Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 30, 2013

Syria: First To Blink ...

Look who blinks:
Syria's opposition chief Moaz al-Khatib said on Wednesday he is ready for dialogue with officials of President Bashar al-Assad's regime, subject to conditions including that some 160,000 detainees are released.

"I announce I am ready for direct discussions with representatives of the Syrian regime in Cairo, Tunis or Istanbul," Mr Khatib said via his Facebook page, citing as another condition that passports for exiled citizens be renewed in embassies abroad.

Missing is the condition that many "western" governments and their puppet Syrian opposition had earlier set for talks. There is no longer the demand that Bashar al-Assad has to leave before any negotiations can take place.

It is likely that many of the exile Syrian opposition will reject these negotiations and further split their coalition.

I expect that the Syrian government will take up this offer but it will take time for the process to start. There obviously will be no release of opposition fighters from prison before negotiations start. When they start al-Khatib and his bosses in Washington will have little to offer. The fighters on the ground are not under the command of the exile opposition. They will care little about what he negotiates.

Still this offer will have effects. On the ground it will diminish the motivation of some of the fighters. It will also have effects on those that finance and support the opposition fighters. Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar will have to treat more carefully now as al-Khatib negotiation offer implies that Washington wants the conflict to end. Whoever stands in the way will have to watch out.

Posted by b on January 30, 2013 at 01:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (108)

The Lobotomized Democratic Base

Chuck Spinney is spot on here. U.S. foreign policy always flows from domestic policies which again are determined by bribes and some cultural quirks. Nothing good can come from such a construct:
American politics continues to repeat the practice of buying domestic power by inflicting misery and destruction on third world nations. In my view, Obama’s own contribution to statecraft in this regard has been his ability to lobotomize almost the entire Democratic base. The same people who were screaming about Bush’s illegal wars, unconstitutional surveillance, lack of due process, etc., are now silent or singing Obama’s greatness.
...
The Republican party, with a few exceptions, is so visibly crazy that they have become an indispensable foil that permits Obama to govern as he does. The conventional wisdom of liberals is that Obama’s heart is in the right place, but he is conflict averse and therefore must govern as a centrist (really a center-rightist), because the GOP is crazy and intransigent. But in reality, Obama actually is a center-rightist who uses his image as a diffident compromiser as a cloak to hide his pro-corporatocracy given aways. And because most people prefer center-right governance to out-and-out fascism, the GOP plays an essential role as a “bad cop” to the center-right “good cop,” which is why Democrats went along with Obama’s plan to enshrine the Bush tax cuts for the bottom 99.3%, and a huge giveaway on the estate tax, in perpetuity. My fear is that, in the same way, Democrats will go along with Obama’s inflated defense budgets and his permanent conflict foreign policy.
I recommend the whole piece: The Afghan Endgame…and Where It Will Lead

Posted by b on January 30, 2013 at 02:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

January 29, 2013

"Nuclear Iran" Scare Buried - To Be Revived When Needed

The "nuclear Iran" scare is being laid to rest for now.

Israel: Iran slowing nuclear program, won’t have bomb before 2015

Intelligence briefings given to McClatchy over the last two months have confirmed that various officials across Israel’s military and political echelons now think it’s unrealistic that Iran could develop a nuclear weapons arsenal before 2015. Others pushed the date back even further, to the winter of 2016.
...
"We can’t attribute the delays in Iran’s nuclear program to accidents and sabotage alone," he said. "There has not been the run towards a nuclear bomb that some people feared. There is a deliberate slowing on their end."
There is only a "slowing" of Iran's nuclear program if one had assumed that Iran was going for a bomb. It wasn't and isn't.

Moving the date Iran could have a bomb has been done since about 1982. It will continue to be done for years to come.

And while the "nuclear Iran" scare is for now buried it will certainly be revived when there is again need to divert attention from Israel's misdeeds.

Posted by b on January 29, 2013 at 01:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (25)

January 28, 2013

Arabs Are So Different - Not

A question to David D. Kirkpatrick and his editors at the New York Times.

You write:

It was unclear how the clashes began, but the police were soon firing heavy volleys of tear gas into the funeral march. The gas attacks caused the pallbearers to drop coffins, many witnesses said, and the bodies spilled into the streets, a serious indignity here.

In which country is it not considered an indignity when, during a funeral, coffins get dropped and the dead bodies spilled into the street? The United States?

Posted by b on January 28, 2013 at 10:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

January 27, 2013

Egypt: Emergency Rule Might Start A Salafist Revolution

The current clashes in Egypt may lead to the reintroduction of emergency rules. The Muslim Brotherhood might be tempted to use these rules not only to against the protests from the left but also to act against its Salafi competition to the right. That again may well lead to an armed Jihadist insurgency which the Egyptian state would have trouble to suppress.

On January 25 the second anniversary of the begin of the unfinished Egyptian revolution was celebrated with renewed clashes at Cairo's Tahrir square. Various groups were involved with all of them seemingly opposed to the ruling Muslim Brotherhood. A "black block" appeared, a previously unknown phenomenon in Egypt. It is not known who is behind these people, who their leaders are and what the block's purpose is supposed to be. Usually such blocks, by attacking state organs, manage to delegitimatize any civil demonstration they join.

Another block involved in the protest were the rather radical supporters, the Ultras, of Cairo's soccer club al-Ahly. These never want to miss a fight with supporters of a competing club or the police.

Likely to stave off further fights with the al-Ahly supporters a court in Cairo yesterday announced a ruling in the case of a riot and panic in the Port Said football stadium on February 1 2012. In that riot followers of the Port Said team attacked players and fans of the al-Ahly team. The police did not intervene. A panic occurred and many al-Ahly fans got killed while trying to leave the locked stands. A total of 79 people died. CNN reported at that time:

Police conscripts then stood by as rival fans attacked each other with rocks and chairs. "The police did nothing to stop it," said Amr Khamis, an Al-Ahly supporter, at the train station in Cairo after returning from the match.

"Officers refused to open the gates of the stadium, so we could not escape and had to face thousands of Al-Masry hooligans attacking with rocks, knives, swords and anything else you can imagine."

The authorities at those riots were either completely incompetent or had willingly let it happen.

Yesterday the court announced the death penalty for 21 of the accused. All of these were Port Said soccer fans. Not one of the security officers or Cairo fans involved was found guilty. While the Cairo fans celebrated the judgement, Port Said fans immediately took to the streets and tried to storm the prison which holds the convicts.

Shots were fired from the security forces as well as by those attacking the prison. Thirty-three people, including two police, were killed. Later the military was deployed. As today's mass funeral procession for those killed yesterday passed along an army and police beach club shots were fired at the procession by unknown persons. New violence ensued and the police club was burned down. At least seven people were killed and hundreds were injured. In Port Said a cycle of demonstrates killed, mass funeral, mourners killed, seems to have started. Such a cycle had a great role in the Iranian revolution against the Shah. Violence in Cairo also continued today.

The leader of the Muslim Brotherhood demands that president Mursi reintroduces emergency laws that had been abandoned after the fall of president Mubarak. This would further alienate those who are already critical of the Mursi government. It would be a "four legs good two legs better" moment. The saying "the system did not change, it just grew a beard" would have become true.

The more secular opposition and the rioting seems to be without any plan. The hapless opposition National Salvation Front announced that it would not take part in the next parliament elections and issues demands that Mursi will certainly not fulfill. It has little influence over the rioters. Meanwhile the silent majority is abstaining from protests and enduring more economic pain.

While the current protests and the cycle of violence make it difficult for Mursi to rule they are in effect more of an economic problem than a real threat to the state.

The danger for Mursi is not from the secular and the left but to his right. The Salafis will certainly try to use the situation for their gain. The brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed al-Zawahri, is leading the Salafist Jihadist group in Egypt. In a recent interview he explained his position:

Thankfully the situation is improving in terms of lifting the oppression from the Muslims and in terms of our freedoms and this includes promoting what we view as being the True Religion. However we are still very far from the primary objective of implementing Islamic Sharia law.
Sharia law would, according to him, solve the partisanship issues, lift Egypt's economic problems, better the security situation and heal tooth pain.
We are of the view that democracy contravenes the True Religion of Islam, as this places sovereignty outside of God’s hands, and so we reject democracy and all its mechanisms and tools.
Mohamed al-Zawahri played a role in the attack on the U.S. embassy in Cairo on September 11. The storming of the embassy in Cario was, in my view, a diversion to help the well planned attack on the U.S. "consulate" and CIA station in Benghazi in Libya. This operation interrupted the CIA organized weapon flow from Gaddhafi's arsenals via Turkey to the more secular insurgents in Syria. The weapon flow to the Salafi insurgents in Syria was not interrupted and they are since the predominant force in the Syrian insurgency.

Many of Egypt's Salafist live in the Sinai. Many Libyan weapons were also reported to have been smuggled there. Benghazi is only a 200 miles desert ride away from Egypt's western border. It is a hotbed of Salafist Jihadis and not under government control. Fearing imminent attacks the British, German and Italian governments yesterday urged their citizens to leave the city.

For the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt the Salafists are the most rival political force and the biggest political danger. In the last parliament election the Muslim brotherhood received some 38% of the vote and the Islamist Bloc, led by Salafists, received 28%. Since he started ruling president Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood did not have much success. The economic situation further deteriorated with especially the important tourist business still being in tatters. The security situation is still bad.

It is quite possible that, with the secular opposition abstaining, the vote share for the Salafist parties in the upcoming parliament elections may overtake the one for the Muslim Brotherhood.

If Mursi follows the demand for reintroduction of the emergency laws it would give him the tools to suppress the Salafi parties and votes. The urge to do so might be overwhelming.

But any suppression of the Salafis increases the risk of a a real revolt. Armed and supported by their friends in Benghazi a Salafist insurgency in Egypt might have a real chance. Unlike Qatar, Saudi Arabia, as well as Kuwait and the UAE, see the Muslim Brotherhood as a danger to their countries. They may well be inclined to support an armed revolution from the right against Mursi's rule.

Even for the Egyptian army such an insurgency, which would take place in the cities, would be very difficult to suppress. Will the military see the danger and again take over?

Posted by b on January 27, 2013 at 02:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

January 25, 2013

Position Changes On Syria

There seems to be some recognition that the attack on Syria is failing:
France said on Thursday there were no signs that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is about to be overthrown, something Paris has been saying for months was just over the horizon.
...
Fabius told RFI radio in December "the end is nearing" for Assad. But on Thursday, he said international mediation and discussions about the crisis that began in March 2011 were not getting anywhere. "There are no recent positive signs," he said.
This is definitely a change in the French governments mind. The attack on Mali may be the reason for that. The public can hardly be deceived about the fact that the Jihadists France is trying to fight in Mali are the same ilk that Bashar Assad is fighting against. There is only so much hypocrisy that can be covered up.

Peter Lee believes that the Saudis are the ones that are still lobbying against a negotiated solution:

The United States and its European allies, it appears, would welcome some kind of negotiated settlement as long as Western face is saved by Assad stepping down. Turkey, which is facing a growing Kurdish calamity and has probably had a bellyful of its Syrian adventurism, would probably agree. And, as noted above, Qatar has a post-Assad electoral agenda based on its M[uslim] B[rotherhood] assets.

However, Prince Saud has drawn the line in the sand, indicating that Saudi Arabia is optimistic about a scenario of total regime collapse—and a subsequent political endgame in which Saudi allies occupy a privileged and protected position in the new power structure instead of getting massacred by a tag team of threatened Sunni citizens and the newly “democratic” Syrian army.

I have a different read of the Saudi position.

Some Saudis have indeed yet to acknowledge their defeat:

A senior member of Saudi Arabia's monarchy called on Friday for Syrian rebels to be given anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons to "level the playing field" in their battle against President Bashar al-Assad.
...
"I'm not in government so I don't have to be diplomatic. I assume we're sending weapons and if we were not sending weapons it would be terrible mistake on our part," said Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former intelligence chief and brother of Saudi Arabia's foreign minister.
Turki al-Faisal was ambassador to the U.S. but resigned after his predecessor, Bandar bin Sultan, visited the White House several times without Turki al-Faisal knowledge. Turki al-Faisal no longer has a political role in Saudi Arabia. But Bandar bin Sultan is now Secretary General of the National Security Council and Director General of the Saudi Intelligence Agency. Bandar bin Sultan planned and is running the Saudi part of the campaign against Syria. As Seymour Hersh reported back in 2007:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. [...] The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
...
The key players behind the redirection are Vice-President Dick Cheney, the deputy national-security adviser Elliott Abrams, the departing Ambassador to Iraq (and nominee for United Nations Ambassador), Zalmay Khalilzad, and Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi national-security adviser.

There is recently some news that the arms flow to Syrian insurgents has much diminished. They are on the verge of loosing their positions in Homs and the Damascus suburbs.

I take the public demand for more arms by Turki al-Faisal as criticism of a change in his rival's Bandar bin Sultan's policies towards Syria.

Bahsar Assad has the upper hand in Syria and is slowly regaining ground:

[T]he prospects of the ground battle are changing. There are new factors and military strategies. The army has learned from its mistakes. The army has gained more control over security breaches caused by corruption. Popular committees, which have been intensively training for two months, have been formed. An information and eavesdropping network has been installed (with great help from the Russians, which has surpassed all Western aid to the armed opposition). Self-protection measures in minority areas have been taken. It is said that the popular committees’ accomplishments have exceeded the army’s expectations.
Bashar Assad's now acknowledged survival has changed the Saudi policies towards him:
Behind-the-scenes contacts between Syria and Saudi Arabia have changed the relationship between them. Nothing major has come of these efforts, but they are a good start. The talks are not with the official Saudi authorities, but many inside the Saudi government hold a different opinion about interfering in Syria. Damascus is mostly resentful of Qatar, although Moallem often talks about Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Algerian, Iraqi, Lebanese and Egyptian officials have relayed genuine Syrian frustration about Qatar’s insistence on arming the opposition.
There is indeed, as Peter Lee describes, a deep split between Qatar's and Saudi Arabia's policies. While Qatar wants to install the Muslim Brotherhood in Syria, a group the Saudis fear, Saudi Arabia had planned for conservative Sunni regime, headed by a strongman or - preferable - a king. And while the Saudis use Jihadis for their purpose in foreign policies they also fear them at home. As the situation has now developed in Syria a defeat of Assad would likely end in a significant role for the Jihadists and those would immediately threaten Jordan and the Saudi borders.

As Saudi Arabia recognizes the danger from the powers it unleashed it is looking for a way out. Keeping a - much diminished - Assad regime in place may well be preferable to a win for those powers, the MB or the Jihadists, who do not recognize and would fight against the Saudi princes legitimacy.

Hard proof for the change in the Saudi position is not yet in. But the situation has developed to a point where a win for the opposition would result in likely trouble for the Saudi state.  My hunch is therefore that the Saudis will agree to a negotiated solution while the Qataris will likely be against anything that leaves the Muslim Brotherhood out of a governing position.

But Qatar may have overstretched its position. Supporting the Jihadists in Mali, as some in France allege it is doing, may bring an end of its freewheeling intervention policy by money and weapon support.

Posted by b on January 25, 2013 at 01:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

January 23, 2013

Some Links

As I am busy with a business deadline I have little time to read and post.

So just a few links:

1. Nir Rosen gave a talk the London School of Economics about his recent time in Syria. He has some interesting insights but seems to play down the jihadists problem. Nir Rosen talk - Syria: From Rebellion to Civil War (75 min)

2. Al Akhbar is publishing diplomatic papers related to Syria liberated from the Qatari government. There are several interesting points in them I expect to write about. For now just the link to the first batch.

3. Everyone should read the Leveretts at Going to Tehran. The latest: Obama and the (Mis)management of Imperial Decline

4. Cameron gives in to some wingnuts in his party and demands more special treating for Britain in the European Union. He wants Britain to hold an 'in or out' referendum by 2017. This is stupid on many levels. Cameron has no leverage. Should the Brexit occur about every continental European would say "good riddance". By setting the date in 2017 Cameron guarantees that there will be no new or further international business investment in Britain until that date because the framework under which such business would run is not clear. Would that be EU rules or not? Will they have to pay custom when exporting to EU countries? There are sound reason to change many EU rules. But is obviously not the way to achieve that. The guy and his party are a real embarrassment.

5. Pretty amazing. A racist who defends his racial superiority: Jews DO control the media

And then they came to America, the one place that ever really let them have as much power as they wanted, and suddenly they’re taking over. Please don’t tell me that any other group in the world has ever done that. Only the Jews. And we’ve done it before. That’s why the Jews were enslaved in Egypt. We were too successful. Go look at the Torah — it’s right there. And we did it in Germany too.

Posted by b on January 23, 2013 at 01:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (71)

January 21, 2013

A Speech Full Of Lies and Delusions

To pick out just one of them:

Jan 21- President Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural address

A decade of war is now ending.
Jan 21 - US Drone Strike In Yemen Kills 2 Alleged Al Qaeda Militants, Wounds Others

Jan 20 - U.S. drone strike kills four Qaeda militants in Yemen: sources

Jan 19 - Yemen Drone Strikes: Suspected U.S. Attack Kills At Least 8

Posted by b on January 21, 2013 at 12:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

January 19, 2013

Erdogan Sends Jihadists To Kill Kurds

The "opposition" in Syria is in a bit of difficulty:
Syrian Kurds urged the opposition on Saturday to halt a siege against them by Islamist rebels, as the UN condemned the killing of dozens of children across the country over the past week.

The Kurdish National Council, a pro-opposition umbrella group of Syrian Kurdish parties, condemned what it said was an ongoing assault "against unarmed civilians" by jihadist insurgents on the northern town of Ras al-Ain.

It said the rebels, who came across the border from Turkey, were shelling the town indiscriminately, and called on the main opposition National Coalition and the Free Syrian Army to "pressure these militants to stop this criminal war which is detrimental to the Syrian revolution."

From an earlier report:
Fighters from radical groups Al-Nusra Front and Ghuraba al-Sham battled Kurdish militiamen a day after launching a new assault on the border town. A Kurdish resident of Ras al-Ain, who said he opposed al-Assad’s regime, said the jihadists crossed the Turkish border with three tanks into Ras al-Ain on Jan. 17.
This is not a small gang infiltrating over the green border but a larger infantry formations accompanied by tanks passing at the normal border crosspoint. It is impossible that the Turkish guards at that border crossing missed these.

Turkey is now obviously using the jihadist Nusra Front to fight Kurds in Syria, even those Kurds that are tied to the Syrian opposition. On three days last week it was also bombing Kurds in Iraq.

Do the Kurds that live in Turkey really still believe that they can make peace with the Erdogan government while that kills their brethren in Iraq and Syria? I do expect renewed Kurdish attacks in Turkey as soon as the snow melts in the south eastern Anatolian highlands.

Posted by b on January 19, 2013 at 01:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

Is Mali The Real Target?

What country is the actual target of the French intervention in Mali? There isn't much to win in that country. While their might be some oil and Uranium somewhere in the ground nothing is yet developed. Next door though there is much more to win like fully developed gas and oil fields.

The people in Algeria seem to think it is their country that is the target and they are fuming that their government allowed French overflights. This press review quotes several opinions, written befor the current hostage crisis, that express these concerns. One Laid Seraghni opines:

The author argues that the intervention will ‘affect and destablise all the countries in the Sahel region, including Algeria, whose borders are so great that the state can not counter the infiltration of terrorist groups’. ‘According to him,’ Le Temps writes, ‘this intervention ‘would force Algeria to consider the military option to protect its borders and the Algerian population in the region of Kidal (Mali). The Algerian army will face the rebels of Ansar Eddine, AQIM and MUJAO’. Additionally, the intervention will leave Algeria ‘surrounded by the French army operating Libya, Ivory Coast, Niger, Mauritania, Chad and Mali’. The article argues that Algeria is being ‘targeted by France,’ using Seraghni’s piece as backup: ‘Since colonization, Algeria has always claimed its independence and sovereignty. The Algerian revolution of 1957, derailed the plan to create an independent Tuareg state controlled by the colonial power. Algeria refuses to admit French bases on its territory, whose primary mission is to monitor and pressure the Algerian state’. Seraghni argues that ‘Anyone who follows relations between Algeria and France knows that it is not Mali which raises the attention of French power, but Algeria.’ The author accuses French elites of having ‘never forgiven the independence of Algeria, which paved the way for the decolonization of Africa’ concluding by reminding readers to recall ‘the phrase of Charles de Gaulle who declared that ‘France has no friends, she has only interests.’
Political science professor Ahmed Adimi has similar concerns and this theory:
It was France that was behind the creation of the movement for the Azawad and I speak of course of the political organization and not of the people of Azawad who have rights as a community. The French knew that their intervention in Libya would lead to a return of the pro-Qaddafi military Tuareg to Mali. They also planned the release of Libyan arms stockpiles across the Sahel band. The project is to transform the region into a new Afghanistan, the result of long term planning.’
I admit that I have still much to learn about the extremely complicate relations (a long and recommended read) between governments, security forces, smugglers, jihadis and the various tribal and ethnic  populations in the dirt poor area. But there are indeed some signs that outer forces, mostly the U.S. and the French, have - sometimes competing - designs for the wider area of which the rather rich Algeria is a part.

The Pentagon is pushing for more war and is sending troops to "train" those African countries that are supposed to invade Mali. As South America and other regions can tell U.S. trained troops often turn out to be especially brutal and often independent of civilian control. Some of the Malian troops the U.S. trained ended up changing sides. One officer, trained in the U.S. on at least four occasions, overthrew his government.

Algeria has been very reluctant, despite several high visits from Secretary of State Clinton, to cooperate and to take up any role in the fight.

The hostage takers that attacked an oil installation in Algeria came from Libya, not from Mali. Could they, just like the Libyan gangs in Syria who were supported by 25 CIA officers in Benghazi, be operating on some special outside support and advice? Maybe in the hope that Algeria would cry uncle and scream for outside help?

If so it did not work out as planned. The Algerians, as usual, took on the issue themselves and made clear that negotiations with the hostage takers were out of question. They solved the situation by force.

The U.S. and others are miffed about that:

Algeria’s unilateral decision to attack kidnappers at a natural gas plant — while shunning outside help, imposing a virtual information blackout and disregarding international pleas for caution — has dampened hopes that it might cooperate militarily in Mali, U.S. officials said. The crisis has strained ties between Algiers and Washington and increased doubts about whether Algeria can be relied upon to work regionally to dismantle al-Qaeda’s franchise in North Africa.
Isn't the same said about Pakistan? Doesn't that sounds like a threat?

I would not be surprised when, within a few month, we see France and the U.S. cheer leading those who are now Al-Qaeda in Mali as freedom fighters against a "brutal Algerian regime."

Posted by b on January 19, 2013 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (145)

January 17, 2013

Syria: Reuters Spreads Another 'Massacre' Lie - Debunked

Reuters: Massacre of over 100 reported in Syria's Homs
More than 100 people were shot, stabbed or possibly burned to death by government forces in the Syrian city of Homs, a monitoring group said on Thursday, and fierce fighting raged across the country.

The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said women and children were among the 106 people killed by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad forces who stormed Basatin al-Hasawiya, a poor district on the edge of Homs, on Tuesday.
...
Reuters cannot independently confirm reports due to reporting restrictions in Syria.

That last sentence is nonsense and is Reuters' poor self-serving excuse for lazyness and to publish propaganda.

Bill Neely (@billneelyitv) is international editor for ITV News. He is currently in Syria on a legit government visa and reports from Homs. Here are his recent tweets:

9:08 AM - 17 Jan 13

It is clear many people died in the poor farming community at the edge of #Homs. The regime & opposition both say dozens wr killed.
9:10 AM - 17 Jan 13
Local men I talked to put the number of those killed in #Huwaisa at around 30,including women & at least five children.I saw blood & remains
9:25 AM - 17 Jan 13
There has clearly been mass killing in #Huwaisa.It's NOT clear who did this-opposition blames regime frces,local civs blame Jabhat al Nusra
9:35 AM - 17 Jan 13
Local men in #Huwaisa described rebels who came 2 area 2 attack army;some in "black uniforms",some wearing headbands with Jihadi slogans
9:36 AM - 17 Jan 13
Many local men in #Huwaisa cried as they met e'other-1 lost 2 brothers,another his wife & sister.They said rebels wr different-not FSA
Who will know better who killed the people in Huwaisa? The local people on the ground or Reuters propaganda source which sits somewhere in Britain?

Posted by b on January 17, 2013 at 12:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

January 16, 2013

Open Thread 2013-2

As the last one is full ...

(... and as I have no idea what to write about)

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 16, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (64)

January 15, 2013

Mission Creep At Lightning Speed

France says Mali victory 'will be swift'
France strongly defended its military intervention in northern Mali yesterday, dismissing any suggestion of a long-term commitment comparable to the West's operation in Afghanistan launched in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001.
...
[France's foreign minister, Laurent Fabius,] said French strikes in Mali had succeeded in halting the insurgents' progress towards the south of the country but that the operation was designed to last only for a few weeks. "Later on, we can come as backup but we have no intention of staying forever," he said.
The "few weeks" term was also used by the Malian foreign minister:
The France-led military intervention in Mali to oust Islamist rebels from the west African country may last a few weeks, Malian Foreign Affairs Minister Tieman Hubert Coulibali said on Tuesday.
But now we get a different mission and a very undefined time table from the French president Hollande:
"As soon as there is an African force, in the coming days or weeks, that is backed by the international community and by Europe, France will not have a reason to stay in Mali," he told a news conference during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.

"We have one goal, however. To ensure that when we leave, when we end our intervention, Mali is safe, has legitimate authorities, an electoral process and there are no more terrorists threatening its territory," Hollande said.

Ten years later ...

There is very little chance that Mali, in its current configuration where a restive Tuareg/Berber north has for decades tried to separate from the south, will ever be safe, have legitimate authorities, an electoral process and no "terrorists".

By announcing these new nation building aims and by increasing the troop strength to, for now, 2,500, Hollande in effect announced a never ending occupation. It is highly unlikely that the locals will put up with that.

Posted by b on January 15, 2013 at 12:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

January 14, 2013

David Albright: Germany Could Make Nuclear Weapons - Punish It!

Reuters (slightly modified): Germany could reach key point for nuclear bomb by mid-2014: U.S. experts
Germany could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by mid-2014, and the United States and its allies should intensify sanctions on Berlin before that point is reached, a report by a group of U.S. nonproliferation experts said.

President Barack Obama should also clearly state that the United States will take military action to prevent Germany from acquiring a nuclear weapon, the report said.
...
The 154-page report, "U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy for the Changing World," produced by five nonproliferation experts, was expected to be released on Monday.

"Based on the current trajectory of Germany's nuclear program, we estimate that Germany could reach critical capability in mid-2014," the report said.

It defined "critical capability" as the point when Germany would be able to produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more bombs without detection by the West.

By mid-2014, Germany would have enough time to build a secret uranium-enrichment site or significantly increase the number of centrifuges for its nuclear program, said David Albright, one of the project's co-chairs and president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

"We don't think there is any secret enrichment plant making significant secret uranium enrichment right now," he told Reuters. But there is "real worry" that Germany would build such a plant, he said.

The report recommends that the United States and its allies intensify sanctions pressure on Germany prior to that point because once Berlin acquires enough weapon-grade enriched uranium it would be "far more difficult to stop the program militarily."
...
In addition to Albright, the other project co-chairs were Mark Dubowitz, executive director of The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and others.

I agree with the report's point that Germany could produce enough weapon-grade uranium for one or more nuclear bombs by mid-2014 if it would build a secret uranium-enrichment site.

Alas, there is no sign that Germany, or any other country, is doing such.

There are also many stupid or even criminal things David Albright could do if David Albright would. But should David Albright, or anyone else, be punished for action he could take if he would take it? Really? Where could or would this end?

With this utterly stupid report David Albright has finally laid off his "neutral" cover masks and shown his real face. Co-chairing over such nonsense with the ultra-neocon warmongers of the FDD disqualifies him from any further neutral discussion of non-proliferation issues.

In retrospect his obsession with pink tarps and tree cutting proliferation can now be seen as serious sign of a developing paranoid personality disorder. Albright is now afraid of the obvious, that someone could secretly do something nefarious if s/he would secretly do something nefarious. Albright demands that, because of the obvious "could if would", someone should therefor be punished. If this is not a serious paranoia based on a bipolar disorder what is?

Posted by b on January 14, 2013 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

January 13, 2013

Hollande's Africa Adventures

The foreign policy of France's president Hollande is confusing. First France supported Islamist in Libya to overthrow the Libyan government. These Islamist then ethnically cleanse the Tuaregs, which had worked for the Libyan army, and pushed them back into their homelands. Those Tuaregs took the Libyan army's weapons and went down to northern Mali to claim their own state.

The government of Mali could not prevent that as its army lacked equipment and support. One army officer, well trained by the United States, overthrew the government but didn't had any good idea of what to do after that had happened. Meanwhile some Algerian Islamists saw a good chance to move their operations away from Algeria where the Algerian military was quite successful in hunting them down. They moved into northern Mali to first support the Tuareg revolt but then to took over themselves.

After having helped the Libyan Islamist to overthrow the Libyan government France went on actively to support Syrian Islamist who try to overthrow the Syrian government.

But then the Islamist in northern Mali decided to take another small town and to thereby converge further south. Now suddenly such Islamist were bad and and had to be pushed back. France decided to send its military to kill these "terrorists".

But there was another problem that had to be cleared up first. Some Islamists in Somalia held a French hostage, an agent of the French secret service DGSE. An attack on Islamists in Mali would probably have had bad consequences for that officer so a urgent rescue operation was planned and executed. As usual for such French rescue missions in Africa that operation was a big failure:

Somali witnesses said on Sunday that at least eight civilians were killed in the disastrous French operation to rescue a kidnapped secret agent but France's defence minister defended the decision to launch the raid.
...
On Saturday, French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said that one French soldier died and another went missing during the raid, adding that 17 guerrillas were killed.
...
Le Drian said on Sunday that French troops underestimated the Islamist rebels' strength when they launched the overnight operation, which involved some 50 troops and at least five helicopters.

Derow meanwhile told AFP that "people saw (the French commandos) disembark in the fields. The Shebab were alerted that the helicopters had landed and that they let out soldiers, and so they (the Islamists) were able to prepare".
...
"These people were crazy," said another Somalian regarding the French commandos, an employee of a local humanitarian agency who wished to remain anonymous.

"We were told there were about 40 of them against more than 100 heavily armed Shebab fighters. Their mission was impossible and not very professional."

It seems that the Somali Islamists now have two French hostages. The original one plus the soldier that went missing in the botched rescue mission.

Meanwhile the operation in Mali, mostly through air attacks, started with another failure as one of the French helicopters pilots were killed and allegedly three helicopters got damaged in the very first attack.

France is again trying what always fails. Strategic bombing and other air attacks without decent ground support never win a war:

The unnamed Elysee Palace official quoted by AFP said on Sunday that French armed forces had been surprised by the fighting quality of the Islamist militants they were up against.

"What has really struck us is how up-to-date their equipment is, and the way they've been trained to use it..." the official said.

"At the start, we thought they would be just a load of guys with guns driving about in their pick-ups, but the reality is that they are well-trained, well-equipped, and well-armed.

These Ansar Dine folks have been fighting against the Algerian army for decades. They are supported by some of Tuaregs trained in the Libyan army on Libyan army weapons. Did the French think those folks would  just lay down to get killed? Does no one in France remember the guerrilla fighting in Algeria or Dien Bien Puh?
Since the start of the French intervention on Friday, at least 11 Malian soldiers and a French helicopter pilot have been killed.

Human Rights watch believes 10 civilians, including three children, died in Konna as Malian forces fought to recapture the town.

Today France is continuing the bombing attacking Goa and the smaller towns of Lere and Douentza further south.

A few hundred rented soldier from Niger, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Togo are supposed to come in over the next days and will, together with some folks from the Mali army, try to take the actual ground. They will likely get massacred.

Judging from comments on various German forums people in Europe are now confused. Why, they ask, are Islamist in nearby Libya and Syria who try to overthrow their governments "good" and deserve French support, while an Islamist takeover in far away Mali and Somalia is seen as "bad", threatens to create "terrorist states" and needs to be fought?

I am sure that people in France will have the same question. What is Hollande's answer to them?

Posted by b on January 13, 2013 at 11:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

January 12, 2013

It's Blame Iran Week

Four different stories involving Iran in some nefarious affairs were published last week. They have all one thing in common. There is actually no proof that Iran was or is involved in any of these.

On Tuesday the Financial Times ran a story about alleged Uranium in Syria which was then speculated about as having been moved to Iran. But the big issue here is that no one has ever seen the alleged 50 tons of Uranium metal Syria is said to have had and there is absolutely no proof that it ever existed. But the well known expert David Albright of the the Institute for Scary Iran Stories (formerly Institute for Scary Iraq Stories) looked at satellite pictures of some place where that Uranium was allegedly stored and found that some trees had been cut in the area. As Mark Hibbs asks:

The FT account this morning appeared to insinuate that the “gradual removal of a large orchard for no apparent reason” near Marj as-Sultan constituted suspicious behavior. Tree-cutting as a signature for nefarious nuclear activity?
Surely it must be. David Albright says so. But funny how he didn't mention that the place he suspects is, since late November, in the hand of the insurgents.

Also on Tuesday the New York Times ran a story that blames Iran for Denial of Service attacks on computer systems of several U.S. banks:

The skill required to carry out attacks on this scale has convinced United States government officials and security researchers that they are the work of Iran, most likely in retaliation for economic sanctions and online attacks by the United States.
But there is zero proof in the piece that these attacks were done by Iran. Indeed a Sunni hacktivist group has long claimed to be responsible for these attacks as a protest against some youtube video. While some alleged experts and anonymous government officials told the NYT that only a state could have done the attacks real experts know that this is untrue:
"I don't consider any attack I can do in my spare time as 'nation-state-sponsored,'" said Robert David Graham, chief executive officer of Atlanta-based Errata Security.
The attack, while large in size, was pretty primitive. A freely available PHP script injection toolkit named ItsOKNoProblemBro was used to highjack a large number of servers which then made a large amount of secure http requests to the banking machines. Any decent computer science student with some programming and system administration background can launch such an attack with only a few hours work.
"ItsOKNoProblemBro is far from sophisticated malware. It's really rather simple," said Roel Schouwenberg, a senior anti-virus researcher with Moscow-based Kaspersky Lab. "Going strictly by the publicly known technical details, I don't see enough evidence to categorize this operation as something only a nation-state-sponsored actor could pull off."
And:
"I don't think there's anything about these attacks that's so large or so sophisticated that it would have to be state sponsored," said Prince, the CloudFlare CEO. "This very well could be a kid sitting in his mom's basement in Ohio launching these attacks. I think it's dangerous to start speculating that this is actually state sponsored."

But surely we must blame Iran for having the sophistication of "a kid sitting in his mom's basement in Ohio".

Another Tuesday story by the Associated Press was about a long missing former FBI agent who was last seen in Iran:

Two years after a hostage video and photographs of retired FBI agent Robert Levinson raised the possibility that the missing American was being held by terrorists, U.S. officials now see the government of Iran behind the images, intelligence officials told The Associated Press.
That piece tries to somehow blame the Iranian government for the abduction of the man who went to investigate about some international cigarette smuggling for a private client.
The tradecraft used to send those [photos and videos] was too good, indicating professional spies were behind them, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to talk publicly.
So taking cell phone pictures and sending them via email is "too good" to be done by non-state actors? What please, of the following steps the piece mentions, could not have been done by just anyone?
U.S. operatives in Afghanistan managed to trace the cellphone used to send the photographs, officials said. But the owner had nothing to do with the photos, and the trail went cold.
...
[The video] was sent from a cyber cafe in Pakistan in November 2010.
...
In the background, Pashtun wedding music can be heard.

the sender left no clues to his identity and never used that email address again.

Yeah, that all looks "professional" and it is thereby impossible that anyone but those nefarious Iranians could have abducted someone who investigates international cigarette smuggling rings, taken cellphone pictures of him and email those from Pakistan. Who is supposed to believe that?

Another "blame Iran" story runs in today's New York Times: A Trail of Bullet Casings Leads From Africa’s Wars Back to Iran According to the story someone sold unmarked small arms ammunition to some state actors, like the Kenyan police, which then found its way into the hands of some non-state actors in Africa.

But the only "proof" that the ammunition, which isn't even illegal to deal with in the first place, is from Iran, is that it has the same packaging than some ammunition which was, three years ago, allegedly smuggled from Iran to Nigeria. Wooden boxes and camouflage-green wrapping paper are seemingly only used by Iran. Also, the AK-47 ammunition found in Africa fits the technical description of the AK 47 ammunition Iran, like some 50 other countries, produces. Surely it can only be Iran that makes AK-47 ammunition that fits the well known specifications?

These four stories, all in the same week, blame Iran for this or that without any proof. All these stories base their claims on this or that anonymous U.S. official or secret intelligence. All these stories are pretty likely to have no Iran involvement at all.

But the Obama administration, which provides those anonymous officials, seems to be in full "blame Iran" campaign mode now. The media, led by the New York Times, are again the ever willing messengers used to brain wash the public with such dubious stories. Iraqn is bad, bad, bad. And we need to bomb, bomb, bomb it now. What, if not this, could be the purpose of this nonsense?

Posted by b on January 12, 2013 at 08:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (26)

January 11, 2013

The Real Danger In The Strait Of Hormuz ...

... is the U.S. Navy.

Jan 10, 2013 - Navy Sub Goes Bump in the Night and Loses Its Periscope
The U. S. Navy's nuclear submarine USS Jacksonville was damaged early Thursday in the Persian Gulf when one of its two periscopes was struck by an unidentified vessel.

No one was hurt in the early morning incident and the submarine's nuclear reactor did not suffer any damage.

According to a statement from U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, the Los Angeles-class submarine "struck a vessel while operating in the Persian Gulf Jan. 10 at approximately 5 a.m. local time."

The submarine "then surfaced from periscope depth to ascertain if there was any damage to the unidentified vessel. ..."

Aug 12 2012 - US Navy ship collides with oil tanker in Gulf
An oil tanker collided with a U.S. Navy destroyer near the Strait of Hormuz on Sunday but no one was hurt and shipping traffic in the waterway, through which 40 percent of the world's seaborne oil exports pass, was not affected, officials said.
...
The collision nevertheless left a gaping hole in the starboard side of USS Porter, a guided-missile destroyer suffered, but no one was injured on either vessel, the U.S. Navy said in a statement. The collision with the Panamanian-flagged bulk oil tanker M/V Otowasan occurred at approximately 1 a.m. local time.
March 20, 2009 - 2 Navy Vessels Collide in Strait of Hormuz
A nuclear-powered United States submarine collided with a Navy warship early Friday in the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow passage through which much of the world’s oil must pass on its way to market, the Navy announced.

Both ships were damaged in the crash, and 15 sailors on board the submarine, the Hartford, were slightly injured, according to the Fifth Fleet, which is based in Bahrain. A spokesman for the fleet, Lt. Nate Christensen, said none of the sailors needed medical evacuation and all were back on duty.

The other vessel, the New Orleans, an amphibious transport dock with 1,000 on board, ruptured its fuel tanks and spilled 25,000 gallons of fuel, he said.

The submarine was submerged, Lieutenant Christensen said, and the vessels were headed to port around 1 a.m. when the collision occurred. The fleet reported that there was no damage to the submarine’s nuclear reactor, and that both ships were able to return to port under their own power.

Jan 9, 2007 - U.S. Navy Submarine, Merchant Vessel Collide in Strait of Hormuz
No U.S. Sailors or merchant crew were injured when a U.S. Navy submarine and a commercial cargo vessel collided in the Strait of Hormuz on Jan. 8.

The collision between USS Newport News (SSN 750) and the Japanese-flagged motor vessel Mogamigawa occurred at approximately 10:15 p.m. (local time) in the Strait of Hormuz while the submarine was transiting submerged.

Sep 5 2005 - No Injuries as U.S. Submarine and Merchant Vessel Collide
No Sailors or merchant seamen were injured when a U.S. Navy submarine and a commercial cargo vessel collided in the Persian Gulf Sept. 5.

The collision between USS Philadelphia (SSN 690) and the Turkish-flagged M/V Yaso Aysen occurred at approximately 2:00 a.m. local time while the submarine was conducting surfaced operations as it transited to Bahrain for a scheduled port visit.

Note that the Strait of Hormuz is largely territorial water of Iran and Oman. While free "innocent passage" is allowed through such waters there are certain conditions for such. In the relevant part II of the UN Convention of the Law of The Sea Article 20 demands for Submarines and other underwater vehicles:
In the territorial sea, submarines and other underwater vehicles are required to navigate on the surface and to show their flag.
The submerged passing of the Strait by U.S. Navy submarines is not only against the UNCLOS demands but, as the cases above expose, a serious danger to regular ship traffic and the environment.

Posted by b on January 11, 2013 at 09:01 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

January 10, 2013

"They let terrorist heads live on their territory"

Sep 28, 2012: There are Countries who Do Not Want to See an End to PKK Terror
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said there were countries which did not want to see an end to PKK terror.

Speaking live on private NTV and Star TV channels, Erdogan stressed that Western countries did not want to solve the problem of PKK terror.

"Germany does not want a solution. France does not want a solution," Erdogan underlined.

"These countries do not help us. Instead, they let terrorist heads live on their territory," Erdogan emphasized.

Someone decided to change that.

Jan 9, 2013: 3 Kurdish women political activists shot dead in Paris

Three Kurdish women political activists were found dead with gunshots to the head early Thursday, police in Paris said, in an unexplained act of violence that has shocked the Kurdish community.

French Interior Minister Manuel Valls told reporters in Paris the three women had been "without doubt executed" and described the killings as "totally unacceptable."

The bodies were found about 2 a.m. in the Information Center for Kurdistan in Paris, in a central district of the capital, a police representative said.

Who?

Posted by b on January 10, 2013 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (70)

January 08, 2013

Open (Pizza) Thread - 2013-01

A pizza with the radius "z" and the height "a" has a volume of:

Pi*z*z*a

 

(I am busy at work and had no time to read and write. Use as open thread.)

Posted by b on January 8, 2013 at 12:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (111)

January 06, 2013

Syria: Assad's Speech

The Syrian president Bashar Assad held a great speech today. He talked for about one our in front of a full opera house in Damascus. The speech was interrupted by several standing ovations. At its end, when the president tried to leave the stage, he was practically mobbed by supporters trying to shake his hands.

Assad acknowledging the trouble his country is going through and renewed his offer for national reconciliation, including a new constitutional process, a referendum, new elections and a general amnesty. Meanwhile the fight against terrorism would continue.

He rejected any outer interference in Syria's political process. Foreign help was only needed to stop the weapons and fighters coming in from the outside.

He thanked and saluted the soldiers of the Syrian army for their sacrifice. He rallied the fence sitters:

Since the attack is launched against the homeland with all its human and material components, the mindful citizen has certainly known that passivity, waiting for time or others to solve the problem is a sort of pushing the country towards abyss, and not participating in solutions is a kind of taking the homeland backwards with no progress towards overcoming what the home is going through.
In what will irk the supporters of the insurgency against Syria, Assad renewed the commitment to resistance and the Palestinian cause:
Those who placed their bets on weakening Syria to forget Golan and its occupied lands are mistaken…Golan is ours and Palestine is our cause that we won't give up on…We will remain the supporters of resistance against the one enemy. Resistance is a culture, not individuals.
The "west" did not welcome this defiant speech and renewed calls for Assad to step down. But why should he? Military the conflict is at a stalemate but, in recent weeks, with slight and growing advantages for the Syrian army. All cities are still in the Syrian governments hands and the state institutions are still working.

The biggest problem now is the systematic looting by the foreign supported FSA of food and other necessities. The enemies of Syria have mostly given up on their aim to change its government and are instead, as first explained in September, trying to dismantle the country:

Destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria is the [insurgents] and their supporters aim.
But there are also signs of an even further retreat from the original war aims. The neo-ottomans in Turkey are slowly changing their tact and the stream of weapons and money to the insurgency has somewhat deminished.

For now the most ardent supporters of a continued insurgency (last graph) and arguing against any negotiations are the "western" Zionists. But as they have little influence on the ground their support for the terrorism campaign against Syria might not matter. There is not a chance of a further "western intervention".

They key are still the Turks without who's support the insurgency would soon suffocate and die away. As more they become convinced that Assad will stay as sooner will they be willing to file for peace. Assad's speech today certainly helped in that regard.

As more trouble is coming back to Turkey from the trouble it is organizing in Syria as sooner will the Turks be pressed to withdraw their support for the terrorist. Here is where some renewed initiative, be it by the Russians, Iranians or Syrians, can achieve the most.

Posted by b on January 6, 2013 at 09:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (174)

January 05, 2013

The CIA Killed Children - NYT Calls For More Killing

Lamenting the murder of Pakistani aid workers working in polio eradication campaigns the New York Times editors show some breathtaking imperial arrogance:
On Wednesday, there were reports that local police had promised extra protection for aid workers who are planning to conduct a polio vaccination campaign on Saturday in Peshawar and other cities in northwest Pakistan. That move is clearly necessary, though far from sufficient. The federal authorities need to make sure that the killers are brought to justice and make clear that murdering health workers is a terrorist act against the nation itself.
The real terrorists and killers of these aid workers and of the children that will die for lack of vaccination are the idiots in the CIA that abused a fake polio campaign to go after Osama Bin Laden and his family. It was them who committed the real crime.

When that fake CIA campaign was made public in a report in the Guardian it was immediate obvious and clear to me as to many other people that this would kill children:

So far the Taliban cooperated with such vaccination campaigns. From now on they will not trust these anymore. The abuse of such medical services for spying operations will be deadly for many children.

Why would the CIA run such a campaign, and later even brag about it, when anyone with a tiny bit of knowledge about the area could easily predict that it would have deadly consequences for many innocent people? The first victims of distrust into aid workers the CIA sowed were already reported on more than a year ago. Being very late behind the news the NYT plays down the role the CIA campaign had:

No one has claimed responsibility for the most recent attack, but suspicions point to the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups that have opposed the vaccination drives, calling them a cover for government or international spies, or part of a plot to sterilize Muslim children. Those conspiracy theories intensified when the Central Intelligence Agency used a vaccination team, led by a Pakistani doctor, to visit Osama bin Laden’s house in 2011.
How can the believes that such vaccination campaigns get abused by the CIA be called "conspiracy theories" when the editors, in their very next sentence, acknowledge that that is exactly what happened?

And while there were "suspicions" about such campaigns before the CIA admitted abusing them aid workers were warned off, but not killed, when the local warlords did not want them in their areas. There is now a new quality of hostilities against such campaigns solely because the CIA abused them.

What the NYT is now calling for is military protection for the vaccination workers. How is that supposed to work? Coming in gun blazing to "do good"?

A responsible editorial would call out the CIA for screwing up an important public health issue and would ask for the obvious solution we presented 18 month ago:

By law U.S. agencies are not allowed to use journalist covers for spying. The same should apply for medical personal.
Instead the editors in their imperial arrogance call for more killing. In their mind set that is always the solution. Then, having more victims, the can again lament about them the thereby soothe their bad conscience.

Posted by b on January 5, 2013 at 01:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (32)

January 03, 2013

Another Year, Another U.S. War Crime

The premier Pakistani newspaper Dawn reports today of two separate drone attacks by U.S. forces against targets in Pakistan:
In the attack in South Waziristan, an unmanned drone fired two missiles at a vehicle killing six people in the Sar Kanda area of Birmil in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal district of South Waziristan.

While talking to Dawn.com, local Taliban and intelligence sources confirmed the killing of pro-government and anti-US Taliban commander Mullah Nazir along with five of his companions near Wana.

One might concede that such a drone strike could be legal because the Pakistani government seems to condone these and has done nothing to prevent them. But there was another drone strike today and that one was, independent of the Pakistani government's stand, blandly illegal and constitutes a war crime:
Separately, four people were killed and several others injured in a drone attack in the Mubarak Shahi village in North Waziristan tribal region’s Mir Ali Tehsil.

The US drone targeted a vehicle with two missiles, and then fired another two missiles when rescuers gathered at the site to carry the bodies and the injured.

Such an attack on first responders have happened before and are, even by U.S. military standards, explicitly designated as being against the law of war.

Consider this from the MARINE CORPS COMMON SKILLS HANDBOOK (pdf, pg 21)

The nine principles of the law of war are

· Fight only enemy combatants.
· Do not harm enemies who surrender: disarm them and turn them over to your superior.
· Do not kill or torture prisoners.
· Collect and care for the wounded, whether friend or foe.
· Do not attack medical personnel, facilities, or equipment.
· Do not destroy more than the mission requires.
· Do not steal; respect private property and possessions.
· Do your best to prevent violations of the law of war; report all violations to your superiors, a military lawyer, a chaplain, or provost marshal.

An attack on first responders is clearly a violation of the three highlighted points.

"Who cares," one might think. With U.S. justice keeping even the legal rational for assassinating U.S. citizens secret, there is no chance that those who committed this war crime by ordering and/or executing the killing of first responders will ever be found guilty in front of a court.

But even then, the Marines' manual argues, the consequences of such war crimes can be dire:

Violations of the law of war have an adverse impact on public opinion, both nationally and internationally. Instead of weakening the enemy's will to fight, such violations actually strengthen it. In fact, they have, on occasion, served to prolong a conflict by inciting an opponent to continue resistance. Violations of these principles prejudice the good order and discipline essential to success in combat.
The U.S. military knows that such attacks on first responders strengthen the enemy and prolong the conflict. Knowing that are we to conclude that this was the purpose of this attack?

Posted by b on January 3, 2013 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

January 02, 2013

They Make Up Numbers

At least 60,000 people have died in Syria's conflict, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay says.

How does Navi Pillay knows this? The UN does not have any presence in Syria.

At least 60,000 people have died in Syria's conflict, UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay said on Wednesday, citing what she said was an exhaustive UN-commissioned study.
...
The new study, by Benetech, a non-profit technology company, showed deaths rising from around 1,000 per month in the summer of 2011 to an average of more than 5,000 per month since July 2012.
Benetech:
Using scientific methods from demography, epidemiology, and mathematical statistics, the Human Rights group at Benetech® transforms information into knowledge about past and on-going human rights violations.
But that does not explain where the information that gets "transformed" by Benetech is actually coming from. I have yet to find their "sources".

Benetech's funders, according to its website, include the National Endowment for Democracy, the Soros Open Society Institute and the US Department of State. Are those also the entities that generate the information Benetech is "transforming"?

Is it really well advised for the United Nations to use a U.S. government funded entity to calculate some inevitably disputed numbers of casualties when the U.S. is supporting one side of the conflict?

UPDATE: Here is the full Benetech report (pdf). As expected the analysis is based on information that, at least for all of 2012, comes solely from Syrian opposition groups. The process of analysis performed therein can be described as garbage in, garbage mixing and garbage out. It is pure opposition propaganda, laundered through a U.S. financed entity, to be presented by a partisan UN Human Rights Commissioner.

Posted by b on January 2, 2013 at 11:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (112)

 
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