Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 30, 2011

Storming Embassies

There is quite a diplomatic uproar about some Iranians storming the British embassy in Tehran.

What did Mr. Cameron expect when Britain cut off the Iranian central bank from all business in Britain? That was an act of economic warfare and a response was certain.

And where was he, the U.S. and the UN with their "extremely serious" proclamations when earlier this year the Libyan embassies in Stockholm and Manila were stormed by a mob?

Oh, that was different? How?

Posted by b on November 30, 2011 at 06:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

November 29, 2011

The Ever Expanding Price for Afghanistan Operations

Visa and Mastercard are the only major powers in the electronic payment processing market. The form a duopoly, do not seriously compete and can thereby extract an ever increasing price from their customers.

Russia and Pakistan are now a duopoly in logistics for troops in Afghanistan and they are using it to increases the price the U.S. has to pay to stay there:

Russia said it may not let NATO use its territory to supply troops in Afghanistan if the alliance doesn't seriously consider its objections to a U.S.-led missile shield for Europe, Russia's ambassador to NATO said Monday.
...
If NATO doesn't give a serious response, "we have to address matters in relations in other areas," Russian news services reported Dmitri Rogozin, ambassador to NATO, as saying. He added that Russia's cooperation on Afghanistan may be an area for review, the news services reported.

The U.S. "missile defense" in Europe never made sense as protection against Iranian weapons. It only makes sense if it is planed to provide capabilities against Russia's strategic weapons.

The Russians of course assume that and their suspicion increased when the U.S. denied them any real cooperation on the issue. Even more serious:

Moscow is seeking written, legally-binding guarantees that the shield will not be directed against it but Washington has refused to put its verbal assurances in writing.

There are other points on which Russia has reason to use its capability to block U.S. logistics. U.S. meddling in Central Asia, the planned attack on Syria and drug trafficking from Afghanistan are part of that list.

Russia upping the price for further cooperation on Afghanistan helps Pakistan and will allow it to also further increase its own price for again allowing transport through its country. China is also supportive of Pakistan's position:

Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi said Monday that China will consistently support Pakistan's efforts in safeguarding national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.

With Pakistan closing down the logistics and Russia expecting serious concessions the only way left to supply troops in Afghanistan is through the Caspian route from the Georgian port Poti to Baku in Azerbaijan, from there by ferry across the Caspian Sea to Kazakhstan on to Uzbekistan and finally to Afghanistan. It is the most expensive route and it has serious capacity constrains.

The U.S. has maneuvered itself into a really bad position in Afghanistan. It constantly alienates the other major powers but expects them to help on the issue. They have no reason to do so. They just watch and wait and when there inevitably opens a chance to press their concerns or to increase their profits they will, like Russia now, use it.

With neither the Taliban nor Pakistan talking part in the upcoming Bonn conference on Afghanistan there is no political solution in sight and the costs for the U.S. holding out there will day by day increase further. It is time for a serious change in strategy and to give up on Afghanistan. Washington still seems to be unwilling to contemplate that.

Posted by b on November 29, 2011 at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

November 28, 2011

U.S. Slave Regimes In the Middle East

One of the measures the Pakistanis took after the deadly weekend U.S. bombing of their outpost was the immediate closure of the Shamsi airstrip in Baluchistan used by the CIA to launch drone attacks.

That airstrip was originally built with money from the United Emirates and used for the Emirs' hunting pleasure vacations. After 2001 it was turned over to the U.S. which used it for drone operations.

The U.S. is still trying to keep it that way:

President Asif Ali Zardari has rejected a request by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to let United States continue using the Shamsi air base until the completion of the Nato attack probe [...]

The request was made by the foreign minister of the UAE, during a meeting with the President in Islamabad.
...
The Shamsi air base, had originally been leased to the UAE, and later its control was handed over to the US as the war on terror was launched in Afghanistan.

Interesting here is how the U.S. is using one of its colonial regimes in the Middle East to push its policies in a country outside of the region.

It obviously ordered the UAE government to go to Pakistan and to ask for continued access to the base. By following through on that request those UAE regents showed that they have no independent policy, no real pride and no concern for their fellows in Pakistan.

If anyone ever doubted that those Middle East rulers the U.S. calls "friends" are actually little more than slaves this should settle it.

All they have is money. Independence they have not.

Posted by b on November 28, 2011 at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

November 27, 2011

Why Are They Patrolling On The Border Line

Memogate and the U.S. attack on the Pakistani border post that killed 28 Pakistani soldier increases the chance of Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party to win the next Pakistani election. Kahn is against the U.S. Pakistan alliance. It also increases the risk of a coup by some lower rank officers in Pakistan.

This is all well known by the U.S. and that is why there is something with the deadly attack which I do not get:

A NATO spokesman, Brig. Gen. Carsten Jacobson, offered details suggesting that allied and Afghan troops operating near the border came under fire from unknown enemies and summoned coalition warplanes for help.

“In the early night hours of this morning, a force consisting of Afghan forces and coalition forces, in the eastern border area where the Durand Line is not always 100 percent clear, got involved in a firefight,” General Jacobson said [...]

“Air force was called in into this activity,” he said, “and we have to look into this situation of what actually happened on the ground.”

The Pakistani border post that was attacked is on a high point some 1.5 miles within Pakistani territory. The actual border line is not always clear, there are no markings, and at 2:00am in the middle of the night no patrol in the area will be able to tell on which side of the border it really is.

So why are the U.S. and Afghan forces patrolling there at all?

Why not pull back the troops like five miles away from the border and establish the surveillance and defense line against infiltrations from Pakistan there? Except where the roads cross the border there is nothing of value or interest in the immediate border area. A pull back would allow for full use of indirect weapons (mortar, planes etc) against any infiltrating enemy while being sure that no Pakistani land and troops will get hurt in such a response.

Declare a no man's land and free fire zone in the buffer on the Afghan side and have at it. Wouldn't that be the sensible thing to do if one wants to avoid such incidence with Pakistan?

Then again - maybe such incidents are intended. But for what purpose?

Posted by b on November 27, 2011 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

November 25, 2011

The U.S. Military Sends A Message To Iraqis

This NYT piece on U.S. troops leaving Iraq is somewhat funny: U.S. Uses an Insurgent Attack to Send a Message to Iraqis

The statement suggested such rocket attacks had been staged for propaganda purposes to create the impression that the Americans are fleeing under fire after more than eight years of war.

“Terrorists groups are conducting attacks against American forces in order to create a false idea that they have forced us to leave,” the statement said.

So that "impression" is not the reality? What then? U.S. troops are leaving Iraq in parade formations, while being offered sweets and getting showered with flowers?

Further down:

The military has kept the departure timeline a secret, and American soldiers sometimes leave without notice from the bases they share with the Iraqi Army.

At one base in Ramadi, Iraqi and American officers held a low-key farewell party but left the departure time unstated. Iraqi soldiers discovered one morning the Americans had driven away in the middle of the night. “We just woke up and they were gone,” Col. Hisham Abid Fayadh said.

Sneaking away in the dark certainly "sends a message to Iraqis". Though it is probably not the one the U.S. would like to send. But I am quite sure it is well understood. Everywhere.

Posted by b on November 25, 2011 at 11:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (61)

On Silverstein's Implausible Drone Explosion Story

Richard Silverstein at Tikun Olam recently wrote an odd story on an allegedly successful plot by the Israeli Army Intelligence against Hizbullah. The Israelis, according to Richard's story, let a bobbytrapped drone drop into south Lebanon where Hizbullah then took it to a big arms cache. The Israelis, days later, then blew up that drone and a huge explosion followed. His piece was widely cited in the Israeli media.

I believe that the story, which was provided to Richard by an unnamed Israeli source, is not true but either simply a gone-wild phantasy or an Israeli information operation probably to let the IDF intelligence shine in a good light and Hizbullah in a bad one.

Let's trace down the story which was actually two stories before Richard's secret source put them together into one.

On Saturday November 19 the Wall Street Journal reported:

On a recent Saturday afternoon, a radar operated by French United Nations peacekeepers picked up a pilotless Israeli reconnaissance drone crossing into south Lebanon. It was given no more attention than any of the dozens of other surveillance missions flown by the Israelis in Lebanese airspace each month.

But when the drone passed above Wadi Hojeir, a yawning valley with steep, brush-covered slopes, it abruptly vanished from the radar screen. The startled peacekeepers contacted the Lebanese army, and a search of the rugged valley was conducted in the early-evening gloom. Nothing was found.

The drone vanished from the radar screen. There are several possible explanations for this. The drone might have come down but there also could have been electronic countermeasures against radar observation, a malfunction of the radar or whatever one may think of. The search found no debris and no sign of a crash.

The Israelis have said nothing. Neither has Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group and arch foe of Israel. The peacekeeping force is now abuzz with speculation that Hezbollah may have found a way of electronically disabling drones.

A drone vanished form the radar for unexplained reasons and now there are speculations within the UNIFIL forces of why that might have happened. There are no facts other than that a drone vanished for radar and no drone was found, just pure speculations.

Notice that the Saturday report from the WSJ sets the timeframe of the incident as "on a recent Saturday afternoon" which means that it happened at least a week, if not longer ago, before the WSJ piece came out.

On Wednesday the 23rd an explosion happened in south Lebanon. The first report about it is from the Lebanese Daily Star:

SIDDIQIN, Lebanon: An explosion shook a Hezbollah stronghold near Siddiqin in the Tyre region of south Lebanon overnight, a security source told The Daily Star Wednesday.

The Lebanese Army released a statement Wednesday afternoon saying that the explosion was likely the result of a landmine or a cluster bomb left over from the July-August war between Lebanon and Israel in 2006.

Earlier Wednesday, the security source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the cause of the blast, which was heard shortly before midnight, could not be determined due to a heavy security blanket by Hezbollah that followed the explosion.

In its statement Wednesday, the army said it had searched the area but found no trace of the explosion as it “left no visible effects.”

Early in the day, local media said the explosion likely took place at a Hezbollah arms cache.

In a statement later in the day, Hezbollah denied that the explosion in south Lebanon was a result of an explosion at an arms depot.

Here we have an unidentified "security source" claiming that the explosion happened in some "Hizbollah stronghold" and that there was a "heavy security blanket" by Hizbollah so that the site could not be viewed.

But the Lebanese Army says just the opposite. It could search the area and found nothing. Local media rumor about an "arms depot" but Hizbullah says there is none.

Further into the Daily Star story:

Four Israeli warplanes were spotted flying over Siddiqin at around 10.00 a.m. and patrols by the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon were active in the area. A UNIFIL helicopter could also be seen flying over the village.

A spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force said UNIFIL had heard about the explosion on the news.

"We have no information at the moment. We are checking this report," Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star by telephone.

Israeli warplanes flying over south Lebanon, despite that being in breach of several UN resolutions, is unfortunately nothing unusually. It happens daily. What is of interest here is that patrols of UNIFIL were in the area and they had seen, and heard, nothing at all.

Now comes Richard's secret source, with a tale that somehow pulls the two above stories together which lets Richard write an: Exclusive: Israeli Military Intelligence Caused Massive Explosion in Hezbollah South Lebanon Arms Cache:

Now comes an exclusive report from an authoritative Israeli source with considerable military experience, that IDF military intelligence (Aman) has out foxed Hezbollah by deliberately crash-landing a booby-trapped Trojan Horse drone in southern Lebanon.
...
For over a year, Hezbollah has been attempting to discover how to jam the ground signals commanding the drone so as to disable them in flight. When it discovered the downed craft, its operatives must’ve crowed that they’d finally discovered the key to success. This bit of hubris is how Aman drew Hezbollah into its net. Its soldiers dutifully collected the imagined intelligence trophy and brought it to a large weapons depot it controlled in the area. Once inside the arms cache, Aman detonated the drone causing a massive explosion.

Hmm ... - notice that the two incidents that Richard's source puts together here have happened at least 10 days, if not longer, apart. Would Hizbullah really take a somehow obtained Israeli drone into a "large weapons depot" in south Lebanon with UNIFIL patrols in the area and leave it there for ten plus days? Would it not rather immediately truck it into the much more secure Bekaa valley or into Syria for further evaluation in a specialized weapon lab?

Richard continues the story with pure speculation:

Given that Hezbollah is reputed to have many more missiles and more advanced models than it had before the 2006 Lebanon War, we can only imagine how serious this blow will be to the group’s war fighting capability. Hezbollah is known to possess some of the most advanced Iranian rockets (the Zelzal) in anticipation of possible use should Israel attack Iran. Given the size of the explosion, we should expect that a good deal of its weapons cache in the south has been destroyed.

The Daily Star headline is about a "huge blast" but the story itself only says "an explosion" and "the blast". There is nothing like "huge" in the story. From that and his source Richard somehow comes to an allegedly given "size of the explosion" that indicates to him that "a good deal of [Hizbullah's] weapons cache in the south" has been destroyed.

Where did he get that from? And does he really believe that Hizbullah would keep Zelzal missiles, which have a range of up to 400 kilometers, just a few miles from the Israeli border? For what? To attack Port Said in Egypt? Zelzal's could reach Tel Aviv even from Lebanon's norther border. Hizbullah keeping them in the south would be lunacy.

There is this video from the Israeli website infolive.tv uploaded on November 23 which quotes Richard's story and shows pictures from a quite big smoke column coming up behind of what looks like a telecommunication building. But the video put to the story does not show the relevant explosion. The video material is simply stolen from this video which was uploaded to youtube on November 2nd by MENA and is supposed to show an explosion that happened in Beirut on April 8 2007.

So where did Mr. Silverstein and his source get that "huge explosion" that alleged destroyed a weapon cache from? From hot air?

Yesterday the Daily Star brought a follow up story of the issue:

“At 9:45 p.m. Tuesday an explosion was heard in a forested area on the outskirts of Siddiqin,” the [Lebanese Army] statement said. “After the explosion a unit from the Lebanese Army visited the area and undertook a search operation all night long until Wednesday noon.

“However, the army did not find any remnants and the explosion did not cause any visible damage. Probably, what happened was a result of a mine or cluster bomb possibly dropped by Israel [in 2006] exploding.”

The Daily Star sent a reporter into the area and here is what he found:

Calm returned Wednesday to the village, situated near the southern coastal city of Tyre, even as gossip on the blast was rife.

Most residents testified that they hadn’t heard an explosion but a local man, Hajj Ali Fakih, said he had heard a “huge” blast come from a patch of woodland known locally as Al-Jabal al-Kabir, or Big Mountain.

Hezbollah operatives carrying high-tech communications equipment spread throughout the village and accosted The Daily Star, asking why its reporter was making inquiries related to the blast.

The army and the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon sent patrols to Siddiqin, although the peacekeeping organization said that it had received no official word on the explosion.

“Following today’s media reports, we were in close contact with the Lebanese Army and until now we have not information to confirm that there was an explosion,” UNIFIL deputy spokesperson Andrea Tenenti told The Daily Star.

“We have 350 patrols a day and this is part of our area of operations so we do have troops there on the ground. We have no investigation at the moment.”

Nothing there we know of says UNIFIL, the Lebanese Army said someone heard an explosion, Hizbullah and most residents in the area said nothing relevant happened. Some explosion happened says an anonymous "security source" to the Daily Star and one lone man from the village.

A complicate Israeli intelligence plot destroyed a "large weapons depot" by purposefully letting a drone intentionally fall into Hizbullah's hands which then, at least ten days later, somehow ended up in said "large weapons depot" and gets exploded by IDF intelligence destroying the Hizbullah arms cache so that "a good deal of its weapons cache in the south has been destroyed" says Richard Silverstein based on his secret source.

Aheem. No Richard. I don't buy that. And I am quite sure that most other thinking people will not buy that B-movie plot either.

(BTW - could the "security source" the Daily Star cites be the same one that is talking to Richard?)

In the comments to his piece several of his readers doubt the story. One Johnboy especially takes it apart and receives, undeserved, some personal wrath from Richard who even calls him "rude".

Richard writes (November 24, 2011 at 12:36 AM):

For me, the report is about my source, whose reliability & accuracy is superb.

But how does he know that his source is right on this issue?

He adds (November 24, 2011 at 12:28 AM):

I wrote what I wrote based on the impeccable record of my source who knows what happened far better than reporters who weren’t eyewitnesses, came after the event, & never had access to the site where it took place.

But how would that "impeccable source" know that? Is Richard suggesting that his source was there at the event when it took place? If not why is that source more believable than a reporter on the ground? And how long is a source, any source, really "impeccable"?

Later I join in (November 24, 2011 at 1:09 AM):

Just to notice that this is the SECOND time a “secret source” is telling Richard that the Mossad was behind an explosion in an “enemy” country.

The first one was the recent explosion during a missile test in Iran.

It at least smells as if Richard is used here to launch such “information” that can then be quoted in the Israeli media.

Shortly thereafter I received an email from Richard, without a subject line and sign off, in which he calls that an "acid comment". Oh well ...

But what happened really here? I offered my theory of what happened in another comment at Richard's site (November 24, 2011 at 4:39 AM):

This is the second time I point out that something here (this and your assertions about the Iranian missile test explosion) smells of an information operation because it is the second time you make such claims. Both based solely on the claims of your “source” which is contradicted by official statements from other sides.

Any “source” that wants to manipulate will of course first feed some real stuff into an information distribution channel before inserting false stuff into it. That is just normal operation procedure for any information operation.

If that is the case here, you would not even know that you are used.

Israel's secret services are known for launching, often false, stories in foreign media. Such "foreign" stories then can be quoted by the Israeli media. These are usually stories that are somewhat military relevant and would otherwise not pass the military censors who sit in every Israeli news room. Despite being launched in foreign media such stories are made up and put out for the domestic Israeli public for self serving and/or political reasons.

It seems to me that Richard was in this case (ab-)used by someone for such a purpose.

But Richard does not like that theory. He rather sticks to his "impeccable source" and its quite implausible story, including the "huge explosion" which no one else has noticed. In another email he lets me know that he "would rather [have] you abuse me at your own site than at my own" and that my opinion on this "frankly [...] isn't worth a damn."

I'll let my readers decide on that last point.

Posted by b on November 25, 2011 at 02:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

November 24, 2011

Open Thread - Nov 24

Your news & views ...

Posted by b on November 24, 2011 at 12:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (70)

November 23, 2011

Calls for "Regime Change" in Iran

The neocon editors of the Washington Post call for regime change in Iran:

By now it should be obvious that only regime change will stop the Iranian nuclear program. That means, at a minimum, the departure of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly blocked efforts by other Iranian leaders to talk to the West. Sanctions that stop Iran from exporting oil and importing gasoline could deal a decisive blow to his dictatorship, which already faced an Arab Spring-like popular revolt two years ago. By holding back on such measures, the Obama administration merely makes it more likely that drastic action, such as a military attack, eventually will be taken by Israel, or forced on the United States.

"Forced on the United States?" That poor small country is getting forced by the gigantic Iran to kill Iranians?

Unfortunately these neocon idiots are not alone.

Jasmin Ramsey reports on yesterday's republican candidate exhibition of foreign policy incompetence:

All candidates accepted a question from the Heritage Foundation that cited Ehud Barak’s claim that Iran is “less than a year away” from creating a nuclear weapon and apart from congressman Ron Paul, no one took issue with the U.S. supporting “regime change” or using military force against the country.

"Regime change" means a big war. There is no other way to achieve that. And in case you plan to vote against that forget about it. The democrats are no different. Obama is imposing more sanctions against Iran which will fail as they always do. These sanctions are just designed to fail and will then "necessitate" regime change.

This is now the "Iraqization" of the Iran debate. Reports by international inspector get intentionally misread and misreported (video) by the media. Made up scare stories of attacks on a Saudi ambassador and Iranian WMD in Libya get added to demonize the country.

In 1998 then president Clinton started attacking Iraq. Three years later a republican president followed through. Now it is Obama retching up pressure and is preparing the propaganda field which in 2013 a president Rommey might well use to launch a real attack.

That would of course be a disaster for all sides. But as the current calls for regime change in Iran show the U.S. is already forgetting the disaster and the strategic defeat the Iraq war has been and it is preparing for another one.

Posted by b on November 23, 2011 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

November 22, 2011

The Egyptian Revolution - Act II

Just to note what's happening in Egypt now.

  • After a lot of fighting today mostly in the sidestreets Tahrir is again full of people, just like in the first part of this revolution
  • Street fights in Alexandria - massive, massive use of teargas (CR or CS)
  • A general was reported to have defected to the protesters (rank not confirmed)
  • The Muslim Brotherhood did not take part today - that will likely cost them some votes
  • The top military announced to form a "national salvation government" (this will not be enough)
  • Head of SCAF Tantawi just live on TV - sounds like Mubarak a week before he had to go ( - still wants sham parliamentary elections in six days (impossible) - "hidden forces" are the cause of the trouble - will never stand against the wishes of the people - will never kill a single of our people (well, then who did?) - no intention to keep power (but nothing on the "constitutional principles" that would keep the military uncontrolled)
  • Crowed is booing in Tahrir against Tantawi: "go! go!" (he is done)

It seems that the plans the U.S. had for Egypt as a military managed "democracy" are out of the window. What will they come up with next?

Posted by b on November 22, 2011 at 12:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

"Western" Media Do Not Say Why Egyptians Protest

There is a very good immediate reason why the Egyptians have taken to the street again. This not only in Cairo but also in the governorates of Suez, Alexandria, Ismailia, Assiut and Qena.

Last week the military demanded that its supremacy over the civilian government shall be enshrined in a new constitution and made permanent. Thereby creating a military dictatorship with a democratic facade.

But reading the "western" mainstream media one will not learn about the protests' reason at all. The real, immediate reason of these protests does not exist in those reports. Instead the protesters are depicted as unreasonable delaying the upcoming sham elections.

As Al Arabiya wrote on Friday:

The rally was called to protest a document floated by the government which declares the military the guardian of “constitutional legitimacy,” suggesting the armed forces could have the final word on major policies even after a new president is elected. The document, which includes guiding principles for Egypt's new constitution, also introduces clauses that would shield it from civilian oversight.

Neither the Washington Post, nor the LA Times mention that attempt to keep the military supreme in their write ups about the protests. There is nothing about it in the Guardian, the Associated Press, the Independent and the Telegraph reporting. The only notable exception I find is a blog post by Tony Karon at the Time website.

The Wall Street Journal at least mentions the real issue, if only in a half-sentence down in the twentieth of thirty two paragraphs:

The military, meanwhile, has reneged on pledges of a speedy handover of power to civilian rule and tried to dictate a set of constitutional principles that would preserve sweeping powers for the military in any future government.

It is not only that the media do not write about the attempt of the military to stay in power forever, they even try make the military dictate look reasonable. The worst offender here is the New York Times which prominently sets out the false claim, without any factual support, that:

Liberals regarded [the military] as a hedge against Islamist power.

But further down to the end of the piece various liberal groups are quoted demanding, as they always did, exactly the opposite, the end of the military rule:

Some liberal groups, led by the former diplomat and presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, called for the military council to give up power immediately to a civilian “government of national rescue.” Other liberals said they sought only the replacement of the current cabinet with a new civilian team with more power to make decisions independently of the council.

But the Times also gives the real reason why there is nothing in the "western" media explaining the protests against a permanent military dictatorship:

[T]he Obama administration considered [the military] a partner that it hoped would help secure American interests.

You see - it is not about the interests of the Egyptians at all. American interests are above the will of the Egyptian people therefore the military assault on their will and interests, to be free of permanent military rule, will not be mentioned at all.

The people in the "west" are not supposed to know what the revolution in Egypt really is about. The few who read The Arabist, The National, Al-Akhbar or Al Jazeera will learn what is happening in Egypt. Those who stick to the "western" mainstream media will not.

Posted by b on November 22, 2011 at 02:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 21, 2011

Why They Are (Again) Fighting In Tahrir

It is now the third day of renewed intense street battles around Tahrir Square and in other places in Egypt. Some 40 people have been killed so far and thousands wounded.

The people want their revolution back. The immediate reason for these renewed protest is a paper that was somehow published last week:

The rally was called to protest a document floated by the government which declares the military the guardian of “constitutional legitimacy,” suggesting the armed forces could have the final word on major policies even after a new president is elected. The document, which includes guiding principles for Egypt's new constitution, also introduces clauses that would shield it from civilian oversight.

Most of Egypt’s pro-democracy groups object to the document, calling it an attempt to perpetuate military rule past the post-Mubarak transitional period which is supposed to end with the election of a new parliament and a new president.

A democracy with the military as a guardian of “constitutional legitimacy" would not be a democracy at all. It would be military dictatorship with a pseudo-democratic face.

To keep it like that would be very much in the U.S. interest. The personal well being of the generals in the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) depends on the yearly U.S. stipend of $1.5 billion and that will only flow if Egypt does what Israel wants it to do.

After the ousting of Mubarak the military first gave in to public demand and said it would open the Rafah crossing to Gaza. But it did not do so. After the foreign minister Nabil el-Araby, seated by the military, united the Palestinian factions against Israel's will, the military moved him away to head the Arab League. On these and other issues the military did not adhere to the will of the Egyptian people, it adhered to the will of the U.S. government.

A really democratic Egypt would elect a government responsible to the will of its people and such a government would not do what Israel wants. The people in Tahrir can therefore not hope for any support or help from the U.S. or any other "western" government. A real democracy in Egypt or any other Arab country is about the last thing the U.S. wants.

The people will have to fight this out. The chances are slim but it is unlikely that the military will risk to send any troops, aside from the military police, into the street. The allegiance of the rank and file soldier to the generals is dubious as several defection during the last protests and the Mubarak ouster have shown. If the pressure from the street and the workers (the military forbid strikes and took other worker rights) becomes big enough the SCAF will have to give in and will have to hand over its current power to a civilian government.

Only then can the process to a genuine democracy in Egypt begin.

Posted by b on November 21, 2011 at 10:29 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

More Anti-Iran Propaganda By Joby Warrick & Co

The currently "most emailed story" at the Washington Post site is Iran may have sent Libya shells for chemical weapons.

May, may, may?

The 1.500 words piece is clearly written to suggest some Iranian "Weapon of Mass Destruction" business even though, as a not-so-casual read will find, there is nothing to it. Just many mays, vague anonymous sources and innuendo added to each other.

The picture above the article shows unmarked empty gas canisters with handles, not artillery shells.

In the second picture in the gallery accompanying the article a container marked "Hydroxyde de Sodium" somewhere in Libya is shown. It is describe as:

Chemical containers are seen in an unguarded storage facility in the desert, about 60 miles south of Sirte, Libya.

But "hydroxyde de sodium" is just caustic soda which:

is used in many industries, mostly as a strong chemical base in the manufacture of pulp and paper, textiles, drinking water, soaps and detergents and as a drain cleaner. Worldwide production in 2004 was approximately 60 million tonnes, ..."

This has, unlike the WaPo placement of the pictures suggests, nothing to do with chemical weapons.

The article begins:

The Obama administration is investigating whether Iran supplied the Libyan government of Moammar Gaddafi with hundreds of special artillery shells for chemical weapons that Libya kept secret for decades, U.S. officials said.

The shells, which Libya filled with highly toxic mustard agent, were uncovered in recent weeks by revolutionary fighters at two sites in central Libya. Both are under heavy guard and round-the-clock surveillance by drones, U.S. and Libyan officials said.

So the whole issues is about empty artillery shells found somewhere in Libya (the piece does not even say where), which may have come from Iran, decades ago (under the U.S. stooge Shah?).

How does such a find, even when confirmed, allow for the following passages:

A U.S. official with access to classified information confirmed that there were “serious concerns” that Iran had provided the shells, albeit some years ago. [...] Confirmed evidence of Iran’s provision of the specialized shells may exacerbate international tensions over the country’s alleged pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.

Why should decades old empty artillery shells in Libya "exacerbate international tensions" about an alleged nuclear program in Iran?

In an unclassified report to Congress this year, the U.S. director of national intelligence said that “Iran maintains the capability to produce chemical warfare agents ... [and] is capable of weaponizing CW agents in a variety of delivery systems.” Those systems include artillery shells, according to current and former U.S. officials.

Any school chemistry lab has the "capability to produce chemical warfare agents" and the means to deliver those. Again - what has this to do with decades old empty artillery shells in the Libyan desert? Is this journalism?

The whole piece is just constructed anti-Iran propaganda. Not astonishingly it was co-written by Joby Warrick, the WaPo's Judith Miller equivalent, who also recently spread the false "Soviet nuclear scientist" stories about an expert in nanodiamond production who once worked in Iran.

What gives me some hope is that the comments to this latest WaPo smear piece seem to recognize it for what it is. They don't buy it but call it out as pure propaganda without any journalistic value.

Posted by b on November 21, 2011 at 12:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

November 20, 2011

A New Attack On U.S. Afghanistan Logistics

Starting in 2008 the U.S. build an alternative logistic route into Afghanistan. Instead of trucks traversing Pakistan the Northern Distribution Network would depend on the railway system of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and other former Soviet Union states.

That railway system was recently extended into Afghanistan with the termination point in Mazar-e-Sharif. It is overall a fragile and long route depending on old infrastructure in a dubious maintenance state. In Uzbekistan trains take priority only when various bribes get paid to the right people.

Still the plans are to in future route 75% of all land based logistics through the NDS to become less dependent on Pakistan. This again could eventually open options to put more political or military pressure on Pakistan.

It is obvious that the situation would make the NDS a target for several constituencies and now the inevitable happened:

Uzbekistan media have reported an explosion on a railway line on the Central Asian nation’s border with Afghanistan.

The rail route lies on a distribution network used for the supply of goods to United States troops serving in Afghanistan, but the cause of the blast was unclear.
...
Privately operated Uzmetronom news site, based in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, said investigators are probing a possible terrorist link.

A bit more, though still murky information via Eurasianet:

There is very little information about this so far, but there hasn't been a terror attack in Uzbekistan for several years. And the fact that it's so near to Termez, the hub of the U.S.'s Northern Distribution Network that carries military cargo through Central Asia to Afghanistan, has to have people worrying in Tashkent and the Pentagon.
...
A map on the Ferghana News site shows where Galaba and Amu Zang are, and it is in fact on a line that does coincide with the NDN. And a press release on the Russian Railways site (in Russian) says that service on the line is disrupted because of the "destruction of the supports of the railway bridge."

The incident happened on Wednesday and was only made public today. With a bridge down the repair may take some time.

It is easy to blame "terrorists" for the incident. But there are many groups who could have a possible interests here.

  • The Taliban are a possible candidate. Attacking the logistics of their enemies is a preferred choice for them.
  • The Pashtun trucker mafia from Karachi is providing most of the trucks used on the supply line through Pakistan. It is losing business to the NDS and breaking it would keep their revenue stream up.
  • The Pakistani military is interested in keeping a decisive hand over the endgame in Afghanistan. Its pressure point it currently the U.S. logistic line through Pakistan. Losing that is not in its strategic interest.
  • All of the above would possible use surrogates from the reinstated Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, which, allegedly, has some groups in eastern Pakistan, to operate in Uzbekistan.
  • Besides the IMU there are possibly other groups with an interest in overthrowing the brutal Usbek dictatorship of Islam Karimov and who could use such attacks decrease his utility for his U.S. supporters.
  • Last but not least Karimov himself and the various Uzbek criminals involved in profiting from the NDS have some interest to use the U.S. dependency on their country's railway system to exhort more money for "keeping it safe". A little destruction now and then would help the argument.

As Lawrence of Arabia taught the Turks a while ago, logistics depending on long railway lines can be easily attacked and are very difficult to defend. This will not be the last time that such an attack occurs.

The U.S. is still learning what the Duke of Wellington (1769-1852) already recognized some 200 years ago:

"[In Afghanistan] a small army would be annihilated and a large one starved."
(source)

While the point of starving may not be reached anymore in a modern campaign it will be the high logistic costs of supporting foreign troops in Afghanistan that will eventually lead to their retreat.

Posted by b on November 20, 2011 at 10:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 19, 2011

Sensible Police Tactics Against Occupiers


bigger

"Lt. John Pike of UC Davis defends himself against an ongoing attack by radical left wing students camouflaged with hoods."

Or whatever the media will make out of this ...

But as one can see at the end of the video the occupiers are winning this match.

Posted by b on November 19, 2011 at 04:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (46)

November 17, 2011

WaPo Reports Differ On IAEA Board Resolution

On the current Washington Post "World" page we find a piece by David Albright's stenographer Joby Warrick headlined: IAEA resolution to sharply criticize Iran for nuclear efforts.

First please notice how the headline on the "World page" and in the URL is factually false. The piece isn't about a UN resolution but about an IAEA board of governors resolution and te IAEA isn't even a UN organization. When one clicks through to the story the headline of the story (though not its URL) is changed to "IAEA ...".

But the real curious issue is that on the very same "World" page, a bit down, we find the largely same though longer story written by the Associated Press with the headline: APNewsBreak: Russia, West agree on Iran text moderately critical of Tehran’s nuke program.

So does the resolution "sharply" criticize or is it only "moderately" critical? As it was toned down to accommodate China and Russia the second interpretation is definitely the more correct on.

But Warrick's task is to hype the "Iranian nuclear threat" just like Judith Miller once hyped "Iraq's WMD". As there are less facts in his shorter piece than in the original AP article he seemingly copied from that likely explains why he ended up with an incorrect appraisement and the AP writers with a correct one.

Posted by b on November 17, 2011 at 11:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

Has Anyone Seen Those Syrian "Deserters"?

"Western" media are pushing the tale of Syrian Army defectors attacking Syrian security forces. Note that the only sources for these tales are "activists" in London and elsewhere.

I do not doubt that there are attacks on Syrian forces. I sincerely doubt that these are done by army defectors. Notice that these attacks started as early as April, more than half a year ago, at a time when no "western" media, despite the public evidence, wrote of armed rebellion at all, just of "peaceful protesters". Only now are media reporting of attacks by armed groups but these reports are either fake or come without backing from any independent source:

Deserters from the Syrian Army reportedly carried out attacks against the offices of the Syrian ruling Baath party in northwestern Syria on Thursday, a day after they claimed an assault on an intelligence base that Russia, Syria’s closest ally, said was bringing the country closer to civil war.

The Syrian government did not mention either attack, which were reported by activists, citing the accounts of local residents, and their scale and effectiveness was not clear.

There has been not one bit of evidence that those who attack the Syrian forces are really army defectors. Any real army defectors would be likely to leave with heavier weapons and would be able to bring up a more organized challenges than isolated road ambushes and a few shots against official buildings.

I find it much more likely that the attacks, if they happened at all, were committed by Sunni Syrians loyal to the Muslim Brotherhood or to the exiled former Baath functionaries Abdul Halim Khaddam and Rifaat al-Assad and under the tutelage of Qatari or Jordanian special forces. This of course with U.S. and Israeli support.

It increases the chance for a successful rebellion but I still regard that chance as quite small.

Posted by b on November 17, 2011 at 11:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (22)

Just A Short One - Iran, #OWS

Busy traveling, so just a short one:

On the IAEA report on Iran:

Just as I did the Center for Strategic and International Studies criticizes the hype the Washington Post tried to make with the scary "R265 generator". It's all just warmed up old stuff.

As predicted here the IAEA's board of governors will not refer Iran to the UN for more sanctions.

Robert Kelley, a former IAEA inspector and nuclear scientist was interviewed on the Real News Network (part 1, 2.)

At around seven minutes into part 1 he rips up the IAEA allegation that the alleged explosion chamber it found on a satellite picture is useful for developing anything nuclear. The IAEA says the chamber is for blowing up up to 70 kg of explosives while Kelley says a nuclear bomb would use much more explosives and the chamber would not be useful for testing any part of that. He also says that the use of a chamber for the IAEA alleged "hydrodynamic studies" on explosion pressure waves would be a seriously bad idea. You would want to do those outside a pressure holding chamber not in an enclosed environment. He calls all the talk about the explosion chamber "highly misleading". Many things in the IAEA report are, according to Kelley, "just plain wrong".

On #OWS:

There will be some Occupy Wall Street action later today when people will demonstrate, or try to, at bridges in NYC and Washington. In case you can not join your local occupation, facts from the ground in NYC and elsewhere are available via live streams from The Other 99, The Other 99 Channel 2 and at the GlobalRevolution.tv.

Posted by b on November 17, 2011 at 02:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

November 15, 2011

Next Steps For #OWS

The police is clearing the Zuccotti Park in New York and other "occupied" places in other cities. A Ustream is here.

Judging from my personal experience with comparable movements this is likely to increase participation in the #QWS movement. The movement has already succeeded in moving the Overton window on various issues. There is now more discussion about banker fraud, unwarranted high CEO payments and general income inequality in the main stream media than has been for years.

The next steps should include coordinated weekly demonstrations all over the U.S. where people who do not have time to take part in occupations can show their solidarity with the movements aims.

What other steps do you suggest to keep #OWS growing and to increase its efficiency?

Posted by b on November 15, 2011 at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (59)

November 14, 2011

No International Action Following IAEA Report

UPDATED below:

As I predicted in The IAEA Report: A Dud With Little Consequences For Iran there will be little international follow on to it.

There is simply nothing new in the report and it is written so badly with innuendo replacing facts that a former IAEA inspector even calls it "unprofessional". Internationally David Albright's frantic efforts to reinstate its credibility after I seriously damaged it will fail.

So while the tail continues to wag (Israel Lobbies Discreetly for More Sanctions After U.N. Report on Iran) the dog (Obama Seeks Agreement With Russia, China on Iran) over this, no international action will follow:

China's Foreign Ministry joined Russia Thursday in warning Western countries that additional pressure on Iran would not solve the nuclear stand-off.
...
"We, as always, believe that dialogue and cooperation are the only effective approaches for properly resolving the Iran nuclear issue," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said.

"Imposing pressure and sanctions cannot fundamentally resolve the issue," he added.

The IAEA and Amano are in deep trouble as the Non Aligned Movement and especially India are pissed off with them over the report:

Distancing itself from IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano’s report on Iran and its pursuit of a nuclear programme, India today associated itself with a statement by the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) which criticised the language used in the IAEA chief’s report.
...
While India has been part of all NAM statements in the past, this time it is quite strongly-worded and has raised concerns on procedures followed by the IAEA. New Delhi has maintained that Tehran has an “inalienable right” to use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes but needs to abide by “international rules and obligations”.

There is no way the U.S. will get a new IAEA government board reference of Iran to the UN and additional UN sanction.

Amano can forget about a reelection when his term expires. The U.S. invested a lot to get him installed. Abusing the IAEA with this blatantly political report now fires back big time.

UPDATE (Nov 15 9:50am EST): I have to eat craw on this one. I only now realized that the India Express NAM piece is from 2010. There is not yet a NAM statement on the recent IAEA report I can find. Anyway - the old piece shows the mood the NAM had back then with regards to the IAEA. It is unlikely that it since changed to the IAEA's favor.

Posted by b on November 14, 2011 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (18)

November 13, 2011

Joyner: IAEA Exceeds Its Mandate - Biased Because Of Israel

Daniel Joyner is Professor of Law at the University of Alabama School of Law. In an Op-ed at Jurist Forum he writes on the recent IAEA report on Iran: Iran's Nuclear Program and the Legal Mandate of the IAEA:

This report is legally problematic in a number of ways.

Firstly and most fundamentally, the IAEA simply has no legal mandate to produce such a report on activities being carried on within an IAEA member state concerning items and technologies that may be related to the development of a nuclear explosive device, but that are not directly related to fissionable materials or associated facilities.
...
Since the IAEA is acting outside of its legal authority in this section of the report, it does not have a legal standard to apply to its conclusions regarding possible nuclear weapons related activities not involving fissile material. [...] In short, as the ancient legal maxim states, there can be no illegality where there is no law. The IAEA is simply "concerned."

Why they are concerned is itself a matter of curiosity. There is no knowledge or technical ability related to nuclear weapons detailed in this report, and allegedly possessed by Iran, which other technologically advanced non-nuclear-weapon states like Japan or Germany do not possess. These are specialized bodies of knowledge and technical capabilities, to be sure, but they are well within the knowledge base and technical abilities of these advanced industrial states.
...
Since there is no evidence presented in this new report by the IAEA Director General that Iran has physically constructed a nuclear explosive device or any of its components, one can conclude that the Director General's concern expressed in this report cannot be justified as being based upon a breach of a rule of international law prohibiting the activities outlined in the IAEA report. Such a rule exists neither in Iran's safeguards agreement with the IAEA, or in the NPT. Rather, the reason for the IAEA's and the UN Security Council's attention to Iran can only be based on other factors, primarily including the determination of the US and other states that Iran is a threat to Israel, the region and international peace and security generally.
...
[The IAEA's] track record in devoting so much critical attention to Iran over the past nine years, and not to other non-nuclear-weapon states who have for decades engaged in precisely the same production of knowledge and capabilities, through the same processes, has convinced both Iran and the other members of the Non-Aligned Movement (comprising the vast majority of states in the world) that the IAEA has thereby undermined its independence and objectivity as a technical monitoring and verification body. Instead, they believe, it has become a politicized instrument of the foreign policy goals of the US and other Western states. The agency's overreaching in its new report is simply the most recent evidence of this fact.

With regard to "to other non-nuclear-weapon states who have for decades engaged in precisely the same production of knowledge and capabilities, through the same processes" Joyner mentions, let us just point to two of them (there are many more).

From the Wall Street Journal, October 28 2011: In Japan, Provocative Case for Staying Nuclear

Many of Japan's political and intellectual leaders remain committed to nuclear power even as Japanese public opinion has turned sharply against it. One argument in favor rarely gets a public airing: Japan needs to maintain its technical ability to make nuclear bombs.
...
"I don't think Japan needs to possess nuclear weapons, but it's important to maintain our commercial reactors because it would allow us to produce a nuclear warhead in a short amount of time," Shigeru Ishiba, a former defense minister, said in an interview in a recent edition of Sapio, a right-leaning twice-monthly magazine.

"It's a tacit nuclear deterrent," added Mr. Ishiba, an influential parliament member who made similar remarks on a prime time television news show in August while serving as policy chief of Japan's main opposition party.

This on Brazil from a HufPo piece datelined September 25 2009: Jose Alencar, Brazil VP, Says Country Should Build Nuclear Arms

Jose Alencar, who also served as defense minister from 2004 to 2006, said in an interview with journalists from several Brazilian news media that his country does not have a program to develop nuclear weapons, but should: "We have to advance on that."

"The nuclear weapon, used as an instrument of deterrence, is of great importance for a country that has 15,000 kilometers of border to the west and a territorial sea" where oil reserves have been found, Alencar said.

Like Iran Brazil has not signed the Additional Protocol to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty plus it has several nuclear activities that awake at least suspicion with regards to possible nuclear weapon manufacturing including an HEU production facility for highly enriched Uranium at Resende that is only partially under IAEA watch. Brazil seems, in total, much more determined and active working towards nuclear weapon capability than Iran.

Joyner is quite right in pointing out that the IAEA is far off its legal basis and highly partisan with regards to Iran. He also points out why this is the case:

.. the reason for the IAEA's and the UN Security Council's attention to Iran can only be based on other factors, primarily including the determination of the US and other states that Iran is a threat to Israel ..

Posted by b on November 13, 2011 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (17)

November 12, 2011

The Two Weak Pillars Of The IAEA's Case Against Iran

The annex of the recent IAEA report on Iran claims that Iran up to 2003 had an active nuclear weapon program and, based on a few hints also claims that such a program "MAY" have continued after 2003. (Only 4 out of 65 paragraphs in the annex point to some post-2003 work).

The IAEA accusations about the alleged pre-2003 work relies on two major pillars of "evidence" plus some "corroborating" information from open and dubious secret sources. The report is based on "1,000 pages of research" claims the IAEA, pretending that volume can make up for quality.

The first pillar of evidence are issues related to the work of the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko in Iran. The second pillar is a set of papers in electronic form known as the "alleged studies" which were collected on the "Laptop of Death" and which some secret "western" agency years ago pushed onto the IAEA. It is from a combination of selected parts of those two sets of alleged "evidence" and some additional hearsay, annectodes and innuendo that the IAEA report draws its conclusions.

My analysis of the work of Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko showed that his known expertise is the production of nanodiamonds through detonations and not nuclear weapon production. Danilenko's work is about precise explosions that push a concentrated detonation wave onto carbon atoms which then, under maximum pressure, form into small diamond crystals. These are useful in many industrial fields for example for high quality polishing of optics and computer harddisk surfaces.

I also demonstrated that Iran has a very active nanotechnology program and that its scientist have published various papers about their progress in this field. Danilenko himself categorically denies to have worked on anything other than civil applications of his knowledge with Iran. While some of the technolgies used in creating nanodiamonds can also be used in application towards nuclear weapons the IAEA report shows no proof that Iran has done this. That someone uses a screwdriver to fix a car does not provide that s/he plans to stab the neighbor.

This now has some officials in a twist and they race to reclaim the lost believability of the IAEA allegations by throwing more chaff around:

[D]iplomats — who asked for anonymity because their information was privileged — said Danilenko's son-in-law has further implicated the scientist, telling the agency the expert also helped Iran build a related project, a large steel chamber to contain the force of the blast set off by such explosives testing.

Diplomats first told the AP last week that the IAEA had evidence of such a chamber, set up at Iran's Parchin military complex. The confidential IAEA report obtained by the AP on Wednesday confirmed their statements.

Of course did Danilenko help Iran to build an explosion chamber. He has a patent [USSR Patent No. SU
181329 A3, Priority May 12 (1991)] for these and has build one for his son-in-law's company Elit which has a picture of it on its website. He himself does not talk about it. Likely because he has the usual confidentiality/non-disclosure clause in his contracts with Iran like all consultants all over the world have in theirs. But the building of an detonation chamber does not prove anything nefarious. Indeed one needs such a chamber if one wants to create nanodiamonds. There is nothing in the IAEA report that proves that the chamber has been used for anything related to nuclear work.

These anonymous diplomats (American? Israeli?) also come up with another "new" "conspicuous" issue. Notice the innuendo that is involved here:

The diplomats said some of those at the meeting also expressed their concerns about indications that nearly 20 kilograms — about 45 pounds — of a component used to arm nuclear warheads was unaccounted for in Iran.

The IAEA has long known that Iran has drawings of how to form uranium metal into the fissile core of warheads. But the diplomats pointed to an inconspicuous section of Wednesday's report — near the end, under "Other Matters" — revealing that an IAEA inspection in August came up 19.8 kilograms, or 43.56 pounds, short of what Iran says it had stored.

See how "fissile core of warheads" is put next to a few kilograms of allegedly missing unidentified stuff implying that this stuff has made it into such a warhead. A simple look into the IAEA report (page 9) tells us that this stuff is nothing usable:

In August 2011, the Agency carried out a PIV at the Jabr Ibn Hayan Multipurpose Research Laboratory (JHL) to verify, inter alia, nuclear material, in the form of natural uranium metal and process waste, related to the conversion experiments carried out by Iran between 1995 and 2002. The Agency’s measurement of this material was 19.8 kg less than the operator’s declaration of 270.7 kg. In a letter dated 2 November 2011, Iran provided additional information on this matter. The Agency is working with Iran to try to resolve this discrepancy.

So there is a 7% discrepancy in weighting the stored WASTE and natural, not-enriched Uranium from quite old experiments. Are we to believe that Iran can now make a "fissile core for warheads" from old process waste? Or is it more likely that this one of the simple discrepancies of byproduct measurement that seem to occur in every second IAEA report and is usually explained in the following one?

Onto the second pillar of the IAEA "evidence".

The 2005 "laptop of death" "alleged studies" documents focus on three areas: the so-called "green salt project" to provide a source of uranium, high-explosives testing and re-engineering a Shahab-3 missile load chamber to fit a nuclear warhead. One wonders how papers, reportatly wrtiten in English, from three very distinct technical fields have made it onto one laptop which then miraculously ended up in the hands of the "western" secret service that provided it to the IAEA.

Robert Kelley is an American nuclear engineer and former IAEA inspector who now works on non-proliferation at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). As an IAEA inspector he personally reviewed the "alleged studies" papers when those handed to the IAEA and he does not believe that they are reliable evidence:

"The first is the issue of forgeries. There is nothing to tell that those documents are real," says Kelley, whose experience includes inspections from as far afield as Iraq and Libya, to South Africa in 1993.

"My sense when I went through the documents years ago was that there was possibly a lot of stuff in there that was genuine, [though] it was kind of junk," says Kelly. "And there were a few rather high-quality things" like the green salt document: "That was two or three pages that wasn't related to anything else in the package, it was on a different topic, and you just wondered, was this salted in there for someone to find?"

It would not be the first time that data was planted. He recalls 1993 and 1994, when the IAEA received "very complex forgeries" on Iraq that slowed down nuclear investigations there by a couple of years.

So we have Danilenko's work, the first set of the IAEA's "evidence", precise detonations, hemispherical formed sets of explosives and a detonation chamber, all of which is plausibly explained through his cooperation with Iran's work on nanodiamonds. While these technologies could eventually also be used in nuclear weapon research there is nothing in the IAEA report annex that proves that Iran has actually applied them towards anything nuclear.

We also have some stuff from the "laptop of death" which Robert Kelley regards as possible forgeries and planted evidence. Kelley as well as Shannon Kile, head of the Nuclear Weapons Project at SIPRI are unconvinced that all the above adds up to a clear case against Iran:

"Yes, Iran is making progress, they've covered the waterfront in terms of the main technical areas that you need to develop a nuclear weapon," says Mr. Kile. "But there is no evidence they have a dedicated program under way. It's not like they are driving toward nuclear weapons; it's like they're meandering toward capability."
...
For Kelley, formerly with the IAEA, the current Iran report is a "real mish-mash" that includes some "amateurish analysis."

Among several technical points, Kelley notes the report's discussion of Iran's "exploding bridge-wire detonators," or EBWs. The IAEA report said it recognizes that "there exist non-nuclear applications, albeit few," and point to a likely weapons connection for Iran.

"The Agency is wrong. There are lots of applications for EBWs," says Kelley. "To be wrong on this point, and then to try to misdirect opinion shows a bias towards their desired outcome.... That is unprofessional."

Both pillars of the IAEA report annex that is supposed to prove work on nuclear weapons in Iran are very weak. Unless something proves that Danilenko's work in Iran was not for civilian purpose and that the "alleged studies" "evidence" is not just forgery it is impossible to accept the IAEA's report annex as something that would stand up in a trial and could support a case for punishment.

It is no wonder that the former director of the IAEA El Baradei rejected the publishing of such a report. It took the more pliable new IAEA director Amano, installed with U.S. help, to discredit the IAEA by publishing a report which the former inspector Kelley calls "unprofessional" "mish-mash".

Based on this weak report the U.S. is pressing to put more sanctions on Iran but as Russia, China and many other states do not buy the case the IAEA tried to make there is little chance for that to happen.

We can thereby expect more dirt to be thrown at Iran by anonymous "diplomats" in the hope that the media will stay as uncritically towards their claims as they so far have been. It may be that one future day believable evidence of a nuclear weapon program in Iran may emerge. So far it has not.

Posted by b on November 12, 2011 at 02:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

November 11, 2011

Open Thread 11-11-11

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 11, 2011 at 11:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

November 10, 2011

Dennis Ross Fired Over IAEA Dud

I have a hunch that the abrupt firing of Dennis Ross is one of the (well deserved) outcomes of the recent "nuclear Iran" IAEA, Americn induced report dud. The NYT writes:

Dennis B. Ross, a seasoned diplomat who has been one of President Obama’s most influential advisers on Iran, the Middle East peace process and the political upheaval in the Arab world, will leave the White House in December, a senior administration official said on Thursday. Mr. Ross, who announced his departure at a lunch with Jewish leaders, told White House officials that he promised his wife he would leave the government after two years.

Yeah, right. The proverbial "to have more time with the family" excuse which is regularly used when people in the officialdom get fired for serious screw ups. It never really passes the most basic smell test.

A Middle East envoy to three presidents, Mr. Ross, 62, is known for his painstaking approach to diplomacy and longstanding ties to Israeli leaders, which made him an important interlocutor with Israel behind the scenes, but also stood in stark contrast to the bolder instincts and more distant approach of his boss.

"Painstaking approach" somehow fits. A lot of pain and no progress at all. Ross was known as "Israel's lawyer" and never minded any mass murder provided it was done to Israel's favor.

That the Obama administration gave him a job was a sure sign that stupid and damaging moves in Israel's favor would follow. As they did.

And here is the beef that gives me the hunch that this firing is related to the IAEA dud. As usual especially in Middle East issues the NYT buries the lede at the end its story.

Mr. Ross was also involved in devising the administration’s pressure tactics against Iran, after Mr. Obama’s initial overtures fell flat. Tensions with Iran have risen in recent days because of a report by the International Atomic Energy Agency laying out evidence that Iran has continued to work on a nuclear weapon.

Tensions with Iran have not really risen. What has risen is international, especially Russian and Chinese, resistance against the confrontational U.S. strategy towards Iran and abusing and damaging the IAEA at Dennis Ross' advise.

The recent IAEA report, published under U.S. pressure, and which even former IAEA inspectors in good standing call "unprofessional", has widely missed the target the U.S. aimed at. Ross "was involved in devising the administration’s pressure tactics against Iran". He certainly was and the tactics he advised to follow FAILED big time.

He was fired. Good riddance. If only 20+ years too late.

Posted by b on November 10, 2011 at 02:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

My Nanodiamonds Analysis Starts to Kill The IAEA's Case

Before the recent IAEA report was published I looked into the available information about the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko mentioned in a Washington Piece as a "former Soviet weapons scientist" who supposedly was helping the Iranians with there nuclear program.

I found that the Dr. Danilenko's main scientific record and capacity was in the field of producing Nanodiamonds through explosions and his collaboration with Iran's acclaimed nanotechnology industry and research was with regards to Iran's nanotechnology program not with regards to nukes.

A close reading of the IAEA report after it was released confirmed my analysis.

Gareth Porter of Inter Press Service added some bits to my analysis in a piece published yesterday.

Now even more confirmation is coming in. Via The Hindu:

The Soviet scientist was not named in the IAEA report but the Kommersant daily easily identified him as Vyacheslav Danilenko, a pioneer in developing the technology of producing nanodiamonds by explosion. Nanodiamonds are used in the manufacture of lubricants and rubber.

Contacted by the newspaper, the 76-year-old scientist, now retired, refused to discuss his work in Iran, saying only: “I’m not a nuclear physicist and I’m not a father of Iran’s nuclear programme.”

His former colleague confirmed Mr. Danilenko’s words. Vladimir Padalko, head of a company producing nanodiamonds, said experts from the IAEA and the U.S. State Department had interviewed him several times about Mr. Danilenko’s work in Iran.

“I explained to them that nanodiamonds have nothing to do with nuclear weapons,” Mr. Padalko told Kommersant.

Reuters also covers the Kommersant piece.

More people are taking a deeper look into this now. It seems likely that the whole case will blow up into the IAEA's face and in the face of David Albright who, according to Porter, was the one who slipped the scientist's name to the Washington Post and other media.

After knowing the name it was simply diligent use of search engines and some intelligent combining of the available information to find what Danilenko's work was really about.

A lot of the IAEA "evidence" that it has interpreted as "nuclear" stuff, the explosion chamber in Parchin, the hemispheric shell with an array of high explosives, the exploding bridge-wire detonators and other details, are all very well explainable with Iran's work on nanodiamond production. There is nothing exclusively "nuclear" to it. Without that exclusivity the case the IAEA tried to make doesn't exist anymore.

Why the IAEA and the main stream media have not better researched on Danilenko's work, or done this and then disregarded the obvious conclusions, is beyond me. It is likely only explainable by heavy U.S. pressure on the IAEA head Yukiya Amano and a generally pliable media.

The IAEA should be deeply embarrassed when even a former inspector with knowledge of the evidence calls its recent work "unprofessional".

The case the U.S. pressed so hard for to make turned out to be a dud. As Cyrus Safdari of Iran Affairs notes in a comment here:

Actually .. it appears to me that exposing this "secret annex" was the worst thing the US could have done. It showed its cards, metaphorically speaking, and turned out to have been bluffing. The "evidence", long touted as containing damning proof of an Iranian nuclear weapons ambition, is now characterized even in the mainstream media as "thin" (Christian Science Monitor) and "phoney" (Guardian)

I agree with that analysis. The Obama administration managed to shot another decisive own goal.

As Arnold Evans notes this was, after the Hasaka case, the second time in just two weeks that this writer caused the crash of false allegations made by the IAEA.

Hello? Vienna? IAEA? How about a decent job offer for this writer. If only to help you to avoid more such facepalm moments. 

Posted by b on November 10, 2011 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

U.S. Military In Australia - China As Subterfuge

What's wrong with the U.S. military to station more ships and fighter jets in Chicago and Houston to defend against possible threats to Los Angeles and Seattle?

Those planes and ships would be too far away from the West Coast? The planes can not fly that distance in combat configuration? The ships would need over a week to reach California? Such stationing does not make any sense? Well, you are right.

But such an argument is made to justify new U.S. military deployments to Australia:

President Barack Obama will announce an accord for a new and permanent U.S. military presence in Australia when he visits next week, a step aimed at countering China's influence and reasserting U.S. interest in the region, said people familiar with his plans.
...
The move could help the U.S. military, now concentrated in Japan and South Korea in Northeast Asia, to spread its influence west and south across the region, including the strategically and economically important South China Sea, which China considers as its sovereign territory.
...
One base slated for the stepped-up American presence is in Darwin, on the country's north coast. Other locations are possible, including one near Perth, on the west coast, one person said.

The South China Sea dispute (map) is between China, Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines over hoped for oil reservoirs below the sea floor. It has nothing to do with Australia or the United States.

The distance between Darwin and the nearest point in the South China sea is over 1800 miles. To reach the Chinese cost it is 2,600 miles as the crow flies. A base in Perth is even 600 miles further away. At 20 knots speed a ship would need to sail more than seven days from Perth to Zhanjiang, the nearest port in south China.

The U.S. already has bases in Japan, South Korea and the Philippines which are all much better situated to intervene in the South China sea. To claim that China and its South Sea is the reason to position more U.S. military in Australia doesn't make any strategic sense. It is obviously a subterfuge.

As for the real reasons? To gain more U.S. influence over Australian politics? The Military-Industrial Complex' determination to for continuous expansion? I have no idea. If you can think of any good reason to station U.S. troops in Australia please let me know.

Posted by b on November 10, 2011 at 05:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

November 09, 2011

The IAEA Report: A Dud With Little Consequences For Iran

The U.S. pressure on the IAEA to publish its murky evidence of alleged studies based on U.S. intelligence is not likely to achieve its aim. It probably would have achieved something if it had contained some new and serious violations of Iran's NPT obligations. But there is nothing like that in it.

Even the Guardian's Julian Borger, not exactly a friend of Iran, says the report is a dud:

There is something a little phoney about all the sound and fury. There is nothing in the report that was not previously known by the major powers. The West and Israel supplied most of the original tip-offs for the annex on weapons development ...
...
Furthermore, the bulk of the report is historical, referring to the years leading up to 2003. ...
...
After that, ... the evidence ... is sketchier, and it is clear the UN inspectors are less confident about making assertions about the more recent period.

The purpose of this show, like with the alleged plot against the Saudi ambassador and the Israeli threats against Iran, was to build international pressure for even more sanctions on Iran and, as the Russians rightly see it, for regime change.

But before the report was published Russia and China spoke out against it. They will obviously not commit to new UN sanctions on Iran based on it and other flimsy issues.

According to Flynt Leverett the U.S. has already tried to get international support to sanction the Central Bank of Iran (CBI). It failed. Nobody in Europe or Asia is willing to risk more harm to their economies by endangering the oil supply Iran provides to the world market. Sanctioning Iran's Central Bank would likely do that. Also to consider here that the last time the U.S. tried such an approach, against Japan in 1940/41, the consequence was the Japanese hail mary attack on Pearl Harbor.

There isn't much else the U.S. can do. An attack on Iran is off the table as the following drastic increase in oil prices would tank the world economy and thereby kill any reelection chance Obama might have. The administration knows it has lost this cause and has no new ideas what to do about it:

"I'm definitely going to tell you we need time to study it," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters on Tuesday following the release of the IAEA report, ..
...
In a conference call with reporters on Tuesday afternoon, two senior administration officials predicted that the Obama administration would increase sanctions on Iran in light of the report but declined to offer any specifics on what they might be.

That explanation wasn't well received by lawmakers in both parties on Tuesday, who offered plenty of specific ideas on how to ramp up pressure on Tehran and have no intention of waiting for the administration to "study" the IAEA's findings.

Those lawmakers want the CBI sanctions or other crazy stuff but without international support that is mere posturing. The craziest idea, which they might pick up on, was presented in an OpEd by Ilan Berman in today's NYT: To Stop Iran, Lean On China

[The Treasury Department's] Mr. Cohen’s recent jaunt to Beijing was intended to convince the Chinese government that it must decisively curtail its ties to Tehran, or face real economic costs. This message needs to be coupled with the application of concrete economic penalties — from bans on United States-based energy projects to prohibitions on financial transactions that fall under American jurisdiction — that are intended to persuade Chinese companies, including Cnooc and PetroChina, to scale back their economic contacts with Iran. At the same time, greater targeted sanctions and asset freezes are needed to bring to heel Chinese individuals and entities that are currently complicit in Iran’s nuclear advances.

That is a "sanction country A so it sanctions country B" strategy that might work when country A is Micronesia. But threatening your biggest creditor with sanctions and starting a trade war with it while running a current account deficit of some $480 billion in 2011, money the U.S. will have to borrow from China and others, is beyond crazy.

So what do I think is likely to happen. There will be a lot of chest thumping, some new unilateral U.S. sanctions on individuals and side issues that no one in Iran will care about. Sarkozy and Cameron may join in on that but the result will be nil. Israel will get some more money and will be told to shut up.

In a year or two the show will be repeated with even less success.

Posted by b on November 9, 2011 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

The IAEA Confirms My Nanodiamond Analysis

Before the recent IAEA report was published I suggested that the work in Iran of the Ukrainian scientist Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko, who the Washington Post described as "a former Soviet weapons scientist" and "a former Soviet nuclear scientist", was aimed at helping Iran's nano-technology projects as his main expertise is the production nanodiamonds through detonations.

In the annex to its recent report (pdf) the IAEA actually confirms that his cooperation with Iran was relevant to non-nuclear(!) experiments Iran undertook. It does not say what non-nuclear work this was but the surrounding circumstances make it clear that this was related to nanodiamond production. From the annex of the report (emphasis added):

44. The Agency has strong indications that the development by Iran of the high explosives initiation system, and its development of the high speed diagnostic configuration used to monitor related experiments, were assisted by the work of a foreign expert who was not only knowledgeable in these technologies, but who, a Member State has informed the Agency, worked for much of his career with this technology in the nuclear weapon programme of the country of his origin. The Agency has reviewed publications by this foreign expert and has met with him. The Agency has been able to verify through three separate routes, including the expert himself, that this person was in Iran from about 1996 to about 2002, ostensibly to assist Iran in the development of a facility and techniques for making ultra-dispersed diamonds (“UDDs” or “nanodiamonds”), where he also lectured on explosion physics and its applications.

45. Furthermore, the Agency has received information from two Member States that, after 2003, Iran engaged in experimental research involving a scaled down version of the hemispherical initiation system and high explosive charge referred to in paragraph 43 above, albeit in connection with non-nuclear applications. This work, together with other studies made known to the Agency in which the same initiation system is used in cylindrical geometry, could also be relevant to improving and optimizing the multipoint initiation design concept relevant to nuclear applications.

Why doesn't the agency say what "non-nuclear application" this was about? There are not many non-nuclear applications for hemispherical high explosive experiments with nanodiamond production being probably the most obvious ones. If the agency is sure that it was non-nuclear then it certainly knows quite exactly what this was.

Admitting that the experiment was to created nanodiamonds would of course show that the use of the word "ostensibly" in para 44 is ridiculous.

When the major expert on and inventor of nanodiamond production through detonations worked with Iranian scientists for quite some time and Iran thereafter produced nanodiamonds through detonations then there is nothing "ostensibly" in that cooperation. Nothing in the agency report shows that there was any other purpose of what Danilenko did in Iran. That he "also lectured on explosion physics and its applications" is perfectly consistent with work on detonation nanodiamonds production which is one of such applications.

Please also notice that in the last sentence in para 45 the agency only says that this work "could" be relevant to nuclear work. Well, we all "could" be young, pretty and rich. Right? But that doesn't make us so.

There are many dual use technologies that can be used for non-nuclear purposes but also may have applications with nuclear stuff. Any halfway industrialized country has dozens of such technologies. The production of nanodiamonds through detonations is just one of them. Even a culmination of dual-use work in a country does not proof anything with regards to nuclear intentions. It ony shows that the country is further industrializing and makes progress in its scientific capacities.

The IAEA's recent allegation that the Hasaka spinning factory in Syria had something to do with nuclear work was busted as being completely wrong within a mere week. The annex of the IAEA report on Iran is full of innuendo and weasel words "overall", "indicate", "were said to", "may", "could" without providing anything new or definite proof of the old allegations which are based on murky sources.

Under its current director Yukiya Amano who willingly submits to U.S. pressure the IAEA is rapidly losing its neutrality and the credibility it had build over the years. This will in the end damage the case for and its work on non-proliferation work.

Posted by b on November 9, 2011 at 08:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

November 08, 2011

The New IAEA Report On Iran

The new IAEA report has been released at the David Albright's ISIS site: GOV/2011/65 - Implementation of the NPT Safeguards Agreement and relevant provisions of Security Council resolutions in the Islamic Republic of Iran - 8 November 2011 (pdf). The report is not yet available at the IAEA site. Why not if Albright already has it? Why does he have it btw?

While reading it I will keep in mind this Wikileaks cable:

Amano reminded Ambassador on several occasions that he would need to make concessions to the G-77, which correctly required him to be fair-minded and independent, but that he was solidly in the U.S. court on every key strategic decision, from high-level personnel appointments to the handling of Iran's alleged nuclear weapons program.

As I read it I will update this post with my thoughts on it below the fold.

Iran seems to have made some small progress in installing/operating centrifuge cascades in Natanz and its other sides. There is nothing abnormal in the report or in the operations Iran is doing there. There is, according to the IAEA report, just some progress but not fast progress.

Now we come to part G. Possible Military Dimensions and Amano*s (the U.S.') argument for releasing the, so far, rumor stuff:

40. The Director General, in his opening remarks to the Board of Governors on 12 September 2011, stated that in the near future he hoped to set out in greater detail the basis for the Agency's concerns so that all Member States would be kept fully informed. In line with that statement, the Annex to this report provides a detailed analysis of the information available to the Agency to date which has given rise to concerns about possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme.
41. The analysis itself is based on a structured and systematic approach to information analysis which the Agency uses in its evaluation of safeguards implementation in all States with comprehensive safeguards agreements in force. This approach involves, inter alia, the identification of indicators of the existence or development of the processes associated with nuclear-related activities, including weaponization.
42. The information which serves as the basis for the Agency’s analysis and concerns, as identified in the Annex, is assessed by the Agency to be, overall, credible [emph. add.]. The information comes from a wide variety of independent sources, including from a number of Member States, from the Agency’s own efforts and from information provided by Iran itself. It is consistent in terms of technical content, individuals and organizations involved, and time frames.

Keeping in mind that Wikileaks cable, I am not sure I'll accept 42 without some restrains. That "overall" term is quite a hedge on any detail ...

The one really important sentence in the whole IAEA report is in chapter K. "Summary" para 52:

the Agency continues to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material at the nuclear facilities and LOFs declared by Iran under its Safeguards Agreement

The IAEA certifies that Iran has not diverted any nuclear material to nefarious purpose.

Now onto the Annex on "possible military dimensions". Three parts: A. Historical overview of agency efforts, B. Description of sources and assessment of their credibility, C. Agency analysis with regard to weaponization.

In the history section the IAEA is fudging with the "work plan" that was once agreed on between the IAEA and Iran and solved all then outstanding issues. The "alleged studies", material provided by the U.S. after the work plan was finished, were not an original part of that. Now Amano tries to make them part of it.

Chapter A "History" of the Annex, para 10, is quite unfair to the Iranians:

10. Between 2007 and 2010, Iran continued to conceal nuclear activities, by not informing the Agency in a timely manner of the decision to construct or to authorize construction of a new nuclear power plant at Darkhovin16 and a third enrichment facility near Qom (the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant). ...

Iran has the quite plausible standpoint that it has never ratified the Additional Protocol in its relation to the IAEA. Under that standpoint it never had to inform the agency on the decisions to construct something until six month before introducing nuclear material in that place.

To say that Iran "conceal nuclear activities" by not informing the IAEA earlier than it is legally required without ratifying the AP quite off the mark.

Chapter B "Credibility of Information" seems to want to impress just with numbers with claiming "over a thousand pages" received but not with facts about or analysis of possible motives of the providers of such information.

Chapter C.1. "Programme management structure" seems to be a bunch of bull****:

21. The majority of the details of the work said to have been conducted under the AMAD Plan come from the alleged studies documentation ...

"alleged studies" = "Laptop of Death" = U.S./MEK/Israeli disinformation. ...

23. Information the Agency has received from Member States indicates that, owing to growing concerns about the international security situation in Iraq and neighbouring countries at that time, work on the AMAD Plan was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a “halt order” instruction issued in late 2003 by senior Iranian officials.

That is a confirmation of the NIE U.S. intelligence agencies issued and which was again confirmed by Mr. Clapper in recent Congress hearing. According to the agencies and him Iran stopped all even slightly weapon related nuclear activities, the alleged "weapons program", in 2003.

C. 3. (short form - b.): Al Baradei was wrong on the "Green Salt Project" (which is nonsense - b.) and we now believe what the "alleged studies" say about it. (see first quote above for a reasonable explanation of this change of mind - b.)

Tons of pseudo stuff in the following sub-chapters ... For example:

43. Information provided to the Agency by the same Member State (the U.S. - b.) referred to in the previous paragraph describes the multipoint initiation concept referred to above as being used by Iran in at least one large scale experiment in 2003 ...
C.6. Initiation of high explosives and associated experiments

43. Information provided to the Agency by the same Member State referred to in the previous paragraph describes the multipoint initiation concept referred to above as being used by Iran in at least one large scale experiment in 2003 to initiate a high explosive charge in the form of a hemispherical shell.

Nothing confirmed there. It is all "information provided" via a shady "laptop of death" with unknown origin of the original source.

And now we come to the paragraph that confirms my research and analysis:

44. The Agency has strong indications that the development by Iran of the high explosives initiation system, and its development of the high speed diagnostic configuration used to monitor related experiments, were assisted by the work of a foreign expert who was not only knowledgeable in these technologies, but who, a Member State has informed the Agency, worked for much of his career with this technology in the nuclear weapon programme of the country of his origin. The Agency has reviewed publications by this foreign expert and has met with him. The Agency has been able to verify through three separate routes, including the expert himself, that this person was in Iran from about 1996 to about 2002, ostensibly to assist Iran in the development of a facility and techniques for making ultra-dispersed diamonds (“UDDs” or “nanodiamonds”), where he also lectured on explosion physics and its applications.

Exactly what I wrote about Mr. Danilenko ...

...

Okay - it is getting late for me - social duties await - I'll continue my analysis tomorrow.

What I have read so far is quite unconvincing to any detail obsessed and knowledgeable reader but will give amply fodder for the usual propagandist in the mass media.

On the big scope that seems to be the sole purpose of Amano's prostitution in this "document".

Posted by b on November 8, 2011 at 01:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (13)

"Nuclear Iran" Allegations: The Scary "R265 generator" Is Just Old Stuff

Yesterday we looked at a The Washington Post piece on Iran's alleged nuclear activities and found that two pieces of alleged "evidence" for illegitimate nuclear work, the cooperation with the Ukrainian scientist Vyacheslav Danilenko and the reported pictures of a detonation tank in Iran fit much better with Iran's program to create nanodiamonds by detonation than with anything nuclear.

There is another scary bit of "evidence" mentioned in that WaPo article and I will show below that this is not only old information but also quite murky stuff:

According to Albright, one key breakthrough that has not been publicly described was Iran’s success in obtaining design information for a device known as an R265 generator. The device is a hemispherical aluminum shell with an intricate array of high explosives that detonate with split-second precision. These charges compress a small sphere of enriched uranium or plutonium to trigger a nuclear chain reaction.

Creating such a device is a formidable technical challenge, and Iran needed outside assistance in designing the generator and testing its performance, Albright said.

1. What is specifically an "R265 generator"? Can it kill me?

2. Iran "obtained design information" is one issue but did Iran actually build such a thing? From the second paragraph one might assume that because testing something would probably necessitate to have the object available. But why then is the first paragraph quoted then only about "obtained design information" not about producing it?

In a Guardian story Julian Borger today confirms at least some part of yesterdays analysis here and now points out the relation of nanodiamonds to Danilenko. Funny how that didn't occur in Borger's piece yesterday or any earlier pieces by him. He claims to have known Danielenko's name since 2009 but only today, after I published on it, he mentions nanodiamonds. Doesn't he know how to use Google or did he keep that information from his readers only to weasel it out now?

But today he also adds, like WaPo based on Albright, a bit about that scary "R265 generator":

One of the biggest areas of concern for the IAEA is evidence that Iranian scientists have conducted research on hemispherical arrays of explosives, of a type used in the construction of nuclear weapons to crush a spherical core of fissile material and thereby trigger a chain reaction.

The central evidence for the research is a five-page document outlining experiments with the device, codenamed the R265 because it has a 265mm radius, but the UN inspectors are said to have gathered other corroborating evidence.

1. The "R262" name seems to more of a joke than a specific type like the WaPo piece lets one assume. It simply has a radius of 265mm and that is what gives the name. Still we are left with the "generator" part and the question what it is supposed to "generate".

2. There is nothing about a "a hemispherical aluminum shell" in Borger's piece, just "hemispherical arrays of explosives". Where does that aluminum in the WaPo story come from? Is that the "corroborating evidence" Borger mentions?

3. Borger says the document is "outlining experiments with the device" and is not only "design information". Which is it?

In a 2009 piece (as we already said - nothing new here) Borger described the device about the same way he does today. He also points to an older IAEA report as the real description.

The IAEA described (pdf) the five-page document even earlier in its May 26 2008 report on Iran:

A. Documents shown to Iran in connection with the alleged studies
...
A.2. High Explosives Testing
...
Document 3: Five page document in English describing experimentation undertaken with a complex multipoint initiation system to detonate a substantial amount of high explosive in hemispherical geometry and to monitor the development of the detonation wave in that high explosive using a considerable number of diagnostic probes.

This is again mentioned in a September 2008 report by the agency:

[17] (d) With reference to the document describing experimentation in connection with symmetrical initiation of a hemispherical high explosive charge suitable for an implosion type nuclear device, Iran has stated that there have been no such activities in Iran. Since the Director General’s previous report, the Agency has obtained information indicating that the experimentation described in this document may have involved the assistance of foreign expertise. Iran has been informed of the details of this information and has been asked to clarify this matter.

So according to the IAEA Iran has not tested the hemispheric charge but the five-page document describes experimentation. The "corroborating evidence" mentioned in the second IAEA report is that it "may have involved the assistance of foreign expertise." Could that "assistance of foreign expertise"that "may" have been involved be a hint to the expert for detonation nanodiamonds Vyacheslav Danilenko?

In late September 2008 Iran responded (pdf) to the "Alleged Studies" documents it had been shown:

An Assessment of So-called “Alleged Studies”Islamic
Republic of Iran - September 2008
...
In spite of the fact that the so called alleged studies documents had not been delivered to Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran carefully examined all the materials which have been prepared in power point presentations by the US and provided to the IAEA, and informed the Agency of its assessment.

The Agency has not delivered to Iran any official and authentic document which contained documentary evidence related to Iran with regard to the alleged studies.
...
The document which the Agency is considering it as an important document regarding alleged studies and referring to it in paragraph 17D of the September 2008 report, is document 18 [in the power point presentation].

There is no evidence or indication in this document regarding its linkage to Iran or its preparation by Iran.

It even does not contain one single word in Persian. The document does only contain some English words and 3 hand-drawn graphs drawn by the Agency.

The said document is shown in order to be judged by the public opinion whether it is fair to make accusation against a country merely on the basis of such a document?!

Iran requested the agency to publish the five-page document so it can be seen and judged by everyone. It may be Iran will get lucky tomorrow and the IAEA will publish it.

From the above I conclude:

There is nothing really knew in the recent allegations in WaPo and other media. They have been in IAEA reports all along and come from files on the dubious "laptop of death" which the U.S. got from somewhere, allegedly inside Iran, and showed the IAEA even back in 2005. Iran rejects the documents on that laptop as false which they probably are.

There is one question that is still open in the above: Where does that "aluminum shell" in the recent WaPo report come from? It is not in other report I am aware of.

Posted by b on November 8, 2011 at 08:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 07, 2011

On "Nuclear Iran" Allegations: Nanodiamonds Ain't Nuclear Bombs

Updated below

The Washington Posts alleges that the IAEA says foreign expertise has brought Iran to threshold of nuclear capability. This is of course, well, a lie. The IAEA has said nothing like that. It is simply an assertion made by the reporter and some "nuclear Iran" scare propagandists based on misinterpreting some factual points in the IAEA "evidence". What that "evidence" says is: Iran is working on nanodiamond production.

(And what would "to threshold of nuclear capability" actually mean? That Iran would be capable, like Japan, Brazil, the Netherlands or some 40 other countries, to build a nuclear bomb if it would choose to do so? What would be new, wrong or dangerous with that?)

The WaPo piece goes into some details, provided mostly by chief nuclear scare monger David Albright, about allegedly "new" stuff some secret services handed to the IAEA. To see how misleading these allegations are lets look at just one detail.

The report describes an Ukrainian expert for creating nanodiamands as "weapon scientist" and "nuclear scientist" even when all his published work is about the synthesizing of very small diamonds, not about nukes. Writes WaPo:

Documents and other records provide new details on the role played by a former Soviet weapons scientist who allegedly tutored Iranians over several years on building high-precision detonators of the kind used to trigger a nuclear chain reaction, the officials and experts said.
...
According to the intelligence provided to the IAEA, key assistance in both areas was provided by Vyacheslav Danilenko, a former Soviet nuclear scientist who was contracted in the mid-1990s by Iran’s Physics Research Center, a facility linked to the country’s nuclear program. Documents provided to the U.N. officials showed that Danilenko offered assistance to the Iranians over at least five years, giving lectures and sharing research papers on developing and testing an explosives package that the Iranians apparently incorporated into their warhead design, according to two officials with access to the IAEA’s confidential files.

Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko is a well known Ukrainian ("former Soviet") scientist. But his specialties are not "weapon" or "nuclear" science, indeed there seems to be nothing to support that claim, but the production of nanodiamonds via detonations (ppt). According to the history of detonation nanodiamonds he describes in chapter 10 of Ultrananocrystalline Diamond - Synthesis, Properties, and Applications (pdf) he has worked in that field since 1962, invented new methods used in the process and is related with Alit, an Ukrainian company that produces nanodiamonds.

 


This is a detonation tank to create nanodiamonds, not a nuclear device.

Very small diamonds are useful for many purposes, like polishing optics or PC hard disks. That is why, for example, Drexel University in Philadelphia invited Danilenko for a talk at its Nanotechnology Institute:

On January 29, the AJ Drexel Nanotechnology Institute sponsored a Nanodiamond Lecture, “Nanodiamonds: Reactor Design and Synthesis,” by noted Ukrainian scientist Dr. Vyacheslav Danilenko. Dr. Danilenko was among the first to demonstrate detonation synthesis of diamonds and has more than 30 years experience in the design of reactors for the synthesis of nanodiamonds.

Some years ago Iran launched a big Nano Technology Initiative which includes Iranian research on detonation nanodiamonds (pdf). Iran is officially planing to produce them on industrial scale. It holds regular international conferences and invites experts on nanotechnology from all over the world. It is quite likely that famous international scientists in that field, like Dr. Danilenko, have been invited, gave talks in Iran and cooperate with its scientists.

Producing nanodiamonds via detonations uses large confined containers with water cooling, for which Danilenko seems to have a patent. The Ukrainian company he works with, Alit, shows such a detonation chamber on its webpage as does the picture above from the French-German nano-research company ISL. The detonation nanodiamond explanation thereby also fits with another allegation from the IAEA report:

The Associated Press reported that U.N. officials have acquired satellite photos of a bus-size steel container used by Iran for some of the explosives testing.

See the picture above and the one on the Alit web page. Iran having a "bus-size steel container" for explosive testing and research cooperation with Danilenko both fit very well with Iran's plans for nanodiamond production. They do not fit well with anything nuclear.

In his power-point presentation on detonation nanodiamonds on a industrial scale Danilenko recommends:

Use for industrial production of DND:
• charges ≥ 20 kg, explosion under water in close pool (in heavy metal cover), laser initiation;
• utilization of old ammunition under water in close pool;

Use of old ammunition in a closed water pool? Does that sound sound like something that "the Iranians apparently incorporated into their warhead design" as WaPo alleges? On what actual facts is that "apparently" innuendo based on? WaPo doesn't say anything about that.

But how or why should the production of detonation nanodiamonds relate to nuclear bombs at all? Why would someone even think they are related?

It may be because both use precisely timed detonations. But they do so on a very different scales and in very different conditions. A spherical implosion device for a nuclear weapon uses precisely timed detonations but it doesn't use a confined container, water cooling and old ammunition. The application is indeed very different. Besides that, there are much easier ways to make a nuclear bomb. And a lot of other physics fields, for example seismological research, also use precisely timed detonations. There is nothing special "nuclear" about them.

Just because a certain method like precise detonations is used in Iran, does not imply that it is used for what Mr. Albright and some "western agencies" claim. Nanodiamonds ain't nuclear weapons.

Danilenko's lifelong expertise is with nanodiamonds, not with nuclear weapons. It is much more plausible and fitting the evidence that Iran is working with him in his original capacity than in a field outside his main expertise.

If this is the general quality of the "new evidence" on Iran then it is quite worthless. This seems to be just more innuendo and dirt thrown towards Iran with the hope that something, anything might stick.

UPDATE Nov 8, 0:20 am EST

The Guardian is just now the first mainstream media to mention the nanodiamond part of the story:

Vyacheslav Danilenko, a Russian former atomic scientist, was alleged in the Washington Post to have provided advice on explosives to Iranian scientists which was incorporated into Tehran's design for a nuclear warhead.

Sources close to the IAEA confirmed he was the "foreign expert" referred to in its past reports on Iranian weaponisation.

It said he had given lectures over a number of years to Iranian specialists on how to rig simultaneous explosions: mastering such explosive force is critical in building an implosion-type nuclear device, in which high explosives compress highly enriched uranium or plutonium until it reaches critical mass, triggering a chain reaction. However, in interviews with the IAEA, Danilenko is said to have insisted that he had been under the impression his advice would be used for purely civilian applications of explosive technology, sources close to the agency said.

Although he did not specify what those applications were, he now works for a company called Nanogroup, based in the Czech Republic, which specialises in the use of explosives to make tiny diamonds for industrial purposes. On its website the company describes itself as "the first industrial manufacturer of nanodiamonds in the world market".

UPDATE 2 - Nov 9

The above was written before the IAEA report was published. Having read the now published report I find that The IAEA Confirms My Nanodiamond Analysis.

Posted by b on November 7, 2011 at 05:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

A Full Turn In NYT's IAEA "Reporting"

This is black we said? No, now we say this is white. Just believe us. It is only what we say now that is correct.

On October 14 David Sanger "reported" on U.S. pressure on the IAEA to come out with a strong report against Iran: To Isolate Iran, U.S. Presses Inspectors on Nuclear Data

President Obama is pressing United Nations nuclear inspectors to release classified intelligence information showing that Iran is designing and experimenting with nuclear weapons technology. The president’s push is part of a larger American effort to further isolate and increase pressure on Iran after accusing it of a plot to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States.

Today, three weeks later, David Sanger "reports" exactly the opposite. Now, allegedly, the U.S. is laid back and the IAEA is doing the pressuring: U.S. Hangs Back as Inspectors Prepare Report on Iran’s Nuclear Program:

An imminent report by United Nations weapons inspectors includes the strongest evidence yet that Iran has worked in recent years on a kind of sophisticated explosives technology that is primarily used to trigger a nuclear weapon, according to Western officials who have been briefed on the intelligence.
...
For its part, the Obama administration, acutely aware of how what happened in Iraq undercut American credibility, is deliberately taking a back seat, eager to make the conclusions entirely the I.A.E.A.’s, even as it continues to press for more international sanctions against Iran. When the director of the agency, Yukia Amano, came to the White House 11 days ago to meet top officials of the National Security Council about the coming report, the administration declined to even confirm he had ever walked into the building.

Which is it Mr. Sanger?

Three weeks ago Oceania, allied with Eurasia, was fighting Eastasia, now Oceania is allied with Eastasia and the enemy is Eurasia, as it has, according to Sanger today, always been.

That might be difficult to understand for people with an attention span of more than 20 seconds. But that must be their fault, certainly not that of the NYT and its propagandist David Sanger.

Posted by b on November 7, 2011 at 01:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

November 06, 2011

HIMARS Rockets Kill People. And Pomegranates.

In a piece on falling Pomegranate supplies from Afghanistan to Pakistan in the Tribune Express we learn:

[Pomegranate trader Syed Zaman] Agha said that unseasonal rain had ruptured the skin of Kandahari pomegranates. He said last year’s harvest was bigger. He added that chemicals used in explosives and ammunition had ruined the soil and caused the leaves of pomegranate trees to lose their colour.

I have no reason to believe that the U.S. is using chemical weapons or defoliants like Agent Orange in Afghanistan. But it has used other weapons which have environmental effects beyond those of the usual explosives. Their use could explain why leaves of pomegranate trees lose their color and the fruits develop ruptured skins.

The soldiers and Marines have been very active around Kandahar and the Arghandab area which is famous for its Pomegranate orchards. They bombed complete villages to dust there and seemingly often use(d) their HIMARS (pdf) medium range artillery rockets for their purposes. Afghanistan claims $100 million in damage over those operations.

We predicted here that these systems would wreak havoc when they were first deployed but didn't anticipate the environmental and crop damage.

What happens with the solid rocket fuel that is not burned off in flight when a HIMARS rocket is fired on less than its maximum distance? That are presumably dozens of kilograms of rocket propellent left and they burn off in the one place where the warhead explodes.

We do know that the exhausts from these rocket are not healthy because the cabin of the vehicle they are fired from is supposed to keep those away from the launcher crews. These crews rightly complained (pdf) when that didn't work as planned.

According to this military report (pdf, pg 11, 12) the HIMARS rockets use the "Arcadene 360B hydroxyl terminated polybutadiene, aluminum perchlorate propellant" which produces 20 grams of hydrogene chlorid (HCl) per 100 grams of propellent when burned off. Hydrogene chlorid is definitely not environment friendly.

When a HIMARS rocket explodes at a range shorter than its maximum range it releases 20% of the left-over fuel as hydrogene chlorid which will eventually end dissolved in water (humidity)  to very aggressive hydrochloric acid. The standard HIMARS rocket weights about 300 kilograms. Half to two-third of that mass, 150+ kilograms, is the solid propellent. Let's assume that firing it at half of the maximum range will only use two-third of the propellent. Then some 50+ kilogram of propellent will burn off in one place at impact and create some 10+ kilograms of hydrogene chlorid.

Anyone who ever worked in a chemistry lab, even at school level, will tell you that even one small drop of HCl is very unfriendly to many materials, especially biological ones. No, you do not want this on your fingers. Distributing kilograms of such with each HIMARS impact may well create the observed negative effects on whole Pomegranate orchards.

For the people living from selling the the fruits of these orchards the environmental and resulting economical impact of such rocket use may well mean that they will not have the money to survive the next winter.

Posted by b on November 6, 2011 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (9)

Haaretz Lies About IAEA Inspections In Parchin

Repeating the last piece of U.S. propaganda about a "nuclear Iran", Haaretz lies about the history of IAEA inspections in Iran:

Iran is pursuing its nuclear weapons program at the Parchin military base about 30 kilometers from Tehran, diplomatic sources in Vienna say.
...
According to recent leaks, Iran has carried out experiments in the final, critical stage for developing nuclear weapons - weaponization. This includes explosions and computer simulations of explosions. The Associated Press and other media outlets have reported that satellite photos of the site reveal a bus-sized container for conducting experiments.

Parchin serves as a base for research and development of missile weaponry and explosive material.
...
As far back as eight years ago, U.S. intelligence sources received information indicating that the bunkers would also be suitable to develop nuclear weapons.
...
The Iranians rejected an IAEA request to visit Parchin, saying that IAEA rules permitted the organization's member states to deny such visits to military bases.

The last sentence is false and pure propaganda. Iran allowed two IAEA visit to Parchin in January 2005 and again in November 2005. The IAEA took environment samples there but found nothing that pointed to nuclear weapon research. Globalsecurity.org kept the records:

On 17 September 2004 IAEA head Muhammad El Baradei said his organization had found no sign of nuclear-related activity at the Parchin site in Iran, which several US officials had said might be tied to secret nuclear weapons research. "We are aware of this new site that has been referred to," he said. "We do not have any indication that this site has any nuclear-related activities. However, we will continue to investigate this and other sites, we'll continue to have a dialogue with Iran." El Baradei also dismissed allegations that he had supressed information about Parchin in his latest report on inspections in Iran.

On 5 January 2005 Mohamed El Baradei said "we expect to visit Parchin within the next days or a few weeks." Iran allowed IAEA inspectors to visit the Parchin military site in January 2005 in the interests of transparency following the allegations of secret nuclear weapons related activity, but the visit was limited to only one of four areas identified as being of potential interest and to only five buildings in that area.

On 1 March 2005 Iran turned down a request by the IAEA to make a second visit to the Parchin military site, which has been linked in allegations to nuclear weapons testing. The IAEA was finally allowed access to the Parchin facility in November 2005. The IAEA reported in 2006 that they did not observe any unusual activities in the buildings visited at Parchin, and the results of the analysis of environmental samples did not indicate the presence of nuclear material at those locations. No further mention of Parchin as a suspected nuclear site had been made by the IAEA as of July 2008.

We can expect more such obvious lies in the coming weeks as the White House builds up its propaganda campaign for more sanctions on Iran.

Posted by b on November 6, 2011 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (8)

November 05, 2011

GAO On The Logistics For Operating In Afghanistan

The Government Accountability Office published a report (pdf) on the U.S. military logistics for operating in Afghanistan. I have written earlier here on logistics in Afghanistan. The report offers some new or updated numbers which I quote below.

The report also partly explains why the operations in Afghanistan are so expensive. Goods take a long time to reach Afghanistan, a lot gets lost or pilfered or, due to organization chaos, never reaches its customers. The DoD systems involved are not compatible to each other, data is lacking, a lot of paperwork is required and the Afghan and Pakistani bureaucracy make any custom processing a long endeavor.

Some quotes:

Overall, there are about 17 major logistics bases and more than 300 outposts in Afghanistan.
...
For surface shipments of sustainment items, DOD did not once achieve its goal of delivering 85 percent of shipments within 97 days of being ordered.
...
85 percent of delivered shipments arrived within 165 days.
...
Sustainment items delivered to supply warehouses at major logistics bases are either transported to or picked up by the customer who ordered the item. This additional delivery time is not measured against the time-definite delivery standards, which are set only for delivery to a major logistics base.
...
In June 2011, U.S. Central Command set a goal that 75 percent of cargo shipped to Afghanistan be transported along the Northern Distribution Network

From a table in the paper we can gather that in 2010 some 15,000 international shipments for military units moving into or out of Afghanistan were made plus some 74,000 shipments of sustainment materials, i.e. construction materials, food, fuel, spare parts etc.

42 percent of unit surface shipments and 19 percent of sustainment surface shipments with required delivery dates in 2008 through 2010 did not have a documented delivery date in the database.
...
The ability to maintain visibility using RFID tags throughout theater is inconsistent, even if a cargo truck passes an RFID interrogator. Officials stated that RFID tags lose battery power while in transit, and the batteries are sometimes stolen out of the tags. For example, in October 2010, a DOD check of RFID tags at the Hairaton [Usbekistan/Afghanistan] border crossing found that 80 percent of RFID tags had batteries stolen out of them
...
[A]n official at a supply yard in Afghanistan stated that individual cargo items are frequently not documented on RFID tags.
...
[A]pproximately 40 percent of the RFID tags on cargo bound for one base in theater had incorrect or incomplete data “burned” onto them
...
[A]n official stated a contractor truck took two weeks to bring supplies for his task force to Bagram from Kabul [(that's 25 miles distance!)], in part because the truck kept getting turned away at the gate to the base.
...
Officials in Kandahar stated that a convoy of contractor trucks languished for weeks in the staging lot because no one talked to the customer receiving the cargo, and the customer was unaware the trucks were at the entry control point.
...
The customs paperwork requires many signatures from specific individuals and transfers among various locations in the Foreign Affairs and Finance customs offices.
..
A DOD official in Afghanistan stated that clearing customs paperwork for cargo export takes approximately 38 days, but may take as long as 55 days.
...
According to DOD officials, customs and border officials operate on their own time frames to process paperwork and clear cargo, and DOD’s influence and control over customs clearance processing in Pakistan and Afghanistan is limited.
...
According to DOD officials, approximately 0.8 percent of all cargo items have been pilfered since 2007 while in transit. ... DOD’s process for collecting information on pilferage and damage of cargo is not capturing all incidents.
...
Officials from one unit stated they believe that approximately 10 percent of containers processed through Kandahar have been pilfered, but the reported pilferage rate is much lower.
...
[O]ne task force official in Afghanistan stated that approximately 7 percent of the brigade’s containers that were transported through Pakistan arrived empty or nearly empty of cargo.

As these are mostly official numbers we can assume that the real numbers, on pilfering and other issues, are worse. Units in Afghanistan are usually there for one year and shorter for Marines. With a half a year delay between ordering and delivery of spare parts and other materials, many of those will only arrive, if at all, when the unit has already left again. This will at any time leave a high rate of vehicles and other technical equipment not operable. It may partly explain how, despite the surge of soldiers, military progress on the ground is quite limited.

Posted by b on November 5, 2011 at 12:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Hasaka Spinning Factory - Failure Of "Signature" Intelligence

There recently was this rumor of an Uranium centrifuge installation in a Syrian spinning factory. It was based solely on the outlay of some industrial buildings visible in satellite pictures. A "signature" case where something that is a look-a-like is taken for the real stuff leading to rumors, possibly bad policy decisions and, in the end, the killing of people.

The "signature" intelligence and WMD rumor was floated in an "AP Exclusive" report based on an unnamed "senior diplomat with knowledge of IAEA investigations and a former U.N. investigator."

Jeffery Lewis, the Arms Control Wonk, was on the case and I commented on it (see comment 9). I did not buy it and suggested further investigation into a distinct direction.

That comment motivated a journalist to make some phone calls and he busted the case:

After reading an ACW post about Al-Hasakah (AP On Hasaka, November 1, 2011), I browsed through the comments section. One of the readers, “b”, challenged my journalistic ambitions. “B” reiterated that the site is supposed to have had East German spinning machines replaced by newer ones in the early 2000s and added “The Germans should be able to verify that.” Well, I am German, and I decided to do just that, hoping to narrow down the dates when the facility had been built and since when it had been used as a spinning factory. And as it turned out, they were not only spinning cotton there.

They were also spinning polyester.

The "signature" intelligence was wrong. The "former UN inspector" (David Albright?) and the "diplomat with knowledge of IAEA investigations" were wrong. The IAEA and the other agencies did not do the basic legwork, or even made the few phone calls the journalist made in just a few hours, to find that the textile factory was exactly that, a textile factory and had always been one. But they spread rumors of  WMD production in Syria.

The U.S. is killing people in Pakistan and elsewhere by drones based on "signature" intelligence. "They behave like terrorists so they must be terrorists, kill them!"

Such intelligence will always create many, many false positives for every real hit. One big building and three small ones plus a shaded parking lot on a satellite picture do not make a WMD factory. Some family gathering or public meeting in FATA do not make a terrorist training facility. Just asking simple questions about such "intelligence" can lead to better information than what all those agencies peddle as their products.

Right now the AP is peddling allegedly "new" IAEA intelligence about Iran's civil nuclear program. (Hint: nothing new there, just the four year old false Laptop of Death stuff.) These rumors are again based on "diplomats" and "signature" intelligence like satellite pictures. Such "intelligence" is likely wrong.

Hopefully the busted case of the Hasaka spinning factory will help more people to understand that such "intelligence" is most often inherently faulty and can not be the base for serious decisions.

Posted by b on November 5, 2011 at 02:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (10)

November 04, 2011

Some Afghan People

A meditative short movie from Afghanistan (Mazar-i Sharif and Kabul).

Afghanistan – touch down in flight from Augustin Pictures.

I recommend watching this full screen and in HD. So many details ...

Posted by b on November 4, 2011 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (7)

November 03, 2011

U.S. "Scholar" Propaganda About Syria

A piece in Foreign Policy by Randa Slim, "a scholar at the Middle East Institute", on the Syrian opposition claims:

a critical mass of Syrians has clearly opted for regime change

It does not provide one fact to support that conclusion. Scanning the news from Syria my impression is that the opposition to Bashar Assad, which obviously never achieved critical mass over the last months, is now shrinking.

Indeed just two days ago the Wall Street Journal prominently headlined: Syrian Activists Say Assad Gains Advantage:

Last week, massive crowds gathered in several cities, including Damascus, to pledge their loyalty to Mr. Assad. Syria's state television, broadcasting scenes of crowds chanting "The people want Bashar al-Assad," said some two million people gathered at the capital's Ummayad Square last Wednesday. It broadcast fresh scenes of a loyalist demonstration in the southern city of Suweida on Sunday.

"At one point, what we call the silent majority came to be aligned with the street protests at least from a humanitarian and moral point of view. But now they've stepped back again," Mr. Hussein said.

One can assess the quality of the propaganda messaged by that "scholar at the Middle East Institute" from this passage further down in the piece:

Most of the Syrian opposition agrees on a few basic principles: toppling the Assad regime, maintaining the national unity of Syria, and remaining committed to the peaceful nature of the Syrian revolution. But there are sharp disagreements over dialogue with the regime, foreign intervention, and the militarization of the opposition.

So they are committed to a "peaceful" revolution but can not decide whether they want NATO to bomb their country or continue the militant guerrilla war against the regime.

And the discussion about that shows their principle commitments to stay "peaceful"?

If such incoherent writing expresses the "scholar-"ship of Randa Slim and the "Middle East Institute" readers are advised to dismiss everything coming from that source.

Posted by b on November 3, 2011 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

November 02, 2011

Germany And The Euro Crisis

After the wall in Berlin collapsed, Germany paid a lot to integrate its east. It took 10+ years, up to the mid 2000nds, and cost West Germany some €1.5 trillion. Despite higher taxes, a "solidarity surtax" of first 7.5% and now still 5.5% of the regular income tax, Germany had to borrow from the outside and ran a deficit higher than allowed under Euro rules. It also had to cope with relative high unemployment.

The government tried to correct this by preventing wage growth and by lowering social welfare payments. These "structural reforms" worked as intended but went too far and had negative side effects.

Consumption in Germany stagnated but competitiveness of its products on the world markets increased and unemployment decreased. The current account deficit (table in German) of some €30-40 billion per year in the 1990s turned into a current account surplus of some €120 billion per year. The "structural reforms" as implemented had been pressed too far.

Germany's regained super competitiveness and surplus, created by suppressing wages, also made it a big lender to other countries who used the borrowed money to buy German goods.

In normal foreign trade relations between independent countries the one borrowing the money will, over time, devalue its currency and thereby increase its competitiveness and decrease its current account deficit. (The not-so-nice and thereby seldomly taken alternative is to default.)

But the countries in Europe that opted into the Euro do not have the ability to devalue their currency. The only way they could have stayed competitive with Germany would have been to also implement some Germany-like "structural reforms". But to do so is, understandably, quite unpopular and their government's did not have the "East Germany integration" argument the German government made to its people. Instead they continued to borrow money from Germany to buy German goods.

Which brings us to the current situation of financial instabilities in the Euro zone. Greece, Spain, Italy and Portugal all have rather lax attitudes to paying taxes. Crisis or not - those will have to be fixed.

Their people enjoyed the Euro as it brought them higher incomes. They bought houses and goods on cheep credit throughout the last decade and ran high current account deficits financed by the German current account surplus.

The imbalance between a German current account surplus and current account deficits in other European countries will now have to change.

(The recent financial crisis and recession during which the states took some private debt onto their balance sheet only is not the original fault here but exacerbated this situation. The general problem within the Euro zone would be the same without it and would have led, though likely with a few years delay, to the same situation that we see right now.)

Unfortunately the current German government does not get it. Merkel wants to keep German wages down, its competitiveness high and she wants to keep a high current account surplus. At the same time she does not want to finance other countries deficits.

This can obviously not work.

The easiest way to solve this whole dilemma is for Germany to lower consumption taxes and to let wages increase. This would lead to less German competitiveness and over time to balanced current accounts. Germans would make more vacations in the southern Euro countries and would buy more goods from them. But Merkel's neoliberal instincts and the German finance and industry lobbies are against this. They only care for short term profits, not for a long term balanced development.

This position will blow up into Merkel's face. She has forgotten the "Paradox of debtors prison". Putting debtors into jail takes away their ability to make an income and to pay down their debt. Putting Greece through austerity programs does the same. Greece will simply be unable to pay its debt and will default.

With Italy, Spain and Portugal to follow such defaults and the following depressions in those countries will damage Germany, and the profitability of its companies, much more than higher wages for its workers and a bit less competitiveness would do.

Unfortunately it currently seems unlikely that such insight will reach the German officialdom before the whole issue blows up.

Posted by b on November 2, 2011 at 02:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Miss-Interpreting Iranian Politics

Some opposition parliamentarians blame a government minister over a banking fraud. There is no reasonable proof that the minister was involved or had any knowledge of the fraud. Still the opposition tries to impeach the minister. In a 141 to 93 vote the parliament rejects the impeachment attempt.

In any country the above would be seen as a win for the government in a normal political fight and a big loss for the opposition. The administration in question would be seen as stable and unchallengeable.

But that is not the case when the "western" media are reporting and the country in question is Iran. See how the Wall Street Journal characterizes the vote and the victory of Ahmedinajad's administration:

  • "battle between the president and the country's political establishment"
  • "a powerful vehicle for rivals of Mr. Ahmadinejad to attack his administration"
  • "an uneasy victory for a president"
  • "five influential lawmakers who favored Mr. Hosseini's impeachment used the opportunity to slam Mr. Ahmadinejad's administration"
  • "a critic of Mr. Ahmadinejad, asked lawmakers to give the economy minister a second chance"

Going with the simple facts it seems to me that a 60% rejection of the impeachment here showed:

  • that the political establishment is united with the president
  • that the "vehicle to attack" was underpowered
  • that the "uneasy victory was" non-ambiguous
  • that those "five influential lawmakers" were not that influential at all
  • and that the critic that sided with the government isn't really that much of a critic.

Why can't the "western" media just go with those obvious facts of the politics in Iran and simply interpret those? Instead, like the WSJ here, they cling to some meme of an alleged split in the Iranian establishment, not supported by any evidence, and interpret everything from there.

After years of having been wrong about the alleged instability of the Iranian political structure wouldn't it be time for some self-reflection and some acknowledgement that the facts in Iran are really that and not an expression of the opposite?

Posted by b on November 2, 2011 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)

November 01, 2011

Afghans Get Useless Styrkers

Just stumbled over this part of a Reuters piece about training the Afghan army:

Amlaqullah Patyani, a tall mustachioed general in charge of all Afghan army training, fears a bumpy road ahead even for his most courageous recruits.

"We have no clue how to operate the weapons that NATO gives us. And even if we did, will the weapons keep coming after 2014?" he asked Reuters at the ceremony, raising a key question about the sustainability of expensive Western efforts to build up Afghan security forces.

One example given by recruits is the complex computer system used to operate Stryker armored fighting vehicles that cost around $4 million each. Many new recruits assigned to master the system lack basic numeral skills and are unable to read the Latin script used inside.

The Stryker is a 20 ton eight wheel vehicle that is not really usable in Afghanistan. Because of that the U.S. is sending its Stryker equiped 3rd Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division to Afghanistan without these vehicles:

The Stryker Brigade will go Stryker-less for two reasons. First, the Afghan terrain can’t handle a heavy wheeled vehicle that’s about the size of a school bus. You don’t want to take that thing up mountains or roll it through river valleys that lack paved roads. Second, the vehicle is too flimsy to handle homemade bombs. Unlike MRAPs, the flat bottom of a Stryker absorbs the brunt of a bomb impact, rather than deflecting it.

But that very expensive junk is now given to Afghan recruits who are unable to handle it.

Some fat cat in some U.S. company and the associated House and Senate members will make millions from this U.S. taxpayer funded idiocy.

But however you may see the conflict in Afghanistan it will be of zero value to either side of the real war. That's basically fine with me. Still the utter corruption of the U.S. political system that allows for such stupidity amazes me again and again.

Posted by b on November 1, 2011 at 03:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (14)

Likud Response To Palestine's UNESCO Membership - Annex West Bank

Congratulations to the Palestinians for winning a membership vote at the UNESCO. That is is a recognition of Palestinian statehood and will open the path to membership of other international organizations. The State Department spokesperson has quite some difficulties (video) to explain the U.S. no vote on this.

Former ambassador Craig Murray says that Palestine could now join the International Criminal Court which could than seriously threaten Israeli politicians and military commanders for their crimes committed in Gaza and the West Bank.

Meanwhile the New York Times is giving OpEd space to the South African lawyer Richard Goldstone. Goldstone, you will remember, wrote a critical report on Israels devastating attack on Gaza only to recant under pressure. He now tries, unsuccessfully in my view, to explain that there is no apartheid in Israel and the West Bank:

The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” This is a critical distinction, even if Israel acts oppressively toward Palestinians there. South Africa’s enforced racial separation was intended to permanently benefit the white minority, to the detriment of other races. By contrast, Israel has agreed in concept to the existence of a Palestinian state in Gaza and almost all of the West Bank, and is calling for the Palestinians to negotiate the parameters.

"Agreed in concept" while stealing Palestinian land without intent?. I have bridge to sell yah ...

It is somewhat funny that he makes such claim of Israeli non-intent ("agreed in concept") the same day the deputy Knesset speaker is introducing a bill to "make Israel sovereign over Judea and Samaria", i.e. to annex the West Bank.

How is that about "no intent to maintain" oppression and domination and about "negotiating the parameters"?

Posted by b on November 1, 2011 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (13)

 
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