Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 31, 2016

The FBI's Clinton Investigation Is Wider Than Assumed

The Washington Post editors today added to their hypocrisy with three additional anti-Comey op-eds:

I interpret that as naked fear that their candidate Hillary Clinton may now loose. That fear is justified.

The Wall Street Journal today added to its so far excellent reporting on the Clinton issues by revealing the much bigger story behind it: FBI in Internal Feud Over Hillary Clinton Probe - Laptop may contain thousands of messages sent to or from Mrs. Clinton’s private server (open copy here).

According to the reporting, based on FBI sources, FBI agents in New York and elsewhere have been looking into the Clinton Foundation for several months. They suspect that this "charity" was selling political favors by then Secretary of State Clinton in exchange for donations that personally benefited the Clinton family.

The Justice Department blocked further aggressive investigations into the issue, allegedly because of the ongoing election. A high FBI official, Andrew McCabe, also showed disinterest in a further pursuit of the issue. McCabe's wife had just tried to get elected as state senator and had receive a campaign donation of nearly $500,000 from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Clinton friend and at times board member of the Clinton Foundation. The FBI agents pursuing the investigation into the Clinton Foundation were not amused.

The separate investigation into former Congressman Weiner for sexual contacts with minors was looking for pedophile stuff on Weiner's electronic devices. It didn't find any as far as we can tell, but found some 650,000 emails archived on a laptop.

Several thousand of these emails were sent or received by Weiner's spouse, the intimate Clinton aide Huma Abedin. They came through Clinton's private email server. At least some of these thousands of emails are likely copies of those that were deleted from Clinton's server when the (separate) investigation into it started. They may be evidence that Clinton sent and received classified documents through her unsecured system. Some of these emails may also contain serious dirt related to the Clinton Foundation. (It is highly likely that at least some FBI agents know "unofficially" what these emails contain. Legally they could not look at them without a warrant which they only got today.)

Thus we have three ongoing FBI investigations:

  • into Clinton's private email-server used illegally for official State Department business;
  • into the Clinton Foundation and its role in peddling political influence in exchange for donations;
  • into the personal conduct of Anthony Weiner.

Additional investigations that may come up are on:

  • the mixing of donations to the Clinton Foundation and personal compensation for Bill Clinton for holding highly paid speeches;
  • for profit activities by the group of people running Bill Clinton's businesses as well as the Clinton Foundation financing;
  • inappropriate hindering of the FBI investigations by the Justice Department and/or by McCabe.

With such a list of potentially very serious scandals pending it is highly understandable that FBI director Comey went public and did not follow the advice from the Justice Department to pursue these issues only on a reduced level. It would have been political suicide to try to keep this silent. Way too many FBI agents eager to pursue these case were in the known and would have talked, as they do now, to the media.

If Clinton gets elected she will be hampered by these scandals for the next two years. The Republicans in Congress will jump on these issues as soon as possible. There will be endless hearings with large media coverage. The only question is when the first attempts at an impeachment process will be made - before or after she moves back into the White House. She and her family may be better off with her losing the campaign.

Posted by b on October 31, 2016 at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (142)

Al-Qaeda's Attack On West-Aleppo Continues Despite Lack Of Progress

For four days now al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka Fatah al-Sham) and assorted other "rebel" groups have tried to attack Aleppo from the west to break the siege on al-Qaeda associated groups in east-Aleppo. The New York Times in now openly admitting that CIA supported groups are acting under al-Qaeda's operational command. The piece though, which belonged on page one, was in the back of the paper. There is no public outcry over this disturbing fact.

The attack on west-Aleppo had been talked about for over two weeks and the defenders are well prepared.


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As can be seen on the map above the areas al-Qaeda and its allies managed to capture so far are only small rural outskirts. Every attempt to attack actual city estate under roof was repelled by the defenders. Small infiltrations like shown in the map were immediately cleaned up. The marked area is back in the hands of the Syrian army.  It is estimated that the several thousand attackers have so far lost more than 500 men. A 1,000 more are likely injured. Every attack has to be carried over mostly open land and is received by heavy artillery fire. Air attacks ravage their supply and preparation ares.

The attackers launched over 20 suicide-vehicle bombs so far but only a few reached their targets and their damage was limited. Yesterday one suicide vehicle bomb, ready to be launched for a new attack, was hit by a missile from a Syrian helicopter and exploded at its preparation and launching position. Over 60 "rebels" were killed by it and their attack had to be call off.

The good news is that the defense is holding. The bad news is that the al-Qaeda "rebels" received huge amounts of artillery missiles and launchers from their "western" and Gulf sponsors. Several hundred have been launched at the densely populated areas of west-Aleppo. More than a 100 civilians have been killed by them and several hundred civilians were wounded. Some of the missiles contained gas and people had to be taken to hospital with extreme breathing difficulties. The UN envoy condemned these attacks as "possible war crimes".

The whole attack operation was launched under the direct supervision of al-Qaeda in Syria leader Abu Muhammad al-Golani. He was shown in pictures at the "rebel" headquarter of the attack discussing further operations.

Despite any progress on their part the al-Qaeda forces seem far from giving up. More attacks to break the siege are expected. We can be sure that some of their surprises are still in store. But the defenders are ready and the Syrian army is said to prepare for a large counter operation which may include a serious effort to liberate east-Aleppo of the al-Qaeda occupation.

Other fronts in Syria are relatively quiet. The Turks have been told by Russia to stop all air attacks within Syria. The message has been received. The Turkish plan to occupy Al Bab east of Aleppo is unlikely to happen as it would be out of range of the Turkey based artillery and have no air support. The U.S. would like to go to Raqqa but has no proxy ground force to do that. Some Obama officials are now arguing for more U.S. boots on the ground in Syria. Will Obama agree to that mission creep?

Posted by b on October 31, 2016 at 02:08 PM | Permalink | Comments (68)

October 30, 2016

Unprincipled WaPo Editors Damned Comey Critics - Now Join Them

The Washington Post editorial page is staunchly neoconservative and early on endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. On July 7 2016 the editors pinned an editorial defending FBI chief Comey's decision to then close the Clinton email case:

Republicans attack Mr. Comey for doing his job

IF REPUBLICANS believe the FBI director is corrupt and political, they should have the gumption to say so. Instead, many have insulted James B. Comey with slimy implications and underhanded threats since Tuesday, when he announced that he would not recommend charges against Hillary Clinton relating to her use of a private email server while secretary of state.
...

A look at today's Washington Post editorial page seems to demonstrate a change of mind:


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From the first piece headlined James Comey is damaging our democracy:

First, the FBI director, James B. Comey, put himself enthusiastically forward as the arbiter of not only whether to prosecute a criminal case — which is not the job of the FBI — but also best practices in the handling of email and other matters. Now, he has chosen personally to restrike the balance between transparency and fairness, departing from the department’s traditions.

From the second piece by notorious mud-slinger Dana Milbank:

I’ve long believed in Comey’s integrity. But if he doesn’t step forward and explain his October Surprise, he may inadvertently wind up interfering in the political process — perhaps even reversing the outcome of a presidential election — in a way that would have made J. Edgar Hoover gape.

And the third strike:

FBI Director James B. Comey’s stunning announcement that he has directed investigators to begin reviewing new evidence in the Clinton email investigation was yet another troubling violation of long-standing Justice Department rules or precedent, conduct that raises serious questions about his judgment and ability to serve as the nation’s chief investigative official.

Back to the July 7 editorial:

“It appears damage is being done to the rule of law,” Mr. Ryan said. He’s right, but the FBI director isn’t doing the damage. The wreckers are those who cast baseless aspersions on U.S. law enforcement in the service of their partisan goals.

I for one believe that Comey was wrong in July and is right today. He should have pressed for charges against Clinton early on. Using a "secret" private email server for confidential state business is not legal and would have been out of bounds for anyone else. Now possible new evidence was found and must be investigated. It is not Comey's job to ask if the timing of a renewed investigation is convenient for the potential culprit. He also had to inform Congress because he had reasonably promised to do so. (He also needed to save his ass before anyone else in his department talked to the media.)

The so called "election" of a U.S. president is always a sorry show. But this season's version has at least some amusing moments. Seeing the hypocrites at Fred Hyatt's Funny Pages™ squirm is one of them. It makes me smirk.

Posted by b on October 30, 2016 at 08:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (174)

October 28, 2016

"Top Five Clinton Donors Are Jewish" - How Anti-Semitic Is This Fact?

Top five Clinton donors Are Jewish, campaign tally shows.

Something is wrong with the above statement. Isn't it anti-semitic? Did Trump say that? Readers of that statement may assume, somewhat reasonably, that there is a club of rich Jewish people controlling the Clinton campaign and, maybe, Clinton herself. That sounds like it was taken from the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion. It clearly must be anti-semitic.

It is also true.

Facts have no bias. They can't be anti-semitic (or can they?). But while facts as such can not have a racial-religious bias, openly stating them surely can. Thus the above statement is anti-semitic. The fact itself isn't bad, reporting it publicly is bad, bad, bad.

Who but an alt-right rag would report such at all? And for what purpose if not for spreading anti-semitism?

Well - quot licet jovi, ...

Jewish papers are of course allowed to report such a fact. That isn't anti-semitic. It is solely to brag about Jewish powers. Within the club that is not only allowed, but welcome. Thus Haaretz writes (sourced to the the Jewish Telegraph Agency) under the identity defining headline at the top of this post:

Haim Saban, George Soros and others stand at the head of a list of wealthy donors who contributed mainly via super PACs.

The Washington Post analysis, posted October 24, named the top donors, who are contributing $1 of every $17 of the over $1 billion amassed for the Democratic nominee’s presidential run.

They are Donald Sussman, a hedge fund manager; J.B. Pritzker, a venture capitalist, and his wife, M.K.; Haim Saban, the Israeli-American entertainment mogul, and his wife, Cheryl; George Soros, another hedge funder and a major backer of liberal causes, and Daniel Abraham, a backer of liberal pro-Israel causes and the founder of SlimFast.

Many of the big Clinton campaign donors also give to the Clinton Foundation which at times is a washing machine to put money into the Clinton's private accounts. It is kind of difficult to understand where Clinton Inc begins and where it ends. Campaign funds, Clinton foundation, speech fees, private accounts - does it even matter? Surely those who pay, to whatever Clinton entity, expect a service in return. Given the Clinton's occupations as Senator, Secretary of State and President the ask in return is unlikely to be commercial. It will be political.

And here is why it matters that the five top donors to Clinton's campaign are Jewish, and all big supporters of Israel. (Haim Saban: "I'm a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.") They surely will ask for political favors in the interest of the Zionist entity. This is also the reason why Haaretz, an Israeli paper, finds the strong racial-religious bias at the top Clinton campaign tally newsworthy. Big money paid to a Clinton entity can directly effect U.S. policies towards Israel. It buys its acquiescence to Israeli escapades even when those are not consistent U.S. interests.

Clinton's positions towards Syria, Iran and Russia (which limits Israel's freedom of action) are surely not independent of Israeli interests.

But that is of course, anti-semitic speculation ...

Posted by b on October 28, 2016 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (172)

October 27, 2016

The Zika Virus Is Harmless - It Does Not Cause Birth Defects - We Told You So

After nearly a year of causing hysteria, mass travel cancellations and unnecessary abortions it finally daunts to "journalists" and "experts"  that the Zika virus is harmless. It can cause a very minor flu - two days of a low fever and uncomfortable feeling for a quarter of those infected - that is all. It does not cause, as was claimed by sensationalists in the media and various self-serving "scientists", birth defects like microcephaly.

We told you so.

In February we wrote: The Zika Virus Is Harmless - Who Then Benefits From This Media Panic?.

The piece refereed to a Congressional Research Service report and various sound scientific papers. It concluded:

There is absolutely no sane reason for the scary headlines and the panic they cause.

The virus is harmless. It is possible, but seems for now very unlikely, that it affects some unborn children. There is absolutely no reason to be concerned about it.

The artificial media panic continued and huge amounts of money were poured into dangerous insecticides to kill mosquitoes (and important pollinators) that did not do any harm. Indeed, generous use of some of these insecticides likely were the very cause of a blip in microcephaly cases in northeastern Brazil.


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In March we wrote: Reading About Zika May Hurt Your Brain.

We listed 35 sensational "news" headlines about potential catastrophes related to a Zika epidemic. The common factor of those panic creating media wave - all those headlines included the miraculous little word may. The pieces were pure speculations with some quoting this or that "expert" who was hunting for research funds or lobbying for some pharmaceutical or pesticide conglomerate.

In June we added: Zika Virus Does Not Cause Birth Defects - Fighting It Probably Does.

New serious research found what some people in Brazil had suspected from the very start of the small and strictly locally limited jump in microencephaly cases in Brazil:

[D]octors in the Zika affected areas in Brazil pointed out that the real cause of somewhat increased microcephaly in the region was probably the insecticide pyriproxyfen, used to kill mosquito larvae in drinking water:
The Brazilian doctors noted that the areas of northeast Brazil that had witnessed the greatest number of microcephaly cases match with areas where pyriproxyfen is added to drinking water in an effort to combat Zika-carrying mosquitoes. Pyriproxyfen is reported to cause malformations in mosquito larvae, and has been added to drinking water in the region for the past 18 months.

Pyriproxyfen is produced by a Sumitomo Chemical - an important Japanese poison giant. It was therefore unsurprising that the New York Times and others called the Brazilian doctors' report a "conspiracy theory" and trotted out some "experts" to debunk it.
...
But [s]cientist at the New England Complex Systems Institute also researched the pyriproxyfen thesis. They found:

Pyriproxifen is an analog of juvenile hormone, which corresponds in mammals to regulatory molecules including retinoic acid, a vitamin A metabolite, with which it has cross-reactivity and whose application during development causes microcephaly.
...
[T]ests of pyriproxyfen by the manufacturer, Sumitomo, widely quoted as giving no evidence for developmental toxicity, actually found some evidence for such an effect, including low brain mass and arhinencephaly—incomplete formation of the anterior cerebral hemispheres—in rat pups. Finally, the pyriproxyfen use in Brazil is unprecedented—it has never before been applied to a water supply on such a scale.
...
Given this combination of information we strongly recommend that the use of pyriproxyfen in Brazil be suspended pending further investigation.

Today the Washington Post finally admits that the Zika virus does not cause birth defects:

[T]o the great bewilderment of scientists, the epidemic has not produced the wave of fetal deformities so widely feared when the images of misshapen infants first emerged from Brazil.

Instead, Zika has left a puzzling and distinctly uneven pattern of damage across the Americas. According to the latest U.N. figures, of the 2,175 babies born in the past year with undersize heads or other congenital neurological damage linked to Zika, more than 75 percent have been clustered in a single region: northeastern Brazil.

The wide areas where the flue virus occurred outside of the small area in Brazil saw no increase in birth defect numbers. The number of (naturally occurring) microcephality cases stayed constant despite a very large increase in (harmless) Zika virus infections. The numbers in Brazil also turned out to be partially inflated because of a lack of standard diagnosis criteria and unreliable statistics. A factor we had pointed to in our very first piece.

The WaPo piece today muses about several "possible" causes for the local increase in cases in northeastern Brazil that indeed happened. It quotes some of the very "experts", like from the pharmaceutical industry influenced CDC, that were wrong on the issue since the very first panic headline. It strenuously avoids to even mention the most likely cause - the excessive local use of an insecticide that is supposed to cause birth defects - in developing mosquitoes. Thus the reporting is still void of journalistic ethics and irresponsible in its conclusions.

It did not take much effort to get this right. An hour or two of skimming through publicly available sources of good standing, some basic higher education and sound reasoning was enough. But instead of doing such basic inquiries "journalists" and media "served" panic and speculations by biased "experts". Keep this story in mind for the next sensationalist onslaught of panic headline. There surely will be some "interests" behind those; just don't expect unbiased facts and basic logic reasoning.

Posted by b on October 27, 2016 at 06:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (75)

October 26, 2016

Trump's Foreign Policy Is Sane While Clinton's Is Belligerent

Some highlights of a recent Donald Trump interview with Reuters:

U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump said on Tuesday that Democrat Hillary Clinton's plan for Syria would "lead to World War Three," because of the potential for conflict with military forces from nuclear-armed Russia.

In an interview focused largely on foreign policy, Trump said defeating Islamic State is a higher priority than persuading Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to step down,..

Trump questioned how Clinton would negotiate with Russian President Vladimir Putin after demonizing him; blamed President Barack Obama for a downturn in U.S. relations with the Philippines under its new president, Rodrigo Duterte;...

Trump's foreign policy talk is far more sane than Clinton's and her camp's. It is ludicrous to event think about openly attacking Russian (or Syrian) troops in Syria with an al-Qaeda supporting "no-Fly-Zone". Russia would respond by taking down U.S. planes over Syria. The Russian government would have to do so to uphold its authority internationally as well as at home.

The U.S. could respond by destroying all Russian assets in and around Syria. It has the capabilities. But then what? If I were Putin my next step would be a nuclear test shoot in Siberia - a big one - to make a point and to wake up the rest of the world. I would also provide secret support to any indigenous anti-U.S. movement anywhere. China would support Russia as its first line of self defense.

"What we should do is focus on ISIS. We should not be focusing on Syria," said Trump as he dined on fried eggs and sausage at his Trump National Doral golf resort. "You’re going to end up in World War Three over Syria if we listen to Hillary Clinton.

"You’re not fighting Syria any more, you’re fighting Syria, Russia and Iran, all right? Russia is a nuclear country, but a country where the nukes work as opposed to other countries that talk," he said.
...
On Russia, Trump again knocked Clinton's handling of U.S.-Russian relations while secretary of state and said her harsh criticism of Putin raised questions about "how she is going to go back and negotiate with this man who she has made to be so evil," if she wins the presidency.

On the deterioration of ties with the Philippines, Trump aimed his criticism at Obama, saying the president "wants to focus on his golf game" rather than engage with world leaders.

The last two points are important. Trump, despite all his bluster, knows about decency. What is the point of arrogantly scolding negotiation partner who have the power to block agreements you want or need?

Why blame Russia for hacking wide open email servers when no Russian speakers were involved? Why blame Duterte? It is the U.S. that has a long history of violent racism in the Philippines and FBI agents committed false flag "terrorism" is Duterte's home town Davao. Bluster may paper over such history for a moment but it does not change the facts or helps solving problems.

Trump's economic policies would be catastrophic for many people in the U.S. and elsewhere. But Hillary Clinton would put her husband, the man who deregulated Wall Street, back in charge of the economy. What do people expect the results would be?

The points above may be obvious and one might be tempted to just pass them and dig into some nig-nagging of this or that election detail. But the above points as THE most important of any election. The welfare of the people is not decided with some "liberal" concession to this or that niche of the general society. The big issues count the most. Good or evil flow from them. Trumps principle, and I think personal position, is leaning towards peaceful resolution of conflicts. Clinton's preference is clearly, as her history shows, escalation and general belligerence. It is too risky to vote for her.

Posted by b on October 26, 2016 at 04:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (175)

October 25, 2016

Open Thread 2016-35

(sorry for absence - hope to be back tomorrow - b.)

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 25, 2016 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (206)

October 23, 2016

Renewed Jihadi Attack On Aleppo Supported By "Western" Propaganda Fakes

The three days of unilateral ceasefire Syrian and Russia had announced and kept for the besieged east-Aleppo expired today. No evacuations took place, no civilians or fighters left and no aid was delivered as "rebels" inside the besieged area shelled all possible crossings.

The U.S. supported al-Qaeda aligned Jihadis have used the pause to prepare for another attack on the government held parts of Aleppo city with the aim of opening a passage into the besieged eastern areas. They received enormous amounts of new weapons and munitions from the U.S. and their other supporters. The child beheaders of the U.S. supported radical Zinki group warned civilians in west-Aleppo city to stay away from military positions. That is impossible as the refugee filled, densely populated areas are in the immediate neighborhood of the front lines.

The renewed attack is expected in the south-west of government held west-Aleppo near the Ramoush-area and the Artillery Academy where the first attempted breach battle also took place. A second attack is expected in the north-west near the Castello road. It is possible that Turkish supported forces, who battle Kurdish troops to the north-east of Aleppo-city, will also try an attack on the city. The fight against the Kurds is a Turkish attempt to keep its logistic lines of communications to the Islamic State open. Turkey has supported, like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the Islamic State for years. An attack on Aleppo by directly Turkish supported forces would be a serious breach of the Turkish-Russian agreements and lead to a further serious escalation and internationalization of the war. Turkey will not dare such a move without full U.S. support.

We have maintained here for some time that the Turkish President Erdogan has designs for Aleppo as well as Mosul. He wants to incorporate both cities and all areas north of and between them into Turkey. Erdogan now publicly announced these aims:

Speaking during an opening ceremony for an educational institution in Bursa on Saturday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan compared the way that Syrians and Iraqis have been driven away from homes because of the self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS; ISIS/ISIL), to how Turkish people were once forced out from the same cities.

Erdogan added that the cities of Mosul and Aleppo belong to the Turkish people.

This is a serious misinterpretation of teh areas population history and of Turkey's international agreements and borders as delineated after the first world war.

Erdogan also lamented that Turkeys national leaders were born outside of Turkey's current borders. Something he implied he will strive to correct. The Greek will not be happy to hear that. Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, was born in Thessaloniki.

The U.S. and its machinations against Syria and Iraq have set fire to a combustive area. It created an Islamist "revolution" in Syria that had no genuine base within the country. The Obama administration is now again fanning the flames. It supports Turkish moves on Mosul which the Iraqi government strongly rejects. Instead of calming down the war in Syria it again and again supports with new arms, money and propaganda the advances of al-Qaeda with its expansive designs in the area and beyond. An explosion, involving Russian forces and war with and within Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon is longer impossible. This is a very shortsighted playing of the great game. Serious consequences for countries of important U.S. interests, Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia, will then become inevitable.

But the U.S. induced pro-Jihad propaganda is endless. Consider this tweet by the president of the Eurasia Group, a "political risk consultancy". Bremmer has 200,000 Twitter followers:

ian bremmer @ianbremmer

Statue of Liberty made from bombed rubble of Aleppo, by Syrian artist Tammam Azzam. Devastating.


8:36 AM - 22 Oct 2016

When I saw it first it had some 1,200 retweets.

It took me two minutes to find out that this picture was photoshopped (which is obvious) and published first in February 2013 by an Italian news-site. The artist lives and works in Dubai, not Aleppo. I responded:

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA

Pic first published in February 2013 - http://www.italnews.info/2013/02/12/tammam-azzam-larte-per-ricostruire-la-siria/ …
Artist lives+works in Dubai not Aleppo
@ianbremmer is a propagandist

9:57 AM - 22 Oct 2016

My tweet was retweeted some 90 times. But it found an echo in an Al Arabia interview with the artist and at the Independent's Indy100 site:

[D]uring an interview with Al Arabiya.net, Azzam said he was ‘surprised’ by what he said was the ‘wrong interpretation’ the picture had recently received, compared to the more positive reactions it received in 2012.
...
The Syrian artist explained: “The Statue of Liberty in New York does not represent US politics and I used it only as the symbol of freedom.”

“The piece at the time was carrying a message of optimism despite all of the destruction in Syria,” he added “but that was a long time ago.”

Meanwhile Bremmer's propaganda has been retweeted some 13,000 times with just as many "likes". He didn't retract it despite being called out and the multiple proven lies it contains. Why should he? The propaganda effect, with its implied call for military U.S. war intervention, is obviously great and such propaganda is what he gets paid for. His group is consulting on "political risk" it seem to actively help to create.

Posted by b on October 23, 2016 at 12:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (124)

October 22, 2016

Open Thread 2016-34

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 22, 2016 at 11:19 AM | Permalink | Comments (135)

October 21, 2016

Assad Says The "Boy In The Ambulance" Is Fake - This Proves It

From an interview with the Syrian President Bashar Assad by the Swiss SRF 1 TV Channel published October 19 2016:

Journalist: This young boy has become the symbol of the war. I think that you know this picture.

President Assad: Of course I saw it.

Journalist: His name is Omran. Five years old.

President Assad: Yeah.

Journalist: Covered with blood, scared, traumatized. Is there anything you would like to say to Omran and his family?

President Assad: There’s something I would like to say to you first of all, because I want you to go back after my interview, and go to the internet to see the same picture of the same child, with his sister, both were rescued by what they call them in the West “White Helmets” which is a facelift of al-Nusra in Aleppo. They were rescued twice, each one in a different incident, and just as part of the publicity of those White Helmets. None of these incidents were true. You can have it manipulated, and it is manipulated. I’m going to send you those two pictures, and they are on the internet, just to see that this is a forged picture, not a real one. We have real pictures of children being harmed, but this one in specific is a forged one.

Assad was half wrong. The picture, printed on page 1 of newspapers all over the "western" world, was not "forged". It is a real picture from a White Helmet "rescue" video distributed by the Aleppo Media Center (AMC) (which is funded by the French French Ministry of Foreign Affairs). But the scene was carefully staged and we immediately recognized it as staged when it appeared. It was staged like many other "rescue" scenes with "kids saved" by the U.S./UK/D/J/NL financed White Helmets and their associated media.

Look for yourself, trust your eyes.

The "boy in an ambulance" scene features two identifiable kids. Omran and his sister.

Below are pictures of what we believe are the same kids in different scenes.

Here is the girl at another occasion. We will call this scene 1:


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The Houston Chronicle reported about this scene and the picture carries this caption:

An 8-year-old girl named Aya calls out for her father after an airstrike in Syrian on Monday, Oct. 10, 2016.

Another picture from the same Chronicle spread:


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This combined one is captioned:

Left: 8-year-old Aya in her everyday life in Syria. Right: 8-year-old Aya after an airstrike in Syria.

Notice the age as well as the girl's favorite colors - light turquoise and pink. Compared to the left picture the hair on the right looks powdered and artificially teased. While there is trickle of "blood" on her face and on her dress no wound is visible.

The Chronicle story is sourced to CNN which includes a short (staged) video and adds:

The video and images were posted online by a pro-opposition activist group, Talbiseh Media Center.

It shows an 8-year-old girl in a medical facility, her hair and body covered with dust. There's blood tricking down her forehead, her nose. She looks confused and scared and keeps calling out for her father.
...
Aya was pulled from under rubble along with her family members when an airstrike hit their home in Talbiseh on Monday. Talbiseh, a large town in northwestern Syria, is about 10 kilometers north of Homs.

A screenshot detail from the video:

The "blood" looks remarkably glossy, unlike natural blood which dries and looks dull pretty fast. The uni-color shirt the girl wears has no arms.

Now the same girl in a different "rescue" scene. We will call this scene 2.


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The truck in the background has a "White Helmets" logo on the door.

A detail of the above picture. It is the same girl as in scene 1. The hair again seems powdered and teased:

Notice: Same habitus, same appearance, same wild hair as in scene 1; no visible wounds; turquoise shirt but with short arms; jeans with glitter

Here is the girl at scene 2 in an ambulance:


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Same shirt and pants as above, no wounds, no pain and not attended to by anybody. Compare this with the video capture of scene 1 the Chronicle and CNN reported on. We strongly believe it is the same girl.

Now what seems to be a different take of scene 2. A "White Helmet" carries the girl and a boy. Notice the same clothing as in the other scene 2 pics above. The pic as well as some of the above from scene 2 was running in the Daily Mail on August 27. The incident is claimed to be the aftermath of a "barrel bombing" in the Bab al-Nairab neighborhood in east-Aleppo.


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Why would two different men carry and "rescue" the girl. She, like the boy, looks fine - same cloth as above, no wounds, no damage to the extremities, no crying - just curiosity.

A detail of the faces in that picture:

A detail of the boy's face:

Now to the "boy in an ambulance" scene. The boy and the reportedly 8-year old girl on August 17 in the Qaterji neighborhood in east Aleppo introduced as "Omran Daqneesh and his sister." (pic source):


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The just "rescued" kids sit quietly but completely unattended to in a brand-new €100,000 ambulance. No shock therapy was initiated, no Trendelberg position or at least laying down flat. No one talks to them despite half a dozen photographers being around them.

Details of the kids - here the boy has the powdered and teased "wild hair" look.

Are these the same kids as in scene 2 above?

President Assad believes they are.

We agree. We also believe that all three scenes above are staged. The girl is the same in all three scenes. Her younger brother appears in scene 2 and 3. The White Helmets apparently "rescued" the girl in three different incidents on or about August 17, August 27 and October 10 in three different locations.

Isn't that a remarkably elysian miracle?

Or is it all part of the serial production of elaborately staged anti-Syrian propaganda? Delivered by a marketing organization (vid) funded by "western" governments and various similar financed opposition "media organizations".

Trust your eyes.

Posted by b on October 21, 2016 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (128)

October 20, 2016

This Election Circus Is A Disservice To The People

Via Adam Johnson:

"Total mentions all 4 debates:

  • Russia/Putin 178
  • ISIS/terror 132
  • Iran 67
  • ...
  • Abortion 17
  • Poverty 10
  • Climate change 4
  • Campaign finance 3
  • Privacy 0"

The candidates are not the first to blame for this. The first to blame are the moderators of such debates, the alleged journalists 8and their overlords) who do not ask questions that are relevant for the life of the general votes and who do not intervene at all when the debaters run off course. The second group to blame are the general horse-race media who each play up their (owner's) special-interest hobbyhorses as if those will be the decisive issue for the next four years. The candidates fight for the attention of these media and adopt to them.

I didn't watch yesterday's debate but every media I skimmed tells me that Clinton was gorgeous and Trump very bad. That means she said what they wanted to hear and Trump didn't. It doesn't say what other people who watched though of it. Especially in the rural parts of the country they likely fear the consequences of climate change way more than Russia, ISIS and Iran together.

Another reason why both candidates avoided to bring up the issues low in the list above is that both hold positions that are socially somewhat liberal and both are corporatists. None of those low ranked issues is personally relevant to them. No realistic answer to these would better their campaign finances or their personal standing in the circles they move in. Personally they are both east coast elite and don't give a fu***** sh** what real people care about.

As far as I can discern it from the various reports no new political issues were touched. Clinton ran her usual focus group tested lies while Trump refrained from attacking her hard. A huge mistake in my view. He can beat her by attacking her really, really hard, not on issues but personality. Her disliked rate (like Trump's) is over -40%. She is vulnerable on many, many things in her past. Her foreign policy is way more aggressive than most voters like.  Calling this back into mind again and again could probably send her below -50%. Who told him to leave that stuff alone? Trump is a major political disruption. He should have emphasized that but he barely hinted at it for whatever reason.

The voters are served badly -if at all- by the TV debates in their current form. These do not explain real choices. That is what this whole election circus should be about. But that is no longer the case and maybe it never was.

Posted by b on October 20, 2016 at 09:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (142)

October 19, 2016

Obama: Vote Rigging Is Impossible - If In Favor Of Hillary Clinton

Is rigging the U.S. election possible?

Obama says it is not possible:

Obama was asked about Trump's voter fraud assertions on Tuesday [..] He responded with a blistering attack on the Republican candidate, noting that U.S. elections are run and monitored by local officials, who may well be appointed by Republican governors of states, and saying that cases of significant voter fraud were not to be found in American elections.

Obama said there was "no serious" person who would suggest it was possible to rig American elections, adding, "I'd invite Mr. Trump to stop whining and go try to make his case to get votes."

That is curious. There are a lot of "non serious" persons in the Democratic Party who tell us that Russia is trying to manipulate the U.S. elections. How is it going to that when it's not possible?

Moreover - Obama himself suggested that Russia may interfere with the U.S. elections: Obama: 'Possible' Russia interfering in US election

Is rigging the election only impossible when it is in favor of Hillary Clinton? This while rigging the elections in favor of Donald Trump, by Russia or someone else, is entirely possible and even "evident"?

Curious.

That said - I do believe that the U.S. election can be decided through manipulation. We have evidently seen that in 2000 when Bush was "elected" by a fake "recount" and a Supreme Court decision.

The outcome of a U.S. presidential election can depend on very few votes in very few localities. The various machines and processes used in U.S. elections can be influenced. It is no longer comprehensible for the voters how the votes are counted and how the results created.*

The intense manipulation attempts by the Clinton camp, via the DNC against Sanders or by creating a Russian boogeyman to propagandize against Trump, lets me believe that her side is well capable of considering and implementing some vote count shenanigan. Neither are Trump or the Republicans in general strangers to dirty methods and manipulations.

It is high time for the U.S. to return to paper-ballots and manual vote counting. The process is easier, comprehensible, less prone to manipulations and reproducible. Experience in other countries show that it is also nearly as fast, if not faster, than machine counting. There is simply no sensible reason why machines should be used at all.

*(The German Constitutional Court prohibited the use of all voting machines in German elections because for the general voters they institute irreproducible vote counting which leads to a general loss of trust in the democratic process. The price to pay for using voting machines is legitimacy.)

Posted by b on October 19, 2016 at 01:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (146)

October 18, 2016

ISIS Moves To Syria Where Erdogan Still Aims For Aleppo

The Iraqi army started a large operation to liberate Mosul from Islamic State jihadists. But the forces, in total some 40,000, are still several dozen kilometers away from the city limits. They will have to capture several towns and villages and pass many IED obstacles before coming near to the center and house to house fighting. It might take many month to eliminated the last stay-behind ISIS cells in Mosul.

About one million civilians live in Mosul. Many, many more than in east-Aleppo. Many of them were sympathetic with the new overlords when ISIS stormed in two years ago. French, American, Kurdish, Iraqi and Turkish artillery are pounding them now. Airstrikes attack even the smallest fighting position. When the city will be conquered it will likely be destroyed. The imminent fight over Mosul might be the reason why John Kerry dialed down his hypocritical howling over east-Aleppo in Syria which is under attack from Syrian and Russian forces.

The attack on Mosul proceeds on three axes. From the north Kurdish Peshmerga under U.S. special force advisors lead the fighting. Iraqi forces attack from the east and south. The way to the west, towards Syria, is open. The intend of the U.S. is to let ISIS fighters, several thousand of them, flee to Deir Ezzor and Raqqa in Syria. They are needed there to further destroy the Syrian state.

We pointed out here that this move will create the "Salafist principality" the U.S. and its allies have striven to install in east-Syria since 2012. The "mistake" of the U.S. bombing of Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor was in support of that plan. Other commentators finally catch up with that conclusion.

The Turks are openly talking about such an escape plan for ISIS in Mosul. The Turkish news agency Anadolu published this "sensitive" operations plan. Point 4 says:

An escape corridor into Syria will be left for Daesh so they can vacate Mosul


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Two points in the Turkish plan will not come true.

  • The Iraqi government has ordered that no Turkish troops take part in the Mosul operation and will designate them as enemies should they try.
  • The Sunni "Nineveh Guard", trained by Turkey, paid by the Saudis and led by the former Anbar governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, will also be excluded.

It was the Saudi proxy al-Nujaifi who practically handed Anbar over to ISIS by ordering his troops to flee when ISIS attacked. He and his Saudi and Turkish sponsors want to create an independent Sunni statelet in west Iraq just like the Kurds created their own entity within north Iraq.

The U.S. hopes that the influx of ISIS fighters into Syria will keep the Russians and Iranians trapped in the "quagmire" Obama prescribed and finally destroy the Syrian state. It seems to have mostly given up on other plans. The U.S. military now acknowledges that fighting the Russian air defense in Syria would be a real challenge:

"It’s not like we’ve had any shoot at an F-35,” the official said of the next-generation U.S. fighter jet. “We’re not sure if any of our aircraft can defeat the S-300.”

There is a "no-fly zone" over west-Syria and it is the Russians who control it. All U.S. and Turkish talk about such a zone is moot. The Obama administration has for now also given up on other plans. The recent National Security Council meeting deferred on further decisions:

Consideration of other alternatives, including the shipment of arms to U.S.-allied Kurdish forces in Syria, and an increase in the quantity and quality of weapons supplied to opposition fighters in Aleppo and elsewhere, were deferred until later, officials said. U.S. military action to stop Syrian and Russian bombing of civilians was even further down the list of possibilities.

The only U.S. "hope" for its Syria plans is now the facilitation of another ISIS influx. That and the CIA coordinated actions of its allies. The Saudis Foreign Minister announced that his country will increase weapons flow to its al-Qaeda proxies in Syria. The "rebels" are still receiving TOW anti-tank missiles and other heavy weapons.

Turkish proxy forces, some Syrians, some "Turkmen" from Chechnya and elsewhere, have taken Dabiq from ISIS. The village is said to become a focal point of a future apocalyptic Christian-Muslim battle. A lot of "western" commentators pointed to that as a reason why ISIS would fight for it. But that battle is only predicted for the period after the return of the Mahdi which has not been announced. The current ideological value of Dabiq is therefore low and, like in Jarablus, ISIS cooperated well and moved out before the Turkish proxies moved in.

The Russians had allowed Turkey to enter Syria only within a limit of some 15 kilometers south of the Turkish border. Heavy artillery would have to stay on the Turkish side. The sole original purpose of the Turkish invasion was to prevent a Kurdish corridor from the eastern Kurdish areas in Syria to Afrin in the west. Such a corridor would have limited ISIS access to Turkey.

The Kurdish corridor has been prevented and ISIS access to Turkish controlled areas and Turkey itself is as open as ever. The Turkish military sees this as sufficient for its aims:

Taking control of Dabiq had eliminated the threat to Turkey from rockets fired by the jihadists, the Turkish Armed Forces said in a written statement.


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The Turkish military wants to halt the operation. But Erdogan and his proxies forces want to go further south and west to attack the Syrian army encirclement of east-Aleppo:

President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Sunday Dabiq's liberation was a "strategic and symbolic victory" against Islamic State.

He told Reuters it was important strategically that the Turkey-backed forces continue their advance toward the Islamic State stronghold of al-Bab.

To move to al-Bab Turkish artillery, with its units relying on conscripts, would have to move south of the Turkish-Syrian border. Any attack on them by the Syrian or Russian forces would thus become legal. Kurdish guerilla would be a constant threat. This explains the new split between the Turkish military and political forces. It will be interesting to watch how that dispute develops.

For Thursday the Russian command announced a unilateral temporary ceasefire in east-Aleppo to let the Jihadis move out. British and other special forces, said to be embedded with al-Qaeda, will be happy for the chance to leave.

In Iraq some Shia militia are moving towards Tal Afar to cut of the ISIS path to the west. Russia promised to take political and military measures should it detect an ISIS move. In east-Syria the Russian and Syrian air-forces, Hizbullah and more Shia militia from Iraq are now preparing surprises for the expected ISIS influx from Mosul. How much can they risk when the U.S. provides further air-support for the ISIS move?

Posted by b on October 18, 2016 at 05:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (122)

October 17, 2016

The New U.S. Way Of War

A recommendable New York Times piece looks at the mostly hidden way the U.S. is now waging wars. The example is Somalia, where the U.S. has been at war with the people of that country for over 25 years. But, as the authors note, the same modus operandi applies elsewhere.

The Obama administration has intensified a clandestine war in Somalia over the past year, using Special Operations troops, airstrikes, private contractors and African allies in an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation.

Would that "anarchic" nation Somalia still be "anarchic" if the U.S. would end its endless fighting there? That is very unlikely. Without outer interference Somalia would have been peaceful again many years ago. But the war continues, run not with regular U.S. forces, but with mercenaries, proxies, drones and a few U.S. Special Forces.

Somalia is an example of the "failed states" the U.S. now creates wherever it goes. A "failed state" then justifies further involvement. The "model" applies around the world:

The Somalia campaign is a blueprint for warfare that President Obama has embraced and will pass along to his successor. It is a model the United States now employs across the Middle East and North Africa — from Syria to Libya — despite the president’s stated aversion to American “boots on the ground” in the world’s war zones. This year alone, the United States has carried out airstrikes in seven countries and conducted Special Operations missions in many more.

Such wars are mostly "off the book". Congressional oversight does not happen for them as the impact within the U.S. is too small. The media are practically excluded. The money comes out of secret CIA and special forces accounts or is shaken out of some friendly U.S. client state like Saudi Arabia. No one will find out what methods of force or "interrogation" are used and as those prisoners vanish in some local warlord's dungeon, no one is likely to ever find out:

About 200 to 300 American Special Operations troops work with soldiers from Somalia and other African nations like Kenya and Uganda to carry out more than a half-dozen raids per month, according to senior American military officials. The operations are a combination of ground raids and drone strikes.

The Navy’s classified SEAL Team 6 has been heavily involved in many of these operations.

Once ground operations are complete, American troops working with Somali forces often interrogate prisoners at temporary screening facilities, including one in Puntland, a state in northern Somalia, before the detainees are transferred to more permanent Somali-run prisons, American military officials said.

Force is applied willy-nilly. It doesn't matter much who gets hit or why. Lack of local knowledge, language and politics are the norm. No one ever gets punished for getting things wrong:

[A]n airstrike last month killed more than a dozen Somali government soldiers, who were American allies against the Shabab.

Outraged Somali officials said the Americans had been duped by clan rivals and fed bad intelligence, laying bare the complexities of waging a shadow war in Somalia.

The responsibilities that legally come with warfare are handed off to private parties. The use of mercenaries prevents accountability:

At an old Russian fighter jet base in Baledogle, about 70 miles from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, American Marines and private contractors are working to build up a Somali military unit designed to combat the Shabab throughout the country.

Soldiers for the military unit, called Danab, which means lightning in Somali, are recruited by employees of Bancroft Global Development, a Washington-based company that for years has worked with the State Department to train African Union troops and embed with them on military operations inside Somalia.

Michael Stock, the company’s founder, said the Danab recruits received initial training at a facility in Mogadishu before they were sent to Baledogle, where they go through months of training by the Marines. Bancroft advisers then accompany the Somali fighters on missions.

What the piece misses are the media measures - or propaganda - which accompanies all such U.S. campaigns. That is not unwittingly as the NYT is always an integral part of such campaigns. The usual justification is "terrorism" or the "moral" need to eliminate a "brutal regime". The piece accordingly list a few alleged terrorism incidents with origin in Somalia to justify the massive, decades long uprooting of a whole country.

The scheme visible in Somalia is the same one that is applied in Libya, in Syria and in the Ukraine. The U.S. hires some group willing to wage war for a decent pay, lots of weapons and a chance to - may be - reach a lot of power for itself. It sends some mercenary company to "train" those forces, PR agencies get hired to provide the necessary media background, U.S. military forces are silently involved but only from far away via drones, or in mini special force formation that train and direct the local proxies.

The CIA is usually in the lead with the U.S. military providing firepower as needed. The State Department handles the diplomatic hurdles, pampers the proxies and so called allies and, together with the Treasury, generously applies devastating sanctions to bend the people to its will.

The methods are not dissimilar to those used during the last century mainly in south America. But the wars are now more open with more brute force applied.

The big question for the rest of the world is how such mostly hidden wars can be countered. They are very difficult to win by force on the ground. The U.S. will not change course because a few of its mercenaries get eliminated. The obvious answer is to increase the price the U.S. directly has to pay. The hurt must be painful enough to raise above the public negligence level that usually applies. Terrorism within the U.S. can and has been used. But I expect new, more subtle methods to be a part of the future answer. The cyber realm is ideal for asymmetric forces. A few knowledgeable fighters are sufficient. To counter them is difficult. The U.S. is probable the most sensitive target for cyber mayhem while the nations the U.S. attacks are mostly insensitive to such attacks.

No matter of what new ways of war the U.S. applies. Those attacked will always find ways to hit back.

Posted by b on October 17, 2016 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (58)

October 15, 2016

Al-Qaeda Fighters In East-Aleppo (Defined) Down To Three!

The pro-jihadist "west" is doing its best to define the number of civilians in east-Aleppo up and the number of al-Qaeda fighters in the city down. If the current numbering trend continues there will be a no al-Qaeda fighters left in east-Aleppo even as none have left. They will be redefined into "moderate rebels" who are entitled to the failed ceasefire they had never accepted in the first place.

The terrorists in east-Aleppo are encircled and besieged. The Syrian army nibbles away piece after piece of their territorial hold while the Syrian and Russian air force attack any recognized concentrations of forces or material. It is only a question of time until they are completely defeated.

Most of the fighters in the besieged area are associated with al-Qaeda. They are several thousand strong. Only few civilians remain. The eastern parts once housed some 300,000 people. About 10% of those, likely less, are still there. That are the realistic numbers. The spin differs.

When in 2013 the sectarian rebels had enclosed and completely besieged (map) the government held parts of Aleppo every win of theirs was called a liberation.


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They since killed many of the people they "liberated". Others fled. But the tide has turned. This animated map shows the development from September 2015 to 2016. The now besieged "rebel" held areas in east-Aleppo are shrinking every day. This is today's situation. Much of the northern parts of the besieged area, including the Palestinian camp Handarat, are back in government hands.


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Sooner or later the Syrian army will try to split the "rebel" held part along the east-west road from the airport to the inner (old) city.

The number game is played in front of the United Nations and in the "western media". The first marks from an October 5 post here:

"It is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo," said (vid) the spokesperson of the U.S. led 'Operation Inherent Resolve', Colonel Warren. That was back in April and al-Qaeda (aka Jabat al-Nusra) has since strengthen its capacities in the city. The French Syria (military intelligence) expert Fabrice Balanche tells Le Figaro (translated from French):

[Al-Qaeda's] grip on Aleppo's east has only increased since the spring of 2016, when it sent 700 reinforcement fighters while moderate brigades fighters began to leave the area before the final exit was closed. The provisional opening of a breach of the siege of Aleppo in August 2016 (Battle of Ramousseh) has further increased its prestige and influence on the rebels.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria De Mistura told (vid, 27:43) the UN Security Council:

We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.

A few days after that speech De Mistura held a press conference in which he offered to escort al-Qaeda fighters out of the besieged area. He alos sharply revised the number of al-Qaeda fighters down to less than 10% of all fighters. From his October 6 press conference:

We have done a much more updated analysis of the al-Nusra reality in eastern Aleppo. I know I was quoted, and is correct, I did refer to a figure which was close to 50%, you must have heard it, I think it was in the context of the Security Council. Well based on a more accurate estimates, which are also more up to date, and which are never completely perfect but are in my opinion, quite reliable, we are talking now about a presence in eastern Aleppo of at maximum 900 people, 900 people. The previous figure probably was also based on the out of date figure, that about 1500 al-Nusra fighters had left Idlib and other locations in order to join the al- Ramousseh battle which you remember took place some time ago when they attempted to re-take al-Ramousseh road. But they, according to our information, did withdraw, once this counter-offensive did not succeed and failed. So this amends, and please take it now as the line, which can always be amended by facts and figures, and more effective analysis, but that amends the so-called 50% thing. 900 al-Nusra fighters in eastern Aleppo.

The total number is, the question is of the fighters in general, including the so-called main stream fighters or the AOGs in eastern Aleppo, the maximum figure that is being considered as such is 8000 people, 8000.

So we went from "it is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo" to some 10% of all fighters there within a few month without any al-Qaeda fighter leaving. This while the siege was partially breached by the "rebels" in August and additional al-Qaeda fighters reportedly used the opening to entered the city.

One gets the feeling that Samantha Power herself, the "wailing banshee" and U.S. Ambassador to the UN, dictated those "more accurate estimates" to De Mistura.

But even those numbers are still too high some "diplomatic sources" now tell Reuters:

The number of Islamist rebels in eastern Aleppo who are not protected by any ceasefire deal, and can therefore be legitimately targeted, is far smaller than an estimate given by the United Nations, diplomatic sources have told Reuters.
...
Several sources independently told Reuters that de Mistura's figure for JFS fighters was far too high, and the real number was no more than 200, perhaps below 100. One Western diplomat said it possibly had no more than a "symbolic" presence.

Next week we will be down to one or three "symbolic" al-Qaeda fighters in east-Aleppo. When De Mistura finally escorts them out he will need a few helpers to push the wheelchairs of those few, old and disabled people. That then will have "liberated" east-Aleppo from all Jihadi-fighters and only upright, secular and democratic rebels will remain. They will fall under the ceasefire (the one the U.S. and these "rebels" never accepted or immediately broke). They do not deserve to be targeted by Russia and the Syrian government - no matter what they do. That, at least, is what John Kerry and the "western" media will tell the people. It will of course be complete bullshit and no serious analysts will fall for it. But those do not get quoted in the media.

While the number of Jihadis and rebels gets defined down the number of civilians in the now besieged area goes up. The eastern besieged parts of the built-up city originally had some 300-400,000 inhabitants while the government held western parts held nearly 2,000,000. That is, at first sight of the above maps, irritating. But if one studies the satellite pictures underlying the maps in detail one will notice that at least half of the now besieged parts are open country and factory areas. The built-up share is much smaller than in the western parts. Current UN estimates for the western parts vary between 1.3 and 1.5 million. That is consistent with Syrian government claims. The UN has several relief missions and offices in the western parts and those estimates seem therefore reliable.

But for the eastern part the UN has given the abstruse estimates of 250,000-275,000. It has not given any sources for that number. It also has no offices and no missions in the eastern part. It is implausible that only very few people left an area that is ruled by various competing Jihadi groups, has had little electricity and water and has been fought over for years. Until very recently passages to west-Aleppo were open to civilians. The rebels only now blockade them.

An independent estimates of the real population in east-Aleppo comes from Martin Chulov, a journalist for The Guardian who has visited the area ten times since it was occupied by rebels from out of town. After his last visit he estimated the actual number of inhabitants to be down to 40,000:

Those who remain in eastern Aleppo, roughly 40,000 from a prewar population ...

Just last week Chulov reconfirmed his observation:

I returned to the city for the last time. Finding residents in the east was difficult. Those who had stayed this long had no plans to leave. Umm Abdu, a wedding dress seamstress turned nurse was one of them.
...
Umm Abdu has left Aleppo, and few of the others I met along the way have stayed behind.

The Syrian government estimates are consistent with Chulov's observations:

EHSANI2 @EHSANI22
According to well informed senior sources in #Damascus , number of civilians in #Aleppo does not exceed 60k according to their best estimate
11:02 AM - 14 Oct 2016

EHSANI2 ‏@EHSANI22
@MoonofA @TPAtticus @CamilleOtrakji "range" of Syrian government estimate of civilians in E.Aleppo is 40k-60k...60k is high of the range
11:48 AM - 14 Oct 2016

In other siege areas where the rebels gave up to the Syrian government the numbers of people coming out of them were much smaller than the original inhabitants. The numbers were also smaller than all prior estimates. Daraya, near Damascus, originally had some 80,000 inhabitants. The numbers of besieged people in Daraya the UN had given were variously between several ten-thousands and down to 8,000. When the evacuation of Daraya started the Syrian army estimated that 800-1,200 fighters and 4,000 civilians would come out. In the end the numbers of leaving fighters was some 600-700 and less than 2,000 civilians turned up to leave. The area was searched and all had left.

Based on the Daraya numbers and those of other sieges in Syria there are probably no more than 4-5,000 fighters and some 3-5 civilians per fighter, i.e. their immediate families, in east-Aleppo. The real total could easily be as low as 20,000.

But even then the al-Qaeda fighters will be still be the majority of the "rebels" in the city. It is implausible that their total number is now less than the number which were earlier announced to enter as reinforcement. The official spinmasters talking to Reuters obviously want the numbers to be very, very low to keep the al-Qaeda fighters unharmed and in place for future operations.

I am confident that neither the Syrian nor the Russian military will be a sucker for such bullshit. That role is reserved for "western" journalist and the the usual lobbyist-"analysts" who are employed by Qatar, the U.S. and other Jihadi sponsors.

Theo Patnos, who was held hostage by al-Qaeda in Syria for nearly two years, was interviewed by Vanity Fair (watch the video at that link). Asked what the presidential candidates know about Syria he responds:

They don’t know a thing about Syria. Neither do the journalists, by the way. They’re doing their best, but they don’t know. They’re guessing. They speak with great authority but they really know very little. I don’t criticize them for being incompetent, but I criticize them for not having the up-close knowledge. They’re speaking of a planet they’ve never visited but they speak as though they do know and it’s a little confusing for me.

Posted by b on October 15, 2016 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

October 14, 2016

NYT Finds "Hidden Hand" In War On Yemen

Yesterday the U.S. openly attacked Yemen by firing cruise missiles against old Yemeni radar stations. This, allegedly, in response to four missiles fired on two days against a U.S. destroyer at the Yemeni coast. The U.S. Navy said the missiles fell short. They were unable to reach the ship. No one but the navy, especially no one in Yemen, has seen or reported any such missile launches - short or long.

The U.S. is in alliance with Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other countries in bombing Yemen for 18 month now. They totally blockade the coast of the country that depends on imports of food and medicines. The actively fighting countries are heavily supported by the U.S. military. This has been widely admitted by U.S. officials and in military reports. The U.S. government even feared of being help legally responsible for the carnage it causes.

But since the launch of the cruise missile U.S. media have totally forgotten all of this. Now the U.S. "has been attacked", without any recognizable reason, and is only "defending" itself. No legal consequences are to fear now. Anyone who believes that the U.S. is somehow responsible for the at least 10,000 dead and the many starving people in Yemen must somehow believe in a mysterious conspiracy.

Just consider this New York Times headline, from today, after the U.S. attack on Yemen.

Yemen Sees U.S. Strikes as Evidence of Hidden Hand Behind Saudi Air War.

The NYT tweeted the piece with this text:

New York Times World @nytimesworld
For the U.S., it was retaliation; for Yemen's Houthi rebels, it confirmed a long-held belief nyti.ms/2e9mKyb
6:30 PM - 13 Oct 2016

Wow. The Houthi rebels "believe" in a "hidden hand". Must be crazy people. They unreasonably attacked. And they deserve such strikes.

The NYT piece reads:

WASHINGTON — For the United States, it was simple retaliation: Rebels in Yemen had fired missiles at an American warship twice in four days, and so the United States hit back, destroying rebel radar facilities with missiles.

But for the rebels and many others in Yemen, the predawn strikes on Thursday were just the first public evidence of what they have long believed: that the United States has been waging an extended campaign in the country, the hidden hand behind Saudi Arabia’s punishing air war.

How could the Houthis come to "believe" of such a "hidden hand"? Was it really because the strike was the "first public evidence"? Or was it because the NYT and all other media reported many times over that the U.S. actively supports the Saudi attacks? Did the Houthi probably read yesterday's NYT piece on Yemen written by the very same main authors?

Up to now, the Obama administration put limits on its support for the Saudi-led coalition, providing intelligence and Air Force tankers to refuel the coalition’s jets and bombers. The American military has refueled more than 5,700 aircraft involved in the bombing campaign since it began, according to statistics provided by United States Central Command, which oversees American military operations in the Middle East.

So the "first evidence" of the "hidden hand" were, unlike the NYT today claims, not yesterdays strikes but official reports on the public CentCom website? Maybe frequent discussions of the war on Yemen the U.S. Congress held since a year ago also count as evidence? Various public reports over the last 18 month detailing the enormous amount of ammunition the U.S. openly sells to the Saudis were also just sightings of "hidden" hands?

Such reporting as in today's NYT is just laughable. It flies in face of all reports of the last 18 month as well as extensive evidence given by the U.S. and other governments. The strikes on the radar sites were just "retaliation". They have no larger context. This is a typical reflection of the U.S. myth of "immaculate conception" of U.S. foreign policy. According to that believe the U.S. always only reacts to being "attacked" or "threatened" for completely incomprehensible reasons when it bombs this or that country and kills thousands or even millions of foreign people.

That is even more evident in the reports by CNN and others. These reports only mention the 18 month of extensive U.S. support for the Saudi campaign down in the middle to end of their pieces. For any but a thorough reader the alleged "missile attacks" and all Yemeni enmity against the U.s. has no history at all. It comes from unreasonable and hostile people who willfully misunderstand U.S. well-meaning.

Thus no U.S. attack is ever unjustified or just a cruel continuation of decades of U.S. insidiousness, hostility and greed. It is always the other side that initiates the fight.

It is easy for the U.S. government propaganda to make such false claims. And U.S. media don't report such but perpetrate anticipatory stenography. They write what the U.S. government wants and U.S. imperialism demands even when not directly ordered to. That is no longer astonishing.

Astonishing is how easy the U.S. public swallows this without any self awareness and protest.

Posted by b on October 14, 2016 at 06:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (136)

October 13, 2016

Alleged "Attack" On U.S. Ships To Justify Continued War On Yemen

Last night the U.S. launched cruise missiles against three radar stations along the western Yemeni coast. The area is formally under control of the Sanaa government, an alliance of Houthi tribal groups from north Yemen and parts of the Yemeni army under control of the former president Saleh. But their real control is patchy and especially around Taiz and further south al-Qaeda and local south Yemeni independence fighters are predominant.

The attack comes after U.S. ships were allegedly attacked by missiles fired from the coast. All those missiles "fell into the sea short of the destroyer, which was in international waters in the Red Sea." (Were these just short range RPG-36 al-Qaeda had received?) The Houthi as well as the Yemeni army (twice) have officially denied that they fired missiles and to have attacked any U.S. asset. Former president Saleh accused the Saudis and their al-Qaeda proxies and asked for an investigation. No one in Yemen had heard rumors of preparations or execution of such attacks. There is no public evidence that any such attack ever happened. All such claims are solely based on the word of the U.S. military. The Houthi/Saleh government in Sanaa demands an official UN investigation into the issue.

Two weeks ago the Houthis had fired on and destroyed a United Arab Emirates fast supply ship. The missile used was decent medium range anti-ship missile of probably Chinese origin. The ship was transporting weapons and anti-Houthi troops between Assab in Eritrea and Aden in south Yemen. They had proudly admitted the attack and published video of it. Earlier smaller Saudi ships which blockaded the coast were attacked by local fishermen and sunk. The UAE has occupied parts of south Yemen (Dubai Port International would like to control the Aden harbor) and the UAE troops and proxy forces are immediate enemy of the Yemeni forces. But it was clear that any attack on a U.S. ship would only increase trouble for the Houthi forces. They had and have no sane reason to commit such an attack.

A recap how we got here. After some tribal upheaval in 2011-12 the President Saleh was pressed to move aside and his vice president Hadi was installed as president with a two year mandate. The installation of a new national government failed when Hadi and his sponsors denied any seat at the table for the large northern Houthi tribes (some 45% of the total population). Those tribes revolted and occupied the capital Sanaa. Hadi, then in the third year of his two year mandate, resigned, retracted and later verbally resigned again. The UN tried to negotiate a settlement but the UN envoy was ousted on behalf of Saudis and the agreed upon unity cabinet was not installed:

Yemen’s warring political factions were on the verge of a power-sharing deal when Saudi-led airstrikes began a month ago, derailing the negotiations, the United Nations envoy who mediated the talks said.
The Saudis, who had fought earlier wars against the Houthis, do not want them to have a role in any power structure. They claim that Houthi are Iranian proxies. There is no evidence for that at all and the claim is simply false. During some 18 month of war no sign of Iranian help, weapons or personal, has been seen. Even the NYT notes today:
American intelligence officials believe that the Houthis receive significantly less support from Iran than the Saudis and other Persian Gulf nations have charged.

The Sauds want their trusted puppet Hadi back in the presidential role with unlimited powers. He can be endlessly manipulated by them. But while the Sauds are much richer their people is not significantly bigger than Yemen. Yemen has some 26 million inhabitants while Saudi Arabia has some 29 million. Every Saudi attack against Yemenis creates new recruits who will attack Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. supports the attacks by the Saudis and the UAE. It delivers planes and ammunition, its aerial tankers refill the Saudi jets taking part - in total over 5,500 times since the bombing began. U.S. intelligence is used by the Saudis to plan their attacks. U.S. officers consult the Saudi planning cells and U.S. special forces are on the ground. It ships help to blockade the Yemeni coast. Despite such massive support the U.S. officially did not consider itself part of the conflict and even tried to negotiated some powersharing agreement as if it were a "neutral" force. That did not deceive anyone in Yemen but the U.S. public was gullible as ever about this.

That ended as more and more atrocities by Saudi attacks on hospitals, schools, markets and important infrastructure became public. After the recent Saudi attack (vid) on a funeral hall filled with people offering condolences the U.S. ran out of stupid excuses. The bombs used were U.S. manufactured. The attack killed over 200 and seriously wounded many more. The local hospitals are overwhelmed and the Saudis block any evacuation. Many of casualties are tribal elites and generals.

Cholera broke out in Yemen and people are dying of hunger. The U.S. has come under pressure over this and the Saudi attacks. The State Department spokesman was hopelessly trying to explain why the funeral attack was in "defense of Saudi Arabia" and different from less severe attacks in Syria which the U.S. condemns. A significant number of senators are pressing for an end to the support of the Saudi campaign. Moveon has started a petitions against the U.S. support and the Obama administration itself feared legal consequences.

An "attack" on U.S. assets that puts the U.S. into a justified "self defense" position against the Houthis makes all such concerns irrelevant.

Over the last weeks the Saudis have transported sponsored fighters aligned with al-Qaeda in Yemen from south Yemen to Saudi Arabia. These have now started to attack the Houthi areas in the north from the Saudi side of the border. All earlier such attempts miserably failed.

There are rumors that the U.S. attack on the radar stations is in preparation of a massive troop landing by UAE and Saudi mercenary forces currently assembling in the UAE rented and controlled port Assab in Eritrea. That is, in my view, quite possible.

Posted by b on October 13, 2016 at 12:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)

October 12, 2016

The "Salafist Principality" - ISIS Paid Off To Leave Mosul, Take Deir Ezzor?

Updated below (3:34pm EDT)

On September 20 I wrote about the likely reason for the willful U.S. bombing attack on a critical Syrian army position in Deir Ezzor:

Two recent attacks against the Syrian Arab Army in east-Syria point to a U.S. plan to eliminate all Syrian government presence east of Palmyra. This would enable the U.S. and its allies to create a "Sunni entity" in east-Syria and west-Iraq which would be a permanent thorn in side of Syria and its allies.
...
The U.S. plan is to eventually take Raqqa by using Turkish or Kurdish proxies. It also plans to let the Iraqi army retake Mosul in Iraq. The only major city in Islamic State territory left between those two is Deir Ezzor. Should IS be able to take it away from the isolated Syrian army garrison it has at least a decent base to survive. (Conveniently there are also rich oil wells nearby.) No one, but the hampered Syrian state, would have an immediate interest to remove it from there.

There are new signs that this analysis was correct.

Yesterday the Turkish President Erdogan made a remark that points into that direction. As the British journalist Elijah Magnier summarized it:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai

Erdogan: #Turkey will participate in #Mosul just like it did in #Jarablus.Army doesn't take orders from #Iraq PM who should know his limits.

4:06 AM - 11 Oct 2016

"Like Jarablus" was an interesting comparison. The Turks and their proxies took Jarablus in center-north Syria from the Islamic State without any fight and without any casualties from fighting. ISIS had moved away from the city before the Turks walked in. There obviously had been a deal made.

That's why I replied this to Magnier's tweet above:

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA

The Turks will pay off ISIS in Mosul to leave early just like they did in Jarablus?

5:58 AM - 12 Oct 2016

Three hours later this rumor from a well connected Syrian historian and journalist in London answered that question:

Nizar Nayouf @nizarnayouf

Breaking news:Sources in #London say:“#US& #Saudi_Arabia concluded an agreement to let #ISIS leave #Mosul secretly& safely to #Syria"!

9:28 AM - 12 Oct 2016

Erdogan predicts that his troops and proxy forces will march into Mosul just like they marched into Jarablus: In a peaceful walk, without any fight, into a city free of Jihadis.

The Saudis and the U.S. arranged for that.

The U.S. bombed the most important SAA position in Deir Ezzor so that ISIS, now with the help of its cadres from Mosul, can take over the city. A nice place to keep it holed up in east-Syria until it can further be used in this or that imperial enterprise.


bigger

A good plan when your overall aim is to create an obedient mercenary statelet in the center of the Middle East. As the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency wrote in 2012:

THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME.

But this plan requires to fight the Syrian and Russian air-forces which will do their utmost to defend the SAA group and the 100-200,000 ISIS besieged Syrian civilians in Deir Ezzor. The the U.S. and its allies may be willing to do that. A well known British Tory member of parliament already made noise that British fighter jets should be free to shoot down Russian planes in Syria. The U.S. had claimed that British planes took part in the Deir Ezzor ambush.

The defenders of Deir Ezzor lack their own air defenses. The Russian systems at the Syrian west-coast can not reach that far east. The Syrian system are mostly positioned to defend Damascus and other cities from attacks by Israel.

Russia recently talked about delivering 10 new Pantsyr-S1 short-to-medium range air defense systems to Syria. At least two of those should be airlifted to Deir Ezzor as soon as possible.

UPDATE: I was just made aware of a recent speech by Hizbullah leader Nasrallah who smells the same stinking plot:

Sayyed Nasrallah said that the Americans intend to repeat Fallujah plot when they opened a way for ISIL to escape towards eastern Syria before the Iraqi warplanes targeted the terrorists’ convoy, warning that the same deceptive scheme is possible to be carried out in Mosul.

Posted by b on October 12, 2016 at 02:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (112)

Some Quotes

(Busy with nurturing some illness, please bear with me.)

Quotes from the Wikileaks stash of Hillary Clinton speeches and emails from her campaign chair John Podesta.

Clinton in a 2013 speech to the Jewish United Fund Advance & Major Gifts Dinner (via The Intercept):

[Arming moderates has] been complicated by the fact that the Saudis and others are shipping large amounts of weapons—and pretty indiscriminately—not at all targeted toward the people that we think would be the more moderate, least likely, to cause problems in the future, ...

Clinton also says that the no-fly zone bombing in Syria she is arguing for "would kill a lot of Syrians" - all for humanitarian reasons of course.

The following was written by Podesta, a well connected former White House Chief of Staff, in an 2014 email to Clinton. As introduction Podesta notes:"Sources include Western intelligence, US intelligence and sources in the region.":

While this military/para-military operation is moving forward, we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

Not new - the 2012 DIA analysis provided as much, and more, - but these email's prove that Clinton was and is well aware that U.S. allies are financing the radical Islamists in Syria and Iraq.

The Turkish President Erdogan just managed to screw up relations with ALL Iraqis, including the sectarian Sunnis he pampers as well as the Kurdish Barzani mafia with which his family does big oil deals. Erdogan wants his troops to "liberate" Mosul in Iraq from the Islamic State to incorporate it into the Turkish realm. (This goes back to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne which had, in Turkish nationalist's interpretation, promised Aleppo and Mosul to Turkey):

Erdoğan [..] lashed out at Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, saying al-Abadi was not his counterpart.

“He is defaming me but you are not my interlocutor; you are not on my level and are not my value or quality,” Erdoğan said. “We will go our own way, everyone should know this. Who is this? Iraq’s prime minister. Know your place.”

The Turks have the illusion that the Arab's and other people the ottoman's once ruled liked their colonial occupation. That is simply wrong. The Ottoman rule was as brutal and disliked as any other colonial rule. The megalomania Erdogan shows will enrage all people of Iraq against him. They may not like Abadi but he is the Iraqi Prime Minister and as such has to be respected.

Erdogan's trouble at home and abroad are not some foreign plots against him, as he likes to believe, but the direct consequences of his behavior and talk. His plans to occupy 5,000 square kilometer of Syria and to conquer al-Bab and Raqqa is falling apart. 1,000 sqkm in his proxy groups are failing as they now finally meet real resistance. They may be able to Daqib, after the Turkish air force and artillery destroy it, but that will be it. Erdogan could send in his own army, which heavily relies on conscripts, but the public consequences within Turkey would probably be a disaster for him.

The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov in a recent interview with CNN's Amanpour:

Amanpour: Russia had its own Pussy Riot moment. What do you think of Donald Trump's pussy riot moment?

Lavrov: Well, I don't know whether this would ... English is not my mother's tongue and I don't know whether - I don't know - whether I would sound - I mean - decent. There are so many pussies around your presidential campaigns on both sides that I prefer not to comment.

Posted by b on October 12, 2016 at 11:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

October 10, 2016

Open Thread 2016-33

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 10, 2016 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (221)

October 09, 2016

An Election Of Leaks And Counter-Leaks

The tape of Trump talking dirty was released just in time  to sidetrack from the release of more of Clinton's dirty secrets by Wikileaks. Trump's talk was juvenile and sexist bragging in front of other "boys". Surprising it was not. There will more releases like that, all timed to run cover for Clinton.

The just released emails of her campaign chairman John Podesta about Clinton's talk to Wall Street and other Clinton related issues are indeed revealing. She is the sell-out you would expect her to be:

*CLINTON SAYS YOU NEED TO HAVE A PRIVATE AND PUBLIC POSITION ON POLICY*

Clinton: "But if everybody's watching, you know, all of the back room discussions and the deals, you know, then people get a little nervous, to say the least. So, you need both a public and a private position."

It is funny how the U.S. electorate has a deeper "very negative" view of Trump (-44%) and Clinton (-41%) than of the much vilified Russian President Putin (-38%).

When Trump will come back in the polls (not "if"), it will be a devious fight with daily "leaks" followed by counter leaks and a lot of dirty laundry washed in front of the public. Good.

Many of the people who will vote will vote against a candidate, not for the one that they will mark on their ballot. I expect a very low turn out election, barely giving a mandate, to whomever may win or get selected to have won.

Posted by b on October 9, 2016 at 09:08 AM | Permalink | Comments (197)

October 08, 2016

A Desperate Obama Administration Resorts To Lying And Maybe More

On September 28 the French mission to the UN claimed that two hospitals in east-Aleppo had been bombed. It documented this in a tweet with a picture of destroyed buildings in Gaza. The French later deleted that tweet.

It is not the first time such false claims and willful obfuscations were made by "western" officials. But usually they shy away from outright lies.

Not so the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. In a press event yesterday, before talks with the French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault about a new UN resolution, he said (vid @1:00) about Syria:

Last night, the regime attacked yet another hospital, and 20 people were killed and 100 people were wounded. And Russia and the regime owe the world more than an explanation about why they keep hitting hospitals and medical facilities and children and women. These are acts that beg for an appropriate investigation of war crimes. And those who commit these would and should be held accountable for these actions.

No opposition group has claimed that such an extremely grave event happened. None. No press agency has a record of it. The MI-6 disinformation outlet SOHR in Britain, which quite reliably notes every claimed casualty and is frequently cited in "western" media", has not said anything about such an event anywhere in Syria.

The grave incident Kerry claimed did not happen. Kerry made it up. (Was it supposed to happen, got canceled and Kerry missed the memo?) Kerry used the lie to call for war crime investigations and punishment. This in front of cameras, at an official event with a foreign guest in the context of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

This is grave. This is nearly as grave as Colin Powell's false claims of WMD in Iraq in front of the UN Security Council.

Early reports, like this one at CBSNEWS, repeat the Kerry claim:

Kerry said Syrian forces hit a hospital overnight, killing 20 people and wounding 100, describing what would be the latest strike by Moscow or its ally in Damascus on a civilian target.

But the New York Times write up of the event, which includes Kerry's demand for war crime investigations, does not mention the hospital bombing claim. Not at all. For the self-acclaimed "paper of record", Kerry's lie did not happen. Likewise the Washington Post which in its own write up makes no mention of the false Kerry claim.

The latest AP write up by Matthew Lee also omits the lie. This is curious as Matt Lee is obviously aware of it. The State Departments daily press briefing yesterday had a whole section on it. Video (@3:30) shows that it is Matt who asks these questions:

QUESTION: Okay. On to Syria and the Secretary’s comments earlier this morning, one is: Do you know what strike he was talking about in his comments overnight on a hospital in Aleppo?

MR KIRBY: I think the Secretary’s referring actually to a strike that we saw happen yesterday on a field hospital in the Rif Dimashq Governorate. I’m not exactly positive that that’s what he was referring to, but I think he was referring to actually one that was --

QUESTION: Not one in Aleppo?

MR KIRBY: I believe it was – I think it was – I think he – my guess is – I’m guessing here that he was a bit mistaken on location and referring to one --
...
QUESTION: But you don’t have certainty, though?

MR KIRBY: I don’t. Best I got, best information I got, is that he was most likely referring to one yesterday in this governorate, but it could just be an honest mistake.

QUESTION: If we could – if we can nail that down with certainty what he was talking about --

MR KIRBY: I’ll do the best I can, Matt.
...

This goes on for a while. But there was no hospital attack in Rif Dimashq nor in Aleppo. Later on DoS spokesman Kirby basically admits that Kerry lied: "I can’t corroborate that."

It also turns out that Kerry has no evidence for any war crimes and no plausible way to initiate any official international procedure about such. And for what? To bully Russia? Fat chance, that would be a hopeless endeavor and Kerry should know that.

Kerry is desperate. He completely lost the plot on Syria. Russia is in the lead and will do whatever needs to be done. The Obama administration has, apart from starting a World War, no longer any way to significantly influence that.

Kerry is only one tool of the Obama administration. Later that day the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, made other accusations against Russia:

The U.S. Intelligence Community (USIC) is confident that the Russian Government directed the recent compromises of e-mails from US persons and institutions, including from US political organizations. The recent disclosures of alleged hacked e-mails on sites like DCLeaks.com and WikiLeaks and by the Guccifer 2.0 online persona are consistent with the methods and motivations of Russian-directed efforts. These thefts and disclosures are intended to interfere with the US election process. Such activity is not new to Moscow—the Russians have used similar tactics and techniques across Europe and Eurasia, for example, to influence public opinion there. We believe, based on the scope and sensitivity of these efforts, that only Russia's senior-most officials could have authorized these activities.

Translation: "WE DO NOT KNOW at all ("we are confident", "we believe", "directed") who did these hacks and WE DO NOT HAVE the slightest evidence ("consistent with","based on the scope and sensitivity") that Russia is involved, so let me throw some chaff and try to bamboozle you all."

The former British ambassador Craig Murray calls it a blatant neocon lie. It was obviously the DNC that manipulated the U.S. election by, contrary to its mandate, promoting Clinton over Sanders. The hackers only proved that. It is also easy to see why these accusations are made now. Murray:

That the Obama administration has made a formal accusation of Russia based on no evidence is, on one level, astonishing. But it is motivated by desperation. WikiLeaks have already announced that they have a huge cache of other material relating to Hillary’s shenanigans. The White House is simply seeking to discredit it in advance by a completely false association with Russian intelligence.

The Obama administration is losing it. On Syria as well as on the election it can no longer assert its will. Trump, despite all dirty boy's club talk he may do, has a significant chance to catch the presidency. He (-44%) and Clinton (-41%) are more disliked by the U.S electorate, than Putin (-38%). Any solution in Syria will be more in Russia's than the Washington's favor.

Such desperation can be dangerous. Kerry is gasping at straws when he lies about Russia. The president and his colleagues at the Pentagon and the CIA have more kinetic means to express themselves. Could they order up something really stupid?

Posted by b on October 8, 2016 at 09:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

October 07, 2016

Syria - Is The U.S. Preparing A "False Flag" Bombing?

There is a curious coincidence of a remark Secretary of State Kerry made to Syrian opposition activists and a new paint scheme applied to some U.S. military jets.

October 1 2016: Kerry in leaked audio: 'I lost the argument' for use of force in Syria

Washington (CNN) Secretary of State John Kerry's frustration with the failure of American diplomacy was on display as he defended US efforts to help end the five-year civil war in Syria during a meeting last week with a group of Syrian civilians, according to an audio recording obtained by CNN.
...
Kerry's comments came at a meeting that took place at the Dutch Mission to the United Nations on the sidelines the UN General Assembly, where Kerry was going from session to session in a frenzied effort to resuscitate a ceasefire that seemed poised to collapse.

A complete audio recording of the meeting between Kerry, some of his staff, and some Syrians is available on youtube.

Of interest is a short segment about alleged Russian bombing beginning at 11:18. The female Arab-English interpreter translates remarks by a Syrian, believed to be the Syrian front-man of the White Helmets scam Raed Saleh, about the difficulties of supervising ceasefires.

Interpreter (translating from a male Arabic speaker): We don't believe that Russia can be the guarantor of the actions of the regime. We see Russia is a partner of the regime in bombing Syrians, Syrian civilians, market places, even our own team, the Syrian Civil Defense team. We documented since the start of the Russian intervention in Syria from day one until February of this year more than 17 of our Syrian Civil Defense personal have been killed by Russian airstrikes.

Kerry: Do you have any videos of the airplanes of these strikes?

(crosstalk interpreter and male Arab voice)

Kerry: Can we get that (unintelligible) videos the agents have been asking for?

(crosstalk interpreter and male Arab voice)

Kerry staff member: So can I just say - we get a lot of videos of the victims of these attacks, they are terrible, but they don't help us. We need videos of the actual aircrafts and ammunition. And there is a lot of them on the internet but we don't know whether they are real or not. Verified videos of the actual aircraft is the most useful thing. ...

These men can be helped, though someone in the U.S. military - or not.

A Canadian journalist based in Eastern/Central Europe, Christian Borys tweeted yesterday:

Christian Borys @ItsBorys

The U.S is painting their F/A-18's to match the paint schemes of Russian jets in #Syria. Standard training, but interesting nonetheless. pic.twitter.com/FVN6tMj2Ji

1:45 PM - 6 Oct 2016

This is the attached pic:

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The first three pics are of an U.S. F/A-18 fighter and attack aircraft in Russian coloring. (The wingtips are raised for storage as this is a carrier enabled plane. The windows of the raised cockpit hood are covered with white sun protection sheets.) On the bottom right is a picture of a Russia SU-34 in the usual Russian color scheme as it is also used by the Russian contingent in Syria.

It would be extremely difficult to distinguish these like-colored planes from each other in a shaky fly-by and "bombing" video.

The U.S. regularly uses planes in "enemy" color schemes as "aggressor force" during training and maneuvers. It helps U.S. pilots to get used to "enemy" targets during air-to-air combat training. So this can all be, like Christian Borys assumes, "standard training".

But there is also Kerry's talk with the Syrian opposition and his explicit request for videos of "Russian" jets bombing in Syria.

This may be an innocent coincidence: Secretary Kerry is asking the scam artists of the White Helmets for video of Russian jets "bombing civilians" in Syria and, just by chance, the U.S. military is painting one of its jets to look like a "Russian" Su-34 strike fighter like those deployed in Syria.

But many incidents in Syria, the Ghouta gas attack, the recent aid convoy attack, get attributed to Russia or the Syrian government without any proof (or even despite contrary evidence). The media always eat these falsehoods up based simply on some official's say-so, some unverified pictures or video and without asking any further questions. A "Russian attack" on some large civilian target like a refugee camp, documented on video!, would be a very easy sell. The propagandized "uproar" over such an attack could be easily used to launch a wider war. The attack on the Gleiwitz Radio tower, the Gulf of Tonkin incident and "Saddam's WMDs" come to mind. Kerry is not shy of such lying. Today he invented a new hospital attack, said it was a war crime and that Russia and Syria should be investigated. No such attack happened.

The Russian parliament ratified an agreement with Syria about the indefinite stationing of Russian forces in Syria. Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense warned that Russian soldiers are embedded with Syrian units on the ground and that they would be defended against any attempt of air attacks by the Russian air-defense in Syria. U.S. media called such matter of course statement bellicose talk.

There is plenty of lose talk in U.S. media about attacking Syrian and Russian forces in Syria. The U.S. recently bombed a Syrian unit in a well known position it had held for many month. 82 Syrian soldier died and many more were wounded. The strike furthered the advance of ISIS on the besieged Deir Ezzor. That was no 'mistake' as the U.S. claimed.

Russia will defend its forces in Syria and it will defend Syria's sovereignty. It is not alone. A Chinese navy frigate just arrived in the Syrian port Tartus. Should that trip-wire get touched 1.3 billion Chinese would join the Russians, Iranians and Syrians in waging war against the U.S. "regime change" attempt in Syria. Washington is warned. No cheap paint scheme trickery will be accepted as reason to hold back. Russia WILL hit back should the need arise.

Any attack on Russian or Syrian forces would be illegal. Kerry himself, in the above linked talk, says that the U.S. has absolutely no legal grounds for any such attack. It would be illegitimate and a crime. But the U.S. is not known for staying strictly within the framework of international law. Russia is well advised to warn of the eventual consequences of any breach. There is nothing "bellicose" about that.

Posted by b on October 7, 2016 at 12:36 PM | Permalink | Comments (118)

October 05, 2016

Is Fighting Al-Qaeda In Aleppo Good Or Bad? - U.S. Unable To Decide

There is currently a barrage of propaganda in the "western" media in support of "rebels" in east-Aleppo. It is all about "hospitals" and "children" but the aim is to stop a Syrian army assault on the "rebel" held quarters of the city. U.S. officials are again talking about "intervention", meaning open war, to prevent the Syrian army and its allies from storming the "rebel" held eastern parts. It would not work but that is not the only reason why it is a strange idea.

"It is primarily al-Qaeda that holds Aleppo," said (vid) the spokesperson of the U.S. led 'Operation Inherent Resolve', Colonel Warren. That was back in April and al-Qaeda (aka Jabat al-Nusra) has since strengthen its capacities in the city. The French Syria expert Fabrice Balanche tells Le Monde Le Figaro (translate from French):

[Al-Qaeda's] grip on Aleppo's east has only increased since the spring of 2016, when it sent 700 reinforcement fighters while moderate brigades fighters began to leave the area before the final exit was closed. The provisional opening of a breach of the siege of Aleppo in August 2016 (Battle of Ramousseh) has further increased its prestige and influence on the rebels.

The UN Special Envoy for Syria DeMistura told (vid, 27:43) the UN Security Council:

We have seen information from other sources that tell us more than half of the fighters present in eastern Aleppo are al-Nusra. We have also seen reports alleging the intentional placement of firing positions close to social infrastructure, inside and aside civilian quarters.

So why does the U.S. want to stop the Syrian government forces in their attempt to free the parts of the city which are undoubtedly held by al-Qaeda?

The U.S. voted "Yes" on several UN Security Council resolutions that demand to fight al-Qaeda and "to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria."

Following the UNSC demand, Syria and its allies have surrounded the al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo. They currently bomb targets of opportunity, take starting positions all around it and prepare to eventually storm and capture it. Measures have been taken to allow civilians to escape from the area.

This whole operation is primarily in defense of west-Aleppo where 1.5 million civilians live under the protection of the government. Daily artillery strikes from al-Qaeda held east-Aleppo have killed and wounded many people in the government help parts. 

But some U.S. officials believe that defeating al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo will be useful for al-Qaeda:

A U.S. official says Jabhat al-Nusra has been the “main beneficiary” (other than the Assad regime) of Russia’s onslaught. “Until Moscow stops bombing hospitals and aid workers, Nusra will continue to exploit the situation . . . and portray itself as the defender of the Syrian people,” the official explained.

"Hospitals and aid workers," are often unfortunate collateral damage in urban fighting. That will not surprise the U.S. military, especially after its bombing of several hospitals in Afghanistan and after it recently practically destroyed Kobani in Syria and Fallujah in Iraq to eradicate the Islamic State from those cities.

The claim that fighting al-Qaeda in Aleppo strengthens al-Qaeda seems dubious to me. But even if that is the case what is the alternative to fighting it in the city areas it holds?

U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is urging a new ceasefire with a pause in fighting and aerial bombing of at least seven days. State Department spokesperson Toner explained that yesterday. But he also admitted (vid @14:50) that al-Qaeda and other militant groups use such ceasefire periods to regroup and to resupply:

... we can talk about that some rebel groups or opposition groups may have used the pause to resupply...

It is even more than that. Al-Qaeda wins in every ceasefire (even if those generally do not apply to it) in many other ways. A new study, specifically about al-Qaeda and ceasefire, details that and concludes:

While the establishment of the truces was supposed to help to weaken the most radical factions of the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra emerged indisputably strengthened ...

Another ceasefire would help al-Qaeda to resupply and regroup and to regain strength in east-Aleppo and elsewhere.

Despite that and despite agreeing to the UNSC resolution the U.S. does not want the Syrian government and its allies to fight al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo because it believes that would strengthen al-Qaeda. It wants a new ceasefire. But any ceasefire or truce strengthens al-Qaeda.

Somehow the U.S. position does not compute.

It gets even more confusing:

"..,” one senior administration official said. “The CIA and the Joint Staff have said that the fall of Aleppo would undermine America’s counterterrorism goals in Syria.”

Fighting al-Qaeda in east-Aleppo and "eradicating" it from the area it holds, as the UNSC demands, would undermine U.S. counterterrorism goals?

That is strange. The alternative in east-Aleppo is to keep al-Qaeda well and alive and to let it hold the area it currently holds. Would that further U.S. counterterrorism goals? How?

What then are the actually goals?

Posted by b on October 5, 2016 at 03:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (197)

October 04, 2016

Under U.S. Proxy Attack Russia Readies For Full War In Syria

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing September 28 2016 - Spokesperson John Kirby

QUESTION: But what I don’t think we have heard here is, so what are the consequences for Russia if this agreement falls through beyond some interagency discussions about options that have not yet been chosen? What are the consequences for Russia other than Secretary Kerry won’t talk to them on this particular issue going forward?

MR KIRBY: The consequences are that the civil war will continue in Syria, that extremists and extremists groups will continue to exploit the vacuums that are there in Syria to expand their operations, which will include, no question, attacks against Russian interests, perhaps even Russian cities, and Russia will continue to send troops home in body bags, and they will continue to lose resources – even, perhaps, more aircraft.

The Russian Federation interpreted that not as a prediction or warning, but as a direct threat.


Monument to defense of Sevastopol in the second world war 1941-1942 - bigger

The ceasefire agreement fell through. The U.S. essentially blocked it by NOT pushing its proxy forces in Syria to follow its provisions. It blamed, as usual, the Russian side which had followed the ceasefire nearly to the letter.

Then this happened:

Al-Nusra Front Shells Russian Embassy in Damascus

The Russian embassy in Damascus was shelled from the areas controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman militants, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

"The Russian diplomatic mission came under mortar shelling on October 3. One of the mines exploded on the embassy area near its residential department. Fortunately, no one was wounded. The diplomatic mission sustained material damage. Another two mines went off next to the embassy." The Ministry said the shelling was conducted from the Jobar municipality controlled by al-Nusra Front and Faylaq al-Rahman terrorists. "We view this shelling of the Russian embassy as a consequence of actions of those who, like the US and its allies, provoke the violent conflict in Syria, flirting with militants and extremists of different sorts."

Russia has deployed a number of additional bombers to Syria. We do not yet know how many. But as soon as these are operational the "rebels" will face a significant larger amount of air attacks. A few weeks of intense attacks and their abilities, logistics and command and control will have been degrade to a point where they can no longer wage an organized fight.

Also deployed was a battery of S-300 air-defense systems. The specific type is said to be S-300VM, also known as Antey-2500. These are specially designed for defending against ballistic- and cruise missiles. The system will be stationed near Tartus harbor and will protect the Syrian east coast as well as the Russian fleet in the eastern Mediterranean. These also have good capabilities against attacking planes. A volley cruise missile attack by the U.S. against the Syrian and Russian airports and air forces in Syria, discussed in various U.S. papers as the start of a "no-fly zone" war, will be severely hampered by this.

Then there is this:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai

#Damascus agreed & #Russia is ready to send several thousands of special forces & other various units officers this month to #Syria.

9:57 AM - 4 Oct 2016

The final decision for this was, I believe, made after the U.S. attack on  Syrian army positions in Deir Ezzor which opened the besieged city to the Islamic State. That, and the current U.S. bombing of bridges in Deir Ezzor, will allow for an isolated area in which the Islamic State can survive. Russia can and will not condone that.

The U.S. wants, for lack of better ideas, play hardball with Russia. But it does not want to go to war. Russia will go along with the hardball game. It makes sure that the U.S. understands that it will indeed have to fight a full fledged war with Russia and its allies if it wants to get its way in Syria. Further arming its al-Qaeda proxy-Jihadis, as Washington is currently doing, will not change that.

Russia will not give in to U.S. demands without a very severe fight. It bets that Obama, the members of his administration and the generals in the Pentagon are, in the end, pampered cowards. It has, in my estimate, a very high chance to win that bet.

Posted by b on October 4, 2016 at 02:09 PM | Permalink | Comments (120)

October 03, 2016

Russia Finds - Shaming The U.S. Government Into Action Can Work

Russia has now managed twice to shame the U.S. into action against Jihadis by publicly demonstrating that the U.S. is not really committed to its promises.

During 2014 and 2015 the U.S. did very little to attack the Islamic State. U.S. strikes hit irrelevant targets like an "ISIS excavator" or some lone truck. Meanwhile ISIS was making millions per day from pumping oil out of the Syrian desert and selling it to Turkish contacts. Hundreds of Turkish tanker trucks assembled near the oil wells in south-east Syria waiting to load. No airstrike would hit them.

The Russians saw this and were appalled. The loudmouth U.S. spoke about its big coalition and attacking ISIS but did essentially nothing. The Russian President Putin then decided to shame the U.S. and Obama personally. On November 15 2015 at the G20 meeting in Turkey he walked around the table and showed satellite pictures to his international colleagues. Hundreds of trucks waiting in the Syrian desert for loading without fear that anyone would harm them:

"I've demonstrated the pictures from space to our colleagues, which clearly show the true size of the illegal trade of oil and petroleum products market. Car convoys stretching for dozens of kilometers, going beyond the horizon when seen from a height of four-five thousand meters," Putin told reporters after the G20 summit.

The very next day on November 16 U.S. airplanes, for the first time, hit truck assemblies near ISIS oil wells in south-east Syria:

In the first wave of U.S. airstrikes since the Paris attacks, A-10 Thunderbolt ground attack aircraft and AC-130 gunships raked a convoy of more than 100 ISIS oil tanker trucks in Syria in a stepped-up effort to cut off a main source of terror funding, the Pentagon said Monday.

Putin had successfully shamed Obama into attacking ISIS's oil revenue.

Something similar happened Friday and today. First the Russian Foreign Minister accused the U.S. of complicity with al-Qaeda:

The Russian foreign minister said Russia has "more and more reasons to believe that from the very beginning the plan was to spare Al-Nusra and to keep it just in case for Plan B or stage two, when it would be time to change the regime."

At the daily State Department press briefing on Friday, State spokesman Toner was grilled by multiple reporters over Lavrov's accusations and the lack of U.S. attacks on al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fateh al-Sham):

QUESTION: In that interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary – Foreign Minister Lavrov said what the Russians have been saying for a number of days now, which is that accusing the United States of having failed to disentangle the Nusrah from the opposition that you support.

MR TONER: Yeah. [...]

Once we felt that we were at that point, to the best of an agreed-upon ability to reach that point, then we would say, okay, we’re ready to move on to the next phase. At that point, as I said, then it’s – the moderate opposition who are integrated with al-Nusrah would have had a choice to make.

QUESTION: So in other words, are they making a fair point here --

MR TONER: So --

QUESTION: -- the Russians? That they say you failed to do the disentangling?

MR TONER: No, because there wasn’t enough time. ...
...
QUESTION: What – just a final question: And again, with the regards to the Russian suspicions, you haven’t really gone after Nusrah that much. Have you been holding back on going after Nusrah because they were mixed with the opposition? I mean, all we hear about is the strikes on ISIS.

MR TONER: Yeah, so --

QUESTION: We don’t hear about strikes on Nusrah.

MR TONER: So --

(For your amusement read the longer transcript excerpt below this post or read the full one at the State Department website.)

 

State spoks Mark Toner admits that no U.S. strike had hit Nusra since March this year. His excuses are paltry and in the end he punts to the Pentagon. He really got his balls squeezed.

But that pressure, initiated by the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov, created results. The U.S. was shamed into action and today killed some Nusra number 2: Pentagon: US targets 'core al-Qaida' member in Syria strike.

Al-Qaeda confirmed the strike:

LBCI News English Verified account @LBCI_News_EN

Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, former Nusra Front, says Egyptian alQaeda cleric Abu al-Faraj al-Masri killed in #US led coalition strike in #Idlib

10:17 AM - 3 Oct 2016

This is the very first strike on al-Qaeda in Syria, a UN designated terrorist organization which the U.S. vowed to fight, since March 2016. It comes a weekend after Lavrov accused the U.S. of not striking Nusra and a grilling at the State Department briefing.

The Russian shaming has again worked.

But it is not yet clear if this U.S. reaction to the shaming is serious, if more strikes will follow.

Abu al-Faraj al-Masri was a high commander who has been on varous target list for a long time. But he was not near any U.S. proxy force fighting together with Nusra. One expert is somewhat skeptical:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai

Ex-Nusra (JFS) account announce the death of Egyptian Ahmad Salama Mabrouk, aka Abu Faraj al Masri, 2d in command of JFS & #AQ core leader pic

9:50 AM - 3 Oct 2016
...
Mabrouk was killed by a drone in Darkouch, #Idlib, #Syria, the HQ and gathering of #AQ/#Nusra/#JFS & Jihadists.
...
#JFS officially announce the death of Abu al-Faraj al-Masri, #AQ leader. Group still calming "we have nothing to do with Qaidat al-Jihad".
...
This is the same group that the #USA is not willing to ask its proxies in #Syria to keep a distance from (#AQ).

While the shaming worked in that it provoked the U.S. into action it had long promised but always delayed other issues between the U.S. and Russia on Syria are not going well.

Russia announced the end of military-military discussions with the U.S. about delineating zones for a longer ceasefire in Syria:

Exchange of information between Russian and US military has stopped of late despite Moscow’s commitment, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov said on Monday.

The U.S. responded in kind:

The United States is suspending its participation in bilateral channels with Russia that were established to sustain the Cessation of Hostilities.
...
The U.S. will also withdraw personnel that had been dispatched in anticipation of the possible establishment of the Joint Implementation Center. To ensure the safety of our respective military personnel and enable the fight against Daesh, the United States will continue to utilize the channel of communications established with Russia to de-conflict counterterrorism operations in Syria.

The U.S. blames Russia for destroying the ceasefire by "hitting civilians". Meanwhile:

Syria Today @todayinsyria

Airstrikes by the US-led coalition reportedly killed 40 civilians in Marea, N.#Aleppo

10:30 AM - 3 Oct 2016

This ending of cooperation MAY be some crossing the Rubicon moment. The gloves are now off.

Russia has managed twice to shame the U.S. into action it had promised but not fulfilled. This will work only rarely and only when it comes at high levels (Putin, Lavrov) and with obvious evidence.

But its fun when it works and it proves that Russia, in both cases, has been right. The U.S. does not attack Jihadis but uses them for its own purpose. We will now likely see even more of this. It will continue until the U.S. is again shamed and embarrassed into following its public commitments to attack the terrorist instead of cooperating with them.

 

--End

Relevant excerpts of the Sep 29 State Department press briefing regarding U.S. attacks on Nusra:

QUESTION: In that interview with the BBC, Foreign Secretary – Foreign Minister Lavrov said what the Russians have been saying for a number of days now, which is that accusing the United States of having failed to disentangle the Nusrah from the opposition that you support.

MR TONER: Yeah. ...

Once we felt that we were at that point, to the best of an agreed-upon ability to reach that point, then we would say, okay, we’re ready to move on to the next phase. At that point, as I said, then it’s – the moderate opposition who are integrated with al-Nusrah would have had a choice to make.

QUESTION: So in other words, are they making a fair point here --

MR TONER: So --

QUESTION: -- the Russians? That they say you failed to do the disentangling?

MR TONER: No, because there wasn’t enough time. ...
...
QUESTION: What – just a final question: And again, with the regards to the Russian suspicions, you haven’t really gone after Nusrah that much. Have you been holding back on going after Nusrah because they were mixed with the opposition? I mean, all we hear about is the strikes on ISIS.

MR TONER: Yeah, so --

QUESTION: We don’t hear about strikes on Nusrah.

MR TONER: So --
...
[Second, different question-answer exchange]
...
MR TONER: [...] In answer to your first question, which was, again, about?

QUESTION: We keep hearing about --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- striking ISIS, but never --

MR TONER: Oh.

QUESTION: -- about striking Nusrah.

MR TONER: We did carry out strikes initially, back in 2014-2015, against Nusrah. But absolutely, you’re correct in that, as they became intermingled and as they became intermingled in civilian areas, we’ve always sought to limit the possibility of civilian casualties in any of our airstrikes. ...
...
QUESTION: Could I just ask a follow-up?

MR TONER: Of course. I’ll get to you.

QUESTION: You hit Nusrah – I believe you described it as al-Qaida – maybe in March --

MR TONER: Affiliate, yeah.

QUESTION: -- or something or – it was earlier this year.

MR TONER: Yep.

QUESTION: Since then, there hasn’t been any specific action against Nusrah, is that right? Military action.

MR TONER: No, but I’d have to double check.

QUESTION: Okay.
...
QUESTION: Why aren’t you attacking Nusrah anyhow if it’s in U.S. interest?

MR TONER: That’s what I was saying, is – but I – and I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear --

QUESTION: No, no. I understand what you’re saying, but how would that change by cooperating with Russia? You still wouldn’t attack civilian populations, buildings --

MR TONER: No, but I – but what we, again – and I’m – I would really encourage you to talk to someone at the Pentagon who can give you a much more detailed tactical view of this. ...
...
QUESTION: If you had actionable intelligence against Nusrah senior leaders, as you describe them, would you --

MR TONER: Would we --

QUESTION: -- be able to target them today or not? Because Aleppo and Idlib and a lot of these areas --

MR TONER: Yeah.

QUESTION: -- are out of your – are they in the confliction zone?

MR TONER: I would – I don’t want to – so I would encourage you to talk to somebody --

QUESTION: Okay.

MR TONER: -- from the Department of Defense, whether we would be able to – through our de-confliction mechanism be able to target them.

QUESTION: Okay.

Posted by b on October 3, 2016 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (91)

October 02, 2016

Special Interests Create The "Good", The "Bad" And The "Compelling" Story - The Media Tell It

A thoughtful analysis by Amanda Taub of the New York Times describes why some wars get more "western" public attention than others:

Conflicts gain sustained American attention only when they provide a compelling story line that appeals to both the public and political actors, and for reasons beyond the human toll. That often requires some combination of immediate relevance to American interests, resonance with American political debates or cultural issues, and, perhaps most of all, an emotionally engaging frame of clearly identifiable good guys and bad guys.
...
Yemen’s death toll is lower than Syria’s, and although Al Qaeda does operate there, Yemen’s conflict has not had the kind of impact on American and European interests that Syria’s has. There is no obvious good-versus-evil story to tell there: The country is being torn apart by a variety of warring factions on the ground and pummeled from the air by Saudi Arabia, an American ally. There is no camera-ready villain for Americans to root against.

Those are good observations. But they themselves are part of the process they describe. They artificially create "good" and "bad" and are driven by "interests". (Side note: I doubt the sweeping claim "Yemen’s death toll is lower than Syria’s". The famine in northwest Yemen is very severe. The number of dead is simply not known yet but like in the hundred-thousands.)

Reporting does not depend on the existence of good and bad or the existence of a compelling story. Such thinking is just idealized nonsense. It is the media that creates the (often artificial) sides of a war on behalf of the interests. Good and bad are not inherent, they are constructs. A real compelling story is not needed. One can be created any time though it will likely not be a true one.

It is the "interests" that designate the "good" and "bad" labels and inject the "compelling" story - specific economic interests, like the oil business behind The Syria Campaign Ltd, but also pursuit of personal power or tribal advantages. The public relation firms and politicians working for the "interests" feed the reporters with the stuff they need to skillfully write the stories down. The well domesticated reporters of main-stream media will intuitively understand when the "interests" are on a roll. They will do their best to support them - or lose their lucrative jobs.

In the mid of of 2000s al-Qaeda in Iraq was the "bad" and the U.S. occupation force was the "good" that "saved the poor Iraqis". But this was only a fake differentiation and "compelling" story the U.S. military wanted the media to tell. It provide this story to hide the rather obvious: Genuine Iraqis of all stripes were rising up against the occupation.

The U.S. military payed over $540 millions to the British public relation firm Bell Pottinger to create gruesome al-Qaeda videos:

Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.

The agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking U.S. military officers in their Baghdad Camp Victory headquarters as the insurgency raged outside.

For $540 million one could create two Oscar winning movies in the most expensive films list. It is an enormous amount of money, enough for thousands of short, low budget "al-Qaeda terror" clips. In the Iraq war those clips created the new "bad" actor in the war and the "compelling" story that needed to be told to keep the military occupation "good", justified and going.

"Western" governments pay more than 70 million dollars to the "White Helmets", the fake "Syrian Civil Defense" created by the New Yorker PR company Purpose Inc., to make and distribute pictures and movies that show the Islamic insurgency in Syria as "good" and the Syrian government and its allies as "bad". (Additional billions(!) per year go to weapon supplies and mercenary pay for the Jihadi side.)

The "western" media understand what the "interests" want. They eat the PR product up, digest it for form and spit it out towards the consumer. The "outrage" created by the daily "compelling" stories is then used by the "interests" to further their aims.

Below are recent examples of such manipulations picked from the daily diet the "western" public is fed.

Lousie Loveluck, a "reporter" for the Washington Post, is stenographing "moderate Jihadi" propaganda from east-Aleppo: Bombing in Aleppo puts another major hospital out of service

The largest hospital in eastern Aleppo was bombed Saturday for the second time in a week, killing and wounding more than a dozen patients as they recovered from earlier attacks.

Doctors at the facility, known as M10, said the assault involved cluster munitions, barrel bombs and incendiary weapons, prompting mass panic and appeals for help.

She tweets:

Louisa Loveluck @leloveluck

Attack on Aleppo's main trauma hospital killed 2 patients, injured 13. 7 strikes, incl cluster munitions, barrel, incendiary & vacuum bombs.

8:38 AM - 1 Oct 2016

It seems that the "doctors" (likely all pediatricians, some "the last" and dead) are the only sources in Aleppo Loveluck has.

Seven attacks with cluster munitions, barrel bombs, incendiary weapons and vacuum bombs together (note: no nukes yet) "ON" an allegedly filled hospital and only two people dead??? There is still a recognizable building standing??? That is a bit curious. Putin and Assad are really bad at hitting their targets. Or maybe the hospital was not targeted at all. Maybe some Jihadi military headquarter or artillery position nearby was the real target. Mrs Loveluck shows no interest in finding that out. The "doctors", paid by U.S. PR organization SAMS Foudation, are all she needs. "Good", "bad", a "compelling" story - all is already there, provide to her to "report".

The National from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is generally a good newspaper. Its recent report on the background of the propaganda scam the "White Helmets" are is way better than the usual mainstream media piece. Its reporting by Phil Sands on south Syria is excellent. But sometimes it has to do its duty as a state subsidized outlet and ends up publishing "funny" stuff: Passengers rescued from Emirati aid ship targeted by Yemen rebel fighters:

Civilian passengers were rescued from an Emirati aid ship carrying medical and relief supplies to Yemen after it was targeted by Houthi militias.

A rescue operation was launched in the early hours of Saturday after a civilian vessel owned by the UAE’s National Marine Dredging Company was intercepted in the Bab Al Mandab Strait during a journey to deliver emergency supplies to Aden.

The "aid-ship" was the fast military supply catamaran HSV-2 Swift. It is doing runs between Eritrea's Assab port and Aden in south-Yemen transporting UAE military and mercenaries as well as their heavy weapons. Last year Janes analyzed satellite pictures of Assab harbor:

The 7 November image also shows that the high-speed roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) catamaran Swift 1 (IMO: 9283928) was also present.

(Janes errs with the name. The IMO number is of HSV-2 Swift which is the one the UAE leased.)

Last month War on the Rocks took a deeper look into the UAE war on Yemen for which Assab port, rented from Eritrea, is the main base:

Over the last year, this port was built up from empty desert into a modern airbase, deep-water port, and military training facility.
...
By late July 2015, the buildup at Assab airfield was complete, with the base serving as a logistics support area and staging hub for the brigade-sized Emirati armored battlegroup that would spearhead the Aden breakout. This was composed of two squadrons of Leclerc main battle tanks, a battalion of BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles, and two batteries of G6 howitzers. The Emirates also shipped a 1,500-man strike force of U.A.E.-trained Yemeni troops mounted in U.A.E.-provided armored vehicles after they were trained and equipped at Assab.

The obviously military ship was hit on September 28 at night. Yemeni army forces allied with the Houthis used a land launched, Chinese made C-802 anti-ship missile. The Houthi media published an excellent video showing the launch and the hit. The ship, a high powered large aluminum can, went completely up in flames. The "aid" and many "civilian passengers" have likely not survived.

Today the UAE military, led by the Australian general Mike Hindmarsh and his men, bombed Yemeni fishing boats along its western coast. The fishing boats, one of the few sources left for food supplies in Yemen, had nothing to do with the successful attack. The C-802 was launched and radar-guided from land. But no "western" main stream media will tell you those facts. "Good" and "bad" are not well assigned for them in this war. They probably would like to speak of the "good" underdog Yemenis and "bad" Saudis but are not allowed to do so. The "compelling" point of the story is not provided. The National tries to support its guiding "interests" but fails.

Another example of very biased "good" "bad" reporting, if not outright lying, comes from today's Independent: Syrian swimmer and her 12-year-old brother killed by shelling in Aleppo

Student and sportswoman Mireille Hindoyan was seriously injured and later died after bombs fell on the Villi district of the city

"Bombs fell", the Independent writes. Nowhere in piece does it says who's "bombs fell" and killed the swimmer But the readers already know that only the Syrian and Russian forces have aerial bombing capabilities over Aleppo.

Villi is the Armenian quarter of Aleppo. Here is what Armenian media write:

ALEPPO. – Three Armenians are killed as a result of the shelling of the densely Armenian-populated Villi district of Aleppo, Syria.
..
Terrorists are shelling the densely Armenian-populated [..] Villi districts of Aleppo, since early Friday morning.

Villi district lies in the government held western parts of Aleppo. The swimmer were killed by shelling by U.S. supported Jihadis in east-Aleppo. But the Independent won't tell you that. It insinuates that the "bad" Assad and Putin killed the swimmer. That the "good" Jihadis kill civilians on the government side is not a "compelling" story. It is not allowed to be told. Unless they are swimmers with a trophy such daily casualties do not exist.

Similar reporting, then with regards to Libya, was all over "western" media in early 2011. Gaddafi speech threatens to trigger "genocide" in Libya was one of the decisive headlines. Ghaddafi of course never threatened such. He only wowed to defeat the bloody, armed insurgency led by the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, al-Qaeda aligned Jihadis financed by Qatar. They occupied Benghazi, suppressed its inhabitants and threatened the Libyan state. But the false reporting and "western" outrage created by it was the basis for a large scale NATO attack which then destroyed the Libyan nation. A British parliament inquiry now confirms that there never was any threat against civilians by Ghaddafi and all such assertions by the media and by "western" politicians were false and made without any evidence. Back then it was a "compelling" story told by the ruling "interests" - and a complete lie.

The "compelling" Ghaddafi genocide story only sold well with the "western" public because the media played the game on the side of the warmongers. It projected the Libyan government as "bad" and the Jihadis as "good". Real reporting would have unveiled the facts, which prove the opposite, with very little efforts. But the "reporters" never tried. That hasn't changed as we can see with regards to Syria. All claims by the "good" opposition are repeated as truth without any challenge. Attacks by "good" Jihadis on the government side, perceived as the "bad", are not "compelling" and get no or only obfuscated reporting.

In the war on Yemen the media is on the side of the U.S. supported attackers from the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Only few stories can be found about the raging famine in north Yemen caused by the Saudi/U.S. blockade of all vital imports to the country. While that is really a compelling story driven awaking human interests and which could induce a public discussion it is not made "compelling". Likewise the daily Saudi and UAE terror bombing of the Yemeni capital Sanaa finds no echo in "western" papers. The successful Houthi attack on the military ship will be sold as "terrorism" and justify a further escalation of the war.

It is only "interests" driving this. Not general "American interests" or the idealized "human interests" but way more specific ones. Amanda Taub and other "reporters" are working for those. But often they delude themselves and believe otherwise. The evidence though does not support such faith.

Posted by b on October 2, 2016 at 03:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (83)

October 01, 2016

Fundraiser

(This post is pinned to the top. Please scroll down for new content.)

During the twelve years this Moon of Alabama blog is up we only once asked for financial contributions. That was eight years ago. The money received then payed for a decent laptop. That very laptop is still in daily use to produce the content for this blog.

But the laptop's life is coming to an end. So are my current abilities to carry the costs for running this blog. The hosting fees are fairly minor and the cost for a new laptop probably bearable. But I do lose a lot of necessary income due to the time spent researching and writing the daily post. This now necessitates to ask for compensation.


Carl Spitzweg - The Poor Poet - bigger

You can donate with a credit card through the PayPal button below.

More preferable though are direct payments. Transaction costs are less for direct bank-wire transfers, for cashing checks or simply cash. Please email me at MoonofA @ aol.com (discard the blanks) for the necessary contact data.

Thank you very much

b aka Bernhard

Posted by b on October 1, 2016 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (111)

Open Thread 2016-32

News & views ...

Posted by b on October 1, 2016 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (148)

 
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