Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
August 31, 2014

NSA Uses Speech-To-Text Systems To Record (Your?) Phonecalls

Der Spiegel and The Intercept have a new story about the NSA and Turkey based largely on NSA files Edward Snowden acquired. While the NSA is cooperating with Turkey's secret services and helps them to assassinate Kurdish separatists it is also intensely spying on the Turkish leadership.

That is all the way I would have expected.

But there is one detail in the story which, to my best knowledge, reveals a NSA capability that was so far only rumored about:

In January 2012, US officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

There was always some assumption that the NSA would store not only all the medadata of all phone calls but also the content. Barton Gellman had published about the MYSTIC and RETRO program which back in 2009 allowed phone call storage of all calls in Afghanistan for up to a month. Some people refuted that the NSA could or would do this in more countries or for a longer time arguing that the storage of sound files of the phone calls would require too much data space.

But when the NSA, as is now revealed, uses sophisticated automated speech-to-text systems then it has only to store the text data of phone calls which is at least one magnitude smaller in data size than the sound data.

Every NSA target, potentially ever human being, has now to assume that everything it says or hears on the phone will be recorded and automatically searched by keywords and then marked, categorized and stored forever by some NSA system.

This is, I believe, a whole new dimension of NSA spying that may well change the way people are used to communicate and the intensity in which they are willing to express themselves "in private". "In private" now hardly exists anymore.

Posted by b on August 31, 2014 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (33)

August 30, 2014

The WaPo Funny Pages Fear "Secular Extremists"

The Washington Post editorial page reads like a collection of funnies. Sorry ones though.

There you have the wife of the Polish foreign minister preparing for total war with Russia. Yeah, lets roll out the nukes already! The winner of course, with Europe then devastated, would be the U.S. economy. Those radiating bits left of it.

But the idea might be better than asking the Russian oligarchs to assassinate Putin like a former CIA honcho does. Or better than the idea of an air bombing campaign against Novorossiya right next to the Russia's border and its excellent air-defenses.

There really are a lot of crazy people around. Surely the editors of the Washington Post are part of them. Yesterday they wrote this crazy nonsense:

IF ANY international norm can still be called uncontroversial, it is the stricture against cross-border aggression by one sovereign state against another. Certainly any failure to enforce it in one place invites violations elsewhere.

Fair points out that the "uncontroversial norm" the editor want to apply seemed not to be so uncontroversial when those same editors called for the invasion of Iraq and for the bombing of Syria, Libya, Sudan or whatever other state wins their weekly lottery for threatened destruction.

But the best of the recent funnies was surely this one by David Ignatius which certainly will earn him a decent pile of petro-dollars:

For a generation, Americans and Saudis have worried that the kingdom was a potential tinderbox, with Muslim and secular extremists vying to undermine the conservative monarchy.

"Secular extremists" - now there is a real terrorist threat! The biggest threat EVER! What Americans then have ever "worried" about "secular extremists" overthrowing the Wahhabi nutters in Riyadh? Others then the ones paid by them?

Posted by b on August 30, 2014 at 03:58 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

August 29, 2014

Ukraine Lost A Battle - West Escalates With More Russia Sanctions

Throughout August the Ukrainian president and cabinet, likely following U.S. "advisers", pushed their army into a big attack on the insurgency held south east areas of the country. But the attack of bad equipped, half trained units ran into problems. Some of them reached their attack targets only to find themselves cut off from any resupply. Without ammunition, gas and food they were locked into place and easy targets for the insurgents artillery.

The attack was stretched too far. The "culmination point in the attack" Clausewitz wrote about was reached and crossed. The negative effects of the attack on its own troops became bigger then the positive effects and the government in Kiev, not recognizing the real situation, still pressed on. It now lost the initiative. The parts of the Ukrainian army not surrounded and caught up surrounded in "cauldrons" retreated to be reorganized.

Some of the "volunteer" territorial battalions are simply going home. There is even a revolt against the defense ministry.

By Aug. 27, the battalion had left the war zone and made its way to the city of Znamyanka in Kirovohrad Oblast. Romanyuk said they were in discussion with the Defense Ministry whether to continue home to their base in Ivano-Frankivsk region, or be sent back to the Anti-Terrorist Operation.

In what is becoming a repeated refrain, the apparent failure of the government to provide its soldiers with even the most basic supplies is undermining both the conduct of the war and the morale of those fighting it.

“They were dumped,” said Romanyuk. “And absolutely all the territorial defense battalions are in this position. So they are in revolt against the Ministry of Defense. No one wants to endure this idiotic command anymore, and this inadequate attitude to soldiers, to the needs of the army and the National Guard.”

The situation is not looking good for the coup government in Kiev. Some of the neo-nazi national guard battalions have even threatened to come to Kiev to "clean the house."

The loss of the battle is also the reason why Ukraine now really, really fast wants to join NATO. That is not going to happen. NATO has a simple rule that countries with internationally disputed areas can not join. Should Ukraine give up on Crimea its move would make sense. But as it can not yet do so the joining request is just helpless yapping. As a little consolidation price the IMF squandered another $1.4 billion by giving it to bancrupt Kiev as a part of a larger loan. Ukraine will probably use that to pay for the T-72 tanks it recently bought from Hungary. Officially the IMF is not allowed to give money to countries at war. That may be the reason why yesterday official talk of an "invasion" by Russia was later toned down to "incursion".

The military battle defeat was the reason why Russia was accused of an invasion even when the OECD observers says (in German) that they have "no objective information" to support such a claim. Such propaganda rushes as yesterday always follow when the shit hits the fan for the "western" side. They are also occasions to introduce new sanction which from the U.S. point of view, have the nice feature of solely hurting both Europe and Russia. The U.S. poodle in No. 10 now wants to kick Russia out of the SWIFT inter-banking systems:

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, is one of Russia’s main connections to the international financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government plans to put the topic on the agenda for a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

“Blocking Russia from the SWIFT system would be a very serious escalation in sanctions against Russia and would most certainly result in equally tough retaliatory actions by Russia,” said Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Moscow-based consulting firm Macro Advisory. “An exclusion from SWIFT would not block major trade deals but would cause problems in cross-border banking and that would disrupt trade flows.”

"Trade flows" in this case are gas supplies from Russia needed in Europe throughout the winter. If the gas bill can not be paid because Russia gets kicked out of SWIFT the spice will not flow. Only the U.K., which does not need Russian gas supplies, could come up with such a lunatic idea.

On the other side it would probably be good for the world in the longer term should Russia be kicked out of SWIFT. The BRICS countries would of course immediately introduce an alternative under their control which would then lead to more preferential trade between them. Such an alternative would make SWIFT no longer indispensable and useless as a tool for "western" sanctions.

Also today the Iranian foreign minister Zarif visited Moscow for talks with Russia. The atmosphere was said to be quite positive. But someone in Washington took this visit as an insult and immediately slapped more sanctions on Iran:

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on more than 25 people and companies it accused of violating sanctions against Iran, including shipping firms, airlines, and six Iranian banks.

Why, in the mid of so far positive talks with Iran about its nuclear program, does the U.S. feel this need to escalate again? Iran and Russia see their national aspirations as just and can therefore not be moved by sanctions. Is that really so hard to understand?

Such sanctions and childish petty acts, like Poland's overflight blockage of a Russian Defense Minister flight, will only create more strife in the world and a stronger urge for many states to distance themselves from the "west" with its seemingly more and more crazy leaders.

Posted by b on August 29, 2014 at 01:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (140)

August 28, 2014

ISIS Trained By Whom?

Photos show gruesome Islamic State seizure of base

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, ...

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

Where, one wonders, did they learn such shit?

Posted by b on August 28, 2014 at 08:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (100)

"Zero Proof" - The "Russian Invasion" Of Ukraine

Updated below

The authors of this NYT piece, Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, are not really convincing when presenting these reports by the Ukrainian government as truthful:

The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week, further blunting the momentum Ukrainian forces have made in weakening the insurgents in their redoubts of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north. Evidence of a possible turn was seen in the panicky retreat of Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday from a force they said had come over the Russian border.
...
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in Kiev, said the Russian armored column entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, south of Donetsk, expanding what Western and Ukrainian officials have described as one of the main fronts in a multipronged counteroffensive directed by Russia.

The "momentum" the Ukrainian troops had was never as big as the Ukrainian government had claimed. A few motorized brigades ran through open territory held by few insurgents and when coming to a halt at their primary target were immediately cut off and surrounded. Their moral is bad, their equipment old, ammunition is low and the entire aim of their campaign is dubious. Now even a few weak counterattacks, the "counteroffensive", have them on the run.

While the piece repeats the Ukrainian claim that Russian material, including ammunition, passed over the border the third picture shows some 20+ wooden boxes of RPGs and the caption says:

"A villager opened a box of rocket-propelled grenades left by the Ukrainian Army in Starobecheve, southeast of Donetsk. Pro-Russia rebels took over the town after the military withdrew."

Obviously the fleeing Ukrainian troops are leaving a lot of goodies behind.

Then there is this:

The separatists have asserted that they are using captured Ukrainian equipment. But American officials say they are confident that the artillery in the Krasnodon area of Ukraine is Russia’s since Ukrainian forces have not penetrated that deeply into that separatist-controlled region. American officials also say the separatists have no experience in using such weaponry.

That bold part is of course utter bullshit. The Donetsk miners and volunteers from Russia all have had regular military service. They surely will be able to handle Grad systems, little evolved from World War II, and other artillery.

The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.

"Shown to one NYT reporter" who likely can not differentiate a Grad system from a pipe organ is hardly any proof. Why doesn't the U.S. publish the picture?

On the highway in Novoazovsk on Tuesday, Sgt. Ihor Sharapov, a soldier with the Ukrainian border patrol unit, said he had seen tanks drive across the border, although they were marked with flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Others suggested the flags were a ruse.

“I tell you they are Russians, but this is what proof I have,” said Sgt. Aleksei Panko, holding up his thumb and index finger to form a zero.

Zero proof - indeed. I have absolutely no doubt that Russian volunteers are fighting on the insurgency side. I have no doubt that some ammunition is coming from Russia. But judging from pictures of equipment and ammunition the insurgents use nearly all of it seems to be the same Soviet era stuff the Ukrainian army is using. I have yet to see and big updated Russian equipment in their hands. The big Russian invasion the Ukrainian government claims is very unlikely to have happened.

Update

This is a quite amazing "information operation" without doubt of U.S. origin.

Consider: The Ukrainian President talks about Russian affiliated insurgents in east-Ukraine and Reuters and others distribute this as "invasion". After all major news-entities repeated the "invasion" claim and the public damage is done they simply take it back.

Consider this from Tagesschau, the highest rated German TV news show:

Translation:

On #Ukraine there was a translation error by the agency Reuters: According to the correction Poroshenko did not talk of an invasion.

So there was an "invasion", distributed by major news agencies, which then turns out to have been a translation error or an intentional Poroshenko 'screw up'.

Notice that one author of the NYT piece above is Michael Gordon, who, together with Judith Miller, wrote sensational reports about proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The current head of NATO who is promoting war against Russia, Fogh-of-war Rassmussen, said 11 years ago: "Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know".

These folks and the western news agencies that promoted the WMD in Iraq claims are now claiming a Russian "invasion" in Ukraine only to retract it when the damage is done. Warmongers. All of them.

Posted by b on August 28, 2014 at 07:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (162)

August 27, 2014

Open Thread 2014-20

(Unexpected travel and busy days - sorry)

News & views ...

(Please refrain from personal attacks on other commentators. Otherwise ...)

Posted by b on August 27, 2014 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (205)

August 26, 2014

Quiz: "Not Restricted By Borders"

Who said this?

“We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”

Possible answers:

  1. Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation with regards to Fascists gangs in Ukraine.
  2. Benjamin J. Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser with regards to Jihadi gangs in Syria.
  3. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates with regards to Muslim Brotherhood gangs in Libya.

Answer

Posted by b on August 26, 2014 at 10:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (117)

August 25, 2014

Ukraine: Economy Declines, Merkel Sues For Peace

Recent statistics show that the already decaying Ukrainian economy is further turning towards depression. New money from IMF loans, if granted, will solely go into military costs. The European Union will not bail out Ukraine and Germany, hurt by Russian counter-sanctions, is suing for peace with Russia.

Nulandistan's wheels are falling off and no one one will help to repair it.

According to the Ukrainian government statistics production in July 2014 decrease compared to July 2013 (both ex-Crimea). Mining of coal and lignite was only 71% of its former numbers. Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products was 84% of its 2013 value. Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products 77% and natural gas production and distribution was 78% of its 2013 number. As the government's fight  against the people in Ukraine's industrial heartland continues these numbers will continue to go down.

Ukraine's standard of living did not, unlike in Russia, significantly increase over the last 20 years. Since the beginning of the year inflation increased to 19% and the Ukrainian central bank had to raise interest rates from 6.5% at the beginning of 2014 to 17.5% now. This to support the value of the Ukrainian currency as the hryvnya has fallen 40% since early 2014. The banking system is coming apart:

The ratio of banks’ non-performing loans will reach 30 percent this year as credit costs rise, Moody’s Investors Service predicted in a May report.
...
Ukraine’s lenders are already in a precarious position, according to the IMF, which estimates that the nation’s biggest 22 banks would require fresh capital of as much as 5 percent of gross domestic product if the hryvnia averages 12.5 per dollar this year.

The Ukraine is now requesting a third and fourth tranche of an IMF loan but the $2.2 billion it expects to receive is about as much as it plans to additionally spend for military operations. Under the conditions of the new IMF loans Ukraine's standard of living will decrease further and poverty will rise.

Some delusional minds in Kiev may hope that the EU will hand them some money. That is not going to happen. EU economies ex Germany are in serious trouble and Germany is not eager to help either:

There is precious little enthusiasm among the German public for bailout of other Eurozone members. The idea that Germany will consent to spending tens of billions of dollars rebuilding Eastern Ukraine is completely and totally divorced from political reality. Can anyone seriously imagine Angela Merkel, whose country recently had its 2014 growth estimate downgraded to a mere 1.5%, going in front of the German public to demand a substantial outlay for Ukrainian infrastructure? It would be political suicide, and Merkel is clearly a clever enough politician to understand this.

The German government had to cut is GDP forecast because of the insecurity the sanction back and forth with Russia introduced into businesses. The issue will clearly hurt her in the polls. That is likely why she is sending peace signals to Russia:

[Merkel] mentioned Ukrainian “decentralisation”, a deal on gas prices, and Ukraine’s “trade relations” with Russia as elements that could bring about an accord [between Ukraine and Russia].
...
"I want to find a way, as many others do, which does not damage Russia. We [Germany] want to have good trade relations with Russia as well. We want reasonable relations with Russia. We are depending on one another and there are so many other conflicts in the world where we should work together, so I hope we can make progress”.

This also from an interview Merkel gave to public German TV yesterday:

A solution must be found to the Ukraine crisis that does not hurt Russia and which the Ukrainian people must choose for themselves, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.
...
"There must be dialogue. There can only be a political solution. There won't be a military solution to this conflict," she said.
...
On Saturday, her vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had suggested that establishing a federal Ukraine was the only viable solution to the crisis pitting Kiev against pro-Russian separatists.

Merkel said that if Ukraine opted to rejoin the Eurasian Union with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, then Europe would not make "a huge conflict" out of it.

Especially the last point is clearly a big step back from the earlier all out "Ukraine is EU" position.

Additionally to the economic side, pressure on Merkel also grows because there is more and more doubt, even in German mainstream media, about the veracity of the Ukrainian propaganda and about the destruction of flight MH17. Why is there is no news about it? Is there a coverup (in German)?

The wheels are coming off in Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland's new Ukraine. Her project of capturing Ukraine from Russia while letting the EU pay for it is not going as planned. The likely result of Nuland's coup in Kiev will be a destroyed Ukrainian economy and no winner at all.

Posted by b on August 25, 2014 at 01:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (151)

August 24, 2014

Open Thread 2014-19

News & views ...

Posted by b on August 24, 2014 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (113)

August 23, 2014

The Fishy James Foley Video

What is fishy with the James Foley beheading video?

1. I have not seen it yet.

2. The video was well produced and at least partially staged:

"My experience of these things is when the knife gets close the knees buckle and you become like a rag doll, whereas this guy seemed to sit upright. It could be that that particular knife wasn't the one that killed him, that that was a play-acting thing," the expert told The Times.

After the part where the executioner was shown cutting Foley's head, the video fades.

The next part of the video already showed Foley's decapitated head while he was upturned back. His hands were handcuffed. But his right ankle already had bruises hinting that he had been kneeling on the ground longer than what was shown in the video. And most importantly, a different looking knife lies on the ground, next to Foley's corpse.

"The guy is obviously dead but it may be that particular scene was acted and that was why he is staying stiff," the security expert noted.

3. Unlike other beheading videos this one apparently does not show the actual beheading. It just blends from the first appearance of a slight cut to a decapitated body.

4. Few others have seen the video. It was, on behalf of U.S. officials, aggressively blocked on Youtube and Twitter even deleted accounts that linked to the video. Hundreds of other ISIS videos showing very graphic beheading of Syrians and Iraqis second by second were never censored away like this.

5. Lots of people believe the video and the "death" of James Foley is fake.

The journalist James Foley was a propagandist for the Free Syrian Army. In that he had joined important U.S. politicians. The FSA terrorists were trained by the U.S. and then converted to ISIS which the U.S. now claims to fight. The U.S. is still giving rocket launchers and TOWs to FSA gangs, aka soon-to-be-ISIS followers.

ISIS is the typical cartoon supervillain the U.S. creates whenever it wants to propagandize for more wars. It is the best possible enemy. ISIS allows for ridiculous threat inflation that will probably give Obama new wide-open congressional Authority for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and probably in Syria and elsewhere.

Those are a lot of miles from a few bloody drops in a somewhat staged video. Staged how much though is an open question.

Posted by b on August 23, 2014 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (184)

Poland Wants Bigger Freeride On U.S. Military Force And Money

Anne Applebaum, neocon Washington Post columnist and wife of Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, demands a "revitalized NATO":

NATO also needs to become a lot clearer about its goals. Europe has two immediate security issues: the threat from Russia in the east and the threat from Islamic fundamentalism to the south. [...] The basing of troops and equipment needs to be rethought completely: If we were starting from scratch, nobody would put them where they are now. NATO needs to shut down unnecessary commands and legacy bases, and move on.

Move on whereto one might ask and it is clear that Applebaum would love U.S. troops stationed in Poland and the Baltic countries. She also adds this nonsense:

... the United States contributes three-quarters of NATO’s budget ...

That math only works if you attribute the U.S. investment in aircraft carriers in the South China Sea or in  military Golf courses in Hawaii to NATO. Given the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's obviously limited geographic and political function such math is rather stupid.

Another Polish op-ed by one Slawomir Sierakowski in the NYT is more direct in making the point:

Those members who have no NATO bases are simply a gray area of second-class membership. What has become clear is that not all NATO members are equal. First-class members — Britain, Germany, Italy — are those everyone knows would be immediately defended by NATO forces if attacked. Second-class members like Poland and the Baltics would most likely be ravaged for weeks or months before NATO forces made an appearance.

This logic is also revealingly stupid. Polish military forces as well as the Baltic countries' forces are NATO forces. Poland has thereby 120,000 NATO troops stationed within its borders plus some 500,000 NATO reservists. These local NATO troops are in Poland and the Baltics. Would they not defend their countries if those were attacked?

Both Applebaum and Sierakowski do not want "NATO forces" stationed in Poland and elsewhere. They would rather howl at the suggestion of a German tank brigade stationed in Warsaw. What they want is the expensive (for U.S. taxpayers) permanent stationing of United States' military forces. This for rather obvious reasons. With U.S. forces in their backyard they would:

  • get a free ride on U.S. money,
  • have less need to invest in their own forces,
  • achieve more political freedom for aggression against their neighbors because U.S. "tripwire" troops would likely prevent possible blow backs.

For this they would break the NATO treaty with Russia which prohibits permanent foreign NATO military stationing in the former Warsaw Pact states. After the NATO coup in Ukraine Russia would surely regard such a treaty breach as a further act of aggression that requires a forceful response.

If Applebaum and Sierakowski would really fear, as they claim, "Russia's aggression" they therefore would refrain from calling for foreign NATO troops in eastern European countries.

Posted by b on August 23, 2014 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (43)

August 22, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Putin Of "Smuggling Humanitarian Aid"

The opening of this statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in a literal sense correct. But the intended accusatory implication is somewhat off:

On August, 22 Russia began smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine, ...

Why, one might ask, is there need for humanitarian aid in Ukraine? Why doesn't the government care for its people? And why is it necessary to "smuggle" aid in?

Posted by b on August 22, 2014 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

August 21, 2014

Syria: U.S. Intelligence For Syrian Air-Force Bombing

Pepe Escobar writes in ATOL on the IS rampage in Syria and Iraq:

[H]ow convenient that a Briton beheading an American - what a "special relationship" plot twist! - fully sanctions the Return of Iraq Bombing ("for months", in Obama's words); more strikes; more drones; perhaps more boots on the ground; perhaps, in the near future, a Syria extension.

Indeed. But the mission creep, or maybe the planned escalation, was already ongoing before the beheading video of James Foley was published:

Monday, the President again broadened the bombing’s objectives. The airstrikes against ISIS still protect U.S. personnel and serve humanitarian purposes, he said, but now, it seems, those are general goals that ongoing bombing serves. The President also suggested that ISIS is a security threat to the United States. Not for the first time, he said that once the new Iraqi government forms, we will “build up” Iraqi military power against ISIS.

Only the speed of this slide down a slippery slope is surprising.

The U.S. is again fully at war in Iraq. But bombing in Syria, it seems to me, will be left to the Syrian air-force. For some days now it has attacked IS targets in Raqqa with precise ammunition, not with the usual "barrel bombs". Precise weapons need precise intelligence to designate precise targets. Two knowledgeable journalist from the region have suggested that the U.S. is providing such targeting data to the Syrian government. The Angry Arab reports:

The highly able and reliable correspondent of As-Safir in Paris claims that the US has been providing intelligence help to the Syrian regime regarding positions of ISIS in Syria.

That As-Safir correspondent is Mohammad Ballout. Elijah J. Magnier, AL RAI chief international correspondent, tweeted two days ago:

#BreakingNews: #USA #Syria: #SAF Mig-29 is bombarding on daily basis #IS selective targets in #Raqqa w guided missiles following #USA info

Reuters reports that Syrian hopes to find a detente with the "west" over the threat of the Islamic State:

Ghaleb Kandil, another Lebanese journalist with close ties to the Syrian government, said the West would be forced to deal with Assad sooner or later. In return for security cooperation, Assad would demand full political rehabilitation.

"The Syrian state is the only body with adequate intelligence about the terrorists," he said.

With the U.S. providing targeting data to the Syrian air-force at least some informal detente has already been agreed upon. More opportunities for a public reversal of the "western" position will appear soon.

Unlike Pepe Escobar anticipates, "a Syria extension" of U.S. air-force attacks is unlikely to happen as long as the Syrian air-force has and keeps its capabilities to act on anti-IS (signal-)intelligence the U.S. provides. Russia (and Iran) will take care that the Syrian air-force will have the material and personal capacities to achieve that.

Posted by b on August 21, 2014 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (147)

August 20, 2014

Malooga On Ferguson - The Bigger Picture

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

@154 luca kasks: "Why don't you people wait for all the facts to come in?"

Facts are not like beloved relatives coming in to visit on cherished holidays; facts are like murdered ex-collaborators, to be secretly disappeared and buried deep in some dank forgotten hole in the ground.

Facts, for the ruling class, are dangerous beasts. Myths and stories are far safer fare.

Facts may escape unexpectedly at the very beginning of an event, before proper control systems are in place, after that all one is likely to get is the official story, or if that fails, the official fall-back position.

How could one get what is going on geopolitically by following this blog, and not get that the same conditions and principles of domination, control and brutalization operate similarly on a local scale?

Perhaps it might be helpful to detail those conditions and principles in order to remind ourselves what the theater in which these events take place is truly like, both for the residents of places like Ferguson, and for the police who manage those residents.

The war on drugs was not a war against drugs. It was a war for the ultra-rich rulers to control and profit from the cash streams of illegal drug profits, to finance un-sellable illegal wars, a method of destabilizing other countries through drug addiction, and a method of criminalizing the intentional poverty and hopelessness of the bottom 30%, or more, of the domestic population. (See: US protection of heroin in southeast Asia and Afghanistan, CIA crack distribution in US cities, Gary Webb, etc.)

The "War on Terror" is virtually the same thing: An outright war on the poor, and a destabilization of territories the empire does not control outright. Additionally, like drugs, the “war” is largely synthetic, that is to say, fake and victimless, where the perpetrators have to be secretly sponsored to create an artificial enemy, with what Rowan Berkeley accurately termed “pseudo-gangs.”

These wars are not real, in the sense that the problems as described are not real; and, such problems as may exist, are intentionally handled so as to exacerbate them, and reinforce the problem-reaction-solution dynamic.

Drugs are not a problem to be eradicated, rather, they are a medium to be employed, a means to an end. Terror, as we know, is not even a thing, it is just a tactic. You can’t criminalize a tactic, but you can employ it as a means to an end.

I don’t need to remind you that the US, the “land of the free,” has the largest -- in absolute and relative terms -- prison population on the planet. And the vast, vast, vast majority of those who are imprisoned are there for victimless crimes.

But that’s not all. Because if you grow up in the projects, and you raise your kid right, and miraculously manage to keep him away from guns and gangs, you still face two more daunting hurdles: poverty and police violence.

Let’s start with poverty. Official unemployment rates are lied over, real rates can be many times higher, and many in the projects can find no work at all, or only part-time work, without benefits, in a fast food joint. Lack of work equals lack of money, which equals lack of education, which equals lack of opportunity and work, and so on, in an endless vicious cycle.

Domestically, a new war is underway: an outright war on the poor, where those who can’t -- because of unemployment or other reasons -- keep up with their financial obligations are threatened with imprisonment for non-payment of bills, taxes, child support, court fees, parking tickets, etc. Indeed, we as a society have regressed to the days of Oliver Twist and workhouses. Prisoners must work for their keep these days as low cost producers for corporations, and quaint notions like labor laws or minimum wages do not apply to them.

Prisons have been privatized, and prisoners are just another commodity to be profited from in the capitalist system, like pork bellies, or wheat futures. Judges, like police, have been proved to have quotas: they are expected to meet a production goal where, like a factory worker, a certain number of people must be imprisoned each month or year. After all, the owners of these prisons are top campaign contributors, and they provide “jobs” to the local economy, so they must be kept happy. Cops, like judges, are under pressure to do their part in maintaining prison occupancy rates.

Any fool can see that this is not a description of a society, as anthropologists might have studied 100 years ago, but of a catabolic process, whereby a sick or diseased body (politic) greedily consumes itself on the way to the grave. And, as they quietly lament around my way, “it is what it is.”

And yet, it is worse: for those that escape these first three evils -- drugs, the “war on terror” and poverty -- which I have briefly detailed, there is a fourth evil to be circumvented: what the sociologists call “structural violence.” And this takes two forms. The first comes in the form of what psychiatrists term “frustration aggression.” Watch industrially raised chickens, confined to 2/3 of a square foot of cage space, artificial lighting, and a diet of drugs and GMO feedstock engage in vicious acts of cannibalism, and you will get a sense of what that is. The ghetto is a similarly sociologically confined space, and frustration and the inability to cope or escape can lead to misplaced violence or acting out against others.

The second type of violence is institutionalized violence, where, in an intentional process of social engineering, one group or class of people is taught to hate and fear another group or class. This is the process that I, employing Gregory Bateson’s insights, term schismogenesis. It is divide and rule at its most base level: Civil wars, genocide, pogroms, mob violence, etc.

And yes, the police are deeply inculcated in perpetuating institutional violence. They are trained to both hate and fear the public they lord over. And the system is not accidental, by any means. The police on the beat, the SWAT teams, the civic snipers, etc. -- these are people of rather limited intellectual abilities in understanding how the entire geopolitical system works. They are, by nature, not curious in that way -- rather, they are ordinary people who value fitting in, convention, tradition, and law and order in society. In other words, they buy into the myths of our society, its “freedom," and “liberty," and “goodness of purpose," and “rightness of heart," and “exceptionalism," lock, stock, and barrel. And they expect others to buy in as well in order to be “good" patriotic Americans. After all, “if you are not with us, you are against us," as George Bush Jr. explained in one of his few elegantly articulate formulations. Therefore, the police are vulnerable to being easily propagandized.

They are then compartmentalized in knowledge, grouped into subgroups, and endlessly trained and drilled in hate and fear of the official "enemy" of the day, and then trained in techniques of the highest level of violence in thwarting the alleged goals of these enemies. Police no longer make use of bobby clubs, they are now given the elite weapons of war that our soldiers use in combat. They watch movies to see how these weapons are employed. And to seal the deal, they are given special classes, trainings and drills from the same “specialists" on “terror” that train our military because the American way of subversion always includes making people feel special. Now, they are not dumb cops anymore, they are well trained, and they are told that they are our elite guard protecting the “homeland” from those who hate our ways of freedom.

They are also economically privileged compared to the people of places like Ferguson. Police have unions, and theirs are probably the only labor unions in America today not under constant attack from the ruling class. So they get generous overtime, benefits, can buy houses and raise kids in safety outside of the leviathan that I am describing. They also, to a certain extent, benefit from the inequalities of society. So they look down on those they are policing and look up to their betters: The wealthy and those who are experts in the “threats facing society today.” Go to a real wealthy neighborhood, and the cops don’t have that same smug attitude. They address you as “Sir” or Ma’am.” If they have to pull you over for having a headlight out, they can be downright apologetic -- after all, you may be a judge or a city councilman. They know who their betters are, and now they act like public servants, albeit a little falsely servile. This is obviously not the case in Ferguson, where the number of police stops annually is greater than the population of the town, and arrests are similarly elevated.

Finally, police on the force for any length of time must face the complete corruption of our society: They know that justice is a farce. They know who the drug dealers are, the money runners, the pimps, the bought politicians, and judges -- the whole nine yards. And they know that there is no will to change any of this. Moreover, they have no power over any of this: They can either choose to be complicit in the corrupt system, or keep to themselves and hope for the best not to be set up one day as a patsy.

Thus, police in our society live in a state of total cognitive dissonance, what one might call an ethical double-bind. They are forced to see that on one hand, we are supposedly the greatest society ever; on the other hand, life is hopelessly brutal and corrupt. They must believe in, or at least publicly pay lip service, to the myths they are sworn to uphold: the wars on drugs and terror; the promise of progress and a quasi-religious kind of civic and moral redemption -- that if you just keep your nose clean and work hard, you can escape the poverty of the ghetto they police; and that we live in a just society in which they are the protectors of that justice. Meanwhile, they like everyone else in America, watches as the whole system is rapidly breaking down. They know that there are no real jobs for the people of Ferguson, and that, like in the movie, “TheTruman Show,” the residents cannot escape the set.

This double bind is of course unresolvable. So police themselves, under tremendous internal strain, resort to the same frustration-aggression, and unexpected violent lashing out, in order to cope.

Under these conditions, the only power police have is over the people in the community they are supposed to serve. And the only way they can demonstrate that power is by acting out brutally and violently.

Sociologists and criminologists know that the methods police are taught and trained in don’t work, just as economists know that “trickle down” really means “flow up.” Gentler methods involving community involvement, restorative justice, etc. have all been worked out and proved to work. But the new methods actually do work, only for different purposes and to different ends: they frighten and cower populations, they allow one group to dominate another, they isolate people and pit them against each other in fruitless zero-sum games, and they destroy human lives, values, and charitableness. In sum, they control people, and allow them to be selectively harvested for profit, like a slowly maturing cash crop in the sweltering St. Louis summer heat.

And, community policing, bad as it is these days, does not even compare to the violence perpetrated by the new elite SWAT teams. These groups are as brutal as the teams used to clear houses in Iraq -- and no surprise there, for they are taught the same methods: If it moves, take it out.

And that brings us back to the police. Under the conditions I have just detailed, under the impossible constraints they forced to endure, how can they not be violent, at least some of the time. And how can they, as an organized force, not be violent in a systematic manner. Perhaps not all the time, but more often than not the social forces which police work under these days force violence to be propagated down in a systematic and totalizing manner.

And it is the awareness of all that I have described that causes many commenters here to reflexively assume police lies and violence to be ubiquitous. I hope that this is more understandable now. It is not a judgment of an individual’s (the cop who shot Michael Brown) -- who one obviously doesn’t know well -- moral value, rather it is an holistic appraisal of the social and material conditions of our society today, in which the American underclass, and their handlers, seek to operate.

Therefore, as for the police themselves, yes, perhaps out of the many hundreds of cases a year like this of police murder, corruption, assault, brutality, cover-up, bribery, theft, etc., there are possibly a few that were accidental, unintentional, or even false charges. If that were to be the case -- which appears practically impossible -- the facts would get out -- unless the cop were being intentionally set up. But, to focus on this petty detail, and insist upon its importance to the bigger picture, is to miss that bigger picture altogether. I hope we can all see this.

Posted by b on August 20, 2014 at 06:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (149)

Ukraine: West Point Graduate Dies in Botched Attack

The Ukrainian army and the oligarch funded right-wing "national guard" volunteers are not making the progress they claim to make.

On the ground, fighting raged unabated, with Ukraine’s interior minister, Arsen Avakov, asserting that Ukrainian forces had entered the town of Ilovaysk, about 11 miles east of Donetsk, the rebels’ biggest remaining stronghold in eastern Ukraine.

But that attack on Ilovaysk was repelled:

At 22:00, the “soldiers of the Donbas battalion withdrew from battle near Ilovaisk,” the press release stated. Four soldiers of the battalion were killed by militants and the battalion commander Semen Semenchenko was wounded.

One of the dead Donbas fighters was a U.S. citizen:

An American has reportedly become the first foreign casualty on the Ukrainian side of the military conflict against Russian mercenaries and Kremlin-backed forces in eastern Ukraine.

Identified only under his nom de guerre of "Franko", he reportedly died from heavy artillery fire while trying to free the town of Ilovaisk in Donetsk Oblast on Aug. 19 while serving in the volunteer Donbas Battalion, Liviy Bereg photographer Maks Levin stated on Facebook, citing another photographer, Maks Dondiuk, who has embedded himself in various Ukrainian service units.
...
“There is no way for them to get out of Ilovask,” wrote Levin citing his colleague. He added that two other volunteer battalions, Azov and Dnipro, managed to leave the area earlier in the day.

Three battalions, a brigade equivalent, was repelled by heavy artillery fire from the insurgency side.

The U.S. citizen who died was one Mark Paslavsky

Mark Paslavsky aka @BSpringnote, 55. American who got Ukr citizenship so he could fight in Donbas battlion KIA today pic.twitter.com/EqAyvpFzKg

Paslavski was once interviewed by Vice and he claimed to have once served in a "professional military". This seems to confirm the claim:

.@WestPoint_USMA cc @USArmy: class of 1981 West Point graduate Mark Paslavsky has been #KIA in #Ukraine fighting against #Russia's invasion.

There seems to be little other information available about Paslavski. One wonders what his real name was and how a West Point graduate ended up, at the age of 55, dying in a botched militia attack in east Ukraine.

Posted by b on August 20, 2014 at 05:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (71)

August 19, 2014

The Coup Announcement In Afghanistan

This in the New York Times reads like an early announcement of a democratic pro-U.S. coup in Afghanistan:

A coterie of powerful Afghan government ministers and officials with strong ties to the security forces are threatening to seize power if an election impasse that has paralyzed the country is not resolved soon.
...
After weeks of quietly discussing the prospect of imposing a temporary government, officials within the Karzai government said the best way out of a crisis that had emboldened the Taliban, weakened an already struggling economy and left many here deeply pessimistic about the country’s democratic future, might well be some form of interim government, most likely run by a committee.
...
It often happens that when power is seized during a political crisis, as in Thailand or Egypt, those taking charge argue that the step is essential to restore order and protect democracy in the long run. That is also the case here, where such a move is being advertised as a last resort to save democracy. It could also effectively discard the results of a presidential runoff election that, until it was derailed by allegations of fraud, had been promoted as a historic event in a country that never had a democratic transfer of power.

Both presidential candidates in Afghanistan, the northern alliance affiliated Abdullah Abdullah and the Pashtu candidate Ashraf Ghani had bribed whoever they could to win the election. But in the end they can not decided who had bribed more and thereby won. The length of the impasse does not matter as long as the country's bureaucracy keeps functioning, but there is one deadline that is threatened by it. This deadline may very well be the reason why this coup is intended. The question is again cui bono?

The officials said they believed they would have the backing of Afghanistan’s army, police and intelligence corps.
...
A new government is needed soon if there is to be any chance of securing deals to keep American and European troops here after the end of the year, some Afghan officials said.
...
Three senior Afghan officials said they needed a government in place by mid-September to ensure security agreements needed to keep some United States and NATO forces in Afghanistan beyond the end of the year.

Secretary of State Kerry tried twice to arrange for some badly defined national unity government in Kabul. Such a government is the cure-all solution introduced wherever the U.S. wants to stay in control. But the two candidates and the interests they represent can not agree on the terms. The security forces, depending on U.S. largess, will try their best to secure their future pay by getting the Status of Force Agreement with the U.S. signed.

As President Karzai does not want such an agreement and no new government is in sight the security forces are tempted to install their own new government. As such is the only possibility for the U.S. to keep its foothold in Afghanistan we will likely see any coup and the resulting government, like in Egypt, be recognized as "restoring democracy".

But such an arrangement will only encourage more resistance from the Taliban and other anti-government forces. The new "take no prisoners" policy of the corrupt government security forces will also increase the Taliban's support. As long as the interests of the people represented by the Taliban - and their demand for all foreign forces to leave - are not met, there will be no peace for the country.

Posted by b on August 19, 2014 at 08:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (32)

August 18, 2014

Ferguson - Sending In The Bigger Guns

And so it begins?

National Guard called in after second night of chaos in Ferguson, Missouri

Missouri's governor said on Monday he would send the National Guard into the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson to restore calm after authorities forcibly dispersed a crowd protesting last week's fatal shooting of an unarmed black teen by police.
...
At around dusk on Sunday, hundreds of protesters in Ferguson including families with young children fled to safety after police wearing gas masks and body armor fired tear gas and smoke canisters to scatter them hours ahead of the curfew.

"The smoke bombs were completely unprovoked," said Anthony Ellis, 45. "It (the protest) was led by kids on bikes. Next you know they're saying, 'Go home, Go home!'"

The Missouri Highway Patrol said "aggressors" were trying to infiltrate a law enforcement command post and that armored vehicles were deployed to ensure public safety.

According to Billmon's research the Missouri National Guard has some supremacists/neo-nazi problems. One wonders how diverse such a force is. It has some Military Police battalions all of which have experience with handling "sandniggers" in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The National Guard will surely find this or that "aggressor" in Ferguson to justify a further escalation.

One hopes that other cities will join in with the protests in Ferguson and protest against what even conservatives describe as much too militarized and aggressive use of force against citizens prevalent in the United States.

Posted by b on August 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (172)

August 16, 2014

Open Thread 2014-18

(Travelling ...)

News & views ..

Posted by b on August 16, 2014 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (209)

August 15, 2014

The Mysterious Destroyed "Russian Armored Vehicles"

Yesterday the Guardian's Shaun Walker claimed to have seen Russian military vehicle crossing the Russian border into Ukraine. I wrote elsewhere that I am skeptical of that claim:

I'd be very careful in believing the stuff Shaun Walker writes. He was with the [aid-]convoy yesterday and the convoy is halted some 20-30 kilometer away from the border. How could he have observed the (not really well defined) border from there?

Said differently: The Guardian and Shaun Walker have certainly not be neutral in their reporting and  publishing about the Ukraine conflict. There is no reason for the Russian army to invade Ukraine especially not in near an aid-convoy which is covered by dozens of "western" journalists.

But this afternoon the Ukrainian government claimed that its troops overnight had destroyed a some Russian vehicles:

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, told David Cameron in a phone call on Friday that a column of Russian armoured vehicles had been destroyed.

Now everyone in the media is jumping from the Shaun Walker report to the destroyed "Russian armored vehicle" to claim that it was a Russian military convoy that was attacked and destroyed within Ukraine.

But all armored vehicles in Ukraine are "Russian armored vehicles" as they all were constructed during the Soviet times. All the 123 tanks and APC destroyed in this conflict, most of them from the Ukrainian army, were "Russian armored vehicles". The insurgents use such vehicles as does the Ukrainian army. So even if Poroshenko's claim is true, and there was no proof presented for it at all, there is actually nothing factual that lets one connect "Russian armored vehicles" to actual Russian army vehicles.

The Russian government asserts that no Russian army vehicles have entered Ukraine. The Ukrainian government has claimed for several month that a Russian invasion is imminent or already occurring and a lot of other nonsense. Unless there is additional evidence that actual Russian army vehicles really entered Ukraine I will rather believe the Russian government.

Posted by b on August 15, 2014 at 02:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

August 14, 2014

Obama Lies - There Never Was A "Siege Of Mount Sinjar"

Obama today:

We broke the ISIL siege of Mount Sinjar,” Obama said.

"We do not expect there to be an additional operation to evacuate people off the mountain, and it's unlikely we'll need to continue humanitarian air drops on the mountain," Obama continued.

This "broke the siege" statement is a lie. There never was a "siege" on the Sinjar mountain range. The Yazidi who had fled there were quickly welcomed and evacuated to Syria by the Kurdish PKK and YPG forces. There are now some 15,000 of Yazidis in the Kurdish part of Syria. Some thousand refugees may still be in the mountains but the nomadic shepherds who live there will likely help them along.

The PKK was already there doing the job three days before the first U.S. action took place.

On August 6 GulfNews reported:

“The PKK fighters have reached the Jabal Sinjar area, where they are protecting the Sinjaris from attacks” by militants, Penjweny said.

But another PUK official warned it could be some time before the civilians can be rescued.

“The PKK is working to open a safe passage for the displaced; it is not easy and it will require days,” Harem Kamal Agha said.

Here is video uploaded August 8 headlined "YPG and PKK rescue people from Sinjar" which shows part of the evacuation. Notice the tanker trucks with water and/or gasoline to keep the refugees going.

Herbert Maddison tweeted pictures from the area:

#HPG [#PKK] guerrilla in mount #Shingal / #Sinjar vicinity with trapped Ezidis, #Kurdistan #Iraq August 9, 2014

The PKK did even more than just rescue the Yazidis:

60 PKK guerrillas arrived to Lalesh, the sacred place of #Yazidis, in order to defend pic.twitter.com/oJ8qEp1wnM #ISIS #ISIL #Kurdistan

The only reason Obama sent troops and jets to the area was to protect the city of Erbil with its CIA station, the international airport and the local headquarters of various "western" oil companies.

When U.S. jets started bombing a few ISIS positions near to Erbil most Yazidis were already safe and on their way out of the mountains. The U.S. announced its first airstrikes on Friday the 8th while the PKK had started its operation to help the Yazidis on Tuesday the 5th. There was never a blockade or a siege and always a safe way out towards Syria which the refugees were helped along by the PKK.

But that good deed was done by the socialist from the PKK and YPG. The U.S. State Department officially designates the PKK as a "terrorist group" for its fight against the Turkish state. Unlike the pesh merga under the Iraqi Kurdish leader Barzani these people know how to fight and have the discipline and training to achieve successes against ISIS and other Jihadi organizations.

But that is a story Obama does not want to tell. He needs an excuse to reintroduce U.S. forces back into Iraq, to secure the oil U.S. companies are pumping from there and to pressure for regime change in Baghdad. The Sinjar mountain "siege" was an easy excuse. Nearly as good as the sinking of the Maine and the Gulf of Tonkin incident.

Posted by b on August 14, 2014 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (88)

Ukraine: Europe Stagnates, Russia Growns

Russia seems to somewhat de-russify the conflict in Ukraine:

15:39 GMT: - Igor Strelkov, the field commander and defense minister of the self-proclaimed People’s Republic of Donetsk, has resigned, according to a statement published on the local militia’s website. He will be replaced by Vladimir Kononov as military commander, the website said.

08:36 GMT: - Head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic Valery Bolotov has resigned his position, citing an injury that prevents him to work to the full extend. He said the republic's Defense Minister Igor Plotnitsky is likely to replace him and that he will remain among the officials of the unrecognized entity in another capacity.

Last week the Donetsk People's Republic, the other of the two self-proclaimed entities in eastern Ukraine, had its head Aleksandr Boroday replaced.

At least Strelkov and Boroday are Russian citizens. Bolotov was born in Russia. Their replacements seem to be from Ukraine.

This step was probably taken to distance Russia from the insurgency.

Meanwhile 12 Red Sektor nazis from an Einsatzgruppe on its way to the battlefield were killed yesterday in an ambush by the insurgents. The city center of insurgency held Donetsk was under artillery fire today and several civilians died. Over thousand have died in the last two weeks alone and the situation in the insurgency held cities is bad with water and electricity distributions destroyed by Ukrainian government bombardments.

The Ukraine government seems unable to decide if it will allow an aid-convoy of 280 trucks with humanitarian supply from Russia into the areas of conflict. Letting the trucks in would require at least a temporary cease-fire and a stop of the continued artillery bombardment. Not letting in the urgently needed goods puts the Ukrainian government into a very bad light.

The sanctions the European Union was pressed to push onto Russia prove very effective in sending Europe back into a recession. While Europe's economic growth in the second quarter was flat and is likely to turn negative Russia's economy continues to grow.

This is the well deserved punishment for following the crazy foreign policies of the United States which are designed to keep Europe and Russia weak and apart.

Posted by b on August 14, 2014 at 12:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (83)

August 13, 2014

Iraq And The "Replacing The Head" Fallacy

Eight years after the United States and Iran agreed to enthrone Nouri al-Maliki as prime minister of Iraq they agreed to replace him with the relatively unknown Haider al-Abadi.

The United States claims it wants a more "inclusive" government while Iran goes along just making sure someone friendly to its own plans is at the top. Al-Abadi seems to fit both their ideas. But the hope that changing a head will change the path Iraq is on is vain. It is only very seldom the man at the top who is a country's problem.

It is a U.S. foreign policy fallacy that changing the man at the top, always likened to Hitler, will solve everything. The fallacy is somewhat self enforcing. Some "senior administration official" leaks to the media that X is probably not such a good man. The media then go around and collect anecdotes, rumors and quotes which support the unspecific claims about X. The next day the "senior administration official" reads the New York Times or watches CNN and fells affirmed in his position because, you know, X is really a very bad man and the sole problem and all you need to confirm that is right there in the media.

But usually it is not the person who manages a nation who is forming that nation. The nation and its situation are just as much forming the person leading it. Ghaddafi wasn't the way he was because he created Libya to his likeness but because successfully leading a united Libya required him to be the way he was. Russia is not re-surging because of Putin but because Putin formed his policies to the way Russia is. It is that, not his personality, that gives him sky high poll ratings. Maliki led Iraq in a way that gave him the support of the majority of its people. He did not give in to the blackmail by Sunni tribes which had become accustomed to the bribes the U.S. military had showered them with. It is that "lack of inclusiveness" that made him successful:

Mr. Maliki’s bloc won the most seats in April’s national election, and Mr. Maliki personally won more votes than any other politician.

If al-Abadi changes Maliki's major policies he will have no support from the majority of his country and will either end up as a brutal dictator or dead.

The rules of the political cycle in unruly countries apply:

  1. A strongman is replaced by a weak man who resorts to force to rule over a fractured society
  2. See #1

Replacing Maliki, a still complicate and uncertain process, will not change Iraq, its problems, like the U.S. support for a Kurdish oil state, or the policy decisions its leaders will have to make to stay liked and alive.

Posted by b on August 13, 2014 at 09:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (126)

August 11, 2014

Open Thread 2014-17

Some meta issues:

If your comment does not appear it is usually hanging in the automatic spam filter over which I have NO influence. I manually check the spam queue at least once a day and release non-spam comments falsly caught in there. It does not help when you repeatedly try to publish the same comment over and over again filling up the spam queue. It just makes it more laborious for me to clean up the queue.

Some commentators are blocked from this blog and I will continue to aggressively block those who fall in one of these categories:

  • One issue folks: Everything happening in this world must be the result of the deft work of the Zionists, the British royals, the freemasons, the Jews, Islam, the Pope or who/whatever your favorite personal demon is. Sorry, the world is not that simple. If that fact is beyond your mental capacity go elsewhere. Such simpleminded themes do not help to gain knowledge but detract from the discussion of the issues at hand.
  • People who use (too many) four letter words and lack general manners.
  • Those who constantly attack other commentators or the proprietor of this blog. If you have a difference in opinion use arguments, not foul speech.
  • People who only comment to promote another blog.
  • Folks who use many many one-liner-comments thereby disrupting the flow instead of collecting their thoughts and writing one comment that fits the purpose.

Solely depending on my mood and personal judgement I may ban folks for other reasons. It is my time and money that keeps this blog up and the blocking privilege is part of the gratification. Deal with it.

---

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on August 11, 2014 at 03:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (205)

August 10, 2014

The Islamic State Prepares For A Big Attack - Baghdad Or Aleppo?

A month ago I wrote that the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) is now the only game in town when it comes to insurgents fighting against the Syrian (and now also Iraqi) state:

In a few month the Islamic Front will no longer exist. It will vanish like that phantasy of a Free Syrian Army. Parts of it will swear allegiance to the Islamic State, parts will give up fighting and parts will change over to the government side. Then the real war against ISIS will start.

The "moderate rebels" Washington has been searching for for years are a unicorn. Whomever the U.S. gave weapons to and trained in Jordan and Turkey is now part of ISIS.

The Islamic State consolidates itself (recommended) in west Iraq and across the east and north of Syria:

The frontiers of the new Caliphate declared by Isis on 29 June are expanding by the day and now cover an area larger than Great Britain and inhabited by at least six million people, a population larger than that of Denmark, Finland or Ireland. In a few weeks of fighting in Syria Isis has established itself as the dominant force in the Syrian opposition, ...

By now IS generates enough money from oil sales and blackmail to support itself. It has taken an immense haul of weapons from four Iraqi divisions and now also from the Syrian Brigade 93 which it defeated a week ago:

In addition to 5+ 122mm D-30 howitzers, the IS captured approx. 20 T-55 tanks & 1 ZSU-23-4 Shilka SPAAG

Note: The haul in Iraq was much, much bigger than this one.

The Islamic State has enough experienced soldiers to handle these weapons. How good its logistics are run though is an open questions. Those may eventually turn out to be its weak point.

The Islamic State also gained in numbers. Even the ardent promoter of the non-existent Syrian Free Army Hassan Hassan now admits that all these folks are under IS control. International forces so far aligned with Al-Qaeda are moving over to IS. Tribes in the newly captured areas pledge allegiance to the Islamic State and add to its forces.

One military expert says:

ISIL has now progressed from local victories to a regional strategy. They have moved from what is referred to in Counterinsurgency warfare as Phase II to Phase III operations, or transformation from fixed covert insurgency to an overt war of mobility. This is when a terrorist group grows strong enough to come out of the shadows to transform into a mobile “liberation army”.

Colonel Pat Lang remarks:

Today I am told that DoD has decided that the IS force is the most capable non-Israeli army in the ME. pl

IS has lots of light and heavy weapons, it has money, it is led by experienced senior officers from Saddam's old army and it has a large force of indoctrinated foot soldiers. What is it going to do with these capabilities?

In his speech declaring the Caliphate Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi promised to do something big. He needs a big event to consolidate his position. The former Saddam officers aligned with IS want to capture Baghdad and regain their old status. The current attack against the Kurdish Erbil is not the big one but just a sideshow. Baghdadi wants to eliminate it as a U.S. position that could otherwise be used to attack his back. As Pat Land sees it:

When they are done in the north they will return to the problem of eliminating the present Iraqi government. I doubt if they plan to occupy the Shia south of Iraq but the destruction of what remains of Iraqi government central authority is certainly possible.

If they succeed in doing that much, Jordan, Lebanon and the Gulf will beckon.

But over the last weeks the Islamic State also consolidated its position in Syria and connected the two battlefields into one.

Elijah J Magnier, a Middle East analyst and journalist with excellent sources, suggests a different target for the big attack as storyfied here. Excerpts:

Hundreds of tanks & sophisticated anti-air artillery gained from #Iraq & #Syria are gathering for a spectacular attack Baghdadi promised.
...
2my mind, #IS is pulling z attention on #Iraq 2hit harder in #Syria, knowingly that a) #SAA & #Assad would attract less interntionl help

Magnier suggests that the Islamic State will run a spectacular attack on Aleppo and will probably capture the city. He is right to believe that - should the Islamic State use its full force - the weakened Syrian army will have little chance to hold this important city. The result would be a huge bloodbath.

While the U.S. would probably try to stop an attack on Baghdad, though impossible with a few pinprick airstrikes, it is unlikely that any international help would come to counter an attack on Aleppo. Patrick Cockburn concurs:

Isis may well advance on Aleppo in preference to Baghdad: it’s a softer target and one less likely to provoke international intervention. This will leave the West and its regional allies – Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey – with a quandary: their official policy is to get rid of Assad, but Isis is now the second strongest military force in Syria; if he falls, it’s in a good position to fill the vacuum. Like the Shia leaders in Baghdad, the US and its allies have responded to the rise of Isis by descending into fantasy.

In my view the Islamic State is at its core a genocidal and extremely dangerous force that should be defeated by all means as soon as possible. There are now believable claims that it just killed or buried alive some 500 Yazidi. This isn't its first or last massacre it committed. The Islamic State has thereby very different dimensions than the laughing stock Al-Qaeda threat we were told to fear over the last decades. If it has more time to gain additional resources it will become much more difficult to defeat.

Unfortunately, because the threat of the old Al-Qaeda was over-hyped, this new force has little to fear from the "west". Obama promised to only protect Erbil for its oil and for its value as an intelligence base. A few air attacks from a far away carrier can not hold a city against a determined capable force. Erbil may soon fall.

Obama withholds any further weapons or help to the government of Iraq because he wants to blackmail it into some phantasy of "national unity government":

The ongoing strikes, which began Friday, address “immediate” concerns of protecting Americans, besieged minorities and critical infrastructure in the north, Obama said. But comprehensive aid to push back advances by the Sunni Muslim extremists through much of the country over the past two months will require a new Iraqi government, he said.

For the first time I can think of I -in this case- agree with the neocon warmonger John McCain:

Mr. McCain said he would favor sending combat air controllers into Iraq to help identify targets for airstrikes. Heavy military equipment should be rushed into Erbil, the Kurdish capital, the senator said. And he said he believed the airstrikes must extend into ISIS-controlled territory in Syria.

Airstrikes can not win wars and can not take ground away from the Islamic State. Local forces will have to do that. But airstrikes can destroy its heavy weapons and the ammunition depots it captured. The Syrian air-force is too small to achieve this. An Iraqi air-force does not exists. Turkey and Jordan have some capabilities but are either unofficially allied with IS or fear its retribution. The U.S. could run such an air campaign. It would take the U.S. air-force supported by special operation groups on the ground only a few weeks to reduce the Islamic State to an infantry force incapable of larger geographic actions.

But Obama and the people informing him still believe that the Islamic State, which they partially helped to grow, is some cuddly homegrown Al-Qaeda that can be used to further this or that geopolitical phantasy. They are wrong to believe this.

Posted by b on August 10, 2014 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (206)

August 08, 2014

Malooga On WW III: "All the World's a Spectacle"

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

@Noirette, et al, from previous thread: Evgeny Fedorov's presentations are very good; certainly in communicating the level of threat Russia feels. Also recommended are the various audio and video presentations of Joaquin Flores to be found around the web and on his website - Center for Syncretic Studies. He's quite young and a bit of an odd bird -- a former radical leftist from LA, now Dugin acolyte, or so he claims -- one never knows just who anyone really is these days on the innertubes. But he is quite humble and he has the big picture of a multi-polar world -- something which can unite people over many political persuasions -- foremost in his mind. Both give a good sense of what might be expected over the long game, and why Russia is taking things slow. Essential background.

But the most concise and prescient background on the current world situation are two brief articles Christof Lehmann, proprietor of the nsnbc website, wrote: first, "Russia – E.U. Meeting in Brussels: Risk of Middle East and European War increased," way back on Dec 22, 2012, and the second, "The Atlantic Axis and the Making of a War in Ukraine", written last week.

In the former article he begins: "On 21. December 2012 the political leaders of 27 E.U. countries and Russia´s President Vladimir Putin met in Brussels. On the top of the agenda were problems which are directly related to the ongoing war in Syria. Russian control over major parts of the energy which the European Union will require over the course of the next 100 years, Russian-Iranian dominance over the most competitive gas resources and pipelines in the Middle East, US-American and British initiatives to change the energy-dynamics militarily and a European dilemma between Trans-Atlantic allies who are pushing Europe toward a war with Russia to save the Petro Dollar and greater integration of Russian and European energy sectors and market economies."

He begins the later article thusly: "The war in Ukraine became predictable when the great Muslim Brotherhood Project in Syria failed during the summer of 2012. It became unavoidable in December 2012, when the European Union and Russia failed to agree on the EU’s 3rd Energy Package. The geopolitical dynamics which are driving the war in Ukraine were known in the early 1980s."

Remember that the real game is the breaking of the PetroDollar, not the back of poor "Chocula" Petrodollarshenko, and so every day that a major conflagration can be forestalled is a day closer to the real goal; and also that what we are witnessing in the Ukraine is cutting-edge 4th generation warfare -- sort of a quietly lethal pas de deux. One should not be so naive as to believe that this conflict has taken any of the world powers by surprise -- They all have had close to two years notice, at minimum. In a sense, we are still in the "chess opening" stage, where the majority of the moves have been charted out by both sides. But the middle game is very close at hand. And, yes, it is theoretically possible for the three sides to come to a backroom agreement before the deadly endgame closes in upon us.

All the players are aware of the solemnity of the moment; certainly, there is far more action going on behind the curtains than we can possibly know. All Western actions -- from Nuland's doughnuts and raving expletives to Ashton's "Gosh!" now-forgotten investigation, from the barbarities of Maidan medieval siege warfare replete with Trebuchet to the various levels of massacre -- at Maiden, in Odessa, Mariupol, behind the lines, including Israel's atrocities, to the false-flag downing of MH17, and so on down the line -- beyond the piteous human cost -- are simply meant to incite and humiliate Russia into the pre-layed trap of overwhelming dollar dominated retaliation.

As I said above, we are witnessing a kind of 4th-generational street theater where "all the world's a stage and all the men and women merely players." Same goes with the almost inexplicable: Bidens's "fractious" son, and Rothschild's drilling in the Golan. We are watching a continually escalating rollout of "Shock and Awe" twisted into a kind of Captagon addled "Ground Hog's Day" macabre mobius loop. Debord and Baudrillard and Stockhaussen must be dancing on their graves at the sheer spectacle of it all: Shock and Awe as daily fare. The Empire of Chaos as Russian Roulette with punk piercings, khokhol hairstylings, and wolfsangel tatoos. Its enough to give one a chub.

Expected reality is turned on its head: To "sanction" is to give permission, but "sanctions" are a penalty. Karl Rove's famous quote has been updated: "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own hyperreality. And while you're studying that hyperreality -— judiciously, as you will -— we'll act again, creating other new hyperrealities..." The wanton destruction of Slaviansk as Bizarro version of Sim-City. Bloodless Sims on MH17. The only predictable is the unpredictable. Through the gnostic machinations of empire, the "banality of evil" has been spiritually transmogrified into a transcendent celebration, an entertainment, a celebration: "The Ravishment of Evil" -- and served up to western tastes as a form of exotic entertainment.

In Egypt, during the so-called "Arab Spring" modern day Lawrence of Arabias galloped through the set on camels, In Iraq, "I Dream of Jeannie" plays the role of sex jihadi, and now in the Ukraine, we consume daily re-runs of post-punk "Combat." One wonders if Phillip Zelikow will one day receive credit for the script, which is surely worthy of an "Oscar."

Baudrillard's "The Spirit of Terrorism" in particular merits a close re-reading. He muses, "War as continuation of the absence of politics by other means." The spectator, once an actor, is shocked into passivity. Performing the "détournement" implicit in Debord's text where the powers that be are the real terrorism, we find that "Another aspect of the terrorists' victory is that all other forms of violence and the destabilization of order work in its favour. Internet terrorism, biological terrorism, the terrorism... of rumor -- are all ascribed to (the other). He might even claim natural catastrophes as his own. All forms of disorganization and perverse circulation operate to his advantage. The very structure of generalized world trade works in favour of impossible exchange."

Poor, pathetic Viktor "Yorick"ovich was in way over his head, thinking he could play the two opposing forces of human civilization against themselves and come out unscathed and ahead; indeed, he is lucky to come out of this with his own head. Putin has nothing but contempt for the fool. He reminds one of the Zen koan where the Abott comes upon two monks fighting over a cat. He seizes the cat, and in some versions only threatens to cut it in half until the monk who really own's the cat relents and shouts "Stop!", in others he actually does that which Thomas Merton refers to as "the unspeakable." In our own hyper-real version, Yanukovich does cut the cat in half, only to recoil in horror when he realizes that it is HIS cat that now lies dead before him. The moral is instructive, for in reality Putin offered to divide the cat fairly, only to be refused.

In hyperreality, the bedraggled Ukrainian cat, shambolically and symbolically, has been elevated to human existence itself. To quote Baudrillard, ‘by seizing all the cards for itself, [the west] forced the Other to change the rules.’ The west asserted moral, cultural and economic dependence. Violence was then left as the only option for the Other to pursue.

I certainly do not claim to be able to predict the future here -- but I am sure that we have not been in such dangerous territory since the Cuban Missile Crisis -- although with time less of a crisis factor. And I have NEVER in my lifetime heard a President of the US trash talk a major power, much less two of them at once, to their faces, as Obama did this past week in the Rothschild rag to Russia and China: Russia, who couldn't even land a position as one of Santa's elves because it doesn't know how to "make anything," and China, the inscrutable Oriental who is not "sentimental, and ... not interested in abstractions." Well, he never claimed to be Malraux at work upon "Man's Fate!"

Clearly, the US is doing everything possible to provoke and spark a fire in the heart of Europe, which the world -- should it survive -- will never forget. All the world's a stage... Shakespeare could not know how predictive his poem could be, when he ended it thusly: "Last scene of all, That ends this strange eventful history, Is second childishness and mere oblivion, Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything."

Posted by b on August 8, 2014 at 12:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (141)

What Obama Told The Caliph

U.S. F-18 jets bombed two U.S. made artillery pieces the Islamic State was using to prepare its attack on Erbil in the Kurdish part of Iraq.

The attack came after Obama addressed Caliph Pol Pot II yesterday to suggest that the Islamic State should leave the few the areas which are of positive American interests off its target list:

Obama, in a statement delivered at the White House late Thursday, said that strikes would be launched against extremist convoys “should they move toward” the Kurdish capital of Irbil, where the United States maintains a consulate and a joint operations center with the Iraqi military.

“We intend to take action if they threaten our facilities anywhere in Iraq . . . including Irbil and Baghdad,” he said.

What Obama did not say is the actual message Caliph Pol Pot II will have received:

  • "You are free to target anything you like but the U.S. embassy in Baghdad and the Kurdish part of Iraq. There U.S. companies are invested in oil, there we have this big new intelligence station and and there the Israelis have their large, long running intelligence operation targeting Iran."
  • "Otherwise you are free to attack anybody in Syria or the rest of Iraq. We will do nothing, not even bomb the heavy weapons you have, to deny you total victory. Just like you we do not care what will happen to this or that minority or majority there. Fuck the Yazidis. (But do you really have to make these bombastic public relation efforts with all its massacre movies? They rill up these R2P idiots who don't understand the real purpose of that doctrine.)
  • "You took about four Iraqi divisions worth of fine heavy weapons and ammunition 'Made in U.S'. It is excellent stuff. Feel free to use it. We could of course bomb all of it without setting a foot on the ground. But that's not in my interest. Say 'Tanks for the memories', hehe. We will sell another set to those dupes in Baghdad. We hope to have them resupplied and ready for your next raid before you run out of your current stock."
  • "By the way - in case you need some additional anti-tank weapons. We have just given several dozens of TOW to some groups in north-west Syria. There is a good chance for you to 'negotiate' access to some of them."
  • "I am told you announced that you are preparing something big, like really big, like 9/11. Fine, but please leave us out of it. We are busy with our war on Russia. How about Jeddah?"
  • "Hey, or what about attacking Iran? I'd like to do that myself but my people won't let me."
  • "I really like your new Jihadi gift shop in Istanbul. My kids were asking for some of that merchandize. Do they take Visa?"

Posted by b on August 8, 2014 at 12:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (52)

Gaza: The War Is On Again

The talks in Cairo during the agreed 72 hour cease-fire failed. Israel and Egypt would not commit to the Palestinian demand to lift the siege on Gaza and to open the border crossings. The Israeli delegation left the talks even before the truce period ended at 8 am local time today (Notice how the Washington Post is lying about this fact.)

As soon as the 72 hour period ended the Islamic Jihad military wing in Gaza started to launch rockets at Israeli targets near the Gaza border. Hamas did not join in - a signal that there was still a chance for further negotiations. But about an hour later Israel launched new air strikes at northern Gaza. Palestinians near the border areas flee towards Gaza city.

The Israeli prime minister Netanyahoo had claimed that his recent war on Gaza had "restored Israel's deterrence". That was obviously an illusion.

Hamas had announced that it would next target Israel's only international airport near Tel Aviv. Stopping international air traffic brings serious damage to Israel's economy. Hamas will also try to bait the Israeli army into re-invading the Gaza strip. Its calculation is that more Israeli casualties, as would be certain in close-in fighting, might push the Israeli government to finally lift the seven year old siege.

There may be chance for that as the UN as well as the U.S. have lately spoken out against the continued blockade. But Israel's hardliners will disagree. They still believe in "deterrence" even though such never works when there is no alternative left for the other side but to slowly die. When and how this war on Gaza may now end is not obvious while the nightmare in Gaza continues.

Posted by b on August 8, 2014 at 06:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (70)

August 07, 2014

Ukraine: One Nazi Resigns - Russia Sanctions Start To Blow Back

The most aggressive man in the Ukrainian government, the Secretary of the National Security and Defense Council Andrey Parubiy resigned today:

The media stated that Parubiy decided to resign after he was ordered [by President Petro Poroshenko] to declare another ceasefire in Kiev’s military operation in the southeast of the country, but he refused to do so.

Parubiy was co-founder of the far-right Social-National Party of Ukraine and was creator and commander of the Einsatzgrupppen like volunteer National Guard forces which are currently suppressing the people in the east.

It seems that the indiscriminate shelling of major cities in the east under Parubiy's command had finally had enough negative publicity effects. The UN is alarmed about the refugee streams and the humanitarian situation and even Amnesty International is now accusing Parubiy's Einsatzgruppen of abductions and ill-treatment of the eastern population. Poroshenko needs to stop the war before public support for him  completely disappears.

An attempt today by the new rulers to clear away the Maidan protesters who helped them into power ended, like before, in outright street fights. These protesters are still waiting for any change. Corruption in Ukraine is as big as ever. Only the oligarchs who end up with the peoples money have changed.

NATO chief Rasmussen, who is currently in Kiev, will be disappointed if Kiev decides to stop the war. He is dearly hoping for Russia to militarily intervene in Ukraine which would then justify further NATO aggressions. If Kiev keeps shelling the local population Russia will need to send peacekeepers to stop the killing. If the shelling stops there is no reason for Russia to step in.

The outright stupid sanctions the EU put on Russia are creating the well deserved blowback. The Russian president Putin's approval rating soared to 87%. The counter sanctions Russia is implementing by rejecting food imports from the countries sanctioning it will be great for Russia's local producers. Some "western experts" believe that sanctions will over time push the Russian middle class against Putin. Anyone with a slight insight into Russia's social history will call this bullshit.

Under pressure Russia always unites and the national character is one that will rather do without any luxury at all before giving in to foreign pressure. Russia has enough land, people and resources to produce everything it needs. There is no way sanctions on Russia will have any of the allegedly desired effects.

Posted by b on August 7, 2014 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (107)

August 06, 2014

U.S. Sanctions Erode Its Foreign Influence

A few days ago the Leveretts looked at the effects of U.S. financial sanctions and the other ways the U.S. pisses off major countries. They find that the current path of U.S. foreign policy will erode the U.S. dollar hegemony and lead to a destruction of the "extraordinary privilege" (de Gaulle) the U.S. has had with the ability to print the world's reserve currency. The political erosion of the dollar will be felt in the commodity markets and especially in energy deals which will then have further effects in foreign relations: Petrodollars, Petroyuan, and the Ongoing Erosion of American Hegemony

Looking ahead, use of renminbi to settle international hydrocarbon sales will surely increase, accelerating the decline of American influence in key energy-producing regions. It will also make it marginally harder for Washington to finance what China and other rising powers consider overly interventionist foreign policies—a prospect America’s political class has hardly begun to ponder.

Sadly, only few will listen to the Leveretts but now Bloomberg picked up the theme: Russia Sanctions Accelerate Risk to Dollar Dominance

While no one’s suggesting the dollar will lose its status as the main currency of business any time soon, its dominance is ebbing. The greenback’s share of global reserves has already shrunk to under 61 percent from more than 72 percent in 2001. The drumbeat has only gotten louder since the financial crisis in 2008, an event that began in the U.S. when subprime-mortgage loans soured, and the largest emerging-market nations including Russia have vowed to conduct more business in their currencies.

“The crisis created a rethink of the dollar-denominated world that we live in,” said Joseph Quinlan, chief market strategist at Bank of America Corp.’s U.S. Trust, which oversees about $380 billion. “This nasty turn between Russia and the West related to sanctions, that can be an accelerator toward a more multicurrency world.”

Some five years ago we already looked at this decline of the U.S. dollar as reserve currency and its effects:

So far the U.S. could borrow cheaply and pay back less in real value than the original loan. That privilege is now going away. The trillions the U.S. currently needs to borrow from abroad will have to be payed back in full. That is a major change in its global power status and will seriously decrease its influence in international policy questions.

The European Union which stupidly followed the U.S. sanctions on Russia with its own is also hurting itself:

Financial interdependence offers a powerful opportunity for coercive diplomacy.

But the unintended message Europe's leaders sent is that financial interdependence is a source of vulnerability that countries like Russia, but also China, Iran and others, would be wise to avoid.
...
Europe's financial sanctions against Russia likewise add incentives for countries to look for alternative arrangements that reduce financial interdependence.

Moreover, those incentives will only increase if the sanctions are successful. Even if Europe encourages the Russian government to change its policy toward Ukraine, the Russian government will respond over the longer term by seeking financial arrangements that leave it less exposed to such coercion.

It will take years until the dollar will lose its reserve status but the decline is already visible. More and more deals are now made bilateral between partners in their own currencies and get settled outside of the financial channels the U.S. tries to sanction, block, spy on or to criminalize.

The U.S. foreign policy reliance on sanctions, pressure and war is sawing off the high branch the U.S. is sitting on.

Posted by b on August 6, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (171)

August 04, 2014

Cuba: Obama Promissed Better Relations, Sent USAID For "Regime Change"

Until mid 2012 US AID, the alleged "development organization" known for clandestine work against U.S. enemies, ran a secret Twitter like service in Cuba to "promote democracy", i.e. incite opposition to the government there. It also ran, as the Associated Press now reports ( long version, documents), another undercover program aimed at recruiting Cuban youth as U.S. agents:

An Obama administration program secretly dispatched young Latin Americans to Cuba using the cover of health and civic programs to provoke political change, a clandestine operation that put those foreigners in danger even after a U.S. contractor was hauled away to a Cuban jail.

The U.S. contractor, one Alan Gross, was hauled to jail in Cuba because he secretly distributed U.S. communication devices like satellite phones for U.S. supervised Internet access. He allegedly also worked for US AID.

But the scheme uncovered now is even worse. Poor young Latin American people were hired for very small money to go to Cuba under cover and to find Cuban "activists" who could be recruited for U.S. political purposes. This not only endangered the little trained Latin American agents and those they recruited but it also abused health services and other legitimate needs as a cover:

In one case, the workers formed an HIV-prevention workshop that memos called "the perfect excuse" for the program's political goals - a gambit that could undermine America's efforts to improve health globally.

As in Pakistan, where the CIA abused a polio prevention program to spy on the suspected Osama Bin Laden, the blowback will not only hit "America's efforts" for health projects but also those of everyone else. It will literally hit and possibly kill the persons that do the health work on the ground.

Using an fake HIV project in Cuba also shows the utter stupidity of the wannabe spies at USAID. Cuba is the state with the lowest HIV infection rate in the Caribbean. Its rate is even lower than the rate in Canada and Switzerland and only a third of the HIV rate in the United States. Anyone who starts a HIV prevention service in Cuba rather than in a hundred other countries sticks out like a large red pole in the blue Caribbean sea.

All three secret USAID infiltration attempts in Cuba, the "communication equipment", the "Twitter service" and this "activist recruiting" drive were launched under Obama and then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Both had promised better relations with Cuba and then immediately started secret "regime change" programs which, when becoming public as they did, would undermine all such efforts.

This only shows again why every nation on this world must distrust ANY word that comes out of official Washington. The leaders from African countries who are just now visiting Washington should keep the Cuban example in mind when Obama tries to charm them into U.S. dependency. None of his words can be trusted or be accepted as having any real meaning.

Posted by b on August 4, 2014 at 10:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (73)

August 03, 2014

Obama's Russia Policies Are Based On Ignorance, Illusions

Obama's Russia policies are based on ignorance and driven by illusions:

President Barack Obama dismissed Russia as a nation that "doesn't make anything" and said in an interview with the Economist magazine that the West needs to be "pretty firm" with China as Beijing pushes to expand its role in the world economy.
...
"Immigrants aren't rushing to Moscow in search of opportunity. The life expectancy of the Russian male is around 60 years old. The population is shrinking," he said.

Fact: Russia is making and exporting not only raw materials but also lots of industrial goods, machinery (65% increase over 5 years) and weapons:

Russia has cemented its place as the world's second largest suppliers of arms. In 2012, the country shipped $15.13 billion worth of weapons, up $2 billion from the year before.
...
Although Russian arms manufacturers still sell only a third of what their American counterparts achieve, the yearly rate of growth in exports and the over-fulfillment of annual plans cannot fail to please the authorities and defense industry chiefs.

Fact: Russia has strong, net positive migration:

Russia experiences a constant flow of immigration. On average, close to 300,000 legal immigrants enter the country every year; about half are ethnic Russians from the other republics of the former Soviet Union. There is a significant inflow of ethnic Armenians, Uzbeks, Kyrgyz and Tajiks into big Russian cities, something that is viewed unfavorably by some citizens. In addition, there are an estimated 4 million illegal immigrants from the ex-Soviet states in Russia.

Fact: Over the last decade life expectancy in Russia has significantly increased:

Russia - Life expectancy at birth
DateLife expectancyLife expectancy - MenLife expectancy - Women
2012 70.46 64.90 76.30
2011 69.66 64.00 75.60
2010 68.86 63.10 74.90
2009 68.70 62.80 74.70
2008 67.90 61.80 74.20
2007 67.50 61.40 73.90
2006 66.60 60.40 73.20
2005 65.47 58.87 72.40
2004 65.42 58.87 72.30
2003 65.01 58.51 71.83
2002 65.09 58.50 72.00
2001 65.49 59.00 72.30
2000 65.34 59.00 72.00

Fact: Russia has genuine population growth:

[L]last year [..] Russia recorded its first year of natural population growth since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, with the number of births exceeding the number of deaths by 24,013. The trend continued through the beginning of this year, according to data released by the State Statistics Service at the end of May.

All four claims Obama made in the Economist interview quoted above are demonstrably false. They are mere illusions.  How qualified then is he to decide on policy issues with regard to Russia?

Posted by b on August 3, 2014 at 09:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

Islamic State Attacks In Iraq And Lebanon

The Islamic State is on the march. Over the last days it had conquered several villages in Iraq and today it attacked and conquered the city of Sinjar and the surrounding province of the same name. This is in the north west of Iraq in the Nineveh governorate and the province, next to Mosul, was held by Kurd Peshmerga forces. These folded and fled after they ran out of ammunition. Many villages in the area are inhabited by Yazidi, an Kurd ethno-religious community with an ancient religion comparable to Zoroastrianism.

According to the UN over 200,000 Yazidi have fled from their homes for fear of getting killed by IS savages.

The fighting is moving to the Mosul dam, a strategic target more important than the city it is named after. Today the dam is still held by Kurd forces but as the Islamic State can now attack them from two sides their current position is in trouble.

It only now becomes clear how much material power IS has gained after some divisions of the Iraqi army around Mosul simply dissolved under its first attack. IS has salvaged the nearly complete inventory of four army divisions including tanks, missiles and thousands of tons of ammunition. This is enough material to fit out a mechanized army of some 60,000 men. IS also gained access to air-defense capabilities far beyond the usual Man Portable Missiles (MANPADs). The United States ordered its airlines to fly at higher altitudes over Iraq:

U.S. airlines are now prohibited from flying over Iraq below 30,000 feet, the Federal Aviation Administration said. The agency, which had previously restricted airlines from flying below 20,000, issued the new requirement because of "the potentially hazardous situation created by the armed conflict in Iraq."

The Islamic State is not only attacking in Iraq. In Syria, near the Lebanese border, the Syrian army supported by Hizbullah is clearing the western Qalamon mountain area were several thousand of insurgents had fled to. The Lebanese town of Arsal, just across the border, is the insurgents main support base. The Lebanese army had for some time isolated the town but in the last 24 hours was attacked by major Islamic State forces. Several Lebanese army and policemen were killed and some were captured. The Lebanese army is pouring in more forces but the fighting seems to be very serious. Breaking the isolation of Arsal would allow the Islamic State to attack other areas in Lebanon including those supporting Hizbullah.

The New York Times report on the attack of Arsal is somewhat astonishing (or intentionally) naive about the attacking forces. It takes some ten paragraphs for the reader to find out that the attackers are savages loyal to the Islamic State. The mess starts with the headline: Gunmen From Syria Hit Army Checkpoints in Lebanon

Gunmen who crossed into northeastern Lebanon from Syria attacked several army checkpoints in a border town on Saturday in what appeared to be an effort to win the release of a Syrian rebel who had been detained by Lebanese troops.
...
... the gunmen, identified as rebel fighters from across the border in Syria.
...
... attacks by the gunmen ...
...
... gunmen had also attacked homes ... seized by rebels ...
...
... the gunmen had also seized 17 members of the security forces at a police station and wanted to exchange them for the Syrian rebel, Imad Ahmad Jomaa, ...
...
... rebel fighters cross into Lebanon ...
...
... the army had detained Mr. Jomaa, who was accused of being a commander of a rebel brigade that had joined the Nusra Front, ...
...
... in a video posted on YouTube late last month, Mr. Jomaa and members of his brigade can be seen pledging their allegiance to a more extreme group, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, or ISIS. ...
...
The rebels who attacked ...
...
...at least at a local level, Mr. Jomaa and his fighters have publicly embraced ISIS recently.

One really has to read down to last paragraphs of the NYT piece to find out that the local "gunmen" and those glorified "Syrian rebels" involved in attacking the Lebanese army here are fighters loyal to the Islamic State.

Why is the NYT burying this fact? Alarm bells should go off when these radicals, with their now enormous military potential, are launching an all out attack against Lebanese security forces.

Posted by b on August 3, 2014 at 11:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (68)

August 02, 2014

Netanyahoo Is Giving Up

Without taking many more military casualties Israel can not reach any of its declared objectives in Gaza. Netanyahoo is giving up for now and has ordered the retreat of all Israeli forces. He rejects any negotiated cease fire as he politically would win nothing but possibly loose a lot through it. Hamas is thereby free to do whatever it decides to do.

As soon as the fighting dies somewhat down the censorship over the Israeli press will have to be lifted. The reports then will show that the political decision making over the attack on Gaza was crude and panicked. It will also show that the IDF's operations were hapless and with only few successes. The army lost at least 64 soldiers to enemy fire while in its last incursion into Gaza only 6 were killed by the opposition. There will be many questions asked to the high command and heads will roll.

Some commission may even ask why Netanyahoo decided to start this unsuccessful campaign at all. I also expect that Obama and Kerry will be looking for some revenge for the insults Netanyahoo publicly threw at them. His career as politician will be damaged and possibly even over.

Meanwhile the ordeal of Gaza and its peoples will continue.

Posted by b on August 2, 2014 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (96)

Ukraine: What Is The Situation?

The news from Ukraine is quite vague. It is not exactly clear to me who is gaining in the military field. While the Ukrainian military claims to have some successes it is also losing quite a lot of material and personal. At least ten Ukrainian soldiers, probably many more, were killed in an ambush yesterday. Add to that many pictures of destroyed tanks and APCs.

So what is really the military and political situation? Is there a reliable side or source for information on it?

Posted by b on August 2, 2014 at 01:38 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

August 01, 2014

A Zionist Demanding Genocide

One would think that a sad, sorry history of ones own people would create some sensitivity towards other people. But it does not. At least some people rather seem to take the horrors their ancestors had to endure as behavioral guidance for their own attitude towards other people in similar sorry circumstances.

 

The Times of Israel now removed the piece (image of full text, full text on pastebin) from its website but it is still up at the U.S. paper 5 Towns Jewish Times and the writer is defending it on Twitter (screenshot):

5 Ceasefires all breached through missiles and kidnappings. There is only one way to neutralize the threat. Wake-up!

Some core sentences of the screed:

What other way then is there to deal with an enemy of this nature other than obliterate them completely?
...
If political leaders and military experts determine that the only way to achieve its goal of sustaining quiet is through genocide is it then permissible to achieve those responsible goals?

In the 1930s/40s Reinhard Heidrich and some other mass murderers agreed with the author of the piece and answered those questions in the affirmative.

Judging from online comments by Israel supporters many of them would support at least the thrust of the piece. There is also another piece calling for genocide at the Times of Israel site:

Just as the Amalekites were the victims of their own king, whom Saul left alive and why today, we fight the modern day Amalekites in every generation.

It’s time to take heed of the words of the L-rd, it is time to do what the people of Israel demand, it is time to kill Agag.

Calling to genocide Palestinians is seemingly not just a singular opinion. Why then was one genocidal piece removed by the Times of Israel while others are still up?

Posted by b on August 1, 2014 at 12:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (98)

Gaza: Israel Uses Hannibal Directive To Kills 50 Palestinians After Soldier Captured

A cease-fire between Gaza and Israel was announced for this morning at 8am local time. The Israeli defense forces continued to operate in Gaza and to destroy the Palestinian tunnels. Shortly before the official cease-fire start, according to Palestinian sources, a commando of Islamic Jihad fighters infiltrated the Israeli line through a tunnel, attacked a group of Israeli soldiers, killed several and captured one of them alive. This happened near the southern Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt.

The Israelis took a while to notice that a soldier had been captured but when they found out they immediately responded according to the Hannibal directive which demands to do everything possible to prevent that an Israeli soldier captured alive stays captured alive.

Accordingly, even before the capture of its soldier was publicly known, the Israeli army opened a barrage of artillery fire over south Gaza killing some 50 Palestinians and wounding more than 200 of them. These people were out in the streets and markets because they thought that the cease-fire was in place.

The cease-fire is for now over. It is unlikely that the Israelis have a chance to find their soldier.

Will they now again escalate and risk more possible captures or will they negotiate a new cease-fire and later the captured soldier's release?

Posted by b on August 1, 2014 at 07:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

 
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