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July 31, 2018

Hawks Renew Their Attacks On North Korea Talks

There are new attempts underway to sabotage the deal U.S. President Trump made with North Korea's Chairman Kim Jong-Un. These attacks are based on misleading interpretations of the agreements that were made between the two leaders.

Duyeon Kim, a fellow of the Center for a New American Security based in Seoul, suggests in Foreign Policy to ignore the agreed upon sequencing of a. the establishment new US-DPRK relations, b. a peace agreements and c. denuclearization of the Korean peninsula.

Duyeon Kim argues:

[T]he issue is the order of agreed points, which has caused confusion and misinterpretation. For the first time in the history of negotiations, Washington essentially accepted, whether blindly or wittingly, Pyongyang’s wish list on sequencing: 1) normalization of bilateral relations, 2) establishment of a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula, and then 3) “complete denuclearization.” ...

This is not "Pyongyang’s wish list". North Korea's "wish list" did not include denuclearization talks. The listed content of those steps and their sequencing was negotiated and agreed upon by all parties. The leaders of North Korea, South Korea and the United States signed on to them. For some undisclosed reason Duyeon Kim wants to change that:

In theory, the peace process and denuclearization process could proceed simultaneously. The practical reality, however, is potentially falling into Pyongyang’s trap. Making peace too soon could produce an economically vibrant North Korean state armed with nuclear weapons and normal relations with the United States. Serious progress on nuclear dismantlement should be achieved before formal discussions commence on a peace treaty. It will take skill and tact from Pompeo’s negotiating team to navigate the pitfalls and landmines along this twisting route.

No" skill and tact" will allow Pompeo to change the sequence that was agreed upon. It would breaks both agreements, the April Panmunjom Declaration between South and North Korea, and the June Singapore Statement signed by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un.

Duyeon Kim knows this well but openly argues to follow such a path. Why?

What is so bad with an economically vibrant North Korean state that has normal relations with the United States? Such a state, one hopes, would over time feel secure enough to get rid of its expensive nuclear determent. A threatened and insecure North Korea will certainly never do such. So what is the alternative to the agreed upon process? Duyeon Kim does not provide one.


The Washington Post joins other publications in re-upping the scare about North Korea. It headlines: U.S. spy agencies: North Korea is working on new missiles:

U.S. spy agencies are seeing signs that North Korea is constructing new missiles at a factory that produced the country’s first intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching the United States, according to officials familiar with the intelligence.
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The reports about new missile construction come after recent revelations about a suspected uranium-enrichment facility, called Kangson, that North Korea is operating in secret.

Duh. No one who followed the issue expected North Korea to stop expanding its still small nuclear determent. There is no public commitment or agreement that says it would do so.

The Washington Post writers acknowledge that. But only after much scary phrased secretive musing and way down in the seventeenth(!)  paragraph:

Several U.S. officials and private analysts said the continued activity inside North Korea’s weapons complex is not surprising, given that Kim made no public promise at the summit to halt work at the scores of nuclear and missile facilities scattered around the country. The North Koreans “never agreed to give up their nuclear program,” said Ken Gause, a North Korea expert at the Center for Naval Analysis. And it is foolish to expect that they would do so at the outset of talks, he said.

The "officials" who leak those bits over continued missile building to the Washington Post authors also add a rumor that later will be used to demand a stringent verification regime. Something North Korea is likely to reject:

[S]enior North Korean officials have discussed their intention to deceive Washington about the number of nuclear warheads and missiles they have, as well as the types and numbers of facilities, and to rebuff international inspectors, according to intelligence gathered by U.S. agencies. Their strategy includes potentially asserting that they have fully denuclearized by declaring and disposing of 20 warheads while retaining dozens more.

U.S. intelligence on North Korea is notoriously bad. The North Korean missile launches and nuclear tests last year were only detected when they were imminent. It is unlikely that U.S. spy services know what senior North Korean official "discuss" about "potentially asserting" something. The U.S. services probably "gathered" that through South Korea's spy service. But whatever South Korean agencies say about North Korea is colored by their traditionally very hawkish position. They pay up to $860,000 to those North Korean defectors who make up the most scary stories. Such stories are often false.

To insert these rumors allows hardliners like National Security Advisor John Bolton to later demand that inspectors get free reign within North Korea to search under Kim Jong-Un's bed for non existing nukes. Bolton may even dream of joining the WMD hunt.


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The Post and others are Weaving a Narrative of North Korean Deception. It is based on inaccurate and misleading reporting of what North Korea signed up to. North Korea is known to stick to the letters of its agreements. In the past it was the U.S. that was abrogating them.

The Singapore Statement by Donald Trump and Kim Jong-Un is clear in its content and sequencing. First come new relations, likely in the form of opening embassies in each others country. Then come negotiations over a peace treaty that will replace the current armistice agreement and finally end the Korea War. Only after that comes denuclearization.

North Korea has already fulfilled several side-commitments. It continues to honor a nuclear and missile test moratorium, it blew up its nuclear test tunnel and dismantled a large missile engine test stand at Sohae. It handed over the remains of U.S. soldiers. It is now expecting that the U.S. demonstrates its good will. The Trump administration should lift some sanctions and starts the talks about the opening of embassies.

Changing the agreed upon agenda will not work. If the U.S. goes back on the words its president signed, North Korea will re-up its test program and again demonstrate its expanding capabilities. China, Russia and South Korea have already lifted some of their sanctions on North Korea. Those sanctions will not come back if its U.S. side that does not fulfill its obligations.

The U.S. will then have no leverage left to bring a nuclear armed North Korea to the negotiating table.

Posted by b on July 31, 2018 at 03:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (63)

July 30, 2018

U.S. Negotiates Retreat From Afghanistan

The United States seems ready to give up on Afghanistan.

After the World Trade Center came down the U.S. accused al-Qaeda, parts of which were hosted in Afghanistan. The Taliban government offered the U.S. to extradite al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden to an Islamic country to be judged under Islamic law. The U.S. rejected that and decided instead to destroy the Afghan government.

Taliban units, supported by Pakistani officers, were at that time still fighting against the Northern Alliance which held onto a few areas in the north of the country. Under threats from the U.S. Pakistan, which sees Afghanistan as its natural depth hinterland, was pressed into service. In exchange for its cooperation with the U.S. operation it was allowed to extradite its forces and main figures of the Taliban.

U.S. special forces were dropped into north Afghanistan. They came with huge amounts of cash and the ability to call in B-52 bombers. Together with the Northern Alliance they move towards Kabul bombing any place where some feeble resistance came from. The Taliban forces dissolved. Many resettled in Pakistan. Al-Qaeda also vanished.

A conference with Afghan notables was held in Germany's once capital Bonn. The Afghans wanted to reestablish the former Kingdom but were pressed into accepting a western style democracy. Fed with large amounts of western money the norther warlords, all well known mass-murderers, and various greedy exiles were appointed as a government. To them it was all about money. There was little capability and interest to govern.

All these U.S. mistakes made in the early days are still haunting the country.

For a few years the Taliban went quiet. But continued U.S. operations, which included random bombing of weddings, torture and abduction of assumed al-Qaeda followers, alienated the people. Pakistan feared that it would be suffocated between a permanently U.S. occupied Afghanistan and a hostile India. Four years after being ousted the Taliban were reactivated and found regrown local support.

Busy with fighting an insurgency in Iraq the U.S. reacted slowly. It then surged troops into Afghanistan, pulled back, surged again and is now again pulling back. The U.S. military aptly demonstrated its excellent logistic capabilities and its amazing cultural incompetence. The longer it fought the more Afghan people stood up against it. The immense amount of money spent to 'rebuild' Afghanistan went to U.S. contractors and Afghan warlords but had little effect on the ground. Now half the country is back under Taliban control while the other half is more or less contested.

Before his election campaign Donald Trump spoke out against the war on Afghanistan. During his campaign he was more cautious pointing to the danger of a nuclear Pakistan as a reason for staying in Afghanistan. But Pakistan is where the U.S. supply line is coming through and there are no reasonable alternatives. Staying in Afghanistan to confront Pakistan while depending on Pakistan for logistics does not make sense.

Early this year the U.S. stopped all aid to Pakistan. Even the old Pakistani government was already talking about blocking the logistic line. The incoming prime minister Imran Khan has campaigned for years against the U.S. war on Afghanistan. He very much prefers an alliance with China over any U.S. rapprochement. The U.S. hope is that Pakistan will have to ask the IMF for another bailout and thus come back under Washington's control. But it is more likely that Imran Khan will ask China for financial help.

Under pressure from the military Trump had agreed to raise the force in Afghanistan to some 15,000 troops. But these were way to few to hold more than some urban areas. Eighty percent of the Afghan people live in the countryside. Afghan troops and police forces are incapable or unwilling to fight their Taliban brethren. It was obvious that this mini-surge would fail:

By most objective measures, President Donald Trump’s year-old strategy for ending the war in Afghanistan has produced few positive results.

Afghanistan’s beleaguered soldiers have failed to recapture significant new ground from the Taliban. Civilian deaths have hit historic highs. The Afghan military is struggling to build a reliable air force and expand the number of elite fighters. Efforts to cripple lucrative insurgent drug smuggling operations have fallen short of expectations. And U.S. intelligence officials say the president’s strategy has halted Taliban gains but not reversed their momentum, according to people familiar with the latest assessments.

To blame Pakistan for its support for some Taliban is convenient, but makes little sense. In a recent talk John Sopko, the U.S. Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), made a crucial point:

“We keep referring to Pakistan as being the key problem. But the problem also was that the Afghan government at times was viewed very negatively by their local people and what you really need is to insert a government that the people support, a government that is not predatory, a government that is not a bunch of lawless warlords,” observed Sopko.

He went on to say that the U.S. policy of pouring in billions of dollars in these unstable environments contributed to the problem of creating more warlords and powerful people who took the law into their own hands.

“In essence, the government we introduced, particularly some of the Afghan local police forces, which were nothing other than warlord militias with some uniforms on, were just as bad as the terrorists before them,” said Sopko ...

This was the problem from the very beginning. The U.S. bribed itself into Afghanistan. It spent tons of money but did not gain real support. It bombed and shot aimlessly at 'Taliban' that were more often than not just the local population. It incompetently fought 17 one-year-long wars instead of a consistently planned and sustained political, economic and military campaign.

After a year of another useless surge the Trump administration decided to pull back from most active operations and to bet on negotiations with the Taliban:

The shift to prioritize initial American talks with the Taliban over what has proved a futile “Afghan-led, Afghan-owned” process stems from a realization by both Afghan and American officials that President Trump’s new Afghanistan strategy is not making a fundamental difference in rolling back Taliban gains.

While no date for any talks has been set, and the effort could still be derailed, the willingness of the United States to pursue direct talks is an indication of the sense of urgency in the administration to break the stalemate in Afghanistan.
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Afghan officials and political leaders said direct American talks with the Taliban would probably then grow into negotiations that would include the Taliban, the Afghan government, the United States and Pakistan.

In February the Taliban declared their position in a public Letter of the Islamic Emirate to the American people (pdf). The five pages letter offered talks but only towards one aim:

Afghans have continued to burn for the last four decades in the fire of imposed wars. They are longing for peace and a just system but they will never tire from their just cause of defending their creed, country and nation against the invading forces of your war­mongering government because they have rendered all the previous and present historic sacrifices to safeguard their religious values and national sovereignty. If they make a deal on their sovereignty now, it would be unforgettable infidelity with their proud history and ancestors.

Last weeks talks between the Taliban and U.S. diplomats took place in Doha, Qatar. Remarkably the Afghan government was excluded. Despite the rousing tone of the Reuters report below the positions that were exchanged do not point to a successful conclusion:

According to one Taliban official, who said he was part of a four-member delegation, there were “very positive signals” from the meeting, which he said was conducted in a “friendly atmosphere” in a Doha hotel.

“You can’t call it peace talks,” he said. “These are a series of meetings for initiating formal and purposeful talks. We agreed to meet again soon and resolve the Afghan conflict through dialogue.”
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The two sides had discussed proposals to allow the Taliban free movement in two provinces where they would not be attacked, an idea that President Ashraf Ghani has already rejected. They also discussed Taliban participation in the Afghan government.

“The only demand they made was to allow their military bases in Afghanistan,” said the Taliban official.
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“We have held three meetings with the U.S. and we reached a conclusion to continue talks for meaningful negotiations,” said a second Taliban official.
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“However, our delegation made it clear to them that peace can only be restored to Afghanistan when all foreign forces are withdrawn,” he said.

This does not sound promising:

  • In a first step the Taliban want to officially rule parts of the country and use it as a safe haven. The Afghan government naturally rejects that.
  • Participation of the Taliban in the Afghan government is an idea of the Afghan president Ghani. It is doubtful that this could be successfully arranged. Norther Alliance elements in the Afghan government, like the 'chief executive' Abdullah Abdullah, are unlikely to ever agree to it. The Taliban also have no interest to be 'part of the government' and to then get blamed for its failures. Their February letter makes clear that they want to be the government.
  • The U.S. wants bases in Afghanistan. The Taliban, and Pakistan behind them, reject that and will continue to do so.

It is difficult to see how especially the last mutually exclusive positions can ever be reconciled.

The Taliban are ready to accept a peaceful retreat of the U.S. forces. That is their only offer. They may agree to keep foreign Islamist fighters out of their country. The U.S. has no choice but to accept. It is currently retreating to the cities and large bases. The outlying areas will fall to the Taliban. Sooner or later the U.S. supply lines will be cut. Its bases will come under fire.

There is no staying in Afghanistan. A retreat is the only issue the U.S. can negotiate about. It is not a question of "if" but of "when".

The Soviet war in Afghanistan took nine years. The time was used to build up a halfway competent government and army that managed to hold off the insurgents for three more years after the Soviet withdrawal. The government only fell when the Soviets cut the money line. The seventeen year long U.S. occupation did not even succeed in that. The Afghan army is corrupt and its leaders are incompetent. The U.S. supplied it with expensive and complicate equipment that does not fit Afghan needs. As soon as the U.S. withdraws the whole south, the east and Kabul will immediately fall back into Taliban hands. Only the north may take a bit longer. They will probably ask China to help them in developing their country.

The erratic empire failed in another of its crazy endeavors. That will not hinder it to look for a new ones. The immense increase of the U.S. military budget, which includes 15,000 more troops, points to a new large war. Which country will be its next target?

Posted by b on July 30, 2018 at 02:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (106)

July 29, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-37

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Bloomberg fell for Netanyahoo's trick:

To limit Iran’s role, Russia had proposed a 100-km (60-mile) buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border that would be off limits to Iranian forces and their allies. But Israel is demanding further protections, including the removal of long-range Iranian missiles from Syria and limits on weapons supplies, according to media reports in Israel and Russia.

The MoA piece provides that it was Israel that claimed Russia had set the 100 km range, something it had not done, and it is Israel that demands even more.

This was, for several reasons, an unproductive week for your host. Next week the blog will, hopefully, be back to (nearly) daily posts.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 29, 2018 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (195)

July 27, 2018

'Western' Press Dislikes Imran Khan's Win In Pakistan's Election

Imran Khan election win in Pakistan receives a hostile reaction in U.S. and British media. The headlines are generally negative and the descriptions of Imran cast a damning light of him.

From the New York Times print edition front page:


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The word "Pakistan" was probably too long for the valuable front-page space. Thus the NYT shortened it to "Nuclear-Armed Islamic Republic". The attribute "unpredictable" for Imran Khan is curious. (If one cuts out the "Islamic" the headline fits to Trump's election victory. Was that the intended joke?)

The piece by Jeffrey Gettleman repeats the "unpredictable" claim:

Friends and foes describe Mr. Khan, 65, as relentless, charming, swaggering and highly unpredictable.

But there is no evidence, not one example in the piece that supports that attribute. It describes how he, in the late 90s, entered politics:

Mr. Khan seized on a single issue: governance. ... He focused on corruption, repeatedly stating that a few political dynasties had shamelessly enriched themselves. ... [H]e seemed adept at not letting the gossip pages distract him, and he kept hammering on about corruption.

Corruption was also a main theme of his recent campaign. Imran's anti-corruption position has been a constant. His opposition to the U.S. war of terror also never changed. There is not one "unpredictable" bit in his political positions. Where then did that come from? Only in the very last paragraph that word returns:

Many analysts wonder how long Mr. Khan’s friendship with the military will last.

“He is known to have erratic behavior and a very unpredictable personality,” said Taha Siddiqui, a journalist and critic of the military who recently moved to France, saying he feared for his safety.

Siddiqui worked for an Indian TV channel and for France24. He has long been critical of Pakistan's military. In January he claimed that "he was attacked by up to a dozen men en route to the airport in Rawalpindi but managed to escape". He clearly dislikes that Imran Khan has good relations with Pakistan's military.  Why is that enough to make it in into a headline?

The London Times takes up the theme in this cartoon:


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It's a cheap point. During the last 50 years there never was a prime minister of Pakistan who could act against the will of the powerful military. If the Bhutto clan and its PPP party or the Nawaz clan with PML-N had won the election their candidates would have had similar restrictions on foreign policy than Imran Khan will have.

The losing candidates will protest against the election results. They assert fraud but have yet to give examples for such.

The EU Election Observer Mission published its preliminary report. It lists some minor issues but seems satisfied. It reports no election fraud. It's most serious complain is the "uneven playing field". Via Dawn:

Addressing a press conference in Islamabad, EU Chief Observer Michael Gahler [...] said, “Despite positive changes to the legal framework with the new Elections Act, and a stronger and more transparent Election Commission, we consider that the electoral process of 2018 was negatively affected by the political environment.”

“Candidates with large political appeal and financial means, the so-called “electables” were reported to often dominate the campaign. Uneven rules on campaign spending further undermined candidates’ equal opportunity,” the EU EOM observed.

Rich candidates spend more than poor ones and have a higher chance of winning elections. That is unfair. Have we ever heard of any other 'democracy' with a similar problem?

Posted by b on July 27, 2018 at 02:47 PM | Permalink | Comments (121)

July 26, 2018

Pakistan's 'Populist' Wins The Election

Imran Khan won yesterday's elections in Pakistan. He is an unusual politician and his political program is laudable. The task he is taking on is difficult and fraught with danger:

Imran Khan has claimed victory for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) in an historic election for Pakistan. The PTI represents a populist swing away from the legacy mainstream parties PML-N and PPP that both fared poorly during the election. Additionally, religious extremist parties fared particularly poorly compared to the previous two elections and also when contrasted with the expectations that many theocratic parties set for themselves prior to polling day. Lastly, the deeply controversial MQM ended up losing both seats and electoral momentum in its Karachi heartland, surrendering its erstwhile momentum to PTI.

Likewise, the incumbent PML-N not only fared poorly in the national vote in their traditional Punjab stronghold but even in the Punjab assembly election, Imran Khan’s PTI has proved formidable. Finally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which since 2013 has been governed by a PTI led provincial council, women were able to cast their votes for the first time. As was expected PTI heavily dominated throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Imran Khan is an interesting character. He was born in 1952 into an affluent Pashtun family with an anti-colonial tradition. He was educated in Britain. After graduating from Oxford he excelled as a professional cricket player. In 1992 he won the Cricket World Cup for Pakistan as captain of the team. That made him a national hero but the high life also gave him a reputation as womanizer and playboy.


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His 2012 talk with Julian Assange (vid) demonstrates that he is way more than that. In 1996 he founded his political party and slowly moved it into a winning position. The PTI rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the poor and war-torn Pashtun state next to Afghanistan, was surprisingly successful.

Pakistan was long ruled by the military and several rich clans which used their political parties to enrich themselves. There is no evidence that Imran is of such a type.

The losing parties claim that the elections were rigged by the Pakistani military. During the campaign the military somewhat put its finger on the scale. It allegedly pushed some candidates into changing their party affiliation and interfered with some media. But the elections themselves went off mostly peaceful, the EU observer mission seems largely satisfied with the process and the result is consistent with earlier polls and predictions.

Imran campaigned on a social-democratic and anti-corruption platform. His victory speech (scroll down) emphasized his concern for the poor:

Pakistan should have that kind of humanitarian state, where we take responsibility for our weaker classes.

The weak are dying of hunger. I will try my best – all of my policies will be made to raise our weaker classes, for our labourers … for our poor farmers, who work all year and get no money … 45 percent of children have stunted growth, they don’t reach the right height, or their brains don’t develop.
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No country can prosper when there is a small island of rich people, and a sea of poor.

Pakistan has long been a puppet state of the U.S. and its Saudi wallet. It was abused for the U.S. proxy war in Afghanistan against the Soviet Union and never recovered from that. The corruption and religious fanaticism that came with that war did not leave when it was over. Since the 2003 U.S. invasion of Afghanistan the country's military used it as a racket. It demanded large payments for enabling the necessary U.S. transports through Pakistan while at the same time supporting the Taliban resistance against the U.S. occupation. In the end the U.S. lost the war. Imran Khan has led protests against the U.S. war of terror and its drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere. In his victory speech he touched on the unequal relation:

Then there is Afghanistan, a country that has suffered the most in the war on terror. Afghanistan’s people need peace. We want peace there. If there is peace in Afghanistan, there will be peace in Pakistan. We will make every effort to achieve peace there.

We want to have open borders with Afghanistan one day.

With the US, we want to have a mutually beneficial relationship … up until now, that has been one way, the US thinks it gives us aid to fight their war … we want both countries to benefit, we want a balanced relationship.

The Trump administration will probably be okay with Imran's position, after trying to sabotage him. Already U.S. media describe the election as 'disputed'. Trump demanded that Pakistan stops to "destabilize Afghanistan" and held back some money it was to receive. But Trump also wants to leave Afghanistan. Yesterday a State Department official met with Taliban representatives in Qatar to restart peace negotiations. The Trump administration, like others before it, will soon learn that no peace can be found in Afghanistan without Pakistan's acquiescence.

During the last few years Pakistan allied more and more with China. Large Chinese infrastructure investments are reshaping the country. Imran supports the relation:

China gives us a huge opportunity through CPEC, to use it and drive investment into Pakistan.

We want to learn from China how they brought 700 million people out of poverty … The other thing we can learn from China is … the measures they have taken against corruption, how they have arrested more than 400 ministers there.

Pakistan's most fragile relations are with its neighbor India, especial over the Muslim majority Kashmir valley over which India harshly rules and which is also the source and weak point of Pakistan's lifeline, the Indus river. The two nuclear states have fought each other several times. The always fraught relations with India are used by the Pakistani military to justify the perks of its officer corps and its oversized role in Pakistan's politics.

Imran Khan offered new negotiations with India: "If India’s leadership is ready, we are ready to improve ties with India. If you step forward one step, we will take two steps forward." But the question is if the military will let him do that. Indian analysts are skeptical:

Imran can contribute neither to the improvement nor the deterioration of Pakistan’s relations with India. Pakistan’s prime ministers have long lost influence, what little they had three decades ago in the immediate aftermath of Gen Zia-ul-Haque’s death, over the direction and shape of Islamabad’s foreign policy. Over these decades, Pakistan Army has gained absolute control over important national security issues relating to Afghanistan, United States, China, Jihadi forces and India.

Imran Khan can not take on the Pakistani military - at least not now. To clean up the endemic corruption and to solve the basic economic problems of his country are already huge tasks. If he proves to be successful with those he may get a chance to slowly wrestle back control over foreign policy form the military's oversized power.

The election of Imran Khan is a break with Pakistan's oligarchic past. As he wants to implement his anti-corruption and social programs he will have to fight an entrenched establishment that does not mind playing dirty. He may well win that fight but only if he continues to receive support from the military. For that he will have to follow the Generals' demands on foreign policy. Only a second term in office would give him the standing to tackle that relationship.

For now he is Pakistan's best chance. I wish him luck.

Posted by b on July 26, 2018 at 01:19 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

July 24, 2018

Syria - For The Third Time Israel Falsely Claims Iran Pull-Back Deal With Russia

A typical Israeli propaganda scheme is to falsely claim that an agreement with some entity has been made and to then push that entity to stick to a "deal" it never agreed to. Israel dislikes any 'Iranian presence' in Syria. It tries to press on Russia to push Iran out of Syria by claiming that Russia offered or made such a deal.

Last fall a campaign in Israeli media claimed that Russia had agreed to push Iran away from the border with Israel. Russia denied that anything like that happened. Iranian forces in Syria are legitimately there. In late May a similar campaign repeated that scheme. It claimed that the Russian Foreign Minister had agreed to move Iran out, when in fact he had called on U.S. forces to leave Syria. Moon of Alabama documented both campaigns.

Yesterday we saw a third attempt by Israel to pretend that Russia had offered or made a deal to counter 'Iranian presence':

A senior political source participated in the meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem Sunday evening.

"It was made clear again that we would not accept Iranian consolidation in Syria, not near the border, and not in the 100-kilometer strip that the Russians are talking about and committing to," the senior official said. "We said that there is long-range weapons placed beyond this area and all these forces have to leave Syria. Russia has considerable capabilities to deal with this, because it is a very significant factor within Syria."

Damascus is only some 50 kilometers from the Israel occupied Golan Height. Does anyone believe that Russia can tell Iranians to not go to Damascus? That it can tell Iran to not defend its ally Syria? Such an "offer", which Russia most likely never made, would be nonsense. Russia has no means to tell Iran what to do. Even the U.S. acknowledges that:

“We have assessed that it’s unlikely Russia has the will or the capability to fully implement and counter Iranian decisions and influence” in Syria, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats said Thursday at the Aspen Security Forum. “Russia would have to make significantly greater commitments [in Syria] from a military standpoint, from an economic standpoint,” he said. “We don’t assess that they’re keen to do that.”

The Israeli haranguing about an 'Iranian presence' is a self fulfilling prophecy. Each Israeli attack on Syrian grounds proves that Iranian forces would have legitimate reason to be in Syria. They are obviously needed to help their Syrian allies to defend against such attacks.

Other news sites picked up on the alleged Russian "offer" claim and pretended that it is real.

Reuters weirdly headlines: Israel rejects Russian offer to keep Iranian forces 100 km from Golan: official:

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel on Monday rebuffed a Russian offer to keep Iranian forces in Syria at least 100 kilometers from the Golan Heights ceasefire line, an Israeli official said on Monday.
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The official said that Netanyahu told Lavrov “we will not allow the Iranians to establish themselves even 100 kilometers from the border.”

From that quote it seems that it was Netanyahoo, not Lavrov, who introduced the "100 kilometers" line.

Axios offered a similar stupid headline: Russia wants to push Iran 65 miles from Israel's border in Syria:

Russia wants to push Iranian forces, Hezbollah and Pro-Iranian Shiite militias 65 miles from the Syrian-Israeli border in the Golan Heights, a senior Israeli official said after a meeting today in Jerusalem between Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov.
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The senior Israeli official said in a conference call with reporters that Israel's goal is to get all Iranian and pro-Iranian forces out of the entire Syrian territory, but the Russians want, in the first phase, to push the Iranians 65 miles from the Israeli border.

Russia had rejected such Israeli claims last fall. It again rejected similar claims in May. It will also debunk the current nonsense. No such offer was made. Israel 'rejected' something it invented itself and has the chutzpah to make even more lunatic demands:

According to the Israeli official, Netanyahu gave Lavrov a list of demands regarding Iranian military presence in Syria:
  • Iran needs to take all of its long range missiles and weapons out of Syria.
  • Iran needs to stop the production of precision munitions in Syria.
  • Iran needs to take all its air defense systems out of Syria.
  • The border crossings between Syria and Lebanon needs to be monitored to prevent arms smuggling to Hezbollah from Syria.
  • The border crossings between Iraq and Syria needs to be monitored to prevent infiltration of Shiite militias into Syria from Iraq.

Netanyahoo also asked for a pink pony.

Syrian companies produce ammunition. Syrian workers manufacture missiles of various ranges and precision. They have done so for decades. There may once a while be some lone Iranian engineer visiting to give advice. The Syrian Arab Army has long range missiles and it is the SAA, not Iran, that provides air defense for Syria. There are no longer Iranian forces or other personal in notable numbers in Syria. During the war Iran helped to build up Syria's National and Local Defense Forces (NDF/LDF). Hizbullah came from Lebanon to support the Syrian efforts. Iranian advisors joined some Syrian army groups. But as the Syrian army won back more and more control over its land these groups lowered their presence:

Hizbollah now only has 10% of its units compared to peak of 2016. Similarly, NDF/LDF that used to be almost 90k are now closer to 3k. ...

All the Israeli harrumphing about Iran in Syria is a diversion from the fact the Israel and the U.S. lost their war on Syria.

Israel openly stated that it preferred ISIS and other Jihadis near the occupied Golan Height. But now those forces are defeated. The Syrian army is back at the Golan Heights line and no shooting down of a Syrian jet or attack on this or that minor factory will change that. These are provocations to goad Syria into a response attack on Israel and to draw Iran and the U.S. into a war.

The southwestern Daara region is nearly cleaned up. The Syrian army is already moving forces northwards to Idleb governorate where some 15-20,000 Jihadis are busy killing each other. An all out attack on that last governorate with significant Jihadi presence will commence in September. A local guerilla movement against the U.S. presence in northeast Syria is growing. It is unlikely that the Trump administration is willing to sustain the occupation there when it starts to cause a number of casualties.

In a year from now the Syrian government will likely have regained full control over its country.

Posted by b on July 24, 2018 at 09:17 AM | Permalink | Comments (173)

July 22, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-36

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Charlie Rowley, allegedly poisoned by a 'Novichok', has been released from hospital. There is no word of his whereabout.

[Meta remark: 519 comments - are you nuts? When am I supposed to read those?]

Adding;

A nice history piece with some surprising insights: Why Did the Dutch Give Up Manhattan for Nutmeg? Because the spice must flow ...

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 22, 2018 at 01:20 PM | Permalink | Comments (267)

'Progressives Are Putin Stooges' - How Centrist Democrats Help To Reelect Trump

Updated Below
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Blaming 'Russian meddling' for their loss of the 2016 elections allowed the democratic establishment to avoid any discussion about their unelectable candidate and their bad centrist policies. Meanwhile the party base has moved on. Progressives candidates continue to win in primaries. The centrist party establishment will now use their genius invention of 'Russian meddling' to defeat them.

Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism links several recent pieces about the democrats and notes:

Suddenly a lot of stories about centrists. Somebody must have gotten funding.

The centrists and their big money sources feal endangered. They try to find strategies to defeat calls for 'medicare for all', demands to 'abolish ICE' and other progressive aims:

The gathering here was just that — an effort to offer an attractive alternative to the rising Sanders-style populist left in the upcoming presidential race. Where progressives see a rare opportunity to capitalize on an energized Democratic base, moderates see a better chance to win over Republicans turned off by Trump.

The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-hosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the "millionaires and billionaires" found in Sanders' stump speech.
...
The invitation-only gathering brought together about 250 Democratic insiders from key swing states. Third Way unveiled the results of focus groups and polling that it says shows Americans are more receptive to an economic message built on "opportunity" rather than the left's message about inequality.

"Once again, the time has come to mend, but not end, capitalism for a new era," said Third Way President Jon Cowan.

McClatchy's lede about the meeting is on point:

Leading moderate Democrats forcefully argued this week that the party can embrace a robust agenda of change while still praising capitalism and downplaying income inequality.

In other words, everything the empowered liberal base has spent a year and a half mobilizing against.

The 2016 elections have shown that people no longer buy the Third Way nonsense. The republican electorate moved to the more radical candidate Trump. The democratic electorate is now well underway to mirror that move:

[T]rends within the Democratic Party itself could take the Washington-based establishment by surprise, just as the Republican national security community found itself out of sync with the broad base of GOP voters as demonstrated in the 2016 election. The muscular interventionism championed by almost all of the Republican party’s standard-bearers was rejected in favor of an “America First” message which resonated with primary and general election voters. Similarly, the rise and growing prominence of a more unabashedly progressive wing of the Democratic Party has similar implications, because the activists’ critique of the status quo does not end at the water’s edge. The Democratic foreign policy establishment may find it difficult to forge a stable marriage with a mobilized voter base and the candidates it is putting forward.

The republican establishment has now bought into the 'Russian meddling' meme to suppress the insurgency within its party. It is trying to limit the space for Trump to achieve more radical measures, especially in foreign policies. The democratic establishment is using the very same trick. 'Russian meddling' must be responsible for the insurgency within their own party. Progressive candidates are Putin marionettes.

A few days ago Doug Henwood warned of this:

It seems that Democrats are now incapable of talking about anything but Russian interference in our sacred elections.
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We’re seeing Dem pundits even accusing Bernie Sanders and other insurgents within their party of being Russian agents, witting or unwitting. Their indictments of Trump for treason make them sound like demented right-wingers at the height of the Cold War.

This obsession does relieve mainstream Democrats of concocting an attractive agenda that might win an election or two, but to do that they’d have to tack left, and Goldman Sachs wouldn’t like that.

This Russia obsession’s a win win for the establishment though – subdue Trump and the domestic left insurgency all at once.

A few days later Henwood points to a Facebook post by Columbia Law lecturer and Harpers author Scott Horton which accuses progressive Democrats of being Putin's agents. Horton comments on a New York Times piece that discussed the wave of progressive candidates in democratic primaries:


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Horton claims to have talked with 'European intelligence analysts' who allegedly told him that Putin authorized an 'active measure campaign' to split the Democratic party to let Trump and the Republicans win again:

The Russian operation will also aim, in the classic fashion, to pick Democratic candidates in the primary period who, for whatever reasons, are seen as likely not electable. Some evidence for this is clearly at play now. The key thing to look for is not positive messaging supporting any particular policy program, but negative messaging attacking other Democrats.

To point out what Democratic candidates Putin will pick Horton adds a picture from the NYT piece which shows a 'progressives' candidate with an 'Abolish ICE' t-shirt.

Political scientist and author Corey Robin notes:

In other words, we should look at these [progressive] candidates as tainted by a "Russian operation". Based on nothing other than the word of an individual who cites no facts but alleged conversations with "European intelligence analysts".

Robin points to historic similarities with McCarthyism. He adds:

If this thing catches on, if it becomes something that now gets reported in the paper, everything single candidate from the left, who is running in a Democratic primary, will be tainted by the suspicion that they are somehow or other a Putin operation.

Tainting leftish candidates as Putin stooges is the ideal tool for Democratic centrist to defeat them. Tuition free colleges, single-payer health care and $15 minimum wage are obviously Russian conspiracies designed to destroy the United States. This scheme is effective and will therefore be widely used by the centrists during all primaries and the next federal elections.

It also guarantees that Trump and the Republicans continue to win.

During the Obama years the Democrats lost over 1,000 positions in state and federal elections. Centrist policies have been tried and they failed to win votes. More of the same will not lead to different results. To move even further to the right to catch a few conservative votes from republican voters disgruntled with Trump will not help to win. The further the party moves to the right the more people on the left will abstain from voting for it. These are the decisive few percent that cost the Democrats the presidency and the majorities in Congress and in various states.

These centrists are the ones who are really helping Trump. Aren't they the real 'Russian agents'?

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Update - July 23 10:30 UTC

A long time Republican prosecutor, former FBI chief and hedge fund millionaire recently said that he would vote for Democrats to oppose Trump. That made him the new 'hero' of the centrist 'resistance'. A few days later, he is already giving his new party some terrible advice:

James Comey @Comey - 20:37 UTC - 22 Jul 2018

Democrats, please, please don’t lose your minds and rush to the socialist left. This president and his Republican Party are counting on you to do exactly that. America’s great middle wants sensible, balanced, ethical leadership.

How much is Putin paying him?

More of the centrist same won't work. The people will not vote for a 'Democratic' Comey-Kristol ticket against a president with such a high approval

NBC/WSJ POLL: Donald Trump’s approval rating has risen to 45%, with disapproval at 52%. Among Republicans, 88% approve. That’s the highest intra-party rating of any president at this stage since the dawn of modern polling, except Bush post-9/11.

The Democrats need a more radical message. They will have to either move left or sink into the same permanent minority status as many of the Social-Democratic parties in Europe have done.

Posted by b on July 22, 2018 at 12:53 PM | Permalink | Comments (99)

July 21, 2018

Either Trump Fires These People Or The Borg Will Have Won

President's Trump successful summit with President Putin was used by the 'resistance' and the deep state to launch a coup-attempt against Trump. Their minimum aim is to put Trump into a (virtual) political cage where he can no longer pursue his foreign policy agenda.

One does not have to be a fan of Trump's policies and still see the potential danger. A situation where he can no longer act freely will likely be worse. What Trump has done so far still does not add up to the disastrous policies and crimes his predecessor committed.

The borg, financed and sworn to the agenda of globalists and the military-industrial-media complex, has its orders and is acting on them. The globalists want more free trade agreements, no tariffs and more immigration to prevent higher wages. Capital does not have a national attachment. It does not care about the 'deplorables' who support Trump and his policies:

[P]olls show that Trump appears to still have the support of the bulk of Republican voters when it comes to tariffs. Nearly three-fourths, or 73 percent, of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who responded to a Pew Research survey out this week said they felt increased tariffs would benefit the country.

His 'isolationist' economic policies make Trump an enemy of the globalists:

Donald Trump is, indeed, a kind of traitor to the Washington Consensus, a hyper-militarized capitalist utopia of corporate dominated global supply chains that doubled the international wage-slave workforce in the last two decades of the 20th century and herded these desperate billions into a race to the bottom. The leadership of both corporate parties conspired to force U.S. workers into the global meat-grinder.

The weapon industry and the military recognize that the 'war of terror' is nearing its end. To sell more they need to create an new 'enemy' that looks big enough to justify large and long-term spending. Russia, the most capable opponent the U.S. could have, is the designated target. A new Cold War will give justification for all kinds of fantastic and useless weapons.

Trump does not buy the nonsense claims of 'Russian meddling' in the U.S. elections and openly says so. He does not believe that Russia wants to attack anyone. To him Russia is not an enemy.

Trump grand foreign policy is following a realist assessment. He sees that previous administrations pushed Russia into the Chinese camp by aggressive anti-Russian policies in Europe and the Middle East. He wants to pull Russia out of the alliance with China, neutralize it in a political sense, to then be able to better tackle China which is the real threat to the American (economic) supremacy.

This week was a prelude to the coup against Trump:

Former CIA chief John Brennan denounced Trump as a “traitor” who had “committed high crimes” in holding a friendly summit with Putin.

It can’t get more seditious than that. Trump is being denigrated by almost the entire political and media establishment in the US as a “treasonous” enemy of the state.

Following this logic, there is only one thing for it: the US establishment is calling for a coup to depose the 45th president. One Washington Post oped out of a total of five assailing the president gave the following stark ultimatum: “If you work for Trump, quit now”.

Some high ranking people working for Trump followed that advice. His chief of staff John Kelly rallied others against him:

According to three sources familiar with the situation, Kelly called around to Republicans on Capitol Hill and gave them the go-ahead to speak out against Trump. (The White House did not respond to a request for comment.) Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan held televised press conferences to assert that Russia did meddle in the election.

Others who attacked Trump over his diplomatic efforts with Russia included the Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats who used an widely distributed interview for that:

The White House had little visibility into what Coats might say. The intelligence director’s team had turned down at least one offer from a senior White House official to help prepare him for the long-scheduled interview, pointing out that he had known Mitchell for years and was comfortable talking with her.

Coats was extraordinarily candid in the interview, at times questioning Trump’s judgment — such as the president’s decision to meet with Putin for two hours without any aides present beyond interpreters — and revealing the rift between the president and the intelligence community.

FBI Director Wray also undermined his boss' position:

FBI Director Christopher Wray on Wednesday defended Special Counsel Robert Mueller as a “straight shooter,” and said the Russia investigation is no “witch hunt.”

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado, Wray said he stood by his view that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election in some capacity and that the threat remained active.

A day later Secretary of Defense Mattis also issued a statement that contradicted his president's policy:

Secretary of Defense James Mattis took his turn doing the implicit disavowing in a statement about new military aid to Ukraine:

"Russia should suffer consequences for its aggressive, destabilizing behavior and its illegal occupation of Ukraine. … The fundamental question we must ask ourselves is do we wish to strengthen our partners in key regions or leave them with no other options than to turn to Russia, thereby undermining a once in a generation opportunity to more closely align nations with the U.S. vision for global security and stability."

Pat Lang thinks that Trump should fire Coats, Wray and Rosenstein, the Deputy Attorney General who is overseeing the Mueller investigation.

My advice is to spare Rosenstein, for now, as firing him would lead to a great uproar in Congress. The Mueller investigation has not brought up anything which is dangerous to Trump and is unlikely to do so in the immediate future. He and Rosenstein can be fired at a latter stage.

But Wray and Coats do deserve a pink slip and so do Kelly and Mattis. They are political appointees who work 'at the pleasure of the President'.

The U.S. has the legislative and the judicial branch as a counterweight to the president who leads the executive. The 'deep state' and its moles within the executive should have no role in that balance. The elected president can and must demand loyalty from those who work for him.

Those who sabotage him should be fired, not in a Saturday night massacre but publicly, with a given reason and all at the same time. They do not deserve any warning. Their rolling heads will get the attention of others who are tempted by the borg to act against the lawful policy directives of their higher up.

All this is not a defense of Trump. I for one despise his antics and most of his policies. But having a bad president of the United States implementing the policies he campaigned on, and doing so within the proper process, is way better than having unaccountable forces dictating their policies to him.

It will be impossible for Trump to get anything done if his direct subordinates, who work 'at his pleasure', publicly sabotage the implementation of his policies. Either he fires these people or the borg will have won.

Posted by b on July 21, 2018 at 02:43 PM | Permalink | Comments (186)

July 19, 2018

Israel Declares Itself Apartheid State

Today Israel declared itself to be an apartheid state:

The Knesset passed early Thursday a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," with 62 lawmakers voting in favor of the legislation and 55 opposing it.
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The nation-state law also includes clauses stating that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language. Another says that "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."

The new law has constitutional status:

The bill, which has the status of a basic law (approximately the same as a constitutional law in countries with a written constitution), was passed overnight to Thursday with 62 votes in favor and 55 against after hours of fierce argument and debate. It will now come into force as soon as it's published in the Knesset's Official Gazette.
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In a clause that set Arab lawmakers off, the bill explicitly states that "the right to exercises national determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people."

The law stipulates segregation:

part of the law [is] aimed at promoting the "establishment and consolidation" of Jewish settlements

Israel has never defined its borders. It has illegally taken ownership of all public land in the occupied West Bank. This land is then exclusively granted to Zionist settlers:

Over five decades in control of the West Bank, Israel has marked out hundreds of thousands of acres as public land, and it has allocated almost half of them for use.

But only 400 of those acres — 0.24 percent of the total allocated so far — have been earmarked for the use of Palestinians, according to official data obtained recently by an anti-settlement group after a freedom of information request. Palestinians make up about 88 percent of the West Bank’s population.

The group, Peace Now, said the other 99.76 percent of the land went to help Israeli settlements.


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The Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories is as big as the Jewish population. The allocation of "public" land stolen from the indigenous Arab population solely to Jewish immigrants was already one of many clearly discriminating apartheid issues. It was in contradiction even to Israeli law. Now the creation of solely Jewish settlements is required by constitutional mandate. The blatantly illegal creation and expansion of solely Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land is now rationalized as requirement of basic law. Muslim and Christian Palestinians now have to pay taxes for their own expropriation.

Is there a Buddhist people, a Catholic people? Do they deserve their own nation and land? No. Even the though of such is weird. Are Jews originating from Ethiopia, India, Lithuania, Iran and Poland a common race? Why then is there supposed to be a 'Jewish people' as the new law stipulates?

It is historically crazy that a number of humans, living in dozens of mostly east-European countries, would suddenly define themselves as a unique 'race' by virtue of believing in the same religious fairy tales. The concept mirrored and enabled the racism of the fascists. The self declared ethnicity then laid claim on far away land in west-Asia based on old stories of temples for which there is little to no archeologic evidences.

Primarily Great Britain, France and the United States, furthered and support this ethnocratic, colonialist, undemocratic, imperialist, and genocidal scheme to their own advantage.

It is high time to end this illegal and immoral aberration.

Posted by b on July 19, 2018 at 07:56 AM | Permalink | Comments (207)

July 17, 2018

Helsinki Talks - How Trump Tries To Rebalance The Global Triangle

The reactions of the U.S. polite to yesterday's press conference of Pgresident Trump and President Putin are highly amusing. The media are losing their mind. Apparently it was Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11 all in one day. War will commence tomorrow. But against whom?

Behind the panic lie competing views of Grand Strategy.

Rereading the transcript of the 45 minutes long press conference (vid) I find it rather boring. Trump did not say anything that he had not said before. There was little mention of what the two presidents had really talked about and what they agreed upon. Later on Putin said that the meeting was more substantive than he expected. As the two spoke alone there will be few if any leaks. To understand what happened we will have to wait and see how the situations in the various conflict areas, in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, will now develop.

The 'liberal' side of the U.S. did its best to prevent the summit. The recent Mueller indictment was timed to sabotage the talks. Before the meeting in Helsinki the New York Times retweeted its three weeks old homophobic comic flick that shows Trump and Putin as lovers. It is truly a disgrace for the Grey Lady to publish such trash, but it set the tone others would follow. After the press conference the usual anti-Trump operatives went ballistic:

John O. Brennan @JohnBrennan - 15:52 UTC - 16 Jul 2018

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

Senator John McCain released a scathing statement:

... “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. ...

These imbeciles do not understand the realism behind Trump's grand policy. Trump knows the heartland theory of Halford John Mackinder.  He understands that Russia is the core of the Eurasian landmass. That landmass, when politically united, can rule the world. A naval power, the U.S. now as the UK before it, can never defeat it. Trump's opponents do not get what Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor of President Carter, said in his book The Grand Chessboard (pdf) about a Chinese-Russian alliance. They do not understand why Henry Kissinger advised Trump to let go of Crimea.

Trump himself professed his view (vid) of the big picture and of relations with Russia in a 2015 press conference:

"...  Putin has no respect for President Obama. Big Problem, big problem. And you know Russia has been driven - you know I always heard, for years I have heard - one of the worst things that can happen to our country, is when Russia ever gets driven to China. We have driven them together - with the big oil deals that are being made. We have driven them together. That's a horrible thing for this country. We have made them friends because of incompetent leadership. I believe I would get along very nicely with Putin- okay? And I mean where we have the strength. I don't think we need the sanctions. I think that we would get along very, very well. I really believe that. I think we would get along with a lot of countries that we don't get along with today. And that we would be a lot richer for it than we are today.

There are three great geographic power-centers in the world. The Anglo-American/transatlantic one which is often called 'the west'. Mackinder's heartland, which is essentially Russia as the core of the Eurasian landmass, and China, which historically rules over Asia. Any alliance of two of those power-centers can determine the fate of the world.

Kissinger's and Nixon's biggest political success was to separate China from the Soviet Union. That did not make China an ally of the United States, but it broke the Chinese-Soviet alliance. It put the U.S. into a premier position, a first among equals. But even then Kissinger already foresaw the need to balance back to Russia:

On Feb. 14, 1972, President Richard Nixon and his national security adviser Henry Kissinger met to discuss Nixon’s upcoming trip to China. Kissinger, who had already taken his secret trip to China to begin Nixon’s historic opening to Beijing, expressed the view that compared with the Russians, the Chinese were “just as dangerous. In fact, they’re more dangerous over a historical period.”

Kissinger then observed that “in 20 years your successor, if he’s as wise as you, will wind up leaning towards the Russians against the Chinese.” He argued that the United States, as it sought to profit from the enmity between Moscow and Beijing, needed “to play this balance-of-power game totally unemotionally. Right now, we need the Chinese to correct the Russians and to discipline the Russians.” But in the future, it would be the other way around.

It took 45 years, not 20 as Kissinger foresaw, to rebalance the U.S. position.

After the Cold War the U.S. thought it had won the big ideological competition of the twentieth century. In its exuberance of the 'unilateral moment' it did everything possible to antagonize Russia. Against its promises it extended NATO to Russia's border. It wanted to be the peerless supreme power of the world. At the same time it invited China into the World Trade Organisation and thereby enabled its explosive economic growth. This unbalanced policy took its toll. The U.S. lost industrial capacity to China and at the same time drove Russia into China's hands. Playing the global hegemon turned out to be very expensive. It led to the 2006 crash of the U.S. economy and its people have seen little to no gains from it. Trump wants to revert this situation by rebalancing towards Russia while opposing China's growing might.

Not everyone shares that perspective. As security advisor to Jimmy Carter Brzezinski continued the Nixon/Kissinger policy towards China. The 'one China policy', disregarding Taiwan for better relations with Beijing, was his work. His view is still that the U.S. should ally with China against Russia:

"It is not in our interest to antagonize Beijing. It is much better for American interests to have the Chinese work closely with us, thereby forcing the Russians to follow suit if they don’t want to be left out in the cold. That constellation gives the U.S. the unique ability to reach out across the world with collective political influence."

But why would China join such a scheme? How would Russia be 'forced'? What costs would the U.S. have to endure by following such a course? (Brzezinski's view of Russia was always clouded. His family of minor nobles has its roots in Galicia, now in west Ukraine. They were driven from Poland when the Soviets extended their realm into the middle of the European continent. To him Russia will always be the antagonist.)

Kissinger's view is more realistic. He sees that the U.S. can not rule alone and must be more balanced in its relations:

[I]n the emerging multipolar order, Russia should be perceived as an essential element of any new global equilibrium, not primarily as a threat to the United States.

Kissinger is again working to divide Russia and China. But this time around it is Russia that needs to be elevated, that needs to become a friend.

Trump is following Kissinger's view. He wants good relations with Russia to separate Russia from China. He (rightly) sees China as the bigger long term (economic) danger to the United States. That is the reason why he, immediately after his election, started to beef up the relations with Taiwan and continues to do so. (Listen to Peter Lee for the details). That is the reason why he tries to snatch North Korea from China's hands. That is the reason why he makes nice with Putin.

It is not likely that Trump will manage to pull Russia out of its profitable alliance with China. It is true that China's activities, especially in the Central Asian -stans, are a long term danger to Russia. China's demographic and economic power is far greater than Russia's.  But the U.S. has never been faithful in its relations with Russia. It would take decades to regain its trust. China on the other hand stands to its commitments. China is not interested in conquering the 'heartland'. It has bigger fish to fry in south-east Asia, Africa and elsewhere. It is not in its interest to antagonize a militarily superior Russia.

The maximum Trump can possibly achieve is to neutralize Russia while he attempts to tackle China's growing economic might via tariffs, sanctions and by cuddling Taiwan, Japan and other countries with anti-Chinese agendas.

The U.S. blew its 'unilateral moment'. Instead of making friends with Russia it drove it into China's hands. Hegemonic globalization and unilateral wars proved to be too expensive. The U.S. people received no gains from them. That is why they elected Trump.

Trump is doing his best to correct the situation. For the foreseeable future the world will end up with three power centers. Anglo-America, Russia and China. (An aging and disunited Europe will flap in the winds.) These power centers will never wage direct war against each other, but will tussle at the peripheries. Korea, Iran and the Ukraine will be centers of these conflicts. Interests in Central Asia, South America and Africa will also play a role.

Trump understands the big picture. To 'Make America Great Again' he needs to tackle China and to prevent a deeper Chinese-Russian alliance. It's the neo-conservatives and neo-liberals who do not get it. They are still stuck in Brzezinski's Cold War view of Russia. They still believe that economic globalization, which helped China to regain its historic might, is the one and true path to follow. They do not perceive  all the damage they have done to 90% of the American electorate.

For now Trump's view is winning. But the lunatic reactions to the press conference show that the powers against him are still strong. They will sabotage him wherever possible. The big danger for now is that their view of the world might again raise to power.

Posted by b on July 17, 2018 at 07:41 AM | Permalink | Comments (536)

July 16, 2018

The Magic Of Novichok - Deadly Agent Found In Perfume Bottle

This before-after advertisement for Novichok perfume, featuring Yulia Skripal, made the rounds a while ago.


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The ad was published before May 27. Its creator must have had real vision. Last night the BBC reported:

Amesbury: Novichok found in perfume bottle, says victim's brother

The nerve agent that poisoned two people in Amesbury was contained in a perfume bottle, the brother of one of the victims has said.

Matthew Rowley said his brother Charlie, who is seriously ill in hospital, told him he had picked up the perfume bottle.

The Metropolitan Police, which is leading the investigation, refused to confirm the claim.

Previously the force has said only that it was found in a "small bottle".

Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia both mysteriously recovered from the alleged 'nerve agent' 10 times as deadly as VX. It was the magic of the Novichok perfume that did it.

One victim of the second 'Novichok' incident in Wiltshire, Matthew Rowley, is also on the path to full recovery. His friend Dawn Strugess, a drug addict with serious medical preconditions, died. Like with the Skripal case the details of the second incident raise lots of new questions.

According to the police the 'small bottle' contained an agent of the 'Novichok' group:

[S]cientists have now confirmed to us that the substance contained within the bottle is Novichok.
Further scientific tests will be carried out to try and establish whether it is from the same batch that contaminated Sergei and Yulia Skripal in March – this remains a main line of enquiry for police.
Inquiries are under way to establish where the bottle came from and how it came to be in Charlie’s house.

How does a presumably highly fluid nerve agent in a perfume bottle fit the police assertions about the 'Novichok' "gel" on the doorknob of Sergej Skripal's house? Was that the skin-care variant of the 'Novichok' beauty series?


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This is another hole in the official Skripal story the British government is putting out.

That does not prevent 'officials' from spinning more nonsense around it.

Just after the Justice Department indicted officers of the Russian Military Intelligence G.R.U., some anonymous 'officials' claim that the G.R.U. is also responsible for the Skripal incident. As usual there is zero evidence or even logic behind this claim:

U.K. Poisoning Inquiry Turns to Russian Agency in Mueller Indictments

British investigators believe the March 4 attack on the former spy, Sergei V. Skripal, and his daughter, Yulia, was most probably carried out by current or former agents of the service, known as the G.R.U., who were sent to his home in southern England, according to one British official, one American official and one former American official familiar with the inquiry, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence.

The piece quotes the anti-Russian 'expert' Mark Galeotti who asserts:

“That the G.R.U. kills people abroad has been amply demonstrated in a variety of other cases,” ...

He does not give one example.

Sergej Skripal was a British agent within the G.R.U. He was caught and sentenced to 15 years. After six years of jail he was pardoned and swapped in exchange for Russian spies caught in the west. He was no longer of interest. Killing him would end future spy swaps. The G.R.U.  had certainly no interest in doing that.

Galeotti is the non-expert who invented the "Gerasimov doctrine" which, he asserted, described Russia's ways to wage "non-linear" and "hybrid wars". Lots of nonsense was written about that idea. Three years later, after being called out, Galeotti had to admit that his interpretation of an article by the Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov was utterly false. Gerasimov did not describe a new Russian doctrine but the 'western' way of waging 'regime change' wars.

Galeotti attributed the evil aspects of 'western' operations Gerasimov described to Russia.

A similar misattribution is happening in the 'Novickok' tale.

Posted by b on July 16, 2018 at 01:32 PM | Permalink | Comments (78)

July 15, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-35

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Airbus is pissed. It was asked by May to give a dire warning about Brexit which it dutifully did. The next day May handed a big no-bid contract to Boeing.

Trump today added to turmoil he caused in Europe:

In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland on Saturday, President Trump named the European Union -- comprising some of America's oldest allies -- when asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now."
"Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe. ..."

Bashing allies is an essential component of the Trump doctrine:

The second-best self-description of the Trump Doctrine I heard was this, from a senior national-security official: “Permanent destabilization creates American advantage.” The official who described this to me said Trump believes that keeping allies and adversaries alike perpetually off-balance necessarily benefits the United States, which is still the most powerful country on Earth.
...
The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard, though, came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking. I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine. “No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.” “What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received: “The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”

Adam Carter at Disobedient Media finds contradictions between the indictment and publicly known evidence.

M.K. Bhadrakumar mulls on the indictment timing and previews the Helsinki summit.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment, here the president of the Council of Foreign Relations, is losing it:

Richard N. Haass @RichardHaass - 21:26 UTC - 14 Jul 2018
International order for 4 centuries has been based on non-interference in the internal affairs of others and respect for sovereignty. Russia has violated this norm by seizing Crimea and by interfering in the 2016 US election. We must deal w Putin’s Russia as the rogue state it is.

Shorter: "Westphalianism for us, intervention for everyone else."

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 15, 2018 at 11:16 AM | Permalink | Comments (172)

July 13, 2018

No Evidence In Mueller's Indictment Of 12 Russians - Release Now May Sabotage Upcoming Summit

The Special counsel Robert Mueller issued an indictment (pdf, 29 pages) against 12 Russian people alleged to be officers or personal of the Russian Military Intelligence Service GRU. The people, claims the indictment, work for an operational (26165) and a technical (74455) subunit of the GRU.

A Grand Jury in Washington DC issued 11 charges which are described and annotated below. A short assessment follows.

The first charge is for a "Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States" by stealing emails and leaking them. The indictment claims that the GRU units sent spearfishing emails to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party organizations DNC and DCCC. They used these to get access to email boxes of John Podesta and other people. They are also accused of installing spyware (X-agent) on DNC computers and of exfiltrating emails and other data from them. The emails were distributed and published by the online personas DCLeaks, Guccifer II and later through Wikileaks. The indictment claims that DCLeaks and Guccifer II were impersonations by the GRU. Wikileaks, "organization 1" in the indictment, is implicated but so far not accused.

Note: There is a different Grand Jury for the long brewing case against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Assange has denied that the emails he published came from a Russian source. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador, said that he received the emails on a trip to Washington DC and transported them to Wikileaks.

The indictment describes in some detail how various rented computers and several domain names were used to access the DNC and DCCC computers. The description is broadly plausible but there is little if any supporting evidence.

Charge 2 to 9 of the indictment are about "Aggravated Identity Theft" for using usernames and passwords for the personal email accounts of others.

Charge 10 is about a "Conspiracy to Launder Money". This was allegedly done "through a web of transaction structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin". It is alleged that the accused mined bitcoins, channeled these through dozens of accounts and transactions and then used them to rent servers, virtual private network access and domain names used in the operation.

Note: The indictment reinforces the author's hunch that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are creations and playgrounds of secret services just like Tor and other 'cool' internet 'privacy' stuff are. Its the very reason why one should avoid their use.

Charge 11 of the indictment is a "Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States". It claims that some of the accused hacked into state boards of elections and into U.S. companies providing elections related software.

Note: Other reporting found that the alleged attack resulted in no changes to the election results or other damage.

The Unites States will seek forfeiture of the valuables the accused may have within the United States as part of any sentencing of the accused.

Assessment:

  • It is not by chance that this indictment was published now,  a few days before the first summit between Donald Trump and the Russian President Vladimir Putin and shortly before the successful soccer world championship in Russia ends. The release intends to sabotage the talks.
  • The indictment describes a wide ranging operation but includes zero proof of anything it alleges.
  • Mueller likely hopes that the indictment will never come in front of a court. The alleged stuff would be extremely difficult to prove. Any decent lawyer would ask how the claimed information was gained and how much of it was based on illegal snooping by the NSA. Something the U.S. would hate to reveal.
  • It is unlikely that there will ever be a trial of these cases. The indicted persons are all Russians in Russia and none of them is likely to be stupid enough to follow an invitation to Las Vegas or to Disney World.

But who knows?

In February Mueller indicted the Russian Internet Research Agency, a clickbait farm run for commercial purpose, of influencing the U.S. election. The expectation then like now was that there would never be trial. In a surprise move one of the accused Russian companies, Concord Management, took up the challenge and demanded discovery. Mueller then tried to delay the hand over of evidence (which he probably does not have.) A judge rejected the attempt. The case is pending.

Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein, who announced the indictment, also made three points that will likely get little coverage. He said (video) that there are no allegations in the indictment that:

  • any American knew that they were in contact with Russians or with a Russian operation,
  • any American committed a crime in relation to this,
  • that the operation changed or influenced the election.

The indictment, which may well be made up and is unlikely to ever be tested in court, will reinforce the "Russia is an enemy" campaign which was launched way before the 2016 election. It will reinforce the believe of some Democrats that Russia, and not the selection of a disgusting candidate, cost Hillary Clinton the presidency.

The detente with Russia which U.S. president Donald Trump tries to achieve will now be more difficult to implement and to sustain.

 

Posted by b on July 13, 2018 at 02:39 PM | Permalink | Comments (177)

July 12, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army Liberates Daraa City

Today the current Syrian government campaign in Daraa governorate saw another highlight. The 'rebels' in the southern part of the city of Daraa gave up and reconciled with the government. Currently the Syrian army is taking control of the area. The Syrian flag has been raised over its buildings.

The whole Daraa governorate campaign in southwest Syria proceeded with astonishing speed. In just three weeks the government forces recovered 84% of the 'rebel' held territory and dozens of cities and villages with little force. Jordan and the U.S. had finally denied support for the 'rebels' and their only choices were to reconcile or to die. Almost all of them chose to give up. An enormous amount of weapons, including at least 18 U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles systems and two British made armored infantry carriers, were handed over to the Syrian government.

The maps show the situation at the beginning of the campaign and as of today. (red - Syrian government; green - 'rebels' and al-Qaeda; grey - Islamic Statel; blue - Golan Heights occupied by Israel; Jordan is to the south) Note: The encircled southern part of the city of Daraa on the current map is still marked green as the government is only now taking control of it.


June 19 2018 bigger - July 12 2018 bigger

Israel is threatening the Syrian forces not to come near the deconfliction line on the Golan Heights. It wants to keep a buffer of Jihadis between itself and the Syrian army. Any attempt to achieve that will be in vane. Syria and its allies are determined to eradicate the Jihadis.  As these are experienced fighters willing to die the fight will likely take several weeks. After that the Syrian army will move north and liberate Idleb.

Daraa was the first city where the foreign induced 'rebellion' was launched. In March 2011 protest over some dubious cause escalated into riots which soon turned violent. Shops and police stations were set on fire and policemen as well as demonstrators were killed. Raids by the police found weapons in Daraa's main mosque.

Sleeper cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, long prohibited in Syria, had found outside sponsors who fueled their campaign. The CIA spend at least $1 billion per year to direct the attack on the Syrian state. With the help of the British MI6 its media arms promoted sectarian mass murder in Syria. Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait each spent several billions per year to pay the 'rebel' fighters and to provide them the thousands of tons of weapons and other needs. Nearly 100,000 foreign fighters moved to Syria and fought under the flags of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda against the Syrian state and later against each other.

Only with the help of its Iranian and Russian allies could the state of Syria and its people survive the onslaught. Since 2015 a systematic government campaign has turned the situation around. All parts of 'useful Syria' are under government control.

It had been expected that the 'rebels' holding the southern part of Daraa city would resist a while before giving up. They had years to prepare the ground and access to a huge amount of weapons as well as enough food for several months. But the local population, not only in Daraa, has long had enough of the 'revolution' nonsense:

Wide swaths of the millions residing under rebel control are disillusioned with the Syrian revolution, disgusted with the rebel factions, and dissatisfied with the local opposition government structures and NGOs operating in their region. The inability of foreign journalists to report from rebel-held Syria in addition to the ideological bent of local fixers and citizen journalists have contributed to the underreporting of this phenomenon. The Assad regime is already exploiting this reality to promote surrender deals with minimal to little fighting.
...

The 'rebels' have long lost the support of the population. In Daraa city it was again the Russian reconciliation team that convinced the 'rebels' to give up without any serious fight. Those who do not want to live under Syrian government control will be transported in Idleb governorate in the northwest where various 'rebel' groups, Islamist from Uighur, al-Qaeda and ISIS are busy with killing each other.

The U.S. held and Kurdish controlled northeast Syria has also seen infighting and strife between the Arab population and the U.S. allied Kurdish forces who try to control it. This year the northeaster province of Hasaka, in normal times Syria's bread-basket, had a large crop failure after a devastating drought:

Unirrigated wheat crops, which constitute around 55 percent of the total wheat sown in Hasakah, saw losses of over 90 percent this year, the Syrian government-run Hasakah Agricultural Directorate told Syria Direct in an official written correspondence. Barley suffered similar rates of devastation.

The local Kurdish authorities who reject Syrian state control have no money to help the farmers:

But while local authorities plan to buy up a portion of this year’s wheat and barley crop, they have few other resources available to aid local farmers who have suffered losses.

“The volume of losses this season is too great for the Self-Administration to compensate [farmers] at this time,” says Shakir.

The devastated farmers will likely prefer to live under Syrian government control.

The U.S. neoconservatives still try to get the Trump administration to intervene and to again attack the Syrian state. Their arguments are unfounded and their campaign will be in vane. Trump has long decided to end the senseless Syria campaign his predecessor started to no avail.

 

Posted by b on July 12, 2018 at 01:41 PM | Permalink | Comments (171)

July 11, 2018

Trump's False Arguments Will Not Sell Well In Europe

Donald Trump, the 'America First' salesman, came to Brussels today to demand more tribute to the empire. He wants Europe to buy more U.S. made weapons and to use U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG). But his arguments are all wrong. The people in Europe are not impressed by them and they will reject his appeals.

His first talk in Brussels was a profoundly wrong bashing of Germany to push it into buying very expensive LNG from U.S. fracking producers. Trump, Putin's puppet according to the 'resistance', used the Russian bogeyman to set the scene:

Well, I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.
...
So we’re protect you against Russia, but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate. And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70 percent of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas.

So you tell me, is that appropriate? I mean, I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got in. It should have never been allowed to have happened. But Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.
...
Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply. They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear. They’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia.
...
I think trade is wonderful. I think energy is a whole different story. I think energy is a much different story than normal trade. And you have a country like Poland that won’t accept the gas. You take a look at some of the countries — they won’t accept it, because they don’t want to be captive to Russia. But Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia, because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. So we’re supposed to protect Germany, but they’re getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. And it can’t be explained — you know that.

Trump was talking about the Nordstream II pipeline which will supply Germany and other European countries with natural gas from Russia.


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Nord Stream I has been operating for a while. Nord Stream II is currently being build by private Austrian and German companies.

The big advantage for Germany is that these pipelines do not run through any other country. Other pipelines from Russia, built in the 1970s,  run through the Ukraine and Poland to Germany. They are used by all three countries to receive gas from Russia.

Whenever the Ukraine has no money to pay Russia for gas and does not pay its dues, Russia will send less gas through the pipeline. The gas for Germany and Poland is supposed to continue to flow without the Ukraine taking any of it. But the Ukrainians cheat. They steal the gas that is supposed to pass through without paying for it. In the end Germany has to give money to the Ukraine so that the Ukraine can pay Russia. This happened in 2006, in 2008 and again in 2014.

Enough is enough. Nord Stream prevents such blackmail of Germany by the Ukraine. That is the main reason why the Ukraine lobbies against it.

Poland is not rejecting gas from Russia even as it claims to do so. It has a long term contract with Russia and will receive plenty of gas through the Ukraine pipeline up to at least 2022. Since 2014 it also imports gas from Germany through the new bi-directional pipeline pumping station at Mallnow. Germany receives the gas its exports to Poland through the Nord Stream system from Russia and pumps it through the Opal pipeline and Mallnow to Poland. It is extremely hypocritical for Poland to lobby against Nord Stream when it significantly contributes to Poland's energy security.

Trump claims that Germany "will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline". Of the primary energy Germany uses only some 20% comes from natural gas. Less than 40% of the natural gas Germany uses comes from Russia. Thus Russia delivers 7-8% of the primary energy Germany uses. If need be Germany can do without this. It is not a strategic issue.


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Trump also claims of Germany: "They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear." Germany did not get rid of its coal plants. It builds new ones with higher efficiencies. Germany is phasing out nuclear energy. It will not build new nuclear plants. But there are currently still nine nuclear plants running. Their planned shutdown date is 2022 but this will likely be extended. Without nuclear power it will be extremely difficult to reach the set greenhouse gas limit.

Trump has the facts, as usual, all wrong. But the U.S. is producing more natural gas than it needs and wants to export it. Compressing the U.S. natural gas into liquefied form for sea transport takes so much energy that the price is inevitably much higher than Russian gas delivered through pipelines. In Germany it will never be competitive to Russian gas. It is understandable that Trump wants Germany to buy U.S. produced liquefied gas. But without competitive pricing and a more plausible sales argument he will have no luck.

Trump took an even bigger shot at all European NATO countries when he demanded that they commit to spending 4% of their GDP on defense. He hopes that they will buy more U.S. produced military systems. The demand is ludicrous. Parliaments decide how much a country spends on defense. Parliamentarians want to get reelected. Only 15% of Germans agree with increasing the defense budget to 2% of the German GDP. For most of them even 1.5% is already too much. A plurality wants U.S. troops to leave Germany. There is no way that NATO countries can or will agree to 4%.

That said I am all for spending 4% on defense - but under one condition. Health is a security issue. Healthcare is the defense from death. We need to nationalize our healthcare systems and let the defense departments run them.

The U.S. military is the biggest socialist organization of the world. It is egalitarian and its citizens, i.e. the soldiers, are extremely well cared for. It runs its own healthcare system through the Veterans Health Administration.

NATO countries could adopt the VHA system and extend it to their populations. Under that condition 4% of GDP for 'defense' will indeed be a good deal.

Posted by b on July 11, 2018 at 02:50 PM | Permalink | Comments (204)

July 10, 2018

German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal

The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag are the equivalent to the Congressional Research Service in the United States. Members of Parliament can ask the services to give their neutral expert opinions on legal questions and other issues. Opinions by the Scientific Services are held in high regard.

Alexander Neu, a Member of Parliament for the Left Party in Germany, requested an opinion on the legality of the military presence and operations by Russia, the United States and Israel in Syria.

The result (pdf, in German) is quite clear-cut:

- Russia was asked by the recognized government of Syria to help. Its presence in Syria is without doubt legal under International Law.

- U.S. activities in Syria can be seen as two phases:

Regime Change

The provision of arms to insurgents in Syria by the U.S. (and others) was and is illegal. It is a breach of the Prohibition on the Use of Force in international law specifically of the UN Charter Article 2(4):

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Fight against ISIS

The U.S. argues that its presence in Syria is in (collective) self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the Islamic State in Syria threatens to attack the United States. That, in itself, would be insufficient as Syria is a sovereign state. The U.S. therefore additionally claims that the Syrian state is "unwilling or unable" to fight against the Islamic State.

The Scientific Services says that the claim of "unwilling or unable" was already dubious when the U.S. operation started. This for two reasons:

  • It is not law or an internationally accepted legal doctrine. (The 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and others have argued strongly against it.)
  • The Syrian government itself was fighting ISIS, but it could not operation in large parts of its territory where the Islamic State had taken control. Some argue that this justified the "unable" argument. But ISIS is largely defeated and it no longer has any significant territorial control.

The already dubious legal case for the presence of U.S. (and other 'coalition' troops in Syria) can thus no longer be made. The U.S. presence in Syria is illegal.

- Israel's attacks on Hizbullah and Iranian units and installations in Syria, as well as against Syria itself, are claimed by Israel to be 'anticipatory self-defense' under UN Charter Article 51. But 'anticipatory self-defense' could only be claimed when attacks against Israel were imminent. That case has not been made. The Israeli attacks are thus 'pre-emptive self defense' which is not an accepted doctrine of International Law.

The service was not asked for an opinion on Turkey's incursion into Syria but it notes that claims of 'self defense', as Turkey makes in its fight against Kurdish entities in Syria, are often abuses for Geo-strategic purposes.

So far the Scientific Services opinion.  

The given legal arguments are not new. Other have long reasoned along the same lines and came to the same results.

But Germany is a partner of the U.S. coalition of the willing against ISIS. Its military has flown reconnaissance missions from Turkey and Jordan in support of the U.S. operation under the same legal argument the U.S. made. The German parliament is now unlikely to renew the mandate for the anti-ISIS operation. Other countries will likely follow and end their participation in the U.S. coalition.

While this is will not change the situation on the ground in Syria it does change the international political atmosphere. It also 'rehabilitates' the Syrian government in the European public eye as it can no longer be depicted as an 'enemy.' 

Posted by b on July 10, 2018 at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (90)

July 09, 2018

BREXIT - Still Not Gonna Happen

Good news: The pictured man is no longer the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.


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Bad news: The pictured man may soon be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Hours before Boris Johnson quit his position, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned from Prime Minister May's cabinet.

On July 6 the British government held a cabinet meeting at Chequers, the private seat of the prime minister. Following the meeting it published a paper (pdf) that took a weird position towards exiting the European Union. If it would be followed, Britain would practically end up with staying in the EU, accepting nearly all its regulations and court decisions, but without any say over what the EU decides. The paper was clearly written by the 'Remain' side. The two top Brexiters in May's cabinet felt cheated and resigned. More are likely to follow.

The majority of the British people who voted to leave the EU must feel duped.

My hunch is that Prime Minister Theresa May was tasked with 'running out the clock' in negotiations with the EU. Then, shortly before the March 2019 date of a 'hard Brexit' would arrive without any agreement with the EU, the powers that be would launch a panic campaign to push the population into a new vote. That vote would end with a victory for the 'Remain' side. The UK would continue to be a member of the European Union.

Shortly before the original Brexit vote in June 2016 MoA headlined: BREXIT - Not Gonna Happen

No matter how the Brexit vote will go, the powers that are will not allow Britain to exit the European Union.

pic via Aenea Endymion

That's all.

Is that claim still justified?

Maybe Johnson the Brexiter can now launch an inner party coup and push Theresa May out. According to a YouGov poll she lost significant support within her conservative party. Besides the Brexit row she botched a snap election, lost her party's majority in parliament and seems to have no clear concept for anything. It would not be a loss for mankind to see her go.

Boris the clown, who wins within his party on 'likability' and 'shares my political outlook', would then run the UK. A quite amusing thought. Johnson is a man of no principles. While he is currently pretending to hold a pro-Brexit position he would probably run the same plan that May seems to execute: Delay as long as possible, then panic the people into a re-vote, then stay within the EU.

Then again - Boris may do the unexpected.

How do the British people feel about this?

Posted by b on July 9, 2018 at 11:43 AM | Permalink | Comments (158)

July 08, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-34

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

By Friday the new 'Novichok' fairytale had already vanished from the front pages. The story the British government tells is no longer believed. Even the Guardian allowed a comment that doubts the claims:

If the novichok was planted by Russia, where’s the evidence?

The most obvious motive for these attacks would surely be from someone out to embarrass the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – someone from his enemies, rather than from his friends or employees.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 8, 2018 at 02:27 PM | Permalink | Comments (168)

Pyongyang Talks - How Pompeo Put The Cart Before The Horse

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo just visited North Korea to further the agenda President Trump and Chairmen Kim had agreed upon in Singapore. The visit did not go well:

The specifics of what happened behind closed doors remain unclear. Whether Pompeo somehow annoyed his counterpart, or pressed too hard, or whether the North Koreans are simply reverting to their hot-and-cold tactics, is hard to say. But the regime made sure to have the final word, and it was not pleasant.

As he was leaving, Pompeo told reporters the conversations were “productive and in good faith.” Hours later North Korean state media issued a statement that did not mention him by name but called the demands he presented “gangster-like.”

The Trump administration has long set out its goal as CVID, the "Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement" of North Korea nuclear weapons program. After applying "maximum pressure" on North Korea through international sanctions, the U.S. believed that long planned steps North Korea took to start talks with its adversaries were already the total surrender it was hoping for. Somehow the people became convinced that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. From a Washington Post story:

Amid increasing scrutiny of North Korea's commitment to giving up its weapons, Pompeo came to Pyongyang in a bid to hammer out the details of a denuclearization plan. While the secretary told reporters that progress was made "on almost all of the central issues” and involved “good-faith negotiations,” North Korea said the U.S. attitude, demanding denuclearization, was “regrettable.”

"North Korea's commitment to giving up its weapons" is presented as a matter of fact in the U.S. media. However, North Korea never made such a commitment. The declarations it agreed to set out denuclearization as an aspiration goal that will be worked on only after the normalization of economic and military relations and after a peace treaty has been agreed on or signed. The record on that is clear.

In April President Moon Jae-in of South Korea and Chairman Kim Jong-un of North Korea met in Panmunjom and signed a common Declaration for Peace, Prosperity and Unification of the Korean Peninsula . The declaration had three numbered main points, each with a list of subitems. The first main point covers inner-Korean relations including economic relations, the second point is about the lowering of military tension, the third is about a peace agreement. The second subitem of the third main point sets out a step by step process of disarmament:

South and North Korea agreed to carry out disarmament in a phased manner, as military tension is alleviated and substantial progress is made in military confidence-building.

The third subitem is about a peace treaty that includes the U.S. and China. It is only the fourth subitem of the third mainpoint and the last of the whole declaration that mentions a goal of denuclearization within a bigger context:

South and North Korea confirmed the common goal of realizing, through complete denuclearization, a nuclear-free Korean Peninsula. South and North Korea shared the view that the measures being initiated by North Korea are very meaningful and crucial for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and agreed to carry out their respective roles and responsibilities in this regard. South and North Korea agreed to actively seek the support and cooperation of the international community for the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Denuclearization of the north AND south is the last point of a long agenda that will be fulfilled in a "phased manner" or step by step. The whole paper describes a chronologic order in which the set of tasks will be worked on.

In June Kim Jong-un met U.S. President Trump in Singapore. A "freeze for freeze" - the stop of nuclear and missile testing in exchange for a stop of military maneuvers - was agreed upon. A Joint Statement was signed with a list of future tasks in similar chronological order as in the Panmunjeom Declaration (numbering added):

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to [1] the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and [2] the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed [3a] to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un [3b] reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The program detailed in that paragraph is repeated in an itemized and numbered list:

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:
  1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
  2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

  3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula

Denuclearization of the north AND south is again described as an aspirational goal and as the last item of the longer list.

The Panmunjeom Declaration and the Singapore Statement are the only public commitments North Korea agreed to. Both describe numbered steps that are to be taken by both parties one after the other. Denuclearization is the last step.

Now Pompeo came to Pyongyang and asked for details about North Korea's nuclear program and how it plans to abandon it. As far as we know he did not talk about point 1, the "establishment of new US-DPRK relations" which would include the opening of embassies and economic engagement. He did not talk about point 2, "a lasting and stable peace regime" i.e. a peace treaty. He did not talk about 3a, the "security guarantees to the DPRK". The only item he talked about was 3b, the last item on the list.

The Trump administration put the cart before the horse and now wonders why that did not work.

After Pompeo left Pyongyang North Korea published a statement that condemns Pompeo for getting the sequence wrong:

[T]he U.S. side came up only with its unilateral and gangster-like demand for denuclearization just calling for CVID, declaration and verification, all of which run counter to the spirit of the Singapore summit meeting and talks.

The U.S. side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for defusing tension and preventing a war. It took the position that it would even backtrack on the issue it had agreed on to end the status of war under certain conditions and excuses.

As for the issue of announcing the declaration of the end of war at an early date, it is the first process of defusing tension and establishing a lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula, and at the same time, it constitutes a first factor in creating trust between the DPRK and the U.S. This issue was also stipulated in Panmunjom Declaration as a historical task to terminate the war status on the Korean peninsula which continues for nearly 70 years. President Trump, too, was more enthusiastic about this issue at the DPRK-U.S. summit talks.

First peace, then denuclearization.

The statement goes on to laud Trump while condemning his minions:

Valuable agreement was reached in such a short time at the Singapore summit talks first ever in the history of the DPRK-U.S. relations. This is attributable to the fact that President Trump himself said he would move towards resolving the DPRK-U.S. relations and the issue of denuclearization of the Korean peninsula in a new way.

If both sides at the working level reneged on the new way agreed at the summit and returned to the old way, the epoch-making Singapore summit would be meaningless ...
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We still cherish our good faith in President Trump.

The U.S. should make a serious consideration of whether the toleration of the headwind against the wills of the two top leaders would meet the aspirations and expectations of the world people as well as the interests of its country.

This is a quite interesting play. North Korea tells Trump that his staff is sabotaging the "valuable agreement" he made.

There is little doubt that this is the case. As chinahand aka Peter Lee explains (recommended video), "sabotaging Korean peace is as American as apple pie."

Trump's National Security Advisor John Bolton has a long history of destroying talks with North Korea. It was likely John Bolton who organized the recent intelligence leaks about North Korea's continuing work on its missile programs. In March, before joining the Trump administration, Bolton went on Foxnews and talked about the already agreed upon Trump-Kim summit. He opined (@4:10m) that the purpose of the meeting was, in his view, to ..

".. foreshorten the amount of time that we’re going to waste in negotiations that will never produce the result we want, which is Kim giving up his nuclear program.”

If such hawk engagement was the purpose of the Trump-Kim meeting then the end point is nearly reached. Trump could now twitter the lie that Kim "betrayed" him and "failed to fulfill his commitment", the one he never made. The U.S. establishment, the Korea specialists and the mainstream media all argued against these talks. They want full denuclearization of North Korea without giving it much - if anything - in return. They would applaud Trump if he stops the talks and again ramps up tensions.

But Trump might really want to get that Nobel Peace Prize. He will not get one for nuking Pyongyang. He will (first) have to make peace. He will have to order Pompeo to go back to Pyongyang and to talk about the opening embassies and the peace process before raising the issue of 'denuclearization'. He will have to tell Bolton to stop his games.

Trump may also have a another aim in mind. China is the main competitor of the United States, in Asia as well as globally. North Korea is China's T/trump card, a proxy state that can be used to dial up tensions and to keep the U.S. busy whenever it wants. If Trump really wants to go after China, neutralizing North Korea (and Russia?) first is a desirable step.

It is not discernible what Trump really wants. It might well be that he has not made up his mind, or that he changes his position as the days go by.

Posted by b on July 8, 2018 at 02:02 PM | Permalink | Comments (46)

July 07, 2018

Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma.

The Washington Post writes:

[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there.
...
In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected.

The OPCW did not conclude at all that "chlorine was indeed used". It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of "chlorinated organic chemicals". A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a "chlorinated organic chemical". Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be "chlorinated organic chemicals". But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used. 

The BBC made a similar 'mistake'. It headlined "Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas - watchdog".


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It took extensive social-media outrage and several hours for the BBC to correct its 'mistake'. It now headlines: Syria war: 'Possible chlorine' at Douma attack site - watchdog. That is better but still a lie. Nowhere do the OPCW report or its Technical Statement (pdf) use the expression 'possible chlorine'. No editorial note was added by the BBC to reveal that the original dispatch was changed.

The Daily Beast headlines: Watchdog: Chlorine Was Used in Syria’s Chemical Attack

The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons determined that chlorine was used in the chemical attack in the Syrian town of Douma, but found no evidence that nerve agents were involved.

That is an outright lie. The OPCW report does not say that chlorine was used. It mentions chlorine only twice and only in relation to previous incidents.

The Independent, AlJazeerah, the Australian ABC News and others offer the same lie to their readers.

A possible reason why so many outlets made this 'mistake' is the British news agency Reuters which first distributed this false claim:


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Reuters has since changed the headline and text of that item from "chlorine" to "chlorinated chemicals" but attached no note of that change. Moreover it does not explain that "chlorinated chemicals" will be found about anywhere.

It is doubtful that these 'mistakes' were made out of sloppiness. The writers likely intend to create the false impression that Syria was responsible for a 'chemical attack' that did not happen. They would otherwise have to expose the lies they published and told about the incident:

Senior US officials expressed confidence Saturday that both chlorine and sarin gas were used in Syria's alleged chemical weapons attack on the Damascus enclave of Douma last week -- a conclusion that went a step further than Vice President Mike Pence did in his remarks earlier Saturday.

They would further have to explain that the U.S., France and the UK illegally launched a large cruise missile attack on Syria without any reason.

---
Previous Moon of Alabama coverage of the Douma incident:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?
July 6 - Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma

 

Posted by b on July 7, 2018 at 02:48 PM | Permalink | Comments (66)

July 06, 2018

Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma

On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed the dead bodies of mainly women and children.

During the night the incident allegedly happened Douma was hit with artillery and air strikes in retaliation for earlier deadly attacks by some 'rebels' splinter groups on Damascus city. Jaish al-Islam, the main 'rebel' group in Douma, had already agreed to leave towards Idleb governorate.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did.

Moon of Alabama published several pieces on the issue:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Even a prominent opposition outlet said that no 'chemical attack' had taken place. As noted on April 9:

Interestingly the MI6 outlet in Coventry, the Syrian Observatory For Human Rights (SOHR), does not confirm a 'gas' incident. In its version of events some 40 people died after their shelter collapsed:

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights issued a higher death toll, saying at least 80 people were killed in Douma, including around 40 who died from suffocation. But it said the suffocations were the result of shelters collapsing on people inside them.

Main stream media, which have quoted SOHR for years, now ignore it and report of a 'chemical attack' as if it were a proven reality.

The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) send a Fact Finding Mission (FFM) to Douma and investigated the incident. Today it published an interim report and some technical results:

OPCW designated labs conducted analysis of prioritised samples. The results show that no organophosphorous nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or in the plasma samples taken from alleged casualties. Along with explosive residues, various chlorinated organic chemicals were found in samples from two sites, for which there is full chain of custody. Work by the team to establish the significance of these results is on-going. The FFM team will continue its work to draw final conclusions.

The "Sarin" organophosphate use the 'rebels' claimed is thereby debunked. No degradation products of such chemicals were found. The "various chlorinated organic chemicals" are unsurprising. Chlorine is widely used for water purification and cleaning and "chlorinated organic chemicals" will be found in any household.

In the technical notes of the OPCW report note that one of its laboratory found "dichloroacetic acid", "trichloroacetic acid", "chloral hydrate", "trichlorophenol" and "chlorphenol" in some of the samples its fact finding mission took at the claimed incident sites. These are all substances that are no surprise in any upbuild environment and especially within any home. Dichloroacetic acid" is for example "a trace product of the chlorination of drinking water". Chloral hydrate is likewise "a minor side-product of the chlorination of water when organic residues such as humic acids are present". The other substances are also not uncommon and of various household uses.

The other OPCW laboratory found only "No CWC-scheduled chemicals" and "2,4,6-trinitrotoluene" residues in the samples. Trinitrotoluene, also known as TNT, is an explosive widely used in military ammunition. The second laboratory does not report the chlorinated organic chemicals the other laboratory found.

The preliminary OPCW report says nothing about the concentrations in which these substances were found. Without knowing the concentrations, which may may be extremely low, one can not come to further conclusion. The report includes none of the witness statements the fact finding mission took. In various TV reports the medical personal of the one hospital involved in the stunt said that none of their patients were affected by chlorine or chemical weapons.

After the 'rebels' claimed the 'chemical attack' and published their staged videos of stacked bodies U.S. President Trump tweeted that he would retaliate for the strike. Politically he could not pull back from that even when Secretary of Defense Mattis voiced his doubts about the 'rebel' claims. Trump attacked Syria with a series of cruise missiles most of which were shot down by the Syrian air defense. A civil chemical laboratory was destroyed during the attack but no one was hurt.

The now published preliminary OPCW report reinforces the doubts about the 'rebel' claims. There was no 'chemical attack' in Douma. The incident was staged.

One hopes that Trump has learned from this episode and will in future refrain from violent threats over incidents for which no plausible and vetted evidence is provided.

Posted by b on July 6, 2018 at 03:23 PM | Permalink | Comments (76)

July 05, 2018

Syria Sitrep - UN Refugee Numbers For Daraa Are Mere Propaganda - They Make No Sense At All

UN organizations claim high internal refugee numbers in southwest Syria due to recent fighting in Daraa governorate. A review of the evidence finds that these numbers are implausible.

Over the last two weeks the long announced operation of the Syrian army and its allies to liberate southwest Syria from terrorist organization and 'rebels' proceeded well. The eastern part (red) of the 'rebel' held area has been recovered without much serious fighting. Most towns in the area accepted the Russian offers to reconcile with the Syrian government. The various local 'rebel' groups in those towns handed their heavy weapons to the Syrian army, joined the army or laid down their arms. Other fled further south. Those groups who resisted received a short but sharp lashing by the Russian airforce and Syrian artillery until they were convinced to give up or move out. There were only few casualties. The Syrian army recovered more then ten tanks and a huge amount of ammunition (video) that the sponsors of the rebels had previously delivered to them. Among the weapons found were at least 7 U.S. delivered TOW anti tank missile systems. A fifteen minutes long report by the Russian language ANNA TV documents the campaign (vid, English subs).

Daraa governorate, July 5 2018 - bigger

Over the last few days negotiations with groups which control the M5 highway and the Nassib-Jaber border crossing to Jordan proceeded but failed. Among other issues the 'rebels' demanded to tax future transports through the crossing. The demand is unreasonable and was rejected. This morning a new Syrian army operation was launched with the aim to reach the crossing and to reestablish government control over the border area.

The outcome is assured. The 'rebels' can not match the air and artillery capabilities of the Syrian army and its allies. The borders to Jordan and Israel are closed and no resupplies are coming through. By the end of the week the Syrian army will control the area and the border crossing.

The fighting will then continue westwards along the border to envelope and besiege the southern part of the city of Daraa which is still under 'rebel' control. The following operation will take the western area on the borders towards the Israel occupied Golan Heights. That phase of the operation will be more violent. There are several hard line groups in that area including an Islamic State aligned group and the al-Qaeda offshoots Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and Ahrar al Sham. The U.S. has made clear that it will not intervene in the Syrian operations in the southwest. Israel retracted its demands of an additional buffer zone. The UN demarcation line of 1974 between the Israel occupied Golan and Syria will be reestablished. The battle in the southwest is essentially coming to an end.

There are still attempts by the usual suspects to involve the U.S. into the fight by warning of the "Iranian" bogeyman on Israel's (undeclared) border. But there are no Iranian units in southwest Syria and the Trump administration is unlikely to fall for such calls.

Other propaganda outlets raise the claimed plight of refugees in the area. But it is not clear where those refugees are supposed to have come from. The now cleared eastern part of the Daraa governorate was taken via reconciliation agreements with relatively little fighting. Civilians stayed in place or have since returned. The operation towards the Nassib-Jaber crossing only started today. Thus this report published by AFP on July 2 made little sense:

Over 270,000 displaced by south Syria violence, UN says:

Daraa (Syria) (AFP) - More than a quarter of a million people have fled a Russian-backed government onslaught on southern Syria, the United Nations said Monday, in the latest civilian exodus in the seven-year war.
...
The violence has pushed waves of terrified civilians out of their homes at a shocking rate, the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR) said Monday.

"We were expecting the number of displaced in southern Syria to reach 200,000, but it has already exceeded 270,000 people in record time," said UNHCR spokesman in Amman Mohammad Hawari.

No further source for the claimed number of refugees was given. A report by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) published yesterday even speaks of up to 325,000 displaced persons. Where are those supposed to have come from?

The report (pdf) says:

The sustained violence in south-west Syria has further resulted in the displacement of some 285,000-325,000 individuals since 17 June. Of those, up to 189,000 IDPs have moved to areas in immediate proximity to the Golan Heights and up to 59,000 displaced to areas in close proximity to the Al-Nasib border crossing with Jordan.

The report includes this map.


Source: OCHA report - bigger

The arrows on the map say that 54,000 to 59,000 fled from the eastern part of the formerly 'rebel' held area which the Syrian army recovered by reconciliation. That number is already inexplicably high. Even more curiously the map shows most of the "285,000-325,000 IDPs" (Internally Displaced Persons) in the northwestern part of the rebel held area.


Quneitra detail of OCHA map - bigger

A large stream of IDPs, 164,000-171,000, is shown in the upper left of the map. Why are people supposedly fleeing that area?

We can compare the OCHA map with the constantly updated frontline and news map on Liveuamap. Here is the map of the larger area of June 17 on the left and of July 5 on the right.


June 17 - bigger - July 5 - bigger

There is no visible change in the frontlines of the Quneitra region in the upper left of these map. A review of the news from the area, including through the archives of the opposition friendly Syrian Observatory and the newsfeed of Liveuamap, finds that there were no ground attacks in the area during the last two to three weeks. There are also no reports of aerial bombing or of artillery strikes. There area was completely quiet. There is also no news at all of any large refugee movement in that area.

Neither the OCHA map nor the UN report explain how, when or why 164,000-171,000 people supposedly moved the few miles towards the Israel occupied Golan Heights. There is no evidence that this claimed movement of IDPs, who may or may not exist, happened at all.

Where does the OCHA claim come from?

The nearly unreadable fine-print of the OCHA map says about the "Map Data Source(s)":

The data of this map has a limited number of sources, including parties of the conflict. The data has not been independently verified and is subject to error or omission, deliberate or otherwise, by the various sources.

There is the explanation for the unbelievable high refugee numbers the UN is peddling around. They are based on claims made by the Islamic State, the al-Qaeda offshoot Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham and various other sectarian "rebel" groups and their propaganda outlets. These claims have not be verified at all. Whoever made up that map did not even ask if the numbers were plausible or made any sense. They obviously don't.

It is irresponsible that UN spokespersons come out and make claims of an extreme refugee flow when only some dubious 'rebel' sources say that these happened and no reasonable explanation exists at all why such a movement might have taken place.

There has so far only been moderate fighting during the two weeks of the Daraa campaign. Most of the affected towns reconciled with the  Syrian army without any fight. The real recent refugee flow in the whole Daraa governorate is thus more likely in the order of ten-thousands than in the order of hundred-thousands.

The UN must stop to distribute such alarming numbers that evidently can not be backed up at all. Otherwise its credibility and long term efficiency will be severely damaged.

Posted by b on July 5, 2018 at 03:26 PM | Permalink | Comments (56)

July 04, 2018

British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck

It seems that Theresa May felt a need to stoke some more Russia hate:

Just as the World Cup had forced the British media to grudgingly acknowledge the obvious truth that Russia is an extremely interesting country inhabited, like everywhere else, by mostly pleasant and attractive people, we have a screaming reprise of the “Salisbury incident” dominating the British media.

All British media outlets report of a middle-aged British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, who fell seriously ill in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury and near the British chemical weapon site Proton Down. The couple were transported to the Salisbury hospital. They were first suspected to have taken drugs but the police now speaks (vid) of a "potential exposure to an unknown substance" and that they "remain in a critical condition". [Update - July 5: British officials now say the two were poisoned with "Novichok".]

The parallels to the poisoning of the British-Russian spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter four month ago are obvious. The government alleged the Skripals were poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok series.  Like back in March the British government will soon name the evildoer of this new drama.

The most curious issue of the current case is that it happened Saturday morning. A lot of local emergency action took place since then. But news of the incident emerged only early today. None of the pieces I read explains the four days long lack of reporting. The British government obviously issued a D-notice and prohibited all news of the case until early today and now prohibits to explain the censoring.

Why?

A "friend of the couple", who had been with them on Friday night and Saturday, was interviewed by several outlets:

Sam Hobson, 29, a friend of the couple, said he believed they had been struck down by a nerve agent.
...
He described how on Saturday morning Sturgess fell ill and was taken to hospital and how later that morning Rowley also became sick. He said both were in hospital in isolation and he was receiving regular calls from the authorities to check he was well. “They thought it was drugs at first. They now think it’s a nerve agent,” he claimed.

Hobson, a mechanic, said he was in Salisbury with the couple on Friday evening in locations close to some of the places associated with the Skripal case.
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Hobson visited Rowley’s home in Muggleston Road on Saturday morning. Sturgess, who lives in Salisbury, had spent the night there. “I saw lots of ambulances there and [Sturgess] got taken out on a stretcher. She needed to be helped with her breathing,” Hobson said. Rowley came out in tears. “They said she needed to have a brain scan.”

After she was taken to hospital Hobson and Rowley went to Boots in Amesbury. Later they went to a hog roast at the local baptist church.
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Hobson said: “We went back to his place after the hog roast. We were going up to the hospital. Then he started sweating. His T-shirt was soaking wet. He got up and started rocking against the wall. His eyes were wide open and red, his pupils were like pinpricks. He began garbling incoherently and I could tell he was hallucinating. He was making weird noises and acting like a zombie. I phoned an ambulance. At first they thought it was drugs but … they know now it isn’t drugs.”

He said the couple had been together for a few months and neither worked. Hobson said they both also had one child by other partners.

Witnesses say that people in protective suits were seen on Saturday evening:

Nearby resident Chloe Edwards described seeing police cars, fire engines and people in “green suits” on Saturday night.

"We were just eating our dinner and all these emergency vehicles turned up,” the 17-year-old student said.

"They were putting on these green suits and we thought it was the gas as our electricity was turned off as well."

Ms Edwards said the vehicles arrived at about 7pm and she and her family were told to stay inside their home until about 10pm.

How come this did not emerge in the public?

A specialist "decontamination shower" was taken to the scene by Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service on Saturday, but a crew from Swindon later tweeted that “thankfully the incident wasn't serious and our decontamination shower wasn't required”. The tweet has since been deleted.

Other sources also reported the setting up of a mobile decontamination shower. Why would a suspected "contaminated drug" case require decontamination?

Some more details that might be of interest:

It has emerged Ms Sturgess lives in a homeless shelter close to the Zizzi's restaurant in Salisbury where Russian spy Sergei Skirpal and his daughter Yulia were targeted four months ago.
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Initially police believed the pair, understood to be recreational drug users, had come into contact with a contaminated batch of Class A drugs.
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Sam Hobson, 29, said: 'Charlie was dribbling and was rocking backwards and forwards. He was in another world, he was hallucinating.

'He wasn't high or anything. He was stone cold sober. It was like nothing I'd ever seen. I called the ambulance and they took him away.'

The police early on lied to the people living near the place where the incidents happened. It first pretended the issue was a gas leak. Two days ago it still told local media that this was a case of contaminated drugs. But its actions showed that something else was going on.

LeeAnn Brady said: 'I was told on the Saturday around half 6 in the evening that there was a gas leak and to close my windows. Nothing else was ever mentioned to us after that.

'But I haven't seen any British Gas vans anywhere.'
...
Lewis Foote said: 'My wife's friend lives near them and I know there was a huge police presence the other day with firefighters. They were wearing hazardous chemical suits. A lot of people think it might be related to the spy poisoning again.'

It is inexplicable that the public was not immediately informed of a new occurrence of a "nerve agent" in the Wiltshire area. If, as we are made to believe, the two persons picked up "Novichock" somewhere in a park, a warning to the public should have been the very next step. There was obviously a high risk that others might also make contact with the same substance. That no public warning was given lets me assume that the truth is somewhat different that the (censored) official story.

Since the Skripals mysteriously recovered from a "nerve agent ten times stronger than VX" and the police released a hostage video of Julia Skripal they vanished from the scene. Likewise nothing was since heard of the policeman who also fell ill at that time and recovered a few days later.

No explanations have been given for the myriad of misleading and contradicting claims the British government made about the Skripal case. Now we are getting a public rerun of the whole affair with a case which seriousness was obvious early on but which was censored for four days without giving any reason.

What happened during these four days? Who (de-)briefed the notorious Sam Hobson, the "friend of the couple", who now speaks of a "nerve agent"? Is he allowed to truthfully say what he saw and did or does he have a different role in this story?

I doubt that the currently presented version of Saturday's incident is more valid than the fairytales we were told about the Skripal case.

But what is it that really happened here?

---
Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

March 8 - Poisioned British-Russian Double-Agent Has Links To Clinton Campaign
March 12 - Theresa May's "45 Minutes" Moment
March 14 - Are 'Novichok' Poisons Real? - May's Claims Fall Apart
March 16 - The British Government's 'Novichok' Drama Was Written By Whom?
March 18 - NHS Doctor: "No Patients Have Experienced Symptoms Of Nerve Agent Poisoning In Salisbury"
March 21 - Russian Scientists Explain 'Novichok' - High Time For Britain To Come Clean (Updated)
March 29 - Last Act Of 'Novichok' Drama Revealed - "The Skripals' Resurrection"
March 31 - Hillary Clinton Ordered Diplomats To Suppress 'Novichok' Discussions
April 3 - Operation Hades Blamed Russia - A Model For The 'Novichok' Claims?
April 4 - It's The Cover-Up" - UK Foreign Office Deletes Tweet, Posts False Transcript, Issues New Lies
April 5 - Novi-Fog™ In Fleet Street - Truth Cut Off
April 6 - The Best Explanation For The Skripal Drama Is Still ... Food Poisoning
April 7 - A Very British Farce
April 12 - New Developments In The Skripal Drama - Police Statement, OPCW Report Release
April 15 - Were the Skripals 'Buzzed', 'Novi-shocked' Or Neither? - May Has Some 'Splaining' To Do
April 28 - The Silence Of The Skripals - Government Blocks Press Reports - Media Change The Record
May 4 - Media Use Disinformation To Accuse Russia Of Spreading Such
May 24 - British Hostage Video Of Yulia Skripal Released

Posted by b on July 4, 2018 at 02:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (197)

July 03, 2018

Secret U.S. Wars Endanger Africa

Under the pretense of waging their 'war of terror' U.S. Special Forces use lots of money and murky legal authorities to worm themselves into the intestines of Africa. Their secret action is likely to lead to more instability and is endangering the peoples of Africa and their governments.

In a recent interview Seymour Hersh spoke (@2:50m) about U.S. military operations in Africa:

"We have a big special forces community that are active particular in Africa, in lot of places. I think the public knows very little about it. I don't think my president has been briefed on it. I think he isn't interested in it or just doesn't know about it. I know there is concern among some people in the military, high up in the military, in the government, in Washington: 'What are these guys doing? Who is in control?' There is a lack of control among the special forces. Many of them are driven with the idea that they are in a crusade. That they are the Knights of Malta fighting the infidels in the 14th century or 13th century. I mean that's really crazy stuff. So when I hear in the military, what the special operations command says about Mali: 'Here is what happened when four guys died and how.' I am sorry but I think there is much more to the story, there is much more to our presence there, but it is very hard to get that stuff."

The U.S. has only few of its regular military stationed in Africa. But there are plenty of U.S. special forces there, mostly working in secret. They are supposed to be under control of AFRICOM, the imperial U.S. command for that continent.

In 2007 Moon of Alabama commentator b real wrote a three part series, Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire's New Combatant Command, which documents how and why AFRICOM came about:

In early February 2007 the White House finally announced a presidential directive to establish by September 2008 a new unified combatant command with an area of responsibility (AOR) solely dedicated to the African continent.
...
The U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) will replace the AOR for each of three other geographic combatant commands (there are now a total of six) currently tasked with portions of the second-largest continent, with the small exception of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) retaining AOR for Egypt. Further details on operations have not been made public apart from the usual basic press briefings and the formation of a transition team, though it is not a mystery to identify what role AFRICOM will play in both the U.S. and Africa's future.

Africa is huge with a relatively small population of 1.2 billion, less than India or China. Its 54 countries have various kinds of natural wealth. Next to oil, gas and uranium there are all types of strategic minerals and metals, from cobalt needed for rechargeable batteries to rare earth elements used in electronics. 


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China is making friends in Africa by investing in infrastructure to further development and trade. It is building ports, railways and telecommunication lines. These projects aim at win-win situations where China as well as the host country profit from them.

To counter China the U.S. is using its 'regime change' tools and secret military operations instead of economic cooperation. While its military missions are claimed to be 'to train, advise and assist' with no combat role for U.S. soldiers the reality is much different. A recent attempt to catch the local smuggler/insurgent Doundoun Cheffou in the Niger-Mali border area ended with the death of four Nigerien soldiers, four U.S. soldiers and one Nigerien translator. The local insurgent group claimed to be part of the Islamic State (ISIS) but there is no evidence that it ever communicated with ISIS central or that it was accepted into the ISIS structure.

The incident finally led to more detailed reporting which finds that the operation was under direct control of U.S. special forces who (ab)used the Nigerian military under a secret "rent auxiliaries" program.

Two recent pieces detail the murky legal background and discuss the consequences of such operations. Joe Penny writes in World Politics Review about: The ‘Myths and Lies’ Behind the U.S. Military’s Growing Presence in Africa:

The U.S. military obscures the nature of its actions in Africa through ambiguous language and outright secrecy. It limits the amount of information available about the objectives of its operations, how those operations are carried out, the facilities it uses, and how it partners with governments in the region. At times, this has involved subverting democratic processes in partner countries, an approach that runs counter to years of diplomatic engagement ostensibly designed to strengthen governance institutions.
...
Today, the U.S. has a military presence in almost every country in Africa and conducts “advise-and-assist” missions with local counterterrorism units in Niger, Cameroon, Chad, Uganda, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Libya and possibly elsewhere. Officially, though, the U.S. has never led or unilaterally carried out a “capture-kill” mission in the Sahel, the semiarid region south of the Sahara desert that includes Niger; the mission targeting Cheffou was ostensibly led by the Nigeriens.

The U.S. military claims that all the missions in Africa, like the failed one in Niger, are under command of the local forces. But this is simply an obfuscation. The reporting makes clear that the Nigerian soldiers, as well as forces elsewhere, were under direct U.S. command. A similar obfuscation is used when the the U.S. drone base in Agadez is labeled as Nigerien Air Base 201.

There are two legal authorizations the U.S. military uses to operate in Africa and to confuse the public: 10 USC 333 covers 'advise and assist' missions and the related funding of foreign forces:

The Secretary of Defense is authorized to conduct or support a program or programs to provide training and equipment to the national security forces of one or more foreign countries for the purpose of building the capacity of such forces ...

In contrast to the above stands 10 USC 127e which authorizes classified programs to rent foreign forces or militia engaged in operations under U.S. special forces control:

The Secretary of Defense may, with the concurrence of the relevant Chief of Mission, expend up to $100,000,000 during any fiscal year to provide support to foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals engaged in supporting or facilitating ongoing military operations by United States special operations forces to combat terrorism.

127e provides money for bribes, for hiring mercenaries and for launching as well as fighting insurgencies. There were two U.S. units involved in the Niger incident. The group that was attacked was on an 'advise and assist' mission under 10 USC 333. But it had been called up in support of the 'capture or kill' mission of another unit under official U.S. command that was run under 10 USC 127e.

Penny finds that these units are in practice interchangeable. In fact all such missions are run with U.S. special forces in the lead. He remarks on the danger of these murky programs:

The gamble that the public, in both America and across Africa, won’t find out about questionable actions, and won’t have the means to challenge them if they do, is becoming increasingly risky. Moreover, the Pentagon’s engagement in Africa—from Niger and Ghana to Djibouti and Somalia—is ramping up at the expense of a coherent diplomatic and economic strategy for the continent, a state of affairs that harms both American and African interests.

In Politco Wesley Morgan further details the (lack of) differences between these programs: Behind the secret U.S. war in Africa:

In repeated public statements, military spokespeople have said the American role in Africa is limited to “advising and assisting” other militaries. But for at least five years, Green Berets, Navy SEALs and other commandos operating under a little-understood authority have planned and controlled certain missions, putting them in charge of their African partner forces.
...
The [127e] authority funds classified programs under which African governments essentially loan out units of their militaries for American commando teams to use as surrogates to hunt militants identified as potential threats to American citizens or embassies. That’s instead of having the American commandos help the African troops accomplish their own objectives, as other U.S. special operations teams do in Africa.

There are some 21 programs worldwide run in secrecy under 127e authority. For the host countries they share an inherent problem with other U.S. training missions for foreign militaries. One day these missions end, the U.S. commandos leave and well trained, well equipped groups of militants, no longer used to be under local control, run free to do whatever they learned to do. Such units can easily mutate into criminal enterprises or stage a coup. A 2015 study found (pdf) that U.S. training and command of foreign troops endangers the stability of the foreign government:

Training .. alters the balance of power between the military and the regime resulting in greater coup propensity. Using data from 189 countries from 1970-2009 we show the number of military officers trained by the US International Military Education and Training (IMET) and Countering Terrorism Fellowship (CTFP) programs increases the probability of a military coup.
...
[A]mong all the countries that received no training from the United States for a particular year, 2.7% experienced a coup. Among those country-years with some training, the percentage is 5.3%, nearly double.

Any government that lets U.S. troops train and/or command its local military doubles the risk of a coup against it. The U.S. missions, especially the secret ones, are also prone to pitch parts of a country's population against others. The U.S. military is notorious for its lack of knowledge about the social fabric and attitudes of foreign populations.

Any government in Africa (and elsewhere) is well advise to reject U.S. training for its forces. It should not agree to 'advise and assist' missions or the even more dangerous secret 'counterterrorism' missions that are prone to create more of what they pretend to fight. The U.S. intent behind its 'generous' training offers is obvious.

Eleven years ago b real concluded:

Expanding the military reach of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known, AFRICOM will be tasked with the responsibility of achieving full-spectrum dominance over mother Africa for fuel. Operating as both energy-protection service and strategic Cold War front, the unified command will concentrate whatever military forces are necessary to keep the furnaces of Empire lit. Whether AFRICOM will succeed in this directive is beside the point, for, while ends may justify the means for the elite in power, their so-called "national interest" payoff, it is regular people who pay the full price at all times. And it does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.

The secret special operations missions are just the start of a process in which the U.S. tries to subjugate all of Africa to its will and to control its resources. The people and governments of Africa should resist these attempts.

Posted by b on July 3, 2018 at 11:20 AM | Permalink | Comments (56)

July 01, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-33

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b on July 1, 2018 at 12:31 PM | Permalink | Comments (345)

On The Path To Failure - U.S. Attempts Violent "Regime Change" In Iran

In early 2014 we remarked on Color Revolution by Force in Syria and Ukraine:

Accompanying the demonstrations and illegal occupations of government buildings are in both cases brutal, criminal attacks on the police and other government forces. In Syria the violence "muscle" part was done by foreign financed Jihadists while neo-nazi gangs are used in the Ukraine. The demonstrations and the attacks on the state are planned and go together. There is nothing "peaceful" in demonstrations that are only the public-relations cover for attacks on the state. But the foreign politicians and media immediately utter "concerns" and threats over completely normal government responses to them. It is a scam to justify "western" "support" for the demonstrators and to further the violence.

The aim is "regime change" of legitimate governments by small minorities. Should the "regime" resist to that the alternative of destroying the state and the whole society is also wholeheartedly accepted.

We have since seen similar CIA operations in Venezuela and most recently in Nicaragua. The same concept is used to attack Iran. In December peaceful economic protests were hijacked by violent elements. Last night a similar attempt occurred:

Sayed Mousavi @SayedMousavi7 - 22:17 UTC - 30 Jun 2018

Khoramshar water shortage protest turned violent tonight.
What we know:
- At least 2 protesters shot, possibly by getting close to military zones
- Mobs set 2 museums on fire (reports)
- 1 hour of calm
- No base takeovers (anti-regime journos have claimed)
- Armed bike is suspicious

The scene with the "armed bike" in the video attached to the above tweet can be seen better in another video. It shows two "peaceful protesters" on a motorcycle shooting at police with an automatic gun. The shooter is hit and falls off. Another "peaceful protester" picks up the gun and continues shooting.


via Sayed Mousavi - bigger

A year ago the CIA created a new mission center to attack Iran:

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.
...
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 ...
...
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.

The tool the U.S. is using in Iran are operatives of the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK), a terror cult that has been fighting with Saddam's Iraq against Iran and is despised by the Iranian people. When the U.S. was kicked out of Iraq it transferred the MEK camps from Iraq to Albania where the cult is now training its terrorists.

Yesterday a conference of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), a political umbrella controlled by the MEK, was held in Paris. One of the well paid guest speakers was Donald Trump's lawyer Rudi Giuliani. He acknowledged U.S. involvement in the protests in Iran:

“Those protests [in Iran] are not happening spontaneously. They are happening because of many of our people in Albania and many of our people here and throughout the world.”

The MEK is just a front group, trained by Mossad and financed with U.S. and Saudi money. It is not backed by Iranian people. Only half of the attendees of the conference were Iranians at all:

The other half consisted of an assortment of bored-looking Poles, Czechs, Slovakians, Germans and Syrians who responded to a Facebook campaign promising travel, food and accommodation to Paris for a mere €25.

These "color revolution by force" regime change protests are only one of the tools the U.S. is using to destroy Iran.

Trump wants to end all oil exports from Iran to starve the country of foreign currencies. Iran's biggest customers are Europe, India and China. The big Europe oil companies have already folded under Trump's pressure, India followed and China has still to decide if it wants to take a (costly) stand. Trump is pressing Saudi Arabia to increase its oil supplies to replace the Iranian oil that can no longer reach the world market.

Making Iranians poorer is thought to lead to an uprising and regime change. But it is doubtful that such will work. The identity of the Islamic Republic is quite strong. It is more likely that the Iranian people will pull together and accept the hardship while asymmetric Iranian operations slowly destroy the U.S.'s policies. Saudi oil ports are quite vulnerable targets ...

Within the Trump administration Secretary of State Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton are the biggest proponents of regime change in Tehran:

Bolton views the demonstrations that have broken out in Iran in recent months over the state of the country’s economy as an indication of the regime’s weakness. He has told Trump that increased U.S. pressure could lead to the regime’s collapse.

One person who recently spoke with senior White House officials on the subject summarized Bolton view in the words: “One little kick and they’re done.”

Secretary of Defense Mattis is said to be opposed to regime change in Iran. He fears that such an effort might lead to a larger Middle East war. Trump will likely fire him soon. Sheldon Adelson, the Zionist billionaire who financed Trump's campaign, paid Bolton and supports Netanyahoo, will have Trump ears. He demands regime change in Iran no matter what.

Regime change in Iran is not just a Trump administration project. The support for the MEK nutters is bipartisan. Several Democrats, including Nancy Pelosi, also spoke at the MEK conference in Paris. The neo-conservative lunatics are established in both parties. Here is Obama's ambassador to Russia who tried and failed to implement regime change there:

Michael McFaul @McFaul - 18:21 UTC - 30 Jun 2018
A democratic Iran not only would free Iranians from repressive theocracy but produce closer ties between our two countries; real security, economic, and moral benefits for both Iranians and Americans.

To which the father of the neocons responded:

Bill Kristol @BillKristol - 18:29 UTC - 30 Jun 2018
Bill Kristol Retweeted Michael McFaul
Very true. And great to see a bipartisan consensus for regime change in Iran! (It would be happily ironic if, totally inadvertently, tough sanctions followed by the JCPOA followed by withdrawal from the deal caused so much whiplash that the regime crumbled.)

Surely, the U.S. will be welcome in Tehran with candy and flowers (not). Such neo-conservative "moral benefit" nonsense has already led to the disaster of the war on Iraq. Iran is several times larger. It has a quite modern economy, effective proxy forces and very significant allies. Any attempt to defeat it militarily will be a hopeless endeavor.

The U.S. has only weak allies in the Middle East. Should a conflict with Iran become hot it would have its hands full with trying to save them from falling apart.

For now we can expect more protests in Iran that will be hijacked in an attempt to create a "revolution". There will be U.S. directed proxy attacks by Kurdish and Baluchi forces on iran's borders. The economic pressure within Iran will increase further.

But all these efforts are likely to fail. Since its Islamic revolution in 1979 every U.S. attempt to damage Iran or its allies has led to the opposite effect. Every time Iran emerged stronger than before. It is likely that the current attempt will have a similar result.

Posted by b on July 1, 2018 at 12:21 PM | Permalink | Comments (73)