Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 30, 2011

Need Helium? Take On Iran.

The biggest single hydrocarbon consumer of the world is the U.S. military. It has thereby some self-interest to fight for access to hydrocarbon reserves. The U.S. military is now also a huge consumer of Helium. This makes these two news items, coming out a week apart, somewhat interesting.

Military Struggles to Find Helium for Spy Blimp Surge

The U.S. military is sending so many spy blimps to Afghanistan that industry is scrambling to supply helium and “cannot keep up with the increased demand” for the containers that hold the gas.
...
When one of those airships, the Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle, needed its gas, it ran into a problem. LEMV-builder Northrop Grumman “could not obtain the helium and/or the large number of bulk containers needed for its initial fill and as such, required emergency support,” according to a Defense Logistics Agency contracting document.

To meet LEMV’s “huge gaseous helium requirements” in time, DLA Energy couldn’t competitively bid out the 800,000 standard cubic feet of helium needed to fill up the “longer than a football field, taller than a seven-story building” airship.

'Iran discovers massive helium reserve'

The managing director of Iran's Pars Oil and Gas Company (POGC) says Iran has discovered the world's biggest helium reserve in its South Pars gas field.
...
The official put the volume of the world's helium reserves at 40 billion cubic meters, adding that the South Pars gas field holds 10 billion cubic meters of the total amount.

The new Helium find in Iran may give another reason for continued U.S. interest to subordinate it to its rule.

Posted by b on September 30, 2011 at 10:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (4)

The Murder Of Anwar al-Awlaki

So this American, Anwar al-Awlaki, had become convinced that the U.S. is doing evil in the Middle East and elsewhere and that this was a reason to fight against it. He never fought against the U.S. himself, but only said that there was reason to do that. I believe that to be right protected under the U.S. constitution as well as under international law.

The U.S. never showed any proof that he al Awlaki was guilty of something, never indicted him, never brought him to court.

But now the U.S. government intentionally killed him and those who were with him. That, to me, seems to be a pretty clear breach of the fifth amendment for someone who simply used his rights under the first amendment.

One wonders when whatever argument the administration will use to defend this murder will be used against more American people, and more, and more ...

Remember:

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;
Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - - because I was not a socialist;
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;
Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

It is beyond me to understand anyone who would defend this murder.

Posted by b on September 30, 2011 at 12:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (16)

September 29, 2011

More "Ahmedinejad Said" Lies

Every "western" media seems to find this story funny: Give 9/11 credit to us, al-Qaeda tells Ahmadinejad:

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has long annoyed the West with his claims that the United States government was behind the 9/11 attacks. But he’s also bruised egos at al-Qaeda, with the terrorist group now telling the Iranian president to stop with the “ridiculous” conspiracy theories and start giving them credit for pulling off such a great terrorist strike.

And every "western" media also gets the story wrong.

Yes, the writers of the Inspire (pdf) magazine claim that Iran has denied 9/11:

The Iranian government has professed on the tongue of its president Ahmadinejad that it does not believe that al Qaeda was behind 9/11 but rather, the U.S. government.

But that is clearly a lie, rather two lies.

Ahmedinejad explicitly claims that it was Osama Bin Laden who organized the 9/11 attacks. He never claimed that the U.S. government was behind it. 

What he says is that it is yet unknown, and should be investigated by an international fact-finding team, who was actually behind Bin Laden.

From his latest UN speech (pdf):

Instead of assigning a fact-finding team, they killed the main perpetrator and threw his body into the sea. Would it not have been reasonable to bring to justice and openly bring to trial the main perpetrator of the incident in order to identify the elements behind the safe space for the invading aircraft to attack the twin world trade towers? Why should it not have been allowed to bring him to trial to help recognize those who launched terrorist groups and brought wars and other miseries into the region?

The "main perpetrator" here is clearly al Qaeda leader Bin Laden. And "those" in the last quoted sentence is not pointing at the U.S. government, but to Israel as Ahmedinejad's following sentence about Zionism makes clear.

So the "Al Qaida" magazine Inspire makes false claims about what Ahmedinejad said and all the "western" media repeat it as true even when the public record shows that it is clearly not.

This just reinforces my believe that Inspire is a general disinformation tool of some "western" agency with the additional purpose to flash out some dumb folks who then can be made into "terrorists" though FBI sting operations.

The only reason why the story is funny is that The Onion, by far the best "western" political news magazine, already had it back in 2008: 9/11 Conspiracy Theories 'Ridiculous,' Al Qaeda Says

An Al Qaeda representative says that claims the U.S. government was behind the attacks on Sept. 11th are demeaning to Al Qaeda.

Posted by b on September 29, 2011 at 01:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

September 28, 2011

The Cognitive Dissonance Of The Day

An op-ed by a U.S. special forces Major on Afghanistan in today's New York Times is headlined: 

This War Can Still Be Won.

It asserts that:

“Winning” is a meaningless word in this type of war, ...

Posted by b on September 28, 2011 at 01:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

War On Pakistan Now On Auto Mode

Gareth Porter does not believe that the U.S. will put boots on the ground in Pakistan:

The U.S. threat last week that "all options" are on the table if the Pakistani military doesn't cut its ties with the Haqqani network of anti-U.S. insurgents created the appearance of a crisis involving potential U.S. military escalation in Pakistan.

But there is much less substance to the administration's threatening rhetoric than was apparent. In fact, it was primarily an exercise in domestic political damage control, although compounded by an emotional response to recent major attacks by the Haqqani group on U.S.-NATO targets, according to two sources familiar with the policymaking process on Afghanistan and Pakistan.

On might think that this is right especially as some anonymous officials are now walking back Admiral Mullen's accusations that the Haqqani network is the prolonged arm of the Pakistani secret service ISI (which by the way the Taliban emphatically deny):

Adm. Mike Mullen’s assertion last week that an anti-American insurgent group in Afghanistan is a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s spy service was overstated and contributed to overheated reactions in Pakistan and misperceptions in Washington, according to American officials involved in U.S. policy in the region.

The internal criticism by the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they did not want to challenge Mullen openly, reflects concern over the accuracy of Mullen’s characterizations at a time when Obama administration officials have been frustrated in their efforts to persuade Pakistan to break its ties to Afghan insurgent groups.

But the walking back may be temporary.

The Pakistani have reacted quite harsh to the recent accusations. They called back their Foreign Minister who was at the UN in New York. At a meeting with the Chinese minister for public security Pakistan's prime minister Gilani hailed the relation with China: "China’s enemy is our enemy, we will extend our full cooperation to China on security.” The Pakistani spy chief had an emergency meeting with his Saudi Arabian colleague. The ISI chief also told CIA head Petreaus that Pakistan would be forced to retaliate if American forces attempt to launch a unilateral strike on the country’s tribal belt. On can bet that China and Saudi Arabia will provide for Pakistan whatever Washington reduces in aid.

With its recent accusation, which do not seem to be based on real evidence anyway, the U.S. has lost all leverage it had with Pakistan. Having done so for mere domestic policy reason was another huge mistake by the Obama administration.

At least up the end of this year the U.S. military's logistics in Afghanistan still depend on Pakistan. The U.S. can not yet risk that line to be broken. But the point where the northern distribution network can take over the logistic burden is not far off.

The administration has now set itself a trap. With Republicans in the Senate already in "all options are on table" warmongering mode what will the administration do when (not if) the next highly visible attack by the Haqqani network occurs?

Will Obama just sit back and do nothing?

His priority is to get reelected and that is why he can't. Having accused Pakistan for direct influence on the Haqqani network the administration will have to again escalate after the next attack with a military strike now being the only option being left. This is now an automatism the Obama administration needlessly created in its attempts to overtake the Republicans on the right.

Posted by b on September 28, 2011 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 27, 2011

"Goldman Sachs Rules The World"

Live on BBC: "The Governments Don't Rule The World, Goldman-Sachs rules the world."

What's really frightening is that the guy, even if he is a yes man, is right.

Posted by b on September 27, 2011 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)

Again And Again And Again - Securing Barge-e Matal

A combined military operation between Afghan National Security Forces and International Security Assistance Forces, launched July 12, secured Barge Matal, in eastern Nuristan province.
July 13, 2009
Senior military officials had hoped to be out of Barge Matal in about a week, but the deployment has stretched on for more than two months as U.S. and Afghan forces have battled Taliban insurgents.
September 21, 2009
The militants held the district center for a few days, but by early Tuesday it was again occupied by the Afghan commandos and the Americans, said Col. Shirzad, deputy chief for criminal investigations for Barg-e-Matal.
June 1, 2010
On July 25, Afghan commandos retook control of the Barg-e-Matal district center from the Taliban; just the day before, the Taliban had overrun the district center following a two-week-long siege.
...
Control of Barge-e-Matal has shifted back and forth between the Afghan government and the Taliban four times since the end of June.
July 25, 2010
Soldiers from 1st and 2nd Commando Kandaks and Special Operations Task Force – East made significant gains in the formerly insurgent-held Konar River Valley, Barg-e Matal district, Nuristan province, during a three-day combined clearing operation May 1-3.
May 4, 2011
Commandos killed an estimated 70 insurgents during clearing operations in Pol-e Rostam and Alwagal villages, Barg-e Matal district, Sept. 16.
...
The Commandos and coalition SOF team secured the district center after the operation.
September 17, 2011

To me this is a sign of insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Why not try something new like leaving the town alone?

Posted by b on September 27, 2011 at 06:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

NYT Uses Old News To Incite Against Pakistan

On page one of today's NYT Carlotta Gall writes a long story on Pakistanis Tied to 2007 Border Ambush on Americans.

During spring 2007 and after some clashes over a border post between Afghan and Pakistani troops near the town of Teri Mangal a meeting took place with Afghan, Pakistani and U.S. officials to find a solution.

When the Afghans and U.S. officials left a tribal soldier from the Pakistani Frontier Corps opened fire on them and killed an U.S. Army Major. It was one of the frequent green on blue/blue on green incidents by a rogue soldier.

What is astonishing about today's NYT piece is that there is nothing new in it. Zero, nada, zilch. It is just a warmed up mixture of well known facts mixed with quotes from some Afghan officials who blame Pakistan.

The whole story was already reported back in 2007:

The US serviceman died Monday in the north-western town of Teri Mangal as military officials from Pakistan, Afghanistan and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) were fired upon after a trilateral meeting.

An ISAF statement said that following the meeting, an individual reported to be wearing a Pakistan Frontier Corps uniform, 'in a heinous and despicable act, fired as an assassin, into the group that had come with peaceful aims.'

The ISAF 'expects a full investigation of this incident by the Pakistani military', the statement said.

Administration officials in the Kurram Agency, where Teri Mangal is located, told Pakistan's Daily Times that the gunmen was a Pakistani trooper who was deployed for security.

'He shouted Allah-u-Akbar (God is great) and opened fire as he saw Americans,' an official told the newspaper on condition of anonymity. He was then shot dead in an exchange of fire with US forces.

The man came from the Bhittani tribe that inhabits areas flanking Pakistan's South Waziristan region, which has a long record of militancy, the official said.

Today's NYT piece asserts all along that there was something nefarious about the incident or something kept hidden by the Pakistanis.

Only down the 35th of 36 paragraphs, which hardly anyone will read, is it quoting high ranking U.S. officers who say there was nothing like that:

Both Generals Helmly and McNeill accept as plausible that a lone member of the Frontier Corps, whether connected to the militants or pressured by them, was responsible, but they also said it was possible that a larger group of soldiers was acting in concert. The two generals said there was no evidence that senior Pakistani officials had planned the attack.

So what please is the purpose of this piece but anti-Pakistani propaganda?

A four year old story of a tribal soldier who turned against some Americans rewarmed with some quotes but without any new facts. Why is this news on page one of the NYT? Who decided to re-issue this story? What is its function if not to prepare the public for the coming war on Pakistan?

Posted by b on September 27, 2011 at 03:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)

September 25, 2011

Spot The Differences

Lewis-McChord soldier gets 7-year sentence for murder of Afghan

Pfc. Andrew Holmes on Friday received a seven-year sentence for the 2010 murder of a teenage villager in southern Afghanistan.
...
In the two-day court-martial, Holmes acknowledged shooting six to eight rounds from his automatic weapon at the 15-year-old villager — who was unarmed and, Holmes said, "stood like a deer in the headlights."

Ex-Army captain gets 10 years for taking $300K in bribes while stationed in Afghanistan

A decorated former Army captain has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking more than $300,000 in bribes from Afghan contractors.
...
According to federal prosecutors in Alexandria, Va., Handa was assigned to help coordinate reconstruction projects in Afghanistan. He solicited $1.3 million in bribes and received $315,000, which he split with an interpreter.

Posted by b on September 25, 2011 at 01:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (8)

Internet Censorship Of Occupy Wall Street

Those who disrupt the free flow of information in our society or any other pose a threat to our economy, our government, and our civil society.
Remarks on Internet Freedom - Hillary Rodham Clinton, January 21, 2010
On at least two occasions, Saturday September 17th and again on Thursday night, Twitter blocked #OccupyWallStreet from being featured as a top trending topic on their homepage. On both occasions, #OccupyWallStreet tweets were coming in more frequently than other top trending topics that they were featuring on their homepage.
#TwitterCensorship Blocks #OccupyWallStreet from Top Trending Topic Twice, September 23rd, 2011
Thinking about e-mailing your friends and neighbors about the protests against Wall Street happening right now? If you have a Yahoo e-mail account, think again. ThinkProgress has reviewed claims that Yahoo is censoring e-mails relating to the protest and found that after several attempts on multiple accounts, we too were prevented from sending messages about the “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations.
Yahoo Appears To Be Censoring Email Messages About Wall Street Protests (Updated) , September 20, 2011

So what will Clinton do about the threat Twitter and Yahoo pose to the economy, government and civil society of the United States?

Ship there CEOs off to Guantanamo or shower them with laudations behind closed doors?

Sadly, that just a rhetoric question.

Posted by b on September 25, 2011 at 11:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 24, 2011

A Connection Of Neo-conservative And Neo-liberal Thought

Currently developing and writing a critique of the military concept of Effects Based Operations (EBO) (one good short one by Robert Farley is here) I try to point out that it is based on a belief that complex dynamic systems, like societies, can be fully described and that their behavior can be predicted. Thus (military) "Operations" can be thought out that have the desired "Effects" on the described (enemy) system. Network Centric Warfare (NCW) and Counterinsurgency (COIN) are siblings of Effect Based Operations coming from the same (false) belief of predictability of systemic change.

The belief in mathematical predictability of complex dynamic systems is something that is underlying not only (failed) military concepts but also of two of the major ills of our time: the neo-conservative and the neo-liberal strands.

The neoconservatives developed historically from hard left Trotzkyism and have moved to the far right during the Cold War. Elitist revolutionaries, like the Jacobines, they deeply believe in the willful changeability, if needed by force, of societies.

One influential father of the neoconservatives was Albert Wohlstetter. He worked at RAND, the Air Force think-tank, on nuclear strategies and later taught at the University of Chicago. The Strategic Air Command developed and adopted, with Wohlstetter's help, Game Theory and other mathematical theories that are based on the ability to predict and change the assumed rational (system-)behavior of the enemy.

At the University Wohlstetter chaired the dissertation committees of the neoconservatives Paul Wolfowitz and Zalmay Khalilzad while earlier Richard Perle dated his daughter. Under Wohlstetter theological like belief in technology marries revolutionary thought.

The University of Chicago was not only Wohlstetter's academic home but also the home of the neoliberal Chicago School and Friedrich Hayek, the godfather of neoliberal thought. Hayek asserts that within the system dynamics of economic activity efficient exchange and use of resources can be maintained only through the price mechanism in free markets. (Thus he ignores non rational human behavior and externalities.)

Looking for further relation between neo-conservatives and neo-liberals I came about a speech Albert Wohlstetter held at the American Enterprise Institute in 1992. The title RPM, or Revolutions by the Minute is already program. In the context of the "information revolution" he himself points to a sameness in his and Hayek's belief, which is also the underlying belief of the two ills, and the connection to Effect Based Operations.

Yet the less sudden continuing changes that make up the Information Revolution dwarf in significance these two spectacular leaps in nuclear technology. They transform military security, politics within and among nations, the costs and efficiency of market transactions and economic growth.
...
The F-117A attacked and hit targets in Baghdad at night that were more heavily defended and at greater range than the targets in the 1941 Offensive. That comparison suggests that the cumulative information revolution has had a greater effect on our ability to destroy a military target that we aim at than the fission and fusion revolutions combined.
...
For a democracy, however, the ability to apply military force selectively—and to hit only what one is aiming at and avoid hitting anything else—has an even larger political and strategic importance than an increase merely in destructive power. We can then preserve what we should want to preserve: Civilians that do us no harm, irreplaceable cultural monuments, and friendly forces.
...
The new technology fits well the view of economics typified by Friedrich Hayek, which sees economic activities as adjusting themselves by responses to signals sent by market clearing prices— without the need or possibility of a central plan. By improving the operation of dispersed markets, the new technologies improve the operation of the system as a whole.

Here Wohlstetter himself points out that the same belief, here in relation to the alleged "information revolution", in the predictability of the systems dynamics in a complex system which underlies the neoliberal and neoconservative thought.

That was one find of a connection of neo-liberal and neo-conservative thought. I am looking for further and possibly more direct connections. Any ideas where to look?

Posted by b on September 24, 2011 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (20)

September 22, 2011

U.S. Starts Pakistan Attack

U.S. Starts Pakistan Attack

WASHINGTON--President Obama dramatically announced last night that American ground troops have attacked -- at his order -- a Taliban base extending 20 miles inside Pakistan.

Obama told a nationwide radio and television audience that he would stand by his order, certain to provoke controversy, even at the risk of becoming a one-term President.

"This is not an invasion of Pakistan," he asserted. 'The areas in which these attacks will be launched are completely occupied and controlled by Taliban forces. Our purpose is not to occupy the areas. Once enemy forces are driven out of these sanctuaries and their military supplies destroyed, we will withdraw."

The attack, commanded by American officers and augmented by units of the Afghan army, began about 7 p.m. EDT, about two hours before Obama address the nation and about one hour before he met with Democratic and Republican leaders of Congress to discuss his decision.

The above is not yet real, but a slightly modified version of a 41 year old piece (pdf) by the Cleveland Plain Dealer about Nixon's announcement of his invasion of Cambodia. The speech may become real though at around the end of this year.

Preparations to attack Pakistan started back in July:

U.S. turns to other routes to supply Afghan war as relations with Pakistan fray

The U.S. military is rapidly expanding its aerial and Central Asian supply routes to the war in Afghanistan, fearing that Pakistan could cut off the main means of providing American and NATO forces with fuel, food and equipment.
...
Today, almost 40 percent of surface cargo arrives in Afghanistan from the north, along a patchwork of Central Asian rail and road routes that the Pentagon calls the Northern Distribution Network. Military planners said they are pushing to raise the northern network’s share to as much as 75 percent by the end of this year.

It seems that those logistic preparations are going well as the U.S. is now starting the next phase, making a public case against Pakistan:

In what amounts to an ultimatum, administration officials have indicated that the United States will act unilaterally if Pakistan does not comply.

When the logistics are fixed and the public case has been made the invasion can proceed.

Just like today in Pakistan's tribal regions the U.S. was already bombing in Cambodia for quite some time before it invaded. Just like today in Pakistan U.S. special reconnaissance forces were operating in Cambodia months before the ground campaign. Just like today the U.S. was already pulling out soldiers from the primary war area when it invaded the neighboring country.

The invasion of Cambodia destabilized that country and eventually led it fall into the hands of the Khmer Rouge. Somethings comparable, but with nukes involved, could happen in Pakistan.

Posted by b on September 22, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

September 19, 2011

The BBC's Understanding Of 'Narrow Support'

The headline BBC poll shows narrow support for Palestinian state seems to express that the poll found only a few more people supporting a Palestinian state than not supporting it. But already the second sentence in the article states:

Across the 19 countries surveyed, 49% supported the proposal while 21% said their government should oppose it.

And it later continues:

Even in countries where opposition was strongest, more people polled supported the resolution than were against it.

The United States and the Philippines both polled 36% against the resolution. But 45% of Americans and 56% of Filipinos backed recognition.

The lowest level of support was in India, with 32% in favour and 25% opposed, with many undecided.

Support was strongest in Egypt, where 90% were in favour and only 9% opposed.
...
Overall, 30% opted for not giving a definite answer as they thought their country should abstain, or "it depends", or they did not offer a view.

So we have in total 49% yes, 21% no and 30% abstained. That is a solid 70% of those answering for a Palestinian state with only 30% against it.

How did the BBC headline writer get from there to "narrow support"? What in the headline writers mind would constitute "broad support"? A totalitarian 98% yes vote?

While a big majority supports a Palestinian state, I doubt that many will do so in the form the current drive at the UN might achieve it.

The Palestinian Authority, which is the pseudo West Bank government of Mahmud Abbas and his Fatah party, plans to ask the United Nation's Security Council to get admitted as a sovereign nation.

Other Palestinian parties, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and well know Palestinians like Omar Barghouti, one of the leaders of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions movement, have spoken out against this move. Indeed many Palestinian writers assert that this move will certainly have bad consequences for Palestinians.

The Palestinian state Abbas wants would replace the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) with the West Bank Palestinian Authority (PA). Palestinian refugees outside of the West Bank and Gaza would then be without representation. This would also recognize Israel on 78% of the ground of the original Palestine. For what gain please?

Abbas has no longer legitimacy as president of the PA. His Fatah party had lost the 2006 election against Hamas but a USrael arranged coup against it prevented it from taking power. Abbas official time in office ended in 2009. He is only still sitting on his current chair because new elections have been prevented from being held. Just like Mubarak was, Abbas is now just one of the usual colonial puppet dictators. (His lack of legitimacy on its own should be reason enough for any liberal to be against his UN move.)

Abbas fears a public "Arab spring" rebellion against himself. He wants to stay relevant and in his well paid job. He therefore needs some action just to show that he is still somewhat useful and, if possible, to even increase his own position. As the Palestinian Papers have shown he is willing to sell out any Palestinian right plus his grandmother to achieve that. His personal motivation, not Palestinian rights, is the sole reason he started this UN admission ploy that may well turn out to be just theater.

One wonders why Abbas recently has chosen the Security Council as the way to go. The General Assembly could just as well decide the issue and there a majority "yes" vote would be a certainty while the vote through the Security Council is likely more difficult to get. Indeed as the NYT writes:

American, European and Israeli officials are now quietly arguing that the Security Council may prove easier for diplomats seeking a formula to get the Israelis and Palestinians back to negotiations. The application through the Security Council will take longer because it will involve letters, committee formation and most likely requests for more time to study the situation.

What deal was made with Abbas over this?

Posted by b on September 19, 2011 at 05:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (29)

September 18, 2011

Open Thread - September 18

An old relative of mine, not near but somewhat dear to me, died yesterday. I am therefore traveling and will be off the net for some wider family time. Posting, if any, will be light.

Please use as open thread.

Posted by b on September 18, 2011 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (35)

September 16, 2011

The Scum Swamps Libya

The scum swamps Libya

 

Posted by b on September 16, 2011 at 02:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

September 15, 2011

Saudis To Join Yemen's Cauldron?

Yemens's president Saleh survived the assassination attempt against him and after some time in a Saudi hospital he is now back on the political scene. Despite continuing protests against him Saleh still wants to stay in office. As Gregory Johnson wrote a few days ago:

Salih's strategy is working. He is dragging the hoped for transition out, and the creaky alliance of anti-Salih actors is starting to break-down. This is particularly true when it comes to the north-south division.

This is both sad and predictable. Salih has been doing this for the past 33 years, and while the alliance held for several months, it now looks, at least from the outside, as if there are serious fissures that Salih can easily exploit, even from medical exile in Saudi Arabia.

Yesterday Saleh again tried to avoid signing the GCC negotiated resignation and to thereby hand off power:

Amidst president Saleh’s declarations that he gave vice-president Hadi a mandate to negotiate with the Opposition the country’s transfer of power on the base of a modified GCC proposal, his armed forces were conducting military airstrikes against Arhab tribesmen this Tuesday.

According to medical officials, 7 civilians were killed in the bombing and a few hundreds injured.

Arhab which is situated a few kilometers North of Sana’a, is home to tribes loyal to the revolution. For months, the tribes which are under the direct leadership of Sheikh Sadeeq al-Ahmar, the all powerful tribal leader of the Hasheed confederation and Sheikh al-Zindani, an influential cleric and senior member of al-Islah party, have sworn to defend the roads leading to the capital, preventing government troops to route their reinforcements through their territories.

As a result, the area has been heavily bombarded for months, forcing villagers to find refuge in the mountain caves.

The government is now claiming that the tribesmen are all al-Qaeda militants, adding that Arhab is a well known terrorist hub.
...
[A]s people were dying in Arhab, hundreds of thousands were demonstrating against the regime’s new claims to negotiate, voicing their anger and frustrations onto the streets of the capital, Sana’a. The move was echoed across the country, as other towns and villages join them in their demands.

Protesters were heard chanting: “No deal, no maneuvering, the president should leave.” Because if Saleh is allowing Hadi to dialogue with his political opponents, he reserved himself the right to refute the proposal.

Today Saleh's forces used live fire (video from Taiz) against protests in what seems to be a new intend to put an end to the demonstrations. Attacks also hit fighters of the tribal federation that somewhat supports the protesters:

Mohammad al-Qadhi, a former managing editor of Yemen Times, told Al Jazeera that clashes had taken place between fighters supporting Sadiq [Al-Ahmer], the leader of the most powerful tribal federation, and troops loyal to President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Al-Ahmar is among the tribal leaders calling for the departure of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. Two of his fighters were wounded in the shelling, the source said.

This protests and clashes between Saleh forces and major tribes just add to the mayhem with other fights occurring in the south-west of Yemen where Islamist fighters have taken over some areas and are clashing with the military while being bombed by U.S. planes. But as things can always get worse, the Saudis now seem to also want a place in the cauldron:

According to military sources, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would have dispatched a convoy of armored vehicles, amongst which were war tanks, and other military equipment to Yemen in order for its regime to quell the rising popular movement against president Saleh.

After having attempted for months to bring a political solution to Yemen’s popular uprising, it seems that the Kingdom has exhausted its diplomatic avenues, preferring to refer to oppressive methods to re-establish tranquility.

In late 2009 the Saudis fought a border war with Zaydi (a Shia sect) smugglers from the Houthi tribes in north west Yemen.

It did not end well. Despite massive use of fighter planes, Apache attack helicopters and tanks against a rag tag tribal militia the Saudis took quite some casualties with about 100 dead and 400 wounded and the situation ended with a stalemate.

The Saudis were able to put down peaceful protests after they invaded Bahrain but the situation in Yemen is different. The tribes which support the protests are quite large, have lots of weapons and are experienced fighters. Additionally parts of the military earlier defected and has joint their cause.

If the Saudis really try to reestablish Saleh by military force they are likely in for some bloody surprises.

Additional resources: Yemen, wall map (jpg)

Posted by b on September 15, 2011 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

September 14, 2011

The Aselsan Suicides

Back in February this report from Turkey got me interested:

The suspicious deaths of four engineers who were declared to have committed suicide might have been murder, according to a new indictment into an espionage gang within the naval forces.

All four men worked for ASELSAN, a defense industry giant that produces technology for the Turkish military. The deaths are being investigated again as part of the ongoing probe into a gang that faces accusations of making use of prostitutes, blackmail and espionage. There are 56 suspects in the investigation, including military officers.

Recently, the İstanbul Police Department’s Anti-Organized Crime Unit requested the closed case files of Hüseyin Başbilen, Halim Ünsem Ünal and Evrim Yançeken -- who were reported to have killed themselves between 2006 and 2007 -- in order to re-launch an investigation. All three were assigned to encryption and decryption projects at ASELSAN and had worked on highly strategic projects in the past.

Was the police really interested in those suicides or was this one of those political investigations, not unheard of in Turkey, that are held simply to remove the suspects from their job?

Back in 2007 three suicides within six month were so suspicious that they led to an inquiry in the Turkish parliament. Nothing came out of it. Those engineers were allegedly working "a critical project that would have largely freed the Turkish defense industry from depending on foreign technology", "the modernization of F-16 fighter jets" and on software for a new tank. Their families did not believe they committed suicide but suspected they were suicided. Who then would have interest to kill them and why?

While the fourth suicide and the investigation looked suspicious I did not find enough to understand the real story. There were lots of rumors about those suicides but few verifiable facts and no obvious motive for murder. This recent news item though may now explain the reason for their death:

Turkey's Military Electronics Industry (ASELSAN) has produced a new identification friend or foe (IFF) system for Turkish jet fighters, warships and submarines and the new software, contrary to the older, US-made version, does not automatically identify Israeli planes and ships as friends, a news report said on Tuesday.

The new IFF has already been installed in Turkish F-16s and is expected to be installed in all Navy ships and submarines, the report, published in Turkish daily Star, said. It will be fully operational when it is installed in all military planes, warships and submarines.

The F-16 jet fighters, purchased from the US, came with pre-installed IFF software that automatically identifies Israeli fighters and warships as friends, disabling Turkish F-16s from targeting Israeli planes or ships. ASELSAN-made IFF will allow Turkish military commanders to identify friends and foes on the basis of national considerations.

Turkey was unable to make modifications to the friend or foe identification codes in US-made F-16s, while Israel was given a different version of the software allowing Israeli authorities to make modifications. Israel was also authorized to view the version given to Turkey, according to Star.

The killing of foreign engineers and scientists working on military or nuclear projects is a favorite pastime for the Israeli Mossad (see Iran, nuclear). But back in 2006 and 2007 when the first three engineers died Turkey - at least publicly - still had quite friendly relations with Israel. Then again, Israel does not really mind spying on its allies.

Turkey's president Erdogan is arguing quite loud against Israeli misdeeds. That gets explained with the killing by Israel of nine Turks on the Gaza flotilla ship. But there may be more behind Erdogan's turn from Israeli ally to foe. The sabotaging of an important Turkish military project through the killing of these engineers might well be another reason for the change in Turkish foreign policy.

Posted by b on September 14, 2011 at 02:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (12)

September 13, 2011

Mini-Tet In Kabul

A series of Taliban attacks are currently ongoing in Kabul including one on the ISAF headquarter and the U.S. and other embassies. Following the various Twitter feeds this sounds a bit like a mini version of a Tet offensive.

So much for the success of the night raids and the surge.

Update:

In comments Dan asks: "A microscopic Tet? Or just another bad day in an stalemated, interminable and grinding conflict."

This was of course no Tet offense in the sense of a huge countrywide surprise attack with many dead throughout the country. While the Mujaheddin attacks are now more frequent, more intense and more complex than ever they are not yet coordinated across the country.

But I am not looking at this from the sole military side, the number of people involved, killed or the damage done. Modern wars are won in the minds of the public. The Tet offensive convinced the U.S. public that there was nothing to win in Vietnam. It marked a turning point in the public mind.

Today saw coordinated attacks in the most guarded part of a secure Kabul defended by a ring of steel. It hit the U.S. embassy, the ISAF HQ, the NDS HQ, the border police HQ and other important places.

It will serve the same effect as the Tet offensive, which by the way ended in a military defeat for the Viet cong but was a success in the bigger sense.

A few days ago U.S. ambassador Crocker said the biggest problem Kabul has is the traffic. Today has shown that such is not really the case.

Posted by b on September 13, 2011 at 07:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

NYT Presents False Choices - Ignores German Supreme Court Decision

Today's NYT piece on the German chancellor Merkel is rather weird: German Leader Faces Key Choices on Rescuing Euro:

As Europe struggles to reverse a plunge in financial confidence, the world waits for Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, to make a fundamental choice.
...
Much hinges on getting all 17 nations in the euro zone to ratify the decisions of July 21, as the French Parliament has done, which includes an increase in the bailout fund and an expansion of its powers. Those decisions would already mark a shift in Germany’s harder-line positions on the euro.

An expanded European Financial Stability Facility would be able to act as a kind of bank, supported by all the members. It would be a significant step toward using Europe’s collective clout with debt markets to rescue countries with much weaker standing.
...
Eurobonds — issuing common European debt that any member of the currency zone could tap — is one popular solution among European Union officials in Brussels.

The article pretends that these "rescue" measures depend on Merkel's choice or ability.

That is nonsense.

An extended European Financial Stability Facility (EFSF) in the planned form of a permanent European Stabilization Mechanism (ESM), as well as Eurobonds, are no longer a choice. The German constitutional court, while allowing current temporary measures, last week prohibited those permanent measures.

It essentially decided that:

1. The right to budget decisions (taxing and spending) is the fundamental rights of any democratically elected parliament. The right of future parliaments to make budget decisions shall not be undermined by unlimited, permanent transfer decisions taken by the sitting parliament. Allowing such unlimited transfer decisions would take away all meaning of future democratic elections.

2. Therefore the German government and parliament are not allowed to approve of treaties which might undermine that budget right for future German parliaments. No mechanisms are allowed “which result in an assumption of liability for other states’ voluntary decisions, especially if they have consequences whose impact is difficult to calculate.”

3. Any extended ESFS would need German parliamentary approval each time it demands additional transfers of money. It would have to give the German parliament detailed reviews leaving it in control. But such an ESFS would not be able to give assurances or guarantees to anyone else as it would always depend on the next German parliament's vote. It would be useless.

4. Eurobonds as planned would allow a majority of Eurozone countries to just out vote Germany and issue a lot more Eurobonds than the German parliament would like while at the same time make German taxpayers liable for those bonds. That would undermine the German democracy. Therefore Germany can not take part in the planned Eurobond scheme.

Any change in the above would need a change in the German constitution and a public referendum on those changes. With 75% of all Germans against bailouts that is not going to happen.

But the NYT piece does not even mention the court's decisions. It presents choices for Merkel to make that no longer exist.

What then is the purpose of that piece?

Posted by b on September 13, 2011 at 01:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

September 11, 2011

How SITE Creates Terrorist Supporters

Through a recent blog post (in German) by Holger Schmidt, a German Public Radio journalist specialized on terrorism, we find this story which fits today's 9/11 terror scaring.

There is now proof that the U.S./Israeli SITE Intelligence Group is active in creating groups who support terrorists.

Eight German and Turkish teens and tweens are accused of supporting a terrorist organization because they translated propaganda pamphlets and videos by Al-Qaeda's media service Al-Sahab into German language and published them in a web-forum. Their organization was active since 2006, mostly in Germany and Austria, and is known as Global Islamic Media Front (GIMF).

During the current court procedures evidence was presented that these wannabe jihadists were supported by the SITE Intelligence Group, a very suspicious (probably Mossad) outlet run by Rita Katz an Israeli analyst and former soldier of the IDF.  SITE offers "breaking news, articles and analysis of the jihadist threat" and is famous of providing Al-Qaeda videos of dubious provenance.

During the investigation of GIMF the German FBI equivalent, the BKA, monitored the email account tavit201@yahoo.de through which a virtual personality named "Said ibn Abdullah al-Hanafi" and also one "Ahmet K" gave advise and help to the founder of the alleged German section of GIMF. The tavit201@yahoo.de persons provided a web server hosted in Malaysia for the group, bought and installed the forum software and gave tips on how to stay covered.

As a German BKA investigator noted during the case (my translation):

In total the conservation between [the accused] T. and "Ahmet K" leaves the impression that "Ahmet K" acts as intermediary between the international and German section of GIMF. Additionally "Ahmet K" provides important basic means for T, for example storage capacity on the internet, a domain name and software.

As Yahoo is a U.S. company the BKA asked the FBI to find out who is really behind tavit201@yahoo.de. The FBI found that the real person behind that account was one Joshua Devon (scroll down), a senior analyst and co-founder of the SITE Intelligence Group.

Questioned about this Devon told the FBI about "Ahmet K" (my translation):

This is a historic person we used - with knowledge of the [German secret service] BND - at the end of 2007 and beginning of 2008. Through using this personality we chatted with the new leadership of the Global Islamic Media Front after the arrest of [its former leader] Mahmoud... During the use of this personality we provided the administrator of GIMF with a web server... Subsequently we provided all information we gathered this way to the German [secret service] BND.

So the German equivalent of the FBI was sniffing on a suspicious email account the German equivalent of the CIA knew to be fake. So much for cooperation between such services.

But back to the notes of the German investigator who wrote that "Ahmet K", which is SITE's Joshua Devon, "acts as intermediary between the international and German section of GIMF".

That seems to indicate that Devon was the only contact the German group had to the international part of GIMF.

Which leads me to ask: Is the international part of GIMF really existing or is it just a production of SITE to further the Islamic terror scare? And to what degree does SITE give such support to terrorist supporters in collaboration or on request of the FBI and the various secret services?

Posted by b on September 11, 2011 at 09:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (19)

September 10, 2011

Some Links And Open Thread

The Arab Counterrevolution - NYRB

The Arab world’s immediate future will very likely unfold in a complex tussle between the army, remnants of old regimes, and the Islamists, all of them with roots, resources, as well as the ability and willpower to shape events. Regional parties will have influence and international powers will not refrain from involvement. There are many possible outcomes—from restoration of the old order to military takeover, from unruly fragmentation and civil war to creeping Islamization. But the result that many outsiders had hoped for—a victory by the original protesters—is almost certainly foreclosed.

Analysis / Crises with Turkey and Egypt represent a political tsunami for Israel - Aluf Ben/Haartez

Germany Said to Ready Plan to Help Banks If Greece Defaults, Greek Credit Swaps Surge to Record, Signal 91% Chance of Default - Bloomberg

Greece is broke and only needs to acknowledge it. Other countries will follow. This is good. The debt bubble that clogs the global economy can not be solved without forgiving debt. Greece will only be the starting point for that process.

On 9/11: Ten Lost Years - Jakob Augstein/Spiegel

Posted by b on September 10, 2011 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

September 09, 2011

Obama's Jobs Plan

Obama's jobs plan:

  • "We will continue to falsely diagnose a solvency crisis as a normal liquidity recession." (I would otherwise have to demand credit write downs from those criminal banksters who pay for my reelection bid.)
  • "We will cut the payroll taxes which pay for social security." (This will make it easier to later gut the whole program.)
  • "We will pay for that by later cutting Medicare and Medicaid." (See how I never lose sight of my original aims.)
  • "We also ask the Congress supercommittee to find more ways to cut spending." (Time for the catfood commission to earn its name.)
  • "We will give tax breaks to companies that hire workers." (Just fire them from those well payed jobs, rehire them for less and get another tax break. What's not to like here?)
  • "We will give some money to the cities and towns so they can keep more policemen on their payrolls." (We will need those when the people eventually start to revolt.)
  • "We will put up $10 billion of the people's money toward a public-private infrastructure bank. (Here is some upfront money for the banksters to privatize more of the now public owned space.)
  • "We will also offer money to rehab vacant and foreclosed hoses that are now owned by the banks." (They never really wanted those houses so why should they pay for them?)
  • "We ask Congress to pass this immediately." (Please don't give anyone time to find out what really is behind these ideas.)

Posted by b on September 9, 2011 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

September 08, 2011

Killing Government

I am late to this good piece but it is not too late to read it:

Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult

A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress's generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.

The first step of that strategy, to lower Congress's rating, was successful:

Just a quarter of Americans (25%) say they have a favorable opinion of Congress, while 70% have an unfavorable view. This is among the lowest favorable ratings for Congress in more than two decades of Pew Research Center surveys.

The number expressing a favorable opinion of Congress has fallen by nine points since March (from 34% to 25%), with nearly equal declines among Republicans, Democrats and independents.

The second step, more favorability for Republicans because of an unfavorable view on government, may turn out to be false:

Both political parties also are viewed less favorably than they were earlier this year. But the decline in the GOP’s image has been more pronounced: Currently, 34% say they have a favorable opinion of the Republican Party while 59% view the GOP unfavorably. The percent expressing an unfavorable opinion of the Republican Party has risen by 11 points (from 48%) since February.

The current balance of opinion toward the Democratic Party also is unfavorable (43% favorable vs. 50% unfavorable). In February, about as many said they had a favorable (47%) as unfavorable (46%) opinion of the Democratic Party.

Still, the Democrats are more viewed more favorably than the GOP (43% to 34%).

The strategy is very disruptive to an orderly government and voters are smart enough to recognize that and will therefore eventually kill it.

Unfortunately though the Democrats seem to have their own strategy to destroy the reputation for government and an favorability for themselves. Shilling for banksters and fighting more wars will eventually make it clear that they are not a real alternative.

What then is the way out?

Posted by b on September 8, 2011 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

September 07, 2011

China Announces "Peaceful Development" Strategy

China yesterday published an major top level paper on its foreign policy philosophy and plans over the next decades. The paper's title is China's Peaceful Development.

One would assume that the "west" would be interested in such a strategic paper but except for a short BBC notice and an agency report in The Hindu the "western" media have so far nothing about it.

The announcement by Xinhua explains the logic behind the Peaceful Development Strategy:

The white paper, titled "China's Peaceful Development", was released by the State Council Information Office. It introduces the path, objective and foreign policy of the peaceful development and elaborates on what China's peaceful development means to the rest of the world.

"Peaceful development carries forward the Chinese historical and cultural tradition, "it says.

The world has been believed to be a harmonious whole in the Chinese culture ever since the ancient times.
...
The Chinese have a strong collective consciousness and sense of social responsibility. The paper says "we believe that 'you should not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.'"
...
"China will remain a developing country for a long time to come, which means that China must dedicate itself to advancing its modernization drive, promoting development and improving its people's livelihood. This calls for maintaining a peaceful and stable international environment and conducting international exchanges and cooperation." says the white paper.
...

"The world today is moving towards multipolarity and economic globalization is gaining momentum. There is a growing call for change in the international system and the world is facing more historical challenges. To share opportunities presented by development and jointly ward off risks is the common desire of the people of the world," says the white paper.
...
The international community should reject the zero-sum game which was a product of the old international relations, the dangerous cold and hot war mentality, and all those beaten tracks which repeatedly led mankind to confrontation and war.
...
"We want peace and not war; development and not stagnation; dialogue and not confrontation; understanding and not misunderstanding. This is the general trend of the world and the common aspiration of all people. It is against this historical background that China has chosen the path of peaceful development," says the white paper.

A peaceful mainly economic development in a peaceful multipolar world is what China wants to achieve. It still has quite far to go to reach an average wealth level compareable to "western" states. It rejects warfare as a means of furthering its own position.

I can with agree with those aims. A peaceful development by China can be of great benefit for the rest of the world. The question is if the "west", especially the U.S., will allow for it. The lack of coverage of this paper in the "western" media increases my doubts about that. From the general tone of U.S. papers and reporting on China it seems that the U.S. has chosen China as its next big bogeyman and justification for further wars. China will hopefully take that into account.

The full English text of the paper is here. It is a bit flowery and with nearly 10,000 words quite long but it makes some very serious and at times astonishing points. I recommend to read it and to keep it in mind when judging China's foreign policy and global behavior.

Posted by b on September 7, 2011 at 09:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Russia's Gas Business in Decline - A WaPo Phantasy

One wonders why some U.S. journalists do not even understand the most basic economic facts. Does their  task of forwarding U.S. centric ideological phantasies like the "sclerotic Europe" or the "declining Russia" make it impossible for them? Or are they just stupid?

Look at this short piece on the opening of the Northstream pipeline by Will Englund, the Moscow correspondent of the Washington Post: Russia opening gas pipeline to Western Europe

MOSCOW — With its gas business in decline, Russia on Tuesday began filling a new pipeline that goes directly under the Baltic Sea to Germany, bypassing Ukraine, Belarus and Poland.
...
August was one of the worst months ever for Gazprom, the state-owned Russian gas company, which saw a drop in exports to Europe despite the turmoil in Libya, another gas producer. This pushed overall output down 8.2 percent.
...
Gazprom, until recently a powerful agent for Russia’s foreign policy because of its control over the European supply of gas, has seen its position slip as new technologies for extraction and shipping gas from elsewhere have undermined its pricing.

According to Englund we have:

  • Russia's gas business in decline
  • the worst month ever for Gazprom
  • an output drop by 8.2%
  • pricing undermined by other sources

This must be really bad for Russia. But only if you put ideological thinking above economics.

Yes, Russia's production did decline in the last years. But that was not a sign of general decline as Englund wants to make you believe. Russia's long term gas business is doing very well. The downward bump was a solely a matter of lacking demand because of economic trouble in the consumer countries.

source: US EIA - International Energy Outlook 2010

From the official U.S. Energy Information Agency:

Early estimates for 2009 [..] indicate a decline of 12.4 percent (2 to 3 trillion cubic feet) in Russia's natural gas production from the 2008 total. The production decline was due not to a lack of resources or production capacity, but rather to the global economic downturn and the resultant decline in natural gas demand in Russia and in its gas export markets, especially those in Europe.

August, according to Englund "one of the worst months ever for Gazprom", saw the Gazprom share price drop from $14.58 down to $10.6 as all world markets declined in fear of a renewed global recession. But the current price of $11.60/share is still 90% above the $6.09/share price low of October 2008 which occurred after a after a much bigger drop due to the global recession in that year.

And yes, Gazprom gas production declined in August. It did so because it was hot and because people had vacations.


source: FSU Oil & Gas Advisory Service April 2011 (pdf)

As can clearly be seen in the graph gas is a seasonal product with less demand in the summer than during the winter. As gas can not be stored well it only gets produced when there is demand for it. Most gas is used in Europe for heating during the winter and for electricity production. Hot weather and summer vacations are the reason why gas production in Russia dropped in August. Ten percent demand drops in natural gas during the summer are obviously normal.

As for "undermined" pricing power. Import prices for gas in Europe declined together with demand in 2008 and 2009. But since then they are again on the way up.

source: Mongabay.com based on World Bank numbers

What we have with Englund's piece is ideological phantasy - not economic analysis and reality.

There is no structural decline in Russia's gas production or in its gas pricing power. The opposite is the case. The global recession and seasonal factors were the sole reasons for recent demand, production and price movements. When that recession is over, Russia and Gazprom will be in same or even better position than before.

Posted by b on September 7, 2011 at 03:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

September 06, 2011

How Internal Supply Commitments Create New Enemies

Picking from several recent pieces Gareth Porter adds one and one together and finds the rather stupid reason why, after mid 2008, the CIA increased its drone campaign in AfPak.

Despite that disastrous start [in the early years of the drone campaign], however, the CIA had quickly become deeply committed internally to building a major program around the drone war. In 2005, the agency had created a career track in targeting for the drone program for analysts in the intelligence directorate, the Post article revealed.

As there was now an internal carreer commitment by the CIA to its personal in the drone business, that business had to be increased. This even after it had turned out that drones attacks are an ineffective tool with negative strategic effects.

By 2007, the agency realised that, in order to keep those commitments, it had to get the White House to change the rules by relaxing existing restrictions on drone strikes.

That's when Hayden began lobbying President George W. Bush to dispense with the constraints limiting the targeting for drone attacks,[...]
...
Released from the original constraints on the drone programme, the CIA immediately increased the level of drone strikes in the second half of 2008 to between four and five per month on average.

And it grew and grew from thereon.

Similar internal mechanisms are active within the military. All those additional special operations forces hired and trained after 9/11 have soldiers and officers on career pathes they want to continue. Instead of winding down after Bin Laden has been caught they will be actively looking for new targets.

This is a "supply side economics" run wild. Having committed to sustained supply capacity, as the CIA did with the drone analyst career offer, sustained demand, new enemies, new terrorists, need to be created. For those secretive people working the dark and dirty side of the war business that is not a problem but part of their specialty.

The "war of terror" is now engraved into the organizational structure of the CIA and the special forces. It will therefore only end when the U.S. will lack the money to continue it.

Posted by b on September 6, 2011 at 10:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (5)

U.S. To Unleash Anti-Iran Death Squads In Iraq

In a obviously planted story the Wall Street Journal gives a preview of how the U.S. wants to control Iraq after the U.S. military officially will have left at the end of this year:

U.S. Eyes Covert Plan to Counter Iran in Iraq

Military commanders and intelligence officers are pushing for greater authority to conduct covert operations to thwart Iranian influence in neighboring Iraq, according to U.S. officials.

There is a request for a presidential finding that would allow unrestricted CIA and military Special Operations in Iraq after the U.S. left. But the article makes it clear that the original initiative for this is coming from the White House. The finding therefore will be, or probably has already been, granted.

The excuse is the alleged Iranian influence in Iraq. As there is never evidence of such beyond the relatively friendly normal Iraq-Iran relations between neighbors this will be conveniently used to continue to unleash U.S. death squads on Iraq.

After December, the job of ensuring that Tehran can't mount attacks in Iraq, arm militia groups or destabilize the government in Baghdad will fall more heavily on U.S. intelligence.

Why? Why would Iran mount attacks in Iraq? And if there were such would it not be the genuine task of the Iraqi government to prevent such? Why is that supposed to be U.S. business? The piece gives no answers to these obvious questions.

The CIA isn't expected to draw down in Iraq as quickly as the military after December.
...
If the presidential finding for an expansion of covert action is approved—and if some special operations forces remain in Iraq—they could be assigned to operate temporarily under CIA authority. The agency, under the National Security Act, is the only U.S. entity that can conduct covert operations.

Special operations forces would have the ability to carry out risky capture-or-kill missions that the CIA may not be able to conduct on its own.

Next to the piece the WSJ shows a photo of explosively formed penetrators" (EFPs) with the caption: "The U.S. says Iran smuggles bomb parts like these to Iraqi insurgents." Here is where the propaganda becomes ridiculous. It was the WSJ's Yochi Dreazen who reported, as did other media, that these EFPs were made in Iraq.

But it proves that the Iran-meddling accusations are just an excuse. The U.S. will keep a large secret intelligence force in Iraq and it will have a military component for "capture-or-kill" operations.

That is, of course, only if the Iraqis will allow such to take place.

Posted by b on September 6, 2011 at 08:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 05, 2011

Tit For Tat

This tit for tat with Turkey is one for Israel to lose.

JERUSALEM, Israel -- Israeli passengers who landed at Ataturk Airport in Istanbul on Monday morning were rounded up, their passports confiscated, and interrogated by police.

"All we know at this is point is about 40 Israeli passengers were taken aside and questioned until their passports were returned about an hour and a half later," a Foreign Ministry spokesman told CBN News.

Israel is looking into the incident -- a first of its kind -- to determine its origin and implications for the future.
Turkish Police Harass Israeli Passengers

Well done. It was about time.

Foreign Ministry officials told Haaretz on Monday that over the past year, there were dozens of complaints on the part of Turkish citizens who claimed they were humiliated by Israeli security personnel at Ben-Gurion airport.

The officials also said that almost every Turkish citizen who arrives at Ben-Gurion airport undergoes a routine procedure of extensive, humiliating examinations that also include undressing to one's underwear.

"Turkish citizens are always separated from the rest of the passengers at the airport," said a Foreign Ministry official.

"When their luggage is thoroughly examined and they undergo extensive questioning they understand it comes from security needs, but when they get to the strip search part it breaks them and they are humiliated. Many Turkish businesspeople and tourists have complained about this in the past. This humiliation ceremony of Turkish citizens is a routine matter."
Foreign Ministry officials admit: Turkey citizens routinely humiliated at Israel's airport

Posted by b on September 5, 2011 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (11)

September 04, 2011

The Negev Bedouins

Haaretz, the liberal Israeli newspaper had this headline today: Israeli cabinet set to vote on approval of unrecognized Bedouin villages.

Nice one would think, lets recognize the unrecognized and give them their due.

But that is of course not what is planned here. The headline is a whitewash for ethnic cleansing.

There are some 100,000 Bedouins in the Negev desert. They have been living there for centuries. But now the Jewish Israelis want their land.

The real plan is "relocate" them and to "concentrate them in certain areas" where they will have only about 50% of the land they currently use. The land they are using now will be given to Jewish settlers.

The Bedouins have so far been loyal Israeli citizens who did not fight the state. That will now change.

Posted by b on September 4, 2011 at 10:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (15)

September 03, 2011

Assange Is Right To Publish All Cables

Julian Assange and Wikileaks were right to now publish all the U.S. cables it had obtained.

Recently, because of quite outrageous misbehavior by the former Wikileaks spokesperson Daniel Domscheit-Berg and the Guardian's David Leigh, all cables, unredacted, became available via Cryptome and other unofficial sources. To prevent possible cable forgeries coming into circulation Assange then decided to publish the whole official bunch he had obtained at the Wikileaks' website. There was no longer a need to redact those as the unredacted version was unfortunately already in circulation.

The model Julian first tried to work with, giving the cables to media outlets and have them publish on them, did not work. Those outlets published some cables but they held back on many others while at the same time bashing away at Wikileaks and Julian.

As an example see cable 06GENEVA763:

I have received various reports indicating that at least 10 persons, namely Mr. Faiz Hratt Khalaf, (aged 28), his wife Sumay'ya Abdul Razzaq Khuther (aged 24), their three children Hawra'a (aged 5) Aisha (aged 3) and Husam (5 months old), Faiz's mother Ms. Turkiya Majeed Ali (aged 74), Faiz's sister (name unknown), Faiz's nieces Asma'a Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 5 years old), and Usama Yousif Ma'arouf (aged 3 years), and a visiting relative Ms. Iqtisad Hameed Mehdi (aged 23) were killed during the raid.

Even after many month not one of the official Wikileaks partner media outlets had published this cable about a massacre U.S. troops committed in Iraq. They suppressed it. Only now, after it became public knowledge, do they start to report on it. Why do they only now deem it as newsworthy when it was availble to them for many month? This in itself is a huge media scandal.

For a look at the whole Wikileaks drama "from the tin-hat angle" I'll hand over to Jeremiah in a comment here:

David Leigh/Guardian is working in the interest of CIA/MI6 and looking not to collaborate with WikiLeaks, but to ensnare him for prosecution.

Clue: DL Insisting on seeing the actual files

Clue: DL Pressing for the GPG passphrase

Clue: DL Publishing the ENTIRE proceeding and passphrase in a book

Dumbshit-Borg is either a long-time mole or was "turned"

Clue: D-B had full access to all unredacted material

Clue: D-B acrimoniously split with Assange/WikiLeaks over ego-boundary shit and speculative "risk" issues

Clue: D-B in his schism is part of the probable exposure of these cables - portrayed as an "accident", while he was unilaterally and admittedly sabotaging WikiLeaks

Clue: D-B can now say "I told you so" over this exposure of sources - pointing to this as evidence, rather than a situation he perpetrated

The US Army Counterintelligence Agency said in 2008 that WikiLeaks was"a potential force protection, counterintelligence, OPSEC, and INFOSEC threat to the US Army" and PLANNED OPERATIONS to neutralise/discredit WikiLeaks:

"The identification, exposure, or termination of employment of or legal actions against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others from using Wikileaks.org to make such information public." source (scribd.com)

Question: Do you think that the Agency makes these declarations in vain, for their entertainment value?

Question: Do you think they are alone, and that there are not equivalent planned and current operations by the CIA, etc.?

Question: Are the combined actions of DL and D-B implausible as the intended outcome of a counter-WikiLeaks strategy, set in motion by one or more intelligence agencies, including US Army Counterintelligence?

Think about it. Once they set this down IN PRINT, internally, and don't have a "positive" outcome? Somebody goes through the ringer.

This is likely all a setup. One with a scenario that is similar to the one indicated here, if not completely identical. It is one where where David Leigh and Dumbshit-Borg are either pathetic and self-serving dupes, or sickening quislings.

Either way, this is a noose fabricated of intentional actions with plausible deniability. Identify WikiLeaks with Assange's personality, and attack the personality. Attack the credibility of WikiLeaks methodology while distracting from their effectiveness and success in exposing filth, corruption and illegal government action.

I know the will get Assange one way or another. They just created the circumstance to have him charged in Australia - their one sure bet. But watch out, DL and D-B.

When your mysterious, untimely deaths occur, I will look at it as confirmation of these speculations.

And proudly burnish my tin-hat...

Posted by b on September 3, 2011 at 12:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

September 02, 2011

The CIA's International Torture Club

Gaddhafi's secret service had excellent relations with the CIA and the MI6. This was widely assumed but is now supported by new evidence.

But the NYT's report on Files Note Close C.I.A. Ties to Qaddafi Spy Unit depicts a wrong premise of the  cooperation between those services. It opening paragraph states:

Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.

The CIA folks never had qualms about other countries torturing as it is doing just the same when no subcontractor is available to do it for them. Indeed a country that tortures is of much more value to the CIA than a country that has reservations about such crimes. A correct version of that paragraph would therefore read:

Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya because of that country’s reputation for torture.

Interestingly the piece contains a new detail about Abdelhakim Belhadj aka Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, a former terrorist and now military commander of Tripoli. As it turns out the CIA captured, tortured and abducted him to Libya at the request of the Libyan government:

When Libyans asked to be sent Abu Abdullah al-Sadiq, another member of the group, a case officer wrote back on March 4, 2004, that “we are committed to developing this relationship for the benefit of both our services,” and promised to do their best to locate him.

Two days later, an officer faxed the Libyans to say that Mr. Sadiq and his pregnant wife were planning to fly into Malaysia, and the authorities there agreed to put them on a British Airways flight to London that would stop in Bangkok. “We are planning to take control of the pair in Bangkok and place them on our aircraft for a flight to your country,” the case officer wrote.
...
In an interview on Wednesday, Mr. Belhaj gave a detailed description of his incarceration that matched many of those in the documents. He also said that when he was held in Bangkok he was tortured by two people from the C.I.A.

Oceania is now no longer at war with the jihadists of Eurasia but has declared war on its dictator-friends in Eastasia. From now on the CIA will listen to all requests from Abdelhakim Belhadj and will capture, torture and abducted to Libya anyone he will ask to have delivered to him.

That of course only as long as Abdelhakim Belhadj will agree to torture others at the CIA's request.

Posted by b on September 2, 2011 at 11:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

Some Things To Read And Open Thread

Five of those killed had bullet wounds indicating they had been shot from behind: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Necdet Yıldırım, Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen. This last group included three with bullet wounds to the back of the head: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu and Furkan Doğan. İbrahim Bilgen was killed by a shot to the right temple.
Civil-military relations under Gates were more dysfunctional than any time since the early days of the Civil War. Though it may seem hyperbolic to some, the reality is that the accumulated transgressions of civil-military norms by senior military leaders far outstrip the misconduct of Gen. Douglas MacArthur during the Korean War.

During the Gates years, senior military leaders intervened in domestic politics; actively lobbied for policy preferences; waged sophisticated information operations against the American public; blocked the development of alternative options requested by the president and sought to punish those in uniform who were willing to respond to presidential requests; and created command environments in which contempt for civilian leaders was widespread. And Gates was either absent or an accomplice in most of these transgressions.

Posted by b on September 2, 2011 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

Some News On Matthew Craig Barrett

Back in June I asked Who And What is Matthew Craig Barrett? Barrett, a young American globetrotter with a Pakistani wife and two children, had then been arrested in Islamabad and was accused as being a spy.

That was after the Raymond Davis case in which a CIA contractor had killed to people in Peshawar and after the Bin Laden raid in Abbottabad. U.S.-Pakistani relations at that time where in a deep hole.

There was nothing at all in the "western" media about Barrett's arrest. For a case that made quite some press in Pakistan this seemed unusual to me. As I wrote:

From his age, agility and "having visited 60 countries" Barrett could well be a military or CIA spook. Marriage to a Pakistani woman would be a nice background for a long-term agent. But Barrett could of course also be just a normal innocent man. But why then would the U.S. media be quiet about him?

Now, three month later, the British Guardian picks the story up: 'Now Pakistan and America have some problems. So they're taking it out on me'

Tensions between Pakistan and the US often made life tricky for Matthew Barrett, a young man from Alabama living in Islamabad, but when he was arrested in May, things went from bad to worse, as he has revealed in a letter smuggled from his jail cell.

There is not much factual new in it about the arrest but there is a a bit on his private background gained in interviews with his family and friends.

Matthew Craig Barrett is still in jail and the U.S. embassy seems to have no interest to get him out. Like me the Guardian's Declan Walsh leaves it open if he is a spy or just an adventures and impatient young man.

Given that so far the U.S. has shown absolutely no interest at all to get Barrett released I now assume that he is indeed a private citizen with no unofficial official role in one of the many U.S. agencies.

BTW - the last comment, quite angry, in the older thread is now confirmed to have come from Barrett's father in law, Abdur Rahman Khan, who the Guardian describes as:

a fiery human rights lawyer who has embraced his son-in-law. Having survived the 2005 earthquake when a house collapsed on his head, he is not a man to mince his words. Over an iftar dinner to mark the breaking of the Ramadan fast, he rails against Pakistan's military establishment, which he calls a "fascist, feudal, Nazi network". If his son-in-law comes to harm in prison, he warns, he will take tribal-style revenge. "I am a Pakhtun. I cannot be afraid," he declares.

Matthew Barrett's wife Binoche - the Guardian piece has a picture of her and the children - contacted me today by email and pointed to the Guardian story. She wrote:

Without any real proof your website did a lot of propaganda in endangering the life of an innocent person in a fascist and lawless state like Pakistan. Its 3 months me his wife and two minor kids are denied to see him. He was tortured in Judicial custody by criminal minded police. his own embassy remained silence to all the atrocities done to a poor US citizen.

I don't think my piece was propaganda. It was solely assembled from accounts in the Pakistani English language media and I was clearly ambiguous about Barrett's role. I picked up on the case because I was curious that no one else in the "west" showed any interest in it.

Anyway. I hope that Matthew Barrett will soon be freed and can live a happy life with his wife and his children. He might even learn from this drama. "Kicking one man in the behind and mocking his captors," as the Guardian describes him doing, is, even when well deserved, not a helpful behavior when interacting with any authority anywhere in this world.

Posted by b on September 2, 2011 at 01:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

September 01, 2011

In Which The WSJ Calls A Tax Cuts A Subsidy

The new Thai government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra is fulfilling an election promise by lowering taxes on petrol which are disproportionate paid by the poor.

Given its political slant one would expect the Murdoch owned Wall Street Journal to laud tax cuts anywhere.

But as it ideologically dislikes the Shinawatra government it uses Orwellian language and calls the tax cuts despite all facts a "reverting back to market-distorting subsidies".

In 2008 the then government of Thailand made a concerted effort to counter high oil prices by developing alternatives like ethanol from sugarcane and liquified petroleum gas:

[S]pending on alternative-energy projects rose sharply last year because of rising of oil prices and government moves to increase consumption of ethanol and biodiesel, according to the Board of Investment.

Its executive investment adviser, Ajarin Pattanapanchai, said it granted the maximum permissible tax incentives for alternative-energy investment. It started offering breaks for this type of spending in 2004.
...
"Because of higher production costs, biodiesel manufacturers will find it hard to break even if oil prices do not reach US$100 [Bt3,300] to $120 a barrel. Finally, the government needs to subsidise them," she explained.

A State Oil Fund was founded which levied taxes on normal petrol and diesel and subsidized LPG and alternative fuels. While this was an environmental sound policy it had unforeseen side effects:

  • Thailand now consumes 1.2m litres of ethanol per day but has a total installed (over-)capacity of 2.9m litres per day.
  • The ethanol comes mostly from sugarcane which as a crop is prone to exhaust the soil.
  • Motorcycles, more than 17 million are used in Thailand mostly by the poor, old cars and petrol driven agricultural water pumps can not use ethanol fuel mixes and it is therefore their owners who mostly pay the petrol tax.

While reducing the petrol tax and lowering subsidies for alternative fuels is less environment friendly it is expected that the ripple effects of lower petrol prices will drive down overall consumer price levels and inflation.

But see how the Wall Street Journal describes this tax relief:

Ms. Yingluck's moves to suspend the collection of an excise tax on gasoline and diesel sales has prompted criticism that the government is reverting back to market-distorting subsidies at a time when other Asian nations are trying to shake off their dependence on state-funded measures to keep fuel prices down.

The article uses the word subsidies six times. And while it says that the move "prompted criticism" it presents nothing that really supports that assertion.

The use of the "market-distorting subsidies" term is even more curious as the piece is describing the essential fact correctly:

Putting the excise tax makes fuel cheaper for consumers while depriving the government of revenue for its oil fund, which it uses to lower the cost of other fuel products such as liquefied petroleum gas.

So black is white! A tax gets removed and subsidies for LPG financed by that tax will get lowered. But the WSJ author is trying to impress on the reader that this move is bad and a new introduction of a subsidy for the poor.

The author gives away his ideological based view point by calling this "populist policies".

In Washington DC and Wall Street language "populist" is a derogatory term for democratic leaders who get elected with big majorities because they favor the people over the rich and the banks. (See Chavez, Hugo or Putin, Vladimir.)

A "populist" government lowers taxes for the poor and takes away subsidies that favor the more rich must be bad. So in opposite of all facts the WSJ calls this a "reverting back to market-distorting subsidies".

But when a right wing government lowers taxes for the rich we an be sure the WSJ will be there to applaud.

Posted by b on September 1, 2011 at 08:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (2)

 
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