Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
December 31, 2017

A Happy 2018 To All Moonkind

Dear readers and commentators,

thank you for coming here, reading and discussing about the events of our world.

I wish for a happy new year for you and everyone else.

A Happy New Year to all moonkind!

Posted by b on December 31, 2017 at 12:15 PM | Permalink | Comments (45)

Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

In Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests we looked at the developing U.S.-Israeli operation to instigate a revolt in Iran. What follows are a few more background points and a view on the developments since. A color revolution or revolt in Iran have only little chances of success. But even as the fail they can be used as pretext for additional sanctions and other anti-Iranian measures. The current incidents are thus only one part of a much larger plan.

The "western" democracies are used to distinguish political parties as left or right with fixed combinations of economic and cultural policies. The "left" is seen as preferring a social economy that benefits the larger population and as cultural liberal or progressive. The right is seen as cultural conservative with a preference for a free market economy that favors the richer segments of a nation.

The political camps in Iran are different.

The simplified version: The conservatives, or "principalists", are cultural conservative but favor economic programs that benefit the poor. Their support base are the rural people as well as the poorer segments of the city dwellers. The last Iranian president near to them was Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. One of his major policies was the implementation of cash payments to the needy as replacement of general and expensive subsidies on oil products and foodstuff. The current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is a member of the "reformist" camp. His support base are the merchants and the richer parts of the society. He is culturally (relative) progressive but his economic polices are neoliberal. The new budget he introduced for the next year cuts back on the subsidies for the poor Ahmedinejad had introduced. It will increase prices for fuel and basic food stuff up to 30-40%.

The protests on December 28 and 29 were about these and other economic issues. Such protests have regularly occurred in Iran throughout the decades. But the current ones were soon hijacked by small groups which chanted slogans against the Iranian system and against the strong Iranian engagement in Syria and Palestine. These are not majority positions of the 80 million inhabitants of Iran:

According to the poll, 67.9% say Iran should increase backing for anti-IS groups, up from 59.8% a year ago. Meanwhile, a majority of 64.9% backs the deployment of Iranian military personnel to Syria to help the regime of Bashar al-Assad, up slightly from 62.7% a year ago.

The small groups that hijacked the protests against Rouhani's economic polices were heavily promoted by the usual suspects of U.S. influence operations. Avaaz, the RAND cooperation, Human Rights Watch and others immediately jumped onto the bandwagon. (True to form HRW's Ken Roth used a picture of a pro-government rally to illustrate the much smaller anti-government protests.) The smaller groups that hijacked and publicized the demonstration seem well coordinated. But they are far from a genuine movement or even a majority.

On the morning of December 30 large demonstrations in support of the Iranian republic were taking place in several cities. In Tehran several thousand people took part.


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The self described "Iran junkie" of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, Suzanne Maloney, interpreted these as counter-demonstrations to the small gatherings the night before:

Suzanne Maloney‏ @MaloneySuzanne - 12:40 PM - 30 Dec 2017

The Islamic Republic has a well-oiled machine for mobilizing pro-regime rallies (Rouhani himself headlined one in 1999 after student protests.) What's interesting is that it was deployed almost immediately this time.

The "Iran junkie" and "expert" did not know that yearly pro-government demonstrations are held in Iran on each 9th of Dey (Iranian calender) since 2009 and are planned well in advance. They commemorate the defeat of the CIA color revolution attempt in 2009. That attempt had followed the reelection of the president Ahmedinejad. It had used the richer segment of the Iranian society in north Tehran as its stooges. It is not yet clear what social strata, if any, this attempt is using.

In June 2009 Brookings Institute published a manual on how to overthrow the Iranian government or to take control of the country. "Iran junkie" Maloney was one of the authors. WHICH PATH TO PERSIA? - Options for a New American Strategy toward Iran (pdf) came in four parts:

  • Part I - Dissuading Tehran: The Diplomatic options.
  • Part II - Disarming Tehran: The Military options
  • Part III - Toppling Tehran: Regime Change
  • Part IV - Deterring Tehran: Containment

Part III includes:

  • Chapter 6: The Velvet revolution: supporting a Popular Uprising
  • Chapter 7: Inspiring an insurgency: supporting Iranian Minority and opposition Groups
  • Chapter 8: The coup: supporting a Military Move against the regime

The velvet "color revolution" failed in 2009 when the "green movement" could not convince the Iranian people that it was more than a foreign supported attempt to overthrow their republic.

What we currently see in Iran is a combination of chapter 6 and 7 of the Brookings plan. Behind a somewhat popular movement that protests against the neo-liberal economic policies of the Rohani government a militant movement, as seen last night (below), is implementing an escalation strategy that could lead to a civil war. We have already seen a similar combination in Libya and at the beginning of the attack on Syria. (Tony Cartalucci at the Land Destroyer Report has written extensively on the Brookings paper as a "handbook for overthrowing nations".)

Last June the Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA had set up a special operation cell for such attacks on Iran:

The Central Intelligence Agency has established an organization focused exclusively on gathering and analyzing intelligence about Iran, reflecting the Trump administration’s decision to make that country a higher priority target for American spies, according to U.S. officials.

The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear the range of the agency’s capabilities, including covert action.

Head of the new office is one of the most ruthless CIA officers:

To lead the new group, Mr. Pompeo picked a veteran intelligence officer, Michael D’Andrea, who recently oversaw the agency’s program of lethal drone strikes and has been credited by many of his peers for successes against al Qaeda in the U.S.’s long campaign against the terrorist group.
...
Mr. D’Andrea, a former director of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center, is known among peers as a demanding but effective manager, and a convert to Islam who works long hours. Some U.S. officials have expressed concern over what they perceive as his aggressive stance toward Iran.

D'Andrea is the CIA guy who "dropped the ball" when he could have prevented 9/11. He was intimately involved in the CIA's torture program and drone murder campaign in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is suspected to be the brain behind the U.S. cooperation with extremist Wahhabis in Libya, Iraq and Syria.

Yesterday morning a Sunni terror group blew up a pipeline in south-west Iran near the Iraqi border:

Ansar al Furqan states that “a major oil pipeline was blown up in Omidiyeh region of occupied Ahvaz, Iran.” The group added that it had established a new unit, the Ahwaz Martyrs Brigade. The area of Ahvaz has historically had a large Arab population. However, it is unclear if this purported brigade is comprised of Iranian Arabs or Baluchis, as most of its members are thought to be Baluch. The jihadists say the “operation was conducted to inflict losses on the economy of criminal Iranian regime.”

According to the U.S. military Combating Terrorism Center, Ansar al-Fruqan has grown out of the defeated Jundallah terrorist group which had killed hundreds of Iranian officials and civilians. Jundallah was a Baluch jihadi insurgency fighting for a "Free Baluchistan" in the area of south-west Pakistan and south-east Iran. Its leader was killed in 2010 and it has since split and evolved into Ansar al-Furqan and other groups. Some of these are under foreign influence. Mark Perry reported in 2012:

A series of CIA memos describes how Israeli Mossad agents posed as American spies to recruit members of the terrorist organization Jundallah to fight their covert war against Iran.

Mossad agents hired Jundallah terrorists to kill nuclear experts in Iran. It should not be a surprise then that a Jundallah follow-up group is now attacking Iranian economic infrastructure in the very same moment that the Mossad and the CIA coordinate another campaign to overthrow the Iranian government. This clearly points to a wider and well organized plan.

Last night groups of 20 to 50 young men appeared in some 20 cities and towns of Iran and started to vandalize (vid) the streets. They took down street demarcations and billboards, smashed windows and set fire to trashcans. Short videos of tens of incidents appeared on various Twitter accounts. The descriptions were often very exaggerated.

The "protesters burn government offices in the Ahvaz Province" video only shows the burning of a trashcan in front of a building. The only noise in the "police using live rounds on protesters" video are from the smashing of windows of an office container. A video promoted as "3 people were killed in police shooting of Lorestan" shows a small but loud group. Two people are carried away but it is unclear who they are or what, if anything, happened to them. No shooting is heard and no police can be seen. In other videos police is responding to stone throwing and vandalizing rioters.

The groups, their appearance in some 20 cities and what they did was clearly coordinated. Media promoters aggregate their videos for a larger public. The Iranian government asked the message application Telegram, widely used in Iran, to take down a channel that urged demonstrators to throw Molotov cocktails at official buildings. The head of the Telegram service agreed that such calls are against its Terms of Services and took the channel down. New channels with similar messages immediately sprang up. The Iranian government will have to completely block Telegram or infiltrate those Telegram channels to disrupt such coordination of militant activities.

Those U.S. politicians who had called to "bomb, bomb, bomb" Iran (John McCain) or had threatened to wage war against it (Hillary Clinton) issued statements in support of the "Iranian people"- i.e. the rioters in the streets. These are the same people who suffocate the Iranian people by pushing sanction round after sanction round onto them - hypocrites. Donald Trump and his State Department issued statements in support of the 'peaceful protesters' who vandalized their cities throughout the country and demanded that "the regime respect their basic human rights." The professed concerns for the Iranian people are nonsense. A recently leaked memo advised U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson:

... that the U.S. should use human rights as a club against its adversaries, like Iran, China and North Korea, while giving a pass to repressive allies like the Philippines, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

The official U.S. uttering comes very early and is detrimental to any real movement in Iran. It obviously exposes these protests as U.S. supported and thereby kills off their chance to win a wider base in Iran.

Why is the U.S. doing this?

The plan may well be not to immediately overthrow the Iranian government, but to instigate a sharp reaction by the Iranian government against the militant operations in its country.

Suzanne Maloney‏ @MaloneySuzanne - 5:51 AM - 31 Dec 2017

And here's the thing: whatever the USG does or doesn't say about these protests, the reality is (as @POTUS tweeted) that the world is watching what happens in Iran. How Tehran responds to the current protests will shape its relationship w/the world, just as it did in 2009.

That reaction can then be used to implement wider and stricter sanctions against Iran especially from Europe. These would be another building block of a larger plan to suffocate the country and as an additional step on a larger escalation ladder.

Posted by b on December 31, 2017 at 09:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (189)

December 29, 2017

Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Yesterday and today saw some small protests in Iran. They are probably the first stage of a large "regime change" operation run by the U.S. and Israel with the help of Iranian terrorist group.

Earlier this month the White House and the Zionist prepared for a new assault on Iran:

A delegation led by Israel's National Security Adviser met with senior American officials in the White House earlier this month for a joint discussion on strategy to counter Iran's aggression in the Middle East, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Haaretz.

Another report about the meeting quotes Israeli officials on the result:

"[T]he U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those that are connected to Iran. We reached at understandings regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain those goals."

This is probably a result of the above meeting:

Hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator”.

The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.

A video of that protest in Mashad showed some 50 people chanting slogans with more bystander just milling around.

Protests against the (neo-)liberal economic policies of the Rohani government in Iran are justified. Official unemployment in Iran is above 12% and there is hardly any economic growth. The people in the streets are not the only ones who are dissatisfied with this:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government’s economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.

On Thursday and today the slogans of some protesters turned the call for economic relief into a call for regime change.

My hunch is that the usual suspects are behind these protests. Note that these started in several cities at the same time. This was not some spontaneous local uproar in one city but had some form of coordination.

Then there is this:

Carl Bildt‏ @carlbildt - 9:38 PM - 28 Dec 2017 from Rome, Lazio

Reports of signals of international satellite TV networks jammed in large cities of Iran. Would be sign of regime fear of today’s protests spreading.

A search in various languages finds exactly zero such "reports". Carl Bildt is a former Swedish prime minister. He was recruited in 1973 as a CIA informant and has since grown into a full blown U.S. asset. He was involved in the Ukraine coup and tried to personally profit from it.

The only response to Bildt's tweet was from one Riyad Swed‏ - @SwedRiyad who posted several videos of protests with one of them showing burning police cars.

I am not sure the video is genuine. The account has some unusual attributes (active since September 2016, 655 tweets but only 32 followers?).

Just yesterday one lecture at the CCC "hacker" congress was about the British GHCQ Secret Service and its sock-puppet accounts on Twitter and Facebook. These are used for acquiring human intelligence and for running "regime change" operations. Page 14-18 of the slides (11:20 min) cite from obtained GCHQ papers which lists Iran as one of the targets. The speaker specifically notes a GCHQ account "@2009Iranfree" which was used in generating the protests in Iran after the reelection of then President Ahmedinejad.

Today, Friday and the weekly day off in Iran, several more protest took place in other cities. A Reuters report from today:

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars called a “call by the anti-revolution” and shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, while destroying some public property. Fars did not name any opposition groups.
...
Footage, which could not be verified, showed protests in other cities including Sari and Rasht in the north, Qom south of Tehran, and Hamadan in the west.

Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked by police, but a few who refused were “temporarily detained”, the ILNA news agency reported.

Some of these protests have genuine economic reasons but get hijacked by other interests:

In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages.

“The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against (President Hassan) Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” the resident said by telephone.
...
Purely political protests are rare in Iran [...] but demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions.
...
Alamolhoda, the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday’s protests against rising prices to chant slogans against Iran’s role in regional conflicts.
...
“Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50 shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as ‘Let go of Palestine’, ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d give my life (only) for Iran’,” Alamolhoda said.

Two videos posted by BBC Persian and others I have seen show only small active protest groups with a dozen or so people while many more are just standing by or film the people who are chanting slogans.

Videos published by the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq [MEK], 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, also show mostly small protests despite the MEK's claim of Tens of thousands of people chant “death to dictator". The MEK, or its "civilian" organization National Council of Resistance of Iran , seem to be most involved in the current protests. Its website is currently filled with the protest issue with a total of ten reports and its head figure issued a supportive statement:

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, saluted the heroic people of Kermanshah and other cities who rose up today chanting “death or freedom”, “death to Rouhani”, “death to the dictator”, and “political prisoners must be freed”, and protested against high prices, poverty and corruption.

She said, “Yesterday Mashhad, today Kermanshah, and tomorrow throughout Iran; this uprising has tolled the death knell for the overthrow of the totally corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs, and is the rise of democracy, justice and popular sovereignty.

This very early engagement of the MEK -its first report was published yesterday at 10:26 am- is extremely suspicious.

In 2012 it was reported that Israel had used the MEK terrorist organization to assassinate nuclear scientists in Iran:

On Thursday, U.S. officials speaking to NBC news claimed that Mossad agents were training members of the dissident terror group People’s Mujahedin of Iran in order assassinate Iranian nuclear scientists, adding that the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama was aware of the operation, but had no direct link to them.

The U.S. officials reportedly confirmed the link between Israel and the People’s Mujahedin of Iran (MEK), with one official saying: "All your inclinations are correct.”

In October a CATO Institute paper analyzed (and rejected) several options for U.S. handling Iran. Under Option Three: “Regime Change from Within” it noted:

In this approach, the United States would pressure the Iranian regime and simultaneously back groups that oppose it-whether the exiled extremist National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), pro-democracy Green Revolution factions, or ethnic minorities within Iran-a strategy advocates often compare to Reagan’s support for civil society groups in the Soviet Union.
...
[A] proponent of “coerced democratization,” the Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Mark Dubowitz, urged President Trump to “go on the offensive against the Iranian regime” by “weakening the Iranian regime’s finances” through “massive economic sanctions,” while also “undermin[ing] Iran’s rulers by strengthening pro-democracy forces” inside Iran. This option appears to be gaining traction in the Trump administration’s ongoing Iran policy review and has received public support from Tillerson. CIA Director Mike Pompeo also favored such an approach during his time in Congress.

The MEK/NCRI noted that Senator Tom Cotton, who will likely replace CIA chief Pompeo when Pompeo moves to the State Department, issued a supportive statement for the protests.

The White House and the Netanyahoo regime agreed on a strategy towards Iran. Major members of the Trump administration are in favor of "regime change" by "pro-democracy forces" in Iran. A few weeks after an agreement was found, coordinated economic protests start in Iran which are soon hijacked by small groups of very active regime changers. A group of Iranian exile terrorists, well known for deadly collaboration with Israeli spies as well as for having operation cells in Iran, is highly engaged in the protest from very early on.

If this the "regime change" operation I presume, the protests will soon get bigger. When the people need money a few thousand dollars are enough to create a large crowd. Small groups will riot while hiding within the larger protests of maybe genuinely concerned people. The "western" media will engage with their usual pseudo liberal humanism and concern trolling. When the police in Iran tries to arrest those rioters who are raising havoc the media will scream "brutality". Some "martyr" will be created and iconified. Rumors of censorship and suppression will be raised (see Carl Bildt above), fake news will come from everywhere and hundreds of sock puppet Twitter and Facebook accounts will suddenly be "Iranian" and breathlessly report "from the scene" of their Langley offices.

For the Iranian politicians and police the issue is tricky. Economic protests are clearly justified with even Khameni voicing support for the issue. But rioting in the streets must be suppressed before it further escalates and becomes uncontrollable. Weapons on the protesters site firing in all directions may soon become a problem. The Mossad and the MEK are not shy of killing random people.

But the Islamic Republic in Iran has genuine support in large parts of the society. There are big civil organizations that support the government - not on every issue but in its general framework. Most Iranian's are proud nationalists and will be difficult to divide. If this is indeed the "regime change" attempt I suspect, I predict that it will fail.

Posted by b on December 29, 2017 at 02:45 PM | Permalink | Comments (127)

December 28, 2017

Open Thread 2017-47

Sorry, the post I was working on didn't pan out. You will have to talk to yourself.

News & views ...

Posted by b on December 28, 2017 at 01:58 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

December 26, 2017

From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media

The promotion of the alleged Russian election hacking in certain media may have grown from the successful attempts of U.S. intelligence services to limit the publication of the NSA files obtained by Edward Snowden.

In May 2013 Edward Snowden fled to Hongkong and handed internal documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to four journalists, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and separately to Barton Gellman who worked for the Washington Post. Some of those documents were published by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian, others by Barton Gellman in the Washington Post. Several other international news site published additional material though the mass of NSA papers that Snowden allegedly acquired never saw public daylight.

In July 2013 the Guardian was forced by the British government to destroy its copy of the Snowden archive.

In August 2013 Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for some $250 million. In 2012 Bezos, the founder, largest share holder and CEO of Amazon, had already a cooperation with the CIA. Together they invested in a Canadian quantum computing company. In March 2013 Amazon signed a $600 million deal to provide computing services for the CIA.

In October 2013 Pierre Omidyar, the owner of Ebay, founded First Look Media and hired Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The total planned investment was said to be $250 million. It took up to February 2014 until the new organization launched its first site, the Intercept. Only a few NSA stories appeared on it. The Intercept is a rather mediocre site. Its management is said to be chaotic. It publishes few stories of interests and one might ask if it ever was meant to be a serious outlet. Omidyar has worked, together with the U.S. government, to force regime change onto Ukraine. He had strong ties with the Obama administration.

Snowden had copies of some 20,000 to 58,000 NSA files. Only 1,182 have been published. Bezos and Omidyar obviously helped the NSA to keep more than 95% of the Snowden archive away from the public. The Snowden papers were practically privatized into trusted hands of Silicon Valley billionaires with ties to the various secret services and the Obama administration.

The motivation for the Bezos and Omidyar to do this is not clear. Bezos is estimated to own a shameful $90 billion. The Washington Post buy is chump-change for him. Omidyar has a net worth of some $9.3 billion. But the use of billionaires to mask what are in fact intelligence operations is not new. The Ford Foundation has for decades been a CIA front, George Soros' Open Society foundation is one of the premier "regime change" operations, well versed in instigating "color revolutions".

It would have been reasonable if the cooperation between those billionaires and the intelligence agencies had stopped after the NSA leaks were secured. But it seems that strong cooperation of the Bezos and Omidyar outlets with the CIA and others continue.

The Intercept burned a intelligence leaker, Realty Winner, who had trusted its journalists to keep her protected. It smeared the President of Syria as neo-nazi based on an (intentional?) mistranslation of one of his speeches. It additionally hired a Syrian supporter of the CIA's "regime change by Jihadis" in Syria. Despite its pretense of "fearless, adversarial journalism" it hardly deviates from U.S. policies.

The Washington Post, which has a much bigger reach, is the prime outlet for "Russia-gate", the false claims by parts of the U.S. intelligence community and the Clinton campaign, that Russia attempted to influence U.S. elections or even "colluded" with Trump.

Just today it provides two stories and one op-ed that lack any factual evidence for the anti-Russian claims made in them.

In Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options the writers insinuate that some anonymous writer who published a few pieces on Counterpunch and elsewhere was part of a Russian operation. They provide zero evidence to back that claim up. Whatever that writer wrote (see list at end) was run of the mill stuff that had little to do with the U.S. election. The piece then dives into various cyber-operations against Russia that the Obama and Trump administration have discussed.

A second story in the paper today is based on "a classified GRU report obtained by The Washington Post." It claims that the Russian military intelligence service GRU started a social media operation one day after the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was illegally removed from his office in a U.S. regime change operation. What the story lists as alleged GRU puppet postings reads like normal internet talk of people opposed to the fascist regime change in Kiev. The Washington Post leaves completely unexplained who handed it an alleged GRU report from 2014, who classified it and how, if at all, it verified its veracity. To me the piece and the assertions therein have a strong odor of bovine excrement.

An op-ed in the very same Washington Post has a similar smell. It is written by the intelligence flunkies Michael Morell and Mike Rogers. Morell had hoped to become CIA boss under a President Hillary Clinton. The op-ed (which includes a serious misunderstanding of "deterrence") asserts that Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States:

Russia’s information operations tactics since the election are more numerous than can be listed here. But to get a sense of the breadth of Russian activity, consider the messaging spread by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, which cybersecurity and disinformation experts have tracked as part of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The author link to this page which claims to list Twitter hashtags that are currently used by Russian influence agents. Apparently the top issue Russia's influence agents currently promote is "#merrychristmas".


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When the authors claim Russian operations are "more numerous than can be listed here" they practically admit that they have not even one  plausible operation they could cite. Its simply obfuscation to justify their call for more political and military measures against Russia. This again to distract from the real reasons Clinton lost the election and to introduce a new Cold War for the benefit of weapon producers and U.S. influence in Europe.

None of the Russia-gate stories so far has held up to scrutiny. There is no proof at all, nor reasonable evidence, that Russia interfered in elections in the U.S. or elsewhere. There is no evidence of "collusion" with the Trump campaign.

One of the most complete debunking of the false claims can be found in the recent London Review of Books: What We Don’t Talk about When We Talk about Russian Hacking. Consortium News has published many pieces on the issue as well as analyses and warnings of what may follow from it. Many other writers have caught up and debunk the various false claims. The Nation lists various cases of journalistic malpractice with regard to Russia-gate.

The people who promote the "Russian influence" nonsense are political operatives or hacks. Take for example Luke Harding of the Guardian who just published a book titled Collusion: Secret Meetings, Dirty Money, and How Russia Helped Donald Trump Win. He was taken apart in a Real News interview (vid) about the book. The interviewer pointed out that there is absolutely no evidence in the book to support its claims. When asked for any proof for his assertion Harding defensively says that he is just "storytelling" - in other words: its fiction. Harding earlier wrote a book about Edward Snowden which was a similar sham. Julian Assange called it "a hack job in the purest sense of the term". Harding is also known as plagiarizer. When he worked in Moscow he copied stories and passages from the now defunct Exile, run by Matt Taibbi and Mark Ames. The Guardian had to publish an apology.

The Mexican government controls the media by buying an immense amount of advertisement. It thus guarantees income as long as its political line is followed. The U.S. government has its own ways of controlling the media. In the 1950s to 1970s the CIA ran Operation Mockingbird which gave it control over much of the news and opinion output in U.S. media. During that time up to 400 main stream journalists were working for the CIA.

The method of control has likely changed. The handling of the Snowden affair lets one assume that the CIA induces billionaires to buy up media and to implement the CIA's favored policies through them. We do not know what the billionaires get for their service. The CIA surely has many ways to let them gain information on their competition or to influence business regulations in foreign countries. One hand will wash the other.

James Clapper as Director of National Intelligence, John Brennan as CIA head and James Comey from the FBI "assessed" that Russia influenced the U.S. presidential election. Annex B of their report, which hardly any report bothered to mention, read:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation and precedents.

That sentence is the core of Russia-gate. There are lots of claims, assertions and judgments but no proof at all that any of the alleged Russian influence really happened.

It is probably due to the undue influence of the intelligence services that media have adopted that Annex B standard fro themselves. With regards to Russia (and other issues) assertions are now enough - there is no need to investigate, to find the truth or to verify claims.

How will that system work if an accident happens, some jet gets shot down and the issue escalates. Will there be any reporter left in the main stream media who is allowed to ask real questions?

Posted by b on December 26, 2017 at 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (269)

December 24, 2017

Christmas

Roman Christianity moved the day to commemorate the birth of Jesus to the winter solstice. It thus replaced a holiday of older religions that celebrated the end of the dark times and the coming of more light. The deeper meaning stayed. Hope for new beginnings, needed as much today than ever. Hope for walls of darkness to come down.


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

Like every year I am visiting my larger family and enjoy to cook for the whole crowd. The challenge is to meet everyone's taste. The kids seem to change theirs each year. I try to come up with stories to make them like those odd side dishes. It works with the younger ones. The older folks, just like myself, are a bit less flexible. It does not have to be this way. We can and should stay open for new insights and challenges.

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

Bernhard

Posted by b on December 24, 2017 at 05:42 AM | Permalink | Comments (97)

December 22, 2017

Washington Post Calls For Outrage About War On Yemen - Hides U.S. Role In It

Just in time for Christmas the Washington Post laments the cholera epidemic in Yemen caused by the U.S.-Saudi war on the country: One million people have caught cholera in Yemen. You should be outraged.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported today that a million Yemenis have contracted cholera in the last 18 months. More than 2,000 have died, according to the United Nations. It's the largest cholera outbreak in world history.
...
Sixteen million people lack reliable access to clean food and water. The disease could spike again in March, when the rainy season begins. Experts warn, too, that diseases kill more people, and more quickly, when a population is underfed. In Yemen, 1.8 million children are acutely malnourished. Nearly half a million babies and toddlers are starving.

YOU SHOULD BE OUTRAGED, says the Washington Post. But outraged at whom? Not one word in the piece mentions that the U.S. is directing the war on Yemen and providing to the Saudis all they need to commit the ongoing war crimes.

The U.S. provides the bombs, it provides the intelligence and since early this year it doubled its refueling flights for the Saudi bombing attacks. (The military is now intentionally muddling that data.)

The Saudi attacks, with U.S. bombs, based on intelligence the U.S. provides and enabled by U.S. refueling, intentionally targets water, food supplies and infrastructure to starve the population:

Ahmad Algohbary @AhmadAlgohbary
1000 days of #Saudi war on #Yemen led by #UK-#US:
12k civilians killed.
21k civilians wounded.
Infrastructure:
Schools & institutes: 763
Popular markets & malls: 576
Water tanks networks: 524
Governmental facilities: 1.654
Bridges & roads: 1.941
Ports: 15
Airports: 14
We are devastated

During the last days weeks alone the U.S./Saudi airstrikes have killed at least 130 civilians:

According to Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 136 civilians and non-combatants – including women and children – have been killed and another 87 injured in airstrikes in Sana'a, Sa'ada, Al Hudaydah and Taizz governorates in the period from 6 to 16 December.

Last week U.S. provided bombs also killed at least ten women on their way to a wedding.

While destroying its infrastructure the Saudis and the U.S. have erected a total blockade around the country. U.S. ships help sealing off the Yemeni coast. U.S. soldiers are on the ground in Yemen and there have been more than 120 U.S. drone strikes on Yemen this year.

While some parts of the U.S. government are working with the Saudis to cause the genocide in Yemen other parts are trying to prevent that. The incoming legal advisor of the State Departmnet conceded that the blockade is illegal under U.S. and international law. The Deputy Secretary of State calls for lifting the blockade which the Pentagon is upholding.

The Saudis claimed several times to have lifted the blockade to let aid come into the country. The U.S. claims to have increased its humanitarian aid to Yemen. But USAID, the government organization which distributes such supplies, says that this is not true. It has money to spend but no way to get any goods into the country and to the people in urgent need:

There are no signs that a blockade of Yemen’s ports by a Saudi-led military coalition has eased to allow aid to reach communities increasingly at risk of starvation, the head of the U.S. government’s aid agency said on Tuesday.

There is not one word about all that that in Washington Post piece. According to the Post the U.S simply does not exist in that war. It is a "Saudi campaign" and "Saudi coalition" that wages the war and causes the cholera without one word that the U.S. and UK are part of it. Apparently it is editorial policy of the Washington Post to never mention the U.S. culpability in that war. Earlier reports, editorials and op-eds also make no mention of U.S. military role in the war.

Apparently you should be outraged that lack of basic food and easily preventable cholera is killing people in Yemen, but not at those who cause it.

I for one am outraged at the Washington Post and those despicable editors and writers who are covering up the war crimes their country is committing.

Posted by b on December 22, 2017 at 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (84)

December 20, 2017

Republican Tax Bill Is A Prelude To Higher Taxes

Yesterday the Republican controlled U.S. Senate passed a gigantic tax bill. The House will today agree to it and Trump will sign it as soon as possible.

The bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. It lowers the top tax bracket from 39.6% to 37%. It will burden at least half of the poor people. It is wholesale looting:

When fully-phased in, the bill will give 83 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent. Incredibly, it raises taxes on half of working families.

Republicans always argue along the fraudulent theory of supply side economics. They claim that higher income for companies will allow them to invest more and to thereby increase economic activity. It is a stupid argument. There is no empirical data to support it and no real social scientist takes it seriously. Most companies do not lack money. They can also borrow at record low rates. No company holds back on investing if there is additional profitable demand for its products. Without additional demand there is simply no justification for any additional investment.

Demand can not increase if the people have no money to buy. To increase demand, disposable income has to rise via higher wages, more welfare distribution or less taxes in the lowest tax brackets. (An increase of consumer debt can only work so long and has negative long term consequences.) 

The new tax law will increase the federal deficit by roughly $1.5 trillion over ten years. The giant rise in debt is intentional. It will be the justification for step two of the republican plan to bring the U.S. back to the Gilded Age. Speaker Paul Ryan already announced such plans:

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are eyeing sweeping legislative and regulatory changes to the country’s welfare system next year.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wants to use the fast-track reconciliation process next year for entitlement reform, with a focus on promoting work and career-based education.
...
There’s broad support in the Republican conference for changing the federal safety net to impose stricter work requirements on programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

For now the Republicans will likely hold back on medicare and social security. These are earned benefits, not "welfare". Even Republican voters want to keep them without major changes. Any attempt to touch these programs would lead to a heavy electoral backlash. It is thereby unlikely that the Republicans will be able to steal enough from the poor to compensate for all the money they now hand to the rich. Instead they will increase the federal debt.

While most voters do not like the current tax bill, the Republicans might benefit from it in the 2018 midterm election. Most of the negative effects of the bill will only be felt in 2019 and later years. It is those future years that the republicans have to fear. As long as interests rates are low an increase in federal debt has little effect. But when interest rates rise, as they will, the federal budget situation will become way more difficult.

The mini-Reagan in the White House and Republican Congress members like to compare their current bill with Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax bill. That one went into a similar direction than the current one. The top tax rate decreased from 70% to 28%. But by 1982 and in later years Reagan had to introduce the highest tax increases ever to keep the budget at least somewhat stable. Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP did not decrease at all under Reagan.

The two steps of decreasing taxes and slashing welfare the Republicans planned for will likely be followed by third (and forth) step that will decrease the impact of the original bill. Historically the overall positive and/or negative impact of this pandering to their rich sponsors will likely be much less than both sides of the aisles are predicting.

Posted by b on December 20, 2017 at 02:54 PM | Permalink | Comments (167)

December 19, 2017

The New National Security Strategy Paves A Path To Isolation

Yesterday the White House published a new National Security Strategy (pdf). The publication was, unusually, announced by the president in a stump speech. The new NSS is unusually long:

Reagan National Security Strategy was 41 pages, Bush 2002 was 31, Obama 2015 was 29. Trump's is 55 pages: Buffet of priorities without much prioritization.

The first "fundamental responsibility" the NSS sets out is:

.. to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life ..

Micah Zenko points out that it does not really do that:

[A]lmost nothing in the .. document deals with the actual domestic threats, risks, and systemic harms that Americans experience every day.
...
The Trump NSS .. mentions terrorists 58 times, and pledges to “defeat jihadist terrorists,” just as all previous NSS documents have done since 9/11. Over the past 16-plus years, jihadis have killed 103 Americans within the United States, while right-wing terrorists have killed 68. During that same time period, drug-induced deaths have more than tripled, with over 59,000 Americans dying in 2016, while America’s suicide rate has risen by 25 percent, resulting in 43,000 deaths annually.
...
The Trump administration’s NSS fails to do what it claims — protect Americans — largely because it does not address the real threats and risks faced by Americans. It might be an “America First” foreign policy, as the president contends, but it does not put Americans themselves first.

While it touches lots of foreign policy issues, the emphasis of the new NSS is more realist than the - on paper - more idealistic version of Obama's imperial strategy. There is less schmoozing about "values" and a new emphasis on "rivals", most importantly China and Russia.

Labeling those two countries as rivals implies that they are again seen on a similar level than the U.S. itself. It thus marks the end of the "unilateral moment" that the U.S. felt entitled to after the end of the Soviet Union. Sure, the U.S. is still trying to set itself apart from others. It just ridiculously vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that reaffirmed the occupied status of Jerusalem. But voting against all other members of the UNSC, including close allies like Britain, is not a sign of global leadership but of a pariah state.

That the "unilateral moment" has passed might have some very positive aspects for the world. The end of a global competition had allowed the U.S. to wage more wars:

[W]hile the United States engaged in forty-six military interventions from 1948–1991, from 1992–2017 that number increased fourfold to 188.

The interventions after 1991 occurred even while the U.S. had lost the ideological rationale of "countering communism" and while the chance of military operations against it was smaller than before. Moreover many of those interventions were not successful. Other states have found means to counter overwhelming military might.

The unchecked United States felt no necessity to weight potential responses from competitors. It did not show a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind". It proved itself to be a danger to global peace. It intervened because it could, not because there was a real national interest at stake, or even a decent chance of winning. The "unilateral moment" has cost the U.S. a lot of money and goodwill, and it brought little gain.

A rational U.S. strategy would recognize that the unilateral approach failed and thus emphasize other means. Real global cooperation and increasing economic and diplomatic power would likely be more successful than military might. The new National Security Strategy does not offer that. While it says it "will advance American influence" it ignores or rejects climate change and international "rules of the road", like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Trump administration in putting more resources into the military and less into diplomatic and economic foreign policy measures. It is thereby, true to Trump's campaign stance, isolationist.

One can either have an overwhelming role or finesse one's influence through cooperation with others. The overwhelming role, demonstrated by military interventions, has not been successful. The cooperation approach is spelled out in the words of the NSS but rejected in its specific policies. The third way it is paving is one of isolation.

As a global citizen I welcome this development. A U.S. that again feels limited in its global reach will likely be more careful when it considers initiating new conflicts. It will do less damage to others and to itself.

Posted by b on December 19, 2017 at 06:46 AM | Permalink | Comments (93)

December 17, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-46

Due to this week's network problems at my home you were offered too few posts. Most of the research I do is naturally online. So while I probably could have posted I lacked the material to write up decent pieces. I was told that my regular network and phone connections will be back by Monday afternoon. We'll see ...

Dec 12 - U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

A New Yorker piece by a borg journalist suggests that the U.S. political heave mind has for now given up on regime change in Syria. The military junta in the White House still seems to disagree with that, but might be coming around. There will for sure be no clear-cut change, but a gradual move away from the senseless occupation of north-east Syria. Meanwhile the first truck convoy from Iran reached Syria by road. This new supply line will give the Israeli military some serious headaches.

Dec 14 - "Russian Influence" - $0.97 That Changed The Fate Of Britain

The "Russian influence" nonsense is dying a slow death for lack of any evidence that there is any "Russian influence" campaign. The subject is now changing to "Chinese influence". The Rothschild organ The Economist has a title story about that nefarious "Chinese influence" and laments its alleged attempts to move public opinion to its favor. That is of course something "the west" would never even do! To prove that this is a well coordinated campaign the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations adds a piece of its own on "Chinese Influence" . Australia just kicked out a minister for allegedly being to frendly with something Chinese. Trump's new strategic guidance for the military will emphasize China as the new potential enemy. This is a stupid move that will only solidify the Russian-Chinese partnership and further isolate the U.S.

Dec 15 - Haley Fails To Make Case About Yemeni Missiles - Ignores Saudi War Crimes

Haley tried to give her best Colin Powell imitation but failed. Defense Secretary Mattis has said that there will be no military move against Iran. Thus some sanity prevails on the issue. But only in the U.S.. Some Saudi organization put out a funny comic movie (vid) about a Saudi attack on Iran. In it the Saudis defeat the Iranian navy, air- and missile forces. They invade Iran, capture IRGC General Suleimani and are welcome by the people in Tehran with sweets and flowers. Clown prince MbS is overseeing the operation. It is hilarious fiction.

But why do the Saudi grunts talk in English?

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 17, 2017 at 12:46 PM | Permalink | Comments (129)

December 15, 2017

Haley Fails To Make Case About Yemeni Missiles - Ignores Saudi War Crimes

Yesterday the U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley went to the Defense Intelligence Agency for a little show. She claimed to expose Iran as an illegal source of weapons used by Yemeni forces in their fight against Saudi aggressors.

It reminded of the times when Vice President Dick Cheney visited the CIA to tell its analysts what they were supposed to write about "Saddam's weapons of mass destruction".

Haley covered the advice she was giving to the DIA as a press conference. Her props were alleged missile parts recovered somewhere at some unknown time. She claimed that these were provided by the Saudis and the UAE and showed debris of missiles fired from Yemen. Haley further claimed that Iran had delivered such missiles to Yemen in breach of UN resolution 2231 that restricts such transfers.

There are several possible explanations of where the Houthi and their then allied Yemeni army might have acquired such missiles. But even if one accepts that Iran delivered these, it is unknown when such deliveries might have taken place. It could have happened years before the UN resolution restricted such deliveries. Haley's show proved nothing with regards to any breach.

Haley claimed that the UN had found that the missile debris on display was from an Iranian Qiam missile. But the UN has made no such findings. It only said that the debris and Qiam missiles "had similar structural and manufacturing features". The Iranian Qiam missile ..

.. is a short-range ballistic missile designed and built by Iran. It was developed from the Iranian Shahab-2, a licensed copy of the North Korean Hwasong-6, all of which are versions of the Soviet Scud-C missile.

There are many variants of the Soviet Scud family (A, B, C) produced in various countries and they naturally all have "similar structural and manufacturing features".

The Yemeni military bought Soviet Scuds (pdf) and Scuds were used in earlier conflicts between north and south Yemen. The Yemeni military also bought North Korean Hwasong 5 and likely also Hwasong 6 missiles directly from North Korea. The Yemeni army has over 30 years of experience with such missiles and qualified personal to modify these if needed.

Haley simply lied about the UN findings. They do not say what she claims. Indeed the UN panel acknowledged that the similarities found do not prove the origin:

[T]he panel said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles, ..

Haley pointed to one alleged part of the missile debris that bore a logo of an Iranian company. She neglected to point out that the UN panel also found U.S. made hardware as part of the missiles. Neither proves where the missile came from.

The Zionist lobby wants the U.S. to wage war on Iran and Nikki Haley is in their pocket. The extremely rich, ultraright Zionist Sheldon Adelson was the biggest sponsor of her political career.

Haley neglected to point out that Yemeni missiles have killed no one in Saudi Arabia while Saudi Arabia has killed then-thousands of Yemeni civilians with U.S. provide bombs and missiles. It is Saudi Arabia that is blockading Yemen and causing a very large famine. The Saudis recently claimed that they has lifted the blockade but even USAID says that there is no sign that the blockade has changed. Hundreds of people in Yemen are dying each day for lack of food and simple medicine.

In view of such a catastrophe one might even hope that Iran provides hundreds of missiles to Yemen to push the Saudis into ending their genocidal policies.

Haley's show did not go down well. She convinced the Saudis of course but neither U.S. media nor European governments accepted her show. As the NY Times correctly writes:

.. the evidence she showcased at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling — ... — fell short of proving her claims.

Reuters remarked:

The United States acknowledged it could not say precisely when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis, and, in some cases, could not say when they were used. There was no immediate way to independently verify where the weapons were made or employed.

The Trump administration is looking for reasons to push more sanctions on Iran. It especially wants the EU to take part in a renewed sanction regime. A "ballistic missile threat" might be a way to get there. France and Germany had offered the U.S. to follow its anti-Iranian course with regards to ballistic missiles if it keeps busting the nuclear agreement with Iran off the table.

Haley's stunt shows that this was an extremely stupid move. If one makes an offer to the U.S. that one will follow policy A when B is proven, the U.S. will simply lie and fabricate evidence to claim that B is there. 

Posted by b on December 15, 2017 at 02:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)

December 14, 2017

"Russian Influence" - $0.97 That Changed The Fate Of Britain

A big bear broke into a house, allegedly. The bear trashes the interior - it is said. Enraged authors write extensive pieces about the bear and how much damage it causes. The authors and their big bear scare are amplified throughout the media. They get rewards.

There are doubters though. They point out that no one has actually seen the bear. No one listens to them. 

Politicians insinuate that the bear is even bigger than is said. Experts talk of huge damage and terrible dangers. There might even be multiple bears. Finally someone is asked to open the door of the house and to look inside.

There is no bear. There is no damage. The only living thing that is found is a tiny cute mouse.

Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK - by Carole Cadwalladr - Observer/Guardian - Nov 4 2017

But on Brexit, Facebook has said nothing. Not a word. No ads have been scrutinised. Nothing – even though Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council thinktank, asked to testify before the senate intelligence committee last week, says evidence of Russian interference online is now “incontrovertible”. He says: “It is frankly implausible to think that we weren’t targeted too.”

Intelligence watchdog urged to look at Russian influence on Brexit vote - Guardian - Nov 15 2017

Britain’s intelligence watchdog is facing demands to examine whether Russian “troll factories” interfered in UK politics, amid mounting evidence that thousands of fake accounts may have been used to influence the Brexit vote.
...
UK academics have already established that at least 419 Twitter accounts operating from the Kremlin-linked Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) tweeted about Brexit ..

Guardian and Observer scoop three prizes in British Journalism Awards - Guardian - Dec 11 2017

The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr won the technology journalism award for her investigation into Russia’s influence on the Brexit referendum...
...

Facebook says Russian-linked accounts spent just 97 cents on ads over Brexit - Reuters - Dec 14 2017

Some British lawmakers have called for an inquiry into whether Russia meddled in Britain’s vote to leave the EU after social media platforms said Russian operatives sought to interfere in the U.S. election of Donald Trump.
...
Facebook sent its findings to the Electoral Commission which is examining how digital campaigning is affecting politics in Britain, including activity funded from outside the country.

Facebook said it had examined whether any account profiles or pages linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) had funded ads during the Brexit vote. The IRA is a Russian organization that according to researchers employs hundreds of people to push pro-Kremlin content on social media.

“We have determined that these accounts associated with the IRA spent a small amount of money ($0.97) on advertisements that delivered to UK audiences during that time,” Facebook said.

“This amount resulted in three advertisements (each of which were also targeted to U.S. audiences and concerned immigration, not the EU referendum) delivering approximately 200 impressions to UK viewers over four days in May 2016.”

The above is a typical example of the nonsense that is fed to the people by the media. Neither is there evidence for a "Russian influence" campaign of any significance nor is there evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and anything Russia. The "collusion" campaign was run by the Clinton campaign and the borg to politically disable Trump. The "Russian influence" scare campaign is run by the military-industrial complex to institute a profit raising Cold War 2.0.

 

Posted by b on December 14, 2017 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (55)

Open Thread 2017-46 - UPDATE II

2nd UPDATE - 1:40pm:

Unfortunately my line is not yet up again. But two neighbors and I took the day to jury-rig a chain of WLAN repeaters to deliver a net connection to our places. The signal crosses two gardens and a small forest in between. it feeds from a different trunk than the damaged one in front of this house. Unless some squirrel decides to feed on the repeater power supply cables I am back in business.

UPDATE - 7:00am:

I am currently again without usable Internet access.

The telecom provider decided to replace the whole local trunk that was damaged two days ago (see below). Neither the customer service nor the workers replacing the line could tell me when the service will be back.

Cellphone coverage within my flat is spotty at best and not usable for data connections.

I am currently trying to set up an interim solution. Please bear with me.

b.

End-update - original December 12 post follows.
---

Yesterday an excavator disrupted several building connections here. Repairs are ongoing. Posting will hopefully resume later today.

b.

Posted by b on December 14, 2017 at 07:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (74)

December 12, 2017

U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

This New Yorker piece is notable for its arrogant headline, and several false assertions. Those may be necessary to divert from its real message - the U.S. surrender to the realities of Syria: Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria

[T]he Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.
...
The Trump Administration says it still wants a political process that holds the prospect of Assad’s departure. But it has concluded that it may take until 2021, when the next election is scheduled, to pull it off.
...
U.S. officials worry that Assad could win the 2021 Syrian election, one way or the other, and remain in power for years to come.

The U.S. "lets Assad stay" because there is simply nothing else it can do without waging a large scale war. It has tried everything else - and lost. In 2012 it attempted to assassinate Assad, but he wasn't at the security meeting that the CIA blew up. It send 100,000 Takfiri fighters from all over the world to Syria and shipped in ten-thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition. The global anti-Syrian propaganda campaign in favor of the Takfiris was unprecedented. It tried to build a political opposition and sponsored it with hundreds of millions. It lastly invaded the country and tried to split it by force. It failed on all fronts.

The U.S. decision reflects the Administration’s limited options, the military reality on the ground, and the success of Syria’s Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies in propping up the beleaguered Assad regime.
...
The Syrian opposition groups backed by the United States have been ineffectual. They have squabbled among themselves and split into factions.
...
Diplomatically, Washington has been marginalized by the powerful troika of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which now dominates the peace process.

In 2013 the author of the piece, Robin Wright, presented the Israeli dream of a split up Middle East.


bigger

It was a remake of the "Blood Borders" map peddled in 2006 by the neoconservatives Col. Ralph Peters. That gain was an updated version of a map of a "New Middle East" by Bernhard Lewis published in Foreign Affairs. Those maps went into the trash-bin when the U.S. had to leave Iraq. Wrigth's cartographic expression of imperial arrogance will end there too.

Wright is heavily wired in Washington. She is part of the *borg* and held/holds positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace (which plans wars), the Wilson Center, Brookings and Carnegie Endowment. That she has now given up on her ludicrous map likely reflects the leading opinions within those institutions.

One wonders if the military junta in the White House is on board with this. It continues to dream of keeping Syria and Iraq under its thumb:

Col. John Thomas, spokesman for the US Central Command (CENTCOM), said that the international coalition forces would remain in Syria to support the operations of the Arab-Kurdish “Syrian Democratic Forces” until the conclusion of negotiations on a political solution in Geneva.

He added that the US forces would continue to fight terrorist organizations close to “al-Qaeda” in Syria, including al-Nusra Front, “regardless of ISIS presence.”

Dream on.

Yesterday Putin visited Syria. He declared victory and announced that part of the Russian troops in Syria would return home. He made sure that everyone, the U.S., the Turks, the Saudis and the Israelis, understood that the troops would be back in no-time if they try to reignite the war:

"If terrorists again raise head, we will deliver such strikes on them that they haven’t seen so far," Putin told the Russian military.

Another member of the Syrian alliance, the Lebanese party Hizbullah, is now refocusing on Israel. Trump's hail-Mary pass of illegally recognizing Jerusalem as Israel's capital came just in time to give new impetus to the resistance:

Mr Nasrallah called on the “resistance axis” — a reference to Hizbollah and its Syrian and Iranian allies and patrons — to “devote all its power and time to the Palestinians. I call on all the resistance factions in the region to unite and put one common strategy and practical plan to face this threat,” he said.

It was Israel that was behind (pdf) the campaign to dismantle Syria and Iraq. It utterly failed and the revenge will be harsh. Hizbullah is better armed and trained than ever. Battle experienced Iraqi and Iranian groups stand ready. The Syrian army is much better trained and equipped than before the war. The Iraqi resistance leader Qais Al Khazali recently visited south-Lebanon and took a look over the border into Israel. He was surveying the new battlefield.

Israel's great new alliance with Saudi Arabia has not helped its position. The Salman tyrant and his son are in an insecure position and their great relations with Trump have tanked, allegedly over the issue of Jerusalem.

The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo is under pressure at home. The corruption accusation accumulate and his time in office is now limited.

Who will replace him? What is the new plan the Zionists will come up with to react to the changed situation?

Posted by b on December 12, 2017 at 01:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (110)

December 10, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Dec 4 - Yemen Without Saleh

The unexpected end of Yemen's former president Saleh was followed by a Houthi campaign against his functionaries in Sanaa. At the same time the Saudi and UAE proxy forces in south-Yemen renewed their attacks towards Sanaa. The Houthi need to hold back on revenge against Saleh followers and concentrate on defense against the advancing enemy forces.

Dec 5 - Slapstick In Kiev

Saakashvili escaped the police, first by fleeing over the roofs of Kiev and then by being freed from a police car through the help of his supporters. He has since been apprehended again and is now in jail. No noise was heard from those foreign powers who supported the 2014 coup in Kiev. Only a few neocons still seem to hope that Saakashvili can play a role in their games. But without a big push from outside in favor of Saak the nazis and oligarchs that rule Kiev will let him rot in jail. That would a well deserved end of his career.

Dec 6 - Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

The "Arab leaders", aka the Gulf sheiks, have been mostly mum about Trump's prostration to the Zionists. The mildly criticizes his Jerusalem decision but took no action at all. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and leaders of militia in Iraq and Syria have publicly shown some backbone and called fro active resistance. They have a long-term strategy of building up forces to tackle Israel. The decisive action following from Trump's remarks on Jerusalem is still years away.

Dec 7 - Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

Republican's betray their voters. Nothing new here, so do the Democrats. A welcome side-effect of the whole Russia-gate theater is to detract from the Democrats support for the Republican agenda.

Dec 8 - Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

Yesterday the WSJ and the NYT had pieces on the changed atmosphere between Trump and the Saudis. But just like us they found no clue of what is really going on behind the scene. A head-fake?

Dec 9 - Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Iranian General Soleimani is warning the U.S. military to leave Syria. He predicts that it can not hold the ground. The Kurds are slowly moving back into the Syrian-Russian-Iranian camp. The neocons at the British Henry Jackson Society are already up in arms about this and foresee the end of the U.S. occupation. How do they feel about being in the same camp as Soleimani?

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 10, 2017 at 11:13 AM | Permalink | Comments (90)

December 09, 2017

Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Islamic State in Syrian and Iraq is officially defeated. The UN resolution which allowed other countries to fight ISIS within Syria and Iraq no longer applies. But the U.S. military, despite the lack of any legal basis, wants to continue its occupation of Syria's north-east. The attempt to do so will fail. Its Kurdish allies in the area are already moving away from it and now prefer Russian protection. Guerrilla forces to fight the U.S. "presence" are being formed. The U.S. plan is shortsighted and stupid. If the U.S. insists on staying there many of its soldiers will die.

Two days ago the Syrian Arab Army closed the last gaps on the west bank of the Euphrates. Having fought all the way from Aleppo along the river towards the east the Tiger Force reached the liberated Deir Ezzor from the west. All settlements on the way are now controlled by the Syrian government. The remaining Islamic State fighters were pushed into the desert where they will be hunted down and killed.


Map via Southfront - bigger

Two days ago the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared a "complete victory" in Syria:

“Two hours ago, the (Russian) defense minister reported to me that the operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates have been completed with the total rout of the terrorists,” Putin said.

“Naturally, there could still be some pockets of resistance, but overall the military work at this stage and on this territory is completed with, I repeat, the total rout of the terrorists,” he said.

Today the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory and the 'end of the war' against ISIS on the Iraqi side:

"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh (IS)," Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

North of the Euphrates the U.S. proxy force SDF had recently negotiated another agreement (42) with the remaining Islamic State fighters there. ISIS allegedly handed over a border crossing with Iraq to the SDF and in exchange was guaranteed free passage through SDF controlled areas. This agreement came after an earlier one in which the U.S. and SDF let 3,500 ISIS fighters flee from Raqqa to fight the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor. That was a U.S. attempt to delay or prevent the victory of Syria and its allies. It failed.

Shortly after the claimed new ceasefire between the U.S. SDF proxies and ISIS, Russian officers met with officials of the Kurdish YPG, the central force of the SDF. The talks completely changed the situation. In a joint press conference the Kurds and the Russians committed to work together to fight ISIS east of the Euphrates. It seems that the YPG is no longer convinced that the U.S. is willing to do so. The Russians took command and the Russian air forces has since supported the YPG in its fight against ISIS in Deir Ezzor governate on the eastern bank of the river:

“A joint operative staff has been created in the town of Es-Salhiya to provide direct control and organize the cooperation with the popular militia units. Apart from Russian advisors, representatives of the eastern Euphrates tribes are taken part in it,” Poplavskiy said, noting that in the “coming days” the entire territory east of Euphrates River will be free from terrorists.

Mahmoud Nuri, a representative of the Kurdish YPG, stated that the militia “battled ISIS under Russian command very effectively. Kurdish forces have also expressed readiness to ensure the safety of the Russian military specialists operating on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

The U.S. is seriously miffed that the Russians are suddenly supporting the U.S. proxy in Syria's north-east. The U.S. wants to claim the area for itself. (It probably also wants to protect the rest of ISIS there to reuse it when convenient.) The U.S. claims that the Russian air support for the Kurds is violating "coalition airspace".

The U.S. is not invited to Syria but now claims airspace above the country? The Russians, allied with the Syrian government, are invited to fly there. It is obvious who has a sound legal justification to be in the area and who has not. But the U.S. military hates to confront its own malice, and a competent adversary who knows how to play chicken:

In one instance, two Air Force A-10 attack planes flying east of the Euphrates River nearly collided head-on with a Russian Su-24 Fencer just 300 feet away — a knife’s edge when all the planes were streaking at more than 350 miles per hour. The A-10s swerved to avoid the Russian aircraft, which was supposed to fly only west of the Euphrates.
...
Since American and Russian commanders agreed last month to fly on opposite sides of a 45-mile stretch of the Euphrates to prevent accidents in eastern Syria’s increasingly congested skies, Russian warplanes have violated that deal half a dozen times a day, according to American commanders. They say it is an effort by Moscow to test American resolve, bait Air Force pilots into reacting rashly, and help the Syrian Army solidify territorial gains ahead of diplomatic talks aimed at resolving the country’s nearly seven-year-old war.

ISIS is gone. There is no justification for any "coalition airspace". Where please is the "deal" that allows the U.S. to indefinitely occupy north-east Syria as it now officially demands?

The Pentagon plans to keep some U.S. forces in Syria indefinitely, even after a war against the Islamic State extremist group formally ends, to take part in what it describes as ongoing counterterrorism operations, officials said.

There are approximately 2,000 U.S. troops in Syria, along with an unspecified number of contractors supporting them. Last month, the U.S. military withdrew 400 Marines from Syria, which U.S. forces first entered in the fall of 2016.

Officials earlier this week disclosed the plans for an open-ended commitment, known as a “conditions-based” presence.
...
The Pentagon has said the forces will target parts of Syria that aren’t fully governed by either regime or rebel forces. The military says it has the legal authority to remain there.

The U.S. military has lots of fantasies about "legal authority" and "deals". We had already noted that such a "presence" in Syria is obviously illegal. The fig leaf of a UN resolution 2249 to fight ISIS no longer applies. Putin intentionally emphasized the "total rout of the terrorists" and the "complete" victory to point that out. There is absolutely no justification for the U.S. to stay. Moreover - the presence there is unsustainable.

The commander of the paramilitary forces which support the Syrian and Iraqi government sent a note to the U.S. to let it know that any remaining U.S. forces in Syria will be fought down:

[T]he commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corp Brigadier General Haj Qassem Soleimani sent a verbal letter, via Russia, to the head of the US forces commander in Syria, advising him to pull out all US forces to the last soldier “or the doors of hell will open up”.

“My message to the US military command: when the battle against ISIS (the Islamic State group) will end, no American soldier will be tolerated in Syria. I advise you to leave by your own will or you will be forced to it”, said Soleimani to a Russian officer. Soleimani asked the Russian responsible to expose the Iranian intentions towards the US: that they will be considered as forces of occupation if these decide to stay in north-east Syria where Kurds and Arab tribes cohabit together.

In 1983 U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut were blown up after their forces had intervened on one side of the Lebanese civil war. Several hundred soldiers died. After the attack the U.S. pulled out of Lebanon. U.S. soldiers staying in north-east Syria can now expect a similar fate.

The U.S. claims that it has 2,000 soldiers in north-east Syria. This after it had claimed that the number was 500.  This new number was announced after it had already pulled out 400 marines and it is still way too low:

The updated figure does not reflect troops assigned to classified missions and some Special Operations personnel, Mr. Pahon said.

The U.S. had for months claimed that it only had 500 soldiers in the area. It did not even mention the contractors that follow its troops everywhere. The real number of U.S. personnal must have been ten times as high as the official one. The new official number is "2,000 and some".  The real new number is likely still above 3,500 plus several thousand contractors. This revelation confirms again that the U.S. military lies whenever and wherever it can.

The now remaining "more than 2,000" will need tens of tons of supplies each day and the U.S. has no secured supply line into north-east Syria. It is arrogant idiocy to keep the troops there in place. A few roving guerillas can easily choke those supplies. Each of the camps those troops occupy will be a target of external and inside attacks.

The YPG Kurds are already skipping out of their coalition with the U.S.. They are now making friends with the Russians who provide them with air-support where the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive. How much longer will the U.S. soldiers in the YPG controlled areas be able to trust their "allies"?

The Pentagon says that the presence in Syria is “conditions-based” but it does not name any condition that would have to be fulfilled for ending it. General Soleimani seems to believe that a few hundred body bags arriving at Andrews airbase near Washington, DC might be enough condition fulfillment to do the trick.

The situation in other parts of Syria is largely unchanged. The various Takifiri groups in Idelb governate continue to slaughter each other. The Syrian forces will likely hold back their planned attacks into the area as long as their enemies there are devouring each other. But a year from now Idelb, and north-east Syria, will likely be back in the Syrian government's hand.

Posted by b on December 9, 2017 at 11:37 AM | Permalink | Comments (81)

December 08, 2017

Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

The Trump administration seemed to get along very well with the Saudi tyrant and his son Mohammed bin Salman. They together admired the orb and joined up to bash Iran. But now the Trump administration scolded and embarrassed MbS three times in as many days. One wonders what is going on behind that scene.

In mid November a mysterious buyer bought a probably fake Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ for a cool $450 million. On December 6 the New York Times reported that some Saudi prince was the front-man for the purchase:

He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The NYT did not explain how it had gained access to the documents it reviewed. Later that day Bloomberg reported that the painting would be shown in Abu Dhabi. This somewhat diverted from the trail to MbS:

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is getting Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold last month at a Christie’s auction for $450 million, the most ever paid for a work of art.

Christie’s said the artwork will be going to the museum, but declined to say whether the Louvre Abu Dhabi bought the painting. The Louvre Abu Dhabi said in a tweet Wednesday: “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi.

A day later, on December 7 the Trump administration gave a tip to the Wall Street Journal's Shane Harris. The real buyer, it confirmed, was the Saudi clown prince:

Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, was identified as the buyer of the 500-year-old painting, “Salvator Mundi,” in U.S. intelligence reports, according to people with direct knowledge of the information. American officials have closely watched the activities of the 32-year-old, who is trying to portray himself as a reformer determined to root out corruption in the oil-rich kingdom.

The NYT had already hinted at MbS as the real buyer. But it did not say from where it had that information. The WSJ confirmed the buyer and made explicit that the Trump administration was behind the embarrassing leak.

A few weeks ago MbS arrested 200 of the richest and most powerful people in his country. He locked them in a hotel and is fleecing them for their money which, he says, was gained though corruption. That claim is nonsense. He simply wants to steal that money and let them know who the boss is.

The Saudis have a budget problem and are cutting on social spending in the country they rule. It does not look good to cut money from the poor, fleece other members of the wider family and to then waste a large fortune on a picture that might even be fake. On top of that owning that picture is religiously problematic for MbS. Under Wahhabi doctrine no visual portrayals of prophets like Jesus Christ are allowed.

The UAE again came to the rescue. Today the museum tweeted:

Louvre Abu Dhabi @LouvreAbuDhabi - 1:57 PM - 8 Dec 2017
Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum.

The Department of Culture and Tourism seemed to confirm (ar) that, but when the museum was directly asked by the AP it went mum:

Jon Gambrell جون @jongambrellAP - 8:07 AM - 8 Dec 2017
The Louvre Abu Dhabi refused to say whether they made the $450 million bid or if someone gave the Department of Culture and Tourism the painting when asked by the @AP.

Hmmm ... this is a cover up. Why is the UAE doing this?

The de-facto ruler of the UAE is the 56-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. He is the mentor of (and brain behind) the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. Did MbS buy a little Christmas gift for MbZ, but was embarrassed when the Trump administration let the world know about it? Or is MbZ running covering for an outrageous buy MbS made for himself?

The buying of the picture is not the only issue at hand. Just the day before the administration leaked to the WSJ about the art deal, President Trump had publicly  scolded MbS about the situation in Yemen:

President Trump called on Saudi Arabia to lift its crushing blockade against its war-torn neighbor Yemen on Wednesday, hours after defying the kingdom and saying the U.S. would recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

In a statement Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Trump said he had directed members of his administration to reach out to the Saudi leadership "to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it."

Today Secretary of State Tillerson again pushed that line:

Speaking in Paris on Friday, Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, called on Saudi Arabia to be "measured" in its military operations in Yemen.
...
Tillerson urged Saudi restraint.

"With respect to Saudi Arabia's engagement with Qatar, how they're handling the Yemen war that they're engaged in, the Lebanon situation, we would encourage them to be a bit more measured and a bit more thoughtful in those actions to, I think, fully consider the consequences," he said.

He once again demanded a "complete end" to the Saudi-led blockade of Yemen so that humanitarian aid and commercial supplies could be delivered.

Embarrassing MbS about the art buy and publicly(!) scolding hm for the situation in Yemen, for which the U.S. is just as much responsible as the Saudis, is quite an assault. What has MbS done - or not done - to deserve such a punishment?

Trump has just declared that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Did the administration expect the applause of the Saudis for its breaking of international law with regards to Jerusalem? Does it lash out to the Saudis to get their agreement?

If so the miscalculation is clearly on the U.S. side. It is impossible for the Saudis to concede the Haram al-Sharif, the mosque on the so called temple mount, to the Zionists. The Saudi King would no longer be the "custodian of the two holy mosques" in Mecca and Medina but the "seller of the third holy mosque" of Islam in Jerusalem. The people would kill him and his whole family.

If the issue of this public hustle it is not Jerusalem, what else might it be that the Trump administration wants and the Saudis can not, or are not willing to concede? 

A few hours ago the Saudi King fired his ankle biting Foreign Minster Adel al-Jubair. A relative of the king, Khaled bin Salman, will take the job. Is this related to the spat with Trump?

Posted by b on December 8, 2017 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

December 07, 2017

Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

The Republican way of governing.

  • This deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut taxes to spur growth. This will help to lower the deficit.
  • [Cut taxes, increase deficit.]
  • The deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut Social-Security, Medicare and Medicaid to lower the deficit.
  • (rinse, repeat)

Ryan: Tax cuts have to be deficit neutral to conform with reconciliation - Sep 28 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday said the tax cuts included in the tax reform package Republican lawmakers crafted in conjunction with the Trump Administration have to be deficit neutral so as to conform with budget reconciliation rules.

GOP tax plan unlikely to swell deficit: Speaker Ryan tells Reuters - October 25, 2017

The U.S. Republican tax cut plan that President Donald Trump wants passed by the end of the year is unlikely to trigger a big deficit expansion because it will spur more investment and job growth, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Ryan: I'm a deficit hawk and 'a growth advocate' - Nov 5 2017

"Paul Ryan deficit hawk is also a growth advocate. Paul Ryan deficit hawk also knows that you have to have a faster growing economy, more jobs, bigger take-home pay, that means higher tax revenues," Ryan told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

Ryan Dismisses Deficit Concerns to Chase a Political Win on Taxes - Nov 27 2017

The tax overhaul legislation that Ryan shepherded through the House -- the Senate takes up its version this week -- would add at least $1 trillion to budget deficits over the next decade, even when accounting for economic growth, according to independent tax analysts.

CBO: Senate tax plan would increase deficit by $1.4T over 10 years - Nov 27 2017

The Senate GOP's tax plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 - Dec 6 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show.

And no. The Democrats aren't any better. Look at the trillions Obama handed to Wall Street. That wasn't even a tax cut, it was a give-away. Obamacare is a sham,  willfully constructed in way that makes sure it can't survive. The Democrats only pretend to care for the people. As soon as they again have a majority and fake intent for pro-social reforms the Repubs will again whine about the deficit and the Democrats will be happy to fold.

Posted by b on December 7, 2017 at 02:12 PM | Permalink | Comments (51)

December 06, 2017

Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

U.S. President Trump announced today a change in the official U.S. view of the city of Jerusalem in Palestine:

President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said Mr. Trump.

This is not Trump's lone doing. The position has long had support of both parties in Congress:

The Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Tuesday that he had advised Trump to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.
...
A 1995 law declares that Jerusalem should “remain an undivided city” and “be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” but allows the president to issue waivers every six months delaying the move of the embassy for national security reasons. The Senate reaffirmed that law in June.
...
Maryland senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, reiterated his support for recognizing Jerusalem when asked Monday about the president’s potential announcement.

“I believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so to me, that’s not news,” he told TWS.

In 2008 then presidential candidate Obama pandered to the Zionist Lobby in the U.S.:

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

Obama though left it at that speech and never made it official policy. Officially declaring Jerusalem an "undivided city" and capital of the Zionist entity means that there is no room for a Palestinian capital in east-Jerusalem. It buries the (fairy-)tale of a sovereign Palestinian state.

But that idea had been dead all along. The only reasons for U.S. presidents to circumvent the 22 year old law by issuing waivers was to pretend that the U.S. would be a neutral broker towards some peace between the (east-)European colonists and Palestinians. That was from start to end a deception. Congress and U.S. presidents are under control of the Zionist Lobby which can marshal enormous amounts of money to make or defeat candidates for legislative or executive offices. The Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who also sponsors the fascist Israel Prime Minister Netanyahoo, donated more then $100 million to the Trump campaign and tens of millions to Congress races. Today was time for Trump to settle some of that debt.

With the increasing buildup of Zionist settlements in the Palestinian West Bank areas under Netanyahoo, the two state solution had long been killed. The Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas, who let this happen without resistance, is just a kapo used by the Israelis to keep the Palestinians down. The Palestinians in Gaza which defied the Zionist occupation were bombed whenever an Israeli Premier needed some diversion from domestic political trouble.

The U.S. is alone in its move. The global consensus and international legal status is that the issue of Jerusalem must be decided through negotiations. A city divided into of two capitals is the most expected outcome. The EU nations and other countries rejected the move. The Pope and other dignitaries spoke out against it.

The Trump declaration only reveals the true long-standing U.S. position but it still matters. It provides without doubt that the U.S. is the enemy of the people on the Middle East. It exposes those Arab rulers that seek to ally with the U.S. It elevates all those who have been fighting the U.S. all along.

The tyrant of Saudi Arabia and his clown prince son have agreed to Trumps move. Instead of declaring retaliatory measures they only issued pro-forma condemnations. Other Arab rulers which depend on Saudi money, like the Jordan King "Playstation" Abdullah, will likewise stay mostly quiet.

There will likely be only little violence in the immediate aftermath of the Trump declaration. The long term effects though will be significant. The Arab public, which gets little coverage in the "western" press, is seething. Professor Assad AbuKhalil reports:

Fury on Arab social media over Jerusalem
There is such a fury on Arab social media over Jerusalem but I am confident that none of the Western correspondents in Beirut or Cairo will notice in their dispatches.

and:

This in Saudi Arabia
Hashtag "Jerusalem is the capital of Palestine" #1 trending right now in #KSA #Saudi #القدس_عاصمه_فلسطين_الابديه
PS It also is in Iraq and Algeria.
PS and in Syria.

This is today's front page of the Beirut Daily Star, a newspaper which is on most issues solidly in the "western" camp.


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The Professor Amal Saad of the Lebanon University predicts:

Amal Saad @amalsaad_lb - 6:29 PM - 6 Dec 2017

Trump has no idea how his declaration will backfire. In violating Int'l law & legitimizing Israel's apartheid rule in Jerusalem, Int'l law will no longer serve as a framework for securing Palestinian rights- "from river to sea Palestine will be free" will be normalized discourse

Those parties that have resisted and continue to resist U.S. hegemony and the Zionists, will win in the public opinion of the Middle East. Those who cooperate with and enable the U.S. and its Zionist pendant will lose.

On the winning side are Iran, Syria, Hizbullah and Hamas (one can now also include the Houthi?) They have all long resisted imperialism despite enormous pressure and furious wars waged against them. Trump's move fits neatly into their narrative that the U.S. always was and continues to be an enemy of people of the Middle East. The public support for them will grow.

The other "winners" are the terrorists group which pretend to be against the U.S. and the Zionists but which have done little to fight them. These are al-Qaeda, ISIS and other Wahhabi/Takfiri groups. They use the issue as a recruiting tool but their paymasters keep them away from fighting the declared enemies.

Trump's move will increase the internal instability of those countries U.S. imperialism in the Middle East depends on. The Gulf States are the most endangered. Their pliant leaders will come under increased pressure from their own people. At some point that pressure will violently relief itself. I find it likely that the U.S. will be the first to be hurt by it.

Posted by b on December 6, 2017 at 02:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (204)

December 05, 2017

Slapstick In Kiev

Today a slapstick comedy played out in Kiev. It's background though is mysterious.

In 2015 the billionaire currently ruling the Ukraine by the grace of Washington, Petro Poroshenko, invited the disgraced former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to run the city and region of Odessa. Saakashvili is charged in is home country Georgia with abuse of office and he has lost his Georgian citizenship.

The administration of Odessa is as corrupt as any other in the Ukraine but the money was flowing into the wrong pockets. Saakashvili set out to change that. He soon stepped on the sensible toes of some mighty people. After a year Poroshenko dismissed him. Saakashvili moved to the capital Kiev and started a ruckus against his former benefactor. Soon he was under investigation and accused of this or that criminal deed. When as he traveled outside of the country his Ukrainian passport was revoked and his reentry into the Ukraine was prohibited. Saakashvili entered anyway under the protection of some mysteriously paid supporters and moved back to Kiev. He recently led several protests marches against Poroshenko. Saakashvili was again indicted, this time for allegedly being paid by Moscow to arrange for a "Russian winter" coup against Poroshenko in Ukraine. Today the police went to arrest him at his apartment in Kiev.

When the police arrived Saakashvili fled onto the roof of the eight story house where he was caught (vid) by the police.

He was brought to the ground and pushed into a police van.

His supporters, who somehow had arrived in mass, blocked the road. After an hour and some clashes with the police they freed him (video) from the vehicle.

Saakashvili and his supporters went to hold a protest in front of the parliament. At the same time the Ukrainian Prosecutor General reported inside the parliament of tapped phone-calls in which some Russian middleman agrees to pay Saakashvili half a million for running more protests. Local TV transmitted a split-screen live stream of both.

One wonders what this really is about.

Who pays Saakashvili and his "protesters"?

What does Saakashvili, or the people behind him, want?

Why doesn't Poroshenko arrest Saakashvili in some unsuspicions moment?

Why not let him have an 'accident'?

Why not deport him to Georgia where he would likely go to jail?

Posted by b on December 5, 2017 at 02:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (57)

December 04, 2017

Yemen Without Saleh

Updated below

The former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed today. He was 75 years old but still very active in Yemeni politics. Video of his dead body being thrown onto the back of a pickup is making the rounds. One hears Houthi slogans shouted in the background. The pictures show a gun wound on the chest and at the side of the head. The face is easily recognizable. There are also pictures of his ID card.

Though several media report his death there is no confirmation yet from his GPC party or his family.

Over the last few days Houthi media had announced several times that Saleh had been killed. This morning Saleh's house was blown up. This time the Houthi news proved right. The circumstances of Saleh's death are not yet known, but it was said that he was fleeing Sanaa when fate caught up with him.

As we wrote in our recap on Saturday, Saleh had suddenly made peace with the Saudis and asked his followers to take up arms against his former allies. For more than two years he had allied with the Houthi against the U.S. and UK supported Saudi invasion and proxy forces. On Friday, after several days of local clashes with the Houthi, he had called for his followers to throw the Houthi out of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

For a day his fighters, led by some 1,000 soldiers of Saleh's personal guards, were successful and the Houthi were kicked out of many of their positions. But they were not defeated. They called up more of their troops and on Sunday regained the lost ground and buildings. They occupied Saleh's media. His TV station started to transmit his enemies chants. Over the last night and throughout today they defeated Saleh's troops.

It is yet a mystery why not more of Saleh's supporters came to his help. Sanaa is his home turf and whenever he had called for demonstrations in the city, hundreds of thousands attended. For much of his 34 years of rule as president and even after his forced resignation Saleh could call on the seven "collar tribes" who's territory surround the capital. This time they did not come to his aid. Saleh also continued to command significant parts of the former Yemeni army. These currently hold positions far outside of Sanaa against Saudi proxy forces who try to conquer the mountainous territory of northwest Yemen. One wonders why he had not called them back in time. 

It may be that his unexpected turn-on-a-dime towards a new alliance with the eternal enemies of Yemen, the Saudis, has alienated his followers.

The Saleh family and clan is quite big and resourceful. Many of his relatives have held high military positions in the Yemeni army and keep enough money to pay for their troops loyalty. Some nephew of his may take up his banner. It is unsure though if such a replacement could gain the following of the former army units Ali Abdullah could call on.

The Saudis had recently bet on Saleh to end the stalemate in their war on Yemen. Had he won out, it could have meant a pause in the war and probably its end. With the Houthi now having the upper hand in Sanaa, the war, the permanent Saudi bombing and the blockade of Yemen are likely to continue. The Houthi will continue to attack within Saudi Arabia and the fight against the Saudi proxy forces on the ground will go on.

It will need another breakthrough event for the war to stop.

Update:

In previous pieces on Yemen MoA had quoted Haykal Bafana and Iona Craig. Both live in Yemen. Here are their first thoughts on Ali Abdullah Saleh's death:

@BaFana3 - 6:49 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I cannot describe the deep grief I feel. Ali Abdullah Saleh was the greatest leader #Yemen ever had. He never surrendered: He died a martyr in his homeland Yemen, as a Yemeni fighting for Yemen's cause. I salute Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, both in life and in death.

 

@ionacraig - 6:13 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I was 1st foreign journalist to interview Saleh after he stepped down. He said his memoirs wouldn't be published until after his death as they contained secrets about many people. I responded "So a lot of people should be afraid the day that you die?" He laughed & said "InshAllah"

Followers of Saleh and his family will now consider revenge against the Houthi for Saleh's death as their highest priority:

@SaadAbedine - 2:21 PM - 4 Dec 2017

Unconfirmed reports that Ahmed, #Saleh’s eldest son & former commander of #Yemen’s Republican Guard, will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM local & that he was released from his house arrest in #UAE, en route to Marib to lead the fight & seek revenge from #Houthi rebels

Posted by b on December 4, 2017 at 08:23 AM | Permalink | Comments (205)

December 03, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-44

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 27 - Saudi Arabia - Budget Dilemma Escalates - Salmans Resort To Product Placement?

That question was, of course, not  serious. But the issue documented in those pictures is still a true mystery to me. Why do the Saudi tyrants insist of prominently placing trivial Cisco phones in their official pictures of international meetings? What are the phones supposed to symbolize? Wealth? Style? Command authority? Power?

Nov 28 - Turning The Corner In Afghanistan

The U.S. has "turned the corner" in Afghanistan so often that it is now too dizzy find an exit.

Nov 28 - Last Call - Please Support This Unique Endeavor

Moon of Alabama asked for donations. The response has been uplifting. (If you haven't donated yet, please click above.) It will take weeks until the last donation arrives and a finally tally can be made. A heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who donated and helps to keep this site going. Related - sometime  yesterday this blog broke the 25 million pageviews mark! 

Nov 29 - State Department Condemns* Designation Of Media As Foreign Agents (*only applies to Russia)

The U.S. started a spat with Russia by designating Russia Today as a "foreign agents". It laments about press freedom when Russia does likewise. Hypocrites. The latest U.S. move was to deny Russia Today access to the Congressional Gallery and the White House. Russia will retaliate in kind. All "western" media will be banned from reporting from the Russian Duma. To what end was this nonsense started?

Nov 30 - North Korea: "The Missile Program Is Now Complete

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea aka North Korea demonstrated a new missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.. The huge new missile was the last item missing in its arsenal. It is now a fully nuclear capable. Washington is still in denial of that and speaks of an illegal "preemptive strike" against North Korea. Such a strike would risk the loss of one or more U.S. cities to a nuke shot off in retaliation. The only path forward is through negotiations.

Dec 1 - Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The plea deal of Trump's former National Security Advisor turns out to be nothing-burger with regards to the alleged "collusion" with Russia. Flynn lobbied the Russians ambassador in favor of Israel and to fulfill Trump's campaign promise of better relations with Russia. Flynn was stupid enough to lie to the FBI about the content of phone-calls that the FBI had transcripts of. Robert Parry rightly argues that Flynn was intentionally set-up and trapped by operatives of the outgoing Obama regime.

Dec 2 - Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

Yesterday's post said that former president Saleh was recovering the capital Sanaa from his previously ally, the Houthi. It may have been premature. After having been ousted from most of their positions in Sanaa, the Houthis called up reinforcements and came back with vengeance. As of now they recovered some positions and took over the TV station and other media of Saleh's GPC party. Fighting in Sanaa is ongoing. If Saleh loses this fight the war on Yemen is likely to continue.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b on December 3, 2017 at 10:14 AM | Permalink | Comments (61)

December 02, 2017

Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

The war on Yemen has finally taken a turn towards an end. Former President Saleh is back in his leading position. They Saudis accepted their defeat. The Houthis will be thrown out of the capital Sanaa and return to their northern areas. Yemen is devastated and will need to rebuild. Everyone who participated in this war has lost. The only winner is Russia.

A recap:

During the "Arab spring" (U.S.) induced Yemeni revolution President Saleh was kicked out after ruling the country for 34 years. In 2012 the former Vice-President Hadi was "elected" as the new president on a one choice ballot. With U.S. support the system prevailed.


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As I noted at that time:

The U.S. missed the chance to use the movement against Saleh for some real transition in Yemen. This will come back to bite.

Hadi was a Saudi puppet unable to rule the country. He tried to form a unity government under the National Dialogue Conference sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council. But two major constituencies were left out of the effort: the northern Yemeni Houthis of Zaidi belief, who for years had fought against Saudi-Wahhabi indoctrination in Yemen, and the followers of the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis and Saleh had fought each other for over a decade. Now they had a common enemy and united their efforts.

In 2015 the Houthi and Yemeni army troops loyal to Saleh took over the capital Sanaa. Hadi resigned (twice), fled to Aden in the south and later onto Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were afraid to lose influence over their dirt poor but self-confident neighbor. They falsely alleged that the Houthis were supported by their perceived arch-enemy Iran. They declared war on the country and tried to invade it. The U.S. and the UK supported and still support the Saudi war with intelligence, refueling flights for Saudi bombers and massive weapon supplies.

The Saudis sent their troops to invade the country, their neighboring United Arab Emirates sent its forces and additional mercenaries were hired from Sudan, south America and where ever they could be found. All to no avail. While the Saudis dropped more than 100 bombs per day onto Yemen their forces were defeated every time they tried to enter the mountainous heartland. The Houthi counterattacked within Saudi Arabia. They had no shoes but huge balls. Hundreds of Saudi border posts and military checkpoints were destroyed by them.

The Saudis tried to starve the Houthis of weapons, food and other supplies. They blockaded the country and bombed weapon depots, factories and all infrastructure. They completely destroyed Houthi cities in the north and tried to assassinate the leaders of the rebellion. Tens of thousands of Yemenis died in the often indiscriminate attacks. But the Houthi held out. For decades Yemen had been filled up with weapons. During his decades long rule former president Saleh had stashed ten-thousands of tons of ammunition and equipment. Additional supplies were captured or bought from the Saudi mercenaries.

The former Yemeni army units loyal to Saleh, as well as Saleh himself, stayed in the background. Their most visible contribution to the war was the launch of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) against Saudi cities and military positions. These weapons had been bought earlier and were modified to have extended reach (see the excursion below).

The Saudi were stuck in a stalemate that cost them over $800 million per month. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were flourishing in the south which the Saudis and their allies nominally controlled. Saudi proxies were infighting with troops from the UAE. Missiles were falling down on Saudi cities. While only few missiles hit their targets each of them demonstrated the impotence of the Saudi rulers.

The Saudis finally send out peace feelers to former president Saleh. The Russians, who had kept their embassy in Sanaa open throughout the war, acted as the middleman. In mid October the first results of the diplomatic efforts became visible:

A Russian medical team flew into Sanaa on Oct. 11 with the approval of the Saudis, who control Yemeni airspace. The Russian surgeons then performed a life-saving procedure on the 75-year-old Saleh. Some reports say the surgery took place at the Russian Embassy in the capital. Saleh's exact health issue is unclear, but it apparently is a result of the severe burns and other injuries he suffered during an assassination attempt in 2011.
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Most likely the Saudis are hoping to break the rebel alliance between Saleh and the Houthis, which has been fraying this year.
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Both King Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, have their prestige heavily invested in this war. They rushed into it precipitously 2½ years ago.
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Salman was in Moscow earlier this month for an unprecedented state visit to Russia. ... It is reasonable to assume that the king and Putin discussed the Yemeni imbroglio. Russia has been openly critical of the UN's approach to the conflict, which Moscow rightly says is too friendly to the Saudi argument and insufficiently even-handed.

While Saleh was sick, the Houthis became uppity. They arrested and killed Saleh followers in Sanaa, occupied bases of his troops and raided homes of his officers. They may have gotten wind of the ongoing negotiations between Saleh and the Saudis. Over the last months their behavior towards their compatriots in Sanaa became unendurable.

Meanwhile negotiations between Saleh and the Saudis were ongoing in the backrooms and on the battle field. On November 4 the Yemeni troops launched a missile against the airport of the Saudi capital Riyadh. U.S. provided missile defense systems destroyed the missile before it hit, but the public damage was done. A serious hit on the airport would likely close it for civilian traffic. The economic and political consequences for the Saudi tyrants would be huge.

The Saudis responded with a total blockade of Yemen. Neither food nor medicine was allowed to pass. This led to a famine, hundreds of death per day and finally to a public outcry from the otherwise slavish UN. Not even the hundreds of millions the Saudis spend to manipulate the global media could prevent the backlash.

Another missile was fired on Thursday to increase the pressure. It targeting the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait. The Saudis finally folded. They agreed to Saleh's conditions.

We do not yet know what these conditions are but Saleh publicly announced that a deal had been made and immediately went to work. His first target were the no-longer-allied Houthi:

ADEN (Reuters) - Former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh said on Saturday he was ready for a "new page" in relations with the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen if it stopped attacks on his country.

The call came as his supporters battled Houthi fighters for a fourth day in the capital Sanaa while both sides traded blame for a widening rift between allies that could affect the course of the civil war.
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"I call upon the brothers in neighboring states and the alliance to stop their aggression, lift the siege, open the airports and allow food aid and the saving of the wounded and we will turn a new page by virtue of our neighborliness," Saleh said in a televised speech.

The Saudis likewise publicly announced their agreement:

The Arab coalition has made a statement on Saturday amidst the ongoing fierce clashes in Sanaa.
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The coalition also said that it recognizes the noble members of the the Yemeni General People’s Congress (GPC), the GPC’s leadership and the Yemeni people who were forced to remain under Houthi-Iranian control. Also, the coalition recognizes that these noble individuals have endured numerous murder threats, torture, bombings and seizure of public and private property.

The Yemeni General People’s Congress (GPC) is Saleh's party. He is still the GPC chairperson. Saleh is now again the Saudi accepted ruler of Yemen. The "legitimate" president Hadi will be buried in Riyadh.

Saleh called on all his followers to oust the Houthi from their positions. His nephew and potential successor Colonel Tariq Mohammed Abdullah Saleh will lead a new military council and run that side of the business. Houthi posters in Sanaa have been teared down. There is some fierce fighting ongoing in the city. Sanaa is Saleh territory. His troops are prepared and he is very likely to win the fight.

It is now left to Saleh and his family and followers to clean up the utter mess the U.S. induced "revolution" and the Saudi war on Yemen have caused. The Saudis will have to pay billions in reparations. Saleh's family will plunder a huge share of these. Despite the money Saleh is, like always, no ones puppet but the snake that bites everyone who stands in his way. That is how and why he could rule for so long.

The Houthis, who bravely fought against the Saudis, became too sure of themselves and too obnoxious towards their own people to be able to rule. They will be ousted from Sanaa and pushed back into their devastated northern homelands.

Everyone in Yemen lost in this war. Many, many have died for no good reason. It will take decades to rebuild all that was destroyed. The Saudis and the U.S. behind them have lost face and standing throughout the Arab world. They tried to fuck Yemen but Yemen fucked them.

The only real winners of the war are the Russians. They again demonstrated that they are able to create peace where the U.S. only creates war and chaos.

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Excursion:

The Saudis have alleged all along that the Houthi are an Iranian proxy force. That is not true. The Houthis are not Shia and not follower of Iranian state doctrines. They don't take orders. The military support they receive from Iran is minimal. The Saudis especially allege that the missiles fired under the Houthi label by the former Yemen troops under Saleh's command are of Iranian origin. But that is unlikely. Yemen has been under Saudi blockade for more than two years and ballistic  missiles can not be smuggled under a coat. Yesterday Reuters released a short piece in supports of the Saudi allegations. But a closer reading shows that these are false.

In mid November a confidential report by a UN panel found no evidence that the missiles launched against the Saudis are of QIAM-1 type from Iran:

The supporting evidence provided in these [Saudi] briefings is far below that required to attribute this attack to a Qiam-1 SRBM,” wrote the panel. “The Saudi-Arabia led coalition has not yet though attributed the attempted attack against KKIA” — King Khalid International Airport, in the Saudi capital Riyadh — “to any particular type of SRBM.”

The Panel has seen no evidence to support claims of SRBM having been transferred to the Houthi-Saleh alliance from external sources in violation of paragraph 14 of resolution 2216,” the brief went on.

Like the specialists of IHS Janes (see below) the UN panel assessed that the missiles were modifications of a type that Yemen had earlier bought from North Korea:

The Yemeni military, the panel added, retained existing stockpiles of SCUD-B and Hwasong-6 missiles that were not completely destroyed by earlier Saudi airstrikes. The panel cite a Houthi spokesperson who said missiles that had been damaged were subsequently repaired and modified. “The panel has not discounted though that Yemen based foreign missile specialists may be providing advice,” the brief cautioned. The panel raised the possibility that missiles may have been altered to extend their range to reach targets farther into Saudi Arabia.

Now Reuters is trying to revive the Saudi claim by reporting on a new assessment with a very deceiving headline. Exclusive: Yemen rebel missiles fired at Saudi Arabia appear Iranian - U.N.:

Remnants of four ballistic missiles fired into Saudi Arabia by Yemen’s Houthi rebels this year appear to have been designed and manufactured by Riyadh’s regional rival Iran, a confidential report by United Nations sanctions monitors said, bolstering a push by the United States to punish the Tehran government.

The Reuters claim in its opening paragraph is not what the panel really said. Deeper into the report:

The independent panel of U.N. monitors, in a Nov. 24 report to the Security Council seen by Reuters on Thursday, said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles
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Design characteristics and dimensions of the components inspected by the panel are consistent with those reported for the Iranian designed and manufactured Qiam-1 missile,” the monitors wrote.

I agree that the "design characteristics" and "dimensions of components" are consistent with the QIAM-1. The explanation for that is trivial. The Iranian QIAM-1 is:

a licensed copy of the North Korean Hwasong-6.

The Hwasong-6:

is a North Korean tactical ballistic missile. It is derived from the Hwasong-5, itself a derivative of the Soviet R-17 Elbrus. It carries the NATO reporting name Scud.

According to an IHS Janes report (pdf) the missiles the Saleh government of Yemen had bought from North Korea were of the Hwasong-5 and probably Hwasong-6 type:

Prior to the outbreak of the current conflict, Yemen was known to have acquired R-17 Elbrus (SS -1C 'Scud B') ... ballistic missile systems from the Soviet Union
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Spanish naval vessels intercepted a ship carrying 15 Scud-type ballistic missiles to Yemen in December [2002]. That ship was later allowed to complete the delivery. The missiles found on board were 'Scud Bs' (a reference to North Korea's Hwasong-5 copy of the R-17), according to a June 2003 US diplomatic cable. ,,, [I]t is possible that it was one of several shipments that also included longer-range variants such as the Hwasong-6, which is also known as the 'Scud-C', and has a range of 500-550 km.

The Yemen army has over 30 years of experience with Scud-type missiles and knows how to modify these. They revealed "new Yemeni made" Burkan missiles before they fired on Riyadh. Janes notes:

The stated dimensions of the Burkan-1 suggest that it is a standard Scud that has been lengthened with additional sections welded into its fuselage and fuel tanks so that it can carry the additional propellant needed to extend its range. Iraq carried out similar modifications to produce Al Hussein missiles capable of reaching Tehran during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War.
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The Burkan-2 appears to use a new type of warhead section that is locally fabricated. Both Iran and North Korea have displayed Scud derivatives with shuttlecock-shaped warheads, but none of these match the Yemeni version. The range of the Burkan missiles also appears to have been extended by a reduction in the weight of their warheads.

The Yemenis use locally modified Haewsong-5 and 6 missiles bought from North Korea. Iran builds a licensed copy of the Haewsong-6 under the name QIAM-1. These QIAM missiles will naturally have similar "design characteristics" and "dimensions of components" as the North Korean missiles the Yemenis use.

Reuters is pointing its readers into the false direction when it claims that the Yemeni missiles "appear Iranian". In reality both, the Yemeni Burkan as well as the Iranian QIAM, are variants of the same North Korean Haewsong-5 and 6 which are themselves copies of the Soviet R-17/Scud-B/Scud-C types. All of these were build from the same specification sheet and engineering drawings. That their dimensions and parts look alike, as the UN panel says, follows from that but proves absolutely nothing.

Posted by b on December 2, 2017 at 12:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (127)

December 01, 2017

Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The anti-Trump "resistance" campaign alleges that the Russian government tried to "influence" the U.S. election. It insinuates that Trump "colluded" with the Russians in these alleged attempts. It has no evidence for any of its claims. The intent of this campaign is to handicap the Trump administration as much as possible and to prevent better U.S. relations with Russia.

A witch hunt was launched in which the Mueller investigation in the alleged election manipulation as well as Congress hearings are used to throw as much dirt as possible into the direction of the Trump administration to then see what might stick. 

While retired army-general Michael Flynn worked for the Trump campaign he was also a lobbyist for a rich person near to the Turkish government. He made $600,000 off that gig. The Trump campaign did not know about this. Flynn also attended an anniversary celebration for Russia Today in Moscow. He had been hired as a paid speaker for the occasion and his speaker agency charged $40,000 for it.

Flynn was fired from the job as National Security Advisor 24 days after Trump#s inauguration. He had been stupid enough to announce that he wanted to reform the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. Those agencies made sure that such would not happen.

Flynn was questioned by the FBI in connection with the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian influence on the 2016 election campaign. He lied to the FBI about some diplomatic contacts he had made on request of the then incoming Trump administration. The FBI managed to prove that he had lied. In the U.S. lying to the FBI is a serious crime. (I am not aware of other country that has such a stupid rule.) Flynn was offered a plea deal. He is supposed to tell Mueller what Mueller wants to hear in exchange for a lower penalty for his "crime" of lying to the FBI.

But look what the real issues were Flynn lied about:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and authorities indicated in court he was acting under instructions from senior Trump transition officials in his dealings with the diplomat.

Flynn contacted the senior Russian diplomat in Washington DC. He was surely aware that the NSA and CIA notice and listen in to all such contacts. Flynn had no reason to believe that such contacts were out of norm because they ain't. Incoming administrations need such contacts to prepare their polices.

There are two different issues about which Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador:

In one of the conversations described in court documents, the men discussed an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.
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Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, took the lead in those efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said.

The Security Council vote was on December 23 2016. The Israeli government lobbied the incoming administration to influence that vote in the Israeli government's interest. The Trump administration in-waiting could not influence the Obama administration which had decided to abstain. It contacted the Russian ambassador to influence the Russians to block the vote in the UNSC. The Russian's did not do such.

The "collusion" here is between the Israeli government and the Trump campaign. The "influence" is two part. A successful Israeli attempt to influence the incoming Trump administration and an unsuccessful attempt by Trump people to influence the Russian UNSC vote. The issue has absolutely zero to do with the U.S. election.

Now onto the second issue:

In the other discussion, according to court documents, Mr. Flynn asked Mr. Kislyak that Moscow refrain from escalating the situation in response to sanctions announced by the Obama administration that day against Russia over its interference in the presidential election. And Mr. Kislyak told Mr. Flynn that Russia “had chosen to moderate its response,” the documents said.

The following day, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said Moscow would not retaliate against the United States in response to the sanctions.

Mr. Trump praised the Russian leader in a Twitter post.

“Great move on delay (by V. Putin) — I always knew he was very smart!” Mr. Trump wrote.

Throughout his election campaign Trump had loudly argued for better relations with Russia. He said it would be easier to solve global problems if the U.S. and Russia cooperate.

The Obama administration had a generally hostile attitude towards Russia. It walked the relations towards a new cold war. Clinton's loss of the election which she blamed, without evidence, on Russia amplified his moves. According to the book 'Shattered', which describes the Clinton campaign, the decision to blame Russia for her loss was made a day after Trump's victory:

That strategy had been set within twenty-four hours of her concession speech. Mook and Podesta assembled her communications team at the Brooklyn headquarters to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up-and-up. For a couple of hours, with Shake Shack containers littering the room, they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.

At the end of 2016 Obama sanctioned Russian officials over allegedly influencing the U.S. campaign. No evidence was ever presented that such "influencing" was attempted or happened. Obama just willfully tried to worsen the relations with Russia.

The incoming administration tried to prevent more damage in the relations between the U.S. and Russia by contacting the Russian ambassador. It was a smart and well reasoned measure. There was no "collusion" in this. The "influence" was again from the Trump campaign into the direction of the Russian government, not the other way around. It had nothing to do with the election.

The Clinton fan-boys and girls seem happy with the Flynn's plea deal and are fretting about his contacts with the Russian ambassador. But how this is supposed to show that something nefarious was going on is not discernible.  How the issues Flynn lied about (for whatever stupid reason) are supposed to prove "Russian influence" on the election or "collusion" with Trump during the election campaign is beyond me.

Posted by b on December 1, 2017 at 01:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (93)