Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 31, 2016

A Happy New Year To All Moonkind

To all commentators here a big THANKS for giving me so much!

My wish: May the next year be more peaceful than this one.

A Happy New Year to all moonkind!

Posted by b on December 31, 2016 at 11:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (142)

New Russian Hacks? No, Old Ukrainian Malware Found.

All recent claims of "Russian hacking" are either outright false or are based on "evidence" that only shows run-of-the-mill attacks by some anonymous basement hacker.

The year 2016 saw the person elected U.S. president who Jeff Bezos' propaganda rag, the Washington Post, hated most. To celebrate the end of this very bad year its writers and editors decided to put more egg on their faces.

It first published the piece promoted on the left and some three hours later the fundamentally "corrected" one on the right.

The claim in the first piece, based on anonymous "officials", was that Russia hacked into the U.S. electricity grid through a utility company in Vermont. But then the utility companies in question, Burlington Electric, issued a statement that a recent scan of its IT systems had found only one laptop with some malware and that the laptop in questions was not connected to its networks at all. There was nothing found on any net-connected system. It had reported the find to the federal U.S. government. (Some very shortsighted "officials" immediately abused the confidential company information to miss-inform the Washington Post.) The utility company found the malware by scanning for a malware signature published in a lame recent assessment by Homeland Security and the FBI.

Dubious claims of foreign hacking of the electricity grid have already been made in 2009. Its an old trick of the Obama administration to achieve some political aims.

The Washington Post was obviously so eager to publish another of its daily "Russian hacking" fakes that it did not even ask the two Vermont utilities in question before pushing the stenographed piece out of the door.

That may well have been because the lead editorial of that day was warning of Putin hacking the U.S. electricity network and (again) hitting at Trump:

For any American leader, an attempt to subvert U.S. democracy ought to be unforgivable — even if he is the intended beneficiary. Some years ago, then-Defense Secretary Leon Panetta warned of a “cyber-Pearl Harbor,” and the fear at the time was of a cyberattack collapsing electric grids or crashing financial markets. Now we have a real cyber-Pearl Harbor, though not one that was anticipated.

Pearl Harbor was followed by the U.S. entry into a world war. Do the editors want to repeat that when alluding to it?

The editorial also pushed a bunch of wholly invented conspiracy theories:

Why is Mr. Trump so dismissive of Russia’s dangerous behavior? Some say it is his lack of experience in foreign policy, or an oft-stated admiration for strongmen, or naivete about Russian intentions. But darker suspicions persist. Mr. Trump has steadfastly refused to be transparent about his multibillion-dollar business empire. Are there loans or deals with Russian businesses or the state that were concealed during the campaign? Are there hidden communications with Mr. Putin or his representatives? We would be thrilled to see all the doubts dispelled, but Mr. Trump’s odd behavior in the face of a clear threat from Russia, matched by Mr. Putin’s evident enthusiasm for the president-elect, cannot be easily explained.

During the election campaign WaPo was the news paper with the most anti-Trump screeds on its neoconned editorial page. That actually helped Trump by making him the obvious anti-Neocon candidate. But "Pearl Harbor" comparisons and "darker suspicions" beat even the most stupid earlier pieces on him.

I suspect that the pushing of the Vermont hack was also an attempted hit against Bernie Sanders, the Senator from Vermont who was scammed out of the Democratic candidacy by the Clinton aligned Democratic National Council. He would now either have to jump on the "Russian hacking->bad Putin->bad-Trump" train or could be blamed of pro-Russian, pro-Putin and pro-Trump tendencies. All such tendencies are of course bad in the view of the pseudo-liberal Washington establishment which is busy promoting the New Red Scare.

But back to that malware. DHS and FBI had published a "report" (pdf) which again attempted to blame Russia of hacking the Democratic National Council while again providing zero actual evidence of such a hack (hint: there is none). The 13 pages include 2 with amateur graphics of a trivial hack architecture and 7 with amateur advice on how to protect a network. Of interest in it were samples and checksums of moduls of the hacking software it attributed to Russia and a list of IP addresses through which it claims the DNC hack was made. Of special interest is also what it does not say.

Several well known IT security experts have said earlier, like me, that such "reports" and claims are bullshit. A few more add to that:

Jonathon Zdziarski:

Any antivirus company doing any amount of threat intelligence would be able to come up with more solid indicators than FBI released.

John McAfee (now often nutty but right in this):

If it looks like the Russians did it I can guarantee you it wasn't the Russians.

Matt Tait:

My money's on this all turns out to be commodity malware and not even APT28/APT29 and everyone jumping on the bandwagon will look v silly

All, and especially Matt Tait, are right.

Wordfence, also a reputed IT security company, took a detailed look at the samples and tables in the new DHS/FBI "report" and concludes:

The IP addresses that DHS provided may have been used for an attack by a state actor like Russia. But they don’t appear to provide any association with Russia. They are probably used by a wide range of other malicious actors, especially the 15% of IP addresses that are Tor exit nodes.

The malware sample is old, widely used and appears to be Ukrainian. It has no apparent relationship with Russian intelligence and it would be an indicator of compromise for any website.

There is your "Russian hack" the DHS and FBI claim hit the DNC servers and WaPo falsely claimed hit the U.S. electricity grid. A run-of-the-mill hack through freely available servers with old Ukrainian malware just like the hundred-thousand others that happen each day.


Pic: Device not found in Vermont

(Putin though is likely to accept the "Russian Hack" claim if the U.S. helps Russia to annex the source country of the identified malware. "If you give me Ukraine we will also call it 'a Russian hack'. We will even take responsibility!")

But if you, like me, believe the word of former British ambassador Craig Murray who works with Wikileaks, there was no hack at all. The DNC data came via an insider who had direct access to them. They were handed to Craig for publishing by Wikileaks.

The whole bogus "Russian hacking" and "Putin did it" claims are issued to lock the coming President Trump into an anti-Russian position. Peace with Russia means less plausible "imminent threat" claims and thereby lower budgets and management prestige for the defense and cybersecurity industry and government organizations. That again would mean lower advertisement income for the Washington Post and less money for its staff, editors and owner.

These people would rather have Word War III than to endure that.

Posted by b on December 31, 2016 at 11:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (70)

December 30, 2016

Master Judoka Putin "The Gracious" Outclasses "Lame Duck" Obama

The typical pettiness and vengefulness of the Obama administration was at full display with yesterday's expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats and the closing of two Russian estates in New York and Maryland. Obama also sanctioned the Russian external intelligence service FSB and the military intelligence service GRU as well as some of its leaders for doing their job.

The move was ostensibly over alleged but completely unproven Russian "hacking" to influence the U.S. election. But the real reason is likely Obama's loss of face after being left out of the successful negotiations of a new ceasefire in Syria.

True to form the Russian government responded with high-class trolling and generosity.

The first move came through the Russian Embassy in the United Kingdom. It tweeted about the current status of the Obama administration:


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The tweet gained so far more then 17,000 retweets and 19,000+ likes - certainly a "best of the year" candidate.

In response leaks and speculations appeared in the U.S. aligned media about the bad, bad Russian responses to Obama's moves.

CNN claimed that Russia would close the American school in Moscow:

The nonprofit day school, which enrolls international students from pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, will be closed along with the U.S. Embassy vacation dacha in Serebryany Bor on the outskirts of Moscow, according to a CNN report.

Then BBC and others said that Russia would expel 35 U.S. diplomats and spies.

But showing real greatness is not about hitting back in kind. The Russian President Putin (again) outclassed Obama with this response:

Putin decides not to expel US diplomats from Russia

MOSCOW, December 30. /TASS/. Russian President Vladimir Putin has made a decision not to expel any US diplomats from Russia in retaliation for Washington’s latest sanctions against Moscow.

Putin also said that Russia would not prevent the families and children (of diplomats) from using the customary rest and leisure facilities and sites during the New Year holidays.

"Moreover, I am inviting all children of US diplomats accredited in Russia to the New Year and Christmas parties in the Kremlin," Putin said.

The Russian compounds in Maryland and New York Obama closed are used for vacations of Russian kids in the U.S.

Putin's counter is using his opponent's moment of inertia to bring him to fall. A classic judoka move by a high master of the art.

"We reserve the right to take retaliatory measures but we will not stoop to the level of the so-called kitchen diplomacy, so we will take further steps to restore Russia-US relations taking into account the Trump administration’s policy," Putin said.

Ouch. The "lame duck" tweet must have already hit Obama, but this is so far out that Obama has no chance to ever catch up.

The foreign policy of two Obama administrations has been a terrible mess. Think about his big initiatives and the results at the end of his rule:

  • "Reset" with Russia: FAILED
  • Negotiations with Iran: Somewhat succeeded but not institutionalized and in high danger of being reversed
  • "Pivot" to Asia: FAILED
  • TTP and TTIP trade pacts: FAILED:
  • New Middle-East peace initiative: FAILED
  • Regime change in Ukraine: Somewhat succeeded by ended in a huge fascist mess
  • Regime change in Libya: Somewhat succeeded by ended in a huge terrorist haven mess
  • Regime change in Syria: FAILED

About the only thing Obama achieved in foreign policy was to keep the European poodles in line. An easy task due to the lack of good European politicians. He had no chance though against the great and gracious opponent Putin can be.


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Putin's high class move today set the tombstone over a presidency history will judge far worse than its contemporary media echos reflect.

Posted by b on December 30, 2016 at 09:03 AM | Permalink | Comments (134)

December 29, 2016

U.S. Embassy Turkey Openly Lies About U.S. YPG Support

U.S. Embassy & Consulates in Turkey - December 28 2016

The truth regarding misinformation in Turkish media concerning United States and Coalition operations against ISIL in Syria:

There is considerable misinformation circulating in Turkish media concerning U.S. and Coalition operations against ISIL in Syria. For those interested in the truths, here are the truths:
...
The United States government has not provided weapons or explosives to the YPG or the PKK – period.

Washington Post - December 28 2016

On the road to Raqqa:

At the heart of the issue is the U.S. military’s policy of sending arms to the area controlled by the main Syrian Kurdish militia, the People’s Protection Units, widely known as the YPG.

The decision has paid off so far. The YPG — which constitutes the Kurdish component of the SDF — has proved to be the United States’ most effective military ally in Syria, and it has retaken vast swaths of territory.

The embassy statement denying weapon and ammunition support for the YPG is obviously a lie. That the U.S. provides and provided weapons and ammunition to the YPG since 2014 is definitely true.

The same U.S. Embassy statement also denied that the U.S. supports or supported ISIS aka DAESH:

The United States government is not supporting DAESH. The USG did not create or support DAESH in the past. Assertions the United States government is supporting DAESH are not true.

There are many indications and that the U.S. actively supported ISIS aka DAESH in at least in its early years.

In 2013 the Georgian Special Forces officer of Chechen heritage Abu Omar al-Shishani, who had had extensive U.S. military training, was the ISIS commander that led ISIS and the U.S. supported Free Syrian Army under U.S. paid FSA Colonel Abdul Jabbar al-Okaidi in the capture of the Syrian Air Force base Menagh.

Who supplied and paid ISIS for that service?

Recent ISIS videos taken near al-Bab show ISIS attacks on Turkish Leopard 2A4 tanks with U.S. manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles. Those fell from the sky?

The statement by the U.S. Embassy in Turkey is easily proven to be an outright lie. Why the State Department believes it is smart to officially put out such blatant untruth is inconceivable. It surely does not add to the credibility of any of its other statements.


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Screenshot of the embassy statement:


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Posted by b on December 29, 2016 at 12:11 AM | Permalink | Comments (98)

December 28, 2016

Syria - Peace Talk Rumors And Parameters

Since February 2016 Russia had negotiated with the U.S. about a peace deal on Syria. The main agreed upon point was to fight together against the Takfiris, mainly ISIS and al-Qaeda. The U.S. in turn promised to separate the "moderate rebels" it supported from their close al-Qaeda ally. But that promise was never fulfilled. The U.S. delayed and delayed and enabled new attacks by al-Qaeda and U.S. proxy forces on Aleppo and elsewhere. It also instigated Kurdish YPG forces to attack the Syrian government in Hasakah. This was the strategic overreach that doomed the Kurds to a minor role in any upcoming solution.

Russia finally had enough and pulled the plug on further negotiations with the U.S. The Syrian forces and their allies besieged Aleppo and liberated it. At the same time Turkey was allowed to invade Syria in the north eastern Aleppo governate to prevent a connection of Kurdish areas in the north-east and north-west of Syria. The probably U.S. instigated putsch attempt against the Turkish government contributed to this change of alliances. Turkey decided to work with Russia and Iran to end the Syrian crisis (and to get as much out of it as possible.)

Before Christmas Erdogan met with Putin followed by a meeting of the Russian, Turkish and Iranian foreign and defense ministers. They decided to initiate peace talks:

Turkey said it will facilitate contacts between Syria’s government and opposition groups in preparation for peace talks organized together with Russia and Iran that aim to reach a nationwide cease-fire as the first step to ending an almost six-year civil war.
...
Russia, Turkey and Iran agreed in Moscow last week to seek a truce in Syria and hold peace talks in the Kazakh capital, Astana, in a joint approach that sidelines the U.S.

Turkey today leaked further details of the talks (again providing that it is not trustworthy):

Citing anonymous sources, reports said that the two sides have reached agreement on a draft plan for the implementation of a nationwide ceasefire in Syria, with the aim to extend the ceasefire deal in Aleppo throughout the country.
...
The sources said that Turkey and Russia will aim to ensure that the ceasefire takes effect starting Wednesday night. Later on, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said that the deal could be reached at any moment soon and reiterated that Turkey is in favor of a political solution.
...
Terrorist organizations will be excluded from the ceasefire, the sources added.

Among lots of rumors, leaked by interested sides, the parameters that evolve seem to be the following:

  • a ceasefire will be called (and broken here and there) starting tomorrow night;
  • Turkey will guarantee for the "moderate rebels" it controls while Russia will guarantee for the Syrian government forces and their allies;
  • al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Kurdish YPG and the areas in which these groups are dominant are excluded from the ceasefire;
  • Ahrar al Sham, which is internally split about joining al-Qaeda, will have to decide its position;
  • all parties of the deal commit to fight the above terrorists (or at least not to hinder others from doing it);
  • talks, including the above groups, will begin in Astana in mid January;

There are several points that are unclear and left to further negotiations:

  • Turkey (officially) still wants Assad to go while Syria and Iran insist that he stays, Russia does not care about this point;
  • Syria insists that "rebel" held areas around Damascus are not included in the deal and will continue to clean them up; "moderate rebels" insist that the areas must be included;
  • Turkey will want future "influence" zones in Syria that other will no want to give to it.

Neither the Syrian government nor Iran has yet officially agreed to the outlined deal. Some "moderate rebel" groups agreed to it while others (Ahrar) claim they have not yet been asked. Russia says the deal is still not sealed and needs more work.

While the deal is unfinished there is already some movement on the ground that shows that it is likely real:

  • ten "moderate rebel" groups in north-Syria (without Ahrar al-Sham) have started negotiations to unite to present a common position;
  • Kurdish YPG forces stationed in the Aleppo city neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud began leaving the city and are heading to the Kurdish enclave of Afrin in north-wast Syria;
  • Ahrar al Sham has attacked and detained forces of certain "moderate rebel" groups that helped Turkey in its invasion against Kurds and ISIS in the eastern Aleppo governate.

The talks and ceasefires will be on and off throughout the next months. All parties will try to gain the maximum for their side. At times the negotiations will take place on the battle field. But unlike the U.S. which would not deliver on its promises but kept supporting every "rebel" offense, Turkey can and likely will likely deliver. It has no where else to go. It also has the power to close its borders and to deny its "rebels" as well as al-Qaeda the resupplies needed for continued fighting.

Syria and its allies are in a military superior position and will have to keep on the pressure, especially on the al-Qaeda controlled Idleb region, to press the other parties to stick to a deal.

The real significance of the deal is that it is excluding the U.S. and EU from these talks. That has not happened on a Middle East issue for a long time. The U.S. has overreached with Secretary of State Kerry promising this and that but never delivering on his words. The U.S. lost the game. The Obama administration is miffed and will certainly try to throw in some spoilers and to make it as difficult as possible for the upcoming Trump administration to change course.

It is still a long way to peace in Syria but the perspective is now more promising than it has been for a long time.

Posted by b on December 28, 2016 at 11:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (80)

December 27, 2016

Syria Roundup: Aleppo Liberated - Turkey's Problems Increase

As planned by the Russian forces the liberation of east-Aleppo was completed before Christmas. There are no longer beheadings by Takfiris in East-Aleppo. Instead a Christmas mass could be held in the damaged Elias Cathedral in the Old City in east-Aleppo.


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A total of about 88,000 people left the area during the evacuation of east-Aleppo. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross some 35,000 (13,000 militants and their immediate families) left to al-Qaeda held areas in Idleb governate. The UN Humanitarian Relief Organization found that 54,000 entered the government held west Aleppo.

Currently the area is searched by sapper teams and several hidden bombs were found. Several exploded and killed dozens of Syrian army soldiers. Mass graves were found of Syrian soldiers and civilians executed by al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham and other U.S. supported groups, presumably shortly before their evacuation. The Syrian government had wanted to negotiate their release before the evacuation. But an estimate of the additional death toll by a prolonged presence of the Takfiris during negotiations was high and international politics demanded a fast solution of the crisis.

Many weapon and food storage were found as well as intact health clinics. The fighters and their families were obviously well supplied while the rest of the population suffered. The weapons and ammunition found (video of just one stash - 1, 2) - mostly produced in Bulgaria, paid by the Saudis and transported and distributed by the U.S. - are estimated to be about $100 million in value.

The Turkish forces and some of its Syrian Islamist proxies are trying to capture Al-Bab, east of Aleppo, from Islamic State forces. Their "Euphrates Shield" operation has run into severe problems. The proxy forces ran away instead of fighting ISIS. On Dec 22 a suicide bomber killed some 16 Turkish soldiers. In total some 80-90 Turkish soldiers were killed during the short campaign so far - more than Russian soldiers killed in Syria since the start of their campaign more than a year ago. Ten of the most modern tanks in the Turkish army, German build Leopard 2A4, have been damaged or destroyed by ISIS forces. These use U.S. manufactured TOW anti-tank missiles provided by the CIA to support "moderate rebels" fighting the Syrian government. ISIS pictures of battle damage in Al-Bab show UK/U.S. supported "White Helmets" doing "rescue" work.

The Turkish army now sent 500 additional special forces as well as artillery to get a hold of Al-Bab. Turkish jets are not allowed in Syrian air space and the U.S. has denied all air support. Today the Russian air forces(!) gave air support to Turkish troops fighting ISIS in Al-Bab. (Remember that not so long ago neocon propagandists were claiming that Russia’s Giving ISIS An Air Force.)

In east-Syria ISIS is again trying to capture the government held enclave in Deir Ezzor but has failed so far to make any gain. Kurdish YPG forces and some bribed tribal Arab groups with the (rather funny) name Syrian Democratic Forces, both under U.S. command, slowly approach the ISIS held city of Raqqa.

Shortly before Christmas the U.S. president signed a new directive that allows the distribution of air-defense MANPADs to "moderate rebels" in Syria. Like with the TOWs the CIA distributed to "moderate rebels" some of these MANPADs will inevitably end up with ISIS and may well be used against civilian airliners outside of Syria. The Kurdish YPG/SDF also wants these weapons though their only potential enemy with an air forces is the Turkish NATO army. The Russians understand the distribution of MANPADs to their enemies in Syria as a "hostile act" and will likely response in kind.

With his losses in Syria accumulating the Turkish president Erdogan now accused the U.S. of supporting ISIS and other terrorist groups in Syria - groups Erdogan himself supported until the probably U.S. induced coup against him was warded. His permanent ideological U-turns (pro-ISIS/anti-ISIS; pro-Russian/anti-Russian/pro-Russian etc) are taking a toll with his followers. (The economic problems don't help either.) The recent assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey by some Islamist policeman can be seen as a result of these confusions.

Erdogan followers are not the only ones who are getting confused about the various actors, allies and interests in Syria. Elijah Magnier has written an insightful year-end recap about the current "Regional and international balance in the Levant". Part one covers the Turkish shifts in the Syrian war and part two Russia’s role in the Syrian war and the tactical differences with Iran. He concludes:

Syria is headed toward more battles but a peace deal is visible on the 2017 horizon. Sometimes diplomacy necessitates the language of guns and fire to impose peace on the participants. One thing is certain: the jihadists certainly will not be laying down their arms for the simple reason that this would blow away the essence of their ideology: they would have to choose to migrate to a country outside Syria.

The first choice of the migrating Takfiris will be Turkey where they have a support base and many followers of their ideology. With the pursuit of the war on Syria and support for radical Islamists Erdogan has put his country in the same position Pakistan had put itself when Muhammad Zia-ul-Haq supported the CIA supplied Mujahedin in Afghanistan against the progressive Afghan government in 1978. The result in Pakistan has been a slow boiling, deadly insurgency ever since. It will probably take decades for Turkey to rid the formerly secular country of such deadly cancer.

Posted by b on December 27, 2016 at 02:01 PM | Permalink | Comments (84)

December 26, 2016

Open Thread 2016-44

(While I am still in family holiday mode ...)

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 26, 2016 at 03:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (193)

December 24, 2016

Hope

The old story associated with Bethlehem and commemorated by many these days is about hope.

Hope for more light and new beginnings, needed as much today than ever. Hope for walls to come down.


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

This year witnessed the liberation of Aleppo from the excrescence of imperialism. May the walls around Bethlehem also come down and its people be liberated.

I wish you all some contemplative, hope- and peaceful Christmas.

Posted by b on December 24, 2016 at 03:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (101)

December 23, 2016

False News By Omission Misinforms - Pointing Such Out May Soon Be Censored

Some Israeli military official claim that Hizbullah is using Armored Personal Carriers in Syria, a correct claim, which it received from the Lebanese Armed Forces, a lie. The carriers in question are way out of date tracked vehicles and the LAF once received some upgraded ones from the United States. Israel makes these claims every once a while.

But as was reported when these claims were made on earlier occasions Hizbullah actually took such APCs from the Southern Lebanese Army which was an Israeli proxy force used during the Israeli occupation of Lebanon. When in 2000 Hizbullah finally kicked Israel out of Lebanon, the SLA dissolved and all the weapons Israel had delivered to it were taken into Hizbullah's stocks. They have since been used to fight Israel and various Gulf states proxy Jihadis in Lebanon and Syria.

But you would not learn that from the main Israeli news organization in the United States, the New York Times. Its report makes no mention of the original source of the APCs:

TEL AVIV — A senior Israeli military official said on Wednesday that Hezbollah militants fighting in Syria were using American-made armored personnel carriers that were originally supplied to the Lebanese Army.
...
If the A.P.C.s passed to Hezbollah from the United States-assisted Lebanese Army, that might point to a broader leakage of weapons to hostile groups, and to cooperation between the Lebanese armed forces and Hezbollah.
...
The Israeli military official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity under army rules, showed a photograph of a number of military vehicles, including what he said were the American-supplied A.P.C.s, during an intelligence briefing for reporters at military headquarters in Tel Aviv. He said that Israel had shared this information with American officials a few weeks ago.

The official did not say how many of the A.P.C.s might have fallen into Hezbollah’s hands or when or how it had happened, but he said he believed they might have been “part of a deal” between the Lebanese Army and Hezbollah.

This is obviously an Israeli smear attack against the LAF and the bits of material support with outdated weapons it gets from the U.S. It is a petty smear. Just last week Israel received two F-35 fighter planes from the U.S. and dozens more will come be delivered all paid for by the U.S. taxpayers. Meanwhile one Cessna crop duster with a minimum of military equipment was delivered to the badly equipped Lebanese Armed Forces. It is in no way a threat to Israel.

The U.S. pushed back a bit against the Israeli assertions:

John Kirby, the State Department spokesman, said on Wednesday: “When this allegation was raised in November, the Department of Defense did a structural analysis of the armored personnel carriers in question at that time and concluded that these vehicles were not from the Lebanese armed forces. Our assessment remains the same now.”

That is quoted in the NYT but there is zero mention that Israel is the real source of the APCs. Now compare that to this paragraph from an AFP report which was published at about the same time:

[L]ast month some officials noted that Hezbollah is thought to have captured armored vehicles from the defunct South Lebanon Army, an Israeli-backed Christian militia that collapsed in 2000.

A later report repeats that point:

US officials privately told Defense News that the APCs now deployed by Hizbollah in Syria were very old and could very well have come from Israeli war stocks via their former ally in Lebanon, the South Lebanese Army (SLA). When Israel abruptly withdrew its forces from its security zone in southern Lebanon in 2000, Hizbollah seized a spectrum of vehicles and weaponry left behind by Israel and its SLA proxy force.

Israel blames the LAF for alleged weapon transfers when those weapons were actually coming from an Israeli proxy force after its failed occupation of Lebanon. That is classic chutzpah or rather petty malicious smearing.

But the so called prime newspaper with the motto "all the news that's fit to print" does not find it newsworthy that Israeli officials are making obviously false claims and sees no need to set the record straight. The "news" it prints is consciously false by omission. It is not "faked" news - none of the facts printed are outright wrong, but it is false news which misinforms the readers by leaving out relevant facts.

There is a lot of recent talk about "fake news". Most of what U.S. government proxies claim of its various "enemies" are such. Pretty much all of the NYT's reports about the war on Syria were and are if not "fake" then false news. But there are more sources in easy reach now for people to get informed.

The current attempts to smear such alternative sources as conspiracies or Russian propaganda peddlers is a last line fight to stop the flood of reality that will wash away the NYT, other such outlets and the "senior official" liars they serve. I expect that fight to become more vicious over the next year or two. Too much money is at risk, too much self esteem of people who love to feel important is threatened with deflation.

The question now is how these alternative and hopefully more truthful and realistic news sources will be able to protect themselves from the obviously coming attacks. Big Internet companies (which are all also Defense Department contractors) are starting to downgrade blogs and alternative news sources because they, allegedly, peddle "fake news". Outright (cyber-)attacks are coming up.  What can be done to counter such moves?

Ideas are welcome.

Posted by b on December 23, 2016 at 03:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (102)

December 21, 2016

How The Military Excluded The White House From International Syria Negotiations

The NYT laments today that international negotiations about the situation in Syria now continue without any U.S. participation: Russia, Iran and Turkey Meet for Syria Talks, Excluding U.S.

Russia, Iran and Turkey met in Moscow on Tuesday to work toward a political accord to end Syria’s nearly six-year war, leaving the United States on the sidelines as the countries sought to drive the conflict in ways that serve their interests.

Secretary of State John Kerry was not invited. Nor was the United Nations consulted.

With pro-government forces having made critical gains on the ground, ...

(Note: The last sentence originally and correctly said "pro-Syrian forces ...", not "pro-government forces ...". It was altered after I noted the "pro-Syrian" change of tone on Twitter.)

Russia kicked the U.S. out of any further talks about Syria after the U.S. blew a deal which, after long delaying negotiations, Kerry had made with the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov.

In a recent interview Kerry admits that it was opposition from the Pentagon, not Moscow or Damascus, that had blown up his agreement with Russia over Syria:

More recently, he has clashed inside the administration with Defense Secretary Ashton Carter. Kerry negotiated an agreement with Russia to share joint military operations, but it fell apart.

“Unfortunately we had divisions within our own ranks that made the implementation of that extremely hard to accomplish,” Kerry said. “But I believe in it, I think it can work, could have worked."

Kerry's agreement with Russia did not just "fell apart". The Pentagon actively sabotaged it by intentionally and perfidiously attacking the Syrian army.

The deal with Russia was made in June. It envisioned coordinated attacks on ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria, both designated as terrorist under two UN Security Council resolutions which call upon all countries to eradicate them. For months the U.S. failed to separate its CIA and Pentagon trained, supplied and paid "moderate rebel" from al-Qaeda, thereby blocking the deal. In September the deal was modified and finally ready to be implemented.

The Pentagon still did not like it but had been overruled by the White House:

The agreement that Secretary of State John Kerry announced with Russia to reduce the killing in Syria has widened an increasingly public divide between Mr. Kerry and Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, who has deep reservations about the plan for American and Russian forces to jointly target terrorist groups.
Mr. Carter was among the administration officials who pushed against the agreement on a conference call with the White House last week as Mr. Kerry, joining the argument from a secure facility in Geneva, grew increasingly frustrated. Although President Obama ultimately approved the effort after hours of debate, Pentagon officials remain unconvinced.
...
“I’m not saying yes or no,” Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian, commander of the United States Air Forces Central Command, told reporters on a video conference call. “It would be premature to say that we’re going to jump right into it.”

The CentCom general threatened to not follow the decision his Commander of Chief had taken. He would not have done so without cover from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

Three days later U.S. CentCom Air Forces and allied Danish airplanes attack Syrian army positions near the ISIS besieged city of Deir Ezzor. During 37 air attacks within one hour between 62 and 100 Syrian Arab Army soldiers were killed and many more wounded. They had held a defensive positions on hills overlooking the Deir Ezzor airport. Shortly after the U.S. air attack ISIS forces stormed the hills and have held them since. Resupply for the 100,000+  civilians and soldiers in Deir Ezzor is now endangered if not impossible. The CentCom attack enabled ISIS to eventually conquer Deir Ezzor and to establish the envisioned "Salafist principality" in east Syria.

During the U.S. attack the Syrian-Russian operations center had immediately tried to contact the designated coordination officer at U.S. Central Command to stop the attack. But that officer could not be reached and those at CentCom taking the Russian calls just hanged up:

By time the Russian officer found his designated contact — who was away from his desk — and explained that the coalition was actually hitting a Syrian army unit, “a good amount of strikes” had already taken place, U.S. Central Command spokesman Col. John Thomas told reporters at the Pentagon Tuesday.

Until the attack the Syrian and Russian side had, as agreed with Kerry, kept to a ceasefire to allow the separation of the "marbled" CIA and al-Qaeda forces. After the CentCom air attack the Kerry-Lavrov deal was off:

On the sidelines of an emergency UN Security Council meeting called on the matter, tempers were high. Russia's permanent UN representative, Vitaly Churkin, questioned the timing of the strikes, two days before Russian-American coordination in the fight against terror groups in Syria was to begin.
"I have never seen such an extraordinary display of American heavy-handedness," he said, after abruptly leaving the meeting.

The Pentagon launched one of its usual whitewash investigations and a heavily redacted summary report (pdf) was released in late November.

Gareth Porter still found some usable bits in it:

The report, released by US Central Command on 29 November, shows that senior US Air Force officers at the Combined Air Operations Center (CAOC) at al-Udeid Airbase in Qatar, who were responsible for the decision to carry out the September airstrike at Deir Ezzor:
  • misled the Russians about where the US intended to strike so Russia could not warn that it was targeting Syrian troops
  • ignored information and intelligence analysis warning that the positions to be struck were Syrian government rather than Islamic State
  • shifted abruptly from a deliberate targeting process to an immediate strike in violation of normal Air Force procedures

The investigation was led by a Brigade General. He was too low in rank to investigate or challenge the responsible CentCom air-commander Lt. Gen. Harrington. The name of a co-investigator was redacted in the report and marked as "foreign government information". That officer was likely from Denmark.

Four days after the investigation report was officially released the Danish government, without giving any public reason, pulled back its air contingent from any further operations under U.S. command in Iraq and Syria.

With the attack on Deir Ezzor the Pentagon has:

  • enabled ISIS to win the siege in Deir Ezzor where 100,000+ civilians and soldiers are under threat of being brutally killed
  • cleared the grounds for the establishment of an ISIS ruled "Salafist principality" in east-Syria
  • deceived a European NATO ally and lost its active cooperation over Syria and Iraq
  • ruined Kerry's deal with Russia about a coordinated fight against UN designated terrorists in Syria
  • kicked the U.S. out of further international negotiations about Syria

It is clear that the responsible U.S. officer for the attack and its consequences is one Lt. Gen. Jeffrey L. Harrigian who had earlier publicly spoken out against a deal that his Commander in Chief had agreed to. He likely had cover from Defense Secretary Ash Carter.

The White House did not react to this public military insubordination and undermining of its diplomacy.

Emptywheel notes that, though on a different issue, the CIA is also in quite open insurrection against the President's decisions:

[I]t alarms me that someone decided it was a good idea to go leak criticisms of a [presidential] Red Phone exchange. It would seem that such an instrument depends on some foundation of trust that, no matter how bad things have gotten, two leaders of nuclear armed states can speak frankly and directly.

Posted by b on December 21, 2016 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (120)

December 20, 2016

Open Thread 2016-43

(Those days when you can a piece because the very last source you check for linking completely debunks your arguments ...)

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 20, 2016 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (215)

December 19, 2016

Syria - Killing Journos Enabled "Media Activist" Domination - Intended Effect?

As pointed out yesterday, a recent tweet series by Club des Cordeliers made some interesting observation about the #StandWithAleppo propaganda campaign:

The "Stand with Aleppo" campaign in the U.S. was started and is propelled by a Democratic party operative who is also CEO of a public relations company and "strategic affairs consultant" in Chicago, Becky Carroll.

The Cordeliere made some additional remarks on anti-Syria propaganda. These about the U.S. directed Information Warfare campaign from inside Syria. This leads me to the thoughts below about the U.S. waged Unconventional Warfare in Syria and how it may be responsible for the elimination of "neutral" journalists on the ground.

We start with Club des Cordeliers remarks on the video campaign coming out of Syria and currently especially out of east-Aleppo:

US State Dep't has openly trained Syrian "activists" in social media propaganda techniques since 2012. U.S. Embassy Geneva, Aug 21, 2012 U.S. Equipment, Training Reaching Syrian Opposition:
The State Department has $25 million in nonlethal assistance that it can use for training purposes, and [State Department spokeswoman Victoria] Nuland said “a broad cross section of activists” inside Syria and in neighboring countries is benefiting from an “extremely active” U.S. training effort that is focused on Syrians who have not left their country.

“We are doing training on free media, countering the government’s circumvention technology, legal and justice and accountability issues, and how to deal with the crimes that have been committed during this conflict, programs for student activists who are encouraging peaceful protest on the university campuses, [and] programs for women,” Nuland said.

She added that the State Department has been working for years with Syrians and others on ways to counter Internet censorship, as well as supporting Syrian human rights and justice programs.

US trained Syrian contra propagandists via seminars conducted in Istanbul. St.Louis Public Radio, Dec 3, 2012 U.S. Steps Up Aid (But No Arms) To Syrian Exiles:
[T]he U.S. State Department is supporting Syria's political opposition, in projects that have been under wraps until recently.

One program, a multimillion-dollar media project called Basma, or "fingerprint" in English, is run out of an office in Istanbul where Syrian activists write and produce reports for a Facebook page and the Basma website. A promotional video explains the goals of Basma: "to support a peaceful transition for a new Syrian nation that supports and guards the freedom of all of its citizens."
...
In another U.S.-funded program, kept quiet over security concerns, young activists, mostly those in the front lines in the early days of the revolt, are invited to Istanbul for workshops. They gather in hotels, from towns and villages inside Syria. They are now members of revolutionary councils — civilians trying to restore services and local government in places out of regime control.

Syrian "activists" given electronic equipment & technical instruction in State Dep't-sponsored Istanbul trainings. Wired, Oct 25, 2012 Exclusive: U.S. Rushes to Stop Syria from Expanding Chemical Weapon Stockpile:
U.S. intelligence agencies are believed to be helping with the training of opposition groups, while the Pentagon denies shipping arms to the rebels. In public, American aid has largely been limited to organizational advice (Washington is trying to set up a council of opposition leaders in Doha in the next few weeks, for instance) and technical assistance. Several hundred Syrian activists have traveled to Istanbul for training in secure communications, funded by the U.S. State Department. The rebel leaders received tips on how to leapfrog firewalls, encrypt their data, and use cellphones without getting caught, as Time magazine recently reported. Then they returned to Syria, many of them with new phones and satellite modems in hand.
To NATO military strategists, social media propaganda is element of "winning the online information war" in Syria. Small Wars Journal, Apr 26, 2016 The Impact of Cyber Capabilities in the Syrian Civil War:
The events of the Syrian Civil War have clearly demonstrated the power of cyber capabilities in warfare. [...] However, it would appear that all of the actors have used cyber capabilities for propaganda purposes. The use of social media, DDoS attacks, and the defacement of websites were all used to promote strategic narrative or to undermine and embarrass the enemy. Although all of these activities would fall under the category of information war, developments in social technology has increased the importance of winning the online information war. This is illustrated by the fact that most of the information that the public receives about the conflict is transmitted through social media.
Revealing chart outlining US Army Special Ops doctrine on use of electronic communication in unconventional warfare. FM 3-05.130 Unconventional Warfare, Sep 2008 Table B-1 - Information operations integration into joint operations (pdf)
Highly influential 1989 paper on Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) called for technology-driven psychological warfare. Marine Corp Gazette, Oct 1989 The Changing Face of War - Into the 4th Generation (pdf)

All this is to make clear that there is nothing random or organic about online propaganda produced by Syrian "activists."
Bana hoax, Aleppo "farewell" videos, et al. should be seen as coordinated, strategic information warfare funded and organized by US actors.

Some additional thoughts on this.

A recent piece by Patrick Cockburn in the Independent points to the mass of propaganda about and out of Syria, mostly U.S. directed as shown above, and explains why we only see and hear this and nothing else: There's more propaganda than news coming out of Aleppo this week:

[T]he jihadis holding power in east Aleppo were able to exclude Western journalists, who would be abducted and very likely killed if they went there, and replace them as news sources with highly partisan “local activists” who cannot escape being under jihadi control.
...
The precedent set in Aleppo means that participants in any future conflict will have an interest in deterring foreign journalists who might report objectively. By kidnapping and killing them, it is easy to create a vacuum of information that is in great demand and will, in future, be supplied by informants sympathetic to or at the mercy of the very same people (in this case the jihadi rulers of east Aleppo) who have kept out the foreign journalists. Killing or abducting the latter turns out to have been a smart move by the jihadis because it enabled them to establish substantial control of news reaching the outside world.

We have to see the killing and kidnapping of journalists as a (secret) part of the arsenal of the Unconventional Warfare and the U.S. created propaganda storm out of Syria.

The same applies to humanitarian Non-Government Organizations. Neither the United Nations, nor the Red Cross or any other neutral NGO had staff in east-Aleppo. Only the MI-6 propaganda outlet SOHR in Coventry provides numbers allegedly sourced from Syria. Only (U.S. trained) "media activists" on the Takfiri side report or tweet from inside east-Aleppo. Only these get interviewed. Only the U.S./UK created and directed "White Helmets" and the French government sponsored Takfiri "Aleppo Media Channel" produce pictures and videos from inside east-Aleppo. As this was the only available information source and sole available audio-visual material it was heavily used by news outlets around the world. It reflected solely the armed oppositions and its sponsors' views and warfare needs.

If one intends to give a maximum effect to the propaganda output of ones proxies in an Information Warfare operation, it makes great sense to eliminate all other potential sources of information from the wider warzone. Thus - the abduction and killing of neutral professional journalists is a conscious process that enables their replacement with ones own Information Warfare assets. I believe we have seen such a process in Syria.

A similar process was applied earlier when the U.S. invaded Iraq. News outlets which gave a different than the official U.S. view were targeted by U.S. military forces. The Al-Jazeerah offices in Baghdad were bombed by the U.S. military. (The White House even considered bombing the Al-Jazeerah head office in Doha, Qatar.) Wikileaks published a video which showed a U.S. helicopter killing Reuters staffers. Only journalists embedded with the U.S. military were protected against U.S. military action. Their reports were naturally heavily skewed towards the official U.S. propaganda view.

(On top of all of that we have to consider that even regular news outlets and journalists are often vehicles of intelligence services and as such far from neutral.)

The killing or abduction of journalists in a war zone allows their replacement with better controlled and more partisan assets. Just raising the (security) costs for real journalists has such an effect. A news outlet has to pay for professionally made news agency photos or videos. The U.S./UK propaganda operation "White Helmets" has produced hundreds of "gripping" and "emotional" staged rescue operation pictures and videos. It distributes those for free in "ready to be used" high quality. Many news outlets prefer these no-cost pictures even though their veracity is highly questionable.

Keeping journalists away from the battle zone by killing or abducting a few of them at the beginning of the conflict helped enormously to increase the effect of the later Information Warfare operation known as "White Helmets" and other similar organizations.

This brings me back to U.S. Embassy Geneva report quoted above. In the very same speech in which U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland lauded the creation, training and outfitting of U.S proxy teams for propaganda creation and other purposes (aka "media activists") she also lamented the demise of real journalists in Syria:

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters August 21 that the United States has provided more than 900 sets of communications gear to groups and individuals inside Syria.
...
Nuland also offered condolences to the family of Japanese journalist Mika Yamamoto, who was killed August 20 while she was traveling with Syrian opposition forces in Aleppo, according to the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

Yamamoto, who worked for the Tokyo-based Japan Press, was caught in gunfire, the Foreign Ministry said.

Nuland also said the U.S. government had lost contact with two stringers reporting for the Alhurra television network who had reportedly been traveling with Yamamoto.

In an August 21 interview with the Voice of America, Reporters Without Borders spokeswoman Soazig Dollet said five foreign journalists have been killed since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, and that Syria “is now the most dangerous place for war reporter[s] in the world.”

The lauding of U.S. proxy media efforts and the (fake) lamenting over the killing of real journalists by Victoria Nuland in one speech were totally unrelated to each other - unless they were not. It was totally unintended that the resulting lack of real journalists in Syria amplified the effect of the U.S. Information Operation by proxy. Or maybe it was not.

Posted by b on December 19, 2016 at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (126)

December 18, 2016

Sabotage Of East-Aleppo Evacuation Is Part Of A Plan

Update (Dec 19, 0:00 EST):

  • The culprits of the bus burning were "rebels" from Ahrar al-Sham and Jund al Aqsa. Both are favorites of the CIA and Turkey and in Idleb governate aligned with and under the military command of al-Qaeda.
  • After Turkey put heavy pressure on the groups it somewhat controls the evacuation deal is, for now, back on. The first exchange bus run occurrs right now. I expect a new sabotage attempt to jeopardize the deal.
  • Turkish media claim that Shia inhabitants of Fu'a and Kafraya burned the buses or that it is unknown who did it. Video and pictures proudly posted by the Takfiris themselves show that these radical Sunnis did it.

End-Update - original post follows:

The removal of defeated al-Qaeda fighters and their families from east-Aleppo has been on and off for several days now.

The agreement between Turkey and Russia on which the evacuation is based stipulates the parallel evacuation of wounded people from the al-Qaeda besieged Shiite village Fu'a and Kafraya in Idleb province. Note that neither the U.S. nor the (partisan) UN were involved in these negotiations.

The process was interrupted on Friday after al-Qaeda fighters in east-Aleppo opened fire on evacuating civilians. In parallel buses moving into Fu'a and Kafraya to evacuate the wounded were held up by al-Qaeda aligned groups in the area. Opposition claims that Hizbullah fighters was killing people that were evacuating from east-Aleppo were, according to a BBC producer, lies.

The agreement and evacuations were put on again and proceeded this morning after some new negotiations with unknown additional terms. The movements were to take place in strict parallel. Any move out of east-Aleppo on the government provided public buses would only happen at the very same moment that the wounded would move out of Fu'a and Kafraya on similar buses.

Today's evacuations were again sabotaged by al-Qaeda forces:

Several buses en route to evacuate the sick and injured from two government-held villages in Syria's Idlib province have been burned by rebels.

The convoy was travelling to Foah and Kefraya, besieged by rebel fighters.

Pro-government forces are demanding people be allowed to leave the mainly Shia villages in order for the evacuation of east Aleppo to restart.

Thousands of people are waiting to leave in desperate conditions, reports say.

Al-Qaeda gangs themselves provided video of the bus burning. The bus drivers were likely murdered which pretty much guarantees that no further buses will come or go.

I doubt that this is a solely al-Qaeda induced incident. It seems to me that the certain U.S. forces (aka the CIA) are trying to prolong the removal of al-Qaeda from east-Aleppo for their own purpose.

Just yesterday even the Washington Post (again) reported on the years long collusion between the CIA and al-Qaeda in Syria:

The CIA meanwhile continued to push a program that targeted Russia and its Syrian and Iranian allies — and helped shield Jabhat al-Nusra.

There are several "western" groups that want to keep the evacuation stalled to continue their anti-Syrian, anti-Russian and anti-Iran agenda.

The U.S. administration is miffed that it was kept out of the recent negotiations. It wants to demonstrate that any negotiations without its participation will not have any positive result.

The hundreds of "last video from Aleppo" of "Bana" and other propaganda creatures claiming to be there look like a highly coordinated Information Warfare campaign. The "Stand with Aleppo" campaign in the U.S. was started and is propelled by a Democratic party operative who is also CEO of a public relations company and "strategic affairs consultant" in Chicago, Becky Carroll. Its aim is to escalated the situation in Syria.

Meanwhile members of the Syrian opposition, or rather their "western" controllers in the CIA, are now emphasizing Iran, not Russia, as alleged spoiler in Syria. They claim, without any evidence, that Iran or its operatives held up the evacuations. This is part of a plan to preempt announced Trump policies of negotiating an end of the Syria conflict.

The French president Hollande, despised by his people and with an approval rating between 4 and 6%, is calling for another UN Security Council vote over east-Aleppo. Such a vote, demanding UN observers for the evacuation, is intended to hold it up. Observers would need days to be in place and would lack any reasonable protection. Hollande also wants to provide food to the non-existing "civilians" in east-Aleppo while Reuters provides video showing that al-Qaeda and allies in east-Aleppo have horded enough food for years. The idea behind the UNSC resolution is to let it fail and to then go to the UN General Assembly which, under the right pressure, might allow a war by any nation against Syria.

Earlier Hollande ordered the lights at the Eiffel tower to be turned off to mourn the liberation of Aleppo from Takfiris and to make it look like the flag of his defeated al-Qaeda friends. His sponsors in Qatar and Saudi Arabia will reward his principled stand.

With the burning of the buses the evacuation agreement is dead and unlikely to be revived.

The Syrian army should tell al-Qaeda in Aleppo that there will be no longer be any ceasefire. It must make clear that they will now either be interned or killed. The final fighting should be over in a day or two. Meanwhile as much air support as possible should be provided to the defenders at Fu'a and Kafraya.

The Russian military learned the hard way in Grozny that any ceasefire or pause you give to a mostly defeated enemy only helps the enemy and will, in the end, cost more lives on both sides.

Putin and Lavrov have fallen for various negotiation scams with the U.S. that were designed to only hold back attacks on al-Qaeda and allies so that those forces could reorganize and resupply for renewed attacks on government held areas. Kerry's promises to separate "moderates" from al-Qaeda in Syria was repeated over months until he finally claimed that the groups were too "marbled" to be taken apart. U.S. military attacks on Syrian government forces were launched to sabotage any agreement. Similar deceiving delaying tactics are now evident with the negotiated evacuation of east-Aleppo.

Meanwhile the next al-Qaeda stronghold to be attacked by government forces in the governate and city of Idleb can be prepared for defense. With the Syrian army and its allies still busy in Aleppo new arms supplies can arrive in Idleb and new formations can be organized. The British government even sends more troops to train "moderate" al-Qaeda allies.

It is time to end such sorry play. Clean up Aleppo already. Hollande, Samantha Power and other stooges will howl anyway - no matter how the final scene is done.

Posted by b on December 18, 2016 at 11:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (113)

December 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-42

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 17, 2016 at 04:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (167)

December 16, 2016

China Seized An Unmanned U.S. Navy Sub - That Was Possibly Legal

China Just Seized an Unmanned US Navy Sub

China just seized an unmanned underwater vehicle operated by the US Navy, according to reports from Reuters. The seizure occurred in the South China Sea yesterday, and the US has since demanded that the vehicle be returned.

Reuters is reporting that the vehicle was seized just northwest of the Subic Bay, shortly before the USNS Bowditch was about to pick up the unmanned vehicle.

Aside from the details of this case which do not yet know (there is a tit-for-tat ongoing between the U.S. and Chinese Navy in the South-China-Sea) the legal issue involved here could get quite complicate.

Many militaries and commercial shipping companies are working on unmanned ships. But there is no case law and no international law yet that is applicable for unmanned shipping. The Laws of the Sea and the Law of Salvage all consider, to my best knowledge, only manned shipping.

This spring I discussed this problem over lunch with some people working in commercial cargo shipping here in Hamburg. The first plans for unmanned commercial cargo liners had just come up (see pic below). They had no ready answers to the open legal questions.

Rolls-Royce sketch for future unmanned cargo ship - bigger

The Chinese can simply say: "We saw a ship or submarine that seemed to be somewhat erratic in its movements. It did not respond to direct bridge to bridge bull horn calls. No crew was seen on board. We reasonably considered it a danger to international shipping. We salvaged it. If it is yours we will give it back (after a thorough inspection) if you pay us the usual applicable salvage award."

What can the U.S. in a legally straight way respond? How will it respond?

How would a British Navy Captain react if some unannounced unmanned ship came up through the English Channel? He would probably ask: "Is that ship possibly out of control or damaged? How would I know? Is it a danger to the dense general shipping here? Should I salvage it? Should I sink it?"

What would the legal answers be?

It took centuries until all nations agreed to some common Law of the Sea. I wonder how long it will take to make that applicable for unmanned shipping. With probably millions of dollars worth of cargo on such ships the problems could soon escalate.

Is it "pirating" or "salvaging" when someone enters up and takes control of such a ship? I don't know and reading the law hasn't helped.

The Chinese were possibly well within their rights when they took control of the unmanned U.S. Navy sub. But do not expect the U.S. Navy to support that legal position. Until of course the day it captures some unmanned Chinese ship.

Posted by b on December 16, 2016 at 03:14 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

December 15, 2016

The "Elite" Coup Of 2016

  • There is an "elite" coup attempt underway against the U.S. President-elect Trump.
  • The coup is orchestrated by the camp of Hillary Clinton in association with the CIA and neoconservative powers in Congress.
  • The plan is to use the CIA's "Russia made Trump the winner" nonsense to swing the electoral college against him. The case would then be bumped up to Congress. Major neocon and warmonger parts of the Republicans could then move the presidency to Clinton or, if that fails, put Trump's vice president-elect Mike Pence onto the throne. The regular bipartisan war business, which a Trump presidency threatens to interrupt, could continue.
  • Should the coup succeed violent insurrections in the United States are likely to ensue with unpredictable consequences.

The above theses are thus far only a general outlay. No general plan has been published. The scheme though is pretty obvious by now. However, the following contains some speculation.

The priority aim is to deny Trump the presidency. He is too independent and a danger for several power centers within the ruling U.S. power circles. The selection of Tillerson as new Secretary of State only reinforces this (Prediction: Bolton will not get the Deputy position.)  Tillerson is for profitable stability, not for regime change adventures. The institutional Trump enemies are:

  • The CIA which has become the Central Assassination Agency under the Bush and Obama administrations. Huge parts of its budgets depend on a continuation of the war on Syria and the drone assassination campaigns in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere. Trump's more isolationist policies would likely end these campaigns and the related budget troughs.
  • The weapons industry which could lose its enormous sales to its major customers in the Persian Gulf should a President Trump reduce U.S. interference in the Middle East and elsewhere.
  • The neoconservatives and Likudniks who want the U.S. as Israel's weapon to strong arm the Middle East to the Zionists' benefit.
  • The general war hawks, military and "humanitarian interventionists" to whom any reduction of the U.S. role as primary power in the world is anathema to their believes.

The current CIA director Brennan, a leading figure of the CIA torture program and Obama consigliere, is in the Clinton/anti-Trump camp. The former CIA heads Hayden and Panetta are public Clinton supporters as is torturer king and former CIA deputy director Michael Morell.

It is thereby no wonder that the CIA is leading the anti-Russian campaign. Its task now is to implant the idea in the U.S. public that Russian intervention skewed the U.S. election towards Trump. The purpose is the delegitimization of the Trump victory in the eyes of the media and public but even more so in the eyes of the electors within the electoral college.

The CIA is heavily supported by the same mainstream media that pushed for Clinton during the election. (These are, not by chance, also the same media that pushed the CIA's earlier "Saddam's Weapon of Mass Destruction" campaign.)

The Democratic partisan and Harvard law Professor Lawrence Lessig is pushing the electors and offers them free personal legal support. He says the electoral college vote is now close.

Could 37 Republican electors, put there by voters in their states to vote for Trump, be convinced to move from electing Trump to abstain or vote for someone else, Trump would miss the needed 270 votes. The whole election of the president would then by kicked up to the House of Representatives.

Should the electors vote for Trump there is still a possibility that members of the House and the Senate could officially question that vote and cause delays or Congressional probes and legal challenges.

Here are the detailed general proceedings and specifics for the electoral college as explained by the National Archives and Records Administration.

Though neoconservatives have no genuine support within the U.S. electorate they have a strong hold on significant parts of Congress and the relevant MSM commentariat. Many leading neoconservatives and war hawks like Robert Kagan, Max Boot and the Washington Post editorial board came out for Clinton during the campaign. Clinton even ran campaign advertisements with Republican Congress luminaries like Lindsay Graham, Sasse and Flake.

The House and the Senate majority may well be on the anti-Trump side if push comes to shove. But whatever the outcome there surely would be intense legal challenges and I expect the case to go up to the Supreme Court.

As an alternative to legal shenanigans Trump's inauguration could be delayed by Obama's order to the intelligence community to create a formal review of Russian intervention in the election by January 20. That is not by chance the official inauguration date! The selling point:

By ordering a “full review” of allegations of Russian into the 2016 election process, President Barack Obama is essentially asking the IC to make an analytical judgment about the validity of the election that will place Trump in the Oval Office.

A "compromise" in Congress could be to wait for the Intelligence Community's analysis and then discuss it before certifying Trump as president. That would end up with no result as National Intelligence Estimates are notoriously vague. Meanwhile the Vice President-elect would sit in as acting President:

If the President-elect fails to qualify before inauguration, Section 3 of the 20th Amendment states that the Vice President-elect will act as President until such a time as a President has qualified.

If the congressional or legal process around the Trump election gets delayed, that may be a state for a long time. The ruling Washington blob or borg could well live with an acting President Pence while Trump would have no official say in any government business. (Could Clinton then become acting VP or qualify as the new president?)

The media intervention on the anti-Trump side is heavy.

But first keep in mind that there is no public evidence, ZERO, that Russia indeed had anything to do with the DNC or Podesta or other leaks and the publication of emails by various outlets like Wikileaks.

Craig Murray assures us that he knows that these were not hacks but insider leaks and that he knows the leaker(s). Indeed he now tells us that the emails were handed over to him during a visits in Washington. Former intelligence officials including the technically very knowledgeable former NSA official William Binney concur that the hacking story is false.

All we have heard or seen so far are hearsay rumors and allegations of evidence. To me as experienced IT professional the case is technically laughable just as Murray explains here. If the claimed hacks occurred at all the alleged methods were so common that anybody could have done these. There is not even one claimed fact yet that is technically halfway acceptable as evidence that "Russia did it".

But still the NYT runs a big package of pieces telling us that "Russia did it" based on the non-factual CIA rumors and unprofessional IT assertions by Crowdstrike, the self-promoting IT security company the DNC hired and paid. Before that the Washington Post published major claims of Russian interference by anonymous officials. NBC News now tops that with "intelligence officials" saying Putin himself ran the hacking campaign. Authors of the story are the long time insider hacks Bill Arkin and Ken Dilanian known for clearing his stories with the CIA before publishing. The next story will tells us that Vladimir Valdimirovich himself was punching the keyboard.

Many news outlets and editorials follow these "leads".

Part of the scheme the Clinton campaign has worked out was explained by a former opposition research consultant to the Democratic National Council, the Ukrainian-American Alexandra (aka Andrea) Chalupa, in this thread:

Andrea Chalupa ‏@AndreaChalupa Dec 11

1.) Electoral College meets Dec. 19. If Electors ignore #StateOfEmergency we're in, & Trump gets elected, we can stop him Jan. 6 in Congress

2.) If any objections to Electoral College vote are made, they must be submitted in writing, signed by at least 1 House member & 1 Senator

3.) If objections are presented, House & Senate withdraw to their chambers to consider their merits under procedures set out in federal law.
...

Editorials and op-eds in the major papers are pushing the scheme along. Just for example from a long list A.J. Dionne in the Washington Post:

The CIA’s finding that Russia actively intervened in our election to make Trump president is an excellent reason for the electors to consider whether they should exercise their independent power. At the very least, they should be briefed on what the CIA knows, and in particular on whether there is any evidence that Trump or his lieutenants were engaged with Russia during the campaign.

The New York Times editorial laments about Trump ridiculing the CIA fairy tales it promotes.

Many people who have voted for Trump would be disgusted and outraged if or when Trump will be denied his office. Many of them are armed and would protest. Violence is ensured should the coup succeed.

Trump selected four former generals to joins his cabinet and staff. Should the troubles escalate we might be roughly in for a scenario as laid out in the 1992 military paper: The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012 (pdf) by Charles J. Dunlap.

Posted by b on December 15, 2016 at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (259)

December 13, 2016

MSM Create #Fakenews Storm As Rebel Aleppo Vanishes

I have not ever experienced a #fakenews onslaught as today. Every mainstream media and agency seems to have lost all inhibitions and is reporting any rumor claim regarding the liberation of east-Aleppo as fact.

Consider this BBC headline and opener:

Aleppo battle: UN says 82 civilians shot on the spot

Syrian pro-government forces have been entering homes in eastern Aleppo and killing those inside, including women and children, the UN says.

The UN's human rights office said it had reliable evidence that in four areas 82 civilians were shot on sight.

1. A UN human rights office does not exists. What the BBC means is the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). That commissioner is the Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a Hashemite educated in the UK and U.S. and a relative of the Jordanian dictator king. That is relevant to note as Jordan is heavily involved in the supporting the "rebels" against the Syrian government.

2. The office has not "said" that "82 civilians were shot" or other such gruesome stuff. It said that there were "sources" that have "reports" that such happened. From its press statement today:

Multiple sources have reports that tens of civilians were shot dead yesterday in al-Ahrar Square in al-Kallaseh neighbourhood, and also in Bustan al-Qasr, by Government forces and their allies, including allegedly the Iraqi al-Nujabaa armed group.

The OHCHR claiming that "multiple sources have reports" of XYZ, without revealing neither the "sources" nor the provenance of the alleged "reports" of XYZ, certainly does not translate into "The UN said XYZ happened."

I find it irresponsible that the OHCHR even mentions such unverified stuff in its press conferences. But it is even more irresponsible that the BBC then uses a "UN says ..." headline and intro about such rumors especially without any further qualification in the rest of its "reporting".

There is also this recent report that cats were killed in Aleppo.

#BREAKING - Activists: All residents and guests of last cat shelter in Aleppo killed in Hezbollah gas attack.

The spokesman of the OHCHR has been notified of the above report. We are now awaiting the BBC headline: "UN says Hezbollah gassed last cats in Aleppo".

The BBC is not the only #fakenews outlet in this. Indeed it seems that news agencies seek "safety in the pack" by all reporting the same nonsense through each and every channel.

Again - the UN only says that it knows of such reports. It does not verify or vouches for these. Still the usual "humanitarian" influence operations, like Amnesty International, then join in on the "UN Says ..." falsehoods. Thousands of news outlets and websites copy from the fake agency reports and "humanitarian" outlets and try to sensationalize their take even further. Its a total disinformation mess.

But there are also the wonders of Aleppo.

Real inhabitants and reporters in Aleppo say that any internet connection there is slow and unstable. But those "activists" under intense artillery fire in the east seem to have gigabits of reliable bandwidth available. It's a miracle. Pictures and videos in tweets like this one come "out of Aleppo" each and every minute.

Of course such gigabits could be put to better use than for grabbing screenshots of old music videos, but nobody is perfect, especially when under heavy artillery fire.

 

The news agencies and mainstream media take all the "activist" tweets, WhatsUp talks, video uploads and livestreaming by Periscope as the truth without even knowing where those come from. Those "activists" could sit anywhere in the world and there is no way for reporters to verify their location.

The security of all these information operations (pdf) have me concerned. When those "last activists in Aleppo" tweet that the Syrian army is moving in towards them do they mean that Assad's tanks rumble onto Vauxhall Cross?

But as long as everyone repeats the lying "reports from the ground" of said "activists" no one can be held responsible. "We all honestly erred," is the usual and well accepted apology.

We should try, wherever we can, to hold those news people to higher standards.

Posted by b on December 13, 2016 at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (172)

December 12, 2016

#Fakenews Alert: "China Flies Nuclear Bomber In Response To Trump's Call ..."

A few recent headlines of #fakenews:

The above is #fakenews because China does not currently deploy any airlaunched nuclear weapons. It is not known or thought to have nuclear bombs. All its estimated 260 nuclear warheads (the U.S. and Russia each have more than 7,000) are presumably for its land and sea based missiles.

China is believed to work on a short- to medium-range, airlaunched cruise missiles that potentially could be nuclear armed. So far the U.S. Air Force does not believe that any of these are deployed and does not list them as part of a potential enemy force.

The relevant regular paper for such facts is Chinese nuclear forces, 2016 (pdf) by Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris published by the Bulletin of Nuclear Scientists:

[T]he 2016 Pentagon report includes for the first time a discussion of a potential nuclear role for China’s bombers. It says the PLA air force was assigned a “strategic deterrence” mission in 2012, although that could also reflect the introduction of conventional land-attack cruise missiles on the modified H-6K bomber. But the Pentagon report states that Chinese media reports and writings "suggest China might eventually develop a nuclear bomber capability. [...]” (US Defense Department 2016, 38).
[,..]
We do not believe that China's bombers currently have an active nuclear mission.

For historic and deeper background of the non-existence of operational Chinese airlaunched nukes see this tweet stream by ArmsControlWonk Jeffrey Lewis.

China may fly some medium range Hongzha-6 bombers around its nearby ocean. These birds are an updated version of a Russian type developed in the late 1950s(!). Flying is what military pilots do to train. But those bombers are not likely to have anything to do with nuclear whatever. What does "nuclear capable" bomber actually mean when one has nothing "nuclear" to put on those bombers? Are we to believe that the U.S. will provide the nukes for these?

According to Fox News and NBC, China flew such bomber on November 25 (Dec 5, 6 reps above), well BEFORE the Trump phone call. It also flew the bombers AFTER (Dec 9 rep) the Trump's phone call with the Taiwanese government. Indeed it regularly flies these bombers. The sightseeing flight had thereby nothing at all to do with any Trump call. Correlating the call with those flights is bogus spin.

The headlines above are all nonsense. There is nothing "nuclear" and the flights of outdated bombers have nothing to do with any Trump call to wherever. They are #fakenews just as most of the other news we get is:

News is fake. The higher the stakes for the ruling classes, the more you can be certain the mainstream news about it will be as fake as fuck and conversely, reports deemed fake by those same fakers should be duly considered on their merits.

Posted by b on December 12, 2016 at 01:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

Syria Roundup: Government Liberates Aleppo - In Revenge(?) ISIS Retakes Palmyra

The assault by Syrian government forces and its allies on Takfiri forces in east-Aleppo continues. Yesterday the heavily fortified Sheikh Saeed quarter was taken in addition to Karam Da`da`, Ferdous, Bab al Maqam and Jallum. The al-Qaeda led terrorists are down to some 5 square kilometer, five city quarters, roughly 2% of the area they held when the siege on them started. They may give up today or tomorrow. Huge amounts of foreign ammunition, food and medicines were found in the quarters the Takfiris retreated from.

bigger

The U.S. has given up on any relief mission for them. U.S. Secretary of State Kerry is down to begging the Russians to let some of his friends escape: Kerry urges Russia to ‘show a little grace’ and allow Aleppo evacuation.

Winning back the economic capital of the country, a city which the Turkish wannabe-Sultan Erdogan wanted to capture and incorporate into his neo-Ottoman empire, is the biggest victory the Syrian government achieved in this war. The whole area retaken in and around Aleppo is some 18,000 square kilometers - that is a larger area than the whole countries of Qatar or Lebanon.

There were discussions between Syria and its allies from Russia, Iran and Lebanon on how to proceed from here. It was decided to set a priority in the west towards the al-Qaeda occupied Idleb instead of the mostly ISIS occupied east-Syria. A two front war in the west and east would be too risky and require additional forces that are not (yet) available. Two reasons for this decision are the economic importance of Idleb governate and the continuity of the government held western part of "useful Syria". There are other forces, Turkish, Kurdish and some Arab U.S. proxies, that have declared war on ISIS and shall bleed to eradicate it in the east.

Accordingly a tacit deal was found with Turkey. It would be allowed to take al-Bab, east of Aleppo and to march on towards Raqqa from there. In exchange it would refrain from supporting al-Qaeda and aligned forces in and around Idleb in the west. Those forces would still have clandestine support from the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and others. It is somewhat questionable if the rather unreliable Erdogan will stick to the deal but that risk has been taken.

The general risk of setting the priority in the west is a festering of a U.S. occupation of Syria's east. The U.S. just deployed an additional 200 special forces there to bring the total up to acknowledged 500. There are also some French and other special forces in the area. They are building several small military airfields and hire anyone they can find in that area to, allegedly, fight ISIS. This looks much like the construction of a "Salafist principality" in east-Syria and west-Iraq without the ISIS label. Gulf countries' and Zionists' lobbyists have called for such an occupation strategy of Upper Mesopotamia. A U.S./Saudi controlled proxy entity that interrupts the "Shia crescent" from Iran over Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and holds the ground for a planned natural gas pipeline from Qatar to Turkey and onto Europe.

The Russian and Syrian hope may be that a Trump administration will abandon such imperial nonsense.

Since December 5 probing attacks of ISIS around the larger area of east-Homs governate and Palmyra were registered. But the priority of the Syrian government was, rightly so, on east-Aleppo. Palmyra was held by a Syrian army contingent in large company size and by a few companies of little trained National Defense Forces - way too few to defend a rather large area against a sizable and determined attack.

Last Friday ISIS attacked Palmyra with several hundred fighters, heavy artillery and tanks. Multiple suicide Vehicle Based IEDs penetrated the NDF defense lines around Palmyra. A large ISIS attack on Saturday was repulsed by over 60 Russian air attacks. Major news agencies falsely reported that ISIS had taken the center of Palmyra based solely on "activists in Turkey" claims. Only a renewed ISIS attack on Sunday proved to be too much for the thin defense forces. At noon the decision was taken to avoid further losses and to retreat from the city towards the south and the west. Palmyra and the surrounding areas fell again to ISIS.

The attackers are thought to have come from Deir Ezzor, where a Syrian government force surrounded by ISIS recently had a few quiet days. Some may also have come from Raqqa where a recent halt in U.S. commanded attacks gave ISIS some relief. The fighters most likely did not recently come from Mosul in Iraq. Several military observers said the attackers were superbly organized, well led and had excellent intelligence.

Reinforcements for the Syrian army have arrived in the area and the Russian deputy foreign minister promised to retake the city from ISIS. The reinforcements may be enough to stop the current ISIS advance. But the priority is Aleppo and an immediate successful counterattack on Palmyra is not likely.

How does this ISIS attack fit into the bigger picture?

Map by Fabrice Balanche - Status November 2016 - Palmyra is below the lower center-left of the map frame - bigger

ISIS is under attack in Iraq in Mosul and the areas west of it. U.S. proxy forces, mostly Kurdish YPG fighters, attack the surroundings of the ISIS held city of Raqqa. Turkish proxy forces, including some units from the terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham, attack ISIS in al-Bab north-west of Raqqa and east of Aleppo. U.S. drones and attack planes are constantly flying over all ISIS held territory in east-Syria.

How come ISIS has the considerable resources available to now attack Palmyra, far away from the critical points further north where it is heavily attacked? Where did the necessary ammunition and money come from? Why attack now?

U.S. Central Command, the imperial headquarter in the Middle East, announced on December 9 that it had just bombed 168 ISIS tanker trucks near Palmyra. (CentCom is huge. There are 58,000 U.S. troops plus 42,000 U.S. military contractors under CentCom command in the Middle East.) That CentCom claim sounded very dubious to me and I was not the only one to disregard it as nonsense:

The Inside Source - @InsideSourceInt
> #Syria // #Palmyra // US claims of destroying 160 ISIS oil trucks in Syria are seemingly false from what we've heard.
3:46 AM - 10 Dec 2016

The video accompanying the CentCom claim showed bomb hits on only three tanker trucks and some four fixed targets. Nothing like the claimed large scale attack. It is questionable that so many tanker trucks, most were bombed over the last year, would assemble in one area. And why would they be near the then front line with Syrian forces in Palmyra? Why would the U.S. hit them there and not on their way coming or going to wherever? How come no one else, no opposition outlet and no agency, reported such a large attack?

This emphasis on "look we are hitting ISIS around Palmyra" by CentCom is suspicious. The U.S. did see tanker trucks but the hundreds of ISIS forces with heavy equipment, including tanks, preparing for their assault on the city were invisible? This under an airspace that is practically controlled by the U.S. and its allies?

This smells of a "revenge" attack ordered up by the U.S. or its Gulf allies for the Syrian and Russian taking of Aleppo. A demonstration that the early victory of Russia in Palmyra was ephemeral. A propaganda defeat of Russia covering the real defeat of U.S. supported Takfiris in east-Aleppo.

Posted by b on December 12, 2016 at 09:18 AM | Permalink | Comments (105)

December 11, 2016

Open Thread 2016-41

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 11, 2016 at 10:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (131)

December 10, 2016

What Are The Hearsay Leaks About "Russian Election Hacking" Attempting To Achieve?

UPDATE: Dec 11 1:00am EST

Yesterday I noted below:

[T]he FBI also disagrees with at least parts of the alleged CIA conclusion ... That is important because the FBI, not the CIA, is responsible to investigate cyber related crimes within the U.S.

The Washington Post, which yesterday claimed a united view of the relevant agencies with only "minor disagreements", today caught up with Moon of Alabama. The headline:

FBI and CIA give differing accounts to lawmakers on Russia’s motives in 2016 hacks

The FBI official’s remarks to the lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee were, in comparison, “fuzzy” and “ambiguous,” suggesting to those in the room that the bureau and the [Central Intelligence A]gency weren’t on the same page, the official said.

WaPo still asserts that it was a "Russian hack" from which the election relevant emails and other papers leaked. No evidence, none at all, has been presented to support that claim. Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray also strongly disagrees with the CIA claims:

As Julian Assange has made crystal clear, the leaks did not come from the Russians. As I have explained countless times, they are not hacks, they are insider leaks – there is a major difference between the two.

Murray claims to know the leaker, an insider person, and asks why the CIA and FBI, who claim to know the person related to Russia who leaked the papers, have then not arrested him or her.

End Update

The White House ordered on Friday a full review if and/or how Russia somehow intervened inappropriately in the U.S. election. It is unclear if and how much of such an review, to be produced by January 20, would be made public.

A few hours later senior members of Congress, aka "U.S. officials", leaked to the Washington Post and the New York Times about the alleged content of a CIA assessment that, they claim, says that the Russian government through some third party hacked the Democratic National Committee and maybe also the Republican committee and officials and leaked some of the hacked stuff to Wikileaks and others.

The real claims of the CIA assessment are not known. Neither is any evidence known on which an assessment is based on. All claims about the alleged CIA report WaPo and NYT report on are hearsay - unverified whisper by anonymous people. Some within the CIA seem to disagree with at least parts of the assessment. WaPo writes:

A senior U.S. official said there were minor disagreements among intelligence officials about the agency’s assessment, in part because some questions remain unanswered.

According to someone talking to the NYT the FBI also disagrees with at least parts of the alleged CIA conclusion:

One senior government official, who had been briefed on an F.B.I. investigation into the matter, said that while there were attempts to penetrate the Republican committee’s systems, they were not successful.

That is important because the FBI, not the CIA, is responsible to investigate cyber related crimes within the U.S. .

Glenn Greenwald and Mary Wheeler have written good pieces on these leaks from the CIA: Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence and Unpacking the New CIA Leak: Don’t Ignore the Aluminum Tube Footnote. I have little to add to their writing. They note that the CIA and its former and current leaders are known to be very much on the Clinton side while the FBI is more neutral if not even Trump orientated.

When the head of the Intelligence Community James Clapper made a statement about the alleged Russian hacks some took that as confirmation that such hacks had actually happened. But Clapper's statement  used many weasel words and may have actually said the opposite (see his statement and my translation at the end of this piece). He explicitly made no attribution for any of the potential hacks.

It was the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that tried to hack the election systems of the state of Georgia. How do we know it was not them hacking and leaking the DNC papers?

One minor reason for the leaks now may be that "the Russians did it" exculpates Clinton from being a lousy candidate running a lousy campaign.

But one can think of three bigger reasons why these leaks about the CIA assessment are now happening:

  1. To preempt the results of the official investigation Obama has now ordered. Any diversion of the official results from the alleged CIA assessment results will need extensive public explanation.
  2. To swing the electoral college to vote for Clinton instead of Trump. This would be unprecedented and a coup contradicting the will of the voters. It would lead to political chaos and more. But many Clinton partisans are pressing in that direction and such a dirty business would not be out of character for Hillary Clinton.
  3. Even if neither 1 nor 2 can be achieved the propaganda effect of these leaks will be to dampen any movement of a Trump administration towards more friendly relations with Russia. Any such move by Trump will be responded with a chorus "but Russia hacked our election" even though there has been zero evidence or proof produced that such was indeed the case.

In response to the leaks Trump pointed out that the CIA lied about WMDs in Iraq. That is a decisive point. Indeed the CIA lied about lots of stuff over the years and one must assume that anything that is following a "the CIA says" introduction is a lie or at least an obfuscation.

The true danger, in my view, lies in possible reason 2 for the leaks. If enough delegates in the electoral college can somehow be bribed or otherwise convinced to flip towards electing Clinton we will see violent riots in the streets of many U.S. cities. What would follow thereafter is unpredictable.

Posted by b on December 10, 2016 at 01:24 PM | Permalink | Comments (162)

December 09, 2016

Official Fake News Numbers Will Have Serious Consequences

The U.S. has killed 50,000 out of 20-30,000 ISIS fighters.

US official: 50,000 Islamic State killed in wars to date, AP, Dec 9 2016

WASHINGTON — A senior US military official for the first time says the US-led coalition has killed 50,000 Islamic State militants in the last two years in Iraq and Syria.

The official said it was a conservative estimate, but it’s a bit more than what others have stated before.

CIA: ISIS has 20,000 to 31,500 fighters, The Hills, Sep 11 2014

The CIA estimates the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is made up of anywhere between 20,000-31,500 fighters, according to reports Thursday night.

The agency previously put the number at 10,000 but revised it upward after stronger recruitment since June, according to CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani, who was quoted in The Associated Press.

While ISIS forces come to existence seemingly out of nowhere only to get killed by the U.S. military, civilians in east-Aleppo vanish into the nowhere whenever the Syrian government forces take new areas.

UN diplomat offers to personally escort 900 al-Qaeda fighters out of Aleppo in hope of ending bombing, Telegraph, Oct 6 2016

Speaking in Geneva [UN envoy Staffan de Mistura] said that around 900 members of al-Nusra were still in Aleppo and he asked the jihadists to “look at my eyes” and decide if they were prepared to stay in the city even if it meant more casualties among the 275,000 civilians in the area.

“A thousand of you are deciding on the destiny of 275,000 civilians,” he said. “If you did decide to leave [Aleppo] with dignity and with your weapons, to Idlib or anywhere you wanted to go, I personally am ready physically to accompany you.”

Rebels defiant as Syrian army nears Aleppo's Old City, Reuters, Dec 4 2016

The U.N. estimates that close to 30,000 people have been displaced by the latest fighting, 18,000 to government-held areas, a further 8,500 to the Kurdish-controlled neighborhood of Sheikh Maqsoud and the rest within rebel-held areas.

U.N. envoy Staffan de Mistura has said more than 100,000 people may still be in the rebel-held area.

The opposition Aleppo council claims that there are 150,000 left in the "rebel"-held area. Official UN refugee numbers say that some 26,500 fled from east-Aleppo to the government controlled areas. Another 8-9,000 fled yesterday and today. The Takfiri held areas have shrunk to some 4% of their original extension in east Aleppo. If the original Mistura numbers were correct those must by now be the most densely inhabited area of the world.

But somehow those numbers are now inoperative.

275,000 civilians - 35,000 refugees = 240,000. But there are only 100,000 to 150,000 left in east-Aleppo? Where are the 90,000-140,000 people missing from those numbers? Where did they go?

Equally false numbers were used by the UN and other with regard to Mardaya and Daraya.

Here are more officially faked news and numbers:

IDF map of Hezbollah positions revealed as fabrication, Times of Israel, Dec 9 2016

A map of southern Lebanon released this week by the Israeli military that ostensibly showed Hezbollah positions, infrastructure and armaments along a section of the Israeli border was a fabrication, the army admitted Thursday.

The map, tweeted by the army Tuesday, appeared to feature over 200 towns and villages, which the IDF said the organization had turned into its operations bases, along with over 10,000 potential targets for Israeli strikes in the event of a new war with the terror group.
...
According to a Channel 2 report Tuesday, the illustrative map has been shown to practically every foreign diplomat visiting Israel ...

The IDF spokesperson posted the map with the remark: "This is a war crime". But the map is fake and as it claims that Hizbullah positions are near villages and cities it was though up as propaganda cover for the future IDF war crime of bombing those build up areas.

In reality Hizbullah takes special care to position its missile forces away from any settlements.

More uncovering of official fake news just from today's feed:

British Govt-Funded Outlet Offered Journalist $17,000 a Month to Produce Propaganda for Syrian Rebels and The incredible story behind the Syrian protest singer everyone thought was dead.

The BBC, CNN, Guardian, Telegraph, AP and others had reported that the "regime" had brutally murdered the "protest singer". Even some corpse was shown but that had been murdered and brutalized by the "rebels". The singer is alive and living in Spain.

The above numbers and stories are real fake news used as instrument of western governments and allegedly neutral international organizations. Unlike the inconvenient news spread by this and other "propaganda" sites they are depicted as truthful by mainstream media even when they are lies. Only by chance will they later be exposed.

I doubt that people will, over time, continue to fall for such nonsense. Information availability has increased. The people can get better informed with only little effort. The continued use of such false numbers and facts will lead to further deterioration of the trustworthiness of mainstream news and government institutions. In consequence the people will look, and vote, for outsiders to govern them. Radicals on the right of the political spectrum will gain more from this trend than the dispersed forces on the left.

Those predictable consequence may be consistent with a general political plan.

Posted by b on December 9, 2016 at 06:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (88)

December 08, 2016

Russia Today Plagiarizes Moon of Alabama - Correspondence - Act I

The German edition of the Russia Today website, RT Deutsch, evidently plagiarized a piece I had written for and published on this site.

I have since communicated with the director of RT Deutsch, Ivan Rodionov, via Twitter. The responses were slow and uncommitted. Today Rodionov, as well as the author of the piece, Mr. Rupp, contacted me and denied that the obvious plagiarism has happened at all.

Meanwhile I have been contacted by other authors who claim to have also been plagiarized or ripped off by RT English and/or RT Deutsch. The authors in question are, like me, generally positive towards Russia and RT.

Indeed this site has been labeled a "Russian propaganda outlet" by U.S. media and by the Ukrainian-American fascists behind the censorship advocates at ProPornOT.

This issue thereby obviously not an "anti-Russian" action but simple concern of serious authors about their rights.

I will write about the other authors cases' in a later piece.

The plagiarizing issue with RT is likely to escalate. I decided to publish all relevant communication on this blog to keep the readers informed and to be able to let others know how RT in general, and RT Deutsch especially, is handling such issues.

Mr Ivan Rodionov contacted me on public Twitter today. Here is the whole public thread including his tweets, my responses and the relevant context:

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA

ICYMI - MoA:

Russia Today (@rt_deutsch) Plagiarizes Moon of Alabama (@MoonofA) piece. Unresponsive to complains

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/12/falsely-defamed-russian-propaganda-outlet-gets-plagarized-by-russian-state-tv.html …

6:03 AM - 7 Dec 2016

-----

Barbara McKenzie ‏@BarbaraMcK42 19h19 hours ago

@MoonofA Your article was well-written, and made its point succinctly. There's no excuse for hijacking it @RT_Deutsch @IvanRodionov_

-----

Ivan Rodionov ‏@IvanRodionov_ 1h1 hour ago

@BarbaraMcK42 @MoonofA @RT_Deutsch Our contributor provided information supporting his claim of independent authorship which i believe 1/3

Ivan Rodionov ‏@IvanRodionov_ 1h1 hour ago

@BarbaraMcK42 @MoonofA @RT_Deutsch conclusive. I see no reasons to distrust him. His reply was AFAIK shared with you. If you see it 2/3

Ivan Rodionov ‏@IvanRodionov_ 1h1 hour ago

@BarbaraMcK42 @MoonofA it diferently pls feel free to use legal ways. Respectfully. 3/3

-----

Moon of Alabama ‏@MoonofA 33m33 minutes ago

@IvanRodionov_ Mr Rapp's "explanation"via email is a sorry excuse and evidently factually untrue in at least 3 points. @BarbaraMcK42 1/2

Moon of Alabama ‏@MoonofA 29m29 minutes ago

@IvanRodionov_ Legal ways cost money-not yet ready to spend. Will escalate via my contacts w/ RT Moscow and German media @BarbaraMcK42 2/2

(For timemarks - the alternative Twitter view of the last tweet ("29m29 minutes ago") is marked (in Pacific Time) as 9:09 AM - 8 Dec 2016)

 

In the above exchange Mr Rodionov mentioned a response from the RT author who had plagiarized my text. That response had arrived via email.

Here is a copy (email addresses withheld) followed by a copy of my reply.

From: Mr. Rupp
Subject: Putin's joke
To: MoonofA
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2016 12:28:45 +0100


Hallo Bernard,

You are certainly aware of the fact, that Newton and Leibniz developed a very similar theory of calculus at the same time in history, apparently completely independent of each other.

I use this famous example to illustrate, that you were not the only person with mathematical knowledge to spot the mathematical issue behind Putin's "joke". By way of excluding a translation mistake as well as the possibility that Putin would have made such a silly chauvinist comment, especially on public TV, it was quite clear what the Russian president had really meant when he said, that Russia's borders do not end anywhere. Only the kid as well as a large part of the audience did not understand and applauded for the wrong reason. Thus Putin had to save the situation somehow, declaring it a joke but one could see on his face, he did not feel comfortable doing it.

Unfortunately at the time I was working on another project that I had to finish first. So I could not react immediately to this matter, which made headline in Western news. Somewhat belatedly I could turn to the subject, as by then some German media had also begun to slander Putin for his "joke". First I scanned the internet to see, if anyone else had come to the same conclusion as me, namely that Putin had referred to the definition of a border as an uninterrupted line running along the edge of a surface that does not have a beginning or an end. My search also took me to your site, which I read and liked very much.

This may have unknowingly influenced my approach to the subjects. But I did in no way translate line by line from your piece. What you declare as proof for your claim, namely the definition of a border, I have taken from the German "Duden". And translated it is the same in English. But for a Definition that should not come as a surprise.

And what you call the core issue, i.e. Putin's mathematical lecture, that was not there for you alone to spot. You do not have sole ownership of the recognition of a simple and well known mathematical problem for 5th graders.

Moreover I did make a reference to the MofA source in my manuscript but certainly not with respect to the core issue.

As to my person, I am a political writer. For most of the last 20 years I worked for one or the other of the two remaining left wing daily papers which have survived in Germany. On RT-Deutsch I publish since Spring this year.

The reason I reacted so late to your complaint is simple. Only last night I got the e-mail from Mr. Rodionov - who had been out of the country for a few days - informing me about the matter and asking me, to clean it up. As I am a freelance writer my articles are my sole responsibility and neither RT-deutsch nor Mr. Rodionow carry any blame.

As I do not feel guilty for the things you accuse me of, I cannot apologize for them. But I do not want to hide myself either. If you are still angry enough to sue someone, you have to sue me. If you want to do that, please let me know and I will find a lawyer and forward his address to you for further legal action.

My honorarium for the article in question was 200 Euro. I can provide you a copy of the Honorarium. It is not much to fight about in court. But I can transfer you a share of it, if this helps to sooth your anger. This would not be recognition of any guilt but it would safe me a lot of paper work.

Certainly I did not want to offend or hurt you. After all, I did like your article and it probably did help and influenced my writing.

I would appreciate, if you treat this letter as personal and not for publication.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Rainer Rupp

P.S. Now that we are actually in contact with each other I just had an idea, how we could turn this annoying situation into something good for both of us. You have produced some very good pieces of research, which would certainly find also a German readership. May be we could come to an arrangement, whereby I would translate occasionally an up to date piece of your research for publication in Germany under your name and with a split honorarium for both of us?

 

My reply:

From: MoonofA
Subject: Re: Putin's Joke
To: Mr. Rupp
Date: Thu, 8 Dec 2016 18:15:13 +0100
Your statements, Mr. Rupp, about the plagiarism of my text are -at least- misleading.

Some of your claims with which you try to prove that you did not copy and translated my text, which you did, can evidently not be true:

"My search also took me to your site, which I read and liked very much. This may have unknowingly influenced my approach to the subjects. But I did in no way translate line by line from your piece."

You translated the core paragraph of my piece sentence by sentence - line by line, nearly word by word! My post on the subject sets these texts next to each other. It is obvious to anyone who can read that your paragraph is a translation of my text.

See: http://www.moonofalabama.org/2016/12/falsely-defamed-...-tv.html

It is inexplicable that you would "unknowingly influenced" structure that paragraph sentence by sentence in your copy exactly as I did in the original.

"Moreover I did make a reference to the MofA source in my manuscript but certainly not with respect to the core issue."

No, you did not!

When I read your copied piece first on Nov 30/Dec 1, after having noticed it through Mr. Rodinov's promotional tweet, I immediately saved the whole HTML page to a local disk. There was NO REFERENCE to MoA anywhere in there. MoA was only inserted as a source for a minor statement AFTER I later complained to Mr. Rodionov. The firsts saved version and the current one are now displayed in the updated post at my site and can be easily compared.

"What you declare as proof for your claim, namely the definition of a border, I have taken from the German „Duden“. And translated it is the same in English."

So, Mr. Rapp, you want to tell me that you hear Putin in Russian on a TV show and while writing about it in German for a German language news outlet you first look up the German version in the Duden but then -just by chance of course- insert the same link to the English freedictionary.com definition of "border" that I used in my text?!? Why would you use the English definition link for the word border in a German text at all? Why not use the German definition link from the Duden and insert that?

In your text you write the definition of border as "*Ein Band oder eine Linie um oder entlang der Kante von etwas."*

That**is no way consistent with any version in the Duden that you have claimed to have looked up. There is no "Kante" in any of those Duden definitions.

Please compare here: http://www.duden.de/rechtschreibung/Grenze

Indeed what you used in the RT text is a (bad) translation of the English freedictionary definition I used: "A part that forms the outer edge of something."

Your response is obviously not serious but pure obfuscation behind which you want to hide the plagiarism of my piece.

RT Deutsch is the publisher of the website where the text appeared as part of its regular content. It is as such fully responsible for the texts on that site. I will continue to correspond with RT Deutsch and RT central in Moscow about the issue and expect them to take the appropriate measures.

Bernhard

PS: Reading that sorry explanation for your plagiarism and then the "offer" in your PS: paragraph my mind flashed with the word "extortion"!

So far the current communication between Moon of Alabama/Bernhard, Russia Today Deutsch and the plagiarizing author.

I will leave it to the readers and commentators here to judge.

Posted by b on December 8, 2016 at 01:40 PM | Permalink | Comments (130)

December 07, 2016

As Regime Change By Takifiris Fails - GCC Lobbyists Call For U.S. Occupation of Upper Mesopotamia

The Aleppo battle is ending. Syria will win the war against foreign supported Takfiris as will Iraq. That requires new plans to implement the original aims of the war's instigators and sponsors.

This is a map of the east-Aleppo cauldron 2 days ago.

Map by @NatDefFor - bigger

This is the map as of this morning.

Map by @NatDefFor - bigger

Since this morning another part of the "rebel" held area in the south east of the cauldron, the Sheik Sa'ed quarters, has been liberated by Syrian government forces.

It is expected that the whole al-Qaeda "rebel" held area will be liberated and cleared of Takfiris as early as this weekend. Militants still there are offered to leave or to be - inevitably - killed.

You can compare those maps to the map (big) we posted in our last Aleppo piece. In total some 90% of the area held by the "rebels" just two weeks ago is now back in government hands. All "rebel" held areas north and north-east of the Citadel of Aleppo that yesterday were still held by al-Qaeda aligned Takfiris  are now in Syrian government hands. The last progress was possible when a group of local "rebels" gave up the fight and surrendered to Syrian government forces. For the first time in 5 years the Citadel's main entrance can now be reached from the government held west-Aleppo.

In total 28,700 civilians were found in and have left those formerly "rebel" held areas. That is a bit higher than our old estimate of some 25,000 max in total in east Aleppo but way lower than the 250,000, 300,000, 500,000 or 1,000,000 civilians that the UN and opposition media claimed.

After winning the Aleppo battle the Syrian government will have some 35,000 aligned troops freely available to liberate those other areas of Syria which are currently still held by foreign paid Takfiris, This is a quite huge, experienced force and one can expect that most of the work still needed to be done to liberate all of Syria will be finished within a few months.

In Iraq the government forces are fighting the last Islamic State remnants which hold the city of Mosul in a slightly similar siege situation as it was in Aleppo. But the fight in Mosul is more difficult because up to one million civilians are still in the city and the ISIS fighter there are fanatics who do not shy away from sending hundreds of schoolkids as suicide bombers against the approaching Iraqi forces. Should such resistance continue it might take months to retake the whole city.

Luckily for Syria the city of Mosul is now completely enclosed. The original U.S. plan was to let the western area of Mosul open so that ISIS fighters could escape to Syria. The Iraqi prime minister Abadi stopped those plans by sending Popular Mobilization Forces to close the wide western gap.

The U.S. had already prepared the field for retreating ISIS troops to eventually take the city of Deir Ezzor in east-Syria which is held by ISIS encircled Syrian government troops. It would have thereby created the "Salafist principality" that it envisioned since at least 2012. The Iraqi move to close off Mosul, supported by Iran and Russia, has finally sabotaged this plan.

As that plan for handing the eastern Syrian and western Iraqi areas to some "moderate ISIS" has now failed, the usual "expert" suspects, starting with Michael Weiss and Hassan Hassan, now argue for the U.S. to occupy the whole area and to set up permanent military U.S. bases to control the oil-rich Syrian east and western Iraq. The U.S. special forces working with Kurdish YPG units in the north-eastern area of Syria have already set up several small air-fields.

Write those permanent war lobbyists:

Developing these sites as solid anchors in the region will give the U.S. a badly needed intelligence-gathering capability in the Jazira, or Upper Mesopotamia, encompassing the arid plain that stretches across northwestern Iraq, northeastern Syria and southeastern Turkey.
...
Keeping contingents of U.S. forces in the region, meanwhile, will provide a credible deterrent helping to defend trusted and capable anti-ISIS fighters and deterring the Assad regime from any effort at reconquest.

Upper Mesopotamia, al Jazera ca. 80 BC - Map via Wikimedia

Such a U.S. occupation entity in Jazera would:

  • Block any traffic between Shia Iran and Iraq with the Syrian and Lebanese areas towards the Mediterranean coast. The so called Shia crescent would be interrupted by a U.S. controlled entity of mostly Sunni tribal inhabitants.
  • Create space for an envisioned Qatar-Turkey-Europe natural gas pipeline while blocking a potential Iran-Mediterranean-Europe natural gas pipeline through the same area.
  • Fulfill another step of the Yinon plan which calls for the disassembly of all Arab states into smaller entities to secure Israel's realm.

Expect more well bribed think tank "experts" to soon argue for such a lunatic new "mission" for U.S. forces.

President elect Donald Trump repeated yesterday that he will have none of such adventures:

[Trump] promised to make the military stronger than it has ever been, but said that under his leadership, the country would “stop racing to topple foreign regimes that we know nothing about.”

“This destructive cycle of intervention and chaos must finally come to an end,” he said.

We can hope that Trump will stick to this reasonable position and stays away from any further interference with the local affairs of the people of the Middle East and elsewhere.

Posted by b on December 7, 2016 at 02:11 PM | Permalink | Comments (130)

December 06, 2016

Russia Today Plagiarizes Moon of Alabama - Which Is The "Russian Propaganda Outlet"?

UPDATED below

This site, Moon of Alabama, gets defamed and falsely accused of being a "Russian propaganda outlet". One would assume that any such outlet would get its leads and orders from Russia or its media. We now find that it is the other way round. An official Russian state outlet is stealing content from us.

On November 28 RT Deutsch, the German TV and web edition of the Russian state financed global news outlet Russia Today, published an opinion piece by one Rainer Rupp. That piece is in its core idea and wide parts a rip-off and translated copy of a piece I wrote and published on Moon of Alabama on November 25.

After a complain Moon of Alabama is now mentioned as a source for specifically one small sentence in the RT Deutsch piece. But the whole idea that is the main theme of the piece if based on the MoA piece. Core paragraphs are nearly verbal (translated) copies. Their original authorship is not in any way marked or mentioned.

The content was simply stolen, including the links I provided, and published under the name of some author I do not even know.

When I, the original author, contacted RT Deutsch I first received no replies at all and only after insisting a promise to check the issue from the Director and editor in chief of RT Deutsch. A week later nothing has happened. Neither was I contacted back nor was a sufficient link or explanation added to the stolen content.

On November 30 the Director of RT Deutsch, Ivan Rodionov tweeted this promotion for a piece published at the RT site:


bigger

His tweet promoted a piece on his RT Deutsch website headlined: Putins "Witz" war todernst – und entlarvt die Halbbildung unserer "intellektuellen Eliten". (Translated: Putin's joke was dead serious - and exposes the superficial knowledge of our "intellectual elites".)


bigger

The piece is authored by one Rainer Rupp and was published as opinion piece at "deutsch.rt.com" on November 28 at 17:00 local time.

The original piece by me was published here on November 25 under the headline: Putin Tutors Euklidean Geometry - Pundits Say "All Greek To Me".

The gist: The "western" media made an "Imperial Putin wants to extend Russia's border" scandal out of a mathematical lecture Putin had given a pupil on public TV:

Putin asked a pupil: "Where do Russia's borders end?" The answer "nowhere" is the (only) mathematically and geographically correct one. The geographic area characterized by a border is limited. The circumferential (border) line is, by mathematical definition, not "limited" in the sense that it has no beginning and no end (it has a length though).

The RT Deutsch is widely based, even verbatim, on the Moon of Alabama piece but MoA is openly referred only in relation to one sentence:

Wie das Onlineportal Moon of Alabama darlegte, stürzten sich vor allem BBC, Newsweek, Daily Mail und Express gierig auf die vermeintliche Skandalisierungsvorlage.

(Translated: "As the online portal Moon of Alabama states, BBC, Newsweek, Daily Mail and Express are avidly jumping onto the assumed scandal." The links underlying "BBC" etc are in taken from my original.)

UPDATE (Dec 7 12:00am CET):

The above reference to MoA was only added after(!) my first complain to RT Deutsch director Ivan Rodinov. There is no editorial note attached to the piece to note or clarify the modification.

Here is a screenshot of a part of the RT Deutsch piece as saved on December 1 2016, 14:37 CET. There was no mentioning of Moon of Alabama in there at all:


bigger

Here is a screenshot of the current version of that same part. Moon of Alabama is now mentioned but only in a very limited sense:


bigger

End-Update

The additionally sneaked in mentioning of Moon of Alabama in the RT Deutsch piece is limited in its meaning to that one proposition it is attached to. But the author goes on to widely copy, with nearly verbatim translations, from the MoA piece. He is even using the links I provided in the original. It is not discernible to the reader that this content is from MoA and not the named author's original thought. Here is the core of the RT Deutsch piece:

Grundsätzlich lautet die Definition einer Grenze:
Ein Band oder eine Linie um oder entlang der Kante von etwas.
Ein Land, und zwar jedes Land, wird von einem Rand oder einer Linie rund um sein Territorium begrenzt. Diese Linie, die z.B. ein Kreis, ein Oval oder vielförmig sein kann, ist auch als "Grenze" bekannt. Aber ist diese Umfangslinie begrenzt? Wo beginnt die Umfangslinie eines Kreises und wo endet sie? Eine Umfangslinie hat per Definition keinen Anfang und kein Ende! Das ist aber genau das, was Putin gesagt hat: Russlands Grenze - also die Umfangslinie - endet nirgendwo.

My original:

The basic definition of a border is:
A part that forms the outer edge of something.
A country, any country, is defined by a limited area (or areas) with an area characterized by an outer edge and a circumferential line known as "a border". Does the circumferential line of, ideally, a circle have a limit? Does it have a beginning or an end? This is exactly what Putin asked the kid.

That paragraph - the explaining core of the piece - was translated sentence by sentence, nearly word one to one. It even repeated the link from the original to the English(!) definition of "border" in the German version.

The paragraph following the above about the "müde Publikum" (transl: "tired audience") in the copy is also obviously taken from the next paragraph about the "tired evening audience" in the original piece. And so on ...

It is evident that the RT Deutsch piece - its central idea and core paragraphs - was copied from my piece. It is obvious plagiarism. The only mentioning of Moon of Alabama is as a source to one specific sentence that is not relevant to the core idea. That is in no way enough. Rapp and RT Deutsch are selling a content as their original intellectual creation even as the core idea and sentences of that content are direct copies from my piece.

On December 1, when I first noted the copy, I publicly challenged RT Deutsch director Rodionov on Twitter to at least provide a more explicit link to my original piece. There was no response from Rodionov.

I then requested a statement from Rodionov via (private) Direct Message and offered to send a bill for providing that content to RT Deutsch. Later that day, December 1, Rodninov responded that he would "check the issue". A reference to MoA was silently added in relation to one single sentence of the piece.

Late on Friday, December 2, I gave Rodionov notice that I would write and eventually publish this piece. I have since heard neither from Rodionov nor from anyone else at RT.

This is not the first time Russia Today (ab)uses content from Moon of Alabama. On September 20 I wrote about the U.S. air attack on Syrian soldiers in Deir Ezzor and how this would possibly lead to "Salafist principality". Two days later RT English published a piece by author Pepe Escobar about the same issue that very heavily borrowed from my piece. Escobar explicitly writes that central ideas of his piece originate from my Moon of Alabama piece. Thanks, but it is still my content and without it that Escobar piece would have had nothing. (Esobar has copied from me for his pieces on several occasions. He mentioned MoA as his source in only some of these.)

But even if mentioned as source I am not happy with RT Deutsch or RT English publishing pieces that are essentially based on stuff I have created, researched and written for this site. Russia Today is financed by the Russian Federation. They have a not-so-small budget. If they publish and pay authors that take their essential stuff from me I also expect to get paid. I today make zero money from these writings but put a lot of effort into them. This site depends on charity from the readers to keep the equipment and this site running (and for more).

If the original stuff is so good why not contact me directly, publish (modified) content from MoA when it is timely and fresh and pay me for it instead of people who just copy or even plagiarize it days later?

The defamation and censorship organization ProPornOT.com, strongly promoted by the Washington Post, has listed Moon of Alabama as a "Russian propaganda outlet". It repeated that claim on Twitter:

Neither this site nor its proprietor and main author have ever received anything from Russia or any associated organization. What gets written at this site is based on personal research, values and opinion independent of any country. (For the record: In my view Russia under Putin is way too capitalistic and urgently needs to go back to a more socialist position.) We have no resources to fight the defamation by ProPornOT and the Washington Post. (A big thank you to Yves at Naked Capitalism and to Truth Dig for exemplary taking up that burden.)

It is quite ironic - and sad - then that this financially defenseless site gets defamed as "Russian propaganda outlet" while a legitimate Russian state propaganda organization, Russia Today, is stealing our content without proper attribution and without any compensation.

Posted by b on December 6, 2016 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

December 05, 2016

Syria Roundup: East-Aleppo Siege Nears Its End

This is the situation in east-Aleppo as of Dec 4, 6PM ET. The enclosed green area, held by al-Qaeda and its allies, will soon be gone.

Map via Fabrice Balanche - bigger

The British Foreign Minister says that the foreseeable Syrian government victory in Aleppo will not be a gain at all. Bollocks. He and his colleagues have obviously given up on the case and now issue face saving laments. Syria's alliance is winning, U.S. policy is changing and the end of the war is now foreseeable. The British MI-6 propaganda operation "Bana Alabed" expired. The operation's main star was a seven year old girl in east-Aleppo who could not speak English but tweeted world politics in perfect Twitter-English even when the Internet in all Aleppo was down. It has now vanished. This is just like one of the first anti-Syrian propaganda operations, the "Gay girl in Damascus", which expired in 2011 shortly before its male U.S. operator in Scotland was exposed. What will all the media who have willfully fallen for this "Bana" nonsense now tell their viewers and readers?

Since the start of the Syrian army offense on the Takfiri held east-Aleppo some 21,000+ civilians have left towards the government held areas in the western part. Several news accounts confirm that these civilians had been held hostages by the Takfiris and had to flee under fire:

"We were under pressure by all means, psychological and financial. The gunmen were trying to prevent us from leaving until the army came," said 36-year-old Amina Rwein, who fled with her husband, seven daughters and three sons.

"We came under fire from the gunmen as we were leaving and the army hit the minaret from where the sniper was shooting, and then we crossed," she said.

About 500 fighters among those civilians gave themselves up to the Syrian army. 480 of them were locals and where led go after they pledged to end all fighting.

The remaining rebels want to stay in the city and continued fighting until the end. This sabotages plans by Secretary of State Kerry who tries to get another ceasefire in which some al-Qaeda fighters would leave but other Takfiris kept in control of east-Aleppo. Kerry was late anyway. That deal was no longer on the table. The EU has even worse ideas - it wants to bribe the Syrian government to keep some Jihadis alive and in power. What a joke! The Russian and Syrian forces will not leave any enemy fighter in the area alive or any inch of Aleppo city grounds occupied by them. Later the same will apply to all of Syria.

New controlled exits for civilians and fighters who want to leave will be set up soon. All the old exit areas in the northern parts are now completely under Syrian government control.

I doubt that there are many, if any civilians left. As my original estimated from October 15 said:

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.

The UN Refugees Agency and UN officials told fairy tales of some 270,000 civilians under siege in east-Aleppo. Numbers every "western" media repeated without caveats. More than 60% of the areas have been liberated. The International Red Cross went there and they were empty. Where are all those hundred-thousands civilians the UN envisioned now?

There are still daily missile attacks from the Takfiri held areas on the government held western areas and each of these is costing lives. UPDATE: According to SANA 8 people were killed and 25 wounded today when the Takfiris fired missiles into residential areas of west-Aleppo. A Russian field hospital set up over the last days to help refugees from east Aleppo came under attack from the "moderate" Takfiris. A female Russian doctor was killed, several other personal were wounded and the hospital was (pics) destroyed. /UPDATE

These attacks create urgency to drain the cauldron as soon as possible. There are several other reason, next to that urgency, why the attack on east-Aleppo proceeds much faster than expected.

Whenever the Syrian army and its allies slow down their attacks infighting keeps the Jihadists in the cauldron busy. Yesterday the al-Qaeda group Jabhat al-Nusra joined the CIA equipped Zinki group in attacks on the headquarters of some local armed groups who had control over stores filled with food and ammunition. Such moments of infighting are ideal for the attacking Syrian forces to go forward in unexpected ways.

The Syrian government forces do not proceed along the lines military professionals expected. They do not attack along main roads or obvious axes with enemy checkpoints and prepared traps but probe from every side until they find a weakness and then go through lightly defended densely build up areas to attack the checkpoint defenders from the rear. The 25,000 Syrian army fighters and the 10,000 foreign allies (4,000 from Iraq, 4,000 provided by Iran and 2,000 Hizbullah from Lebanon) have unprecedented air support from Syrian planes and helicopters. Reports of "Russian bombing" of east-Aleppo are all false and have been false for the last six weeks. Only the Syrian airforce is active in the area.

The general plan is to squeeze all the Takfiris into one small area in east-Aleppo (probably the "old city") and to then negotiate their departure to Idleb in north-west Syria. Idelb itself is already filled with infighting Jihadis of various stripes who were offered exit to it from several areas around Damascus, Homs and Hama. It will soon be a shooting alley for the Syrian and Russian air-forces. The Jihadis will flee to Turkey, which is a nightmare for Erdogan, and maybe onward from there into "western" European cities. There they will be pampered and rest until their masters call for another battle.

Posted by b on December 5, 2016 at 04:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (141)

December 03, 2016

Open Thread 2016-40

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 3, 2016 at 10:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (187)

Roy Gutman's Hakawati

The so called "journalist" Roy Gutman is marketing an old fairy tale in three acts. It was the Syrian President Assad who created ISIS. Assad also faked the Al-Qaeda bombings in Syria to get sympathy in the "west". The Daily Beast even paid Gutman to publish this nonsense:

This series charts Assad’s major role in the rise of Islamic extremism from the inside.
...
the regime likely staged bombings of its own security facilities in 2011 and 2012 to foster the impression that al Qaeda had an armed presence in Syria long before it did.
...
Syrian intelligence received orders to stand by when al Qaeda fighters crossed from Iraq into Syria in 2012.

But where did Gutman get such extraordinary information? On would think that some very credible witnesses were needed and on-the-ground research would be necessary to verify these claims. But as he himself writes:

Raed Ilawy, an Islamist recruit from Hama, was among the Syrians who traveled to the mosque. Some of the trainers, he recalled in an interview at an Istanbul café, ...

and

Dendal was introduced to this reporter by a former regime judge from Aleppo who deserted to the opposition. Interviewed in a café in Istanbul’s popular Fatih district, ...

Deserters and Islamist activists telling stories which blame their declared enemies - excellent witnesses. Those stories then must be true. Right? Gutman himself writes that the CIA does not believe the fairy tales he was told over coffee in Istanbul, nor does anyone else who is knowledgeable about the issue. Gutman is unable to get any official confirmation for his claims. Indeed the DNI refutes his tales:

The CIA declined to comment but did not dispute the validity of the question. “I looked into this, and there is nothing we can add,” a spokeswoman said.
...
The CIA declined to comment.
...
After bombings in Damascus Jan. 6 and Aleppo Feb. 10, 2012, James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, told Congress in mid-February that the explosions “had all the earmarks of an al Qaeda-like attack.” He added: “And so we believe al Qaeda in Iraq is extending its reach into Syria.

In 2012 Rania Abouzeid interviewed Jabhat al Nusra (al-Qaeda) fighters in Raqqa and wrote about it for Time. They confirm that many came from Iraq and were silently in Syria even before the "revolution".

But whatever - activists say the Syrian government did it ... - is all the validity Gutman needs.

In the second act of the farce Gutman meets another witness:

the actual numbers were smaller, according to Abdullah Hakawati, an activist who helped organize anti-government protests in Aleppo ... Hakawati provided the name of the officer, but he could not be reached to verify the account.

Elijah Magnier urged Gutman (who does not speak Arabic) to find out what that activist's alleged surname means.

From the description of a book titled The Hakawati we learn:

As the family gathers, stories begin to unfold: Osama's grandfather was a hakawati, or storyteller, and his bewitching tales are interwoven with classic stories of the Middle East.

So this was one of Gutman's witnesses?


Pic: Syria: ‘al-Hakawati’ – the Storytelling Tour in Sweden 2015

Ha! Some Syrian activist made a joke over duping a gullible journalist over coffee in Istanbul by giving his name as Mr. Storyteller! Dumb as bricks the journalist and his editors at the Daily Beast fall for it.

Gutman stenographed a great fairy tale just as the various hakawatis in Istanbul's cafes tell it. With that he vividly demonstrated how "fake news" are created. I doubt though that this was his intention.

(Edited Sun, Dec 4, 0:45am, CIA part corrected with added quotes - b.)

Posted by b on December 3, 2016 at 10:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (45)

December 02, 2016

December 1942 - Expert: A Soviet Occupation Of Stalingrad Would Be Too Costly

Stalingrad, December 1942.

The German 6th Army and attached allied forces under General Paulus are surrounded and besieged by the Soviet Red Army. A relief attack from the outside of the cauldron has failed. The besieged have few supplies and can not hold out on their own.

But Karl Auflister, a Soviet Union expert working at the Slavic Institute in Berlin, does not believe that the Red Army will storm the city.

"The Soviets are hedging their bets. They would prefer to make a deal with the German forces," he said. "If Stalingrad were to fall, the Soviet regime would need so many troops to hold the city that its forces would be left thin elsewhere in the country."

Some readers may have problems with the logic Mr. Auflister applied. Why would the Soviets need more troops to hold a reconquered Stalingrad than they need to besiege it?

But what do you know. You ain't an expert.

Mr Auflister, the expert, is very serious. Here is the relevant snippet from the Financial Times.

 

Posted by b on December 2, 2016 at 02:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

December 01, 2016

Russia Again Disciplines The Wannabe Sultan

The Russians just gave (again) a public lecture of how to handle the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan.

Turkey entered Syria to end al-Assad’s rule: President Erdoğan  - November 29

The Turkish military launched its operations in Syria to end the rule of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Nov. 29.

“In my estimation, nearly 1 million people have died in Syria. These deaths are still continuing without exception for children, women and men. Where is the United Nations? What is it doing? Is it in Iraq? No. We preached patience but could not endure in the end and had to enter Syria together with the Free Syrian Army [FSA],” Erdoğan said at the first Inter-Parliamentary Jerusalem Platform Symposium in Istanbul.

“Why did we enter? We do not have an eye on Syrian soil. The issue is to provide lands to their real owners. That is to say we are there for the establishment of justice. We entered there to end the rule of the tyrant al-Assad who terrorizes with state terror. [We didn’t enter] for any other reason,” the president said.

If Turkish troops were in Syria to remove its President, instead with the flimsy excuse of fighting ISIS under a badly fitting UN mandate, they would be a hostile invasion force and a legitimate target for Syria and its allies. The remark was thus stupid.  It weakened the Turkish position.

Erdogan was immediately told so:

Kremlin asks Erdogan to clarify ‘anti-Assad’ goals in Syria - November 30

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s statement that his goal in Syria was to end the rule of Bashar Assad has caused consternation in the Kremlin, with officials saying it contradicted previous assurances and was out of sync with Moscow’s take on the situation.

"The statement was indeed news, this is a very serious statement. [It] is in discord with the previous [statements] in general and with our understanding of the situation," Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Wednesday.

"We hope that in the near future there will be explanations on this from our Turkish partners," he said, adding that Russia is the only country whose armed forces are in Syria on a legitimate basis – at the direct request of the Syrian authorities.

The emphasized part is a hardly hidden direct threat. Erdogan put his forces in Syria into immediate jeopardy.

Erdogan tried to save the situation, promising a retreat from his statement for at least some gain for the Jihadis he supports.

Erdogan and Putin discuss #Aleppo for the third time this week: Disagreement over ceasefire? - November 30

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan discussed the grave situation in the Syrian city of Aleppo with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin by phone on Nov. 30 for the third time in a week, with the two “agreeing on the need for a ceasefire,” presidential sources said.

The sources said the two leaders agreed to step up efforts to stop clashes in Aleppo and deliver humanitarian aid to civilians in the besieged city.

That was the Turkish version of the call. The Russian statement on that call was sparse and did not mention any ceasefire.

Thus this translation from Diplomatese:

"I will take that statement back if you give me a ceasefire deal in Aleppo," Erdogan told President Putin.

"Screw you," was the response.

Turkey, Russia see need for Aleppo truce but divisions remain - December 1

Lavrov said the bloodshed must stop in Syria and the region, that Moscow was ready to talk to all parties in the war, and that it would continue cooperating with Turkey. But he also vowed Russia would continue its operations in eastern Aleppo and would rescue the city from what he described as terrorists.

Erdogan's statement, aimed at his supporters in Turkey and elsewhere, created a legal mess for his troops. The attempt to sell a retreat from it for some gain was harshly rejected by Russia. Now all Erdogan could do was to take his statement back with no gain at all. This was quite a loss of face for him - a well deserved one.

Operation in Syria only targets terror, Erdoğan clarifies - December 1

Turkey’s military operation in Syria is not against any country or person but terror groups in general, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said, in contrast to earlier remarks that Turkey’s objective was to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad following.

The aim of the Euphrates Shield Operation is no country or person but only terror organizations. No one should doubt this issue that we have uttered over and over, and no one should comment on it in another fashion or try to [misrepresent its meaning],” Erdoğan said at a 30th gathering with village chiefs at the Presidential Palace in Ankara on Dec. 1.

Hahaha - see how that dog pulls its tail between its legs - whining in retreat?

The game Erdogan tried would probably have worked with Merkel, or some other EU politician. Russia will have none of it. No means no. When Russia says stay out of Al-Bab it means stay out of Al-Bab. With regard to Syria Erdogan now has to do what he is told to do. He was just publicly lectured about that again. Still, I doubt that he really learned the lesson.

Posted by b on December 1, 2016 at 11:04 AM | Permalink | Comments (106)

 
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