Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 28, 2013

Chutzpah

There are parasites. Some are rather harmless. When their host goes hungry they will also go hungry. Others are more demanding. Even a hungry host will not stop them from feasting:
At a time when sequestration is about to take a big bite out of the Pentagon budget, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) will be sending thousands of its citizen lobbyists to Capitol Hill next week to make sure Israel is exempted from any spending cuts.
...
The 13,000 expected AIPAC activists will be telling Congress not to touch Israel's $3-billion-plus annual security assistance and to vote for legislation declaring the Jewish state a "major strategic ally."

That is a designation not enjoyed by any other nation, JTA pointed out, noting it may be a step toward the goal of some conservatives of divorcing assistance to Israel from all other foreign aid spending.

AIPAC's annual policy conference begins Sunday and culminates Tuesday with personal visits by constituents to hundreds of members of the House and Senate.

This should be a good chance to highlight the issue of rather outrageous U.S. payments to the zionist state. Israel getting its subsidizes while local school lunch programs get cut might awake some citizens' critique. The attempt to automatically involve the U.S. in a war that Israel's hardliners would like to start should add to the outrage.

Posted by b on February 28, 2013 at 12:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)

U.S. Confirms Training The Terrorists

Just for the record. Three days ago I http://www.moonofalabama.org/2013/02/syria-kerry-does-more-of-the-same.html">wrote:
There are U.S. special forces on the Jordan boarder with Syria. They will likely have trained the insurgents on their new weapons.
Today the New York Times writes:
On Wednesday, senior administration officials said that a training mission for the rebels at a base in the region, which is already under way, represented the deepest American involvement yet in the Syrian conflict, though the size and scope of the mission is not clear, nor is its host country.
That training mission has been underway since the U.S. sent special forces to the Syrian border in Jordan more than five month ago. We can be sure that Jordan special forces and the Turkish army have also trained some of the insurgents since quite early in the conflict. The "color revolution" media training for the insurgency propaganda was started even before the insurgency and was done, like in other countries, by U.S. financed groups.

I do not believe that such training has much value. The U.S. mindset on which such training is based does not translate well into other societies. Just look at "U.S. trained" troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. If the going gets tough they always resort to their own ways of fighting. Less elegant and less wasteful but effective against U.S. style troops. It is more difficult for them to fight against troops from their own society.

Posted by b on February 28, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (42)

February 27, 2013

Another Attempt To Smear Hizbullah

There is a weird story making its rounds about a young Swedish-Lebanese man who was arrested in Cyprus while clandestinely monitoring Israeli tourists. The man claims to work for Hizbullah:
He admitted he has been a member of Hezbollah for the last four years, claiming he was working as a member of the political party and not what many call the ‘terrorist’ branch, and although a Muslim, he has never supported fanatical Islam.

According to his testimony, he used the code name Wael and would receive orders from another Hezbollah member called Ayman, although he admitted he had no idea what Ayman looked like as whenever they met he would have his face hidden.

Why would someone working for the political party of Hizbullah work clandestinely?

And how or why would the guy know that he was in contact with Hizbullah at all? Because some masked guy called Ayman told him so?

Like the false "Hizbullah bombed Israeli tourists in Bulgaria" fairy tale this story stinks.

But we might find out who is behind it when we analyze what this story, like the Bulgaria story, is used for:

At issue, analysts say, is not only Yaakoub’s guilt or innocence but also the broader question of whether Cyprus and other European Union countries will take a harsher attitude toward Hezbollah. While the United States designed the organization as a terrorist group, the E.U. continues to view it as a political party.

U.S. officials said they hope evidence linking the attack in Bulgaria and Yaakoub’s plotting to Hezbollah will persuade the Europeans to move against the group and restrict its movements and fundraising.

For the Americans, time is important. Current and former U.S. counterterrorism officials said Hezbollah’s ambitions and reach have expanded in the past two years, coinciding with tougher sanctions on Iran. At least a dozen plots linked to the group or Iran have been foiled, including botched bombing attempts in India, Thailand, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Kenya.

Despite the claim of "evidence linking the attack in Bulgaria" there is none. Despite pressure from the U.S. the Bulgarian authorities only claimed that the Hizbullah thesis is a "reasonable assumption."

The U.S. and Israel want to frame Hizbullah to get the European Union to declare it a terrorist group.

Does anyone really believe that Hizbullah, which proved to be better than the Israeli army in the 2006 war, is so incompetent that it botches bombing attempts in at least six countries? Is Hizbullah so incompetent that it uses a masked man, who then openly claims to be Hizbullah, to control some incompetent naive?

No, this story does not pass the smell test.

Posted by b on February 27, 2013 at 08:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

February 25, 2013

Syria: Kerry Does More Of The Same

When John Kerry on February 13 said this:
"We need to address the question of President Assad's calculation currently. I believe there are additional things that can be done to change his current perception"
He likely thought of this:
A surge of rebel advances in Syria is being fueled at least in part by an influx of heavy weaponry in a renewed effort by outside powers to arm moderates in the Free Syrian Army, according to Arab and rebel officials.

The new armaments, including anti-tank weapons and recoilless rifles, have been sent across the Jordanian border into the province of Daraa in recent weeks to counter the growing influence of Islamist extremist groups in the north of Syria by boosting more moderate groups fighting in the south, the officials say.

There are U.S. special forces on the Jordan boarder with Syria. They will likely have trained the insurgents on their new weapons. Israel is kept informed of these weapon transfers and will have a veto about what gets delivered.

The hope is that these weapons will not fall into the hands of the Nusra front and other Jihadi groups. But unless U.S. and other special forces are on the ground closely working with the insurgents that is still bound to happen. A helicopter shot down near Aleppo today and earlier videos showed the first complete SA-24 anti-air systems in the hand of some northern group. While Turkey makes of show of capturing some ammunition on its border with Syria the new stuff is still coming through and will easily fall into the hands of people who hate not only the Syrian government but also the "west".

The further weaponization of the conflict is the typical U.S. policy of more of the same. If something does not work, like sanctions on Iran or creating local "police" gangs in Afghanistan, repeat it again and again until everything fails.

There are foreign Jihadis from some 20 countries in Syria and they will not go away should the Assad government fall. The only way to get rid of them and to prevent another failed state is to help Assad to win the fight over them.

But such reasonable thought is not allowed in Washington DC. Instead we get the same stupid ideas of some corridor repeated in this or that form or unimaginative hand-wringing.

The Syrian government is ready to negotiate with anyone involved, even the armed groups. But those militants, freshly motivated by the new weapons, do not want to negotiate. The U.S. created exile opposition is childishly boycotting a conference with its supporters while demanding ever more money that it will then be unable to deliver to where it matters.

The new weapon delivery will not, as Kerry believes, change the Syrian government's "current perception". It will only reinforce it: Syria is under an external attack, it needs to fight back with all it has and with the majority support we still have, we will be able to win. The carnage will thereby continue until some outer circumstances change or sanity arrives in DC. As Washington is incapable of learning, the first is more likely to happen.

Posted by b on February 25, 2013 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

February 23, 2013

Corruption

I hold the opinion that the United States is one of the most corrupt countries. As usual the problem starts at the top.
Giving or raising $500,000 or more puts donors on a national advisory board for Mr. Obama’s group and the privilege of attending quarterly meetings with the president, along with other meetings at the White House. Moreover, the new cash demands on Mr. Obama’s top donors and bundlers come as many of them are angling for appointments to administration jobs or ambassadorships.
Obama’s Backers Seek Big Donors to Press Agenda

Posted by b on February 23, 2013 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

February 22, 2013

Disinformation About Hizbullah Reveals Gullible Reporters

It seems that The New Yorker and McClatchy have fallen for an information operation that has the aim to denigrate Hizbullah and to make the case that a fall of the Syrian government would induce the fall of Hizbullah.

The New Yorker piece by Dexter Filkins is headlined:
After Syria - If the Assad regime falls, can Hezbollah survive?

The McClatchy piece by David Enders:
Pro-Assad militia now key to Syrian government’s war strategy

Both pieces rely in their claims on a person with pseudonym Dani or Dany which is supposed to be a "Hizbullah fighter" or "Hizbullah commander" who claims to have fought in Syria. Both pieces appeared only a day apart. Both make the same claim, based on Dani/Dany, about Hizbullah fighting in Syria and its alleged dependency on Assad's survival.

The Angry Arab has been mocking that source:

Ha ha. Meet "Dani", the Hizbullah fighter Let me tell you this. Any man in Hizbullah who uses the pseudonym "dani" is certainly not in Hizbullah.

Nick Noe deconstructs the pieces:

I mean come on, NO ONE in Hizbullah, both reporters say, will talk to them, and they BOTH find a miracle dany (a christian cover name in any case mind you!) and BELIEVE HIM, DONT EVEN RAISE THE difficulty of verifying his identity with readers…. And then this Dany, FOR BOTH, says “the truth” to these American reporters…and it is slightly rich in “admissions” of guilt and snippets of off-putting extremity which make dany’s party look BAD.
...
MOST EMBARRASSING is for the New Yorker – how in the world do they allow a piece where the ENTIRE narrative of hizbullah from hizbullah is carried by a fake name dany, who claims a series of obvious errors (see below), and provides several anchors for his identity that are frankly laughable (theme park access, a dude in the south with a hizbullah flag in his drawer, living near the Hizbullah “area” where a lot of anti hizbullah people also live and have easy access and having a village on the border with Israel where many christian and sunnis also live and some of which – including shiite families – collaborated during the 22 years of Israeli occupation of the area)?
It is simply not believable that any Hizbullah fighter would run around and talk openly to various U.S. reporters about Hizbullah's actions and aims. The organization, secretive for very sensible reasons, simply does not allow such to happen.

It is sad that McClatchy's Enders, who is usually one of the better Middle East reporters, would fall for this dude. Why the New Yorker ever hired Dexter Filkins (and seemingly fired its fact-checkers) is something I never understood. The obvious question now is who send Dani/Dany to those gullible reporters. The fascist Lebanese Force? The Israelis? The CIA?

Posted by b on February 22, 2013 at 09:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

February 21, 2013

U.S. Diplomat: Majority of Syrians Stand Behind Bashar Assad

A member of the UN independent panel investigating human rights violations in Syria, Karen Abuzayd, said what we have asserted here all along.

A majority of the people of Syria stand behind their president Bashar al Assad.

Thanks to J. Bradley for a comment that pointed to Monday's CBC Radio Show As It Happens.

Starting at 2:00 minutes into the first part of the show Karen Koning AbuZayd, a former U.S. diplomat, is interviewed about the latest UN Human Rights Council report (pdf) about the situation in Syria.

At 5:35 min into the audio with regard to a question about a possible indictment of Assad a comparison is made to Milosovic and Serbia. There Karen Abuzayd, who was involved with Bosnia, says:

"... Milosovic had a lot of his population strongly behind him, throughout, until the end, until now I would say, and the same goes for President Assad - there's quite a number of the population, maybe as many as half, if not more, who stand behind him."
That determination certainly runs counter to the "western" propaganda campaign. Why should Assad, as the "west" demands, go when the majority of the Syrian population is supporting him?

PS:
And lets keep in mind, as Noirette reminds us, that the court found no evidence linking Milosovic to genocide and war crimes committed in the Bosnian War. His indictment was just another propaganda act. Just like an indictment of Bashar Assad, which the Russians will prevent anyway, would be solely to support the ongoing disinformation campaign.

Posted by b on February 21, 2013 at 02:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (49)

Withheld Intelligence Shows Mistrust Between Allies

Throughout the last two years U.S. airplanes landed several times in North Korea without the United States informing its allies about their missions. This and other interesting intelligence news around Japan, North and South Korea was recently published in a series headlined "Left In The Dark" by the Japanese paper Asahi Shimbun. One would think that in a strongly partisan atmosphere such news would be politically explosive. Yet, to my knowledge, no major U.S. media has picked up on these stories.

First published on February 15 one piece asserts that the U.S. is withholding evidence of the recent North Korean nuclear test from its Japanese allies:

"There must be many secrets between the United States and North Korea that Japan does not know about," a Japanese government source said.

Among the data that the United States withholds is assessments of the outcome of North Korea's nuclear tests.
...
When North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006, Japan, the United States and South Korea learned from spies that the test site was at Punggyeri.

The United States dispatches intelligence agents to North Korea posing as tourists, for example. The agents may hold multiple passports.

The piece then demonstrates severe mistrust in the U.S. about Japan's nuclear ambitions:
In September 2012, senior Japanese government officials visited the United States to explain the government's goal at halting all nuclear reactors by the 2030s following the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

U.S. officials repeatedly pressed them for details of how they planned to secure the plutonium generated in reprocessing spent fuel, material that is considered high risk because it could be used by terrorists to construct a basic bomb.

A Japanese government source said the Americans expressed doubt over whether Japan could be trusted to safeguard it.

Such experiences have led some in Tokyo to arrive at a painful assessment of the relationship.

"Japan and the United States are not allies when it comes to nuclear matters," said a Japanese government source who was responsible for North Korean nuclear affairs.

The article then continues with asserting that the United States is underestimating the interior stability of the North Korean system as well as its technical capabilities.

Another piece, also published on the 15th, reveals secret U.S. flights to North Korea and high level contacts between U.S. and North Korean officials:

Senior U.S. administration officials held secret talks in North Korea on at least three occasions in 2011 and 2012, The Asahi Shimbun has learned.

Although the visits had potential implications for Japan, Washington did not inform its security partner at the time and only informally confirmed one of them when the Japanese side pressed, government and other sources in Japan, South Korea and the United States said.
...
U.S. military planes flew from an air base in Guam to Pyongyang and back on April 7, 2012, and again on a longer visit lasting from Aug. 18-20, the sources said.

It is believed that those aboard included Sydney Seiler, director for Korea at the U.S. National Security Council, and Joseph DeTrani, who headed the North Korea desk at the U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
...
The North Korean delegation included Jang Song Thaek, vice chairman of the National Defense Commission and husband of Kim Jong Il's sister. Jang is widely considered to serve as a mentor for Kim Jong Un, who succeeded his father as his nation's leader.

The U.S. kept these contacts secret. Its Japanese allies were not informed about them and when they, by chance, found out and inquired were told to shut up.

Next to the very high U.S. officials (why is the DNI involved?) there was some interesting cargo on board of the U.S. planes:

The third visit that The Asahi Shimbun has confirmed is one that took place in November 2011. Sources said at least one military aircraft from the Guam air base loaded heavy equipment, including bulldozers, at Yokota Air Base in western Tokyo and flew to Pyongyang.

It is believed that the delegation included officials from the U.S. Pacific Command.

There follows some speculation that the flights and contacts were about the remains of U.S. soldiers that were killed in the Korea War. There have been on and off efforts to recover such remains. North Korea gets paid for such efforts and the search seems to continue.

But one wonders why this would require such high level talks, such secrecy and why it would require the very expensive transport of U.S. bulldozers?

A third piece, published on February 16, asserts that the U.S. was ready to sabotage a North Korean satellite launch but fell for a ruse when the North Koreans pretended to move the launch date:

[A]n analysis of events leading up to the launch shows that North Korea kept the United States and its allies in the dark with a simple ruse: parking trailers near the launch pad and pretending to reconsider the launch window.
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On Dec. 8, trailers that are used to transport missile parts were lined up around the launch pad. Spy satellite photos of one trailer led analysts to conclude the 22-meter-long vehicle had been used to transport the first stage of a rocket.

Intelligence officers began speculating that North Korea might be removing missile parts from the launch pad.
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Around this time, officials at the North Korean Embassy in Beijing began providing information to Chinese military and government officials that indicated the launch date was being pushed back.

South Korea intercepted the misinformation that North Korea was providing China, and also picked up communications at Tongchang-ri that seemed to indicate missile parts were being removed from the launch pad.

South Korean government officials began briefing reporters off the record about their prediction that the launch would be delayed.

The South Koreans have penetrated one of the communication channels between North Korea and China. The North Korean's obviously knew about it and used the channel to provide disinformation.
According to sources knowledgeable about North Korean affairs, after the failed missile launch in April 2012, North Korean authorities told a group of party elite that "the United States used radio signals to interfere with our rocket launch."

The EA-18G Growler electronic warfare aircraft used by the U.S. military based in Japan has the capability of amplifying and jamming radio signals that North Korea transmits to guide its long-range missiles.
...
North Korea apparently decided to go ahead with the Dec. 12 launch after taking into consideration the weather and scheduled political events. It was forced into keeping that date a secret from Japan, the United States and South Korea to avoid a second failed launch.

In January 2012 a Russian official wondered if the U.S. sabotaged a Russian satellite on a Mission to Mars:
Mr. Popovkin’s remarks to the newspaper Izvestia were the first high-level suggestion of nefarious interference. A retired commander of Russia’s missile warning system had speculated in November that strong radar signals from installations in Alaska might have damaged the spacecraft.

“We don’t want to accuse anybody, but there are very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft now,” Mr. Popovkin[, the director of Russia’s space agency,] said in the interview. “The possibility they were used cannot be ruled out.”

If the U.S. is really sabotaging satellite launches it should be ready for a blowback. There are other nations who also have such capabilities.

The distrust between the U.S. side, the Koreas and the Japanese seems to have increased since the new hardline Japanese premier Shinzo Abe has taken office in December. The release of the above information was probably authorized to express misgivings about the state of affairs.

And while the U.S. is on one side in high level secret talks with North Korea it is also trying to sabotage its missile program. But North Korea, despite being seen by the U.S. as a third class regime ready to fall tomorrow, has proven to be robust and very apt in the intelligence business.

Posted by b on February 21, 2013 at 05:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (22)

February 20, 2013

Nothing To Say

Found nothing to write about. Or nothing I feel I should write about. Whatever. This is the result.

Posted by b on February 20, 2013 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

February 18, 2013

Obama Designed Iran Negotiations To Fail

The U.S. is not serious in regards to negotiations with Iran. Negotiations require offers and demands from both sides that can be weighted and exhcanged against each other. But while the U.S. has skyhight demands, which would restrict Iranian sovereignty, it offers nothing substantial.

For the next negotiation round on February 26 in Almaty, Kazakhstan, the U.S. has issued a new demand, the complete shut down of Iran's enrichment plant in its underground facility at Fordow. Of all places relevant to Iran's nuclear program, which is as U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed solely for civilian purpose, Fordow would be the most difficult to destroy during an attack on Iran. Why, if not for preparation of such an attack, would the U.S. demand that that place be shut down?

The U.S. has also made a new "offer" to Iran. In exchange for shutting down Fordow and other places the U.S. offers not the lifting of UN sanction, not the lifting of unilateral U.S. or EU sanctions, not the lifting of restriction of financial transactions with Iran. No, none of that. If its new demand would be followed by Iran the U.S. would lift unilateral sanctions it introduced, through threats to third parties, just days ago:

Tighter U.S. sanctions are killing off Turkey's gold-for-gas trade with Iran and have stopped state-owned lender Halkbank from processing other nations' energy payments to the OPEC oil producer, bankers said on Friday.
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A provision of U.S. sanctions, made law last summer and implemented from February 6, effectively tightens control on sales of precious metals to Iran and prevents Halkbank from processing oil payments by other countries back to Tehran, bankers said.
Turkey, which depends on energy imports from Russia and Iran, has paid Iran in Turkish Lira which Iran used to buy Turkish gold which it could then bring out of the country and exchange for any other currency.

The U.S. is threatening Turkish banks with cutting off their international business if they continue the gold transfer.

"Halkbank can only accept payments for Turkish oil and gas purchases and Iran is only allowed to buy food, medicine and industrial products with that money," one senior Turkish banker told Reuters.

"The gas for gold trade is very difficult after the second round of sanctions. Iranians cannot just withdraw the cash and buy whatever they want. They have to prove what they are buying ... so gold exports will definitely fall," he said.

These new introduced sanction through illegal threats to third parties, are the only ones the U.S. is willing to lift.

These sanctions, where the U.S. dictates through a Turkish bank what Iran can buy or not buy, are a ploy comparable to the deadly "oil for food" scheme that killed so many children in Iraq:

Former programme heads such as Hans von Sponeck questioned whether the sanctions should exist at all. Von Sponeck, speaking in University of California, Berkeley in late 2001, decried the proposed "Smart Sanctions", stating, "What is proposed at this point in fact amounts to a tightening of the rope around the neck of the average Iraqi citizen"; claimed that the sanctions were causing the death of 150 Iraqi children per day; and accused the US and Britain of arrogance toward Iraq, such as refusing to let it pay its UN and OPEC dues and blocking Iraqi attempts at negotiation.
If Iran would fall for this the U.S. would soon dictated in deep detail what Iran is allowed to buy and what not. Iran should no accept such a game through a Turkish bank. A whooping 40% of Turkeys energy comes from Iran. It is Turkey's problem if it finds no reasonable way to pay for that. Sure, the Russians could supply some additional gas should Iran stop deliveries. But then Turkey would totally depend on Russian good will. As its position with regards to Syria is the opposite of Russia's position, the strategic risk of depending on a sole energy source is immense.

During the Almaty talks Iran will of course not commit to such an unreasonable exchange:

"Lately they have said 'Shut down Fordow, stop (uranium) enrichment, we will allow gold transactions'," [Ramin Mehmanparast, spokesman for Iran's foreign ministry,] said, according to the Mehr news agency. "They want to take away the rights of a nation in exchange for allowing trade in gold."
...
"We are ready for negotiations, negotiations that have a logical approach which officially recognizes our rights completely. Of course steps must be concurrent and of equal weight," he said.
The Obama administration is simply not serious with negotiations. One of its former members, Vali Nasr, who is now dean of the John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, has a new book coming where he explicitly says so:
In Iran, Nasr demonstrates Obama’s deep ambivalence about any deal on the nuclear program. “Pressure,” he writes, “has become an end in itself.” The dual track of ever tougher sanctions combined with diplomatic outreach was “not even dual. It relied on one track, and that was pressure." The reality was that,“Engagement was a cover for a coercive campaign of sabotage, economic pressure and cyberwarfare.”

Opportunities to begin real step-by-step diplomacy involving Iran giving up its low-enriched uranium in exchange for progressive sanctions relief were lost. What was Tehran to think when “the sum total of three major rounds of diplomatic negotiation was that America would give some bits and bobs of old aircraft in exchange for Iran’s nuclear program”?

The talks in Almaty are designed to fail. They will fail. It is Obama's strategy, or rather lack thereof, that there will be no progress at all.

Turkey, which is an U.S. ally, will feel the brunt of the new sanctions the Obama administration introduced. Who will the Turks blame when the lights go out in Ankara?

Posted by b on February 18, 2013 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

February 17, 2013

Open Thread 2013-4

News & views ...

Posted by b on February 17, 2013 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (43)

February 16, 2013

Who Is The Father Of Ben Zygier's Second Daughter?

Ben Zygier was an Austalian/Israeli Mossad agent. He was imprisoned and suicided in Israel probably over fears that he would blow the whistle about illegal foreign passport use shortly after Mossad agents misused foreign passports during while assassinating Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai. A relation between Dubai and and the Zygier case was my first assumption and still seems likely. There are many other possibilities though. And there are several oddities with the whole story. Here is one.

According to this report:

Zygier was arrested in Israel in February 2010. Australian newspapers have reported that Israel informed Australia’s secret service of the arrest on Feb. 24, 2010, eight days after Dubai police revealed that Mossad agents had used foreign passports ...

The official version of Zygier’s death – that he hanged himself in his cell on Dec. 15, 2010 – is being greeted with widespread skepticism as details about his life become known.
...
He died six days after his 34th birthday, and only four days after the birth of his second daughter.

Zygier was arrested before February 24 2010. Zygier's daughter was born on December 11 2010. There are 290 days between February 24 2010 and December 11 2010. Zygier's daughter was thereby born at least 290 days after he was imprisoned.

Pregnancy is considered "at term" when gestation has lasted [...] between 259 and 294 days since the first day of the last menstrual period (LMP). In an otherwise uncomplicated pregnancy, obstetricians usually prefer to induce labour at some stage between 41 and 42 weeks (287-294 days) since LMP. Fertilization in humans typically occurs a consistent period (14 days) from the onset of the LMP. Pregnancy is thereby "at term" between 245 and 280 days since fertilization. Zygier's last chance to sleep with his wife was very likely before his arrest, 290 days before his second daughter was born. Her LMP was two weeks earlier. His daughter then was born 304 days or 43-44 weeks after his wife's LMP, two weeks later than a doctor would usually allow.

Either:

  • Zygier's wife gave birth at a very, very late term due to an incompetent obstetrician or
  • Ben Zygier isn't his second daughter's father and his wife had a different man a few days after Zygier's arrest* or
  • the reported story and dates are not the real ones.

If it is the last point what is the real story?

(*There are other possibilities here like artificial insemination but I consider those very unlikely.)

Posted by b on February 16, 2013 at 03:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (115)

February 15, 2013

Ban Ki Moon Is A Bad Diplomat

UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon had a diplomatic disastrous interview with the Washington Post.

The piece about it is mostly a write up and not a transcript. We must thereby assume that the Washington Post, not always knows for accuracy, might have edited some of the quotes out of context. Still it is incredible that the UN Secretary General would allow such to be published:

The United Nations must be decisive and swift in judging whether diplomacy can resolve world concerns about Iran’s nuclear program, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday, or invite the risk that Iran, like North Korea, will use talks as a cover to build a bomb.

In an interview with The Washington Post, Ban said he wants to accelerate diplomatic talks with Iran and give them new urgency.
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“We should not give much more time to the Iranians, and we should not waste time,” Ban said. “We have seen what happened with the DPRK.”

Ban Ki Moon will know the repeatedly confirmed united opinion of all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon program. How can he then, as the head of the organization which is tasked keep the world at peace, talk such a nonsense?
The U.N. Security Council must “show a firm, decisive and effective, quick response,” Ban said, that makes plain to Iran that the rest of the world is not convinced that it is not seeking nuclear weapons.
What is that? A call for war against Iran for weapons of mass destruction that do not exist?

Has Ban Ki Moon additional brain defects?

The WaPo commentators to that piece are not amused: "SharpDiamond" wrote:

It seems the UN secretary general Mr "Moon" has stopped taking his meds. What is WHO doing?
"justnfree" concludes:
I guess that shows how neutral UN is. Any word about Israeli nuclear arsenal?
The former Indian ambassador K.P. Fabian remarks:
The UN SG is talking through his hat.
He wants to ensure that the forthcoming talks will be fruitless by threatening and abusing Iran.
Why not start bombing?
Sad that UN SG is advocating war!
Ambassador K P Fabian
I hope that Ban Ki Moon will hear likewise from other diplomats, especially from Sergej Lavrov and his Chinese colleague.

Apropos Lavrov - here is a one hour interview (in English) with the Russian foreign minister about Syria by the German public TV station ARD. (If you do want to listen to the full hour skip to the last 8 or 10 minutes.) (Edit with thanks to Parviziyi: English transcript) Lavrov shows that he has, unlike Ban Ki Moon, the knowledge of details, the thoughtfulness and strategic perspective any real diplomat should have.

Posted by b on February 15, 2013 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (24)

February 14, 2013

Iran Buys Magnets That DO NOT FIT Its Centrifuges

The paranoid David Albright of ISIS, the Institute of Scary Iran Stories (formerly the Institute of Scary Iraq Stories), has issued a new report.

The report alleges that one of 70 million Iranians once made an inquiry to buy magnets that DO NOT FIT for Iran's uranium enrichment centrifuges.

The Washington Post's Joby Warrick, one of Albright's favorite stenographers, took notes:

Iran recently sought to acquire tens of thousands of highly specialized magnets used in centrifuge machines, according to experts and diplomats, a sign that the country may be planning a major expansion of its nuclear program that could shorten the path to an atomic weapons capability.

Purchase orders obtained by nuclear researchers show an attempt by Iranian agents to buy 100,000 of the ring-shaped magnets — which are banned from export to Iran under U.N. resolutions — from China about a year ago, those familiar with the effort said. It is unclear whether the attempt succeeded.
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The specific dimensions spelled out in the order form match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1, a machine that spins at supersonic speeds to purify uranium gas into an enriched form that can be used in nuclear power plants.
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With two magnets needed per machine, the order technically could supply Iran with enough material for 50,000 new gas centrifuges, although some of the magnets would probably have been reserved for repairs and spare parts, said David Albright, ISIS president and a former IAEA inspector.
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The magnets are made of an unusual alloy known as barium strontium ferrite and were ordered from a Chinese vendor in late 2011.

The lines set in bold are simply lies which Albright planted with Warrick:
  • Barium strontium ferrite magnets are of NOT "unusual alloy"
  • The magnets in question are NOT "highly specialized magnets"
  • The dimensions of the magnets do NOT "match precisely — to a fraction of a millimeter — those of the powerful magnets used in the IR-1"
  • There was NO "purchase order" only an inquiry aka a request for a quote made by who-knows

Barium strontium ferrite magnets are standardized parts used in many industrial products:

Ferrite magnet is made by means of powder metallurgy. Its chemical composition: Ba/Sro-Fe2O3. Hard to be de-magnetized, with good anti-corrosion property. The products are make in the shapes of circular, cylinder, square, tile-type. Widely used for magnetic electro-machinery, loudspeaker products, micro electro-machinery, household appliance, electronic acoustics equipment, copycat, magnetic motor equipment, culture and education tools and magnetic treatment equipment.
Such magnets are classed as "hard ferrite" (pdf). They are made to fit from metal powder because changing their dimensions after the pressing and sinter process is difficult. The material is brittle and dimensional changes can only be applied by diamond grounding.
Hard ferrites are ceramic materials, with the mechanical hardness and brittleness typical for ceramics. A typical way of processing them is by grinding with diamond discs.
...
Ring, disc, segment, and rectangular magnets are the most common shapes for permanent magnets produced by pressing techniques. More unusual shapes can also be produced. It is better to press the magnets into the desired shape, since subsequent shape changes (adding drill holes, chamfers, notches, indentations, and similar) are labour-intensive and require diamond tools.

Anyone who orders such magnets will make sure that they fit exactly the design dimensions because changing their form would be difficult and expensive.

But the magnets in question do not fit their allegedly designed purpose. According to David Albright's own paper on the issue (pdf):

The dimensions in the enquiry match almost exactly ring magnets of the IR-1 centrifuge. Moreover, the ring magnets would be ready for use in those centrifuges. The inside diameters and thickness are identical and the outer diameters differ by less than one half percent.
In precise engineering "less than a half percent" is, in most cases, a misfit:
When designing mechanical components, a system of standardized tolerances called International Tolerance grades is used. The standard (size) tolerances are divided into two categories: hole and shaft. They are labelled with a letter (capitals for holes and lowercase for shafts) and a number. For example: H7 (hole tapped hole or nut) and h7 (shaft or bolt). H7/h6 is a very common standard tolerance which gives a rather tight fit, but not so tight that you can't put the shaft in the hole, or turn the nut on the bolt, by hand.
For a 100mm hole/shaft combination an H7/h6 tolerance specification will allow for the hole to be between 100.000 and 100.035mm and for the shaft to be between 99.978 and 100.000mm. These general machining tolerances, which not even the most precise ones, are far less than half a percent, i.e. 0.500mm in the above case.

If one orders components, as these ring magnets are, for a shaft/hole combination one will specify the exact size and tolerance one would want to have. A half percent deviation from the original specifications would be more than ten times bigger than the usual engineering tolerances for a fit allow for. The size specified in that Iranian's inquiry would require, as Albright himself admits, a redesign of the IR-1 centrifuges:

Some minor re-design would be necessary of the top end cap and top magnetic bearing of the IR-1 design

Such redesign would of course also require new tests and other expensive measures. Why would Iran request for magnets that do not fit and require a redesign of its centrifuges when it could request the precise dimension needed and avoid an expensive redesign?

As part of his report Albright presents a screenshot from the alleged inquiry but he censored the exact dimensions made in that inquiry. I can not imagine a sound reason to do so but to obfuscate the fact that this new Iran scare story, like other Albright stories, is made up through unsound and unscientific reasoning.

And how, by the way, are we, or Albright, to know that the screenshot he presents is from a genuine Iranian request and not some hoax entry hacked into a Chinese purchase site from a government office in Tel Aviv?

Barium strontium ferrite magnets are standard parts for a wide range of possible end products. There is nothing in the "Iranian" inquiry David Albright is concerned about that lets one presume that these are for centrifuges. The fact that the ordered dimensions are, in engineering terms, far off and would require a redesign of the centrifuges makes it very unlikely that these magnets were sought for that purpose.

His suggestion that these magnets are for centrifuges only shows that ISIS's David Albright is not-at-all-bright but is carrying water for the neocons who want to instigate a war on Iran.

Posted by b on February 14, 2013 at 03:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

February 12, 2013

China Will Not Help To "Punish" North Korea

This "news analysis" on North Korea's latest nuke test in the New York Times is rather a lightly disguised threat to China. Starve North Korea or we will disable your strategic nuclear deterrence.

Nuclear Test Poses Big Challenge to China’s New Leader

It starts:

BEIJING — The nuclear test by North Korea on Tuesday, in defiance of warnings by China, leaves the new Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, with a choice: Does he upset North Korea just a bit by agreeing to stepped up United Nations sanctions, or does he rattle the regime by pulling the plug on infusions of Chinese oil and investments that keep North Korea afloat?
Notice how this sets up a rather infantile false choice. China could also just ignore the test and do nothing. China could also chose to do some other stuff. It could embrace North Korea by delivering more energy to it. It could ensure North Korea that it would defend it with all its might should there be any attack on it thereby rendering the North Korean nuclear program unnecessary. There are many possibilities besides punish small and punish big.

The piece continues by framing this as a China U.S. relation issue:

To improve the strained relationship with the United States, Mr. Xi could start with getting tougher on North Korea, harnessing China’s clout with the outlier government to help slow down its nuclear program. If Mr. Xi does not help in curbing the North Koreans, he will almost certainly face accelerated ballistic missile defense efforts by the United States in Northeast Asia, especially with Japan, an unpalatable situation for China.
U.S. missile defense is being build to render Russia's and China's nuclear deterrence useless. The hope is that it will enable first-strike capability. The U.S. could kill off most of Russia's or China's nukes while having some reasonable hope that its missile defense system will be capable of holding of a much diminished retaliation strike.

No one in China believes that the U.S. will ever stop its missile defense plans in Asia. It is obviously part of Washington's program to contain China. But just imagine China would really agree to some serious pressure on North Korea while the U.S. would offer a promise or even a treaty that it will not build up its missile defense. How long would such a promise hold?

The U.S. promised to North Korea to build it two reactors for electricity production should North Korea end its Plutonium program. North Korea did end its Pu program but those reactors were never build.

China knows better than to believe that treaties the U.S. signs will not be broken. It has its own experience. The current hustle with Japan about the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands is just one broken treaty example:

The Potsdam Declaration (Declaration Defining Terms for Japanese Surrender) of 1945 set the terms of Japan’s unconditional surrender. It was issued jointly by the Allied powers – the US, Britain, and China (the Nationalist or Kuomintang government); and the Soviet Union later “adhered to” the declaration. The Japanese government explicitly accepted it. The declaration said that Japan should retain no overseas territories.

A later conference issued the Treaty of San Francisco in 1951, to mark the final settlement of the war in East Asia and the official end of the Allied (American) Occupation of Japan. The US excluded China from the conference, which by then was governed by the Chinese Communist Party. (The US also excluded the Nationalist government, then resident in Taiwan but still claiming to rule the mainland.) The treaty allocated to Japan hundreds of islands south of Japan, comprising the whole of Okinawa prefecture, including the Senkaku.

In China’s eyes the Treaty of San Francisco and its restoration of offshore islands to Japan is invalid, because (1) it broke the Potsdam Declaration – the foundation of the post-war order in East Asia — and (2) it resulted from a negotiation in which the government of China (one of the four Allied Powers) was not represented. None of the overseas territories seized by Imperial Japan, including the Senkaku, should have been restored to Japan.

China needs North Korea as a buffer against U.S. troops at its borders. It will not do anything to ruin North Korea as a chaotic and dissolving neighbor would be a huge security problem for Beijing. Some slower build up of U.S. missile defense would not solve that problem.

China will probably agree to some mild sanctions on North Korea. An even better strategy would be for the U.S. to come to its senses and to make finally peace with North Korea thereby making its nuclear capabilities unnecessary. China should and could support that by giving security guarantees.

Posted by b on February 12, 2013 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

News On Prisoner X

This is likely to become an interesting issue:

Prime Minister's Office calls emergency meeting with heads of Israeli media outlets

Purpose of unusual meeting is to request editors' cooperation in preventing publication of affair which could prove embarrassing to government agency.

The Prime Minister's Office called on Tuesday an emergency meeting of the Israeli Editors Committee, an informal forum comprised of the editors and owners of major Israeli media outlets, to ask its members to cooperate with the government and withhold publication of information pertaining to an incident that is very embarrassing to a certain government agency.
The "incident" is revolving around a "Prisoner X" of whom any news has been censored in Israel for nearly three years. Several articles in Israeli media about him were vanished by the censors. But as the Australian ABCnews has now shown (video, 28min) new details on the case this attempt of continued censorship is just silly. Haaretz is helpfully pointing its readers to the original story:
Evidence has been unearthed that strongly suggests Israel's infamous Prisoner X, who was jailed under extraordinary circumstances in 2010, was an Australian national from Melbourne.

Investigations by the ABC's Foreign Correspondent program have revealed Ben Zygier, who used the name Ben Alon in Israel, was found hanged in a high-security cell at a prison near Tel Aviv in late 2010.

His body was flown to Melbourne for burial a week later.

The death goes part of the way to explain the existence in Israel of a so-called Prisoner X, widely speculated in local and international media as an inmate whose presence has been acknowledged by neither the jail system nor the government.

The case is regarded as one of the most sensitive secrets of Israel's intelligence community, with the government going to extraordinary lengths to stifle media coverage and gag attempts by human rights organisations to expose the situation.

The Prisoner X cell is a jail within a jail at Ayalon Prison in the city of Ramla. It was built for the assassin of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The ABC understands Mr Zygier became its occupant in early 2010. His incarceration was so secret that it is claimed not even guards knew his identity.

The Australian security services may think that Mr Zygier was a Mossad agent.

On January 19 2010 Mossad operatives assassinated the Hamas commander Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh in a hotel in Dubai. The police in Dubai acted astonishingly fast using videos and stills from various security cameras (part 1, 2, 3) to stitch together the evidence and to identify the Mossad agents involved. The agents involved used passports from various countries including Australian passports though none with the name of Ben Zygier or Ben Alon.

In December 2010 his always wrong "source" told Richard Silverstein that Prisoner X was a Iranian Revolutionary Guard General abducted by Mossad.

If Ben Zygier (photo) was indeed involved with Mossad and ended up as "Prisoner X" he must have done something very extraordinary. Did he blow the whistle about the Dubai assassination? One wonders when we will learn what he did.

Posted by b on February 12, 2013 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (102)

February 11, 2013

Un-habemus Papam

The catholic pope announced his resignation:
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday announced he will resign on February 28, a Vatican spokesman told AFP, which will make him the first pope to do so in centuries.
The last pope to resign voluntarily was Pope Celestine V in 1294.He did not want to be pope in the first place. Celestine V gave his reasons as:
the desire for humility, for a purer life, for a stainless conscience, the deficiencies of his own physical strength, his ignorance, the perverseness of the people, his longing for the tranquility of his former life.

Benedict XVI said:

After having repeatedly examined my conscience before God, I have come to the certainty that my strengths, due to an advanced age, are no longer suited to an adequate exercise of the Petrine ministry.
A new pope is usually elected when the old one is dead and often not to his (assumed) liking. His resignation will allow Benedict to influence the election of his successor. That may be the real reason behind this surprizing step.

The Supreme Guidance Council of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood convened immediately and is thought to suggest the upcoming head of Al-Azhar, Abdul Rahman al-Bar, as its papal candidate. Vatican aids thought it unlikely that al-Bar would gather enough support in the Vatican to make it into the final selection.

The election of a pope is always a highly political process. Various states will try to push their favorite candidates and agendas. The ideal candidate though will not be considered. That would be a tall black African woman, married and with children.

Posted by b on February 11, 2013 at 07:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (118)

February 10, 2013

Netanyahoo's Red Line Is Now Iran's Shield

In August 2012 another IAEA report on Iran came out. Then this blog was the first to point out that, according to that report, Iran had reduced its stock of 20% enriched Uranium by converting some of it into fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor. Other media, when first reporting on that IAEA report, did not mention it. It didn't fit their scare intend.

We concluded:

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

Reuters is now reporting that Iran is exactly doing that:

Iran appears to have resumed converting small amounts of highly enriched uranium into reactor fuel, diplomats say, a process which if expanded could buy time for negotiations between Washington and Tehran on its disputed nuclear program.
Iran is thereby avoiding the "red-line" Netanyahoo had try to draw. It can do so endlessly while developing its other capabilities. The "red line" has thereby now become a shield under which Iran can do whatever it wants while avoiding the (small) risk of an Israeli attack.

Posted by b on February 10, 2013 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (24)

February 09, 2013

BBC Editors: Stop the blocking now

If he were not a hypocrite Peter Horrocks, the director of BBC World Service, would opine:
PRESS TV audiences in United States and Europe are experiencing disruption to their PRESS TV services. That is because there is heavy political interference with satellite providers PRESS TV uses in the United States and Europe to broadcast the English PRESS TV signal.

Satellite technicians have traced that interference and it is coming from the United States. There has been interference in Europe since October, but this is the heaviest yet.

It seems to be part of a pattern of behaviour by American authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of their wars. However, the availability of witness material from the United States is enabling international news organisations to be able to report the story. Viewers of PRESS TV have been in touch (in English), sending videos, stills and providing personal accounts.

It is important that what is happening in the United States is reported to the world, but it is even more vital that citizens in the United States know what is happening. That is the role of the recently-launched PRESS TV which is fulfilling a crucial role in being a free and impartial source of information for many Americans.

Any attempt to block this channel is wrong and against international treaties on satellite communication. Whoever is attempting the blocking should stop it now.

This is another reminder that "freedom of the press" is nothing but the right of 200 rich people to have their opinions published.

Posted by b on February 9, 2013 at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (21)

Not The First Time Haaretz Is Caught Lying

Haaretz propagandizes:

Assad regime calls for dialogue with Syrian opposition, for first time since conflict began

For first time since 22-month conflict began, the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad says it is willing to negotiate, so long as talks are approached without preconditions and that arms are put down.
...
The Syrian regime said late Friday that it was ready to hold dialogue with the Syrian opposition to end the 22-month conflict in the war-torn country, so long as the negotiations are approached without preconditions.
...
This is the first time an official of Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime has expressed a commitment to engaging in conversations with the opposition, both within and outside the country, including the Syrian National Council umbrella group that unites the majority of opposition groups in Syria.
Do those Haartez writers really think that their readers have such a short memory?

Posted by b on February 9, 2013 at 07:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (9)

February 08, 2013

Syria: The Druze Are Not Joining The Opposition

A just published Washington Post piece claims: Syria’s Druze minority is shifting its support to the opposition.

Its evidence for the alleged shift is ... solely from the insurgency side:

Members of Syria’s Druze community, a small but significant religious minority, are joining the opposition in bigger numbers, ramping up pressure on the beleaguered government of President Bashar al-Assad, according to opposition activists and rebel military commanders.
There is no evidence in the whole piece of a shift in the Druze community but those not-verifiable self-serving insurgency claims. A real highlight is this paragraph:
Yet there is now even a Druze-dominated unit of rebel fighters, the Bani Maarouf battalion, operating in the Damascus suburbs, including Jaramana, which was formed in late December.

That link goes to video that shows a group of 30 men proclaiming to be some new unit. Why is the reporter calling this a "battalion". Thirty men are a small platoon. There are three or four platoons to a company and four or five companies make up a battalion. That is the about the same in every army of this world. Why is a Washington Post reporter writing about a "battalion" when that "battalion" doesn't even have 5% of the nominal size of a real on? And how does he know that these are indeed Druze?

There are thousands of such videos of such groups, often multiple ones of the ever same folks and their sole purpose is exaggerate the size of the insurgency. They are sheer propaganda. The one the WaPo reporter chose is especially ridiculous. Take a look at this gun that one of the guys holds.


full screenshot

Those "Druze" must have v_e_r_y long arms if they can fire weapons with such shoulder stocks.

Thet WaPo piece's claim of Druze joining those insurgents is just as much propaganda as the one that claimed the Druze are joining the opposition in March 2012 and the one that claimed so in July 2012 and the one that claimed so a month ago.

All of these piece are based on insurgency sources and all of them are false. The Druze know very well that they, as a religious minority, would be in much more trouble should the insurgency win then they have ever been and ever will be under Bashar al-Assad.

Indeed instead of more people joining the opposition we see the opposition falling apart. Not only the exile opposition which never manages to unite, but also on the ground. This video shows a brawl between Free Syrian Army and Jabhat al-Nusra protesters in Idleb with the Nusra supporters tearing up FSA flags.

As their situation on the ground worsens we are likely to see more such fights, even deadly ones, between those various opposition groups.

Posted by b on February 8, 2013 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

February 07, 2013

Iranian Documentation On Catching Drones

In December Iran claimed that it had retrieved all data from the U.S. stealth drone RQ-170 Sentinel it had managed to take down a year earlier:
"All the intelligence existing in this drone has been completely decoded and extracted and we know each and every step it has taken (during its missions)," Commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Aerospace Force Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh told reporters here in Tehran on Monday.
Today a short video revealed footage the drone had taken on its flights and which the Iranians downloaded from its internal storage. This includes pictures of the Kandahar airbase from which the drone was flown.

Additional footage appears in this Iranian documentary about the drone capture (in Farsi) (24min).

Excerpts (13 min) from that documentary are available with English subtitles:

There is some interesting stuff in it. Iran actually set its missile forces on alarm to let the U.S. know that any attempt to take back the drone or to bomb it would lead to an escalation. It is good that cooler heads prevailed. Other pictures show how the drone was dismantled and transported after it was caught.

Iran had already acquired other U.S. drone types and continues to do so.

Two additional pictures appeared which show Iranian mass production of other U.S. drones it has captured. Visible are copies of the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle and AAI RQ-7 Shadow (marked with those red arrows).


bigger


bigger

We already know that Iran builds training copies of RQ-170 drones.


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

But How long will it take those smarting Iranians to build full copies of the RQ-170 stealth drone?

Posted by b on February 7, 2013 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (28)

February 06, 2013

Some New Bits On The Syrian Al-Kibar "Reactor"

The convicted criminal neocon Elliott Abrams is writing in Commentary about the 2007 bombing of the alleged nuclear reactor at Al-Kibar in Syria. As was to be expected his story isn't straight. Indeed there is huge discrepancy in it. He starts with the Israelis coming to Washington to tell what they thought they had found:
[Mossad chief Meir Dagan] showed us intelligence demonstrating that Syria was constructing a nuclear reactor whose design was supplied by North Korea, and doing so with North Korean technical assistance. Dagan left us with one stark message: All Israeli policymakers who saw the evidence agreed that the reactor had to go away.

There then began a four-month process of extremely close cooperation with Israel about the reactor, called al-Kibar. As soon as our own intelligence had confirmed the Israeli information and we all agreed on what we were dealing with, Hadley established a process for gathering further information, considering our options, and sharing our thinking with Israel.

Reading these lines one would think that the U.S. services confirmed the Israeli take that their pictures of that place showed indeed a nuclear reactor.

But much later into the story we learn the opposite. After some month of intense debate Bush decided to not bomb the "reactor":

[O]n July 13, President Bush had called Prime Minister Olmert from his desk in the Oval Office and explained his view. I have gone over this in great detail, Bush explained on the secure phone to the Israeli prime minister, looking at every possible scenario and its likely aftermath. We have looked at overt and covert options, and I have made a decision. We are not going to take the military path; we are instead going to the UN. Bush recounts in his memoir that he told Olmert, “I cannot justify an attack on a sovereign nation unless my intelligence agencies stand up and say it’s a weapons program” and that “I had decided on the diplomatic option backed by the threat of force.” We will announce this approach soon, Bush said on the secure line, and we will then launch a major diplomatic campaign, starting at the IAEA and then the UN Security Council.
So according to Bush, even month after the initial Israeli visit, U.S. intelligence agencies could NOT confirm that there was a reactor and thereby a nuclear weapons program. That is quite different from what Abrams asserts in the first quote.

But such obfuscation, if not outright lying, is just what one expects from such a man.

Two month after Bush's phone call the Israeli's bombed the place. Syria then removed the debris. The IAEA later visited the site and then claimed to have found traces of Uranium there. It rejected Syria's explanation that that Uranium must have come from the Israeli weapon that hit the place. 

Robert Kelly says that the IAEA is wrong in rejecting Syria's explanation.  Kelly managed the centrifuge and plutonium metallurgy programs at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and was seconded by the US DOE to the IAEA where he served twice as a Director in the nuclear inspections in Iraq, in 1992-1993 and 2002-2003. As he sees it:

In Syria, for example, the IAEA was successful in collecting uranium particles at a site that had been “sanitized.” But then the IAEA cavalierly dismissed Syrian explanations that the natural uranium particles found at a bombed suspect site came from Israeli missiles. The agency’s claims that the particles are not of the correct isotopic and chemical composition for missiles, displays an appalling lack of technical knowledge about military munitions based on information from questionable sources. If the IAEA is to be respected it must get proper technical advice. For example deep earth penetrating bombs, not missiles were used in Syria.
Indeed the "bunker buster" deep penetrating BLU-116 bomb was designed with a heavy core made from depleted Uranium. If Israel used that or a similar weapon at Al-Kibar, as makes sense and as Kelly claims, the Uranium the IAEA found there would be very well explained.

The whole claim of a "reactor" in Al-Kibar is still dubious. The U.S. agencies did not agree to that Israeli assertion and the IAEA's find of small Uranium particels does not prove that there was a reactor or Uranium at Al-Kibar before the place was bombed.

Posted by b on February 6, 2013 at 12:05 PM | Permalink | Comments (30)

Brennan's Saudi Drone Base: Censorship, Assassinations, More Terrorists

The administration's counterterrorism policies are leading to media censorship, refutation of basic rights and to more terrorism. The man responsible for these consequences should not become head of the CIA.

Today the Washington Post's homepage tries to sell this item as news:

The piece says:

President Obama’s plan to install his counterterrorism adviser as director of the CIA has opened the administration to new scrutiny over the targeted-killing policies it has fought to keep hidden from the public, as well as the existence of a previously secret drone base in Saudi Arabia.

... a 2011 attack that killed al-Qaeda operative Anwar al-Awlaki, was carried out in part by CIA drones flown from a secret base in Saudi Arabia.

The Washington Post had refrained from disclosing the location at the request of the administration, which cited concern that exposing the facility would undermine operations against an al-Qaeda affiliate regarded as the network’s most potent threat to the United States, as well as potentially damage counterterrorism collaboration with Saudi Arabia.

The Post learned Tuesday night that another news organization was planning to reveal the location of the base, effectively ending an informal arrangement among several news organizations that had been aware of the location for more than a year.

Moon of Alabama, unlike the self censoring Washington Post and other media, reveled that such a base is in Saudi Arabia in June 2011. Referring to a NYT piece we wrote:

Then this:

The Central Intelligence Agency is building a secret air base in the Middle East to serve as a launching pad for strikes in Yemen using armed drones, an American official said Tuesday.
The only plausible place for a base to strike in Yemen is Saudi Arabia. Sharurah would be a likely candidate.
Next to Yemen itself Saudi Arabia is the only country within reasonable flying distance to cover Yemen with drones. The Predator drones the U.S. uses have a combat radius of some 500+ miles. Flown from Sharurah, which already had a decent airport as is needed for the logistics, they can cover all of Yemen. If we could come to that conclusion others can certainly too. The censoring of that fact in U.S. media may hide it from the U.S. public but those who might think of attacking such a base will know where it is.

It is interesting to note that the most recent satellite pictures available via Google Map/Earth and Bing of Sharurah, Saudia-Arabia, are still from 2009, while those in other areas, for example nearby Seijun, Yemen, have been updated in 2010 and 2011 (twice). Are updates of sat pictures of Sharurah also censored?

In July 2011 a London Times piece confirmed our claim of a Saudi base:

The CIA has set up a network of secret drone bases in Arab states in a major intensification of its campaign against al-Qaeda militants in Yemen.

Sources in the Gulf say that the agency is now massed along Yemen’s borders, launching daily missions with unmanned Predator aircraft from bases in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Djibouti and the United Arab Emirates.

In September 2011 a Fox news report also confirmed our take that the base is in Saudi Arabia. But shortly after it came out that first report in U.S. media was censored and rewritten. Searching the web for "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Saudi points to the original report on Fox news but also to copies of it on other sides. But the original report on Foxnews.com (though not its URL which still includes "Saudi") has since been changed as can be seen when comparing it to the first version still available, for example, at Foxnews.mobi.

The original headline "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Saudi" has been changed to "Obama Administration Building New Drone Bases in Horn of Africa, Arabian Peninsula" and while the original version included this:

In addition to Seychelles and Ethiopia, the senior U.S. military official said the United States got permission to fly armed drones from Djibouti, and confirmed the construction of a new airstrip in Saudi Arabia.

"Operations in Saudi are (the) only new expansion to this plan. The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP," the official said, describing the process as a "long-term deliberate effort where we used what we could (until) we got the locations we wanted."

The censored version reads:
As part of the expanded program, the senior U.S. military official said the United States got permission to fly armed drones from Djibouti, and confirmed the construction of a new airstrip in the Arabian Peninsula.

The official said that was the "only new expansion to this plan.

"The rest has been working for over a year when we long ago realized danger from AQAP," the official said, describing the process as a "long-term deliberate effort where we used what we could (until) we got the locations we wanted."

While Fox news confirmed our take on the location of the base, its report was later censored to hide the fact that it is in Saudi Arabia. Thus is the Orwellian censorship power of the U.S. government.

But that power goes even further. Lets return to the WaPo piece at the top. Referring to that lousy legal opinion that tries to justify killing people without due process WaPo writes:

The white paper, which was first reported by NBC News, concludes that the United States can lawfully kill one of its own citizens overseas if it determines that the person is a “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda or one of its affiliates and poses an imminent threat.
...
Within hours after Awlaki’s death in September 2011, White House officials described the U.S.-born cleric as “chief of external operations” for al-Qaeda’s affiliate in Yemen, a designation they had not used publicly before the strike.
So it was only after some government lawyer opined that the president can kill Americans who are “senior, operational leader” of al-Qaeda and after Awlaki was killed that he was designated as such. Note that there is zero proof in the public that Awlaki was anything but an outspoken cleric who used his first amendment rights. And if Awlaki was not seen as “senior, operational leader” before September 2011 what was the justification for the failed attempt to kill him on May 5 2011?

It seems that the now emphasized “senior, operational leader” criteria in that White Paper is just obfuscation. Glenn Greenwald points out that there is no real limitation in what that "memo" defines:

The purported limitations on this power set forth in this memo, aside from being incredibly vague, can be easily discarded once the central theory of presidential power is embraced.
and
[Law professor Kevin John] Heller points out what I noted above: once you accept the memo's reasoning [...] then there is no way coherent way to limit this power to places where capture is infeasible or to persons posing an "imminent" threat. The legal framework adopted by the memo means the president can kill anyone he claims is a member of al-Qaida regardless of where they are found or what they are doing.
So here is what we have. Censored or self-censoring media complying to administration requests to hide its operations, sheer limitless legal opinions not even fit for a kangaroo court that allow the president to do whatever he wants, new U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia even as the original reason (see 1990) for Bin Laden's jihad against the U.S. was the very existence of such U.S. military presence in that country.

Meanwhile the policies behind all this are, predictably, only creating more terrorists. As we asserted when writing about that base in Saudi Arabia:

There may be some troublesome folks living in Yemen but they do not seem to be many and are obviously incompetent and amateurish. Attacking those few while making sure that innocents will be killed will not create a more peaceful world. It will certainly incite more terrorism.
Eighteen month later Yemen scholar Gregory Johnson confirmed that prediction:
Testimonies from Qaeda fighters and interviews I and local journalists have conducted across Yemen attest to the centrality of civilian casualties in explaining Al Qaeda’s rapid growth there. The United States is killing women, children and members of key tribes. “Each time they kill a tribesman, they create more fighters for Al Qaeda,” one Yemeni explained to me over tea in Sana, the capital, last month. Another told CNN, after a failed strike, “I would not be surprised if a hundred tribesmen joined Al Qaeda as a result of the latest drone mistake.”
The drone campaign in Yemen, the growing "al-Qaeda" base there, the media censoring and those false law opinions are the outgrowth of simple minded policies of John Brennan, the president’s chief counterterrorism adviser. That man is now supposed to become chief of the CIA. I agree with Gregory Johnson that Brennan is indeed the wrong man for that position.

Posted by b on February 6, 2013 at 06:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

February 05, 2013

Kangaroo Justice - Might Makes Right Will Kill You

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, [...] nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; [...]
Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution

NBC News scoops: Justice Department memo reveals legal case for drone strikes on Americans

The White Paper (pdf), which is not a formal legal reasoning, tries to explain that the United States can kill a citizen if:

(1) an informed, high level official of the U.S. government has determined that the targeted individual poses an imminent threat of violent attack against the United States; (2) capture is infeasible, and the United States continues to monitor whether capture becomes feasible; and (3) the operation would be conducted in a manner consistent with applicable law of war principles.
There was no "imminent threat" of a violent attack against the United States when it killed Anwar al-Aulaqi, a preacher who himself never took up arms and a U.S. citizen. The White Paper is covering up the crime by redefining "imminent" in a way no sane person can accept. As NBC explains:
[T]he confidential Justice Department “white paper” introduces a more expansive definition of self-defense or imminent attack than described by Brennan or Holder in their public speeches. It refers, for example, to what it calls a “broader concept of imminence” than actual intelligence about any ongoing plot against the U.S. homeland.

“The condition that an operational leader present an ‘imminent’ threat of violent attack against the United States does not require the United States to have clear evidence that a specific attack on U.S. persons and interests will take place in the immediate future,” the memo states.

Instead, it says, an “informed, high-level” official of the U.S. government may determine that the targeted American has been “recently” involved in “activities” posing a threat of a violent attack and “there is no evidence suggesting that he has renounced or abandoned such activities.” The memo does not define “recently” or “activities.”

So if one may once have been involved in murky "activities" and one may not have renounced that involvement one is thereby an "imminent threat". This is just laughable.

Just like the silly justification for preemptive cyber-attacks the real reasoning in the White Paper is simply "might makes right".

For many centuries just people have worked to eliminated that archaic notice of "justice". The U.S. is now reintroducing it to the world.

But "might is right" is not justice. It is a refutation of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as you would have them do to you." It will, in time, come back to haunt the United States and its people. Real justice can come in rather mysterious ways.

Posted by b on February 5, 2013 at 01:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (33)

February 04, 2013

Open Thread 2013-3

Bones Under Parking Lot Belonged to Richard III

Why did the Brits bury their king under a parking lot?

Posted by b on February 4, 2013 at 08:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (62)

February 03, 2013

Benghazi Spin

The NYT is trying to sell some administration spin:
Last summer, as the fighting in Syria raged and questions about the United States’ inaction grew, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton conferred privately with David H. Petraeus, the director of the C.I.A. The two officials were joining forces on a plan to arm the Syrian resistance.

The idea was to vet the rebel groups and train fighters, who would be supplied with weapons.
..
Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus presented the proposal to the White House, according to administration officials. But with the White House worried about the risks, and with President Obama in the midst of a re-election bid, they were rebuffed.

The facts do not concur with this.

Early September 2012 a ship with weapons from Benghazi arrived in Turkey. The weapons were for fighting the Syrian government. There was some controversy to which groups those weapons should go.

On September 11 2012 the U.S. ambassador to Libya met with the Turkish consul general in Benghazi. It was the last meeting before the ambassador was killed.

When on the same the CIA station in Benghazi was attacked and later evacuated there were 25 CIA or CIA related persons there. This wasn't a small station for observation of this or that but a huge operation.

It is quite obvious that the CIA and the State Department were involved in organizing weapons for the Syrian insurgency. The White House may (likely) or may not (unlikely) have known about that. If the White House shut down that operation it did so after September 11, not "during the summer".

It is certainly no pure coincidence that the above NYT spin is published on the same day as an exclusive interview the authors had with Hillary Clinton.

Together they mark the start of the Hillary 2016 campaign.

Posted by b on February 3, 2013 at 09:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (20)

February 02, 2013

Ghaher-313

The Islamic Republic of Iran had announced that it would reveal a new fighter plane. Everyone thought that such would be an updated copy of the Northrop F-5 which Iran bought before its revolution.

But instead Iran came up with this:


bigger, more pictures here

Wow! I am impressed. (As are others.) That is a very, very unique design with polyhedral wings and with some elements of the MDD X-36 and of Boeing's Bird of Prey.

This Ghaher (or Qaher) is not just a mockup. President Ahmedinejad said the bird has flown several thousand hours* and Iranian TV showed short flight clips.

While this may not be a world class fighter yet, it seems to lack a sophisticated radar, it definitely shows that Iran has a very capable aeronautics industry.

Congrats Iran. And again, I am impressed.

Update: *This was a mistranslation in a forum.

Posted by b on February 2, 2013 at 05:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (119)

February 01, 2013

Syria: How to Respond To Israel's Attack?

On yesterday Israel's attack on Syria Al Akhbar writes:
The Israelis were also betting that Syria will not respond, as was the case with previous attacks, like the one against a “nuclear” facility in Deir Ezzor in 2007.

But the circumstances are different this time on a number of levels. At present, a lack of response on the part of Syria means that it is accepting Israel’s terms, something that Damascus may view as intolerable in the current situation.

If there is no response from Damascus Israel will have set an example for Turkey and others that they can directly the Syrian government without fear of reprisal.

I don't think that Syria can let that happen. There is too much at risk. It will have to respond to Israel's attack. It may be willing to do so. Unlike 2007 when Syria did not acknowledge the Israeli attack it now immediately published it and has thereby giving itself some right to respond.

But how?

This raises a number of questions as to how Syria will respond: Will it fire back openly, or will it carry out some sort of covert operation? Will it target the Zionist state directly or attack its interests abroad? And will it be done in such a way as to make an Israeli response inevitable, thus sparking a regional war?
My best guesses:
  • The response will be a covert operation,
  • it will target Israel directly and most likely strike at a military or political target,
  • the level of retaliation will be more or less proportional to the attack and without leaving a calling card thereby avoiding an Israeli response.

But can Syria really conduct such an operation on its own or will it need help from others?

Posted by b on February 1, 2013 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (76)

 
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