Netanyahoo Gives Up On Iran Deal Opposition
Netanyahoo concedes that he lost the fight against Obama:
Israel is not opposed to an Iranian nuclear program that is civilian in nature, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, during a visit to Florence on Saturday.
The Iranian nuclear program is of course exclusively civilian in nature:
United States intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and, even in the abstract, that its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons, despite the technical capacity to do so inherent in having a functional nuclear energy program.
Netanyahoo and anyone else of relevance knows this. When he no longer opposes a civilian nuclear program in Iran he has nothing left to complain about the agreement which six world powers negotiated with Iran.
The Israel lobby attack against the Iran agreement did not have the results Natanyahoo had hoped for. It was a major bust. Some of his followers in the Democratic Party, like Senator Schumer and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will probably loose their leadership positions for their open stand against the Democratic president on this issue. Good.
For a while the lobby's loss may dampen the influence Israel has over U.S. foreign policy. But in a year or two the Iran deal will be out of the news headlines and the lobby will have spent enough money to recuperate its influence.
Pentagon Needs More Money To Counter Chinese Submarine Threat
That the Chinese military comes up with this devious idea demonstrates that we urgently need to marshal new resources to counter this imminent threat.
No longer are the Chinese hiding their submarines in the mountains, woods or bathtubs. No. They found a new hideout for this menace:
“The South China Sea would be a good place to hide Chinese submarines,” said Carl Thayer, a U.S.-born security specialist who has taught at the University of New South Wales and other Australian institutions. The sea floor is thousands of meters deep in places, with underwater canyons where a submarine could easily avoid detection.
Putting submarines below the sea surface to avoid detection is indeed a brilliant idea. How come we did not think of this?
But don't fear. A few hundred billion dollars more for the Navy will be a great first step to counter this Chinese threat.One or the other presidential candidate will soon make such bolstering of the Navy a core tenet of his or her program.
The Wars In Syria And Iraq Are Also Water Wars - More Will Come
Foreign Affairs has a recommendable piece on the water wars between Turkey, Syria and Iraq: Rivers of Babylon.
Turkey has build many, many dams throughout the country to provide electricity but also for farming. When I traveled in the Turkish east in the 1990s many new projects, parts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) were visible and newly dammed water was provided to the dry regions in the south-east through open channels. A lot of this water was wasted due to vaporization but also due to the choice of water intensive news crops in a hot and often desert like region.
The water newly provided to farmers in Turkey used to flow down the Euphrates and Tigris to Syria and Iraq. Three drought years in Syria, 2006-2009, induced many farmers to leave their dry field and to move to cities where they found little work:
By 2011, drought-related crop failure had pushed up to 1.5 million displaced farmers to abandon their land; the displaced became a wellspring of recruits for the Free Syrian Army and for such groups as the Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda. Testimonies gathered by reporters and activists in conflict zones suggest that the lack of government help during the drought was a central motivating factor in the antigovernment rebellion. Moreover, a 2011 study shows that today’s rebel strongholds of Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, and Raqqa were among the areas hardest hit by crop failure.
The situation is Iraq is similar if not worse. Major regions have lost the basis for their agriculture and the farmers ask for solutions and more support.
In Karbala, Iraq, farmers are in despair and are reportedly considering abandoning their land. In Baghdad, the poorest neighborhoods rely on the Red Cross for drinking water. At times, the Red Cross has had to supply over 150,000 liters a day. Further south, Iraq’s central marshes, the Middle East’s largest wetlands, are disappearing again after being re-flooded after Saddam Hussein was ousted. In Chibayish, a town in the wetlands that one of the authors of this piece recently visited, buffalo and fish are dying. Currently, agriculture there supports at least 60,000 people. Those and hundreds of thousands more will face great hardship as water resources continue to decline.
The lack of water is not the only reason for the wars in Syria and Iraq. But it made these countries prone to inner conflicts and vulnerable to outside meddling.
But the governments of Syria and Iraq can do little to help their farmers. While there are agreements about a minimum waterflow between Turkey, Syria and Iraq there is no ways Syria and Iraq could actually press Turkey to deliver the agreed upon waterflow.
Although current agreements between Syria and Turkey provide for 500 cubic meters per second, 46 percent of which goes to Iraq, summer flows can be far less. According to Jasim al Asadi, a hydrologist with Nature Iraq, by the time the Euphrates reaches Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq, a minimum of 90 cubic meters per second is required for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use. Sometimes, the flow can be as low as 18 cubic meters per second, so unsurprisingly the marshes are receding rapidly. Before major dam construction in the 1970s, the average flow in the Euphrates was about 720 cubic meters per second. Now it is about 260 as it enters Iraq.
Nearly two-third of the waterflow Iraq used to get is gone. There is no way to replace it. Moreover what little water is currently still flowing may soon be gone too:
Turkish dams, of which there are over 140, have far more storage capacity than those downstream. And when the new Turkish dam projects are completed in the next few years, as much as 1.2 million additional hectares inside Turkey will be irrigated—an eightfold increase from today.
Given Turkey’s relatively better water health, it might be reasonable to think that it would stop building dams at the expense of its downstream neighbors. Instead, it has done the opposite, planning to complete 1,700 new dams and weirs within its borders.
Missing in the Foreign Affairs piece is another Turkish project which diverts even more water away from its southern neighbors. In 1974 Turkey invaded and since occupied the north of Cyprus. The occupied parts of the island were ethnically cleansed of Greek people and as many as 150,000 Turks were transferred from Turkey and settled on their land.
Turkey has now built a pipeline to provide water from onshore Turkey to the Turkish occupied part of the island:
A recently completed pipeline crossing beneath the Mediterranean will carry 75 million cubic meters of fresh water annually from Turkey to the northern i.e. Turkish part of the divided island of Cyprus.
The water coming through the pipelines will make the Turkish Cypriots, who already count on subsidies from Ankara for their economic survival, even more dependent on Turkey. One scenario is, therefore, that being more closely bound to the mainland, Turkish Cypriots will have less freedom when negotiating reunification with their Greek Cypriot compatriots, which will make it difficult to reach a solution.
Another Turkish project, on, off and on again over the years, are plans to lay water and gas pipelines to Israel. Israel hopes to deliver gas to Turkey and Turkey would provide water to Israel. Water that would additionally be missed in Syria and Iraq.
We need a global solution process, with enforcement instruments, to regulate natural waterflows that cross borders. The alternative is a serious of widening wars between those countries who extensively use water in their own land while downstream countries dry up.
The Turkey, Syria, Iraq situation is not the only active water war. Pakistan and India are fighting over India occupied Kashmir which holds the headwaters of the Indus river system. The Indus is Pakistan's sole water lifeline and India has used its control over Kashmir to pressure Pakistan. The next war between India and Pakistan might be just a drought away and such a war could go nuclear.
Another water war is looming between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Ethiopia is building a mega-dam on the Nile which threatens Egypt's main water supply. It is doubtful that Egypt will allow the dam to be finished. All these cases have already or will lead to wars between countries and/or civil wars over (the lack of) water.
The flow of water between countries is one of the few issue that need global governance. A rule book and a global judicial body which provides that all people along a water stream shall benefit from it. Mega-projects like the GAP in Turkey should be tested in front of such a court and its binding rulings should be backed by significant coercive powers.
The alternative not only may but will be intense wars over access to water.
Open Thread 2015-32
News & views ...
The Trump Dystopia
Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty (via Gregory Djerejian)
So THAT is the real America?
The above impressive but somewhat disturbing picture inspired some creative variations of the scene.
How The Saudi/UAE Invasion Of Yemen Fails
The predicted cauldron of a ground attack in Yemen is taking its toll of the invaders of the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi army. Their invasion is stuck. News and videos from the last few days show that the fighting is quite kinetic and not to the invaders advantage.
In Aden, through which the UAE troops invaded, al-Qaeda blew up a security headquarter (video 1 min) and took over several parts of the city. AQAP militants allegedly also blew up three Yemeni coast guard vessels in Aden. There are rumors of some cooperation between UAE troops and al-Qaeda. UAE special forces freed one Robert Stuart Douglas in Aden. Douglas is a British hostage held by al-Qaeda since 2014. Was this "hostage rescue" part of a deal?
In southern Yemen a convoy of UAE mine resistant armor protected (MRAP) vehicles was ambushed on a long and windy road up into the mountains. At least three MRAPs were destroyed (video 7 min).
In another incident at least three UAE MRAPs were captured intact by Houthi forces and are now used by them (video, 2 min). Four more destroyed UAE MRAPs are visible in the clip.
Near Lawdar in Abyan, Central Yemen, another UAE patrol with at least three armored vehicles was destroyed by Houthi aligned forces using Russian made Kornet anti-armor missiles (video 3 min). This was again in mountainous terrain where road bound armored vehicles are sitting ducks for small groups armed with anti-armor missiles.
Around Jizan in Saudi Arabia, former Yemeni territory, a Saudi engineering platoon was ambushed in leafy terrain (video 3 min, photos). One M88A1 armored recovery vehicle, 1 M2A2 infantry fighting vehicle, 1 Al Shibl armored fighting vehicles, 3 armored bulldozers and 1 smaller tactical vehicle were destroyed.
A Saudi soldier was killed at the border after shelling from the Yemeni side.
Some 50 armored vehicles of Saudi backed and trained forces arrived in Marib under air cover from Saudi Apache helicopters. photo. In total some 150 such vehicles are said to have arrived in Marib. This is the brigade that days ago crossed from Saudi Arabia. The way from the Saudi desert to Marib is mostly through flat desert. From thereon to the Yemeni capital Sanaa is an uphill fight through the mountains. Few, if any, of the armored vehicles now arriving in Marib will ever reach Sanaa.
The Houthi claim that they shot down four Saudi Apache helicopters so far. At least one loss has been confirmed by the Saudi side. There is video of one Apache falling down but the moment it was hit and any the traces of the weapons used seems to have been edited out from the video video 2 min). Someone does not want the Saudis to know what anti-air toys are used against them.
When the UAE troops landed in Aden video showed a convoy of main battle tanks in battalion size. There have been no new pictures of these MBTs since then. As the above reports demonstrate taking those tanks into the mountains towards Sanaa would be a bloody mess. What then are the plans for these units?
The U.S. is supporting the Saudis and the UAE. U.S. cluster bombs are used to kill Yemeni civilians. The White House is faking concern about Yemeni civilians while doubling its support for the Saudi campaign.
It is obvious that the U.S/Saudi/UAE campaign against Yemen will not achieve any of its aims. The former U.S. installed Yemeni president Hadi will never be welcomed back in Yemen. The country is on the edge of a large scale famine. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Yemen are taking over more territory. What then is the real aim the White House is trying to achieve here?
Syria: Is Israel Planing To Escalate?
Yesterday four rockets or mortars fired from the Syrian side of the Golan heights landed on Israel occupied parts of the Syrian Golan without causing any damage. A recent report cited the Israeli defense expert Tzvi Yechezkieli:
He noticed that all terrorist activity directed at Israel on the Golan Heights is the work of Hezbollah and not of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate that is in control of the border with Israel.
If al Qaeda is in control of the Golan border how would Hizbullah fire small, short ranged missiles over it?
And if Hizbullah could do this why would the Israeli official accuse the Islamic Jihad group?
The Israeli army warned the government in war-wracked Syria it will "suffer the consequences" after four rockets crashed Thursday into the north of the Jewish state and the occupied Golan.
"This was the work of Islamic Jihad, an organisation financed and working for Iran, and we consider the Syrian government responsible for the firing and it will suffer the consequences," the army said in a statement.
It was referring to a Palestinian militant group which is based in the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic Jihad denied the military's accusation, saying it was not behind the rocket fire.
So how did the Islamic Jihad fire from Jabhat al Nusra, i.e. their enemies, occupied Syrian border when they are based in Gaza?
It is much more likely that the mortars were fired by al Qaeda to "request" fire support against the advancing Syrian Arab Army. Such has happened before to support Nusra advances and indeed the Israeli forces again obliged. At least 14 attacks against Syrian Army positions were flown and one additional attack against a civil car:
Israel said it carried out an air raid Friday that killed up to five Iran-backed militants it said were behind a rare rocket attack from across the border in Syria.
The strike came a day after Israel launched a dozen air raids on the Syrian-side of the occupied Golan Heights, raising concerns about a possible escalation.
Syrian television identified them as unarmed civilians, the Israeli military source said they were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group spoke of pro-regime National Defence Forces.
Israel earlier said that it hit 14 Syrian army positions in the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan on Thursday night in response to the rocket attacks.
There is indeed fear that this could be the start of a larger Israeli operation against the Syrian government and in support of al Qaeda.
Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
Keep an eye on what is happening in #Israel and on the #Syria/n borders. Israel is deploying Iron Dome and Syria+allies on full alter now.
Over 10 #SAA positions facing Syrian rebels were air strikes by #Israel. Syrian allies believe this is not a normal #israeli response +
Front from #Syria to #Lebanon is boiling. #Hezbollah declared full alert ...
Israel is not the only entity supporting Jabhat al Nusra. In southern Syria the CIA trained mercenaries fighting against the Syrian army largely fought together with Jabhat al Nusra. They shared their CIA provided resources and their advances along the Golan height had Israeli fire support.
The Pentagon trained mercenaries who recently were infiltrated from Turkey into Syria before they got routed also had tight coordination with Nusra. Their leader said:
“We were surprised by the attack by Nusra, because we coordinated in advance with Nusra,” Abu Iskandar said. “Four months ago, Nusra showed great admiration for the training project. Nusra said . . . go get guns and come fight [the Islamic State].”
So the very selected "moderate rebels" the Pentagon trained claim tight "coordination" with al-Qaeda. One wonders how those in the U.S. military who spent the last 14 years fighting this or that al Qaeda entity feel about that.
Yemen: U.S. Doubles Down, Saudi-UAE Invasion Stuck
The U.S./Saudi/UAE attack on Yemen continues. The air attacks on various Yemeni cities are hitting more and more civilians and few fighters. The U.S. doubled the number its "advisers" that select targets for the Saudi airforce to bomb. Recent targets include a group of 40 fighters allied with the Saudis. Another target was the port of Hodeida, the last access point through which aid could be transported into the norther part of Yemen. The four harbor cranes and the piers were destroyed. Today the airport of the capital Sanaa was again bombed and the terminal building set on fire. One wonders why as the Yemeni airspace is under complete control of the U.S. and Saudi airforces. Smaller cities from which little reporting is coming through also get hit. Julien Harneis, a UNICEF staff member in Sanaa, tweeted today:
Yesterday in Amran an airstrike killed 20 & injured 30 educators and children who were preparing exams for students who had missed the year
Over 3600 schools in Yemen are closed down and some kids get recruited by the various militia.
The ground attack into the cauldron of Yemen by UAE and Saudi forces makes little progress. Aden and the al-Anad Air Base were cleared from Houthi forces in a well equipped campaign by the invading UAE forces and some local proxies. But where the Houthi forces left AlQaeda and local gangs of southern separatists have taken over. Further UAE attacks northward against Taizz and Ibb got stuck. Under pressure the Houthis forces melted away only to come back in the rear of the advancing UAE forces. At least three UAE vehicles were hit and destroyed.
There is no news available of the Saudi move from the north towards Marib. These forces may have been pulled back after the Houthis turned the table and invaded Saudi Arabia. They claim to have taken the Saudi Shirfa military base and are now broadcasting their successes on TV from a high point above the Saudi city of Najran.
The "young general" in Riyadh must be furious over such a disgrace. But how can he respond? There is nothing left to destroy in Yemen from the air, the ground troops are not successful and he burned all bridges with the UN so there is no one left to mediate. Washington, with zero regard to Yemeni casualties, seems to be willing to give him more rope with which, the White House may hope, he will hang himself.
Obama Announces Readiness To Accept Another $1 Billion In BribesU.S. President Barack Obama declared his willingness to take in another $1 billion in bribes. He intends to use the money to bolster his ego.
As service in return Obama is offering certain political preferences during the rest of his time in office as well as selected lobbying activities after he leaves office. Bribes from particular industrial sectors will be considered as privileged.
The above is the translated content of a NYT piece today which describes Obama plans after leaving his office. For comparison parts of the long form follows:
Privately, [Mr.Obama] is preparing for his postpresidency with the same fierce discipline and fund-raising ambition that characterized the 2008 campaign that got him to the White House.The "technology executives" will have understood. Pay Obama and he will take care that the government will have to buy many more of their technology products to "become more efficient". Ditto for the other sectors mentioned.
[T]he president, first lady and a cadre of top aides map out a postpresidential infrastructure and endowment they estimate could cost as much as $1 billion.
Shailagh Murray, a senior adviser, oversees an effort inside the White House to keep attention on Mr. Obama’s future and to ensure that his final 17 months in office, barring crises, serve as a glide path to his life as an ex-president.
[O]fficials in the West Wing said the president’s thinking about some of his signature issues — including health care, economic inequality and fighting climate change — also involves considering their incorporation into his life after January 2017.
The heart of the postpresidential planning is Mr. Obama’s own outreach to eclectic, often extraordinarily rich groups of people.
The advisers said [the director Steven] Spielberg was focused on helping to develop a “narrative” for Mr. Obama in the years after he leaves office.
At a dinner this year at Spruce, a restaurant in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Mr. Obama urged technology executives to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping government become more efficient, giving some the impression that the topic would most likely be a theme of his agenda after leaving office.
Trump/Kane: "If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged ..."
The U.S. presidential campaign season is usually a drag. It is much too long and the lies and false promises get so obvious that refuting them is no fun and senseless.
But watching Donald Trump is fun. He seems to be unbriefed and says whatever he thinks in that moment. His foreign policy opinions are refreshing. Here he is bashing the Saudis:
Trump called on Riyadh to share its vast wealth with the U.S. in exchange for the alliance between the two nations.
“They make a billion dollars a day,” he told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Saudi Arabia, if it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be here,” Trump said. “They wouldn’t exist.”
“They should pay us,” he added. “Like it or don’t like it, people have backed Saudi Arabia. What I really mind though is we back it at tremendous expense. We get nothing for it.”
The Saudis would of course disagree. The U.S. weapons industry is making lots of profits by selling its useless junk to the Saudis and other Gulf countries. But anyway this point is smart.
“Look, Saudi Arabia is going to be in big trouble pretty soon,” he added. “And they’re going to need help. I think Saudi Arabia is a major target, a major target.”
Trump does not care about the Ukraine joining NATO. He seems to find it a rather useless country. He is right in that too. No wonder Trump was rated public enemy no. 9 and a "Kremlin agent" on some Ukrainian list.
The Republican party apparatus will do everything to make a Trump candidacy impossible and to put one of its pliant usual suspects into the front position. But Trump could run on his own. And that would mean more fun.
Someone compared Trump to the Citizen Kane character in the 1941 Orson Wells movie. Citizen Kane was a portrait of the rightwing newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In the Cítizen Kane movie there is a line that Donald Trump would probably use to explain why he is running at all. Mr. Kane therein says of himself:
Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel, his paper should be run out of town; a committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars. On the other hand, I am the publisher of the Inquirer! As such, it is my duty - and I'll let you in on a little secret, it's also my pleasure - to see to it that the decent, hard-working people in this community aren't robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because - they haven't anybody to look after their interests. I'll let you in on another little secret, Mr. Thatcher. I think I'm the one to do it; you see, I have money and property. If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will - maybe somebody without any money or property - and that would be too bad...
Narrative And Reality Of The U.S. War On Syria
The Washington Post "It Never Happened" piece on Syria documented yesterday is far from the only one that avoids to mention the intimate U.S. involvement in waging war on Syria.
A New York Times piece today falsely claims:
The United States avoided intervening in the civil war between rebels and the government of Mr. Assad until the jihadist group took advantage of the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.
McClatchy, which is usual better, currently has two pieces by Hannah Allam looking into U.S. involvement in the war on Syria. Unfortunately these are also full of false narratives and unchecked administration propaganda. Obama administration still predicts ‘Assad’s days are numbered’ is a take of what administration officials now claim about their early believes of the war on Syria. It also includes this whoopers:
The Americans were determined to keep the United States out of an armed conflict in Syria, but turned a blind eye as Persian Gulf allies sent weapons to hardline factions with ties to al Qaida.
Years ago the NYT and several other outlets reported that the CIA was the entity which organized the weapon transfers, thousands of tons, for the Saudis and other Gulf countries. The U.S. did not turn a blind eye. It was actively organizing the whole war from the very beginning.
In The ‘magic words:’ How a simple phrase enmeshed the U.S. in Syria’s crisis Hannah Allam lets the former ambassador to Syria Ford claim that the administration never really wanted to ouster Assad but was pressed into it:
Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria at the time, said he initially opposed calling for Assad’s ouster for two reasons: it was clear to him that sanctions were the only punishment the White House was willing to use, and that such a call would kill his efforts to start a dialogue with the regime.
Ford said he was up against the same outside pressures other officials listed – influential Republicans, a few senior Democrats, the “very loud” Syrian-American community and foreign governments – but he added one force that’s often overlooked.
“To be very frank, the press, the media, was baiting us. It’s not like the media was impartial in this,” Ford said. “Because once the Republicans started saying he has no legitimacy, the question then became at press conferences every day: Do you think he has legitimacy? What are we supposed to say? Yes, he does?”
Hogwash. Ford was one of the first to press for the ouster of Assad. He even organized the early demonstration and the media training for the "peaceful demonstrators" who were early on killing policemen and soldiers. One of the "revolutionaries" reacts to Ford's claims:
Out of all ppl, Robert Ford is talking about Syrians being mislead by the magic words? Ford "promised" us Syrians full support in 2011.
In private meetings In damascus, Robert Ford promised his syrian oppo friends full U.S. Support and encouraged Syrians to go on.
He even went to fucking Hama, during the biggest protest in Syria's modern history youtu.be/AP1vGBJM4NU
I wdnt talk abt ppl misinterpreting U.S public statements, U were ur Admin's amb, say the truth: u promised Syrians the moon, gave them shit
All these media pieces, yesterday's WaPo piece, today's false NYT claims, the McClatchy pieces, are part of the Obama strategy to play as if it was/is doing "nothing" or "just something" while at the time time running a full fledged proxy war against the Syrian government.
Joel Veldkamp lays out and analyses that strategy:
Why does the U.S. only have sixty fighters to show for its $500 million, year-old training program? Because it reinforces the narrative – nurtured by a raft of previous hopelessly inadequate, publicly-announced and -debated programs to support the opposition – of the U.S. as a helpless bystander to the killing in Syria, and of President Obama as a prudent statesman reluctant to get involved. While the Senate berates the Pentagon chief over the program’s poor results, the U.S. is meanwhile outsourcing the real fight in Syria to allies with no qualms about supporting al Qaeda against their geopolitical opponents – unless the U.S. is, as before, cooperating directly or indirectly in that support.
Once it is recognized that the “helpless bystander” narrative is false, and that the U.S. has been deeply involved in the armed conflict almost from the start, it becomes both possible and necessary to question that involvement.
What I find astonishing is that the U.S. media are able to have it both ways on Syria. Every other day there is a piece with the false narrative that the U.S. is not and has not been involved in Syria while at the same time the very same media, NYT, WaPo, McClatchy, publish other pieces about the massive "secret" military effort with thousands of tons of weapon shipments and billions of dollars the Obama administration pushes into Syria to wage war against the Syrian people.
The media know that the "helpless bystander” narrative is false. But Joel Veldkamp's hope that this would make it "possible and necessary to question that involvement" is not coming true. Besides in fringe blogs like this one there is no such public discussion at all.
U.S. War On Syria - For WaPo's Erin Cunningham "It Never Happened"
At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget, ...
U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.
Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut
Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, June 12 2015
The ambiguity of the mission has highlighted concerns about the United States’s growing involvement in the Syrian conflict, which is estimated to have killed more than 230,000 people since 2011.
The United States has so far played a limited role, training a handful of Syrian rebels who it says were vetted for ties to extremists.
U.S. said it will create a safe zone on Syrian border. But nobody knows how.
Erin Cunningham, Washington Post, Aug 13 2015
It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the U.S. throughout the world have been systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless, and fully documented but nobody talks about them.
It Never Happened, Harold Pinter, 1997
Open Thread 2015-31
News & views ...
Turkey Invades Syria, Goes For Aleppo
Today al Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al Nusra which the U.S. has nurtured since 2012, pulled back from its areas in Aleppo governate. The Turkish president Erdogan wants these areas to block a Kurdish autonomous area in north Syria but also as a supply zone for his forces which those will need to later take Aleppo city, Erdogan's real strategic target.
Nusra claims that the retreat was because it would not support Turkey's attack on Syria and/or fight against the Islamic State for solely Turkish and U.S. gains. But the timing makes it clear that it had simply received an order or an offer it could not refuse: "Move now or we will cut you off from the money and logistics you have received for so long."
A few hours after Nusra pulled away from the fronts in Aleppo governate and moved towards Idlib the Turkish invasion started:
Reports of first Turkmen Battalion from the #Turkey backed Sultan Murad Army entering #Syria via Bab Al-Salame #Aleppo
BREAKING Kurdish ANF: "occupying forces organized by MİT" entered Syria from the Bab Al-Selamê border gate #TwitterKurds #Turkey #Syria 1/2
ANF: (Turkmen) “Sultan Murat Brigade” & “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade” entered #Syria via Bab al-#Salameh + one group coming from Idlib 2/2
Al-Nusra leaves N Aleppo 4 Idlib, Turkmen groups leave Idlib 4 N Aleppo = preparation 4 Turkish controlled Safe-Zone
U.S. Air Force fighter jets have arrived at Incerlik air-base in Turkey and provide air cover for the Turkish invasion.
The Turkish intelligence service M.I.T. has trained some 5,000 Turkmen, allegedly Syrians of Turkish heritage and speaking the Turkish language, to take Erdogan's corridor to Aleppo:
Touching the Turkish border at the provinces of Kilis and Gaziantep, it is nearly 100 km in width, from Azaz in the west and Cerablus in the east and with an approximate depth of 40 km. Turkish jets (and artillery when necessary) will hit targets mostly in this region for “cleaning” it of ISIL forces. This is planned to be executed with the help of a 5,000 strong army mainly consisting of Turkmens living in Syria. One source said that this force, which has been assisted by Turks, would be in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition. (Turkish government had announced earlier that the ammunition carried by the trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization and seized by gendarmerie on their way to Syria in January 2014 were not going to ISIL nor al-Nusra related groups but Turkmens defending themselves.)
Many of these "Turkmen" will simply be relabeled Jabhat al Nusra mercenaries and jihadists, others will be Turkish special forces. They are to hold the ground for the coming Turkish "moderate rebel" attack to take all of Aleppo.
Meanwhile international negotiations over ending the war on Syria are proceeding. Some interesting new information came to light today.
From Al-Akhbar but with Mujtahid quoted tweets… nevertheless… an interesting turn we are seeing in many media reports – the essence is a way to get an Arab agreement on Bashar staying (for now) and stopping this war.
Translated by mideastwire.com in tonight’s Daily Briefing: “…The first reaction came from within the Kingdom through the tweets of famous Saudi Tweeter, Mujtahid, who revealed the existence of “an Emirati, Egyptian, Jordanian, Omani agreement to rehabilitate the Syrian regime; and attempts at convincing Saudi Arabia to approve the plan.”
“Mujtahid indicated that the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince promised that the Kingdom will not object to the rehabilitation of the Syrian regime and the return of the ambassadors of any country to Damascus “provided that the Saudi participation in this arrangement is delayed.” He added that “Ben Salman has no reservations and the reason for his hesitation is because the American and Turkish intelligence services believe that Al-Assad will not be lasting for much longer and that it’s wrong to bet on him….”
The Arabs dictators who wanted Assad to go have changed their opinions. Russia (and Iran) nudge them along. They are ready to again accept Assad and the Syrian state. As they are mostly paying all the mercenaries fighting against the Syrian state this would be a real step towards peace.
But the Turks and the U.S. have different plans. How else could they now insist that Assad will soon fall? Something they have predicted since 2011. They must have their plans to continue the war and Erdogan's attack on Syria today is exactly into that direction.
As the Arabs are now turning away from regime change in Syria the U.S. and Turkey come under time constrains. They will now move faster to achieve their aims.
Nine Crazy Men ... And Donald Trump
GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential election after their first debate.
Nine dull and rather crazy men. And Donald Trump.
Into The Cauldron - Saudi And UAE Troops Invade Yemen
While many "western" media missed it, we reported that one brigade of regular United Arab Emirate troops invaded Yemen through the port of Aden. Videos from Yemen show large columns of French build Leclerc tanks and other modern UAE equipment. The Saudi and UAE spokesperson declared that they only brought equipment for Yemenis but that can not be true. The tanks will certainly be operated by people with the necessary extensive training on these expensive high tech vehicles, not with fresh off the street recruits with a few weeks of basic training.
After taking Aden the UAE military, some Yemeni infantry forces trained over the last months outside the country and some local southern separatist groups moved north and attacked the Al Anad airbase held by the Houthi militia and parts of the Yemeni army loyal to former president Saleh. After only a few short skirmishes the Houthi retreated and the UAE troops moved into the base. They then moved further north towards Taiz.
But the UAE military is not the only force invading Yemen.
With again few mentions in the media a Saudi brigade invaded Yemen from the north and moved from Sharoah in Saudi Arabia to AlAbr District and from there west towards Marib:
"Dozens of tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as hundreds of Yemeni soldiers trained in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Yemen overnight" via the Wadia border post in the north of the country, a Yemeni military source told AFP.
I guestimate that the Saudi unit is likely to be about the same size as the UAE one. Each has about one regular mechanized brigade of some 3,000 to 4,000 troops with several battalions of freshly trained Yemeni infantry troops and local mercenaries attached to it.
The strategic target of this two-pronged attack is the capitol Sanaa currently held by the Houthi. They are to be pushed back north into their home province Sadah.
For the invading force the easy part is over. This will now be literally an uphill battle. The capitol and the approaches the Saudi and UAE military will have to take are mountainous. The roads there are easy to block and in such confined space, as the Israelis learned in Lebanon 2006, huge main battle tanks are simply sitting ducks to be killed by small anti-tank teams.
There is also an unknown factor in the form of AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula which rules disguised as "Sons of Hadramaut" that eastern province and the harbor city Mukalla. AQAP just expressed its comfort with Yemeni culture and religion by blowing up a 700 year old mosque in the area.
Some months ago AQAP received weapons from Saudi Arabia to hold up the Houthis but its loyalty towards the Saudis and UAE is very dubious. There are confirmed reports that AQAP has taken over some towns near to Aden and now rumors that AQAP has a presence in Aden and wants to take that big harbor city. Will the UAE troops be comfortable with an uncontrollable AQAP sitting right on their main supply line?
The Wadia border station the Saudis used to cross into Yemen is also not safe. About a year ago two Saudi soldiers were killed there when some AQAP types attacked from Yemen.
There are also Islamic State forces in Yemen and an ISIS aligned group in Saudi Arabia took credit for yesterday's suicide bombing which killed some 17 Saudi security personal in Abha near the border with Yemen.
The troops invading Yemen will not only have to watch out for Houthi traps and ambushes when they move up into the mountains towards Sanaa. They will also have to intensively watch their backs. Has the "young general", as the Saudi Minister of Defense is mocked now, any idea of the cauldron his troops are getting into?
Obama Wants Nuclear Deal With Iran But Argues A (False) Case For War
In arguing for the international deal over Iran's nuclear program the Obama administration is selling, quite intentionally it seems, a (false) case for war on Iran.
The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, argues that the deal is good because the agreed upon additional IAEA inspections would make war on Iran easier:
The military option would remain on the table, but the fact is, that military option would be enhanced because we’d been spending the intervening number of years gathering significantly more detail about Iran’s nuclear program. So when it comes to the targeting decisions that would be made by military officials either in Israel or the United States, those targeting decisions would be significantly informed, and our capabilities improved, based on the knowledge that has been gained in the intervening years through this inspections regime.
Q So if Israel wants to contemplate it, it should wait?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, what we believe --
Q That’s what you just said.
See - war is easier when we wait a while and let some inspections happen first. Then, when we have a new targeting list, ...
Iran has official protested against that remark:
The International Atomic Energy Agency should “condemn categorically” statements made last month by a White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, Iran’s representative to the IAEA wrote in a July 24 letter to the agency’s director general, Yukiya Amano.
Earnest’s “statement jeopardizes the role of the IAEA” under the Vienna agreement, Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the agency, wrote in the letter. The IAEA must “ensure scrupulous compliance with the principle of confidentiality regarding all information related to the implementation of safeguards,” he added.
The IAEA, under the sycophantic U.S. puppet Yukiya Amano, did not respond to the Iranian letter.
Secretary of State Kerry is also boosting for war on Iran. In front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he argued that Iran is untrustworthy and a bad actor and actually wants nuclear weapons:
In two sentences, Kerry managed to combine the images of Iranian-supported terrorism and sectarian violence across the entire region and Iranian determination to get nuclear weapons. He told the committee about the administration's plans to “push back against Iran’s other activities - against terrorism support, its contribution to sectarian violence in the Middle East,” which he called “unacceptable”. Then he added: “But pushing back against an Iran with nuclear weapons is very different from pushing back against Iran without one.”
The administration’s determination to be just as alarmist about Iran’s alleged nuclear ambitions as its opponents creates a US political discourse on the Iran nuclear issue built around two duelling narratives that disagree about the effect of the agreement but have one politically crucial common denominator: they both hold it as beyond debate that Iran cannot be trusted because it wants nuclear weapons; and the only question is whether and for how long that Iranian quest for nuclear weapons can be held off without war.
Obama himself claims that the nuclear agreement is the only alternative to waging war on Iran:
The president made it clear that if the goal is to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, the real choice is between the existing deal and a war. It's a simple fact, though one that skeptics have shied away from.
"Because more sanctions won’t produce the results that the critics want," Obama said, "congressional rejection of this deal leaves any U.S. administration only one option: another war in the Middle East. I say this not to be provocative. I’m stating a fact."
That argument, also made by some 'liberals', is of course complete nonsense. Iran has never strived for nuclear weapons. There is no reason for it to do so even without any agreement. It would just continue its civil nuclear program as it had planned and the IAEA would continue to inspect and report on it. The negotiations and deal with Iran came to pass because the U.S. needs to untangle itself from the chaos it created in the Middle East, not because Iran needs it.
Obama is clearly setting up a false choice and thereby creates the danger that any minor future hiccup in the execution of the agreement will lead to war on Iran "because Obama said so." As Micah Zenko explains:
The most stark and substantial claim made by the president and his senior advisers over the past two weeks is that Congress and the world faces a binary choice: either implement the JCPOA, or prepare for a war with Iran.
[R]epeating the claim that there are only two choices—the JCPOA or war—is a false dichotomy that the Obama administration should refrain from making any longer. There are simply too many assumptions about the future decisions of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that must be true for this hypothesis to be correct.
The facts speak against Iranian plans for any weapon of mass destruction. Iran has a history of choosing not to use WMD even when it was attacked by such. U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies says that Iran has no nuclear weapon programs. There is absolutely no evidence that Iran and its political leaders have the intention to create one:
Predicting leadership intentions is inherently difficult, and the Obama administration should not assume that it can do so accurately for Iran’s supreme leader. Again, there are many better and more convincing reasons for supporting the JCPOA. Repeating the false dichotomy that it is either this diplomatic agreement or certain war is not one of them.
But repeating the false choice as the Obama administration does makes it very easy for those who want war to (again) invent some "intelligence" to pretend that Iran is not keeping to its agreements and to then go to war. Obama is creating the argument for them. Iran should not that and prepare accordingly. As I explained earlier:
The U.S. has a bad record of sticking to international deals it made.
Netanyahoo's puppets in the U.S. congress will do their best to blockade the current deal. Should they not be able to do so attempts will be made to press the next U.S. president into breaking the agreement.
There is no sane reason for the Obama administration to use the "bad Iran" claims and the false choice argument "agreement or war". It is kicking the can down the road while making the argument for the next player to pick it up. One gets the feeling that the intentions behind this are not good at all.
Syria: Negotiating Ethnic Cleansing And A Temporary Partition
The U.S. has no interest to defeat the Islamic State or to end the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Instead it is following a policy, successfully so far, which is designed to split Syria as well as Iraq into autonomous statelets which later may or may not realign into loose confederacies. There are now attempts to somewhat formalize that situation.
Many of the recently inserted 60 Pentagon trained mercenaries are by now captured, wounded or dead. Last night Jabhat al-Nusra captured another five of them. Mary Wheeler thinks that the whole theater around these few idiots was possibly just a fake to find a reason for the declaration of a U.S. imposed no-fly zone over north Syria. An illegal invasion of Syria to justify an even more illegal U.S. annexation of Syrian land and air space.
Media accounts describe the 60 fighters as the "first U.S. trained rebels". The 10,000 Syrian and foreign mercenaries the CIA trained and equipped since at least 2012 at a cost of $1 billion per year are conveniently put down the memory hole. The many more jihadis financed, trained and equipped by Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who went to join the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are also missing from such accounts. The media insist that the whore's just born seventh child originates from an immaculate conception.
The U.S. may, for now, get its wish for a splintered Syria and Iraq. After four years of a massive onslaught from outside actors the Syrian government is no longer able to control all of the country. It needs to buy time to recuperate resources and wait for a major change in international policies. There has been a flurry of diplomacy recently, mostly pushed by Russia, to somewhat formalize the current situation.
The chief of the Syrian intelligence was recently in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi chief of intelligence will visit Syria at the end of the month. The Russia foreign minister Lavrov met several parties in Moscow and over the last two days in Doha. He spoke with the Syrians, with Hamas, with the leader of the U.S. proxy Syrian exile group, with Hizbullah, with Qatari and Saudi liaisons to Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State as well as with secretary of state Kerry. The Syrian foreign minister Muallem and the Russian deputy foreign minister Bogdanov will soon touch down in Tehran.
There are certainly some deeper discussion about longer term issues going on but one of the more urgent negotiating points is the fate of some 40,000 Shia Syrians in two insurgent besieged towns just north of Idlib. These are under daily artillery barrage from Nusra and other jihadi groups and the humanitarian situation in Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa is dire. The Syrian army currently supplies the towns by air and local forces so far held off all attack but there is no way to relief the towns from the ground and no longer term solution. Meanwhile Hizbullah is besieging and operating against several hundred jihadis in Zabadani near the Lebanese border. Unlike in earlier operations Hizbullah will not let any of its enemies flee from this cauldron.
A complicate deal is in the making that would exchange the besieged 40,000 civilians in Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa for the militants in Zabadani. Such a deal would be a "negotiated ethnic cleansing". There are many parties involved including Hizbullah and Jabhat al Nusra and the exchange would take place under the supervision of the United Nations. Nothing is fixed yet and transferring such a huge number of people through enemy territory and lines will be difficult to achieve.
Should the deal go through and the evacuations successfully executed a model would have been found that could then be repeated in other areas. In the end some homogenous territories would be defined, each under rule of one armed entity, and some of the fighting over enclaves would die down.
But that state would be far from peace. The fighting would continue along internal border areas with no side giving up yet on its maximalist aims. Neither the more secular Sunnis nor the Alawi, Shia, Kurds or the Druze want independent statelets. They want to be Syrians. The Syrian government will reassert itself, if needed with the help of Russian paratroopers. The war will still go on for a long time.
The Cruel And Aimless War On Yemen
The theocratic family dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, with U.S. support, is relentlessly bombing the country and blockading it from all urgently needed supply for the people. The declared aim of the war is to reinstate the Saudi/U.S. selected President Hadi. But no one in Yemen wants Hadi back. He now would not survive there even one day. The UN warns of the danger of mass starvation.
The Houthi supporters and forces aligned with former president Saleh failed to capture the southern harbor town Aden. Infiltrated special forces from the United Arab Emirates directed Saudi air attacks against Houthi positions. After the Saleh forces and the Houthi retreated UAE forces, which include many mercenaries from Pakistan, invaded the city via its airport and from the sea.
Landing ships have been supplying heavy vehicles. TV pictures show newly arrived French Leclerc main battle tanks, Russian build BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and motorized heavy mortars. Additionally many armored and armed wheeled vehicles have been supplied. This is an invasion force of at least brigade size - some 4-5,000 soldiers. That this operation is so far very well planned and executed lets me believe that it is under direct U.S. supervision.
The newly arrived forces are supported by some local tribes and southern separatist groups. Today the invaders are trying to kick Saleh forces from the Al Anad air base near Aden. The invasion force wants to drive the Houthi not only from the south but also from power up north in the capitol Sanaa. The few planes with humanitarian aid that were allowed to fly into Sanaa are now ordered to land only in Aden. The north of Yemen is thereby completely isolated and cut off from all resources.
But look at this map of tribal areas within Yemen and around it.
Will all those various tribes and local interests agree with a foreign imposed agenda? Will the starving but still well armed Yemenis let those rich troops just pass? Or will they rather fight and sabotage any foreign forces that try to move out of Aden?
Not bothered by the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula has practically taken over the comparably rich eastern Yemeni governate of Hadhramaut. The 23rd brigade of Yemeni forces holding the governate was, allegedly accidentally, bombed by Saudi jets. AlQaeda also captured the eastern port of AlMukallah and uses it to supply its area. No Saudi air strike hindered its recent expansion. There are rumors that AQAP will soon declare Hadhramaut a new Islamic Emirate under its rule.
Between 1962 and 1970 Egypt fought a war in Yemen against predominately Yemeni forces. Some 25,000 of its soldiers were killed in that war. I expect that the current U.S. supported invasion of Yemen, like the Egyptians, will get bogged down within a month or two.
Meanwhile many Yemeni civilians will silently die from lack of access to water, food and medicine.
Obama Administration SHOCKED That People Being Bombed By It Retaliate (Updated)
Over the last year the U.S. bombed Jabhat al-Nusra personal and facilities in Syria some five or six times. The al-Qaeda subgroup also has a history of attacking U.S. paid "relative moderate" proxy forces in Syria.
The Pentagon recently inserted another U.S. mercenary group into north Syria. This was accompanied by a media campaign in which the administration lauded itself for the operation. The newly inserted group is especially trained and equipped to direct U.S. air attacks like those that earlier hit al-Nusra fighters.
Now that freshly inserted group was attacked by Jabhat al-Nusra. Some of its members were killed and others were abducted.
The Obama administration is shocked, SHOCKED, ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED that Jabhat al-Nusra would do such a ghastly deed. "Why would they do that?" "Who could have known that they would attack U.S. proxy forces???"
The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islamic State training program.
In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure.
While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.
A senior Defense Department official acknowledged that the threat to the trainees and their Syrian recruiters had been misjudged, and said that officials were trying to understand why the Nusra Front had turned on the trainees.
Like other Obama administration operations this one did not fail because of "intelligence failure" but because an utter lack of common sense.
Could someone explain to the fucking dimwits in the Pentagon and the Obama administrations that people everywhere, and especially terrorists group, hate it when you bomb them and kill their leaders? That those people you bomb might want to take revenge against you and your proxies? That people you bombed will not like your targeting team moving in next door to them? That alQaeda is not an "ally"?
These people are too pathetically clueless to even be embarrassed about it.
The accumulated intelligence quotient of the administration and Pentagon officials running the anti-Syria operation must be below three digits. But aside from their lack of basic intelligence the utter lack of simple "street smarts" is the real problem here. These people have no idea how life works outside of their beltway cages.
UPDATE: The one sane guy at the Council of Foreign relations, Micah Zenko, foresaw this debacle and wrote on March 2:
[The U.S. trained mercenaries] will immediately be an attractive target for attacks by the Islamic State, Assad’s ground and air forces, and perhaps Nusra and other forces. Killing or taking prisoner fighters (or the families of those fighters) who were trained by the U.S. military will offer propaganda value, as well as leverage, to bargain for those prisoners’ release.
He compared the whole operation to the 1961 CIA invasion of Cuba:
Last September, the White House and Congress agreed to authorize and fund a train-and-equip project similar to the Bay of Pigs, but this time in the Middle East, without any discussion about phase two. The Syrian project resembles 1961 in two ways: What happens when the fighting starts is undecided, and the intended strategic objective is wholly implausible.
On more thought from me on why the dimwits did not foresee that Nusra would attack. The White House insisted on calling a part of Nusra the "Khorasan group" and explained that it was only bombing this groups of alQaeda veterans now part of Nusra because the "Khorasan group" planning to hit in "western" countries. No expert nor anyone on the ground in Syria thought that this differentiation was meaningful. Nusra is alQaeda and so are all of its members.
But the White House and Pentagon probably thought that Nusra would accept the artificial separation they themselves had made up. That Nusra would understand that it is seen as an "ally" and only the "Khorasan group" is seen as an enemy. If that was the line of thinking, and the situation seems to point to that, then these people have fallen for their own propaganda stunt. They probably believed that the "Khorasan group" was an accepted narrative because they were telling that tale to themselves. Poor idiots.