Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 28, 2012

Notice Of Absence

While I had some nice family time, one of the kids presented me unwittingly with a not so nice gift. A full blown influenza showing any nasty symptom one might think of including the ability to do so. It seems therefore necessary to take some sick leave from the blog and to stay in bed for the rest of the year.

Please drop important news and views in the comments. Thanks for behaving.

Posted by b on December 28, 2012 at 10:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (140)

December 20, 2012

Solstice Time

While I will be traveling and visiting family over the next days, posting at MoA will likely be light.

May all of you have a good winter solstice time.

Posted by b on December 20, 2012 at 06:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (94)

December 19, 2012

Another Indication That Richard Engel's Kidnapping Story Stinks

Richard Engel of NBC News had been kidnapped in Syria and was somehow rescued by some FSA terrorist gang. He claims about his kidnappers:
"They were talking openly about their loyalty to the government," said Engel.

"This was … the Shabiha. This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar Assad."

Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, the Angry Arab, has reason to not believe that story and has indications that these were not Assad loyalists but FSA insurgents playing the role of Assad loyalists for a fake media stunt.

There is now new evidence that this was indeed a fake event and that, whatever Richard Engel may believe, he and the people with him (which included one ever unnamed "British engineer" who is more likely some special operations guy) were not in the hands of Shabiha but in the hand of well known experienced video fakers.

Early this year we have looked at the roles of citizen journalists from Syria. One was Khaled Abu Salah who faked and uploaded many videos of Syrian government atrocities, one day playing nearly dead while playing very well and enraged just few days later.  The other fake journalist was one "Danny" who presented his fake videos with Anderson Cooper on CNN.

Khaled Abu Salah "seriously wounded" on February 6

Khaled Abu Salah "enraged" about an "Assad blown up pipeline" on February 16

Months after we did, the British Channel 4 and the Daily Beast picked up and reported about these fake journalists and their fake videos.

Both of these fake journalists who produced fake videos of alleged atrocities seemed to be sponsored and/or trained by Avaaz, a somewhat mysterious para-government organization (PGO). Both citizen journalists were involved with Avaaz smuggling "western" reporters into Syria. At one time Khaled Abu Salah was in a video with the "wounded" western journalist Edith Bouviers who Avaaz had smuggled into and later out of Syria.

These guys have already shown that they are willing to blow up pipelines only to explain that "the Syrian government did it". They have used explosives to make videos of how "Assad bombs the people". They put bandages on a little healthy kid to show how on AlJazeerah how "Assad wounds the children". The purpose of these fakes was to influence "western" media coverage of the war on Syria. What else are they willing to fake for that purpose?

Now here is a video, uploaded yesterday, in which the fake citizen journalist Khaled Abu Salah interviews the just freed Richard Engel the evening before Engel returns from Syria to Turkey.

How come that this known serial producer of fake videos is involved in a murky kidnapping case that looks like a propaganda set up for "western" media consumption?

Further:

  • Who smuggled Richard Engel into Syria? Was it Avaaz?
  • Did "Danny" and Khaled Abu Salah knew that he was coming?
  • Did they prepare the kidnapping and the liberation of Richard Engel?

Some of the answers may be found if Richard Engel explains how he came to meet Khaled Abu Salah for this interview. Engel should urgently answer that question.

Posted by b on December 19, 2012 at 08:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (95)

No "Jewish Leaders" Headlines?

The Israel Lobby and the neocons are trying to make a case against Chuck Hagel as next U.S. Secretary of Defense. The case is bogus but it reveals some of the smear tactics behind such campaigns.

The New York Times has a piece about the non-controversy currently headlined Comments on Israel by Top Contender for Defense Secretary Are Scrutinized.

But that is not the original headline. The much more fitting first one is readable in the URL of the piece:

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/us/politics/chuck-hagel-candidate-for-defense-post-criticized-by-jewish-leaders.html
Indeed the voices against Hagel in that piece are from Jewish lobbying groups. Mentioned as critical of Hagel as being a not-Israel firster are "Abraham H. Foxman, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy organization" and "Josh Block, the chief executive of the Israel Project, a pro-Israel educational group".

As the piece fits well with the initial headline visible in the URL, one wonders why the editors felt a need to change it. Is it not allowed to expose "Jewish leaders" when they are trying to dictate U.S. policies?

Posted by b on December 19, 2012 at 04:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

December 18, 2012

Do They Really Believe The People Are This Dumb?

David Ignatius, unofficial spokesperson for the CIA, has a new "scoop":

A defector’s account of Syrian chemical weapons on the move

Reports from inside two Syrian chemical weapons facilities offer some chilling new evidence that President Bashar al-Assad’s regime developed special vehicles last year for moving and mixing the weapons — and an unconfirmed allegation that Lebanese allies of the regime, presumably in Hezbollah, may have been trained 11 months ago in the weapons’ use.

If you believe Ignatius' story, please contact me for further information about our large bridge sale.

Do those folks really believe that the people are dumb enough to fall for this bullshit again?

Or is the a clever ploy by the Obama administration, launching obvious nonsense nobody sane will believe, to create pressure against an open U.S. intervention in Syria?

Posted by b on December 18, 2012 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (78)

December 17, 2012

U.S. Sheds Crocodile Tears Over Plight Of Palestinian Refugees

This is something we never expected to hear from the U.S. State Department. Today it denounced airstrikes against Palestinians.

Why only now? Why didn't we hear that during the two war on Gaza? Or during the Israeli attacks in Lebanon?

Well, this time there were U.S. supported terrorists who where hit by a Syrian Army airstrike while they overran a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus.

The United States is deeply concerned by reports that dozens of civilians, including women and children, were killed or wounded in Yarmouk, an area of Damascus home to 150,000 Palestinian refugees, as a result of aerial bombardment and fighting between Syrian government forces and armed opposition on December 16. These latest attacks mark a significant and alarming escalation of the conflict in Syria.

 

What will the State Department say the next time Israel bombs the refugees in Gaza. Will the State Department then show some consistency and also utter some "deep concern"?

Posted by b on December 17, 2012 at 01:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (23)

December 16, 2012

Syria: Insurgents On The Run?

The recent second attempt of foreign terrorists and Syrian insurgents to advance on Damascus failed catastrophically just like the first one in July did. The defeat last summer was followed by big insurgency losses as the Syrian army launched a counterattack in Rif Dimash. It seems likely that the recent second battle around Damascus is now being followed up on with a similar campaign. Some "western" media now start to acknowledge this:

The picture of Syria most common believed abroad is of the rebels closing in on the capital as the Assad government faces defeat in weeks or, at most, a few months. The Secretary General of Nato, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, said last week that the regime is "approaching collapse". The foreign media consensus is that the rebels are making sweeping gains on all fronts and the end may be nigh. But when one reaches Damascus, it is to discover that the best informed Syrians and foreign diplomats say, on the contrary, that the most recent rebel attacks in the capital had been thrown back by a government counteroffensive.
The recent defeat in Damascus came despite intensified training for the insurgents by British, American and Jordanian special forces and despite new weapons delivered to them from the Gulf dictatorships.

A major insurgency attack on a Syrian Arab Army infantry school in al-Meslmyeh was, according to Syrian government sources, also repelled. This sugar coated report of the NYT is skating around this fact:

In the northern city of Aleppo, rebels claimed to have taken another important military installation, the region’s infantry school, though some reports said that fighting continued on Saturday.

There was an outpouring of grief from anti government activists and fighters after [Yousef al-Jader] a commander of a rebel group, the Tawhid, or Unification, Brigade, was reported to have died in the fighting.
...
The commander was one of many fighters to die in the fighting at the infantry school, which is north of Aleppo, in Muslimiyah.
...
It is unclear whether the rebels will keep control of the base. In many cases, rebels have quickly taken ammunition from captured bases and then abandoned them, wary of government attacks.

Translation of the last sentence: "After partial success in their attack on the infantry school a counterattack launched by the government drove the insurgents away from the school."

The Syrian army is now raiding the places from which the infantry school attack was launched:

The source added that scores of terrorists were killed and several of their hideouts were destroyed in the farms near the Infantry School in al-Meslmyeh.

Leader of a terrorist group Yousef al-Jader was killed along with scores of terrorists in al-Meslmyeh in Aleppo countryside.

About the same time the leader of the Tawhid brigade was killed, Ayad Al-Tubasi, the leader of the Nusra Front, also found his end. While both will of course soon be replaced their death shows that those in such positions are not immune to countermeasures.

SANA's long list of recent successes by the Syrian Arab Army is a sign that there are currently wide ranging sweeping operations underway and that the insurgents are under increasing pressure.

The "western" and Gulf support of the insurgents continues even after nearly all insurgent groups pledged their continued support for the jihadist Nusra Front which the U.S. designated as a terrorist organization. Such insurgents also committed a sectarian massacre in the town of Aqrab. Only a few "western" media mention these embarrassing facts.

Instead we get the recent talk of "chemical weapon preparation", "Scud like weapon launches" and that the "regime is about to collapse". It seems to me that this propaganda campaign is designed to cover up for the very significant defeat the insurgency received in its second attack on Damascus and in its other operation:

This misperception of the reality on the ground in Syria is fuelled in part by propaganda, but more especially by inaccurate and misleading reporting by the media where bias towards the rebels and against the government is unsurpassed since the height of the Cold War.

Also part of this propaganda campaign was the misleading citation of the Russian deputy foreign minister Bogdanov interpreted as Russia throwing the towel. Here is what Bogdanov, according to Russia Today, really said:

"The fighting will become even more intense, and (Syria) will lose tens of thousands and, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of civilians," he warned. "If such a price for the removal of the president seems acceptable to you, what can we do? We, of course, consider it absolutely unacceptable."

If something is "absolutely unacceptable" isn't one inclined to do a lot to prevent it from happening. We can, I believe, expect intensified Russian involvement as things develop on the ground.

According to this Arabic source Russia considers to establish an air bridge to relief the population in Aleppo and other affected areas from food shortages. Those Russians plane would like carry more than just flour.

Bogdanov also said:

"Syrian militants have threatened to attack the embassies of Russia and Ukraine in Damascus to ‘take care of’ the Russians. The US sends special operations forces in such cases," he warned.

I read that as: "The Spetnatz are on their way."

Last week the sectarian terrorists burned down (video) another Shia mosque. How many young Shia believers from Iraq or Iran will now be willing to go to Syria to protect such places of worship?

Also consider this simple straightforward statement:
“The Islamic Republic of Iran won’t allow Western plans and scenarios aimed at overthrowing the Syrian government to succeed,” [Iran’s foreign minister] Ali Akbar Salehi said in comments posted on state TV’s website.

Yes, the insurgents are winning the youtube propaganda war, but the real war will be won on the ground. There my impression is that the insurgency, while it is not defeated, is currently on the run while the Syrian government is advancing and its support is steadfast. Still, there is a lot "fog of war" in the air and my somewhat optimistic reading of the situation may not be completely right.

But consider this recent tweet by the BBC's Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen:

Preparing to leave #Damascus. Legit question: maybe enemies of #Assad been guilty of wishful thinking about their chances of toppling him

Posted by b on December 16, 2012 at 03:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (88)

December 15, 2012

Christmas Gun Sale

This is a double page from some South Carolina newspaper today. It features a well placed Christmas sale advertisement.

bigger

What is Christmas about if not marketing, buying and giving automated rifles?

Posted by b on December 15, 2012 at 12:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (264)

December 14, 2012

Syria: FT Correspondent @Borzou - A Gullible Simpleton

The media supporters of the terrorists and insurgents in Syria have spread an immense amount of stories that were later proven to be false. Two days ago another obviously false story, based solely on opposition accounts, was reported on in the New York Times. The NYT report showed some, though not nearly enough, skepticism towards the story. But it was the Financial Times correspondent Borzou Daragahi who, in spreading the story, really exposed himself as gullible simpleton.

Two days ago the NY Times reported:

Scores of Syrian civilians belonging to President Bashar al-Assad’s minority Alawite sect were killed Tuesday in the first known Alawite massacre since the Syrian conflict began. But the killings, in the village of Aqrab, happened under circumstances that remain unclear.

Rights organizations researching the massacre said Wednesday that members of the shabiha, a pro-government Alawite militia, were the killers. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an anti-Assad group based in Britain with a network of contacts inside Syria, said 125 to 150 civilians died.

The accusation, if confirmed, would be a shocking episode of Alawite-on-Alawite violence in a conflict punctuated by violence between sects.

That story smelled and was full of holes. There was no plausible motive for the alleged massacre in it. It solely dependent on known biased outlets like the Syrian Observatory and "activists" which spread propaganda for Syrian insurgents and acknowledged terrorist groups like the Nusra front.

So when the Financial Times Middle East correspondent Borzou Daragahi tweeted it as this:

Shabiha now massacring Allawites,. rights groups say, via @nytimes http://nyti.ms/UVgDuX
I responded:
"Rights groups" = Terrorist Propaganda > @borzou: Shabiha now massacring Allawites,. rights groups say, via @nytimes http://nyti.ms/UVgDuX
Mr. Daragahi did not like that. He accused me of being a "Shabiha supporter":
Shabiha's western supporters defame Syrian civilian rights monitors as terrorists RT @moonofa: "Rights groups" = Terrorist Propaganda

Does anyone find the line where I defame the "Syrian civilian rights monitors as terrorists"? For the record, I do not. I accuse the Syrian Observatory of spreading propaganda and lies about terrorism committed by certain anti-government groups in Syria. Even the NYT, in its very biased report, identified the Syrian Observatory as "an anti-Assad group".

Meanwhile the judgement about the truth of the story the Syrian Observatory and Borzou Daragahi spread is in. Alex Thomson of the British Channel 4 visited Aqrab, talked to and filmed various witnesses of the event. Here is what he found:

We interviewed three key eye-witnesses in three separate locations. They could not have known either of our sudden arrival, nor did they know the identities of the other two eye-witnesses.

What is striking is that their accounts entirely corroborate each other, to the last detail. And their accounts are further backed up by at least a dozen conversations with other Alawites who had fled from Aqrab.
...
All three agree – as do the rebels – that rebels attacked Aqrab on Sunday 2 December. Madlyan says: “They had long beards. It was hard to understand what they said. They weren’t dressed like normal Syrians.”

I press her and she is adamant that their Arabic was not from Syria.

The youth Ali told us: “They all had big beards and came in four or five cars, from the direction of al-Houla.”

They all insist, as did everybody else we met, that the rebels from the Free Syrian Army (FSA) corralled around 500 Alawite civilians in a large red-coloured two-storey house belonging to a prominent businessman called Abu Ismail.

They then say they were held – around 500 men, women and children – in this building until the early hours of Tuesday 11 December. Nine days.

In that time they say almost no food was delivered, and women were hitting their own children to try and stop them crying. When it rained, they were holding rags out of the window to soak up and drink the moisture.
...
They say the rebels wanted to take the women and children to al-Houla to use them as human shields against bombardment from government forces, and they believed they would kill the remaining men.
...
It appears negotiations ran between these elders and the rebels for around four hours, ending in deadlock at around eight o’clock on Monday night.

At that point, shooting broke out, the rebels firing through the windows and shouting that they had booby-trapped the building. The eye-witnesses say that the shooting died down at about midnight, after which a deal was done. In screaming night-time chaos and intermittent shooting, three vehicles took around 70 of the prisoners to safety in the nearest village a mile away.

However, it seems a fourth vehicle took a number of prisoners to al-Houla, where two – an unidentified woman and a boy – were treated for injuries in a rebel field hospital.

The woman and boy blamed pro-government militia for taking the prisoners, according to rebel websites, and that is the version of events which has gone around the world.
...
Curiously, rebel websites say the building containing the prisoners who remained, was completely destroyed by government artillery and air strikes on Tuesday. However, we saw and filmed the building in which eye-witnesses said they were imprisoned, and it appears intact – as does the rest of the village.

The story as told by the Syrian Observatory is obviously false. There was no bombing by the government and the aggressive acts were done by foreign terrorists.

It is Borzou Daragahi who fell for the story from rebel websites and "rights groups". It was me who correctly identified those "rights groups" as terrorist propaganda outlets. Is taking women and children as human shields, on a sectarian base, holding them for days without food and water and killing likely many of them not terrorism? Is spreading false stories about these, as the "rights group" Syrian Observatory does, not propaganda? And allowing for scrutiny and objecting to obvious falsehoods somehow makes me a "Shabiha supporter"? Please.

It is obviously that Mr. Daragahi has not much sense for the neutrality and careful evaluation of facts that a good journalist should have. Instead he has preconceived black and white mindset - four legs good, two legs better. Under that mindset he believes everything the rebel websites tell him even when such stories, like a Syrian government massacre of (Alawite) civilians, seem without motive and thereby implausible.

One wonders if the Financial Times and/or its readers are really well served when its correspondents, especially in the complex Middle East, show no skepticism towards the fairytales of murky "rights groups" or this or that "rebel" outlet.

Posted by b on December 14, 2012 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

December 12, 2012

Obama Issues Scud Propaganda For War On Syria

Michael Gordon, famous for writing Iraq WMD scare stories together with Judith Miller, is again willingly distributing administration scare stories and to promote a new war: Syria Fires Scud Missiles at Insurgents, U.S. Says
Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad have fired Scud missiles at rebel fighters in recent days, Obama administration officials said on Wednesday.
...
One American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing classified information, said that missiles had been fired from the Damascus area at targets in northern Syria.

“The total is number is probably north of six now,” said another American official, and that the targets were in areas controlled by the Free Syrian Army, the main armed insurgent group.

I call that bullshit. There have been no reports on Scud impacts from the terrorists fighting the Syrian government and people. Martin Chulov, who currently reports for the Guardian from northern Syria, tweeted:
No word of this in the north: US says #Syria Fires Scud Missiles at Insurgents #news http://nyti.ms/TUluvj
Are we to believe that the Syrian government uses Scuds against the terrorists without any casualties being reported and without even one rumors on the ground over such alleged shooting and their impacts?

Like with the false WMD scare over Iraq and recent false chemical weapon mixing claims in Syria the British government is joined at the hip with the U.S government and propagandist Michael Gordon in distributing this scam:

British officals said intelligence reports indicated that the regime first fired a Scud missile on Monday and the firing has continued.

This is just more nonsense from those who want to get NATO to fight a regime-change war against Syria.

Some 70 bribed and pressed nations, the "enemies of Syria", are currently meeting in Marrakesh and the U.S. wants them to recognize the sectarian Muslim Brotherhood exiles it has organized as a Syrian opposition and to pay up for the continuation of the terror operation against the Syrian people.

Also today the German parliament discusses the stationing of Patriot missiles in Turkey. The final vote will be Friday. What better way to influence that than claiming that Syria shot off some missiles.

There is also bad news for the U.S. plans that this propaganda may cover up. A huge car bomb went off in front of the Syrian interior ministry again confirming that the Syrian government is indeed fighting against terrorists. This while the U.S. created puppet exiles group demanded that the U.S. designation of Jabhat al Nusra as a terrorist group be taken back:

The leader of the National Coalition, cleric Moaz al-Khatib, also criticised a US decision to put an Islamist militia active in Syria on its list of banned terrorist organisations.
Doesn't make that demand the "National Coalition" supporter of terrorists?

Lets hope that no one falls for Obama's obvious Scud propaganda.

Posted by b on December 12, 2012 at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (105)

12/12/12 12:12

This seems the right point in (blog) time to listen to some 12 tone music while nipping at a 12 year old cask strength Lagavulin.

 

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 12, 2012 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

North Korean Satellite Lauch Reveals Unreliable Sat Imagery

My congratulations to the people of North Korea for the successful launch of a satellite into earth orbit. To do so is a great engineering achievement for any nation. Especially when under sanctions and thereby restricted in sourcing.

Including North Korea only ten nations at all so far succeeded in launching satellites.

This launch also gave a lesson in the unreliability of satellite pictures and anonymous sources. Only yesterday the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported:

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- North Korea has removed a long-range rocket from the launch pad in an apparent effort to fix technical problems that forced the communist nation to extend a launch window by a week, a military source in Seoul said Tuesday.

According to analysis of the latest satellite imagery, the North has taken the three stages of the Unha-3 rocket off the launch pad and moved them into a nearby assembly line at Dongchang-ri in the country's northwest, the source said.

"It seems that North Korea has pulled down the rocket from the launch pad to fix technical problems," the source said, asking for anonymity.

One can not remove a big rocket from its launch pad, repair it and put it back within 24 hours. Indeed when South Korea's own attempt for a satellite launch, with the first rocket stage bought from Russia, was delayed in October the expected delay was much longer:
According to the Yonhap news agency, engineers will remove the two-stage rocket from the launch pad to replace a seal, delaying the launch at least three days.
The South Korean satellite rocket launch was delayed several times and, if successful, will only happen next year. The North won the local race to space.

Those satellite pictures of the North Korean launch site and/or the anonymous military source were obviously wrong.

Keep that in mind the next time someone claims to know what happens under "pink tarps" based on a satellite pictures or claims to know why people are landscaping certain areas from looking at satellite imagery.

Posted by b on December 12, 2012 at 06:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

December 11, 2012

Syria: Is Washington Changing Its Direction Or Not?

The United States government is now officially agreeing with the Syrian government's assertion that  it is fighting terrorists:
The State Department said Monday that the Syrian rebel movement's Nusra Front is just another name for al Qaida in Iraq, an acknowledgment that the uprising to topple President Bashar Assad is led in part by foreign Islamist extremists who fought U.S. troops for years in the bloody Iraq war.
That step was taken to somehow draw a line between the "good" terrorists that the U.S. wants continue to support and the "bad" ones. But there are many "bad" ones and no really good ones and they themselves claim they are all the same:
A total of 29 opposition groups, including fighting "brigades" and civilian committees, have signed a petition calling for mass demonstrations in support of Jabhat al-Nusra, an Islamist group which the White House believes is an offshoot of al-Qaeda in Iraq.

The petition is promoting the slogan "No to American intervention, for we are all Jabhat al-Nusra" and urges supporters to "raise the Jabhat al-Nusra flag" as a "thank you".

The Obama administration is also walking back its false claims about preparation of chemical weapons by the Syrian government:

The Obama administration Tuesday appeared to temper its recent assertions that the Syrian government may be preparing to use chemical weapons, with Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta telling reporters the relevant intelligence had "really kind of leveled off."
Now add this:
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has canceled her trip to Morocco this week for a meeting on the future of Syria's opposition because of a stomach virus, the State Department said on Monday.
...
"Since she's still under the weather, we'll be staying put this week instead of heading to North Africa and the Middle East as originally planned," State Department spokesman Philippe Reines said in a statement.
Could it be that we are seeing a change in Obama's position towards Syria? Or is this all just a ruse to cover plans to further arm the well armed terrorists?
The United States is launching a covert operation to send weapons to Syrian rebels for the first time as it ramps up military efforts to oust President Bashar al-Assad.
The last link is to the Sunday Times which can not be trusted. The piece may be part of the campaign by the Brits and French to (again) get Obama to wage a war for them:
A plan to provide military training to the Syrian rebels fighting the Assad regime and support them with air and naval power is being drawn up by an international coalition including Britain, The Independent has learnt.
..
The head of Britain’s armed forces, General Sir David Richards, hosted a confidential meeting in London a few weeks ago attended by the military chiefs of France, Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and the UAE, and a three-star American general, in which the strategy was discussed at length. Other UK government departments and their counterparts in allied states in the mission have also been holding extensive meetings on the issue.
But all this seems to depend on Washington which probably hasn't made up its mind:
However, they said the UK would act only if the US did so and made it clear that British chiefs of staffs are seriously worried about the consequences of intervening in the Syrian crisis.
...
Options have been sent by defence chiefs to No 10, sources told the Guardian on Monday night. However, one source added: "We are a long way from doing anything." An official said: "The US is leading the way. We are not there yet."
The British military as well as likely the Pentagon are against waging war on Syria. The White House may have learned a lesson from Libya where, after pressure from London and Paris, it waged a war to then only find that those people it helped later killed the U.S. ambassador.

These tealeaves are difficult to read. Is Washington changing its approach towards Syria or will it continue to support the terrorists' war against the Syrian people?

Posted by b on December 11, 2012 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

Egypt: Further Down The Highway

Just to cover some news items on Egypt:

The very democratic minded president Morsi, who was unable to move the referendum on a new constitution and allow for more time for discussion because that would be "illegal", just issued a decree to change the election law:

Voters will no longer be able to vote outside of their electoral districts in the upcoming constitution referendum, after President Mohamed Morsy amended an electoral law.

Morsy issued an amendment to Law 73 for the year 1956 canceling the stipulation allowing voters tocast their ballots in referendums outside of their electoral districts, a presidential statement on Tuesday morning said.
...
The president's office justified the amendment by alleging that while allowing voters to cast their ballots outside their electoral districts may be convenient for people, the process can produce many appeals and cast a lot of doubts about the extent to which the referendum is a free and clean process.

Yeah, sure. Many who migrated to the big cities of Egypt to find work are still registered in their original hometowns. Those people, likely millions of them, learn now, four days before the referendum, that they will have no chance to vote. Living in the cities might have made them too liberal to allow for that.
The statement also claimed that allowing voting outside of one's electoral district would require supervising judges to create lists for those who are not registered in a given district, imposing an additional burden on them.
How nice to thinks of the judges who will not oversee the voting:
The Egyptian Judges Club's general assembly announced at a Tuesday press conference in Cairo its final decision not to supervise Saturday's popular referendum on Egypt's draft constitution.
...
Judge Ahmed Zend slammed the new constitutional declaration issued by President Mohamed Morsi on Saturday, describing it as an "insult" to the judiciary. "The new constitutional declaration still makes the president's decisions immune from judicial appeal," he said.
But no matter what the judges say the ride on the constitutional highway to theocracy will continue.

Morsi is using his decrees and self given immunity not just to get the Islamist written constitution under way but continues to use it to significantly change the Egyptian state system without parliamentary approval and judicial control:

President Morsi is set to issue a modification to two articles in the laws governing the Central Bank of Egypt within days, which grants himself more authority.

Notably, the modifications reduce the number board members and alots the president the right to unilaterally nominate the next CBE governor without the usual recommendations from cabinet.
...
In 2003 the ousted president Mubarak modified the law and was criticised for limiting the CBE's independence.

Morsi's decree further reduces expert membership on the board to four (as opposed to eight in the current law). It also removes the representation by the ministers of planning and foreign commerce, leaving only a representative of the finance ministry.

Controlling the central bank will remove resistance towards foreign credits and will allow him to use money supply as a political tool. These credits will put Egypt further under Washington control:
The United States and a coalition of international lenders are pushing ahead with billions of dollars in loans and other help for Egypt and neighboring states, ...

The IMF had hoped to move forward this month on a $4.8 billion loan that Egypt desperately needs, as its foreign currency reserves dwindle and international investors pull money from the country. But over the weekend, Morsi reneged on imposing tax increases that the IMF had expected as a way to help bring down the country’s budget deficit.
...
On Tuesday morning, the IMF said that the Egyptian government had asked to delay further work on the loan “in light of the unfolding developments on the ground.” The tax hikes faced a public backlash at a time when Morsi is also trying to quell opposition to a proposed new constitution.

Egypt’s potential creditors say the situation has left them with a difficult choice: Take a chance on Morsi, or leave the country without a lifeline and surrender the ability to influence the government’s direction.
...
The IMF loan to Egypt is expected to come with strict conditions attached, including a sharp curb on the use of subsidies.
...
Local analysts such as Rashad Abdou said they are skeptical and think Morsi is piling on IMF and other debt without a clear long-term plan.
...
But U.S. and other officials involved in the discussions with the Morsi government use words such as “pragmatic” to describe the approach to economic policy: The Egyptians are aware that outside help is needed to stabilize the country and appear willing in general to meet the conditions. That marks a change from a year ago, when the military council then running the country refused IMF help.

The IMF loan and the tax increases and subsidies cuts will be back in one month after the referendum on the constitution and the new parliament election but probably before that parliament is seated.

Posted by b on December 11, 2012 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (10)

December 10, 2012

Egypt: Political Ineptness Lets Downward Spiral Continue

Under pressure to secure a $4.8 billion IMF loan the Egyptian president yesterday legislated, by decree, massive tax hikes on steel, cement, soft drinks, beer and cigarettes and some services like mobile-phone services, air-conditioned transportation, cleaning and security.

He immediately came under fire even from his own Freedom and Justice Party:

The FJP reiterated its permanent position, rejecting any economic policies that increase the burden on low-income citizens.
The party certainly feared that the tax hikes, issued shortly before a referendum on the new constitution, would turn voters to vote no.

Today, at 2 am local time, the tax hike decree was annulled through another one issued via Morsi's Facebook account.

The Muslim Brotherhood's calvinball game continues with rules, laws and decrees made up whenever convenient only to again change a few moments later. False comprises are offered only after its aims have been achieved.

The FJP, of which Morsi was number two before becoming president, is a bourgeois party led by a billionaire. It is unlikely to drastically increase taxes on the rich. The new constitution, should it come into force, leaves the military, its huge assorted industrial empires and its income on its own. The parliament will have no financial control over it nor will it be able to tax it. With the pressure from the conservative Islamist right against alcohol, nighttime parties and other liberal attitudes the tourism that brought much to Egypt's foreign currency reserves is unlikely to revive. There will be little foreign investment as such, even from the Gulf, does not like to play under calvinball rules.

Egypt's foreign currency reserves are falling fast. Without the IMF loan Eygpt will soon have to default. The IMF is under Washington's control. The conditions under which it gives loans can be changed. If the U.S. wants Morsi to continue to rule, as I suspect, the IMF will give him the loan without demanding immediate tax increases. But that only means that those will come later, after the referendum and a new parliament election. Will the voters anticipate this?

The Muslim Brotherhood is in a bind. Its ideological contradictions, demanding social justice while also being somewhat neoliberal capitalists, are now for all to see. Its political ineptness is obvious.

If the unfortunately splintered opposition would point that out and present the referendum about the constitution, which it does not want to come into force, as a referendum about the Brotherhood and Morsi's rule it would probably have a good chance to turn it down. But so far the opposition has been just as political inept as the ruling party and it continues to insist on boycotting the referendum. Such boycotts have a record of backfiring.

New demonstrations from both sides have been announced for Tuesday and might well lead to new violent clashes. By decree Morsi gave the military power to intervene in them which is something it does not really want to do. The outcome will only be radicalization on both sides.

Unless something big happens the Muslim Brotherhood will likely win the referendum and the next parliament elections. When the economic pressure on the poor continues, as it inevitably will, Egypt may thereafter slide even further to the right. Egypt's current downward spiral will continue from there.

Posted by b on December 10, 2012 at 05:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Why Does "The West" Support Beheaders?

Terrorists of the Khaled Ibn al-Walid brigade in Syria are teaching children how to behead men.

bigger

The video is here and, yes, that head and others do come off in it.

Some of the perpetrators are said to have been in Saudi prisons for capital crimes. Instead of being beheaded themselves they were let go to behead Syrians.

Why is "the west" supporting these people?

Posted by b on December 10, 2012 at 02:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (50)

December 08, 2012

Syria: More Arms To The Insurgents

The U.S. continues to use the weapon of mass deception:
Once more, weapons of mass destruction could become weapons of mass deception at screaming high volume these past few days. From the western media who, in the heated atmosphere pre-Iraq and under pressure from Bush and Blair, brought us the Baghdad WMD story, now we have the “Damascus chemical weapons threat”.
...
Readers and viewers, meanwhile, should question why, and why now, there is suddenly a supposed chemical weapons “threat”? Where’s the proof? What is the evidence? The past should be a lesson to us all.
While blasting propaganda the U.S. is working through its proxies on revamping the sectarian Sunni terrorist army for Syria:
"Syrian rebel groups meeting in Turkey elected a 30-member unified command on Friday at talks attended by security officials from international powers, delegates said.

The 30 included many with ties to the Muslim Brotherhood and Salafists, and excluded the most senior officers who had defected from President Bashar al-Assad's military, they said.
...
Security officials from the United States, Britain, France, the Gulf and Jordan have been attending the talks, which come days before a conference for the Friends of Syria, a grouping of dozens of countries that have mostly pledged non-military aid to rebels fighting to oust Assad. The new military leadership includes Jamal Marouf, an Islamist commander and Ahmad al-Issa from al-Zawiya region in Idlib, as well as Colonel Abdelbasset al-Tawil, who has links with Salafists in the province. At least two figures representing the adjacent province of Aleppo were Salafists, including rebel leader Abdelqader Saleh.

The NYT hides a bit why the U.S. is doing this now. The terrorist army was losing:
[R]ebel commanders said they were facing a stark new reality. Their advances in recent weeks have been built largely on fatigue and low morale among government soldiers, as well as on random weapons captured from military bases, they said.

But both the initial attempt to batter the ramparts of Damascus and the long struggle for Aleppo have given many commanders the sober sense that they had better obtain stronger weapons for any final showdown over the main government strongholds.

All those who have said "Assad must go" are now in a bind and they are doing the worst thing one could think of. Pumping more weapons into the Middle East. France seems to be heavily involved:
Large sums of cash have been delivered by French government proxies across the Turkish border to rebel commanders in the past month, diplomatic sources have confirmed. The money has been used to buy weapons inside Syria and to fund armed operations against loyalist forces.
...
Some of the French cash has reached Islamist groups who were desperately short of ammunition and who had increasingly turned for help towards al-Qaida aligned jihadist groups in and around Aleppo.
...
The French newspaper le Figaro reported this week that French military advisers had recently met with rebel groups inside Syria, in an area between Lebanon and Damascus, in further evidence of efforts by Paris to step up pressure on president Assad.
You know where all those material now pumped into Syria will end up? History says it will kill some people in Istanbul, be used blow up buses in Paris and London and overrun this or that U.S. embassy. Blowback is a bitch.

Posted by b on December 8, 2012 at 12:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

The Egyptian Struggle Will Continue

The Angry Arab, As'ad AbuKhalil, agrees with David Ignatius (and me) that the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood is cahoots with Washington DC.

Ignatius:

[L]et’s be honest: The Obama administration has been Morsi’s main enabler.
AbuKhalil:
[T]here is clear evidence that the two governments have been working closely together.
Antother enabler of the Brotherhood are the editors of the Guardian. Their editorial today is so lopsided pro-Morsi that it is laughable.
In pre-empting a decision by the constitutional court to derail his constitution, his decree was cast too wide. The final draft of the constitution has many faults, although none are set in stone. The opposition on the other hand has never accepted the results of freely held elections, parliamentary or presidential, and is doing everything to stop new ones being held.
The editrial and especially its last sentence are simply wrong. Even the Guardian's own correspondent in Cairo denounced it:
Jack Shenker ‏@hackneylad
Let me say once again, I totally disassociate myself from this @Guardian editorial on #Egypt - it's offensive & wrong

The argument why Morsi's side is wrong is simple. The referendum in March 2011 won 77% approval with majority of eligible voters voting. That referendum set out the process to get to a new government and to a new constitution. It also included the modified old constitution. There were checks and balances in there and those included the judiciary being able challenge the legislative or executive when it saw them breaking the law.

By issuing his decrees and giving himself immunity Morsi did away with that.

So a 77% approval was overruled by someone who barely won 50% of the votes in a run off election with even less voters participating. This after receiving only some 25% in the first round of the election.

By issuing his decrees, likely in coordination with Washington, Morsi broke the rules a wide majority had voted for. That is what the protest are mainly about. (For other reasons the protesters have see this excellent overview of the various Egyptian interest groups.)

One argument against the protest is that the alternative to Morsi is the renewed rule of the military. But the military has never left the stage:

Accusations that, by stalling the political process, the opposition is courting a coup misread the military’s role in the current crisis. The army is equally invested in the existing draft constitution, which keeps their core prerogatives intact: a secretive budget, officers’ control over the Defense Ministry, a strong say in national security decisions and the right to try civilians in military courts. The generals are relieved to have found a civilian partner who can manage day-to-day political affairs, while ensuring that the military has the autonomy to pursue its own interests outside the purview of democratic oversight. These concessions are consistent with the Muslim Brothers’ pattern of refusing to stand up to the generals whenever their own path to power has been at stake.
The military, paid largely by Washington, is so in bed with Morsi that he can call on it to suppress further protests:
President Mohamed Morsy will soon issue a law that will give judicial and protective powers to the military, according to the state-run Al-Ahram website.

Drafted with the participation of army leaders, the law will task the armed forces with maintaining security and protecting vital installations in the state, until a new constitution takes effect and legitimate parliamentary elections are held.

This is martial law. What is Morsi now but a dictator backed by the military and under Washington's political control?

Whoever hopes that such an alliance will somehow evolve into democratically legitimated, independent foreign and domestic policies that reflect the values of the Egyptians is wrong. Very wrong.

But that is what the Egyptians had hoped for. That is why the struggle will continue.

Posted by b on December 8, 2012 at 08:26 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

December 06, 2012

German Paper: U.S. Pressing For NATO War On Syria

While U.S. "officials" continue to spread rumors of Syrian preparations of chemical weapons the reliable center-left German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung reports (in German) on U.S. attempts to get NATO to fight a war against Syria. The report is by Martin Winter, the resident Süddeutsche correspondent in Brussels. As similar reporting has yet to occur in the English media I offer my (rough) translation of his important piece.

During a diner for NATO foreign ministers on Tuesday evening NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen talked about the situation in Syria and about the conflict with Iran over the street of Hormuz in a way that one participant characterized as "beating the drums of war".

As multiple sources confirmed to the Süddeutsche Zeitung Rassmussen said with regards to the situation in Syria and the western dependency on the oil supply through the street of Hormuz that NATO must not "bury its head in the sand".

As was clear to everyone at the table what he meant: NATO should prepare for a military intervention in Syria. Politically this would be a radical change of NATO's current course which excluded any intervention in Syria. Rassmussen was supported by the foreign minister from Turkey and Great Britain as well as the American Hillary Clinton.
[...]

Rassmussen opened the political U-turn with two questions: What would NATO do should the Syrian army use chemical weapons? And what if Iran would block the street of Hormuz? France foreign minister Laurent Fabius dismissed the second question remarking that one should not ask questions "which are not acute". But the one with regard to Syria started a fierce and controversial debate in which the German foreign minister Guido Westerwelle and his colleges from the Netherlands, the Czech Republic or Poland argued against Rassmussen.

In difference to the USA or Rassmussen many European foreign ministers do not trust American secret service reports claiming that Syria may prepare for the use of chemical weapons. European secret services, including the German Bundesnachrichtendienst which is well networked in the Middle East, have "no perception" in that direction. Earlier Tuesday the Russian foreign minister Sergej Lavrow had warned his NATO colleges in Brussels to not take reports on such weapons in Syria at face value. Russia had in recent years looked into into many such rumors and reports and many had proven to be false or half truths.

Together with Rassmussen all the foreign ministers had warned Syria on Tuesday with consequences from the "international community" should it use weapons of mass destruction. But, said a minister from a smaller county, that did not imply NATO but the United Nations. Westerwelle harshly rejected a question about a military mission behind the drawn "red line" he had also drawn. There has to be a political solution [he said].

Even if there was no vote during the dinner at least two opposing camps were visible: One formed around the USA, Turkey, Great Britain and the NATO secretary general with France leaning into that direction. The other camp, which Germany belongs to, sternly rejected these ideas. One of the reasons is that they estimates the risk as high that one would help people to rule in Damascus who would turn out to be more dangerous than the current regime and who would then have their hands on chemical weapons.

But there is also a different reason for the German and Dutch foreign ministers to turn against Rassmussen. They are afraid that, should their be suspicion that NATO may think of a military intervention in Syria, they will meet resistance in their parliaments while requesting permission to deploy Patriot air defense missiles to Turkey.

Then those Patriots, including two German batteries, would be part of a military offensive and no longer, as held out so far, solely for the defense of Turkey. If that point will ever be reached is unsure. Even an order to the military leadership of NATO to plan for a mission in Syria, even provisional, needs the approval of all 28 NATO member countries. The dinner meeting was far from achieving such.

It seems like the U.S. and its tool Rassmussen want, like in Libya, contract NATO for their dirty fights. Judging from user comments in German online media there is, despite an avalanche of anti-Syrian propaganda, a strong opposition against any intervention in Syria. Should Westerwelle or chancellor Merkel support a NATO mission their advantage in next years federal elections would be at risk. I therefore expect that the German government will continue to reject any NATO intervention in Syria as well as in Iran. Today's report on how the U.S. failed to control the weapon flow from Qatar to Libya will only bolster their arguments.

Posted by b on December 6, 2012 at 02:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (62)

December 05, 2012

The Jihadist Chemical Weapon Capability Demonstration Video

A video showing the killing of two rabbits by some gas was just posted on Youtube. It may show the preparation of a false flag operation that would be intended to draw the U.S. into the war on Syria.

Colonel Pat Lang just asked: Has Obama decided on war in Syria?

Today's Washington Post [...] contains "above the line" a feature story that continues the propaganda campaign in the media apparently designed to create public belief in the imminent collapse of the Syrian government and/or the imminent employment of Sarin or some other noxious substance by the Syrian government.
He says that:
  • the propaganda campaign is based solely on insurgent accounts
  • Obama and Clinton have threatened to intervene should chemical weapons be used by the Syrian government
  • the U.S. seems ready to recognize an external Syrian government
  • the U.S. has a policy of regime change in Syria.

Lang concludes:

It appears that the Obama Administration has taken upon itself the right to determine the outcome of the civil war in Syria. The ongoing and emerging disaster in Egypt is evidently not a deterrent to "king making" in Syria.

With that in mind let lets take a look at this video which was posted some two hours ago on Youtube. (There is an alternative slightly lower quality copy which was uploaded to a different account one hour earlier than at the first link.) The video shows the preparation of some chemicals and their use in killing two rabbits. The background music in the video seems to some repetitive Jihadi chorus.

The video starts by showing quite large amounts of industrial size packages of various chemicals like Potassium Permanganate, Potassium Nitrate, Potassium Chlorate, Sodium Nitrite, Acetone and others. According to the labels most of the stuff is sourced from the Turkish company Tekkim.

Some basic chemical lab apparatus is shown and a masked man is preparing some stuff in a glass heated by a gas flame.

More chemicals, Hydrochloride Acid is one of them, with several dozen bottles of each kind are shown. A poster on wall, mostly in Arabic, also says "Danger" and "Wind Isber Chemical Inscription".

Two rabbits in a large glass cage are shown. There is a glass with some chemical in the cage. The masked man adds some fluid and closes the top of the cage. A reaction appears to create some white and heavy gas. After two minutes and some convulsions the rabbits die.

This could be some Jihadis preparing chemical weapons for use against Assad supporters. This could be an attempt by the Syrian government to be able to blame Jihadis when it resorts to use chemical weapons.

Use of chemical weapons against the Jihadis by the Syrian government would be ineffective and very dangerous. I do not believe that the government would do this.

As Obama and Clinton have threatened to attack Syria should chemical weapons be used there it might well be possible that the terrorists fighting the Syrian government are preparing for a "false flag" use of chemical weapons to draw the U.S. into their fight.

But if that is the case why prepare and publish a video about that capability?

(Could those here who can read and understand Arabic please note in the comments what is said and what is written on that wall poster. Thanks.)

Posted by b on December 5, 2012 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (48)

December 04, 2012

The Persian Cats Take Down Another Drone

A year ago Iran managed to take down a U.S. stealthy RQ-170 drone that violated its airspace without much damage.


Persian cats taking down made in Iran RQ-170 training drones
Photo via Thomas Erdbrink - bigger

Today Iran took down another, smaller U.S. drone. A Boeing Scan Eagle which might have been launched from a ship in the Persian Gulf. The video, below the fold, shows that the Iranians caught this one, like the other one, without any obvious damage. All that cat training was obviously quite successful.

While some believe that GPS spoofing, overriding the original GPS signal with a deceiving one, is the way Iran could have done this, I doubt that and I still find my old explanation the more plausible one:

When the drone is in the air it is controlled via a satellite link from a remote operating station. But during start and landing the drone is piloted via line-of-sight radio by an operator near the start or landing field. This is necessary because the remote satellite link has a delay of several hundred milliseconds which is just too much latency to correct wind sheer and other problems during takeoff and landing.

What the Iranians seem to have done is to take over the drone's line-of-sight control. This after electronically disrupting its satellite link. Disrupting the satellite link alone would not be enough as the drone would then have followed some preprogrammed action like simply flying back to where it came from. With the line-of-sight control active a satellite link disruption would not lead to a preprogrammed abort.

We can reasonably assume that the Iranians have some station near Kandahar Airport that is listening to all military radio traffic there. They had four years to analyze the radio signaling between the ground operator and such drones. Even if that control signal is encrypted pattern recognition during many flights over four years would have given them enough information to break the code.

The U.S. (and Israel) are routinely violating other countries airspace. This might one day come back to haunt them. The technological development of drones is no longer a hurdle and soon other countries will also have many of them. Hizbullah flying a drone above Israels Dimona reactor is just a sign of things to come.

We also must again emphasize that despite five years of continued illegal drone espionage over Iran the U.S. has found not one bit of evidence of any existence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program.

One wonders if future officials will resent their forerunner's dumb idea of creating a customary law of air violations for the senseless quest for proof of an Iranian program that does not exist.

 

Press TV has now put up a longer, more detailed video.

Posted by b on December 4, 2012 at 09:35 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

December 03, 2012

The Wired Syria WMD Claim Is False

Wired's Danger Room has a weird Exclusive story on alleged Syrian chemical weapons:
Engineers working for the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors needed to weaponize sarin gas, an American official with knowledge of the situation tells Danger Room. International observers are now more worried than they’ve even been that the Damascus government could use its nerve agent stockpile to slaughter its own people.
...
Sarin gas has two main chemical components — isopropanol, popularly known as rubbing alcohol, and methylphosphonyl difluoride. The Assad government has more than 500 metric tons of these precursors, which it ordinarily stores separately, in so-called “binary” form, in order to prevent an accidental release of nerve gas.

Last week, that changed. The Syrian military began combining some of the binaries. “They didn’t do it on the whole arsenal, just a modest quantity,” the official says. “We’re not sure what’s the intent.”

Seemingly for lack of knowledge the Danger Room folks are falling for very stupid "Arab country will soon use WMD" propaganda. Do we need to remind anyone that the same claims were made by "American officials" 10 years ago and turned out to be false?

In this case we cane be quite sure that the claims are indeed false. No one in Syria is combining binaries.

Just think of how binary chemical weapons actually work:

Binary chemical weapons or munitions are chemical weapons wherein the toxic agent is not contained within the weapon in its active state, but in the form of two chemical precursors, physically separated within the weapon. The precursors are designed to be significantly less toxic than the agent they make when mixed, and this allows the weapon to be transported and stored more safely than otherwise. The safety provided by binary chemical weapons is especially important for people who live near ammunition dumps.

The chemical reaction takes place while the weapon is in flight. Firing the munition ruptures the capsules. The munition spins rapidly in flight, which thoroughly mixes the two precursors, so they can react with one another. Finally, a bursting charge aerosolizes and distributes the chemical agent.

There is no need for the Syrian army to combine stuff and fill it up because the precursors are already stored in the ammunition when that artillery ammunition or aerial bomb is distributed to the units that are  supposed to use them. They precursors are stored in two separate chambers and the ammunition is safe for transport and storage. Only firing the ammunition or dropping the bomb will combine the binaries.

What the anonymous American official claims is not happening in Syria. If the Wired writers Noah Shachtman and Spencer Ackerman, (an avid defender of Israel firsters some might note), had even some basic knowledge about ammunition engineering they would not fall for such a stupid claim some anonymous official makes.

The claim that "the Assad regime in Syria have begun combining the two chemical precursors" is definitely wrong. Whatever the Syrian army is doing or not doing with its strategic weapons, it is not what that anonymous "American official" claims.

Posted by b on December 3, 2012 at 02:33 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

December 02, 2012

Open Thread 2012-31

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 2, 2012 at 01:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (47)

Egypt's Continuing Power Struggle

To continue the excellent comments on the recent Egypt thread some links to further developments.

The complete translation of the proposed new constitution. In my view it is a convoluted mess.

Here are some of the many controversial issues with this proposed constitution. Many details, especially with regards the personal freedom, unclear and open to dangerous interpretations and manipulation. The balance of power between the executive and the parliament is tilted towards the executive. Other points include the role of Al Azahr, freedoms of trade unions and many issues of social justice. The military and its budget is kept secret and under the military's control. This leaves the military open to  manipulation by foreign interests.

Some imam at a mosque where Morsi was praying ignited protests from worshipers when he compared Morsi with the prophet:

“Prophet Mohamed and the Caliphs used to dismiss and appoint judges, and there is no problem with Morsy doing that,” the imam said, according to an eyewitness.

Muslim Brotherhood followers blocked the high judges from entering their court building. The High Constitutional Court responded by freezing all further sessions.

It is unclear how the voting about this proposed constitution will be done. According to Egyptian law the judges have the task of supervising such votes but the judges are on strike to protests Morsi's powergrab.

The grievances against Morsi are certainly not only over these constitutional issues. What many Egyptians seem to be upset about is the continued reliance of Morsi on the Mubarak repression apparatus and its leading personalities as detailed here:

The president is disposed to neither the revolution nor social justice, and I cannot be convinced that he has immunized his decrees to protect the revolution when he has not once stood up to the repressive and security apparatus. Do we still need to teach people that absolute power corrupts absolutely?

The way Morsi, elected with little more than 25% of the eligible votes, is pushing to get this half baked constitution into place does not bode well for the future of Egypt.

Posted by b on December 2, 2012 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

December 01, 2012

AP's George Jahn Doubles Down On Fake "Iran" Graph

The Associated Press reporter in Vienna, George Jahn, wrote a rather stupid story about a Graph suggests Iran working on bomb.

The graph in that story suggest nothing like what Jahn's (Israeli) sources suggest.

It is a showing two plots. A bell-curve shaped energy release and the integral of the release that sums up the total. During my university studies I once plotted a similar looking graph for the theoretical energy release in a small laser pulse. When someone tweeted the story my response was therefore "1st semester physics". But the case is even worse. It is "failed 1st semester physics".

As real nuclear scientists pointed out:

The image released to the Associated Press shows two curves: one that plots the energy versus time, and another that plots the power output versus time, presumably from a fission device. But these two curves do not correspond: If the energy curve is correct, then the peak power should be much lower -- around 300 million ( 3x108) kt per second, instead of the currently stated 17 trillion (1.7 x1013) kt per second. As is, the diagram features a nearly million-fold error.

This diagram does nothing more than indicate either slipshod analysis or an amateurish hoax.

Gareth Porter provides a good write up of the above and other debunking of the graph.

Caught spreading obvious propaganda with fake documents George Jahn today doubled down:

A senior diplomat familiar with the probe of Iran by the IAEA told the AP on Friday that the agency suspects that Iranian scientists calculating a nuclear yield intentionally simplified the diagram to make it comprehensible to Iranian government officials to whom they were presenting it. He said that when the right data are plugged in, the yield is indeed 50 kilotons.
So if one corrects the errors in the graph than the graph has no errors. That's obvious. But how would have miscalculating the graph "simplified" it? Simply changing the dimensions does not simplify or complicate anything in it.

Jahn's sources are just spouting stupid nonsense and that Jahn is eating it up is just showing that he is in no way a serious reporter. AP should fire him immediately.

Aside from that, people looking at the graph often miss the bigger picture. A few points on that.

  • Even if the charts and alleged other simulations were correct, which they are not,
  • even if they were from Iran, which is in serious doubt,
  • even if they were at a more sophisticated level than 1st semester physics, which they again are not,
  • even if they showed high level bomb research, which they do not,
  • they would be perfectly legal and sensible to make if one wants to learn about proliferation issues and the effects of nuclear weapons.

There is nothing, like zero, in Iran's or any other country's obligation towards the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, that forbids theoretical research into nuclear physics or nuclear weapons.

It makes perfect sense for any state to do such nuclear weapon research. If there is even the smallest chance that you might get hit with some weapon you will want to know how it works and what it does. Besides that, anyone studying general nuclear physics will at some point learn enough about how nuclear weapons work and will be able to create a numerical and graphical simulation of their functioning. There is nothing nefarious in doing that.

The AP's Jahn will, of course, not tell you such. His mission is to transport Israeli anti-Iran propaganda into the international media. As his second piece on this hoax graph proves, defying logic and common sense is no hindrance to him doing that. But that probably was the really important requirement when he was chosen for his job.

Posted by b on December 1, 2012 at 12:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (26)

 
Site Meter