Open Intervention In Syria Seems Unlikely
Unlike the draft resolution the report by the Arab League observer mission clearly tells of (pdf) brutal rebel attacks on the government and on civilian:
In Homs, Idlib and Hama, the Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of those acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.
Any state will rightly use force to put down such armed gangs.
The Turkish president Gül is pressing for a fast solution:
“We regret this, but Syria is unfortunately on a path of no return. The important thing is that this process is not dragged out. There is no [good] end for this. The end is certain. The question is how painful it will be,” the president also said.
I see no fast way for the "west" to achieve regime change in Syria. A "no-fly zone" against a country where there are no military flights against the rebels makes little sense and a coalition of the willing is unlikely to evolve soon as everyone, the Turks, the Gulf dictatorships and the U.S., involved has a different idea of what the end game should be.
Despite ten month of attacks the Syrian state institutions and its military have held together well and there is no sign of any breakup. Without any serious forces on the ground any intervention just from the air would be insufficient. Who would be willing to declare war on Syria and to send their own ground troops? Turkey is the candidate with the most potential to do this but the risk of resistance to it in its own minority areas seems too high.
With the UN way blocked and an open war unlikely the U.S. and its followers will try different ways to get Syria under their control. Most likely they will increase in the weapon flow to the rebels and intensify their training of more rebel groups in Turkey and Jordan. The Saudis and Qatar will continue to finance their Salafi gangs on the ground.
This conflict then will continue for quite some time but with the Syrian government now seemingly more aware and able to counter the rebels.
Slowly but deliberately Assad is moving Syria's political system towards a more democratic state. That is probably something the "west" would really fear. A democratic Syria not under its control and therefor likely to continue its rather independent policies. This may explain the current rush to find a way to smash it before this happens.
Open Thread 2012-03
News & views ...
Some Links And A Serious Question Tn CBS' "60 Minutes"
Tariq Ali on his 1970s visit to North Korea. This bit from the end of the piece is enlightening:
Over lunch I asked her about [the Bush administration] plans for North Korea. She was cogent. ‘You haven’t seen the glint in the eyes of the South Korean military,’ she said. ‘They’re desperate to get hold of the North’s nuclear arsenal. That’s unacceptable.’ Why? ‘Because if a unified Korea becomes a nuclear power, it will be impossible to stop Japan from becoming one too and if you have China, Japan and a unified Korea as nuclear states, it shifts the relationship of forces against us.’ Obama seems to agree with this way of thinking.
This weeks long must read from the New Yorker: The Caging of America - Why do we lock up so many people? My answer: Because it is incredibly profitable for some.
Richard Silverstein's Mossad minder "confidential highly-placed Israeli source" tells him another idiotic Iran drone story which the gullible Richard swallows and then pukes out adding a hefty portion of irrational speculation and stupid innuendo. Thankfully Dimi Reider has already trashed it. Two month ago I did the same with an earlier implausible drone story by Richard.
Is CBS' "60 minutes" using old interviews to raise political mayhem at convenient propaganda moments? Today it will broadcast an interview with Sec Def Panetta that, besides uncovering a CIA agent, again trashes relations with Pakistan. But the Pentagon says, even before the broadcast, that the interview is several month old and does not reflect current knowledge and policy. Two weeks ago CBS broadcasted an interview with the Emir of Qatar calling for war on Syria. It made quite a media splash at a convenient time. But that interview was already two month old when it was broadcasted. What is next on CBS ? A "current" interview with Elvis?
The Syrian Death Numbers Are All Made Up
Headlines the Pakistani paper The Nation: Syrian forces killed 7,384 children: report. The headline is very wrong.
From the piece:
Syrian forces have killed at least 7,384 children since March last year in the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).
Rima Salah, acting Unicef deputy executive director said as of January 7, 384 children, most were boys, had been killed. She said about 380 children, some less than 14 years old, had been detained. Assad forces in brutal crackdown against innocent people and pro-democracy workers have killed thousands of people, including women and children, since March 2011.
It seems that some folks at The Nation somehow made up the number killed by adding the "as of January 7" date times thousand and the number 384 the UN got from somewhere. Then they put that into the headline and the opening graph thus reporting a fantasy number some of their readers may well believe.
Lets take a look at the MSNBC version of the story about those children in Syria which at least got the number right which the UNICEF's Rima Salah used:
At least 384 children have been killed and virtually the same number have been jailed, the United Nations Children's Fund said. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado told Reuters the figures were based on reports by human rights organizations which it judged to be credible.
What are "children" in this context? Which "credible" human right organization did the UNICEF spokeswomen talk about? The UN's own human right official Navi Pillay who back in December just made up the number of people killed?
Or does Rima Saleh trust that shady Syrian Observatory for Human Rights organization in London of which actually two feuding ones exist:
The moving force behind the rival group (www.syriahr.org) who issued a letter attacking Abdulrahman’s group (www.syriahr.com) is a London-based Syrian exile and medical doctor named Mousab Azzawi.
While both Abdulrahman and Azzawi stress their work is not influenced by political allegiances, their respective political positions correlate with a greater dispute between Syria's opposition groups on the question of foreign intervention and the military option.
The campaign led by Azzawi to discredit Abdulrahman seems to come on the heels of a major fallout between the Syrian National Council (SNC) and the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change in Syria (NCB).
Which of the two sides did UNICEF judge to be credible? The one that has neocons write their policy papers? Or the other one which takes fake videos as proof:
Kako [of Abdulrahman's organization] also said that a single person with a video proving the claim would be accepted: “we don’t put it out [from a single source] unless he got maybe a video of it, for example, because a video cannot be denied if it is shown that it is a genuine video.”
When asked about the process for verifying the authenticity of such videos, and the circumstances in which victims were killed, Kako said: “When we get the video from our activists, we don’t take anything from any other sources.”
So who of these two provided UNICEF with that very exact number of 7,384 children killed when at the same time even the UN's human right boss Navi Pillay finally found some sense and stopped the false counting and making up of nonsense numbers:
On Wednesday, the UN said it had stopped compiling a death toll for Syria because it is too difficult to get information. "Some areas are totally closed, such as parts of Homs, so we are unable to update that figure. But in my view 5,000 and more is a huge figure and should really shock the international community into taking action," AFP reported Pillay as telling reporters.
As the above quoted must-read Al-Akhbar report closes:
The lack of transparency regarding sources of casualty reports may have its roots in the difficult conditions activists are working under inside Syria. But short of a serious push to protect these sources and to insist on accountability by all sides, propaganda will continue to prevail over reality.
Adding sloppy news editors like at The Nation to that and one can only disregarded any number of Syrian death quoted in any news or UN report as certain to be a false one. My best guess is that the numbers on both sides, the government forces and the rebel forces, are both in the low thousands and about the same.
How The U.S. Military In Afghanistan Is Breaking The Sanctions On Iran
The U.S. military in Afghanistan uses about 110 liters (30 gal) fuel per soldier per day. About half of that was coming through Pakistan until its border with Afghanistan was closed. For two month now the military lives off in-country reserves but it has now also started to purchase gasoline on the local Afghan market. But much of the fuel available on the Afghan market is actually coming from Iran. The military is thereby indirectly breaking U.S. sanctions against oil purchases from Iran.
Early 2011 Iran shut down all official fuel exports to Afghanistan. Fuel in Iran was at that time subsidized and often smuggled across the border. This close down was rumored to also be a response to sanctions the U.S. had put up against Iran. There was suspicion in Iran that exports to Afghanistan were used by the U.S. military.
During 2011 Iran abolished fuel subsidies and in December 2011 Iran signed a new agreement with Afghanistan to provide it with a million ton per year of gasoil, gasoline and jet fuel.
After the U.S. military killed 26 Pakistani troops in a border incident on November 26 the Afghan-Pakistani border is closed to all traffic. The fuel supply the U.S. military in Afghanistan received from and through Pakistan is cut off. Since the in-country reserves are limited and supply through the Northern Distribution Network is much more expensive as well as congested the military started to acquire petroleum products on the local market.
US officials say 85 per cent of the fuel for the military now come from the north.
Afghan businessmen say the international force is topping this up with purchases inside the country. This is affecting the market, forcing up prices and making petrol and public transport more expensive for the locals.
Farid Alokozay, head of the government agency responsible for petroleum products, said NATO was increasingly buying in fuel from domestic firms.
Mohammad Qorban Haqjo, chief executive of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry, confirmed that 20 local firms had signed a lucrative fuel supply deal with NATO.
“The contract was signed recently and is worth one billion dollars,” he said, adding that some of the firms belonged to relatives of senior Afghan officials.
The additional purchase from the Afghan market leaves the local people short of fuel:
“Since NATO forces started buying on the domestic market, not only have prices increased, but fuel is no longer available consistently,” Hajji Sayed Ahmad, who owns a petrol station in the city’s Deh Mazang district.
The shortage has prompted him to raise his prices, much to the annoyance of his customers.
“We have fights with dozens of people every day,” Ahmad said. “They think it’s our choice to increase fuel prices.... The general public don’t realise that fuel isn’t widely available and that the foreigners are buying it up.”
Kabul taxi drivers have increased their fares, leaving people queuing in the freezing cold for hours as they wait for cheaper but more erratic bus services. Once on the buses, they find that ticket prices have also increased.
As the military can only get 85% of it needs from the north supply from there is obviously limited. The border with Pakistan to the east and south is closed. The only source for additional fuel imports is thereby from Iran.
While it buys through Afghan middlemen the U.S. military will surely know where the fuel actually comes from. One wonders how long Iran will allow this to continue.
Soon To Come To A Place Near You: Riots And Suppression
A succinct and appropriate warning by Georg Soros which fits with my own estimates:
As he sees it, the world faces one of the most dangerous periods of modern history—a period of “evil.” Europe is confronting a descent into chaos and conflict. In America he predicts riots on the streets that will lead to a brutal clampdown that will dramatically curtail civil liberties. The global economic system could even collapse altogether.
“We are facing an extremely difficult time, comparable in many ways to the 1930s, the Great Depression. We are facing now a general retrenchment in the developed world, which threatens to put us in a decade of more stagnation, or worse. The best-case scenario is a deflationary environment. The worst-case scenario is a collapse of the financial system.”
Soros also expresses my fear for Europe. Unfortunately the signs of this happening are piling up:
He’s now convinced that “if you have a disorderly collapse of the euro, you have the danger of a revival of the political conflicts that have torn Europe apart over the centuries—an extreme form of nationalism, which manifests itself in xenophobia, the exclusion of foreigners and ethnic groups. ..."
Soros is not alone in predicting this.
The Global Risk 2012 (pdf) report for the World Economic Forum in Davos is seeing "severe income disparity" and "chronic fiscal imbalances" as the most likely risk factors in the coming 10 years.
But there is still little momentum anywhere to increase taxes on the rich which would help to curtail fiscal imbalances and income disparity. Instead we get talk about more and evermore austerity which will predictably fail to solve any economic problem.
There will be riots and suppression of riots and riots against the suppression. Only after those set up enough pressure genuine reforms will be thought of that will resolve the disparities and imbalances. Throughout the most important issue is to avoid wars which ruling classes traditionally like in such times as they help to divert the attention from their failures.
Israel's Anti-Iran Campaign - A Favor To The U.S.
Back in November Uri Averny wrote:
Everybody knows the scene from school: a small boy quarrels with a bigger boy. “Hold me back!” he shouts to his comrades, “Before I break his bones!”
Our [Israeli] government seems to be behaving in this way.
He is right that this is the strategy Netanyahoo and Barak are using to push more sanctions against Iran and eventually for the U.S. to attack it. An op-ed in Ynet-news today claims that the strategy works:
It certainly looks as though the Israeli campaign launched during the previous fall, where rumors of an imminent Israeli strike on Iran were disseminated, secured its objectives. Western statesmen clung to this campaign and utilized it in order to impose on Iran the devastating sanctions that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demanded two years ago already.
As long as it works the Israelis will continue with their campaign:
Israel's defence minister, Ehud Barak, has warned that tougher sanctions need to be imposed on Iran despite the unprecedented oil embargo agreed by the European Union earlier this week.
Speculation over Israel's military intentions has intensified over recent weeks, with the US urging the political and military establishment to hold back.
A new long Israeli written NY Times Magazine piece asking Will Israel Attack Iran? -while having some interesting details- is in the end just another part of this campaign.
But it is not all Israel's work and its not for sole Israeli interest. I have yet to see any step or concession from the U.S. side that would lead to serious negotiations with Iran. Trita Parsi is wrong when he claims that both sides are guilty of not coming to the table. Obama did some propaganda moves to make it seem that he would like to negotiate with Iran but there never was a serious attempt by him to actually do so.
As Peter Jenkins, Britain’s former permanent representative to the IAEA explains, a fair deal could have been reached even back in 2005 when the Iranians offered more inspection if they could continue their, then much smaller, enrichment work to which the NPT entitles them. There was the Brasilian/Turkish deal with Iran the Obama regime rejected even while it was on its own design.
When the Ynet op-ed writer quoted above says "western statesmen clung to this campaign and utilized it" he is right. The Israelis are only delivering a very much wanted pretense. The utilization is done by the U.S. (and its European lackeys) for their own purposes.
Who controls Iran can control a big chunk of the world's oil and gas flow and can use that control to put pressure on other countries. The U.S. still dreams of "full spectrum dominance". Iran is one of the stumbling blocks on the road to achive that aim.
After the first Gulf war cut Saddam to size Israel thought him contained and wasn't very enthusiastic about the second Gulf war. But when asked by the Bush regime for support it helped at least on the propaganda site.
The propaganda campaign against Iran can be seen in similar light. Iran is far away from Israel. There is no common border and the Iranian military is not able to launch any offensive campaign. Iran supports Hizbullah, which is a thorn in Israels side, but neither Hizbullah nor Iran are a serious strategic danger to Israel. I therefore regard the current campaign run by Israel as much as a favor done in support of the United States' goals than something done out of genuine Israeli concern.
The real strategic concern Israel should have is what currently happens with its immediate neighbors. Egypt's yet unfinished revolution, the unrest in Jordan and a likely more democratic Syria which will be more demanding towards Israel are a much bigger danger to it than any weapon Iran could ever build. There emerges a reals strategic threat and so far Israel's reaction to it is a dear in the headlights paralysis. This is where the shortsighted and inflexible Israeli leadership is losing it:
The world has entered a dangerous transition, which the Arab Spring is part of. There are many risks ahead, for the possibility of Arab democracy, for American policy and interests in the region, and the possibility of a regional conflict. The biggest mistake, the biggest delusion, outsiders can make is to think that, even as everything around them is changing, that they can stay the same.
It Ain't Over ...
"The opera ain't over till the fat lady sings" relates to Wagner's Götterdämerung. In Libya the twilight of the gods of war has yet to come.
October 17, 2011: Gaddafi stronghold Bani Walid falls
NTC troops raise flags of Libya's new government after six-week siege, leaving only parts of Sirte defended by loyalists.
January 23, 2012: Qaddafi loyalists seize Bani Walid, clash with NTC forces
Diehard supporters of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi seized control Monday of “the entire city of Bani Walid,” a local official said, prompting the deployment of National Transitional Council forces to regain the town.
From Torturing Terrorists To Killed French Soldiers
KABUL — An Afghan soldier who shot dead four French troops has said he did it because of a recent video showing US Marines urinating on the dead bodies of Taliban insurgents, security sources told AFP.
The attack on the soldiers, who were unarmed, came on Friday at a base in eastern Afghanistan and left 15 other French troops wounded, eight of them seriously.
"During the initial interrogations by French soldiers, he told them he did it because of the video in which American soldiers were urinating on bodies," an Afghan army officer said.
The Afghan soldier had also referred to a video showing British soldiers allegedly abusing Afghan children, the source with access to Ministry of Defence information said.
Less than a week after news of the US Marines video broke, British military police arrested two servicemen over allegations that they abused an Afghan boy and a girl, both aged about 10, and filmed the incidents.
The French will not be amused about this. Getting tarred with the same brush than those uncultured Americans and the perverts from the perfidious Albion is below their self perceived dignity. Add some freedom fries to that. (In their real behaviour in wars, the French are of course not much different the the Americans or the British.)
Sarkozy is facing a contested presidential election that may well kick him out. The French public is widely against the colonial adventure in Afghanistan. The French troops in Kapisa have had little success in their attempts to root out the Taliban there. Even before the motive of the Afghan soldier was known Sarkozy had threatened to pull the French troops out. Give today's news he will be under even more pressure to do so. I expect the French troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of the year.
With some 4,000 soldiers the French contingent is the fourth biggest after the U.S., British and German one. It is responsible for the province of Kapisa which is described as the Taliban's gateway to Kabul. The French leaving there will leave a quite big hole in the eastern front. Them leaving will be a serious loss for the U.S. effort there.
The U.S. military once had the idea of the strategic corporal. Low level leaders that win counterinsurgency wars by doing the right things and not doing the wrong stuff. Essentially German Auftragstaktik at its best. But in reality there is little incentive in the U.S. military to do the right thing and there is lack of enforcement of discipline, beginning at the very top, against doing wrong.
When the policy at the very top is to torture the living terrorists, without ever going after the perpetrators, it is difficult to explain to the soldiers on the ground not to piss on the dead ones.
Various wars have shown that losing the moral ground at the top filters through the chain of command and loses the war on the ground. One wonders why that lesson has to be relearned so often.
On Iran NYT Introduces New False Propaganda Line
Isabel Kershner, an Israeli reporter working for the New York Times, is introducing a new propaganda term about Iran's nuclear program. She writes:
Though Iran continues to insist that its nuclear program is only for civilian purposes, Israel, the United States and much of the West are convinced that Iran is working to develop a weapons program.
"Working to develop a weapons program"? What is that supposed to mean?
Since the NYT ombudsman has admonished the paper for being to casual with references to the non existing Iranian nuclear weapon program, Kersher can no longer refer to it directly.
Instead she now comes up with "is working to develop a weapons program." This phrase has, to my best knowledge, never been used in any official language and I have never seen this accusation before. What is the factual base for Kershner's assertion?
U.S. and Israeli officials have loud and openly said that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. They have never said that it is "working to develop a weapons program." They say flat out that Iran has not taken any decision towards a nuclear weapon program.
That is what U.S. defense secretary Panetta said on January 8 at CBS's "Face The Nation":
Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.
But the responsible thing to do right now is to keep putting diplomatic and economic pressure on them to force them to do the right thing. And to make sure that they do not make the decision to proceed with the development of a nuclear weapon.
Paneta thereby confirms the reported judgement of the U.S. intelligence community expressed in the National Intelligence Estimates in 2007 (pdf) and 2011 that Iran ended an alleged rudimentary nuclear weapons program in 2003 after its immediate enemy, Saddam Hussein's Iraq, was removed. It was reported just days ago that Israel's own intelligence services concurs with the U.S. intelligence assessment:
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.
The Israeli view is that while Iran continues to improve its nuclear capabilities, it has not yet decided whether to translate these capabilities into a nuclear weapon - or, more specifically, a nuclear warhead mounted atop a missile. Nor is it clear when Iran might make such a decision.
Iran, as a member of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty has the "inalienable right" to "nuclear capabilities":
Article IV 1. Nothing in this Treaty shall be interpreted as affecting the inalienable right of all the Parties to the Treaty to develop research, production and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes without discrimination ..
Israeli and U.S. intelligence services know that Iran has a civil nuclear program because Iran is very open about it and the IAEA is continuously monitoring that program. In all its 23 reports about Iran's nuclear program the IAEA has confirmed the non-diversion of declared nuclear material in Iran. Iran's program is not in violation of any international law.
When the intelligence agencies talk about Iran's "nuclear capabilities" they mean its civil nuclear program. The intelligence agencies have also asserted that Iran has no nuclear weapons program and that Iran has made no decision to initiate one.
Iran is unlikely to ever create a nuclear weapons program as it would contradict its religious position:
The Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued the Fatwa that the production, stockpiling and use of nuclear weapons are forbidden under Islam and that the Islamic Republic of Iran shall never acquire these weapons.
So how can Kersher say Iran "is working to develop a weapons program" when the intelligence agencies say that Iran has not even taken a decision towards a nuclear program and when Iran's leaders have declared that such a program would be against their core religious believes?
What is her assertion but obfuscation and stupid propaganda? There is none.
The NYT public editor Arthur S. Brisbane can be reached as firstname.lastname@example.org. Please let him know your opinion about Kershner's new propaganda line.
Open Thread 2012/02
News & views ...
Green On Blue Fratricide In Afghanistan
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Friday that France is suspending its training programs for Afghan troops after the killings, which he announced in a speech after the U.S.-led coalition said an Afghan soldier shot and killed four NATO troops.
Sarkozy said it was "unacceptable" that Afghan troops would attack French soldiers.
Stopping all personal cooperation will be, of course, not a solution to the "unacceptable" problem.
The real number of such green on blue incidents is kept secret:
Military commanders in Afghanistan have stopped making public the number of allied troops killed by Afghan soldiers and police, a measure of the trustworthiness of a force that is to take over security from U.S.-led forces.
Since 2005, more than 50 troops had been killed and 48 wounded by Afghan troops, according to data released before the policy changed and USA Today research. In 2011, Afghan troops killed at least 13 ISAF troops.
The Times quotes from an unpublished report which says:
“Lethal altercations are clearly not rare or isolated; they reflect a rapidly growing systemic homicide threat (a magnitude of which may be unprecedented between ‘allies’ in modern military history).”
The superficial reasons why this happening:
“The sense of hatred is growing rapidly,” said an Afghan Army colonel. He described his troops as “thieves, liars and drug addicts,” but also said that the Americans were “rude, arrogant bullies who use foul language.”
The real reason will be deeper. While there is certainly also racism and jealousy involved, I would expect that the sheer value put on a soldier, the money that is spend on their quarters, their equipment and their pay is so vastly different that it creates deep animosities. With an Afghan soldier objectively valued less than a foreigner the foreign soldiers will perceive them as lower class and behave with arrogance towards them while the Afghan soldier will see the situation as degrading. This is thereby a class problem.
According to the Times report special operation soldiers have less green on blue incidents. The Times ascribes that to their culture and language training. That may partly be the reason but what is probably more important is that special operations soldiers tend to live a less pampered life than the regular ones and are willing and often will live with the native soldiers they are cooperating with under the same condition than those have.
Sarkozy's solution is to stop all cooperation. A real solution, besides of course leaving, might be to do away with the luxuries the foreign soldiers enjoy and make them live their time in Afghanistan just as the Afghans live.
U.S. Is Not Serious With Iran Negotiations
The proposed new negotiations with Iran about its nuclear program seem to be just a sham. The likely goal behind them is still regime change. The negotion position the U.S. wants to set are unacceptable for Iran. Laura Rozen reports on the "expectations" the U.S. is said to have for these talks:
American non-proliferation officials and diplomats have prepared a so-called "confidence building measure" for Iran to accept as an outcome of the next round of talks. Western governments see Iran's reception of the measure as a key test of whether further negotiations would be productive--or if Iran is even capable of making a decision.
Two Washington Iran analysts described the draft U.S. confidence building measure to Yahoo News last week, as they understood it from conversations earlier this month with its principal author, State Department non-proliferation expert and Iran sanctions czar Robert Einhorn. Under the proposed measure, which the U.S. has been presenting to its P5+1 partners, Iran would agree to halt enriching uranium to 20 percent, and turn over its existing stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium. In exchange, western countries would agree not to pass another UN Security Council Resolution sanctioning Iran.
Western diplomats and analysts stress the importance Washington and its allies have placed on Iran's acceptance of the trust-building measure.
If trues and these "two Washington Iran analysts" are not simply lying this position is ludicrous. There is likely no way the U.S. could get another UN security council resolution on Iran. After its "western" members broke the resolution on Libya neither Russia nor China are in any mood to allow for another conflict.
So the U.S. is telling Iran to hand over its 20% enriched Uranium for what? Continued unilateral sanctions against its oil-exports and more killing of its scientist?
How could any Iranian politician explain such a deal to his people? Iran and its people have endured sanctions for making the 20% Uranium for the production of medicine. No one suggesting to give that up for nothing would have a chance for political survival.
These "conditions" are just an arrogant demand that Iran should surrender. It will of course not do so which will then increase the more and more fashionable demands in Washington for unilateral "regime change" by force.
Iran is less than a year away from being unstoppable in its goal of producing a nuclear weapon, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said in an interview with CNN released on Saturday.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak said on Wednesday that Israel was "very far off" from a decision about an attack on Iran over its nuclear program.
The intelligence assessment Israeli officials will present later this week to Dempsey indicates that Iran has not yet decided whether to make a nuclear bomb.
I have yet to understand what has led to this change of mind. Any ideas?
Saudi(?)-Israeli(?) Amateur Cyber Attacks
Hackers shut down both the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) and El Al’s respective websites on Monday, one day after a hacker network threatened to carry out attacks on both sites.
The network, which goes by the name “nightmare group,” was able to cause severe problems for both sites. By 10 A.M., TASE's website was only partially functioning, while El Al’s website did not function at all.
Israeli hackers brought down the websites of both the Saudi Stock Exchange (Tadawul) and the Abu Dhabi Securities Exchange (ADX) Monday, in the latest episode of a continuing cyber war between hackers in the two countries.
The Israeli hackers, who go by the name IDF-Team, were able to paralyze the Tadawul website, while causing significant delays to the ADX exchange site.
In the immediate future we will see more such reports.
This is not cyberwarefare but amateur stuff. Just simple syn flooding with freeware tools. Simple denial of service (DoS) attacks which can be defended against by syn cookies and various other measures any system administrator worth a good pay will know.
Despite the headlines it is usually technically impossible to say where the attacks are coming from. A lot of "false flag" action is used in such incidents.
The Internet is designed as a error tolerant but collaborative system. Partisan amateur attempts can't really hurt it. But when collaboration between the professionals running it breaks down and the domain name system or the big router traffic protocols like BGP get messed with, the Internet and those depending on its usage, will be in real trouble.
It is quite interesting that within the global war the U.S. now wages the side more dependent on the Internet and thereby more vulnerable is the "western" one. Given that there are serious asymmetric warfare possibilities in messing with the net the "west" should be careful to not set precedences in that realm.
The above includes four Wikipedia links. Wikipedia will shut down tomorrow to protest against the pending SOPA/PIPA regulation in Congress which would mess up the collaborative professional Internet management you depend on to read this. If you "want the Internet to remain free and open, everywhere, for everyone" you need to take action against such legislative measures.
The Guardian's frontpage layout today is a bit awkward.
Or is this the famous British humour?
Qatar Emir Call For Troops In Syria Is Two Month Old
NATO denies military intervention plans in Syria, January 13 2012
"At present, there is no discussion at all of a NATO role with respect to Syria," NATO spokeswoman Carmen Romero told Xinhua by phone.
Haven't we seen such before? Oh, yeah:
NATO has no plans to intervene in Libya: Rasmussen, February 24 2011
"I would like to stress that NATO has no plans to intervene and we have not received any request," Rasmussen said after talks with Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych.
We documented the Rassmussen/NATO headlines which followed after the one above.
But there is another more curious headline that ran yesterday: Emir of Qatar calls for Arab troops in Syria
The Emir of Qatar says that Arab troops should be sent to Syria to stop a deadly crackdown that has claimed the lives of thousands of people in the past ten month.
Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani's comments to CBS "60 Minutes", which will be aired Sunday, are the first statements by an Arab leader calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.
That dictator emir was also the one who pressed arranged for the Arab League to invite NATO to attack Libya.
But what is really curious here (and what only Qatar's AlJazeera(!) reports) is that the CBS interview is old:
In an interview due to be aired on Sunday with US broadcaster CBS for the news programme 60 Minutes, Sheikh Hamad was asked if he was in favour of Arab nations intervening, to which he replied: "For such a situation to stop the killing ... some troops should go to stop the killing."
The interview was recorded in mid-November.
Why and on who's request did CBS hold back this interview for two month?
Were the preparations not yet finished for the NATO intervention in Syria? Was some additional time needed to make the Arab League observer mission fail to convince other Arab states to agree to the next war phase?
The interview was given after Syria in early November agreed to an Arab league cease fire plan which the rebels immediately rejected. "Western" news by now is always forgetting that last point. Despite continuing attacks from the opposition the Syrian government has largely followed the agreement, pulled back tanks, released prisoners and is implementing reforms. The observer mission was agreed to on December 19. Unless renewed it will run out in five days.
But it seems that all along the plan was not to allow for a peaceful solution for Syria. Why else would the Emir of Qatar, in an interview for the U.S. public, call for troops to attack Syria back in mid November?
Is The "False Flag" Piece A False Flag?
The Mark Perry story False Flag - A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran. is a bit weird.
My first questions were:
Why is this whitewash of the CIA coming out right now, just two days after the assassination of another Iranian engineer?
Why is there no mention at all of JSOC, the U.S. military Joint Special Operations Command forces who are, according to Sy Hersh, operating in Iran? What is their relation to the Israelis?
Why is the U.S. now doing so much to say it has nothing to do with the assassination? Notice that this changed. State Department spokesperson Nuland when asked on January 11 immediately after the event issued no denial at all:
QUESTION: The Iranians have accused Israel and the United States of carrying out this killing. Any truth to that?
MS. NULAND: I don't have any information to share one way or the other on that.
QUESTION: You don’t want to deny killing him?
MS. NULAND: Obviously, we – as I said, we condemn the loss of innocent life.
QUESTION: That’s not a denial as such.
MS. NULAND: I’m not prepared to speak one way or the other. I, frankly --
QUESTION: You didn’t want to deny it.
QUESTION: Would the scientist come under innocent life?
MS. NULAND: Say again?
QUESTION: Would the scientist come under your definition of innocent life?
MS. NULAND: Again, I don't think I have anything further to say on this, that we condemn violence of any kind.
Only later did Hillary Clinton issue a strong direct denial:
“I want to categorically deny any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.”
Yeah, sure. And why this change?
Why are the Israeli pretty much openly claiming that they did it?
Richard Silverstein's "impeccable" Israeli source tells him the Israelis did it. Richard was fed likely false information by the same source on other recent stories. His source confirming something does not make the Israel angle more believable.
There is one issue with the scientists assassinations that cleary does not point to Israel. All these nuclear scientist assassinations were done with magnet bombs and at least the last one even with explosive formed penetrator (EFP) that explode directional into the car without hitting people around it. These bombs are carefully made to prevent collateral damage.
But since when are the Israelis squeamish about collateral damage? I have never seen them care much about such. Usually they are as brutal as possible "to send a message" and if more people die it does not bother them. The U.S. wants regime change in Iran, preferably done by Iranians. It thereby has a motive to create as little collateral damage as possible.
The Iranians first blamed the U.S. and Israel for the killing but now say they have documentary proof that the U.S. was behind the killing:
According to an Iranian statement broadcasted on the Islamic Republic's official TV Channel, Tehran has conclusive evidence that the United States plotted the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan last week.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country has obtained "credible documents that prove the terror attack was planned, supervised and supported by the CIA," adding that he has filed an official complaint with the Swiss Embassy in Iran, which is also handles US affairs in the area.
They may well be right. I for one do not believe a word when the U.S. says it was not behind this.
I do not think that Mark Perry is necessarily wrong. But his story is certainly not saying everything. On an email-list I am on veteran journalist Gareth Porter calls Mark Perry "a very meticulous journalist" who goes to great lengths to get his stories straight. I trust Gareth's judgement but even if Perry believed everything he wrote that does not say that the story is correct.
Marcy Wheeler is curious about the details of the Perry story:
When [Perry] says the Israelis were “flush with American dollars,” does he mean they got the dollars from America, or only that they were–as dollars are in common usage–American? When he notes that the recruitment “occurred under the nose of U.S. intelligence officers,” is that meant to suggest that it did so with their assent?
The ambiguity in Perry’s article is more significant given that, while he describes George Bush “going ballistic” when he was briefed on the op, Perry also provides evidence that at least some at the top officials in Bush’s Administration didn’t seem to care all that much.
Then there are the Leveretts at Race For Iran who point out that the Bush/Obama administrations definitely have run covert operations in Iran:
We know and respect Mark Perry, and we do not question his reporting on his contacts and conversations with current and former U.S. intelligence officials. However, in order to assess U.S. involvement in the ongoing covert war against the Islamic Republic, it is important to put Mark’s story in a wider context. We have written, on multiple occasions, see here, here and here, about America’s dangerous dance with Jundallah and, more broadly, anti-Iranian covert action. That the Obama Administration is now trying to distance itself from some aspects of this dance, by fobbing it off on Israel (to be sure, anything but an innocent party), does not extricate it from its past decisions or current actions.
Back to Mary Wheeler:
Israelis and Americans have long hidden behind each other when working with Iranians, going back at least to the Iran-Contra ops that Dick Cheney had a fondness for. Hiding behind Israelis lets American officials pretend we’re not doing the taboo things we’re doing. Hiding behind Americans lets Iranian partners working with Israelis pretend they aren’t working with the Zionist enemy. That false flag business works in many different directions, after all.
The Mark Perry story may well be right in the detail. I doubt its value in telling something of the bigger picture though. It it does not tell us anything of what the U.S. agencies and military are currently doing in Iran and it certainly should not be used to exculpate the U.S. from the killing of the Iranian scientists.
Iran Inviting IAEA Is Not A Surprise
Just to show a typical type of lie in U.S. reporting on Iran. Iran is always shown as irrational or as reacting to pressure when that is only very, very rarely the case - if at all.
Jay Salomon writes in today's Wall Street Journal: Iran to Let In U.N. Atomic Inspectors
WASHINGTON—Iran agreed to host a high-level team of United Nation's nuclear inspectors later this month, Western diplomats said, a surprise development that could help to curb building tensions with the West.
The diplomats on Thursday said Iran had tentatively agreed to receive a delegation from the United Nation's International Atomic Energy Agency headed by the agency's chief weapons inspector, Herman Nackaerts. The diplomats, who are based in Vienna, said the visit was tentatively set for Jan. 28.
Now compare those bold sections to the reality published three weeks ago:
TEHRAN, Dec. 21 (Xinhua) -- Iran's permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Ali-Asghar Soltanieh said that the Islamic Republic has invited IAEA inspectors to visit the country's nuclear establishments, the local satellite Press TV reported on Wednesday.
Oh, you do not like Xinhua quoting PressTV? How about AFP on Dec 20:
Iran has invited the UN atomic watchdog to visit the country, but it is unclear whether inspectors would have access to sites where covert nuclear weapons activity is suspected, Western diplomats said Tuesday.
The United States welcomed the fact that the IAEA had been invited back, ...
So this three weeks old news is certainly not a "surprise development" nor is it just "tentatively agreed". It was an official invitation by Iran that was, as it should be, accepted by the IAEA. Salomon is trying to spread propaganda by peddling old news as "surprise". Typically - liberal interventionists, like Paul Woodward, fall for it.
Open Thread - 2012/01
News & views ...
The Israel Lobby's Plan: Press Iran Into Attacking USrael
Laura Rozen reports on the state of talks between the U.S. and Iran: Amid rising tensions, preparations for possible new Iran nuclear talks.
Those talks will of course lead to nothing. Iran's nuclear program is not the real reason why the Israel is pressing the United States into a conflict with Iran. From the very beginning the aim was regime change in Iran to keep up and reenforce Israel hegemony in the Middle East.
The next phase of the plan, which began with the unilateral sanctions Congress, "bought and paid by the Israel lobby" (© Tom Friedman) set up against Iran, is to incite the country into attacking the United States or Israel.
The Rozen piece quotes Patrick Clawson from the Israel Lobby's Washington Institute for Near East Policy:
"I think it's heading towards confrontation," Clawson said. "The whole point from the beginning is if we put pressure on the regime, the Iranians will crack at some point."
So far, at least, there's little sign the strategy is yielding the desired result. The Iranians have to date responded to the prospect of the tightened financial sanctions on the country's oil sector with an announcement of the launching of operations at the fortified, underground Fordo nuclear enrichment facility--together with sporadic threats to close the Strait of Hormuz. "The Iranians are screaming and yelling and upset and threatening," Clawson said.
So why isn't that a sign that the U.S. strategy is failing?
"It's a lot better to have a fight" that Iran provokes, Clawson replied, before adding: "Better to enter World War II after Pearl Harbor, and World War I after the sinking of the Lusitania."
Clawson does not mind to see Americans die for Israel's gains. Pearl Harbout, sinkung the Lusitania, what is not like with that?
Clawsen is director of the Iran Security Initiative at WINEP. He is in charge of the lobby's plans towards Iran. When he says the current running strategy isn't failing, but is intended to incite Iran to shot first, that likely is the plan.
But I doubt that Iran will fall for it. So far it has reacted very restrained to the secret war the U.S. and Israel are running against it. If pressure increases, it is much more likely to start an indirect secret proxy campaign, while keeping plausible deniability, of its own. One target set might be oil infrastructure on the western coast of the Persian Gulf, another one Israeli scientist and military traveling in foreign countries.
Blinded by their superiority complex Clawsen and the like fail to see that two can play the game.
Haaretz Reporting On Racism With Racist Picture
using this picture of an Ethiopian immigrant in this context is racism. It amplifies prejudices.
Blowback - When A Drone Attack May Justify A Coup
After six quiet weeks the U.S. yesterday again fired a drone on alleged "militants" in Pakistan.
This will have serious consequences in Pakistan. As former Reuters South Asia correspondent Myra MacDonald opines:
Perhaps the most accurate definition of the drone war which has been fought over the tribal areas of Pakistan would be this - making the same mistake over and over and expecting a different outcome.
The outcome is higher anti-American sentiment in Pakistan which will necessitate that both the government and the military will have to take stronger anti-American positions even if some within them might have agreed to the drone strike as, two days ago, a piece in the Express Tribune let one assume.
The drone attack comes at a moment where the Pakistani government, the military and the Supreme Court are at each others throat.
Two conflicts have build up over the memogate and corruption amnesty cases. In a interview with the Chinese People's Daily Prime Minister Gilani accused the head of the army Kayani and the head of its spy service ISI Pascha of illegal behavior. Both had given testimony to the Supreme Court without the approval of the government. Kayani was in China when Gilani gave the interview to the Chinese press.
Through its public relation arm the ISI rejected the accusations and warned the government of "very serious ramifications with potentially grievous consequences for the Country".
In a tit for tat reaction the Gilani government fired the defense secretary, a position different than the defense minister, because of "misconduct" in the memogate case. The defense secretary was a retired General and represented the voice of the military in the government. The government now gave his position to the a female civilian secretary of the cabinet Nargis Sethi.
Now the army chief convened the corps commanders for an emergency meeting. While the military earlier rejected any talk of a coup against the government the meeting may well end with a decision to remove the government. Kayani also changed the commander of the 111 Infantry Brigade, which has been used in previous coups.
On top of this comes a pending Supreme Court decision about a contempt of court case against the prime minister who does not want to follow a court order to reopen corruption cases against president Zardari and others. The court is threatening to remove him over the issue.
As the editors of Dawn remark:
Any of the three institutions the government, the superior judiciary and the army being on the warpath does not bode well for national stability.
All three are now on the warpath against each other and adding the renewal of drone strikes at such a precarious moment for the Pakistani state is not only highly irresponsible but may well create serious blowback.
It opens the convenient possibility that whatever happens in Pakistan now, coup or not, can be used by either side to plausibly blame, at least for average Pakistanis, the Americans and their drone attacks.
WaPo Censors Iran Sanctions' Regime Change Intent
The censors at the Washington Post missed the truth slipping through in one piece today and had to correct it.
The current version of a DeYoung/Wilson piece on Iran sanctions is headlined: Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says. It starts with an editorial remark:
An earlier version of this article incorrectly reported that a U.S. intelligence official had described regime collapse as a goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran. An updated version clarifies the official’s remarks.
Below we document the current text and the original version as published earlier today and for now still available through a cache. It was headlined: Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official says
That headline is also still in the URL of the current version of the piece: http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/goal-of-iran-sanctions-is-regime-collapse-us-official-says/2012/01/10/gIQA0KJsoP_story.html
A tweet by Foreign Policy (owned by WaPo) editor Blake Hounshell (@blakehounshell) pointed out that there was an intermediate third version of the piece which, unfortunately, I can not find anymore.
WaPo changed the first headline to "Goal of Iran sanctions is to get nation to abandon alleged nuclear program, U.S. official says" ht @shashj
Shashank Joshi (@shashj) then found:
This is such a joke. WaPo revises the headline *again* to "Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says" washingtonpost.com/world/national…
The original version is on the left, the current - at least twice corrected one - on the right:
|Goal of Iran sanctions is regime collapse, U.S. official says||Public ire one goal of Iran sanctions, U.S. official says|
The goal of U.S. and other sanctions against Iran is regime collapse, a senior U.S. intelligence official said, offering the clearest indication yet that the Obama administration is at least as intent on unseating Iran’s government as it is on engaging with it.
The Obama administration sees economic sanctions against Iran as building public discontent that will help compel the government to abandon an alleged nuclear weapons program, according to a senior U.S. intelligence official.
Laura Rozen (@lrozen) tweeded her take on this:
Hmm. Wld guess senior intel official demanded revision of his remarks, not that 1st version wrong #Iran regime collapse http://wapo.st/zkScJ0
Like Laura's my thought is that some urgent calls were made from officials to the editors at the Washington Post to disguise the real aim of the sanctions, regime change, that was clearly expressed in their quotes in the first version of the piece.
Neocon Israel Mouthpiece Writes Syrian Opposition Intervention Paper
"The mask has fallen off these faces," [Syrian President Bashar al-Assad] said. "No wise person denies these international conspiracies that (are) being done in order to spread fear inside. But this time, it was done with people from inside."
Bashar al-Asad is right. There are international conspiracies to take him down.
This is for example obvious when the expatriate Syrian National Council uses a policy papers arguing for military intervention in Syria that was written by a neocon and Israel supporter and paid for by the U.S. State Department. To further the military intervention the paper is defended by doing away with the local protesters in Syria who oppose any intervention.
Michael Weiss is Director of Communications and Public Relations for the Henry Jackson Society, a British neocon organization which patrons include the U.S. neocons Richard Perle, William Kristol and James Woolsey. He also has a blog at the Telegraph website.
Michael Weiss is also executive director of Just Journalism a "pressure group whose stated goals are to focus "on how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media." Critics characterize Just Journalism as a "privately-funded mouthpiece for Israel". Until the end of 2009 Weiss published a blog for the Jewish magazine Tablet.
Recently Weiss wrote a policy paper Safe Area for Syria - An Assessment of Legality, Logistics and Hazards (pdf) which is an amateur attempt (Weiss is, as far as can find out, neither a lawyer nor does he seem to have military experience) to write a playbook for military intervention in Syria:
In the interest of assessing all suggested options for hastening the end of a totalitarian dictatorship and/or averting a mass humanitarian catastrophe, this paper examines the way in which foreign military intervention could work for Syria.
The paper was written for the Strategic Research & Communication Centre, a somewhat mysterious organization in Britain that claims to offer "Informed insight on Syria", founded in 2010 and run by the Syrian expat Ausama Monajed who "previously served as the director of Barada Television". As is known from Wikileaks cables:
Barada TV is closely affiliated with the Movement for Justice and Development, a London-based network of Syrian exiles. Classified U.S. diplomatic cables show that the State Department has funneled as much as $6 million to the group since 2006 to operate the satellite channel and finance other activities inside Syria.
We can safely assume that Ausama Monajed, who's current organization does not reveal its funding sources, is still on that indirect U.S. State Department payroll.
The paper Weiss wrote to argue for military intervention is endorsed as a Special Report by the expat Syrian National Council on its slick new website.
In a recent Foreign Affairs piece Weiss again argues for military intervention in Syria but sees a more united opposition as a requirement toward that. He achives that more united opposition by simply doing away with those parts of the opposition that are against intervention.
His way to do so is seemingly to promote the interventionist expat Syrian National Council (SNC) while denigrating the non-interventionist on-the-ground protesters in Syria who are organized in the National Coordination Body for Democratic Change:
Making matters worse, in the last two weeks, the SNC has further embarrassed itself by sending mixed messages about its real intentions. First, the group said that it was in favor of foreign military intervention. But on December 30, 2011, reports swirled that Ghalioun and a handful of senior SNC figures had inked a unity agreement with the anti-interventionist National Coordination Body for Democratic Change, a domestic opposition group that activists suspect is a cover organization pushing reconciliation with Assad’s regime.
The local Syrian protesters who do not want outside military intervention are now a "cover organization pushing reconciliation". Cover for whom? How dare the protesters in Syria to want a peaceful solution and have a "cover" for that!
Two high-ranking members of the SNC, Ausama Monajed and Radwan Ziadeh, told me that the council rejected the text of the agreement, which they claimed was only a "draft." Sure enough, a few days later, the SNC launched its official Web site that, drawing on a blueprint I prepared, called for outside forces to establish a safe zone in Syria. This more aggressive call for foreign military intervention reflects a need to hang on to support from the protesters, who now often denounce the regime and the SNC in the same breath.
Weiss then does away with the split between the expatriate regime-change-by-force militants and local Syrian protesters who want peaceful solutions by simply vanishing the later:
Nevertheless, there are signs of progress. Now that the SNC has endorsed foreign intervention, bringing it in line with what all factions of the Syrian insurgency have advocated for months, there is a greater likelihood that the various political and military arms of the opposition will unite, if only out of their shared desperation over the unabated carnage.
See, that nasty "cover organization pushing reconciliation" that represents the real protesters in Syria is now simply done away with.
The neocon org's communications director and excecutive director of a "mouthpiece for Israel" Michael Weiss writes a paper to further military intervention in Syria for a U.S. State Department funded expat Syrian think tank which then gets adopted by the expat militant Syrian National Council.
Weiss then takes to the pages of Foreign Affairs where he excommunicates the anti-intervention local Syrian protesters as "cover organization pushing reconciliation" to then claim that military intervention is endorsed by all factions involved in the Syrian protests.
Assad says that there are "international conspiracies" driving the violence to overthrow the Syrian government by force. He is right. The neocons and zionist are out to take him down by military forces against the will of the Syrian people including that of the protesters.
Sanctions On Iran - Economic Pain For The "West"
In mid December I called the new "western" sanctions on Iran a self inflicted wound:
In total the markets will be more nervous and the risk premium included in oil prices will go up. Iran and the other Persian Gulf countries will make more money. Everyone else will have to pay more for oil with the price increase for the "west" likely much higher than for the "east". This while the "west" is in economic trouble and the "east" is still expanding.
It will be the most stupid self inflicted wound world policy has seen for a while.
Since then the price of oil has increased from some $104 per barrel Brent crude to $113/bbl today. Considering that in 2006, with most economies humming, Brent was around $70 and that unlike then major economies are now still in recession the price hike is enormous. Iran is clearly showing that it too can play the economic sanctions game. Since mid December it increased its oil export income by $22.5 million per day which further damages "western" economies.
That may well be the reason why U.S. defense secretary Panetta in yesterdays TV interview somewhat played down the Iran case and moved the U.S. "red line", which once was "enrichment", to actual nuclear weapons:
Are they trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us. And our red line to Iran is do not develop a nuclear weapon. That's a red line for us.
We can be sure that Iran will not cross that red line. It has said all along that it does not want a nuclear weapon and there is no reason to suspect that this will change.
But if only nuclear weapons are the red line, why is the administration still preparing more sanctions?
Unofficial administration spokesman David Ignatius reveals the plans for the 2012 foreign policy:
As for the Iranians, they seem for the first time in years to be genuinely nervous — not because of U.S. or Israeli saber-rattling but because economic sanctions are causing a run on their currency and the beginnings of a financial panic in Tehran. And more sanctions are on the way this year. At some point, the Iranian regime will actually be in jeopardy — and it will punch back. That’s the scenario the White House must think through carefully with its allies. If the current course continues, a collision with Iran is ahead.
The recent rapid devaluation of the Iranian currency, the Rial, is not a success of the sanctions. The slump has other long term economic reasons and, as Prof. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani explains, was "largely expected and welcomed by economists". It will help the Iranian industry to increase its non-oil exports and will make unwelcome cheap imports from China and elsewhere more expensive thereby helping the local Iranian industry and increase employment in Iran.
More sanction means more pain for "western" economies. As it has already shown with its recent maneuver Iran can easily inflict such pain. One does not even have to consider a full closure of the Strait of Hormuz and the economic panic and military consequences (pdf, 38 pgs) that would cause. An explosion on a pipeline in Iraq, a mishap in a Saudi refinery or one lone old mine in the Straits of Hormuz damaging an empty (even Iranian?) old tanker would be enough to push oil prices to even higher levels. Just as the U.S. uses clandestine methods, the killing of scientists and cyber attacks, to inflict damage on Iran, Iran can, if it wants to, use such methods to increase the price of oil without leaving its fingerprints.
There is also much less unity in applying these sanctions than the U.S. wants to acknowledge. The French foreign minister tried a fait accompli when he announced that the EU had agreed "in principle" to similar oil sanctions and central bank on Iran as the U.S. has enacted. It had not and is unlikely to do so:
The three biggest EU importers have serious debt problems. Greece imports a quarter of its oil from Iran, Italy about 13 percent and Spain nearly 10 percent.
Other aspects of the prospective embargo are being discussed and a final decision is unlikely to be quick, diplomats said. Some EU capitals are suggesting the impact of sanctions be reviewed after a fixed period, with the possibility of suspending them if they prove ineffective.
Some capitals have raised concerns, they said, that sanctions on the central bank would harm the chances of getting Tehran to negotiate over its nuclear work.
I expect that any further EU sanctions on Iran to be rather superficial and easily circumvented.
That is good because the "western" sanctions are not only creating self inflicted damage, they may even be counterproductive in that they leave no way out for Iran and may raise the incentive for Iran to eventually build a nuclear weapon.
That "more sanctions are on the way" from the U.S. side, as Ignatius asserts, must then have other reasons than Iran's nuclear program. There they do not make sense. But we have know that for quite a while. The U.S. sanctions are designed to lead to regime change in Iran. They will not achieve that. Within Iran they will united the people and the Iranian leadership. Iran is also smart enough to not provoke an open war that could endanger the regime. At the same time the U.S. can not start a war on Iran without inflicting catastrophic damage on the world economy.
So what do I expect will happen?
More sanctions may well come. But they will hurt "western" economies more than Iran. They will be responded to by Iran tit for tat with ever increasing oil prices. Iran has already announced more maritime maneuvers in the Strait of Hormuz. When those and the accompanying propaganda have passed the price of Brent crude may well be at $120/bbl and the U.S. economy on its way into another downturn.
MSNBC Fabricates A "Top Syrian General" - Antiwar Promotes The Story
MSNBC writers promotes a colonel of the Syrian army into "a top Syrian general".
BEIRUT — As Arab League monitors prepared a report on Syria's compliance with its agreement to halt violence against protesters, a senior general reportedly said on live TV he was defecting from the regime's army with up to 50 of his soldiers.
Colonel Afeef Mahmoud Suleiman made the announcement live on Al-Jazeera's Arabic News channel on Saturday, the news organization reported.
Al-Jazeera reported that Suleiman was in the air force logistics division.
There is nothing in the AlJazeerah report that says anything about a general officer. There is only an alleged colonel. No agency reprorted the defection of a general. MSNBC made that up. In all modern military the rank of a colonel is below the lowest general officer rank. The AlJazeerah video shows the "colonel" together with 14 armed men in quite untidy mixed camouflage. At least two of those wear trainers, not military boots. We can not be sure that they are soldiers at all.
But lets assume that colonel is real. Applying the usual quotas the 600,000+ strong Syrian military will have some 500-600 officers in the rank of a colonel. One of them deserting, especially from a rather irrelevant air force logistic job, is not a sign of those forces weakening.
But why is the supposedly reality based MSNBC making this colonel into a "top general" contradicted one paragraph later in its own piece? Do they believe their readers will not notice such falsehood? Such obvious propaganda is usually reserved to British tabloids.
And why is Justin Raimondo's supposedly honest antiwar.com site featuring this nonsense?
Rescued Iranian Fishermen - How Comes The Times Is Involved?
So a carrier group from the U.S. Navy rescues some Iranian fishermen who were captured by Somali pirates ...
And just by chance the New York Times' very best war reporter, former marine captain C.J Chivers and his photographer side kick Tyler Hicks, are somehow on board of one of the Navy ships. Their story has the fantastic dateline "ABOARD THE FISHING VESSEL AL MULAHI, in the Gulf of Oman". It gives a detailed reportage of what happened including interviews with the Iranian captain and some pirates.
It is well written, as usual by Chivers, but there is something missing in his piece. Why is he where he is?
When was he send to that carrier in the Arabian Sea? That carrier went through the street of Hormuz only three days ago. Chivers being there was just by chance? His reporting with a teaser today and the main fill on tomorrow's NYT weekend edition page 1 is just by chance? He just got lucky?
Sure. Those Iraq WMD stories in the NY Times were also just by chance? They also by chance always came in the weekend edition? Judith Miller was just lucky that she picked them up?
The real questions: How long ago was this propaganda show planed? Who set it up? And how much of it was real?
And what will the Times have to pay back for getting this propaganda coup scoop handed to it by the Navy?
Free Syrian Army Blows Up People And U.S. Plans
Those peaceful Syrian revolutionaries ...
The Free Syrian Army plans to kick off "huge operations" this week against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, the force's commander, Col. Riad al-Assad, said Wednesday.
A suicide bomber killed 26 people and wounded 63 in Damascus Friday, Syria's interior minister said ..
The blast came two days before an Arab League committee was due to discuss an initial report of Arab observers who are checking Syria's compliance with an Arab plan to halt President Bashar al-Assad's crackdown on nearly 10 months of unrest.
Those observers will probably report that the Syrian government is not totally complying with the government. It seemed that the U.S. and other anti-Syrian entities did not wanted the observers to say anything about the compliance and the violence from the other side. The plan was to solely damn the Syrian government and to push the Arab League to call for NATO intervention.
Col. Riad al-Assad blew that plan up. Yesterday his folks announced the exact place of the "huge operation" in comments on the AlJazeera website. He proved the Syrian government is right in its assessment that the Free Syrian Army and its followers are just another terrorist group. It will be hard to argue for intervention when it is so obvious that the major violence is not from the government's side.
Losing The Perception War Over Bagram/Parwan Prison
After Karzai proved that his U.S. overlords do not care about the Afghan government as they ignore his repeated calls to stop night raid, the Afghan president seems to want to repeat that by point again asking for Afghan authority over Afghan prisons and prisoners:
President Hamid Karzai abruptly demanded on Thursday that the American-led coalition hand over all Afghan prisoners in its custody and cede control of its main prison in Afghanistan within a month. He said that his government had evidence that Afghan law and prisoners’ human rights were being violated at the prison.
The demand stunned the coalition leaders, who were not consulted before the announcement, according to American and European officials in Kabul.
So Karzai "abruptly demanded" and officials were "stunned". The report is by the New York Times so no one here will be astonished that that is wrong. There is nothing "abruptly" in Karzai's request and therefore no reason to be "stunned".
Jan 9, 2010
The Afghan government agreed Saturday on a transition plan to take over responsibility for the U.S.-run prison at the Bagram air base following criticism of human rights abuses at the facility. U.S. and Afghan officials said the handover could occur by the end of the year.
The U.S. military welcomed the memorandum of understanding signed by senior Afghan officials on Saturday, saying the facility could be handed over to Afghan control by the end of the year.
June 10, 2010
A year ago we were in the detention business and we really didn't have a plan for transitioning that to the Afghans. Today the deputy commander of our Joint Task Force 435 is an Afghan officer, and we're on track to hand over all detention operations at the defense -- or the detention facility in Parwan to Afghans in January 2011. That will constitute all our detention operations.
July 26, 2010
The top commander in Afghanistan met with senior officials from Afghanistan and the United States here July 24 to discuss the transition of detention operations in this country including the Detention Facility in Parwan.
“We are all determined to move forward on this effort and continue the important work necessary to enable its transition in accordance with President Karzai’s direction of its transition over to Afghan control,” said Petraeus, who assumed command of ISAF earlier this month.
But despite the Afghan demand and U.S. promises of hand-over nothing happened. Then, in August 2011, the U.S. unilaterally changed its mind: US to delay Afghan prison handover
The US will remain in control of Afghanistan’s highest-profile prison well beyond January 2012, missing a milestone in the plan to transfer judicial and detention operations to Afghans, US military officials say.
US officials decided that the Afghan legal system was too weak to permit the handover of the Parwan detention centre, even after the US spent millions attempting to improve the country’s judiciary.
The Afghan's were pissed:
News that the country’s largest prison will remain in American hands until at least 2014 has been bitterly received by some.
“This is our country. We have our own laws. The process at Parwan should be an Afghan process,” said Fareed Ahmad Najeebi, the justice ministry’s spokesman. “We might have some technical problems with our penal code, but we’re ready to take over judicial and detention operations.”
Afghanistan never agreed to the U.S. plan of keeping control and demanded that the original memorandums were followed.
Afghans in U.S. detention is one of the best point the Taliban can make when arguing for their side. What honest Afghan can allow that foreigners, known for prison torture and abuses, imprison his kin?
That Karzai is now coming back with this demand is therefore certainly not abrupt. He is only asking for what has been promised for years.
That U.S. officials play "stunned" over this gives the Taliban another good marketing point. "See, Karzai is just a puppet. No one is even listening to him."
The U.S. military likes to talk about "perception management" and "perception warfare". Here it can't handle the first and loses the second.
Who Is This Faris al-Banna?
Joseph Fitsanakus of Intel News writes:
One of Mauridania’s leading daily newspapers, Al-Huriyeh, says that the spy ring, which allegedly consisted “businessmen and activists [from] several Arab nationalities”, was uncovered following the arrest of one of its members, identified as Fares al-Banna. A Jordanian citizen of Palestinian extraction, al-Banna was arrested for larceny, which eventually lead to a warrant issued for searching his premises. Upon searching his house, authorities reportedly found a handwritten letter, addressed to the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates in Mauritanian capital Nouakchott, in which al-Banna claimed had been recruited by Israeli intelligence agency Mossad. In the letter, al-Banna also claimed that he had participated in the January 2010 assassination of Hamas weapons procurer Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. The letter also alleges that al-Banna helped Mossad carry out a bombing of Ethiopian Airlines flight ET409, which blew up in mid-air on January 24, 2010, five minutes after taking off from Beirut’s Rafiq Hariri International Airport, en route to Addis Ababa. Al-Huriyeh reports that al-Banna’s letter suggests the Mossad blew up the plane in order to kill one or more Hezbollah targets who were on board.
There is a minor issue with that report in that the plane did not blew up. According to the Lebanese investigation progress report (pdf) from February 10, 2011 the plane did not "blew up" but ditched into the sea after some very unusual maneuvering.
The [flight] recorders data revealed that ET 409 encountered two stick shakers respectively at time 00:40:01 for a period of 29” and at 00:40:56 for a period of 26”. 10 “Bank Angle” warnings were registered between 00:38:41 and 00:40:54; an over-speed clacker was also registered from time 00:41:25 till the end. The maximum registered AOA was 32° at 00:40:14, maximum registered bank angle was 118° Left at 00:41:14, the maximum registered speed was 407.5 knots at 00:41:28, the maximum registered G load was 4.412 at 00:41:28 and the maximum registered nose down pitch value was 63.1° at 00:41:16.
There is no discernible reasons why the pilots might have made these maneuvers. So this may have been an accident in bad weather, sabotage on the plane or something else. The discussion of the incident at the Professional Pilot Rumor Network is inconclusive.
The plane crashed on 25 January 2010.
Moon of Alabama reader Juan Moment pointed me to three videos one Faris al-Banna uploaded to youtube shortly after the incident on February 14 2010 and February 19 2010.
The first one (53 views as of now) shows photos from two men in an office and then of one man standing in a harbor with probably oil installations in the background. He seems to looks quite similar to the one pictured along the Al-Huriyeh piece.
The second (16 views) just show the relevant man filming himself saying nothing with some Arabic background music. In the third video (32 views) the man talks quite earnestly into the camera in Arabic, then turns up some music, then talks again.
The youtube user Faris al-Banna has no other videos. Only those three he uploaded three weeks after the plane crash in Beirut. We do not know for sure if he is the same Faris al-Banna as the man in the Mauredania spy-case though judging from the newspaper picture it could be him.
Neither Juan nor I understand Arabic and we do not know what the man in the video says. It could be a message to a lover or something else. Maybe on of the readers here knows Arabic and will let us know?
NY Times Again Lies About WMD - Now in Iran
After promoting war on Iraq through false weapons of mass destruction stories the New York Times is promoting war on Iran through false weapons of mass destruction stories.
Here its reporter Steven Erlanger lies about the recent IAEA report on Iran:
The threats from Iran, aimed both at the West and at Israel, combined with a recent assessment by the International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran’s nuclear program has a military objective, is becoming an important issue in the American presidential campaign.
The November 18 IAEA report (pdf) does not say that Iran's program has a military objective.
It quotes from a UN resolution that expressed "concerns about the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear programme", later says it had "identified outstanding issues related to possible military dimensions to Iran’s nuclear programme" and repeats similar language several time. All the outstanding issues the IAEA mentions predate 2003.
Nowhere does the IAEA claim that Iran's nuclear program has a military objective. The New York Times just made that up.
My endorsement of Ron Paul for the purpose of moving the Overton window of political acceptable ideas has generated quite a lot of comments, some of them unusual harsh (and no, I am not thinking of Lizard's comments here).
When discussing presidential elections in the U.S. please keep in mind what Iowa and the other circus shows are about:
The Iowa caucus, let’s face it, marks the beginning of a long, rigidly-controlled, carefully choreographed process that is really designed to do two things: weed out dangerous minority opinions, and award power to the candidate who least offends the public while he goes about his primary job of energetically representing establishment interests.
From that one might argue that taking part in the process is meaningless. But that view is wrong. Those in power have to choose the one "who least offends the public" to stay in power and in that they do have to take the public opinion into account.
If there is a strong turnout for an anti-war candidate it will have some influence. It may not be decisive but it is the only low cost influence a voter has. Use it. And then, if you can, put up a real fight.
Egypt's Fight - The Brotherhood vs. The Military
The Muslim Brotherhood is winning the elections in Egypt. This sets the stage for a huge political fight between the U.S. supported Egyptian military and the people of Egypt.
The brotherhood is against the Egypt-Israel peace treaty and wants to put it up for a referendum. The outcome can not be in doubt.
The U.S. holds secret talks with the military dictatorship to somehow save that agreement. As part of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty Egypt is receiving some $1.3 billion military and economic aid per year. That sum is simply a bribe and the brotherhood is now on the record rejecting such payments:
The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) announced Monday that it will seek an end to US aid to Egypt when parliament is seated in January.
Ahmed Abou Baraka, legal consultant for the FJP, told Al-Masry Al-Youm newspaper that one of the chief goals of his Islamist party which so far has won the majority of seats in the upcoming parliament, is to abolish US aid to Egypt in all its forms, economic and military, because it is used as a means to interfere in Egypt's internal affairs.
Having allowed the election it will be difficult for the U.S. and the military to argue against the demands of the majority. We of course know that U.S. talk about democracy is just that and the pretense only holds as long as the voters in foreign countries vote in the U.S.'s and Israel's interest.
But how will Washington go about it? And will the Egyptian military follow the orders of its bribed high officers when the fight against its people really begins? And what will happen within Egypt when Israel, as it announced, will again bomb and occupy Gaza?
Another attack on Gaza could well be the spoiler for Washington's plans - whatever they are. It is hard to imagine that the Egyptian people and the military would this time just stand by and watch as they had to do under Mubarak's rule. It could well be that in this case, like in Pakistan, U.S./Israeli arrogance would finally end its influence over a foreign power.
Pakistan's Change Marks The End Of The Afghanistan War
Adding a bit to yesterday's post on the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban reuniting.
What we are watching now is a very substantial reconfiguration of the Pakistani role in the Afghanistan conflict.
Having been threatened with being "bombed back to stone age" in 2001 Pakistan helped the United States' operation in Afghanistan. This angered its own Pashtun population which radicalized and started to operate against the Pakistani government. A bloody civil war ensued between the Pashtun in the Federal Administrated Tribal Area on the border with Pakistan and the Pakistani army which cost over 30,000 people their life.
But finally the rather meager payoff the Pakistani government and military received from the U.S. did no longer compensate for the political costs. U.S. arrogance in the Raimund Davis case, in taking out Osama Bin Laden, in the drone war and in demanding ever more Pakistani action against its own people while at the same time blaming Pakistan for every ill in Afghanistan increased the antipathy. The attack on a Pakistani border post was the final straw that broke the camel's back.
Pakistan is now making peace with its own Pashtun who will united with their brethren in Afghanistan and fight the invaders there. It will do without U.S. money which is anyway more and more based on conditions Pakistan can not reasonably fulfill.
Pakistan will allow the U.S. logistic line to be reopened but will heavily tax every load that passes through. This, the overflight rights it continues to provide and its influence on the Taliban will be its leverage in the negotiations over the U.S. retreat from Afghanistan.
Confronted with a Pakistani firm stand the Obama administration had the the good sense to not allow its hardliners to widen the conflict into an all out war against Pakistan.
This is then also the end of the U.S. war on Afghanistan.
The fighting is not over though and will continue while the negotiations are ongoing. That may take several years. The Taliban will not allow for permanent U.S. troop stationing in Afghanistan which is something the U.S. military and the anti-Iran hardliners very much want. Only a continued war of attrition against U.S. troops will make it clear to them that such a position is too expensive to hold.
The Taliban may agree to join the government or to some other conditions that allows the U.S. to save its face while it leaves. What happens after that is up in the air and will largely be decided by the Afghans themselves.
Taliban Reunite For More Afghan Action
While there are rumors of back channel talk between the U.S. and Pakistan to patch up the relationship after the November 26 killing of 26 Pakistani troops by U.S. forces, the situation on the ground is unlikely to ever be the same than before the incident.
The U.S. might in future again be able to route some logistic traffic through Pakistan. A ship with U.S. military load arrived in Karachi today. The costs though will be higher now and it is doubtful that the Pakistani military will ever again allowed it to use drones to kill this or that family in the tribal agencies in "signature strikes" because they "behave like terrorists".
My hunch is that that is the real story behind the reuniting of the Pakistani Taliban with the Afghan Taliban:
On the directive of their supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar, the Afghan and Pakistani Taliban on Sunday formed a joint five-member Shura or council with Pakistani militant organisations, making a pledge to stop their fight against their own armed forces and instead focus their attention against the US-led forces in Afghanistan.
After weeks of hectic efforts, a high-level delegation of the Afghan Taliban, sent by the Taliban supreme leader, finally succeeded in bringing together different Pakistan militant groups on a single platform and make a promise that they would stop fighting the Pakistani security forces and end suicide attacks, kidnappings for ransom and killing of innocent people in the country, particularly in the militancy-hit tribal areas.
Mulla Omar, according to Taliban sources, wanted the Pakistani Taliban groups to focus on Afghanistan, where their fight against the foreign forces was in a decisive phase. "Convey my message to the Pakistani Taliban that you have forgotten the real purpose, which is to fight the invading forces in Afghanistan and liberate it from their occupation," said a Taliban leader quoting Mulla Omar.
I believe that the Pakistani military intelligence service ISI has promised the Pakistani Taliban that the drones will not fly again and that it will stop the Pakistani military fight against the Taliban in Pakistan. That, in my view, would be the concession the Pakistani Taliban will have asked for to end the fight within their country and to re-concentrate on Afghanistan.
If this works out as planned the Afghan Taliban, reinforced with Pakistani fighters and resources, will be able to push for more territorial gain in Afghanistan in 2012 than they achieved last year.
Meanwhile the U.S. embassy in Pakistani is working on another likely fruitless project to fight "extremism" in Pakistan:
The three-person unit in the U.S. Embassy public affairs section was established in July. It plans to work with local partners, including moderate religious leaders, to project their counter-extremist messages and push back against the militants' extensive propaganda machine, said U.S. officials.
It will use TV shows, documentaries, radio programs and posters. It also intends to ramp up exchange programs for religious leaders and public outreach to conservative Muslims who previously had little contact with American officials.
"There are a lot of courageous voices speaking out against extremism here in Pakistan," said Tom Miller, head of public affairs at the U.S. Embassy. "Our job is to find out how we can amplify those narratives."
The unit is just now ramping up operations, said officials. It was funded with an initial budget of $5 million that officials hope will grow. Officials declined to provide details on specific programs they are funding or plan to fund, for fear that publicly acknowledging U.S. involvement would discredit their partners.
The money flow is unlikely to stay secret and the blowback against those "moderates" who are dumb enough to take it will be harsh. The U.S. still fails to see that "extremism" in Pakistani is to a large part a reaction to what the U.S. does in Pakistan and elsewhere and not to what it, or its payed surrogates, say.