Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 31, 2014

Open Thread 2014-02

(Busy ...)

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 31, 2014 at 11:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

January 28, 2014

Syria: U.S. Resumes Arms Delivery To Al-Qaeda, Furthers Destruction

The past U.S. policy of providing arms to the Syrian insurgency failed to achieve any of its purported objectives. Neither did it result in a success of the insurgency in its attempt to overthrow the Syrian government, nor did help to keep the various Al-Qaeda affiliates in Syria at bay. Instead the weapons provide to the "moderate" insurgents fell into the hands of the Al-Qaeda affiliates while the "moderate" insurgency fell apart. In effect the U.S. provided the logistics to those it claimed to have fought over the last twelve years.

As usual the U.S. response to a failed policy is to do more of the same.

The U.S. congress has voted to further arm "moderate" insurgents in Syria:

Light arms supplied by the United States are flowing to "moderate" Syrian rebel factions in the south of the country and U.S. funding for months of further deliveries has been approved by Congress, according U.S. and European security officials.

The weapons, most of which are moving to non-Islamist Syrian rebels via Jordan, include a variety of small arms, as well as some more powerful weapons, such as anti-tank rockets.

Earlier U.S. weapon deliveries have fallen into the hand of Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra:

Senior Free Syrian Army and Jordanian sources, along with video evidence, have confirmed that European-made anti-tank missiles were obtained, and in some cases sold, to the hard-line Nusra Front after being supplied to vetted Free Syrian Army battalions across the Jordanian border.

The vetted FSA in the south is little more than a public relations front for al-Nusra:

"They offer their services and cooperate with us, they are better armed than we are, they have suicide bombers and know how to make car bombs," an FSA fighter explained.
...
"The FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don't want to frighten Jordan or the West," said an activist who works with opposition groups in Deraa.

"Operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own," he said.

A leading FSA commander involved in operations in Deraa said Al Nusra had strengthened FSA units and played a decisive role in key rebel victories in the south.

"The face of Al Nusra cannot be to the front. It must be behind the FSA, for the sake of Jordan and the international community," he said.

The U.S. as also resumed "non-lethal" aid to insurgents in the north:

The United States has restarted deliveries of nonlethal aid to the Syrian opposition, officials said Monday, more than a month after Al-Qaeda-linked militants seized warehouses and prompted a sudden cutoff of Western supplies to the rebels.

The communications equipment and other items are being funneled for now only to non-armed opposition groups, said the U.S. officials.
...
The U.S. officials, who weren't authorized to speak publicly on the matter and demanded anonymity, said the aid was being sent through Turkey into Syria, with the coordination of the Free Syrian Army's Supreme Military Council, ...

When the jihadists raided those warehouses with "non-lethal" aid provided by the United States they looted this stuff:

[A senior FSA Supreme Military Council official] said that the Islamic Front raided a total of ten warehouses belonging to the Western-backed umbrella group and seized a significant arsenal of weaponry, including 2,000 AK-47 rifles, 1,000 assorted arms—including M79 Osa rocket launchers, rocket-propelled grenades, and 14.5mm heavy machine guns—in addition to more than 200 tons of ammunition. At least 100 FSA military vehicles were also taken in the attack.

The resumption of arms supplies to the Syrian insurgency will not lead to any different outcome than earlier deliveries of such supplies. This then again proves that the real purpose of the U.S. instigated war on Syria and of the efforts to extend it is still this:

Destruction of the infrastructure, economy and social fabric of Syria is their and their supporters aim.

Posted by b on January 28, 2014 at 06:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

January 27, 2014

Leak Of CIA In Afghanistan A Sign Of U.S. Retreat

The Obama administration has decided to leave Afghanistan. That is the only explanation I can find for this massive leak by "administration, military and intelligence officials" to the NYT's administration stenographer David E. Sanger:

The risk that President Obama may be forced to pull all American troops out of Afghanistan by the end of the year has set off concerns inside the American intelligence agencies that they could lose their air bases used for drone strikes against Al Qaeda in Pakistan and for responding to a nuclear crisis in the region.
...
If Mr. Obama ultimately withdrew all American troops from Afghanistan, the C.I.A.’s drone bases in the country would have to be closed, according to administration officials, because it could no longer be protected.

By leaking this the administration is saying that should U.S. troops stay in Afghanistan:

  • the CIA would continue drone raids into Pakistan,
  • the CIA would continue to use its bases in Afghanistan to spy on Pakistan's nukes.

Neither Afghanistan nor Pakistan would want the CIA to do any of this. Both countries will, after this leak, increase their efforts to get the U.S. out.

Already two years ago the Afghan foreign minister categorically rejected any further CIA drone activity beyond the end of 2014:

Foreign Minister Zalmay Rasool said on Thursday Afghanistan would not be used as a launch pad for U.S. drones attacks on neighboring countries after NATO combat forces leave by the end of 2014.

"Afghan soil will not be used against any country in the region," Rasool told Al Jazeera television when asked if Washington would be allowed to launch drone strikes against Pakistan after the troops' withdrawal.

I believe that the government of Afghanistan was and is serious with this. Any further antagonizing of Pakistan, which supports some of the Taliban fighting the Afghan government, would only prolong a war the Afghan government wants to end.

The U.S. is currently holding a new strategic dialog with Pakistan. Making some progress in U.S. relations with Pakistan while drones stay in Afghanistan and regularly violate Pakistani sovereignty will be impossible.

That multiple sources bring this up to Sanger at this time can only mean that the Obama administration has given up on the status of force agreement with Afghanistan that would allow its troops to stay beyond 2014.

The U.S. leaving Afghanistan is likely the best for that country as well as the best solution for the United States and its allies. There are hardly any positive results from the 12+ years of U.S. occupation of the country and there is no reason to believe that more time would change that sorry record.

Posted by b on January 27, 2014 at 09:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (49)

January 25, 2014

McCain On Syria: "We Were Winning ..."

BBC: McCain and Pushkov clash over Syria

US Senator John McCain and Alexei Pushkov, Chairman of Russia's State Duma Committee for International Affairs have clashed over policy towards Syria during a live TV debate.

Watching the short clip at the BBC site one can hear McCain say the following (at 1:48):

We all know what happened in Syria. We were winning and then, of course, 5,000 Hizbollah came in ...

"We"?

Posted by b on January 25, 2014 at 11:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (53)

January 24, 2014

Libya, Syria And Now Ukraine - Color Revolution By Force


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The same forces that instigated unruly demonstrations in 2011 in Syria are now instigating such demonstrations in the Ukraine. That at least is what I am reading out of the fact that the exactly same graphics are used to train the willing-to-fight demonstrators. How else to explain the above graphics, once with Arabic and once with in Cyrillic letters?

Accompanying the demonstrations and illegal occupations of government buildings are in both cases brutal, criminal attacks on the police and other government forces. In Syria the violence "muscle" part was done by foreign financed Jihadists while neo-nazi gangs are used in the Ukraine. The demonstrations and the attacks on the state are planned and go together. There is nothing "peaceful" in demonstrations that are only the public-relations cover for attacks on the state. But the foreign politicians and media immediately utter "concerns" and threats over completely normal government responses to them. It is a scam to justify "western" "support" for the demonstrators and to further the violence.

The aim is "regime change" of legitimate governments by small minorities. Should the "regime" resist to that the alternative of destroying the state and the whole society is also wholeheartedly accepted.

Several German media used of the "regime" slander for the dully elected Ukrainian government today and did some concern trolling about "peaceful demonstrators" while policemen in Kiev were doused with Molotov cocktails. It is very obvious what is going on here and the media are playing along with the politicians, militaries and secret services that are behind these "revolutions".

Color revolutions in the old form had become too obvious a scheme to be of further use. The concept was therefore extended to include intensive use of force and mercenaries and to support those forces from the outside with weapons, ammunition, training and other means. After Libya, where Gaddhafi forces are still fighting back, Syria was destroyed and now the Ukraine is the target. There are likely lists of other countries that shall be attacked by such means. What is really behind the Gezi-park demonstrations in Turkey and the protests in Bangkok? Are foreign powers behind these too or are they just copycat actions by local groups? How does Egypt fit in?

And what is the best defense a legitimate government can build against and how should it react to such attacks?

Posted by b on January 24, 2014 at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

Syria: Guardian Falsely Blames Government For Talk Breakdown

The Guardian's false version: Syria's foreign minister threatens to walk out of peace talks

Long-awaited direct peace talks between the Syrian government and rebels fighting to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad failed to get under way as expected on Friday morning after Damascus insisted on ending "terrorism" before seeking a political solution to end nearly three years of war and misery.

The reality as tweeted earlier by the Lebanese TV station LBCI:

LBCI News English ‏@LBCI_News_EN

Syrian opposition will not meet government delegation until #Damascus endorses #Geneva 1 communiqué on transition – opposition delegate

This step by the opposition to stop all direct talk was already announced yesterday by a "revolution" propaganda account:

The 47th ‏@THE_47th

[Exclusive] My source: several Oppo members threatening to quit Geneva-2 if Assad delegates don't sign G1 communique by tomorrow 1

And via an Aljazeera correspondent from the horse's mouth:

"We have explicitly demanded a written commitment from regime to accept Geneva 1. Otherwise no direct talks," #SNC Haitham al-Maleh

The Syrian government was not part of the Geneva I process. It had no say in the results (pdf). It is unreasonable to expect any government to sign off on a paper that it had no chance to negotiate. Obviously the Saudi paid "rebels" are setting unreasonable conditions and deny direct talks. But the Guardian, in its typical propaganda mode against the Syrian government, blames the other side. It does not even mention that it was the "rebels" who first set new conditions for the talks.

Added: Contrast the Guardian opening paragraph above with this one just out from the Washington Post:

Long-awaited peace talks between Syria’s warring factions were on the brink of collapse on Friday after the Syrian opposition refused to enter into direct talks with the government and the government delegation threatened to go home.

Posted by b on January 24, 2014 at 07:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Kerry, al-Zawahri United In Call For Rebel Unity

October 22 2013: Syria talks open in London, ministers call for rebel unity

US Secretary of State John Kerry is at the talks along with Hague and counterparts from Egypt, France, Germany, Italy, Jordan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates, together with opposition leaders.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said the London meeting was aimed at persuading Syria's fractious rebels to have a "united position" for the UN-backed conference in the Swiss city, pencilled in for November 23.

January 24 2014: Al Qaeda Calls for Rebel Unity in Syria

In an audio recording released Thursday, the leader of Al Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, called on Islamist brigades in northern Syria to stop fighting one another, to focus on toppling President Bashar al-Assad and to form an Islamic court to arbitrate disputes.
What other issues unite Al-Qaeda and "western" governments?

Posted by b on January 24, 2014 at 04:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (7)

January 23, 2014

Washington Post Contradicts Own Reporting On Torture

Adam Goldman today reports for the Washington Post on the history of a secret U.S. torture prison in Poland. On of the people tortured there was one Abu Zubaida. Goldman writes:

Other Counterterrorism Center officials believed that Nashiri was a key al-Qaeda figure and was withholding information. After a tense meeting in December 2002, top CIA officials decided they needed to get tougher with him, two former U.S. intelligence officials recounted.
...
Zubaida also provided important information to his interrogators, officials said. He identified people in photographs and provided what one official called “hundreds of data points.”

Officials said Zubaida said was even willing to help get new detainees to talk.

But back in 2009 Peter Finn and Joby Warrick reported, astonishingly also in the Washington Post, that Zubaida was of no value at all:

When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they were convinced that they had in their custody an al-Qaeda leader who knew details of operations yet to be unleashed, and they were facing increasing pressure from the White House to get those secrets out of him.

The methods succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads.

In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said.

What is it then? Should we trust the reporting of the Washington Post or the reporting of the Washington Post?

Posted by b on January 23, 2014 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (16)

CNN Finds Al Qaeda Now "Moderate"

CNN and its reporter Frederick Pleitgen are trying to whitewash some Al-Qaeda affiliated groups in Syria by contrasting them with other Al-Qaeda affiliated groups and by declaring them "moderate":

At a sniper position atop of one of Aleppo's tallest buildings, soldiers showed us areas under opposition control. Some are held by the moderate Free Syrian Army, or the newly-constituted and moderate Islamic Front. But others are under the control of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), the al Qaeda-linked group which is battling against other rebel factions in its bid to set up an Islamic caliphate in Syria.

As pointed out earlier here the Islamic Front is not "moderate" in any reasonable aspect the attribute "moderate" can be used. It wants an Islamic state, or caliphate, in Syria. It regularly cooperates with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The head of one of its main sub groups, Abu Khaled al Suri of Ahrar al-Shams, was a friend and follower of Osama Bin Laden and is, according to himself, still part of the group:

A top official of a major Syrian rebel group acknowledged Friday that he considers himself a member of al Qaida, an admission that undercuts Western hopes that the new Islamic Front would prove to be an acceptable counter to the rising influence of other al Qaida affiliates in Syria.

Abu Khaled al Suri, who is a top figure in the rebel group Ahrar al Sham, made the statement in an Internet posting in which he argued that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, another radical rebel group, was not al Qaida’s representative in Syria and was not doing the work of al Qaida’s founder, Osama bin Laden, its current leader, Ayman al Zawahiri, or al Qaida’s late leader in Iraq, Abu Musab al Zarqawi, who was killed by an American missile in 2006.

The leading figure of the leading group within the Islamic Front is an al-Qaeda operative. The Islamic Front does not want a democratic state but an Islamic caliphate. Several subgroups of the new founded Islamic Front committed sectarian massacres of civilians in Latakia.

But Fred Pleitgen and CNN insist that the group is "moderate".

What makes it so? Obama's crazy willingness to talk with it and to probably provide it with weapons?

Posted by b on January 23, 2014 at 10:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

January 22, 2014

WaPo Blames Ukraine For Enacting U.S. Like Laws

The lunatics writing the Washington Post editorials want to blame the Ukraine (and the Russian president Putin) for its remarkable patient defense against the foreign supported, neo-nazi vandals of the Svoboda party who try to storm and take over government buildings in Kiev.

One paragraph especially shows their unmatched hypocrisy:

The repressive new restrictions, which criminalize such activity as wearing helmets and setting up tents in public spaces, look a lot like the strategy the Russian ruler used to crush mass demonstrations against his regime in 2011 and 2012. Mr. Yanukovych even adopted the regulation Russia imposed on nongovernment groups that receive foreign funding — a product of Mr. Putin’s paranoid conviction that pro-democracy movements in his country and elsewhere are the result of Western government plots.

Wearing helmets and masks at demonstrations has been unanimously criminalized by the D.C. Council in the Washington Post's hometown. Tents set up in public spaces by the Occupy movement have been outlawed and cleared by force all over the United States. The Russian and Ukrainian laws that regulate foreign money to political organisations are copies of the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act which is law of the land since 1938.

None of these "repressive" and "paranoid" restrictions in the United States seem to bother the Washington Post editors. Its only when foreign governments that do not suit the editors' political views enact and use the same laws that these are to condemned and be remarked on at all.

Adding: There is also this nonsense about the Ukrainian government's alleged spying on protesters' cellphone. As Stephen Walt remarked with some snark:

Outrageous that Ukraine is monitoring protestors' communications! Only a very insecure gov't would surveil its own citizens like that.

But there is not even any evidence that the Ukrainian government spies or monitors protesters at all. All it did was sending one SMS message to all cell phones within one cell towers reach. That is a standard emergency function in any cellphone network system and it typically does not reveal the recipients. It has nothing to do with spying. The FBI of course is using cell phone sniffers without warrants. But it is not the Ukraine where that happens.

Posted by b on January 22, 2014 at 10:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (30)

McClatchy Errs on Yemen's AlQaeda Resiliance

McClatchy reports on the (predictable) failing "national dialog" in Yemen. While the report is quite good this paragraph contains one serious error:

Tensions between government troops and hard-line secessionist factions – the bulk of which have boycotted the dialogue – turned violent in the formerly independent south, while the fighters of Al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, a Yemen-based terrorist franchise, remained resilient despite continuing U.S. drone strikes.

A correct report would not use "despite" but "because of" as the U.S. drone strikes are the major recruiting argument for Al Qaeda aligned forces in Yemen:

The use of drones in Yemen might seem a simple, quick-fix option for Obama. But with every civilian death, al Qaeda's recruiting power increases. Nabeel Khoury, former U.S. Deputy Chief of Mission to Yemen, recently reminded us of just that. Asked whether the covert U.S. drone war in Yemen was creating more enemies than it removed, he concluded: "Drone strikes take out a few bad guys to be sure, but they also kill a large number of innocent civilians. Given Yemen's tribal structure, the U.S. generates roughly forty to sixty new enemies for every AQAP operative killed by drones."

The McClatchy DC reporting is usually excellent and much more objective than other U.S. news sources. It should correct its above noted error.

Posted by b on January 22, 2014 at 04:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (6)

January 20, 2014

Syria: The Geneva II Conference Trouble

We do not yet know the whole story behind this but it seems that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon suddenly grew a pair and that the U.S. is now trying to again cut them off.

Ban Ki-Moon invited, seemingly against U.S. will, Iran to the Geneva II talks about Syria.

I have decided to issue some additional invitations to the one-day gathering in Montreux. They are: Australia, Bahrain, Belgium, Greece, the Holy See, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, and Iran. I believe the expanded international presence on that day will be an important and useful show of solidarity in advance of the hard work that the Syrian Government and opposition delegations will begin two days later in Geneva.

As I have said repeatedly, I believe strongly that Iran needs to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis.

I have spoken at length in recent days with Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mr. Javad Zarif. He has assured me that, like all the other countries invited to the opening day discussions in Montreux, Iran understands that the basis of the talks is the full implementation of the 30 June 2012 Geneva Communique, including the Action Plan.

Foreign Minister Zarif and I agree that the goal of the negotiations is to establish, by mutual consent, a transitional governing body with full executive powers. It was on that basis that Foreign Minister Zarif pledged that Iran would play a positive and constructive role in Montreux.

Therefore, as convenor and host of the conference, I have decided to issue an invitation to Iran to participate.

There is little one could say against Iran taking part in the conference. If even Mexico and Luxemburg are invited (what for?) Iran, much more involved in the conflict, surely deserves a place at the table. This is even necessary as any agreement coming out of Geneva II does need Iran's acceptance as it would otherwise likely attempt to sabotage it.

But the U.S. State Department would rather blow up the conference in which it has little to win and set conditions that Ban Ki-Moon with his careful words had tried to push aside:

The United States views the UN Secretary General’s invitation to Iran to attend the upcoming Geneva conference as conditioned on Iran’s explicit and public support for the full implementation of the Geneva communique including the establishment of a transitional governing body by mutual consent with full executive authorities. This is something Iran has never done publicly and something we have long made clear is required.

The Iranian foreign ministry replied: As Iran has not taken part in the Geneva I conference it can not be held to or be expected to accept all its results.

Under heavy U.S. pressure the foreign sponsored exile opposition to Syria's government had agreed, with less than half of its membership voting yes, to come to Geneva. It now found a reason to draw back and set an ultimatum for Ban Ki-Moon to withdraw the invitation to Iran or the opposition would withdraw. Ban Ki-Moon is too exposed. He can not let a bunch of nobodies dictate UN policy. He will ignore them. It is up to the U.S. to get the opposition to Geneva.

While the Syrian government has long agreed to come to Geneva President Assad, in an interview published today, made clear that he will not step down or let the foreign sponsored hotel opposition take over the country:

Syria's President Bashar al-Assad said there is a "significant" chance he will seek a new term and ruled out sharing power with the opposition seeking his ouster, in an exclusive interview with AFP before the Geneva II peace talks.

Speaking on Sunday at his presidential palace in Damascus, Assad said he expected Syria's war to grind on.

And he called for the talks scheduled to begin on Wednesday in Montreux in Switzerland to focus on what he termed his "war against terrorism".

Focusing on terrorism is by now also the objective of the "western" governments which tried to ouster Assad. Syria is training ground for their own misfits who will eventually come home and make trouble. Even the U.S. needs Assad to stay. Two car bombs exploded today at a Turkish Syrian border post, the last official one not directly controlled by al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS. They remind the Turks that they also have a huge problem. Another exposure of the weapons smuggling by Turkish intelligence officials to Jihadists increases pressure on Erdogan to look for a faster way out the situation. So everyone, except maybe Qatar and Saudi Arabia, is now looking for a way to keep Assad in, at least for a while, and to throw the terrorists out of Syria.

But the U.S. blowing up the Geneva conference over Iran's participation will make it harder for outsiders to influence that.

The recent infighting between the various extremists group on the ground in Syria has allowed the Syrian government to make significant progress on the ground in Damascus governate as well as around Aleppo. If Geneva II does not take place or fails the one loosing the least will likely be the Syrian government.

Posted by b on January 20, 2014 at 11:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

January 18, 2014

While Talking With al-Qaeda Kerry Accuses Assad of Supporting Extremists

The president of the Russian Federation Putin famously called Secretary of State Kerry a liar. Yesterday Kerry again proved Putin to be right in his assessment:

[Kerry] said Assad has “purposefully” facilitated the rise of extremism to present himself as a Western ally against radicals.

“He’s been doing this for months — trying to make himself the protector of Syria against extremists, when he himself has even been funding some of those extremists,” Kerry said. He accused Assad of “purposefully ceding some territory to them in order to make them more of a problem so he can make the argument that he is somehow the protector.”

What extremists is Kerry talking about? It is not Hizbullah, which has support from the Syrian government, that is killing civilians and cutting off heads but the "western" supported Takfiris. Those were certainly not created by Assad. They created themselves, through money from outside Syria, and did so even before the first protest in Syria started in March 2011:

In another town in northern Idlib, another jihadist — belonging to a different group — shared Ibrahim’s goal of an Islamic state. “Abu Zayd” is a 25-year-old Shari’a graduate who heads one of the founding brigades of Ahrar al-Sham, a group that adheres to the conservative Salafi interpretation of Sunni Islam.
...
The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,” Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.

The leader of Ahrar al Shams has now claimed himself to be part of Al-Qaeda:

A top official of a major Syrian rebel group acknowledged Friday that he considers himself a member of al Qaida, an admission that undercuts Western hopes that the new Islamic Front would prove to be an acceptable counter to the rising influence of other al Qaida affiliates in Syria.

Abu Khaled al Suri, who is a top figure in the rebel group Ahrar al Sham, made the statement in an Internet posting [...]
...
Ahrar al Sham is one of the most militarily effective groups fighting to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad and is one of the largest groups aligned with the Islamic Front, a coalition of rebel groups that announced its formation in September as a counter to the U.S.-backed Supreme Military Council. Ahrar al Sham’s leader, Hassan Aboud, is the political chief of the Islamic Front.

These al-Qaeda affiliated groups, ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al Sham, all existed before the "revolution" in Syria started and they were all preparing to fight the Syrian government. Does Kerry believe that the Syrian president Assad created these even before the U.S. instigated campaign against him began? When the U.S. military withdrew from Vietnam and now from Afghanistan is it also "purposefully ceding some territory" so it can make the argument that it is "somehow the protector"? What utter nonsense.

After talks with the U.S. the Islamic Front, led by self acknowledged al-Qaeda affiliate Ahrar al Sham, has together with other groups now reportedly agreed to talks with the Syrian government in Geneva. There Kerry is the one representing the anti-Assad side. Who then is really cooperating with al-Qaeda?

Posted by b on January 18, 2014 at 10:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

January 17, 2014

open Thread 2014-01

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 17, 2014 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

January 16, 2014

Missile Experts: White House Made False Claims Over Syrian WMD Use

We called the chemical weapon attack near Damascus on August 21st a false flag operations and unlikely to have been committed by the Syrian government. Disregarding the large motive the insurgents had for such an attack as well as other facts the Obama administration accused the Syrian government and prepared to go to war over the issue.

Threatened with a possible impeachment procedure should he go to war over unverified WMD claims Obama was forced to go to Congress to ask for support. But the people of the United States were against another war in the Middle East and Congress, despite heavy lobbying from the Zionists, declined to act. Offered a deal over Syria's chemical weapons by the Russians Obama stopped his war plans and accepted the Syrian disarmament offer. That the Russians had deployed a quite capable and well sized fleet to the Syrian coast also played a decisive, though still under-reported, role.

Obama had little factual base for his claim that the Syrian government had committed the chemical attack. The claims the Obama administration put out were not signed off by the U.S. intelligence community but solely by the White House. Obama was deliberately going to war over largely fake WMD claims. Only the pressure form the people, and Russian intervention, eventually held him back.

Ignoring several significant issues the anti-Syrian propaganda corps pushed the "Assad has done it" claim. Human Rights Watch and the New York Times' CJ Chivers pushed claims that the flight path of the chemical rockets pointed to Syrian government origins. This was, as we pointed out, another false claim.

Seymour Hersh later reported that Obama's case for war had deliberately left out facts that pointed to the insurgent's culpability in the chemical weapon use. Hersh mentioned an analysis by the MIT missile expert Theodore Postol which trashed the Obama administration's assertions as well has the HRW and NYT claims of the missiles origin. McClatchy reports on the now public analysis:

A series of revelations about the rocket believed to have delivered poison sarin gas to a Damascus suburb last summer are challenging American intelligence assumptions about that attack and suggest that the case U.S. officials initially made for retaliatory military action was flawed.

A team of security and arms experts, meeting this week in Washington to discuss the matter, has concluded that the range of the rocket that delivered sarin in the largest attack that night was too short for the device to have been fired from the Syrian government positions where the Obama administration insists they originated.

The report is even harsher than the McClatchy story about it lets one assume. The first page of its presentation (pdf, emphasis added) reads:

  • The Syrian Improvised Chemical Munitions that Were Used in the August 21, Nerve Agent Attack in Damascus Have a Range of About 2 Kilometers
  • The UN Independent Assessment of the Range of the Chemical Munition Is in Exact Agreement with Our Findings
  • This Indicates That These Munitions Could Not Possibly Have Been Fired at East Ghouta from the “Heart”, or from the Eastern Edge, of the Syrian Government Controlled Area Shown in the Intelligence Map Published by the White House on August 30, 2013.
  • This mistaken Intelligence Could Have Led to an Unjustified US Military Action Based on False Intelligence.
  • A Proper Vetting of the Fact That the Munition Was of Such Short Range Would Have Led to a Completely Different Assessment of the Situation from the Gathered Data
  • Whatever the Reasons for the Egregious Errors in the Intelligence, the Source of These Errors Needs to Be Explained.
  • If the Source of These Errors Is Not Identified, the Procedures that Led to this Intelligence Failure Will Go Uncorrected, and the Chances of a Future Policy Disaster Will Grow With Certainty.

The short version of this whole story is this: The scientific facts are clear and the White House version of the WMD story is definitely false. These facts are not new but where known when the White House claims were made. Obama (and Kerry) deliberately lied about the WMD attack in Syria to wage an open war against the Syrian government and people. Threatened with a possible conflict with the Russian fleet and a possible impeachment Obama caved in. But he has not yet given up on his aim of regime change and of destroying Syria and its people.

It is time for Congress to investigate who prepared, on who's order, the false claims about chemical weapon use in Syria and to draw consequences.

Posted by b on January 16, 2014 at 07:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (36)

January 15, 2014

As Obama Rejects NSA Changes - Need For A New Internet Arises

The still ongoing revelations about aggressive NSA spying on the world have led to hopes that some restrictions would be introduced to it. But that is not going to happen. All President Obama is going to do about it is holding a nice speech that promises to mostly kick the can over to Congress where any reform is bound to die. The NYT previews that speech under the somewhat misleading headline: Obama to Place Some Restraints on Surveillance:

President Obama will issue new guidelines on Friday to curtail government surveillance, but will not embrace the most far-reaching proposals of his own advisers and will ask Congress to help decide some of the toughest issues, according to people briefed on his thinking.
...
The result seems to be a speech that leaves in place many current programs, but embraces the spirit of reform and keeps the door open to changes later.

Rejecting most of the advice of his own hand selected review committee will reinforce the impression that it is not the president that has upper hand over the security services but that the NSA itself is the one that sets the policies. Even the NSA collection of U.S. phone metadata, which in over a decade has not helped in even one terrorism case, will be kept in its current form.

The latest report on NSA hardware implants in computers and network devices claims that nearly 100,000 pieces of such equipment have been manipulated with NSA hardware devices. A number this high can not have been reached by snitching parcels from delivery services and manipulating those. Many of these implants will have been done at the factory level. U.S. hardware manufacturers will be the first ones to be hurt by this new information. The number also makes clear that this effort has mostly nothing to do with spying on "terrorists" or foreign politicians. There is no way that the throughput of so many devices could somehow be analyzed or even supervised by human beings. These implants are thereby not of defensive nature. Yes, some of them will be used for spying but most of these implents must be for outward aggressive action:

The N.S.A. calls its efforts more an act of “active defense” against foreign cyberattacks than a tool to go on the offensive. But when Chinese attackers place similar software on the computer systems of American companies or government agencies, American officials have protested, often at the presidential level.
...
[T]he program, code-named Quantum, has also been successful in inserting software into Russian military networks and systems used by the Mexican police and drug cartels, trade institutions inside the European Union, and sometime partners against terrorism like Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan, according to officials and an N.S.A. map that indicates sites of what the agency calls “computer network exploitation.”

The European Union (ex Britain) should wake up and understand the currently U.S. dominated form of the Internet is a weapon against it. The German government's failure in its attempt to arrange for some deeper cooperation and a no-spying agreement with the U.S. showed that the U.S. can not be trusted:

"We are not getting anything," the newspaper quotes a source from within the German foreign intelligence agency. "The Americans have lied to us," said another source.

The NSA efforts to weaken encryption and to abuse software and hardware bugs instead of fixing them is endangering everyone's security, including that of the U.S. itself.

There is need for a new Internet based on open source and publicly reviewed hardware and software. Proprietary systems can not be trusted. The EU (ex-Britain) could launch a program to develop such a network. This would be a decade long public effort comparable to the development of the Ariane rockets and the Airbus industry. Both these projects succeeded despite U.S. efforts to sabotage them. A precondition of such a new program are EU laws for strict privacy and laws that forbid its own security services to preemptively try to manipulate the development of the new network systems. Only with such laws, and severe penalties in place, could such a development create the trust that has been lost in the Internet in its current form.

Posted by b on January 15, 2014 at 07:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (51)

January 13, 2014

Obama's Pivot Requires Serious Negotiations With Iran

In recent negotiations with Iran the United States again tried to fudge on Iran's right to enrich Uranium. Only severe pressure from Russia and China reversed that stand and made a deal possible. Writes the Washington Post:

Iran and six world powers took a significant and hard-won step toward nuclear rapprochement on Sunday, announcing a deal to implement a landmark agreement that caps Iran’s disputed nuclear program in return for a modest easing of crippling economic sanctions.
...
The weeks of bargaining to put the November agreement in force were more difficult than anticipated, with one brief walkout by Iranian envoys and rancor among the bloc of nations that negotiated the deal. Russia and China, long Iran’s protectors at the United Nations, pushed the United States to accept technical concessions that further make clear that Iran will retain the ability to enrich uranium, a key Iranian demand, once a final set of restrictions on its program is approved.

Russia and China threatened to ignore the sanctions and to thereby enable Iran to continue its nuclear program without limits while reviving its economy. The threat was issued via a Reuters "exclusive" on Friday afternoon:

Iran and Russia are negotiating an oil-for-goods swap worth $1.5 billion a month that would enable Iran to lift oil exports substantially, undermining Western sanctions that helped persuade Tehran in November to agree to a preliminary deal to curb its nuclear program.

Russian and Iranian sources close to the barter negotiations said final details were in discussion for a deal under which Russia would buy up to 500,000 barrels a day of Iranian oil in exchange for Russian equipment and goods.

Should such an agreement happen "western" equipment, exported to Russia and China, would easily find its way to Iran. Russia and Iran are connected through the Caspian Sea where the U.S. has no capabilities to enforce a blockade.

For now the Obama administration has given in to the Russian pressure but the difficulties will only increase with the negotiations of a permanent deal. Russia and China have now clearly set limits to the outrageous demands the U.S. is making. Even U.S. allies press for the end of sanctions and a quick deal:

Speaking to the BBC’s Jon Sopel, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, spoke about a number of political issues in the region, in particular the Syrian conflict, sanctions on Iran and the future of Egypt.
...
The interview mentions the need to lift sanctions on Iran to secure better cooperation in the country’s nuclear disarmament process.

“Iran is our neighbour and we don’t want any problem. Lift the sanctions and everyone will benefit,” said Sheikh Mohammed.

The Dubai Ruler also said he believed Iran is telling the truth when saying they only intend to use nuclear technology for civilian means.

“I talked to Ahmadinejad and he said ‘if I send a rocket to Israel, how many Palestinians will I kill. And then the US and Europe will destroy my cities. I’m not crazy to go for that. It’s a weapon of the past’,” he said.

Obama has no other sane option but to seriously go for a permanent deal. If he does not get one the sanction regime will surely fall apart. Neither is a war on Iran a viable alternative. Attacking Iran, which is not developing nuclear weapons, under some "non-proliferation" argument would destroy the U.S. moral-political position in the world while such an attack could not hinder but would justify Iran to start striving for a nuclear deterrent. Additionally a war in the Persian Gulf would be devastating for the world economy. "Containment", without an effective sanction regime, is no containment at all and not serious option.

Obama wants a U.S. "pivot to Asia". To achieve such a reduction of U.S. engagement in the Middle East is a necessity. Neither Israel nor Saudi Arabia want that. They want to keep U.S. attention on their perceived enemies. But the U.S. can not further engage in Asia and stay fully deployed in the Middle East. It is either or.

The Zionist are pressing Congress to blow up the negotiations with Iran by legislating new uni-lateral U.S. sanctions on third parties. Obama can blame himself for having enabled such self defeating "suffocating sanction" strategy. That strategy is failing and the way out of it will be difficult for him. But Congress will not dare to vote directly for a war on Iran.

If Obama would negotiate in good faith with Iran the United States could acquire a serious and reliable partner in the Gulf and enable its pivot to Asia. But playing games, as Obama again tried last week until Russia stepped in, will leave it with a mostly unenforceable Iran "containment" strategy that will drain its resources and leave the pivot to Asia an under-resourced dream.

Posted by b on January 13, 2014 at 08:15 AM | Permalink | Comments (155)

January 11, 2014

The Butcher Is Dead

The MSM are not all alike. The BBC at least is listing some of his war crimes.

May he burn in hell.

Posted by b on January 11, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (38)

January 10, 2014

U.S., Fearing Terrorists, Provides Them With Weapons

The U.S. government has some rather amazing contradictions in its policy towards the foreign sponsored insurgents in Syria. While one piece in the New York Times today is fear mongering on Syria Militants Said to Recruit Visiting Americans to Attack U.S. another one has officials say that the U.S. Considers Resuming Nonlethal Aid to Syrian Opposition even if that aid goes to the same Islamists that turn U.S. citizen to potential terrorists.

From the first piece:

The Obama administration is considering the resumption of nonlethal military aid to Syria’s moderate opposition, senior administration officials said on Thursday, even if some of it ends up going to the Islamist groups that are allied with the moderates.
...
Administration officials insisted that no aid would be directly supplied to the Islamic Front, an umbrella for half a dozen rebel groups who favor the creation of an orthodox Islamic state in Syria. Aid would continue to be funneled exclusively through the Supreme Military Council, the military wing of moderate, secular Syrian opposition.

But a senior administration official said: “You have to take into account questions of how the S.M.C. and the Islamic Front are interacting on the ground,” adding, “There’s no way to say 100 percent that it would not end up in the hands of the Islamic Front.”

The U.S. is of course currently continuing to provide weapons and training to some of the insurgent outfits. The discussion about "aid" is only about the "civilian" part (which includes some weapons) that the State department provides. What the CIA and the Pentagon provide is not under discussion. The piece is bit revealing in that when it describes the FSA warehouse with U.S. goods the Islamist had raided:

The administration has also struggled to learn what precisely happened in the early hours of Dec. 7, when the Islamic Front seized control of warehouses in Atmeh, in northern Syria, that contained the American-supplied aid, including food rations, medical kits and vehicles.
...
Mr. Ford has told analysts, the Islamic Front has returned the warehouses and their contents, with the exception of light arms and ammunition.

Also mentioned in this piece is that the Islamic Front and other FSA outlets are cooperating with the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra:

The risk, some analysts said, is not that the American aid would end up in the hands of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but with the Nusra Front, another powerful rebel group that the United States believes has links to Al Qaeda but which many rebels view as an effective combatant against Mr. Assad. The Nusra Front is not a part of the Islamic Front, but it has close ties to some groups that are under the front’s umbrella.

The Nusra Front is also the group that is allegedly training U.S. citizens to become terrorists. From the first piece:

Islamic extremist groups in Syria with ties to Al Qaeda are trying to identify, recruit and train Americans and other Westerners who have traveled there to get them to carry out attacks when they return home, according to senior American intelligence and counterterrorism officials.
...
Eric G. Harroun, a former Army soldier from Phoenix, was indicted in Virginia by a federal grand jury last year on charges related to allegations that he fought alongside the Nusra Front, one of the Syrian opposition groups linked to Al Qaeda. In September, he pleaded guilty to a lesser charge involving conspiracy to transfer defense articles and services, and was released from custody.

The Obama administration is now planing, and announcing such in the NYT, to do exactly what Eric G. Harroun pleaded guilty to do. To provide defense articles and services to Syrian insurgents well knowing that these are quite likely to end up with the Nusra Front and other Jihadi outlets. It provides these while knowing that they will probably be used to train U.S. citizens to commit terrorist acts in the United States.

One could attribute this to divergent streams of incompetence within the Obama administration. But the two pieces side by side in today's NYT are more like a big stinking finger shown to the U.S. people: "You better fear those terrorists and now watch us how we create more of them." How will the people feel about that?

Posted by b on January 10, 2014 at 09:28 AM | Permalink | Comments (54)

January 08, 2014

Gates On War

Two remarkable paragraphs from former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates' recent memoir:

Wars are a lot easier to get into than out of. Those who ask about exit strategies or question what will happen if assumptions prove wrong are rarely welcome at the conference table when the fire-breathers are demanding that we strike—as they did when advocating invading Iraq, intervening in Libya and Syria, or bombing Iran's nuclear sites. But in recent decades, presidents confronted with tough problems abroad have too often been too quick to reach for a gun. Our foreign and national security policy has become too militarized, the use of force too easy for presidents.

Today, too many ideologues call for U.S. force as the first option rather than a last resort. On the left, we hear about the "responsibility to protect" civilians to justify military intervention in Libya, Syria, Sudan and elsewhere. On the right, the failure to strike Syria or Iran is deemed an abdication of U.S. leadership. And so the rest of the world sees the U.S. as a militaristic country quick to launch planes, cruise missiles and drones deep into sovereign countries or ungoverned spaces. There are limits to what even the strongest and greatest nation on Earth can do—and not every outrage, act of aggression, oppression or crisis should elicit a U.S. military response.

Gates is right. World opinion polls show that the U.S. is seen -by far- as the greatest threat to global peace. Being hooked on hegemony is expensive.  But unless the consequences of that position become obvious to every voter in the United States that fact is unlikely to lead to a change of the general U.S. policy direction.

Posted by b on January 8, 2014 at 08:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (104)

January 06, 2014

Syria: Jabhat al-Nusra, Not The FSA, Fighting With ISIS

The infighting between several foreign sponsored jihadist insurgency groups in northern and eastern Syria is sold by some as a fight of the "moderate" Free Syrian Army against the al-Qaeda affiliate ISIS. But this does not seem to be the reality. While there is some showing of the FSA flag over conquered ISIS territory this is likely just a fake to hide the real group behind the fighting, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhad al Nusra and a new, probably fictitious, Army of the Mujahideen.

A similar fake was reported from southern Syria where Jabhat al-Nusra successes get sold to "western" supporters as sole FSA operations:

“The FSA and Al Nusra join together for operations but they have an agreement to let the FSA lead for public reasons, because they don’t want to frighten Jordan or the West,” said an activist who works with opposition groups in Deraa.

“Operations that were really carried out by Al Nusra are publicly presented by the FSA as their own,” he said.

A leading FSA commander involved in operations in Deraa said Al Nusra had strengthened FSA units and played a decisive role in key rebel victories in the south.

“The face of Al Nusra cannot be to the front. It must be behind the FSA, for the sake of Jordan and the international community,” he said.

Whether this infighting between the two al-Qaeda affiliates Jabhat al-Nusra and ISIS is about, money or other issues, is not yet clear. ISIS seems not be putting up a real fight but is mostly just retreating when challenged. Something is fishy in this. Whatever it may be it is for now good news for the Syrian government. It may even open a chance to kick those fake "revolutionaries" out of Aleppo.

Posted by b on January 6, 2014 at 01:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (162)

January 05, 2014

There Is No "Power Vacuum" In The Middle East

Vacuum is the absence of matter.

But according to the New York Times the only "matter" that counts is the U.S. military. Thus this hallucinating thesis that a Power Vacuum in Middle East Lifts Militants:

[F]or all its echoes, the bloodshed that has engulfed Iraq, Lebanon and Syria in the past two weeks exposes something new and destabilizing: the emergence of a post-American Middle East in which no broker has the power, or the will, to contain the region’s sectarian hatreds.
Amid this vacuum, fanatical Islamists have flourished in both Iraq and Syria under the banner of Al Qaeda, as the two countries’ conflicts amplify each other and foster ever-deeper radicalism.

Hmm - there has been no bloodshed in the Lebanese civil war? There was no Iraq Iran war? All was peaceful while the U.S. invaded and occupied Iraq?

That "vacuum" thesis is nuts. The "power vacuum" idea is even more stupid when one looks at the list of powerful forces within the "vacuum" space that are mentioned in the piece:

For the first time since the American troop withdrawal of 2011, fighters from a Qaeda affiliate have recaptured Iraqi territory. In the past few days they have seized parts of the two biggest cities in Anbar Province, where the government, which the fighters revile as a tool of Shiite Iran, struggles to maintain a semblance of authority.

Lebanon has seen two deadly car bombs, including one that killed a senior political figure and American ally.

In Syria, the tempo of violence has increased, with hundreds of civilians killed by bombs dropped indiscriminately on houses and markets.

Linking all this mayhem is an increasingly naked appeal to the atavistic loyalties of clan and sect.

So the "power vacuum", the absence of "power matter", is, according to the NYT writers, filled with al-Qaeda, the Iraqi army, terrorists in Lebanon, and various forces fighting in Syria all somehow involved in a Saudi Iranian proxy war. That is quite a "vacuum".

Behind propagandizing the idea of such a "vacuum" which is none is of course the intend to get the U.S. further involved so that the non-existing vacuum is filled with the only "power matter" that somehow is supposed to count.

Where did those NYT writers get this stupid idea? One might guess that such nonsense can only leap from some neoconned minds. And indeed, a different NYT report points to such a source:

Two Republican critics of the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw all American troops, Senator John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, said that “many of us predicted that the vacuum would be filled by America’s enemies and would emerge as a threat to U.S. national security interests.”

What "vacuum" and what "national security interests" might that be?

It was the U.S. attack on Iraq that set off the sectarian war in Iraq and beyond. It was the removal of Saddam Hussein that changed the balance between Saudi Sunnism and Iranian Shiaism which then motivated the Saudis to unleash the Jihadist forces. It was not a "power vacuum" that created the strife that continues today and will continue in the future. It was the insertion of U.S. forces into the Middle East that led to overpressure and the current explosions.

To pretend that such military insertions and presence is needed to fill Middle Eastern space only points to the lack of matter in the writers' sculls.

Posted by b on January 5, 2014 at 08:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (58)

January 04, 2014

Syria: Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda - Now Vs. 2.0

Last October we commented on Syria's then new moderate cuddly homegrown al-Qaeda peddled by "western" media. Those were jihdist groups, including al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, which were then fighting against the other al-Qaeda affiliate the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria:

There are not many differences between any of the the insurgency groups in Syria. The Syrian insurgency was, from its very beginning, a brutal religiously motivated one that was run out of Sunni mosques and financed with money from the Wahabbi Gulf states. As this insurgency can no longer be sold in "western" media as "peaceful protesters" it is now depicted as somewhat moderate if only compared to the real savages of ISIS Al-Qaeda. But such differentiation makes no sense at all. Hanging baby heads from apple trees is psychopathic no matter what shade of religious extremism is used to justify it.

This weekend saw the start of the "moderate al-Qaeda 2.0" campaign:

An alliance of Islamist and other rebel factions battled fighters from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) across north-western Syria on Saturday in apparently coordinated strikes against the powerful al Qaeda-linked group.

Activists said dozens of fighters had been killed in the clashes, which started on Friday and may have been provoked by increasing resentment against the radical ISIL fighters, many of them foreign jihadis.
...
Assad's main political opponents in exile, the National Coalition, sought to portray Saturday's clashes as a counter assault by the FSA against ISIL's "authoritarian oppression"

The groups allegedly fighting with ISIS this weekend are mostly other jihadists including from the Islamic Front. Between the various fights Ahrar al-Shams, one of the main elements of the Islamic Front, found time to demonstrate its newly discovered moderation:

Thou shalt not miss the Friday prayer... 'Moderate Rebels' enforce law & order in liberated areas in , .

 

Posted by b on January 4, 2014 at 12:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Al-Majid's Convenient Death

Hmmm ...

BEIRUT - The suspected leader of an al Qaeda-linked militant group that claimed responsibility for bombing the Iranian embassy in Beirut two months ago died in custody on Saturday, security sources said.

Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid, a Saudi national who was wanted by authorities in his own country, had been suffering from kidney failure and went into a coma on Friday, the sources said. He died in a military hospital in Beirut, they added.

Majid bin Muhammad al-Majid was the leader of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades. While the organization is on the Saudi and U.S. terror list, many assume that al-Majid, a Saudi, was also on the payroll of some Saudi service.

The Lebanese army snatched him from a hospital just a few days ago. But as Lebanon continues its internal fight between Saudi supported March 14 and Hizbullah and its allies any legal process involving al-Majid would have been at least very complicated. Now the Lebanese army decided that he died. We can bet that there will be no public display of his corpse. That is until after he really dies, probably a few years from now, in some Saudi sanatorium.

The Saudis recently promised three billion for rearming the Lebanese army. Not to endanger that much loot might have been an additional motive for al-Majid's sudden "departure".

Posted by b on January 4, 2014 at 10:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (21)

January 03, 2014

Hopeless For O'Hanlon

War forever promoter Michael O'Hanlon pens another OpEd for the neoconned Washington Post opinion page: Hope For Afghanistan. He suggests that recent pessimistic intelligence estimates about Afghanistan are wrong:

The case for hopefulness on Afghanistan is built largely on what were probably its three most notable developments of 2013 ...

O'Hanlon's track record of predictions about the war on Afghanistan (and on Iraq) is not supporting his case. "Hope" does not win wars. "Hope" does not successfully occupy. Still "hope" is the only thing O'Hanlon ever seems to have to promote further losses in already lost wars.

A casual and incomplete search for "O'Hanlon" "Hope" "Afghanistan" finds the following entries:

TwinCities.com, November 17 2009: Michael O'Hanlon: A blue line of hope in Afghanistan

LA Times, December 27 2009: A year of war -- and progress

The question is whether it will be too little too late, but there is reason for hope.

Washington Post, June 26 2010: Reasons to be hopeful about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan

Politico, September 28 2010: New reasons for hope in Afghanistan

NYT, May 20 2011: Finally, a Fighting Force

But there is reason to be hopeful. ...

CNN, March 16 2012: O'Hanlon: 7 reasons for hope in Afghanistan

Here are some highlights of the more hopeful indicators in Afghanistan: ...

CNN, May 2 2012: O'Hanlon: Reasons for hope on Afghanistan

Washington Times, June 1 2012: O’HANLON: Rays of hope in Afghanistan

Several hopeful things I saw on a recent trip ...

Politico, March 21 2013: Kandahar and hope

Now, Kandahar gives hope to the war effort. ...

One wonders why the above media feel that they still have to promote the nonsense of such a hopelessly delusional idiot?

Posted by b on January 3, 2014 at 11:10 AM | Permalink | Comments (25)

January 02, 2014

Syria: White House Accepts Reality

The Wall Street Journal has a quite interesting piece about the changing U.S. policies towards Syria: Behind Assad's Comeback, a Mismatch in Commitments (the piece is paywalled but you can access it via a search engine):

In the early days of the Syrian rebellion, U.S. intelligence agencies made a prediction: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's days were numbered, an assessment repeated publicly by President Barack Obama and top U.S. intelligence officials.

That assessment was obviously wrong and has been changed to a likely similar wrong one:

The intelligence assessments that once showed Mr. Assad on the verge of defeat now say he could remain in power for the foreseeable future in key parts of the country bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean coast. The U.S. doesn't think he will be able to retake the whole country again, U.S. intelligence agencies believe.

The now Al-Qaeda led insurgency in Syria and Iraq depends on money and other support it is getting from the outside, especially from Saudi Arabia. As soon as that support stops the insurgency will be on the verge of dying off. The U.S. has so far continued a quite contradictory policy of supporting the insurgency in Syria while providing weapons to Iraq to fight the same insurgents there. That can not and will not work. If it wants to rein in the takfiris, as it should, it will have to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to end its support. A sign that such may eventually happen from the WSJ piece:

Saudi officials fumed at the U.S. for failing to launch strikes against Mr. Assad over the chemical weapons attack, and Prince Bandar threatened to scale back cooperation with the CIA.

The frustration was mutual. In private meetings with U.S. officials, Mr. Kerry singled out Prince Bandar as "the problem," complaining about his conduct, according to meeting participants.
...
A former senior Obama administration official said Saudi leaders misread U.S. sentiment. The White House, the former official said, had no obligation to come to the rescue "when they picked a fight they couldn't win."

U.S. support for the insurgency, even the "moderate" one, has mostly stopped and reality has set in:

A longtime American diplomat in the region said that, for now, it looks like Messrs. Assad, Nasrallah and Soleimani have "won".

We shall now be on the look out for some public signs of U.S. misgivings towards the Saudis if only to convince king Abdullah to send the by now rather hapless prince Bandar back into the desert.

Posted by b on January 2, 2014 at 08:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

 
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