Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 30, 2015

Open Thread 2015-27

(Busy...)

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (33)

June 28, 2015

The Turkish Military Rejects Erdogan's War Plans - "False Flag" Needed?

The war on Syria would not be possible without the huge involvement of Turkey on the side of the islamists fighting the Syrian government. Despite some success by Kurdish guerrillas along the border with Turkey against the Islamic State there are still open routes that allow the islamists to cross and which are their most important supply lines.

The Kurdish success against the Islamic State and other Turkey supported islamist groups, created with U.S. air support, is seen as a strategic threat to Turkey. The Kurds already have a semi-autonomous state in north Iraq. They now could possibly create one in Syria along the Syrian Turkish border. They may later want to integrate Kurdish areas in Turkey.

"I am addressing the whole world: We will never allow a state to be formed in northern Syria, south of our border," Erdoğan said at a Ramadan event organized by Turkish Red Crescent in Istanbul late June 26.

"We will keep up with our struggle whatever the cost is. They are trying to complete an operation to change the demographics of the region. We will not condone," he said.

The economic situation in Turkey is getting worse. Erdogan and his AKP party lost in the recent elections but want to avoid a coalition government. Erdogan isn't finished. He will call for new elections but will first create a situation that will diminish the vote for the mostly pro-Kurdish party HDP and thereby recoup their parliamentary votes for his AKP.

All three issues: the Turkish proxy attack on Syria through islamists forces, countering the threat of Kurdish consolidation in Syria and diminishing support for the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey could possibly be furthered in Erdogan's favor if he could create a wider conflict with the Kurds.

Last weeks Islamic State raid on Kobane, allegedly from Turkey, killed over 200 people, mostly civilians. This was a much bigger terrorist attack than the ones in Tunisia, Kuwait and France which were hyped in "western" media. But with U.S. support on the side of the Kurds the islamist Turkish proxy forces have trouble to defeat the Kurds.

Erdogan's solution to his problems is to send the Turkish military. Its task would be to keep the Kurds in Syria from progressing further and to keep the logistic lines for the Islamic State to Turkey open. The army fighting against Kurds in Syria could also help to diminish non-Kurdish support for the pro-Kurdish HDP in Turkey.

But the Turkish army does not want to fight Erdogan's war:

Turkey’s government wants more active military action to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the regime, Kurdish and jihadist forces in Syrian territory, but the military is reluctant to do so, playing for time as the country heads for a new coalition government, official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
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One source explained the “need” as to “prevent more clashes between the ISIL and the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border and create a safe zone against a new wave of refugees on Syrian territory, no longer in Turkey.”

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has delayed the government directive with justifications of international law and politics and the uncertainty of reactions from the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, as well as from its supporters Russia and Iran, together with the United States.

The government has been conducting dialogue since then to convince the army on its plans.

The army is blocking Erdogan's move to send at least one division into Syria. It wants its orders in writing and from a new, yet to be formed, government. The Turkish attack will therefore - should happen at all - not be launched before fall.

With this move the army leadership, surely in contact with the U.S., takes one of three of Erdogan's reasons for sending the military off the table:

Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni wrote in the early hours of Saturday that President Erdoğan is concerned about what the anonymous account alleged to be secret coalition efforts between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and that a Syrian war appears to be the only way to create chaos that will lead to increased support for the AK Party.

As the army does not want to follow Erdogan's plan he may to have look for other ways to create an emergency situation. Could some "terrorist attacks" on Turkish land from Syria be used to press the army into immediate action? The Turkish intelligence service M.I.T. is in Erdogan's hand. It does not shy away from dirty "false flag" business. Could it be used to create the crisis Erdogan needs? Could the neoliberalcons in Washington DC help him?

Posted by b at 12:12 PM | Comments (36)

June 27, 2015

The Greek Tragedy: Curtain Closes On Most Absurd Act

Nothing was posted here so far on the Greece tragedy. I did not touch the issue as there was excellent coverage elsewhere and what the whole issue produced so far was more absurd theater than serious economic policy. But one act of the drama is now coming to a preliminary end and the tragedy may now unfold into something new with potential serious geopolitical consequences.

Greece took up a lot of debt when banks were giving away money without caring for the ability of the debtor to pay back. When that game ran out, some six years ago, Greece could not no longer take up new credit to pay back its old debts. That is the point where it should have defaulted.

But the Greece government was pressed on to pay back the debt to the commercial banks even when it had no money and not enough income to ever do so. Bank lobbyists pressed other EU governments to raid their taxpayers to indirectly cover the banks' losses. These other governments then pushed Greece to take on "emergency loans" from their states to pay the foreign commercial banks.

Nothing of that money ever reached the people in need in Greece. Here is a gif that explains what happened to all those foreign taxpayer loans treats "given to the Greek".

To get these new loans Greece had to agree to lunatic economic measures, an austerity program and neoliberal "reforms", to fix its balance of payments. But austerity has never worked, does not work and will never work. It crashes economies, lowers tax incomes and thereby further hinders a government to pay back it debts. It creates a vicious cycle that ends in an economic catastrophe.

After six years of austerity nonsense the Greece voted for a new party that promised to end the cycle and stop the austerity measures. But the new Syriza government misjudge the situation and the nastiness and criminal energy of the other governments and organizations it was negotiating with. It early on said it would not default and thereby took away its own best negotiation argument. The negotiations failed. The creditors still demand more and more austerity. Now it will have to default but under circumstances that will make it much more difficult for Greece to get back on its feet.

Yesterday the Syriza prime minister Tsirpas, in a speech to his people, called for an end of the blackmail and for a referendum to decide on the way forward:

Fellow Greeks, to the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

Paul Maison of Channel 4 news sees this as a positive and likely successful step. The people will vote no to austerity and the IMF, European Central Bank and various country governments will still keep giving fresh money to Greece. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism does not believe that this will happen. She calls the referendum a sham. Greece will default and the only thing the referendum will do is to keep Syriza in the political business. She blames Tsirpas for having misjudged the situation and for being unprepared of what is likely to come:

Greek defiance of its creditors will make it more, not less dependent on them in the next year. How badly things turn out for Greece will depend in significant degree on how much they do to ameliorate the impact of the implosion of the banking system, whether they take extreme measures to keep Greece in the Eurozone, and if Greece tumbles out, how much they provide in humanitarian aid and targeted trade financing (most important, for petroleum imports).

Greece should have defaulted six years ago. Tsirpas should have prepared for default immediately after he became premier. He should have used it as a threat during the negotiations. Greece will now have to default in the worst possible situation and with little thought given to the consequences of the default.

But the consequences will not be limited to Greece.There will be consequences for the EU, for NATO and for the political balance in the Mediterranean. Greece may now decide to leave the "western" realm and thereby set an example others could follow.

The German and other European governments promised their taxpayers that Greece will not default and that the austerity program pushed onto it will succeed. They will now rightfully lose some of their political and economic credibility. The Greece default will be a somewhat harsh and expensive lesson for the voters in those countries too. Let's hope that they will draw the right conclusions.

Posted by b at 10:30 AM | Comments (151)

June 25, 2015

The NYT Pre-Announces Iran Deal Failure

Judging from this NYT editorial a nuclear deal with Iran is not going to happen. The blame will of course be put on Iran even while the real reasons for the likely failure are unreasonable U.S. demands.

The editorial blames the Iranian senior leader Khamenei for the failure. Khamenei yesterday held a speech and repeated his red lines and parameters for a deal. There was nothing new in it. The same points have been made by him in since the start of the negotiations.

He says there will no IAEA snap inspections of Iranian military sites. It is well known that the U.S. used such international inspections in Iraq to extensively spy on the Iraqi military. There will be no questioning of Iranian scientists by the IAEA. Five nuclear scientist have been murdered in Iran after their names and faces became publicly known. Israel is suspected to be behind those killings. It is unreasonable to ask those scientist to risk their lifes to answer irrelevant questions about unfounded allegations of former nuclear research. Khamenei insist on an immediate lift of the sanctions when a deal is signed. He reasonably suspects that any other scheme, like with the sanctions on Iraq, would be used to keep the sanctions on forever while pressing on Iran to fulfill additional commitments. This especially when the IAEA, which is under strong U.S. influence, would be the agency to judge if a commitment is fulfilled or not. The agency would never be satisfied and the sanctions would stay.

The NYT editorial says Khamenei's points are "at odds with a framework agreement reached on April 2". That is a bit weird as the actual full framework agreement has not been made public. So how do the editorial writers know this? "Western officials also say Iran has agreed to ..." Oh, western officials claim something. Then of course they, not Khamenei who has repeated the above points over and over again, must be right?

The editorial comes two days after the NYT published an op-ed by one Alan Kuiperman which claimed that the Iran deal "has a fatal flaw". The op-ed was so fatally flawed on the facts that the Arms Control Association felt it necessary to rebuke (scroll down) it in detail.

Today the news side of the NYT carries a piece by its main sophister David Sanger which reports on a letter some republicans and five former functionaries of the Obama administration sent to him about the Iran deal warning that the deal "may be flawed". Only in the 11th paragraph do we learn their names and that the group was led by Dennis Ross, a well known Israel stooge. Only in the 26th of 27 long waxing paragraphs do we learn that letter was not written by those who sent it:

The letter emerged from a study group on nuclear issues organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a policy institute.

Not mentioned is that the Washington Institute was founded by AIPAC and is part of the Israeli lobby. Any letter that "emerged" there was likely written in Tel Aviv.

That the NYT now seems to run against any reasonable deal is suspicious. The paper is often the pre-publishing administration outlet spiked by background talks to "announce" official administration positions before they become official. I regard its current onslaught on a reasonable deal and the early assignment of guilt as a pre-announcement of the U.S. government position which will become official when, in a week or two, the current talks in Geneva will have failed.

Posted by b at 02:51 PM | Comments (57)

June 23, 2015

Israel's Plan To Steal More Syrian Land Runs Into Trouble

Despite supportive propaganda in U.S. media Israel's plan to steal more Syrian land "to protect the Syrian Druze" runs into trouble.

Israel claims that the Druze in the north-eastern Golan heights need protection against attacks by the Jabhat al-Nusra Jihadis. It "offers" to send its soldiers to keep the Al-Qaeda terrorists away.

But the Druze are no fools. They know that Israel supports the Jihadis and has done so for a quite long time now. Israeli soldiers were filmed exchanging goods with Nusra terrorists. Wounded Jihadis find help in Israeli military hospitals. Attacks on Syrian soldiers by Syrian "rebels" including Al Qaeda were supported by Israeli artillery fire.

The Syrian army protects the Druze in Syria from attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra Jihadists and other terrorists. Now, after sitting on the sideline for quite some time, Druze militia have joined the Syran army and will fight on its side:

The overstretched Syrian military, fighting battles across multiple front lines, is relying here on a key ally: members of the Druze sect, an offshoot of Islam that has adherents in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Thousands of men from the province are said to have signed up to protect Suwayda, the Druze heartland. Syria is believed to be home to about half of the estimated 1.5 million Druze worldwide.

"We, the sons of Suwayda, will be martyred on our front doors before we let them pass," vowed Maj. William Abu Fakher, a pro-government militiaman who stood guard with other Druze volunteers, several in their 50s, at a checkpoint in the sun-scorched terrain.
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"Our only choice is to repel and refuse the entry of any terrorist group into the area of Suwayda," Sheikh Yusef Jarboo, a top Druze cleric in Syria, told Lebanese broadcaster Al Mayadeen in an interview this month. "We shall resist with all the power we have."

About 27,000 Druze fighters, the cleric said, were being incorporated "under the umbrella" of the Syrian military, which numbers perhaps 200,000 plus tens of thousands of pro-government militiamen and allies from Lebanon and beyond.

There are also rumors of support by Hizbullah fighters and trainers for the Druze militia. All that does not sound like those Druze really need Israeli "protection". The Druze are famously suspicions of other groups intends. It is part of their sect's survival strategy. They do not fall for the Israeli plot.

There are some 100,000 Druze in Israel and some of those serve in the Israeli army. An additional 20,000 Druze live on the Israel occupied side of the Golan heights. They reject Israeli citizenship and do not serve in the army.

But that Israel supports Jihadis who attack Druze in Syria is also a concern for the Israeli Druze in the military:

A Druze army officer, on patrol at one of the outlooks, said: "If Israel continues to treat wounded from rebel units, the Druze will have to take off their uniforms."
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He said that he was angered by the fact that Israeli Druze soldiers were forced, in his words, to evacuate wounded Syrians who had fought under the rebel command which threatened their Syrian brothers.

The Druze on the Israel occupied side of the Golan heights have family on the other side of the border.  As the terrorists now attack their families on the Syrian side they have now twice attacked Israeli ambulances which were transporting Jihadis wounded in Syria to an Israeli military hospital:

One Syrian militant was beaten to death and one was wounded in very serious-to-critical condition after Druze protesters attacked Monday night an Israel Defense Forces ambulance in northern Israel carrying Syrian members of armed militias wounded in the civil war there. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded.
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This is the second time in 24 hours that protesters have struck an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians.

The Israeli government claims that it does not help terrorist in Syria but only wounded normal Syrian people who would not hurt the Druze. That sounds unconvincing not only to the Druze as even the wounded terrorists claim the opposite:

Sheikh Muafiq Tarif, the Druse spiritual leader in Israel, told Army Radio on Tuesday that the community’s anger reached a boiling point following an interview on Channel 2 with one of the injured Syrians being treated in Israel. According to Tarif, the patient was a Syrian rebel who said that he was willing to return to the civil war and harm Druse.

“This broadcast stirred up emotions throughout the Druse community,” Tarif said. “The wounded man said that he was going back to Syria to kill Druse. This should’ve sounded the alarm for everyone.”

If Israel continues its plans to "protect" the Druze in Syria and to occupy their land it will run into more trouble. It will first have to ask Jabhat al-Nusra to attack the Syrian army and the Druze protecting their homeland. Such an attack must be successful enough to provide that Israel's "help" is indeed needed. Israel will then have to "attack" Jabhat al-Nusra or at least to let it seem that way. But the Syrian army and the Druze militia on the Syrian side will still be there and defend against any Israeli invasion. At the same time the 20,000 Druze on the occupied Golan side will create trouble for any Israeli move and even the Druze in the Israeli military might subvert the operation.

The whole plan to use Israel supported Jihadists in Syria as an excuse to "protect Syrian Druze" and to take over Syrian land does no longer look like an easily implementable idea.

Posted by b at 12:22 PM | Comments (76)

June 22, 2015

So The Spy Services Are The Real Internet Trolls

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept provides new material from the Snowden stash.

The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) includes a "Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group" which "provides most of GCHQ’s cyber effects and online HUMINT capability. It currently lies at the leading edge of cyber influence practice and expertise." In 2011 the JTRIG had 120 people on its staff.

Here are some of its methods, used in support of British policies like for regime change in Syria and Zimbabwe:

All of JTRIG’s operations are conducted using cyber technology. Staff described a range of methods/techniques that have been used to-date for conducting effects operations. These included:
  • Uploading YouTube videos containing “persuasive” communications (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Setting up Facebook groups, forums, blogs and Twitter accounts that encourage and monitor discussion on a topic (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Establishing online aliases/personalities who support the communications or messages in YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, blogs etc
  • Establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases
  • Sending spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a real person (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Providing spoof online resources such as magazines and books that provide inaccurate information (to disrupt, delay, deceive, discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter or denigrate/degrade)
  • Providing online access to uncensored material (to disrupt)
  • Sending instant messages to specific individuals giving them instructions for accessing uncensored websites
  • Setting up spoof trade sites (or sellers) that may take a customer’s money and/or send customers degraded or spoof products (to deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter)
  • Interrupting (i.e., filtering, deleting, creating or modifying) communications between real customers and traders (to deny, disrupt, delay, deceive, dissuade or deter)
  • Taking over control of online websites (to deny, disrupt, discredit or delay)
  • Denial of telephone and computer service (to deny, delay or disrupt)
  • Hosting targets’ online communications/websites for collecting SIGINT (to disrupt, delay, deter or deny)
  • Contacting host websites asking them to remove material (to deny, disrupt, delay, dissuade or deter)

It is unlikely that the British GHCQ is the only secret service using these tactics. Other government as well as private interests can be assumed to use similar means.

To "deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter" is exactly what Internet trolls are doing in the comment sections of blogs and news sites. Usually though on a smaller scale than the GHCQ and alike.  The more these services grow and their methods proliferate the less possible will it become to have reasonable online discussions.

Posted by b at 10:56 AM | Comments (42)

June 21, 2015

Saudi Cables: The "Iran Kills Saudi Ambassador in DC" Plot Was A U.S.-Saudi Conspiracy

Update: Please see comment 3 on this thread which claims that the Saudi file in question below is not a genuine Saudi product but a translation of an Iranian newspaper piece. I currently have no way to verify the source but will update when we learn more.

In October 2011 the Obama administration accused one Mansour Arbabsiar and Iran of a rather weird "plot" to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC. Recently released Saudi foreign ministry papers published by Wikileaks shine some new light on the case.

The "plot" accusations as reported at that time:

The United States on Tuesday accused Iranian officials of plotting to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in a bizarre scheme involving an Iranian-American used-car salesman who believed he was hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

The alleged plot also included plans to pay the cartel, Los Zetas, to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, according to a law enforcement official.

The plotters also discussed a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Los Zetas to funnel tons of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, the official said. The plans never progressed, though, because the two suspects — the Iranian-American and an Iranian Quds Force officer — unwittingly were dealing with an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

I called the plot "nonsense" and another well known blogger suspected "a black flag operation by Israel or Saudi Arabia". I later added:

The failed used car salesman Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused in the "Iran kills Saudi ambassador" movie plot, is a hapless idiot and petty criminal whose businesses deals always went wrong. He couldn't even match his socks, smoked marihuana and drank a lot of alcohol, was nonreligious, an opponent of the Iranian regime and only cared about money. A business man who knows him calls him "worthless" and his neighbors believed he was dealing in drugs.
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Every Iran expert interviewed thinks the story as presented is nonsense: Alireza Nader from Rand Corp, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, former CIA agent Robert Baer, Carter era NSC official Gary Sicks, Bush 2 NSC official Hillary Mann Leverett (also here), Muhammad Sahimi of PBS/Tehran Bureau and Iran scholar Hamid Serri.

As reasons for the Obama administration to run the story I listed:

  • To get some momentum for additional international sanctions on Iran
  • To prop up the connections with the Saudi regime as that had threatened to distance itself from the U.S. over the U.S. veto of a Palestinian state

Now Arash Karami, who covers Iran for AL-Monitor, found a document in the Saudi leak stash that is relevant to the plot. The document is in Arabic. He asked the public:

Arash Karami - @thekarami

Does this say anything about the Arbabsiar-Saudi ambassador case?

The document is dated April 2012.

Journalist Farhad Pouladi responded:

  • yup. "a week before accusing Iran, Prince Moqrin met with VEEP Biden to initiate a political and media game against Iran which..
  • focus on an Iranian living in the US called ...ArbabSeyr...
  • it is not in this page... but it is a lengthy plot, part three is the assassination plot... part 2 is about Amano's role!

Wessam el-Deweny a "political researcher and translator", described by NPR as a "young Egyptian activist",  also responded to Arash Karami's question:

  • It says head of Saudi intelligence met Joe Biden a week before they accuse Iran of assassinating the Saudi ambassador
  • they agreed on a diplomatic hoax which is stirring the media against Iran over the story of this person called Mansour Arbabsiar
  • The scenario is expected to pave th way for a request from Security Council to issue a new decision against Iran
  • They also agreed that the accusations will be directed against Al-Quds Force for its leading role in Iran's regional politics

The source of the Saudi leak stash is unknown and some of the documents in it may be fake. But this one could well be genuine.

All signs at the time of the plot and all expert opinions about it were saying that the plot was either a total fake or some sting operation by the Justice Department that was turned into political fodder against Iran. The now published document confirms as much.

In May 2013 Mansour Arbabsiar was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 3 counts of the originally wider accusations. Guilty pleas after sting operations are a regular occurrence. There were some irregularities on the legal side of the case:

The authorities have said that Mr. Arbabsiar knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights to remain silent or to have a lawyer present during his interrogation in his first 12 days in custody, and that he confessed to his role in the plot and shared “extremely valuable intelligence.”

For all we know the guy was just a hapless dupe of Iranian descent and the Justice Department, having caught him in a drug sting, wanted a big political case. It seems the guy will have to die in prison for falling for a confidential informer for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

If the case really turns out to have been a conspiracy between the Obama administration and the Saudi dictatorship than he may have a chance to be set free. But despite the new found document that conspiracy will be hard to prove.

Posted by b at 11:40 AM | Comments (17)

WaPo Propagandizes For Israeli Takeover Of More Syrian Land

Israel plans to steal more Syrian land by claiming a "buffer zone" in the Syrian Golan heights under the pretext of protecting Syrian Druze from Jihadists it supports there in the first place.

The Washington Post is promoting the Israeli propaganda version of "protection" by obfuscating and lying about the events in the area. Here is the relevant headline on the Washington Post home page. "Israel's Druze minority" is threatened? Hmm ... that indeed would be news.

The section page then has a bit more correct headline talking about "Druze in the Golan". But it still does not inform who of the Druze, those on the Israeli side or those on the Syrian side of the demarcation line, are really threatened.  Only the sub-headline informs that the threat is to Druze in Syria, not - as the homepage claims - to Druze in Israel.

The piece itself is a mess, quotes only Israeli viewpoints and contains several lies. Here are some of the most obvious ones:

After four years on the sidelines, the complex and violent dynamic in the Golan highlands threatens to draw Israel into the Syrian war

How was Israel "on the side line" when in fact Israeli jets have several times bombed Syrian army positions, when the Israeli army is using tanks to help Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists take over Syrian army positions at the border and when Israel publicly serves as general hospital for wounded jihadists? UN observers on the Golan have reported exchanges and cooperation between Israel and the jihadis. That is not a sideline position but an explicitly one-sided one.

Both the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra and especially the Islamic State, worry the Druze, because the two Sunni militias consider the Druze, a heterodox offshoot of Shiite Islam, as infidels and defilers of Islam.

Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State are now just Sunni "militia"? Harmless vigilance committees protecting their home turf?

In the past, the Druze have supported Assad, living under his protection, but now they fear they will be overrun. Their leaders are refusing to send more sons to enlist for Assad, saying they need fighters at home to protect their clans but also signaling their calculus that Assad is losing ground.

The claim that "the Druze have supported" Assad is false. How do we know? We can just follow the link in the Washington Post piece which goes to an April 2014 tweet another Washington Post reporter made. That tweet says:

The Druze still on the sidelines

So how does that back up the claim that the Druze supported Assad? It doesn't. It contradicts that claim.  The Syrian government claims that no Druze conscripts have joined the Syrian army since the conflict started. How did that "support Assad"?

Aside from false headlines and unsupported claims the piece reeks of pure propaganda bullshit because it does not include any Syrian voice. There is no mentioning of the Syrian government position or any first hand voice from the Syrian Druze. The only sources are Israeli officials and Israeli Druze who are identified as former members of the Israeli army.

How are such false headlines and one sided "reporting" supposed to be journalism?

Posted by b at 05:49 AM | Comments (25)

June 20, 2015

Open Thread 2015-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:57 PM | Comments (82)

June 19, 2015

"Moderate Rebels" Spent CIA $$$ To Finance The Islamic State

ISIS-Imposed Fuel Embargo Threatens Syria’s Medical Centers  NYT - June 18 2015

Islamic State fighters are preventing fuel shipments from reaching rebel-held parts of northern Syria, causing severe shortages ...

Since the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized oil-rich regions in Syria’s north and east, it has used the output to finance its efforts to build an Islamic caliphate that straddles the Syria-Iraq border.

Traders from elsewhere in Syria, such as the rebel-held regions in the northwest, have long bought locally refined petroleum products in Islamic State-controlled areas and trucked them home, where residents came to rely on them to power their cars and fuel generators that ran clinics, bakeries and other essential facilities.

But, but , but ... weren't we told that buying oil from ISIS is a great sin? Weren't alleged Syrian government purchases of oil from the Islamic State seen as a sign that Assad was in bed with Caliph Baghdadi? Indeed:

Presumably that propaganda line is now dead as the "rebels" themselves now admit buying oil from the Islamic State.

But why do they really have a shortage of fuel? Most of the oil the Islamic State sells is going through Turkey so one might ask why the "rebels" in north Syria, with direct access to the Turkish border, have no other source than buying directly from the Islamic State.

Diligent observers of the war on Syria have know for quite long that oil under Islamic State control ends up with "western" states and their proxy forces in Syria. In September 2011 the EU banned oil imports from Syria but in April 2013 the ban was rather silently lifted to allow imports of oil from areas under Syrian "rebel" control. In September 2014 a EU official told the EU parliament that some EU member states were buying oil from the Islamic State. Even in 2013, when the embargo was lifted, it was obvious that the "rebels" were largely radical islamist jihadis. As a Defense Intelligence Agency document noted already in 2012:

The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

So some "moderate" islamists in Syria were buying oil from the other islamists in Syria. They must have spend millions on it. It is thereby very likely that a part of the $1 billion per year the CIA spends on these "moderates" ended up in the pockets of the Islamic State. This while the Syrian government was condemned for allegedly financing the Islamic State through its oil purchases.

Posted by b at 10:00 AM | Comments (39)

June 17, 2015

Years Too Late - Media Suddenly Recognize Futility Of Drone Strikes

Two days ago when news appeared of the alleged killing of Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Yemen I wrote:

Aside from the obvious unreliability of such reports one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves. There will always be another one and the next one and so on and the violence will only get worse ...

Then some U.S. drone strike killed Al-Qaeda old guard member Nasser al-Wuhayshi in Yemen and suddenly main stream media also start to doubt the value of this tactic.

This is an astonishingly synchronous recognition of the problem. While the U.S. may be "successful" in killing this or that leader of some terrorist gang the overall phenomenon just keeps growing. The Telegraph's sub headline catches it best:

'America has taken on a foe 5,000-strong. It has killed 10,000 of them. There are only 20,000 left'

Except that the original Al-Qaeda was only a few hundred strong and existed only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some fifteen years later, after the U.S. War of Terror killed and several hundred thousands of unrelated persons and thousands of jihadists, Al Qaeda and its derivatives are active in over a dozen countries and have several ten-thousands of followers. As I wrote:

The constant U.S. resort to military means is an expression of the lack of conflict resolution policies.

Still none of the above pieces comes up with a decent list of  policies that could start to address the problem without increasing it.

Here is a first try:

  • Stop drone strikes and the like as they obviously only creating more terrorists.
  • Stop using extremists, like jihadists and neo-nazis, as a policy tool against this or that inconvenient ruler.
  • Restrict the resources such groups need to grow on. This will require to pressure the Saudi and Qatari dictators, including with threats to their regimes existence, to stop financing the proselyting of their radical version of Islam as well as the "private" financing of such groups from their countries.

It is unlikely for now that such steps will be taken. But it took years for the media to recognize the futility of drone strikes. A few years on they may even start to consider the obvious first steps towards a solutions of the problem.

Unfortunately many more will die in the War of Terror before that will happen. 

Posted by b at 10:53 AM | Comments (57)

June 16, 2015

China Announces Rice Bag Fallen Over - NYT: "It's About US!"

This willful misinterpreting of Chinese government announcement by the New York Times can only be explained by some laughable egocentric U.S. view. "It's all about US!"

NYT: China to Halt Its Building of Islands, but Not Its Projects on Them

BEIJING — China announced on Tuesday that it would soon halt island-building projects around some reefs and shoals in disputed waters of the South China Sea but that it would continue constructing military and civilian facilities on those outcroppings.

The announcement may have been intended to ease tensions with the United States, which has strongly criticized the building of the islands and has sent surveillance flights close to the sites, to the chagrin of the Chinese military. The construction of facilities, though, would further establish the sites as islands that China could claim as its territory.

No, the Chinese institutions did not announce the HALT of its building of islands. It announced that the building of some islands was about to be FINISHED.

Xinhua: China to complete land reclamation of construction on some Nansha Islands soon

BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The land reclamation project of China's construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, as planned, will be completed in the upcoming days, according to relevant Chinese competent departments.
...
After the land reclamation, China will start the building of facilities to meet relevant functional requirements, Lu said.

He stressed the construction activities on the Nansha islands and reefs fall within the scope of China's sovereignty, which are "lawful,reasonable and justified."

The NYT speculates on no factual basis that the "halt", which never happened, "may have been intended to ease tensions with the United States".

No. The "halt" clearly was not intended for that. There was no "halt". The reclamation phase is finished. It is complete. The building projects on the islands will continue. And no, China does not care what the U.S., or the NYT writers, want to spin around its projects. Like other countries in the South China Sea it uses the islands it controls as it sees fit and without regard for empty U.S. bullying.

Are there some magical red, white and blue colored glasses one can wear to misread clearly worded Chinese announcement in such a way?

Update: The NYT has now heavily edited and changed its story without noting the changes. The first sentence now reads:

BEIJING — By declaring Tuesday that it would soon complete its contentious program of building artificial islands in the South China Sea, Beijing hopes to diminish tensions with the United States while reassuring its home audience that it has delivered on its pledge to resist American military pressure, experts said.

The "halt" turned into the more correct "complete". But the general "it's about US" nonsense continues and is now supported with "expert" voices. Here are screenshots of the original version (1, 2) quoted above.

Posted by b at 03:31 PM | Comments (16)

June 15, 2015

The Deprofessionalized Empire

We can be sure that the number of times Mokhtar Belmokhtar was reported being killed is greater than the number of times he actually was killed:

Aside from the obvious unreliability of such reports one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves. There will always be another one and the next one and so on and the violence will only get worse:

When their leaderships are debilitated in a successful strike, militant groups become far less discriminate in their target selection by redirecting their violence from military to civilian targets.

The constant U.S. resort to military means is an expression of the lack of conflict resolution policies.

As Chas Freeman elaborates:

In recent years, the United States has killed untold multitudes in wars and counterterrorist drone warfare in West Asia and North Africa. Our campaigns have spilled the blood, broken the bodies, and taken or blighted the lives of many in our armed forces, while weakening our economy by diverting necessary investment from it. These demonstrations of American power and determination have inflicted vast amounts of pain and suffering on foreign peoples. They have not bent our opponents to our will. Far from yielding greater security for us or our allies, our interventions – whether on the ground or from the air — have multiplied our enemies, intensified their hatred for us, and escalated the threat to both our homeland and our citizens and friends abroad.

Freeman sees a lack of a diplomatic mindset in U.S. policies. The militarization of policy is evolving into a self licking ice cream cone. The root cause he identifies is a lack of professionalism in leading policy positions:

The post-Cold War period has seen major expansion in the numbers of political appointees and their placement in ever lower foreign policy positions along with huge bloat in the National Security Council staff. This has progressively deprofessionalized U.S. diplomacy from the top down in both Washington and the field, while thinning out the American diplomatic bench. Increasingly, the U.S. military is being thrust into diplomatic roles it is not trained or equipped to handle, further militarizing U.S. foreign relations.

The chaotic response of U.S. political actors to this or that perceived problem, with contradicting alliances and daily changes of priorities, does not help to achieve anything but chaos. What does it say when even U.S. proxy forces do not understand what is going on:

“Until now we don’t know what the coalition wants. Does it intend to fight ISIS or empower ISIS?” said Gen. Ahmed Berri, the deputy chief of staff of moderate rebel forces, using an alternative name of the Islamic State.

I find it likely that even the policy makers in the National Security Council and the State Department have no real idea of what they are doing. As political appointees they lack, as Freeman says, foresight and experience. They are daily pulled into different directions of ever changing policies based on competing mediocre analyses from a manifold of self interested pressure group. Run this way the U.S. can be sure to soon lose even the pretense of being an empire.

Posted by b at 04:17 AM | Comments (40)

June 14, 2015

Israel Plans To Steal More Syrian Land

Israel actively helped Al Qeada in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, with artillery strikes against the Syrian Arab Army. The United Nations observers in the Golan height reported contacts between the Israeli army and AlQaeda terrorists. Israel supplies equipment to AlQaeda and prominently gives medical care to injured AlQaeda fighters.

The CIA is also prominently helping AlQaeda by sponsoring "moderate rebels" in Syria and providing them with weapons at a cost of $1 billion per year. These weapons as well as the CIA trained fighters inevitable end up with the jihadists.

One part of the Israeli plan behind its support for AlQaeda is to hurt the Syrian state as much as possible. A destroyed Syria is no threat to Israel but the destruction of the Syrian state would be a welcome excuse to appeal for more military help from its allies because of the "chaos" beyond its borders. Another part of the plan is to simply steal more Syrian land. Israel has already occupied the south western Golan heights and top positions on the heights. It is now planning to steal the north eastern parts and to control the valuable water resources there.

The excuse for doing so is the chaos it created itself by supporting AlQaeda against the Syrian army and the threat AlQaeda now poses against the local population on the Syrian side of the heights:

Reports Sunday afternoon on Israel's Walla news website claimed that Israel is making plans to create a special buffer zone in Syrian territory meant to offer safety and humanitarian aid to Syrian Druze refugees that face the growing threat of massacres at the hands of Islamic State militants and other jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate.

The "buffer zone" will soon be Israeli occupied land and overtime Israel will annex the land for Jewish settlements. 

Misjudging the circumstances the Druze in Syria had taken a neutral stance in the war on Syria and did not defend the Syrian state. Some 27,000 of them evaded mandatory conscription in the Syrian army. A few days ago AlQaeda fighters killed some 20 people in a Druze village. With scarce resources the Syrian army can and will no longer defend the Druze enclaves and the Druze now have the choice to come under the control of the jihadis and be pressed to convert to Wahhabi Islam or to come under a brutal Israeli occupation.

Other minorities and communities in Syria which did not or do not support the Syrian state will over time likely end up with similar objectionable choices.

Posted by b at 09:41 AM | Comments (21)

June 12, 2015

Open Thread 2015-25

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:25 PM | Comments (118)

June 11, 2015

The Guardian Joins The "Moderate Al Qaeda" Public Relation Campaign

This long read in the Guardian is the next attempt to beautify AlQaeda as the "moderate" Islamists that deserve our support. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal suggests to "reach out" to AlQaeda in Syria and that it should be "wooed rather than bombed.

The Guardian journalists interview the AlQaeda ideologues Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada who are both under control of the Jordanian secret service. Their job is to condemn the Islamic State while letting Al Qaeda appear as a poor but honest social movement of Islamism. The Guardian writers lap it all up.

On a sunny spring afternoon, three weeks after his release from prison, Maqdisi sat on a sofa at his friend Abu Qatada’s house, fuming about Isis: the group had lied to him and betrayed him, he said, and its members were not worthy of calling themselves mujahideen. “They are like a mafia group,” Abu Qatada added, while Maqdisi nodded his assent.

Jordan lives off money from Saudi Arabia. It supports al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, as long as the dollars keep rolling in from Riyath. Israel is supporting Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan heights. Is it by chance that a fervent Zionist, Spencer Ackerman, is one of the authors of this flattering homestory?

The two ideologues make an odd pair in the fight against Isis. Qatada is 6ft 3in tall, broad shouldered and lumbering, while Maqdisi is rake thin and full of hyperactive energy, bounding round the room and speaking at double speed; at serious moments, Maqdisi is given to making a sudden joke or bursting into giggles. Sometimes they will go for walks with each other in the Jordanian countryside. More often they travel long distances by road after being asked to attend funerals of fallen al-Qaida fighters.

See? These are really nice people ... and AlQaeda is really just a very poor movement:

Dr Munif Samara – a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan and a close associate of Maqdisi and Qatada, who sat with both men as they were interviewed – painted an even more gloomy picture of al-Qaida’s position. A GP who runs a free clinic treating injured Syrian fighters and civilians, Samara has more experience than Maqdisi or Qatada with the day-to-day operations of jihadi organising, and has often handled the affairs of the two men during their frequent jail stints. He said that donations, which once came in waves of “hundreds of thousands”, have dried up as donors directed their money to Isis, or else refused to fund further bloodletting between the two groups. Another former al-Qaida member, Aimen Dean – who defected to become a spy for British intelligence – told the Guardian that one of his sources in Pakistan’s tribal areas said the finances of al-Qaida central in Waziristan were so desperate that it was reduced at one point last year to selling its laptops and cars to buy food and pay rent.

So we are to believe a British spy who tells us that AlQaeda can't pay its rent? What nonsense.

The whole piece is made to make it look as if AlQaeda is somewhat just a small group of engaged people on their long travel to fulfill their ever escaping dreams. And see, they even have a sad about this 9/11 thing:

In recent years, Maqdisi has even come to believe that al-Qaida’s conception of jihad – one licensed in part by his own scholarship – may have been incorrect, a jihad of “spite” rather than “empowering believers”. Even the attacks of 9/11, Maqdisi said, were part of a misguided strategy. “The actions in New York and Washington, no matter how great they appeared to be – the bottom line is they were spiteful.”

Instead AlQaeda is now destined to become the new salvation army:

Maqdisi now wants al-Qaida to begin providing social services, as Hamas has done in Gaza. “That kind of enabling jihad will establish our Islamic state. It will enable it to become a place of refuge for the weak,” he said. Al-Qaida branches in Tunisia and elsewhere have been putting this suggestion into practice – with jihadis guarding hospitals, building infrastructure, and even picking up litter.

(Nice try, by the way, to falsely link Hamas to AlQaeda.) Now compare that to the savages of the Islamic State. Isn't AlQaeda so much nicer? And poor? And overwhelmed by the savages of the Islamic State? And in demise?

These folks really only want to do good. Like yesterday, when they murdered dozens of Druze in north Syria, including children and elderly.

Who asked the Guardian to write such a dreck admiring piece of these Jihadist? Who gave them direct access to these terrorists? Under what conditions and to what purpose?

Posted by b at 06:04 AM | Comments (53)

June 10, 2015

Pew Survey On Ukraine

The PEW Research Center has a new opinion survey of several NATO countries and Russia with regards to the Ukraine conflict:

Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.

The last sentence is the reason why the neocon's will likely fail to instigate a NATO war on Russia.

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively).

Sure. A war would not be on their ground these people believe. But a war on Russia could become nuclear and then all bets are off even for those living on the western side of the Atlantic. Did no one tell them?

There is lots of stuff in the survey and its worth to read it. I personally am somewhat comforted that my country stands out a bit. A majority of Germans are against Ukraine joining NATO or the EU. A majority is also against delivering weapons to Ukraine and against the use of force by NATO.

The survey confirms that Putin is at an all time high in Russian people's opinion and a very large majority trust him in all regards. Now compare that to the opinion Ukrainians have about the Nuland installed puppet government:

Ukrainians give both their president and prime minister negative marks. A plurality disapproves of President Petro Poroshenko’s job performance (43%), while just a third approves. A majority (60%) is unhappy with the way Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is handling his job. Roughly half or more of eastern Ukrainians give Poroshenko (49%) and Yatsenyuk (66%) negative reviews. Western Ukrainians also give Yatsenyuk bad marks (55%) but are divided on Poroshenko (39% approve, 39% disapprove).

PEW did not survey the people in the federalist held areas in the east. With those included the numbers for the Ukrainian government would be considerably worse. Given that the media in Ukraine are mostly in the hands of pro-western oligarchs these results are really quite bad. There was speculation some time ago that Nuland had planned to replace Proshenko with the Scientology follower Yatsenyuk but given these numbers there is no longer a chance for such a move.

Meanwhile the conflict in east Ukraine is flaring up again with Donetsk city again being under daily artillery fire from the Ukrainian government side. The summer in east Ukraine will likely get hot again.

Posted by b at 11:32 AM | Comments (61)

June 07, 2015

Turkish Voters Slap Erdogan

Erdogan loses the parliament election in Turkey. With some 95% of the votes counted the results (seats) are:

  • AKP 41.5% (261)
  • CHP 25.3% (130)
  • MHP 16.7% (84)
  • HDP 12.0% (75)

Erdogans AKP lost nearly 9% compared to the last election. The Kurdish HDP jumped above the 10% limit and thereby prevents the AKP from ruling as the sole party. The AKP will have to arrange a coalition with the hard nationalist MHP to form a new government.

The reasons for the loss were the end of the credit fueled economic boom that the AKP had engineered since 2000. There was also a lot of infighting within the AKP and Erdogan's policy of fueling the war in Syria is quite unpopular.

Any coalition government the AKP may arrange will likely be less aggressive than the current one. It is doubtful that the current prime minister Davutoglu, the very aggressive promoter of a new Ottoman empire, will keep his position.

Erdogan as a politician is now wounded and the AKP is weakened. This will lead to more infighting within the AKP and maybe even a split of the party into several fractions. In all this result  will likely leave less capacity in Turkey for wide ranging geopolitical adventures.

Posted by b at 02:31 PM | Comments (44)

 
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