Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 27, 2017

White House Says It Will Fake "Chemical Weapon Attack" In Syria

The White House claims that the Syrian government is preparing "chemical weapon attacks". This is clearly not the case. Syria is winning the war against the country. Any such attack would clearly be to its disadvantage. The White House announcement must thereby be understood as preparation for another U.S. attack on Syria in "retaliation" for an upcoming staged "chemical weapon attack" which will be blamed on the Syrian government.

In August 2013 Syria invited inspectors of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian army. As soon as the inspectors arrived in Damascus a "chemical attack" was staged in Ghouta near Damascus. Lots of Jihadist video coverage of killed children was published and the "western" media blamed the incident on the Syrian government. It never explained why targeting a militarily irrelevant area with chemical weapons at the same time as inspectors arrived would have been a rational decision for a Syrian government that was just regaining control and international standing.

The "attack" was clearly staged by the opposition of the Syrian government and its foreign supporters. The Obama administration had planned to use it to launch U.S. attacks on the Syrian government but refrained from this when Russia arranged to remove Syria's strategic chemical weapons, aimed at Israel, instead.

In early 2017 the new U.S. president Trump made positive comments about the Syrian government. Assad can stay, he said. The Syrian military and its allies had gained the upper hand and were victorious on all fronts. Two days later another "chemical attack" was staged in the al-Qaeda held town of Khan Sheikhun. Lots of Jihadi video coverage of killed children, likely prepared in advance, was spilled onto the "western" public. U.S. intelligence knew that no chemical attack by the Syrian government had taken place. But the Trump administration used the incident to launch a volley of cruise missiles against a Syrian military airport. The neoconservatives were delighted. They finally had Trump where they wanted him. The media coverage changed from damming Trump for his alleged "Russian connections" to lauding his decisiveness in response to the faked attack.

Late May the new French president Macron ostensibly changed his position towards the Syrian government. The hostile position of France (and other EU countries) against the Syrian president Assad that had been eminent throughout the last six years changed on a dime:

Macron said that on Syria: “My profound conviction is that we need a political and diplomatic roadmap. We won’t solve the question only with military force. That is a collective error we have made. The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said the deposing of Bashar al-Assad is a prerequisite for everything. Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor!

But Macron also added:

"I have red lines on chemical weapons and humanitarian corridors. I said it very clearly to Vladimir Putin. I will be uncompromising on that. So the use of chemical weapons will be met with a response, and even if France acts alone.”

This immediately set off my warning lights:

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA - 4:28 PM - 29 May 2017
You like fakes? Tune in to Macron announcing the next False Flag chemical weapon attack in Syria.

Like all "red lines" this one Macron set was an invitation to the Takfiris to launch more fake incidents. Others had a similar reaction to Macron's (fake) turnaround.

The end of the war on Syria is in sight. One can start to tabulate the winners and losers. The U.S. military conceded that it had lost the race to occupy south-east Syria. All these turns in favor of Syria show that the war is practically won unless some of the outside sponsors of the Takfiri "rebels" again escalate.

Such an escalation is now happening. The White House claims to have information that the Syrian government is preparing a chemical weapon attack to kill "innocent children":

In an ominous statement issued with no supporting evidence or further explanation, Press Secretary Sean Spicer said the U.S. had “identified potential preparations for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

He said the activities were similar to preparations taken before an April 2017 attack that killed dozens of men, women and children, and warned that if “Mr. Assad conducts another mass murder attack using chemical weapons, he and his military will pay a heavy price.”

Several State Department officials typically involved in coordinating such announcements said they were caught completely off guard by the warning, which didn’t appear to be discussed in advance with other national security agencies. Typically, the State Department, the Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies would all be consulted before the White House issued a declaration sure to ricochet across foreign capitals.

The White House claim is of course nonsense and not supported by any evidence or logic at all. No one but the White House, not the State Department nor the Defense Department, seems to be informed about this (though that could be a ruse):

Five US defense officials said they did not know where the potential chemical attack would come from and were unaware the White House was planning a statement.

The lunatic U.S. ambassador to the UN jumped in to make it clear that it does not matter who commits whatever crime in Syria, Takfiris, the U.S. or Israel, it will be the Syrian, Russian and Iranian governments who will held guilty of it:

Nikki Haley‏ @nikkihaley - 2:36 AM - 27 Jun 2017
Any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.

A U.S. bomb attack on an Islamic State used building in Mayadin, Syria, just killed 57 prisoners of the Islamic State. Will Nikki Halley hold the Syrian government responsible for this?

Take note of Trump's schedule today:

Laura Rozen‏ @lrozen 8:56 AM - 27 Jun 2017
Trump has call with France's Macron first thing this morning, before intel brief. Then meeting w Nat. Sec. adviser McMaster

Intense U.S. military reconnaissances takes place along the Syrian coast.

The UK Defense Minister just announced that his government is "in full agreement" with any U.S. "retaliation" for a chemical attack in Syria.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis announced that the U.S. will continue to arm its Kurdish proxies in Syria even after ISIS is defeated.

During the last three days Al-Qaeda attacks on Syrian army position near the Israeli occupied Golan heights were supported by Israeli air attacks.

This all is clearly a coordinated operation by the "western" supporters of the Takfiris in Syria. Their aim is to prevent the victory of Syria and its allies. The U.S. wants to split up the country.

The announced fake "chemical attack" and the "retaliation" it is supposed to justify will likely happen in the south-west of Syria around Deraa where all recent attempts by Israel and the U.S. supported Takfiris to dislodge the Syrian government forces have failed. The provocation, now prepared and announced by Macron and the White House and supported by the UK, is probably planned to happen shortly before or during the upcoming G-20 meeting in Hamburg:

President Trump and members of his administration are requesting a full bilateral meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin at the G-20 summit in Germany next month.
...
While some administration officials have pressed for a quick "pull-aside" meeting at the Group of 20 summit or lower officials talking privately instead of the heads of state, Trump wants an event that includes the media and time for work sessions, according to one government official.

Trump has to make a deal (or war) with Russia and the announced fake "chemical attack" will be the pressure point against Putin. The neoconservatives in his administration want to break up Syria and Trump is tasked to get the Russian agreement for that (... or else.)

Syria insists that its has no chemical weapons nor any intention to use any indiscriminate weapon. Russia warns of any further military aggression and calls such U.S. threats unacceptable.

Posted by b on June 27, 2017 at 07:49 AM | Permalink | Comments (121)

June 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-25

WaPo has a 8,300 word weekend opus on how Obama failed to react to CIA director Brennan's claims that Putin himself ordered to hack the U.S. election.

Note:

Reading that piece it becomes clear (but is never said) that the sole source for that August 2016 Brennan claim of "Russian hacking" is the absurd Steele dossier some ex-MI6 dude created for too much money as opposition research against Trump. The only other "evidence" for "Russian hacking" is the Crowdstrike report on the DNC "hack". Crowdstrike has a Ukrainian nationalist agenda, was hired by the DNC, had to retract other "Russian hacking" claims and no one else was allowed to take a look at the DNC servers. Said differently: The whole "Russian hacking" claims are solely based on "evidence" of two fake reports.

Democrats tell party leaders: Stop talking about Russia. No one is interested in that bullshit. Get back to basic issues.

The first spinner toy was developed in Iraq around 2000 BC and Adam Smith copied many of his economic theories from Ibn Khaldun who had developed these 400 years before Smith plagiarized him.

A Middle Eastern regime drops plans for mixed-gender worship under pressure from religious hardliners.

Uber has no valid business model and will go down in disgrace (no link, just a fact).

Trump launched cruise missiles against Syria knowing that no Sarin was used in the Khan Sheikhun attack. (Background on the suppression of this Seymour Hersh story in U.S and British media: The Fog of War.)

The new French Defense Minister had to leave her office after it became known that she was paid €10,000 per month by a U.S. think tank (french, machine translation.)

Please add your news & views in the comments.

Posted by b on June 26, 2017 at 10:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (163)

June 25, 2017

Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

The U.S. military has, for now, given up on occupying south-east Syria. Recent remarks at the Department of Defense press conference concede the defeat of its original plans.

Let us recap: The U.S. military had occupied the al-Tanf border station between Syria and Iraq some 12 kilometer east of the Jordan-Syria-Iraq border triangle. The economically important road between Damascus and Baghdad runs through al-Tanf. When Syrian government forces moved towards the al-Tanf area the U.S. military bombed them and unilaterally claimed a "deconfliction-zone", i.e occupied territory, around the station.

The U.S. plan was to disrupt any connection between Syrian government held areas in the west and Iraq in th east by moving north from al-Tanf up to the Euphrates river valley around Deir Ezzor. The neoconservatives and Zionist propagandists claimed that this was necessary to interrupt the "Shia crescent" that allegedly would connect Iran through Iraq and Syria with Lebanon. The U.S. forces would thereby interrupt Iranian support for Hizbullah forces defending Lebanon from Israeli incursions. But the "Shia crescent" was never more than an idea. Iran supplies to Hizbullah have never depended on a land connection alone. The "crescent" connection was not disrupted when the U:S. occupied Iraq or when ISIS held the area.

The real U.S. plan was much larger. It wanted to control a Sunni corridor from the Saudi-Iraqi border in the south through Anbar province in west-Iraq through south-east Syria up through the Kurdish held north-east Syria to Turkey. This was the planned "Salafist principality" a 2012 Defense Intelligence paper had talked about.

The Syrian forces (red), with Iraqi support, sabotaged the U.S. plans by connecting west-Syria with the Syrian Iraqi border northward of the U.S. held area of al-Tanf (blue). They met allied Iraqi forces at the border north-east of al-Tanf and are now proceeding north-east along the border towards Abu Kamal and the Euphrates valley.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The Russian military command told the U.S. that any attack on those forces would be a very unfriendly act that would be severely punished. To make the point Iran fired medium range missiles from Iranian territory to Islamic State held areas in Syria. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean towards similar targets. The message was that the small U.S. contingent in al-Tanf would be toast if the U.S. military further messed around with the Syrian forces. Meanwhile Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from Iraq, allied with Syria, closed off al-Tanf from the south. The U.S. forces there have nowhere to go but home.

As we wrote in our June 13 piece Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight:

The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.

All recent provocation attempts by the U.S. failed to disrupt the Syrian government plans and its push towards Deir Ezzor.


Map via Weekend Warrior - bigger

In a little reported press conference on Friday the U.S. military practically conceded the defeat of its plans:

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. military coalition fighting the Islamic State would welcome a concerted effort by the Syrian government or its Iranian-backed partner forces to defeat IS in its remaining strongholds in eastern Syria, a U.S. spokesman said Friday.

Army Col. Ryan Dillon, spokesman for the coalition, told reporters at the Pentagon that the U.S. goal is to defeat IS wherever it exists. If others, including the Syrian government and its Iranian and Russian allies, want to fight the extremists as well, then "we absolutely have no problem with that," he said, speaking from Baghdad.

From the transcript of that press conference:

Q: [...] [W]hat potential threat do you believe these Iranian backed militias and regime forces continue to pose to your forces and your partner forces in the At Tanf -- Abu Kamal area?

COL. DILLON: Well if the Syrian regime -- and it looks like they are making a concerted effort to move into ISIS held areas. And if they show that they can do that, that is not a bad sign. We are here to fight ISIS as a coalition, but if others want to fight ISIS and defeat them, then we absolutely have no problem with that. And as they move eastward toward Abu Kamal and to Deir Ezzour, if we -- as long as we can de-conflict and make sure that we can focus on what it is we're there to do, without having any kind of strategic mishaps with the regime or with pro-regime forces or with Russians, then that is -- we're perfectly happy with that.

In a later part the spokesperson also concedes that the forces in al-Tanf are now very constricted in their movement:

... if the regime is -- has moved into an area that is towards Abu Kamal, then we are going to be limited to how far out we do patrols [from al-Tanf] with our partner forces.

Somewhat later the point is made again and even clearer - al-Tanf is now useless and the Syrian army is free to do what it does:

COL. DILLON: So what I was saying about that is that, out of the At Tanf area, we have used that to train our partner forces and to continue to -- to fight ISIS, you know, if they are in and around that area.

You know, now that the regime has moved in, and they have made some significant, you know, progress, as it looks, towards moving to Abu Kamal and perhaps Deir Ezzour, if they want to fight ISIS in Abu Kamal and they have the capacity to do so, then, you know, that -- that would be welcome.

We as a coalition are not in the land-grab business. We're in the killing ISIS business, and that is what we want to do. And if -- if the Syrian regime wants to do that, and they are going to, again, put forth a concerted effort and show that they are -- are doing just that in Abu Kamal or Deir Ezzour or elsewhere, that means that we don't have to do that in those locations.

So I guess that -- what I'm saying is, in the At Tanf area, we will continue to train our partner forces. We will continue to do patrols in and around At Tanf in the Hamad desert. But if our access to Abu Kamal is shut off because the regime is there, that's okay.

NEWSFLASH: The Pentagon and, even more important, the U.S. commanders in the Middle East, have finally recognized the basic facts of life.

There is no way the Syrian government and its allies will let the U.S. have south-east Syria or let it occupy the country including the Syrian army garrison in Deir Ezzor which is currently surrounded by Islamic State forces. The Syrian army and its allies will liberate Deir Ezzor and the whole Euphrates valley. The U.S. military has now conceded that. There will be some huffing and puffing from the neoconservative corners but I doubt very much that this that this decision will be overturned or that this is a ruse. There is simply no strategic value for the U.S. in occupying south-east Syria and no will to defend it against determined resistance of capable opposing forces.

My congratulations to Syria and its allies. This battle is, for now, won.

Posted by b on June 25, 2017 at 08:59 AM | Permalink | Comments (88)

June 24, 2017

Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

 

12:13 PM - 24 Jun 2017

12:16 PM - 24 Jun 2017

2:24 PM - 24 Jun 2017

Al-Qaeda attacked a Syrian Arab Army position in Madinat al-Baath (map) next to the Israel occupied Golan heights. Al-Qaeda requested Israeli fire-support by launching some mortars towards empty space in the Israel occupied area. The Israeli Defense Force accepted the request and destroyed two Syrian Arab Army tanks. Two Syrian soldiers were killed. The SAA held steady and the al-Qaeda attack on its position failed.

This was very easy to predict. Israel has supported al-Qaeda in the area since at least 2014. The al-Qaeda fire-request-by-mortar scheme has been in place for at least three years. In October 2014 the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which back then still covered the area, reported to the UN Security Council:

On 23 June [2014], Israel targeted nine Syrian army positions with tank fire and air strikes after mortar fire from the Syrian side the previous day killed an Israeli civilian. Israel’s assessment is that most of these incidents are due to errant fire resulting from fighting in Syria. Israel said that armed opposition groups were probably responsible but that its forces fired on Syrian military positions to stress that Syria was responsible for security on its side of the ceasefire line.

The UN observers mentioned the "black flags" the "rebels" were using. The "rebels" in that area are al-Qaeda forces. This "fire support request by mortar" scheme has been repeated again and again. The Israeli argument is an insult to logic: "The Syrian army is responsible for keeping al-Qaeda out of the area so we respond to "errant" al-Qaeda fire by destroying the Syrian army."

But "western" and Israeli media did and do not report or analyzed the obvious scheme. This even as this theater act gets repeated over and over again. They lie and simply report the "errant fire" nonsense even when it is clear that this is coordinated military support for al-Qaeda. For years they have hidden Israeli support for al-Qaeda and its deep involvement in the Syrian war. Witness Haaretz which only today(!) headlines: Analysis - Israel’s Slow Creep Into the Syrian Civil War. That "slow creep", which Haaretz describes and analyzes as a new phenomenon, started at least three years ago and was neither slow nor a creep. It is full fledged support for terrorism and has been such since its beginning.

The Wall Street Journal, also three years late, reported last week that Israel had set up a special IDF unit to advise, train, support and control al-Qaeda in the Golan area: Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels

Israel even pays al-Qaeda's salaries:

The person familiar with Israel’s assistance confirmed that cash moves across the border but said it goes for humanitarian purposes. However, rebels interviewed said they use the cash to pay fighters’ salaries and to buy weapons and ammunition—something the Israeli military wouldn’t comment on.

Israel wants to steal and occupy even larger parts of Syria than the parts of the Golan heights it illegally holds. It pays al-Qaeda and supports it by fire to achieve that. The main stream reporting on this is at least three years late. Why is it now starting to publish about this? Is there a new media advisory that Haaretz and the WSJ are now allowed (or required) to report on the issue? To what purpose?

Posted by b on June 24, 2017 at 02:06 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

June 23, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

(Updated last graphs on June 24 9:00am est)

Today the Saudi ruler issued an ultimatum to Qatar that was written to be rejected. Such has happened before and one should not forget the lessons to be learned from it.

After the crown prince of the Austria-Hungary monarchy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was shot and killed in Sarajevo, the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by Serbian private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."

The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.


bigger

The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the U.S. - the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which the C&I-Service considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. According to the U.S. government the U.S. government is a state sponsor of terrorism. But the biggest terrorist sponsor of all are and have been the Saudis.)

Spats between member of the Gulf Cooperation Council are usually mediated by the U.S. government. But without any official demands issued against Qatar there was nothing to mediate about. Three day ago U.S. Department of State finally issued a rather angry statement towards Saudi Arabia:

"We are mystified that the Gulf states have not released to the public, nor to the Qataris, the details about the claims that they are making toward Qatar," explained State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert on Tuesday.
...
"At this point, we are left with one simple question: Were the actions really about their concerns about Qatar's alleged support for terrorism, or were they about the long-simmering grievances between and among the GCC countries?" Nauert asked.

The real issue for Saudi Arabia is the support for the Muslim Brotherhood by Qatar. The MB provides an alternative model of Islamic government to the hereditary kingdoms of the Gulf sheiks. They are a danger to the Saudi ruling family. A second point are Qatar's relative good relations with Iran, the external enemy the Saudis (and Israeli) rulers need to keep their people in line.

The "terrorism" accusation was never the real issue. What the Saudis demand is subjugation. A summary of the thirteen point ultimatum:

In effect, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain are asking Qatar to hand over control of its foreign policy to them. It will not be allowed to have diplomatic relations with Iran and its contact with Iran will be limited to trade and commerce that “complies with US and international sanctions”. Qatar will not be allowed contact with political opposition figures in Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain — even though other countries (including western countries) do so routinely. In addition, Qatar is being asked to hand over all its files on those opposition groups.
...
Qatar is also being asked to “end interference in sovereign countries’ internal affairs” while allowing Saudi Arabia, the UAE, etc, apparently unlimited interference in Qatar’s own affairs. Qatar, according to the list of demands, must “align itself with the other Gulf and Arab countries militarily, politically, socially and economically”.

Then there’s the closure of Qatar’s TV station, al-Jazeera. Obviously, the Saudis, Emiratis, etc, don’t like it. ... Qatar is also told to stop funding several other news organisations, including Middle East Eye and al-Arabi al-Jadeed (also available in English as The New Arab).
...
Finally, Qatar is being asked to sign blank cheque covering “reparations and compensation for loss of life and other, financial losses caused by Qatar’s policies in recent years”.

The Saudi ultimatum ends on July 3, the anniversary of the Saudi sponsored military coup against the Qatari backed Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. One demand in the ultimatum is for Qatar to end all support for the Brotherhood.

The ultimatum will likely be rejected. Qatar will simply not respond until the Saudis and others lift their blockade of the country. If the Saudis want war they should launch it right away, the Qatari ruler thinks. Doha is sure that the U.S. will not allow that. Ten-thousand U.S. troops are stationed in Qatar. It hosts a major U.S. air base and the important Central Command, which leads the war against ISIS and Syria. Qatar just bought U.S. fighter jets for $12 billion and is offering to take a 10% share of American Airlines.

Turkish troops have arrived to protect the sheikdom. One unexpected Saudi demand is that all Turkish troops leave Qatar. The Erdogan government, a Muslim Brotherhood branch, responded with a snippy "Make me do so":

Turkey’s Defense Minister Fikri Işık rejected the demand, saying any call for the base to be shut would represent interference in Ankara’s relations with Doha. He suggested instead that Turkey might bolster its presence.

There is no "or else" in the Saudi ultimatum. The Saudi ruler, the clown prince Mohammad bin Salman, is not a strategist. He likely has not thought through what he could do would if Qatar says "no" to him.

The Trump administration is considering a Camp David-style summit to solve the conflict:

“The president now wants to bring all the key players to Washington,” he said. “They need to disavow groups like the [Muslim] Brotherhood for the stability of the Middle East at large. It’s not just about Qatari elements funding the Brotherhood but disavowing support for extremism in general,” [a senior White House official] said.

The real issue for the Trump administration is to unite the GCC behind its plans against Iran. There is only a small chance that such can be achieved. Iran is an important commercial partner for Kuwait, Qatar, the UAE and Oman. Those countries have nothing to win from any war with it.

So far Iran is the sole winner of the GCC spat. Should the Saudi blockade of Qatar continue Iran's farmers will sell over 400,000 tons of food per year to Qatar. Steel and concrete are other potential exports products for Iran. Lucrative air traffic in Iranian air space has increased by 17% since the Saudis blocked Qatar Airlines flights through their airspace. Iran will sell more natural gas should Qatar's gas exports be damaged.

Saudi Arabia as well as Qatar are Wahhabi extremist states. They both spend their huge resources to spread their deadly sectarian and racist believes. Qatar's ideological export is handled by Al-Jazeerah Arabic know for vile sectarianism and support of ISIS and al-Qaeda. The Saudis finance extremist mosques and madrassas all over the world.  Let them fight each other and spend their resources against each other. The world can only win from that.

But there is also danger in such a fight. As the historic example of Serbia demonstrates, allies jumping in on either side, each with their own agenda, may spread the fire way beyond the local conflict. What if Pakistan takes the Saudi sides and India, which receives some 90% of its gas imports from Qatar, joins the Qatari one?

The Saudis and Emiratis surely did not think of this when they launched their belligerent plans. They had hoped that Qatar would fold within a day or two. They never though about real fighting or of a possible escalation beyond the local conflict. As both sides have now taken hardened positions it will be difficult for each to climb down. It will now take a year or two, if not longer, for this conflict to end.

Posted by b on June 23, 2017 at 01:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (95)

June 22, 2017

U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

The U.S. military and/or the CIA outsourced parts of their ongoing torture campaign in Yemen to the United Arab Emirates, reports AP. Some "interrogations" are done in the presence of U.S. personal and on U.S. ships:

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses.
...
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away.

There have long been rumors in Yemen that detainees were transported to U.S. ships off the coast for intense "interrogations":

@BaFana3 - 3:42am · 6 May 2016
All on #Yemen now : US aircraft carrier, 2 naval destroyers, amphibious ready group & Marine expeditionary unit. That's near 15,000 troops
Now I know whose ships the captured AQAP militants are being ferried to from Al Mukalla, Hadhramaut.

AP now:

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations.
...
Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt.
...
Former detainees and one Yemen official provided the AP with the names of five suspects held at black sites who were interrogated by Americans.

The UAE had been part of the CIA's "black sites" torture apparatus. Its agents are thereby well trained. The U.S. military and/or the CIA now seem to have outsourced (vid) most of the "dirty" stuff to them. That does not make them less culpable.

The Obama administration has called this acting "by, with and through" allies. The Trump administration continues with the scheme.

The tortured "militants" were most likely not al-Qaeda chaps. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula held the harbor city of Mukalla in Yemen. The UAE "liberated" the city in April 2016 by making a deal with AQAP and letting them go. It is allied with the group while fighting the Yemeni Houthi. If the U.S. torture crews believe that they are "interrogating" real "al-Qaeda" they are hoodwinked by the UAE operators.

The U.S. military is, of course, denying all torture accusations and the CIA is, of course, not commenting, but denigrating the accusers. We have heard such denials before.

---
Yesterday an al-Saud family clown prince replaced another al-Saud family clown prince to replace the old al-Saud family king who will be offed soon. This in a country named after the al-Saud family. It is change you can believe in. The soon to be dictator-king Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the guy who has debt-to-GDP, is fawned over in U.S. media. That is no wonder. He has lot of money and no idea of its value. He paid €500 million for a used ship that had cost only €300 million when it was build six years earlier. Some of his money will drop here or there when a journalist writes a pretty piece about him. If the journo is really good at it s/he will get payed off in some CIA endorsed weapon deal with the Gulf sheiks. Bin Salman is not very bright. He visited Israel and is in constant contact with Israeli officials. His development program for Saudi Arabia, based on austerity, was written by McKinsey consultants and is thereby likely to fail. With his extreme anti-Iranian stand he looks like a mere U.S.-Israeli puppet.


bigger

The 26 million people he rules over will not like either. Many Arab peninsula citizens will want to see his head on a pike. The House of Saud is now a house of cards destined to fall.

The rise and installation of Muhammad bin Salman as Saudi King is, in part, a project of his mentor, the Emirati clown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. Bin Zayed rules the UAE. "By, with and through" allies comes to mind.

---
The Saudi rulers sponsored, together with Qatar, the ISIS takeover of Iraq and parts of Syria. They also helped finance the Clinton campaign. The Islamic State terrorists just blew up the 845 year old al-Nuri mosque in Mosul. ISIS leader Baghdadi had declared himself Caliph in that mosque and the Iraqi military was on the verge of re-taking it.

The NYT report of the mosque destruction calls the the ISIS nihilists "militants":

Almost from the beginning of its rule, the Islamic State systematically destroyed or damaged one important monument or shrine after another[...] In Mosul’s library, militants burned thousands of old books and manuscripts.

Another NYT report recently called Bernie Sanders followers "militant":

The growing tension between the party’s ascendant militant wing and Democrats competing in conservative-leaning terrain, was on vivid, split-screen display over the weekend. In Chicago, Senator Bernie Sanders led ...

Demanding single-payer health care is obviously comparable to the sectarian massacring of thousands or to blowing up century old places of worship. Only "militants" do such. But don't you dare to compare Saudi sponsoring of ISIS and of Hillary Clinton. Even when the Saudis are doing both.

Drawing connections from the UAE/CIA torture in Yemen, the UAE mentoring of the coming Saudi king, Saudi sponsoring of the CIA endorsed Clinton campaign, the U.S./Saudi caused famine, as well as the terror of ISIS in not kosher - even when there are direct lines between all of these. Trump is, by the way, no better than Clinton in this. His endorsement of the aggressive new Saudi ruler while a U.S. jet shoots down a Syrian plane which is attacking ISIS is likely not just a coincidence.

But its the progressives who are "militant".

Posted by b on June 22, 2017 at 06:47 AM | Permalink | Comments (92)

June 20, 2017

Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Just got this new little video-drone.

Now I read that drones can be 'pro-Assad' and probably also anti-Assad. They can be 'pro-regime' or 'pro-Assad regime' or 'Iranian' or 'Iranian made'.

I know my drone is not Iranian made. It says "Made in China".

Drones can also 'display hostile intent'. I did not know that. Where is that display?

And how do I tell if it is pro- or anti-? Is there a switch for that?


Kudos to AP for using a mostly correct headline.

Posted by b on June 20, 2017 at 02:28 PM | Permalink | Comments (42)

Open Thread 2017-24

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 20, 2017 at 12:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (138)

June 19, 2017

Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Our last summary said that the end of the war in Syria is now in sight:

Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over.

There are a few civilian lunatics in the White House who push for widening the war on Syria into an all out U.S.-Iran war. The military leadership is pushing back. It fears for its forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the larger area. But there are also elements within the U.S. military and the CIA that take a more aggressive pro-war position.

Yesterday a U.S. F-18 jet shot down a Syrian air force bomber near the city of Raqqa. The U.S. Central Command ludicrously claims that this was in "self defense" of its invading forces and its Kurdish proxies (Syria Democratic Forces - SDF) within a "deconflicting zone" after the SDF was attacked in the town of Jardin.

Those were lies. Neither is there any agreed upon "deconflicting zone" in the area nor was the town of Jardin held by SDF forces at the time of the attack. The attack was clearly illegal:

The U.S.[...] has no legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are pursuing regime change or other political objectives. There is no right of collective self-defense of non-state actors, ...

The Syrian government as well as witnesses on the ground refute the U.S. claims. The Syrian Observatory in Britain, often cited as authoritative about events in Syria, says no Syrian attack on the SDF took place. The U.S. jets attacked the Syrian one in support of Islamic State forces:

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area [...] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

Here is an overview of the situation in south-east Syria:


Map via Peto Lucem - bigger

On the bottom left is the area of Palmyra on the right is Deir Ezzor, at the top is Raqqa. The dark areas are occupied by the Islamic State. A hundred thousand civilians and a small Syrian army garrison in Deir Ezzor is besieged by the Islamic State. The Syrian army is moving east from two directions to relieve the city. One thrust is from the Palmyra area along the road towards the north-east to Deir Ezzor. The distance still to go is about 130 kilometer and a major Islamic State held city, Al-Sukhnah, will have to be taken before the advance can proceed.

A second thrust is from the south of Raqqa.

UPDATE: The evil_SDOC aka Weekend Warrior created this excellent map of what reminds him of World War II "island hopping". The eastern Syrian desert has few inhabited places connected by roads which are of upmost important to control the huge areas in between. It shows the potential of the thrust axes and the importance of Resafa which was the focus of yesterday's incident.


Map via Weekend Warrior - bigger

[End update]

Raqqa is currently besieged by the U.S. supported Kurdish forces of the SDF. Those forces (yellow) have taken parts of the southern bank of the Euphrates around the city of Tabqa. The Syrian army is moving to the south of these forces from west towards the east. Its current target is the town of Resafa at the crossing of road 6 and road 42. If it takes the crossing it can move south-east along the major roads towards Deir Ezzor. It will also cut off a retreat route for Islamic State forces who are fleeing south to escape the Kurdish Raqqa attack. The distance to go to Deir Ezzor is about 100 kilometer and there are no major impediments along the way. Taking the crossing is immensely important for the relieve operation of the besieged eastern city.


bigger

Raqqa is to beyond the upper right of this detail map of the Tabqa area. The Kurdish forces are marked in yellow, the Syrian army in red. The Syrian army was moving very fast towards the east to capture the three-way crossroads at Resafa (mid-right on the map). A few hours before the Syrian jet was shot down it had already taken the town of Jardin:

Yusha Yuseef 🇸🇾‏Verified account @MIG29_
Breaking , SAA Tiger Forces liberate Jaadeen جعيدين village North of Al-Easawii South #Raqqa CS
3:36 PM - 18 Jun 2017

The U.S. killing of the Syrian jet occurred hours later:

Dr Abdulkarim Omar‏ abdulkarimomar1
International coalition drops a military aircraft to the Syrian regime in the Raqqa after bombing the sites of S D Forces In the Tabqa area
5:18 PM - 18 Jun 2017

---

Yusha Yuseef 🇸🇾‏Verified account @MIG29_
I can confirm that we lost Syrian Jet East of Rassafeh and Far of SDF Points
No more info if US do it
6:14 PM - 18 Jun 2017

The U.S. now claims that the Syrian jet attacked Kurdish forces in Jardin. But there were none left there when the incident happened. The town was already confirmed to be in the hands of the Syrian army. The Syrian jet attacked Islamic State forces near Resafa. The Syrian army was in the process of taking the town Resafa from the Islamic State and to reach the crossroad that would allow it to proceed to the ISIS besieged Deir Ezzor. The Syrian air forces jet bombed Islamic State forces in Resafa. The U.S. shot the jet down falsely claiming that it attacked its Kurdish proxy forces.

One can only interpret this as an attempt by the U.S. to prevent or hinder the Syrian forces from reliefing Deir Ezzor as soon as possible. The U.S. is, willingly or not, helping the Islamic State forces who are engaged in heavy attacks on the besieged Deir Ezzor garrison. The Russian government called the U.S. attack an "act of aggression" in "breach of international law" and in "assistance for the terrorists" of the Islamic State. It will halt its air space coordination with the U.S. operations command in Syria. Additionally:

In the areas of combat missions of Russian air fleet in Syrian skies, any airborne objects, including aircraft and unmanned vehicles of the [US-led] international coalition, located to the west of the Euphrates River, will be tracked by Russian ground and air defense forces as air targets,” the Russian Ministry of Defense stated.

If I were a U.S. pilot, I would try to avoid the area ...

Whatever the U.S. intent was it did not stop the Syrian army. Resafa has just now been taken (map) by the Syrian army forces. The shot down pilot, Ali Fahed, has been extracted from behind enemy lines by a team of the Syrian Tiger Force.

---

Independent of the events near Raqqa the Iranian Revolutionary Guard launched medium range ballistic missiles from within Iran on Islamic State forces near Deir Ezzor in Syria. The distance was about 600 kilometers. The launch was billed as revenge for the June 7 terrorist attacks on the parliament in Tehran, Iran. The missiles hit their targets.

The message sent with them was larger than just a pure revenge act. Iran demonstrated that it can reliable hit far away targets from within its own state. The Wahhabi Persian Golf states and all U.S. forces in the area will have to take note of this. They are not safe from Iranian retaliation even when no Iranian forces are nearby. Iran emphasized that it can repeat such attacks whenever needed:

“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message.” Said [Revolutionary Guard Gen. Ramazan] Sharif. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”

---

As described in our last summary U.S. forces are occupying the border station of al-Tanf between Syria and Iraq in the south-east of Syria. The station and the U.S. trained Arab "rebels" there were stopped from moving further north by a Syrian army push towards the border with Iraq. From the Iraqi side militia under the command of the Prime Minister joined in and al-Tanf is now isolated. Several reports yesterday claimed that the U.S. has flown in Kurdish proxy forces from the north-east of Syria to defend al-Tanf. It obviously does not trust the Arab "rebel" forces it had trained for occupying south-east Syria. A few hundred Kurdish forces do not change the tactical situation. There is no reasonable use for those forces and the U.S. (supported) contingent will eventually have to move out and retreat towards Jordan.

---

Israel has long supported al-Qaeda "rebels" in the south-west of Syria near and on the Golan heights. This has been known at least since 2014 and the Israeli support was even documented by UN observer forces in the area. But somehow U.S. media "forgot" to report it and the Israelis were reluctant to comment on it.

That has changed. There is now a flood of reports about Israeli support and payments to "rebels" in the Golan next to the Israeli occupied parts of Syria. Few mention though that the forces Israel supports are al-Qaeda terrorists. There are also Islamic State groups in the area who "apologized" to Israel after a clash with Israeli forces. It is clear that Israel is now openly supporting the terrorists.

Someone is intentionally pushing out these reports. I presume that Israel does this in preparation of the political landscape for an even large occupation of Syrian land. The reports compare the Israeli maneuvers with the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon in the 1980s and 90s. They neglect to tell the whole story. The Israeli occupation of south-Lebanon led to the growth of Hizubullah and the eventually defeat of the Israeli forces. By the year 2000 they had to retreat from the occupied land and Hizbullah is now Israels most feared enemy. It seems that Israel wants to repeat that experience.

Posted by b on June 19, 2017 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (176)

June 18, 2017

When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Non factual, false news reporting has political consequences. This especially when it is picked up by partisan propagandists to push their agenda. It is often not easy to forensically follow the trail of fake news but here is a recent example "caught in the wild".

The Associated Press is a nonprofit and political neutral news agency financed by U.S. newspapers and other media outlets of various political stripes. Its wide range of customers (mostly) prevents it from partisan domestic reporting. It takes on international issues are different. The selection of the news items it reports on is driven by customer interests and thereby slanted in its selection. But the factual reporting on news items is generally straight forward - or supposed to be such. Political decisions are sometimes based on its reports. It is therefore causing concern when it spreads obviously fake news.

Yesterday the AP pushed out this item:

The Associated Press ‏Verified account @AP
Russia claims it has killed IS leader al-Baghdadi. https://apnews.com/...
7:51 AM - 16 Jun 2017

NY Daily news, FOX News, Politico and many, many other outlets reedited and/or republished that AP piece. The Politico version reads:

Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group's de facto capital in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

The AP item seemed wrong to me. Russia is usually very cautious with such claims and tends not to make such absolute statements. ( The U.S. military though ...)

I checked with the official Russian agency TASS and it indeed reported something different: IS top leader may have been killed by Russian airstrike in Syria

MOSCOW, June 16. /TASS/. Russia’s Defense Ministry has said it is verifying reports that the Islamic State terrorist group’s leader Ibrahim Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed by a Russian airstrike on the southern suburb of Syria’s Raqqa in late May.

Other Russian news-sources reported likewise. The Russian Defense Ministry never claimed that its forces killed Baghdadi. It only said that it is looking into such claims. The NY Times, with its own reporter in Moscow, also reported more carefully: Russian Military Says It Might Have Killed ISIS Leader

MOSCOW — Russia’s military said on Friday that it was looking into whether one of its airstrikes in the Syrian desert had killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the self-declared caliph of the Islamic State.

In a statement, the Defense Ministry said that the Russian Air Force struck a meeting of Islamic State leaders on May 28 outside Raqqa, Syria, the group’s de facto capital, possibly killing Mr. Baghdadi.

Obviously the Associated Press report, distributed widely, was factually wrong. I was concerned that this false reporting would have consequences:

Moon of Alabama‏ @MoonofA
Moon of Alabama Retweeted The Associated Press
Tass says Russia only investigating such a claim. @AP exaggerating here? Blame Russia when claim turns out false?
http://tass.com/world/951708
8:43 AM - 16 Jun 2017

My concern for a "blame Russia" slant turned out to be justified when hacks started to use the false AP report to push their political agenda.

Paul Cruickshank is a:

Editor-in-Chief CTC Sentinel ○ CNN Terrorism Analyst ○ Co-author international bestseller Agent Storm ~ Guardian's Top Ten Spy Books of all time

Cruickshank immediately followed up on the false AP story without having checked its veracity:

Paul Cruickshank‏ Verified account @CruickshankPaul
Five reasons why we should be deeply sceptical of the Russian Baghdadi claim.
9:47 AM - 16 Jun 2017

Russia never made the claim Cruickshank thought it had made but he uses the false AP item to push his own false narrative:

Paul Cruickshank‏ Verified account @CruickshankPaul
5. It's coming from the Russians who have every interest in being seen as taking fight to ISIS (when most of focus elsewhere)
9:54 AM - 16 Jun 2017

For the record: Russia (and Syria and its other allies) have fought ISIS whenever and wherever they possibly could. It was the U.S. that did not fight ISIS but used and uses it for its own purpose. Obama and Kerry publicly admitted such (scroll down for their quotes). Only after Russia pointed out that thousands of tanker trucks moved oil from ISIS areas to Turkey without U.S. interference did the U.S. join in to destroy them. Cruickshank is using the fake news from AP to spread his own false claim that Russia and Syria did not and do not fight ISIS.

Another such hack is the Gulf paid promoter of Takfiri "rebels" in Syria, Charles Lister: Russia's Baghdadi Claim Needs Verification

By Charles Lister
Russia’s claim to have killed ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in an airstrike in Raqqa on May 28 should be taken with a heavy grain of salt.
...
Russia has a long track record of issuing fake claims and deliberate misinformation during its campaign in Syria.
...
Beyond Russia's likely bogus claim, ...

Cruickshank and Lister both spread factless propaganda sold as conclusion of the news content of an AP report. But the AP report was fake news.

If there was a need to take the report "with a heavy grain of salt" why not go back and check the original reporting in the first place? Lister and Cruickshank obviously did not do that.

The Associated Press has meanwhile corrected its false original reporting. It now headlines under the same link: Uncertainty over Islamic State leader’s fate after airstrike. (The link to the piece still says "Russia-claims-it-has-killed ..".)

BEIRUT (AP) — Uncertainty and confusion surrounded the fate of the head of the Islamic State group Friday as Russia announced it may have killed him ...
...
Apart from Moscow’s claim that he may have been killed in the May 28 airstrike along with more than 300 militants, there was not much else to back it up. The Russian Defense Ministry said the information about his death was still “being verified through various channels.”

While AP corrected its report neither its original tweet nor other media reports derived from the original AP one received any correction. The hacks that made their false political points based on the fake news will certainly not update and correct their claims.

Fake news can be dangerous. But it is not the fake news from some blog or little read partisan outlet that is a danger to the public. It is fake news spread by  mainstream media and big news agencies that is of real concern.

Note that the original AP report, seen in the AP screenshot above, has "Moscow" as the dateline. The corrected one is datelined from "Beirut". The original author of the AP fake news was its Moscow correspondent Vladimir Isachenkov. It is certainly fair to say that Isachenkov's other reporting from Moscow is rarely sympathetic to the Russian viewpoint on the issues in question. His reporting is always a reflection the unquestioned predominant U.S. view - be that right or wrong. The Russian standpoint is never analyzed for its own value but always in relation to the U.S. position which is a-priori taken as the ultimate truth.

One wonders how it is serving the knowledge and judgement of the U.S. public and its policy makers to have its premier news agency deliver such slanted, if not fake, news reporting from Moscow.

Posted by b on June 18, 2017 at 04:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (60)

June 16, 2017

Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

The spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar gives us some amusing entertainment. Both countries spent billions to arm and supply tens of thousands of brutal Takfiris to fight the Syrian government and people. They also spent millions to buy this or that "western" think-tank and/or writer. Now that the two Wahhabi dictatorships are fighting each other they spill the beans over each others nefarious deeds. Various "western" think-tanks and media, who avidly supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other criminals in Syria, are the well deserved collateral casualties in this fight.

Here is one example:

Bilal Abdul Kareem‏ Verified account @BilalKareem
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. But I'm smiling!
4:24 PM - 16 Jun 2017

Bilal Abdul Kareem 2 hrs
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won the prestigious Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. High respects to CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward for mentioning me even if CNN didn't! Alhamdo lilaah I got another award from some good hearted Syrians that's worth more than those put together. Check it out!

bigger

Max Blumenthal‏ Verified account @MaxBlumenthal
In Saudi media, "independent journalist" @BilalKareem is ID'ed as having joined Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise in 2012
https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/...
5:37 AM - 11 Jun 2017

bigger

Al Arabiya, Huda Al-Salih - June 7 2017 - Al-Nusra religious leader, prominent ISIS supporter defend Qatar

On October 29, 2014, the Brookings Doha Institute has organized a panel to discuss future of jihadist groups in Iraq and Syria. The session included all of Richard Barrett, first vice president for Soufan group, Charles Lister, visiting fellow at the institute, in addition to one of the fighters from Nusra and one of its media arms, the American Bilal Abdul Kareem, who latter appeared in pictures of him with [Al-Qaeda ideologue] Muhaysini.

In the panel, Abdulkareem said “forming the Islamic state is the jihadists’ desire.”

What’s interesting here is that Abdulkareem had traveled to Doha for the panel from the Syrian city of Aleppo. He went to Doha although he joined al-Nusra in 2012.

Abdulkareem is described as the extremists’ publicist and his interviews with foreign and Arab fighters in Syria and members of al-Qaeda were always broadcast on Al-Jazeera television channel.

Abdulkareem, who once said that joining the fighting in Syria is a religious duty and the Syrian fighters are the “first line of defense” in fighting Shiites, was named the most influential figure on December 17, 2016, by Al-Jazeera’s program News Race as he won 53 percent of the votes.

bigger

The Saudi paper Al-Arabiya identifies Kareem as Qatar supported Al-Qaeda member. Smearing Qatar is now the favorite Saudi past time. That Kareem is al-Qaeda member is not news to anyone who reads beyond CNN and other main stream outlets. Just watch his interview (vid) with the al-Qaeda in Syria chief ideologue Muhaysini and you know what he is about.

Richard Barrett and especially Charles Lister were his discussion partners - all agreed that "Assad must go" and make room for the al-Qaeda "rebels". Lister and Barrett are long known to be (well paid) propagandists for the Jihadis. Brooking Institute with its Qatar paid Doha outlet wrote the U.S. strategy for overthrowing (with the help of Jihadis) the Syrian and Iranian governments: WHICH PATH TO PERSIA? Options for a New American - Strategy toward Iran (pdf).

CNN produced the propaganda piece for the "Syrian rebels" aka al-Qaeda with the help of al-Qaeda's Bilal Abdul Kareem and with Clarissa Ward staring in an al-Qaeda bridal - or a sack. Her sympathies are with the terrorists.

bigger

Clarissa Ward spoke at a UN Security Council meeting about Aleppo. She spewed - not astonishingly - pure anti-Syrian propaganda.

The costume show won awards. But CNN never mentioned the help it got from the terrorist organization and its media frontman Bilal Abdul Kareem. Are they ashamed or do their managers fear to be put into jail for evidently supporting a terrorist organization?

Those are several cakes flying into many deserving faces.

Various think tanks are currently coming out on this or that side of the Qatar-Saudi Arabia spat. Here we have the Zionist propaganda shop Washington Institute blaming Qatar for financing al-Nusra/al-Qaeda in Syria. (Israel is currently allied with Saudi Arabia.) Unmentioned of course is the CIA's role of distributing the money from Qatar and Saudi Arabia in cash or in form of weapons and ammo, the Turkish role as transit and safe haven country for the Jihadis and Israel's own support, with artillery, airstrikes and medical services, for al-Qaeda in the Golan heights. The Saudi financing of the Islamic State, claimed by several U.S. officials (vid) and in Wikileaks documents<(A>, it not mentioned at all.

But more such dirt will come out in the coming days and weeks as Qatar and Saudi Arabia will continue to accuse each other of supporting terrorism. They don't even have to do it themselves. Several "think tanks" in Washington and London have long sold out to them. Here is a cheatsheet on which "western" think tank is financed by which side of the GCC spat. It helps to evaluate the various op-eds written in this or that Gulf-money financed propaganda office.

The Qatar-Saudi crisis will likely be with us for some time. As longer it takes as better for Syria. And as worse by the day for all of those propagandist in Washington and London who sold out to these states and the terrorists they support by writing damaging stuff about Syria. Their dirty laundry will be hung high in the streets.

Posted by b on June 16, 2017 at 04:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (53)

When Generals Make Policies - From Tactics To Strategy To Political Decision

June 13, 2017 - Mattis promises new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday promised to deliver a new military strategy for Afghanistan to lawmakers by mid-July, ...

June 15, 2017 - About 4,000 more US troops to go to Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. [...]

The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump's move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels ...

The U.S. has a problem with the former Marine General Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis thinks tactics, not strategy.

It makes little sense to send additional troops when one does not have a strategy they will have to serve. There is so far no other way to end the war in Afghanistan other than to simply pull out of it. The racket that the war has become can only be stopped by such a grand strategic decision. Sending troops before deciding on the strategy practically guarantees that the choice of a pull-out will be excluded from the evaluated possibilities. The tactical decision of sending more troops will drive the strategy.

Mattis already screwed up by allowing the U.S. Central Command to loudly stump around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq. The small al-Tanf garrison is legally very dubious and now surrounded on three sides. The only choices left are to pull out to Jordan or to start a big war with Syria, Russia and Iran. This could happen by accident. Some low officer on the ground making the decision to attack this or that Syria allied unit could launch a huge and ever escalating chain of events. A much bigger war is likely not what the Trump administration wants or needs. But to pull out will now be an acknowledgement that the tactical decision of deploying to al-Tanf was wrong and become a loss of face. Here again the tactics are driving the strategy:

Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around. Otherwise, the United States risks upending other elements of the war effort in Syria for ill-defined reasons. This may include expanding the role of an already over stretched Special Operations Command and more wear and tear on other elements of the U.S. military — all for ill-defined and unachievable goals. The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose ...

Mattis is liked by some because of his aggressive stance against Iran. His career is otherwise only remarkable for the massacres he was part in (Fallujah 2004). It is claimed that he owns 7,000 books. I doubt that he understood or even read them. To me he seems to be just one of dozens of rather mediocre general officers the U.S. military has produced. Such officers are incapable of making sound strategic decisions. They know how to run the military machine, but that is the easy part. They lack a real feel for diplomacy, economics and cultural issues. They are unable to see the world through the eyes of the other side. They never learned statecraft.

General McMaster, the current National Security Advisor, seems likewise a man of tactics, not strategy. How else can we explain that there is yet no consistency visible in any of the grand games the U.S. plays. The reaction to the flare up in the Gulf Cooperation Council was chaotic, no game plan has been shown for Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the "pivot to Asia" seems dead. The current policies are reactive and not part of a larger view or scheme.

The grand scheme should run from policy decision to (military) strategy and then down to the tactical decisions. What we see now are tactics driving a strategy and the strategy then driving the greater policies.

One may be grateful, especially as a foreigner, that U.S. foreign policy is in such a miserable state. But the damage that can occur due to a miscalculated tactical decisions or an emotional response to an event - without any thinking about the bigger picture - is likely bigger than the one any well chosen political strategy could cause.

Posted by b on June 16, 2017 at 09:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (82)

June 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-23

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 15, 2017 at 01:34 PM | Permalink | Comments (124)

June 14, 2017

The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

The United States will again escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years ago the U.S, invaded the country and decided to eliminate the ruling Taliban for something that was planed elsewhere by a different group. Since the invasion the U.S. tried to defeat the Taliban. It has lost that fight. As soon as it leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will be back in power. But no one is willing to pull the plug on the nonsensical military approach.

The Taliban are part of Afghanistan and a significant segment of the population supports them. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan it put the brutal and utterly corrupt warlords back into power. These were exactly the people the Taliban were created to hold down and the reason why they could take power in the first place. While demanding a strict religious life the Taliban successfully took care of local security and eliminated the lawless and corrupt rule of the warlords.

It is no wonder then that a large part of the population wishes to have them back in power.

The U.S. supported government in Kabul is utterly corrupt. The Afghan military and police the U.S. pays is likewise only motivated by money. It is not willing to fight. It takes high casualties during Taliban attacks and therefore avoids contact with them whenever possible. Some 60 % of the country is now more or less back under Taliban control. The government's say is restricted to the bigger cities.

It is obvious that this trend will continued and sooner or later the Taliban will be back in power. The only sensible strategy is to negotiate with them and to find some solution that allows them to rule while they guaranteeing that no harm will emanate from Afghanistan for the rest of the world.

But no one in the U.S. is willing to take responsibility for that. Who would want to be blamed for "neglecting" Afghanistan when another 9/11 happens - as unlikely as that might be? Therefore additional troops need to be send whenever the Taliban seem to gain the advantage over the puppet government forces.

President Trump has punted on the issue and has given full authority to the Defense Department to continue the war in Afghanistan with as many troops as it sees fit. It is now the generals, not Trump, who will be blamed should things in Afghanistan go wrong. But the military has no idea what to do about Afghanistan.

Yesterday the Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked during a Congress hearing what "winning" in Afghanistan would mean:

The idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.

Winning in Afghanistan is an "era of frequent skirmishes" in which the proxy government is continuously endangered? That does, of course, not make any sense. It is a holding strategy that will only work as long as the general framework stays the same. Should the Taliban change their strategy or a new actor come in the "holding" strategy will be finished.

One new actor is already there. An Afghan variant of the "Islamic State" just kicked out the Taliban from the Tora Bora cave complex near the Pakistani border. Tora Bora was once though to be the retreat area of Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin-Laden and was attacked during the U.S. invasion in 2001/2.

But who is behind the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) in Afghanistan? Most of its fighters seem to be former Taliban who either defected in Afghanistan or were kicked out of Pakistan when the Pakistani military put pressure on their home areas. The real question now is who pays them and what do they want?

Officially no one seems to know.

For the warlords in Afghanistan the U.S. occupation has become a huge source of money. The U.S. pays them for protecting the goods shipped in from the states  and elsewhere. It is a protection racket. Should the U.S. not pay, its convoys will be attacked by "Taliban". As soon as it pays the local warlords, the "Taliban" will be defeated and the area will be clear again for the trucks to pass. The money the Afghan government receives is likewise dependent on a continuation of the U.S. occupation. No one in the ruling class of Afghanistan has an interest in ending that. The government in Kabul will do nearly anything to keep its money source available.

That may well be the reason why ISIS in Afghanistan was created. It was feared in Kabul that sooner or later the U.S. would find a compromise with the Taliban and leave the country. A new reason had to be found to continue the war.

It is therefore not astonishing that the Afghan secret services, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was the first sponsor of "ISIS" in Afghanistan. The first "ISIS" fighters were refugees of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) who settled in the eastern province of Nangahar and were put on the NDS payroll:

The most well-known case of these militants finding a welcoming home in Nangarhar is that of the Lashkar-e Islam group led by Mangal Bagh.
...
Hoping to use them against Pakistan, the Afghan government started to woo some of these fighters, according to influential tribal elders involved in helping relation-building from the districts that sheltered the guest militants.
...
[E]fforts by the Afghan intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (NDS), to woo Pakistani militants in Nangarhar have not been confined to Lashkar-e Islam or to militants from Khyber. Tribal elders and ordinary residents of Achin, Nazian and Kot testify that fighters from Orakzai and Mohmand agencies belonging to different factions of the TTP have been allowed free movement across the province, as well as treatment in government hospitals.
...
It was from these ‘guests’ that the bulk of the Nangarhar-based ISKP foot soldiers emerged, following the official announcement of IS’s expansion to ‘Khorasan Province.’

It is not clear if or to what extend the "ISIS" group in Afghanistan is still controlled by the Afghan government services. Their weapon and ammunition supply is now allegedly coming from Pakistan. But what is clear is that these new participants in the war were first sponsored by the Afghan government and are now a welcome reasons for an extension of the U.S. occupation and the money flows originating from it. Meanwhile the media can reuse its old scary graphics of the Tora Bora complex and sell more advertisement.

The war in Afghanistan has no longer a real purposes. This or that radical group will always exist in Afghanistan. The war helps the U.S. military to claim more budget and to hand out promotions. It helps the Afghan government officials and the warlords to fill their pockets. What it does not do is to better the situation of the general population of Afghanistan or of the United States.

The war has become the proverbial self-licking-ice-cream-cone. It will unfortunately continue to be such under this and probably also the next U.S. presidents.

Posted by b on June 14, 2017 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (91)

June 13, 2017

Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

A look at recent developments in Syria. [Updated below June 14 1:00am EDT]


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached. The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north. The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat.

The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria. A large group of "rebels", which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east. But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.

The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.

In the north-west the Takfiri "rebel" groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri "rebels" in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.

In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Russian military bridging equipment recently started to arrive in Syria. It will be needed to cross the Euphrates and to recover the areas north of it.

Meanwhile U.S. supported Kurdish forces (yellow arrows) are attacking the ISIS held city of Raqqa. The Russian military command claims (video) that the Kurds and the U.S. made a deal with ISIS to let its fighters leave Raqqa towards the south and east. The fast progress the Kurds are making in taking the city supports that claim. There seems to be barely any Islamic State resistance left.

All ISIS forces left in Syria, those coming from Raqqa as well as those from the desert areas, are moving east along the Euphrates towards the city of Deir Ezzor. There as many as 100,000+ government aligned civilians and a Syrian army garrison have long been surrounded by ISIS forces. The besieged people are supplied by air drops. The Syrian military garrison has long held off the attacking ISIS forces. But with thousands of new Islamic State forces coming towards the city the government troops are in real danger of getting overwhelmed. Reinforcements must be flown into the city to keep ISIS off and to prevent a very large massacre. A much better alternative is a relief line on the ground. But the Syrian army race towards the city had been delayed by the U.S. shenanigans in the south. A new large ground move of government forces towards Deir Ezzor is in preparation. One can only hope that they arrive in time.

Qatari, Saudi and Turkish proxy forces, directed by the CIA, have waged a six year long war against Syria and its people. With Qatar and Turkey now in opposition to the Saudis and their U.S. allies, the gang that attacked Syria is falling apart. The Islamic State is shrinking fast and nearly defeated. The U.S. attempt to gain ground in the south has been stopped. Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over. Many areas still need to be recovered by Syrian forces. Terrorist attacks within the country will continue for several years. The wounds will take decades to heal. Negotiations will have to be held over areas in the north now under Turkish or U.S. (proxy) control. Further settlements will have to be reached. But the large scale strategic war against Syria has for now ended.

No one has won anything. The Kurds, which for while looked like the sole winner of the war, have just thrown away their gains.

The U.S. supported Kurdish forces of the YPG made the lunatic error of openly asking for support from Saudi Arabia. The anarcho-marxists of the YPG, always proudly showing off their feminism, are suddenly bowing down in front of the medieval Wahhabi nutters. They thus ruined their appearance of being a progressive leftist force. This move will reinforce Turkish and Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian animosity and hostility against them. All political advances they made during the war by staying mostly neutral between "rebels" and the Syrian government is now in jeopardy. The move is crazy. The Kurdish held area is completely surrounded by more or less hostile forces. U.S. or Saudi support for the land-locked and encircled Kurdish enclave is not sustainable over any longer time-frame. The Kurds have thus again demonstrated that they are their own worst enemies in their striving for a (semi-)sovereign Kurdish state. They will be thrown back into their original areas and again be folded up into the Syrian state.

[UPDATE:]

Secretary of Defense Mattis was questioned in Congress yesterday about the situation in Syria. There is no transcript yet but here are some tweets from a Stars & Stripes journalist who attended:

Tara Copp‏ @TaraCopp - 3:11 PM - 13 Jun 2017

#SecDef Mattis says "pro regime" forces that have moved into S. Syria near #AnTanf base are actually #Russian 1/2
#SecDef Mattis: "I did not anticipate that the #Russians would move there (near At Tanf.) ... it was not a surprise to our intel people."

The U.S. had claimed that the Syrian government aligned forces moving towards al-Tanf were "Iran backed" or "Iran led". Now the Secretary of Defense says that was a lie. They were Russians allied with the Syrian government. The Russians certainly do not take their orders from some Iranian generals. It is no wonder than that the Russian command issued strong warnings against any attacks on these forces.

Mattis also exposes that he is incapable of strategic thinking. He really believed that Russian would not move to al-Tanf to cover for their Syrian comrades? It has been clear your months now that the Russians are all-in in Syria. They will not let the Syrian government fall to make nice with Mattis or Trump or anyone else. The strategic issue for them is clear and has been for a while. They will fight. They said so. It was utterly stupid to believe anything else.

Al-Tanf is a tactical issue but the U.S. military elevates it to a strategic one. This is clearly not justified. We have to ask again what the possible gains for the U.S. are from defending that place in the empty desert. There is none to be had but defending it out of "principle" could evidently start a much bigger war.

[T]he Tanf garrison is now surrounded by hostile forces. The U.S. forces in the area would have to fight through regime positions to get to al Bukamal, further risking escalation.

What now? Is the United States prepared to protect these forces in perpetuity? Will the U.S. provide air cover for forces that clash directly with regime allied assets outside of the 55-kilometer zone? Did the previous three strikes prompt a counter-escalatory act that undermined U.S. interests? Sadly, the answer to the last question is yes.
...
Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around.
...
The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose, making a simple cost benefit analysis all but impossible.

That insight has obviously not yet reached the Defense Department and the U.S. command on the ground. The local U.S. commander moved a U.S. HIMARS long-range artillery system from Jordan to al-Tanf. HIMARS has a range of 300 kilometers. It makes no difference from a tactical perspective if its fires from Jordan or from al-Tanf in Syria some 12 kilometers east of the border line. It is a symbolic move to "show flag" in al-Tanf but it exposes the system to a legitimate attack by Syrian, Russian and Iranian forces.

As Secretary of State Tillerson rightly said: The U.S. has no legal authority to attack Syrian, Iranian or Russian forces. None at all. It is invading Syria with no legitimate reason. Syria, in contrast, has the legal authority to throw the U.S. troops out.

To move the HIMARS to al-Tanf is utterly stupid grandstanding. It is high time for Washington to shut such nonsense down.

Posted by b on June 13, 2017 at 02:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

June 11, 2017

E.J. Magnier - Why ISIS Will Persist

Elijah J. Magnier has decades of experience as foreign policy and war correspondent in the Middle East.

Here is an excerpt from his latest piece:

The danger of ISIS will remain even after the liberation of Syria and Iraq: why?

ISIS benefited from immeasurable experiences of sympathisers who chose to join the ranks; doctors, engineers, university degree holders and many from all walks of life, including experts with large competence in propaganda. Those served ISIS and managed to create a regular magazine, radios and short films in many languages. They integrate the widespread electronic games with pictures of battles and killing in real life. An abundance of informative materials emanates daily from ISIS through the Internet to deliver ideas and messages to every home and continent no group ever had access to before.
...
The way mainstream media is handling the war in Iraq and above all the war in Syria has had a devastating role and negative influence on various communities around the globe, mainly those previously considered as passive radicals but who never went into action. The media coverage has encouraged “lone wolves” and contributed to providing valid reasons for large convoys who joined in the exodus to “Caliphate land”. The media have helped mislead young people by adopting unverified and fake news related to the war in Syria, and in so doing, disregarded their responsibility towards the profession.
...
In all places, US soldiers were part of the events, on the ground or in the sky participating in regime changes, building military bases and occupying more territories but leaving behind a fertile ground for terrorist organisation to proliferate and grow, like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Still today the US and Europe have not learned from history and still want to occupy territory: they set up four new military bases in Syria and are prepared to plant roots in Bilad al-Sham under the excuse of recovering ISIS-occupied areas. But ISIS will not be totally annihilated and these new occupying forces will face stronger and more experienced insurgency: history will repeat itself.
...

More here ...

Posted by b on June 11, 2017 at 02:52 AM | Permalink | Comments (148)

June 09, 2017

Open Thread 2017-22

(Meta: Travel and family commitments will allow for only light (if any) posting over the weekend - b.)

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 9, 2017 at 08:30 AM | Permalink | Comments (198)

Corbyn's Success Will Revitalize Europe's Social-Democracy

My heartfelt congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and the social-democratic wing of the British Labour Party. You won the June 2017 election against huge resistance from the establishment even when Theresa May, for now, will continue to head the government.

AP: May’s UK election gamble backfires as Tories lose majority

Spectacularly punished by voters who took away her majority in parliament, a politically wounded Theresa May sought to soldier on Friday as Britain’s prime minister, resisting pressure to resign after the failure of her high-stakes election gamble made the massive challenge of untangling Britain from the European Union only more complex and uncertain.
...
With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, May’s bruised Conservatives had 318 seats — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority and well down from the 330 seats they had before May’s roll of the electoral dice. Labour has 261.
...
The results confounded those who said [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.
...
Many predicted [May] would soon be gone.

“Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government, then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative Party leader,” former Conservative Treasury chief George Osborne said on ITV.

May will now join into a coalition with the north-Irish conservative Democratic Union (DUP) which has won 12 seats in Parliament. Even then she will only have a slim majority. The DUP is tainted with some shady Saudi money involvement. We may well see another snap-election later this year.

Labour won the vote of the young people who turned out in high numbers. Most of the older people voted for the Tories. How will that development transfer into party percentages ten years from now?

Corbyn delivered the best results for Labour since at least 1997. This even though the Labour establishment and its media organs had defamed him since he was elected party leader in 2015. Consider the fake-leftist (and Zionist) columnist Nick Cohen, one of several of his kind in the Guardian columnist stable. Only three month ago Cohen wrote:

The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.

In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.

For the record: Labour won at least 261 seats, 31 more than in the last election. The Tories won 42.5% of the votes, Labour 40% - 10 percent points more than the last time. The British elections system transfers the small Tory advantage in voter share into a rather big difference in parliament seats.

The Corbyn win gives hope for future developments in other European countries. (The long-term trends are way more important than Brexit shenanigans.) Corbyn has proven that social-democratic parties can again be competitive if they shun the neo-liberal dogma and go back to their class based policy roots. The lesson comes too late for the elections in France and the upcoming elections in Germany. In both countries the establishment still rules the social-democratic parties and loses one election after the other. Like Labour in Britain they need a renewal in which real left-wing politicians and socialist policies move back to the top. (The U.S. would probably have made a comparable move if the party establishment had not sabotage Bernie Sanders in favor of an un-electable Hillary Clinton. Sanders though was probably a one-of-a kind chance that will not return for a long time.)

It will need some time for Jeremy Corbyn's win to transfer into a Europe wide renaissance of social-democratic policies. But his was a huge step forward and the movement and trend are coming along well.

Posted by b on June 9, 2017 at 08:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

June 08, 2017

News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Big stories are coming up today but I will have no time to extensively post on them. A short take:

The Conservatives in Britain will likely win today's elections - at least according to recent polls. This even as the Labour Party, under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn, will achieve its best results since "New Labour" under Tony Blair wreaked the party.

The unnecessary loss for Labour can be solely blamed on the media, especially the "liberal" ones like the Guardian, who viciously defamed and fought against Corbyn ever since he was elected to lead the party.

---

In hearings at the U.S. Congress the former director of the FBI Comey will do his best to put a bad light on Trump. Trump fired him, later than he should have done, for good reasons:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in U.S. elections] that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. [...]

That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar.

The anti-Trump media (which means about 90% of all) will push the Comey testimony as evidence for malfeasance by Trump even though nothing of that kind will be in there.

---

Micah Zenko writes that there is a danger that the Trump administration will wage war somewhere against someone as a diversion from the pressure it is under within Washington DC:

The academic findings are mixed on whether heads of government facing domestic vulnerability engage in such diversionary wars — uses of force to divert public attention and rally support for their leadership. [...] What seems clear, however, is that presidents are more likely to engage in such diversions when they are inherently distrustful and perceive the world in simplistic black-and-white terms — a perfect characterization of Trump.

The other potential outcome to consider for the Trump administration’s conduct of foreign policy is for an embattled president to become further and further detached while remaining in office. [...] Since Trump has already bestowed “total authorization” to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, it is not unimaginable that the Pentagon chief could be notifying a president who has retreated to one of his properties of meaningful military decisions already underway.

Both cases are indeed possible - the second one seems more likely to me. War is also exactly what many of the people and lobbies who peddle the evidence-free "Russian hacking" stories want. Trump campaigned for détente with Russia. The "Russian election interference" campaign is designed to prevent that. The War on Russia or war on Iran are their favorite outcomes. Open war on Syria, North Korea or some yet developing crisis also have good chances to conquer the headlines.

Further leaks and scandals could increase the political pressure on Trump to such a degree that he resigns. But, while hoping or assuming this happens, it would be a grave mistake to ignore U.S. foreign-policy commitments and activities, and any shifts they might undergo under the influence of scandal.

A huge problem is the incompetence of the White House foreign policy shop and especially its National Security Council. To blame Iran for yesterday's ISIS attacks in Tehran is vile and scandalous. This will come back to hurt the U.S. To release a statement about a phone call with the "Crown Prince Mohamed Bin Zayet Al Nayhan of the United Arab Emirates" is blatant incompetence. A diligent reading of the names unveils that the "United Emirates" are a federation of emirates just as the "United States" are a federation of states. There is no kingdom of the UAE. There is some crown prince of the emirate of Abu Dhabi who has a bit of informal say within the UAE but there are also six other emirates with other crown princes and a federal UAE government structure in which the crown prince of Abu Dhabi only plays a minor role. The UAE structure is fragile. The federation could easily blow up over the current crisis with Qatar. The incompetent White House statement increases that chance.

Posted by b on June 8, 2017 at 04:48 AM | Permalink | Comments (173)

June 07, 2017

The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Many people believe that Qatar will soon give in to recent Saudi demands and threats. I first though so too but have changed my opinion. Qatar will likely hold out way longer than anyone assumes and fight more intensive and much longer than foreseen.

The Saudi "young leader" has now given Qatar 24 hours to submit to 10 demands. These include (unconfirmed) the dismantling of Al Jazeera, breaking off of all diplomatic relations with Iran and (the Israeli demand of) ending all support for the Muslim Brotherhood and especially Hamas. The Saudis threaten with a military invasion.

But Qatar is not like Bahrain where 1,000 Saudi troops could easily take over to save a dictator from a mostly unarmed uprising of its people. It has way more resources and capable allies on its side and recent news shows that it knows how to use them.

Two days ago we extensively described the complex conflict between Qatar and some of its neighbors that has recently been escalating. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main forces on one side, joined yesterday by Donald Trump but not by the Pentagon. On the other side is Qatar, geographically isolated and seemingly without any real allies even though it hosts a very large U.S. command center and air-base.

The conflict has been simmering for years. Qatar has a strong media arm with Al Jazeera TV and other prominent news outlets. Qatar and its media support the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood which won elections in Egypt before being kicked out in a Saudi financed military coup. The ruling Turkish AK Party is a Muslim Brotherhood branch as is Hamas in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood parties have thereby proven that it's possible to have an Islam(ist) aligned government without a hereditary dictatorship. Their pure existence de-legitimates the al-Saud clan and other dictatorial family enterprises in the wider Middle East.

There is little reason to waste tears on Qatar. It is a small country with only 200,000 original inhabitants but with 2,000,000 expatriates living there too. Thanks to its large natural gas reserves Qatar is ultra rich and has a very modern (but also vulnerable) infrastructure. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Its cities are somewhat cosmopolitan. Unlike in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive and other religions than Islam can build their places of worship. But the rulers of Qatar officially follow the same ultraconservative and proselytizing Wahhabi cult as the al-Sauds. They support terrorists of the worst kind in the war against the Syrian people and elsewhere (just as the al-Sauds do).

The Saudis currently lack money. Oil prices are too low to finance the needs of its 26 million people and the exorbitant expenditures of its ruling family. The Qatari gas fields would be a very profitable extension of their oil empire. The UAE would like to take over strategic Qatari islands in the Gulf (and the hydrocarbon fields around them). Taking over Qatar would bring both countries into a better position to fight their presumed enemy in Iran.

As we wrote:

The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.

I have since changed my opinion and said so in a few conversation on Twitter. Qatar will hold out way longer than anticipated. It may not fold at all:

Elijah J. Magnier‏ @EjmAlrai - 2:03 PM - 6 Jun 2017
If @realDonaldTrump is suddenly discovering that "Qatar is financing terrorism" it means he is ready to move forward beyond his statement.
Trump's statement will push #Qatar to speed-up the reconciliation w/ #SaudiArabia (through #Kuwait) to save its skin.

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA - 2:21 PM - 6 Jun 2017
Replying to @EjmAlrai
I do not yet bet on Qatar reconciliation - still has lots of cards to play. Saudis demand total capitulation. Crisis can extend for a while.

---

salamamoussa @salamamoussa - 4:36 PM - 6 Jun 2017
This is good from @Ibishblog But my bet is that #Qatar goes full frontal & becomes an Iranian client
Qatar crisis: a regional schism that’s been years in the making

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA - 5:35 PM - 6 Jun 2017
Replying to @salamamoussa @Ibishblog
Agree with your bet but note that most other people don't.

Hussein Ibish‏ @Ibishblog - 5:44 PM - 6 Jun 2017
Replying to @MoonofA @salamamoussa
They might try it but it won't work or last. No way, unless Washington agrees. You think it would? I'm SURE not!

Moon of Alabama‏ @MoonofA - 5:49 PM - 6 Jun 2017
Replying to @Ibishblog @salamamoussa
Strategy must be
-set up defenses; -muddle issues; -skirmish; -sew discord into Saudi coal.; -wait til times/policies change; meanwhile:
[bigger]

The map (source unknown) shows Qatar having moved from the Arab coast of the Gulf to the Persian one.

Our piece on the Qatar crisis two days ago also included this graph:

For Iran this is a chance to further blow up the GCC by intensifying its relations with Qatar. It could increase its food exports to the country and host Qatar airline flights. This in exchange for a Qatari retreat from Syria. The U.S./Saudi plan of confronting Iran through the GCC would then be in complete jeopardy.

Iran did exactly what I proscribed - NBC:

A top Iranian agricultural official responded by announcing Monday that Iran could send food shipments to Qatar by ship. He said the shipments would take 12 hours to reach Qatar. It is not known if any shipments have yet arrived.
...
An Iranian transportation official said Tuesday that Qatari flights bound to North Africa and Europe that used to cross Saudi, Egyptian or Kuwaiti airspace can now travel over Iran, Iraq and Jordan. Flights to Northern Europe can cross Iran.

Today Qatar officially asked Iran and Turkey for additional food supplies. [Update June 8, 1:00am - Turkish freighter planes with fresh food just landed in Qatar.]

But Iran can not send military support to Qatar - at least not openly and not yet. The Yemeni Houthi, who until very recently fought against Qatari soldiers on the Saudi side of the Yemeni border, now offer their support to Qatar. The Muslim Brotherhood ruled Turkey had planned since 2015 to set up a large "training base" in Qatar. Currently only 150 Turkish soldiers are there to prepare the ground. That will soon change:

Lawmakers from Erdogan's AK Party have proposed debating two pieces of legislation: allowing Turkish troops to be deployed in Qatar and approving an accord between the two countries on military training cooperation, AKP and nationalist opposition officials said.

Both draft bills, which were drawn up before the spat between Qatar and its Arab neighbours erupted, are expected to be approved by the Ankara parliament later on Wednesday.

[Update June 8, 1:00am - The laws passed in record time. I expect additional Turkish troops in Qatar within 24 hours.]

The large Qatar Airways fleet is able to bring 10,000nds of Turkish troops to Qatar within days. It is somewhat amusing that these will use Iranian airspace while Iran financed proxy fighters in Syria are fighting Turkish and Qatari supported "insurgents".

The Saudi/U.S. strategy of bringing Qatar fully into the anti-Iran and anti-Muslim Brotherhood camps seems to have the opposite effect.

The U.S. controlled Al-Udeid air-base in Qatar is leading the fight against ISIS. The Pentagon surely does not want any interruption of its functioning. Many buildings and institutions in London are owned by Qatar. 90% of British gas imports, 17% of its total consumption, comes from Qatar. Qatar is an important industrial investor in Germany where it owns the largest minority share of the huge Volkswagen Group. It has friendly relations with Russia. Yesterday the Qatari Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani talked with President Putin:

Russian-Qatari cooperation, primarily in the trade, economic and investment areas, was discussed, and the results of the meeting of the bilateral Intergovernmental Commission in April 2017 were highly praised.

International issues were also discussed. Vladimir Putin reaffirmed Russia’s principled position in favour of settling crises by political and diplomatic means, through dialogue.

Translation: Qatar offered additional money for Russia's support. A preliminary deal was made but there was no promise (yet) of full Russian support in a military conflict.

The Saudi coalition may have the backing of minor (paid off) nations and from tweets by Donald Trump. But the U.S. military is against a Saudi war on Qatar. It does not want to strengthen the Saudi position in the Gulf at the cost of other allies. The British government and other Europeans have also many reasons to not let Qatar fall into the hands of the al-Sauds. 

Qatar is quite fast in getting its ducks into a row. It quickly solved the most immediate problems resulting from the Saudi border blockade. It called in Turkish military reinforcement to stave of a Saudi invasion. Iranian and Russian (military) supplies will be very valuable in any longer fight. Europe will not back the Saudis and will not support a Saudi annexation. It will press for solving the issue peacefully. Qatar has enough financial capabilities and reserves to withstand a longer crisis.

There is no reason for Qatar to give in soon to the overbearing Saudi demands. The ruling "young leader" - Deputy Clown Prince Mohammad bin-Salman - has (again) overestimated his capabilities. The Saudis were sure that Bashar Assad in Syria would leave in 2011 or 2012. The Houthis in Yemen would be defeated in a few days or weeks they thought. Years and billions of Saudi dollars later both are still in place.

Now the Qatari ruler Tamim bin Hamad is expected to fold in a day or two. Qatar may eventually have to submit to the Saudi demands and rule, but I sincerely doubt that this will happen anytime soon.

Posted by b on June 7, 2017 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (104)

June 06, 2017

Do Not Trust The Intercept or How To Burn A Source

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.


Intercepted source - R.L. Winner

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The documents proved that the NSA is hacking and copying nearly all electronic communication on this planet, that it was breaking laws that prohibited spying on U.S. citizen and that it sabotages on a large scale various kinds of commercial electronic equipment. Snowden gave copies of the NSA documents to a small number of journalists. One of them was Glenn Greenwald who now works at The Intercept. Only some 5% of the pages Snowden allegedly acquired and gave to reporters have been published. We have no idea what the unpublished pages would provide.

The Intercept, a subdivision of First Look Media, was founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. Omidyar is a billionaire and "philanthropist" who's (tax avoiding) Omidyar Network foundation is "investing" for "returns". Its microcredit project for farmers in India, in cooperation with people from the fascists RSS party, ended in an epidemic of suicides when the farmers were unable to pay back. The Omidyar Network also funded (fascist) regime change groups in Ukraine in cooperation with USAID. Omidyar had cozy relations with the Obama White House. Some of the held back NSA documents likely implicate Omidyar's PayPal.

The Intercept was funded with some $50 million from Omidyar. Its first hires were Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras - all involved in publishing the Snowden papers and other leaks. Its first piece was based on documents from the leaked NSA stack. It has since published on this or that but not in a regular media way.  The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some were highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. The website seems to have no regular publishing schedule at all. Between one and five piece per day get pushed out, only a few of them make public waves. Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing. Despite its rich backing and allegedly high pay for its main journalists (Greenwald is said to receive between 250k and 1 million per year) the Intercept is begging for reader donations.

Yesterday's published story (with bylines of four(!) reporters) begins:

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The NSA "intelligence report" the Intercept publishes alongside the piece does NOT show that "Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack". The document speaks of "cyber espionage operations" - i.e someone looked and maybe copied data but did not manipulate anything. Espionage via computer networks is something every nation in this world (and various private entities) do all the time. It is simply the collection of information. It is different from a "cyberattack" like Stuxnet which are intended to create large damage,

The "attack" by someone was standard spearfishing and some visual basic scripts to gain access to accounts of local election officials. Thee is no proof that any account was compromised. Any minor criminal hacker uses similar means. No damage is mentioned in the NSA analysis. The elections were not compromised by this operation. The document notes explicitly (p.5) that the operation used some techniques that distinguish it from other known Russian military intelligence operations. It was probably -if at all- done by someone else.

The reporters note that the document does not provide any raw intelligence. It is an analysis based on totally unknown material. It does not include any evidence for the claims it makes. The Intercept piece describes how the document was received and "verified":

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, ...
...
The NSA and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence were both contacted for this article. Officials requested that we not publish or report on the top secret document and declined to comment on it. When informed that we intended to go ahead with this story, the NSA requested a number of redactions. The Intercept agreed to some of the redaction requests.

The piece quotes at length the well known cyber security expert Bruce Schneier. It neglects to reveal that Schneier is a major partisan for Clinton who very early on, in July 2016, jumped on her "Russia hacked the Democratic National Council" claim for which there is still no evidence whatsoever.

The Intercept story was published on June 5. On June 3 the FBI already received a search warrant (pdf) by the U.S. District court of southern Georgia for the home, car and computers of one Reality Leigh Winner, a 25 year old former military language specialist (Pashto, Dari, Farsi) who worked for a government contractor. In its application for the warrant the FBI asserted:

19. On or about May 24, 2017, a reporter for the News Outlet (the "Reporter") contacted another U.S. Government Agency affiliate with whom he has a prior relationship. This individual works for a contractor for the U.S. Government (the "Contractor"). The Reporter contacted the Contractor via text message and asked him to review certain documents. The Reporter told the Contractor that the Reporter had received the documents through the mail, and they were postmarked "Augusta. Georgia." WINNER resides in Augusta, Georgia. The Reporter believed that the documents were sent to him from someone working at the location where WINNER works. The Reporter took pictures of the documents and sent them to the Contractor. The Reporter asked the Contractor to determine the veracity of the documents. The Contractor informed the Reporter that he thought that the documents were fake. Nonetheless, the Contractor contacted the U.S. Government Agency on or about June 1, 2017, to inform the U.S. Government Agency of his interaction with the Reporter. Also on June I. 2017, the Reporter texted the Contractor and said that a U.S Government Agency official had verified that the document was real. ...

To verify the leaked document the reporter contacted a person working for the government. He used insecure communication channels (SMS) that are known to be tapped. He provided additional meta-information about the leaker that was not necessary at all for the person asked to verify the documents.

It got worse:

13. On June I, 2017, the FBI was notified by the U.S. Government Agency that the U.S. Government Agency had been contacted by the News Outlet on May 30, 2017, regarding an upcoming story. The News Outlet informed the U.S Government Agency that it was in possession of what it believed to be a classified document authored by the U.S Government Agency. The News Outlet provided the U.S. Government Agency with a copy of this document. Subsequent analysis by the U.S. Government Agency confirmed that the document in the News Outlet's possession is intelligence reporting dated on or about May 5. 2017 (the "intelligence reporting"). This intelligence reporting is classified at the Top Secret level, ...
...
14. The U.S. Government Agency examined the document shared by the News Outlet and determined the pages of the intelligence reporting appeared to be folded and/or creased,suggesting they had been printed and hand-carried out of a secured space.

15. The U.S. Government Agency conducted an internal audit to determine who accessed the intelligence reporting since its publication. The U.S. Government Agency determined that six individuals printed this reporting. These six individuals included WINNER. A further audit of the six individuals' desk computers revealed that WINNER had e-mail contact with the News Outlet. The audit did not reveal that any of the other individuals had e-mail contact with the News Outlet.

The source that provided the document had no operational security at all. She printed the document on a government printer. All (color) printers and photo copiers print nearly invisible (yellow) patters on each page that allow to identify the printer used by its serial number. The source used email from her workplace to communicate. Ms. Winner is young, inexperienced and probably not very bright. (She is also said to be Clinton partisan.) She may not have known better.

But a reporter at The Intercept should know a bit or two about operational security. Sending (and publishing) the leaked documents as finely scanned PDF's (which include (de) the printer code) to the NSA to let the NSA verify them was incredibly stupid. Typically one only summarize these or at least converts them into a neutral, none traceable form. Instead the reporters provided at several points and without any need the evidence that led to the unmasking of their source. Wikileaks is offering $10,000 for the exposure and firing of the person responsible for this.

It is also highly questionable why the Intercept contacted the NSA seven days(!) before publishing its piece. Giving the government such a long reaction time may lead to preemptive selective leaks by the government to other news outlets to defuse the not yet published damaging one. It may give the government time to delete evidence or to unveil leakers. The Intercept certainly knows this. It had been burned by such behavior when the National Counterterrorism Center spoiled an Intercept scoop by giving a polished version to the Associate Press. Back then the Intercept editor John Cook promised to give government agencies no longer than 30 minutes for future replies. In this case it gave the NSA seven days!

Besides the failure(?) of The Intercept there are other concerns to note.

  • Why has a 25 year old language specialist for Afghanistan access to Top Secret NSA analysis of espionage in the U.S. election? Where was the "need to know"?
  • Could this espionage -if it happened- have been part of a different plan by whomever? Consider:
@mattblaze
Simple way to hack elections: Compromise some county offices & systems. Do nothing. If election doesn’t go your way, reveal that you hacked.
10:52 PM - 5 Jun 2017

More additional question are asked in this thread.

The lessons learned from this catastrophic -for the source- leak:

  • Start thinking of good op-sec before you think of leaking.
  • Computer access gets logged. Do not leave any suspicious (log) trace at your workplace (or anywhere else).
  • Do not provide any trace from your immediate workplace or any personal metadata with the leaked material.

And last but certainly not least:

  • Do not trust The Intercept.

Posted by b on June 6, 2017 at 06:09 AM | Permalink | Comments (150)

June 05, 2017

"The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"

Emboldened by U.S. backing Saudi Arabia launched a campaign to finally subjugate Qatar into client state status. The plan has now reached a high point. A few hours ago Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia severed all ties with Qatar.

All sea- and airspace have been closed for Qatari traffic and the land-routes severed. All Qataris will have to leave those countries within 14 days. Qatari diplomats were given just 48 hours.

The immediate consequences are huge. Some 37 million passengers cross through Doha each year. But Qatar Airways now has to fly through Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish airspace to reach Europe. (If the situation persists the UAE owned Emirates Airways will likely order a huge bunch of new planes.) Half of the food in Qatar comes via Saudi Arabia through Qatar's only land border. 600-800 trucks per day can no longer pass. The 19 flights per day between Doha and Dubai are called off.  Oil prices rose some 1.6% and the Qatari stock exchange tanked.

The reasons for the immediate spat are manifold. It has only little to do with Iran.

The Saudis accuse Qatar of supporting terrorists. That is like Britain accusing the U.S. of imperialism, or the mafia cutting ties with the mob over gangsterism. As Joe Biden remarked (vid) when still Vice President, both Wahhabi countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been funding and fueling terrorism in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But the Saudi view is that the more "liberal" Qatar is simply supporting the "wrong" kind of terrorists.

The Qatari government and its mouthpiece Al-Jazeera installed and supported the Muslim Brotherhood government in Egypt. The Saudis put that government down by financing a military coup against it. Qatar is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood government of Turkey. It is supporting the Palestinian Hamas, also a Muslim Brotherhood affiliate. Qatar is financing various al-Qaeda aligned groups in Libya, Syria and Afghanistan. The Taliban have their only diplomatic mission in Doha. Until recently the Saudis have been financing ISIS. They are now mainly back at financing various other Jihadi groups in Syria under CIA control. The UAE is sponsoring the Libyan general Hiftar who is fighting Qatari supported al-Qaeda aligned groups. The Saudis are making nice with Israel and have no interest in the Palestinian cause which Qatar supports.

There are diverting interests in hydrocarbons. Qatar is the world's biggest exporter of natural gas - a serious competition to Saudi oil exports. It has recently intensified its relations with other producers and customers in the Gulf region and beyond.

More local and personal dimensions of the spat include many intermarriages and competitions between Saudi and Qatari tribes and families. There are rumors that significant tribal groups in the Saudi's Najd desert, especially the al-Tamim, have recently renewed their ties to Qatar under its current emir Prince Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani. This was an "in your face" for the al-Sauds.

Oman and Kuwait have taken no position in the fight and try to mediate. Turkey is allied with Qatar but has stayed suspiciously quiet. There is a new defense agreement between Qatar and Turkey promising Turkish support if Qatar is attacked. The Turkish military has a base in Qatar with some 600 soldiers. A huge share of foreign investment in Turkey has come from Qatar. The Turkish and Qatari government coordinate tightly in their common support for al-Qaeda and other Takfiris in the war on Syria.

The current standoff between Qatar and other Arab countries in the Gulf Cooperation Council were enabled by the Trump administration:

Whereas the Obama administration sought to enhance U.S. engagement with the GCC as a bloc, Trump focused instead on Saudi Arabia and the UAE as the twin pillars of its regional approach. Strong bonds reportedly have formed between Trump’s adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia as well as Yusuf al-Otaiba, the influential UAE ambassador in Washington.

Key principals within the Trump administration, such as Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, hold views on Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood that are virtually indistinguishable from those in Riyadh and Abu Dhabi.

Trump fell into a Saudi-Israeli trap. The Pentagon hawks have dreamed of an "Arab NATO" to fight Iran. The envisioned "Arab NATO" may soon have its first war but it will be against one of its members. The (not-satanic) "Orb" show and the unlimited U.S. support for Saudi Arabia have exacerbated the fissures within the GCC and will hinder any common operations.

The U.S. military has huge interests in Qatar and other Gulf countries. Al-Udeid in Qatar is the biggest U.S. airbase in the Middle East. It is also the forward headquarter of the U.S. Central Command with some 10,000 U.S. soldiers and leads the fight against ISIS. The U.S. Navy fifth fleet is hosted in nearby Bahrain which has now declared a cold war with Qatar. Any spat or difficulty between the Gulf countries hinders U.S. military operations.

In Washington an intense Saudi and UAE lobbying campaign against Qatar has been ongoing for months. A Saudi lobbyist threatened the Qatari ruler with the "same fate as Egypt's Morsi". In a reprisal hacked emails between the UAE ambassador Yusuf al-Otaiba and Israeli lobbying organizations in Washington were recently published. The documents show that the Zionist lobby organization "Foundation for the Defense of Democracy" is advising the dictatorship of the UAE on how to fight the dictatorship of Qatar.

At the end of the "orb" show the Saudis and the U.S. pushed a document declaring various organizations and Iran "terrorist supporters." Qatar refused to sign it. Saudi clerics then declared that the Qatari al-Thani rulers are no longer considered to be "part of the Abdel Wahhab clan". That takes away the Wahhabi rulers religious legitimacy.

Qatar had tried to calm the situation down. It announced that six of its soldiers had been wounded while fighting for the Saudis near Yemen. It expelled a few Hamas leaders from the country. A mediator was sent to Kuwait - so far to no avail. 

The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.

For Iran this is a chance to further blow up the GCC by intensifying its relations with Qatar. It could increase its food exports to the country and host Qatar airline flights. This in exchange for a Qatari retreat from Syria. The U.S./Saudi plan of confronting Iran through the GCC would then be in complete jeopardy.


The Imam says: "More popcorn please."

No matter how the spat with Qatar ends, the GCC unity has (again) been exposed as a sham. It can not be repaired. Saudi "leadership" is shown to be just brutal bullying and will be resisted. U.S. plans for a united GCC under Saudi leadership and U.S. control are in shambles.

The linch pin of all this is the Saudi war on Yemen. The Saudis support the Hadi puppet government of Yemen and two years ago aligned the other Gulf states, including Qatar, to fight against the Houthi in north Yemen. They accuse the Houthi of receiving Iranian support. There is zero evidence for that claim. The war and the coalition have failed. Houthi resistance continues unabated. With Yemen sinking into a famine thanks to a Saudi border blockade and a Cholera epidemic rapidly extending, the war must come to a close. Kuwait, Oman and Qatar are talking with the Houthi in Sanaa. Last week troops from the UAE used helicopters to again fight Saudi supported militia around the southern airport in Aden. The U.S. and Britain urge for the war to end and, behind closed doors, threaten to withdraw their support for it. The Saudi under their new leadership overestimate their capabilities. So did Trump when he raised their role. The Saudi "apes with Macbooks" do not have the capabilities needed for a serious political actor in this world. Their money can paper over that for only so long.

The above all reminds of a prediction made nearly two years ago by a Yemeni lawyer in Sanaa :

@Bafana3
At the end of this war on #Yemen, the GCC states led by Saudi Arabia will collapse into oblivion. I do not know what will replace them.
9:29am · 15 Aug 2015

Posted by b on June 5, 2017 at 06:50 AM | Permalink | Comments (199)

June 04, 2017

Theresa May Says "Enough Is Enough" - We Agree - Remove Her From Office

Some links on Britain - the terror attacks and the upcoming election:

BBC: British rebels attack Theresa May's strongholds in London

That is what the headline of BBC should have been yesterday and today. That is the way it reported when the "rebels" were "Syrians" and the attacks occurred in Damascus. Was that not objective? Why change it now?

Related to the Manchester attack John Pilger asks: What did the Prime Minister Know? (vid)

He points out, as we did, that Theresa May was Home Secretary when control orders were lifted to allow Libyan Takfiris move from Britain to Libya to destroy that country. Half of those came back, well trained, and one killed 22 people in Manchester. A blowback from May's personal decision to sent well known terrorists into British proxy wars. Now she says there is "too much tolerance of extremism"? Who tolerated these?

The current Home Secretary is no better: Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism

That is the typical response of authoritarian rulers when their shady deals are openly discussed and their competence is questioned: more censorship: Theresa May calls on internet companies to eradicate 'safe spaces' for extremism in wake of London Bridge terror attack

Is the London Bridge a web server? Were the "safe spaces" on the internet used to attacked it? Or are the "safe spaces" the ones used to question Britain's and May's lucrative love affair with terrorist financing Wahhabi nuts in Saudi Arabia and Qatar? For an even deeper dive read You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

May's collusion with the terror sponsors is not allowed to be officially known or discussed: Home Office may not publish terrorist funding report amid claims it focuses on Saudi Arabia - Inquiry is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which the UK recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to.

It would be bad for business to publicly acknowledge the real sources of Takfiri terrorism. A few dozens Brits here and there, in Manchester and London, will have to die every now and then to keep the shareholders of BAE Systems and other British arm producers happy. Jermey Corbyn would likely change that. He called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.

London attack: Theresa May says 'things need to change' Prime Minister Theresa May: 'enough is enough' (vid)

We hope that the British voters will agree with her. Thinks need to change. Enough is enough. Vote May out of office. End the cushy relations with the medieval dictatorships of the Arab peninsula.

A change of leadership in Britain is well possible if the young Labour voters turn out in large numbers. Those British who want to end the terror against others and against themselves must now help to achieve that.

Posted by b on June 4, 2017 at 01:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (109)

June 03, 2017

Open Thread 2017-21

News & views ...

Posted by b on June 3, 2017 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (149)

June 02, 2017

France Debunks "Russian Hacking" Claims - Clinton Again Loses It

In April the New York Times, published this bullshit: Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report.
...
Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.

The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one onedrive-en-marche.fr and another mail-en-marche.fr to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche.

Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group. American and European intelligence agencies and American private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year.

The "Macron attack" was very curious. Gigabytes of campaign emails were released by "the hackers" just hours before a media silence period before the election. The campaign immediately found fakes with Cyrillic markings and blamed "Russia". None of the released emails contained anything that was even remotely scandalous. It was likely a planned Public Relations stunt, not a cyber attack.

That NYT report was complete nonsense. The "cybersecurity firm" it quoted was peddling snake oil. Phishing attacks are daily occurrences, mostly by amateurs. Phishing emails are not cyber attacks. They are simply letters which attempt to get people to reveal their passwords or other secrets. They are generally not attributable at all. Likewise APT's, "Advanced Persistent Threats", are not "groups" but collections of methods that can be copied and re-used by anyone. After their first occurrence "in the wild" they are no longer attributable.

That isn't just me saying so. It is the head of France's cyber security agency:

The head of the French government's cyber security agency, which investigated leaks from President Emmanuel Macron's election campaign, says they found no trace of a notorious Russian hacking group behind the attack.

In an interview in his office Thursday with The Associated Press, Guillaume Poupard said the Macron campaign hack "was so generic and simple that it could have been practically anyone."

He said they found no trace that the Russian hacking group known as APT28, blamed for other attacks including on the U.S. presidential campaign, was responsible.
...
Poupard says the attack's simplicity "means that we can imagine that it was a person who did this alone. They could be in any country."

If, as the NYT claims, the authors of the attack on the Macron campaign were the same as in the Clinton case then the Clinton campaign was likely not hacked by Russians.

That will of course not hinder Clinton to claim that "the Russians" were the ones who caused her to lose the election. Clinton has by now listed 24 guilty persons and organizations that caused her loss. She is not one of them.

In her latest Clinton

suggested that Russia or Trump were somehow behind a deliberate inflation of his numbers of twitter followers through the use of bots, because [Trump's] European and Middle East tour had been a flop.

'Who is behind driving up Trump's twitter followers by the millions?' she said.

'We know they're bots. Is it to make him look more popular than he is? Is it to influence others? What is the message behind this?

The Clinton claim of "driving up Trump's twitter followers by the millions" is fake news based on a hoax. Twitter Audit, where Clinton got the bot numbers from (h/t @LutWitt), says that of the current 15 million plus followers of @HillaryClinton only 48%, or 7,605,960, are real and 8,108,833 fake.

For the @realDonaldTrump account Twitter Audit finds that 51% of its 30 million+ followers are real. Not a great margin but still better than Clinton.

Clinton once famously said "We came, we saw, he died" and laughed (vid). She was talking about the murder of Muhammad Ghaddafi of Libya. She still does not understand why people might be turned off by her vile character. She should take more time to talk with her daughter. Chelsea for one does not like gags about killing presidents:


Hillary Clinton lost it (vid - see her off-the-meds rants on the election starting at 12:00 min). She needs a vacation on some lone island and a long period of silences in some remote cloister. Anything she adds now only reflects badly on her.

Posted by b on June 2, 2017 at 02:21 AM | Permalink | Comments (55)

 
Site Meter