Democrats: "Russia Ate Our Homework"
TRUMP increases sanctions on Russia.
DEMOCRATS: "Putin installed this president! Trump is illegitimate!"
TRUMP expands wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria
DEMOCRATS: "Russia is out to get us!"
TRUMP dismantles environmental regulations.
DEMOCRATS: "White House distracts from Russia investigation!"
TRUMP kills worker protection, lowers billionaire taxes.
DEMOCRATS: "Putin's interference cost us the election!"
TRUMP launches nuclear war with North Korea.
DEMOCRATS: "Russia ate our homework!"
U.S. To Escalate Its Two Years War On Starving Yemen
The picture shows yesterday's rally in Sanaa,Yemen where up to 1 million people were condemning the war Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the U.S. have been waging on them for two years.
Nether the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported of the million strong rally. Both though reported widely of a 8,000 strong demonstration in Moscow led by the ultra-nationalist anti-semitic racist Alexey Navalny (vid). Navalny, who polls less than 1% in Russia, is their great and groundless hope to replace the Russian President Putin.
The war on Yemen was launched to show the manliness of the Saudi princes. Well, that may not be the proclaimed reason but it is the only one that makes sense. The U.S. takes part in the war because ... well - no one knows:
The morning after that NSC news release was posted on the White House webpage two years ago, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, commander of the U.S. Central Command, was asked about the objectives of the U.S. support. His stunning reply remains the most accurate characterization from a U.S. official: “I don’t currently know the specific goals and objectives of the Saudi campaign, and I would have to know that to be able to assess the likelihood of success.” Other than dropping weapons with an unconscionable lack of discrimination and proportionality, it appears there are no clear goals and objectives to this day.
The Saudis claim their coalition has dropped 90,000 bombs during the two year war. That are 123 bombs per day. 5 each and every hour for no good reason. It hasn't helped them at all. The Houthi/Saleh alliance the Saudis fight claims (vid) to have destroyed 176 AFVs, 643 MRAPs, 147 MBTs, 12 Apaches, 20 drones, 4 aircraft. Additionally 109 tactical ballistic missiles were fired. Many of those (certainly exaggerated) Houth/Saleh successes happened on Saudi ground. Its southern desert does not protect Saudi Arabia, it opens it up to attacks.
The U.S. provides planing, intelligence, air-refueling and the ammunition for the Saudi bombing. Without U.S. support this war would not happen at all!
The United Nation claims that the death toll of the war is a mere 5,000. Others speak of 7-8,000. These numbers are laughable. One Saudi attack alone, a "double tap" on a Sanaa funeral hall, killed more than 800. The real death toll of the war is by now likely beyond 100,000. Especially in north-west Yemen, along the Saudi border, each and every Yemeni town and city has been bombed into ruins. Where are the people who once lived there?
The Saudis have simply threatened the UN that they will stop to provide any money for any of its relief efforts should it it make any noise. The UN folded.
Yemen is starving. Even before the war 90% of Yemen's staple food was imported. The Saudis have since bombed each and every food production facility, chicken farm and port. All larger bridges have been cut. There is no longer any way to import food into the capital Sanaa and the other areas the Saudis besiege. Too small official relief efforts are still running through the Hodeida port on the western coast. The port itself is controlled by the Houthi/Saudi alliance the Saudi want to eliminate. But the port is blockaded from the water side. The Saudis navy and airforce destroys all ship who try to enter or leave it. Some official relief ships are allowed to pass but they have difficulties to unload. All large cranes in the harbor have been destroyed by air attacks.
Still - to deliberately starve off all of the 17 million Yemenis who are "food insecure", i.e. extremely hungry and nearly starved, the port needs to be closed down for good. That is why the UAE and the Saudi plan to invade, conquer and occupy it. The fighting about the port will be a good excuse to close it down for good until no one in Sanaa is left alive.
The Pentagon is now requesting a free hand to help the Saudis to conquer and occupy the Hodeida harbor. Why the U.S. would do this? Well - the reason is at least as good as the one given two years ago:
[I]f decisions are not made soon, the senior administration official said, “we’re afraid the situation” in Yemen may escalate, “and our partners may take action regardless. And we won’t have visibility, and we won’t be in a position to understand what it does to our counterterrorism operations.”
So if the U.S. does not "help" (i.e. organizes) to close down the last source of food for the millions besieged by the Saudis then it may not be able to understand what that means.
Now there is a really good reason to put boots on the ground! "Unless we do it, we will not know the consequences and that is something we would want to know, right?"
Gas From Israel And The Flynn Wiretapping - Behind The Deep-State Infighting Over The Trump Election
What is really behind the deep-state infighting over the U.S. elections and the "wire tapping" of the Trump campaign? Why was the CIA-Neocon axis vehemently lobbying against Trump? What foreign interests and what money is involved in this? Answers to these questions are now emerging.
The former director of the CIA under Clinton, James Woolsey, went to the Wall Street Journal and offered some information (likely some true and some false) on the retired General Flynn and the lobbying businesses he was involved in. Woolsey is an arch-neoconservative. He had worked on the transition team of Trump but got fired over "growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies." Flynn is the former National Security Advisor of Trump who later also got fired. Woolsey was a board member of Flynn's former lobbying company FIG.
Woolsey claims: In September 2016 he took part in a meeting between Flynn and high level Turkish officials, including the Turkish foreign minister and the energy minister who is the son-in-law of the Turkish president Erdogan. During the meeting, Woolsey claims, a brainstorming took place over how the Turkish cult leader Fethullah Gülen could -probably by illegal means- be removed from the U.S. and handed over to Turkey.
Gülen is accused by the Erdogan mafia of initiating a coup attempt against it. The U.S. claims officially that there is no evidence for such an accusation and that Gülen can therefore not be rendered to Turkey. Gülen is an old CIA asset that helped the U.S. deep state to control Turkey. Erdogan divorced from the Gülen organization after it became useless for his neo-Ottoman project.
Flynn was accused by the anti-Trump campaign to have worked for Russia. He had taken several $10,000 for speeches he gave in Moscow. He also, at times, had argued for better U.S. relations with Russia. But Flynn's pro-Russia stand was probably honest. (Or the bribes involved were just smaller than the ones paid by others.) The money he got on the speaker circus was rather small for a man in his position.
Flynn's real corruption was on another issue. After having been fired from the Trump administration, Flynn retroactively filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). His lobbying firm had a contract over $530,000 to work for a company near to the Turkish president Erdogan:
In its filing, Mr. Flynn’s firm said its work from August to November “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” The filing said his firm’s fee, $530,000, wasn’t paid by the government but by Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin.
This lobbying, not the alleged Flynn-Putin relation, is the real scandal and part of the Trump/CIA/Clinton deep-state in-fighting.
The meeting Woolsey described was under the "Turkish" Flynn contract. The Turkish business man, and owner of Inovo, Ekim Alptekin is a member of the Erdogan gang. But hidden at the very end of the WSJ story is the real key to understand the shady network:
Inovo hired Mr. Flynn on behalf of an Israeli company seeking to export natural gas to Turkey, the filing said, and Mr. Alptekin wanted information on the U.S.-Turkey political climate to advise the gas company about its Turkish investments.
It was the Israeli gas company, not the Alptekin outlet, that drove the issue.
The Leviatan (and Tamar) gas fields in the Mediterranean along the Israeli coast are a huge energy and profit resource IF the gas from them can be exported to Europe. Several companies are involved in the exploration and all are looking for ways to connect the fields to the European gas network. There are (likely true) rumors that huge bribes have been payed in Israel, Jordan and elsewhere to win exploration contracts and to sell the gas. Negotiations between Israel and Turkey over the pipeline have been on and off. They depend on a positive climate towards Israel in the Turkish government which again depends on the often changing political position of the Erdogan gang.
The picture evolving here (lots of sleuthing and sources) is this:
An Israeli company (or whoever is behind it) wants a gas pipeline to Turkey. It hires Flynn and Alptekin to arrange a positive climate for the Leviathan pipeline within the Turkish government. It offers Flynn more than half a million for a little (4-month long) influence work. His job is to create a "friendly atmosphere" for the deal by using his influence in the U.S. to accommodate Erdogan. A major point that is expected from Flynn is to arrange the handover of Gülen, by whatever means, from the U.S. to Erdogan.
After accepting the (lobbying) bribe Flynn-the-whore suddenly changes his former anti-Turkish, pro-Russian, pro-Kurdish political position into a pro-Turkish, neutral-Russian and anti-Kurdish one. (His lobbying firm also makes some smaller payments related to the Clinton email-server scandal. This may be related to links between the Clinton family and the Gülen school empire.) He has a meeting with the Turkish government/Erdogan officials part of which is a discussion of a removal of Gülen to Turkey. He pens a pro Erdogan anti-Gülen op-ed which is published on the day of the election and he denigrates the Pentagon plan to work with the Kurds in Syria.
The NSA, CIA and the FBI are listening to Flynn's conversations with Turkish and Israeli interests. (For the old and long history of such "wiretapping" of Turkish and Israeli connections and various dirty and criminal deals they revealed read and ask Sibel Edmonds.)
The projects which Flynn is involved in, especially removing Gülen, are against the long term interests of the (neoconservative-driven) CIA. Selected tapes of his talks are transcribed and distributed within the anti-Trump campaign. This is the origin of the "wiretapping" of the Trump Tower the U.S. president lamented about. The stuff the CIA dug up about Flynn's dealing was and is used against Trump.
Woolsey is caught up in this as he also worked for Flynn's lobbying firm. (His neocon-pro-Zionist history suggests that he is the senior Israeli watchdog over Flynn in all this.) He is now engaged in damage control and is "coming clean" and selectively leaking his anti-Flynn stuff to exculpate himself. (There is probably also some new, better deal involved that will pay off from him.)
The Israeli-Turkish pipeline and the related deep-state fight are not the only issue involved in the campaign against Trump. There are also British interests and British intelligence involvement especially with the accusations against Russia of "hacking" of the DNC. If and how these fit in with above has not yet been revealed.
Open Thread 2017-12News & views ...
Syria Summary - The U.S. Move On Tabqa Will Complicate The Political Situation
Turkey is at a dead end in Syria. Erdogan's dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.
Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the north west, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.
Coordinated with the Hama attack was an attempt to capture ground on the eastern periphery of Damascus and in the south around Deraa. The Damascus attack has run its cause. No ground was taken and held by the Takfiris and the counterattack against them is advancing. The attack in Deraa failed to break the Syrian army defense lines.
The head of the "White Helmet" propaganda gang in south Deraa was killed in an IED attack by al-Qaeda aligned forces. He was no Samaritan. He also commanded the 18 March Division, part of the foreign paid insurgency against the Syrian state.
The large Syrian army move on Idleb governate to liberate it from the Takfiris is still in preparation. No date has been set for its launch.
East of Aleppo city the Syrian army had blocked all Turkish proxy advances. It continued south to retake the country side from the Islamic State and is making good progress. The biggest city in the area, Deir Hafar, was nearly surrounded today by the Syrian army when the Islamic State fighters suddenly moved out. It is now back in government hands. [The sources were wrong on this. Deir Hafar is effectively surrounded but not yet in government hands. - Mar 23 1110 pm] The Syrian army in the area will continue to move south and south-east towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
The U.S. proxy force in north-east Syria, the Kurdish anarcho-marxists of the PKK/YPK, have advanced on Raqqa. Raqqa lies slightly north of the Euphrates. The only way south and west from Raqqa that was left open was across the Tabqa dam that dams up the Euphrates and creates the Assad lake.
Yesterday the U.S. and its proxy forces started a surprise attack to take the dam (map). Helicopters transported YPG fighters to the south of the Euphrates and improvised ferries (vid) carried their heavy equipment across the lake. Apache helicopters and heavy U.S. artillery covered the move. They blocked the road between Raqqa towards Aleppo in the west and they are now moving towards Tabqa city directly south of the dam. At the same time a YPG/PPK force is moving from the north towards the dam. There is some fear that Islamic State fighters could blow up the dam but the first to drown in the following flood would be all Isis fighters and their families in Raqqa and beyond.
In areas further south and east there is some fighting between the Syrian army and ISIS groups around Palmyra and in Deir Ezzor. The situations there seem mostly stable with slight advances by the Syrian government forces.
Israel recently made some splash by bombing Syrian government forces near Palmyra. This was against certain parameters the Russian and Israeli governments had agreed upon. While Russia will not hinder Israeli attacks on Hizbullah weapon transports going to Lebanon it will interdict should Israel (again) hit any forces in Syria fighting ISIS or other Jihadis. Israel was warned off by a Syrian anti-air missile launch. Loud noise was made thereafter by the Netanyahoo government in Tel Aviv. But that is mere domestic grandstanding. Netanyahoo is under criminal investigation and is fighting for his political life.
It is still unclear how the Trump administration plans to proceed on Syria. The move south of the Euphrates may block the Syrian government forces from moving further east towards the enclave in Deir Ezzor which is still under siege by ISIS. But the Euphrates crossing may also be a purely military move without a political intent to simply to enable the taking of the Tabqa dam. As a military move it makes completely sense. If this is a political move it will complicate the already confusing situation.
Fool Me Once ... DNC Ally Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One At Least Was Fake
The cyber-security company Crowdstrike claimed that the "Russia" hacked the Democratic National Committee. It also claimed that "Russia" hacked artillery units of the Ukrainian army. The second claim has now be found to be completely baseless. That same is probably the case with its claims related to the DNC.
Sometime around May 2016 the Democratic National Committee lost control over its email archives. It claimed that its servers had been "hacked" by someone related to Russian interests. DNC emails were published by Wikileaks and provided that the DNC had worked during the primaries against its statutes and in favor of one presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The DNC chair was forced to resign over the case.
The DNC had called in Crowdstrike, a company led by a one Dimitry Alperovich, a Senior Fellow of the NATO aligned "think tank" Atlantic Council. After a short investigation Crowdstrike claimed to found intruding software on the DNC servers that, it says, has been exclusively used by Russian intelligence services. From there followed claims that "Russia hacked the U.S. elections".
When the DNC went public with the Crowdstrike claims the FBI never requested access to the servers to determine if a crime had been committed and to detect the culprit. Access to the servers had been informally denied by the DNC. The FBI simply followed (pdf), without any own forensic investigation of its own, the conclusions Crowdstrike had made.
Imagine that some white guy claims that his house has been broken in and a large amount of money has been stolen. He hires a private investigators who says a window was broken and therefore the crime must have been committed by those "niggers" down the road. But others ask if the man hides the money himself, or if the man's son might have taken it. But the police does not investigate if a crime has actually happened. It does no forensics at the crime scene. It does not even check if a window has indeed been broken. It simply follows the conclusion of the private investigator and accuses the "niggers". This is what happened in the DNC case.
Month later and in a different case the same Crowdstrike investigators claimed (pdf) that the artillery units of the Ukrainian army had had "excessive combat losses" of up to 80% in their fight with Ukrainian separatists. Crowdstrike asserted that Russian intelligence hacked an application used by the Ukrainians to aim their guns. The hack, it was claimed, enabled well targeted counter-fire that then destroyed the Ukrainian guns.
The author of the application denied that any such hacking had taken place. His software was provided only directly from him to Ukrainian army units. Independent cyber-security researchers also doubted the claims.
Crowdstrike had based its numbers for "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery units on statistics collected by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The IISS now says that its statistic do not provide what Crowdstrike claimed. There were no "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery.
VOA first contacted IISS in February to verify the alleged artillery losses. Officials there initially were unaware of the CrowdStrike assertions. After investigating, they determined that CrowdStrike misinterpreted their data and hadn’t reached out beforehand for comment or clarification.
In a statement to VOA, the institute flatly rejected the assertion of artillery combat losses.
It seems that the whole "Ukrainian artillery hack" claims by Crowdstrike was simply made up. There was no "hack" and the claimed damage from the "hack" did not occur at all. Crowdstrike evidently found a "crime" and "Russian hacking" where none had happened.
In the case of the DNC hacking Crowdstrike also alleged a "crime" and "Russian hacking". No hard evidence was ever provided for that claim, no competent police force ever investigated the crime scene and serious security researchers found that the Crowdstrike claims were likely taken from hot air.
The DNC was likely not hacked at all. Some insider with access to its servers may have taken the emails to publish them. On July 10 2016 the DNC IT administrator Sean Rich was found fatally shot on the streets of Washington DC. To this day no culprit has been found. The crime is unsolved. Five Congressional staffers and IT administrators from Pakistan, some of whom also worked for the DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, are under criminal investigation for unauthorized access to Congressional computers. They had the password of Wasserman-Schultz and may have had access to the DNC servers.
Crowdstrike's claims of "Russian hacking" have evidently been false with regards to the Ukrainian artillery. Crowdstrike's claims of "Russian hacking" in the case of the DNC have never been supported or confirmed by independent evidence. There are reasons to believe that the loss of control of the DNC's email archives were a case of unauthorized internal access and not a "hack" at all.
A company related to a NATO aligned "think-tank", which is financed by weapon producers and other special interests, raises allegations against Russia that are quite possibly unfounded. These allegations are then used by NATO to build up a public boogeyman picture of "the Russian enemy". In consequence the budgets for NATO militaries and the profits of weapon producers increase.
It is a simple racket, but with potentially very bad consequences for all of us.
Airlines Want Protectionism - U.S. Bans Laptops, Tablets On Competition's Flights
The big three U.S. airlines maintain that Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways — airlines backed by governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — are unfairly subsidized and that their expansion into the U.S. market represents unfair competition that should be blocked by regulators.
“The Gulf carriers have received over $50 billion in documented subsidies from their government owners since 2004,” the chief executives of the big three wrote in a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Mr. Secretary,” the letter continues, “we are confident that the Trump Administration shares our view on the importance of enforcing our Open Skies agreements, ensuring that U.S. airlines have a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the international market, and protecting American jobs.”
Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT), to tell travelers to pack any device bigger than a smartphone in their checked luggage.
Laptops, tablets and portable game consoles are affected by the ban -- which only applies to direct flights to the United States from the blacklisted airports.
No US carriers are affected by the ban, but passengers on approximately 50 flights per day from some of the busiest hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will be obliged to follow the new emergency ruling.
The ban will hit flights operated by Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.
The U.S. move is certainly not about security. What now hinders anyone to fly from Dubai to Paris and on to New York with a laptop and tablet in her carry on luggage? Why would that be more secure than a direct flight with Emirates Airline? No. This is all about unwanted competition and an effort of the highly subsidized U.S. airlines to sell higher priced tickets with less service.
Flying from the Middle East to the U.S. one can now choose between a direct flight without any personal entertainment equipment, or take a flight with some additional stop on a (code-sharing) U.S. carrier. The second variant is of course more "secure".
A bit funny: The Brits immediately followed up with their own "security measures". But they banned different airports and airlines than the U.S. There are no new, additional "security measures" for flights to Britain from Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco. Instead Tunisia is on the British list. That of course does not make sense from a security standpoint. But it probably reflects the importance of certain investors for the City of London as well as the competitive situation of British Airways.
The False Handshake Story Aims To Delegitimize Trump
I dislike Trump and his policies. I dislike Merkel and her policies. Both are my political enemies. But what I dislike even more are lying media which try to deceive for undeclared political aims.
A recent example:
- In awkward exchange, Trump seems to ignore Merkel's handshake request
- Donald Trump Appears to Ignore Angela Merkel's Handshake Request During Awkward Photo Opp
- Angela Merkel Asked President Trump to Shake Hands. He Appeared to Ignore Her
- Trump Straight Up Ignores Request To Shake Hands With Angela Merkel
- WATCH: Awkward moment Donald Trump BLANKS Angela Merkel handshake offer at White House
The pieces linked above go on to speculate about personal animosities between Merkel and Trump and about diverging U.S. and European political directions.
While differences may exist between Trump and Merkel they have nothing to do with a handshake in an Oval Office photo op. Not mentioned in the above reports is that Merkel and Trump shook hands with each other several times and in cordial ways.
Here as Merkel arrives at the White House:
And here at the end of the press conference after their talks:
So why the headlines above?
Trump rejected to shake hands in the Oval Office. This was at a photo opportunity where typically some 20 to 30 photographers have a chance to snap a picture of an event. During such shootings the photographers try to get the persons in front of lenses into a position that makes for salable pictures. When one watches the video of the event one can clearly hear some photographers urging Merkel and Trump to shake hands. Trump ignores the request. But Merkel does not get it and asks Trump if he wants to shake hands. Trump continues to ignore the request.
His faked ignorance was not directed against Merkel though. As one can see above he has no aversion at all to shake hands with here. His behavior was directed against jerky photographers.
Consider the headlines of earlier handshakes Trump exchanged with his guests:
- Watch Trump and Abe’s Awkward 18-Second-Long Handshake
- 'Look at me' - Trump and Abe's awkward handshake
- Donald Trump mocked for 'awkward' handshake with Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe
- Trump’s awkward handshake with Trudeau becomes instant meme
- Trump, Trudeau Handshake Marked By Awkward Silence [VIDEO]
- Donald Trump's strange handshake style and how Justin Trudeau beat it – video
This seems like a pattern to me:
- The "awkward" handshake with Abe happened on February 10 during the photo op in the Oval Office after prompting by photographers.
- The "awkward" handshake with Trudeau happened on February 13 during the photo op in the Oval Office after prompting by photographers.
- The "refusal" of a handshake with Merkel happened on March 17 during the photo op in the Oval Office after prompting by photographers.
Had Trump shaken hands with Merkel at the event the media would certainly have found some "awkward" aspect to it. They would have written similar stories as they have written about the handshakes with Abe and Trudeau. Trump tried to avoid that. But the media now write similar stories about the "rejected" handshake request. This time Trump did not fall for the photographer request for an "awkward" handshake. But there was no escape from the trap. The stories about the "ill behaved Trump" and "bad relations" with Merkel had, in all likelihood, already been written.
But why do the media do this?
During the election some 98% of all editorial media endorsements went for Clinton. It is no question on which side they are on. They dislike Trump. I understand that, I dislike him too. But that does not mean that I have to shun objectivity. He is the duly elected president of the United States and any analyzing and anticipating of his policies requires to keep that in mind. Analysis based on the false handshake story will inevitably be false. The media are obviously out to get Trump, if not over false claims of Russian influence on him and the elections then over "awkward" handshakes.
The intention [.. is ...] to hamstring and delegitimize the new administration coming in, and to bring about the resignation or impeachment of Donald Trump. It is in all intents and purposes a coup, though without military intervention, as it seeks to overturn a completely legal and constitutional election.
The now ongoing hearings in Congress about alleged Russian hacking, influence on the election and collusion with the Trump campaign - zero evidence has been provided for these claims - aims in the same direction.
We previewed this "elite" coup at this site in December 2016. I still do not understand the end aim the Democrats and their masters have in mind. A president Pence would likely be even more devastating to domestic liberal aims than Trump. His foreign policy would be more hawkish.
Is that last point the feature, not the bug, that drives the anti-Trump campaign?
Red Scare Redux: "Russian Weapons Stocked Right Up At NATO's Border!"
A Washington Post news piece on the current NATO budget spat remarks:
Russia, for its part, keeps tanks and missiles stocked right up against the NATO border.
Now, that's truly threatening of Russia and DANGEROUS!
How did that come to be?
Found some of the stocked up weapons ...
Which "War Torn" Country? - U.S. Slaughter In Somalia, Yemen And Syria
When I saw the above tweet this morning I wondered which "war torn" country those Somalis were fleeing from when they were murdered. The tweet doesn't say. Were they fleeing from the "war torn" Somalia? Or were the fleeing from "war torn" Yemen?
It is a sad world when has to ponder such.
It tuned out these people were fleeing from both wars:
Coast guard Mohammad Al Alay told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab Al Mandeb strait.
An Apache attack helicopter shot up the refugees' boat. There are Saudi, United Emirati and U.S. Apache helicopters in or around Yemen. It is unknown which of them ordered and which executed the strike. These helicopters, their ammunition and the service for them are a favored U.S. export to belligerent dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.
The UN warns that 5 million people in Yemen are only weeks away from starving. The Saudis, the U.S. and the Emirates block all land routes, air ports and the coast of Yemen and no food supplies come through. This is an ongoing huge war crime and literally a genocide. But "western" media seem totally unimpressed. Few, if any, reports on the war on Yemen get published. Never have they so openly displayed their hypocrisy.
Somalia is falling back into an all-out civil war fueled by the decades old unwillingness of the U.S. to condone an independent local unity government. The Islamic Court Union, a unity government created by the Somalis in 2006, was the last working instance of a real Somali state. It had no Jihadist agenda and held down local warlords. It was destroyed by the Bush administration:
A UN cable from June 2006, containing notes of a meeting with senior State Department and US military officials from the Horn of Africa task force, indicates that the United States was aware of the ICU’s diversity, but would “not allow” it to rule Somalia. The United States, according to the notes, intended to “rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadist’ took over.” The cable concluded, “Any Ethiopian action in Somalia would have Washington’s blessing.” Some within the US intelligence community called for dialogue or reconciliation, but their voices were drowned out by hawks determined to overthrow the ICU.
During the last 10 years an on-and-off war is waged in Somalia with the U.S. military interfering whenever peace seems to gain ground. Currently a new round of war is building up. Weapons are streaming into Somalia from Yemen, where the Houthi plunder them from their Saudi invaders:
Jonah Leff, a weapons tracing expert with conflict Armament Research, said many [Somali] pirates had turned to smuggling. They take boatloads of people [from Somalia] to Yemen and return with weapons, he said.
The wars on Somalia and Yemen are the consequences of unscrupulous and incompetent(?) U.S. foreign policy. (Cutting down the size of the U.S. State Department, as the Trump administration now plans to do, is probably the best thing one can do for world peace.)
The U.S. military should be cut down too. It is equally unscrupulous and incompetent.
Last night the U.S. military hit a mosque in Al-Jīnah in Aleppo governate in Syria. It first claimed that the strike, allegedly targeting a large meeting of al-Qaeda, was in Idleb governate. But it turned out to be miles away west of Aleppo. Locals said a mosque was hit, the roof crashed in and more than 40 people were killed during the regular prayer service. More than 120 were injured. The U.S. military said it did not hit the local mosque but a building on the other side of the small plaza.
The U.S. maps and intelligence were not up-to-date. A new, bigger mosque had been build some years ago opposite of the old mosque. The old mosque was indeed not hit. The new one was destroyed while some 200 people were in attendance. Eight hellfire missiles launched from two Reaper drones were fired at it and a 500lb bomb was then dropped on top to make sure that no one escaped alive. Al-Qaeda fighters were indeed "meeting" at that place - five times a day and together with the locals they have pressed by force to attend the Quran proscribed prayers.
Had the Russian or Syrian army committed the strike the "western" outcry would have been great. For days the media would have provide gruesome photos and stories. The U.S. ambassador at the UN would have spewed fire and brimstone. But this intelligence screw-up happened on the U.S. side. There will now be some mealymouthed explanations and an official military investigation that will find no fault and will have no consequences.
Amid this sorry incident it was amusing to see the propaganda entities the U.S. had created to blame the Syrian government turning against itself. The MI6 operated SOHR was the first to come out with a high death count. The al-Qaeda aligned, U.S./UK financed "White Helmets" rescuers made a quick photo session pretending to dig out the dead. The sectarian al-Qaeda video propagandist Bilal Abdul Kareem, which the New York Times recently portrait in a positive light, provided damning video and accusing comments. The amateur NATO researchers at Bellingcat published what they had gleaned from maps, photos and videos other people created. The NATO think tank, which defended al-Qaeda's invasion of Idleb, will shed crocodile tears.
Each new lie and obfuscation the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East put out throughout the day was immediately debunked by the horde of U.S. financed al-Qaeda propaganda supporters. This blowback from the "information operation" against Syria will likely have consequences for future U.S. operations.
In another operation last night the Israeli air force attacked Syrian forces near Palmyra which were operating against ISIS. The Israeli fighters were chased away when the Syrians fired air defense missiles. This was an Israeli attempt to stretch the "rules of operation" it had negotiated with the Russian military in Syria. The Russians, which control the Syrian air space, had allowed Israel to hit Hizbullah weapon transports on their way to Lebanon. Attacks on any force operating against Jihadis in Syria are taboo. The Russian government summoned the Israeli ambassador. Netanyahoo broke the rules. He will now have to bear the consequences.
Third Time's The Charm - These Neocons Want Another Sunni Insurgency (Updated)
When the U.S. was confronted with an insurgency in Iraq it did not find fault with own behavior but identified Syria and Iran as the culprits. It decided to attack them too. As Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:
To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.
Four years later the U.S. used the Sunni militants it created to first attack Libya and then Syria. With U.S. support the militants destroyed the independent Libyan state under Ghaddafi. The country is now in total chaos. In Syria the militants, with clandestine support from the U.S. and its allies, waged a six year long war to overthrow the government. Many of them joined the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the Takfiri offsprings of the U.S. program and Saudi money that went (somewhat) rogue. These groups did not limit, as the U.S. wished, their attacks to U.S. enemies but committed several larger scale attacks against U.S. allied countries. Now the groups themselves are enemies.
The project of creating a controllable "Sunni Arab force" to destroy Syria had failed. The Pentagon made another attempts, spending tens of millions of dollars, to train a new Sunni Arab force in Syria to attack the Syrian government as well as the Takfiris. As soon as these new groups entered into Syria they joined the Takfiris and handed over the weapons the U.S. army had given them.
The U.S. is now engaging with Russia and local Kurdish forces in Syria to destroy the Takfiri groups on the ground. The Kurds are of various religions and denominations with a mostly secular outlook. That plan made some progress though an actual attack on Raqqa, the current center of the Islamic State, is still weeks off. The Syrian government is winning its part of the fight in the west of the country.
But that is not enough for the U.S. neoconservatives. Their task is to further Zionist plans by creating more chaos in the Middle East. Their partner and money source is the Sunni-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Having successfully arranged the destruction of Iraq, various failed "surges" as well as the attack on Syria, they cannot condone that the Syrian government survives the war.
Thus they set out to create a new (the third now) Sunni-Arab force to continue what their original war plan prescribed.
Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, luminaries of the neoconservative family, initiate their new campaign on the neoconned opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal: A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda - The U.S. has been relying too heavily on Shiites and Kurds. It needs to cultivate Sunni Arab partners.
The Kagan family - other well known members are Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland - were also main instigators of the war on Iraq. Here they are in 2008 strolling (heavily guarded) through the occupied Basra, Iraq amusing themselves off the destruction they created.
The op-ed is a shorter version of a "study" written by the "think tank" the Kagan family runs to collect money.
It says in short: The U.S. shall shun the Kurds and not cooperate with Russian, Syrian or Iranian forces. It shall create another Sunni Arab proxy insurgency in Syria to fight ISIS and al-Qaeda and also the Syrian government. The first steps towards that are already premised on fiction:
The US and acceptable partners seize and secure a base in southeastern Syria, such as Abu Kamal, and create a de facto safe zone. They then recruit, train, equip, and partner with local Sunni Arab anti-ISIS forces to conduct an offensive against ISIS. This independent Sunni Arab force forms the basis of a movement to destroy ISIS and al Qaeda in Iraq and Syria over many years. Building a Sunni Arab anti-ISIS partner must be the rate-determining step in the advance along the Euphrates River Valley (ERV). American forces must fight alongside their partners to reduce the trust deficit between the US and potential Sunni allies. Potential partners must not support Salafi-jihadists, Iranian proxies, or Kurdish separatism.
The U.S. has already tried this since 2006 by clandestine means. Those forces morphed into al-Qaeda/ISIS. The Pentagon then tried the same concept by military means. That proxy force ran over to the enemy as soon as it could. Now a third try shall be made?
The fictitious plot continues:
- The US launches clearing operations along the Euphrates River Valley toward Raqqa, using US forces and the new Sunni Arab partner at Abu Kamal, and in Iraq’s Anbar Province.
- The US brokers a peace deal between Turkey and the Syrian-Kurdish “People’s Defense Forces” (YPG), focused on the contact line in Aleppo Province.
- The US implements a no-fly zone in Dera’a Province, demonstrating US commitment to addressing the grievances of populations under jihadist control and facilitating a local cessation of hostilities with Russia and between pro-Assad and US-backed anti-Assad forces. The US must also help partner forces in Dera’a destroy ISIS and al Qaeda, which would help facilitate a negotiated settlement of the Syrian war. The US should execute this step after the first phase and coincident with clearing operations in southeastern Syria.
- The US should try to stitch together the new force with existing US-backed fighters to create a single partner that can secure terrain from jihadists, defend against pro-Assad attacks, and uphold a settlement against the Assad regime.
These follow-on operations set conditions that favor broader US interests in Syria, but they do not achieve those interests. Subsequent phases will be necessary and will require a significant counter-Iranian component in Iraq and Syria.
I cannot imagine how much Kool-aid one must drink to come up with so much nonsense.
Let us start with those imaginary tribes in south-east Syria. The south-eastern desert of Syria is empty with little resources (besides some oil) and few people. These are rather small groups where the tribal leaders no longer have much say. The tribal members mostly live in the cities. They are members of the Syrian army or of its enemies. Some of the tribal members had joined ISIS, others fought it and were badly hurt with hundreds of casualties on their side. Most of these tribes lived quite well with the Syrian government and would be happy if it would return and control their area. Most of them have no sectarian grievances with Damascus. They have no inventive or wish to fight the Syrian state.
The Turkish president Erdogan is currently trying to hire the very same tribes to fight the Syrian Kurds. He will fail with that too.
The Kagans want their new grand force to also fight al-Qaeda. But al-Qaeda is in north-west Syria (and still supported by Turkey). The Kagans emphasize the use of local forces. How are south-eastern desert tribes "local" to the people in Idleb?
The real aim of the Kagans is of course in the last parts of their plan which I highlighted. They want to use these "Sunni Arab tribes" to make another attempt of destroying the Syrian state to then attack the Iranian "bridge" to Hizbullah in Lebanon.
Fortunately the Kagans are at least six month behind the realities on the ground in Syria. The Pentagon will laugh at any "Sunni Arab tribes" ideas. The U.S. military will try to take Raqqa from ISIS with the help of the Kurds and in coordination with Syrian government forces. The Syrian government forces will also destroy al-Qaeda in Idleb.
The chance that Trump will pick up on these neocon plans is practically zero. But who knows? The people who pay the Kagans also spend lots of money to "lobby" (i.e. bribe) the Washington establishment. They certainly hope that there is still a chance to get their ideas wormed into the minds of the White House.
Sam Heller has some critical comments on the Kagan nonsense. I collected his tweets on the issue here: "Bad Idea" - Sam Heller (@AbuJamajem) On The Kagan's Syria Paper.
The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)
A while ago Matt Tabbi in Rolling Stone warned: Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media:
If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.
Sanity is finally winning over. After raising all kinds of shambolic rumors about "Russian interference" the "western" intelligence agencies are walking back their previous outrageous claims:
- Former DNI James Clapper admits (vid) that he has zero evidence for any Trump-Russia collusion;
- The British Foreign Secretary now says there is "no evidence" of any Russian interference with British democracy;
- The German secret services have no proof (in German) for any Russian disinformation campaign.
There is no evidence for any Russian interference in the U.S., or any other, election. No evidence has been show, despite many claims, that Russia or its proxies hacked John Podesta's emails or the DNC or collaborated with Wikileaks.
Even the Democrats now concede that the whole mountain of bullshit their anti-Trump and anti-Russian campaign created stinks to high heaven:
[S]ome Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives, though investigators have only just begun reviewing raw intelligence. Among the Intelligence Committee’s rank and file, there’s a tangible frustration over what one official called “wildly inflated” expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation.
Ardent Russia critics like Masha Geesen and former ambassador Michael McFaul now warn of irreparable damage the irrational anti-Russian campaign may cause. A New York Times opinion piece points out that the reignited anti-Russian attitude goes back to the 19th century and was as wrong then as it is now. Claims that meetings between the incoming Trump administration and the Russian ambassador were nefarious are hard to hold up when members of the Clinton campaign also met him. Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn was accused of colluding with Russia when in fact he was paid by Turkey to lobby for Erdogan.
The disinformation campaign against Russia is falling apart for lack of any evidence. The media who ardently supported it have lost trust. As they obviously lied about Russia how much truth are they telling on other issue?
Tabbi's warning was late. The damage is done. "Western" relations with Russia have been hurt. But also hurt are the reputations of the media and of the Democratic party. Trump though has been justified with his rejection of that campaign. He now is, as Tabbi predicted, "pre-inoculated" against other accusations - at least with his followers and those sitting on the fence. Trump has now the space to develop his original grand strategic idea of seeking amiable relations with Russia before getting embroiled in any other international dispute. Those relations are now developing on the ground in Syria where cooperation between Russian and U.S. troops intensifies:
Moscow, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis added, has "kept us abreast of their operations" in Manbij, ..
Signs are that there is way more of that then the Pentagon admits. There have been several meetings at the highest levels of Russian and U.S. military and whoever commands U.S. forces in Syria will surely have a direct line to the Russian ground commander to coordinate their moves.
The Democrats failed in their anti-Trump, anti-Russia campaign.
Morell, who was in line to become CIA director if Clinton won, said he had seen no evidence that Trump associates cooperated with Russians.
Morell said he had learned that the former officer, Christopher Steele, paid his key Russian sources, and interviewed them through intermediaries.
"On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all," Morell said at an event sponsored by the Cipher Brief, an intelligence web site.
"There's no little campfire, there's no little candle, there's no spark. And there's a lot of people looking for it."
The Daily Beast, one of the sites that intensively peddled the false anti-Trump/anti-Russia claims, is now warning (somewhat) against doing such:
Trump’s critics last year were horrified at the rise of “fake news” and the specter of a politics shaped by alternative facts, predominantly on the right. They need to be careful now not to succumb to the same delusional temptations as their political adversaries, and not to sink into a filter bubble which, after all, draws its strength not from conservative or progressive politics but from human nature.
Senator John McCain explained in Congress what he means when he accuses someone of "working for Putin":
Joe Gould @reporterjoe
.@RandPauI just blocked @SenJohnMcCain's UC request to add Montenegro to NATO & exited. McCain: "The sen from Ky is now working for Putin."
You see, anyone disagreeing with the neoconservative John McCain is by definition now "working for Putin". It is no wonder then that Washington DC is full of Russian agents ...
A significant part of the electorate, the "millenials", are not as dump as the politicians believe. They wonder what all the fuzz is about:
Amid an avalanche of news raising alarm about Russian meddling in the U.S. election and ties between President Donald Trump’s administration and Moscow, many younger voters are questioning how big a threat the former Cold War foe really is.
Interviews with more than 30 voters across the country show a major generational gap when it comes to views of Russia. According to younger voters, the view of Russia as an automatic threat that they hear from lawmakers like Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., is an outdated relic of the Cold War.
In interviews with McClatchy, many young adults said news accounts of U.S.-Russian relations in 2017, full of spies and secretive meetings with ambassadors, seemed like a Cold War thriller with no connection to modern reality.
Open Thread 2017-11
News & views ...
When Nothing "Left" Is Left The People Will Vote Far Right
Some of the people around the U.S. Democrats finally start to get the message of the 2016 election. An editor at Salon writes a slightly satirical critic of the Democratic Party under the headline: How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality . The core sentence:
When “the left” endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left.
When LGBT claptrap, gluten free food, political correctness and other such niceties beat out programs to serve the basic needs of the common people nothing "left" is left. The priority on the left must always be the well-being of the working people. All the other nice-to-have issues follow from and after that.
Many nominally social-democratic parties in Europe are on the same downward trajectory as the Democrats in the U.S. for the very same reason. Their real policies are center right. Their marketing policies hiding the real ones are to care for this or that minority interest or problem the majority of the people has no reason to care about. Real wages sink but they continue to import cheep labor (real policy) under the disguise of helping "refugees" (marketing policy) which are simply economic migrants. (Even parts of the German "Die Linke" party are infected with such nonsense.)
The people with real economic problems, those who have reason to fear the future, have no one in the traditional political spectrum that even pretends to care about them. Those are the voters now streaming to the far right. (They will again get screwed. The far right has an economic agenda that is totally hostile to them. But it at least promises to do something about their fears.) Where else should they go?
The U.S. Democrats are currently applauding the former United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara. The position is a political appointed one. Whoever is appointed serves "at the pleasure of the President". It is completely normal that people in such positions get replaced when the presidency changes from one party to the other. The justice department asked Bharara to "voluntary resign". He rejected that, he was fired.
Oh what a brave man! Applause!
The dude served as United States attorney during the mortgage scams and financial crash. Wall Street was part of his beat. How many of the involved banksters did he prosecute? Well, exactly zero. What a hero! How many votes did the Democrats lose because they did not go after the criminals ruling Wall Street?
Bharara is one reason the Democrats lost the election. Oh yes, he is part of a minority and that makes him a favorite with the pseudo left Democrats. But he did nothing while millions got robbed. How can one expect to get votes when one compliments such persons?
But the top reader comments to the New York Times report on the issue are full of voices who laud Bharara for his meaning- and useless "resistance" to Trump.
Those are the "voices of the people" the political functionaries of the Democratic Party want to read and hear. Likely the only ones. But those are the voices of people (if real at all and not marketing sock-puppets) who are themselves a tiny, well pampered minority. Not the people one needs to win elections.
Unless they change their political program (not just its marketing) and unless they go back to consistently argue for the people in the lower third of the economic scale the Democrats in the U.S. and the Social-Democrats in Europe will continue to lose voters. The far right will, for lack of political alternative, be the party that picks up their votes.
Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib
During the last week significant moves in Syria have taken place east of Aleppo. But the situation there will likely soon calm down. The next intense phase of the war may well be a Syrian army attack on al-Qaeda's position in Idlib governate in the north-west of the country.
One objective of the Syrian Arab Army move east of Aleppo city was to block the invading Turkish forces from reaching further south. This had been achieved as of last week. The main objective though was to reach the pumping stations at the Euphrates which supply Aleppo city with drinking water. This aim was achieved yesterday. The SAA managed to evict the Islamic State from the shut-down station before it could blow it up. The generators and pumps were booby trapped but seem otherwise operational. After 40 days of strictly rationed water Aleppo city and its nearly 2 million people will soon be back on a normal water supply.
I expect that the SAA contingent in east-Aleppo will now move further south and then east along the Euphrates towards Raqqa. This move though will no longer have a high priority. There is no longer an urgent need to continue in the area. Should the Islamic State stop its retreat in the area and show significant resistance the SAA is likely to stop and only hold its line.
The Turkish government still insists on taking Manbij currently held by the Kurdish YPK (under the label "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF)) which is now a U.S. proxy force under U.S. military command. Russia moved to insert Syrian army forces between the Turkish forces west of Manbij and the city. Thereby a buffer has been created between the Turkish (proxy) forces of "moderate rebels" and U.S. proxy forces of the Kurdish SDF. A few Russian special forces entered the area. As no SAA soldiers were readily available some local Arabs and Kurds were asked to put up a Syrian flag and to call themselves "Syrian border guard". They happily agreed to do so.
Parallel to the Russian move a U.S. sub-unit of the 75th Ranger Regiment made a show of force by driving five 8-wheeler Stryker vehicles with U.S. flags through some towns around Manbij. The signal to Turkey is clear. There are Russian and U.S. forces here. Do not dare to proceed into the area and to attack their Kurdish friends. A meeting was held in Ankara between the Turkish military command and the U.S. and Russian chiefs of staff. It is not yet known what the outcome was.
Despite the clear signals some proxy units under Turkish command opened fire on the "Syrian border guard" in the area. The Syrian government says that a a few of them were killed and it again raised the issue of the Turkish invasion with the United Nations. I expect the situation around Manbij to calm down. It would be very dangerous for Turkey to continue attacking in the area against the clear position of Russia and the U.S. military.
Further to the east the SDF continued to move towards Raqqa which is last bigger city in Syria held by the Islamic State. It is likely that ISIS will defend the city when it gets attacked. Turkey would like to take part in the attack on the city but the U.S. military has blocked that idea. It prefers to continue with its Kurdish partners. As these do not have heavy weapons the U.S. is introducing new forces into the area.
Already some 500 U.S. special forces (Green Berets) are training and leading the 10,000+ strong SDF proxy force. A small army unit is with them and provides artillery support with two long range MLRS missile systems. Added to these were the Ranger elements seen around Manbij. 400 U.S. Marines (11th MEU) were announced to soon enter the area. They will mostly provide 155mm artillery support and will take care of resupplies. 2,500 soldiers of the 2nd Brigade, 82nd Airborne are currently staging in Kuwait. It is not yet known what their task might be. The U.S. now has four military air fields in the Syrian Kurdish area north-east of the Euphrates. Two are for helicopters and two will soon be able to also service larger fixed-wing transport planes.
All this build up is taking place without a definite decision by the White House on how to proceed in Syria. The Wall Street Journal reports of discussions about a model where the U.S. and its proxies take Raqqa from the Islamic State and then concede it to the Syrian government. This would make a lot of sense but will surely be opposed by the Israeli/Saudi lobby in Washington as well as by some U.S. military. No final decision is expected before mid April when Turkey will hold a referendum about a presidential constitution. Other reports cite the U.S. commander in the area talking about a bigger "U.S. stabilization force" that will take over the area when the Islamic State is defeated.
Such a force would clearly be consider a U.S. occupation hostile to the Syrian government. It would be met with intense guerilla operations aimed at evicting the occupiers.
East of Homs the Syrian army has retaken Palmyra and the surrounding mountain and oil-field areas. Russian special forces were involved in this operation. I do not expect further large moves from there for the time being.
In the Damascus area the Syrian army continues to squeeze a few "rebel" held enclaves. These are binding many Syrian soldiers. When they are eliminated a sizable reserve will be available to be used in further battles.
There have recently been no significant movements in the southern areas around Daraa and near the Jordanian border. Jordan is involved in talks with Russia. Other talks have been held in Moscow between Putin and Netanyahoo. Some plans are obviously made to evict the Islamic State and al-Qaeda from the Jordan-Israel-Lebanon borderline but especially the Israeli position is difficult to manage. It prefers to keep al-Qaeda in the area as a pressure group against the Syrian state. No results from the recent talks have been announced.
West of Aleppo city around Idlib city al-Qaeda has continued fighting with other Islamist groups like Ahrar al Sham. The al-Qaeda led "rebel" alliance in Idlib is some 10,000 strong and the biggest force in the area. It will be difficult to defeat or evict. Retaking Idlib governate and city requires a large operation by the Syrian army. But currently al-Qaeda is losing support with the population and is involved in infighting. Its support from the outside has diminished. But outside support for al-Qaeda, by Turkey, the U.S., Saudi Arabia or Qatar, could come back when the Syrian army attacks the area.
Main operations by the Syrian army in east-Aleppo and east-Homs have achieved their immediate aims. The units involved in these could now be moved to other areas. When the "rebel" pockets around Damascus are eliminated, hopefully soon, more forces become available. The large force and reserve the Syrian army needs to attack Idlib will soon be available.
Curiously the NY Times just published a somewhat sympathetic portrait of a U.S. born al-Qaeda propagandist who operates as al-Qaeda's English language media channel in the area. Are we back to the "cuddly, moderate al-Qaeda" caricature that was earlier used to justify U.S. support for Takfiri terrorists? Will the U.S. again support al-Qaeda should the Syrian army finally move to retake Idlib?
Open Thread 2017-10
News & views ...
Snake-Oil Alert - Encryption Does Not Prevent Mass-Snooping
The WikiLeaks stash of CIA hacking documents shows tools used by the CIA to hack individual cell-phones and devices. There are no documents yet that suggest mass snooping efforts on a very large scale. Unlike the NSA which has a "collect it all" attitude towards internet traffic and content the CIA seems to be more interested in individual hacking.
This suggests that the CIA can not decipher the modern encrypted communication it adversaries use. It therefore has to attack their individual devices.
But it does not mean that the CIA can not engage in mass snooping.
The New York Times description is wrong:
Some technical experts pointed out that while the documents suggest that the C.I.A. might be able to compromise individual smartphones, there was no evidence that the agency could break the encryption that many phone and messaging apps use.
If the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency could routinely break the encryption used on such apps as Signal, Confide, Telegram and WhatsApp, then the government might be able to intercept such communications on a large scale and search for names or keywords of interest. But nothing in the leaked C.I.A. documents suggests that is possible.
Instead, the documents indicate that because of encryption, the agency must target an individual phone and then can intercept only the calls and messages that pass through that phone. Instead of casting a net for a big catch, in other words, C.I.A. spies essentially cast a single fishing line at a specific target, and do not try to troll an entire population.
“The difference between wholesale surveillance and targeted surveillance is huge,” said Dan Guido, a director at Hack/Secure, a cybersecurity investment firm. “Instead of sifting through a sea of information, they’re forced to look at devices one at a time.”
Snake-oil alert: Right diagnosis, wrong conclusion and therapy.
If the CIA breaks into an individual Samsung Galaxy 7 it can record what is typed on the screen, and whatever gets transferred via the microphone, camera and loudspeaker. No encryption can protect against that. But why should the CIA break into only one Galaxy 7?
It is wrong to conclude that the CIA can therefore not "intercept such communications on a large scale". It can. Easily.
If you can break into one individual Samsung Galaxy 7 you can break into all of them. This can be automated.
The CIA also breaks into internet routers and network infrastructure systems. By watching the network traffic flowing by the CIA (and NSA) systems can "see" who uses encrypted communication. They can then launch programs to silently take over the communicating devices. Then the communication can be recorded from the devices and read in the clear. There is nothing at all that prohibits this to take place on a massive scale.
The reaction to the Snowden leaks about gigantic NSA snooping on internet lines led to an increased use of encryption. Suddenly everyone used HTTPS for web traffic and the user numbers of Signal, Telegram, WhatsApp and other encrypting communication applications exploded.
But encrypted traffic still sticks out. One can detect an encrypted skype call by watching the network traffic on this or that telecom network. One can detect what kind of end-devices are taking part in a specific call. With a library of attack tools for each of the usual end-devices (Iphone, Android, Windows, Mac) the involved end-devices can be silently captured and the call can be recorded without encryption.
The Times writes: "Instead of casting a net for a big catch, in other words, C.I.A. spies essentially cast a single fishing line at a specific target, and do not try to troll an entire population."
It is right in one sense. There is not one central point in the river of traffic where one casts the net. But it is wrong in to conclude that the CIA or other services would then use "a single fishing line". What hinders them from using hundreds of fishing lines? Thousands? Hundred-thousands?
Wide use on encryption simply moves the snooping efforts from the networks towards the end-devices. It might be a little more expensive to snoop on hundred-thousands of end-devices than on a few network backbones but budget or manpower restriction are not a problem the NSA and CIA have had in recent decades.
To tell users that it encryption really restricts the CIA and NSA is nonsense. Indeed it is irresponsible.
The sellers of encryption are peddling snake-oil. The dude from "a cybersecurity investment firm" the Times quotes is just selling his rancid wares.
Your neighbor snoops on your open WLAN traffic? Yes, chat encryption might prevent him from copying your session with that hot Brazilian boy or girl. But it does not prevent professionals from reading it. For that you would need secure devices on both ends of the communication. Good luck finding such.
CIA Leak: "Russian Election Hackers" May Work In Langley
Attribution of cyber-intrusions and attacks is nearly impossible. A well executed attack can not be traced back to its culprit. If there are some trails that seem attributable one should be very cautions following them. They are likely faked.
Hundreds if not thousands of reports show that this lesson has not been learned. Any attack is attributed to one of a handful of declared "enemies" without any evidence that would prove their actual involvement. Examples:
- Russian Hackers Blackmail US Liberal Groups After Stealing Emails And Documents, Report Says
- US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election
- Iran hacked an American casino, U.S. says
- Iran suspected for the attack on the Saudi Aramco
- North Korea 'hacks South's military cyber command'
- Official: North Korea behind Sony hack
In June 2016 we warned The Next "Russian Government Cyber Attack" May Be A Gulf of Tonkin Fake:
All one might see in a [cyber-]breach, if anything, is some pattern of action that may seem typical for one adversary. But anyone else can imitate such a pattern as soon as it is known. That is why there is NEVER a clear attribution in such cases. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying or has no idea what s/he is speaking of.
There is now public proof that this lecture in basic IT forensic is correct.
With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.
UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.
Hacking methods are seldom newly developed. They are taken from public examples and malware, from attacks some other organization once committed, they get bought and sold by commercial entities. Many attacks use a recombined mix of tools from older hacks. Once the NSA's STUXNET attack on Iran became public the tools used in it were copied and modified by other such services as well as by commercial hackers. Any new breach that may look like STUXNET could be done by anyone with the appropriate knowledge. To assert that the NSA must have done the new attack just because the NSA did STUXNET would be stupid.
The CIA, as well as other services, have whole databases of such 'stolen' tools. They may combine them in a way that looks attributable to China, compile the source code at local office time in Beijing or "forget to remove" the name of some famous Chinese emperor in the code. The CIA could use this to fake a "Chinese hacking attack" on South Korea to raise fear of China and to, in the end, sell more U.S. weapons.
Russia did not hack and leak the DNC emails, Iran did not hack American casinos and North Korea did not hack Sony.
As we wrote: "there is NEVER a clear attribution". Don't fall for it when someone tries to sell one.
(PS: There is a lot more in the new Wikileaks CIA stash. It seems indeed bigger than the few items published from the Snowden NSA leak.)
NYT Blames Trump For Reading Its Reports
[W]hen Mark Levin ... contended that Mr. Obama had targeted Mr. Trump for surveillance ... it struck a chord. Along with reports that in Mr. Obama’s last days in office his administration changed the rules on distributing intelligence and made a point of spreading information about Mr. Trump’s team and Russia to different parts of the government to “preserve” it, the wiretapping allegation pushed Mr. Trump over the top.
NYT March 5 - When One President Smears Another
In four tweets ... Mr. Trump declared as fact a theory he apparently encountered on alt-right websites: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”
The above assertions by the New York Times raise the question where Mr. Levine got his information from. A reader might also ask who published those ominous "reports" and on which "alt-right website" one might encounter such theories?
The New York Times does not know where all this came from? That is a bit astonishing. Let me help:
- On targeting Trump and his campaign for surveillance:
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself.
NYT - February 14 - Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence
Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.
American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications ...
- Those "reports" that Obama spread the information on Trump and his associates?
NYT January 12 - N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications
In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information ... about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government ... to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
- The "alt-right website" that peddled all this?
By now you will have guessed it. It is the New York Times itself that reported (and slandered) the news about the Obama administration's surveillance of Trump and those associated with him.
The NYT and its editors now blames Trump for repeating, in a condensed tweet, the open and hidden assertions made in various reports by the New York Times itself.
There is zero evidence of any Russian involvement or hacking of the U.S. election. There is zero evidence of any collusion of Trump and those around him with Russia. There is zero evidence that any of the lunatic claims made in that Steele dossier, ordered up and financed by Trump's political enemies, are true.
Even if Trump's personal phone and email were not under direct wiretap, people near to Trump definitely were under communication surveillance. Inevitably such surveillance will have caught communication with and of the would be next president, Donald Trump. The Obama administration made sure that such taped communication would be widely distributed in raw form, guaranteeing future out-of-context leaks.
The Times knows all this and reported it - though often hidden in plain sight with misleading headlines and context.
Blaming Trump and others for repeating such reports is lame hypocrisy.
Open Thread 2017-09
News & views ...
(I am on an extended family weekend which includes some ceremonies and festivities. Therefore: light posting)
My guess on the wiretapping:
- The Obama administration did this at least before the election.
- The "official target" was not Trump but someone else.
- Nothing usable was found on Trump.
Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies
In its last months the Obama administration ordered the intelligence agencies to collect and distribute information of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. This to prevent any change by the Trump administration of the hostile policy towards Russia that the Obama administration instituted. The intent was also to give the intelligence services blackmail material against the Trump crew to prevent any changes in their undue, freewheeling independence.
The above is reported in a little discussed New York Times piece published yesterday. The reporting angle captured in the headline is biased to set the Obama efforts into a positive light: Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.
Make no mistake by straight-reading that headline. Not single shred of evidence has been provided that "Russia hacked the election" or had anything to do with various leaks of Clinton related emails. A lot of fluff and chaff was thrown around but not even one tiny bit of evidence.
The Obama effort was clearly to sabotage the announced policy of the incoming administration of seeking better relations with Russia. Obama intended to undermine the will of the voters by abusing instruments of the state.
Excerpts from the piece:
In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about ... possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
It is completely normal for any campaign, and especially an incoming administration, to have contacts with foreign government officials.Such contacts are needed to prepare policies and to get the facts right to plan and run a consistent foreign policy. I am very sure that there were hundreds of talks between Trump campaign and incoming administration officials with Israeli, European and Arab officials. These are regular contacts and they do not violate any law. There was and is no reasons at all to pick out talks with Russian officials as something sinister or even illegal. Again - no evidence has been provided that Russia somehow interfered in U.S. elections. None at all. There was no sound reason to give special treatment to campaign contacts with Russia.
American allies, including the British and the Dutch, had provided information describing meetings in European cities between Russian officials — and others close to Russia’s president, Vladimir V. Putin — and associates of President-elect Trump, according to three former American officials who requested anonymity in discussing classified intelligence.
Separately, American intelligence agencies had intercepted communications of Russian officials, some of them within the Kremlin, discussing contacts with Trump associates.
Here the NYT is divulging "sources and methods" - usually the holy grail of the intelligence community. U.S. intelligence is intercepting communication "within the Kremlin"? That is surely of interest to Russian counter-intelligence. One also has to ask who ordered the European intelligence services to watch over U.S. contacts with Russia. Were similar orders given to the Dutch secret services to report on contacts of the Clinton campaign with Israeli officials? Undue influencing attempts of Israeli politicians on U.S. policies are legend. Were they watched? If not why not?
Mr. Trump has denied that his campaign had any contact with Russian officials, and at one point he openly suggested the American spy agencies had cooked up intelligence suggesting that the Russian government had tried to meddle in the presidential election. Mr. Trump has accused the Obama administration of hyping the Russia story line as a way to discredit his new administration.
Guess what - Trump is right. The "Russian hacking" story is not backed by any evidence at all. It IS cooked up. And to say Trump "accused" the Obama administration of attempts to "discredit his new administration" is quite weak. The article says exactly that. How else could one interpret the following section?
As Inauguration Day approached, Obama White House officials grew convinced that the intelligence was damning and that they needed to ensure that as many people as possible inside government could see it, even if people without security clearances could not. Some officials began asking specific questions at intelligence briefings, knowing the answers would be archived and could be easily unearthed by investigators — including the Senate Intelligence Committee, which in early January announced an inquiry into Russian efforts to influence the election.
At intelligence agencies, there was a push to process as much raw intelligence as possible into analyses, and to keep the reports at a relatively low classification level to ensure as wide a readership as possible across the government — and, in some cases, among European allies. This allowed the upload of as much intelligence as possible to Intellipedia, a secret wiki used by American analysts to share information.
There was also an effort to pass reports and other sensitive materials to Congress. In one instance, the State Department sent a cache of documents marked “secret” to Senator Benjamin Cardin of Maryland days before the Jan. 20 inauguration.
The "intelligence community", it is specifically the CIA here which campaigned on the Clinton side, manipulated the classification of secrets for the sole purpose of instigating witch-hunt investigations against the incoming Trump administration. Such secrets were then used to decapitate the Trump administration with the first casualty being his selected national security advisor Flynn. We currently see an attack on the administration's attorney general Session for a routine talk with the Russian ambassador. This based on "Justice department officials", i.e. FBI flunkies. Why would they know who Session legitimately met in his function as U.S. Senator?
Slandered intelligence analysis was classified in low categories with the aim of distributing it far and wide and to practically guarantee that it would "leak" to the media. The real facts though were hidden as much as possible to provide no material for the Trump administration's defense.
The opposite happened with the most sensitive intelligence, including the names of sources and the identities of foreigners who were regularly monitored. Officials tightened the already small number of people who could access that information. They knew the information could not be kept from the new president or his top advisers, but wanted to narrow the number of people who might see the information, officials said.
Everyone was to receive the slander "analysis" the intelligence services provided but no one was supposed to know the sources and the real facts. This would make sure that the anti-Russia and anti-Trump "analysis" would leak but not the weak bits of facts it is based upon.
To repeat: The Obama administration and the intelligence services spared no effort to sabotage the policies of the incoming Trump administration and prepared the grounds for baseless investigation against it. A lot of dirt is now thrown based on that effort and the hope is that some may stick.
The whole effort by the Obama administration started only after Trump was elected:
In early December, Mr. Obama ordered the intelligence community to conduct a full assessment of the Russian campaign.
In the weeks before the assessment was released in January, the intelligence community combed through databases for an array of communications and other information — some of which was months old by then — and began producing reports that showed there were contacts during the campaign between Trump associates and Russian officials.
Again - there is nothing illegal with such contacts. These are routine and happen all the time. U.S. ambassadors all over the world routinely talk with local politicians in foreign countries. The Russian ambassadors do nothing different. This is known as diplomacy. There was no reason for the incoming administration to avoid such contacts with German, South African, Japanese or Russian officials or semi-officials. They intelligence community knows that there is no evidence that Russia interfered in the election. If it had any it would have long provided it. The ffort is specifically against the announced Russia policy.
Trump was election in part because he promised better relations with Russia. What the intelligence services do here is to undermine the will of the people.
As Joanne Leon opined:
Need to recognize this for what it is. The incumbent president used SkyNet to try to rig election and as blackmail tool on his successor
Building on the illegal moves of the Cheney administration Obama installed and empowered the intelligence instruments and the precedence for such manipulations. Not since the worst days of J. Edgar Hoover has the U.S. seen such an interior assault on politicians and policies.
Trump now hired some partisan Russia expert from the Clinton aligned Brookings to run Russia policy in the NSC. She will institute anti-Russian bias in his policies. This would not have happened under a national security advisor Flynn. For now the Obama assault on Trump's announced policy has succeeded. Those who voted for Trump for a change in Russia policies have been disenfranchised.
I do not prefer Trump policies. Flynn was a maniac and Session is a crazy fossil. But that does not justify this anti-democratic abuse of the foreign policy instruments of the state against the political opponents within the country.
Obama created these tools and now left them for the Trump administration to use. They will come back to haunt the Democrats. What will they say and do when the Trump administration will use these against them?
Syria - Erdogan's Lost Bet - Trump Likely To Follow A Cautious Strategy
The last Syria thread noted:
South of Al-Bab the Syrian army is moving towards the Euphrates. It will cut off the Turkish forces path to Raqqa and Manbij.
That move concluded. The Turkish invasion forces are now blocked from moving further south. They would have to fight the Syrian army and their Russian allies to move directly onto Raqqa. They would have to fight the Syrian-Kurdish YPG and its U.S. allies to move further east.
For the first time since the start of the war the supply lines between Turkey and the Islamic State are cut off!
Erdogan is still hoping for U.S. support for his plans for Raqqa but I doubt that the U.S. military is willing to give up on their well regarded Kurdish proxies in exchange for an ill disciplined Turkish army in general disarray and with little fighting spirit. Erdogan removed any and all officers and NCOs that he perceived as not being 100% behind his power grab. That has now come back to haunt him. He is lacking the military means to pursue his belligerent policies.
Last year Erdogan had allied with Russia and Iran after a (U.S. supported?) coup attempt against him failed. He felt left alone by the U.S. and its reluctance to support his plans in Syria. After Trump was elected Erdogan perceived a coming change in U.S. policies. He exposed himself as the ultimate turncoat and switched back to a U.S. alliance. His believe in a change of U.S. policy drives his latest moves and announcements.
Elijah Magnier reports that his sources in Damascus have the same impression of Trump as Erdogan. They believe that Trump will strongly escalate in Syria and will support the Turkish moves against the Syrian state.
But it is the U.S. military that drives the strategy in the Trump cabinet. The Pentagon has no appetite for a big ground operation in Syria. The plan it offered Trump is still the same plan that it offered under Obama. It will work with Kurdish forces to defeat the Islamic State in Raqqa. Notable is also that a director of the Pentagon financed think tank RAND Corp publicly argues for better cooperation with Russia in Syria. The old RAND plan of a decentralized Syrian with zones under "international administration" (i.e. U.S. occupied) is probably no longer operative.
Recently Erdogan announced that his next move in Syria would be to towards Manbij, held by the YPK. Shortly thereafter pictures of U.S. troops in Manbij displaying U.S. flags were published on social networks. The message was clear: stay away from here or you will be in serious trouble.
On Monday planes from the Iraqi air force attacked Islamic State positions within eastern Syria. The attack followed from intelligence cooperation between Syria and Iraq. It is easier for Iraq to reach that area than for Syrian planes stationed near the Mediterranean. This cooperation will continue. In western Iraq militia integrated with the Iraqi military are ready to storm Tal Afar. This is besides the besieged Mosul the last big Islamic State position in the area. The U.S. had planned to let the Islamic State fighters flee from Mosul and Tal Afar towards Syrian and to let them take the Syrian government positions in Deir Ezzor. Syrian-Iraqi cooperation blocked that move. The U.S. attempt to separate the war on the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq failed. Any attempt to again use the Islamic State as a means to destroy Syria will meet resistance in Iraq where the U.S. is more and more engaged. U.S. commanders in Iraq will be well aware of that threat.
In my opinion Trump's more belligerent remarks on Syria, on safe zones and military escalation, are rhetoric. They are his negotiation positions towards Russia and Iran. They are not his policies. Those are driven by more realistic positions. Obama balanced more hawkish views supported by the CIA, Hillary Clinton and the neoconservatives against reluctance in the military to engage in another big war. Trump will, even more than Obama, follow the Pentagon's view. That view seems to be unchanged. I therefore do not believe that aggressive escalation is the way Trump will go. Some additional U.S. troops may get added to the Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa. But any large move by Turkish or by Israeli forces will not be condoned. The big U.S. invasion of Syria in their support will not happen.
Meanwhile the Syrian army is moving on Palmyra and may soon retrieve it from the Islamic State. A new Russian trained unit, the 5th corps, is in the lead and so far makes a good impression. With Palmyra regained the Syrian army is free to move further east towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.
Erdogan may still get some kind of "safe zone" in the area in north Syrian his forces now occupy. But Damascus will support Kurdish and Arab guerilla forces against any Turkish occupation. The Turkish forces in Syria will continue to be in a lot of trouble. Erdogan will not get active U.S. support for further moves to capture Syrian land. His change of flags, twice, was useless and has severely diminished his standing.
Netanyahoo and the Israel lobby also want a "safe zone". This one in south Syria and under Jordanian command. This would allow Israel to occupy more Syrian land along the Golan heights. But the areas next to the Golan and towards Deera are occupied by al-Qaeda and Islamic State aligned group. These groups are a serious danger for the unstable Jordanian state. There is nothing to win for Jordan in any "safe zone" move. Likewise the U.S. military will have no interest in opening another can of worms in south Syria. Like Erdogan Netanyahoo will likely be left alone with his dreams.