help in their campaigns. The Saudis have allied with the Yemeni Islah party which is part of the international Muslim Brotherhood. The UAE allied with some southern Yemeni tribes who strive for independence from the north.

The U.S. supports its Gulf "allies" and sells them lots of weapon. It is also interested in keeping al-Qaeda in Yemen down.

All these aims are conflicting with each other.

Ahmed Muthana, a former Yemeni diplomat based in Washington DC, explains why, for example, al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) can not be eliminated from Yemen:

Cont. reading: Saudi Coalition Renews Attack On North Yemen's Lifeline

Posted by b at 02:44 PM | Comments (48)

August 02, 2018

Open Thread 2018-38

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (121)

August 01, 2018

Syria Sitrep - The Southwest Is Liberated - On To Idlib

The Syrian Arab Army campaign in southwest Syria is coming to an end. The whole (green/black) area held by "rebels" and ISIS just six weeks ago is now liberated. After early resistance was overcome by a large force, many "rebel" groups gave up their fight and agreed to hand over their heavy weapons to the government forces. Those who accepted reconciliation agreements were granted amnesty, a few preferred to be evacuated to Idleb governorate.

The quarter million displaced persons the UN claimed to be in the area have not been found.


Daraa governorate, June 18 2018 - bigger

After the eastern half was cleaned and "rebels" in Daraa city defeated the fight continued in the Quneitra area along the ceasefire to the Israeli occupied Golan Heights. Here the early resistance was again strong but soon broke down. The "rebels" were offered a new alternative. They could attach their units to the Syrian army. More than 400 are now serving with the 4th Armored Division led by Maher Assad, the brother of Syria's president. Others were formed into the separate 'Ahmed' brigade. Many of these former "rebels" helped to overcome the resistance of the last ISIS fighters at the southwestern border with Jordan. A few of the ISIS nutters survived and were taken to prison (vid).

This model of converting "moderate rebels" into government soldiers to fight al-Qaeda, ISIS and other radical Islamist will be an important element in the upcoming operation to liberated Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - The Southwest Is Liberated - On To Idlib

Posted by b at 03:20 PM | Comments (76)

July 31, 2018

Hawks Renew Their Attacks On North Korea Talks

There are new attempts underway to sabotage the deal U.S. President Trump made with North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong-Un. These attacks are based on misleading interpretations of the agreements that were made between the two leaders.

Duyeon Kim, a fellow of the Center for a New American Security based in Seoul, suggests in Foreign Policy to ignore the agreed upon sequencing of a. the establishment new US-DPRK relations, b. a peace agreements and c. denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Duyeon Kim argues:

[T]he issue is the order of agreed points, which has caused confusion and misinterpretation. For the first time in the history of negotiations, Washington essentially accepted, whether blindly or wittingly, Pyongyang’s wish list on sequencing: 1) normalization of bilateral relations, 2) establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and then 3) “complete denuclearization.” ...

This is not "Pyongyang’s wish list". North Korea's "wish list" did not include denuclearization talks. The listed content of those steps and their sequencing was negotiated and agreed upon by all parties. The leaders of North Korea, South Korea and the United States signed on to them. For some undisclosed reason Duyeon Kim wants to change that:

Cont. reading: Hawks Renew Their Attacks On North Korea Talks

Posted by b at 03:19 PM | Comments (63)

July 30, 2018

U.S. Negotiates Retreat From Afghanistan

The United States seems ready to give up on Afghanistan.

After the World Trade Center came down the U.S. accused al-Qaeda, parts of which were hosted in Afghanistan. The Taliban government offered the U.S. to extradite al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to an Islamic country to be judged under Islamic law. The U.S. rejected that and decided instead to destroy the Afghan government.

Taliban units, supported by Pakistani officers, were at that time still fighting against the Northern Alliance which held onto a few areas in the north of the country. Under threats from the U.S. Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as its natural depth hinterland, was pressed into service. In exchange for its cooperation with the U.S. operation it was allowed to extradite its forces and main figures of the Taliban.

U.S. special forces were dropped into north Afghanistan. They came with huge amounts of cash and the ability to call in B-52 bombers. Together with the Northern Alliance they move towards Kabul bombing any place where some feeble resistance came from. The Taliban forces dissolved. Many resettled in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda also vanished.

A conference with Afghan notables was held in Germany's once capital Bonn. The Afghans wanted to reestablish the former Kingdom but were pressed into accepting a western style democracy. Fed with large amounts of western money the norther warlords, all well known mass-murderers, and various greedy exiles were appointed as a government. To them it was all about money. There was little capability and interest to govern.

All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country.

Cont. reading: U.S. Negotiates Retreat From Afghanistan

Posted by b at 02:49 PM | Comments (106)

July 29, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-37

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Bloomberg fell for Netanyahoo's trick:

To limit Iran’s role, Russia had proposed a 100-km (60-mile) buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border that would be off limits to Iranian forces and their allies. But Israel is demanding further protections, including the removal of long-range Iranian missiles from Syria and limits on weapons supplies, according to media reports in Israel and Russia.

The MoA piece provides that it was Israel that claimed Russia had set the 100 km range, something it had not done, and it is Israel that demands even more.

This was, for several reasons, an unproductive week for your host. Next week the blog will, hopefully, be back to (nearly) daily posts.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (195)