Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 08, 2014

The ISIS Is A U.S. Tool "Conspiracy Theories"

Is ISIS a creation of the United States government?

I do not have enough data to judge on that question. My gut instinct on this trends towards "no." But there is some data that points into the "yes" directions and it seems that many people have judged "yes" on that basis.

In 1957 the CIA and MI6 conspired for regime change in Syria:

The plan called for funding of a "Free Syria Committee", and the arming of "political factions with paramilitary or other actionist capabilities" within Syria. The CIA and MI6 would instigate internal uprisings, for instance by the Druze in the south, help to free political prisoners held in the Mezze prison, and stir up the Muslim Brotherhood in Damascus.

Starting from that confirmed conspiracy Mohsen Abdelmoumen suggests with some current data that a similar plan, with the endgame of breaking up Syria and Iraq, is in motion and that ISIS is an instrument in this.

Al-Maydeen TV, a Lebanese channel allegedly financed by Iran or Syria or Hizbullah or someone else, interviewed the Egyptian Sheikh Nabeel Naiem. The 40 minutes interview with English subtitles and a transcript can be found here. Sheikh Nabeel Naiem (the transliteration of the name may be wrong) claims to have been with Bin Laden in Afghanistan and explains why he believes that ISIS is a U.S. project using Jihadis to incite a "100 year war" between Sunni and Shia in the Middle East. The sheikh is very critical of the Muslim Brotherhood and I am not sure about some of his more propagandistic claims but he is well read and connects some well known U.S. documents to the current situation on the ground. He also alleges that there is a U.S. plot against the Saudi regime.

Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, a Lebanese academic and resistance supporter, just adds the facts and concludes on her blog:

[S]everal developments this week reveal that ISIS has effectively become the US’ (and of course Saudi’s) new weapon of choice in confronting the Iran- Hizbullah-Syria-Iraq Axis:

Obama acknowledges that the notion of a “ready-made moderate Syrian force that was able to defeat Assad” was a “fantasy”, and only days later, requests $500 million from Congress to fund this fantasy; the following day, the leader of one of the leading “moderate” Islamist groups Obama was alluding to, the Syrian Revolutionary Front, tells The Independent that the fight against al-Qaeda was “not our problem” and admits that his fighters conduct joint operations with al-Qaeda’s representative in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra; a Kurdish intelligence source reveals to The Telegraph that his people had informed the US and British governments of an imminent ISIS takeover of Mosul but that the warning “fell on deaf ears;” PM Maliki blames the US’ delayed delivery of 36 F16s Iraq had purchased for ISIS’ advance into northern and western Iraq; Netanyahu warns Obama against military intervention in Iraq, arguing “when your enemies are fighting one another, don’t strengthen either one of them. Weaken both;” ISIS declares war on Lebanon.

The facts speak for themselves.

Well? Are these all the facts and do they speak for themselves? I am not ready to decide.

Posted by b at 02:22 PM | Comments (114)

July 07, 2014

Syria: ISIS Against The States

This New York Times op-ed by Matt Atkins is another propaganda piece for the moderate cuddly homegrown al-Qaeda:

[C]an the West meaningfully influence the military situation in Syria while continuing to eschew Islamist groups, now that they are dominant among the rebels? “The Free Syrian Army has been weak and divided,” said Richard Barrett, a former British intelligence official. “And so the Islamic Front is really the only game in town if you want to attack ISIS in Syria.”
...
If Washington and its partners want to push back against both Assad and ISIS at once, they will have to be less squeamish about picking allies in Syria. Otherwise, they may not find any left at all.

The only game in town if one wants to attack ISIS is the Syrian Arab Army under Bashar al-Assad. Anything else is just wishful thinking.

In a few month the Islamic Front will no longer exist. It will vanish like that phantasy of a Free Syrian Army. Parts of it will swear allegiance to the Islamic State, parts will give up fighting and parts will change over to the government side. Then the real war against ISIS will start.

As there is no alternative in sight Iraq will then likely still be ruled by Prime Minister Maliki despite U.S. demands for regime change. He will receive weapons, intelligence and advice from Russia and Iran. Unlike Syria Iraq will even be able to pay for those. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps will help Maliki to build up a force of strong (religiously) motivated national guard battalions which will be the manpower needed to reconquer and hold the cities ISIS has so far taken.

By the end of the year ISIS will be squeezed from the west, south and east by Syrian and Iraqi government forces and from the north by the Kurd. The ISIS (or IS) will meanwhile implement the Management of Savagery (recommended) before it really starts to consolidate its caliphate.

While ISIS has plundered lots of weapons and resources it still lacks the political and military dimensions of a nation state. With overwhelming air and artillery power the Iraqi and Syrian government sides can and will win the bloody and ferocious war.

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (88)

July 06, 2014

Ukraine: Retreat From Slaviansk Far From End Game

The Saker is somewhat depressed that the insurgents in east Ukraine retreated from Slaviansk. But that retreat was in good order and with few losses despite being surrounded by enemy forces. As their commander Strelkov explains there was no way Slaviansk could be defended against superior artillery and air superiority with little means to counter those.

Strelkov is now setting up defenses in Donetsk which is a nuch bigger city with more resources and likely easier to defend. As the Ukrainian army and the National Guard stormtroopers from the Right Sektor now move forward they may soon find that they have some "left behind" enemies in their back who can seriously influence their operations.

Supporters of the insurgents seem to blame Russia's President Putin for lack of (visible) support. But that is, in my view, thinking too small. It is far too early to have any idea of who has won or lost in Ukraine. What Putin is currently trying to do, with growing success, is to separate the Europeans from the ever meddling United States. Last Thursday a new agreement on a ceasefire was negotiated and agreed upon with Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine at the table. When the German chancellor Merkel informed U.S. President Obama about it it was the U.S. which again threatened Russia and urged the Ukrainian President Poroshenko to continue his "Anti-Terrorist Operation". The Germans and French will have taken note of this and will again move a bit more further towards the Russian side.

In judging the current situation I agree with Anatol Karlin who finds that Putin is playing a clever but cynical game:

[T]he lack of *direct* [Russian] intervention is more likely just the product of a series of cold calculations that show it more likely to be effective in a few months than today, when:

a) The Ukrainian Army has become weaker and more demoralized;

b) Photos of bisected, bloodied, and burnt corpses have been filling the Russian and international airwaves for a few months;

c) The resolve of the West and its unity are weaker;

d) The Russian economy is more prepared for any sanctions that are forthcoming; and

e) Austerity is biting Ukraine hard, and (gas-less) winter is coming.

Too bad that it is the residents of Donetsk who will be playing the blood price for this.

The Twisted Genius (TTG), who is former Green Beret trained in creating and directing local insurgencies, has a somewhat similar take on the situation:

[Putin] he is another hard hearted empath. He knows that Novorossiya must be forged from fire if it is to survive. They must want it and be willing to fight for it themselves.
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Additionally, Putin disdains the West’s penchant for R2P and aggressive interference in the affairs of others. He will move if he thinks it is necessary and when he thinks it is necessary. For now, I believe he is content to provide covert support as necessary, push for a real ceasefire and political solution, and bide his time as a new nation that intends to span from Kharkov to Oddessa and Transnistria births itself.

Posted by b at 10:58 AM | Comments (236)

July 04, 2014

Germany Getting Ready To Divorce U.S. Ally

From recent talks and discussions in Germany I conclude that the U.S. is losing more and more support and sympathies. The admiration of earlier times has turned into disgust. While a lot of higher politicians and some journalists still cling to some (well paid) myth of U.S. friendship the party base in all political parties as well as the general public has changed its opinion.

The NSA spying headlines are only one, though important issue. Consider how you would feel about such an intrusive "ally":

The German constitution, as interpreted by the constitutional court, defines privacy as a basic human right. That the U.S. is so casually violating the basic human rights of all German citizens is met with utter disgust. Even the paid and trained Atlantic Council (a U.S. lobby) trolls in German news-site comments have problem defending this issue.

But the NSA spying is not the only problem. The economic breakdown after 2008 clearly had its roots in the United States and is, in Germany, blamed on lax U.S. regulations. And while Germany itself pressed for a change in government in Ukraine the outbreak of violence, the bloody coup and the fighting in the east is considered as "Fuck the EU" U.S. intervention in European affairs.

It may still take a decade or more but my sense is that the U.S.-German alliance in on its way to an unfriendly divorce. Something that 15 years ago seemed unthinkable.

Posted by b at 11:28 AM | Comments (168)

July 02, 2014

Stephen Walt Confuses Marketing Claims With Products

I admire Stephen Walt for his work exposing the Israel Lobby in the United States and I do like his general realist position. But this is some serious claptrap nonsense not worth the electrons it is traveling on:

All three post-Cold War presidents have made their fair share of errors, but there is a common taproot to many of their failings. That taproot has been the pervasive influence of liberal idealism in the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, an influence that crosses party lines and unites Democratic liberal internationalists with Republican neoconservatives. The desire to extend liberalism into Eastern Europe lay behind NATO expansion, and it is a big reason that so-called liberal hawks jumped on the neocon bandwagon in Iraq. It explains why the United States tried to export democracy to Afghanistan and throughout the Middle East, instead of focusing laser-like on al Qaeda after the 9/11 attacks.

This is utter bullshit. All the "liberal idealism" is just a marketing ploy to sell imperial wars for global hegemony. The wars and actions of the post cold-war presidents had nothing to do with liberalism and all to do with resource grabs and general hatred against any independent entity.

If there were a "liberal idealism" based foreign policy how could the U.S. be allied to the Saudis, to a colonial Israel and dozens of nefarious dictatorships throughout the world? When have the neocons or the liberal interventionists ever argued for overthrowing the Saudi regime or the playstation king dictator of Jordan?

Any talk of "liberty" or "promoting democracy" by Washington think tanks and politicians is ALWAYS just a marketing argument that has nothing to do with the real products they are peddling.

That a supposed realist is selling this false claim of "We are only exporting liberal values. If that creates a mess it was not intended" is disturbing especially because the reality is quite different. The creation of the "mess" is what the policy intends and its result.

Here Noam Chomsky looks at the factual record of the real U.S. foreign policy and finds that it is nothing but a corporate protection racket that has nothing to do do with "liberal idealism".

After the cold war ended and the "threat" of the Soviet Union vanished Washington continued to rape other countries just like before. With the "threat of communism" gone it simply used different arguments, all of the false, to sell the rape of Panama, El Salvador, Iraq (twice), Afghanistan, Libya and other not so open wars.

Non of these wars had anything to do with "liberal idealism". That claim only helped to sell the wars at home. In none of these wars and their aftermath were "liberal ideals" any concern for those who implemented U.S. policies. The money spend in and after these wars ended in the pockets of U.S. fat cats and the policies implemented in those foreign countries were only to ensure that those countries would stay enslaved to Washington's demands.

How a "realist" studying the actual historical records can not see that is beyond me.

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (103)

July 01, 2014

Syria: A Slight Breeze of Change

Leslie H. Gelb, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations, in an NYT op-ed:

The greatest threat to American interests in the region is ISIS, not Mr. Assad. To fight this enemy, Mr. Obama needs to call on others similarly threatened: Iran, Russia, Iraqi Shiites and Kurds, Jordan, Turkey — and above all, the political leader with the best-armed forces in the region, Mr. Assad. Part of the deal would need to be that the Syrian regime and the rebels largely leave each other alone.

The Obama administration now seems to take the threat of the Islamic State for real as it increases the troop deployment to Iraq to secure an eventual embassy evacuation:

The deployment includes "a detachment of helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles, which will bolster airfield and travel route security," [Pentagon spokesman] Kirby said in a written statement.
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The 300 troops are in addition to 300 U.S. advisers who will help train Iraq's security forces. They will bring the total of American forces in Iraq to about 800 troops.

From earlier deployments we can assume that there will be at least one additional contractor for each soldier deployed. All together it is quite a capable force and any attempt of a raid against the embassy would likely be defeated. But the threat thereof is now obviously a serious concern.

I take the Gelb op-ed as an early sign that at least some "serious people" in Washington are changing their position towards the Syrian government. Will others follow?

Posted by b at 11:34 AM | Comments (84)

NYT Claims "Russian Hacker" Attack Without Any Supporting Evidence

A 800 words New York times story on some alleged computer hacking of some energy companies mentions "Russian hackers" ten times.

From Hackers in Russia ... Russian hackers have ... Russian hackers are targeting ... The Russian attacks ... an unusually sophisticated and aggressive Russian group targeting ... believed the hackers were backed by the Russian government ... The Russian hackers ... the Russian hacking group ... The Russian hackers have ... the Russian group intended ...

The story includes zero (as in nil, none) evidence and no reasoning at all why the hackers involved are supposed to be "Russian".

It is the nature of the internet that geo-localizing the original source of an attack is nearly impossible. There are myriad ways hackers from anywhere could frame one country or group as an attacker. It is therefore highly irresponsible and nothing but pure hostile propaganda to attribute any such attack to a certain source, group or country without any further evidence and very sound and detailed technological reasoning.

The NYT story links to a Symantec report about the hacks. Symantec's sole reasoning on the source location, unmentioned in the NYT story, is this:

Analysis of the compilation timestamps on the malware used by the attackers indicate that the group mostly worked between Monday and Friday, with activity mainly concentrated in a nine-hour period that corresponded to a 9am to 6pm working day in the UTC +4 time zone. Based on this information, it is likely the attackers are based in Eastern Europe.

Such reasoning is much too basic to be of any evidence. The UTC +4 timezone includes not only west Russia but also other countries like Iran. It is also just as possible that the computers used for the compilation of the malware were sitting in Ohio, Tel Aviv or Nanking but had their clock settings changed to make it appear that they were in an UTC +4 working environment. Notice that Symantec named the source in question "Dragonfly" probably hinting that the attacks were originally though of as having an Asian origin.

It is highly irresponsible to publicly accuse a certain country as the source of this attack without having any further evidence to support such a claim. Doing so exposes the NYT as a vile propaganda paper again doing the U.S. war-hawk's bidding.

Posted by b at 06:00 AM | Comments (41)

June 30, 2014

The Islamic State Proudly Presents ...

The Caliphate of Caliph Ibrahim (Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi) and the Islamic State's Ministry of Culture is delighted to reveal its five year plan for global domination.


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The Caliphate and the Islamic State's Ministry of Culture also proudly present their centerfold model for Ramadan 1435 AH.


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Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (105)

June 29, 2014

Will The New Caliphate Unite The Middle East Against It?

There is no longer an Jihadist ISIS or ISIL in Syria and Iraq. The people leading that entity declared (pdf) today, at the highly symbolic beginning of Ramadan, themselves to be a new caliphate:

Therefore, the shūrā (consultation) council of the Islamic State studied this matter after the Islamic State – by Allah’s grace – gained the essentials necessary for khilāfah, which the Muslims are sinful for if they do not try to establish. In light of the fact that the Islamic State has no shar’ī(legal) constraint or excuse that can justify delaying or neglecting the establishment of the khilāfah such that it would not be sinful, the Islamic State – represented by ahlul-halli-al-‘aqd (its people of authority), consisting of its senior figures, leaders, and the shūrā council – resolved to announce the establishment of the Islamic khilāfah, the appointment of a khalīfah for the Muslims, and the pledge of allegiance to the shaykh (sheikh), the mujāhid, the scholar who practices what he preaches, the worshipper, the leader, the warrior, the reviver, descendent from the family of the Prophet, the slave of Allah, Ibrāhīm Ibn ‘Awwād Ibn Ibrāhīm Ibn ‘Alī Ibn Muhammad al-Badrīal-Hāshimī al-Husaynī al-Qurashī by lineage, as-Sāmurrā’ī by birth and upbringing, al-Baghdādī by residence and scholarship. And he has accepted the bay’ah (pledge of allegiance). Thus, he is the imam and khalīfah for the Muslims everywhere. Accordingly, the “Iraq and Shām” in the name of the Islamic State is henceforth removed from all official deliberations and communications, and the official name is the Islamic State from the date of this declaration.

A caliphate, in its self-conception, is the only legal entity to rule above all Muslims.

With this declaration al-Baghdadi also declared war on all monarchs and other rulers in the Middle East. He will soon likely call for offensive jihad against them. This might now unite all the notoriously discordant Gulf countries against this new Islamic State.

There are already signs of this. The Saudis are said to have now, in sight of the danger, even agreed to let the Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki go for a new term. This might set them in opposition to Washington which, as the one trick pony it is, had called again for regime change in Iraq.

It will be interesting to see the reaction from Turkey, the rearward logistic base for ISIS, now IS. Erdogan surely would not mind a new caliphate but he will have objections against one in which he isn't the Caliph ruling it. So will we now see, now confronted with a new common enemy, a real united response of all Middle East countries against this new danger?

Posted by b at 01:01 PM | Comments (96)

June 27, 2014

Syria: Obama Prolongs The Conflict

Obama Requests Money to Train ‘Appropriately Vetted’ Syrian Rebels

President Obama requested $500 million from Congress on Thursday to train and equip what the White House is calling “appropriately vetted” members of the Syrian opposition, reflecting increased worry about the spillover of the Syrian conflict into Iraq.

The move is somewhat lunatic. Pumping more weapons and fighters into the Syrian conflict will only escalate it and will negatively affect the security situation in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. This is thereby certainly not about "worry" of spillovers. August last year Edwald Luttwak argued that the U.S. wins it both side continue to fight and that the U.S. should prolong the conflict as long as possible:

Maintaining a stalemate should be America’s objective. And the only possible method for achieving this is to arm the rebels when it seems that Mr. Assad’s forces are ascendant and to stop supplying the rebels if they actually seem to be winning.

It seems that Obama is, even at the cost of wider regional fallout, following this policy.

The Obama spokepersons deserve another Orwell medal:

“While we continue to believe that there is no military solution to this crisis and that the United States should not put American troops into combat in Syria, this request marks another step toward helping the Syrian people defend themselves against regime attacks,” Caitlin Hayden, a National Security Council spokeswoman, said in a statement.

The biggest danger for civilians and the Free Syrian Army, who's official heads have just (again) been fired for graft, are not the government forces but the Jihadists.

The U.S. has already trained "appropriately vetted" rebels for at least two years now and has delivered tons of weapons to them. Those weapons ended up in Jihadists hands and the "vetted" rebels are now either dead or have joined AlQaeda aligned groups. The new training will likely take some six month before those trained are somewhat ready. The Syrian government will by then be in a better position than today and the main enemy for everyone else in the field will be ISIS. It will not surprise me when those "appropriately vetted" rebels will join either the government side or ISIS as soon as they are back inside Syria.

Posted by b at 11:49 AM | Comments (93)

Ukraine: The Association Agreement Is Likely To Fail

The temporary truce in Ukraine will soon be over and the Ukrainian army will then try to squash the insurgency by all possible means. It is unlikely to achieve that.

Today the coup president signed an EU association agreement in Brussels. The preferred trade status with Russia will thereby be over and the Ukraine will fall into a deep depression. Its industry is not competitive against western European ones and it can not be sustained without the Russian markets. The most knowledgeable engineers and workers, especially from the big weapon producers, will move to Russia and leave the Ukrainian industry to rot.

As Mark Adomanis correctly remarks:

The association agreement has always been seen in highly politicized and symbolic terms as a “civilizational choice” in which Ukraine would be able to leave behind its dark, eastern past and march forward into the safety and comfort of the European Union. This was a huge mistake. In reality the association agreement has nothing to do with culture or history and is much more basic: a highly technocratic bit of economic liberalization. There is no “European” way to end gas subsidies, and no “civilized” way to cut pensions. These steps are either taken or they are avoided. Since economic liberalization is not very popular in Ukraine, since Ukrainians continues to express extremely left-wing economic views, the struggle to implement free trade is likely to be long and nasty.

The agreement will still have to be signed off, and then implemented, by a new Ukrainian parliament. I seriously doubt that will happen.

Meanwhile the fighting in the east will continue and, when the coming push by the army fails as it is likely to do, will see further steps towards more independence for the eastern regions.

Posted by b at 10:32 AM | Comments (225)

June 26, 2014

Israel: Advertising A Shitty Product May Cause Problems

The problem of selling turds:

Taking the risk of ruffling a few feathers, Yigal Palmor, the spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attributed Israel’s poor image to the possibility that too much is being done to create positive attitudes toward the country.
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There is no reason for an Italian, a Spaniard, or a Frenchman to have a particular opinion about Israel, he observed, but they do have opinions, “because we endlessly reach out to them.” Then they start to think for themselves about Israel, and the effect may be quite different to what was intended.

Imagine that: People start thinking for themselves about turds and conclude that turds stink.

Who could have known ...

Posted by b at 04:15 AM | Comments (63)

U.S. "Intelligence": Nothing For Something

Where $72 billion per year is the something that gives nothing:

In the same briefing, the [senior U.S. intelligence] official [who briefed reporters this week] disclosed that U.S. intelligence did not know who controlled Iraq’s largest oil refinery. And she suggested that one of the biggest sources of intelligence for American analysts is Facebook and Twitter postings.

The U.S. spent nearly $72 billion on intelligence gathering in 2013, ...

That is quite a lot of money for looking at amateur porn and digesting unintelligible short messages.

Posted by b at 12:31 AM | Comments (46)

June 25, 2014

Obama's Selfmade Foreign Policy Problem

He is talking too much.

Kerry went to Egypt, delivered money and weapons and was shown the finger over his human rights laments. Kerry went to Iraq, delivered some military support and demanded a "unity government". Maliki's government already includes Kurds and Sunnis and he just won elections. So Kerry gets shown the finger. Kerry went to Erbil and demanded that the Kurds stick to Iraq. They have all the oil they want. Kerry gets shown the finger. Obama wants more sanctions on Russia but needs the Europeans to join. But why should the Europeans ruin their economies over this? Obama will be likely shown the finger.

The U.S. public dislikes Obama's foreign policies. There are two main reasons for this.

One might expect that Obama would by now have learned not to promise fancy foreign policy stuff he can not deliver on. But as there is no disincentive in Washington for being wrong on foreign policy - watch the recent neocon Iraq war revival shows - Obama can, for a while, go on doing such nonsense. There are two dangers evolving from this:

  • Obama might issue a warning or threat that is for once meant seriously and followed through but gets misjudged by an adversary because of his record (think North Korea).
  • Obama might feel, on a minor issue, to have to follow through on some of his unnecessary threats because he has to show that he is "serious".

In both cases unnecessary wars could ensue.

Someone better tell Obama and Kerry to just shut up. The U.S. public dislikes their hyperactive foreign policy. 58% do not want the U.S to take a leading role.

One does not need, even has "superpower", to have an opinion or policy position on every issue in this world. Intervening, even if only by words, in each and every minor issue is usually just an expression of a rather shallow understanding of the world.

Posted by b at 11:45 AM | Comments (99)

June 23, 2014

Where Will ISIS Go Next?

Elijah J. Magnier has an interesting interview with an ISIS commander, Abu Baqr-al-Janabi, in Baghdad. There are plans for ISIS to take the city and there are apparently sleeper cells of fighters waiting for the big attack signal. But, says the commander, ISIS and the attached other forces, will first have to consolidate their positions and eliminate Iraqi government position in their back. The Iraqi government is already giving up some outer position and is consolidating its side by securing only Baghdad, the south and some economically important assets.

The 300 military "advisers" the U.S. had announced to send to Iraqi headquarters will likely never arrive. There is disagreement over their legal status and the Iraqi government, given the U.S. commitment to another regime change in Baghdad, may well conclude that these soldiers would likely be malign actors rather than trustworthy allies. The Maliki government, like the Iranians, probably sees the whole ISIS attack as the result of a U.S. conspiracy.

My hunch for now is that ISIS will not go for the big fight in Baghdad in the near term but will rather try to launch some substantial diversion elsewhere. In the introduction of the interview Magnier writes:

ISIS’s aim is not Iraq and Syria, it is the Levant and beyond. It includes Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Israel and more. “No Limits”, as I am told.

There was a pro-ISIS demonstration today in Ma'an, "Jordan's Fallujah" (video). Just like ISIS had sleeper cells within the Iraqi military it may well have some within the Jordanian forces or secret services. The road between Baghdad and Jordan is in ISIS's hand as well as the border crossing to Jordan. Involving Jordan would certainly see a military reaction from Washington. That is something which, according to the interview, ISIS would very much want. Could ISIS go, if only as diversion, for Amman before taking on Baghdad?

Posted by b at 12:52 PM | Comments (174)

Kerrry Being Shown The Finger

Kerry Says U.S. Is Ready to Renew Ties With Egypt

After a 90-minute meeting with Mr. Sisi, Mr. Kerry said at a news conference here that he had come to reaffirm Washington’s “historic partnership” with Egypt.
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Mr. Kerry expressed firm confidence that the United States would soon fully restore $650 million — the first tranche of the $1.3 billion in annual aid — to the military that the Obama administration had partly withheld after the takeover.
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Addressing a previously suspended shipment of 10 Apache helicopter gunships that the Egyptian military has been especially eager for, Mr. Kerry said he was just as confident “that the Apaches will come, and that they will come very, very soon.”
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Mr. Kerry said they had talked about the verdict expected Monday in the case of three journalists who have been jailed since December on politicized charges without any publicly disclosed evidence of a crime.
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Sounding hopeful, Mr. Kerry said that the new president “gave me a very strong sense of his commitment” to “a re-evaluation of human rights legislation” and “a re-evaluation of the judicial process.”

So that "strong commitment", payed for with hundreds of millions U.S. taxpayer dollars, some attack helicopters and the kowtowing of Kerry, was worth what?

Egyptian Court Convicts 3 Al Jazeera Journalists

A judge on Monday convicted three journalists of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to broadcast false reports of civil strife in Egypt.

Two of the journalists were sentenced to seven years in prison, and the third was given 10 years, the three additional years apparently for his possession of a single spent bullet.

I have followed the rial. It was an obvious sham. The "evidence" mostly consisted of unrelated video tapes taken in other countries by other journalists.

Sisi has publicly shown Kerry the big finger and there is nothing Kerry can or will do about it but releasing a angry statement. Israel demands that the U.S. keeps Egypt's ruler happy and the Pentagon demands continued preferred access to the Suez Canal.

The episode is a nice demonstration of for U.S. power and influence in the Middle East (not).

Posted by b at 11:57 AM | Comments (27)

June 22, 2014

Iraq: The U.S. Has No Role In This

The ISIS/former Baathist/Sunni alliance in Iraq is consolidating its position in north-west Iraq. It has captured border post towards Syria and now also towards Jordan. The last item will let red lights flash in Washington and elsewhere.

The ridiculous position of the United States, supporting, arming and training Jihadi insurgents in Syria while seeing them as a danger in Iraq and elsewhere, is coming more to the front. What are we to think of such lunatic headline? Kerry Arrives in Cairo on Trip to Help Form New Iraqi Government

Nobody wants Kerry's "help". The threat thereof unites even strong antagonists. Iran as well as the Saudis are against any U.S. intervention or "help" in Iraq. The Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki would probably like some U.S. support for his disintegrating army but will rather go it alone if such support is connected with demands for him to leave his position.

And is Kerry really asking Sisi, the new brutal dictator of Egypt, for support? What could that jailer of a bancrupt nation do? He will neither be for Maliki nor will he support the Jihadists. There is no alternative to those two in sight. Sisi will simply take the bribes Kerry brings in support of Israel and leave it at that.

There is nothing Kerry can do for Iraqis. Unites States policies in the Middle East have run their course. Their impotence was shown through two lost wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Its incompetence demonstrated in the contradictoriness of "promoting democracy" on one side while supporting radical religious dictatorships in the Gulf. A step out of that would be an U.S.  alliance with Iran but such a radical policy change would likely be ripped apart within Washington's polical circus.

It is not only in the Middle East where U.S. polices lead to disillusions of allies and to shaking of the head by foes. Consider what even the neoconned Polish Foreign Minister thinks of U.S. "friendship":

Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski, generally viewed as a leading ally of the United States in Europe, said in a mysteriously-leaked recording Sunday that the alliance between the two countries is “not worth anything.”

“The Polish-American alliance is not worth anything. It’s even damaging, because it creates a false sense of security in Poland,” Sikorski says on an excerpt of a longer conversation set to be published Monday morning in the magazine Wprost, which is reportedly between Sikorski and former finance minister Jacek Rostowski.
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“We are gonna conflict with both Russians and Germans, and we’re going to think that everything is great, because we gave the Americans a blowjob. Suckers. Total suckers,” Sikorski says, according to a translation of the account for BuzzFeed.

The U.S. should stay out of Iraq. Local forces there will battle it out and the sponsors of each side will find their common interest and some agreement. They already agree on one major point. The U.S. has no role in this.

Posted by b at 12:12 PM | Comments (164)

June 21, 2014

Who "Interferes" In Iraq?

in·ter·fer·ence

a. The act or an instance of hindering, obstructing, or impeding.
b. Something that hinders, obstructs, or impedes.

This lack of self-awareness of U.S. functionaries is embarressing:

Iran has sent "small numbers" of operatives into Iraq to bolster the Shiite-led government in Baghdad, but there is no sign of a large deployment of army units, the Pentagon said Friday.
...
"There are some Iranian revolutionary operatives in Iraq but I've seen no indication of ground forces or major units," [Pentagon spokesman Admiral John] Kirby told a news conference, apparently referring to Tehran's Quds force, the covert arm of the Revolutionary Guard Corps.
...
"Their interference in Iraq is nothing new," Kirby said.
...
President Barack Obama announced Thursday plans to send up to 300 US military advisers to Iraq but stopped short of ordering air strikes against ISIL forces, though he left the door open to that possibility.

What is Iran hindering, obstructing or impeding?

How does the Admiral characterizes U.S. deployments to Iraq?    

Posted by b at 03:07 AM | Comments (203)

June 20, 2014

Open Thread 2014-14

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:31 PM | Comments (59)

June 19, 2014

U.S. Again Gunning For "Regime Change" In Iraq

Three days ago we said:

The U.S. has conditioned any involvement on the Iraqi government side on a change in its structure towards some "unity government" that would include representatives of the rebellious Sunni strains. Prime Minister Maliki, who received good results in the recent elections, will see no reason to go for that.

As expected Maliki declined to follow orders out of Washington DC and he is right to do so. Isn't Iraq supposed to be a sovereign state?

No says Washington. It is us who are choosing a new Iraqi prime minister:

Over the past two days the American ambassador, Robert S. Beecroft, along with Brett McGurk, the senior State Department official on Iraq and Iran, have met with Usama Nujaifi, the leader of the largest Sunni contingent, United For Reform, and with Ahmad Chalabi, one of the several potential Shiite candidates for prime minister, according to people close to each of those factions, as well as other political figures.

“Brett and the ambassador met with Mr. Nujaifi yesterday and they were open about this, they do not want Maliki to stay,” Nabil al-Khashab, the senior political adviser to Mr. Nujaifi, said Thursday.

This move lets arouse suspicions that the recent insurgency against the Iraqi state, with ISIS takfiris in the front line, did not just by chance started after Maliki's party, the State of Law Coalition, won in the parliamentary elections a few weeks ago. It had been decided that he had to go. When the elections confirmed him, other methods had to be introduced. Thus the insurgency started and is now used as a pretext for "regime change".

The U.S. media and policies again fall for the "big bad man" cliche portraying Nouri al-Maliki (Arabic for Ngo Dinh Diem) as the only person that stands in the way of Iraq as a "liberal democracy". That is of course nonsense. Maliki is not the problem in Iraq:

The most significant factor behind Iraq’s problems has been the inability of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs and its Sunni neighbors to come to terms with a government in which the Shias, by virtue of their considerable majority in Iraq’s population, hold the leading role. This inability was displayed early on, when Iraq’s Sunnis refused to take part in Iraq’s first parliamentary elections, and resorted to insurgency almost immediately after the US invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein. All along, the goal of Iraqi Sunnis has been to prove that the Shias are not capable of governing Iraq. Indeed, Iraq’s Sunni deputy prime minister, Osama al Najafi, recently verbalized this view. The Sunnis see political leadership and governance to be their birthright and resent the Shia interlopers.

The U.S., with strong support from its GCC allies who finance the insurgency, now seems to again lean towards the Sunni minority side in Iraq and wants to subvert the ruling of a Shia majority and its candidate. Maliki doesn't follow Washington orders, is somewhat friendly with Iran and even wins elections. Such man can not be let standing.

So the program is again "regime change" in Iraq, now with the help of Jihadists proxies, even after the recent catastrophic "successes" in similar endeavors in Libya, Egypt and Ukraine and the failure in Syria.

Phil Greaves seems thereby right when he characterizes the insurgency and ISIS as a expression of Washington's imperialism:

The ISIS-led insurgency currently gripping the western and northern regions of Iraq is but a continuation of the imperialist-sponsored insurgency in neighboring Syria. The state actors responsible for arming and funding said insurgency hold the same principal objectives in Iraq as those pursued in Syria for the last three years, namely: the destruction of state sovereignty; weakening the allies of an independent Iran; the permanent division of Iraq and Syria along sectarian lines establishing antagonistic “mini-states” incapable of forming a unified front against US/Israeli imperial domination.

The best thing Maliki could now do is to shut down the U.S. embassy and request support from Russia, China and Iran. South Iraq is producing lots of oil and neither money nor the number of potential recruits for a big long fight are his problem. His problem is the insurgency and the states, including the United States, behind it. The fight would be long and Iraq would still likely be parted but the likely outcome would at least guarantee that the will of the majority constituency can not be ignored by outside actors.

Posted by b at 12:51 PM | Comments (181)

June 18, 2014

Jordan, Turkey Rehabilitate The "Moderate" Jabhat Al-Nusra - Updated

UPDATE:

There was earlier some miscommunication regarding the Turkish move to delist Jabhat al-Nusra from its terror list. Al-Nusra was removed from one list but is still on others:

The Turkish government has removed the al-Nusra Front, an al-Qaeda affiliate fighting against the Syrian regime, from its list of terrorist organizations falling under the category of “al-Qaeda in Iraq,” and has designated the radical group as a separate terrorist organization.

The move first caused confusion and led to questions over Turkey's stance regarding the group.

Even with that in mind some of the questions asked below are still relvant.

END UPDATE (Original post follows)

Last October we detected a media campaign to introduce the moderate cuddly homegrown AlQaeda differentiating between the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) as the new savages and AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic Front in Syria as the friendly moderate gang around the local block. The campaign was running through reports in the New York Times, Washington Post and Foreign Policy. We asked:

It is well known that ISIS has [earlier] sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. But Jabhat al-Nusra has also sworn allegiance to Zwahiri. That is of course not mentioned in the above NYT piece. What is the supposed meaning of this differentiation when both groups accept the same leader and the Al-Qaeda organization's ideology and aims?

In January this year CNN followed up asserting that the Islamic Front in Syria, which is largely just an outlet of Jabhat al-Nusra and who's leaders openly consider themselves to be AlQaeda, are "moderates" but:

The leading figure of the leading group within the Islamic Front is an al-Qaeda operative. The Islamic Front does not want a democratic state but an Islamic caliphate.

Now, as ISIS is the new bad guy playing storm troopers and Einsatzkommando for tribal Iraqi Sunnis and Baath part remnants in Iraq, the AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra is officially rehabilitated as a not-terrorist group.

Consider:

Yesterday the leading AlQaeda ideologue Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi was released from prison in Jordan. A book about al-Maqdisi describes him:

Since 9/ll, the Jordanian Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi (b. West Bank, 1959) has emerged as one of the most important radical Muslim thinkers alive today. While al-Maqdisi may not be a household name in the West, his influence amongst like-minded Muslims stretches across the world from Jordan - where he lives today - to Southeast Asia. His writings and teachings on Salafi Islam have inspired terrorists from Europe to the Middle East, including Abu Mus'ab al-Zarqawi, the former leader of al-Qa'ida in Iraq, and Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's successor as the head of al-Qa'ida Central.

Why would Jordan, largely run by the CIA, release al-Maqdisi right now when ISIS is threatening to add Jordan to its targets? The Qatar run AlJazeera explains:

"Maqdesi is a supporter of al-Nusra front, one of the fighting groups in Syria, which unlike ISIL, does not have any ambitions to take over the region," said Hasan Abu Hanya, an expert on jihadist movements.

Al-Nusra, like ISIS, surely has regional ambitions:

Its goal is to overthrow the Assad government and to create an Pan-Islamic state under the Sharia (the moral code and religious law of Islam) and aims to reinstate the Caliphate.

To claim otherwise, like "expert" Hasan Abu Hanya, is a lie. Any difference between ISIS and Jabhat al-Nusra is only minor.

Only two weeks ago Turkey blacklisted Jabhat al-Nusra, cutting it off from its logistics in that country. But today, a day after Jordan released al-Maqdisi, Turkey took Jabhat al-Nusra off its terrorist list.

As Elijay K. Magnier comments:

Removing Jabhat al-Nusra (operational mainly in Syria) means #JAN can have access again 2Turkey support or logistic

In the last two days two U.S. allies renewed their open support for the AlQaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to help it fight in Syria.

What is Washington going to say about these actions by its allies? What do Jordan and Turkey believe Jabhat al-Nusra will do should it win in Syria. Do they really expect that its fighters would retire and not threaten either country? These actions, prepared by earlier "moderate" claims in the media, are likely to have been cleared with Washington. Is the Obama administration hoping that the recent uproar about ISIS in Iraq will divert attention from these moves?

Posted by b at 03:57 AM | Comments (157)

June 17, 2014

No, Baghdad Did Not Collapse

Yossi Melman is "an Israeli writer and journalist. He was an intelligence and strategic affairs correspondent for the Haaretz newspaper, and in 2012 he joined the Israeli news portal Walla! in a similar, more analytical role."

Melman just tweeted:

#Baghdad collapses. Shells on US & Iran Embassies Premier Maliki left. Chief of Staff escaped yo Germany. Heavy casualties to Iran forces

What?!?

Pat Lang clearly believes that such an offense in Baghdad by the remnants of the Baathist Iraqi military with ISIS takfiris as its shock troops is possible. He urges immediate evacuation of U.S. personal. But I believe there is only a rather small chance that such could happen. Various Shia militia are deploying to secure Baghdad and other cities and Iranian advisers are on the ground. Iran sees the onslaught as a US/Israeli/Saudi/Qatari conspiracy and will act accordingly.

The U.S. has conditioned any involvement on the Iraqi government side on a change in its structure towards some "unity government" that would include representatives of the rebellious Sunni strains. Prime Minister Maliki, who received good results in the reecent elections, will see no reason to go for that. 

I expect a repeat in Iraq of what has happened in Syria. The government forces retreat from the first onslaughts by ISIS, the Baathists and other forces but will then consolidate and slowly, slowly regain the upper hand and ground.

Mehlman's tweet sounds to me like the "Aleppo has fallen" panic a certain Syria "expert" created 20 month ago. Funny. by the way, how none of the journalists in Baghdad confirms any point of what Yossi Melman is asserting. Maybe some Mossad commander was daydreaming and told him about it?

Posted by b at 06:24 AM | Comments (105)

June 16, 2014

Neocon Kagan: Hillary Clinton Is One Of Us

Here is the reason why Hillary Clinton should never ever become President of the United States.

A (sympathetic) New York Times profile of neocon Robert Kagan has this on Clinton II:

But Exhibit A for what Robert Kagan describes as his “mainstream” view of American force is his relationship with former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who remains the vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes. Mr. Kagan pointed out that he had recently attended a dinner of foreign-policy experts at which Mrs. Clinton was the guest of honor, and that he had served on her bipartisan group of foreign-policy heavy hitters at the State Department, where his wife worked as her spokeswoman.

“I feel comfortable with her on foreign policy,” Mr. Kagan said, adding that the next step after Mr. Obama’s more realist approach “could theoretically be whatever Hillary brings to the table” if elected president. “If she pursues a policy which we think she will pursue,” he added, “it’s something that might have been called neocon, but clearly her supporters are not going to call it that; they are going to call it something else.”

Want more wars with terrible outcomes and no winner at all? Vote the neocon's vessel, Hillary Clinton.

Clinton, by the way, is also a coward, unprincipled and greedy. Her achievements as Secretary of State were about zero. Why would anyone vote for her?

Posted by b at 09:09 AM | Comments (100)

June 15, 2014

Ukraine: Echoes Of The Third Reich - Yatsenyuk's "Subhumans"

Updated below

Wikipedia - Untermensch:

Untermensch (German for under man, sub-man, sub-human; plural: Untermenschen) is a term that became infamous when the Nazis used it to describe "inferior people" often referred to as "the masses from the East," that is Jews, Gypsies, and Slavs; including Poles, Serbs, Belarusians, Russians, and Rusyns. The term was also applied to black people and Mulattos. Jewish people were to be exterminated in the Holocaust, just as Slavs in Generalplan Ost, who were destined to be removed from European territory under German control through murder and ethnic cleansing.

Embassy of Ukraine in the United States of America - Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yatsenyuk: We will commemorate the heroes by cleaning our land from the evil:

“They lost their lives because they defended men and women, children and the elderly who found themselves in a situation facing a threat to be killed by invaders and sponsored by them subhumans. First, we will commemorate the heroes by wiping out those who killed them and then by cleaning our land from the evil”, - he said.

(screenshot)

Update:

I: The Embassy has non changed the text quoted above and substituted "subhumans" by "inhumans". We had expected such editing and therefore provided the screenshot of the original publication.

II: We can now add "Lebensraum" to the Ukrainian government's echoes of the Third Reich:

Ukraine's Land Agency give land to soldiers in the east for free

Land parcels will be given out for free to the servicemen of the Ukrainian Armed Forces and other military formations, as well as to the employees of Interior Ministry and the Security Service of Ukraine that are defending territorial integrity and sovereignty of the country in eastern and southeastern regions of Ukraine.

Wasn't Land im Osten (land in the east) what the Third Reich also promised to volunteer soldiers?

Posted by b at 07:56 AM | Comments (155)

June 14, 2014

Ukraine: These Tanks ... And The State Department Lies Again

The Ukrainian coup government claims that Russian tanks crossed the border and are in use by federalists in east Ukraine. First claims talked about three Russian T-72 tanks but later claims changed the type of the tank to T-64s. The tanks can be seen driving here (vid) and here (vid).

The U.S. State Department is now endorsing that claim:

The State Department said Friday that Russia had sent tanks and other heavy weapons to separatists in Ukraine, supporting accusations Thursday by the Ukrainian government.

A convoy of three T-64 tanks, several BM-21 multiple rocket launchers and other military vehicles crossed the border near the Ukrainian town of Snizhne, State Department officials said. The Ukrainian Army reported Friday that it had destroyed two of the tanks and several other vehicles in the convoy.

“This is unacceptable,” said Marie Harf, the deputy State Department spokeswoman. “A failure by Russia to de-escalate this situation will lead to additional costs.”
...
The T-64 is an obsolescent tank no longer in active use by Russian forces, but still stored in southwest Russia.

“Russia will claim these tanks were taken from Ukrainian forces, but no Ukrainian tank units have been operating in that area,” the State Department said Friday. “We are confident that these tanks came from Russia.”

There are several lies in this State Department claims. Ukrainian tank units are operating in the area against federalists. Here are several photos (scroll down) from Associated Press showing them - also pic 7 here. The tanks re T-64 BV, the upgraded subtype used in the Ukrainian army.

T-64BV – Features "Kontakt-1" reactive armour and "Tucha" 81-mm smoke grenade launchers on the left of the turret.

All Soviet era T-64 tanks were exclusively build and later upgraded in Kharkov, Ukraine. The Ukrainian state dealer Ukrspecexport is still selling such upgraded tanks. Distinct features of the T-64 BV subtype are marked in picture 17 of this gallery at armyrecognition.com. Two smoke grenade launchers at the left side of the turret - none on the right -, the boxes at the rear of the turret and the infrared searchlight to the left of the gun are special T-64 BV features which can also be seen on page 4-14.1 of the OPFOR Worldwide Equipment Guide (pdf) of the U.S. TRADOC DCSINT Threat Support Directorate.

Russia once had some 4,000 T-64s. It did not upgrade them but scrapped those it had.

Cont. reading: Ukraine: These Tanks ... And The State Department Lies Again

Posted by b at 07:24 AM | Comments (79)

June 13, 2014

NYT Frontpage Sows Confusion


bigger

Who knew? I always thought the guy is Sunni.

Posted by b at 12:49 PM | Comments (23)

Iraq's "World Of Hurt"

The Jihadists of ISIS in cooperation with former Baathists continue their march onto Baghdad. Their recent surprise seizure of Mosul and further operations seem to have been well prepared for quite a long time:

“These groups were unified by the same goal, which is getting rid of this sectarian government, ending this corrupt army and negotiating to form the Sunni Region,” said Abu Karam, a senior Baathist leader and a former high-ranking army officer, who said planning for the offensive had begun two years ago. “The decisive battle will be in northern Baghdad. These groups will not stop in Tikrit and will keep moving toward Baghdad.”

The alliance between former Baathist and followers of the naqshbandiya Sufi order with the radical takfirirs of ISIS is a dangerous one. The former are professional militaries and as Pat Lang assesses:

The speed and effective direction of this offensive seems to me to show the participation of such officers as Sabr- Abd al-Aziz al-Douri.

If that is the case, then Maliki's army is in a real "world of hurt."

It is not clear what "Maliki's army" actually is. The Iraqi army officers of the divisions near Mosul seem to have been bought off and changed sides. Some 90,000 security forces deserted.

But its is unlikely that the Sunni forces, the Baathist and ISIS, can take Baghdad or even hold the ground they have taken so far. "Maliki's army" will be unlike the "Iraqi army". There are loyal divisions in the Iraqi military and there are many Shia now joining voluntary forces. The Shia authority in Iraq, Ayatollah Sistani, has issued a fatwa and called for war against the Sunni takfiris. Hundreds of thousand will follow that call.

Maliki's forces may be in a "world of hurt" for now but my guess it that they, in the end, will also win. They have more and better resources, access to the sea and support from Iran and likely also the United States. The Sunni positions have no defensible geographic features. The fight will be about cities on flat land and those can be starved and bombed into submission. Disunity within the Sunni forces will also evolve. In Syria ISIS did not do well with other anti-government forces, often fighting against them. The Sunni Sufi/Baathist followers of Izzat Ibrahim, a vice president under Saddam Hussein, will soon revolt against the radical life style ISIS will try to impose on the areas both groups hold. The more nasty force of those two will win internally only to be then stomped into ground by superior Shia forces.

As those two main groups struggle against each others the Kurds up north will be, for now, the laughing third. They already took Kirkuk, the oil-rich mixed Arab-Kurd city up north, and will not let it go without violence. They will be the next target when the Sunni Shia fight has been decided for either side.

All sides will bleed and, thanks to the U.S. war of terror, all Iraqis will contine to be in a "world of hurt" for years to come.

Posted by b at 08:21 AM | Comments (90)

Ukraine: Those Tanks ...

Rebels drive 3 tanks from Russia into Ukraine, Kiev says headlines the Washington Post:

Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the tanks and several armored personnel carriers entered eastern Ukraine through a checkpoint manned by rebels in the Luhansk region. He said government troops attacked the convoy when it reached the neighboring Donetsk region, destroying part of it. The claim could not be independently verified.

Why bother to verify this "news" when one can just easily write "The claim could not be independently verified". Is that supposed to be journalism?

The New York Times is a bit more careful. Tanks, of Unknown Origin, Roll Into Ukraine:

The Ukrainian interior minister, Arsen Avakov, told reporters in Kiev, the capital, that the armored column included three tanks, as well as armored personnel carriers and armored cars, and had traversed the border at a separatist-controlled crossing.

A video posted online appeared to show a tank, spewing exhaust, clanking down a street in Snizhne, a town about midway between Donetsk, a provincial capital controlled by separatists, and the Russian frontier. Reuters reported that two of its journalists saw the tanks in Snizhne but could not establish where they had come from; separatists on the scene said the tanks had been taken from a Ukrainian military warehouse.

The pictures I have seen seem to show a variant of the T-64 tanks that are modified and sold by the Ukrainian weapon industry and are used in the Ukrainian military. As far as I know Russia does no longer have such tanks in service. How difficult would it be for real journalists to verify that?

Other news from Ukraine:

The Ukrainian coup-government claims to have taken Mariupol, a city so far held by federalists. Taking is one part. Can they hold?

The coup government rejected a Gazprom offer to buy Russian gas for $385 per 1,000 cubic meter. That is about the same price that Ukraine's neighbors pay. But the coup government, likely advised by Washington, rejected that offer. It still did not pay the debt it owns to Gazprom and the flow of gas will accordingly reduced soon. There will be no immediate crisis as some reserves are kept in storage but the issue is destined to further escalate.

The "western" media start to report bits of the humanitarian crisis the Ukrainian government is creating with fight against its own people or "terrorists" as it claims. The honeymoon most "western" media have had with the coup government in Ukraine seem to end. Bits of the truth come into play. Unless of course the media that "reports" is the Washington Post.

Posted by b at 07:20 AM | Comments (20)

June 12, 2014

Cordesman Laments, Confirms Russian "Radically Different" Views

The Russian Foreign Ministry held a conference for Arab military experts to explain its view on U.S. "regime change" endeavors:

On May 23, 42 Arab military and security officials attending the third annual Moscow International Security Conference were briefed by a team of top Russian government officials on the growing danger of “color revolutions.” The uniform message presented by the Russian speakers was that the United States and NATO have adopted a new mode of warfare, focused on the use of irregular warfare forces, religious fanatics, and mercenaries, combined with the heavy use of information warfare. In a series of English language power-point graphs and maps, presenters gave a detailed chronology of the past decade, highlighting Western regime change operations in Ukraine, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.

Anthony Cordesman, éminence grise of U.S. military analysts, attended:

Russian military officers now tied the term “Color Revolution” to the crisis in Ukraine and to what they saw as a new US and European approach to warfare that focuses on creating destabilizing revolutions in other states as a means of serving their security interests at low cost and with minimal casualties. It was seen as posing a potential threat to Russian in the near abroad, to China and Asia states not aligned with the US, and as a means of destabilizing states in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, and South Asia.

Such is certainly not solely a Russian view but are facts that many "western" observers have also written about and which are confirmed by official U.S. policy papers. But Cordesman will not have any of that. "Color revolutions" must be just a Russian phantasy and U.S. engineered "regime change" is simply a wild idea.

The end result [of the Russian view] is a radically different reading of modern history, of US and European strategy, their use of force, and US and European goals and actions from any issued in the West and in prior Russian literature.

One wonders about the lack of self-awareness of Cordesman (and others) who write such nonsense. Cordesman is right, the Russian view is radically different if you start from "western" propaganda in the media. "Regime change" seldom occurs there and when it is clad in "freedom" and "democracy" camouflage. So how could the Russians ever get the idea that "color revolutions" and "regime change" are instruments of the "west"? Could it be that the Russians know because they read what Anthony Cordesman writes?

The United States and its allies, however, face a second threat. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki has become steadily more authoritarian, corrupt, and repressive.
...
Yes, the United States might have to help in spite of his total unfitness to rule and Iraq's desperate need to expel him and his cronies from the country, but U.S. aid must be conditional and tied to the fact that al-Maliki is an authoritarian thug. The United States should also quietly do everything possible to push him out of power and into exile.

So the solution of the crisis in Iraq, rooted in U.S. "regime change" there, is to instigate another regime change in Iraq. That would certainly, like the Iraq war, not further destabilize the situation?

Not the Russians that are crazy in there analysis but rather people like Cordesman who evidently fit Albert Einstein's definition of "insanity".

Posted by b at 11:59 AM | Comments (115)

June 11, 2014

Iraq: The Civil War Restarted

After Mosul yesterday the insurgents in Iraq, the Jihadists of ISIS, but also other groups including Baathists, have now taken Tikrit and are threatening to take Samara which its important Shia shrines.

This would not have been possible without the help, or at least acquiescence, of the local population. Paul Mutter at the Arabist explains at length how the situation developed over the last years and why the Sunni population hates the Shia leaning government of Prime Minister Maliki and its rather sectarian security forces. It explains why those security forces fled while being pelted (vid) with stones by the locals. Many people have fled Mosul and other areas but this may be less out of fear of ISIS than out of fear of Iraqi army artillery fire and bombing against it.

There is certainly no need for conspiracy theories here. The local reasons fully explain the conflict and the current events. Sure, the situation would not have developed as such without the U.S. "war of terror" and the "regime change" attacks against any ruler noncompliant towards Washingon's demands. The decapitation campaigns against the leaders of Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria managed to isolated al-Qaeda and fellow Jihadist outfits in the small patch between Afghanistan and West Africa. Some success ...

A few developments of today deserve special mentions.

The Turkish consulate in Mosul was taken by ISIS and the Turkish personal there is now in ISIS custody. I had earlier seen tweets that mentioned an offer by Kurdish forces to evacuate the consulate to safety. The Turks had rejected that. Now the Turkish Prime Minister is demanding NATO consultations about the captured diplomats. This is pretty ridiculous. Without logistic support from Turkey for the insurgents in Syria ISIS would never have developed as it has.

ISIS march towards Samara now seems to meet some resistance. The Iraqi air force is bombing some of ISIS's convoys and the shrines are fiercely protected by Shia militia. Muqtada al-Sadr has called for a formal reintroduction of such sectarian militia and support was also expressed by the Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Maliki is pulling all reliable troops towards Baghdad to prevent ISIS from entering in force. The civil war between Shia and Sunni in Iraq, temporarily suppressed under U.S. occupation, bribes and torture during the "surge", has restarted. Iraq may now well fall apart.

What will the U.S. "elite" say about this fantastic mess it created? "It sure is a good thing that Iraq does not have WMDs..."

Posted by b at 01:49 PM | Comments (172)

June 10, 2014

A Syrian War Spillover: ISIS Attacks Mosul

While the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is fighting other Islamists in Syria's east it has gained enough resources to also launch capable attacks in Iraq. In January it captured Fallujah, a conservative Sunni city. Last week it attacked Samara and threatened to capture the Shia shrine of Imam Al-Hassan Al-Askari. The Iraqi army reinforced there. But that attack on Samara seems to have been a diversion.

Today ISIS set out to capture Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city. The government troops there were, allegedly, told to not resist or deserted and fled. ISIS took over prisons and police stations and released some 3,000 of the prisoners - many of whom will now join its ranks. It robbed banks and replenished its already large financial resources. It captured tons of new weapons, ammunition and trucks. The civilian airport is in its hands. Civilians are fleeing the city.

Prime Minister Maliki, with a yet unstable coalition after he won a recent election, has little capabilities to fight back. The Iraqi army alone is unlikely to be able to take on ISIS and the Sunni Anbar tribes that support it. The Iraqi air force is too small to make a difference. Maliki will have to resort to sectarian Shia militia and will have to arrange a new coalition with the Kurds. ISIS has helped him there as it recently attacked political offices of President Talabani, one of the two major Kurd leaders.

Iraq will need further support to push ISIS back. We may soon see some rather weird coalitions growing against it: Iraqi Kurds allied with Shia Iraqi Arabs and the more secular Iraqi Sunni tribes; the U.S. air force riding shotgun for the Iraqi military in coordination with special forces from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

Without its bases in east Syria ISIS would be incapable to achieve such gains. This spillover of the Syrian conflict should be an alarm signal even Washington can not deny. The Syrian government troops will be needed to tear ISIS down. The U.S. must now turn away from the insurgents in Syria and support the Syrian government troops in their fight against the common enemy. Unless that happens the ISIS problem will only fester and threaten more states in the Middle East including Jordan and Turkey.

Posted by b at 05:38 AM | Comments (84)

June 09, 2014

Ukraine: Time Is On Russia's Side

The Saker now calls for immediate Russian intervention in east Ukraine.

It would be a mistake if Russia would do this. The U.S. is only waiting for such a move. It could then again push the "Russia=Aggressor" meme and gain even more influence over Europe. The Cold War Version 2.0 that would ensue is in Washington's interest, not in Moscow's.

Russia has all the economic means it needs to press the U.S. puppet in Kiev into some agreement. That may take a bit of patience though. The Saker thinks time is on the Kiev side and prolonging the situation would help the coup government. I do not agree with that. There is no harm to Russia when it just sits back and waits until the economic crisis in Ukraine lets the Kiev regime crawl to Moscow and declare its defeat.

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (137)

Peace Moves On Syria

Some news with regard to Syria let me believe that there is a deal in the making to end or at least lower the level of the conflict.

Consider:

Syria's Assad grants amnesty after re-election

In a decree published by state media, Assad commuted some death sentences to life imprisonment, reduced jail terms for many offences and canceled some others altogether.

Foreigners who entered the country "to join a terrorist group or perpetrate a terrorist act" would receive an amnesty if they surrender to authorities within a month, the decree said. Kidnappers who free their hostages and army deserters would also be covered, it said.

This amnesty, especially for foreign fighters, comes just as the Iranian President Rouhani visits Turkey, the country that gives the main logistic support to those foreign fighters:

“Regional and international issues are on both countries’ agenda. Violence, radicalism, and the fight against terror are important issues Iran is following in the region and in the world. We will continue our dialogue and cooperation on this issue with all friendly countries. We will exchange views with Turkish officials during my talks today and tomorrow on issues such as violence, terrorism, sectarianism and radicalism, and on the ways to combat them.” Rouhani said in the press conference in Tehran.

Rouhani’s plane was carrying an Iranian delegation composed of one vice president, seven ministers and a number of businessmen.

Iran seems to offer business deals in exchange for less hostile Turkey position on Syria. But nothing will of course change unless the Saudis, the main financial supporter of the insurgency in Syria, cuts the money pipeline. That is where Russia comes in:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Saudi Arabian counterpart Prince Saud al-Faisal discussed in a telephone conversation on Monday the developments in the Middle East, as well as the settlement of the ongoing conflict in Syria.
...
“Particular attention was paid to the task of political and diplomatic resolution of the crisis in Syria and other conflict situation in the region.”

The press service [of the Russian Foreign Ministry] added that the high-ranking diplomats also touched upon the issues of bilateral cooperation development in the trade and economic, as well as energy spheres.

Again the offer is business in exchange for less hostility. Maybe greed can win? The three above points together seem to be part of an initiative by Iran, Russia and Syria to move the other side away from its current position. It is not clear that such a move will work now but it is a good opening for further talks.

Meanwhile the so called opposition is doing its share to finish the conflict:

Deir Ezzor Province: 17 fighters from the Islamic battalion and 28 other at least from ISIS were killed in yesterday clashes in the village of Khasham and in south of Sor town in the western city of Deir Ezzor.

More of that please.

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (10)

June 07, 2014

Ukraine: Poroshenko's Hope For "Western" Help Is Deluded

This means a lot of trouble for the people in the Ukraine, east AND west:

Ukraine's new president Petro Poroshenko said his country would never give up Crimea and would not compromise on its path towards closer ties with Europe, spelling out a defiant message to Russia in his inaugural speech on Saturday.
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Poroshenko stressed the need for a united Ukraine and the importance of ending the conflict that threatens to further split the country of 45 million people. He said it would not become a looser federalised state, as advocated by Russia.
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Poroshenko's speech drew an ovation from guests at a ceremony attended by Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and senior EU officials.

The Saker calls the speech a declaration of war. That may well be right.

Russia will need to tighten the screws a bit. Be polite at the outside, concede in public but make sure that Kiev will feel more and more pressure through secondary channels.

I doubt that the "west" will take any real risk over Ukraine or even put up enough money to save it from ruin. In the end Ukraine will be alone facing a rather angry bear. If Poroshenko, as it seems, thinks different, he is clearly deluded.

Posted by b at 11:13 AM | Comments (146)

June 06, 2014

D-Day Propaganda Misses The Soviet Contributions

While it is given much emphasis in the "western" view of the second world war Operation Overlord, the invasion on D-Day and the following month of fighting at the Western front, were strategically less important than the Soviet operations on the Eastern front. Without the parallel Soviet Operation Bagration the invasion of fortress Europe in the west would likely have failed. Looking at the numbers of forces involved and German forces destroyed one might even argue that Overlord was just a diversion to keep a few German divisions busy while the Soviet attack in the East destroyed whole German armies.

At the Tehran conference in winter of 1943 Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin aligned their strategies:

The declaration issued by the three leaders on conclusion of the conference on 1 December 1943, recorded the following military conclusions:
...
The cross-channel invasion of France (Operation Overlord) would be launched during May 1944, in conjunction with an operation against southern France. The latter operation would be undertaken in as great a strength as availability of landing-craft permitted. The Conference further took note of Joseph Stalin's statement that the Soviet forces would launch an offensive at about the same time with the object of preventing the German forces from transferring from the Eastern to the Western Front;

Stalin more than kept his promise:

The partisan brigades, including many Jewish fighters and concentration-camp escapees, planted 40,000 demolition charges. They devastated the vital rail lines linking German Army Group Centre to its bases in Poland and Eastern Prussia.

Three days later, on June 22 1944, the third anniversary of Hitler's invasion of the Soviet Union, Marshal Zhukov gave the order for the main assault on German front lines. Twenty-six thousand heavy guns pulverised German forward positions. The screams of the Katyusha rockets were followed by the roar of 4,000 tanks and the battle cries (in more than 40 languages) of 1.6 million Soviet soldiers. Thus began Operation Bagration, an assault over a 500-mile-long front.
...
[T]he Soviet summer offensive was several times larger than Operation Overlord (the invasion of Normandy), both in the scale of forces engaged and the direct cost to the Germans.

By the end of summer, the Red army had reached the gates of Warsaw as well as the Carpathian passes commanding the entrance to central Europe. Soviet tanks had caught Army Group Centre in steel pincers and destroyed it. The Germans would lose more than 300,000 men in Belorussia alone. Another huge German army had been encircled and would be annihilated along the Baltic coast. The road to Berlin had been opened.

In total some 70-80% of German losses occurred in the East. In 1944 there were 228 German divisions in the East compared to a total of 58 divisions in the West (and South). In June, July and August 1944 alone the Soviets completely destroyed some 28 German divisions. A bigger German force than the 15 divisions that existed on the Western front in France on D-Day and the weeks thereafter.

It is embarrassing to see how many propaganda lines are spend on D-Day compared to the few acknowledgments of the much huger Soviet efforts and casualties on the Eastern front.

Posted by b at 03:28 AM | Comments (120)

June 05, 2014

Ukraine: Kerry Urging For "Evidence" Of Russian Involvement

Somewhat funny.

April 8 - U.S. and NATO Warn Russia Against Further Intervention in Ukraine

Secretary of State John Kerry accused the Kremlin of fomenting the unrest, calling the protests the work of saboteurs whose machinations were as “ham-handed as they are transparent.” Speaking to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he added: “No one should be fooled — and believe me, no one is fooled — by what could potentially be a contrived pretext for military intervention just as we saw in Crimea. It is clear that Russian special forces and agents have been the catalysts behind the chaos of the last 24 hours.”

Russia (recommended reading)

QUESTION: But, Mr President, the United States and the White House claim they have evidence that Russia intervened in the conflict, sent its troops and supplied weapons. They claim they have proof. Do you believe that?

VLADIMIR PUTIN: Proof? Why don’t they show it? "Any evidence?" ...

June 5 - Obama, Seeking Unity on Russia, Meets Obstacles

Secretary of State John Kerry also spent time talking with Mr. Poroshenko, privately urging him to provide evidence of Russian involvement with separatists with which to confront Russian officials.

What a lying piece of shit.

Posted by b at 10:48 AM | Comments (95)

June 02, 2014

Unveiling "Western" Hypocrisy Russia Connects Syria And Ukraine

A few days ago we read this:

Australia, Luxembourg, and Jordan are planning to circulate a new U.N. Security Council resolution that diplomats say would authorize the delivery of humanitarian aid into Syria through four border crossings without approval from President Bashar Assad's government.
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Diplomats familiar with the draft said it is under Chapter 7 of the U.N. Charter, which means it could be enforced militarily. It would authorize humanitarian access at three crossings from Turkey and one from Iraq.
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Some diplomats doubt Russia would approve a new humanitarian resolution under Chapter 7, but they say it could be a bargaining chip in negotiations.

That "bargaining chip" is worth nothing. Russia will veto any Chapter 7 resolution on Syria. There is nothing to bargain about that. But using that "bargaining chip" is now firing back.

For June Russia will be take up the presidency of the UN Security Council which allows it, to a certain extend, to set the agenda. The first point on that agenda is now the question of "human corridors" from Russia into east-Ukraine:

Russia will submit a draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council on Monday calling for an immediate end to worsening violence in Ukraine and the creation of humanitarian corridors in the east of the country, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.
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[The draft resolution] will also include "a demand for the creation, without delay, of humanitarian corridors though which peaceful civilians could leave combat zones if they wish," he said. The text would also call for guarantees of unhindered access for humanitarian aid.

"Now how about a Chapter 7 clause for that?" Lavrov will ask his colleagues.

Russia is actively linking the cases of Syria and Ukraine. That may not bring any progress on either issue. But by connecting the cases Russia can publicly demonstrated the utter hypocrisy of "western" policies. The target of this is the "western" public which is already against further "western" meddling in Syria as well as in Ukraine. I expect more such political "mirroring" of the two situations in the coming weeks and month.

This morning the Kiev regime sent jets and bombed the regional administration building in Luhansk which had been taken over by federalists. At least five people were killed. This is another escalation by Kiev and the puppet players behind the regime with the larger intend to openly draw Russia into a fight with NATO. Moscow will not fall for the bait.

Posted by b at 12:09 PM | Comments (132)

May 31, 2014

Exceptionalism Without Exceptional Means?

The Obama administration wants to achieve its "pivot to Asia", its plan to counter China's rise, without using military force. That is not going to work. The local countries, who the U.S. wants to use as proxies, fear that without a believable threat by the U.S. to cover their asses with its nukes there will be no restriction of what China can and will do around its block. They are right and will have to adopt.

That is why the U.S. is in trouble at the recent security conference in Singapore:

But as Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel visited this city-state for a security conference with all of the interested parties on Friday, that much-vaunted Asia policy appeared to be turning into more of a neighborhood street fight, with the United States having to simultaneously choose sides and try to play the role of referee.

But why anyway is it U.S. business what happens in the in the Pacific beyond Hawaii? It is nothing but "exceptionalism", the urge for global dominance and the desire to rule the world that lets the U.S. interfere.

Obama's recent West Point speech was lauded by Pat Lang as a push back against neoconservatives and neoliberals and a step back to rationality in foreign policy:

The president's wise, if late, decision not to attack Syria's armed forces, his steadfast search for a negotiated solution with Iran against the pressure of the Zionists, his reluctance to plunge into the depths of the Ukraine crisis and his insistence on continuing the withdrawal from Afghanistan all pointed to a return the kind of rationalist foreign policy followed by the United States from the end of WW II until the hysteria of post 9/11 life swept away the careful consideration of risks and benefits that had controlled US policy.

President Obama's policy speech at West Point announces the end of jacobin imperialist dominated policy in Washington.

It is a step in that direction, but it is not going far enough. Rhetoric wise the speech may have been a step back from the financially ruining use of large scale military forces but despite restricting the use of military force it still contained the stupid claim of "exceptionalism" and the desire to "lead":

I believe in American exceptionalism with every fiber of my being. But what makes us exceptional is not our ability to flout international norms and the rule of law; it is our willingness to affirm them through our actions. (Applause.)

(Why, by the way, would anyone applause such obvious lies?) Some five years ago Obama had a bit different view of such bollocks:

I believe in American exceptionalism, just as I suspect that the Brits believe in British exceptionalism and the Greeks believe in Greek exceptionalism.

Claiming extraordinary exceptionalism, as Obama again does, without the will to use exceptional means is not going to work for three reasons. It is unlikely to end a push towards new wars, it may instead create more damage without creating any positive results and it makes allies turn away. It would be much better to refrain from both, exceptionalism AND the use of military force. 

That Obama is now back to point out U.S. exceptionalism as something special is not a good sign. As Billmon remarks:

Cont. reading: Exceptionalism Without Exceptional Means?

Posted by b at 03:23 PM | Comments (63)

Open Thread 2014-13

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:32 AM | Comments (108)

May 29, 2014

Syria: Obama To Work With Assad?

Leslie Gelb, former president of the Council on Foreign Relations, muses about Obama's speech in West Point. The piece includes this nugget on Syria:

This may well surprise experts, but senior administration officials tell me that Obama has been modifying his objective and is now prepared to work with Assad, to some degree, along with the moderate rebels, against what the White House finally has come to see as the real and major threat—the jihadists. These senior officials further say that they expect support in this new policy from previous opponents, i.e. from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states. Let us hope that this is true.

Amen.

As is know none of the "moderate rebels" in Syria are actually moderate. That leaves the Syrian government under President Assad as the only party to work with. The rumor Leslie Gelb spreads here rings true because in his speech Obama, despite earlier announcements, did not spell out any additional help for the Syrian opposition. Maybe he recognized that U.S. training is not really necessary to teach the jihadists "how to finish off soldiers still alive after an ambush."

Posted by b at 04:43 AM | Comments (115)

May 28, 2014

The U.S. "Blinked" Over Cuba ... And "Blinks" Over Ukraine

Thomas Friedman continues to be the most dimwitted foreign policy commentator in U.S. media. Today he claims that Putin "blinked" on Ukraine by not invading it, something the Russian Federation never had any interest to do. But worse than such misreading of current foreign affairs events is Friedman's basic misreading of history. Thus his column today starts:

There was a moment at the height of the Cuban missile crisis in October 1962 when Soviet ships approached to within just a few miles of a U.S. naval blockade and then, at the last minute, turned back — prompting then-Secretary of State Dean Rusk to utter one of the most famous lines from the Cold War: “We’re eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other fellow just blinked.”
...
In the end, it was Putinism versus Obamaism, and I’d like to be the first on my block to declare that the “other fellow” — Putin — “just blinked.”

It was the United States that "blinked" in the Cuban Missile Crisis, not the Soviet Union. It was Kennedy who pulled back not Khrushchev.

In 1959/60 the U.S. planned and in 1961 proceeded to to install nuclear armed ballistic intermediate range missiles in Italy and Turkey. These "Jupiter" missiles could have reached Moscow within minutes and would have given the United States a decapitating first strike capability against the Soviet Union.

In April 1961 a CIA trained and supported force of exiles invaded Cuba. They were defeated and thrown out of Cuba but the incident intensified Cuban desire for protection by the Soviet Union.

Moscow initiated further talks with Cuba and an agreement was found to counter the U.S. missile threat in Europe by installing comparable missiles on Cuba.

The "Cuban Missile Crisis" ensued during which the Soviet Unions demanded the retraction of the Jupiter missiles in exchange for the retraction of its missiles from Cuba. It also demanded that the U.S. refrained from any further invasions of Cuba.

Kennedy "blinked" and agreed to those terms:

Later that night, Robert Kennedy meets secretly with Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin. They reach a basic understanding: the Soviet Union will withdraw the missiles from Cuba under United Nations supervision in exchange for an American pledge not to invade Cuba. In an additional secret understanding, the United States agrees to eventually remove the Jupiter missiles from Turkey.

With the Jupiter installations in Turkey and Italy the U.S. had gained an advantage. But the Soviet Union countered and in the end the U.S. pulled back. The Jupiter missiles were dismantled and Cuba was never again invaded. The U.S. sold out the interests of its allies Turkey and Italy while the Soviets delivered security assurances for their allies in Havanna.

The crisis in Ukraine, initiated by a U.S./EU instigated coup, is far from over but as of now the Russian Federation has already won a great price. The Crimea and the attached seas with hundreds of billions worth of hydrocarbon reserves are now (again) part of Russia. The Ukraine will continue to depend on Russia for its energy needs and general economic exchange. The United States will not give weapons to Ukraine or enough money to survive, nor will the EU. It will let the new Ukraine government hang as it grapples with its the coming energy crisis. Meanwhile Russia and China formed a new alliance. Medium to long term Russia will get its will in Ukraine and there is no way for the United States, apart from nuking Moscow, to change that perspective.

The Kennedy administration created the myth of the Cuban Missile Crisis - that it was the Soviets who blinked - to cover up its own retreat. Drawing on that false myth Friedman is creating another one. The new myth that Russia "blinked" over Ukraine. That Friedman finds it necessary to create such a new myth can only be explained by the need to cover up the ongoing U.S. retreat over Ukraine.

Posted by b at 06:20 AM | Comments (128)

May 27, 2014

Kabul Chief Of Station, Gregory Vogel, Was Outed Long Ago

Updated below

The White House outed the CIA Station Chief in Kabul, Gregory Vogel:

The CIA’s top officer in Kabul was exposed Saturday by the White House when his name was inadvertently included on a list provided to news organizations of senior U.S. officials participating in President Obama’s surprise visit with U.S. troops.

The White House recognized the mistake and quickly issued a revised list that did not include the individual, who had been identified on the initial release as the “Chief of Station” in Kabul, a designation used by the CIA for its highest-ranking spy in a country.

The name and the position of the person was widely distributed.

[T]he pool report was filed by Washington Post White House bureau chief Scott Wilson. Wilson said he had copied the list from the e-mail provided by White House press officials. He sent his pool report to the press officials, who then distributed it to a list of more than 6,000 recipients.

Wilson said that after the report was distributed, he noticed the unusual reference to the station chief and asked White House press officials in Afghanistan whether they had intended to include that name.

Initially, the press office raised no objection, apparently because military officials had provided the list to distribute to news organizations. But senior White House officials realized the mistake and scrambled to issue an updated list without the CIA officer’s name. The mistake, however, already was being noted on Twitter, although without the station chief’s name.

Despite the name being distributed on a list to 6,000 news people a Google news search for Gregory Vogel brings up no results for the name.

This shows the enormous power the CIA holds over news entities.

Those who published the name were immediately informed to pull and redact their news pieces. This is, for example, a screenshot from an earlier web search for Gregory Vogel:


bigger

The search result from a recent Wall Street Journal blog entry clearly says "His name is Gregory Vogel." That piece though was soon scrubbed from the WSJ website and in its current version has no station chief named in it.

This whole story is weird in several aspect:

Cont. reading: Kabul Chief Of Station, Gregory Vogel, Was Outed Long Ago

Posted by b at 08:36 AM | Comments (21)

Ukraine: Anatol Lieven On The Larger Picture

A lecture (video) by and with Anatol Lieven, of King's College London held on May 14. As usual Lieven, who knows East Europe well, gives a sane realist perspective and accordingly damns the foolish "western" policies with regard to Ukraine and Russia. With about 100 minutes the talk and Q&A is quite long but worth your time.

Aside from Ukraine there is an important point Liven makes during the Q&A not with regard to Russia but to China. At 1:25h Lieven talks about false "security guarantees" given by the U.S. and UK, how no one is willing -in the end- to stick to such. This well known fact in general weakens such "guarantees".

With that in mind he expands to China (1:27:40):

I think the Americans have been profoundly foolish in that regard. It does weaken their credibility in alliances elsewhere. [...] If the United States extends to China the kind of attitudes and the kind of policies that it has to Russia over the past generation, then, ladies and gentlemen, we will find ourselves in another major international war which will bring the world economy down in ruins and with it, probably, many democracies around the world including our own. I hope that the fact that an American policy which did this would deserve the results it got will be a comfort to our descendants.

Such fear is not without reasoning. U.S. "security guarantees" already inflame the situation as the new Cold War Heats Up in Asia in the same moment that a devastating financial and cyber war with Russia is shaping up. Foolish U.S. policies on Ukraine have pushed Russia and China (and Iran) into an (informal) strategic alliance which is giving U.S. strategic planers more than a light headache. Can a seapower prevail against a strong, self sufficient landpower alliance?

As the Carnegie Moscow Center remarks:

Whether in the Euro-Atlantic or the Asia-Pacific, great-power relations are becoming more contentious, with a loose Eurasian coalition emerging to reduce the U.S. domination of global politics. This is nothing like the Sino-Soviet alliance of the 1950s, but the consolidation of Russia's pivot to Asia is an important result of the first phase of the Ukraine crisis, which will continue to reshape the global strategic landscape.

The U.S. has no other than Victoria Nuland, and Hillary Clinton who installed her as Deputy Secretary of State for Europe, to thank for this foolish mess.

Posted by b at 03:23 AM | Comments (67)

May 26, 2014

Ukraine: What Might Be The Outcome?

Noirette comments at the end of the last Ukraine thread:

I’m less optimistic than b.
Actually running that election was vicious provocation.
It spells, from the coupists - we control the “State” (such as it is) and we do as we like, you people are of no account and we will vanquish. I think, before the election there might have been a small chance of “pacification” and it is possible that time might have helped. But after the election, no.
Of course, officially or ostensibly the election was carried out to legitimize the Kiev-koupists with a democratic masquerade, as well as to provide a new interlocutor for Putin and the West, which is how most people seem to see it.
Poroshenko’s problem is not that he is Jewish but that he is the worst kind of criminal oligarch. Candy Tycoon, ha ha, according to the western press. In short, exactly what the people of the Ukraine do not want and have been fighting against.
Imho, any hopes of a ‘united’ or ‘unitary’ Ukraine are now slim. Remember, Yanukovitch tried to keep the status quo and it fell apart (1). The ‘federalization’ proposal (Putin and others), with a weak central state plus high independence for “Regions” (the oblasts are too small imho) is moot.
Right now, there isn’t a legitimate Gvmt. but a void, which sucks in all kinds of actors. That will continue and degenerate, despite an ‘elected’ President, creating more fault lines. The difficulty as I see it is not so much language, culture, or politics (political parties in the Ukraine are mostly arrangements between oligarchs) but the idea of ‘finlandization’ or what the French call a ‘tampon’ (buffer) state.
How can that status quo ante be restored, after so much interference? How many of the different parties actually wish this? The Kievcoupist find themselves in the position of creating this state of affairs and refusing any proposition other than ‘a united Ukraine’, really this can only be deliberate, and Poroshenko appears on board with it, and has western support. (Moreover, not that anyone at all seems to care what Ukrainians want, my guess is they don’t like this idea.)
(1) Just one illustrative detail from history. Yats, Yulia and Yushenko requested to join NATO in Jan 2008. The request was supported by Bush, Obama and McCain. Subsequently, because of internal opposition, the Ukr. parliament was blocked and non-acting from 25 Jan to Mar 4. At the NATO summit in April the request was turned down, the British and the French nixed it.

My view: That is all well and right by then there is reality, economic reality which the Brookings Institute tried to explain.

Ukraine has already been pressed out like a citrus and the latest IMF and World Bank loans will only last so long. Neither the U.S. nor the EU are willing to pick up the bill for some 40 million Ukrainians. There is therefore in the end no other way for Kiev, whoever rules there, than to make nice with Russia and accept its conditions. Ukraine needs Russian gas and oil and it needs the defense cooperation with Russia. I have yet to find an argument that contradicts this and would support a different conclusion.

The neocons will of course try to get to some different outcome and will push this or that lunatic stand. But they, as we all know and have seen elsewhere, have no sense for realities on the ground and those are the ones that will win out.

Posted by b at 12:30 PM | Comments (85)

May 24, 2014

Ukraine: Major "Western" Think Tank Admits Defeat

There is simply no viable alternative for Ukraine than to cooperate with Russia and to pay the price that is necessary to do so. That is why Russia is just sitting back and waiting for that simple truth to become evident.

Back in February we said:

Putin will now sit back and let the "west" squabble about who will throw tons of money into the bottomless pit that Ukraine is going to become. ... Putin now just has to wait for the apple to fall from the tree.

In March:

To the growing unrest one can add the likely economic collapse that will come rather sooner than later. Any "western" help will be conditioned on austerity and impoverishing the people as well as on political reform that the oligarchs and the current politicians will not allow to happen. Under such condition further unrest is a given while Ukraine falls apart and there is no need at all for Russia to intervene to achieve such.

Russia will do nothing nefarious, it will do just nothing. Russia will not help, neither economically nor politically, unless Kiev and the "west" are willing to pay its price: A federalized Ukraine with strong regions and a weak central government.

Two month later this truth finally dawns to the mediocre thinkers in those "western" misnomed tanks. The Brookings Institute, which in general supports Obama policies, finally admits that a Ukraine without Russia is impossible and therefore cooperation with Russia on Ukraine is the Only viable way forward. It all comes back to money. The loss of access to Russian markets is already hitting and will kill Ukraine's heavy and weapon industry in east Ukraine. That will be expensive:

[A] minimum estimate is $276 billion to buy off the east. It is unthinkable that the West would pay this amount.
...
The key point here is that there can be no viable Ukraine without serious contributions from both Russia and the West. Of all the options for Ukraine’s future, a Ukraine exclusively in the West is the least feasible. A Ukraine fully under Russian control and with severed links to the West is, unfortunately, possible.

A Ukraine in the "west" is impossible. A Ukraine within the Russian Federation is possible but would somewhat hurt Russia at lest in the short term. A finlandized Unkraine, in which Russia has a major say is the best possible outcome for all sides.

The upcoming sham elections of the chocolate king Poroshenko over which Russia has major sway -his markets and some of his factories are in Russia- is now just a fig leaf for the "west" to disengage. Poroshenko will be send eastward to pledge allegiance to Russia and to sign the unconditional surrender treaty. He has to:

[H]ving normal relations with Russia is a natural position for Ukraine which fits her strategic interests. For this basic reason, Ukrainian politicians haven’t the slightest chance of ignoring their past, present, or future ties with Russia, regardless of the fact that they are talking about it.

He will then have to suppress the nazis in the west Ukraine. The political part of the EU Association Agreement, which the coup government signed, will be revoked and the economic part will not be signed at all.

All this now seems to turn into a major defeat for the neo-cons who completely misjudged the situation:

Strategists in the US may not have foreseen that, because of the very delicate domestic equilibrium of so many difference forces and actors, the Ukrainian state may have simply disintegrated in the face of a drastic geopolitical turn, as it is indeed happening.
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The US finds itself once again in the awkward position of having decisively contributed to the insurgence of a certain critical phase [...] where however the partners and allies on the ground [...] are successively abandoned at the decisive moment ..

The neocons had planned this attack on Russia via Ukraine and Crimea and they, again, failed. That does not mean that the issue is over. In sight of defeat the neocons love to "surge" and to escalate the situation. But as seen in Iraq and Afghanistan such "surges" are unlikely to change the inevitable outcomes.

Posted by b at 11:17 AM | Comments (248)

May 22, 2014

Ukraine: Army Soldiers Killed In Friendly Fire Incident?

Something weird happened in east Ukraine today. Allegedly some insurgents from the "Gorlovka" group attacked a Ukrainian military checkpoint near the town Volnovakha in Donetsk oblast. Some 13 soldiers were killed, over 30 wounded and several armored personal carriers were destroyed (vid). There are no reports yet of wounded or killed insurgents.

It does not sound plausible to me that a group of rag tag insurgents only recently formed and without much fighting experience attacks a platoon plus size military unit and destroys it completely.

There is also video that shows two Ukrainian MI24-Hind helicopter gunships making several heavy bomb runs in the area of the incident. The Guardian's Shaun Walker confirmed that Ukrainian helicopters were involved. One explosion in the video seems to be followed by heavy secondary ones which is typically the case when an armed vehicle with lots of ammunition on board gets hit.

Did those helicopter pilots hit the Ukrainian military unit? That would explain the high casualty rate and rather heavy damage.

Was the checkpoint attacked before the helicopters destroyed it? By whom?

Posted by b at 11:48 AM | Comments (195)

May 21, 2014

Russia's "Isolation"

Wishful thinking:

Kerry warns of Russia 'isolation'

America and its allies are ready to step up measures to "isolate Russia politically, diplomatically and economically" unless Moscow orders its troops in Crimea back to their barracks, US Secretary of State John Kerry has warned.

Obama tries to rally world to isolate Russia

President Barack Obama gathered with world leaders in a day of delicate diplomacy, as he sought to rally the international community Monday around efforts to isolate Russia following its incursion into Ukraine.

Obama will meet Xi Jinping of China in attempt to isolate Russia over Ukraine

The White House has added meetings with the leaders of China and Japan to Barack Obama's visit to Europe and Saudi Arabia next week, as it seeks to use the six-day trip to build an international coalition and isolate Russia over its annexation of Crimea.

Reality:

Russia’s VTB and Bank of China agree on domestic currency settlements

VTB, Russia’s second biggest lender, has signed a deal with Bank of China, which includes an agreement to pay each other in domestic currencies.

“Under the agreement, the banks plan to develop their partnership in a number of areas, including cooperation on ruble and renminbi settlements, investment banking, inter-bank lending, trade finance and capital-markets transactions,” says the official VTB statement.

Russia, Europe eye broader space cooperation - space corporation chief

Europe is an interesting partner for Russia’s United Rocket and Space Corporation (ORKK), its Director General Igor Komarov told a news conference at the International Aerospace Exhibition ILA 2014 in Berlin on Tuesday.

“Intensive work is underway in the sphere of Russia and Europe’s space cooperation,” he said, noting that a number of promising agreements had already been or would be signed at the exhibition and many contracts were under negotiation.

With Ukraine, Russia Drives Wedge Between EU, US

The crisis in Ukraine is giving Russia an opening to drive a wedge between the United States and Europe just as Western powers try to repair a struggling trade deal and decide how to bolster a cash-strapped NATO.
...
Germany and France have shunned sectorial sanctions without first trying again to broker a dialogue between Ukraine's government and pro-Russian separatists in the country's east — a step that garnered only lukewarm U.S. support.

Russia and China seal historic multibillion gas deal

Under the long-term deal, Gazprom will begin providing China's growing economy with 38 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year for the next 30 years, beginning in 2018. The details of the deal were discussed for more than 10 years, with Moscow and Beijing negotiating over gas prices and the pipeline route, as well as possible Chinese stakes in Russian projects.

Russia-India oil, gas pipelines in the works?

India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) plans to invite Russia to build an oil pipeline through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. In addition, the country’s largest gas company, GAIL, has proposed that Russia's future gas pipeline to China be extended to India.

China, Iran and Russia: Restructuring the global order

At the Fourth Summit of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA) that opens May 20 in Shanghai, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will meet with both Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Among other things, the summit will underscore how rising non-Western powers are playing ever more prominent roles on the global stage. However, Western elites remain stuck in a time warp, wherein the United States and its European partners are the imperial masters of all they survey.

Posted by b at 06:20 AM | Comments (156)

May 20, 2014

The Non-Disastrous Russia-China Alliance

The President of the Russian Federation is in China and pursues various economic deals with the country. A huge gas deal, though it may not get signed yet, is in the making in which Russia will deliver natural gas and oil to China over a period of 30 years. The payments will be made in rubles and yuan leaving the dollar out of the business.

This is the long expected start of an Eurasian axis. Russia has plenty of natural resources, good basic industries and world class research and weapon productions. China has lots of people and high tech manufacturing capabilities. Together China and Russia would be a major powerblock that could exist, if needed, mostly independent of the "western" ruled global political and economic system.

Russia expert Mark Adomanis thinks that such an alliance would be disaster for the west though he does not really explain why. It seems that the inability of the "west" to influence such a block is what he perceives as a "disaster".

The U.S. can not effect Russia through economic or financial sanctions when Russia can circumvent those through its ally China, the worlds biggest economy. And one can not threaten China's access to energy resources by sea when China can get more than enough of those through direct land pipelines from Russia. The U.S. capability to influence or threaten such an alliance would be much smaller than it is against two separate states.

But the U.S. has no one but Obama and his hawkish secretaries of state to blame for the rather natural Russian-Chinese alliance. Those two countries historically do not like each other very much and in social terms don't have much in common. But Obama has done his best to give them a common enemy. Such an enemy always tends to unite even non-friends. Pushing sanctions against Russia after the "west" arranged an anti-Russian coup against Russia's neighbor was too much for Russia to swallow. Add missile defense and a general hate throughout "western" media against Putin and the Russian system and you end up with a virtual enemy. On China's side Obama's "pivot" to Asia, encouraging of Japanese militancy and sanctions over alleged cyberspying were enough to push it to look for new relations.

I agree with Adomanis that the U.S. would loose power if a Russian-Chinese alliance evolves but I can not see any "disaster" in that. A less unchallenged position and smaller global role for the U.S. would likely be beneficial for and viewed positive by the "rest of the world." It would at least restrict some of the typical U.S. militancy.

Europe will not join the new alliance but it should keep a neutral stance between the U.S. and the Russian-China axis. It will otherwise become a U.S. pawn on a global chessboard and will be sacrificed, possibly in another big war, as soon as Washington finds that to be convenient.

Posted by b at 01:04 PM | Comments (76)

Syira: As Obama Offers Them Weapons Islamists Change Stripes

This week the Saudi appointed Syrian opposition leader Ahmad Jarba met with U.S. president Obama and other officials:

"President Obama welcomed the coalition's leadership and constructive approach to dialogue, and encouraged the coalition to further its vision for an inclusive government that represents all of the people of Syria," the White House said.

That call was heard (together with the offer of additional arms) by the Islamic Front, now the biggest opposition military group on the ground, and it decided to forgo the head-chopping, to immediately change its stripes to spots and to become a secular democracy loving organization:

The largest coalition of Islamist rebels in Syria issued a manifesto over the weekend that calls for the increasingly fractious rebels to unite around the notion of liberating the country from the government of President Bashar Assad and installing a free state that will protect the rights of religious minorities, not an Islamist state.

Its document includes promise to attack the former Al-Qaeda franchise ISIS but does not mention the current Al-Qaeda representation in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra. Groups belonging to the Islamic Front, which includes the Salafist Ahrar al-Shams, have in the past regularly cooperated with al-Nusra.

It is not plausible that the Islamic Front new direction is serious. Its groups and fighters have a Salafist Jihadi doctrine and their core demand has always been the creation of an Islamic state. Several massacres of no-Sunni civilians have been committed by its groups. Its "change" is likely just a temporary sham demanded by Washington to "justify" the provision of U.S. weapons to these barbaric forces.

Some additional points from the opposition side on the visit in Washington:

U.S. President Barak Obama surprised his guests from the Syrian National Coalition last week by saying that the Sunnis in the Syrian army are behind President Assad’s survival “not the Iranian or Russian support”.

“We were totally baffled by Obama’s comments. We were not prepared to answer them” according to 2 senior sources from the Syrian opposition and the Syrian General Staff present at the meeting held in the White House last week.

Obama met with the Leader of the Syrian National Coalition Ahmed al-Jarba on May 13 for about 40 minutes. Another meeting with his National Security Advisor Suzan Rice ensued and lasted about 2 hours.

“We didn’t get specific answers on our demands” one source said “but Jarba put forward a proposal to let the Syrian opposition buy weapons from a third party and there was no objection” he added.

Later during a meeting with Rice, the opposition demanded Washington’s help through providing maintenance to spoils taken form government forces depots “there was no objection on that too”.

Obama obviously knows that Assad has a majority of the population, including most Sunnis, behind him. But is still pushing the opposition to further fights and has promised to provide it with additional weapons. According to Elijah J Magnier's Gulf sources:

1. West agreed to provide Syrian opposition with lethal weapons, intelligence information and military training. This agreement is conditioned to the opposition’s commitment to stop any connection to al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) and to continue fighting the Islamic State “ISIS”.
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4. According to the source, “the communiqué is not direct to Jabhat al-Nusra. Its fighters should remain and fight both the regime and ISIS but under a different flag, dropping the one of al-Qaeda fi Bilad al-Sham.

5. It was agreed that the West would support the opposition by all means, as long as it doesn’t include in it ranks foreign fighters and distance itself from al-Qaeda.

As the secular opposition, which has hardly ever been one, can no longer be found Washington has decided that somewhat renaming the Salafist including Al-Qaeda's al-Nusra fighters to "democrats" is sufficient to provide them with weapons and training.

Like ex-UN Syria envoy Brahimi Obama knows that the Russians were right with their assessment of Syria from the very beginning. But driven by Israels goals and continued lobbying from the Gulf (pdf) he still insist to urge the fighting on. Syria, this logic says, must be destroyed by all possible means.

Posted by b at 11:38 AM | Comments (29)

While White House Blames China U.S. Corps Blame White House On Spying

The U.S. accuses some Chinese army people of economic spying against U.S. companies in cases of trade disputes. The very same day U.S. corporations accuse the U.S. of ruining Internet security and of thereby hurting their businesses.

Some estimates suggest the news about the NSA's surveillance practices may have cost tech companies tens of billions of dollars in lost revenue.

Chinese hackers infiltrated U.S. companies, attorney general says

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that members of the Chinese military have engaged in the hacking of U.S. businesses and entities, including U.S. Steel Corp., Westinghouse, Alcoa, Allegheny Technologies, the United Steel Workers Union and SolarWorld.
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The indictment alleges that People's Liberation Army officers "maintained unauthorized access to victim computers to steal information from these entities that would be useful" to the victims' competitors in China, the attorney general said.
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David Hickton, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Pennsylvania, said the hacking has caused the victim companies to lose capital investments in research and technology.

He added that the "important message" is that cyberespionage "impacts real people in real and painful ways," he said.

Cisco chief slams Obama on surveillance

Cisco CEO John Chambers is demanding that President Obama rein in government surveillance, including programs that reportedly involve intentionally putting security flaws in U.S. tech companies’ products.

“We simply cannot operate this way,” Chambers wrote in the letter dated last week and published by Re/code on Sunday.
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The letter comes after reports that the U.S. government is intercepting tech companies’ equipment headed overseas and installing surveillance software. A new book from surveillance journalist Glenn Greenwald, who first exposed U.S. surveillance programs based on leaked documents from former government contractor Edward Snowden, also includes the charges.

“If these allegations are true, these actions will undermine confidence in our industry and in the ability of technology companies to deliver products globally,” the letter said.

This is (again) one of those cases where I wonder if there are any adults living in Washington DC. What is the purpose of these accusations against China? To publicly raise those accusations against China only reminds people of NSA spying and of its consequences for U.S. corporations. It simply reinforces arguments against NSA spying.

Why are they doing this? What do they hope to win with such hypocrisy?

Posted by b at 12:36 AM | Comments (45)

 
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