Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
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 (168)

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 President 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 Grant 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 (487)

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 (75)

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.
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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 (164)

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.
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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 (170)

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.
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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.
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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.
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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 ...
...
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.

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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.
...
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.
...
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.
...
Initially police believed the pair, understood to be recreational drug users, had come into contact with a contaminated batch of Class A drugs.
...
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. 


bigger

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)