Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2012

IAEA: Iranian "Nuclear Danger" Decreased

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) just released its most recent report (GOV/2012/37) on the state of Iran's nuclear program.

As usual this report is used to hype up the "nuclear Iran" scare. The London Times even headlines Iran is stockpiling weapons grade uranium, a new reported finds (sic) which is completely false as even its own report below that headline says:

The Israeli diplomat said that Iran was in the process of doubling its capacity at Fordow to about 1,500 centrifuges, increasing the amount of 20 per cent-enriched uranium it could produce. Uranium enriched to 20 per cent fuels Iran's main research reactor, but it is also just below the level usable in nuclear bombs.
Not only is any Uranium Iran has below weapons grade but, according to the new IAEA report, Iran has today less enriched Uranium that could quickly be converted into a nuclear weapon than it had in May 2012, the time of the IAEA's last report (GOV/2012/23) on the issue.

Critics of Iran's nuclear program are most concerned with the Uranium Iran enriches to a level of 20% U-235 isotope. This enriched Uranium, critics say, could be quickly enriched further to up to 95% and then be used to manufacture a nuclear explosion device.

But enriched Uranium can have several forms. For enrichment natural Uranium is converted into Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and, slightly heated and under pressure, fed as a gas into centrifuges to separate out the U-238 isotopes. This increases the content of U-235 isotopes needed for nuclear reactions. The enrichment product with 20% U-235 is still in the form of UF6 which could be again fed into a centrifuge cascade for even higher enrichment levels.

But UF6 is not usable as nuclear reactor fuel. For reactor use the UF6 has to be converted into Triuranium oxtoxide (U3O8) and from there into Uranium dioxide UO2. These can be formed into fuel elements to be fed into a reactor. Once this is done there is no easy and quick process to convert these fuel elements back into UF6 for further enrichment. Enriched UF6 once converted into U3O8 and UO2 fuel plates is thereby not directly usable for producing bomb grade uranium and of little proliferation concern.

Iran needs fuel elements with 20% enrichment level for the Tehran Research Reactor (TRR) to produce nuclear isotopes for medical purposes.

According to the May 2012 IAEA report Iran had, at that time, enriched 110.1 kg 20% enriched UF6 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) in Natanz and 35.5 kg 20% UF6 in the Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Fordow, of which 25.1 kg had been withdrawn from the enrichment process (para18, para27). Of the total of 145.6 kg 20% UF6 Iran produced 1.6 kg was blended down to various lower enrichment levels for experimental purposes (para19). Of the 144 kg left 43 kg went into the fuel plate fabrication and converted into 14 kg of 20% enriched U3O8 and manufactured into fuel plates (para38). At the time the May 2012 IAEA report was written Iran had stockpiled 101 kg of 20% U-235 enriched UF6.

According to the new August 2012 IAEA report Iran has up to now enriched a total of 124.1 kg 20% enriched UF6 at the Pilot Fuel Enrichment Plant (PFEP) in Natanz and 65.3 kg 20% UF6 Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) in Fordow (Fig2, p12). Of the total of 189.4 kg 20% enriched UF6 1.6 kg was downblended, 96.3 kg was fed into the conversion into fuel plates and in August 2012 only 91.4 kg is stored in Iran as UF6 (Fig4, p13).

Iran has now 10% less "dangerous stuff" in the form of further easily enrichable 20% UF6 than it had in May 2012. Further enriched this stockpile would not be enough by half to create even one nuclear device. The "imminent danger" of a "nuclear Iran" has thereby decreased.

We can reasonably assume that Iran is doing this decrease on purpose and will in future convert any newly produced UF6 into fuel plates. This will keep its stock of UF6 at a level below what is needed to make a quick run towards a nuclear device. 

But as the whole "nuclear Iran" scare has little to do with reality but a lot with U.S. and Israeli desire to subjugate Iran and thereby further their global and regional domination we can not expect to read about this reality in any of the western propaganda media.

Posted by b on August 31, 2012 at 08:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

August 30, 2012

Human Rights Or Civil Rights?

Joseph Massad wrote an interesting column on The 'Arab Spring' and other American seasons.

Besides its relevance for the current U.S. revolutionary enterprise in the Middle East it includes an interesting historic view of distinguishing human rights from civil rights:

The Soviet/US struggle over defining human rights is now the stuff of Cold War history given the US victory in the Cold War, but a brief review is necessary. While the US insisted that having the right to work, to free or universally affordable healthcare, free education, daycare and housing (which the Soviet system granted in the USSR and across Eastern Europe as substantive and not merely as formal rights) are not human rights at all, the Soviets, in the tradition of socialism, insisted they were essential for human life and dignity and that the western enumerating of the rights to free speech, free association, free movement, freedom to form political parties, etc., were "political" and "civil" and not "human" rights, and that in reality in the West, they were at any rate only formal and not substantive rights except for the upper echelons of society and those who owned the media and could access it and who could fund election campaigns, etc.

Moreover the Soviets argued that it was essential for humans to have human rights in order to be able to access civil and political rights in a substantive manner and that granting formal civil and political rights while denying substantive human rights amounted to granting no rights at all.

What the Soviets, according to Massad, viewed as basic human rights was at a time also propagandized in the United States. In his 1941 message to congress U.S. president Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke of the four freedoms:
The four freedoms he outlined were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
Roosevelt's last two "freedoms" can be seen as those the Soviets considered as real "human rights" while Roosevelt's first two "freedoms" are political and thereby "civil rights".

Personally I agree with the Soviet nomenclature.

What is the meaning of the right to vote or to free speech when one is dying of hunger or for lack of medicine? The best is of course to have it all but if, in dire times, you would have to choose which two "freedoms" would you then prefer?

As Massad writes the U.S. is propagandizing its lacking version of "human rights", which only means some civil rights, to prevent people from demanding their real human rights, social justice and economic rights.

The rather genuine revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt were largely carried by people in want of their basic economic human rights, their daily bread. The U.S. democracy propaganda is just a means to paper over those demands and to arrange for regimes that will continue to deny them. In Libya and Syrian, where the basic economic rights were widely, though uneven fulfilled, external instigation and military support was needed to bring those countries in line with U.S. demands: Give them civil rights, Roosevelt's first two "freedoms", but not those other rights that are counter to the neo-liberal ideology and infringe on our profits.

Posted by b on August 30, 2012 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

August 28, 2012

They Make Plans ...

The Orwellian named United States Institute For Peace released the The Day After Project with plans for the time after the Syrian government falls.

Does anyone remember that other quite similar project? How did that turn out?

If the Syrian government falls the new plan, like that other one, will be overwhelmed by the carnage that is sure to follow and which would be bigger with even worse consequences in the region.

Posted by b on August 28, 2012 at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (65)

August 26, 2012

The Myth Of An Isolated Iran

While on the road today I listened to the hourly news broadcast of the German public radio station DLF. The station is available countrywide and the program is usually of very high quality. It is seen as somewhat official.

But one of the news item in today's 6:00 pm broadcast was schizophrenic. Here is my translation of the Germany text:

Summit of non-aligned States opened in Teheran

The summit of the Non-Aligned Movement opened today in the Iranian capital Teheran. More than 40 head of states and head of governments are expected to attend, including the Egyptian president Morsi and Cuba's head of state Castro. The secretary general of the United Nations Ban Ki Moon has also agreed to participate which is seen as diplomatic success for the internationally isolated Iran. The five day long gathering is the biggest international meeting in Iran in more than a decade.

One wonders what the news writer at the DLF was thinking when she wrote that piece. Did it escape her that the country which now leads the NAM, the biggest international political association of states next to the UN, is by definition not isolated? That the attendance of more then 40 head of states plus the UN secretary general and lots of foreign ministers in Tehran proves indeed the opposite of international isolation?

The alleged "international isolation" of Iran is obviously nothing but a western propaganda item and the NAM meeting in Tehran proves this. Still western news media, DLF isn't far from alone in this, repeat this propaganda item even while reporting the facts reveal it as such. Do they really expect that their listeners will not detect such doublethink?

Posted by b on August 26, 2012 at 01:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

Open Thread 2012-22

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 26, 2012 at 03:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

August 24, 2012

Apparently, Liz Sly Can Conclude Without Supporting Facts

Liz Sly writes for the Washington Post on Syria. Her newest piece is headlined Gruesome killings mark escalation of violence in Syrian capital.

It opening graph states:

ANTAKYA, Turkey — Scores of mutilated, bloodied bodies have been found dumped on the streets and on waste ground on the outskirts of Damascus in recent days, apparently the victims of a surge of extrajudicial killings by Syrian security forces seeking to drive rebel fighters out of the capital and its suburbs.
Apparently Antakya in Turkey is just the right place to report on what happens in Damascus, Syria and to conclude who "apperently" kills.

But here are the sources of Sly's reporting:

  • Activists say ...
  • Videos posted online and accounts from residents ...
  • According to the Center for the Documentation of Violations in Syria ...
  • ... activists say
  • ... a graphic video posted on YouTube
  • ... according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights
  • ... Nadim Houry, a researcher at New York-based Human Rights Watch, speaking from Beirut
  • ... according to the opposition Local Coordination Committees
  • ... Activists say
  • ... Tariq Saleh, an activist with the Damascus Revolutionary Leadership Council.
  • ... according to rebel commanders
  • ... Abu Aasi, an activist there with the Local Coordination Committees
  • ... captured on another graphic video

None of Sly's sources is an eyewitness to the killings that apparently took place. None of them is neutral or on the government side.

Her conclusion at the top of her piece that the dead are "apparently the victims of a surge of extrajudicial killings by Syrian security forces" is derived from mixing together various hearsay from her sources and from watching gruel videos of dead people on Youtube.  this while all of Sly's sources have an apparent interest to make the Syrian government look bad

But as Sly herself writes, some of the dead were found "with the throats slit". Is it typical for the Syrian government forces to slit throats? Or is that a more typical way of killing for violent Jihadists of the Al Qaeda type who are known to be fighting on the insurgency's side?

Deep down into the piece Sly also writes:

The details of the killings are impossible to confirm, and activists and human rights groups say they are finding it difficult to verify the circumstances of the grisly deaths being recorded daily on videos posted online.
And:
Shelling and raids by government forces have hindered researchers’ access to the sites where bodies are being found
...
Houry also acknowledged that firsthand accounts of killings are rare.
...
Activists say the latest wave of killings has taken place in residential areas that earlier were under rebel control.
...
And as they withdraw, the killings occur.
So there were Al Qaeda style killings in areas that were held by the rebels and the killings are said to have somehow taken place while the insurgents retreated.

How does this support the conclusion that "apparently the victims of a surge of extrajudicial killings by Syrian security forces"? And what does the Syrian government say about these killings. Apparently Liz Sly was unable to report on that.

To me it seems that these dead people are either the victims of Al Qaeda style killing by the sectarian insurgents or victims of legitimate fighting that occurred while the government forces drove the insurgents out.

Nowhere in the piece do I find any fact that supports the conclusion it is starting with. How is that supposed to be reporting?

Posted by b on August 24, 2012 at 05:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (86)

August 22, 2012

Russia And China Respond to Obama's "Red Line"

While I interpreted Obama's "red line" for attacking Syria -its use of its strategic weapons - as a free pass to the Syrian government to use all disposable means to fight the foreign supported insurgency, Russia and China seem to have a different, or additional, interpretation.

They both seem to allege that this "red line" on the use of chemical weapons is just a trick to justify an open military attack.

The Russian did so in a more diplomatic tone:

Lavrov said at the meeting with [China's State Councillor Dai Bingguo] that Russia and China base their diplomatic cooperation on "the need to strictly adhere to the norms of international law and the principles contained in the U.N. Charter and not to allow their violation".
...
Russia has also expressed concern about Syria's chemical arsenal, saying it had told Damascus that even the threat to use it was unacceptable.

But Lavrov said on Monday that the Security Council alone could authorize the use of external force against Syria, warning against imposing "democracy by bombs".

The Chinese response came through an editorial of its official news agency Xinhua: The tone is quite direct:
Once again, Western powers are digging deep for excuses to intervene militarily in another conflict-torn Middle East country, as U.S. President Barack Obama warned Monday that the use of chemical weapons by Syria's government would change his "calculus."

With the hypocritical talks of eliminating weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and protecting civilians in Libya still ringing in the ears, such "red line" threats seem to have almost become a signal for the United States and some of its Western allies to sharpen their weapons before exercising interventionism.

The Xinhua writer goes on with a general description and critique of "western" foreign policy behavior:
Apart from being ineffective to bring real peace, military interventions by the United States and its Western partners are always interests-driven and highly selective.

It is not difficult to find that, under the disguise of humanitarianism, the United States has always tried to smash governments it considers as threats to its so-called national interests and relentlessly replace them with those that are Washington-friendly.

That easily explains why both Iraq's Saddam Hussein and Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who once worked closely with the United States, were later depicted as brutal dictators with the people's blood dipping through their fingers.

Right now, as conflicts between government troops and rebel forces still rage in Syria, nations around the world should continue to build on the progress that has been achieved by outgoing international envoy Kofi Annan and his team.

Any attempt to scrap the chances for a political settlement and to turn Syria into the next testing ground for Western weapons must be guarded against and ruled out.

It is not often that one hear such truths in official media of big world policy players.

It is obvious now that Russia and China have joined in a general fight to stop the international lawlessness that the "west" got used to after the breakdown of the Soviet Union. Let's hope that they this aim and restore the principles of Westphalia and the UN Charter.

Posted by b on August 22, 2012 at 10:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

August 21, 2012

Obama To Assad - Do Whatever You Need To Do

Yesterday I asked if the specter of an Islamist lead Syrian would stop wholehearted U.S. support for the insurgency.

The answer came just a bit later in an Obama press conference. To a question about Syria's alleged chemical or biological weapons, Obama answered:

“That’s an issue that doesn’t just concern Syria. It concerns our close allies in the region, including Israel. It concerns us,” said Obama. “We cannot have a situation where chemical or biological weapons are falling into the hands of the wrong people.”

He added: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized. That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.”

While the reporting in the U.S. interpret that as a threat of force against Syria the real meaning seems different to me.

Obama's answer is mainly a message to the Turks and to the Syrian government.

The Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu had earlier suggested that Turkey would start to support refugee camps in a safe zone within Syria should the number of refugees in Turkey exceed 100,000. Obama just let him know that the U.S. would not support such a move. His only red line are Syria's strategic weapons. And those only when "a whole bunch" of those are involved. An arbitrary number of refugees in Turkey is not a red line and Turkey would be very alone if it were to act on that:

With the reluctance of European countries and NATO to get the ball rolling, the United States has become the only power on which Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia agree to lead a potential multilateral military campaign.

At this point the unwillingness of Washington to militarily engage in Syria is the most important hurdle before the plans of Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia can be realized.

The Syrian government had already pledged to not use its strategic weapons aginst the insurgency. From its view Obama's answer is a free pass to use all other powers it has against the insurgency. Even massive use of air power, a main military advantage the Syrian government has over the insurgents, is no longer a red line.

The insurgents understood that message:

Obama’s comments were greeted with derision by Syrian activists on the social-networking sites Facebook and Twitter. They accused him of threatening intervention only when Israel was at risk.

One Twitter user compared Obama to Russian President Vladimir Putin, one of the Syrian regime’s few foreign allies: “Both blabber about ‘red lines,’ have kept Assad afloat in blood-soaked power.” Another tweet, from a user called SyriaTime, said the president’s warning so late in the crisis is akin to saying, “Sure, genocide is fine.”

The U.S. is for now mostly out of the game and without the threat of U.S. military involvement Syria is now free to do whatever it takes to shut down the insurgency.

Posted by b on August 21, 2012 at 05:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

August 20, 2012

Will Egypt's Example Give Second Thoughts On Syria?

M K Bhadrakumar in ATOL: Egypt thumbs the nose at US

The gloom in Washington must be deepening. Egypt is careering away from the alliance with the United States - and the bitter truth cannot be hidden or obfuscated anymore.
...
In sum, Morsi's decision to open a line to Beijing and Tehran needs to be weighed against a big backdrop. The Brothers apprehend a US-Israeli plan to destabilize Morsi's government if it doesn't fall in line with Washington's diktat. Therefore, they are looking for ways and means to whittle down the current level of Egypt's over-dependence on the US and its Persian-Gulf allies by diversifying the country's external relationships and adding countervailing partnerships that would help enhance the country's strategic autonomy.

Strategic autonomy in Egypt is something the Israelis fear. Witness the threat against the Brotherhood that Israel's lawyer Dennis Ross issued in today's Washington Post.

If this behavior continues, U.S. support, which will be essential for gaining international economic aid and fostering investment, will not be forthcoming.

Ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood Egypt will not keep in line with policies preferred by the U.S. (and Israel). It is also the Muslim Brotherhood, of the more brutal Syrian variant, that would likely come out at the top should the Assad government in Syria fall.

It is the Muslim Brotherhood, which has been exiled from Syria since the 1980s, which provides the majority of the funding, assistance and weapons, activists and rebels say.

Their goal, it seems, is to monopolize aid in a bid to carve out the lion's share of power, when and if Assad goes.

Just like Egypt ruled by the Muslim Brotherhood a Syria under the rule of the Muslim Brotherhood would unlikely be the willing protectorate the U.S. would like to see there. A weakend, non aggressive Baath government might indeed be preferable to any other outcome.

This now seems to dawn even to the slower minds of the neo-Wilsonian interventionists at Foggy Bottom.

Could this insight then be enough to stop the U.S. assault on Syria?

Posted by b on August 20, 2012 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (39)

August 18, 2012

Criticism Of The Pussy Riot Sentence Stinks Of Hypocrisy

Russian court imprisons Pussy Riot band members on hooliganism charges

Three members of Russian female punk rock band Pussy Riot were sentenced to two years in prison Friday after they were found guilty of hooliganism for performing a song critical of President Vladimir Putin in a church.

France condemns 'disproportionate' Pussy Riot sentence

France condemned the two-year prison sentences meted out to three members of Russian punk band Pussy Riot Friday and said the legal process was not over yet.

"The verdict handed down today appears particularly disproportionate, considering the minor acts they are accused of," said French foreign ministry spokesman Vincent Floreani.

Pro-Pussy Riot demonstrators arrested in Marseille

Demonstrators protesting at Russia’s jailing of punk band Pussy Riot were arrested by police in the southern French city of Marseille for breaking France’s controversial law against face-covering garments.
...
France’s foreign ministry described Pussy Riot’s balaclava-clad performance in a Moscow church as “minor acts” and, like the US, Germany, the UK and several other countries, condemned the verdict as an attack on the freedom of expression.

But protesters in Marseille who donned balaclavas in solidarity with the three young women - Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, Maria Alyokhina and Yekaterina Samutsevich – were rounded up after just 10 minutes outside the Russian consulate in the city, the local paper La Provence reports.

The hypocrisy displayed by western officialdom in the Pussy Riot case stinks to high heaven. All of those governments who condemned the sentence would themselves argue for harsh sentences if a similar act would happen in one of their countries. They are also not, as one can see above, staunch supporters of free speech when that free speech is against their ruling interests.

As for my opinion on the Pussy Riot case. Basic rights include free speech and freedom of religion. Sometimes basic rights collide with each other and a judgement has to be made about the borders between those rights. Freedom of religion includes the freedom to have a religion and the freedom to have places for undisturbed worship.

Here is the unedited version of the Pussy Riot "performance" in the Christ the Saviour's Church in Moscow. Here is the version edited and dubbed by Pussy Riot, the only version western media will show you. Watch and let me know if you find such behavior acceptable.

Abusing places of worship for a "free speech act", especially when that act is subjectively blasphemous to the religion, is an infringement of the right of freedom of religion. In my view such an infringement, as in this case, can not be justified by the right of free speech. There are many other places where the free speech can be made. I therefore find the sentence against Pussy Riot quite obviously justified. The two years, of which five month have already been served, may be a bit harsh. But how many years would some punks get who made a free speech point by (symbolically) shitting on the altar of the National Cathedral in Washington DC?

Posted by b on August 18, 2012 at 09:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

August 17, 2012

Open Thread 2012-21

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 17, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

August 16, 2012

Richard Silverstein Has Been Had - Again

Back in November we discussed an implausible story about an allegedly lost drone and explosions in south Lebanon some secret Israeli "impeccable source" had fed to Richard Silverstein who published it at his blog Tikun Olam.

We concluded:

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.

On August 15 Richard published another rather implausible story under the headline Bibi’s Secret War Plan:

In the past few days, I received an Israeli briefing document outlining Israel’s war plans against Iran. The document was passed to me by a high-level Israeli source who received it from an IDF officer.

Richard translated parts of the "war plan" fed to him:

A barrage of tens of ballistic missiles would be launched from Israel toward Iran. 300km ballistic missiles would be launched from Israeli submarines in the vicinity of the Persian Gulf. The missiles would not be armed with unconventional warheads [WMD], but rather with high-explosive ordnance equipped with reinforced tips designed specially to penetrate hardened targets.

The missiles will strike their targets—some exploding above ground like those striking the nuclear reactor at Arak–which is intended to produce plutonium and tritium—and the nearby heavy water production facility; the nuclear fuel production facilities at Isfahan and facilities for enriching uranium-hexaflouride.

A barrage of hundreds of cruise missiles will pound [Iranian] command and control systems, research and development facilities, and the residences of senior personnel in the nuclear and missile development apparatus. Intelligence gathered over years will be utilized to completely decapitate Iran’s professional and command ranks in these fields.

To anyone with a bit of military knowledge the scenario is totally implausible. Israel simply does not have the capacity to fire "a barrage of hundreds of cruise missiles". Despite that implausibility the BBC picked up on these plans to commit war crimes that Richard Silverstein published:

Richard Silverstein, an American journalist and blogger on Israeli affairs, says he has been given a leaked document which outlines a plan for an Israeli attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

He describes the document as a briefing memo that is being used by Prime Minister Netanyahu to show ministers that an attack on Iran would go "smoothly" and wipe out key infrastructure with a minimum of Israeli casualties.

But it turns out that Richard isn't the first to publish the "briefing memo that is being used by Prime Minister Netanyahu".

That "briefing memo" was published in Hebrew on August 11, four day's before Richard's post, at the Israel bulletin board Fresh as a thread in the military and security forum of that bulletin board. It was posted by  "Nettle", the moderator of that forum and is headlined (google translation) Iran attack - "What if ...?" The optimistic scenario": It starts with this remark:

The document presented here is written by an old friend of the forum who prefers to remain anonymous and identity. All information presented is based on the open foreign sources only.

Further down it continues with what seems to be the same content that Richard's "impeccable source" gave him (google translation):

Barrage of dozens of ballistic missiles from Israel to Iran shot. Missiles are equipped with non-conventional warhead - but charged warheads and explosives specially ruggedized bow, designed to penetrate hardened targets deep in particular.
...
Missiles hitting their target - some above ground, such as Arak nuclear reactor designed to produce plutonium and tritium, production facility next to the heavy water, the production facilities of nuclear fuel conversion facilities Baisfahn gas and uranium Hksaflurid.
...
The hundreds of cruise missiles adequate command and control systems, facilities development and research institutes, and even in residential buildings and villas surrounded by lush greenery of senior officials in the nuclear and missile development of Iran. For years, collected intelligence manifested almost complete decapitation of professional ranks and command of Iran in these areas.

So it turns out that "Bibi's secret war plan" for committing war crimes that Richard published is very similar to the "optimistic scenario" published on the Israeli bulletin board four days earlier.

It seems obvious to me that Richard has been had again by his "impeccable source". Said differently his source is (ab-)using him for the continuing Netanyahoo campaign in which Israel, because it can not do this on its own, is pressing the U.S. to bombing Iran's civilian nuclear program. This by threatening to otherwise do what it can not do on its own: bombing Iran's civilian nuclear program.

But like in November when we scrutinized the implausible story Richard was fed about explosions in south Lebanon Richard can not admit that he was fed bullshit. In a new post he tries to rationalize what happened:

About a week ago, I received the document from a known and trusted source who is, as I’ve often said here, a former Israeli government minister. It was in turn leaked to him by an IDF officer.

Unbeknowst to my source, the original IDF leaker also gave the document to a member of the Fresh forum, an Israeli gossip and politics forum. That Fresh member wrote a largely fictional account that included very limited portions of the actual document which I published in full.

Ahh - no. Indeed the post at the Fresh forum is pretty much completely the same text that Richard translated and published at his blog. Check the links above and see for yourself.

Some military propaganda buff wrote up a fictional (and very unrealistic) "optimistic scenario" of an Israeli attack on Iran and published it for amateur discussion purpose on a Hebrew mil forum. That was picked  up, edited slightly and fed to Richard Silverstein as part of the Netanyahoo blackmail campaign. Richard then translated it into English and published it as a "briefing memo that is being used by Prime Minister Netanyahu". This then got picked up by the BBC and the Israeli Ynetnews (google translation). It thereby fulfills exactly the purpose I described last November:

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. ... 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.

Everyone is of course free to believe Richard's version of the story, that the text is indeed something relevant and original coming from the IDF or from Netanyahoo's office and that whoever leaked the text to him didn't pick it up from the Fresh forum but from a more reputable source. Everyone is of course free to believe that this leak to Richard has some different purpose than to spread Netanyahoo's propaganda message.

Everyone is of course also free to believe that the world is flat.

Posted by b on August 16, 2012 at 04:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

August 15, 2012

Why The Washington Post Is In Decline

Updated below

The Washington Post has a continuously falling circulation and advertising revenue:

Newspaper revenue was down 7 percent, while print advertising revenue at the Post fell 15 percent. Revenue from the company's online operations, including Washingtonpost.com and Slate, rose 8 percent.
...
Through the first six months of the year, the Post's Sunday circulation is down 6.1 percent. Daily circulation is down 9.3 percent.

One major reason for this decline, next to its warmongering neoconned opinion pages, is a lackluster quality of the Washington Post's reporting. Take for example the opening graph of this piece today in which Karin Brulliard and Joby Warrick and their editors at the Washington Post show their lack of high school level geographical knowledge:

MAFRAQ, Jordan — Hundreds of Syrian refugees slip across the border near here each night with little more than harrowing tales and occasionally grave wounds. For this landlocked and resource-poor kingdom, the newcomers are fueling new economic burdens and worries that the war next door might spread beyond its own frontiers.

Even while (expansively) traveling and writing from a foreign country these reporters are unable to get that country's geography right. They obviously never learned of the Port of Aqaba:

The Port of Aqaba is at the head of the Gulf of Aqaba off the Red Sea in southeast Jordan.
...
Due to its location at the crossroads of trade routes between Europe, Asia, and Africa, the area of Port of Aqaba has been inhabited since at least 4000 BC.
...
In 2008, the Port of Aqaba welcomed over three thousand vessel calls. Of these, 1.8 thousand ships carried passengers, including 103 cruise ships. The remaining 1336 cargo vessels included 362 container vessels and vessels carrying dry bulk (347), liquid bulk (202), roll-on/roll-off cargoes (195), general cargo (93), and miscellaneous cargoes (34). The Port of Aqaba served 1.2 million passengers in 2008. It handled 17 million tons of cargo, including 9.2 million tons of imports and 7.8 million tons of exports.

It is not really astonishing that the Post gets basic geographical and economic facts wrong. Employing journalists like Joby Warrick, who is a basically a stenographer, best known for his know-nothing anti-Iran propaganda and who only probably might one day become a journalist, is a deathtrap for any newspaper.

UDPATE (12:30pm): The Washington Post has now corrected the piece and cut out the "landlocked". But the editors did not have the greatness of leaving a correction remark at the end of it. The piece now says:

MAFRAQ, Jordan — Hundreds of Syrian refugees slip across the border near here each night with little more than harrowing tales and occasionally grave wounds. For this resource-poor kingdom, the newcomers are fueling new economic burdens and worries that the war next door might spread beyond its own frontiers.

In the comments to that piece at the WaPo side at least two readers also called out that "landlocked" mistake. Those commands have not (yet) been deleted. For the record a cut from the screenshot I made of the original piece:

bigger

The full screenshot is available on request.

Posted by b on August 15, 2012 at 04:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

August 14, 2012

The Recent "Preferred Plan" And It's Weak point

The U.S. and the UK's plan for Syria has been revealed:

Part of the "preferred plan" reads: "In order to facilitate the action of liberative forces, reduce the capabilities of the Syrian regime to organise and direct its military actions, to hold losses and destruction to a minimum, and to bring about desired results in the shortest possible time, a special effort should be made to eliminate certain key individuals. Their removal should be accomplished early in the course of the uprising and intervention and in the light of circumstances existing at the time."

Just like in that plan a deliberate killing campaign against persons of values for the Syrian state is ongoing. Besides the high profile bombing of the security center in Damascus there is a campaign to kill doctors, professors, media people and high ranking administrators. These assassinations are usually not reported in the "western" media.

The "preferred plan"adds: "Once a political decision is reached to proceed with internal disturbances in Syria, CIA is prepared, and MI6 will attempt, to mount minor sabotage and coup de main incidents within Syria, working through contacts with individuals.

"The two services should consult, as appropriate, to avoid any overlapping or interference with each other's activities... Incidents should not be concentrated in Damascus; the operation should not be overdone; and to the extent possible care should be taken to avoid causing key leaders of the Syrian regime to take additional personal protection measures."
...
The plan called for funding of a "Free Syria Committee", and the arming of "political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities" within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.

That "preferred plan for Syria" was from 1957 and was not enacted at that time. But we see that the methods mentioned in it are just the same than the ones used today.

But there are two important difference from the old plan to the recent one. The first one is the extensive use of foreign mercenary fighters. Reports of their existence were downplayed by the media. At least a year after their first occurrence in Syria Reuters only now has an "exclusive" about Libyan fighters in Syria.

Those foreigner fighters are mostly responsible for those gruesome killing of "suspicious" Syrians by beheading them or throwing them off buildings.

These fighters can not win their war against the Syrian government but that is not important as it isn't their real purpose. Therein lies the second and more important difference between the plans of 1957 and the plans of today. The aim in 1957 was to replace the Syrian government with a new "friendly" one. While that would still be a convenient outcome today it is no longer a necessity.  

The US, Israel and the Gulf countries who pay, train and command the foreign fighters today have a different objective. They want the current war in Syria, which they see as just an aspect of their war on Iran, to continue as long as possible:

The much more unpleasant strategic reality is that, whether foreign forces intervene or not, the U.S. receives little reward from hastening Assad’s downfall. An embattled Assad imposes just the same limitations on Syrian and Iranian threats to U.S. interests. Resources will have to be diverted from the proxies Iran supports through Syria to Syria itself as Iran tries to maintain its host’s viability. The loss of Assad’s regime would mean a rapid retrenchment in Iranian support, for sure, but this would likely be replaced by a proxy campaign against Syria’s new government and its foreign backers, or a redeployment of IRGC/QF assets to other theaters, probably against the U.S (if not both). Given that rapidly overthrowing Assad without major overt military action from a broad coalition of forces is a pipe dream anyway, the United States should consider contingency plans in which it works through, rather than against, the specter of protracted civil war. To be able to bleed Iran in Syria would, relative to the risks involved, be a far more significant strategic opportunity against Iranian power relative to the investment and risk than would be a major overt campaign to overthrow Assad outright. The more blood and treasure Iran loses in Syria – even if Assad stays in power longer – the weaker Iran will be.

Only with that strategy in mind can one understand why the CIA is blocking weapons from reaching the insurgents:

"Not one bullet enters Syria without US approval,” one official claimed in Istanbul. “The Americans want the [rebellion] to continue, but they are not allowing enough supplies in to make the Damascus regime fall.
...
Over the past 10 months, a Syrian opposition official told The Sunday Times, the CIA has blocked shipments of heavy anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, which rebel units of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) have long described as vital to their efforts to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

Even the sanctions against Syria seem designed to hinder the opposition.

While keeping Syria in chaos and thereby weaken it is the preference for the U.S. and Israel, a prolonged fight in their neighbor country is a danger for Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. It is there where the strategy of a prolonged fight in Syria might fail due to internal unrest and other spill over effects.

The Turkish government, knowing well that a prolonged conflict will bring more PKK attacks and more refugees and wounded fighters, has been urging for more outright intervention and is again holding drills next to the Syrian border.

Erdogan and his sidekick Davutoğlu need the war to end before it erodes their political positions. But when Hillery Clinton visited Turkey last week, she did not offer the backing for an intervention but only agreed to a working group for planning further action against Syria. That is code for "let's sit down and do nothing". Today Defense Secretary Panetta said that a no-fly zone is not on the front burner.

While the U.S. does not risk anything by keeping the war on Syria boiling its allies in the region do feel the heat of the cooking fire.  Their internal problems are the weak points of the current "preferred plan".  It is there where any strategy against the plan must push for effect.

Posted by b on August 14, 2012 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (64)

August 12, 2012

Egypt: A Presidential Coup Or A Backdoor Deal?

Playing Calvinball the players make up the rules while the game is ongoing. The Egyptian revolution confirms again that it is olayed under such rules.

Egyptian President Mursi just send Defense Minister Tantawi and the Chief-of-Staff Sami Annan into retirement. He also canceled the June 17 addendum to the constitution which gave the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces special powers while it limited his own powers as president.

Mursi appointed General Abdellatif Sisi, a former head of military intelligence, to command the military and the former judge Mekky as vice-president. Mursi had once promised to have a Christian and a woman as vice-presidents. Mahmoud Mekky is neither.

The move comes after some incidents in the Sinai where some shady groups of alleged radicals launched attacks on the armed forces. While big successful counterattacks were reported in the Egyptian state media, local reporting did not confirm those at all. No wounded were found in the hospitals and no fresh graves in the cemeteries. This media manipulation may be one of the reasons for Mursi's surprising move today.

One wonders what the Egyptian military is going to do about this. Will it really give up the powers it held over the last 50 or so years? Doing so would endanger its wide economic interests that guarantees its officer class' standard of living. That is one reason to expect a reaction by some officer group.

But there also might be a backdoor deal between the new head of the military and Mursi. Not everyone in the army was happy with Tantawi at the head of the SCAF. A deal might give both sides some guarantees and incentives to not allow any counter-move.

Egypt just received a $2 billion loan from Qatar. This after a request for further loans from Saudi Arabia was rejected. The loan again shows the preference of the Qatari ruler for the Muslim Brotherhood of which Mursi was a leading member. The money may have been instrumental to allow for today's steps.

During the last year the Muslim Brotherhood had already taken several steps in different directions than promised. These were seen by large parts of the populations as power grab and overreach. Many saw the Supreme Command and its special powers as the only balance against the Islamist power play. If Mursi does not have the backing of the public at large for the steps to dictatorial power he took today, which I find likely, we can expect a renewed crisis in Egypt and another military coup.

Posted by b on August 12, 2012 at 11:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

August 11, 2012

Romney Chooses Ayn Rand For VP

The republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney rallied his supporters today: "Join me in welcoming the next President of the United States, Paul Ryan."

Oh well. So this rich white guy with an empathy deficit wants to get additional votes by naming a rich white guy with an empathy deficit as his vice-president candidate.

That is not going to work well. Ryan looks like a nice guy but has a libertarian vision that makes no sense. His budget would eliminate the federal government except for military spending. He is proposing deregulation as a solution for all the problems deregulation created. His plans for medicare and social security will drive older folks into the Obama camp. (Obama has quite similar plans but at least he doesn't run on them.) That Ryan is a congress member certainly doesn't help. The congress has an approval rating as low as 18%. There is now only one protestant on the either party's ticket. Who then will those southern hardcore evangelicals vote for?

Is this a conspiracy? Do they really want Obama to have another four year term? I mean why pick a vice president candidate that moves that party's ticket even further away from the center? That has never brought more votes.

Posted by b on August 11, 2012 at 02:16 PM | Permalink | Comments (54)

Clinton And Turkish Press Freedom

Hillary Clinton is currently in Istanbul. The Turkish journalist Mahir Zeynalov tweeted her press conference with the Turkish foreign minister Davutoglov. He thought that one of her statements was rather funny:

lol. Clinton: You don't have freedom of press in Syria as you have here in Turkey.

That lol is certainly deserved. Reporters without borders lists Turkey as number 148 in its press freedom index. That is worse than Russia which the various U.S. editorial writers like to bash for alleged lack of press freedom. Over the last year at least 90 Turkish journalist sat in jail for rather murky reasons. There is also a system of informal censorship through government pressure on editors and media owners.

Clinton is just covering up what every observer can easily see. The U.S. is not at all concerned about human rights or freedom of the press. It is an empire gone mad:

Afghanistan in the 1980s and 90s … Bosnia and Kosovo in the 1990s … Libya 2011 … Syria 2012 … In military conflicts in each of these countries the United States and al Qaeda (or one of its associates) have been on the same side.

What does this tell us about the United States’ “War On Terrorism”?
...
[I]f you want to understand this thing called United States foreign policy … forget about the War on Terrorism, forget about September 11, forget about democracy, forget about freedom, forget about human rights, forget about religion, forget about the people of Libya and Syria … keep your eyes on the prize … Whatever advances American global domination. Whatever suits their goals at the moment. There is no moral factor built into the DNA of US foreign policy.

Well said.

Posted by b on August 11, 2012 at 08:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (112)

August 10, 2012

Afghan Soldier Kills 3 In American Security Uniforms

The U.S. led ISAF forces in Afghanistan have trained the media to accept its ridiculous reporting. Whenever an Afghan policeman or soldier attacks or kills ISAF forces the press weasels just copy the ISAF headlines like this one:

3 American troops shot dead by man wearing Afghan uniform, US command says

A man in an Afghan uniform shot and killed three American troops Friday morning in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military command said, in the third attack on coalition forces by their Afghan counterparts in a week. The Taliban claimed the shooter joined the insurgency after the attack.

When it is clear that this was "by their Afghan counterparts" why doesn't the headline say "3 American troops shot dead by Afghan soldier"? CNN is especially pathetic:

Official: Man in Afghan security uniform kills 3 U.S. troops

A man in an Afghan military uniform killed three U.S. troops Friday in southern Afghanistan, the latest in a series of assaults against NATO soldiers by Afghans clad in security force garb.

There have been 24 such green on blue incidents in the last 12 month. In every case those were real Afghan soldiers or real Afghan policemen who attacked. To write as if those were people who just picked up a uniform at the bazaar is in no way justified.

The stupidity of these formulations clearly come into view when one changes the roles in these formulations:

Afghan soldier kills 3 in American security uniforms

An Afghan soldier killed three in American military uniforms Friday in southern Afghanistan, the latest in a series of assaults against men in NATO military uniforms by Afghan security forces.

No one would write such bullshit even though it reflects the facts just as well as the ISAF manipulated version copied by western media. This again shows how neutral reporting was buried by the "embedded with the military" mindset that came with the the twenty-first century.

Posted by b on August 10, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

August 08, 2012

Could The War On Syria Create Regime Change in Ankara?

The fight over Aleppo is waging on with advantages on the Syrian government side. The Syrian army launched its ground offense in Aleppo and killed the leader of the insurgency there. The insurgents are in tactical retreat from their Aleppo stronghold of Salaheddin. It will take some time to mop them up.

When politics failed to give Washington what it wanted it decided to increase the violence in Syria by promoting Al Qaeda to fill the void the Annan mission left:

The US’s estimation is that the agenda of ‘regime change’ in Syria is getting stuck in mud. The Syrian regime is intact.

Therefore, what is needed is a military push. The name of the game is to achieve a ’soft landing’ in Damascus without spilling American blood – as WaPo says. Now that the US and its allies have got rid of the nuisance of Kofi Annan, the path ahead is clear.

The only way forward for both sides of the proxy war in Syria is the military option:

Until either Assad or his armed opponents achieve a major military victory that translates into immediate political gains, thus forcing the external players to negotiate, there will be no alternative to continued military operations and further fighting.

The armed opposition – with all its diverse factions comprising Syrian, Arab and foreign fighters and Salafi and other ideologies – has become better organized and equipped to wage a long war. It is receiving larger amounts and more sophisticated military equipment by the day. The regime, too, has adjusted for a protracted battle, in which no holds are barred, and in which it feels justified in unleashing all the firepower at its disposal.

Both sides are equally convinced that to achieve a big military triumph, such as controlling Aleppo, maximum force must be used, in order to push the crisis toward a resolution – though not necessarily to a political settlement anytime soon.

The U.S. and its allies are sending more weapons and radicals into Syria. But the public mood in the west about this conflict is changing. Even the German public TV, which is full of anti-Assad propaganda, is now warning about the Salafi insurgents. There is also some trouble between the Syrian fanatics and their foreign jihadi guests:

"Let me be clear. I am an Islamist, my fighters are Islamists. But there is more than one type of Islamist," he told Reuters. "These men coming fought in insurgencies like Iraq. They are too extreme, they want to blow up any symbol of the state, even schools."
...
One of the most effective and elusive groups in Aleppo now sending reinforcements into Damascus is called Ahrar al-Sham, "The Free Men of Syria." Its fighters accept the bulk of jihadist foreign fighters in Idlib and Aleppo, rebels say.

"They're extremely effective and secretive. They coordinate with us to attack the regime but they don't take orders from anyone. They get weapons and explosives smuggled from abroad that are much better," said a rebel in Aleppo called Anwar.

In view of these radical insurgents' atrocities many Syrians critical of their government are increasing the  support for their government:

The video released last week in Aleppo that appeared to show FSA fighters executing more than a dozen accused regime thugs, called shabiha, and Aawayini, meaning collaborators, at a school will not help to win the trust of those Syrians skeptical of the insurgents' motives. It may also help push some opposition supporters away who are disgusted by the FSA’s real or rumored use of violence.

“They talk about wanting democracy, but I am now too scared to even voice my opinion in public for fear I’ll be called a collaborator and be killed,” a 60-year old retired schoolteacher, named Obeyda, told me over a coffee in her living room in Muhajirin in late July. She used to be very critical of the regime but now she’s more critical of the FSA.

For those who followed the conflict the existence of radical foreign fighters in Syria is of course nothing new. New is only the publicity that these people are getting. The Hindu compares the situation in Syria to the war in Kashmir where foreign supported radical were also the ones who started the violent insurgency:

Young people in particular chafed under the Ba’ath party’s rule in Syria exactly as they chafed against “Delhi’s rule” in Kashmir. But while nearly everyone wanted a change, almost no one wanted it at the cost of a violent disruption of their lives. In neither case, therefore, was the state the first to resort to violence: On the contrary, both insurgencies had to be stoked, so the first to pick up the gun were the insurgents. In Syria this was done by Salafi/Takfiri Islamists who crossed the border from Jordan in March 2011 and holed up in the Omari mosque in Dera’a before launching targeted provocations, and attacks on police stations and government offices.

With the Turkish, Saudi and Qatari involvement now very visible and the kidnapping and killing Iranian pilgrims some of whom are retired revolutionary guards Iran officially declared itself to be part of the fight:

"What is happening in Syria is not an internal Syrian issue but a conflict between the axis of the resistance and its enemies in the region and the world," Mr. Jalili said in comments reported on Syrian state television. He added: "Iran will not tolerate, in any form, the breaking of the axis of the resistance, of which Syria is an intrinsic part."
...
"Iran is saying: 'We are involved. We are inside the battle,' " said Talal Atrissi, a Lebanese political analyst and an expert on Iran. He added, "It means this is now a more international war."

It will soon be payback time for Turkey and those Gulf countries that support the insurgency.

Somewhat comically Hillary Clinton warns against the sectarian turmoil in Syria which is a direct consequence of her policy:

"Those who are attempting to exploit the situation by sending in proxies or terrorist fighters must realize that will not be tolerated, first and foremost by the Syrian people," she added.

Clinton of course does not mean the Salafists she and her allies are sending to wage a sectarian civil war in Syria. This warning is meant for Iran which might think of sending some of its own forces, one way or another, into the fight.

Washington plans to increase the effectiveness of the insurgency. On Monday the twitter account THE_47th correctly announced the desertion of the former Syrian prime minister before it was confirmed by anyone else. Yesterday it tweeted this stream:

  • Big meetings in Turkey nxt week betwn newly defected Gens & reps from all FSA factions, incl loose ones in Jebel Azzawiya & Deir Ezzor.
  • Part of Hilary Clinton's visit to Turkey next week is to be briefed on success of this meeting & to make sure the objectives are met.
  • During the meetings, chains of command will further be implimented, inluding factions that are earlier have been fighting on their own.
  • Again, most FSA is somehow linked, and coordinated, except in some areas of the Governorate of Homs, Jabal Azzawya & Deir Ezzor.
  • Objectives: - Introducing the brigades that have been training on heat seeking missiles, assigning them to official brigades.
  • Objectives: - Possibly renaming the Free Syrian Army to the National Free Syrian Army - Joining small brigades into big ones
  • Last point eludes to joining small brigades into bigger ones, just like the Tawheed Brigade (Unity Brigade)
  • Objectives: - Training on Geneva Human Rights Conventions - Overhaul of structure of the command - Intel meetings
  • Manaf Tlass will also be present in next weeks meetings, including the defected officers & unnamed Brig Officers from the Republican Guard.
  • This major initiative comes after Turkey warned Syrian oppo forces that the West is growing wary of Islamist elements, incohesion & HR.
  • Turkey is leading the effort in advising the FSA, training, setting up, supporting & arming the FSA.
  • There's a major campaign to put these "Abdulhameed bla bla Akbar brigade" into legit national units.
  • Now the mtng takes place nxt week, but implimentation will take wks.
  • Good news is: training FSA elements on heat seeking missiles & other SAMs has been done and we shall see it on the ground as of nxt week.
  • anf FYI: most of these SAMs are from Libya for some reason.
  • After successfuly limiting Assad's grnd movement (thanks to IEDs, defections & other anti tank weapons), the battle is now heading skywards.

We do not know if what The_47th says is correct or how much of it is disinformation. But as a medium range plan this reorganization of the insurgency surely makes sense. Parts of that announcement are certainly true. New pictures show insurgents with recoilless anti-tank rifles and man portable surface to air missiles. The playboy general Manaf Tlass seems to be Washington's choice as its front man for a new proxy state in Syria. But many in the opposition do not want him.

But with or without Tlass further the organizing and weaponizing of the radical foreign fighters is unlikely to be enough to bring the Syrian government down. Washington will need more tools and proxies and the most convenient way forward is to bring the Turkish army into the fight.

So when Hillary Clinton travels to Turkey next week this may be what will she will talk about:

[T]he subject she will be discussing in Ankara will not be a pleasing one at all. It is a nasty issue. She will either discuss, as it appears, the creation of a buffer zone in Syria along the Turkish border or Turkey’s striking of selective targets in Syria to speed up the collapse of the Basher al-Assad regime. Regardless, she will be discussing here how Turkey will be pulled into the Syrian mess as if it was not already in that mess up to its nose through legitimate refugee-sheltering programs, supporting and abetting Syrian rebel forces, as well as engaging in alleged clandestine terrorist-brewing efforts in secret camps.

But Turkey is also the weak point in this game. The Turkish foreign policy is in trouble for the support gives to the insurgency in Syria:

Turkey's worst nightmares are beginning to come true in Syria - a protracted sectarian civil war on its long southern border with the emergence of a de facto Kurdish-controlled region friendly to its main domestic foe.

The Syrian conflict is also poisoning Ankara's sensitive relations with Iran, Syria's vital regional ally, and Iraq and complicating ties with Russia, undermining a declared policy of "zero problems" with the neighbours.

Should the attempt to destroy Syria fail the Turkish foreign minister Davutoglu who is leading the project is likely to fall:

[T]he political future of Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu very much depends on the fate of Syria. If the Assad regime falls, then Davutoglu may very well become prime minister. But if the regime survives, Turkey’s top diplomat will be scapegoated and possibly sacked.

The man who came up with a foreign policy of "zero problems towards neighbors" managed to create trouble with each of them.

Despite the looming trouble there are other hints that Turkey may indeed be gearing up for even more involvement. The Turkish prime minister Erdogan is rather suddenly making nice with the Turkish military which long opposed his islamization agenda. This lets one commentator ask:

There must a reason for this change in our esteemed prime minister, who has asserted a strong political will behind the coup-planning cases from the very beginning. Is there a possibility of a war? What can the reason for this change be?
...
Terrorism in our backyard has been whipped up, countries that we knew as friends now have a hand in creating serious worries for Turkey. Let us leave these arguments over coups in the past and focus on our noble responsibilities.

Making nice with the army while his government holds 68 of its generals in jail will not be easy. I find it unlikely that the Turkish military really wants to fight Washington's proxy war in Syria for Erdogan's gain. Should Erdogan give his army the order to invade Syria the regime change operation against the Syrian government may end up changing his regime.

 

Posted by b on August 8, 2012 at 06:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (169)

August 07, 2012

The CFR And Al-Qaeda

Who would have expected this from the prestigious Council of Foreign Relations?

The Palestinian resistance would be immeasurably weaker today without al-Qaeda in their ranks. By and large, Hamas battalions are tired, divided, chaotic, and ineffective. Feeling abandoned by the West, resistance forces are increasingly demoralized as they square off with the Netanyahu regime's superior weaponry and professional army. Al-Qaeda fighters, however, may help improve morale. The influx of jihadis brings discipline, religious fervor, battle experience from Iraq, funding from Sunni sympathizers in the Gulf, and most importantly, deadly results. In short, Hamas needs al-Qaeda now.

/snark

Posted by b on August 7, 2012 at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

August 05, 2012

Why Does The NYT Conflate Alevis And Alawites?

Today the New York Times reports on a sectarian incident in Turkey. But its reporter Jeffrey Gettleman gets the issue so very much wrong that one wonders if there is a darker intend behind this piece:

The ill will had been brewing for days, ever since the Evli family chased away a drummer who had been trying to rouse people to a predawn Ramadan feast. The Evlis are Alawite, a historically persecuted minority sect of Islam, and also the sect of Syria’s embattled leaders, and many Alawites do not follow Islamic traditions like fasting for Ramadan.

The mob began to hurl insults. Then rocks.

“Death to Alawites!” they shouted. “We’re going to burn you all down!”

First: It is unclear if the Evli family really chased the drummer away. The Turkish paper Huriyett is carefully qualifying that as "alleged". Its report is much less sensationalized:

Members of the Evli family in the Sürgü village of the southeastern Malatya province allegedly asked a Ramadan drummer not to drum in front of their home the night of July 28 as they were not fasting and had work early in the morning. The two sides quarreled after the drummer rejected the family’s request.

Second: The Evli family is of Alevi believe, not Alawite and that is a quite big difference:

Alawis are distinct from the Alevi religious sect in Turkey, although the terms share similar etymologies.

Third: Where did Gettleman get the quote “Death to Alawites!”? Hurriyet reports the incident differently:

News of the incident was heard throughout the village and a mob of around 60 people gathered in front of the Evli family’s house yesterday. The group hurled stones at the family's home and said the family members were “Kurds and Alevis.”

Despite the rather similar sounding names and despite both being some far offshoot from Shia Islam there are serious differences between Alevis and Alawites. There are also differences in their ethnography and their political positions. The somewhat 15 million Alevis live mostly in central Anatolia and their language is Turkish and Kurd. Their religion appeared sometime around 1300. The Alawis (or Nusayris) speak Arabic and live mostly on the west coast of Syria. Their believe was founded some 300 years earlier than the Alevi believe.

What the NYT writes the following it is definitely wrong:

Many Turkish Alawites, estimated at 15 million to 20 million strong and one of the biggest minorities in this country, seem to be solidly behind Syria’s embattled strongman, Bashar al-Assad, while Turkey’s government, and many Sunnis, supports the Syrian rebels.

While it is correct that Turkish Alevis support the Syrian government, the NYT not only conflates two distinct religions and it misses the real reason why Alevis would feel positively towards the Syrian government.

The struggle of the Alewis in Turkey is more a political one than a religious one:

Alevis were early supporters of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, whom they credit with ending Ottoman-era discrimination against them, while Kurdish Alevis viewed his rise with caution.

Being Kemalists makes the Alevis a political enemy of Erdogan's Islamist AK party.

Both, the Alevis and the Alawis are religious minorities in their respective countries. Both support secularism because, as minorities, any non-secular government would be to their detriment. It is not the not existing similarity of their believes that lets the Turkish Alevis support the Syrian government. It is their common support for secularism that lets them show that solidarity.

So why is the New York Times publishing this factually wrong piece? Is that to support the sectarian Turkish prime minister Erdogan who has used the same nonfactual conflation:

Beginning last year, AKP leaders including Erdogan accused Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the Alevi leader of Erdogan’s main political opponents, the secularist Republican People’s party (CHP), of support for Assad, and alleged “sectarian solidarity” between Turkish Alevis and Syrian Alawites.
...
Erdogan’s allegation that Alevis and Alawites are co-religionists is inaccurate and irresponsible.

Again - why did the New York Times publish such an incorrect piece? Why is it supporting the false Erdogan narrative? Why is it helping to let this false narrative gain credibility in the west?

Posted by b on August 5, 2012 at 11:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (44)

August 04, 2012

Syria: Just A Few Reads

Just a few reads on Syria:

The reporting from Aleppo by Scott Petersen in the CSM is ridiculous. He somehow wants to explain that the inhabitants of Aleppo has now joined the insurgency. But he doesn't mention or explains why 200,000 people fled from the area where the armed insurgents from the outside came in. Instead he feeds us this nonsense:

But the anti-regime blood, it turned out, beat as strongly here as anywhere else in Syria, at least among activists determined to bring change.

What does that mean? Activists who came into Aleppo are as much anti-regime as activists elsewhere?

McClatchy does, as usual, much better journalism. This piece recounts the known case in which the insurgency simply murdered everyone it didn't like:

Other suspects haven’t been so lucky, explained a rebel commander in Damascus who uses the nom de guerre Abu Abdullah.

“We have had a big problem here with informers,” he said. “If a man is accused of being an informer, he is judged by the military council. Then he is either executed or released. In general, about two out of three are executed.”

The Telegraph reports on another split within the insurgency. It seems that the Saudis are now exclusively financing the Jihadist in the FSA while Qatar has turned away from the FSA and is now financing new and different groups which are in line with the Muslim Brotherhood. This is the same split seen in the support of parties in Egypt. The Saudi Wahabbi support the Salafis while Qatar is promoting the Brotherhood.

Al Akhbar has a piece about changes on the Lebanese-Syrian border. The Syrian army is finally acting there and replacing the ineffective border guards with real soldiers. This should make infiltration from Lebanon much more difficult.

Posted by b on August 4, 2012 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (97)

August 03, 2012

Syria: Insurgents Give Up For Now - The Grownups Made A Deal? Reuters Got Hacked

UPDATE II (Aug 3, 2012 01:20 PM):
It seems that my post below was based on two Reuters blog entries that were hacked and put up by the hacker for disinformation purposes. My post below the updates is thereby likely very wrong. (Thankfully though I used enough qualifiers in it to not be seen as totally gullible.) I will not change my original piece but, for documentation purpose, keep it as it is.

Reuters took down those two hacked post shortly after I blogged about them. Then the site blog.reuters.com went completely dead. You can follow the story has it happened by reading through the post below and the earlier comments thereto.

For the record: I was first made aware of the first Reuters post by this tweet by Maya Naser and of the second Reuters post through this tweet by Orthodox warrior. Please note: I have followed those accounts for several weeks now and have absolutely no reason to believe that these two persons knew that they were distributing links to hacked pieces.
END UPDATE II

UPDATE (Aug 3, 2012 12:15 PM):
Something weird happened. As you can tell from the first comments to this post Reuters deleted both pieces I linked in it very shortly after I posted about them. Both links are now dead. As those pages were still open in my browser window I immediately made screenshots. Here is the screenshot of the first piece I linked. The screenshot from the second link/piece in two parts. I have no idea why Reuters pulled especially the second rather juicy piece.
END UPDATE - original posted August 3, 2012 at 11:20 AM follows below.

This just in from Reuters:

The Syrian rebels fighting the forces of Assad have fallen in key districts of their stronghold Salah Al Deen in Aleppo. This comes hours after the army has announced that it has destroyed the communication network provided by Turkey. Earlier the rebel forces have complained that they are running low on ammunition as the city has been completely surrounded by government forces, coupled with lack of communications, has left the rebels in disarray. Several trucks with mounted heavy machine guns have been destroyed, leading to the deaths of 20 rebels.

According to footage on the ground, the rebel forces in Aleppo have failed to take Aleppo Citadel, contrary to earlier reported news. A journalist on the ground, Hussein Murtada, has reported that an attempt to damage the ancient Citadel’s walls by rebel missiles was repelled by security forces, resulting in the death of General Mustafa Al Sheikh and Abdul Jabar Aqede, field Marshals of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo.

This is very much what I had expected:

If the Syrian army is able to cut the insurgents supply lines into Aleppo it only has to fix them on the ground to slowly fight them down.

With their communications destroyed, their commanders dead, low on ammunition and surrounded there was no alternative for the foreign supported insurgents than to give up.

Reuters' Jeffrey Goldfarb has more and some of it is really explosive:

The chief leader of Syrian Free Army (FSA) has stated on Friday that the Syrian Free Army has tactically withdrawn from Aleppo province after severe clashes took place yesterday between the regular army and FSA.

[Riad] Al-Asaad confirmed on a phone call to Reuters that the regular army killed 1000 soldiers of Free Syrian Army and arrest around 1500.

That is quite a huge loss of the insurgencies personal.

He added that Syrian regular army carried out several airdrops on Friday early morning.

Those airdrops, probably parachuters by helicopter, will not have been in the city. I guess they have been between Aleppo and the Turkish border 30 miles north to cut of the supply and retreat route for the fighters in Aleppo.

Riad Al-Asaad said that the Syrian Free Army will withdraw from all Syrian cities due to the huge losses caused upon the soldiers, as well, the betrayals made by rebels, due to in-fighting amongst them, for money and positions. They are expected to re-coordinate in Turkish territory where they have set up secret bases under the close supervision with the Turkish government and the Israeli intelligence service.

One wonders how Turkey will now handle these insurgents. Will it try to build them up for another attack or will it finally stop supporting them? And to admit that Israeli(!) intelligence plays a key role here, some David Ignatius of the Washington Post had mentioned earlier, is quite a blow for the insurgents and their supporters moral.

It is not clear how much the alleged FSA commander Riad Al-Asaad really has to say about which insurgent group or how much he is lying here. But if what he said next is true, then we are much nearer the end of the crisis than anyone thought:

Riad Al-Asaad accused Qatar and Saudi Arabia of betraying him, dealing secretly with the Syrian regime.

He revealed that Riyadh and Doha has made a secret deal with Damascus to eliminate the Syrian Free Army for investments and privileges in Syria post conflict. Information about all the leaders of the FSA has been passed on according to Riad Al-Assad.

Assad made a deal with the Saudis and Qatar? I do believe very much that this is possible but some caution is warranted to believe this until we have further confirmation. If a deal was made who did it? (Manaf Tlass?)

The consequences of such a deal would be immense. Without the money and support from the Gulf the whole scheme to bring down Syria will collapse. I very much doubt that the U.S. and/or Turkey will want to continue this without the Arab League backing them.

If such a deal indeed was made then the Turkish premier Erdogan will have a huge loss of face and will be in serious political trouble.

What is then left to do for the Syrian army is to hunt down the foreign Jihadists of who at least some 200, likely many more, are now in Syria. It may even get help doing so. As the Pentagon think tank RAND recommended today:

The U.S. and its allies should launch a covert campaign to ramp up intelligence-collection efforts against al Qaeda [in Syria], capture or kill its senior leaders, and undermine its legitimacy.

Did all the reports about AlQaeda and foreign fighters in Syria had this impact. Was it the turn in western media coverage that did this? Did Washington finally understand the need to climb down?

Could the RAND recommendation mean that the U.S., behind the doors, pushed the Gulf states towards this deal? And what was that baseball bat phone call Obama had with Erdogan a few days ago about? Was that also related to the deal? Did Kofi Annan step down because the deal was done and the issue finished? The last graph from Jeffery Goldfarb is ominous:

These rapid developments have all occurred 24 hours and are related to the resignation of UN envoy to Syria, Kofi Annan, who has been accused of participating in a “plot already set against the FSA”, Al-Asaad concluded to Reuters via private channels.

Whatever. It will be very, very interesting to find out what actually happened here.

Posted by b on August 3, 2012 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (116)

August 02, 2012

Turkish Army Off Its Tracks

The Turkish army is training near the Syrian border for a second day. From the picture in the report its is evident that it needs more training, especially in tank maintenance and driving.


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That old M-60A3 tank has thrown off its right track. That happens when the tank commander and driver are inexperienced, do not perform regular maintenance or misjudge the terrain. If the tension of the track is not well adjusted, turning too fast on uneven ground tends to throw the track off. It will take at least half a day and another tank to get this one back on its tracks.

Twenty percent of all Turkish generals are currently in jail for allegedly preparing a coup. Those 68 prisoners, three times as many as allegedly defected from the Syrian forces, are some of the most experienced Turkish soldiers. They should be publicly listened to before Erdogan sends the Turkish army into Syria and thereby off its tracks.

Posted by b on August 2, 2012 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

August 01, 2012

Syria: The Fish Lower The Water Level

Yesterday I linked a video of the murdering of some guys by the Syrian insurgency. The men were leading folks from an important Sunni family in Aleppo. The insurgents gave a lot of reasons why they killed them but none of those will matter. The Berri clan/tribe and its related tribes/folks are said to have in total some 20,000 male members. They are now expected to take up arms against the insurgents.

This is not the only incident in which the insurgency made itself not welcome by the population. Mao said something like "The guerrilla is the fish and the people are the water." The insurgents are themselves reducing the water level in which they hope to swim. That will not turn out well for them.

[@all - sorry for the recent light, one themed posting. While I really would like to write on more issues, I currently lack the time doing such.]

Posted by b on August 1, 2012 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

 
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