Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
November 29, 2013

Open Thread 2013-26

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 29, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (100)

November 27, 2013

Pope Francis Takes On Neo-Liberalism

Pope Francis released an Apostolic Exhortation which explains his views about how and whereto the catholic church should move. A part of it is a critic of the current neo-liberal economic system prevalent in the "west" and spreading through globalization.

Here are some excerpts from Francis' Evangelium Gaudium (emphasis added):

No to an economy of exclusion

53. Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? This is a case of exclusion. Can we continue to stand by when food is thrown away while people are starving? This is a case of inequality. Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. [...]

54. In this context, some people continue to defend trickle-down theories which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and inclusiveness in the world. This opinion, which has never been confirmed by the facts, expresses a crude and naïve trust in the goodness of those wielding economic power and in the sacralized workings of the prevailing economic system. Meanwhile, the excluded are still waiting. [...]

No to the new idolatry of money

[...]

56. While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules. [...]

No to a financial system which rules rather than serves

[...]

58. A financial reform open to such ethical considerations would require a vigorous change of approach on the part of political leaders. I urge them to face this challenge with determination and an eye to the future, while not ignoring, of course, the specifics of each case. Money must serve, not rule! The Pope loves everyone, rich and poor alike, but he is obliged in the name of Christ to remind all that the rich must help, respect and promote the poor. I exhort you to generous solidarity and to the return of economics and finance to an ethical approach which favours human beings. [...]

No to the inequality which spawns violence

59. [...] When a society – whether local, national or global – is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programmes or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquility. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root. Just as goodness tends to spread, the toleration of evil, which is injustice, tends to expand its baneful influence and quietly to undermine any political and social system, no matter how solid it may appear. If every action has its consequences, an evil embedded in the structures of a society has a constant potential for disintegration and death. It is evil crystallized in unjust social structures, which cannot be the basis of hope for a better future. We are far from the so-called “end of history”, since the conditions for a sustainable and peaceful development have not yet been adequately articulated and realized. [...]

Conservative politicians in the U.S., many of whom are catholic, will have quite a problem with these theses. Will they now denounce the pope as a communist anti-semite?

If the church, its followers and sympathizers sign up to and start to work along this papal opinion, it will have great and positive consequences for all of us.

Posted by b on November 27, 2013 at 11:44 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

November 26, 2013

It Is Public Support For Diplomacy That Pushes Obama

The people of the United States have a very different view on war and peace than the politicians, think tankers and journalists in Washington DC.

Consider this sentence from a NYT Mark Landler piece about the (alleged but yet unproven) Obama shift from military might to diplomacy:

It is harder for a president to rally the American public behind a multilateral negotiation than a missile strike, though the deep war weariness of Americans has reinforced Mr. Obama’s instinct for negotiated settlements over unilateral action.

That sentence is completely wrong. The U.S. public is much easier to convince of negotiations than of missile strikes. Noise from some hawkish politicians in Washington, which Landler probably confuses with the public opinon, does not give the real picture. Two recent polls clearly express that.

When Obama wanted to strike Syria 59% opposed such an attack with only 36% supporting it. While only 20% oppose negotiations with Iran 75% support them.

It is not, as Lander claims, that the public wants missile strikes and is against diplomacy. It is Obama who wanted the missile strikes on Syria and it was public opinion that pressed Congress and him not to launch such strikes. It was Russian, not Obama's, diplomacy that gave him a way out from the missile strikes he had planned. It is likewise the public that presses for negotiations with Iran and that would not support any new war against it.

Landler somewhat claims that Obama takes the lead in the turn towards a more sane and diplomatic U.S. foreign policy. That is just not the case. Obama may use the current diplomacy with Iran, which is still preliminary, only to later justify a war. The U.S. public is much less hawkish than Obama and the general consensus in Washington. Obama is for now simply following the public's lead because - as the aborted Syria strikes showed - he can no longer ignore it.

Posted by b on November 26, 2013 at 09:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

November 25, 2013

Propaganda Uses Mistranslated Khamenei "Rabit Dog" Phrase

When former president of Iran Ahmedinejad said that Israel would one day "vanish from the pages of time" many reports claimed that he said to "wipe Israel off the map". The claim was based on an early mistranslation of Ahmedinejad's speech by an Iranian news agency. Even after language experts pointed out that the claim was false the mistranslated phrase was used over and over to demonize Ahmedinejad and to claim that he wanted to attack Israel.

Now that Ahmedinejad is gone some new Iranian devil is needed. As the current president Rouhani is seen as a "moderate" the demonetization propaganda is now set to a higher target. A phrase from a recent talk by the supreme leader Ali Khamenei is mistranslated to make him the new bogey man.

A recent Washington Post report includes this:

Israel defends its vociferous campaign against the agreement by pointing out that Israel is the object of Iranian taunts, and saying that a nuclear Iran is not only a geopolitical challenge for Israel, but poses an existential threat. The most recent proof, officials say, are comments last week by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, who referred to Israel as “the rabid dog of the region” and promised that “the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction.”

The link in that graph goes to an earlier WaPo piece which claims:

[Kerry] spoke hours after Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, referred to Israel as the warmongering “rabid dog” of the Middle East during a speech to military commanders in Tehran.

But that is not at all what Khamenei said. He did not refer to Israel as the warmongering "rabid dog". As Arash Karami, who is from Iran, writes for Al-Monitor:

“Sometimes this is heard from the enemies of Iran, such as from the sinister mouth of the unclean rabid dog of the region in the Zionist regime,” [Khamenei] said, in a reference to Israeli’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A correction at the end of the Al-Monitor piece explains:

Correction: An earlier version based on the transcript of several Iranian news agencies wrote that Ayatollah Khamenei called Israel a “rabid dog.” The correct text and audio was provided Khamenei’s website.

Al-Monitor is not the only outlet that used the correct phrase. CBN News is also aware of the corrected translation:

Khamenei called Netanyahu "…the sinister mouth of the unclear rabid dog of the region in the Zionist regime." He added, "The Zionist regime is an imposed regime…and this regime will not endure."

Note that the WaPo quote:

[Khamenei] promised that “the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction.”

is also wrong. According to the correct CBN News translation this was not a promise, but, like Ahmedinejad's "vanish from the pages of time" comment, a prediction that Israel as a Zionist entity will "not endure".

As the political discussion over the next stages of the preliminary U.S. Iran deal heats up we can expect that the mistranslated and wrong Khamenei quote will be repeated over and over again to demonize him and the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Posted by b on November 25, 2013 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (29)

November 24, 2013

A Temporary Deal With Iran

There is now a temporary deal between the U.S. (and some sideshows) and Iran about some reduction of illegal U.S. sanctions against Iran in exchange for some freeze of legal Iranian industrial nuclear activities. Since March secret negotiations were held between the Obama administration and Iran to achieve this break through. But it is dubious that the deal is a real change of course. The White House "fact sheet" on it is still typically condescending.

Some preliminary thoughts:

- The deal is limited to six month and chances are that no permanent deal will follow. We will likely be back to the usual animosities and renewed calls for war some six month from now. There are many who do not want a more permanent deal and they will do their best to prevent one. When, in six month, the U.S. will stop adhering to the agreement Iran will be blamed of breaking it. This clause in the "Fact Sheet" is the decisive one:

Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:

• Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.

Translated: Congress has ways and means to increase sanctions and thereby break this deal and will likely do so.

- A much better deal, from the U.S. perspective, could have been had in 2003, 2005 and 2007.

- While the White House claims that the deal does not accept Iran's "right to enrich" it factually does. Also recall what Kerry thought about this issue some four years ago:

John Kerry, chairman of the Senate foreign relations committee and the Democrats’ 2004 presidential nominee, told the Financial Times in an interview that Iran had a right to uranium enrichment – a process that can produce both nuclear fuel and weapons grade material.The US and the world’s other big powers have repeatedly demanded that Tehran suspend enrichment ...“The Bush administration [argument of] no enrichment was ridiculous . . . because it seemed so unreasonable to people,” said Mr Kerry, citing Iran’s rights as a signatory of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. “It was bombastic diplomacy. It was wasted energy. It sort of hardened the lines, if you will,” he added. “They have a right to peaceful nuclear power and to enrichment in that purpose.”...

- The deal and any possible follow on only came through because the U.S. needs to change its foreign policy focus from the Middle East to Asia. For lack of resources and capacity the U.S. can only do so after achieving some balance in the Middle East. All issues the U.S. has with the Middle East are in some form influenced by Iran. It simply can no longer be ignored. The "pivot to Asia" which the U.S. needs to counter China necessitates a "pivot towards Iran".

- If followed up soon there is a chance that this deal will lead to some other deal that solves the situation in Syria.

Posted by b on November 24, 2013 at 12:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (99)

November 22, 2013

Syria: Turkey Continues AlQaeda Support

Seven groups of "secular" Syrian insurgents and bandits have united to form a new "Islamic Front". The groups are Ahrar al-Sham, Suqor al-Sham, Liwa al-Tawhid, Jaish al-Islam, Jabhat al-Kurdiya, Liwa al-Haq and Ansar al-Sham. Most of them were in one form or another part of the U.S. supported Free Syrian Army. The "secular" mask of that army is now officially off. This new front is likely the creation of lots of Saudi money.

Meanwhile Turkey has, without much noise, changed some of its foreign policy and is trying to again make nice with Baghdad and Tehran both of which are supporting the Syrian government. But that does not mean that Turkey ended its support for the Islamists. While it recently pretended to have seized some weapons and to have raided some AlQaeda retreats in Turkey it continues to support Islamists insurgents in Syria of all colors and stripes. Consider the details of a recent report on a border town that Al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria took away from a Free Syrian Army group that demanded shares from transports passing through its territory:

Activists said fighters of the al Qaeda affiliate - Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL - had stormed the headquarters of Suqur al-Islam, a moderate Islamist unit that controlled Atma, and set up roadblocks within the last 48 hours.
...
"The ISIL deployed anti-aircraft guns at the main roundabout and took Atma quietly," said one of the activists, who did not want to be named.

"The Turks have not stopped supplies from crossing into the town and movement across the border fence is normal."
...
Suqur al-Islam is a unit of the Free Syrian Army General Staff, headed by General Selim Idriss, the main opposition military figure, who is based in Turkey. But Suqur al-Islam and the General Staff have fallen out over sharing the weapons crossing through Atma, the activists said.

In the last few days, fighting erupted between Sukur al-Islam and other Free Syrian Army members after Sukur al-Islam seized seven trucks loaded with weapons sent by the General Staff that crossed through Atma.
...
"Basically there was collusion between the General Staff and the ISIL."

The externally supported General Staff of the Free Syrian Army is obviously colluding with Al Qaeda and the Turks are still delivering truckloads of weapons to them.

It is quite urgent for the resistance front to respond to this continued support for AlQaeda from Turkey. So far Turkey has paid too small a price for the crimes it commits on Syria and Syrians. There must be ways to change that.

Posted by b on November 22, 2013 at 08:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (89)

November 21, 2013

Open Thread 2013-25

News & views ...

(still not well - hope to be back soon ... b)

Posted by b on November 21, 2013 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (130)

November 18, 2013

Just A Few Links

(Sorry for light posting. I am bit ill and feel incapable of consistent thinking and writing.)

Just a few links:

The London Sunday Times reports for the fifth or so time that Saudi Arabia will help Israel to attack Iran. In other news the prospective Saudi ruler will be a woman well known for here successes in rally racing.

Some U.S. officials seem still hopeful to get some Status of Force Agreement with Afghanistan signed. There are only a few small stumbling blocks like immunity for U.S. forces, the ability of U.S. death squads to enter Afghan homes and the unaccountable CIA operations throughout Afghanistan. The Loya Jirga members who would vote for allowing such operations would thereby also sign their own death sentences. The SOFA ain't gonna happen.

The Pentagon is full of waste, fraud and outright theft. But as it has for years had no, as in zero, functioning administrative financial system no one can be blamed. The Soviets had the same problem with their Red Army. No one knew how much it cost or what it was doing with the money it got it hands on. That didn't end well.

A former Israeli prime minister says:

"I heard that [US Secretary of State John] Kerry dared to disagree with the Israeli prime minister," Olmert said. "Poor guy. I hope he'll come out of this alright."

Posted by b on November 18, 2013 at 10:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

November 16, 2013

No Surprise That No One Wants Syria's Chemical Weapon Stuff

The U.S. is trying to find some country, any other than itself, to take and destroy the precursor materials from Syria's chemical weapon program. It first asked, for mysterious reasons, Norway. There was nothing that would qualify Norway. It never had chemical weapons and has no capacity to handle and destroy the materials in question. It also has no storage facility for the hazardous material that would result from the precursor destruction. Norway rejected the U.S. request.

The next country the U.S. asked was Albania. It probably thought that such a poor and small country could be easily pressed into taking the nasty stuff. But anyone who had some idea of Albania's recent history with chemical weapon destruction, especially U.S. officials, should have known that any such request to Albania would most certainly rejected. It is therefore a bit curious to see the rejection described as a surprise:

The mission to destroy Syria’s poison gas stockpile was dealt a serious blow Friday when Albania refused to host the destruction, but the global chemical weapons watchdog said it is still confident it can eradicate the arsenal outside Syria by the middle of next year.

The surprise refusal by the small and impoverished Balkan country left open the question of where the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons would send Syria’s estimated 1,300-ton arsenal, which includes mustard gas and sarin.

The rejection by Albania and others is not surprising at all. When the U.S. is asking other countries to help with nonproliferation issues it tends to leave them a mess. Albania had a few tons of chemical weapons left over from the cold war. The U.S. offered to pay for their destruction and later hired some private company which destroyed the weapon capability of the chemicals but otherwise left a horrendous mess:

The hazardous waste sat in containers on the concrete pad. The containers started to leak. In late 2007-early 2008, the US hired an environmental remediation firm, Savant Environmental, “who determined the problem was worse than originally thought. Many of the containers were leaking salts of heavy metals, primarily arsenic, lead and mercury. In addition, the conexes were not waterproof, and since contaminated components had not been properly cleaned before being put into the conexes, condensation and water leakage were dissolving some of the contaminants and causing them to leak out onto the ground.”

Savant Environmental repackaged the waste and placed it in 20 shipping containers. There it sits, visible from space. Good for twenty years. Well, fifteen now. Ish.

Those containers are still sitting on the concrete pad, out in the open.

The United States and Russia have both the specialized incineration capabilities to destroy chemical weapons, their precursors and the hazardous waste their neutralization creates. But Albania was left with the mess after it was pressed to destroy the weaponized stuff where a repackaging of the original weaponized chemicals would likely have been a much safer and longer term solution. Albania would have been crazy to accept more dangerous stuff as it is already left with mess the pressed for demilitarization of its own chemical weapons caused.

There are other examples where cooperation in U.S. non-proliferation initiatives leaves countries hung out to dry. Cyprus stored 98 containers of ammunition after the U.S. in 2009 pressed it to stop and confiscated the military load of a ship going from Iran to Syria. Two years later the containers exploded and destroyed a navy base. Several people were killed and half of Cyprus' power supply capacity was taken off the grid.

That no country is willing to take the 1,300 tons of Syrian chemical weapon precursors may turn out to be good for Syria. After those chemicals would be gone there would be a higher chance that the Syrian government, which is winning the war, would be attacked by the U.S. and its allies. As long as those chemicals are still around, watched over by the international inspectors, any attack could result in a reconstitution of Syria's chemical weapons. When the current war on Syria is over the destruction of the precursors could be done in place and in an organized and well planned matter that would leave only a minimal risk of doing more harm than good.

Posted by b on November 16, 2013 at 12:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (95)

November 14, 2013

Syria: Insurgency Infighting, CIA analysis, Hizbullah Involvement

1. The Al Qaeda affiliate ISIS is making more friends in Syria. Two of its folks found a wounded man in his hospital bed and under anesthesia. He was babbling something that the ISIS folks understood to be some Shia religious slogans. They beheaded him and publicly showed off his head (video).

Fighters from the Syrian Sunni-Islamist gang Ahrar ash-Shams, which like ISIS fights against the Syrian government, recognized the chopped off head as having once belonged to one of their fighters, Mohhamad Fares Marroush. They were not amused. How were they supposed to bury him and send him to heaven without the head?

An ISIS sheik admitted that the killing was a mistake but that it should not be punished because the killers had shown good intentions. The Ahrar ash-Sham folks disagree and put out a wanted poster to find and punish the killers.

This will surely boost moral for the next fight both these two groups will be involved in.

2. In other Syria news former VIA agent Philip Giraldi reports that some CIA agents and analysts had threatened to resign over the Sarin use accusations against the Syrian government:

In a scenario unfortunately reminiscent of the lead up to Iraq, the National Security Council tasked the various intelligence agencies to beat the bushes and come up with more corroborative information. Israel obligingly provided what was reported to be interceptions of telephone conversations implicating the Syrian army in the attack, but it was widely believed that the information might have been fabricated by Tel Aviv, meaning that bad intelligence was being used to confirm other suspect information, a phenomenon known to analysts as “circular reporting.” Other intelligence cited in passing by the White House on the trajectories and telemetry of rockets that may have been used in the attack was also somewhat conjectural and involved weapons that were not, in fact, in the Syrian arsenal, suggesting that they were actually fired by the rebels. Also, traces of Sarin were not found in most of the areas being investigated, nor on one of the two rockets identified. Whether the victims of the attack suffered symptoms of Sarin was also disputed, and no autopsies were performed to confirm the presence of the chemical.

We had called the "Sarin attack" on August 21 a false-flag attack immediately after it happened. We also pointed out that the reports of the rocket trajectories and Sarin traces were inconsistent with the conclusions Human Rights Watch and the NYT drew from them. It is somewhat nice to know that the CIA analysts came to the same conclusion.

3. In a speech yesterday Hizbullah chief Nasrallah promised that his forces would keep on fighting in Syria against the Takfiri fighters who kill Shia, Christians and Sunni people alike. As there are little reports over burials of Hizbullah fighters in Lebanon I assume that the numbers involved are rather small but could be increased should the need arise. They will be a welcome addition to the Syrian army's numbers and capabilities.

Posted by b on November 14, 2013 at 10:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

November 13, 2013

Open Thread 2013-24

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 13, 2013 at 01:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (123)

November 12, 2013

Syria: U.S. Starts Seeing The Real Alternatives

This weekend there was another puppet show in Istanbul. Some Syrians, hand selected by foreign politicians, came together to play an opposition to the Syrian government. Even while they have no support in the Syrian civil society nor any influence over the insurgents in Syria they are supposed to set up some government in exile to later replace the Syrian government.

The primary reason the Syrian National Council members were selected for their hostility towards the Syrian president Assad and the Syrian government. It was hoped that they would soon be able to replace them. But the foreign countries who selected these guys now have a problem. Assad and his government are going nowhere and the conflict brought up forces that are no longer under the foreign governments' control and that will constitute a danger to their former and current foreign sponsors.

The new situation necessitates a change of course but the SNC puppets, ironically selected for their stubbornness and hostility, now prove unwilling to compromise. It is therefore likely that they will lose all relevance and will soon be of no interest.

But what made the weekends meeting interesting is the expressed change of course in their sponsor's stand. The views of the U.S. ambassador who tried to influence the meeting seem to have moved quite a bit away from his earlier assertions that Assad will soon go:

Stoking tensions all around, Robert S. Ford, the United States ambassador to Syria, told the activists on the sidelines that the emerging reality presented them with unpalatable options: accept that the current government could continue in power longer than they would like, or face the continued rise of extremist jihadist groups that have terrified residents, clashed with rival insurgents and undermined Western support.
...
With Mr. Assad’s government holding on to power, the United States has begun saying Mr. Assad has “lost his legitimacy” rather than repeating earlier demands that he step down.
This is the first time we see the United States naming the obvious alternatives in Syria in such a clear language. It is either Assad or Jihadist anarchy. That does not yet mean that the U.S. would like to keep Assad in power but it is a significant step in that direction. The Syrian government and its supporters should think about ways that would let the U.S. "keep face" while making its way to the point where it can openly acknowledges that its campaign for regime change in Syria was a serious mistake.

Posted by b on November 12, 2013 at 10:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

November 11, 2013

While France Blocked Negotiations Kerry Blames Iran

As has been widely reported it were French demands that blew the recent Geneva negotiations with Iran:
[F]rom the moment he arrived, Mr Fabius saw his role as the plug-puller in chief. His first act was to reveal details of negotiations that were meant to have been kept secret. His second was to tell France Inter radio that Paris would not accept a "fool's game"; and his third was to declare the results of the talks before Lady Ashton and Mr Zarif could do so jointly.

Under pressure from the Zionist lobby Secretary of State Kerry and his acolytes are now trying to change that story and to blame Iran for the failure of the negotiations. A propagandistic NYT story takes the lead in this attempt:

[W]hile France took a harder line than its partners on some issues, a senior American official said it was the Iranian delegation that balked at completing an interim agreement, saying that it had to engage in additional consultations in Tehran before proceeding further.

A senior American official who briefed Israeli reporters and experts in Jerusalem on Sunday said that the six world powers in the talks had approved a working document and presented it to the Iranians, according to Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post, who attended the briefing.

It is easy to identify the "senior American official. After the Geneva negotiations Kerry dispatched his deputy Wendy Sherman to Israel:
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman arrived in Israel Sunday for meetings with senior government officials, to update them on the recent round of Western negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
Why doesn't the NYT identify Sherman when it is obvious that she is the "senior American official" in Jerusalem? Is it because she is a racist?
“Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.”
Or is it because she is known to lie?
Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.” But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.
Whatever. The false Sherman claim is now supported by Kerry himself:
Earlier reports said the talks fell apart because France refused to accept the proposed deal. Kerry said the major powers reached an agreement but Iran was not able to accept the deal "at that particular moment".

"The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," he said in Abu Dhabi. "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it."

These false claims are supposed to reflect criticisms of Kerry from Netanyahoo and his helpers in Congress. To blame Iranian negotiators and racist bizarre Bazzar rhetoric might be helpful to achieve that in the short term. But it will make it more difficult for Kerry to achieve any real negotiation results. This while Iran, as its intensifying cooperation with the IAEA shows, is clearly willing to come to a reasonable agreement.

Posted by b on November 11, 2013 at 07:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (66)

November 10, 2013

France Blocks U.S. Pivot To Persia

France has been and is a major nuclear proliferator in the Middle East. While it worked and works to enable some countries to build nuclear weapons it wants to deny any and all civil nuclear capabilities to others. The primary reasons are greed and a certain craving for its former grandeur which today is no longer supported by the necessary economic and military means.

FAS: Nuclear Weapons - Israel

On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.
Saudi Gazette, Oct 3, 2013 France ready to be KSA’s strategic partner in nuke, renewable energy
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”
France 24 Hollande backs Israel on Iran nuclear threat
A day after Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to take a tough stance on Iran, French President François Hollande spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister by phone and promised French support.
Guardian Geneva talks end without deal on Iran's nuclear programme
Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations.
...
[D]iplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.
A temporary deal in Geneva would have been the first step for a larger nuclear deal which then could have brought Iran "in from the cold". This would have been the start of a "Pivot to Persia" after which the U.S. would have balanced its difficult relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia with friendly relations with Iran. Without such a realignment in the Middle East the U.S. will be militarily and financially incapable of executing its plans for a pivot to Asia.

France blew up the historic deal and, despite earlier signals from France, the other "western" countries involved were not prepared for this and their foreign ministers incapable of handling French intransigeance. This disunity within the P5+1 group negotiating with Iran will hamper all further negotiations. Who can Iran negotiate with if there is no united opposition?

The current break down gives the U.S. Congress and the Netanyahoo lackeys therein a chance to add further sanctions on Iran by attaching them to next weeks National Defense Authorization Act. But the P5+1 disunity is, at least in the short term, positive for Iran. No one can accuse it now of not being willing to negotiate and of not actively seeking a compromise. The sanctions Congress will enact are third party sanctions where it will "punish" other countries for dealing with Iran. As it is obviously not Iran that is holding up a deal those third party countries will be quite unwilling to follow such a U.S. Congress diktat. The sanction regime will thereby break down. Slowly first, but then with ever increasing speed.

It is dubious that France, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be capable of holding up an Iran deal for more than a year or so. There is a historic logic in a U.S. and general "western" pivot to Persia as such a pivot would allow to disentangle itself from the capricious "allies" it currently has in the Middle East. The hostile reaction of the U.S. public towards the attempt of waging an open war on Syria was a sign that historic changes in the current alliances are unavoidable.

Posted by b on November 10, 2013 at 05:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

November 09, 2013

Afghan's Care For Human Rights - U.S. "Disappointed"

Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.
The UDHR further guarantees the rights of liberty, due process and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.

The United States does not like that Afghans and their parliament insist on these rights. The United States arbitrarily arrests Afghans who it assumes, without evidence, to be "terrorists" or at least "Taliban". After some struggle it finally agreed to hand over the arrested to the Afghan government. Now an Afghan commission decides if the evidence, if there is any at all, is sufficient enough for to case to go to a trial. In four out of five cases the evidence is insufficiant or lacking at all and the prisoner is set free. 

Such laudable due process is disliked by the U.S. military. It therefore pressed on the Afghan government and the parliament to allow for long term detentions without evidence of guilt and without trials. The Afghan parliament, rightfully, rejected such severe violations of universal human rights. That, says the United States, is a "problem":

A key problem, U.S. officials said, is the Afghan parliament’s unwillingness to pass legislation that would permit the government to detain individuals even if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute them in court. Most of the detainees were apprehended in military operations where the collection of evidence was not a priority; in other cases, information leading to their capture came from sources the U.S. government deems too secret to share with the Afghan government.

“This is very disappointing,” said a U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss detention operations.

The U.S. military knows of course how to avoid such "disappointment":
"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"
But that solution is just as dumb as the anonymously quoted disappointment of the U.S. official above.

What is again the U.S. trying to do in Afghanistan?

Posted by b on November 9, 2013 at 10:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

November 08, 2013

Big Changes In U.S. Middle East Policy?

There seems to be big, though forced, moves in U.S. Middle East policy underway. Israel is getting some beating while a temporary deal with Iran is in the making.

After trying again and again to get Netanyahoo to accept serious negotiations with the Palestinians U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had finally enough and started to talk tough:

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday harshly criticized Israel’s decision to build roughly 5,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and other settlements, alongside the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners. Kerry said settlement expansion sends a message that “perhaps you’re not really serious,” during an interview which aired on Israel’s Channel 2, as well as in Palestinian media.
...
“If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis,” he warned.

Adding an additional warning to the Israeli public, Kerry urged making peace “with a leadership that is committed to non-violence,” otherwise Israel “may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”

At the same time negotiations about Iran's nuclear developments in Geneva seem to come to a solution. In an unplanned move Kerry, as well as the French, German and British foreign ministers, will come to Geneva today to sign a preliminary deal with Iran. Netanyahoo called any such a deal a "historic mistake" and a very "bad deal" (video). He is losing it.

But the U.S. has no other chance. It is either deal with Iran now or see all the international sanctions against it disappear:

Robert Einhorn, a former State Department official who supports the administration’s negotiating strategy, dismissed as “not achievable” the maximalist approach advocated by Mr. Netanyahu.

“I don’t think any Iranian government could sell that deal at home,” Mr. Einhorn said during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes Israel’s security. “I think we would pay a price in terms of the unraveling of sanctions if it looked like we, and not the Iranians, were the cause of the impasse.”

Iran's new government showing a friendlier face and explaining it's nuclear program in English while keeping its principal position is giving the U.S. a chance to unwind itself from an increasingly untenable hawkish position.

The other party against a U.S. deal with Iran is Saudi Arabia. Warning shots are now fired against it. Witness yesterday's BBC feature about a Saudi quest for Pakistan build nuclear weapons. There is nothing new in the piece. That the Saudis financed those weapons and will have emergency access to them has been known for decades. Relaunching the story now helps to move the eyes away from Iran and towards the real villain in the Persian Gulf area.

The Saudis will have to change their position on Iran as well as on Syria where the Syrian army is making steady progress or they will become, together with Netanyahoo, the new focus of U.S. and European enmity.

Posted by b on November 8, 2013 at 04:24 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

November 06, 2013

"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"

In 2010 Seymour Hersh gave a talk in Geneva. In one part he said:
What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.
As Matthieu Aikins reports in Rolling Stone this was still going on three years later and is likely going on today:
By February 2013, the locals claimed 10 civilians had been taken by U.S. Special Forces and had subsequently disappeared, while another eight had been killed by the team during their operations.
...
The men were kept for two nights, one of which they spent in a suffocating shipping container, before most of them were released, including Hekmatullah, who says Kandahari and an American soldier had selected who would be set free. When Hekmatullah, a 16-year-old student, finally came home, his family was overjoyed and hoped that Esmatullah and Sediqullah would soon be released too. They never saw them again.
...
A similar roundup occurred on December 6th in the nearby village of Deh Afghanan, after which another four men who were taken to the American base went missing.
After the U.S. special forces left the base the locals dug up corpse near the base. Those were the men who had vanished. Aikins found eyewitnesses who confirmed some of the killings. Others can be concluded on by the circumstances.

If such things were to happen once it probably could be excused as one bad apple unit running wild. But this stuff has happened over years again and again, in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. It is policy and a bad one.

Since the second world war the United States did not win one of the many wars it waged. How much is such outrageous behavior against the locals, which also happened in the Korean and Vietnam war, responsible for that?

Posted by b on November 6, 2013 at 09:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

November 04, 2013

Syria: The Saudis Can Not Lead

Bob Woodward propagandizes for the Saudi prince Bandar in the Washington Post:
Persian Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are moving to strengthen their military support for Syrian rebels and develop policy options independent from the United States in the wake of what they see as a failure of U.S. leadership following President Obama’s decision not to launch airstrikes against Syria, according to senior gulf officials.
In another attempt to unify the Syrian opposition the Saudis want to build a complete new external army with weapons from France and Pakistani special force training. That army is then supposed to defeat the Syrian government.

It is not going to work writes Carnegie's Yezid Sayigh:

This Saudi effort will only serve to further polarize the rebels. The main losers are likely to be the currently recognized leaders of the opposition—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the allied Higher Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.
...
Unless the Saudi-supported rebels adhere to an agreed political strategy and buy into being represented by the National Coalition, they are likely to suffer the same lack of cohesion and capacity as those they seek to supplant. And by funding its own chosen group of rebels, Saudi Arabia too risks slamming shut its windows of opportunity and undercutting its goals in Syria.
That prediction was quite good. The head of Revolutionary Military Council of the so called Free Syrian Army, Abdul-Jabbar-Akidi just resigned. This came after his loss of Safira and the reopening of the government supply line between Damascus and Aleppo. Several Damascus suburbs were also recently cleared of insurgency forces.

There are some scary phantasies of what the Saudis could do to press on the U.S. to wage open war against Syria. But any of the measures the Saudis could take could be easily countered. In the worst case,  from the Saudi perspective, the U.S. would just turn around, make nice with the Persians and put the Saudi family dictatorship instead of Iran onto the "axis of evil" list. There are likely rather few people in this world who would have problems with such a move.

The Saudi rulers are internally devided over the succession of King Abdullah as well as their internal and external policies. That is not a consolidated position from which they could lead the Arab world or even seriously challenge the Syrian government.

Posted by b on November 4, 2013 at 08:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (67)

November 02, 2013

"Disorder" In And "Saving" Iraq

So who is responsible for "disorder" in Iraq ? Who created it? Who must "save" Iraq (whatever that may mean)?

Not the New York Times which spread the propaganda about weapon of mass destruction in Iraq and pushed the U.S. public to accept a war on Iraq. Not the editors of the NYT who called for sanctions and that disastrous war. Not the United States which destroyed the Iraqi state. Not the Saudis who currently, with CIA support, finance and weaponized AlQaeda and bring new fighters to Syria and Iraq.

No. It must be the fault of Iraqis and especially their prime minister al-Maliki.

Maliki and the Iraqi security forces need weapons and better intelligence to defeat AlQaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. does not want to deliver such or help repair the damage it has done to Iraq. That is good, says the editors:

President Obama and Mr. Maliki, who met at the White House on Friday, agreed on the need for equipment so Iraqi forces can pursue militants. But there was no indication that Mr. Maliki, who plans to run for a third term, had received new commitments for American-made weapons like Apache helicopters and expedited delivery of F-16 fighters.

Given his authoritarian duplicity, there is no reason to trust him with even more arms unless he adopts a more inclusive approach to governing and ensures that next April’s election will be fair and democratic.

It really needs very shallow minds and a lot of chutzpa to write such editorials without collapsing from some major cognitive disorder and dissonance.

Posted by b on November 2, 2013 at 06:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (23)

November 01, 2013

Open Thread 2013-23

News & views ...

Posted by b on November 1, 2013 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

 
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