Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-04

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 30, 2017 at 12:44 PM | Permalink | Comments (249)

January 29, 2017

Outrage About Trump Exposes "Librul" Hypocrisy

The current "librul" outrage about Trump's announced policies is somewhat amusing. Yes, these policies are bad, very bad. Trump is bad. But so was Obama and so is Clinton. Protesting the policies of one while not protesting when the other implemented the same policies is insincere grandstanding.

Wherever you look, those Trump policies are building directly on, or simply repeat Obama policies. The now theatrically outraged people swallowed those without a word of protest.

A Trump order yesterday introduced a temporary ban on visa holders and visa issuing to citizens of seven Middle East countries. These countries are: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Those countries have one thing in common. No terrorist who killed on U.S. soil originated from them. The (few) terrorists who attacked within the U.S. came from the Middle Eastern countries not on the list. Following Trump's order, outcries on social media and in various papers ensued. People went to airports to protest. TV was there to spread the news.

But it is nothing new that the citizens of those countries are targeted with U.S. visa restrictions. It was Obama who introduced such in 2015 and 2016. The Trump order links directly to them. It does not name any country but refers to them as "countries designated in Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated appropriations act."

U.S animosities against these countries is even older. According to the former general Clark, plans were made to wage war against six of the now named seven countries back in 2001. Yemen was later added while Lebanon was (temporarily?) taken off the list. The administrations change, the selected "enemies" stay the same.

In 2011 Obama stopped processing Iraqi visa requests for six month. That move was quite similar to Trump's current one. Where was the outcry in 2001? In 2011, 2015 and 2016? Is it only bad when Trump restricts visits for certain people from certain countries?

Sure, Trump introduces his "outrageous" measures loud and abruptly where Obama sneaked them in. But that is just different marketing, not a different product.

It is the coin that is bad, not just one side of it.

This morning CNN headlines: White House discussing asking foreign visitors for social media info and cell phone contacts. HOW OUTRAGEOUS! How can Trump even think of such an invasion of privacy! Fake outrage - Obama had already signed off on this. The plans to collect social media accounts of traveling visitors and citizens were officially introduced in October 2016 and the implementation started in December 2016. The Trump White House is late in discussing the issue.

Yesterday Trump also issued a memorandum to structure his National Security Council. It says that the Director of National Intelligence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Staff "shall attend" when it is pertinent to the issue in question. "Librul" outrage ensues. Trump excludes the DNI and CJCOS from the NSC! Obama's first Defense Secretary calls it a "huge mistake"! But a comparison of the text Trump issued with the text Obama issued when he came into office shows them to be mostly similar. Nothing really relevant has changed. The "shall attend" clause is exactly the same.

Yesterday people were protesting at airports against Trump's temporary immigration restrictions. Lots of outrage against Trump ensued on social media over this and the other issues. The hypocrisy here stinks to high heaven. Where were the protest when Obama did similar?

Where are the protests demanding the repeal of the Patriot Act? Where are the anti-war protests? These died as soon as Obama came into office. They never came back even as Obama pursued polices that were, at best, Republican light and far from any progressive ideal. Only fake liberals, aka "libruls", could agree with these. When Dick Cheney is your witness against Trump you have lost the plot.

Many of the people coming out now against Trump would likely have jubilated had Hilliary Clinton won the election and introduced the exactly same policies. Protest against the system that is incorporated in Trump, just as it is incorporated in Clinton, does not come to their mind. Do they expect to be taken serious?

There was no outrage today from any of the U.S. "libruls" and their media outlets about last nights failed U.S. military raid in Yemen. The rural home of a tribal leader's family, friendly with some Yemeni al-Qaeda members, was raided by a special operations commando. A U.S. tiltrotor military aircraft was shot down during the raid. One soldier was killed and several were wounded. The U.S. commandos responded with their usual panic. They killed anyone in sight and bombed the shit out of any nearby structure. According to Yemeni sources between 30 and 57 Yemenis were killed including eight women and eight children (graphic pics). The U.S. military claimed, as it always does, that no civilians were hurt in the raid.

One of the killed kids was the 8 year old daughter of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki. (The targeted family is related to al-Awlaki's wife.) The girl was a U.S. citizen. Under Obama the CIA had already assassinated her father and her 16 year old brother. With Obama's active help the Gulf countries have been bombing and destroying Ýemen for nearly two years. No U.S. demonstrations were held against this war.

Yemeni sources say that at least two men were abducted by the U.S. military. The Central Command press release only said that the raid had helped to acquire "intelligence" about possible future terror acts. That probably means that the prisoners will be tortured to unveil such "intelligence" even as they may not have any. The Obama administration had introduced new rules for the military on how to handle detainees. The UN judged that the application of some of these rules is torture. The "libruls" will of course be outraged should any of those rules, which Obama introduced, be used under a Trump administration.

The hypocritical outrage against Trump for things Obama already did is exactly what Trump wants and needs. He keeps chasing the media and the Clintonistas around the block. The impression he leaves, not only with his followers, is that of a man who works a lot. 25 outrages out of 25 headlines in just one week? "Impressive! That is way more than Obama achieved!"

Trump already filed for reelection. Who really wants to beat him will have to attack him on fundamental issues. That is a problem for the "libruls". Obama and Clinton stand for the same terrible policies Trump is pushing for. They are not as loud as Trump and paint their aims in softer colors. But the difference is only one of degree.

The U.S., like many other "western" countries, needs fundamentally different policies and politicians to become a more just and social society. The current "librul" outcries take energy away from achieving such.

Posted by b on January 29, 2017 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (152)

January 28, 2017

The End Of Mingling - "Moderate Rebels" Join Al-Qaeda In Syria

There was a lot of confusion about the infighting in the "rebel" held Idleb governate in Syria. The situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive, al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the "moderate rebels" but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.

Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)

The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest "rebel" group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and U.S. supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar has joined al-Qaeda.


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The "new" Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.

The now further enlarged al-Qaeda formation under the new name Tahrir Al-Sham is by far the biggest "rebel" dog in the Idleb-region town with now many more than its previous 10,000 active fighters. Of all other groups the "moderate" side of the split Ahrar al-Sham is the biggest one. It is estimated to have some 5,000 fighters. Left beside it are just splinters of those groups (like Zinki) that mainly crossed over to al-Qaeda. Some local warlords and their small gangs are also still around. These groups will continue to receive Turkish and U.S. support. But they will have no chance against the much more powerful al-Qaeda collective.

The leader of al-Qaeda in Syria al-Julani made a huge mistake by initiating this open split from the "moderates". The group can now no longer hide by "mingling" with the CIA supported "moderates". When it is attacked by the Syrian government it can no longer claim to be a victim. As it is a UN designated terrorist group it will receive no significant outside support. It can not even go into guerrilla mode because the "fish" (the guerrilla) will have no "water" (a sympathetic local population) to swim in.

This plays well into the Russian hands which initiated the Astana peace conference exactly for this purpose. The U.S. under Obama and Kerry had declared it impossible to separate al-Qaeda in Syria from the "moderate rebels" it supported. The Astana conference and in its consequence the now open al-Qaeda conflict with the "moderates" achieved the separation. The "moderates" left now can only join al-Qaeda, make peace with the Syrian government and its allies or flee the country to survive.

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In other news the Syrian government forces have finally recaptured the Ayn al-Feejah in Wadi Barada that supplies Damascus with drinking water. 5.5 million people were cut off from tap water when the Takfiris captured, poisoned and blocked the spring 44 days ago. After three earlier deals had failed the now defeated Takfirs agreed to being transported to Idleb.

Posted by b on January 28, 2017 at 02:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (103)

Trump-art Caption Contest

Any caption idea for this Trump "art"?


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How about this?


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Please leave your captions in the comments.

Thank you for your contribution.

Posted by b on January 28, 2017 at 02:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

January 27, 2017

Fake News Of "Interests" And "Intervention"

U.S. and other media continue their strong move towards baseless, aka fake, news. We recently caught the New York Times claiming that Russia started the war in Georgia, something the NYT had earlier debunked itself. The Washington Post claimed that Russian hackers were sneaking into the U.S. electricity grid. The story fell apart within a few hours. Nothing in it was true. Hundreds of pieces were written about "peaceful demonstrator" rebels in Syria, about 250,000 civilians besieged in Aleppo or Syrian government bombings of hospitals that lacked any base in reality.

That onslaught of fake news by repudiated media continues unabated in print, web and TV.

Yesterday a sensational piece in the Washington Post claimed that The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned:

The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.

The simple truth: These were people in political positions who serve "at the pleasure of the President". They got fired even though some of them wanted to stay on. For bureaucratic reasons they had to write formal resignation letters. They did so after they were told to leave. There was also nothing sensational about that. It happens with any change of the President. As the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) explained:

While this appears to be a large turnover in a short period of time, a change of administration always brings personnel changes, and there is nothing unusual about rotations or retirements in the Foreign Service.

Only one higher manager in the State Department "survived" the 2001 change of administration from Clinton to Bush. There was no reason to think that the current change would be any different.

Another fake news item currently circling is that Trump has given order to the military to create safe zones for Syria. The reality is still far from it:

[H]is administration crafted a draft order that would direct the Pentagon and the State Department to submit plans for the safe zones within 90 days. The order hasn't yet been issued.

The draft of the order, which will be endlessly revised, says that safe zones could be in Syria or in neighboring countries. The Pentagon has always argued against such zones in Syria and the plans it will submit, should such an order be issued at all, will reflect that. The safe zones in Syria ain't gonna happen.

Another fake news item comes in the description of a Theresa May speech she yesterday held in front of U.S. Republicans. The BBC headlines: Theresa May: UK and US cannot return to 'failed' interventions. Sky News likewise headlines: Theresa May warns US and UK cannot return to 'failed' interventions. From the BBC piece:

BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mrs May was signalling there would be no more wars like those in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan, and it was significant that she had chosen her US speech to signal such a shift.

BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins said it was a hugely significant speech, arguably the biggest by a UK PM in the US since Tony Blair's 1999 speech in Chicago advocating armed interventionism against dictators - something repudiated by Mrs May.

The claims by these BBC commentators are ludicrous. May did not call for less intervention as those comments make seem. Indeed she argued for more intervention. She argued against interventions for "values" (which were anyway always just a propaganda ploy) but strongly called for intervention for "interests". She of course would not like such interventions to 'fail'. From her speech:

It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.

This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over. But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.

Shorter: "It is in the U.S. (and our ass-kissing country's) interest to defend its interests by intervening for the sake of its interests."

May destroys the fake facade of liberal interventionism, the "responsibility to protect" nonsense, and argues for wars of aggression for purely monetary or geo-political reasons - "interests" as she calls it.

That is not, as the BBC claims, "signalling that there would be no more wars like those in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan" but the opposite. There will be more such wars and all will predictably end with bad consequences for those invaded as well as for those who invade.

This is May's approval for Trump's call for stealing Iraq's oil:

[H]e suggested the costly and deadly occupation of the country might have been offset somewhat if the United States had taken the country's rich petroleum reserves.

"To the victor belong the spoils," Trump told members of the intelligence community, saying he first argued this case for "economic reasons."
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"So we should have kept the oil," he said. "But, OK, maybe you'll have another chance."

With stealing Iraq's oil the invasion would have been in the U.S. and UK's "interest". As such it would not have "failed".

(The end result though, would have likely been the same. The U.S. and its British sidekick would have been kicked out of the country.)

To turn such talk around and argue, as the BBC does, that May "repudiated" such wars, is worse than simple fake news. It is Orwellian.

Posted by b on January 27, 2017 at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (100)

January 26, 2017

Al-Qaeda Consolidates Its Front Groups In Syria

A few days ago Al-Qaeda in Syria and the Salafist Takfiri group Ahrar al Sham produced a show claiming they were fighting each other. I fell for it and wrote:

The Turkish, Russian and Iranian governments had agreed on talks in Astana in Kazakhstan between delegations from "moderate" militant groups in Syria and the Syrian government. Ahrar al Sham, which ideologically borders between al-Qaeda and the "moderates", was also invited. It declined to take part in solidarity with the not invited designated terrorist group Jaish Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front aka al-Qaeda in Syria).

Russia had suggested the talks with the intent of separating the "moderate" Takfiris under Turkish control from the designated "terrorist" Takfiris. The talks had no immediate results but still achieved their purpose. Shortly after the talks began al-Qaeda attacked Ahrar al Sham. After some on and off fighting al-Qaeda started yesterday to attack all "moderate" Takfiri groups in Idleb and Aleppo governate.

I was wrong. Ahrar did not fight with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda did not attack it. As far as one can tell they coordinated their actions for the purpose of eliminating smaller "rebel" groups under the disguise of Takfiri infighting. Those smaller groups are led by local war lords and supported by Turkey and the CIA. They all had earlier cooperated with al-Qaeda which provided the "storm troopers" for their attacks on Syrian government forces. They recently took part in the Astana talks while Ahrar declined in solidarity with al-Qaeda.

The ruse came to light when the "reports" of Ahrar and al-Qaeda infighting were not followed up with any reports of casualties, neither from the sides of those groups nor from any other account. How can there have been fighting when no one was killed or wounded?

Ehsani explains the situation:

Thread on Battles in #Idlib: All battles that took place in Naaman & Jabal Al Zawiye are imaginary battles that were essentially prearranged
2-The main purpose of these prearranged battles is to swap checkpoints of #Ahrar with #Nusra and vice versa
3-Even the v public battle in village of Dana is also imaginary as shooting that took place involved firing in the air around Dana crossing
4-Even news of arrest of the two Nusra security officers is untrue as both spent the time at residence of Amr al jeldi, Emir of #Ahrar
5-This #Ahrar Emir's residence in M'araa acted as joint operations center for both #Ahrar & #Nusra to coordinate this entire scenario
6-Importantly, it appears that there has not been a single casualty yet during these entire so-called battles

That report has since been confirmed by several other accounts and sources on the ground.

Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jaish Fateh al-Sham aka Nusra Front) did attack several local groups, raided their headquarters and confiscated their CIA supplied weapon and ammunition caches. One major alliance of local groups, the Army of Mujaheddin, was eliminated. Other local groups took refuge by joining Ahrar al-Sham:

SOHR was informed that the factions of Soqor al-Sham, alMOjahdin Army, Eqtasim Kama Amart grouping, al-Islam Army in Idlib and the Shamia front in western Aleppo, joined Ahrar al-Sham Islamic faction against Fateh al_Sham front

It seem that the plan for now is to keep Ahrar al-Sham as a "moderate" front group for al-Qaeda while eliminating all other "moderate" forces on the ground. Parts of Ahrar al-Sham take part in the Turkish "Euphrates Shield" operation against the Islamic State while al-Qaeda in Syria is no longer openly supported by the Turkish state.

The ruse of the claimed fight between Ahrar and al-Qaeda is used to uphold a distinction between these groups even when hardly any exists. Ahrar al-Sham was, like al-Qaeda in Syria, founded by a senior member of al-Qaeda central under command of the al-Qaeda's central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.

There once were components within Ahrar that argued for a less radical course. But other significant parts had argued for officially joining al-Qaeda. The middle ground found now is to cooperated with al-Qaeda as a means for absorbing all other "rebel" groups on the ground while keeping up good relations with Turkey.

Some (minor) ideological differences between Ahrar and al-Qaeda in Syria still exist. It is expected that a fight for primacy will indeed start between (parts of) these two groups in the not so distant future. But that will only happen after all weaker groups on the ground are eliminated and after Ahrar is exposed and can no longer act as a Turkish supported intermediary for weapons and other supplies.

The Associated Press still reports fighting between Ahrar and Al-Qaeda based on quotes of the Gulf propagandist Charles Lister. Like us it fell for the ruse. Unlike us it will probably stick to the fake version. The ruse will thus have worked in deceiving the "western" public and decision makers.

Posted by b on January 26, 2017 at 07:51 AM | Permalink | Comments (124)

January 24, 2017

Syria - "Rebel" Infighting And Turkish Losses Help the Government And Its Allies

On the last days of the Obama administration the U.S. military hit a large Al-Qaeda training camp in Idleb governate in Syria. The camp was known as a training area for European fighters.  B-52 strategic bombers dropped a large amount of bombs on the camp Over 100 people were killed in the attack. The camp's existence, though probably not the exact location, was known since 2013 but the U.S. had not touched it before. Some suggested that the attack had the purpose of destroying evidence of U.S.-al-Qaeda cooperation in Syria.

The Turkish, Russian and Iranian governments had agreed on talks in Astana in Kazakhstan between delegations from "moderate" militant groups in Syria and the Syrian government. Ahrar al Sham, which ideologically borders between al-Qaeda and the "moderates", was also invited. It declined to take part in solidarity with the not invited designated terrorist group Jaish Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front aka al-Qaeda in Syria).

Russia had suggested the talks with the intent of separating the "moderate" Takfiris under Turkish control from the designated "terrorist" Takfiris. The talks had no immediate results but still achieved their purpose. Shortly after the talks began al-Qaeda attacked Ahrar al Sham. After some on and off fighting al-Qaeda started yesterday to attack all "moderate" Takfiri groups in Idleb and Aleppo governate. (Al-Qaeda is allied with Jund al-Aqsa, an ISIS splinter group, and with the Zinki group, a CIA vetted "moderate" gang known for receiving TOW missiles from the CIA as well as for the beheading of a Palestinian child.) As al-Qaeda it is the biggest group on the rebel held ground it can only be fought by a united opposition. That fight is currently ongoing.

The separation of "moderates" from "terrorists" has thereby happened. Russia had asked the U.S. for over a year to help with the separation. But all Russian agreements with the State Department were sabotaged by the CIA and the U.S. military and the U.S. claimed that the groups were too "mingled" with al-Qaeda to be separated. from them Now, without U.S. interference, the separation has happened.

The "moderate" groups depending on Turkish supplies are now also fighting al-Qaeda and have thereby a common enemy with the Syrian government. Russia will surely try to diplomatically build upon that commonalty.

The Russian and Syrian military are holding back from the area. One should not disturb the enemy when it is making mistakes. Let the Takfiris fight each other and sort themselves out. What is left after that fight will be easier to defeat.

The situation in Damascus is still bad. The water from Wadi Barada on which 5-6 million people in Damascus depend is still cut off. Several ceasefire agreements in Takfiri held Wadi Barada were broken by al-Qaeda elements. During the last one the main Syrian negotiator was killed by an al-Qaeda sniper when visiting the area. The Syrian army has surrounded the Wadi and intense fighting is going to liberated the occupied water wells.

Further south preparations seem to be ongoing for a rearming of Takfiri groups via Jordon. During the last days the Syrian government interdicted  the smuggling of at least 19 TOW missiles and large amounts of other ammunition. Someone has plans to reignite a fight in the south which had been quiet for most of the last year.

Around al-Bab east of Aleppo the Turkish army is still trying to take the city of al-Bab away from ISIS. The Turks depend on a lousy infantry made up of some Syrian rebel groups and are weakened due to Erdogan's purges of the Turkish army and airforce. Over a third of the pilots have been kicked out of the service. Many others are under investigation. IThe Turkish soldiers seem to have little will to fight. Yesterday 34 soldiers failed to show up at a hearing in Istanbul over alleged participation in the coup against Erdogan. They are fighting somewhere near al-Bab and had received no court notice. Some air force pilots have to check in with the police when they start to fly against ISIS and have to again check in with the police when they come back. They are not allowed "to leave the country" but still get orders to bomb in Syria. It is no wonder that such an army is incapable of effective fighting. Yesterday 5 Turkish soldiers were killed and two more main battle tanks were lost. Turkey makes no progress at al Bab but has steady losses of men and heavy equipment.

South of al-Bab the Syrian army has started an operation to clean ISIS territory between the Qweiris airbase and the city. It may well reach al-Bab from the south before the Turks come near to it from the north.

Further east the U.S. supported Kurdish SDF is nearing the Tabqa Euphrates dam west of the ISIS capitol Raqqa. Capturing the dam will be very difficult. In a warning ISIS opened several gates of the dam and further downstream flooding is now a serious concern. Blowing up the dam would have catastrophic results for many people in east Syria as well as in Iraq.

Further east the fighting in Deir Ezzor continues. The city is besieged by ISIS and a large attack recently managed to split the Syrian army garrison from the living quarters of the 100,000 inhabitants under government protection. Air supplies were impossible.

A large Russian air campaign has helped to push ISIS back. Up to a 100 strikes per day have disabled ISIS artillery in the area and helicopter landings to bring in supply and reinforcements are now again possible. Food supplies for the population are again being dropped from large transport planes. During the last three days the Russian airforce flew strategic bombers from Russian territory to Deir Ezzor and intensely bombed ISIS held positions. ISIS reinforcements coming from Raqqa and Palmyra were interdicted before they could reach the area. Deir Ezzor already looked lost but it now may survive the latest ISIS attempt to storm it.

In various areas of Syria different configurations of enemies and allies are fighting each other. The situation seems to get more complicate by the day as Turkey and the U.S. are permanently changing their positions and intentions. While U.S. supported "moderates" in the north fight the former allied al-Qaeda, the "moderates" in the south receive resupplies despite their intimate local alliance with al-Qaeda. ISIS is fought by the U.S. in coalition with the Kurds but not in coalition with its NATO ally Turkey. Meanwhile ISIS is supported by the U.S. in its campaigns against the Syrian army.

Turkey is hopelessly lost. It barely controls the "moderates" in the north and any fighting against al-Qaeda and ISIS will find a brutal terror echo in Syrian cities. Its campaign against al-Bab is stuck but with mounting losses. How long will it take Erdogan to finally give up on his neo-Ottoman dreams about new Turkish land in Syria?

One might hope that the new U.S. administration will find some sense and engage in a coalition with Syria and Russia to eliminate all Takfiris on Syrian ground - ISIS, al-Qaeda and any "moderate" Islamist group that rejects to make peace. But the Trump administration is not (yet) organized at all. Some groups within it see their priority in fighting Iran which is needed to make peace in Syria as well as in Iraq, Afghanistan and maybe even in Yemen. Others want to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda, others see Russia as the biggest enemy. Fighting all at the same time is simply not possible. But is there someone who can set the priorities? A compromise strategy within the administration will be a chaotic mishmash of tactical measures that will contradict each other. That is what I expect to see.

It may well take months if not a year before sanity will settle in and some reasonable plan will emerge. Until then Syria will stay in a chaotic fight though with a growing advantage on the side of the government and its allies.

Posted by b on January 24, 2017 at 03:03 PM | Permalink | Comments (114)

January 23, 2017

Distracted Media Fails To Catch Trump Policy Decisions

For two days the media have been busy counting people gathering in Washington DC. 90.3% of the voters in Washington DC had chosen Clinton.

A recent DC gathering of a Republican aligned crowd on a rainy work-day attracted many people. A following gathering of a Democratic aligned crowd on a work-free day without rain attracted more people.

The media watched, counted and was "astonished". Thousands of lines of "political analyses" were written to explain the difference of the crowd size without mentioning the significance of where it happened, what day of the week it happened and the environmental circumstances. The result of such analysis was a lot of bullshit.

The new Trump administration was quite happy about this diversion of attention. It additionally lampooned the media when its new spokesperson condemned the press for not being able to count at all. More lines of bullshit analysis were written about that insult.

Just like during the election campaign the media fell for the cheap stunt and thereby missed the serious processes and the decisions that were taking place behind the curtains.

Today the Trump administration announced the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement:

The president’s withdrawal from the Asian-Pacific trade pact amounted to a drastic reversal of decades of economic policy in which presidents of both parties have lowered trade barriers and expanded ties around the world. Although candidates have often criticized trade deals on the campaign trail, those who made it to the White House, including President Barack Obama, ended up extending their reach.

The NYT seems astonished that, unlike Obama, Trump stood by his words. The media had expected different and was distracted. It failed to report the issue until the decision was taken.

The TPP would have imposed "free trade" on more countries and products. The "free" in those trades would have meant that private companies would have been "free" to overrule national governments and their jurisdiction. They could have sued for "compensation" if a country, for public health or environmental reasons, rejected or hindered one of their businesses. Everyone should be happy that this monster died.

In another policy surprise a new coordination between Russian and U.S. intelligence circles in Syria is bearing fruits:

Russia has received coordinates of Daesh targets in Al-Bab, Aleppo Province, from the US via the 'direct line,' the Russian Defense Ministry said Monday.

The United States has provided coordinates of the terrorists' targets in the city of Al-Bab in Aleppo province for Russian airstrikes. After the reconnaissance check, Russia and two coalition jets have conducted joint airstrikes on the Daesh targets in the region.

The U.S. military seems to deny:

Any involvement or participation of American assets on the ground in country, in support of a series of Russian airstrikes against the northern Syrian town of al-Bab was “100 percent false,” said Pentagon spokesman Maj. Adrian Rankine-Galloway.

The U.S. coalition spokesperson also said it is:

"not coordinating airstrikes with the Russian military in Syria"

Before jumping up and down and claiming that the Russians are lying the media should take a fine comb and reread the statements.

The DoD only denied it coordinated airstrikes or helped with "assets on the ground". It does not deny the transfer of coordinates. The Russians do not claim U.S. airplanes took part in the mission - only "coalition jets". Turkey is part of the U.S. coalition and coordinates airstrikes with the Russian forces in Syria:

Earlier, Russian and Turkish combat planes have carried out a new series of joint airstrikes against Daesh targets in war-torn Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Monday.

"The Russian and Turkish planes carried out joint airstrikes against Islamic State terrorists in the outskirts of the town of al-Bab in Aleppo province on January 21," the ministry said in a statement.

The Russian statement is likely as correct as the DoD statement.

The political significance here is the transfer of ISIS targeting coordinates from some U.S. agency directly to the Russian forces in Syria. That is something Russia has asked for for over a year and it now suddenly seems to happen.

This is next to the TTP decision a second significant change under Trump the media missed to report on as it developed.

While the blustering against Trump in U.S. media as well as in some countries abroad goes on and on, serious decisions are taken and implemented by the new administration. The media fail in some systematic way. Minor diversions from "political correctness" are blown up into big headlines while big policy decisions pass unnoticed. It is simple: The task with reporting on the Trump administration is the same as with any politician. Do not listen to what they say, watch what they do. It is high time for the media to get back to that basic rule.

Digression:

As a German I am embarrassed on how much my government failed to anticipate Trump and, since he is elected, fails to prepare for the coming onslaught on its export orientated economic model. Wages in Germany were held down by all means (including by importing additional workforce from Syria and elsewhere) and a huge export surplus was created that benefited only a few moneyed pockets. The scheme created a huge imbalance in Europe and the credit crisis in Spain, Greece and elsewhere. Trump's policies will finally blow this model apart.

But neither of the ruling parties in Germany has yet developed an alternative or prepared a way towards one. Germany needs to re-orientate its industry from export to local consumption. That requires higher buying power for the general public via higher wages and lower taxes. A lower degressive VAT compensated by higher progressive taxes on non-work income would be a way to go. If such steps are delayed the economic damage will be serious and further open the way for a demagogic right.

Posted by b on January 23, 2017 at 02:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (140)

January 21, 2017

Open Thread 2017-03

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 21, 2017 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (290)

January 20, 2017

The Not-Hillary President

It is impossible to know what the Not-Hillary inauguration will bring. Not-Hillary because putting up Hillary as candidate was the most stupid thing the Democratic party and it paymasters could do. She had extremely high negative ratings and stood for everything that one could dislike with the party's policies. Many who ended up not voting or voted for Trump could have been easily won by a different Democratic candidate even with much of the same general policies (see: Obama, Barack).

Hillary would surely have lost against any middle-of-the-road Republican candidate. History will note that she was an arrogant but incompetent   Democratic candidate who lost against a rather bad Republican candidate, one who lacked support even from his own party. Trump won barely, but she lost completely.

Seen from the perspective of power centers Clinton once had all the support she needed. But she then lost a decisive group due to her uncompromising neo-conned foreign policy. Here is an interesting take based on a theory from the 1950s:

[T]he power elite can be best described as a “triangle of power,” linking the corporate, executive government, and military factions: “There is a political economy numerously linked with military order and decision. This triangle of power is now a structural fact, and it is the key to any understanding of the higher circles in America today.”

The 2016 US election, like all other US elections, featured a gallery of pre-selected candidates that represented the three factions and their interests within the power elite. The 2016 US election, however, was vastly different from previous elections. As the election dragged on the power elite became bitterly divided, with the majority supporting Hilary Clinton, the candidate pre-selected by the political and corporate factions, while the military faction rallied around their choice of Donald Trump.

That is only a rough take. The corporate factions are divided within. The oil industry does not like it when wars disturb its long term businesses (see Russia and Libya). Boeing wants to sell planes to Iran. Other corporate parts don't mind such wars as long as they create new markets or easy access to cheap labor. The media love war as it creates ever thrilling content around which they can sell advertisements.

The decisive political point in this election round was the fight between neo-conservatives/liberal-interventionists and foreign policy realists. One side is represented exemplary by the CIA with the U.S. military on the other:

A schism developed between the Defense Department and the highly politicized CIA. This schism, which can be attributed to the corporate-deep-state’s covert foreign policy, traces back to the CIA orchestrated “color revolutions” that had swept the Middle East and North Africa.

The CIA created bloodthirsty future enemies the military will later have to defeat. Fascists in Ukraine and Takfiris all over the Middle East are used by the CIA to further neocon aims but then require relative cheap military intervention at high human costs. The Generals do not like that. (The precedence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was enough for them.) Neither does the military industry. Fighting Takfiris does not require big ticket items. Ratcheting up the rhetoric against peer competitors (without ever fighting a real war) is the best justification for a two million strong military and huge military contracts.

It is still astonishing that the military Trump faction of the power triangle could win the fight. Trump made that possible when he used a hostile media for his gain. The corporate media stood strongly behind Clinton but that was not enough to hide her negative sides. Trump's salesmen bluster proved too fascinating to not be reported. In the end the media that hated him ended up making the very best advertisement for him. For weeks the neoconned Washington Post editorial page ran five or six anti-Trump pieces per day. That alone was for some reason enough to vote for Trump.

Trump will now have to win over other parts of the power triangle. The corporate part is the easy one. He will lower its taxes. He will also, in one form or another, reinstate tariffs along the U.S. borders. His confrontational position against main exporting countries, China, Germany, Mexico etc, will also transfer into higher U.S. corporate profits. It may even create some additional jobs in the U.S. which would help him to get reelected.

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet. But soldiers do not like to go to war. That means that Trump will increase conflict rhetoric against some foreign countries but also that he will not start any serious war. Expect the announcement of some super nifty, new but useless military wonder weapon for which Trump will promise trillions (Reagan's star wars redux).

The most difficult faction to win over to his view is the political/executive/secret services side including many people within his own party. Neoliberalism has inflicted those on all levels. Trump will have to neutralize or fire people in their upper ranks early and often. If he fails to do that all his plans will be challenged and stymied in their early implementation.

Trump is a highly gifted salesman, one of the best I have ever seen. His general business skills are more average. He is full of bluster before going into negotiations. His current rhetoric in relations to other countries should be seen as opening shots. Such threats and offers alike are to him just parts of a negotiation process. His main aim with those will be to get some manufacturing back into the United States. He needs some success in this, in creating jobs, jobs, jobs and raising wages, to secure his reelection.

Economically Trump will lower taxes and increase spending (after some minor for-show cuts.) U.S. national debt will rise significantly. Interest rates will rise in conflict with his aim to lower the dollar value in exchange markets. His U.S. centric protectionism will allow other countries to also take steps in such a direction. At one point Trump will have to take up a fight with speculative Wall Street banking. It is an impediment for all his other aims. This will be his most difficult fight and the one he will probably lose.

Over all I do not expect anything exceptional from Trump. His time in the White House will probably turn out to be minor remake of Reagan's.

Posted by b on January 20, 2017 at 11:55 AM | Permalink | Comments (229)

January 19, 2017

"The DNC Emails Were Leaked" Obama Takes Parting Shot At Brennan, Clapper, Clinton

Three U.S. Intelligence Agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI) claim that IT-Systems of the Democratic National Committee were "hacked" in an operation related to the Russian government. They assert that emails copied during the "hack" were transferred by Russian government related hackers to Wikileaks which then published them.

President Obama disagrees. He says those emails were "leaked".

Wikileaks had insisted that the emails it published came from an insider source not from any government. The DNC emails proved that the supposedly neutral Democratic Party committee had manipulated the primary presidential elections in favor of the later candidate Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for the alternative candidate Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Hillory Clinton, who had extremely high unfavorable ratings, lost the final elections.

The President of the United States disagrees with those Intelligence Services. He says that the DNC emails were "leaked", i.e. copied by an insider, and then transferred to Wikileaks. (At the time around the leaking the DNC IT-administrator Seth Rich was found murdered for no apparent reason in the streets of Washington DC. The murder case was never solved.)

Here is President Obama in his final press conference yesterday (vid @8:31):

First of all, I haven't commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether Wikileaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

The DNC emails "that were leaked" - not "hacked" or "stolen" but "leaked".

One wonders if this is a parting shot is primarily aimed at the involved Intelligence Agencies led by James Clapper and John Brennan. Or is dissing Hillary Clinton and her narrative the main purpose?

The presidential judgement could change the political pressure towards a new cold war with Russia if the mainstream media would pick it up and discuss it. But the media are widely invested in the "hacking" claims (and even create their own ones from hot air). They are also furthering the  anti-Russian narrative. We therefore can not expect that they will report this presidential parting shot at all.

h/t - Shuaib M. Almosawa

Posted by b on January 19, 2017 at 03:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (122)

January 17, 2017

How The U.S. Enabled ISIS To Take Deir Ezzor

The city of Deir Ezzor (Deir ez-Zur) in east-Syria is on the verge of falling into the hands of the Takfiris of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More than 100,000 civilian inhabitants of Deir Ezzor and thousands of soldiers defending them are in immediate danger of being murdered by the savage ISIS forces. The current situation is a direct consequence of U.S. military action against the SAA and non-action against ISIS.

Deir Ezzor is besieged by ISIS since September 2015. But the city was well defended by its garrison of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and all further attacks by ISIS were repelled. Supply to the city was hauled in by air through the Deir Ezzor airport and through air drops by the Syrian and Russian airforces. Relief by ground forces and ground supplies are not possible as Deir Ezzor is more than 100 km away from the nearest SAA positions west of Palmyra and as the desert in between is under the control of ISIS.


Google map - bigger

Four days ago a new attack by ISIS on Deir Ezzor was launched and has since continued. ISIS reinforcements and resupplies had come over months despite air interdiction from the Russian and Syrian airforces. Yesterday ISIS managed to cut off the airport, where the local SAA command and its main supplies are hosted, from the city proper. It is now attacking in full force from all sides. Bad weather makes air support from the outside sporadic and difficult. Unless some unforeseen happens it is only a question of time until the airport and the city fall to ISIS.


Map by Peto Lucem - bigger

The U.S. has condoned and/or even actively supported the imminent ISIS taking of Deir Ezzor by (at least) three measures:

  • a massive U.S. air attack on SAA forces in September 2016 enabled ISIS to take a controlling position and to cut off SAA resupplies
  • a U.S. attack against a power station in January disabled the last electricity supplies to the city
  • U.S. non-intervention enabled ISIS reinforcements from Mosul and west Iraq to Deir Ezzor in east-Syria

On September 16 2016 an hour long U.S. led air attack on SAA positions on the Tharda hills to the south of the airport killed over 100 SAA soldiers, destroyed a big SAA supply dump and several SAA tanks and artillery pieces. Immediately after the U.S. attack ISIS took the hills and has since held them. The positions allow for fire control over the airport of Deir Ezzor.

The U.S. military claimed that the attack was a mistake but a thorough reading of the investigation report of that "mistake" shows that the U.S. military attack was intentionally targeting the SAA to make a political point against an announced U.S.-Russian cooperation agreement to fight ISIS. (Danish airforce F-16 planes and drones under U.S. command had taken part in the attack. After the report was published, the Danish government pulled all air elements from its participation in the U.S. coalition against ISIS.)

Since the U.S. attack in September no significant air supplies have reached Deir Ezzor. Even helicopter landing at the airport is only possible at night and by taking very high risks. The city inhabitants and their defenders are completely cut off.

Early January U.S. airforce attacks destroyed the electricity plant at the Omar oilfield near Deir Ezzor. The plant was the last one to supply the city of Deir Ezzor. Since then only a few military generators and dwindling fuel supplies are left for medical and communication equipment.

When the Iraqi Army plans for retaking the ISIS held city of Mosul were developed and commenced in October the U.S. insisted on leaving a western corridor open for ISIS forces inclined to flee from Mosul into the direction of Deir Ezzor. Hundreds if not thousands of ISIS fighters used the corridor. The U.S. controlled Kurdish forces in north Iraq let ISIS pass from Iraq to Syria. Fearing (correctly) that an ISIS move out of Mosul towards Deir Ezzor would mean the fall of Deir Ezzor Russia and Iran intervened with the Iraqi government. Despite U.S. wishes the Iraqi Prime Minister Abadi ordered his Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) to cut off the western exit:

Iran was not the only country pressing for the escape to be closed west of Mosul. Russia, another powerful Assad ally, also wanted to block any possible movement of militants into Syria, said Hashemi. The Russian defence ministry did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

One of Assad’s biggest enemies, France, was also concerned that hundreds of fighters linked to attacks in Paris and Brussels might escape. The French have contributed ground and air support to the Mosul campaign.
...
Still, the battle plan did not foresee closing the road to the west of Mosul until Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi agreed in late October to despatch the Popular Mobilisation militias.

Despite a fast advance by the PMU from the south against Tal Afar to cut off the escape road many ISIS fighters in west Iraq were able to flee across the border and towards Deir Ezzor with their equipment in tact. They reinforced the ISIS troops now attacking Deir Ezzor. The U.S. has uncontested air superiority over west Iraq and east Syria but did not once intervene against the large scale move.

If ISIS takes Deir Ezzor it will likely kill (as it did on other occasions) all captured SAA troops and anyone it believes to have cooperated with them. The soldiers know this. They will fight down to the last bullet. But without any reinforcements and resupplies their chances are slim.

When the Syrian government besieged al-Qaeda forces in east-Aleppo the "western" media and the various "Syrian opposition" propaganda outlets were running an all out campaign in support of the besieged Takfiris. There is no such campaign in support of the civilians and soldiers in Deir Ezzor. In their few reports about the imminent fall of Deir Ezzor "western" publications even resort to outright lying. Thus claims the Daily Telegraph:

The US-led coalition, as well as the Russians, have been bombing the jihadists in Deir Ezzor for the last 18 months but have been unable to dislodge them.

No significant U.S. air attacks have been flown against ISIS forces around Deir Ezzor at all. All attacks flown by the U.S. in the area have been against Syrian government troops or their supporting infrastructure.

The U.S. official rhetoric about fighting ISIS is not supported by observable facts on the battle field. One can only conclude that the U.S. military does not only condone but supports ISIS in gaining control over Deir Ezzor despite the extreme high risk for anyone left in the city.

This likely to further the larger long term plan of installing a "Salafist principality" in western Iraq and eastern Syria that creates a justification for the U.S. military to stay in the area to "fight ISIS" and which can be activated against the Syrian and Iraqi government whenever convenient. U.S. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have both admitted that they earlier allowed ISIS to grow in Iraq and Syria for exactly such political purposes.

Posted by b on January 17, 2017 at 06:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (267)

January 16, 2017

Libya - How U.S.-Russian Cooperation May (Re-)Unite The Country

By Richard Galustian

On January 20th Trump will be sworn in as President. US Foreign Policy will crystallize when the full cabinet is approved by the U.S. Congress. The Russians will try and make their moves on the world chess board during this transition period to further their interests.

As far as Libya is concerned will Russia’s now overt support for the LNA (Libyan National Army) and 74 years old General Khalifa Haftar, a former(?) CIA asset, cause a problem? The U.S. has up to now supported the UN installed GNA (Government of National Accord) which has little following in the country. Could Russia's LNA support put it at odds with the incoming Trump administration or will this be a welcome and calculated play from Trump's perspective?

Haftar and the LNA are also supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Last week Blackwater founder Erik Prince allegedly provided private mercenary pilots in armed agricultural aircraft to bomb Western Libya's Islamist extremists. Prince's mercenary air force is paid by the UAE. He is a brother Betsy DeVos, the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education.

What will change as a result in the complicated ground war in Libya between the various warring factions in south, east and west Libya?

What of ISIS relatively small presence in the Sirte and Sabratha regions?

What of the tentative potential thawing of US/Russia relations put on edge by last week's inevitably doubtful allegations of Trump's being blackmailed by Russia.

The first three months following the inauguration will be the most telling.

Until then, let us hazard a guess as to what will unfold:

One indication is certain. Washington interests now favor a military solution to the quagmire in Libya that involves Khalifa Hafter who would become part of some sort of leadership coalition or council. But that does not mean that it would favor the mercurial Haftar. He is not pliable enough to be a reliable (U.S. proxy-)leader. Serious Libyan commentators agree that talks now must include all ground players, even former Gaddafi officials, if the country is to be united.

However, the eradication of ISIS in Libya is still paramount. That joint desire could put America and Russia on the same side in Libya.

Russia has shown her strong willingness to support Hafter on two recent occasions; at the Moscow foreign ministry in mid December, and again, last week when Hafter was helicoptered to the neutral waters of the Mediterranean Sea, outside Libyan territorial boundaries, by Russian military, for a video conference call with Moscow's senior officials on board a Russian Warship. This behavior indicates a clear willingness to support Hafter's Libyan National Army, as the legitimate military force of the elected Parliament, the House of Representatives (HOR) in Tobruk. For some it's even indicative of Russian support to Hafter with or without the HOR's backing.

Signs now seem to indicate an imminent military attempt by the LNA and Hafter to move West and take Tripoli.

Russia’s rationale for involvement was summarized by Foreign Minister Lavrov’s categorical statement on December 2 that it “does not want Libya to end up like Syria, as a failed state.”

But the motivation undoubtedly is one of self-interest. As with Syria, Russia sees an opportunity to gain new increased and important influence in an Arab state and I judge that this is better achieved before President Trump takes the full reigns of power; out trumping Trump so to speak. That's why I think internal fighting in Libya will escalate very soon.

Obama’s self professed greatest foreign policy mistake in office was the failure to quell the post-revolution chaos in Libya. What better way for Trump to truly legitimize his position and silence the naysayers than strategically achieving peace in Libya and an end to ISIS's influence in Libya via a Russian alliance?

It is no secret Trump has announced his desire to cooperate with Putin, and he actually may view Russia’s very public support of Hafter as an asset rather than a liability, securing the region, making an unlikely ally and increasing the popularity of his administration in one stroke.

This position assumes that the West will abandon its failed attempt to shore up the UN’s puppet government (GNA). It and its leader Serraj are viewed as wholly illegitimate and inept by the country's populace. It is time for EU/UN diplomats and politicians to recognize this as so and adapt to change and quickly.

Russian made helicopters and arms were delivered to LNA indirectly and covertly via Russia's ally's the UAE and Egypt and they proved crucial in repelling attacks by militias at the key central oil ports, seized by LNA in September 2016.

Earlier this month, Russia publicly supported lifting the UN arms embargo. The West up until recently only wanted the embargo lifted for GNA militias. Presumably, if Western Powers attempted to lift sanctions for only the GNA, Russia’s UNSC vote would be "Njet."

Therefore the LNA would appear to be the only entity that will be supported by the international community including Russia.

On the other hand another critical factor is Oil. Russia has an option of buying directly from Cyrenaica, (the historic entity of what is now east Libya), challenging western powers to intercept its tankers. A potential superpower flashpoint.

Cyrenica also wants its own flag as well as a new national anthem. This would in my opinion certainly lead to Libya becoming two (or three) separate countries, east and west (and south) Libya. This would follow historic precedence back to the former Greek and Roman provinces.

Structural and mismanagement issues remain and heighten internal tensions. For example GECOL (General Electricity Company of Libya) has all but collapsed as has electricity to the entire country, Combined with water distribution shortages and an unusually intense cold spell, the people's patience is at an end. The country could now completed dissolve and fall into even deeper chaos.

A wild card remains - the US to drop support for the GNA in its current form and shift it to the LNA making it the undoubtedly strongest force in the country.

US good relations with Putin and Moscow could well see Russia gaining a chunk of influence in Libya at presumably the expense of the Italians and British with the French seemingly solely interested in southern Libya.

All will be clear very soon as, I believe, internal fighting will escalate considerably. A peaceful negotiated settlement between the warring Libyan parties seems now very remote.

Posted by b on January 16, 2017 at 05:27 AM | Permalink | Comments (80)

January 15, 2017

"It Can't Happen Here" - Color Revolution By Force

The "Donald Trump likes Russia" and "Russia bad" strategy was propagated by the Clinton election campaign. It build on constant U.S. incitement against Russia after the U.S. coup in Ukraine partially failed and after the Russian intervention on the side of the government in Syria. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was the main force behind the original anti-Russian campaign. When Clinton lost the election to Trump the theme connecting Trump and Russia was continued and  fanned by parts of the U.S. intelligence community.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI published a propaganda report claiming nefarious Russian cyber activities during the election without providing any evidence. The report came together with the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats by the Obama administration. The DHS then planted a false story of Russian cyber-intrusion into a Vermont utility with the Washington Post.

The Director of National Intelligence Clapper followed up with a "report" of alleged Russian interference with the election. Even the Putinphobe Masha Gessen found that to be a shoddy piece of implausible propaganda. The DNI then helped to publish an MI6 "report" of fakes asserting Russian influence on Trump. In an unprecedented threat escalation the Pentagon sends a whole brigade and other assets to the Russian border.

Now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, warns the President elect to "watch his tongue". Is there any precedence of some "intelligence" flunky threatening a soon to be President?

This has been, all together, a well though out propaganda campaign to reinforce the scheme Clinton and her overlords have been pushing for quite some time: Russia is bad and a danger. Trump is aligned with Russia. Something needs to be done against Trump but most importantly against Russia.

Propaganda works. The campaign is having some effects:

Americans are more concerned than they were before the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign began about the potential threat Russia poses to the country, according to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll released on Friday. The Jan. 9-12 survey found that 82 percent of American adults, including 84 percent of Democrats and 82 percent of Republicans, described Russia as a general "threat" to the United States. That's up from 76 percent in March 2015 when the same questions were asked.

Such extensive and expensive campaigns are not run by chance. They have a larger purpose.

Originally the campaign was only directed against Russia with the apparent aim of reigniting a (quite profitable) cold war. Seen from some distance the campaign now looks more like the preparation for a typical CIA induced color-revolution:

In most but not all cases, massive street protests followed disputed elections, or requests for fair elections, and led to the resignation or overthrow of leaders considered by their opponents to be authoritarian.

What is missing yet in the U.S. are the demonstrations and the large civilian strife.

Unlike the earlier CIA launched color revolutions in Georgia (2003), Ukraine (2004) and elsewhere, all recent U.S. instigated "color-revolutions", i.e. putsch attempts, have been accompanied by the use of force from the side of the "peaceful protesters". Such color-revolutions by force were instigate in Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

A common denominator of these was the primary use of violence occurred from the "good side" against the "bad side" while the propagandists claimed that it was the "bad side" that started the shooting and strife. The "good site" is inevitably "demonstrating peacefully" even when many policemen or soldiers on the "bad side" die. Thus was the case in Libya where the U.S. and its Gulf proxies used al-Qeada aligned Jihadis from Benghazi as "peaceful demonstrators" against the government, in Syria where the NATO and Gulf supported Muslim Brotherhood killed policemen and soldiers during "peaceful demonstrations" in Deraa and in Ukraine where fascist sharpshooters killed demonstrators and policemen from a hotel roof in the hand of the opposition. All three happened while Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

There have been claims of an upcoming color-revolution in the U.S. from different extremist sides of the political spectrum. Before the election Neocon Jackson Diehl claimed that "Putin" was preparing a color-revolution against a President-elect Clinton to enthrone Donald Trump. But as Trump won fair and square and Clinton lost that plot did not make it to the stage. After the election the conspiracy peddler Wayne Madsen immediately "discovered" that Clinton and George Soros were launching a color-revolution against Trump.

Remnants of the Clinton campaign have called for a large anti-Trump demonstration during the inauguration on January 20 in Washington DC.

Mass shootings in the United States by this or that type of lunatics happen every other month. There are no wild conspiracy theories or nefarious plots necessary to consider some what-if questions around such an event.

So what happens after some "Trump supporter" on January 20 starts to shoot into the demonstrating masses (and also into the police cordons)?

What if the CIA, DHS and DNI then detect and certify that the ensuing "massacre" was a "Russian plot"?

Posted by b on January 15, 2017 at 12:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (170)

January 14, 2017

Open Thread 2017-02

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 14, 2017 at 11:00 AM | Permalink | Comments (264)

January 13, 2017

"35 Pages" Attack Against Trump Fails - Foreign And Domestic Losses

UPDATED (at end of original)

The tale about the fake accusations about Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election becomes more gripping by each day. The are part of a larger war between various groups of the "elites" but also include infighting between U.S. government organizations.

We know that there was heavy Ukrainian influence on the side of Clinton in the election and in the current smear campaign against Trump and Russia. But it certainly wasn't Ukraine alone that is behind this. There are more international connections.

The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake. Putin personally started working on Trump five years ago when Trump had no political role or hope whatsoever? A Trump associate met Russian officials in Prague even though he has never been in the Czech Republic?

Steele spread the fakes throughout the press corps in Washington DC but no media published them because these were obviously false accusations.

Steele then decided to hand the papers to the FBI and to talk to its agents hoping they would start an official investigation. He cleared his move (or was ordered to proceed?) at the highest level of the British government:

The Daily Telegraph was told during a meeting with a highly-placed source in Washington DC last October that the FBI had contacted Mr Steele asking if they could discuss his findings with him. The source said that Mr Steele spoke to officials in London to ask for permission to speak to the FBI, which was duly granted, and that Downing Street was informed.
...
Once he had been given the all-clear, he met an FBI agent in another European country, where he discussed the background to the file he had compiled. His contact with the FBI reportedly began in July last year and ended in October, after he became frustrated by the bureau’s slow progress.

When Steele's first move with the FBI in October did note deliver the hoped for results an attempt to stove pipe them through Senator John McCain was launched. A "former" British ambassador to Moscow arranged the hand over:

A former British ambassador to Russia has revealed he played a significant role in bringing the Donald Trump 'dirty dossier' to the attention of the American intelligence services.

Sir Andrew Wood said he spoke to Republican senator John McCain at an international security conference in November about the existence of material that could compromise the president-elect.

Mr McCain subsequently handed the document, which contained allegations of lurid sexual behaviour by Mr Trump in Russian hotels, to the head of the FBI.

The MI6 is well known for launching fakes on behalf of the British government.

Even the second, more official handover to the FBI still did not result in the hoped for publication of the allegations. But by that time Clinton was widely expect to win the election anyway so no further steps were taken.

After Trump unexpectedly won the election a new effort was launched to publish the smears. The Director of National Intelligence decided (or was ordered to) "brief" the President, the President elect and Congress on the obviously dubious accusations.

It was this decision that made sure that the papers would eventually be published. As the NYT noted:

What exactly prompted American intelligence officials to pass on a summary of the unvetted claims to Mr. Obama, Mr. Trump and Congress? Officials have said they felt the president-elect should be aware of the memos, which had circulated widely in Washington. But putting the summary in a report that went to multiple people in Congress and the executive branch made it very likely that it would be leaked. [emphasis in the original!]

Only after Clapper or others leaked to CNN about the briefing of Obama, Trump and Congress, did CNN publish about the 35 pages:

Classified documents presented last week to President Obama and President-elect Trump included allegations that Russian operatives claim to have compromising personal and financial information about Mr. Trump, multiple US officials with direct knowledge of the briefings tell CNN.
...
The classified briefings last week were presented by four of the senior-most US intelligence chiefs -- Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, FBI Director James Comey, CIA Director John Brennan, and NSA Director Admiral Mike Rogers.
...
CNN has reviewed a 35-page compilation of the memos, from which the two-page synopsis was drawn. The memos have since been published by Buzzfeed. The memos originated as opposition research, first commissioned by anti-Trump Republicans, and later by Democrats. At this point, CNN is not reporting on details of the memos, as it has not independently corroborated the specific allegations.

The last half-sentence is part of the smear campaign. When DNI Clapper recently tried to exculpate himself from the shit-storm he created he used the same obfuscation:

The IC has not made any judgment that the information in this document is reliable ..

That is like saying: "The IC has not made any judgement that information of Barack Obama's Kenyan citizenship is reliable .."

Any media or intelligence agency that claims it could or did not judge the content of 35 papers is obfuscating in an attempt to give them additional weight. The easily verifiable content is so obviously false that the few not immediately verifiable claims in it can not be taken serious. The media and Clapper know this and, if they were truthful, would say so.

The attack on Trump (and Russia) failed. Trump brushed it of with a few tweets and sentences in his press conference. The attack did not hold up any of the procedures in Congress or elsewhere necessary to install the new administration. It did not change policies. The British government and the MI6 have cake on their face. The DNI office and the CIA will bleed.

The attack was a deep state attempt to stage a coup against Trump:

Trump has deliberately rattled the members of the deep state with his brazen criticism of U.S. intelligence findings about Russian hacking. Deep government does not stand idly by, as David Runciman wrote recently in the London Review of Books, and allow itself to be shat upon by newcomers. The president-elect has enemies in profusion on the inside who are practiced at the art of the leak. They may have had no official role in this attempt to stage a coup against Trump before he’s even inaugurated, but they must be cheering BuzzFeed’s naughtiness as they sharpen their knives for his administration.

This blog reported and warned a month ago of such "elite" coup attempts. The fight has since become more intense.

But this attack failed. Trump gained standing against the "fake news" created by the 35 pages. The fakery and smear attempt was just too obvious. One wonders why it was launched at all. Who panicked?

President Obama, major U.S. intelligence heads, neoconservatives, the British government, Ukrainian "nationalist (aka fascist) circles and the Clinton campaign conspire against Trump and try to derail his announced policy changes. Trump has argued for better relations with Russia and for a concentrated fight in Syria and Iraq against ISIS and other Takfiris and Islamists. This endangers Obama's legacies of starting a new cold war with Russia and of pampering al Qaeda and ISIS to overthrow the Syrian government.

Two fights within the U.S. government are being waged within this larger context. One is the fight between the CIA and the U.S. military over spying competence and lethal operations. CIA Director Brennan, who was and is Obama's consigliere and a Saudi operative, has waged a military campaign in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria and several other countries.

The CIA's assassinations by drones is an operational issue which the military believes should be under its exclusive control. On the other side military special forces missions have hindered CIA intelligence gathering. The CIA support for and training of various Takfiri militants in Syria, Iraq and Libya is against the interest of the soldiers who eventually will have to fight these groups. The incoming National Security Advisor Flynn warned against the CIA's policies back in 2012 when he led the Defense Intelligence Agency. U.S. special forces then sabotaged such CIA operations in Syria.

With Flynn coming in as National Security Advisor the CIA is in danger of losing this fight. Flynn will argue for a CIA that only collects and analyzes and will likely try to move all operative businesses to the military Joint Special Operations Command.

Today the CIA used its unofficial spokesperson to (again) warn Flynn off. Writing in Jeff Bezos' blog David Ignatius stenographed the threat:

According to a senior U.S. government official, Flynn phoned Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak several times on Dec. 29, the day the Obama administration announced the expulsion of 35 Russian officials as well as other measures in retaliation for the hacking. What did Flynn say, and did it undercut the U.S. sanctions? The Logan Act (though never enforced) bars U.S. citizens from correspondence intending to influence a foreign government about “disputes” with the United States. Was its spirit violated?

(If Flynn's phone-calls are under FISA surveillance would that not be highly classified? How else would anyone know about them? How many laws were broken by planting this through Ignatius?)

A second area of internal conflict is about the Director of the FBI Comey. He was and is not sufficiently deferential to the Obama cabal and the Clinton campaign. He launched and publicly announced an investigation into Clinton's proven illegal behavior with regard to her private email server, but he refrained from announcing and investigating the obviously fake accusations against Trump which were peddled to him. Such disloyal misdeed demands punishment:

The Justice Department’s inspector general said Thursday that he would open a broad investigation into how the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, handled the case over Hillary Clinton’s emails, ..
...
The inspector general’s office said that it was initiating the investigation in response to complaints from members of Congress and the public about actions by the F.B.I. and the Justice Department during the campaign that could be seen as politically motivated.

The inspector general is serving at the pleasure of the president. He can be fired as soon as Trump is in office. Unless he joins the cabal against Trump Comey has nothing to fear.

But the war against Trump is not over. Trump should and must be fought but that fight should be about important economic and social issues for which people care and of which there are plenty.

Trump has his own cabal, libertarian billionaires like the Koch brothers, several generals in his cabinet and arch Zionists like Adelson. But that cabal's henchmen are not yet installed throughout the government. It is important to hinder such infestation.

The fight as it is waged now is an attempt to redirect Trump's foreign policies and to generally lesson his foreign policy power. That fight was already lost during the campaign. Every attempt to accuse Trump of this or that "Russia" outrage that has nothing to do with the average voter's life simply fails. These pseudo scandals waged within the "elite" media against him just makes him stronger.

But the cabal was unable to understand that during the campaign and is still unable to get a grip on it. It will continue its attempts and will lessen its own power through its failures.

Effort by Obama loyalists against Trump started immediately after election day:

Over the past 10 years, Obama alumni have spread throughout the government, the advocacy world, and influential parts of the private sector, including at Google and Facebook. That means there’s a lot diverse talent to harness.

More attacks on Trump will come even when Trump is in full power and starts to clean house.

But all of those who openly work against him will be endangered. The continued open attacks only lay bare the various actors behind them. Those will be be shunned. Each new open attack against Trump will eliminate another power center installed during the Obama administration. If these hopeless attacks continue few will be left to wage the silent, patient resistance against the Trump administration that will be necessary to lessen the damage it will create.

To now attack Trump, Flynn, Comey or even Putin is hopeless and unproductive. It only hinders achieving their long-term aims. One thereby wonders why this panic reaction from one side of the deep state cabal continues. What dirt have they hidden that they fear will be unearthed?

UPDATE: FBI director Comey pissed on the House Democrats at the end of a classified hearing today. This a day after Obama's Justice Department IG opened a case against him (see above). One might guess that Comey has had enough of it OR has now been assured of Trump's backing. The Hill reports:
A number of House Democrats left Friday's confidential briefing on Russian hacking fuming over the actions of FBI Director James Comey and convinced he's unfit to lead the agency.

"I was nonjudgmental until the last 15 minutes. I no longer have that confidence in him," Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Committee, said as he left the meeting in the Capitol.

"Some of the things that were revealed in this classified briefing — my confidence has been shook." ...

Posted by b on January 13, 2017 at 09:34 AM | Permalink | Comments (229)

January 11, 2017

The Deep State Versus Donald Trump - New Smears And The Ukrainian Connection

UPDATED (3x) (at end of original)

As remarked on January 6:

When Hillary Clinton was defeated in the U.S. presidential election the relevant powers launched a campaign to delegitimize the President elect Donald Trump.

The ultimate aim of the cabal is to kick him out of office and have a reliable replacement, like the Vice-President elect Pence, take over. Should that not be possible it is hoped that the delegitimization will make it impossible for Trump to change major policy trajectories especially in foreign policy. A main issue here is the reorientation of the U.S. military complex and its NATO proxies from the war of terror towards a direct confrontation with main powers like Russia and China.

The deep state campaign against Trump opened new grounds today with the publication of completely fake and thereby unverifiable anonymous assertions which include the smear that Trump had some fun in a Moscow hotel and that Russian secret services is using that to manipulate him.

Like many smears against Trump via proxies of the Clinton presidential campaign these new ones seem to origin from Ukraine related sources and Ukrainian "nationalist" (aka fascist) putsch supporters.

The new assertions about Trump come in 35 pages of "reports" by an anonymous (claimed) former British intelligence operator working for a private U.S. company with dates ranging from June 20 2016 to December 13 2016. They say that Russia has some tapes of Trump watching sex games in 2013, they claim that Trump campaign officials coordinated the Clinton campaign leaks with Russia and that the Russian President Putin was highly involved in all of this.

Here is how the claimed former intelligence operator typically describes his sources in these "reports":

Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for at least five years. Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN.

The anonymous former British operator hears from an anonymous asserted compatriot what two anonymous sources, asserted to have access to inner Russian circles, claim to have heard somewhere that something happened in the Kremlin.

They assert that Trump was supported and directed by Putin himself five years ago while even a year ago no one would have bet a penny on Trump gaining any political significant position or even the presidency.

There is a lot more of such nonsense in these new Hitler diaries. It is bonkers from a to z.

Neocon senator John McCain, friend of Ukrainian fascists and Trump enemy, passed (<-details) the "report" to the FBI and thereby made it into an official document.

Even as they are obvious fake the FBI tried to use these "reports" to get a wide warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court to listen in on Trump campaign officials. The court thankfully denied or at least narrowed down the request.

The first "reports" were created as part of the opposition research paid by a Republican candidate running in the primaries against Trump. They were later produced for and paid by the Democratic campaign. They have been shopped around in Washington for several month. The NYT, the WSJ, CNN and the FBI all investigated the assertions in them. Despite those considerable combined capacities they could verify none of them. All publications refrained from publishing the claims during the campaign because there was no evidence at all that supported them. Buzzfeed now pushed these out despite also saying that they have found nothing verifiable in them.

Even worse, the Director of National Intelligence Clapper (who once claimed Saddam's non-existing WMDs were shipped to Syria) presented these to Congress and the president elect Trump as "annex" to his baseless U.S. Intelligence report of "Russian hacking".

A murky preview of the assertions had been given by David Corn in a Mother Jones piece in October. He talked with the said-to-be author of the "reports":

"It started off as a fairly general inquiry," says the former spook, who asks not to be identified. But when he dug into Trump, he notes, he came across troubling information indicating connections between Trump and the Russian government. According to his sources, he says, "there was an established exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin of mutual benefit."

The current publication of this full barrel of bullshit comes a day after members of the Trump cabinet have been successfully confirmed by Congress and hours before his long expected press conference. It is thereby destined to overshadow a successful start of the Trump presidency.

There are signs that the "reports" were written with some Ukrainian nationalist and anti-semitic background. Just consider this passage from the July 26 "report":

In terms of the FSB's recruitment of capable cyber operatives to carry out its, ideally deniable, offensive cyber operations, a Russian IT specialist with direct knowledge reported in June 2016 that this was often done using coercion and blackmail. In terms of 'foreign' agents, the FSB was approaching U.S. citizens of Russian (Jewish) origin on business trips in Russia.

Such tropes are typical of the anti-semitic Ukrainian "nationalist" (aka Nazi) narrative. ("All Soviet/Communist ideologues/functionaries are Jews.") Russian services would, unlike Mossad, not recruit IT hackers conditioned on "Jewish" ethnic relations or believe. They would hire anyone competent who they think they could trust.

We have seen more Ukrainian "nationalists" involved in the "Russian hacks" propaganda claims. A July 2016 Yahoo piece by (Clinton campaign mouthpiece) Michael Isikoff wrote:

Just weeks after she started preparing opposition research files on Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort last spring, Democratic National Committee consultant Alexandra Chalupa got an alarming message when she logged into her personal Yahoo email account.
...
Chalupa — who had been drafting memos and writing emails about Manafort’s connection to pro-Russian political leaders in Ukraine — quickly alerted top DNC officials.
...
“I was freaked out,” Chalupa, who serves as director of “ethnic engagement” for the DNC, told Yahoo News in an interview, noting that she had been in close touch with sources in Kiev, Ukraine, including a number of investigative journalists, who had been providing her with information about Manafort’s political and business dealings in that country and Russia.

Chalupa is also somewhat involved with the ProPornOT list, promoted by the Washington Post, of alleged pro-Russian propaganda websites. This website, Moon of Alabama, is also on that list :-) (see at end of piece). (Unfortunately though we have never received a penny, or anything else, from Russian sources, are critical of Putin's neoliberal economic policies and have been plagiarized by the Russian government financed Russia Today without any compensation.) The ProPornOT Twitter account says it is “Ukrainian-American” and it used the Ukrainian fascist salute of the OUN-Bandera killer gangs "Heroiam Slava!" to hail Ukrainian hackers attacking Russia. The ProPornOT list is designed after a Ukrainian model used to smear Ukrainian anti-fascist media and journalists.

Chalupa is a main promoter of the "Russia hacked the Democratic campaign" allegations based on thin if any evidence. She was named by the same Isikoff of Yahoo as one of 16 people who shaped the 2016 election.

Chalupa is also:

founder and president of the Ukrainian lobby group “US United With Ukraine Coalition”, which lobbied hard to pass a 2014 bill increasing loans and military aid to Ukraine, imposing sanctions on Russians, and tightly aligning US and Ukraine geostrategic interests.

Moreover Chalupa coordinated her anti-Trump/anti-Russian campaign with the Ukrainian embassy in Washington DC:

Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter, only to back away after the election. And they helped Clinton’s allies research damaging information on Trump and his advisers, a Politico investigation found.

A Ukrainian-American operative[, Alexandra Chalupa,] who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.

One must thereby categorize Chalupa as a Ukrainian agent or at least as naive manipulated by the Ukrainian government and read her accordingly.

The foreign influence on the presidential race through the Ukrainian (fascist) connection to the Clinton campaign is thereby much more grounded in reality than the alleged but completely unproven Russian connections to the Trump campaign.

We have a Ukrainian-American nationalist Democratic campaign operator promoting anti-Russian and anti-Trump claims in cooperation with the Ukrainian government, a Ukrainian-American ProPornOT blacklist for smearing random website of being "Russian propaganda" and Ukrainian fascist tropes used in fact-less "reports" intended to smear Trump as a Russian puppet. Above all of this we have a U.S intelligence community that is feverishly fighting against a Trump presidency which is likely to cut back its many excrescences and excesses.

The CIA, the MI-6 and the German BND (a CIA controlled service) have pampered and promoted the again very active anti-Russian Ukrainian fascist circles since (at least) the late 1940s. A U.S. National Archive book about Hitler's Shadows - Nazi War Criminals, U.S. Intelligence and the Cold War (PDF) notes:

British operations through Bandera expanded. An early 1954 MI6 summary noted that, “the operational aspect of this [British] collaboration [with Bandera] was developing satisfactorily. Gradually a more complete control was obtained over infiltration operations and although the intelligence dividend was low it was considered worthwhile to proceed....”
...
In June 1985 the General Accounting Office mentioned Lebed’s name in a public report on Nazis and collaborators who settled in the United States with help from U.S. intelligence agencies. The Office of Special Investigations (OSI) in the Department of Justice began investigating Lebed that year. The CIA worried that public scrutiny of Lebed would compromise QRPLUMB and that failure to protect Lebed would trigger outrage in the Ukrainian émigré community. It thus shielded Lebed by denying any connection between Lebed and the Nazis and by arguing that he was a Ukrainian freedom fighter. The truth, of course, was more complicated. As late as 1991 the CIA tried to dissuade OSI from approaching the German, Polish, and Soviet governments for war-related records related to the OUN. OSI eventually gave up the case, unable to procure definitive documents on Lebed. Mykola Lebed, Bandera’s wartime chief in Ukraine, died in 1998. He is buried in New Jersey, and his papers are located at the Ukrainian Research Institute at Harvard University.

There is no open evidence yet of a direct connection between the three anti-Russian/anti-Trump items above, the Ukrainian-fascist movement and John Brennan's deep-state CIA. There are consistencies in tone and message, some common history including the 2014 putsch in Ukraine and a connecting Ukrainian-American person in bowels of the Clinton campaign.

But even that is more than the baseless assertions of "Russian hacking" in the DNI intelligence reports and the now published MI-6 smears. Seen from a distance the "Intelligence Community" is more compromised by these "leaks" than the President elect Trump.

It is not predictable who will win this fight, the "deep state" cabal that wants to keep the U.S. on an anti-Russian course or the somewhat outsider isolationist Trump. My bet is on the bullshit artist Trump.

In the bigger international picture the fight itself, and the publicity it gets, lets the U.S. look like the Banana republic it is destined to become.

UPDATE:

The BBC Washington reporter Paul Wood on BBC radio today:

  • has seen the "report" in October
  • was told in August by U.S. intelligence that East-European(!) intelligence head claimed Russia had kompromat on Trump
  • there are allegedly audio and video tapes made in Moscow and Petersberg which nobody has seen

We are left to guess what "east-European intelligence" service he was talking about ...

2nd UPDATE:

There are claims that the Trump sex story involved in the 35 pages originates from alt-right or 4chan circles.

That does not fit the timeline.

The "reports" have circulated since August. The sex claim is an July part of the report. The 4chan story originated in November (as far as I can tell) and was pushed from 4chan to one political actor aligned with the Democratic party. But that was old news by then and everyone relevant was already aware of the story. It is very likely that the 4chan story was just a rehash of the already known "report" story and has no additional validity.

3rd UPDATE:

BBC's Paul Wood has more on the issue: Trump 'compromising' claims: How and why did we get here?

  • Nothing in the 35 pages has been shown to be true
  • There are additional claims of Russian (bank) payments to someone (not Trump directly but probably related) in the U.S.
  • The payment claims were used to get FISA warrants which were twice rejected(!) but in October signed by a new judge
  • The payment claims come from the secret service of "a Baltic State"

Other news services seem to mix up these payment claims with those in the 35 pages. But they are different issues.

Yesterday evening DNI Clapper had a talk with Trump - it is unclear from Clapper's statement what issues exactly were talked about. He seems to allude to the payment claims, not the 35 pages.

Posted by b on January 11, 2017 at 07:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (351)

January 09, 2017

ISIS, Al-Qaeda And The U.S. Airforce Wage War On Syria's Public Utilities

There is a campaign underway to destroy Syria's public utilities. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the U.S. airforce are involved. Their action is coordinated.

That is an outrageous statement? No such coordination would ever happen?  Consider:

The idea of the Islamic State was "born" in the U.S. military prison camp Bucca in Iraq. Many of its future leader were interned there and had time and space to develop their philosophy and to plan their future operations.

In 2012 the Defense Intelligence Agency warned of the rise of an Islamic State entity in Syria and Iraq:

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

In an August 2014 NYT interview with Thomas Friedman President Obama said that the U.S. knew about the dangers of ISIS but did nothing to stop its expansion in Iraq because it could be used to oust then Prime Minister Maliki:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.

In a recent talk with some U.S. paid members of the Syrian opposition Secretary of State Kerry (video - 25:50) made a similar point but wuth regard to Syria:

"And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened" Kerry told the Syrians. "(We) thought, however," he continued. "we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate. But instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him."

There are doubts that the U.S. was only watching from afar. The beginning and growth of ISIS was financed by U.S. Gulf "allies" which are subordinated to U.S. wishes. When the Obama administration had to start bombing ISIS after it killed a U.S. journalist the few bombs its airforce dropped were hitting an "ISIS fighting position" or an "ISIS excavator". That wasn't a serious campaign. Meanwhile thousands of Turkish tanker trucks were waiting in the deserts to load oil from ISIS controlled wells to sell it to Turkey. Only after the Russian President Putin showed satellite pictures of those huge truck columns to his colleagues at a G20 meeting did the U.S. start to attack this major source of ISIS finances.

At the end of last year the U.S. military bombed a Syrian government position in Deir Ezzor where some 100,000 Syrians are besieged by ISIS. It killed more than Syrian 100 troops and enabled ISIS to take important hill positions that may eventually help it to conquer the city. This was an intentional strike.

Currently a campaign is waged by the Takfiri forces opposing the Syrian government and by the U.S. to deprive the people under its protection of all public utilities - water, gas and electricity. After the start of the current blocking of the water supplies to Damascus and its 5-6 million inhabitants we noted:

This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts on lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.

This campaign against basic infrastructure has since continued. U.S. support "rebel" groups take part in it. Al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al Nusra, does its share in Wadi Barada. The U.S. military just bombed another Syrian power station. In 2015 it had already waged a campaign against such installations creating huge material damages. Since three days Deir Ezzor and surroundings have no electricity at all. Yesterday ISIS again joined the campaign and blew up a huge gas processing facility in Hayyan in east Homs. Hayyan is the largest such station in Syria and provided electricity, heating gas and cooking gas for all of south Syria including the capital Damascus.

This is a systematic, wide ranging campaign against Syrian infrastructure designed to deprive the people living under government protection of the basic necessities.

If you would ask the U.S. government it would of course say that such a campaign does not exist and is totally not coordinated by the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. It is just coincidence that U.S. supported "rebels", al-Qaeda, ISIS and the U.S. airforce all hit the same category of targets in Syria at the very same moment of their war against the Syrian people.

In knowledge of the top U.S. sources quoted above I would be inclined to doubt such an assertion.

The campaign is in prelude to the next stage of the war for which all involved parties currently prepare. As Obama still gives the orders we can expect it to be more vicious and with even more propaganda support than his failed "defense" of his proxy forces in east-Aleppo.

Posted by b on January 9, 2017 at 03:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (173)

January 07, 2017

Intelligence Report On Russian Election Influence Is A Flop

Yesterday the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA and the FBI released a report about alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Council and on Russian influence operation on the U.S. presidential election. The report failed to convince anyone. It is indeed a public relation disaster for the Intelligence Community.

John Harwood covers "the economy and national politics for CNBC and the New York Times." More then 100,000 people follow him on Twitter. He is known as Hillary Clinton supporter and chummy with John Podesta who ran Clinton's election campaign.

Harwood set up a simple poll. It is not statistically representative but gives a picture of a general sentiment.

This result surely shows the limits of power of the so-called Intelligence Community. But it is worse: yesterday's "Russian hacking" claims failed to convince even its most ardent and anti-Russian supporters.

Daily Beast: U.S. Spy Report Blames Putin for Hacks, But Doesn’t Back It Up

Kevin Rothrock (Moscow Times):

I cannot believe my eyes. Is this really part of the US government's intelligence case?

I'll say it: the declassified USG report "Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections" is an embarrassment.

Susan Hennessey (Lawfare, Brookings):

The unclassified report is underwhelming at best. There is essentially no new information for those who have been paying attention.

Bill Neely (NBCNews):

Lots of key judgements but not many key facts & no open proof in US Intell. report into alleged Russian hacking.

Stephen Hayes (Weekly Standard):

The intel report on Russia is little more than a collection of assertions. Understand protecting sources/methods, but it's weak.

Julia Ioffe (The Atlantic):

It's hard to tell if the thinness of the #hacking report is because the proof is qualified, or because the proof doesn't exist.

@JeffreyGoldberg Have to say, though, I'm hearing from a lot of Russia watchers who are very skeptical of the report. None like Putin/Trump.

When you lost even Julia Ioffe on your anti-Russian issue ...

Clapper as DNI and Brennan as CIA chief should have been fired years ago. They will both be gone by January 20. The Intelligence Community will remember them as the chief-authors of this devastating failure.

Posted by b on January 7, 2017 at 08:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (211)

January 06, 2017

New Intelligence Report Adds No Evidence Of "Russian Hacking" (Updated)

UPDATE: Up to today there is no public evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic National Council and/or released DNC material to Wikileaks. After today's new intelligence report (pdf) there is still no such evidence. (One third of the report is dedicated to criticize the Russian government's TV outlet Russia Today for criticizing Hillary Clinton. The RT viewer numbers claimed in the report are evidently false from 2012 and thereby completely irrelevant.) There are rather wild assertions and a lot of conjecture but zero facts that could be accepted as proof.

Alexi de Sadesky saz: "ноль + ноль = ноль"

 

End-update

When Hillary Clinton was defeated in the U.S. presidential election the relevant powers launched a campaign to delegitimize the President elect Donald Trump.

The ultimate aim of the cabal is to kick him out of office and have a reliable replacement, like the Vice-President elect Pence, take over. Should that not be possible it is hoped that the delegitimization will make it impossible for Trump to change major policy trajectories especially in foreign policy. A main issue here is the reorientation of the U.S. military complex and its NATO proxies from the war of terror towards a direct confrontation with main powers like Russia and China.

The cabal consists of President Obama, the defeated candidate Hillary Clinton, neoconservatves like the State Department's cookie dispenser Victoria Nuland, the Republican senators McCain and Lindsay and the military-industrial complex. (One of the few neocons planted near to Trump, former CIA director James Woolsey, threw the towel today and left the Trump transition team.)

A major role in directing the plot has fallen to Obama's consigliere John Brennan, the current director of the CIA. Another role has been delegated to the various military and NATO think tanks like the Atlantic Council and the British RUSI and reliable proxies within the media.

The current emphasis of the campaign is on the release of emails and papers from the Clinton campaign through Wikileaks. It is alleged that some releases were gained through hacking, planned and executed by the Russian government. Trump had announced that he plans to seek good relations with Russia, the power that the cabal had earlier chosen as the new enemy de jour.

But there is a problem. There is no real evidence that a "hack" ever happened. There is no evidence that Russia is involved. None at all.

Three cases of paper releases have to be differentiated:

  • The emails from Clinton's private basement mail-server were released by the State Department after various FOIA requests.
  • Emails from Clinton's campaign chief John Podesta were released after someone "spear phished" his Gmail password and got access to his mail box. Such spear phishing - sending an email which asks to change one's password on a faked login page - happens thousands of times each day. Naturally prominent people with publicly widely known addresses are the preferred targets of such stunts. This has nothing to do with real hacking which defeats a system's defense by manipulating computer code.
  • The Democratic National Council was probably hacked. "Probably" because it is still quite possible that a (murdered?) insider leaked the DNC emails and the hacking "evidence" is made up to conceal that. But even that "evidence", presented by the DNC hired company Crowdstrike, is thin.

Allegedly there were two different hacks into the DNC. One was probably harmless, the second one is said to have gained system-level access. I have found no explanation yet how the hackers of the second attack got their first entry into the DNC system. Was an administrator spear-phished? Crowdstrike's fluffy account doesn't say. But it mentions two well known tools the alleged hackers are claimed to have used: "RemCOM, an open-source replacement for PsExec available from GitHub" and "X-Agent malware with capabilities to do remote command execution, file transmission and keylogging". The X-Agent hacking suite has been known for some time and is used by several actors. It is likely also in use by other non-state and state services. All such hacking tools use freely available infrastructure like TOR or rented networks from cyber-crime wholesalers like the recently exposed Israeli denial-of-service franchiser.

The tools and the infrastructure the DNC hackers allegedly used are not evidence that points to any specific actor. Indeed any cyber-crime actor, like the NSA, seeks to disguise as a different actor when committing attacks. Something that "proves" that A did it is likely to have been created by B, C or D to disguise as A.

As no evidence exists the cabal has to rely on throwing chaff, lots of it, and on conjecture. Media who propagandize such are plenty. Keep in mind that some 95% of U.S. media backed Clinton during the campaign.

The Joint Assessment Report released (pdf) last Friday was hyped in the media. But it failed to prove hacking or any Russian involvement.

The new report released later today adds nothing but fluff to it. Selected bits of the new intelligence report are systematically "leaked" by "senior intelligence officials". Here are headlines from today that show how stupid the presented "evidence" is.

The Washington Post: U.S. intercepts capture senior Russian officials celebrating Trump win

A lot of people all over the world celebrated when Clinton lost - me included. So the headline above carries grains of truth. But it could have been be shortened to CIA finds, watches RT clip on Youtube:

Russia: State Duma applauds Trump's victory in US elections

The Russian State Duma welcomed the news of Republican candidate Donald Trump's victory in the US Presidential elections with a round of applause from Moscow, Wednesday. Deputy Vyacheslav Nikonov announced Donald Trump as the president-elect which was greeted enthusiastically by the chamber.

So yes, the WaPo report is correct. Senior Russian officials celebrated the Trump win - publicly. Even the CIA somehow got wind of that.

Deep down the Washington Post piece also says:

The new report incorporates material from previous assessments and assembles in a single document details of cyber operations dating back to 2008. Still, U.S. officials said there are no major new bombshell disclosures even in the classified report. A shorter, declassified version is expected to be released to the public early next week.

How could information from some cyber operation in 2008 be relevant here? The systems existing today are hardly the same. We can assume that this is only included to disguise the lack of current proof that any hack of the DNC happened. And the "no bombshell disclosure" line is just a different way of saying: "We got nothing new. There was no real evidence before this report and there is none in it now."

Also consider this lines from a Reuters report on the new release:

Not all 17 intelligence agencies participated in preparing the assessment.
...
The report contains some of what the officials called “minor footnotes” about open questions and other uncertainties

Not all 17 U.S. intelligence services signed off on the report. Those who declined to be part of it will have their reasons. Footnotes to the "slam dunk" 2002 National Intelligence Estimate on alleged Iraqi Weapons of Mass Destruction reports got some prominence:

Not all agencies involved concurred with the NIE’s conclusions. Two footnotes have come to public attention. In one, the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research dissented from the intelligence community’s majority view [...]. In another footnote, the U.S. Air Force’s director for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance questioned [...]

Back then the "minor footnotes" caveats turned out to be correct while the "evidence" in the main report was fake and its conclusions were one big lie.

Consider also this example on how the "evidence" about the alleged DNC "hack" was gained: The FBI Now Says Democrats Were Behind Hack Investigation Delay:

“The FBI repeatedly stressed to DNC officials the necessity of obtaining direct access to servers and data, only to be rebuffed until well after the initial compromise had been mitigated. This left the FBI no choice but to rely upon a third party for information,” a senior law enforcement official told BuzzFeed News in a statement.

The third party was Crowdstrike, a cyber-something company who's founder and Chief Technical Officer is the Senior Fellow of the Atlantic Council, Dmitri Alperovitch. (I fail to find biographic information about Alperovitch. Where was he born?) The Atlantic Council NATO lobby is sponsored by various foreign (Gulf) governments and defense industry companies. Crowdstrike was hired by the DNC.

The FBI statement above inspired me to write this movie plot:

In the public courtroom:

Judge to FBI: "So you know who killed Mrs. Clintons Dream?"

FBI: "Yes. We think Vlad did it ... evidence ..."

Judge: "You found the evidence at the crime scene?"

FBI: "Yes, ehem .. no. We never visited the crime scene. We were not allowed to enter it. Our assessments rely on the reports by the private investigators. The victim's family hired those."

Hollywood rejected that movie script. "Hilarious, but too implausible," they said.

Whenever there is talk of "evidence" of alleged hacking or any Russian involvement ask for real evidence. You will likely be pointed to the several (semi-)official reports and opinions that have been issued so far. But none of these reports, which I read a to z, contains any real evidence. It may be that the DNC got hacked - may be. Even if it was - the case currently presented points only to tools and methods that are known and used all over the hacking and spying scene. To say that it was a "Russian hack" is pure conjecture based on chaff and hot air.

Keep in mind who makes those "hacking" assertions and the motives and money behind them.

Posted by b on January 6, 2017 at 10:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (161)

January 05, 2017

Open Thread 2017-01

News & views ...

Posted by b on January 5, 2017 at 02:22 PM | Permalink | Comments (272)

January 04, 2017

The Enemy Du Jour Is Always Hacking

Three pieces in the same leading newspaper show how little changes with "hacking" stories when the powers-that-are decide that some country is now the "enemy."

1. By NYT staff reporter Erich Lichtblau: Increase in Electronic Attacks Leads to Warning on Hackers and U.S. Safety

Intelligence officials are concerned that a recent rise in electronic attacks against government and military computer networks in the United States may be the work of pro-[country] hackers and could signal a "potential crisis" in national security, according to a classified F.B.I. assessment.

The assessment, prepared last week by the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned intelligence officials that the attacks, which have been relatively limited, are likely to grow more widespread and "more dangerous" as tension over a possible war against [country] grows.

American intelligence analysts say they have long been concerned by the notion that Al Qaeda could use computers to wage terror -- disrupting water treatment plants or nuclear facilities, for instance. Experts say the link between [country] and computer hacking may have been underestimated and poses a growing threat to United States security.

"[Country] is certainly among the places in the world that we think a cyberattack might well be launched from," Representative Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, a Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee who has been active on cyberwarfare issues, said in an interview.

Mr. Andrews noted that computer attacks were difficult to trace and could be damaging, which he said met 's goals. "A cyberattack really fits [country]'s [leader] paradigm for attacking us," he said.

2. By NYT staff reporter Nicole Perlroth: Cyberespionage Attacks Tied to Hackers in [country]

SAN FRANCISCO — An elaborate, three-year cyberespionage campaign against United States military contractors, members of Congress, diplomats, lobbyists and Washington-based journalists has been linked to hackers in [country].

The campaign compromised the computers of some 2,000 victims and went unnoticed since 2011, according to a report to be released Thursday by iSight Partners, a computer security firm in Dallas.

American intelligence officials have long said [country]'s hackers are a serious threat, [..]
...
[L]ast year, American officials said [country] hackers were behind a wave of attacks on several American oil, gas and electricity companies,that officials described as probes looking for ways to disrupt critical processing systems.

3. By NYT staff reporter Erich Lichtblau: Computer Systems Used by Clinton Campaign Are Said to Be Hacked, Apparently by [country]

WASHINGTON — Computer systems used by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked in an attack that appears to have come from [country]’s intelligence services, a federal law enforcement official said on Friday.

The apparent breach, coming after the disclosure last month that the Democratic National Committee’s computer system had been compromised, escalates an international episode in which Clinton campaign officials have suggested that [country] might be trying to sway the outcome of the election.
...
Clinton campaign officials have suggested that [leader] of [country] could be trying to tilt the election to Mr. Trump, who has expressed admiration for the [country]'s leader. But the campaign officials acknowledge that they have no evidence. The Trump campaign has dismissed the accusations about [country] as a deliberate distraction.

The first piece was published on January 17 2003, the country is Iraq and the leader is Saddam Hussein.

The second piece was published on May 29 2014, the country is Iran.

The third piece was published on July 29 2016, the country is Russia and the leader is Vladimir Putin.

Posted by b on January 4, 2017 at 02:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (115)

January 03, 2017

U.S./UK Paid "White Helmets" Help Blocking Water To 5 Million Thirsty Syrians

The blockade of water from Wadi Barada to 5 million people in Damascus is taking an interesting turn. The U.S. and UK financed White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it. This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a organized campaign under U.S. command. The campaign is designed to block utilities to government held areas as revenge for the liberation of east Aleppo.

As we described it yesterday:

After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.

On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.

Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.

The Syrian government is ready to send repair teams to rehabilitate the water flow to the millions of civilians in Damascus. But access to the site is denied and the Syrian army is now trying to push al-Qaeda and its allies away from it.

Curiously some "civil" groups today offered access under several (not agreeable) conditions:

Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha - 2:10 AM - 3 Jan 2017

Wadi Barada statement: we will let teams to fix water spring if SAA-Hezb stop attack, siege lift & monitor ceasefire by intl observers
[attachment]

EHSANI2 @EHSANI22 - 6:43 AM - 3 Jan 2017

Offer by opposition to trade access to water source for #Damascus with halting of military operations by army
[attachment]

Here is the attachment to both tweets. Note who signed it:


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Check the logos of the undersigning organizations You will probably recognize the middle one in the second row. Here it is magnified.

And here is the original of that logo taken directly from the website of the Syrian Civil Defense organization aka The White Helmets:

The organizations who make an offer to lift the water blockade of Damascus obviously think they have the power to do so. They then must also be held responsible for keeping the blockade up. They must also have intimate relations with the al-Qaeda fighters who currently occupy the damaged water facilities.

The U.S. and UK government created and paid White Helmets are "impartially", "neutrally" and "for all Syrians" blocking the water supply to 5 million Syrians in Damascus. U.S. military and CIA officers run the "operations rooms" in Jordan and Turkey that direct the insurgency.

This increases suspicion that the blockade is part of an organized response by the enemies of Syria to the recent liberation of east-Aleppo. As noted yesterday:

This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts of lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.

Even after 14 days of water crisis in Damascus the "western" media are not reporting about the al-Qaeda blockade of water for 5 million Syrians. We can be sure that not a word will be written by them about this illegal hostages taking of millions of civilians in Damascus by their favorite propaganda organization White Helmets.

Posted by b on January 3, 2017 at 01:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (146)

January 02, 2017

Al-Qaeda Cut Leaves 5 Million Thirsty In Damascus - Western Media Unconcerned

There is a humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and the "western" media ignore it.

On December 22 al-Qaeda aligned Takfiris in the Wadi Barada valley shut down the main water supply for the Syrian capital Damascus. Since then the city and some 5-6 million living in and around it have to survive on emergency water distributions by the Syrian government. That is barely enough for people to drink - no washing, no showers and no water dependent production is possible.

This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts on lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut. A similar tactic was used by the Zionist terrorists of the Haganah who in 1947/48 poisoned and blew up the water mains and oil pipelines to Palestinian Haifa.

Wadi Barada is a river valley some 10 miles west of Damascus at the mountain range between Lebanon and Syria. It has been in the hands of local insurgents since 2012. The area was since loosely surrounded by Syrian government forces and their allies from Hizbullah.

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Two springs in the area provide the water for Damascus which is treated locally and then pumped through pipelines into the city's distribution network. Since the early 1990s there is a low level conflict over the water diversion of the Barada river valley to the ever growing Damascus. The drought over the last years has intensified the problems. Local agriculture of the water rich valley had to cut back for lack of water as this was pumped into the city. But many families from the valley moved themselves into the city or have relatives living there.

The local rebels had kept the water running for the city. Al-Qaeda aligned groups have been in the area for some time. A propaganda video distributed by them and taken in the area showed (pic) the choreographed mass execution of Syrian government soldiers.

After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.

On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.

Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.

Suddenly new organized "civil" media operations of, allegedly, locals in the area spread misinformation to "western" media. "There are 100,000 civilians under siege in Wadi Barada!" In reality the whole area once had, according to the last peacetime census, some 20,000 inhabitants. The White Helmets propaganda organization now also claims to be in the area. "The government had bombed the water treatment facility," the propaganda groups claimed.

That is a. not plausible and b. inconsistent with the pictures of the destroyed facility. These show a collapse of the main support booms of the roof but no shrapnel impact at all. A bomb breaking through the roof and exploding would surely have left pocket marks all over the place. The damage, in my judgement, occurred from well designed, controlled explosions inside the facility.

Some insurgents posted pictures of themselves proudly standing within the destroyed facility and making victory signs.


source bigger

There is more such cheer-leading by insurgents on social media. Why when they claim that the government bombed the place?

On December 29 the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs issued an alarm about the water crisis:

The United Nations is alarmed that four million inhabitants in Damascus and surrounding areas have been cut off from the main water supply since 22 December. Two primary sources of drinking water- Wadi Barada and Ain-el-Fijah-which provide clean and safe water for 70 percent of the population in and around Damascus are not functioning, due to deliberate targeting resulting in the damaged infrastructure.

One of the two springs, Al-Feejeh, has now been retaken by the Syrian army. 1,300 civilians from Ain AlFeejeh, the nearby town with the treatment facility, have fled to the government held areas and were taken in by the Syrian Red Cross. The other spring and the treatment facility are still in Takfiri hands. The government has said that it will need some ten days to repair the system after the Syrian army has gained control of the facilities. That will still take some time.

Western media have hardly taken notice of the water crisis in Damascus and their coverage seems to actively avoid it. A search for Barada on the Washington Post website brings up one original piece from December 30 about the freshly negotiated ceasefire. The 6th paragraph says:

Airstrikes pounded opposition-held villages and towns in the strategically-important Barada Valley outside Damascus, activists said, prompting rebels to threaten to withdraw their compliance with a nationwide truce brokered by Russia and Turkey last week.

Then follow 16 paragraphs on other issues. Only at the very end of the piece comes this (mis-)information:

The Barada Valley is the primary source of water for the capital and its surrounding region. The government assault has coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since Dec. 22. Images from the valley’s Media Center indicate its Ain al-Fijeh spring and water processing facility have been destroyed in airstrikes. The government says rebels spoiled the water source with diesel fuel, forcing it to cut supplies to the capital.

On December 29 a piece  by main WaPo anti-Syria propagandist Liz Sly did not mention the water crisis or the Barada valley at all.

The New York Times links a Reuters pieces about the UN alarm about the water crisis. But I find nothing in its own reporting that even mentions the water crisis. One piece on December 31 refers shortly to attacks on Wadi Baradi by government forces at its very end.

A Guardian search for Barada only comes up with a piece from today mixed from agency reports. The headlines say "Hundreds of Syrians flee as Assad's forces bomb Barada valley rebels". The piece itself says that they flee to the government side.  In it the Syrian Observatory (MI-6) operation in Britain confirms that al-Qaeda rules the area which "Civil society organisations on the ground" deny. Only the very last of the 12 paragraph piece mentions the capital:

The Barada valley is the primary source of water for the capital and its surrounding region. The government assault has coincided with a severe water shortage in Damascus since 22 December. The government says rebels spoiled the water source with diesel fuel, forcing it to cut supplies to the capital.

Surely a few people "fleeing" (to the government side) "as Assad's forces bombs" are way more important than 5 million people in Damascus without access to water. That the treatment facility is destroyed seems also unimportant.

All the above papers have been extremely concerned about every scratch to any propaganda pimp who had claimed to be in then rebel held east-Aleppo. They now show no concern at all for 5 million Syrians in Damascus who have been without water for 10 days and will likely be so for the rest of the month.

Posted by b on January 2, 2017 at 02:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (87)

 
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