Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 30, 2017

Dumb And Vile - Independent Falls For Prank, Smears Other Journalists

The British daily Independent falls for a hilarious prank. It interprets some random lines on a picture of the Okay-gesture as a political message. Having thus failed it builds on its own stupidity to smear other outlets and journalists.

The anonymous Internet message board 4chan.org is well known for hilarious stunts played on ignorants and naive Internet novices.

4chan users have been instrumental in pranks such as hijacking Internet destinations to cause images of Rick Astley to appear in place of their content, coordinating attacks against other websites and Internet users, and posting threats of violence in order to elicit individual and public reactions. The Guardian once summarized the 4chan community as "lunatic, juvenile [...] brilliant, ridiculous and alarming."

In February 2017 some users of the 4chan sub-board for political incorrect stuff /pol/ launched a prank campaign to convince people that the "okay" hand-gesture, widely used with positive connotation, actually stands for White Power. The OK gesture is not cultural universal, but it is also not racist in any way or form:

The gesture is widely used to mean "all is well" or "good". Where the word "OK" may mean a thing is merely satisfactory or mediocre, as in "the food was OK", the gesture is commonly understood as a signal of approval, and is sometimes used synonymously with the Western "thumbs up" gesture.


One of hundreds of OK-sign stock photo: "Happy executive man"

Then 4chan starts its prank:




And some idiots fell for the stunt. Two month later The Independent is outraged, O U T R A G E D!, that journalists would use the okay gesture when they, for the first time, received their coveted press pass for the White House briefings.


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From the Independent smear piece:

Freelance journalist Mike Cernovich and Cassandra Fairbanks, a reporter for Russian news outlet Sputnik, posed for a picture behind the podium in the White House briefing room. In the photo, they are making a hand sign that can be used to signify “white power.”

“Just two people doing a white power hand gesture in the White House,” Fusion senior reporter Emma Roller tweeted, alongside a screenshot of the picture.

Ms Fairbanks, however, claims the hand gesture was not a reference to the white power movement. She pointed to her partial Puerto Rican heritage as evidence that she is not a white supremacist.

“White power!!!!!!! Except I'm Puerto Rican. Can it be PR power?!” she tweeted.

On top of that nonsense the author falsely claims that the contentious Anti-Defamation League interprets the one-handed OK-guesture as meaning White Power. It does no such thing.

To characterize Sputnik, an official news site of the Russian government, as "alt-right" is hilarious. But to fall for this obvious nonsense, to smear journalists as "alt-right members" for using an well known and innocuous gesture, and to create #fakenews from it, is dumb and vile.

When Cassandra Fairbanks, the lefty Sputnik journo, smells "PR power" behind the non-story, she demonstrates a way higher qualification for real journalism than the Independent scribe Emily Shugerman who fell for the prank.

Here, Ms Shugerman and Ms Roller, is another OK-gesture - one exclusively for you. Interpret it as you like:

Posted by b on April 30, 2017 at 05:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (65)

April 29, 2017

"If You Take East-Syria, I'll Take That Yemeni Port"

Will the U.S. leave Syria if doing so prevents a Russian fleet in Yemen?

The question seems weird but if Russia succeeds with its negotiations in Yemen it will soon have to be asked.

A U.S. neoconservative outlet recently published an interesting but mostly unsourced bit about Yemen:

Russia is mediating negotiations for a political solution to the Yemen conflict outside of UN channels as a means to secure naval bases in Yemen. Russia is pursuing political negotiations with the UAE and former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh by beginning to discuss the future consensus Yemeni government. Saleh’s support for the Houthis is critical for the al Houthi-Saleh bloc to retain its influence across northern and central Yemen. The UAE may see this settlement as a way to halt the expansion of Iran’s influence in Yemen and to limit bearing further costs associated with the Yemeni war. Saleh previously expressed willingness to grant Russia military basing rights in Yemen. This basing would allow Russia to project power into one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes in the Red Sea and the Bab al Mandab strait, a global maritime chokepoint.

Back in August 2016 the former Yemeni president Saleh had indeed made an offer to Russia:

"In the fight against terrorism we reach out and offer all facilities. Our airports, our ports... We are ready to provide this to the Russian Federation," Saleh said in an interview in Sanaa.

No one (but Russia?) took Saleh serious at that time. He was not, and is not, in a position to achieve control over Aden in southern Yemen nor any other relevant Yemeni port.

I also doubted the recent report. Yes, until the early 1990s the Soviet Union had bases in southern Yemen and thousands of military advisers and trainers worked in the country. But Russia currently does not have the naval resources, nor the immediate interest, to open a new base in the area. Or so I thought.

But a well-informed source in Yemen dispelled my doubts. It confirmed the report. Russia is negotiating with the UAE, the Houthi/Saleh alliance and the various southern groups in Yemen over a peace deal and has been doing so for the last six month. The deal would include Russian naval basing rights in Aden.


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The red lights must be flashing at CENTCOM, the Pentagon and the National Security Council. For the last twenty-five years the Arab Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea were largely U.S. controlled waters. That China recently opened an "anti-piracy" base in Djibouti has already led to concerns. Now the Russians are coming!!!

The Saudi war on Yemen, actively supported by the U.S., is going nowhere. The Saudis are daily losing soldiers to Yemeni incursions (vid) into south Saudi Arabia. There is no chance that Saudi supported forces will take the Houthi/Saleh controlled northern Yemen and the capital Sanaa. The United Arab Emirates has supported the Saudi war with capable forces. But the UAE only wants Aden port and its nearby oil-loading facilities for its DP World port management business. The Saudis want the ports as outlets for their oil exports away from their Persian Gulf ports that Iran could easily disable. But they also want to control all of Yemen.

The Saudis hired Al-Qaeda in Yemen to fight as their proxy force. But neither the U.S. nor the UAE agree to that ploy. UAE forces in Yemen were attacked by AQ. The U.S. fears AQ in Yemen as a potential source of international attacks. Since the beginning of the year the U.S. and UAE special forces have raided or bombed a number of Al-Qaeda concentration in Yemen. The Saudis were surprised but could hardly protest. Al-Qaeda was their last ace in the game. They have lost it.

The Saudis are pulling back from their planned invasion on Yemen's Red Sea coast in Hodeidah. The port is currently the only one through which food aid is shipped to the besieged and starving northern areas. The UN had protested against an attack on it and the U.S. has held back support for the operation. The Houthis and Saleh will likely agree to some UN control over the port. While the Saudis allege that the port is for smuggling arms from Iran, the Houthi know well that this has not been the case.

The Saudi fear of an Iranian stronghold in Yemen is baseless. The alleged Iranian support for the Houthis never materialized. During more than two years of war no Iranian was killed, captured or even seen in Yemen. The ballistic missiles the Houthis are using against Saudi Arabia are old Soviet types including locally modified SA-2/S-75 air defense missiles. The Yemeni army had purchased and stashed many of those while Iran had never owned that type. The military supplies the Houthis use is not of Iranian origin but taken from Saudi deliveries to its proxy fighters in Yemen. The Houthi simply capture or buy from them whatever they need.

There were recent protests in Aden against the U.S./Saudi puppet president of Yemen, Hadi. He had resided there for a few weeks but had to flee back to his luxury hotel suite in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. While Hadi is officially in control and responsible for Aden no government wages have been paid, utilities are out and various gangs control and fight each other over parts of the city. Party headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood aligned Islah party, which supports Hadi, have been burned down.

The UAE has had enough of it:

The Emiratis are beginning to tire of their bickering wards. Officials who hoped that Aden would be a model for the rest of Yemen now fear that leaving the south on autopilot might only condemn the country to instability. And that might engulf the whole Arabian peninsula. Thousands of fighters they have trained have gone AWOL (after collecting their pay). Motivating recruits to push north is an uphill task even with the payment of bonuses. Those who were happy to fight for their own homes seem unenthused about fighting for somebody else’s.

If the Saleh/Houthi alliance can make peace with the southern movements that so far supported Hadi, the war can be ended within a few month. Russia can moderate the negotiations and provide, to some degree, guarantees. Unlike the U.S. it is seen as neutral and sober by all sides of the conflict. The UAE and the Saudis will have to pay up for the carnage they caused. The UAE would probably get commercial Aden port rights for its DP World business. The Saudis would only get some peace within their borders. But by now the Saudis are likely to agree to such a deal - if only to keep face while ending that calamitous adventure in Yemen.

As for the naval port and Russian basing rights - these are excellent bargains in negotiations with the U.S. over Syria. If the U.S. insists on controlling eastern Syria the Russians can send some submarines, a destroyer and other combatants to Aden and install some very capable air and sea defenses to keep their ships and the harbor safe. If the U.S. agrees to leave Syria alone then a small rusty Russian corvette in Aden, without air defenses, would probably do. The Pentagon and the White House would have a choice to make: keep primacy in the seas of the area or have the constant menace of a nearby Russian "fleet in being" on their back. Is a troublesome occupation of east-Syria really worth that hassle?

Posted by b on April 29, 2017 at 12:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

April 28, 2017

Open Thread 2017-17

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 28, 2017 at 02:10 PM | Permalink | Comments (187)

April 27, 2017

How Bio-Weapons Led To Torture ... And North Korean Nukes

In Why North Korea Needs Nukes - And How To End That we pointed to the utter destruction the U.S. and its allies waged in the war on Korea on all parts of the country. That North Korea seeks "weapons of mass destruction" is quite understandable when one takes into account the hundreds of thousands tons of napalm used against it. But even Napalm and the criminal destruction of North Korean dams were not the worst depravation the U.S. applied. Biological warfare agents, primarily anthrax, were dropped over North Korea and China and killed civilians. The U.S./UN command denied such use and covered it up. One consequence of that cover up was the development of torture methods in the U.S. SERE pilot training programs and their later proliferation into criminal abuses in Guantanamo, Abu Graibh and elsewhere. An important piece of evidence of this trail was recently and for the first time re-published on the web

In the 1950s war on Korea heavy air to air fights were waged near the Chinese border which led to significant losses of airplane on both sides especially along the MiG Alley:

USAF pilots nicknamed April 12, 1951 "Black Thursday", after 30 MiG-15s attacked three squadrons of B-29 bombers (36 planes) escorted by approximately 100 F-80s and F-84s. The MiGs were fast enough to engage the B-29s and extend away from their escorts. Three B-29s were shot down and seven more were damaged, with no casualties on the communist side.

On "Black Thursday" and other occasions U.S. bomber pilots were captured. Some of them admitted to have dropped biological weapons over China and northern Korea. Their confessions were published in writing and publicized on Korean, Chinese and Russian radio.

The U.S. (UN) command under U.S. General MacArthur denied any use of biological warfare agents. It claimed that the downed pilots were tortured to give false confessions.

Since World War II the U.S. Airforce and Navy had established training courses in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) for pilots that might be captured by enemies. During these courses interrogations were staged to provide realistic training. After the Korea War anti-torture training was added. Torture of "prisoners" was "simulated" with the trainees. Decades later, during the war of terror and on Iraq, the CIA hired two psychologists as "behavioral science consultants" from the SERE training staff to teach its agents how to use torture on prisoners. The absolutely inhuman and dangerous methods those SERE "experts" devised proliferated to the U.S. military which, together with the CIA, used them on alleged enemy combatants in Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and other places.

According to the Senate Armed Services Committee Report (pdf) on U.S. torturing of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and CIA black sites, SERE techniques originated in Chinese Communist methods in the Korean War employed to extract false confessions from captured U.S. personal.

(During the 1960s the CIA itself developed additional "scientific" torture methods and published them in the KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation and Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual. U.S. personal as well as several south American militia were trained in and used these abusive and illegal methods.)

The torture training at the SERE schools and the abuses were all based on a big lie.

The U.S. had used biological weapons in the Korea war. It also used chemical weapons and suppressed investigations into it. Its pilots dropped bombs with biological warfare agents over China and Korea. Theirs were not false confessions extracted by Chinese Communist methods. The captured U.S. pilots were telling the truth.

The SERE torture resistance training and its abuse are based on the bigger lie about the non-use of biological agents in the war on Korea.

(The Geneva Protocol of 1925 generally prohibited the use of biological agents but the specific Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention was only developed and signed in 1972.)

The U.S. and UK developed extensive biological warfare programs during World War II but those weapons were not put to use in the European theater. The Japanese used biological weapons, with mixed success, in China and elsewhere. At the end of World War II the Japanese biological warfare Unit 731 was taken over by the U.S. military:

[General] MacArthur struck a deal with Japanese informants—he secretly granted immunity to the physicians of Unit 731, including their leader, in exchange for providing America, but not the other wartime allies, with their research on biological warfare and data from human experimentation. American occupation authorities monitored the activities of former unit members, including reading and censoring their mail. The U.S. believed that the research data was valuable.

During and after the war on Korea the Chinese government alleged the use of biological weapons on Korean and Chinese civilians by the U.S. The U.S. denied. A commission was called upon to investigate:

To convince the world of the truth of their claims, the North Koreans and Chinese, sponsored a purported independent commission, using the auspices of the World Peace Council, gathering together a number of leftist scientists from around the world. Most surprisingly, this commission, which came to be known as the International Scientific Commission, or ISC, was headed by one of the foremost British scientists of his time, Sir Joseph Needham. The ISC travelled to China and North Korea in the summer of 1952 and by the end of the year produced a report that corroborated the Chinese and North Korean claims that the U.S. had used biological weapons in an experimental fashion on civilian populations.

For a long time the commission's report and its appendices with the witness statements were suppressed and not available online. Jefferey Kay, a psychologist and author living in northern California, dug them up and recently published them (recommended) on the web for the first time. You can read them here:

Sir Joseph Needham was blacklisted by the U.S. during the McCarthy anti-communist campaign.

Needham's investigations have since been confirmed by other scholars investigating the general case:

It is the purpose of this article to consider the validity of these [U.S. military denials] in light of the research which we conducted in preparing our recent book, The United States and Biological Warfare: secrets of the Early Cold War and Korea. In that book we conclude that the United States engaged in large-scale field tests of biological weapons against the Asian countries and with some additional evidence we continue to believe that is the case.

General MacArthur, one of the foremost war criminals ever, covered up the war crimes of the Japanese and especially of Unit 731. He took care to integrate the Japanese biological weapon experience into the U.S. military resources. Under his command biological agents were then used against Korean and and Chinese civilians and military units. When his pilots confessed, he denied all such reports and alleged "brainwashing" through  torture by the Chinese. This again led to torture "simulations" in U.S. SERE training from which recent U.S. torture in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere derived.

U.S. media and the public have a general amnesia whenever it comes to U.S. war crimes - no matter how recent. The Senate report on CIA torture in Iraq and elsewhere is still suppressed. But U.S. war crimes do not end. Whenever "threatened" with compromise, the U.S. tends to seeks the belligerent way. As Noam Chomsky reiterates in relation to the current campaign for another war on Korea:

[V]ery strikingly [..] there’s one lesson that you discover when you carefully look at the historical record. What I just described about North Korea is pretty typical. Over and over again, there are possibilities of diplomacy and negotiation, which might not succeed—you can’t be sure if you don’t try them—but which look pretty promising, which are abandoned, dismissed, literally without comment, in favor of increased force and violence.

For an example see this influential sitting U.S. Senator who argues for "preemptive" strikes against North Korea's missile program without any regard for the people who's life would be destroyed by them:

“It would be bad for the Korean Peninsula. It would be bad for China. It would be bad for Japan, be bad for South Korea. It would be the end of North Korea. But what it would not do is hit America and the only way it could ever come to America is with a missile.”

Considering the historical record of the United States of committing and covering up warcrimes as well as its general belligerence, North Korea and other nations are probably well advised to stick to their nuclear and missile programs.

Posted by b on April 27, 2017 at 08:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (107)

April 25, 2017

Turkish Airstrikes On Kurds Complicate U.S. Operations In Iraq And Syria

A few hour ago the Turkish airforce hit Kurdish and Yezidi positons on both sides of the Singal mountains in east-Syria and west-Iraq. Near Derik in east-Syria more than 20 bombs destroyed a YPG headquarter, a radio station and a media center. At least nine YPK fighters were killed. The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the Kurdish PKK in Turkey. The PKK is a designated terrorist organization. Within Syria U.S. special forces are embedded with the YPG and are coordinating YPG moves against the Islamic State in Raqqa. YPK and PKK follow the anarcho-marxist theories of their leader Abdullah Öcalan who is in isolation detention in Turkey.

The Turkish airstrike in Iraq hit YPG and Peshmerga positions near Shingal where they protect a displaced person camp of Yezidis. The Yezidis are an ancient religious minority. The Peshmerga are the main Kurdish militia in Iraq. They are controlled by Kurdish regional government. At least five Peshmerga fighters, all followers of Barzani clan, were killed and several more wounded. The Barzani family holds all important position in Iraq's Kurdistan - president, premier, intelligence chief and several others. Its election mandate has long run out but it simply ignores the regional parliament and rules through force and bribes. The Barzani clan is allied with Turkey and the U.S. It allows the Turkish army to operate several bases within its area. The U.S. is operating from Erbil airport in the Iraqi-Kurdish area. The oil pumped from wells in the Kurdish area is sold by the Barzanis to Turkey. The Turkish hit on Barzani fighters is deeply embarrassing for them and may incite new protest against the Barzani' quasi dictatorship.

The YPK is training Yezidi self defense forces. This is against the Barzanis' interest who sees their monopoly force in the area endangered.

Turkey is a U.S. ally and the U.S. has several bases in Turkey which it uses to fight the Islamic State. The U.S. is also allied and operates with the YPG in Syria and the Peshmerga of the Barzani clan in Iraq. The airspace in east Syria and north-west Iraq supposedly under U.S. control. There will be some serious explaining to do why the U.S. did not prevent one of its allies from bombing its other allies. Did it agree to this Turkish attack? Either way U.S. operation in the area will experience new difficulties.

Turkey has also threatened to invade the Kurdish held areas in east-Syria at Tal Abjad to move onto Raqqa and thereby split the Kurdish held areas.


Map by Winep - bigger

The primary winner of these Turkish operations is the Islamic State.

The YPK is now likely to divert forces from the U.S. led attack on the Islamic State in Raqqa to protect against further Turkish adventures. The PKK within Turkey may restart its guerrilla campaign against the Turkish military. The Barzani clan will come under renewed pressure by Kurdish people in Iraq as well as by the Iraqi government to loosen its ties with Turkey. All sides will blame the U.S. and its operations against Syria and the Islamic State.

The whole mess in Syria and Iraq thus becomes even more complicate than it already was.

Posted by b on April 25, 2017 at 04:05 AM | Permalink | Comments (102)

April 24, 2017

Syria Summary - U.S. Moves To Cut Off The East - But For What?

The situation in the north-west Syria is turning favor of the Syrian government, though much work needs to be done. The army is recovering new ground in Hama governate and an intense bombing campaign is waged over Idelb governate which is held by al-Qaeda. As an analyst generally in favor of the opposition concedes:

Continued support for the northwest insurgency amounts to effectively subsidizing a jihadist safe haven in the Levant.
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The proxy war against the Syrian regime in the northwest, for the West, is lost.

The head of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahri, agrees. He tells his forces in Syria stop holding land and to revert to guerilla war:

Ayman al-Zawahri told the jihadis, who control Syria's northwestern Idlib province and other territory, to remain steadfast and change tactics in order to wage guerrilla war.

Al-Qaida began fighting alongside Syria's rebels early in the civil war and won allies among the opposition because of its military prowess. Al-Qaida's official branch, the Nusra Front, changed its name to the Fatah al-Sham Front and formally cut ties with al-Qaida last year, but is still widely seen as being linked to the global terror network.


Map via ISW - bigger

In the south-west Israel is trying to steal another part of the Golan Heights by giving fire support for al-Qaeda groups which fight against the Syrian army in the area.

Attacks by "moderate rebels" in the south, supported by the U.S. and Jordan, have failed to take ground in the city of Deraa. They need to take the city to have some anchor for an "independent" southern "safe zone" from which the U.S. proxies could then threaten Damascus.

At the begin of April Kurdish forces under U.S. command had loudly announced that they would soon attack Raqqa and take it from the Islamic State. But no attacks on Raqqa have been seen. The operation seems to be at a halt. ISIS forces are allegedly moving from Raqqa further east to Deir Ezzor.

In south-east Syria U.S. supported "rebel" forces have moved from Jordan northward into the Syrian desert (not yet shown on the map above). They plan is to move further north towards Raqqa and to meet up with U.S. Kurdish proxy forces. This move would cut any land route from west-Syria to Deir Ezzor where a garrison of the Syrian army is protecting more than 100,000 civilians by holding out against ISIS forces. From Jordan the U.S. trained and supplied "rebels" are also moving east along the Iraqi-Syrian border. This will hinder Iraqi forces from moving into Syria and against ISIS in support the Syrian government forces in Deir Ezzor.

The whole Syrian east will thereby be cut off and under control of U.S. proxy forces. But what are the U.S. plans for this area? While the area has some oil and gas it is landlocked, lacks infrastructure and governance with mostly hostile forces surrounding it. The forces the U.S. supports are prone to infighting. It will be hard to defend the area against any serious attack. U.S. and Jordan forces will be needed to keep it under control. For how long?

I fail to see a larger strategic plan behind this that would make any sense. But the same architects that launched the failed war against Iraq are behind this move. The neocons are back and very happy about the new course of the Trump presidency. The architect of the war in Iraq, Paul Wolfowitz, is now collaborating with the neocon officers in the Trump cabinet:

In recent days he‘s jumped right back into the public debate, nudging President Trump from the pages of the Wall Street Journal to follow up his bombing strike in neighboring Syria with more aggressive action—and, he tells me, privately emailing with Trump Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and national security advisor H.R. McMaster, both longtime contacts since his Bush days, in hopes they will pursue a U.S. strategy of stepped-up engagement in the Middle East.

Mattis is currently traveling through the Gulf countries to collect money for future U.S. plans in Syria and elsewhere. The neocon senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham will tonight have a private dinner with Trump in the White House. No sensible strategy has ever come from these folks. But their lunatics plan always causes huge damage for little if any gain.

Posted by b on April 24, 2017 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (84)

April 23, 2017

Poll: The Democratic Party Is In Deep Trouble

After the presidential election the Democratic Party and its supporting media pushed unreasonable stories of secret Russian support for Trump's election as a main reason for Clinton's loss. The party avoided to discuss the real reasons: an unpopular candidate and its out-of-touch polices.

The diversion attempt failed. That is at least what I read from a just published ABC News/Washington Post poll:

[T]he national survey [...] finds some brighter spots for the president –- chiefly in pushing for jobs and in foreign policy [...]
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[The poll] finds no evidence of buyer's remorse among Trump supporters. Among those who report having voted for him in November, 96 percent today say it was the right thing to do; a mere 2 percent regret it.
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In March 2014, 48 percent of Americans said the Democratic Party was out of touch with the concerns of most people. Today 67 percent say so. And the biggest change has occurred chiefly among the party's own typical loyalists, with "out of touch" ratings up 33 points among liberals, 30 points among Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents and 26 points among moderates and nonwhites alike.
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Among Americans who say they voted in the 2016 election, 46 percent say they voted for Hillary Clinton and 43 percent for Trump, very close to the 2-point margin in the actual popular vote results. However, while Trump would retain almost all of his support if the election were held again today (96 percent), fewer of Clinton's supporters say they’d stick with her (85 percent), producing a 40-43 percent Clinton-Trump result in this hypothetical re-do among self-reported 2016 voters.

The people are not falling for the Democratic Party scam of "Russian interference". They obviously see the fault where it belongs. Unless the party shuns its Clinton/Obama legacy and reengages in voter-oriented politics it is likely to fail again and again.

And no - promoting Chelsea Clinton will not do anything good at all.

Posted by b on April 23, 2017 at 10:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (78)

April 22, 2017

Open Thread 2017-16

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 22, 2017 at 09:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (141)

April 21, 2017

U.S.: 'No doubt' That Villain-Of-The-Day Has Banned Weapons

Mattis: 'No doubt' Syrian regime has chemical weapons, April 21, 2017

"There can be no doubt in the international community's mind that Syria has retained chemical weapons in violation of its agreement and its statement that it had removed them all. There is no longer any doubt," Mattis told reporters.

Full text of Dick Cheney's speech, August 27, 2002

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us. And there is no doubt that his aggressive regional ambitions will lead him into future confrontations with his neighbors ...

“Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it.”

― Edmund Burke

Posted by b on April 21, 2017 at 01:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (85)

April 20, 2017

Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident

Those who blame the Syrian government for the allegedly chemical incident in Khan Sheikhun on April 4 are now playing up the analysis of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). But the results of the OPCW tests are inconsistent with all observed and reported technical and medical facts of the incident.

Yesterday the OPCW Director General Ambassador Üzümcü, a Turkish career diplomat and former Turkish ambassador to NATO,  released the first analytic results of the OPCW investigation into the Khan Sheikhun incident:

The bio-medical samples collected from three victims during their autopsy were analysed at two OPCW designated laboratories. The results of the analysis indicate that the victims were exposed to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance. Bio-medical samples from seven individuals undergoing treatment at hospitals were also analysed in two other OPCW designated laboratories. Similarly, the results of these analyses indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

Director-General Üzümcü stated clearly: “The results of these analyses from four OPCW designated laboratories indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance.

"Sarin or Sarin-like substance" is noted three times a row. Sarin is also mentioned in the headline. The OPCW director is pushing that meme - hard.

But the OPCW did not conclude that a chemical attack occurred in Khan Sheikhun. It suggested nothing about the incident itself. It only talked about bio-medical samples of several persons - nothing more, nothing less. It also did not give any hint of how much exposure the persons in question received. Was it a minimal traceable amount that had no effect on them or did they die from it? The OPCW does not say.

The Russian foreign ministry claims that "western" powers within the OPCW block a full-scale investigation of the incident.

The "sarin like substances" the OPCW mentions could be a different chemical weapon than sarin - soman is a possible candidate. It would be more consistent with the "smell" several witnesses described after the incident (Sarin is odorless). Many general insecticides belong to the same class of chemicals as sarin and soman. They are all organophosphorus compounds. (Sarin was originally developed as an insecticide). All of such compounds could be a source of the exposure found by the OPCW. These chemicals degrade within hours or days. A forensic analysis will not find the original substance but only decomposition products of some organophosporus compound. That is the reason why the OPCW result is not fixed on sarin but also mentions "sarin like substances".

Another question is where those samples come from. Who "collected" them? When? Where? And what is the chain of evidence that connects the samples to the incident? The OPCW has not send an investigation team to Khan Sheikhun. No samples were taken in Khan Sheikhun by its own inspectors. While Russia and Syria have asked for OPCW inspections on the ground, Tahrir al-Sham, the renamed al-Qaeda in Syria which controls the Khan Sheikhun area, has not asked for inspectors. Without its agreement any investigation mission is perceived as too dangerous. None of the OPCW inspectors is interested in literally losing his head to those terrorists.

Al-Qaeda propaganda organizations in Khan Sheikhun were the first to claim that sarin was used on the ground. "Western" media and governments later repeated those claims before any further investigations could have been done. The very first claim I found was made by the former British doctor Shajul Islam who works for the terrorists. This video of him of "doctors "and "patients" in an emergence room in Khan Sheikhun is pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter, Shajul Islam, is a well-known criminal Takfiri with links to the British secret service. He talks of sarin even though the "patients" around him show no signs of sarin effects and the emergency personal in the video is unprotected against potent chemical agents.

A White House assessment later claimed that it had evidence that sarin was used. It used the claim to justify the bombing of the Syrian military airport Al Syairat. But the White House assessment contains no evidence. It includes a number of factually false statements. It claims, for example:

]T]he World Health Organization stated on April 5 that its analysis of victims of the attack in Syria showed the had been exposed to nerve agents

The WHO report from April 5 stated no such thing. It only noted:

[S]erious reports of the use of highly toxic chemicals in an attack in Khan Shaykhun

It WHO made no analysis of its own. It only mentions "reports".

Immediately after the incident, bodies of dead and wounded were brought to Turkey where they were taken into hospital. Al-Qaeda or al-Qaeda aligned personal must have transported them. It is a three hour car ride from Khan Sheikhun to the Turkish border.

The incident happened on April 4. First reports on that day by the Turkish government news agency Anadolu mentioned only chlorine:

At least 100 people were killed Tuesday when Assad regime warplanes carried out a chlorine gas attack in Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, according to Syrian opposition Health Minister Firas Jundi.
...
A local civil defense official earlier told Anadolu Agency a regime aircraft carried out a chlorine gas attack on the town early Tuesday.

The first OPCW statement on April 4 referred to chlorine, not sarin or similar:

The OPCW is investigating the incident in southern Idlib under the on-going mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), which is “to establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”.

The first report of the Turkish government also said chlorine. The UN Security Council convened on April 6 to discuss the incident. The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported:

Turkey sent a report to the United Nations just before a U.N. Security Council meeting to address accusations that the Syrian government staged a chemical weapons attack on April 4, stating that the gas used in the attack was chlorine gas.

Turkey’s Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear teams (KBRN) prepared an initial report over the possible material of the alleged chemical attack, relying on the symptoms of and tests conducted on the victims and their testimonies.

The report stated that the initial findings of the tests conducted on around 30 victims brought to Turkey for treatment pointed to a chlorine gas attack.

Thirty victims were immediately brought to Turkey after the incident. But the Turkish doctors and CBRN specialist did not consider sarin, but chlorine gas -a much less potent chemical- to be involved. (Chlorine is not designated a chemical weapon under the chemical warfare regulations. This fact is often obfuscated for propaganda reasons. ) The symptoms of chlorine ingestion and the effects of sarin exposure are quite different. It is extremely unlikely that the emergency doctors and chemical weapon specialists misdiagnosed the issue when the patients arrived and were taken care of. The 30 casualties arriving in Turkey were not the casualties of a sarin incident.

But then the Turkish Health Ministry started to tell a different story:

The poison used in the deadly chemical bomb attack in a rebel-held part of northern Syria this week was the banned nerve agent sarin, the Turkish Health Ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
...
“According to the results of preliminary tests,” the statement said, “patients were exposed to chemical material (Sarin).”
...
The Turkish statement did not elaborate on how the sarin had been identified in the assault on Tuesday, but it said some of the telling symptoms seen in the victims included “lung edema, increase in lung weight and bleeding in lungs.”

From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Emergency Response Database:

At high exposure levels, irritation of the upper respiratory tract and accumulation of fluid in the lungs (pulmonary edema) contribute to a sensation of choking.

But that is from the CDC entry for chlorine.

The CDC entry for sarin mentions "fluid accumulation in the airways" as one symptom among many more conspicuous ones. It does not mention an edema in the lungs.

Contradicting the first Turkish reports the Turkish Health Ministry claimed "sarin" (in parenthesis?!). But the symptom it described as proof was not of sarin but of chlorine exposure.

The Turkish Justice Minister also made a statement, but did not mention sarin at all:

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters that "Autopsies were carried out on three of the bodies after they were brought from Idlib. The results of the autopsy confirms that chemical weapons were used," quoted by state-run Anadolu news agency.

"This scientific investigation also confirms that Assad used chemical weapons," Bozdag added, without giving further details.
...
Bozdag said autopsies were conducted with the "participation" of officials from the World Health Organization (WHO) in the southern province of Adana together with officials from Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW).

But WHO immediately countered Bozdag's claims that it was involved in the postmortem, saying the organisation did not conduct autopsies, adding: "It is not our mandate."
...
[It] also stressed that no samples or swabs had been taken by WHO despite claims by the Adana prosecutor that "examples" had been sent to the organisation and the OPCW.

The Justice Minister claimed that samples had been given to the WHO and OPCW from the very first autopsies. But the WHO clearly denies that. I find no OPCW statement on this. Did it receive any of those first samples or only some that were later produced by Turkish authorities?

In 2013 a Turkish court, under Justice Minister Bozdag, set one suspected Ahrar al Sham member free after he was caught with sarin precursors. The person was later sentenced in absentia as he had fled back to Syria. Ahrar al Sham, while not in charge, has a presence in Khan Sheikhun.

The neuroscientist and neuro-pharmacologist Denis O'Brien, a Ph.D. with a research and teaching career in that field, analyzed the symtoms of the casualties that were depicted in the various videos coming out of Khan Sheikhun. His detailed diagnostics and chemical-biological explanations are humorously titled Top Ten Ways to Tell When You're Being Spoofed by a False-Flag Sarin Attack.

O'Brian notes the total absence of feces, urine, vomit and cyanosis (turning blue) in the videos. Sarin exposure causes, according to the CDC database, "Nausea, vomiting (emesis), diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping." Sarin effected patients would spontaneously shit, pee and vomit all over. But the casualties in the videos, even the "dead" ones, have clean undies. The "clinic" in the videos has clean floors. The patients show red skin color, not oxygen deprived blue. The patients in the videos were not effected by sarin.

Medical personal and rescue workers in the videos (example) and pictures also show none of the typical sarin symptoms. Sarin degrades relatively fast. Half of the potency will be gone within five hours after release (depending on environmental factors). But these rescue workers and medical personal were immediately involved with the casualties. They do not wear any reasonable protection. They would have been dead or at least effected if sarin would have been involved in any relevant concentration.

The Turkish doctors and chemical weapon specialists who received the first patients diagnosed chlorine exposure, not sarin. The first news and Turkish reports to the UN speak of chlorine, not sarin. It is only the Turkish Health Minister who mentions sarin - in parentheses, but then lists a symptom of severe chlorine exposure as one of sarin. Neither the casualties nor the unprotected medical personal involved in the incident show any effect of sarin exposure. The only one who claimed "sarin" early on was an al-Qaeda alligend former doctor in a staged propaganda video.

Fifteen days after the incident the OPCW say that samples (it was given?) "indicate exposure to Sarin or a Sarin-like substance".

Turkey has been the supply and support lifeline for Ahrar al Sham as well as for al-Qaeda in Syria. The samples given to the OPCW were taken by Turkish personal in Turkey. The current head of the OPCW is a Turkish civil servant. It is in the interest of Turkey and its terrorist clients in Syria to blame the Syrian government for chemical weapon use.

The medical and technical evidence is not consistent with a sarin attack by the Syrian government. All of the videos and pictures of the incident were taken in al-Qaeda controlled territory. All witnesses were under al-Qaeda control. How much of the incident was staged for videos (see al-Qaeda doctor video linked above) or how many of the witnesses were told to lie is not testable under current circumstance. The Syrian government insist that it had given up all its chemical weapons and keeps no stocks. The Russian government also asserts that no chemical weapon attack took place.

The OPCW analysis may well have found that samples it received indicated some organophosphorus exposure. But the chain of evidence for these samples is very dubious. The amount of exposure was not defined.

The observable facts of the incident do not support the conclusion that sarin was present in the Khan Sheikhun incident.

Note: Part of the above is based on the work and tweets of Ali Ornek

Posted by b on April 20, 2017 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (72)

April 19, 2017

Libya - More War And Reconciliation

By Richard Galustian

The West retains it's out of touch Libyan policies when in Luca, Italy last week the G7 'warned and commanded' that the fractious warring Libyan parties 'must' work with the dying UN appointed and recognised Government of National Accord (GNA), situated only in a small naval base in Tripoli and its so called Presidency Council (PC). And further ordered Libyans to work together to fix the economic crisis by recognising that the Central Bank of Libya (CBL) need to only collaborate with the GNA/PC, so out of touch with the real issues on the ground in Libya are the G7 Countries. Their language almost expressed in colonial terms!

Other global interference in Libya continues. Most recently also the GNA and Presidency Council (PC) leader Fayez Serraj was seeing the head, at his HQ in Stuttgart, of the United Stated Africa Command (AFRICOM) General Thomas Waldhauser. I didn't know Stuttgart was in Africa?

Other pronouncements of one kind or another backing the phantom GNA appear almost weekly.

All a waste of time, as UN and EU efforts have proven these past years. As far as Serraj is concerned he is unelected by Libyans but chosen by the foreigners. That’s never going to achieve forward progress for Libya’s future.

The one year anniversary of the General National Accord (GNA) created by the UN and headed by Serraj was on the 30th March just two weeks ago. But the GNA doesn’t function. To compound the GNA’s inability to govern, an acute emergency has emerged in the last 7 days revolving around further direct sales by Cyrenaica (East Libya) of oil bypassing Tripoli and the West. If this issue remains unresolved the country may split into two or three pieces. There is now tremendous in-fighting between National Oil Company (NOC) and a variety of diverse interests. The West's reactions to these realities remain puzzling and totally unrealistic to say the least.

A Libyan military solution to the civil war is fast becoming the only option however a Mandela type Truth and Reconciliation Commission following straight after such military victory is also a top priority.

These developments are part of a new dynamic that is entering the Libyan Civil War that is another trend that may satisfy weary Libyans themselves. The re-entry of two of Gaddafis children who are seeking a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, similar to South Africa’s, in order to bring unity to the country. Specific Libyan tribes are starting to back the Gaddafi clan a new and hopefully peaceful attempt at country unification may appear that ousts the GNA and other Tripoli militias and extremists for good from the political scene. This is becoming a realistic proposition.

It is to this point that national reconciliation must be addressed. South Africa’s process helped to unify the country after decades of apartheid.

The LNA's Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar is close to Elders of Warfalla tribe that give him their support in the war against terrorism. Warfalla tribe is the biggest tribe in Libya located in Bani Walid and Sirte area, the Warshfana tribe is second located to the South West of Tripoli. Both tribes are from the west of Libya and both are against extremists and very sympathetic to the Gaddafis. Importantly, the tribes believe that the Gaddafis can reach an accommodation with Libyan parties to one another forgive crimes committed before and after the revolt of 2011. Already, evidence can be seen of this trend: In the past week, Libyan authorities have released some Gaddafi era nobles from prison. The involvement of the former AQ-LIFG fighters to take credit for these releases is a vain attempt to try to align themselves with Gaddifites which will never succeed.

While the limelight is on Saif, who still is believed to suffer from physical and mental injuries sustained during his capture, his sister Aisha Gaddafi is fast becoming the most important member of the family. She is generating a good deal of attention and she may well be very influential in future. Aisha is a pragmatic and sensible Libyan with acute political acumen and a sharp wit and intellect. She has a dynamic personality and is the most well educated of the Colonel's siblings. There is an argument that she needs to return to the political scene. Whether she wants to, no one knows due to her low profile so far.

However with Aisha's victory last week in the European Court of Justice against the UN Security Council-sponsored sanctions this may very well be the first indicator. She has also had her travel ban lifted. A major achievement. Together with her brother, when he achieves 100 percent fitness, both Gaddafi’s can begin to work together with all Libyans to rescue the country from its dreadful plight as part of a team never a return to dictatorship.

This tandem approach —Gaddafi siblings and the Tribes— is the possible solution to Libya’s civil war. Haftar recognizes the values of tribes and the Libyan Field Marshall is now using all his might to solidify and unify all Libyans whilst continuing to fight terrorists. As stated earlier, South Africa’s dismantling of decades of apartheid serves as the example, the model for Libya.

The South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was set up to help deal with what awful things happened under apartheid, much worse than Gaddafi's crimes ever were. The remnants of conflict during this post-apartheid period resulted in still some limited violence and human rights abuses from all sides but no section of society escaped exposure or punishment.

Libya is suffering under a system of constant outside international interference in a Libyan decision about their own future. Self-reflection is an important part of reconciliation and it is thought that if the Gaddafis assistance in such an effort will help in a “cleansing” to build a new Libyan future, this would be a good thing. Of course, Libya is not South Africa, and the issues completely different, yet it is the process of reconciliation and forgiveness itself which has its primordial roots in today’s modern Libyan tribes.

Russia involvement with Egypt is essential. Also African countries must unite to help Libya through this process, not US's AFRICOM, UN or even the EU. The only other country that appears to be a true friend to Libya is the UAE who also have the advantage of being anti-Muslim Brotherhood, a dangerous sect that has influence in the West of Libya.

If body language is anything to go by, this picture (of Mohamed bin Zayed, the powerful Crown Prince of the UAE with Haftar) taken last week in Abu Dhabi speaks volumes!


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Let us hope finally for a peaceful conclusion to the tragedy that has been Libya for these past six years.

Posted by b on April 19, 2017 at 04:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur - Khan Sheikhun Summary Report by Prof. Postol

Update - April 22: "Correction" link added, Chlorine not Sarin link added
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MIT Professor Theodore Postol, a well known missile expert and former scientific advisor to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations, analyzed the available evidence of the alleged April 4 Sarin attack on Khan Sheikhun in Syria. He comes to the conclusion that the White House allegations and its report are false. The White House report was not created or vetted by knowledgeable intelligence analysts. This confirms our own analysis published earlier on Moon of Alabama.

Prof. Postol's summary report: The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur, April 19 (pdf, 18 pages) and a supplementary correction to the summary report regarding the wind direction: IMPORTANT CORRECTION TO The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur, April 21 (pdf, 6 pages).

Previously three preliminary versions of Prof. Postol's analysis were released by him:

(See also my assessment of the validity of "sarin" claims based on the early public news and records: Chlorine, Not Sarin, Was Used In The Khan Sheikhun Incident.)

Pic: NOT the site of a Sarin missile impact as claimed by the White House


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Prof. Postol sent the following covering letter with his summary report:

The Nerve Agent Attack that Did Not Occur - Summary of Findings

This analysis contains a detailed description of the times and locations of critical events in the alleged nerve agent attack of April 4, 2017 in Khan Shaykhun, Syria – assuming that the White House Intelligence Report (WHR) issued on April 11, 2017 correctly identified the alleged sarin release site.

Analysis using weather data from the time of the attack shows that a small hamlet about 300 m to the east southeast of the crater could be the only location affected by the alleged nerve agent release. Video data of suffocating and dead victims lying on the ground shows a different location from the predicted sarin dispersal site if it had been correctly identified by the White House.

The conclusion is that the nerve agent attack described in the White House Intelligence Report did not occur as claimed. There may well have been mass casualties from some kind of poisoning event, but that event was not the one described by the WHR.

The findings of this expanded analysis can serve two important purposes:

1. It shows exactly what needs to be determined in an international investigation of this alleged atrocity.

In particular, if an international investigation can determine where casualties from the nerve agent attack lived, it will confirm that the findings reported by the White House Report are incompatible with its own cited data.

2. It also establishes that the White House Report did not utilize simple and widely agreed upon intelligence analysis procedures to determine its conclusions.

This raises troubling questions about how the US political and military leadership determined that the Syrian government was responsible for the alleged attack. It is particularly of concern that the White House Report presented itself as a report with “high confidence” findings and that numerous high-level officials in the US government have confirmed their belief that the report was correct and executed to a standard of high confidence.

Theodore A. Postol

Professor Emeritus of Science,
Technology, and National Security Policy
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The "Sarin Attack on Khan Sheikhun", which the White House and its Ambassador to the UN blamed on the Syrian government, did not happen - at least not in the way that was claimed. They Syrian government had no motive at all to mount such an attack. It was in the mid of a winning streak.  The incident benefited al-Qaeda in Syria which dominates the area in question but was losing on the battle field. In "response" to the claimed attack the U.S. bombed the Syrian military airport Al Syairat. This was the main air base for the Syrian airforce involved in fighting the Islamic State in eastern-Syria. The attack amounted to U.S. air support on request of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. The Trump administration initiated these events for domestic purpose. They let Trump to look sufficient belligerent and presidential and dispelled false allegations of association with Russia by the Democrats and the media. To justify the attack the White House released a report written by the National Security Council, not by intelligence services. The report was full of holes and ridiculous assertions.

In the Moon of Alabama analysis of the White House Report on April 12 we wrote:

That "intelligence community assessment" chapter title is likely already a false claim. [...] The summary assessment the White House releases has no such [intelligence] heritage. It is likely a well massaged fast write up of some flunky in the National Security Council. The release was backgrounded by dubious statements of an anonymous "Senior Administration Officials" not by "Intelligence Officials" as has been the case on other such issues.

Professor Postol writes in his Final Comments (pdf) (pg11):

[I]t is clear that the WHR was not an intelligence report. No competent intelligence professional would have made so many false claims that are totally inconsistent with the evidence. No competent intelligence professional would have accepted the findings in the WHR analysis after reviewing the data presented herein. No competent intelligence professionals would have evaluated the crater that was tampered with in terms described in the WHR. Although it is impossible to know from a technical assessment to determine the reasons for such an egregiously amateurish report, it cannot be ruled out that the WHR was fabricated to conceal critical information from the Congress and the public.

Related links:

 

Posted by b on April 19, 2017 at 03:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (68)

April 18, 2017

Trump Enthrones Erdogan - Destroys Trust In U.S. Diplomacy

Trump contradicted his speaker, the State Department and his allies by congratulating the Turkish President Erdogan for winning Sunday's referendum vote. He undermined his diplomacy.

Sundays referendum in Turkey makes the presidential office a quasi dictatorial position that leads the executive and can, via decrees, also overrule the legislative and judiciary elements of the state. President Erdogan is now in a dictatorial position. It maybe that a majority of the Turkish voters voted for this change but it is far from certain. The number of votes in doubt because they were not taken in accordance with the legal procedures (2-3 million)  is higher than slight majority lead (1.5 million) for the "yes" side.

Official international election observers noted (pdf) that the vote was neither free nor fair. The Turkish state is under emergency rules which  give the president (temporarily) extraordinary powers. The vote happened after an extreme hunt against anyone that could have endangered Erdogan's position. He jailed opposition politicians and civil servants, forbade some political groups and closed down opposition media. All state institutions were used in support for Erdogan's side. If he could only win by 1.5 million votes in a 80 million strong society after this extreme anti-opposition campaign how many Turks would really have agreed with him on more leveled grounds?

Twenty years ago, when he was mayor of Istanbul, Erdogan said in a Milliyet interview: "Democracy is like a tram ride: when you reach your stop, you get off". On Sunday Erdogan stepped off the tram.

Turkey is now a Tyranny of the Majority. There are no longer any institutional constrains to remove any minority group from the political scene or  maybe even from the physical world. Turkey as we knew it is no more.

EU members refrained from accepting the vote before the ongoing legal fight over it is decided. Only Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other Gulf and Central Asian dictatorships congratulated him. The terrorist group Ahrar al Sham, which fights the people and government of Syria, also congratulated Erdogan. Al-Qaeda in Syria, under its new alliance name HTS, joined in as well as other Takfiri groups in Syria.

Like the EU countries the U.S. State Department held out on congratulations. It only released a statement that noted reports of voting "irregularities" and an "uneven playing field". It voiced support for inner-Turkish dialog and legal processes. White House spokesman Sean Spicer said the U.S. administration would wait until the final report by the international observers mission was released.

The State Department and the spokesman were quickly undermined by President Trump. Only an hour later the Turkish side reported of a Trump-Erdogan telephone conversation:

U.S. President Donald Trump on Monday called Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to congratulate him on the referendum victory.

The two leaders had a "pleasant" call which lasted for 45 minutes, diplomatic sources said.

This was later confirmed by a White House readout of the call. (The readout is not yet on the White House website but was sent out to the press via email).

The published content of the call does not bode well for Turkey, Syria and Iraq (emphasis added):

“President Trump and President Erdogan also discussed the counter-ISIS campaign and the need to cooperate against all groups that use terrorism to achieve their ends,” the White House statement said.

The Turkish version of the readout was worse:

The two leaders also discussed an alleged chemical attack by the Syrian government on April 4 that killed approximately 100 civilians and injured 500 others in the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in Idlib province.
..
Trump and Erdoğan agreed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad was responsible for the attack.

The U.S. president also thanked Turkey for its support for U.S. missile strikes on the Shayrat air base on April 7 in retaliation for the chemical attack.

Both leaders also stressed the need for cooperation in the fight against terror groups, including the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

The Khan Sheikhun incident was likely a "false flag" attack initiated by the terrorists on the ground -possibly with Turkish support. The proven number of casualties was far less than the statement claims. The only purpose of the following U.S. missile strikes was to dispel allegations that Trump is in cahoots with Russia.

A question now is who the two countries regard as terrorist groups. The mostly Shia Hizbullah fighting on the Syrian government side is seen as such by both even while it holds parliament positions in Lebanon. While the U.S. agreed to UN Security Council resolutions designating al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist group that must be "eradicated", Erdogan is sponsoring and supporting the group. The U.S. is allying with parts of the Kurdish YPK/PKK groups in Syria while Turkey has designated those as terrorist entities. Does the "against all groups that use terrorism" formulation include the Iraqi militia in Syria? Does it include Iran?

What is most concerning is the fact that a 45 minute call is extremely long for such an occasion. We can be sure that plans were made in it that have not yet been published. It is likely that a new, higher level of war against Syrian (and Iran) was agreed upon. Besides the battlefields of Syria there is Turkish military interference in Iraq. Were common plans made for that country too? 

Still one wonders why Trump would undermine his speaker, his State Department and his European allies by contradicting their statements and positions with his Erdogan call. A precedent was set.  Foreign countries can no longer rely on official U.S. administration statements unless Trump personally voices his agreement with them. (Which he may then retract and reverse on a moments notice.) The basis of diplomacy is a certain level of trust in reliability - words and standing by those words matter. The diplomatic standing of the United States was severely damaged by this unprecedented move.

The reversal of the original position of the Trump administration is extreme. From a realist standpoint a much more neutral position towards Erdogan's shenanigans, as shown by the State Department, would be advisable.

Why did Trump reverse it? Has this five year old tweet something to do with it?

Ivanka Trump‏ @IvankaTrump
Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!
1:56 PM - 20 Apr 2012

Posted by b on April 18, 2017 at 05:39 AM | Permalink | Comments (72)

April 17, 2017

Goodbye Turkey

The wannbe Sultan of a new Ottoman Reich, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, let his people vote in a referendum about new extensive powers for his office.

Erdogan is the Turkish president since 2014. He has since continuously broken the constitution by wheeling partisan powers way beyond the neutral, only formally executive role the office of the president is supposed to have.

Yesterday's "yes"/"no" vote was allegedly won by the "yes" side with 51.4% of the votes. This even though the "no" vote won in all major cities. In Turkey the vote in the major cities usually reflects the total. The campaign for the vote was very unfair with all state media and offices pushing for a "yes". Opposition politicians were put to jail or threatened with retribution. Media opposing Erdogan were suppressed or completely closed down.

There is significant reasons to believe that the vote count was fraudulently manipulated. On the day of the vote the election commission, stuffed with Erdogan cronies, suddenly allowed ballots without the official stamp to be counted. According to Turkish election laws each ballot, and each envelope of a postal vote, needs to be officially stamped before voting starts. This is supposed to prevent ballot stuffing with ballots printed outside of the official channels. The election commission has given no reason yet why it thought that such a last minute rule change, in opposition to the law, was necessary or even legal. Use of unstamped ballots was reported out of many election localities in rural areas where the "yes" votes now were the majority. Additionally video was recorded of local election workers stamping ballots after they had been used for voting.

The opposition is protesting and will go to court. But it will likely have little success. Erdogan has removed all judges and other legal personal that could go against him. An amateurish coup attempt against him, which he knew about before it happened, was used by him to clean all public offices of people not aligned with his party and program.

The new powers of the presidency will only come into force after the next election for the presidency. But everyone expects that Erdogan will use them right away. With the issue of the referendum put aside Erdogan is now free to escalate interior and exterior conflicts. We can expect new Turkish operations in Syria as well as in Iraq to be launched soon.

In the 1990s I extensively traveled in Turkey - alone, by local buses and mostly in the east. The country was waking up and in an intellectual and commercial growing phase. During the last years a new wave of conservatism has stopped that move. My friends there report of stagnation.

Turkey does not have the economic and intellectual power to become a new Ottoman Reich. It will fail in new expansive endeavors. But the attempt alone will be destructive for Turkey as well as for the countries around it.

Turkey is no longer a democracy. It is now a one man dictatorship with an expansive and distinct Islamist agenda. To change that, should the Turkish people be inclined so, will require the removal of Erdogan through some act of force.

Posted by b on April 17, 2017 at 03:04 PM | Permalink | Comments (83)

White House Garden Caption Context


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Posted by b on April 17, 2017 at 11:12 AM | Permalink | Comments (47)

April 16, 2017

Al-Qaeda Suicide Attack Kills 100+ Children, Women - Whodunit?

Updated below, April 17, 3:00am
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Max Abrahms‏ @MaxAbrahms - 2:07 PM - 16 Apr 2017
After reading dozens of stories about the Shia massacre yesterday in Syria I've come to the conclusion it was perpetrator-less.
The War Nerd‏ @TheWarNerd - 11:53 AM - 16 Apr 2017
We find that "at least 112" Shia refugees were killed. By whom? Oh, it's a real whodunit according to Reuters... link

Two smaller cities in the northern "rebel"-controlled Idleb governate, Al Foa and Kafriya, have been under "rebel" siege for over two years. Local government aligned forces are defending them. The civilian inhabitants are of Shia believe and seen by the sectarian Sunni "rebels" as unbelievers only worthy of death. The cities are supplied by airdrops from government helicopters. Meanwhile two "rebel" controlled cities near Damascus, Zabadani and Madaya, in the south are held under siege by government forces. They are sparsely supplied by UN and Red Cross convoys. Over the years a tit-for-tat of revenge acts bound the fate of the four cities. In total some 20-30,000 people are effected. A wide ranging agreement was needed to solve the unsustainable situation.

In December an agreement had allowed for the exchange of wounded civilians. When buses were on their way to evacuated elderly and wounded from the two northern cities they were torched by some rebel group. New buses had to be send but in the end the exchange worked out.

Last week a new agreement had been reached about a complete population exchange of the cities. All inhabitants of the northern cities were to be brought to government held areas. All inhabitants of the southern cities to the "rebel" held areas. Iran, speaking for the Syrian government, and Qatar, a financer of the radical "rebels", negotiated the deal. There are many other issues involved in the deal including Qatari hostages held by Shia groups in Iraq, very large payment from Qatar to "rebel" groups (al-Qaeda) and some non-disclosed items.

"Rebel" groups in Idelb government are either aligned with al-Qaeda in Syria or with the Qatari sponsored Ahrar al Sham. Ahrar al-Sahm is the group responsible for the execution of the negotiated population exchange. Parts of al-Qaeda have publicly disagreed with the deal.

Yesterday some 5,000 inhabitants of the northern cities, mainly women and children, were brought by bus convoy to the government held city of Aleppo but were stopped while still in the "rebel" controlled area. Inhabitants from the southern city had been brought up to Aleppo and were kept under government guard. Some additional negotiations about a minor issue were going on.

The civilians in their buses, mostly elderly, women and children, were guarded by "rebels" of Ahrar al Sham. They were hungry. Someone appeared on the scene and distributed crisps. When children flocked around the food distribution a blue car drove up and a very large explosion occurred. Four buses full of people and a number of cars were totally destroyed (Pics: 1, 2, 3)

127 of the civilians, only a mile or two from the safe government area, were killed in the suicide attack including 95 children. Many more were wounded. An unknown number of Ahrar al Sham "rebel" guards were also killed. There is no serious disagreement about what happened.

It is obvious that the suicide attack was committed by al-Qaeda in Syria. No government aligned element could have crossed into rebel held territory. The government aligned forces have not committed any suicide attacks while al-Qaeda as well as Ahrar al Sham have committed hundreds. This was a "rebel" suicide attack, likely by al-Qaeda, against government aligned civilian refugees.

But the BBC, CNN and other western media will not tell you that. CNN called the massacre "a hiccup". The first Washington report was illustrated with a pastoral scene of "Shias" walking in a green field.  The write-ups disguise to the average reader on which side that vast numbers of casualties of the incident were. They will not say who the likely culprits are. Some insinuate, against all logic, that the government did it.

The most recent BBC report on the massacre is one of the worst of this propaganda genre. Assume for a moment you have not read the above, only the following:

Syria war: 'At least 68 children among 126 killed' in bus bombing

At least 68 children were among 126 people killed in Saturday's bomb attack on buses carrying evacuees from besieged Syrian towns, activists say.

A vehicle filled with explosives hit the convoy near Aleppo.

80% of the readers will only read the headline and maybe the first graphs. Who will they assume killed whom?

Those who actually read further will learn that some of the victims were Shia and that "evacuees from government-held towns were killed, along with aid workers and rebel soldiers." (Since when are Ahrar's marauding beheaders "soldiers"? Was this dude also a "soldier"?) The BBC story goes on to insinuates that the government did this because "rebels" could and would not do such:

It happened when a vehicle loaded with food arrived and started distributing crisps, attracting many children, before exploding, the BBC's Middle East correspondent Lina Sinjab said.

She said it was not clear how the vehicle could have reached the area without government permission.

But there is also no evidence that rebels were involved in the attack, as the government claims.

It would not be in the rebels' interest, our correspondent says, as they were waiting for their own supporters to be evacuated from the other towns.

I have read a lot of anti-Syrian propaganda but never such a vile smear. "It was not clear how the vehicle could have reached the area without [Syrian] government permission." Well - a vehicle from that area could drive right up to the BBC's head-office in London, explode and kill many people without "Syrian government permission." (Maybe one should - just for demonstration purpose.) It is "rebel" held territory with open borders to Turkey from where they are supplied. Any of the "rebel" groups that committed suicide attacks over the last years has free access to it. The BBC correspondent and her editors know this well. They also know that "rebels" are not united at all and that their interests diverge. It is completely clear who committed this massacre. But the BBC insinuates "the government did it."

More people died in this attack than in the Khan Sheikhun chemical incident which killed some people in a rebel held area. The incident was likely a false flag attack staged by the "rebels" without involvement of the government side. A Trump NSC report falsely claimed evidence that the Syrian government was the guilty party in that incident and the U.S. then bombed one of the Syrian airports.

95 children were burned and smashed to death in yesterday's suicide attack. They will not be honored as "beautiful children", as Trump called two blond babies in a Khan Sheikhun photo. The babies killed yesterday were "pro-regime" evacuees (CNN speak) who do not deserve such honor.

The victims of yesterday's massacre will get much less media coverage than the few actually documented victims of the Khan Sheikhun incident. That bit they will get will abuse the dead, as BBC does,  to incite against the vast majority of the Syrian people who are with their government.

Damascus decided that the deal and the evacuation should continue despite the massacre. The two cities in Idleb are too exposed and indefensible against a large scale attack. No bigger government operation towards Idleb can take place while they are held hostage.

UPDATE - April 17, 3:00am

Eliah J. Magnier reports (Arabic) further details of the "4 cities" exchange deal.

He tweeted the main steps:

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
The"four cities deal"includes Qatari hostages, money, prisoners of war, prisoners and corps
The 1st step (evacuating civilians under the age of 15) was concluded.
The 2d step will evacuate all militants
The 3d step will include the exchange of prisoners held by Damascus, Hezbollah and al-Qaeda corps and prisoners
The 4th step will incl the release of Qatari hostages held in Iraq (not yet released) & the payment of ransom to AQ.

Posted by b on April 16, 2017 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (98)

Ostara, Ishtar And A Happy Easter Walk

Easter echoes the eons old human festivity to celebrate the March exquinox (in the northern hemisphere) and the arrival of spring. The dark and cold days of winter are gone. The bright time of fertility has come.

Today's fertility symbols of Easter, the egg and the hare, relate to the old Germanic fertility goddess Eostre (Ostara). Ishtar, a Mesopotamian goddess of love, stepped down into the underworld of death but was revived. The Christian resurrection of Jesus is probably a transformation of this older hopeful tale.

When the Christian message spread from its eastern Mediterranean origin its incorporation of old local gods and fables helped to convert the multi-theistic societies to the new monotheistic* believe. The gods of the pre-Christian religions were not completely discarded but their tales transformed to support the new united message the Christian preachers were spreading.

But whatever. - It is spring, the darkness vanishes and it is my favored holiday. This year the Julian and Gregorian calendars coincide. We thus follow the Russian Barbarians and wish us all

Happy Easter


Faberge egg with spring flowers and music box- bigger

Please join me, v. Goethe and Dr. Faust in our traditional Easter Walk:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
...
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.

*The Christian Trinity, the three aspects of the one God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, is a doctrinaire addition of the 4th century. It just adds an explanatory layer on top of the Abrahamic core of the monotheistic Christian message.

Posted by b on April 16, 2017 at 07:25 AM | Permalink | Comments (34)

April 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-15

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 15, 2017 at 01:25 PM | Permalink | Comments (145)

April 14, 2017

Why North Korea Needs Nukes - And How To End That

(Updated below)
---

Media say,
the U.S. may
or may not
kill a number of North Koreans
for this or that
or no reason
but call North Korea
'the volatile and unpredictable regime'

b.

Now consider what the U.S. media don't tell you about Korea:

BEIJING, March 8 (Xinhua) -- China proposed "double suspension" to defuse the looming crisis on the Korean Peninsula, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said Wednesday.

"As a first step, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) may suspend its nuclear and missile activities in exchange for the suspension of large-scale U.S.-Republic of Korea (ROK) military exercises," Wang told a press conference on the sidelines of the annual session of the National People's Congress.
...
Wang said the nuclear issue on the Korean Peninsula is mainly between the DPRK and the United States, but China, as a next-door neighbor with a lips-and-teeth relationship with the Peninsula, is indispensable to the resolution of the issue.

FM Wang, 'the lips', undoubtedly transmitted an authorized message from North Korea: "The offer is (still) on the table and China supports it."

North Korea has made the very same offer in January 2015. The Obama administration rejected it. North Korea repeated the offer in April 2016 and the Obama administration rejected it again. This March the Chinese government conveyed and supported the long-standing North Korean offer. The U.S. government, now under the Trump administration, immediately rejected it again. The offer, made and rejected three years in a row, is sensible. Its rejection only led to a bigger nuclear arsenal and to more missiles with longer reach that will eventually be able to reach the United States.

North Korea is understandably nervous each and every time the U.S. and South Korea launch their very large yearly maneuvers and openly train for invading North Korea and for killing its government and people. The maneuvers have large negative impacts on North Korea's economy.

North Korea justifies its nuclear program as the economically optimal way to respond to these maneuvers.

Each time the U.S. and South Korea launch their very large maneuvers, the North Korean conscription army (1.2 million strong) has to go into a high state of defense readiness. Large maneuvers are a classic starting point for military attacks. The U.S.-South Korean maneuvers are (intentionally) held during the planting (April/May) or harvesting (August) season for rice when North Korea needs each and every hand in its few arable areas. Only 17% of the northern landmass is usable for agriculture and the climate in not favorable. The cropping season is short. Seeding and harvesting days require peak labor.

The southern maneuvers directly threaten the nutritional self-sufficiency of North Korea. In the later 1990s they were one of the reasons behind a  severe famine. (Lack of hydrocarbons and fertilizer due to sanctions as well as a too rigid economic system were other main reasons.)

North Korean soldiers on agricultural duty - bigger

Its nuclear deterrent allows North Korea to reduce its conventional military readiness especially during the all important agricultural seasons. Labor withheld from the fields and elsewhere out of military necessity can go back to work. This is now the official North Korean policy known as 'byungjin'. (Byungjin started informally in the mid 2000nds after U.S. President Bush tuned up his hostile policy towards North Korea - Chronology of U.S.-North Korean Nuclear and Missile Diplomacy)

A guaranteed end of the yearly U.S. maneuvers would allow North Korea to lower its conventional defenses without relying on nukes. The link between the U.S. maneuvers and the nuclear deterrent North Korea is making in its repeated offer is a direct and logical connection.

The North Korean head of state Kim Jong-un has officially announced a no-first-use policy for its nuclear capabilities:

"As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes," Kim told the Workers' Party of Korea congress in Pyongyang. Kim added that the North "will faithfully fulfill its obligation for non-proliferation and strive for the global denuclearization."

During the congress, as elsewhere, Kim Jong Un also emphasized (transcript, pdf, v. slow) the above described connection between nuclear armament and economic development. Summarized:

After decades of emphasizing military strength under his father, Korea is moving toward Kim's “byongjin” — a two-pronged approach aimed at enhancing nuclear might while improving living conditions.

The byongjin strategy, despised by the Obama administration, has been successful:

What are the sources of [North Korea's economic] growth? One explanation might be that less is now spent on the conventional military sector, while nuclear development at this stage is cheaper—it may only cost 2 to 3 percent of GNP, according to some estimates. Theoretically, byungjin is more “economy friendly” than the previous “songun” or military-first policy which supposedly concentrated resources on the military.

To understand why North Korea fears U.S. aggressiveness consider the utter devastation caused mostly by the U.S. during the Korea War:

via Jeffrey Kaye - bigger

Imperial Japan occupied Korea from 1905 to 1945 and tried to assimilate it. A nominal communist resistance under Kim Il-sung and others fought against the Japanese occupation. After the Japanese WWII surrender in 1945 the U.S. controlled and occupied the mostly agricultural parts of Korea below the arbitrarily chosen 38th parallel line. The allied Soviet Union controlled the industrialized part above the line. They had agreed on a short trusteeship of a united and independent country. In the upcoming cold war the U.S. retracted on the agreement and in 1948 installed a South Korean proxy dictatorship under Syngman Rhee. This manifested an artificial border the Koreans had not asked for and did not want. The communists still commanded a strong and seasoned resistance movement in the south and hoped to reunite the country. The Korea War ensued. It utterly destroyed the country. All of Korea was severely effected but especially the industrialized north which lost about a third of its population and all of its reasonably well developed infrastructure - roads, factories and nearly all of its cities.

Every Korean family was effected. Ancestor worship is deeply embedded in the Korean psyche and its collectivist culture. No one has forgotten the near genocide and no one in Korea, north or south, wants to repeat the experience.

The country would reunite if China and the U.S. (and Russia) could agree upon its neutrality. That will not happen anytime soon. But the continued danger of an "accidental" war in Korea would be much diminished if the U.S. would accept the North Korean offer - an end to aggressive behavior like threatening maneuvers against the north, in exchange for a verified stop of the northern nuclear and missile programs. North Korea has to insist on this condition out of sheer economic necessity.

The U.S. government and the "western" media hide the rationality of the northern offer behind the propaganda phantasm of "the volatile and unpredictable regime".

But it is not Korea, neither north nor south, that is the "volatile and unpredictable" entity here.

Update:

Yesterday's Day of the Sun / Juche 105 (the 105th birth anniversary of Kim Il-sung) parade in Pyongyang went along without a hitch and without interference from the U.S. side.

Several new types of missile carrying Transporter-Erector-Launcher vehicles (TELs) were shown. The three hour TV transmission is available here. The military equipment display starts around 2h14m; the nuclear capable carriers are seen from 2h20m onward.

An early-impression remark from The Diplomat: North Korea's 2017 Military Parade Was a Big Deal. Here Are the Major Takeaways

...
Even though Pyongyang withheld from testing this weekend amid rumors of possible retaliation by the United States, North Korea is still looking to improve its missile know-how. Moreover, the long-dreaded ICBM flight test also might not be too far off now. Given the ever-growing number of TELs — both wheeled and tracked — North Korea may soon field nuclear forces amply large that a conventional U.S.-South Korea first strike may find it impossible to fully disarm Pyongyang of a nuclear retaliatory capability. That would give the North Korean regime what it’s always sought with its nuclear and ballistic missile program: an absolute guarantee against coercive removal.

The "absolute guarantee against coercive removal" would, in consequence, allow for much smaller conventional forces and less resources spend on the military. This again will enable faster economic development for the people in North Korea. The byongjin strategy will have reached its aim.

Posted by b on April 14, 2017 at 09:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (246)

April 13, 2017

Big Bangs Can Not End The War On Afghanistan - Admitting Defeat Will

5667 days after the beginning of the war between the mightiest military of the world and local Afghan farmers, Pentagon reporters were excited to report:

Lara Seligman‏ @laraseligman

BREAKING: US drops largest non-nuclear bomb in Afghanistan - GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast

4:28 PM - 13 Apr 2017

The U.S. generals demand, as they always do, more troops to "break the stalemate". But there is no stalemate. The Afghan farmers are winning. The Taliban control more areas now than they ever controlled since 2002.

Dropping 22,000 lbs of high explosives on some shack will not change that trend.


GBU-43 prototype via Wikipedia

(Though it will drown the news that the U.S. military just bombed and killed 18 of its Kurdish proxy forces in Syria.)

So what can the U.S. do in Afghanistan but blaming Russia and Iran on dubious grounds. Those countries -like China and other nearby countries- see the obviously coming U.S. retreat and talk with the Taliban to prepare for it.

The U.S. will have to and will leave and acknowledge that it joins the long lists of empires which tried to conquer Afghanistan and were defeated.

Posted by b on April 13, 2017 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (144)

April 12, 2017

The White House "Intelligence Assessment" Is No-Such-Thing - It Shows Support for Al-Qaeda

UPDATED at the end of the post

The Trump White House published three and a half pages of accusations against the governments of Syria and Russia. These are simple white pages with no header or footer, no date, no classification or declassification marks, no issuing agency and no signatures. It is indiscernible who has written them.

U.S. media call this a Declassified U.S. Report on Chemical Weapons Attack. It is no such thing.

It starts with "The United States is confident that the Syrian government conducted a chemical weapon attack, ..."

The U.S. (who exactly is that?) "is confident", it does not "know", it does not have "proof" - it is just "confident".

The whole paper contains only seven paragraphs that are allegedly a "Summary of the U.S. intelligence community assessment" on the issue. The seven paragraphs are followed by eight(!) paragraphs that try to refute the Russian and Syrian statements on the issue. Some political fluff makes up the sorry rest.

That "intelligence community assessment" chapter title is likely already a false claim. Even a fast tracked, preliminary National Intelligence Assessment, for which all seventeen U.S. intelligence agencies must be heard, takes at least two to three weeks to create. A "long track" full assessment takes two month or more. These are official documents issued by the Director of National Intelligence. The summary assessment the White House releases has no such heritage. It is likely a well massaged fast write up of some flunky in the National Security Council. The release was backgrounded by dubious statements of an anonymous "Senior Administration Officials" (not by "Intelligence Officials" as has been the case on other such issues.)

The claimed assessment starts with definitely wrong or at least very misleading point: "We assess that Damascus launched this chemical attack in response to an opposition offensive in Hama province that threatened key infrastructure."

The Hama offensive had failed two weeks ago. Since then the Syrian army has regained all areas the al-Qaeda "opposition" had captured during the first few days. (Al-Qaeda in Syria renamed itself several times and now calls itself "Jabhat Fateh Al-Sham".) Key infrastructure had never been seriously threatened by it. Over 2,000 al-Qaeda fighters were killed in the endeavor.

Peto Lucem, a well known and reliable media source for accurate maps of the war on Syria, posted on March 31, four days before the chemical incident:

Peto Lucem @PetoLucem

NEW MAP: "Rebel" frontline in #Hama is collapsing, #SAA reverses most #AlQaeda gains made in first days of their failed offensive. #Syria


bigger

The attack in Hama had already failed days before the chemical incident in Khan Shaykhun happened. Khan Shaykhun is not on the front line. The incident and the failed al-Qaeda attack in Hama can not possibly be related. It makes no sense at all to launch a militarily useless incident in a place far away "in response" to a defeat of the enemy elsewhere - this in a moment where the global political and military situation had turned in favor of the Syrian government. (The Defense Intelligence Agency surely never signed off on such an illogical claim.)

The following paragraphs of the released paper reveal that the assessment is largely based on a "significant body" of "open source reporting" which "indicates" this or that. This means that the White House relied on pictures and videos posted by people who are allowed to operate freely in the al-Qaeda ruled Khan Shaykhun. (Khan Shaikhun had been in the hands of an Islamic State associated group Liwa Al-Aqsa until mid February. The group moved out after fighting al-Qaeda and after slaughtering some 150 of its fighters. Al-Qaeda since moved in and now rules the town and surrounding areas.)

Several of the released video were introduced and commented by Dr. Shajul Islam who has been removed from the British medical registry and had been indicted in the UK for his role in kidnapping "western" journalists in Syria. He fled back to Syria. One of the journalists kidnapped with the help of Dr. Shajul Islam, James Foley, was later murdered on camera by the Islamic State.  The videos the "doctor" distributed of "rescue" of casualties of the chemical incidents were not of real emergencies but staged. Under who's conditions and directions where the many other pictures and videos taken and published? Why are no female children or young women among the emergency patients and casualties? Why is there no picture or video of where the people were hit by gas and were found? All videos are from "aid stations", none from "the wild".

Other videos and photos are by the White Helmets "rescuers", a U.S./UK financed propaganda prop, which is so "neutral" that it works with ISIS (vid) and al-Qaeda but not in government held areas where the actual Syrian population lives.

The Hama offensive by "the opposition" was personally planned and directed by the founder and head of al-Qaeda in Syria al-Joliani. Photos of the planing sessions were published by "opposition" agencies and widely distributed.


bigger

The White House paper only talks of "the opposition". How can there be an "intelligence assessment" (and reporting about it) that does not note that the incident in question took place in an area where AL-QAEDA rules and that the allegedly related (but defeated) offensive was launched by AL-QAEDA. Is AL-QAEDA now officially the "Syrian opposition" the U.S. supports? The neoconned former General Petraeus lobbied for an open U.S. alliance with al-Qaeda since 2015. The new National Security Advisor to Trump, General McMaster, is a Petraeus protege. He, together with Petraeus, screwed up Iraq. Is the Petraeus alliance now in place?

The next step then will be for the U.S. to informally ally with the Islamic State. The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman is already arguing for that:

We could simply back off fighting territorial ISIS in Syria and make it entirely a problem for Iran, Russia, Hezbollah and Assad. After all, they’re the ones overextended in Syria, not us. Make them fight a two-front war — the moderate rebels on one side and ISIS on the other. If we defeat territorial ISIS in Syria now, we will only reduce the pressure on Assad, Iran, Russia and Hezbollah and enable them to devote all their resources to crushing the last moderate rebels in Idlib, not sharing power with them.

The U.S., Friedman says, should let ISIS run free so it can help al-Qaeda which is ruling in Idleb governate. Friedman talks of "moderate rebels in Idleb" but these are unicorns. They do not exist. There is al-Qaeda and there is the smaller Ahrar al Sham which compares itself with the Taliban. All other opposition fighters in Idleb have joined these two or are now dead.

But why not use these gangs of sectarian mass murderers against the Syrian government and others? Hey, Israel wants us to do just that. And why don't we hand out anti-air missiles to them, Friedman asks, and lend them air-support. This at the same time. Surely the combination will do well.

In Syria, Trump should let ISIS be Assad’s, Iran’s, Hezbollah’s and Russia’s headache — the same way we encouraged the mujahedeen fighters to bleed Russia in Afghanistan.

Well, you know, that mujahedeen thing worked out so well that nearly forty years later the U.S. is mulling again to send additional troops to Afghanistan to defeat them. Do we really want a repeat of that at the borders of Europe?

Lunacy has truly taken over the White House but even more so the U.S. media. How can sanity be brought back to town?

UPDATE:

Professor emeritus at MIT Theodor Postol, a former science adviser to U.S. Navy command and missile expert, has analyzed the "evidence" the White House presented. The short, preliminary report is available here. (I have verified that this is the original one.)

Postol finds nothing in the White House assessment that lets him believe the incident was from an air attack. He finds signs that the incident that was launched on the ground by intentional exploding some container of 122mm ammunition with some other explosives.

He calls the White House assessment amateurish and not properly vetted by competent intelligence analysts who, Postol says, would not have signed off on it in is current form (just as I said above.)

Postol presumes that the incident was with Sarin. He makes no analysis of that White House claim (it is not his field). I don't agree with the Sarin claim. Many other organophosphate substances (pesticides) would  be "consistent with" the symptoms displayed or played in the videos and pictures. Some symptoms expected with Sarin, for example heavy convulsions, spontaneous defecation, are no visible in any of the videos or pictures.

I do not concur with Postol on the picture of the alleged impact crater of the "attack". I have seen several "versions" of the impact crater on social nets with different metal parts, or none, placed in it. Postol seems to have only seen one version. His conclusions from that version seem right. But the crater "evidence" is tainted and to make overall conclusions from it is not easy. I concur though that the crater is not from an air impact but from a ground event. I am not sure though that it is related to the incident at all.

Posted by b on April 12, 2017 at 10:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (183)

April 11, 2017

Is There A New U.S. Syria Policy? Is There One At All?

What does the U.S. administration want with regards to Syria?

The elements were clear just a few days ago. The U.S. would split off the east and set up a Kurdish enclave which it would then occupy with the help of proxy forces. It would use the leverage to push for political regime change in western Syria. Israel would occupy another piece of the Golan.

While that looked somewhat favorable for the U.S. in the short term it was bad long term strategy. U.S. forces in the east would be surrounded by hostiles, cut off from the sea and under permanent guerilla attack from various opposing forces. But it looked at least like a viable short term way forward.

The new strategy, which may not be one at all, and the new U.S. commitment is all over the place:

As various officials have described it, the United States will intervene only when chemical weapons are used — or any time innocents are killed. It will push for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — or pursue that only after defeating the Islamic State. America’s national interest in Syria is to fight terrorism. Or to ease the humanitarian crisis there. Or to restore stability.

I don't get it. The cacophony of the last days does not make any sense. There is no viable endgame I see here that would be advantageous for Trump or general U.S. borg policy - neither internationally nor domestically - neither short term nor long term. Trump is now losing the "America First" followers he will need to win another election.

Due to the anti-Russian panic Trump surrendered to the neocons. Suddenly the borg is lauding him for a senseless escalation. The neocons want chaos but chaos is not a plan. There seems to be no plan that will help any cause.

There is no chance that the U.S. can split Syria from its allies, Hizbullah, Iran and Russia. While Russia is under pressure in Kaliningrad, Crimea and Syria it has lived through way worse situation and these have always increased its determination. I don't see how or why it would fold now.

Trump had an intelligent strategy when he won against Clinton. He deftly use his advantages. There are few advantages that he has and can play with regards to Middle East policy. Use pure military force? That's not a strategy, just tactical game play. Though the generals who run his cabinet may not be capable to see that. If he destroys Syrian then Lebanon and Jordan will also fall to radicals. Other countries will follow. Iraq would again throw out all U.S. troops. Would the U.S., or Israel, want that? Why?

Whatever one might say about Trump, he is not stupid. He must have some kind of plan.

Help me out. What are his thoughts behind this. Or are there really none at all.

Posted by b on April 11, 2017 at 06:54 AM | Permalink | Comments (274)

April 10, 2017

Open Thread 2017-14

News & views ...

Posted by b on April 10, 2017 at 04:32 AM | Permalink | Comments (140)

April 08, 2017

The Khan Sheikoun Show - A New President Proudly Presented By Trump Productions

The "chemical attack" at Khan Sheikoun was faked and a show; though a number of people were killed or hurt during its production.

This video for example, of doctors and patients in an emergence room was pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter was a well-known criminal Takfiri but with links to the British secret service. The whole show was perfected, by specialists one would think, to fit for U.S. TV screens. 

There were no scenes, zero in all the coverage, that showed casualties in places where they were surprised by gas and died. No basement was searched, no place of work or living was shown - only rescue centers. The male "victims" were clean shaven, despite living in al-Qaeda land. They even had two blond "Syrian" kids in there (vid) to convince the racist constituency that "revenge" was needed and just.  A cut right out of Wag The Dog (vid). It is now racist to object to the war!

Dilbert creator Scott Adams, one of the few who understands Trump's persuasion style and predicted his win, remarks:

It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption. It pushed every one of his buttons. Hard. And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.
...
I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack. It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural. This has the look of a manufactured event.
...
So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?

He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.

The response by the U.S. was not completely fake but as small as it could be. The base was warned and had been evacuated. All movable and valuable stuff had been taken away. The attack was even smaller than planned. The Russian Defense Ministry says only 23 out of 59 cruise missiles hit the base. The others were shot down by air defense or diverted by the famous Russian Electronic Counter Measures. The Pentagon insists that all 59 hit. But the pictures and video from the base only show damage to 11 aircraft shelters. Additionally one radar, one missile launcher and a fuel depot were hit. That effect is too small for 59 impacts. The base was in use again 12 hours after the strike. The attack on it was not really serious.

Adams makes it look as if Trump did not sign off on the whole stunt before it happened. As if it was made for Trump’s consumption. Why does he think so? Does he believe the CIA bureaucrats would not ask for a direct order and presidential cover before launching such a risky operation?

The pictures and scenes were not constructed for Trump's consumption. They were constructed by Trump for consumption by the "western" public.  Never forget that Trump is also a successful professional TV presenter who knows how to act in front of cameras. The plot followed Trump's persuasion style. The same style he used during the campaign and that let him win. Trump had several reasons to create such an incident. It was perfectly timed for the visit of the Chinese President Xi. This was a stunt to Trump's liking. It was his production. The blond children were there to allowed for his "Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered ..." punch line. Trump proudly produced and presented to you: "Trump the NEW President".

The whole show was designed to let Trump look strong and presidential and to get rid of the "Russia Gate" nonsense the neocons ran against him. The prospect of stopping those attacks was an offer he could not refuse. Here a tweet of mine sent on the evening before the attack was launched:

Moon of Alabama‏ @MoonofA

Prediction:
If Trump now commits to war on Syria the anti-Trump "Russia spies" campaign will immediately stop.
Ransom paid, hostage released
8:23 PM - 6 Apr 2017

Those who once warned that Trump would launch a new world war now laud him for nearly doing so:

Editorial boards of NYT, WaPo, WSJ, USAToday, DailyNews, SJ Mercury News, Houston Chon & Chicago Sun Times all endorsed Trumps Syria strikes.

"Russia Gate" is - for now - forgiven and forgotten. The NeverTrump-ers applause the strike and want more of them, ever more war and "regime change" in favor of al-Qaeda's rule.

More strikes may well come. The precedent has been established. Whenever al-Qaeda in Idleb comes under pressure and needs help we will see another fake "chemical attack". Will Trump follow up on those? Or will he manage to set aside the outrage that will follow such "attacks" when it does not fit his plans? Was this a one-time show? Or will Trump serialize it?

The open Syrian, Iranian and Russian response will be an intensification of the operations in Idleb. They will smash the "rebels" there by air and push more troops into that direction. The Russian organized flight coordination over Syria has been called off. Belgium already said its airforce will no longer take part in any U.S. "coalition" operation over Syria. Others will follow that example. An asymmetric response elsewhere will follow later. U.S. forces in the wider region better watch their backs.

Some people have wondered why the Chinese criticism of the attack at the UN Security Council or during Xi's meeting with Trump was rather mild. The Chinese believe that the best that can happen to them is a United States bogged down in further Middle East calamities. If the U.S. is busy in Iraq, Yemen and Syria it will have fewer capacity to mess up North Korea or seek a conflict over this or that atoll in the South China Sea. I can not blame them for that position.

Bonus: A truly journalistic highlight in U.S. news coverage of our time is this recommendation by CNN:

Jake Tapper @jaketapper

For more on Syria follow @AlabedBana
4:59pm · 4 Apr 2017

Do it! Be informed! Follow the 7 year old daughter of a Syrian Takfiri in Turkey. Videos of her show that she can not understand, speak or write English but she knows how to manipulate her audience in perfect tweets:

Bana Alabed @AlabedBana
Putin and Bashar al Asad bombed my school, killed my friends & robbed my childhood. It's time to punish the killers of children in Syria.
10:09am · 7 Apr 2017

Her producers let her look more intelligent that Tapper will ever be. (For background on that M.I.T./MI-6 "Bana" child exploitation enterprise see here.)

UPDATE: Jake Tapper has since deleted his tweet above, but we took a screenshot before he did so :-)

Posted by b on April 8, 2017 at 12:35 PM | Permalink | Comments (288)

April 07, 2017

Syria: New U.S. Air Support On Request Scheme For Al-Qaeda

On this day one hundred years ago the U.S. joined World War I. Last night the U.S. attacked a Syrian government airport in an openly hostile and intentional manner. The strike established a mechanism by which al-Qaeda can "request" U.S. airstrikes on Syrian government targets. It severely damaged the main support base for Syria's fight against the Islamic State in eastern Syria. The event will possibly lead to a much larger war.

On April 4 Syrian airplanes hit an al-Qaeda headquarter in Khan Sheikoun, Idleb governate. Idleb governate is under al-Qaeda control. After the air strike some chemical agent was released. The symptoms shown in videos from local aid stations point to a nerve-agent. The release probably killed between 50 and 90 people. It is unknown how the release happened.

It is unlikely that the Syrian government did this:

  • In 2013 the Syrian government had given up all its chemical weapons. UN inspectors verified this.
  • The target was militarily and strategically insignificant.
  • There was no immediate pressure on the Syrian military.
  • The international political atmosphere had recently turned positive for Syria.

Even if Syria had stashed away some last-resort weapon this would have been the totally wrong moment and totally wrong target for using it. Over the last six year of war the Syrian government army had followed a political and militarily logical path. It acted consistently. It did not act irrational. It is highly unlikely that it would have now take such an illogical step.

The chemical used, either Sarin or Soman, was not in a clean form. Multiple witnesses reported of a "rotten smell" and greenish color. While the color would point to a mixture with Chlorine the intense smell of Chlorine is easily identifiable, covers up most other odors and would have been recognized by witnesses. Both Sarin and Soman are in pure form colorless, tasteless and odorless. The Syrian government once produced nerve agents on a professional, large scale base. Amateurishly produced nerve-gases are not pure and can smell (example: Tokyo subway incident 1995). It is unlikely that the Syrian government experts would produce a "rotten smelling", dirty, low quality stuff in an unprofessional and dangerous process.

The nerve agents in Khan Sheikoun, should they be confirmed, came either from stashed ammunition at the place attacked by the Syrian government or it was willfully released by the local ruling terrorist groups -al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham- after the strike to implicate the Syrian government. The relatively low casualty numbers of mostly civilians point to the second variant.

Several reports over the years confirm that Al-Qaeda in Syria has the precursors and capabilities to produce and use Sarin as well as other chemical agents. This would not be their first use of such weapons. Al-Qaeda was under imminent pressure. It was losing the war. It is therefor highly likely that this was an intentional release by al-Qaeda to create public pressure on the Syrian government.

For a release incident of powerful chemical weapons the casualty numbers were low, lower than the casualty numbers of recent conventional U.S. air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Despite that fact a huge international media attack wave, seemingly prepared in advance, against the Syrian government was released. No evidence was presented that the incident was caused by the Syrian government. The only pictures and witness reports from the ground came from or through elements, like the White Helmets, who are known to by embedded with al-Qaeda and ISIS (video) and are acting as their propaganda arm.

Last night U.S. president Trump "responded" to the incident by ordering the launch of 59 cruise missiles on the Syrian military airport Al Syairat (vid). The cruise missiles were launched from sea in a volley designed to overwhelm air defenses. According to the Syrian and Russian military only 23 cruise missiles reached the airport. The others were shut down or failed. Six Syrian soldiers were Killed, nine civilians in a nearby village were killed or wounded and nine Syrian jets were destroyed. The airport infrastructure was severely damaged. The Syrian and Russian governments had been warned before the strikes hit and evacuated most men and critical equipment. (Was the warning part of a deal?) The air attack coincided with an Islamic State ground attack east of the airport.

The Pentagon alleges, without any evidence, that Sarin had been stored at the airport and a chemical attack launched from it. Both seems highly unlikely. The airport was accessible for UN inspectors. It is not as well covered by air defenses as other Syrian airports, for example in Latakia governate. Its ground approaches are not completely secured. Some medium range air defense system near al Syairat was recently used against Israeli planes attacking Syrian forces fighting ISIS near Palmyra.

Al Syairat lies in Homs governate, 150 km south of Khan Sheikoun in Idleb governate. It is the main support and supply airport for the besieged Syrian government enclave in Deir Ezzor which will now again be in even more serious trouble. It was also used to launch attacks on the Islamic State which fights the Syrian government troops in east Homs.

Al-Qaeda and its sidekick Ahra al-Sham welcomed the U.S. strikes and Abu Ivanka al Amriki on their side. The theocratic dictatorship of Saudi Arabia offered its full support as did its British creators.

The U.S. airstrike delivers a message to al-Qaeda. Whenever under military pressure al-Qaeda can now stage or fake a "chemical attack" and the U.S. will act to destroy its enemy, the Syrian government. Acts as the one last night are then direct military support by the U.S. on al-Qaeda's request.

A similar scheme had earlier been established on the Golan heights. Al-Qaeda, fighting against Syrian government positions, would launch a mortar round that would land within Israeli controlled territory. Israel would then launch artillery strikes against Syrian government positions because "the Syrian government is responsible for what happens in the area". Al-Qaeda then used the battle field advantage created by the Israeli strike. The scheme and the Israeli military "reasoning" was published several times in Israeli media:

A number of mortars have landed in Israeli territory as a result of spillover fighting over the last several years, raising fears among residents near the border.

The IDF often responds to fire that crosses into Israel by striking Syrian army posts.

Israel maintains a policy of holding Damascus responsible for all fire from Syria into Israel regardless of the source of the fire.

The U.S. administration has now established a similar mechanism, on a larger scale, of direct military U.S. support for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria.

The Trump presidency had been held hostage by unfounded allegation of "Russian interference" in the U.S. elections in support of the Trump candidacy. The air strikes on Syria might have been the ransom that was demanded for the release of the hostage. His opponents are now gushing about him. The allegation of any Trump-Russia connections may now die down.

Yesterday major Democratic leaders in Congress supported strikes on Syria. Despite that they are also likely to attack Trump over them. The strikes are a "strong man" gamble. As Trump said when Obama ordered strikes such are a desperate move. Most parts of the State Department and the NSC were not consulted about them. The chances that these will "blow back" politically as well as strategically are high.

Trump is the third U.S. president in a row who promised less belligerence during his campaign only to deliver more after the election. The "democratic" veil of the U.S. oligarchic rule thus rips further apart.

Open U.S.-Russian cooperation in Syria will now cease. U.S. planes in Syrian airspace are from now on constantly under imminent danger. There will also be some larger revenge against the U.S. for last night's strikes. Likely not in Syria but in Iraq, Afghanistan or at sea. A "message" will be send. The U.S. reaction to that "message" will be a decision over a much larger war.

Posted by b on April 7, 2017 at 04:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (346)

April 06, 2017

Israel Just Received A HUGE Gift From Russia. What Is Its Side Of The Deal?

Russia just published a quite sensational statement on Israel and Palestine. It recognizes, as before, East-Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine. But Russia now also recognizes, under certain condition, West-Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

This statement will make quite a wave and it has to be seen in the wider context of the war on Syria. Here is the original statement in Russian on the Foreign Ministry site and the auto-translation (excerpt):

Moscow continues to consider the formula for negotiating a two-state settlement of an optimal and friendly to us Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as to the interests of all countries in the region and the world community as a whole.

We reaffirm our commitment to the UN resolutions on the principles of settlement, including the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we consider it necessary to say that in this context we regard West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

Specific parameters for addressing the full range of issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories, including the Jerusalem problem, should be agreed upon in direct negotiations between the parties.

The part marked by me in bold is new. Older statements of Russia never included such a recognition. It is bound to conditions ("in this context") so there is no free lunch for the Zionists. But it is still a huge achievement for Netanyahoo.

For a wider context of the new Russian position we have to look at the conflict in Syria. There the pressure on President Trump to launch a war on Syria's government (and, make no mistake, thereby also on Hizbullah, Russia and Iran) is increasing. The probably staged chemical incident yesterday was the starting point for an intense pro-war campaign.

Yesterday the Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman accused Syria:

Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth that Syrian planes carried out the two chemical attacks, which were “directly ordered and planned by Syrian President Bashar Assad.” He stressed he was “100 percent certain.” The defense minister said he did not know if Russia was involved in the attack.

Russia and Syria have denied that either of them used any chemical ammunition. They say that the Syrian air force bombed an al-Qaeda ammunition depot which, unknown to them, may have included chemical weapons.

Today the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo called the Russian President and part of that call was a serious rebuke from Putin:

Mr Putin and Mr Netanyahu exchanged views on the incident involving chemical weapons on April 4 in the Syrian province of Idlib. Mr Putin underscored, in particular, that it is unacceptable to make groundless accusations against any party until a thorough and objective international investigation has been conducted.

But also part of that call, though not mentioned in the official note, must have been some agreement that led to the release of the statement above by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

A deal must have been made. A give and take and the West-Jerusalem release is part of the payment or reward. It is a HUGE price to win for Israel. It is against the long held international consensus which only considers Tel Aviv to be Israel's capital. Russia's concession gives cover for President Trump to make a similar announcement without messing up U.S. relations with Arab states or anyone else.

We can only speculate on the Israeli side of the deal, but there must be something Netanyahoo committed to. Russia would not offer this new position for nothing.

My speculation:

The mighty Zionist lobby in the U.S. (AIPAC & Co) is pushing for an immediate war on Syria. (It did so in 2013 but Obama called the war off at that time after the British parliament and later Congress rejected it.)

Netanyahoo could let it known that he prefers no war on Syria. The Zionist lobby in the U.S. would then shut up, pressure on Trump would be much relieved, a new war on Syria could be avoided.

In 2013 Putin arranged for a deal to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal. The elimination of Syria's strategic weapons was a huge gift to Israel. It also allowed Obama to keep face and keep away from war despite all pressure.

Now Putin is making another huge offer. Will Israel take this gift? Will Netanyahoo call off its AIPAC dogs of war?

The offer is not Russia's last political resort with regard to Israel.

A million Israelis are of Russian heritage. They emigrated to Israel in the 1980s and 90s. They are mostly not really Jews but vote conservative. They also admire and cherish Putin. That is one reason why no Israeli politician, especially Netanyahoo, can afford a big political conflict with Russia.

Putin's ultimate threat to Netanyahoo is to influence the Russian voters in Israel and to make them vote against him. It is a personal nuke under Netanyahoo's seat.

But Putin does not like to issue threats. He offers and makes deals. So one wonders what the real deal behind the above acknowledgement of West-Jerusalem is. Is my speculation correct or are their better explanations?

Posted by b on April 6, 2017 at 03:13 PM | Permalink | Comments (180)

April 05, 2017

WMDs In The UNSC - History Repeats Itself, First As Tragedy, Second As Farce

Pic: April 5 2017 - U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, on Wednesday strongly condemned the Syrian government in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated on its own civilians this week. "When the UN consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action," Haley said. She added that if the UN doesn't take collective action, "we may."

Posted by b on April 5, 2017 at 01:29 PM | Permalink | Comments (161)

Ignoring The People - Where The Left Of The Aisle Side Fails

Since the election the U.S. Democrats have been outraged over Trump and obsessed by "Putin did it" conspiracy theories. What they did not do was to assess why the Clinton campaign failed, why the party has lost seats all over the country over the last eight years and why the formerly core Democratic constituency voted for Trump.

The reason for that are straightforward and simple. Trump promised jobs, less globalization, less war and less obsession with social matters of marginal interest. Stuff that workers outside of the coastal cities like. The Clinton campaign was mealy mouthed on policies except for some special peoples' "right" of using the other genders toilet facilities. Her campaign was solely built on bashing Trump and it failed.

This is not a U.S. specific situation. A similar situation has evolved in Europe where the former social-democratic parties have moved away from fighting for employment, better wages and working class issues to argue for "liberal" social or international stuff like migration. These are only of marginal interest to their former core voters if not outright against their interests. Meanwhile the political right is promising to do what the formerly left voters really like. In result the Social-Democrats in Germany have dropped from once 50% to now 30%. The Socialists in France are practically dead. Labour in Britain has currently no chance to come back to power. It is the same all over the continent.

U.S. Democratic Party operatives out in the country understand what happened. They are desperate. The party apparatus in Washington DC still does not get it. Here is the first piece I have seen in the main stream media that gets to these important points: Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say:

One by one, members of the Mahoning County Democratic Party poured out their frustrations: Just months after the presidential election, they felt folks like them were being forgotten — again. The party’s comeback strategy was being steered by protesters, consultants and elitists from New York and California who have no idea what voters in middle America care about.

But worst of all, they said, the party hadn’t learned from what they saw as the biggest message from November’s election: Democrats have fallen completely out of touch with America’s blue-collar voters.

The piece includes some choice quotes:

Since the election, Democrats have been swallowed up in an unending cycle of outrage and issues that have little to do with the nation’s working class, they said, such as women’s marches, fighting Trump’s refugee ban and advocating for transgender bathroom rights.
...
“Every time Trump so much as sneezes, we as a party are setting our hair on fire and running around like it’s the end of the world,” Betras said as the dinner wound down. “Most people around here don’t care. They are living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to hold on. After everything that’s happened, if we as a party still aren’t speaking to them, then we are never getting them back.”
...
“What Trump slapped onto his plate last election was a big juicy steak. Real or not — that’s what it looked like to the hungry working voter,” Betras said. “What the elitists in our Democratic Party did with their side issues was say, ‘Look at all this broccoli we have for you. Sure, there’s some meat pieces mixed in, too, but look at the broccoli.’”

The demagogic right wins elections because it at least speaks about the real stuff while the party leaders on the "left" ignore the core issues of their (former) constituency. When the right wins it will throw some small pieces of meat to its working class voters. Those then will be happy because finally their existence has been acknowledged again. That is naturally more important to them than the long term damage the rule of the right will cause for all of us.

Posted by b on April 5, 2017 at 01:18 PM | Permalink | Comments (41)

April 04, 2017

Various Issues

1. The anti-Russian mania and the Putin derangement syndrome in the U.S. and other "western" countries has left the realm of reasonability. It is of no use to argue over it. What is the endgame of the people who plant and propagate this nonsense?

2. Al-Qaeda in Syria and its subordinate "moderate rebels" are being defeated in their last big attack on Hama governate. The Russian defense ministry said that more than 2,000 Jihadis had been killed during the failed attack. Another attack on Latakia was stopped cold by massive Russian air strikes on the staging areas. Al-Qaeda's back yard in Idleb is under constant air interdiction.

The usual response when under such pressure are incidents of "chemical attacks" "on civilians". Such is claimed today in Khan Sheikhoun. The video footage, taken (when?) in a White Helmets base, shows "rescuers" spraying water on people who are claimed to have been effected by Sarin. If this were a real chemical incident involving Sarin or similar stuff these unprotected, unprofessional "rescuers" would be heavily effected if not dead.

Conveniently this incident also happens just two days before another international conference on Syria. The heavy media attention is likely the starting shot of a new campaign of CIA support for al-Qaeda in Idleb and a second leg of Turkey's invasion of Syria.

3. Trump had promised to change or eliminate "Obamacare". He let the Republican party under Ryan come up with a plan. That plan was crazy, disliked by the people and Trump rejected to take responsibility for it. Ryan was left hanging when the plan died in Congress.

Trump also promised to eliminate ISIS. He let the U.S. military come up with a plan. That plan is to bomb Mosul and Raqqa to smithereens and to kill everyone ISIS. The Pentagon has no viable plan for the time thereafter. Who will rule (and pay for) the destroyed Raqqa when the campaign is over? Who will have responsibility for the larger consequences? If the Kurds get it, the Arabs will rebel. If the Turks get it, the Kurds will fight them. If some (former ISIS) Arabs get it, Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq and the Kurds will fight them and the U.S. military will have to protect them. The Pentagon has no answer to that problem. Trump will let the generals hang just as he let Ryan hang. They will have to take the responsibility. Don't they smell the trap?

Posted by b on April 4, 2017 at 07:33 AM | Permalink | Comments (114)

April 02, 2017

Iraqi WMDs Anyone? Washington Post Makes Unfounded Claims Of Iranian Supplies To Insurgencies

The Washington Post falls back into its 2005 mode of blaming Iran for the capabilities of a local insurgency. This time it is not Iraq where Iran is allegedly providing to insurgents, but Bahrain.

Old and debunked claims are hauled up and propaganda from the U.S. proxy Sunni dictatorship is cited as "evidence". It is a top-right front-page story in the Sunday edition and thereby "important". It is also fake news.

The headline: U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants.The core:

The report, a copy of which was shown to The Washington Post, partly explains the growing unease among some Western intelligence officials over tiny Bahrain, a stalwart U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf and home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Six years after the start of a peaceful Shiite protest movement against the country’s Sunni-led government, U.S. and European analysts now see an increasingly grave threat emerging on the margins of the uprising: heavily armed militant cells supplied and funded, officials say, by Iran.

The authors insert caveats:

While Bahraini officials frequently accuse Tehran of inciting violence, the allegations often have been discounted as exaggerations by a monarchy that routinely cites terrorism as a justification for cracking down on Shiite activists.

But after noting that Bahraini authorities notoriously lie the authors regurgitate approvingly the claims of exactly those authorities:

... the country’s investigators said in a confidential technical assessment ... a copy of which was shown to The Washington Post ...

That is supported, the authors say, by:

... interviews with current and former intelligence officials ...

Surly, "current and former intelligence officials" are paragons of truth and veracity and whatever they claim MUST be true.

At issue is the detection of one basement workshop in Bahrain where someone is using "$20,000 lathes and hydraulic presses" to produce shaped charges and also stored a pile of C4 explosives.

A $20,000 lathe is at the lower end of low-quality professional tooling. Hydraulic presses can be made from car jacks. How to make hollow charges and explosive formed penetrators (EFPs) is described in the CIA's Explosives for Sabotage Manual which the U.S. translated and distributed for decades in Afghanistan and elsewhere. C4 explosives of various origins, including from Iran, are available on black weapon markets throughout west-Asia.

Source: CIA Handbook

Nothing of the above points to the conclusion that these are "cells supplied and funded .. by Iran". The only connection to Iran the Bahrani police found and which is noted in the piece is:

One of the six caches “involved C-4 in its original Iranian military packaging,” the report said.

The piece does not note where the C4 in the other five caches came from. A detailed chemical analysis will be able to find the "signatures" of the chemical production facilities. If only one of six explosive caches comes from an Iranian manufacturer the problem Bahrain has on hand with the C4 is hardly of Iranian origin. So why are the manufacturing origins of the other five caches of explosives not mentioned at all? Did those caches come from the U.S. or from Saudi factories?

But the problems with the piece do not end there.

After noting how unreliable Bahrain official claims are, it discussed at length such Bahraini claims.

After describing the cheap equipment used to make shaped charges in Bahrain it goes on to explain how Iran, and only Iran, gives those to insurgencies. It quotes some guy from the Zionist propaganda shop Washington Institute who:

saw echoes in Bahrain of Iran’s practice of supplying tank-crushing EFPs to Iraqi Shiite militias, which used the devices in an effort to create no-go zones around Shiite strongholds.

Iran did not and does not supply EFPs to Iraqi insurgents. The Iraqis made those themselves. That was documented here and elsewhere even ten years ago:

For quite a while this story has been debunked by reports about EFP manufacturing in Iraq. These were substantiated, while the "Iran provides EFPs" meme was never proven by any evidence.

There were pieces in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and by Reuters. Doubts about the Iran origin of EFPs have also been raised in the New York Times. NBC news had U.S. officials at least partly walking back their claims. The Columbia Journalism Review, Inter Press Service and Newshogger Cernig ran good summary stories including many sources. We also discussed the 'evidence' here.

The WaPo story, though on today's Sunday paper's frontpage, has a (web-)dateline of April 1. That is probably the only reliable claim it carries.

There is no evidence that Iran provides for a Shia insurgency in Shia majority-Sunni ruled Bahrain just as there is no evidence that it supplies Zaidi fighters in Yemen who fight Al-Qaeda and its Saudi sponsors.

But there is by now a steady stream of Saudi and U.S. propaganda that makes such claims. These claims sound awfully similar to the claims made before the war on Iraq of (non-existing) Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. To find such again on page one of the Sunday edition of a major newspaper is more than disturbing.

Posted by b on April 2, 2017 at 10:40 AM | Permalink | Comments (77)

 
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