Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 29, 2016

Open Thread 2016-17

(Sorry for not posting. A project I am involved has a hard end-of-month deadline and it will still take some effort to reach that. - b)

News & views ...

(Please keep the U.S. elections stuff to older threads.)

Posted by b on April 29, 2016 at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (240)

April 26, 2016

Open Thread 2016-16

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 26, 2016 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (235)

April 25, 2016

Syria - Russia Rejects Kerry's New Attempts To Shield The Terrorists

The U.S. admits that the upcoming Aleppo offensive by the Syrian government and its allies is designed to hit al-Qaeda and associated terrorist forces and not primarily the "moderate" unicorns the U.S. propaganda blushes about. But the openly U.S. supported forces will also be hit as they are very much integrated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. has for long considered al-Qaeda a secret ally in its attempt to destroy the Syrian state. The French magazine L'Orient Le Jour sees the U.S. relation with al-Qaeda in Syria as part of the attrition strategy the U.S. is waging against Syria (and Russia).

Secretary of State Kerry tried to convince the Russian that al-Qaeda should not be attacked during the cessation of hostilities. But the Russian's did not agree. Al Qaeda is a UN recognized international terrorist organization which, under UNSC resolutions, must be fought. The U.S. only succeeded in downgrading the permanent ceasefire the Russians had preferred to into a temporary cessation hostilities. It thought to use the time to rearm and to regroup its proxy forces.

But then thing went wrong. An offensive along the Turkish border to push away the Islamic State and to seal the border between the Islamic State and Turkey failed. Al-Qaeda convinced other groups, including directly U.S. supported CIA assets, to prematurely attack Syrian government forces south of Aleppo on Tal el-Eis. The attack mad only little progress before it was stopped.

Now al-Qaeda and the U.S. proxies are heavily targeting the government held western arts of Aleppo city:

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 13h13 hours ago
#Aleppo observed the most violent day in d history of d war in #Syria causing 21 killed & 95 wounded. Every single street was hit by rebels+

Since the announcement of the cease-fire, over 492 killed & wounded were registered in the only 2 hospitals in regime held area in #Aleppo.

Rebels hell bombs fell on all streets w/o exception while a group of rebels were trying 2infiltrate d city in West #Aleppo, trapped n sewage

This continued today

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 2h2 hours ago
17 killed and 92 wounded in #Aleppo regime controlled area today following rebels Hell cannon bombing. #Syria.

These attacks on the population are designed to bait the Syrian government forces into an immediate all-out attack into the al-Qaeda held parts of Aleppo city. I doubt that they will fall for it. The response for now will be more intense bombing in preparation for a well thought out attack later on.

Kerry recently again tried to convince the Russian government of partitioning Syria into "zones of interest". This would shield terrorist forces form further Syrian and Russian attacks:

“We’ve even proposed drawing a line, an absolute line, and saying, ‘You don’t go over there, we don’t go over here, and anything in between is fair game.’ And they are considering that, and I think we will get there in the next week or so.”

The rather harsh public response to that Kerry nonsense came in today:

MFA Russia @mfa_russia
#Lavrov: Splitting Syria into zones of influence is a simplistic idea; the main objective must be to route terrorism @mod_russia @RussiaUN

#Lavrov: US has not fulfilled its promise made two months ago to move “good opposition forces” away from the terrorist front lines in Syria

#Lavrov: The US State Dept. may shy away from cooperation with Russia, but there is no place for shyness in the fight against terrorism

#Lavrov: The UNSC declared Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist group. Those who want to distance themselves from this group should do so physically

Translation: Get your proxies out of the way or they will get hurt badly.

The U.S. "plan B" of splitting Syria into statelets has been rejected by the Syrian government and its allies.

The Syrian government and its allies are convinced that they can beat al-Qaeda and its various associates on the battle field. They are preparing a large attack against al-Qaeda and anyone nearby. There is little the U.S. can do to help the designated terrorists of al-Nusra in west Syria. But it continues its attempts to split Syria by inserting more of its special forces into north east Syria. These and their Kurdish proxy fighters have the task to take as much of eastern Syria from the Islamic State and others as possible before the Syrian government forces can do so. The thinking is that any captured town will be an asset in future negotiations. It will be interesting to see how the Syrian government and its allies will counter that move.

Posted by b on April 25, 2016 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

April 24, 2016

U.S. Officials Confirm - Syrian Army Attack In Aleppo To Hit Al-Qaeda

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HEARING - U.S. POLICY AFTER RUSSIA’S ESCALATION IN SYRIA
Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2015, Transcript (pdf)

Ambassador PATTERSON: That is true in the north, Mr. Issa. I would say that it is not true in the south. But, certainly, in the north, the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate, has absorbed, as have other smaller groups, have absorbed a number of what we would have previously called the moderate opposition, yes, that is correct.

U.S. Department of State, Mark C. Toner Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, February 22, 2016

QUESTION: -- [..] Is there not – I mean, my understanding is that at least some of these [moderate] groups are commingled [with alQaeda]. You assert that you feel that you are able to delineate the territories that are inhabited by ISIL or by Nusrah or by the other groups deemed terrorist. What makes you so confident you can do that? Do you not believe that there is at least some commingling of these groups? Or intermingling?

MR TONER: I would respectfully defer to others with a better knowledge of conditions on the ground. But yes, I believe there is some commingling of these groups. I think that’s a reality; we’ve talked about it before.

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq
Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman - April 20, 2016

COL. WARREN: [..] What I do know is that we have seen, you know, regime forces with some Russian support as well begin to mass and concentrate combat power around Aleppo. So this is something we're concerned about and something we'll keep an eye on.

That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.

Russian Military Buildup Near Aleppo, Syria, Threatens Truce, Kerry Warns - NY Times April 23 2015

Mr. Kerry said that the Russians might be moving on Aleppo because members of the Al Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, were mixed throughout parts of the region, and that they were terrorists not party to the cease-fire. At the same time, he said, the region is home to insurgent groups that oppose Mr. Assad and have agreed to the cease-fire. 
“That has proven harder to separate them than we thought,” Mr. Kerry said. “And there’s a Russian impatience and a regime impatience with the terrorists who are behaving like terrorists and laying siege to places on their side and killing people.”

For the last several days the government held parts of Aleppo city and the 2,000,000 inhabitants and refugees there have been under constant bombardment with improvised gas-canister mortars and rockets from the al-Nusra side.

Some heavy operations against the al-Qaeda held areas in Aleppo governate and Aleppo city are inevitable and now seem to be imminent. The statements the U.S. officials made above seem to justify such an operation.

Posted by b on April 24, 2016 at 01:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (50)

April 23, 2016

Meltdown in Libya

by Richard Galustian

The fallout of the continuing meltdown of Libya will be felt hard in in particularly Southern European countries.

The Tripoli and western town's militias are continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars sending even more tens of thousands of migrants north to the EU.

All changed for the worse last week with a number of pronouncements and events, though reading mainstream media, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First Britain's Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond announced he didn't need Parliament to send troops involving the UK in another quagmire that would prove similar to its disastrous involvement in Afghanistan. Hammond, within hours, back tracked on that idea under pressure from Parliament.

Meanwhile the UN and EU has also stated it will change formally international recognition status, from the House of Representatives (HOR) parliament to Serraj, whether or not HOR recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA) which would give the UN appointed Serraj control of Libya’s vast foreign assets, estimated at $140 billion.

The saga further continued last Monday night when Serraj's addressed more than 50 of the great and good; foreign and defense ministers of the European Union gathered at a dinner in Luxembourg, his words coming to them by video screen.

Despite the fact that the HOR in Tobruk, had not decided to accept the GNA nevertheless illogically the EU's Federica Mogerini reaction to Serraj's presentation that same evening, perpetuating the charade of his Unity government, stated she had €100m to give him!

To remind readers, over two weeks ago Serraj arrived in Tripoli with no more than 7 men were on the ship, the remnants of what should have been a 9-man Presidential Council. And where are the 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers that constitute the GNA?

Plucked from obscurity by the UN, a Tripoli businessman was selected, one Fayez Serraj, to bring peace to Libya, who they expect to end the war between the Islamist National Salvation government in Tripoli and the elected parliament (HOR) in Tobruk. The further expectation then is for Serraj to head a united Libyan army crushing both ISIS and the migrant-smuggling gangs, the West’s twin Libya headaches. Impossible!

To preserve this illusion, western dignitaries staged visits to the Libyan capital, a virtual 'Potemkin Village' show.

They land amid tight security at the city center Mitega airport, guarded by their own small army and by the few militias who have taken Serraj’s side, and his promise of fat pay rises. From there it is a nervy two mile dash in armored cars down the coastal highway to the naval base. Once the dignitaries are inside then there are the all-important photographs showing handshakes before scurrying away again.

Also last Monday the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond paid a very short visit to Tripoli's Naval 'bunker' as it has become known.

A few days earlier the French, Italian and German foreign ministers completed this sham also. Soon after the French and German VIP planes flew away though, a militia blew up the home of a politician who had dared object to the new government. Hours later, another militia attacked the Tripoli home of deputy designate prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeg. Neither man was home, wisely staying well clear of this militia-infested city, but the second attack saw rival militias bring tanks onto the streets in fighting that spluttered for five hours. Of Serraj there was no sign. He has spent most of the last few weeks abroad, in Cairo, Istanbul, London and Tunis, anywhere but Libya.

None of this was mentioned in Monday night’s Luxembourg gala dinner. EU leaders maintained the facade, and in fact enhanced it, promising to send diplomats to Tripoli, a city almost equivalent to Sarajevo of the early 90s.

Last month both the EU and the UN however threatened sanctions on 'spoilers' - the threatened asset freeze and travel bans - on men for daring to object to the Serraj government. One, Abdul Rahman Swehli caved in quickly to EU pressure was rewarded by being anointed as 'President' of the so called State Council. Other 'spoilers', of which Gen. Hafter is one, can expect the same despite the fact he has almost won the Battle for Benghazi against extremists. However only one man this week so far has been named to the sanctions list under President Obama’s executive sanctions order against 'spoiler' Libyans and that is Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the Islamist Tripoli Government. So far he’s the only addition. No doubt more will be added. That US Executive order will be implemented by the UN not the EU.

Unless the HOR's Saleh is also intimidated sufficiently by UN to say yes soon to Serraj's phantom GNA government, he could be next on the list. He is already sanctioned by the EU.

The UN's Martin Kobler also this week in Tobruk made Salah an offer, in Don Corleone's words, he can't refuse!

But even if the HOR does accept the GNA, which they allegedly did the other day, that still will not bring peace to Libya, only the facade of there being a unity government. Recently both Libya's rivals eastern and western central banks announced plans to print their own new currency. I predict a country that will eventually split.

Posted by b on April 23, 2016 at 05:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (37)

April 21, 2016

When Media Shill For Saudi Money

A timely Washington Post piece looks at how the Saudis bribe left, right and center:

Saudi government has vast network of PR, lobby firms in U.S.

The Saudi government and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars on U.S. law, lobby and public relations firms to raise the country’s visibility in the United States and before the United Nations at a crucial time.
...
Five lobby and PR firms were hired in 2015 alone, signaling a stepped-up focus on ties with Washington. The firms have been coordinating meetings between Saudi officials and business leaders and U.S. media, ...

The Saudis are getting some bang for their money.

And just today these three well-paid-for pieces appeared. Notice how they have a common, lobby induced theme:

They may have promoted al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology. But Saudi Arabia is too valuable an ally against today’s terrorism to allow ordinary Americans to make the kingdom pay.
While Tehran continues to sow anti-American terrorism across the Middle East, Riyadh holds the key to regional stability. This is not the time to back away from the House of Saud.
The Saudis are particularly angry about the Iran nuclear deal, and they believe that only the next U.S. president -- whether it's Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump -- will be able to restore Saudi Arabia's status as America's key ally in the Middle East.
  • The biggest sellout yet is Bloomberg which whored out the May issue of Businessweek, including the cover, to a Saudi prince:

The $2 Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia’s Economy Off Oil - Eight unprecedented hours with “Mr. Everything,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In Prince Mohammed, the U.S. may find a sympathetic long-term ally in a chaotic region.

The Saudi mafia clan is not just itself corrupt. It is massively corrupting others. It bribes them to do take part in their crimes, no matter how nefarious. Just consider this, mentioned in the WaPo lobby piece above:

In 2014, consultants at the PR firm Qorvis developed content for the Saudi Arabia embassy’s YouTube and Twitter pages, and ran the Twitter account for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

The Saudis are the major money behind the war on Syria. They are building ISIS and Al-Qaeda not only in Syria but also in Yemen and elsewhere. A former Saudi foreign minister, quoted in in yesterdays Financial Times (see here), admitted such:

Saud al-Feisal, the respected Saudi foreign minister, remonstrated with John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, that "Daesh [ISIS] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da'wa" - the Tehran aligned Shia Islamist ruling party of Iraq.

Whoever shills for the Saudis should be considered adhering to enemies.

Posted by b on April 21, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (94)

April 20, 2016

Open Thread 2016-15

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 20, 2016 at 01:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (163)

Israel's "Unique Global Breakthrough Technology" - Bribe The Enemy

The NYT is marketing some pretended Israeli technological supremacy.

Israelis Find New Tunnel From Gaza Into Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the discovery, saying, “the state of Israel has achieved a global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels.”

Describing the breakthrough as “unique,” but without providing any details of the technology involved, Mr. Netanyahu added, “The government is investing considerable capital in countering the tunnel threat. This is an ongoing effort that will not end overnight.”

Hmm ... "considerable capital". Yes, I believe that was the indeed involved in this "detection" of a tunnel. But why is this described by the NYT journo as if there was some "technology involved"?

Did the NYT bureau in Israel really miss these rumors which have been circulating for days?

According to various reports, a senior commander of the Gaza tunnel division has defected to Israel. If this publication is accurate, he may be able to provide new details which were unknown to the IDF and ISA about what is happening under the Gaza Strip.

So the "global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels” is the "technology" of bribing a senior Hamas commander with "considerable capital".

That is historically "unique"? In Israel?

Posted by b on April 20, 2016 at 01:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (12)

April 19, 2016

Sec State Kerry: Proud Of Undermining The Nuclear Deal With Iran

When in January the deal about Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) went into its implementation phase we asked When And How Will The U.S. Infringe On The Iran Deal?

I predicted:

[T]he U.S. is never short of some subterfuge to to break agreements. Some reason will be found that then will be used to infringe on the nuclear agreement and to implement new measures to hinder Iran's development.

That seems to have been correct and the answers to the "When" and "How" of U.S. infringement are now in.

On January 16, the implementation day, Secretary of State Kerry said:

To get to this point, ladies and gentlemen, Iran has undertaken significant steps that many – and I do mean many – people doubted would ever come to pass. And that should be recognized, even though the full measure of this achievement can only be realized by assuring continued full compliance in the coming years. In return for the steps that Iran has taken, the United States and the EU will immediately lift nuclear-related sanctions, expanding the horizon of opportunity for the Iranian people. And I have even tonight, before coming over here, signed a number of documents over those sanctions that the State Department has jurisdiction over in order to effect that lifting.

But four month later Iran can still not access its money that was frozen under sanctions. It can not buy anything significant with it. The U.S. is blackmailing the banks not to release one penny of Iran's money. It did not drain the sanction morass added to it.

Indeed the very next day after Kerry's announcement the U.S. raised new sanctions against Iran

The White House immediately announced a new set of sanctions against 11 Iranian companies, institutions and individual people because Iran had tested a ballistic missile the previous autumn.

Last month came more of the same. This time the Iranians conducted several missile tests over a period of two days. And on March 25 the administration announced another round of sanctions, these once again imposed by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The U.S. claims that Iran, by testing ballistic missiles, somehow infringes on UN Security Council Resolution 2231. But that resolution only "calls upon Iran", i.e. politely asks, to not test missiles designed to be nuclear capable.

There is also a deep logical flaw in the U.S. argumentation:

Iran has certifiably dismantled all aspects of its nuclear program that would have made it capable of weaponizing enriched uranium. Nonetheless, say the Americans, we will impose sanctions on Iran for developing missile technology that would make it capable of firing one of the nuclear weapons we have just made certain it cannot build.

Besides those new sanction over ballistic missiles the U.S. is doing everything to block any real relief from the old sanctions.

As soon as the sanctions over the nuclear program were formally lifted, the U.S. send its bureaucrats out to warn off any bank from doing business with Iran:

US Treasury officials, since ‘implementation’ day, have been doing the rounds, warning European banks that the US sanctions on Iran remain in place, and that European banks should not think, even for a second, of tapping the dollar or euro bond markets in order to finance trade with Iran, or to become involved with financing infrastructure projects in Iran. Banks well understand the message: touch Iranian commerce and you will be whacked with a billion dollar fine – against which there is no appeal, no clear legal framework – and no argument countenanced. The banks (understandably) are shying off. Not a single bank or financial lending institution tuned up when President Rouhani visited Paris, to hold meetings with the local business élite.

There are some $50-100 billion in Iran owned accounts in banks all over the world. These were frozen under UN sanction against Iran. People opposed to the Iran deal claimed that Iran, should the money be unblocked, would use it for "terrorism" or other nefarious stuff. That is nonsense. "Terrorism" does not cost any significant amount of money. The Twin Towers were blown up for less than a million. Indeed the Obama administration publicly defended the release of the Iranian money. But as soon as the deal was done it started to sabotaged it.

The same man that defended the unfreezing of Iran's money against opponents of the deal and who promised the lifting of sanctions, Secretary of State Kerry, is now boasting that this did indeed not happen in any practical way:

“Do you remember the debate over how much money Iran was going to get?” Kerry asked the crowd. “Sometimes you heard some of the presidential candidates putting a mistaken figure out of $155 billion. We never thought it would be that. Others thought it would be about a $100 billion because there was supposedly $100 billion that was owed and so forth. We calculated it to be about $55 billion when you really take a hard look at the economy and what is happening. Guess what, folks. You know how much they have received to date as I stand here tonight?”

“About three billion,” he told the J Street supporters who lobbied to cement the deal when it went through the Congress, shortly after its contours were agreed upon between the P5+1 world powers in July.

Shorter Kerry: "Look, we screwed Iran mightily and we are very proud of it!"

The U.S. government expected that the nuclear deal would unfreeze $55 billion of Iranian money. It then sabotaged the deal and is now proud to announce that only $3 billion were actually unfrozen.

The New York Times editors want to make you believe that its is Iran's fault that the money is not really unfrozen:

The agreement promised an end to sanctions imposed by the United Nations and the European Union in return for a freeze on Iran’s nuclear program. Iran has fulfilled its part; so have the major powers, and businesses are flocking to Iran in search of deals. Technically, Iran is free to export crude oil and access about $50 billion in foreign exchange reserves in foreign banks.
..
Before the nuclear deal, Iran was largely isolated from the international banking system. It has not kept up with strict new rules to prevent money-laundering and terrorist financing. Experts say Iranian banks are badly run, politicized and lack transparency — warning signs for risk-averse foreign banks.

But this has nothing to do with Iranian banks which are likely much less prone to rob their customers than the big U.S. banks are. Too-big-to-fail U.S. banks, not Iranian banks, crashed the world economy. This has nothing to do with Iranian banks but has all to do with the U.S. blocking any significant money transfer out of and into Iranian accounts. Indeed later on the NYT admits that U.S. restrictions are making any big deals with Iran impossible:

There are no restrictions on foreign banks that want to do deals with Iran in euros or other non-dollar currencies. Foreign banks can also do trades in dollars if they can cover the transaction with the dollars they have on hand. In practice, that means smaller deals, because for larger ones, like oil contracts, they would have to access the American financial system, which is off limits.

The U.S. officially lifted the sanctions, the $55 billion or so are now officially unfrozen, but only $3 billion of them could be moved because the U.S. blocks any significant money transfer and other commercial deals with Iran.

The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken said today that North Korea should learn from the Iran deal and do a similar one. We can be sure that North Korea watches and learns from the Iran deal. There will be no such deal with North Korea as the U.S. is obviously not ever a trustworthy party.

Others are watching too.

The people of Iran will (again) learn that the more liberal "reformers", like the current President Rouhani, are losers who fall for U.S. trickery each and every time. They will go back to vote for those conservatives who warned of the nuclear deal.  Welcome back President Ahmadinejad. Is that what the U.S. really wants? To keep Iran hostile as an ever available "enemy"?

The Europeans want to get into business with Iran, so do the Russians and the Chinese. The U.S. is trying to block them all. But this will only create more inducement to shun the U.S. dollar as reserve currency and to move all businesses to financial frameworks that are not under U.S. whim and control That will take some time. But I am sure that this childish flim-flam the Obama administration and the Secretary of State are now so proud of, will come back to bite and will in future impede the role of the U.S. in the world's financial system.

Posted by b on April 19, 2016 at 01:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

April 18, 2016

Syria - "Rebel" Sponsors Order A New Round Of Defeat

The Obama administration has obviously decided to restart the war in Syria. Thousands of tons of new weapons have been purchased and delivered to the Jihadists including anti-air MANPADs of U.S. (full text) and Chinese origin. Half of the weapons the "rebel" mercenaries are given by their sponsors regularly end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda in Syria. We will not be surprised when a few weeks from now a civilian passenger plane will be hit and come down in Turkey or elsewhere.

Two week ago the foreign supported "rebels" already broke the ceasefire when they took part in a large al-Qaeda attack south of Aleppo city. Several "rebel" attacks took place against the Kurdish quarter in Aleppo city with over a hundred civilian death. Other attacks took place in north Latakia.

Today the "rebels" announced a full return to open war and more fronts were reopened including in north Hama where Uighur "Turkmen" Jihadis used two suicide bombers against the Syrian government positions.

The UN sponsored talks in Geneva went nowhere and the "rebel" side now suspended them to renew the fighting. Only three men of the Saudi controlled "rebel" negotiating team attended today. They still insist on the unconstitutional removal of the Syrian president before agreeing to any further talks about a unity government.

The Syrian army has suspended its ongoing offensive against the Islamic State. The plan was to march from the recently freed Palmyra to the Islamic State held Deir Ezzor in the east. The troops have now been recalled to protect the Syrian people from the renewed "rebel" attacks in west Syria. This may well fit the U.S. intentions in its phony war on ISIS.

There will soon be reports about local retreats of the Syrian army from this or that town or hill. Do not give them too much weight. Since the Russian intervention last year the Syrian troops have orders to retreat when under hard pressure. This to preserve manpower. As soon has the enemy occupies a position the artillery and air force will take care of them. Then, when the enemy attack has been blunted, the Syrian army and their allies on the ground will reoccupy the position and if possible launch counterattacks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Suleiman visited Moscow last week. After his first visit last summer the Russian intervention was planned and executed. It brought the "rebels" to the border of total defeat. Their sponsors then agreed to a ceasefire and to hold talks in Geneva. Since the ceasefire announcement on February 27 the time was used by the U.S. to rearm and reposition the "rebel" force.

It seems that another round of the cycle is now necessary. Iran has deployed regular ground troops in Syria and these, even while not yet battle-tested, will have some effect. The Syrian air force has been reequipped and its older planes have been updated. Russian helicopters are active on the Syrian front and new short range (200 km) "Iskander" ballistic missiles were recently seen. The Russian air force can additionally engage with long range flights from Russia against fixed targets in Syria within hours. Russia cruise missile carrying ships are near the Syrian coast.

It is foolish to believe that MANPADs and TOW anti tank systems can decisively change the situation on the ground. I expect that a few week of heavy fighting will now follow after which the "rebels" will again be exhausted and again on the border of defeat.

Posted by b on April 18, 2016 at 02:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

April 17, 2016

Congress Threatens To Seize Saudi U.S. Assets

Some current nonsense headlines in the U.S. media read like this: Saudis threaten sell-off of U.S. assets if 9/11 suits are allowed:

Saudi Arabia has warned the United States not to revoke its sovereign immunity, protecting the kingdom from lawsuits related to Sept. 11, or it will sell off hundreds of billions in American assets.

It is not the Saudis who are threatening something. It is the U.S. Congress that is threatening to lift the immunity of nation states in front of U.S. courts:

The Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

Under the bill a civil U.S. person could file in a U.S. court against nation states for acts or omissions(!) of that nation state related to some "terrorist act". U.S. courts are notorious for dubious rulings against foreign states, impounding and seizing huge assets of such states.

In 2012 Congress passed a law that specifically allowed victims of terrorist attacks allegedly related to Iran to collect judgements against the Iranian state. Judges started to rule in favor of billions in compensatory damages to victims and to impound even assets of Iranian charities. One of these cases and the anti-Iranian law are now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Immunity against such judgements is standard international law and known as "acta iure imperii" - the principal that no foreign court can judge the liability of a nation state for acts and omissions in the exercise of the nation state's authority.

Should the U.S. Congress break that principal, any foreign national wealth fund, pension fund or otherwise state related institution could have its U.S. assets impounded under this or that dubious terrorism judgement.

The Saudis would be utterly stupid to leave even a penny invested in the U.S. or in U.S. bonds should that law pass.

This not because the Saudi state had something to do or not with 9/11. Even a claim that the Saudi state somehow neglected to prevent some of its nationals to commit terrorism could, under the new law, be enough to seize U.S. investment of a Saudi national wealth fund. The Saudis said they would withdraw their $750 billion in U.S. assets should the law pass. That would be simply a necessary and prudent move and announcing that move is not "a threat".

If the law should pass not only the Saudis but any other nation state could and should pass similar laws and allow their use against the United States. Some Russian widow of a solider who died years ago from wounds received in Afghanistan by U.S. supported Mujaheddin, aka terrorists, could have U.S assets in Russia seized as compensation. Many South America countries have fought against U.S. instigated terrorism. There are many victims who could sue over such cases and there are many U.S. assets to seize.

To sue against U.S. assets under such laws would be a profitable business for some enterprising lawyers. One wonders how Congress would react when the first U.S. assets get seized.

Posted by b on April 17, 2016 at 12:37 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

April 16, 2016

Clinton Lied - Benghazi Attack Was Part Of A Larger Operation

The conservative group Judicial Watch has FOIAed documents of then Secretary of State Clinton related to the September 11 2012 attack in Benghazi which killed a U.S. ambassador and several CIA honchos. The documents prove that the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of an Al-Qaeda operation. Clinton and the Obama administration have publicly claimed the attack was in reaction to some anti-Muslim movie that was circling on the Internet.

That was obviously nonsense. My post about the incidents written in the early morning of September 12 was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. All known facts pointed to that conclusion.

The documents Judicial Watch got released through several Freedom of Information court decisions confirm that my take was correct and that Clinton and the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of a well organized al-Qaeda operation.

From the Judicial Watch press release:

Judicial Watch announced today it has obtained new documents from the Department of State containing the telephone transcripts from the evening of September 11, 2012, in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informs then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil that the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi “had nothing to do with the film.”
...
Similarly, Judicial Watch litigation also forced the release of the September 11, 2012 email in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informed her daughter by email that the attack had been staged by an “Al Qaeda-like group,” rather than as the result of “inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” as Mrs. Clinton had claimed in her official public statement one hour earlier.

In her phone call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Clinton also said:

Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for these is associated with Al-Qaeda.

The known facts let me believe that the group who planned and initiated the attack was not only "associated with Al-Qaeda" but the Al-Qaeda leadership itself.


September 11 2012, U.S. Embassy Cairo

Consider again the circumstances as detailed in my earlier piece. On September 11 2012 three things happen:

- Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri releases a video, coinciding with the anniversary of the September 11 attacks, in which he for the first time confirms that his deputy Abu Yahya al-Libi was killed in on June 4 in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan. The name affix "al-Libi" means that the man was from Libya.

- The brother of Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri attends the storming of the courtyard of the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The "protesters" take down, ripp (vid) and burn the U.S. flag and raise the Al-Qaeda flag. - A pre-planned attack takes place at the U.S. office in Benghazi (which is near to the Egyptian border) in which the U.S. ambassador gets killed. Later that evening another attack, with pre-registered mortar fire, takes place against a CIA house in Benghazi.

It was obvious that these three incidents were intimately related and part of one plan.

So why did the Obama administration lie about that?

Since at least 2011 the U.S. has allied with Al-Qaeda in regime change operations in Libya and in Syria. Killing al-Libi while being allied was out of bounce and the Zawahiri operation reminded the U.S. of that. The U.S. was also involved in the transfer of weapons and Al-Qaeda aligned militants from Libya via Turkey to Syria. Hours before he was killed the U.S. ambassador in Benghazi had talks with a Turkish consular official who played an organizing role in the operation.

Both issue could not be revealed to the public. They would have embarrassed the administration and the operation would have to be shut down. Thus the lie of the "spontaneous demonstrations against a movie" in Cairo and Benghazi was put forward as a cover up for the ongoing U.S. alliance with Al-Qaeda in the common attempt to destroy the state of Syria.

Posted by b on April 16, 2016 at 01:00 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

April 14, 2016

Islamic State Attacks, Occupies Erdogan's "Safe Zone"

The Turkish President Erdogan offered the U.S. "Turkmen" troops to take the Syrian-Turkish border region currently held by the Islamic State. In return he demanded that the U.S. stop its support for the Syrian-Kurdish YPG group that also fights the Islamic State. Erdogan's new demand comes on top of the long standing plan to create a "safe zone" in north Syria in which refugees and "rebels" would be kept safe under a Turkish artillery and U.S. air umbrella.

Over the last two weeks "Turkmen" (Turkish special forces, Turkish volunteers and some Uighur fighters) together with al-Qaeda and some Syrian "rebels" proceeded from the Azaz area towards east along the Turkish-Syrian border. With Turkish cross-border artillery support and U.S. A-10 ground attack air support they managed to take a dozen Syrian villages from the Islamic State. They also captured the important Al-Rai border station.

But the Islamic State counterattacked, reoccupied Al-Rai and today cut off some of the attacking "rebel" forces from their support area around Azaz (black arrow).

Here is a map of the current situation in north Syria.


bigger

In yellow shade the YPG held enclave around Efrin. In red the Syrian government held area around Aleppo city. In green the al-Qaeda and "rebel" held areas. The northern part around Azaz next to the Turkish border is the current point of action. The dark blackish areas are held by the Islamic State.

One can see the corridor next to the Turkish border which the Islamic Sate managed to cut today. It took several villages and a refugee camp that was established on the Syrian side. The refugee camp was then shelled by Turkish artillery to again drive out the Islamic State.

This attack demonstrates that the idea of "safe zones" in norther Syria is nonsense. Such "safe zones" would be major battle ground and would be attacked, as today, from two sides. They are indefensible. On top of that Erdogan's "Turkmen" have proven to be less capable than the YPG Kurds who have withstood similar attacks by the Islamic State.

Further south the Syrian army is near closing the corridor into eastern Aleppo city which is held by al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) fighters. This "squeezing" and several other operations, marked with red arrows on the map, are in preparation for a large Syrian army attack along several axis in Aleppo governate and in Aleppo city.

Meanwhile hawks in the CIA and Pentagon want to turn the fighting in Syria into a campaign against the Russians. They want to provide serious anti-air capabilities to al-Qaeda and its "rebel" allies should the current cessation of hostilities not hold:

Officials said the CIA has made clear to its allies that the new systems, once agreed upon, would be given to the rebels only if the truce and the concurrent political track toward a lasting peace—Plan A—fall apart and full-scale fighting resumes.

I consider that to be a CIA offer to the "rebels": Break the ceasefire and you will be rewarded with better quality weapons.

One can only hope that the Obama White House, which earlier had rejected a proxy war with Russia, will therefore also reject this lunatic scheme.

Posted by b on April 14, 2016 at 10:36 AM | Permalink | Comments (52)

Pentagon Claims 2,750 Air Strikes Killed Just 500 Enemies

The Pentagon claims to have tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters by airstrikes. But, according to the published numbers, only very few were killed this year. At the same time the number of Islamic State fighters the Pentagon says are active and alive has remained essentially the same for over two years.

According to Pentagon claims documented below, just some 500 Islamic State fighters were killed by U.S. airstrikes in 2016. But its own Airpower Summary March 2016 says that between January and March 2,781 ground attack sorties were flown in Iraq and Syria with at least one weapon release each. Such a high sortie to kill rate is unprecedented. Who, if not Islamic State fighters, is the U.S. bombing?

Here is a list of the "Islamic State fighters killed" Pentagon claims:

January 22 2015
U.S. envoy to Iraq makes bold claim in ISIS fight

The Al Arabiya News Channel quoted Ambassador Stuart Jones in an interview published Thursday as saying U.S. estimates were that "the airstrikes have now killed more than 6,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq."

June 4 2015
U.S. official: 10,000-plus ISIS fighters killed in 9-month campaign

Paris (CNN)The U.S.-led coalition against ISIS has recorded more than 10,000 ISIS deaths since the campaign against the extremist group began nine months ago, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken told France Inter radio.

July 29 2015
Islamic State recruiting offsets 15,000 killed by airstrikes in past year

WASHINGTON — In a sign of its resilience, the Islamic State appears to have recruited new fighters to offset 15,000 militants killed in a U.S.-led airstrike campaign approaching its first anniversary, U.S. military and intelligence estimates show.
...
The U.S.-led coalition confirmed the 15,000 casualty number but would not discuss it publicly.

October 12 2015
ISIL death toll at 20,000, but 'stalemate' continues

The U.S.-led bombing campaign has killed an estimated 20,000 Islamic State fighters, an increase from the 15,000 the Pentagon reported in July, according to a senior military officer.

November 30 2015
Islamic State defections mount as death toll rises, U.S. official says

Top military officials estimate that the campaign has killed 23,000 Islamic State fighters, raising their death toll by 3,000 since mid-October.

January 7 2016
Coalition Airstrikes Killed 2,500 ISIS Fighters in December: Pentagon

U.S. and coalition airstrikes in December killed an estimated 2,500 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and another 60 in the first few days of January, a U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad said Wednesday.

In January the Pentagon claimed about 25,560 Islamic State fighters were killed in airstrikes which makes the next claims rather weird.

April 13 2016
U.S. Military Campaign Takes Toll on ISIS’ Cash Flow

WASHINGTON — American airstrikes have killed 25,000 Islamic State fighters in Iraq and Syria and incinerated millions of dollars plundered by the militants, according to Pentagon officials.

April 13 2016
Pentagon claims 26,000 ISIS fighters dead in Iraq, Syria

The Pentagon claims the battle to defeat and destroy the terror group ISIS is going well, citing the fact that more than 26,000 isis terrorists have been killed. CNN's Jim Sciutto reports.

So the Pentagon now says that only 440 Islamic State fighter were killed by its airstrikes since January 7? Looking at its previous claimed kill rates that number does not make sense. Or did the U.S. stop fighting the Islamic State?

Also unconvincing is the total number of Islamic State fighters the Pentagon and CIA claim. Despite all the claimed airstrike kills that number stays steady at some 30,000 since 2014. This while the foreign fighters contingent in ISIS alone is claimed to be at that size.

September 12 2014
ISIS can 'muster' between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters, CIA says

A CIA assessment puts the number of ISIS fighters at possibly more than three times the previous estimates.

The terror group that calls itself the Islamic State "can muster between 20,000 and 31,500 fighters across Iraq and Syria," a CIA spokesman told CNN on Thursday.

September 27 2015
Up to 30,000 foreign fighters went to Syria and Iraq, report says

US intelligence fears nearly 30,000 foreign fighters have traveled to Iraq and Syria since 2011, many of them to join the Islamic State group, The New York Times reported Saturday.
...
The New York Times' report cites anonymous "intelligence and law enforcement officials."

October 9 2015
The Pentagon's Syria debacle

U.S. intelligence officials believe there are as many as 30,000 Islamic State fighters in Syria and Iraq, plus a patchwork of extremist groups such as the Al Nusra Front.

January 7 2016
Coalition Airstrikes Killed 2,500 ISIS Fighters in December: Pentagon

Despite the losses, however, ISIS still has between 20,000 and 30,000 fighters in its ranks, [Army Col. Steve Warren, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve,] said.

Posted by b on April 14, 2016 at 09:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (28)

April 12, 2016

Soft Coup In Libya Causes Meltdown, Breakup

(Note: This is a follow-up to Richard's recent introductive piece Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention)

By Richard Galustian

The UN backed General National Accord (GNA) arrived in Tripoli over a week ago and current events are looking more and more like a coup. Meanwhile last Friday PM Designate for the GNA suddenly flew to London on a "private visit"; odd time for him to leave Libya wouldn't you say?

There are consequences for Malta. A main one is that for most of the EU, the intended sanctions against GNA 'spoilers' are no problem for them as neither Abu Sahmain (Tripoli General National Congress, or GNC) nor Aguila Saleh (Tobruk House of Representatives, or HoR) are EU citizens and also neither have much in the way of overseas assets but the exception seems to be Malta. So the Maltese authorities are having to trawl through everything at the UN & EU's behest to find their assets and then to freeze them. Knowing that the UN/EU is likely to suddenly unfreeze them if these two men are intimidated enough to decide to cooperate. Either way Malta is put in an awkward position.

Let's backtrack a little. The GNA consisted in total of a nine-strong presidency council led by a UN selected prime minister, Fayez Serraj, and with Tripoli airspace closed, they were conveyed to their capital city by Italian frigate, transferring at sea to a small rusty Libyan coastal patrol vessel to preserve the illusion that they were not being helped by western powers. But the GNA had fractured even before they were helped aboard the Italian vessel, with two of the nine abruptly resigning, accusing the leadership of being too cozy with Tripoli militias and for their opposition to Gen. Hafter remaining head of the army.

Nevertheless, the so called GNA, more correctly called the Presidential Council, now reduced to seven, arrived in the capital, choosing to set up office in the naval base, the only part of the capital judged safe from roaming militias.

A coup, in which a small number of people take control of a state, can be defined in many ways. On the one hand a coup can be a seizure of power through brute force. On the other, it can be the usurping of power without violence. Last week has seen what amounts to the latter unfold in Libya.

Reinforcing this coup reality, seventy three members of the Tripoli parliament, the GNC, agreed this week to reform themselves as the State Council, designed by the UN as part of the legislature of the Serraj government. However, most of the 73 were not elected to the GNC, as the UN rules stipulate, but are Libya Dawn acolytes added to the GNC after it captured Tripoli by force two years ago.

Compounding the confusion, the State Council then amended the UN rules, declaring they had the right to self-declare the new government valid. That’s a coup folks, an Islamist one, egged on by the West.

The elected HoR in Tobruk, which the UN had insisted must agree to the plan, has been discarded in actuality. UN officials were angry that the HOR failed to vote yes to the plan and indeed failed to even meet to discuss it in recent weeks.

The fact is that the Libyan Political Agreement (LPA) the UN backed document of December 17, 2015 has been torn up. Gone also is the LPA’s stipulation that new chiefs must be appointed to the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) and the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) which hold tens of billions of dollars of foreign cash and assets. Instead, the former chiefs, approved by Libya Dawn, have control.

The big winners are therefore the Muslim Brotherhood and various factions from Misrata, and Libya Dawn, who, despite losing in the 2014 elections, now have international recognition from western powers, and through this control of Libya’s vast overseas assets. Other specific winners are Abdel Hakim Belhadj and MB leader Ali Sallabi both of whom have been feted by Martin Kobler in Istanbul in the past few days.

It is a personal victory for Britain’s Libya envoy Jonathan Powell, who mainly brokered the deal and boasts of his close links to the Brotherhood. In a damning e-mail, newly released, between Sidney Blumenthal and Hillary Clinton, Powell wrote about his ability to use his success in negotiating between the IRA and the British government twenty years ago to end terrorist campaigns. Powell further boasted that this model, being used in a number of countries through a “below radar” NGO, is workable given his close contacts, he claims, with British Intelligence. A very doubtful assertion.

But the lack of transparency over the Libya process, is coming into sharp focus. Panamagate is erupting, highlighting the lack of transparency over the world’s wealth, and it is just this lack of transparency that Powell is encouraging with Libya.

The breakup of Libya is imminent, along an east-west fault line, and the irony is that Western powers will have been the orchestrator.

It seems to me that the West's plan for Libya is now in final meltdown.

Posted by b on April 12, 2016 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (31)

A Saudi U.S. Split Over Syria?

There is a flurry of Saudi diplomatic travel in its region. The context might be the U.S. arrangement with Russia over Syria and Saudi opposition to it. Consider:

April 7 - Saudi king starts Egypt visit in boost for Sisi

Saudi King Salman on Thursday started a five-day visit to Cairo in a show of support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with the leaders due to sign a raft of investment deals.

April 11 - Saudi King Salman meets Turkey's Erdogan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz was welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after arriving in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Monday.

As part of king Salman’s official visit to the country, regional and international issues are expected to be discussed in meetings between Turkish and Saudi officials.
...
During his visit, will later be attending the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that will be taking place in Istanbul on April 14 and 15.

April 12 - The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and King of Jordan Agree to Establish a Joint Investment Fund

Saudi Arabia and Jordan yesterday agreed to establish a joint investment fund during the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan. Prince Mohammed who is also the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence met King Abdullah II and in a joint statement that was made at the end of the visit, the two sides stressed “the importance of strengthening the existing cooperation in the fields of security and fighting terrorism and extremism”. They also stressed the “importance of participating in existing international efforts to fight terrorism made by the international coalition and the military coalition”.

April 12 - Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed receives Saudi Deputy Crown Prince

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Monday received Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, upon his arrival at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi King visits two heavy weight Middle East countries over the last days while his son visits two minor ones. Something is up here. Will there be a new Saudi organized "initiative" in Syria? What else could be the purpose of such diplomatic bustle?

On a side note:

This is the picture the Turkish President Erdogan arranged when the German chancellor Merkel visited him. Nostalgic Ottoman opulence for the frugal daughter of a Lutheran pastor.

Now compare that to the official picture with the pompous, ultra rich Saudi King.

Here Erdogan chose a rather sparse environment with a huge portrait of the secular founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Erdogan's declared political aim is to move away from secular Atatürk Turkey to return to Islamic Ottoman glory. So why does he emphasize Atatürk when the Saudi King visits him?

Back to the Saudi diplomatic caravan. Obama will soon visit Saudi Arabia:

The White House says Obama will head to Saudi Arabia on April 21 for a summit of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Obama last year hosted leaders from the group of Gulf nations. They’ll discuss the fight against Daesh and other Mideast security concerns.

In preparation for Obama's arrival in Riyadh the U.S. has again pulled out the "28 pages" threat. These still classified parts of the 9/11 investigation describe Saudi interaction with the terrorists. Whenever the White House wants something important from the Saudis it launches a campaign to declassify the 9/11 findings which would turn Saudi Arabia into a public enemy. This comes on top of the recent interview Obama gave to the Atlantic in which he questioned the U.S. alliance with Saudi Arabia. The politicized Fitch rating agency just lowered Saudi credit worthiness. What does Obama want the Saudis to do?

My hunch is that the Saudis are sabotaging, via their proxy terrorist forces in Syria, the new found U.S.-Russian cooperation against al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. Just consider how the U.S. is now practically inviting the Russians and the Syrian army to be more aggressive in Syria. From yesterday's State Department press briefing:

QUESTION: You’re not opposed to the Syrian army going after and – going after Aleppo and taking the – or at least the parts of it that are held by al-Nusrah. That’s okay with you. But if they start going after groups that you guys think are part of – or say are part of the cessation of hostilities, then it – only then it’s bad. Is that correct?

MR TONER: Yes.

Last week Saudi sponsored groups in Syria cooperated with Nusra in their attack on the government held Tal al-Eis and thereby broke the ceasefire. The U.S. just gave its okay for Russia and Syria to counter that move with a bigger "anti-Nusra" campaign.

The Saudi visiting flurry to arrange its regional chess pieces before Obama arrives must be seen in that context.

Posted by b on April 12, 2016 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

April 11, 2016

Hired By Nuland, Fired By Nuland

When he was selected by the neocon U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Yats is the guy, the expectations were that Arseniy Yatsenyuk would be capable to do whatever the U.S. would order him to do in Ukraine.

But as Prime Minister of Ukraine Yatsenyuk was just a too small figure in a big game. The oligarchs still rule Ukraine and the great power politics overshadow any local politics. Even there Yatsenyuk was in way over his head. He never had real power in the parliament and the people of Ukraine hated him.

He was finally told to go by the same people who put him into his position:

KIEV, Ukraine — Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister of Ukraine, announced his resignation on Sunday in a surprise move that opened a new period of political uncertainty here.
...
Mr. Yatsenyuk and Petro O. Poroshenko, who became president, emerged as the nation’s most prominent political figures. But the revolution’s leaders soon turned on each other. [..] Ukraine’s Western allies eventually sided with Mr. Poroshenko and pushed Mr. Yatsenyuk to step aside.

Get hired by Nuland, get fired by Nuland.

The "good-bye" phone call Vice President Biden had with Yatsenyuk was lukewarm:

The Vice President thanked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk for his partnership during a historic time for Ukraine. He congratulated the government of Ukraine on its accomplishments over the past two years ..

"Partnership", "accomplishments" - I could think of greater words to express gratitude for the well paid, cushy job Biden junior was given in Ukraine. An abbreviated readout of the Biden-Yatsenyuk phone call would just say: "Don't dare to call me again".

Yatsenyuk is a good example of those who hope to ride to power on the back of U.S. regime change shenanigans. Such people are just expendable puppets to be put in the trash whenever their usefulness ends.

Posted by b on April 11, 2016 at 02:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

April 10, 2016

Boston Globe Anti-Trump Scaremongering: He Would Continue Obama Policies

Today's Boston Globe provides some silly lubral scaremongering about Donald Trump. A piece under the headline The GOP must stop Trump is accompanied by a PDF of a Boston Globe frontpage as it would look, in the mind of the writers, should Trump win the presidency.

The top headline of the envisioned front page says "Deportations To Begin".

The Globe writers should for once start reading their own newspaper. Under Barack Obama, which the Globe supports, deportation happened all along and the government increased the numbers as well as the deportation personal.

A January 14 Boston Globe report ran under the original headline Deportations quietly continue. On March 18 a report under the headline Homeland Security using raids to curb border crossings remarked:

The Obama administration is openly and unapologetically stepping up efforts to find and deport unaccompanied children and families who arrived in the U.S. in the 2014 surge of illegal crossings.
...
Homeland Security officials have kept a wary eye on the border since more than 68,000 unaccompanied children and roughly as many people traveling as families, many fleeing widespread violence in Central America, were caught crossing the border illegally in 2014. The effort to step up enforcement against families and young immigrants started in the midst of a new wave of such immigrants.

Obama increased deportation efforts. But the Globe is now scaremongering that Trump may begin deportations? How does that fit?

Another stupid headline on the fake Trump front page says "U.S. soldiers refuse orders to kill ISIS families". Should that indeed happen it would be a very welcome surprise. Obama has ordered hundreds if not thousands of drone and air-strikes on al-Qaeda and ISIS "terrorists" which have killed not only the targets but also their families. Obama admitted that these murderous strikes happen without any due process. Despite the very murky legality of these strikes under national and international law no U.S. soldier is know to have refused orders to take part in them.

President Obama, and certainly Hillary Clinton, are more hawkish than Trump on issues of foreign policy and war. They both oppose illegal immigration just as Trump does.

It is certainly legitimate for the Globe as a more liberal paper to oppose Trump. But to do so on points where their own preferred politicians are just as bad is silly.

Posted by b on April 10, 2016 at 01:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (60)

Kerry's "Please Make Assad Go" Begging Rounds Look Utterly Silly

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked "Iran to help so that Bashar Assad leaves.

"We should ask them: "What does this have to do with you? Shouldn't the Syrian people decide?'"

"From Iran's point of view Bashar Assad and his government should remain as a legal government and legal president until the end of his term. And Bashar Assad shall be able to take part in a presidential election as any Syrian citizen. And their precondition that Bashar Assad should go is a red line for us."
Jerusalem Post

I have wondered for quite a while why Kerry is running from door to door with this childish insistence that Bashar al-Assad has to leave as President of Syria.

Let's assume that Assad leaves tomorrow and is replaced with some other intelligent Syrian nationalist. Someone who, like Bashar al-Assad, has majority support of the Syrian people to continue the current course.

What would change?

Yes, Bashar Assad has some symbolic character for the Syrians fighting for their state. But a good inner-Syrian propaganda campaign could easily project a like picture onto a new face. The strategic interests and the policies involved in Syria would not change at all.

After the U.S. supported "rebels" broke the ceasefire by attacking government position in south of Aleppo and in Latakia the Syrian army is preparing for a big offensive. The aim is to free all of Aleppo governate from the "rebel" al-Qaeda menace. Changing the Syrian head of state would not change these military plans. They have, like national interests, their own logic.

Does Kerry understand how silly he looks when he makes these 'Please make Bashar al Assad go' rounds?

Posted by b on April 10, 2016 at 09:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (40)

April 09, 2016

Open Thread 2016-14

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 9, 2016 at 02:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (231)

April 08, 2016

U.S. Delivers 3,000 Tons Of Weapons And Ammo To Al-Qaeda & Co in Syria

The United States via its Central Intelligence Agency is still delivering thousands of tons of additional weapons to al-Qaeda and others in Syria.

The British military information service Janes found the transport solicitation for the shipment on the U.S. government website FedBizOps.gov. Janes writes:

The FBO has released two solicitations in recent months looking for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Eastern Europe to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on behalf of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.

Released on 3 November 2015, the first solicitation sought a contractor to ship 81 containers of cargo that included explosive material from Constanta in Bulgaria to Aqaba.
...
The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems. The Faktoria is an improved version of the 9K111 Fagot ATGW, the primary difference being that its missile has a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA) fitted to some tanks.

The Janes author tweeted the full article (copy here).

One ship with nearly one thousand tons of weapons and ammo left Constanta in Romania on December 5. The weapons are from Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. It sailed to Agalar in Turkey which is a military pier and then to Aqaba in Jordan. Another ship with more than two-thousand tons of weapons and ammo left in late March, followed the same route and was last recorded on its way to Aqaba on April 4.

We already knew that the "rebels" in Syria received plenty of weapons during the official ceasefire. We also know that these "rebels" regularly deliver half of their weapon hauls from Turkey and Jordan to al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra):

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, ..

U.S. and Turkey supported "rebels" took part in the recent attack on Tal al-Eis against Syrian government forces which was launched with three suicide bombs by al-Qaeda in Syria. This was an indisputable breaking of the ceasefire agreement negotiated between Russia and the U.S. It is very likely that some of the weapons and ammunition the U.S. delivered in December were used in this attack.

Millions of rifle, machine-gun and mortar shots, thousands of new light and heavy weapons and hundreds of new anti-tank missiles were delivered by the U.S.. Neither Turkey nor Jordan use such weapons of Soviet provenience. These weapons are going to Syria where, as has been reported for years by multiple independent sources, half of them go directly to al-Qaeda.

From historic experience we can be sure that the consequence of this weaponizing of takfiris will be not only be the death of "brown people" in the Middle East, but also attacks on "western" people and interests.

Skyscrapers falling in New York and hundreds of random people getting killed in Paris, Brussels, London and (likely soon) Berlin seem not enough to deter the politicians and "experts" that actively support this criminal war on Syria and its people.

Posted by b on April 8, 2016 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (59)

April 07, 2016

What Qualifies A Politician?

This seems to be unqualified reporting.

Washington Post April 6 2016

Washington Post April 7 2016

Anyway.

What does qualify a politician?

Posted by b on April 7, 2016 at 11:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (83)

April 05, 2016

Syria - As Rebels Break Ceasefire Army Gathers For New Campaign

The ceasefire in Syria held for some five weeks but is now about to end. During the ceasefire Russia reduced its forces in Syria and the Syrian Arab Army made significant progress against the Islamic State.  But the opposition and their sponsors abused the ceasefire to rearm. They prepared and executed new attacks against the Syrian government and Syrian civilians.

The sponsors of the opposition, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. delivered new arms and munition to the "moderate" opposition. It is known that up to half of all supplies the "moderates" receive is inevitably delivered to al-Qaeda in Syria. The sponsors also broke a long-standing taboo and introduced portable anti-air missiles (MANPADs) onto the battle field. Several fighters of the U.S. and Turkey supported Al Hamza brigade posted pictures showing off their new toys. The U.S. claims that these fighters are supposed to only fight the Islamic State. But the Islamic State has no aircraft and these weapons are clearly to be used against the Syrian government and its supporters.

Today Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist group near to al-Qaeda, downed (video) a Syrian Su-22 ground-attack plane with a MANPAD near the city of Tal Eis, south of Aleppo city. The pilot, Lt. Col Musad Zayed Hirani, was taken prisoner by al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al Nusra). This incident shows that MANPADs immediately proliferate on the battle field and beyond and may soon be used against civilian planes in the Middle East and around the world.

Also today "moderate" rebels launched improvised artillery attacks on the mostly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in the government held parts of Aleppo city. At least 17 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

The "moderate" opposition in Syria which is receiving official U.S. support is not willing to distance itself from al-Qaeda:

“We absolutely do not agree with Jabhat Al Nusra. We do not want Jabhat Al Nusra’s ideology to be in Syria now or in the future. But we need fighters who will fight with us against the regime," said Zakaria Malahefji, a political officer with Fastaqim Kama Umrit, a coalition of rebel groups in the city of Aleppo.
...
“Jabhat Al Nusra are our brothers," said Hajj Bakri, a rebel leader in Hama. “We have no problem with them."
...
“Our relationship with Jabhat Al Nusra is good and there is a collaboration with Jabhat Al Nusra in military operations and security responsibilities," said Abu Zeid, a commander with the hardline Salafi militia Ahrar Al Sham in north-western Syria’s Akrad Mountains. As one of the most powerful rebel factions in the war, Ahrar Al Sham is Al Nusra’s most important single ally.

Al-Qaeda in Syria was, like the Islamic State, not part of the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. officially regards al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist entity and enemy. Al-Qaeda has zero interest in any negotiated peace and is therefore doing its best to sabotage it. During the last weeks it succeeded in convincing the "moderates" to join it in renewed fighting:

Faced by an internationally-mediated cessation of hostilities that threatened to irreversibly erode its influence, Nusra had begun in mid-March a process of talks inside Syria aimed at convincing opposition groups to resume their fight against the regime. As such, the last 48 hours of opposition advances south of Aleppo represent a victory for al-Qaeda in its efforts to undermine the political process and to put back in place conditions more amenable to its long game strategy for Syria.

On Saturday several U.S. supported "moderate" rebel groups joined al-Qaeda in an attack on the government held city of Tal Eis in the south Aleppo countryside:

Syria's partial cease-fire appeared to be unraveling Saturday as fierce fighting between government forces and opposition fighters, including members of the al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front, erupted outside the country's second largest city of Aleppo and other parts in the country's north.

At least 25 pro-government and 16 opposition fighters died in the clashes south of Aleppo, where the Nusra Front and rebel militias captured a village overlooking a major highway, a Britain-based monitoring group told The Associated Press.
...
A number of groups — including some nominally party to the truce agreement — acknowledged on social media that they were battling government forces.

The Islam Army, whose political coordinator heads the opposition delegation during halting peace talks in Geneva, announced it had killed 20 government soldiers in fighting outside Damascus Friday. It announced Saturday it was also fighting in the south Aleppo countryside, though the group is not known to have a major presence there.

It is obvious now that the "moderate" rebels have broken the ceasefire and are openly in full cooperation with al-Qaeda.

Unless the opposition sponsors manage to immediately reign in their proxies, all out war in Syria will soon be back. The Syrian government and its allies are now mobilizing more forces to regain the lost areas in the southern Aleppo country side. For the first time 'advisors' of the regular Iranian army (not the Revolutionary Guard) will take part in the fighting. The Russian air force is likely to reintroduce some parts of its Syria contingent that had been withdrawn.

The Russian side had agreed with the U.S. to stop the fighting and to take the political walk through negotiations in Geneva. This decision was made against the wishes of the Syrian government and its Iranian allies. They would have preferred to at least free Aleppo city of all opposition forces before any talks.

But even if the ceasefire now breaks down the Russian move was valuable. It showed that it is able to hold its allies to a ceasefire when promised. It also demonstrated that the U.S. side is either not able, or not willing to implement and keep a ceasefire but abuses such period to rearm its proxies for new fighting.

The coming Syrian government campaign, with full support of its allies, will likely be at a more intense level than its last offensive. That attack had the rebels on the run, defeated and in parts fleeing the battle field when it was stopped by the ceasefire agreement. The coming attack will be more intense and will not stop until the opposition has taken very significant damage.

Today the Syrian army issued a statement asking all civilians to leave the areas held by the opposition within the next 48 hours. It promises that the new campaign will "give a lesson" to al-Qaeda and its followers.

Posted by b on April 5, 2016 at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

April 04, 2016

Selective Leaks Of The #PanamaPapers Create Huge Blackmail Potential

A real leak of data from a law firm in Panama would be very interesting. Many rich people and/or politicians hide money in shell companies that such firms in Panama provide. But the current heavily promoted "leak" of such data to several NATO supporting news organization and a US government financed "Non Government Organization" is just a lame attempt to smear some people the U.S. empire dislikes. It also creates a huge blackmail opportunity by NOT publishing certain data in return for this or that desired favor.

Already some 16 month ago Ken Silverstein reported for Vice on a big shady shell company provider, Mossak Fonseca in Panama. (Pierre Omidyar's Intercept, for which Silverstein was then working, refused to publish the piece.) Yves Smith published several big stories about the Mossak Fonseca money laundering business. Silverstein also repeated the well known fact that Rami Makhlouf, a rich cousin of the Syrian president Assad, had some money hidden in Mossak Fonseca shell companies. He explains:

To conduct business, shell companies like Drex need a registered agent, sometimes an attorney, who files the required incorporation papers and whose office usually serves as the shell's address. This process creates a layer between the shell and its owner, especially if the dummy company is filed in a secrecy haven where ownership information is guarded behind an impenetrable wall of laws and regulations. In Makhlouf's case—and, I discovered, in the case of various other crooked businessmen and international gangsters—the organization that helped incorporate his shell company and shield it from international scrutiny was a law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which had served as Drex's registered agent from July 4, 2000, to late 2011.

A year ago someone provided tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the center right and staunchly pro NATO. It cooperates with the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some other news organization who are all known supporters of the establishment.

The Sueddeutsche claims that the "leaked" data is about some 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients. There is surely a lot of hidden dirt in there. How many U.S. Senators are involved in such companies? Which European Union politicians? What are the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama? Oh, sorry. The Sueddeutsche and its partners will not answer those questions. Here is how they "analyzed" the data:

The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.

For each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person’s role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?

Essentially the Sueddeutsche compiled a list of known criminals and people and organizations the U.S. dislikes and cross checked them with the "leaked" database. Selected hits were then further evaluated. The outcome are stories like the annual attempt to smear the Russian president Putin, who is not even mentioned in the Mossak Fonseca data, accusations against various people of the soccer association FIFA, much disliked by the U.S., and a few mentions of other miscreants of minor relevancy.

There is no story about any U.S. person, none at all, nor about any important NATO politician. The highest political "casualty" so far is the irrelevant Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, together with his wife, owned one of the shell companies. There is no evidence that the ownership or the money held by that company were illegal.

So where is the beef?

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes, the beef (if there is any at all) is in what is hidden by the organizations that manage the "leak":

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID.

The "leak" is of data selected by U.S. friendly organization out of a database, likely obtained by U.S. secret services, which can be assumed to include much dirt about "western" persons and organizations.

To only publish very selected data from the "leaked" data has two purposes:

  • It smears various "enemies of the empire" even if only by association like the presidents Putin and Assad.
  • It lets other important people, those mentioned in the database but not yet published about, know that the U.S. or its "media partner" can, at any time, expose their dirty laundry to the public. It is thereby a perfect blackmailing instrument.

The engineered "leak" of the "Panama Papers" is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the "torture tools" to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else ...

Posted by b on April 4, 2016 at 12:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (287)

April 02, 2016

U.S. CentCom History: "2014 - Syrian Terrorist Group ISIS Invades Iraq"

Significant parts of the U.S. military, its secret services and its politicians want to deny any culpability in the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Thus they resort to extreme falsifications of historical facts. They create fantasy narratives that completely leave out their own mistakes.

The U.S. Central Command created a coalition of several countries' military to wage war on ISIS. The operation is known under the the moniker "Inherent Resolve". CentCom created a website that propagandizes the operation. On the About page of that website we find this "History" of ISIS:


bigger

HISTORY

In the summer of 2014, a new terrorist group which had risen during the chaos of the Syrian Civil War attacked across the Syrian-Iraqi borders and seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in the Euphrates River Valley and northern Iraq. Several Iraqi towns fell to the invaders, who called themselves “The Islamic State.” By the end of summer, it seemed that Baghdad itself was threatened by IS.

This is not only far away from the truth but an outrageous fabrication to deny and distort what really happened. ISIS was not created in Syria but in Iraq, it existed way before 2014 and its existence has nothing to do with war on Syria. To state that ISIS somehow came from Syria and in 2014 invaded Iraq is like claiming that Hitler invaded Germany in 1944.

ISIS was created in Iraq due to the U.S. war on Iraq. The leading ISIS members, former Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters, found each other and planned the creation of ISIS Caliphate in 2006 in the U.S. prisoner camp Bucca in Iraq:

According to a CBS News investigation, at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time at Camp Bucca, including the man who would become the group's leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. CBS News obtained photos of 10 of them in Bucca's yellow prison jumpsuits.
...
"I think it's undeniable that one of the main causes of ISIS's explosive growth after 2010 was Bucca. It's where they met, it's where they planned," said Patrick Skinner.

Skinner is with the Soufan Group and was a former CIA case officer who spent time in Iraq.

It is undeniable that ISIS started in Iraq years before the war on Syria:

October 2006 - AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri announces the creation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and establishes Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its leader.

April 2010 - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes leader of ISI after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri are killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation.

April 2013 - ISI declares its absorption of an al Qaeda-backed militant group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. Al-Baghdadi says that his group will now be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani rejects ISIS's attempt to merge with the group.

The above CNN timeline jumps over 2011 when the Al-Nusra's leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani was sent by al-Baghdadi to Syria from Iraq to reorganize Al-Qaeda cells that were secretly established in Syria long before the first demonstrations there took place. Al-Jawlani, who had also been imprisoned in Camp Bucca, came to Syria in March 2011 when the first demonstrations against the Syrian government just started:

A leader of Jordan’s ultra-Orthodox and banned Salafi movement said al-Baghdadi sent al-Golani and Abu Jleibeen, a senior al-Qaeda operative who has a relationship by marriage to al-Zarqawi, to fight in Syria, ..

Like Ahrar al-Shams, Jabhat Al-Nusra cells were secretly establishing themselves even before the "revolution" in Syria began:

The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,” Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.

To claim that the Islamic State somehow started in Syria, as CentCom does, is to claim the opposite of what really happened. The Islamic State under Baghdadi sent fighters and leaders to Syria to created and prop-up the "revolution" against the Syrian state. The religious and philosophical roots of ISIS are grounded in Wahhabism and are of Saudi, not Syrian or Iraqi, origin.

Another fake history story is build by the CIA elements and U.S. politicians who launched the war on Syria from the "color revolution" side. Witness this astonishingly false CBS headline: Obama Nixed CIA Plan That Could Have Stopped ISIS: Officials

The CIA in 2012 proposed a detailed covert action plan designed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, but President Obama declined to approve it, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News.
...
[The CIA chief] Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS, Assad's use of chemical weapons, the European refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that have happened since, the former officials say.

Overthrowing the Syrian government would have created more chaos in Syria which very likely the Islamic State, already established in Syria at that time in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra, would have used to take Damascus and to gain primacy in Syria. Everything else is pure wishful thinking which ignores the military superiority the Takfiri groups like Ahrar, Nusra and ISIS have always had compared to the "moderate" Jihadist rebels that have direct U.S. support. The CBS piece is also about the former CIA man who was the original author of the covert action plan. He seems to disagree with what the CBS headline claims:

Looking back, Laux now says he doesn't believe his or any other covert plan could have stopped the rise of ISIS or ended Syria's bloody civil war. "There were no moderates," he says.

It is frightening to think that Central Command, which is supposed to fight the Islamic State, might believe its own propaganda, that ISIS came from Syria. One can not successfully fight ISIS when one does not know its real origin: the U.S. war on Iraq and CentCom's own meager to ignorant performance during that war.

Posted by b on April 2, 2016 at 11:45 AM | Permalink | Comments (63)

April 01, 2016

Open Thread 2016-13

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 1, 2016 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (168)

 
Site Meter