Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
May 04, 2016

Pundits Knew It Early On - Trump Could Not Win The Nomination

Kasich Dropping Out Of Presidential Race; Donald Trump Assured GOP Nomination - NPR, May 4 2016

And now keep this in mind:

Paul Danahar @pdanahar

Hmm, all the reasons given for why Trump could NEVER win the nomination are now being used to explain why he’ll NEVER win the presidency

Posted by b at 01:08 PM | Comments (133)

May 03, 2016

The "Free Syrian Army" Media Efforts Are A British Government Operation

The U.S. government, via its CIA, has financed the "moderate" anti-Syrian mercenaries fighting against the legitimate Syrian government with at least $1 billion a year. The Wahhabi dictatorships in the Middle East have added their own billions to finance al-Qaeda's efforts against the Syrian people. The U.S. continues to purchase and transport thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition to feed the war against the Syrian people. It also pays the various fighters and opposition groups. The U.S. efforts for regime change in Syria have been running since at least 2006 when the U.S. government started to finance anti-Syrian exile TV stations and held intensive planning talks with various anti-Syrian Islamist elements.

Together with the British government it also runs the current pro-mercenary public relation show to influence the "western" public to support its imperial meddling in Syria.

The Guardian now unveils one of the British government efforts to effectively run the complete "Free Syrian Army" media show:

The British government is waging information warfare in Syria by funding media operations for some rebel fighting groups, ...
...
Contractors hired by the Foreign Office but overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters.

Materials are circulated in the Arabic broadcast media and posted online with no indication of British government involvement.
...
Through its Conflict and Stability Fund the government is spending £2.4m on private contractors working from Istanbul to deliver “strategic communications and media operations support to the Syrian moderate armed opposition” (MAO).

The contract is part of a broader propaganda effort focused on Syria, with other elements intended to promote “the moderate values of the revolution” ...
...
The documents call for contractors to “select and train a spokesman able to represent all the MAO groups as a single unified voice”, as well as providing media coaching to “influential MAO officials” and running a round-the-clock “MAO central media office” with “media production capacity”. One British source with knowledge of the contracts in action said the government was essentially running a “Free Syrian army press office”.

The British and the U.S. media also run various "civil" groups to further their regime change goals.

The "White Helmets", known for fake "rescue" videos and their strong cooperation with al-Qaeda (vid), are financed with $23 million by the U.S. government through USAID, with £18.7 million by the U.K. Foreign Office and with several millions more from other governments. But are the "White Helmets" not "moderates" who only want to help people? The U.S. government does not seem to believe that. It just banned the head of the "White Helmets" from entering the United States even though it finances his activities.

Many social media accounts like @raqqa_sl, which are promoted in "western" media, also distribute fake pictures and videos as part of these propaganda efforts.

But even when these media manipulation campaigns and fake "moderates" get exposed their operations continues unabated. The Guardian, after publishing the above, will not for one moment reflect on how its own publishing on Syria was influenced by the government financed fakes. It is, just like other mainstream media, an integrated part of the campaign.

No unveiling of the truth about the "western" attack on the Syrian state and its people seems to any effect on the ongoing media operations. On April 20 the U.S. military spokesperson for the anti-Islamic State coalition told some truth about the role of al-Qaeda in the "rebel" occupied eastern Aleppo city:

That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.

Only two weeks later the NYT propagandist Anna Barnard has the Chutzpah to claim that al-Qaeda only

has a small presence in Aleppo

Lies get repeated even after they have been debunked again and again. The relentlessness of the propaganda onslaught is effective in suppressing any larger opposition to it.

Posted by b at 12:26 PM | Comments (71)

May 02, 2016

Kerry To Negotiate New Ceasefire In Syria - But With His Own Side

U.S. Secretary of State is in Geneva today to renegotiate a cessation of hostilities between the Syrian government forces and the foreign supported "rebels" in Syria. But there is something very curious going on with these negotiations. Kerry will neither talk with the Syrian government nor with the Russians. The Russian Foreign Minister is not even expected to come.

No, Kerry is negotiating  with the U.S. allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia who support the same "rebels" that are opposed to the Syrian government that the U.S. itself supported all along. He now asks them to separate their proxy forces in Syria from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he hoped to make progress in talks in Geneva over the next two days toward renewing a cessation of hostilities agreement throughout Syria and resuming peace talks to end the fighting.

"The hope is we can make some progress," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh shortly after arriving in Geneva.
...
The Syrian army announced on Friday a "regime of calm", or lull in fighting, which applied to Damascus and some of its outskirts, and parts of northwestern coastal province Latakia. But it excluded Aleppo.

Kerry made clear that a ceasefire was needed throughout Syria and he hoped to be able to reaffirm the cessation of hostilities after talks in Geneva. He is due to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and De Mistura on Monday.

According to military spokesperson of the U.S. alliance against the Islamic State, Colonel Warren, the "rebel" occupied parts of Aleppo city are under control of al-Qaeda:

[I]t's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities. So it's complicated.

Two UN Security Council Resolution calls on all UN members to "eradicate" al-Qaeda/al-Nusra. ALL UNSC members agreed to Resolution 2254 which:

Reiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities,...

There is simply no basis for Kerry to beg for a ceasefire for "rebel" held areas of Aleppo city when his own military says that these are in the hands of al-Qaeda which the UNSC calls to eradicate. The Russian's have said that much.

So here is what Kerry is left to do: Beg the U.S. allies to move away their "Free Syrian Army" proxy groups from al-Qaeda so al-Qaeda can be eradicated by the Syrian Army and its allies.

But al-Qaeda is by now an integrated part of those Saudi/Qatar/U.S. paid proxy forces and well accepted by those groups. It gets its weapons and ammunition from the very proxy groups the U.S. now wants to separate from it. Even if the Saudis and Jordanians assert their influence over these groups it is unlikely that the fighters on the ground will follow their directives.

The Russian air force is ready to renew its bombing campaign against all opposition forces in Syria that do not agree to a cessation of hostilities.

No U.S. propaganda campaign can wave away al-Qaeda's presence in Syria nor the UNSC resolutions the U.S. itself agreed to. Either Kerry manages to pressure Saudi Arabia and Jordan to move their proxies away from al-Qaeda or there will be again an all out Russian campaign to eradicate them. It is unlikely that any of those proxies would survive such a campaign.

Kerry is now left to negotiate with U.S allies against al-Qaeda. He now has to argue from the same perspective as the Syrian and Russian government. This is a mess of his own making. How will he escape from it?

Posted by b at 07:00 AM | Comments (76)

April 29, 2016

Open Thread 2016-17

(Sorry for not posting. A project I am involved has a hard end-of-month deadline and it will still take some effort to reach that. - b)

News & views ...

(Please keep the U.S. elections stuff to older threads.)

Posted by b at 09:08 AM | Comments (240)

April 26, 2016

Open Thread 2016-16

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (235)

April 25, 2016

Syria - Russia Rejects Kerry's New Attempts To Shield The Terrorists

The U.S. admits that the upcoming Aleppo offensive by the Syrian government and its allies is designed to hit al-Qaeda and associated terrorist forces and not primarily the "moderate" unicorns the U.S. propaganda blushes about. But the openly U.S. supported forces will also be hit as they are very much integrated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. has for long considered al-Qaeda a secret ally in its attempt to destroy the Syrian state. The French magazine L'Orient Le Jour sees the U.S. relation with al-Qaeda in Syria as part of the attrition strategy the U.S. is waging against Syria (and Russia).

Secretary of State Kerry tried to convince the Russian that al-Qaeda should not be attacked during the cessation of hostilities. But the Russian's did not agree. Al Qaeda is a UN recognized international terrorist organization which, under UNSC resolutions, must be fought. The U.S. only succeeded in downgrading the permanent ceasefire the Russians had preferred to into a temporary cessation hostilities. It thought to use the time to rearm and to regroup its proxy forces.

But then thing went wrong. An offensive along the Turkish border to push away the Islamic State and to seal the border between the Islamic State and Turkey failed. Al-Qaeda convinced other groups, including directly U.S. supported CIA assets, to prematurely attack Syrian government forces south of Aleppo on Tal el-Eis. The attack mad only little progress before it was stopped.

Now al-Qaeda and the U.S. proxies are heavily targeting the government held western arts of Aleppo city:

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 13h13 hours ago
#Aleppo observed the most violent day in d history of d war in #Syria causing 21 killed & 95 wounded. Every single street was hit by rebels+

Since the announcement of the cease-fire, over 492 killed & wounded were registered in the only 2 hospitals in regime held area in #Aleppo.

Rebels hell bombs fell on all streets w/o exception while a group of rebels were trying 2infiltrate d city in West #Aleppo, trapped n sewage

This continued today

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 2h2 hours ago
17 killed and 92 wounded in #Aleppo regime controlled area today following rebels Hell cannon bombing. #Syria.

These attacks on the population are designed to bait the Syrian government forces into an immediate all-out attack into the al-Qaeda held parts of Aleppo city. I doubt that they will fall for it. The response for now will be more intense bombing in preparation for a well thought out attack later on.

Kerry recently again tried to convince the Russian government of partitioning Syria into "zones of interest". This would shield terrorist forces form further Syrian and Russian attacks:

“We’ve even proposed drawing a line, an absolute line, and saying, ‘You don’t go over there, we don’t go over here, and anything in between is fair game.’ And they are considering that, and I think we will get there in the next week or so.”

The rather harsh public response to that Kerry nonsense came in today:

MFA Russia @mfa_russia
#Lavrov: Splitting Syria into zones of influence is a simplistic idea; the main objective must be to route terrorism @mod_russia @RussiaUN

#Lavrov: US has not fulfilled its promise made two months ago to move “good opposition forces” away from the terrorist front lines in Syria

#Lavrov: The US State Dept. may shy away from cooperation with Russia, but there is no place for shyness in the fight against terrorism

#Lavrov: The UNSC declared Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist group. Those who want to distance themselves from this group should do so physically

Translation: Get your proxies out of the way or they will get hurt badly.

The U.S. "plan B" of splitting Syria into statelets has been rejected by the Syrian government and its allies.

The Syrian government and its allies are convinced that they can beat al-Qaeda and its various associates on the battle field. They are preparing a large attack against al-Qaeda and anyone nearby. There is little the U.S. can do to help the designated terrorists of al-Nusra in west Syria. But it continues its attempts to split Syria by inserting more of its special forces into north east Syria. These and their Kurdish proxy fighters have the task to take as much of eastern Syria from the Islamic State and others as possible before the Syrian government forces can do so. The thinking is that any captured town will be an asset in future negotiations. It will be interesting to see how the Syrian government and its allies will counter that move.

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (63)

April 24, 2016

U.S. Officials Confirm - Syrian Army Attack In Aleppo To Hit Al-Qaeda

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HEARING - U.S. POLICY AFTER RUSSIA’S ESCALATION IN SYRIA
Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2015, Transcript (pdf)

Ambassador PATTERSON: That is true in the north, Mr. Issa. I would say that it is not true in the south. But, certainly, in the north, the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate, has absorbed, as have other smaller groups, have absorbed a number of what we would have previously called the moderate opposition, yes, that is correct.

U.S. Department of State, Mark C. Toner Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, February 22, 2016

QUESTION: -- [..] Is there not – I mean, my understanding is that at least some of these [moderate] groups are commingled [with alQaeda]. You assert that you feel that you are able to delineate the territories that are inhabited by ISIL or by Nusrah or by the other groups deemed terrorist. What makes you so confident you can do that? Do you not believe that there is at least some commingling of these groups? Or intermingling?

MR TONER: I would respectfully defer to others with a better knowledge of conditions on the ground. But yes, I believe there is some commingling of these groups. I think that’s a reality; we’ve talked about it before.

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq
Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman - April 20, 2016

COL. WARREN: [..] What I do know is that we have seen, you know, regime forces with some Russian support as well begin to mass and concentrate combat power around Aleppo. So this is something we're concerned about and something we'll keep an eye on.

That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.

Russian Military Buildup Near Aleppo, Syria, Threatens Truce, Kerry Warns - NY Times April 23 2015

Mr. Kerry said that the Russians might be moving on Aleppo because members of the Al Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, were mixed throughout parts of the region, and that they were terrorists not party to the cease-fire. At the same time, he said, the region is home to insurgent groups that oppose Mr. Assad and have agreed to the cease-fire. 
“That has proven harder to separate them than we thought,” Mr. Kerry said. “And there’s a Russian impatience and a regime impatience with the terrorists who are behaving like terrorists and laying siege to places on their side and killing people.”

For the last several days the government held parts of Aleppo city and the 2,000,000 inhabitants and refugees there have been under constant bombardment with improvised gas-canister mortars and rockets from the al-Nusra side.

Some heavy operations against the al-Qaeda held areas in Aleppo governate and Aleppo city are inevitable and now seem to be imminent. The statements the U.S. officials made above seem to justify such an operation.

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (50)

April 23, 2016

Meltdown in Libya

by Richard Galustian

The fallout of the continuing meltdown of Libya will be felt hard in in particularly Southern European countries.

The Tripoli and western town's militias are continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars sending even more tens of thousands of migrants north to the EU.

All changed for the worse last week with a number of pronouncements and events, though reading mainstream media, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First Britain's Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond announced he didn't need Parliament to send troops involving the UK in another quagmire that would prove similar to its disastrous involvement in Afghanistan. Hammond, within hours, back tracked on that idea under pressure from Parliament.

Meanwhile the UN and EU has also stated it will change formally international recognition status, from the House of Representatives (HOR) parliament to Serraj, whether or not HOR recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA) which would give the UN appointed Serraj control of Libya’s vast foreign assets, estimated at $140 billion.

The saga further continued last Monday night when Serraj's addressed more than 50 of the great and good; foreign and defense ministers of the European Union gathered at a dinner in Luxembourg, his words coming to them by video screen.

Despite the fact that the HOR in Tobruk, had not decided to accept the GNA nevertheless illogically the EU's Federica Mogerini reaction to Serraj's presentation that same evening, perpetuating the charade of his Unity government, stated she had €100m to give him!

To remind readers, over two weeks ago Serraj arrived in Tripoli with no more than 7 men were on the ship, the remnants of what should have been a 9-man Presidential Council. And where are the 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers that constitute the GNA?

Plucked from obscurity by the UN, a Tripoli businessman was selected, one Fayez Serraj, to bring peace to Libya, who they expect to end the war between the Islamist National Salvation government in Tripoli and the elected parliament (HOR) in Tobruk. The further expectation then is for Serraj to head a united Libyan army crushing both ISIS and the migrant-smuggling gangs, the West’s twin Libya headaches. Impossible!

To preserve this illusion, western dignitaries staged visits to the Libyan capital, a virtual 'Potemkin Village' show.

They land amid tight security at the city center Mitega airport, guarded by their own small army and by the few militias who have taken Serraj’s side, and his promise of fat pay rises. From there it is a nervy two mile dash in armored cars down the coastal highway to the naval base. Once the dignitaries are inside then there are the all-important photographs showing handshakes before scurrying away again.

Also last Monday the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond paid a very short visit to Tripoli's Naval 'bunker' as it has become known.

A few days earlier the French, Italian and German foreign ministers completed this sham also. Soon after the French and German VIP planes flew away though, a militia blew up the home of a politician who had dared object to the new government. Hours later, another militia attacked the Tripoli home of deputy designate prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeg. Neither man was home, wisely staying well clear of this militia-infested city, but the second attack saw rival militias bring tanks onto the streets in fighting that spluttered for five hours. Of Serraj there was no sign. He has spent most of the last few weeks abroad, in Cairo, Istanbul, London and Tunis, anywhere but Libya.

None of this was mentioned in Monday night’s Luxembourg gala dinner. EU leaders maintained the facade, and in fact enhanced it, promising to send diplomats to Tripoli, a city almost equivalent to Sarajevo of the early 90s.

Last month both the EU and the UN however threatened sanctions on 'spoilers' - the threatened asset freeze and travel bans - on men for daring to object to the Serraj government. One, Abdul Rahman Swehli caved in quickly to EU pressure was rewarded by being anointed as 'President' of the so called State Council. Other 'spoilers', of which Gen. Hafter is one, can expect the same despite the fact he has almost won the Battle for Benghazi against extremists. However only one man this week so far has been named to the sanctions list under President Obama’s executive sanctions order against 'spoiler' Libyans and that is Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the Islamist Tripoli Government. So far he’s the only addition. No doubt more will be added. That US Executive order will be implemented by the UN not the EU.

Unless the HOR's Saleh is also intimidated sufficiently by UN to say yes soon to Serraj's phantom GNA government, he could be next on the list. He is already sanctioned by the EU.

The UN's Martin Kobler also this week in Tobruk made Salah an offer, in Don Corleone's words, he can't refuse!

But even if the HOR does accept the GNA, which they allegedly did the other day, that still will not bring peace to Libya, only the facade of there being a unity government. Recently both Libya's rivals eastern and western central banks announced plans to print their own new currency. I predict a country that will eventually split.

Posted by b at 05:59 AM | Comments (37)

April 21, 2016

When Media Shill For Saudi Money

A timely Washington Post piece looks at how the Saudis bribe left, right and center:

Saudi government has vast network of PR, lobby firms in U.S.

The Saudi government and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars on U.S. law, lobby and public relations firms to raise the country’s visibility in the United States and before the United Nations at a crucial time.
...
Five lobby and PR firms were hired in 2015 alone, signaling a stepped-up focus on ties with Washington. The firms have been coordinating meetings between Saudi officials and business leaders and U.S. media, ...

The Saudis are getting some bang for their money.

And just today these three well-paid-for pieces appeared. Notice how they have a common, lobby induced theme:

They may have promoted al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology. But Saudi Arabia is too valuable an ally against today’s terrorism to allow ordinary Americans to make the kingdom pay.
While Tehran continues to sow anti-American terrorism across the Middle East, Riyadh holds the key to regional stability. This is not the time to back away from the House of Saud.
The Saudis are particularly angry about the Iran nuclear deal, and they believe that only the next U.S. president -- whether it's Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump -- will be able to restore Saudi Arabia's status as America's key ally in the Middle East.
  • The biggest sellout yet is Bloomberg which whored out the May issue of Businessweek, including the cover, to a Saudi prince:

The $2 Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia’s Economy Off Oil - Eight unprecedented hours with “Mr. Everything,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In Prince Mohammed, the U.S. may find a sympathetic long-term ally in a chaotic region.

The Saudi mafia clan is not just itself corrupt. It is massively corrupting others. It bribes them to do take part in their crimes, no matter how nefarious. Just consider this, mentioned in the WaPo lobby piece above:

In 2014, consultants at the PR firm Qorvis developed content for the Saudi Arabia embassy’s YouTube and Twitter pages, and ran the Twitter account for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

The Saudis are the major money behind the war on Syria. They are building ISIS and Al-Qaeda not only in Syria but also in Yemen and elsewhere. A former Saudi foreign minister, quoted in in yesterdays Financial Times (see here), admitted such:

Saud al-Feisal, the respected Saudi foreign minister, remonstrated with John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, that "Daesh [ISIS] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da'wa" - the Tehran aligned Shia Islamist ruling party of Iraq.

Whoever shills for the Saudis should be considered adhering to enemies.

Posted by b at 11:19 AM | Comments (94)

April 20, 2016

Open Thread 2016-15

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (163)

Israel's "Unique Global Breakthrough Technology" - Bribe The Enemy

The NYT is marketing some pretended Israeli technological supremacy.

Israelis Find New Tunnel From Gaza Into Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the discovery, saying, “the state of Israel has achieved a global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels.”

Describing the breakthrough as “unique,” but without providing any details of the technology involved, Mr. Netanyahu added, “The government is investing considerable capital in countering the tunnel threat. This is an ongoing effort that will not end overnight.”

Hmm ... "considerable capital". Yes, I believe that was the indeed involved in this "detection" of a tunnel. But why is this described by the NYT journo as if there was some "technology involved"?

Did the NYT bureau in Israel really miss these rumors which have been circulating for days?

According to various reports, a senior commander of the Gaza tunnel division has defected to Israel. If this publication is accurate, he may be able to provide new details which were unknown to the IDF and ISA about what is happening under the Gaza Strip.

So the "global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels” is the "technology" of bribing a senior Hamas commander with "considerable capital".

That is historically "unique"? In Israel?

Posted by b at 01:37 PM | Comments (12)

April 19, 2016

Sec State Kerry: Proud Of Undermining The Nuclear Deal With Iran

When in January the deal about Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) went into its implementation phase we asked When And How Will The U.S. Infringe On The Iran Deal?

I predicted:

[T]he U.S. is never short of some subterfuge to to break agreements. Some reason will be found that then will be used to infringe on the nuclear agreement and to implement new measures to hinder Iran's development.

That seems to have been correct and the answers to the "When" and "How" of U.S. infringement are now in.

On January 16, the implementation day, Secretary of State Kerry said:

To get to this point, ladies and gentlemen, Iran has undertaken significant steps that many – and I do mean many – people doubted would ever come to pass. And that should be recognized, even though the full measure of this achievement can only be realized by assuring continued full compliance in the coming years. In return for the steps that Iran has taken, the United States and the EU will immediately lift nuclear-related sanctions, expanding the horizon of opportunity for the Iranian people. And I have even tonight, before coming over here, signed a number of documents over those sanctions that the State Department has jurisdiction over in order to effect that lifting.

But four month later Iran can still not access its money that was frozen under sanctions. It can not buy anything significant with it. The U.S. is blackmailing the banks not to release one penny of Iran's money. It did not drain the sanction morass added to it.

Indeed the very next day after Kerry's announcement the U.S. raised new sanctions against Iran

The White House immediately announced a new set of sanctions against 11 Iranian companies, institutions and individual people because Iran had tested a ballistic missile the previous autumn.

Last month came more of the same. This time the Iranians conducted several missile tests over a period of two days. And on March 25 the administration announced another round of sanctions, these once again imposed by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The U.S. claims that Iran, by testing ballistic missiles, somehow infringes on UN Security Council Resolution 2231. But that resolution only "calls upon Iran", i.e. politely asks, to not test missiles designed to be nuclear capable.

There is also a deep logical flaw in the U.S. argumentation:

Iran has certifiably dismantled all aspects of its nuclear program that would have made it capable of weaponizing enriched uranium. Nonetheless, say the Americans, we will impose sanctions on Iran for developing missile technology that would make it capable of firing one of the nuclear weapons we have just made certain it cannot build.

Besides those new sanction over ballistic missiles the U.S. is doing everything to block any real relief from the old sanctions.

As soon as the sanctions over the nuclear program were formally lifted, the U.S. send its bureaucrats out to warn off any bank from doing business with Iran:

Cont. reading: Sec State Kerry: Proud Of Undermining The Nuclear Deal With Iran

Posted by b at 01:52 PM | Comments (46)

April 18, 2016

Syria - "Rebel" Sponsors Order A New Round Of Defeat

The Obama administration has obviously decided to restart the war in Syria. Thousands of tons of new weapons have been purchased and delivered to the Jihadists including anti-air MANPADs of U.S. (full text) and Chinese origin. Half of the weapons the "rebel" mercenaries are given by their sponsors regularly end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda in Syria. We will not be surprised when a few weeks from now a civilian passenger plane will be hit and come down in Turkey or elsewhere.

Two week ago the foreign supported "rebels" already broke the ceasefire when they took part in a large al-Qaeda attack south of Aleppo city. Several "rebel" attacks took place against the Kurdish quarter in Aleppo city with over a hundred civilian death. Other attacks took place in north Latakia.

Today the "rebels" announced a full return to open war and more fronts were reopened including in north Hama where Uighur "Turkmen" Jihadis used two suicide bombers against the Syrian government positions.

The UN sponsored talks in Geneva went nowhere and the "rebel" side now suspended them to renew the fighting. Only three men of the Saudi controlled "rebel" negotiating team attended today. They still insist on the unconstitutional removal of the Syrian president before agreeing to any further talks about a unity government.

The Syrian army has suspended its ongoing offensive against the Islamic State. The plan was to march from the recently freed Palmyra to the Islamic State held Deir Ezzor in the east. The troops have now been recalled to protect the Syrian people from the renewed "rebel" attacks in west Syria. This may well fit the U.S. intentions in its phony war on ISIS.

There will soon be reports about local retreats of the Syrian army from this or that town or hill. Do not give them too much weight. Since the Russian intervention last year the Syrian troops have orders to retreat when under hard pressure. This to preserve manpower. As soon has the enemy occupies a position the artillery and air force will take care of them. Then, when the enemy attack has been blunted, the Syrian army and their allies on the ground will reoccupy the position and if possible launch counterattacks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Suleiman visited Moscow last week. After his first visit last summer the Russian intervention was planned and executed. It brought the "rebels" to the border of total defeat. Their sponsors then agreed to a ceasefire and to hold talks in Geneva. Since the ceasefire announcement on February 27 the time was used by the U.S. to rearm and reposition the "rebel" force.

It seems that another round of the cycle is now necessary. Iran has deployed regular ground troops in Syria and these, even while not yet battle-tested, will have some effect. The Syrian air force has been reequipped and its older planes have been updated. Russian helicopters are active on the Syrian front and new short range (200 km) "Iskander" ballistic missiles were recently seen. The Russian air force can additionally engage with long range flights from Russia against fixed targets in Syria within hours. Russia cruise missile carrying ships are near the Syrian coast.

It is foolish to believe that MANPADs and TOW anti tank systems can decisively change the situation on the ground. I expect that a few week of heavy fighting will now follow after which the "rebels" will again be exhausted and again on the border of defeat.

Posted by b at 02:32 PM | Comments (66)

April 17, 2016

Congress Threatens To Seize Saudi U.S. Assets

Some current nonsense headlines in the U.S. media read like this: Saudis threaten sell-off of U.S. assets if 9/11 suits are allowed:

Saudi Arabia has warned the United States not to revoke its sovereign immunity, protecting the kingdom from lawsuits related to Sept. 11, or it will sell off hundreds of billions in American assets.

It is not the Saudis who are threatening something. It is the U.S. Congress that is threatening to lift the immunity of nation states in front of U.S. courts:

The Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

Under the bill a civil U.S. person could file in a U.S. court against nation states for acts or omissions(!) of that nation state related to some "terrorist act". U.S. courts are notorious for dubious rulings against foreign states, impounding and seizing huge assets of such states.

In 2012 Congress passed a law that specifically allowed victims of terrorist attacks allegedly related to Iran to collect judgements against the Iranian state. Judges started to rule in favor of billions in compensatory damages to victims and to impound even assets of Iranian charities. One of these cases and the anti-Iranian law are now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Immunity against such judgements is standard international law and known as "acta iure imperii" - the principal that no foreign court can judge the liability of a nation state for acts and omissions in the exercise of the nation state's authority.

Should the U.S. Congress break that principal, any foreign national wealth fund, pension fund or otherwise state related institution could have its U.S. assets impounded under this or that dubious terrorism judgement.

The Saudis would be utterly stupid to leave even a penny invested in the U.S. or in U.S. bonds should that law pass.

This not because the Saudi state had something to do or not with 9/11. Even a claim that the Saudi state somehow neglected to prevent some of its nationals to commit terrorism could, under the new law, be enough to seize U.S. investment of a Saudi national wealth fund. The Saudis said they would withdraw their $750 billion in U.S. assets should the law pass. That would be simply a necessary and prudent move and announcing that move is not "a threat".

If the law should pass not only the Saudis but any other nation state could and should pass similar laws and allow their use against the United States. Some Russian widow of a solider who died years ago from wounds received in Afghanistan by U.S. supported Mujaheddin, aka terrorists, could have U.S assets in Russia seized as compensation. Many South America countries have fought against U.S. instigated terrorism. There are many victims who could sue over such cases and there are many U.S. assets to seize.

To sue against U.S. assets under such laws would be a profitable business for some enterprising lawyers. One wonders how Congress would react when the first U.S. assets get seized.

Posted by b at 12:37 PM | Comments (63)

April 16, 2016

Clinton Lied - Benghazi Attack Was Part Of A Larger Operation

The conservative group Judicial Watch has FOIAed documents of then Secretary of State Clinton related to the September 11 2012 attack in Benghazi which killed a U.S. ambassador and several CIA honchos. The documents prove that the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of an Al-Qaeda operation. Clinton and the Obama administration have publicly claimed the attack was in reaction to some anti-Muslim movie that was circling on the Internet.

That was obviously nonsense. My post about the incidents written in the early morning of September 12 was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. All known facts pointed to that conclusion.

The documents Judicial Watch got released through several Freedom of Information court decisions confirm that my take was correct and that Clinton and the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of a well organized al-Qaeda operation.

From the Judicial Watch press release:

Judicial Watch announced today it has obtained new documents from the Department of State containing the telephone transcripts from the evening of September 11, 2012, in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informs then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil that the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi “had nothing to do with the film.”
...
Similarly, Judicial Watch litigation also forced the release of the September 11, 2012 email in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informed her daughter by email that the attack had been staged by an “Al Qaeda-like group,” rather than as the result of “inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” as Mrs. Clinton had claimed in her official public statement one hour earlier.

In her phone call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Clinton also said:

Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for these is associated with Al-Qaeda.

The known facts let me believe that the group who planned and initiated the attack was not only "associated with Al-Qaeda" but the Al-Qaeda leadership itself.


September 11 2012, U.S. Embassy Cairo

Consider again the circumstances as detailed in my earlier piece. On September 11 2012 three things happen:

Cont. reading: Clinton Lied - Benghazi Attack Was Part Of A Larger Operation

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (90)

April 14, 2016

Islamic State Attacks, Occupies Erdogan's "Safe Zone"

The Turkish President Erdogan offered the U.S. "Turkmen" troops to take the Syrian-Turkish border region currently held by the Islamic State. In return he demanded that the U.S. stop its support for the Syrian-Kurdish YPG group that also fights the Islamic State. Erdogan's new demand comes on top of the long standing plan to create a "safe zone" in north Syria in which refugees and "rebels" would be kept safe under a Turkish artillery and U.S. air umbrella.

Over the last two weeks "Turkmen" (Turkish special forces, Turkish volunteers and some Uighur fighters) together with al-Qaeda and some Syrian "rebels" proceeded from the Azaz area towards east along the Turkish-Syrian border. With Turkish cross-border artillery support and U.S. A-10 ground attack air support they managed to take a dozen Syrian villages from the Islamic State. They also captured the important Al-Rai border station.

But the Islamic State counterattacked, reoccupied Al-Rai and today cut off some of the attacking "rebel" forces from their support area around Azaz (black arrow).

Here is a map of the current situation in north Syria.


bigger

In yellow shade the YPG held enclave around Efrin. In red the Syrian government held area around Aleppo city. In green the al-Qaeda and "rebel" held areas. The northern part around Azaz next to the Turkish border is the current point of action. The dark blackish areas are held by the Islamic State.

One can see the corridor next to the Turkish border which the Islamic Sate managed to cut today. It took several villages and a refugee camp that was established on the Syrian side. The refugee camp was then shelled by Turkish artillery to again drive out the Islamic State.

This attack demonstrates that the idea of "safe zones" in norther Syria is nonsense. Such "safe zones" would be major battle ground and would be attacked, as today, from two sides. They are indefensible. On top of that Erdogan's "Turkmen" have proven to be less capable than the YPG Kurds who have withstood similar attacks by the Islamic State.

Further south the Syrian army is near closing the corridor into eastern Aleppo city which is held by al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) fighters. This "squeezing" and several other operations, marked with red arrows on the map, are in preparation for a large Syrian army attack along several axis in Aleppo governate and in Aleppo city.

Meanwhile hawks in the CIA and Pentagon want to turn the fighting in Syria into a campaign against the Russians. They want to provide serious anti-air capabilities to al-Qaeda and its "rebel" allies should the current cessation of hostilities not hold:

Officials said the CIA has made clear to its allies that the new systems, once agreed upon, would be given to the rebels only if the truce and the concurrent political track toward a lasting peace—Plan A—fall apart and full-scale fighting resumes.

I consider that to be a CIA offer to the "rebels": Break the ceasefire and you will be rewarded with better quality weapons.

One can only hope that the Obama White House, which earlier had rejected a proxy war with Russia, will therefore also reject this lunatic scheme.

Posted by b at 10:36 AM | Comments (52)

Pentagon Claims 2,750 Air Strikes Killed Just 500 Enemies

The Pentagon claims to have tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters by airstrikes. But, according to the published numbers, only very few were killed this year. At the same time the number of Islamic State fighters the Pentagon says are active and alive has remained essentially the same for over two years.

According to Pentagon claims documented below, just some 500 Islamic State fighters were killed by U.S. airstrikes in 2016. But its own Airpower Summary March 2016 says that between January and March 2,781 ground attack sorties were flown in Iraq and Syria with at least one weapon release each. Such a high sortie to kill rate is unprecedented. Who, if not Islamic State fighters, is the U.S. bombing?

Here is a list of the "Islamic State fighters killed" Pentagon claims:

Cont. reading: Pentagon Claims 2,750 Air Strikes Killed Just 500 Enemies

Posted by b at 09:05 AM | Comments (28)

April 12, 2016

Soft Coup In Libya Causes Meltdown, Breakup

(Note: This is a follow-up to Richard's recent introductive piece Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention)

By Richard Galustian

The UN backed General National Accord (GNA) arrived in Tripoli over a week ago and current events are looking more and more like a coup. Meanwhile last Friday PM Designate for the GNA suddenly flew to London on a "private visit"; odd time for him to leave Libya wouldn't you say?

There are consequences for Malta. A main one is that for most of the EU, the intended sanctions against GNA 'spoilers' are no problem for them as neither Abu Sahmain (Tripoli General National Congress, or GNC) nor Aguila Saleh (Tobruk House of Representatives, or HoR) are EU citizens and also neither have much in the way of overseas assets but the exception seems to be Malta. So the Maltese authorities are having to trawl through everything at the UN & EU's behest to find their assets and then to freeze them. Knowing that the UN/EU is likely to suddenly unfreeze them if these two men are intimidated enough to decide to cooperate. Either way Malta is put in an awkward position.

Let's backtrack a little. The GNA consisted in total of a nine-strong presidency council led by a UN selected prime minister, Fayez Serraj, and with Tripoli airspace closed, they were conveyed to their capital city by Italian frigate, transferring at sea to a small rusty Libyan coastal patrol vessel to preserve the illusion that they were not being helped by western powers. But the GNA had fractured even before they were helped aboard the Italian vessel, with two of the nine abruptly resigning, accusing the leadership of being too cozy with Tripoli militias and for their opposition to Gen. Hafter remaining head of the army.

Nevertheless, the so called GNA, more correctly called the Presidential Council, now reduced to seven, arrived in the capital, choosing to set up office in the naval base, the only part of the capital judged safe from roaming militias.

Cont. reading: Soft Coup In Libya Causes Meltdown, Breakup

Posted by b at 02:39 PM | Comments (31)

A Saudi U.S. Split Over Syria?

There is a flurry of Saudi diplomatic travel in its region. The context might be the U.S. arrangement with Russia over Syria and Saudi opposition to it. Consider:

April 7 - Saudi king starts Egypt visit in boost for Sisi

Saudi King Salman on Thursday started a five-day visit to Cairo in a show of support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with the leaders due to sign a raft of investment deals.

April 11 - Saudi King Salman meets Turkey's Erdogan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz was welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after arriving in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Monday.

As part of king Salman’s official visit to the country, regional and international issues are expected to be discussed in meetings between Turkish and Saudi officials.
...
During his visit, will later be attending the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that will be taking place in Istanbul on April 14 and 15.

April 12 - The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and King of Jordan Agree to Establish a Joint Investment Fund

Saudi Arabia and Jordan yesterday agreed to establish a joint investment fund during the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan. Prince Mohammed who is also the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence met King Abdullah II and in a joint statement that was made at the end of the visit, the two sides stressed “the importance of strengthening the existing cooperation in the fields of security and fighting terrorism and extremism”. They also stressed the “importance of participating in existing international efforts to fight terrorism made by the international coalition and the military coalition”.

April 12 - Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed receives Saudi Deputy Crown Prince

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Monday received Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, upon his arrival at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi King visits two heavy weight Middle East countries over the last days while his son visits two minor ones. Something is up here. Will there be a new Saudi organized "initiative" in Syria? What else could be the purpose of such diplomatic bustle?

On a side note:

This is the picture the Turkish President Erdogan arranged when the German chancellor Merkel visited him. Nostalgic Ottoman opulence for the frugal daughter of a Lutheran pastor.

Now compare that to the official picture with the pompous, ultra rich Saudi King.

Cont. reading: A Saudi U.S. Split Over Syria?

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (45)

April 11, 2016

Hired By Nuland, Fired By Nuland

When he was selected by the neocon U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Yats is the guy, the expectations were that Arseniy Yatsenyuk would be capable to do whatever the U.S. would order him to do in Ukraine.

But as Prime Minister of Ukraine Yatsenyuk was just a too small figure in a big game. The oligarchs still rule Ukraine and the great power politics overshadow any local politics. Even there Yatsenyuk was in way over his head. He never had real power in the parliament and the people of Ukraine hated him.

He was finally told to go by the same people who put him into his position:

KIEV, Ukraine — Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister of Ukraine, announced his resignation on Sunday in a surprise move that opened a new period of political uncertainty here.
...
Mr. Yatsenyuk and Petro O. Poroshenko, who became president, emerged as the nation’s most prominent political figures. But the revolution’s leaders soon turned on each other. [..] Ukraine’s Western allies eventually sided with Mr. Poroshenko and pushed Mr. Yatsenyuk to step aside.

Get hired by Nuland, get fired by Nuland.

The "good-bye" phone call Vice President Biden had with Yatsenyuk was lukewarm:

The Vice President thanked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk for his partnership during a historic time for Ukraine. He congratulated the government of Ukraine on its accomplishments over the past two years ..

"Partnership", "accomplishments" - I could think of greater words to express gratitude for the well paid, cushy job Biden junior was given in Ukraine. An abbreviated readout of the Biden-Yatsenyuk phone call would just say: "Don't dare to call me again".

Yatsenyuk is a good example of those who hope to ride to power on the back of U.S. regime change shenanigans. Such people are just expendable puppets to be put in the trash whenever their usefulness ends.

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (42)

April 10, 2016

Boston Globe Anti-Trump Scaremongering: He Would Continue Obama Policies

Today's Boston Globe provides some silly lubral scaremongering about Donald Trump. A piece under the headline The GOP must stop Trump is accompanied by a PDF of a Boston Globe frontpage as it would look, in the mind of the writers, should Trump win the presidency.

The top headline of the envisioned front page says "Deportations To Begin".

The Globe writers should for once start reading their own newspaper. Under Barack Obama, which the Globe supports, deportation happened all along and the government increased the numbers as well as the deportation personal.

A January 14 Boston Globe report ran under the original headline Deportations quietly continue. On March 18 a report under the headline Homeland Security using raids to curb border crossings remarked:

The Obama administration is openly and unapologetically stepping up efforts to find and deport unaccompanied children and families who arrived in the U.S. in the 2014 surge of illegal crossings.
...
Homeland Security officials have kept a wary eye on the border since more than 68,000 unaccompanied children and roughly as many people traveling as families, many fleeing widespread violence in Central America, were caught crossing the border illegally in 2014. The effort to step up enforcement against families and young immigrants started in the midst of a new wave of such immigrants.

Obama increased deportation efforts. But the Globe is now scaremongering that Trump may begin deportations? How does that fit?

Another stupid headline on the fake Trump front page says "U.S. soldiers refuse orders to kill ISIS families". Should that indeed happen it would be a very welcome surprise. Obama has ordered hundreds if not thousands of drone and air-strikes on al-Qaeda and ISIS "terrorists" which have killed not only the targets but also their families. Obama admitted that these murderous strikes happen without any due process. Despite the very murky legality of these strikes under national and international law no U.S. soldier is know to have refused orders to take part in them.

President Obama, and certainly Hillary Clinton, are more hawkish than Trump on issues of foreign policy and war. They both oppose illegal immigration just as Trump does.

It is certainly legitimate for the Globe as a more liberal paper to oppose Trump. But to do so on points where their own preferred politicians are just as bad is silly.

Posted by b at 01:09 PM | Comments (60)

Kerry's "Please Make Assad Go" Begging Rounds Look Utterly Silly

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked "Iran to help so that Bashar Assad leaves.

"We should ask them: "What does this have to do with you? Shouldn't the Syrian people decide?'"

"From Iran's point of view Bashar Assad and his government should remain as a legal government and legal president until the end of his term. And Bashar Assad shall be able to take part in a presidential election as any Syrian citizen. And their precondition that Bashar Assad should go is a red line for us."
Jerusalem Post

I have wondered for quite a while why Kerry is running from door to door with this childish insistence that Bashar al-Assad has to leave as President of Syria.

Let's assume that Assad leaves tomorrow and is replaced with some other intelligent Syrian nationalist. Someone who, like Bashar al-Assad, has majority support of the Syrian people to continue the current course.

What would change?

Yes, Bashar Assad has some symbolic character for the Syrians fighting for their state. But a good inner-Syrian propaganda campaign could easily project a like picture onto a new face. The strategic interests and the policies involved in Syria would not change at all.

After the U.S. supported "rebels" broke the ceasefire by attacking government position in south of Aleppo and in Latakia the Syrian army is preparing for a big offensive. The aim is to free all of Aleppo governate from the "rebel" al-Qaeda menace. Changing the Syrian head of state would not change these military plans. They have, like national interests, their own logic.

Does Kerry understand how silly he looks when he makes these 'Please make Bashar al Assad go' rounds?

Posted by b at 09:40 AM | Comments (40)

April 09, 2016

Open Thread 2016-14

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (231)

April 08, 2016

U.S. Delivers 3,000 Tons Of Weapons And Ammo To Al-Qaeda & Co in Syria

The United States via its Central Intelligence Agency is still delivering thousands of tons of additional weapons to al-Qaeda and others in Syria.

The British military information service Janes found the transport solicitation for the shipment on the U.S. government website FedBizOps.gov. Janes writes:

The FBO has released two solicitations in recent months looking for shipping companies to transport explosive material from Eastern Europe to the Jordanian port of Aqaba on behalf of the US Navy's Military Sealift Command.

Released on 3 November 2015, the first solicitation sought a contractor to ship 81 containers of cargo that included explosive material from Constanta in Bulgaria to Aqaba.
...
The cargo listed in the document included AK-47 rifles, PKM general-purpose machine guns, DShK heavy machine guns, RPG-7 rocket launchers, and 9K111M Faktoria anti-tank guided weapon (ATGW) systems. The Faktoria is an improved version of the 9K111 Fagot ATGW, the primary difference being that its missile has a tandem warhead for defeating explosive reactive armour (ERA) fitted to some tanks.

The Janes author tweeted the full article (copy here).

One ship with nearly one thousand tons of weapons and ammo left Constanta in Romania on December 5. The weapons are from Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania. It sailed to Agalar in Turkey which is a military pier and then to Aqaba in Jordan. Another ship with more than two-thousand tons of weapons and ammo left in late March, followed the same route and was last recorded on its way to Aqaba on April 4.

We already knew that the "rebels" in Syria received plenty of weapons during the official ceasefire. We also know that these "rebels" regularly deliver half of their weapon hauls from Turkey and Jordan to al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra):

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, ..

U.S. and Turkey supported "rebels" took part in the recent attack on Tal al-Eis against Syrian government forces which was launched with three suicide bombs by al-Qaeda in Syria. This was an indisputable breaking of the ceasefire agreement negotiated between Russia and the U.S. It is very likely that some of the weapons and ammunition the U.S. delivered in December were used in this attack.

Millions of rifle, machine-gun and mortar shots, thousands of new light and heavy weapons and hundreds of new anti-tank missiles were delivered by the U.S.. Neither Turkey nor Jordan use such weapons of Soviet provenience. These weapons are going to Syria where, as has been reported for years by multiple independent sources, half of them go directly to al-Qaeda.

From historic experience we can be sure that the consequence of this weaponizing of takfiris will be not only be the death of "brown people" in the Middle East, but also attacks on "western" people and interests.

Skyscrapers falling in New York and hundreds of random people getting killed in Paris, Brussels, London and (likely soon) Berlin seem not enough to deter the politicians and "experts" that actively support this criminal war on Syria and its people.

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (59)

April 07, 2016

What Qualifies A Politician?

This seems to be unqualified reporting.

Washington Post April 6 2016

Washington Post April 7 2016

Anyway.

What does qualify a politician?

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (83)

April 05, 2016

Syria - As Rebels Break Ceasefire Army Gathers For New Campaign

The ceasefire in Syria held for some five weeks but is now about to end. During the ceasefire Russia reduced its forces in Syria and the Syrian Arab Army made significant progress against the Islamic State.  But the opposition and their sponsors abused the ceasefire to rearm. They prepared and executed new attacks against the Syrian government and Syrian civilians.

The sponsors of the opposition, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the U.S. delivered new arms and munition to the "moderate" opposition. It is known that up to half of all supplies the "moderates" receive is inevitably delivered to al-Qaeda in Syria. The sponsors also broke a long-standing taboo and introduced portable anti-air missiles (MANPADs) onto the battle field. Several fighters of the U.S. and Turkey supported Al Hamza brigade posted pictures showing off their new toys. The U.S. claims that these fighters are supposed to only fight the Islamic State. But the Islamic State has no aircraft and these weapons are clearly to be used against the Syrian government and its supporters.

Today Ahrar al-Sham, a Salafist group near to al-Qaeda, downed (video) a Syrian Su-22 ground-attack plane with a MANPAD near the city of Tal Eis, south of Aleppo city. The pilot, Lt. Col Musad Zayed Hirani, was taken prisoner by al-Qaeda in Syria (Jabhat al Nusra). This incident shows that MANPADs immediately proliferate on the battle field and beyond and may soon be used against civilian planes in the Middle East and around the world.

Also today "moderate" rebels launched improvised artillery attacks on the mostly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud neighborhood in the government held parts of Aleppo city. At least 17 civilians were killed and more than 50 were wounded.

The "moderate" opposition in Syria which is receiving official U.S. support is not willing to distance itself from al-Qaeda:

“We absolutely do not agree with Jabhat Al Nusra. We do not want Jabhat Al Nusra’s ideology to be in Syria now or in the future. But we need fighters who will fight with us against the regime," said Zakaria Malahefji, a political officer with Fastaqim Kama Umrit, a coalition of rebel groups in the city of Aleppo.
...
“Jabhat Al Nusra are our brothers," said Hajj Bakri, a rebel leader in Hama. “We have no problem with them."
...
“Our relationship with Jabhat Al Nusra is good and there is a collaboration with Jabhat Al Nusra in military operations and security responsibilities," said Abu Zeid, a commander with the hardline Salafi militia Ahrar Al Sham in north-western Syria’s Akrad Mountains. As one of the most powerful rebel factions in the war, Ahrar Al Sham is Al Nusra’s most important single ally.

Al-Qaeda in Syria was, like the Islamic State, not part of the ceasefire agreement. The U.S. officially regards al-Qaeda in Syria as a terrorist entity and enemy. Al-Qaeda has zero interest in any negotiated peace and is therefore doing its best to sabotage it. During the last weeks it succeeded in convincing the "moderates" to join it in renewed fighting:

Faced by an internationally-mediated cessation of hostilities that threatened to irreversibly erode its influence, Nusra had begun in mid-March a process of talks inside Syria aimed at convincing opposition groups to resume their fight against the regime. As such, the last 48 hours of opposition advances south of Aleppo represent a victory for al-Qaeda in its efforts to undermine the political process and to put back in place conditions more amenable to its long game strategy for Syria.

On Saturday several U.S. supported "moderate" rebel groups joined al-Qaeda in an attack on the government held city of Tal Eis in the south Aleppo countryside:

Syria's partial cease-fire appeared to be unraveling Saturday as fierce fighting between government forces and opposition fighters, including members of the al-Qaida affiliated Nusra Front, erupted outside the country's second largest city of Aleppo and other parts in the country's north.

At least 25 pro-government and 16 opposition fighters died in the clashes south of Aleppo, where the Nusra Front and rebel militias captured a village overlooking a major highway, a Britain-based monitoring group told The Associated Press.
...
A number of groups — including some nominally party to the truce agreement — acknowledged on social media that they were battling government forces.

The Islam Army, whose political coordinator heads the opposition delegation during halting peace talks in Geneva, announced it had killed 20 government soldiers in fighting outside Damascus Friday. It announced Saturday it was also fighting in the south Aleppo countryside, though the group is not known to have a major presence there.

It is obvious now that the "moderate" rebels have broken the ceasefire and are openly in full cooperation with al-Qaeda.

Unless the opposition sponsors manage to immediately reign in their proxies, all out war in Syria will soon be back. The Syrian government and its allies are now mobilizing more forces to regain the lost areas in the southern Aleppo country side. For the first time 'advisors' of the regular Iranian army (not the Revolutionary Guard) will take part in the fighting. The Russian air force is likely to reintroduce some parts of its Syria contingent that had been withdrawn.

The Russian side had agreed with the U.S. to stop the fighting and to take the political walk through negotiations in Geneva. This decision was made against the wishes of the Syrian government and its Iranian allies. They would have preferred to at least free Aleppo city of all opposition forces before any talks.

But even if the ceasefire now breaks down the Russian move was valuable. It showed that it is able to hold its allies to a ceasefire when promised. It also demonstrated that the U.S. side is either not able, or not willing to implement and keep a ceasefire but abuses such period to rearm its proxies for new fighting.

The coming Syrian government campaign, with full support of its allies, will likely be at a more intense level than its last offensive. That attack had the rebels on the run, defeated and in parts fleeing the battle field when it was stopped by the ceasefire agreement. The coming attack will be more intense and will not stop until the opposition has taken very significant damage.

Today the Syrian army issued a statement asking all civilians to leave the areas held by the opposition within the next 48 hours. It promises that the new campaign will "give a lesson" to al-Qaeda and its followers.

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (98)

April 04, 2016

Selective Leaks Of The #PanamaPapers Create Huge Blackmail Potential

A real leak of data from a law firm in Panama would be very interesting. Many rich people and/or politicians hide money in shell companies that such firms in Panama provide. But the current heavily promoted "leak" of such data to several NATO supporting news organization and a US government financed "Non Government Organization" is just a lame attempt to smear some people the U.S. empire dislikes. It also creates a huge blackmail opportunity by NOT publishing certain data in return for this or that desired favor.

Already some 16 month ago Ken Silverstein reported for Vice on a big shady shell company provider, Mossak Fonseca in Panama. (Pierre Omidyar's Intercept, for which Silverstein was then working, refused to publish the piece.) Yves Smith published several big stories about the Mossak Fonseca money laundering business. Silverstein also repeated the well known fact that Rami Makhlouf, a rich cousin of the Syrian president Assad, had some money hidden in Mossak Fonseca shell companies. He explains:

To conduct business, shell companies like Drex need a registered agent, sometimes an attorney, who files the required incorporation papers and whose office usually serves as the shell's address. This process creates a layer between the shell and its owner, especially if the dummy company is filed in a secrecy haven where ownership information is guarded behind an impenetrable wall of laws and regulations. In Makhlouf's case—and, I discovered, in the case of various other crooked businessmen and international gangsters—the organization that helped incorporate his shell company and shield it from international scrutiny was a law firm called Mossack Fonseca, which had served as Drex's registered agent from July 4, 2000, to late 2011.

A year ago someone provided tons of data from Mossak Fonseca to a German newpaper, the Sueddeutsche Zeitung. The Munich daily is politically on the center right and staunchly pro NATO. It cooperates with the Guardian, the BBC, Le Monde, the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists and some other news organization who are all known supporters of the establishment.

The Sueddeutsche claims that the "leaked" data is about some 214,000 shell companies and 14,000 Mossak Fonseca clients. There is surely a lot of hidden dirt in there. How many U.S. Senators are involved in such companies? Which European Union politicians? What are the big Wall Street banks and hedge funds hiding in Panama? Oh, sorry. The Sueddeutsche and its partners will not answer those questions. Here is how they "analyzed" the data:

The journalists compiled lists of important politicians, international criminals, and well-known professional athletes, among others. The digital processing made it possible to then search the leak for the names on these lists. The "party donations scandal" list contained 130 names, and the UN sanctions list more than 600. In just a few minutes, the powerful search algorithm compared the lists with the 11.5 million documents.

For each name found, a detailed research process was initiated that posed the following questions: what is this person’s role in the network of companies? Where does the money come from? Where is it going? Is this structure legal?

Essentially the Sueddeutsche compiled a list of known criminals and people and organizations the U.S. dislikes and cross checked them with the "leaked" database. Selected hits were then further evaluated. The outcome are stories like the annual attempt to smear the Russian president Putin, who is not even mentioned in the Mossak Fonseca data, accusations against various people of the soccer association FIFA, much disliked by the U.S., and a few mentions of other miscreants of minor relevancy.

There is no story about any U.S. person, none at all, nor about any important NATO politician. The highest political "casualty" so far is the irrelevant Prime Minister of Iceland Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson who, together with his wife, owned one of the shell companies. There is no evidence that the ownership or the money held by that company were illegal.

So where is the beef?

As former UK ambassador Craig Murray writes, the beef (if there is any at all) is in what is hidden by the organizations that manage the "leak":

The filtering of this Mossack Fonseca information by the corporate media follows a direct western governmental agenda. There is no mention at all of use of Mossack Fonseca by massive western corporations or western billionaires – the main customers. And the Guardian is quick to reassure that “much of the leaked material will remain private.”

What do you expect? The leak is being managed by the grandly but laughably named “International Consortium of Investigative Journalists”, which is funded and organised entirely by the USA’s Center for Public Integrity. Their funders include

Ford Foundation
Carnegie Endowment
Rockefeller Family Fund
W K Kellogg Foundation
Open Society Foundation (Soros)

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) is part of the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) which is financed by the U.S. government through USAID.

The "leak" is of data selected by U.S. friendly organization out of a database, likely obtained by U.S. secret services, which can be assumed to include much dirt about "western" persons and organizations.

To only publish very selected data from the "leaked" data has two purposes:

  • It smears various "enemies of the empire" even if only by association like the presidents Putin and Assad.
  • It lets other important people, those mentioned in the database but not yet published about, know that the U.S. or its "media partner" can, at any time, expose their dirty laundry to the public. It is thereby a perfect blackmailing instrument.

The engineered "leak" of the "Panama Papers" is a limited hangout designed to incriminate a few people and organization the U.S. dislikes. It is also a demonstration of the "torture tools" to the people who did business with Mossak Fonseca but have not (yet) been published about. They are now in the hands of those who control the database. They will have to do as demanded or else ...

Posted by b at 12:25 AM | Comments (287)

April 02, 2016

U.S. CentCom History: "2014 - Syrian Terrorist Group ISIS Invades Iraq"

Significant parts of the U.S. military, its secret services and its politicians want to deny any culpability in the creation of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Thus they resort to extreme falsifications of historical facts. They create fantasy narratives that completely leave out their own mistakes.

The U.S. Central Command created a coalition of several countries' military to wage war on ISIS. The operation is known under the the moniker "Inherent Resolve". CentCom created a website that propagandizes the operation. On the About page of that website we find this "History" of ISIS:


bigger

HISTORY

In the summer of 2014, a new terrorist group which had risen during the chaos of the Syrian Civil War attacked across the Syrian-Iraqi borders and seized large swaths of Iraqi territory in the Euphrates River Valley and northern Iraq. Several Iraqi towns fell to the invaders, who called themselves “The Islamic State.” By the end of summer, it seemed that Baghdad itself was threatened by IS.

This is not only far away from the truth but an outrageous fabrication to deny and distort what really happened. ISIS was not created in Syria but in Iraq, it existed way before 2014 and its existence has nothing to do with war on Syria. To state that ISIS somehow came from Syria and in 2014 invaded Iraq is like claiming that Hitler invaded Germany in 1944.

ISIS was created in Iraq due to the U.S. war on Iraq. The leading ISIS members, former Al-Qaeda in Iraq fighters, found each other and planned the creation of ISIS Caliphate in 2006 in the U.S. prisoner camp Bucca in Iraq:

According to a CBS News investigation, at least 12 of the top leaders of ISIS served time at Camp Bucca, including the man who would become the group's leader, Abu Bakr al Baghdadi. CBS News obtained photos of 10 of them in Bucca's yellow prison jumpsuits.
...
"I think it's undeniable that one of the main causes of ISIS's explosive growth after 2010 was Bucca. It's where they met, it's where they planned," said Patrick Skinner.

Skinner is with the Soufan Group and was a former CIA case officer who spent time in Iraq.

It is undeniable that ISIS started in Iraq years before the war on Syria:

October 2006 - AQI leader Abu Ayyub al-Masri announces the creation of Islamic State of Iraq (ISI), and establishes Abu Omar al-Baghdadi as its leader.

April 2010 - Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi becomes leader of ISI after Abu Omar al-Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri are killed in a joint U.S.-Iraqi operation.

April 2013 - ISI declares its absorption of an al Qaeda-backed militant group in Syria, Jabhat al-Nusra, also known as the al-Nusra Front. Al-Baghdadi says that his group will now be known as Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS). Al-Nusra Front leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani rejects ISIS's attempt to merge with the group.

The above CNN timeline jumps over 2011 when the Al-Nusra's leader Abu Mohammed al-Jawlani was sent by al-Baghdadi to Syria from Iraq to reorganize Al-Qaeda cells that were secretly established in Syria long before the first demonstrations there took place. Al-Jawlani, who had also been imprisoned in Camp Bucca, came to Syria in March 2011 when the first demonstrations against the Syrian government just started:

A leader of Jordan’s ultra-Orthodox and banned Salafi movement said al-Baghdadi sent al-Golani and Abu Jleibeen, a senior al-Qaeda operative who has a relationship by marriage to al-Zarqawi, to fight in Syria, ..

Like Ahrar al-Shams, Jabhat Al-Nusra cells were secretly establishing themselves even before the "revolution" in Syria began:

The Ahrar started working on forming brigades “after the Egyptian revolution,” Abu Zayd said, well before March 15, 2011, when the Syrian revolution kicked off with protests in the southern agricultural city of Dara’a.

To claim that the Islamic State somehow started in Syria, as CentCom does, is to claim the opposite of what really happened. The Islamic State under Baghdadi sent fighters and leaders to Syria to created and prop-up the "revolution" against the Syrian state. The religious and philosophical roots of ISIS are grounded in Wahhabism and are of Saudi, not Syrian or Iraqi, origin.

Another fake history story is build by the CIA elements and U.S. politicians who launched the war on Syria from the "color revolution" side. Witness this astonishingly false CBS headline: Obama Nixed CIA Plan That Could Have Stopped ISIS: Officials

The CIA in 2012 proposed a detailed covert action plan designed to remove Syrian President Bashar Assad from power, but President Obama declined to approve it, current and former U.S. officials tell NBC News.
...
[The CIA chief] Petraeus and others who supported the plan believe it could have prevented the rise of ISIS, Assad's use of chemical weapons, the European refugee crisis and the tens of thousands of civilian deaths that have happened since, the former officials say.

Overthrowing the Syrian government would have created more chaos in Syria which very likely the Islamic State, already established in Syria at that time in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra, would have used to take Damascus and to gain primacy in Syria. Everything else is pure wishful thinking which ignores the military superiority the Takfiri groups like Ahrar, Nusra and ISIS have always had compared to the "moderate" Jihadist rebels that have direct U.S. support. The CBS piece is also about the former CIA man who was the original author of the covert action plan. He seems to disagree with what the CBS headline claims:

Looking back, Laux now says he doesn't believe his or any other covert plan could have stopped the rise of ISIS or ended Syria's bloody civil war. "There were no moderates," he says.

It is frightening to think that Central Command, which is supposed to fight the Islamic State, might believe its own propaganda, that ISIS came from Syria. One can not successfully fight ISIS when one does not know its real origin: the U.S. war on Iraq and CentCom's own meager to ignorant performance during that war.

Posted by b at 11:45 AM | Comments (63)

April 01, 2016

Open Thread 2016-13

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (168)

March 31, 2016

Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

This circulates as the picture of a Sunni boy slaughtered by Iran led Shia militia in Fallujah, Iraq.

But like many pictures and videos from Syria, Iraq and elsewhere this one does not show the full extend of the massacre.

More pictures of the boy ...

Cont. reading: Chicken Propaganda (Graphic)

Posted by b at 06:08 AM | Comments (45)

March 30, 2016

How The U.S. Continues To Arm al-Qaeda

Exhibit 1

According to rebels in the Turkish border zone, weapons have flowed steadily into Syria since the ceasefire began. Even those who hope for a political settlement aren’t betting on one any time soon. Instead they’re stockpiling for the next round, which they expect will be as desperate as the last.
...
“We ask the Friends of Syria and they give us,” [Colonel Hassan Rajoub, commander of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) Division 16], said with a smile. “They have just now given us new supplies of everything. But we want some special weapons to give us a little bit of leverage.”
...
[S]everal FSA commanders said the United States had been forthcoming during the ceasefire period, replenishing arms stocks and leaving open the possibility that some anti-aircraft missiles might be released into northern Syria.

“We expect a surprise,” said one satisfied commander.
...
“The U.S. military commanders are always with us,” Rajoub said. “We ask. They are very cooperative. They understand our needs.”

---
Around Aleppo, It’s Not Peace—Just a Break, Thanassis Cambanis, Century Foundation, March 28 2016

Exhibit 2

Hard-core Islamists in the Nusra Front have long outgunned the more secular, nationalist, Western-supported rebels. According to FSA officers, Nusra routinely harvests up to half the weapons supplied by the Friends of Syria, a collection of countries opposed to Assad, and has regularly smashed FSA factions that were corrupt and inefficient — or that Nusra thought were getting too strong or too popular.
---
The Syrian Revolution Against al Qaeda, Thanassis Cambanis, Foreign Policy, March 29 2016

Posted by b at 12:19 PM | Comments (31)

March 29, 2016

Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention - by Richard Galustian

The extensive piece below on the situation in Libya is by Richard Galustian, a long time Middle East and North African security specialist and author. In February we discussed the whitewash U.S. media is giving Hillary Clinton and the U.S., British and French 2011 war on Libya. In March we borrowed from Richard Galustian's work in and on Libya for a look at some curious personal interests in the current build up to a sequel of the earlier war.

Galustian discusses the situation on the ground in Libya, the details of the various local groups and interests involved and the continuing and coming international interference in Libya. He analyses possible alternative steps forward. His thoughts on the subject are based on his extensive on-the-ground knowledge of the tribes and militias of Libya. This presents a unique insight into the most complex labyrinth of inter-connected Libyan and foreign interests.

---

Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention

by Richard Galustian

It is something that had never happened in any country since the formation of the United Nations. The UN has, without an election, created unilaterally its own government for a country, and then immediately recognized it. The Government of National Accord, the GNA for Libya is a government based in exile and not elected but chosen by the "International Community".
 
A concerted effort over Easter for the GNA in exile in Tunis to 'take power' in Tripoli failed completely despite the spin and false optimism of the UN and the U.S. and UK in particular.
 
Let's rewind a little.
 
The recent United Nations plan to bring peace to Libya and eliminate ISIS was/is a two stage process fraught with great risk, uncertainty and is poorly thought out.
 
First is to persuade Libya’s factions to unite under a Government, the GNA while it is in exile. Second, to provide weapons, training and air support for a newly united Libyan army to attack ISIS. 
 
These are totally unrealistic expectations that will never happen.
 
The background needs to be understood. The critical fact being that Libya’s main factions are divided into two very loose camps.
 
One camp supports the elected parliament, the House of Representatives (HoR) in Tobruk. The other is made up of the previous parliament, the General National Congress (GNC) and supports 'Libya Dawn', an Islamist-led coalition of militias that include the extremist elements of the Muslim Brotherhood and former Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) revolutionaries. The LIFG is an al-Qaeda offshoot.
 
Civil war began in July 2014 when 'Libya Dawn' seized Tripoli by force after the elections saw sharp losses for the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies including notably former leader of the LIFG, the infamous Abdel Hakim Belhadj, currently suing in the London Courts the then Foreign Minister and MI-6. 
 
The HoR won international recognition straight after the UN announced its election was free and fair, but under intimidation (that's when Islamists destroyed Tripoli International Airport etc) from militias, the HoR fled east to Tobruk.
 
To further complicate the situation one must realize that within these two camps are a lattice work of rivalries and tribal divisions.
 
Libya has no ‘third force’ of police or army acceptable to all sides. The militias are the third force! Essentially they represents 'guns for hire'. The army and police are first and second.
 
The problem for the international community is while destroying ISIS is their stated priority, both Libya’s rival camps see each other as the greater threat. ISIS is a threat, but neither camp believes it is an existential threat, so the priority for both camps is fighting each other.
 
 
    1.1 In Derna,1.2 In Sirte,1.3 In Sabratha
2 Tobruk (HoR) Government Forces
    2.1 Regular forces, 2.2 Petroleum Facilities Guard, 2.3 Zintan + Warshefa militias
3 'Libya Dawn'
    8.1 Sanctions - stop and search ships and planes, 8.2 Muslim Brotherhood, 8.3 Libyan Institutions, 8.4 Benghazi
Conclusion

Map of Libya, Oil and gas locations
 
 
1 ISIS in Libya
 
Bases: Derna, Sirte, Sabratha; Strength: 6,000 (Pentagon estimate)
 
1.1 In Derna
 
ISIS arrived in Libya in the summer of 2014 and established control of the eastern town of Derna, aided by a Yemeni preacher and a group of 200-300 ISIS fighters, many of them Libyan, includes many of the Al Badr Brigade, which had fought in Syria and Ansar Al Sharia whom some credit for killing the US Ambassador and three other Americans in Benghazi.
 
In June 2015 a mixed force of regular army and an Al Qaida affiliated militia, Omar Mukhtar Brigade, pushed ISIS out of the town to its base in the forested green mountains to the south, the only high ground in the East.

Cont. reading: Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention - by Richard Galustian

Posted by b at 10:17 AM | Comments (56)

March 28, 2016

Syria - How The Palmyra Victory Changes the Narrative

The liberation of Palmyra is a decisive turning point in the war on Syria. While there were earlier military successes by the Syrian Arab Army and its allies, the publicity value of securing the valued Roman ruins of Palmyra is much higher than any earlier victory. It will change some of the false narratives of the conflict.

The Syrian government is no longer "the Assad regime" and the Syrian Arab Army no longer the "Assad forces". Ban Ki Moon, the head of the United Nations, congratulated the Syrian government to its success:

In a news conference in Jordan, Ban said he was "encouraged" that the UNESCO world heritage site is out of extremist hands and that the Syrian government "is now able to preserve and protect this human common cultural asset".

One important part of liberating Palmyra was the use of Russian electronic warfare equipment to interfere with electromagnetic signals around Palmyra. The Islamic State rigged the ruins with improvised explosive devices but was unable to remotely detonate them.

The myth that the Syrian and Russian government are in cahoots with the Islamic State, told by various propagandist as well as the British and U.S. government, has now proven to be false. But other false claims are still made:

Lost in the celebrations was a discussion of how Palmyra had fallen in the first place. When the Islamic State captured the city in May, the militants faced little resistance from Syrian troops. At the time, residents said officers and militiamen had fled into orchards outside the city, leaving conscripted soldiers and residents to face the militants alone.

That depiction of the battle is pure nonsense. The Islamic State offensive that ended with its occupation of Palmyra took thirteen days from May 13 to May 26 2015. Heavy fighting and several Syrian army counter offensives took place during those days. After the Islamic State finally captured the city, the Syrian army immediately prepared for a larger operation to regain the city. This was launched successfully in July 2015 but for lack of air support the gains made were again lost a week later.

Throughout the 2015 fighting around Palmyra the U.S. air force, which claimed to fight the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, did not intervene at all. ISIS was free to resupply through the open east-Syrian desert.

The sole reason that the Islamic State could successfully attack Palmyra was a very large ongoing attack by al-Qaeda Jihadists and CIA mercenary forces on the Syrian government forces in Idleb governate. The Syrian army moved troops from Palmyra to defend Idleb and Latakia and the forces left behind were no longer large enough to repel the Islamic State attack.

The attack on Idleb, for which the CIA allowed its proxy forces to directly cooperated with al-Qaeda, was supported by electronic warfare from Turkey which disrupted the Syrian military communication. The attack and the obvious cooperation between the Jihadists and Turkish and U.S. secret services was the reason that Russia and Iran decided to intervene in the conflict with their own forces. It had crossed their red line.

What followed was the roll up of all "rebels" that posed an immediate danger to the Syrian government. After Turkey ambushed a Russian jet all "rebel" forces supported by Turkey became priority targets. When the success of large scale offensives in Latakia and around Aleppo was established, Russia imposed a cease fire on the U.S. supported forces and on the Syria government. This cease fire freed up the Syrian, Iranian and Russian forces needed to successfully take back Palmyra. From there on the attack will progress eastward to Deir Ezzor and later on to Raqqa.

The Palmyra victory was the biggest defeat yet of the Islamic State. It poses a problem for the Obama administration:

Washington has endeavored to portray the battle against Islamic State as a project of the United States and its allies, while accusing Moscow of attacking “moderate” rebels instead of the extremists. Palmyra seems to embody an alternative narrative.

Congratulations, though still with loads of obligatory anti-Assad rhetoric, are now coming from unexpected corners like the conservative mayor of London:

I cannot conceal my elation as the news comes in from Palmyra and it is reported that the Syrian army is genuinely back in control of the entire Unesco site.

There may be booby traps in the ruins, but the terrorists are at last on the run. Hooray, I say. Bravo – and keep going.

I concur.

Posted by b at 05:50 AM | Comments (93)

March 27, 2016

Palmyra's Liberation, Ishtar's Resurrection And The Easter Walk

The Syrian Arab Army and its allies have taken the Palmyra ruins and Tadmor city next to them from the Islamic State. To the chagrin of the U.S. State Department (vid), the Islamic State occupiers pulled back into the eastern desert after losing some 500 men. The Syrian government can now use the air base in Palmyra and from there regain control of the eastern desert country up to Deir Ezzor and the Syrian/Iraqi border in the east and towards the Jordan border in the south.

The Easter holidays and the fertility symbols of the hare and the eggs are said to be derived from the Germanic goddess Eostre or Ostara. But it is probably more likely that they derive from the older Mesopotamian goddess of Ishtar:

Ishtar is the Mesopotamian East Semitic (Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian) goddess of fertility, love, war, and sex. She is the counterpart to the earlier attested Sumerian Inanna, and the cognate for the later attested Northwest Semitic Aramean goddess Astarte. Ishtar was an important deity in Mesopotamian religion which was extant from c.3500 BC, until its gradual decline between the 1st and 5th centuries AD in the face of Christianity.

Interestingly the myth of Ishtar includes her descent into the underworld of death and her resurrection and return to life after higher divine intervention:

One of the most famous myths about Ishtar describes her descent to the underworld. In this myth, Ishtar approaches the gates of the underworld and demands that the gatekeeper open them.  ... The gatekeeper hurried to tell Ereshkigal, the Queen of the Underworld. Ereshkigal told the gatekeeper to let Ishtar enter, but "according to the ancient decree". The gatekeeper let Ishtar into the underworld, opening one gate at a time. At each gate, Ishtar had to shed one article of clothing. When she finally passed the seventh gate, she was naked. ...

After Ishtar descended to the underworld, all sexual activity ceased on earth. The god Papsukal reported the situation to Ea, the king of the gods. Ea created an intersex being called Asu-shu-namir and sent it to Ereshkigal, telling it to invoke "the name of the great gods" against her and to ask for the bag containing the waters of life. Ereshkigal was enraged when she heard Asu-shu-namir's demand, but she had to give it the water of life. Asu-shu-namir sprinkled Ishtar with this water, reviving her. Then, Ishtar passed back through the seven gates, getting one article of clothing back at each gate, and was fully clothed as she exited the last gate.

Ishtar brings us back to Palmyra which hails from the same age:

Palmyra entered the historical record during the Bronze Age around 2000 BC, when Puzur-Ishtar the Tadmorean (Palmyrene) agreed to a contract at an Assyrian trading colony in Kultepe. It was mentioned next in the Mari tablets as a stop for trade caravans and nomadic tribes, such as the Suteans.

Today there is a hotel named Ishtar just a two minute walk away from the ruins of Palmyra. Book it for your next years Easter holiday.

For me Easter (or Ishtar?) is no Easter without rereading Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Easter Walk from his Faust I opus:

Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,

Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.

They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.

For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.

The people of Syria, of Palmyra/Tadmor, have good reason to celebrate today. And to take a happy Easter walk. Happy Easter!

Posted by b at 05:21 AM | Comments (67)

March 26, 2016

The Wahhabis' War On Yemen One Year On - When Will Riyadh Fall?

One year ago the Wahhabis of Saudi Arabia, supported by the U.S., the Brits and several Gulf states, launched a war against Yemen:

Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capital Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army.
...
There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was "elected" but with a ballot like this any "election" is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force.

A year later the Houthis are no longer in Aden. Saudi proxy troops, which include "western" mercenaries, "liberated" it. But Aden is now infested with Al Qaeda and Islamic State militants who launched several suicide attacks over the last days killing many more people than were recently killed in Belgium. It is known that at least Al Qaeda in Yemen has direct Saudi support and is fighting on its side.

But despite all its proxies, massive bombing and many announcements the Saudis did not get anywhere near the capital Sanaa. Instead Houthi forces attacked Saudi forces within Saudi Arabia and destroyed several hundred Saudi tanks and armored vehicles.

The Saudis and the U.S. and British military supporting them are guilty of war crimes willfully targeting hospitals, schools and civilian infrastructure as well as many people who were not involved in the war. Haykal Bafana talked to BBC Newshour today from Sanaa in Yemen about the war and the Saudi crimes.

Shortly before the war started Pat Lang wrote:

The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return. pl

That is as right today as it was a year back. Here are some pictures from Yemen today.

A pro-Saudi demonstration in Yemen as published by Saudi media:

Half of the anti-Saudi demonstration on Sabaeen Square in Sanaa (video) today. Saleh's GPC party had called for it. Former president Saleh attended and the crowd sang the national anthem. Saleh is baaaackk!:

bigger

A separate anti-Saudi demonstration in Rawdah Sanaa. The Houthi had called for this one. Many women attended:

bigger

The Saudis managed to bomb the Yemenis back to Saleh! If the Saudis continue with their war on Yemen, Yemen will survive. But it will be Saudi Arabia that will at the end be destroyed. Riyadh, not Sanaa, will fall.

Posted by b at 01:27 PM | Comments (59)

March 25, 2016

Roundup Of Current News On Syria

In January the Jordan King Abdullah talked to a bunch of U.S. lawmakers behind closed doors. He accused Turkey of willfully transferring "refugees" and terrorists to Europe and of doing oil business with ISIS.

Those well founded accusations is not new for anyone who actually followed the issue. What is new is that some U.S. lawmaker felt a need to leak this now:

King Abdullah of Jordan accused Turkey of exporting terrorists to Europe at a top level meeting with senior US politicians in January, the MEE can reveal.

The king said Europe’s biggest refugee crisis was not an accident, and neither was the presence of terrorists among them: “The fact that terrorists are going to Europe is part of Turkish policy and Turkey keeps on getting a slap on the hand, but they are let off the hook.”

Asked by one of the congressmen present whether the Islamic State group was exporting oil to Turkey, Abdullah replied: ”Absolutely.”
...
The king presented Turkey as part of a strategic challenge to the world.

"We keep being forced to tackle tactical problems against ISIL but not the strategic issue. We forget the issue [of] the Turks who are not with us on this strategically."

He claimed that Turkey had not only supported religious groups in Syria, and letting foreign fighters in, but had also been helping Islamist militias in Libya and Somalia.

Abdullah claimed that "radicalisation was being manufactured in Turkey" and asked the US senators why the Turks were training the Somali army.

That Turkey is supporting Jihadis not only in Syria but also in Libya and in the Balkans has been documented but was missing from main stream news. We can hope that some of the bigger media will now pick up on this.

In Syria the Syrian Arab Army is proceeding to envelope the Islamic State held city of Tadmur/Palmyra. It is systematically taking the heights around the city but has not yet brought the fighting deeper into the city. The Islamic State fighters have defended well so far but have no means to counter the heavy Syrian and Russian air strikes that support the ground troops. They are losing a lot of men. There are strong sandstorms announced for the next 72 hour which will make further air support impossible. The Syrian troops would be well advised to hunker down along defensible lines for now and to only take on the city once the sandstorms are over and air support is again available.

In south-west Syria, right next to the Israeli and Jordan border, Shuhada al-Yarmouk is fighting and making gains (map) against U.S. supported insurgents. Shuhada al-Yarmouk is believed to be part of the Islamic State. It has never officially announced such but is led by a known Islamic State commander. One wonders how the group, completely cut off from other Islamic State held areas in east-Syria, can resupply and take care of its wounded. In the past Israel had supported and supplied Jabhat al-Nusra fighters on the Golan heights against the Syrian army. Is it now supporting the Islamic State against U.S. supported insurgents in south Syria?

The talks between Secretary of State Kerry and The Russian President and Foreign Minister have brought no immediate new results. But it is important to see that the U.S. now has to admit that its attempt to "isolate" Russia has failed:

His mission in Moscow centred on Syria, but Kerry also ushered in a warm front, interpreted as a softening of the often-hostile rhetoric between the U.S. and Russia.

Both parties confirmed the UN timetable for steps to be taken by the Syrian government and the opposition. The Russians again emphasized that the Kurdish people in Syria must be involved in the talks. At the same time they warned the Syrian Kurds that any element of autonomy or federation will likely be much less than they envision:

MOSCOW, March 25. /TASS/. Moscow is explaining in its contacts with Kurds that Syria is an indivisible country that should not be broken into parts, Russia's presidential envoy on the Middle East and North Africa, Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov told reporters on Friday.

One should ignore all the claims that Russia wants to federalize Syria. I see no evidence for that and I believe that Russia knows well that any federalization would be more troublesome than a centralized Syrian state.

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (38)

Open Thread 2016-12

Judas: Still on for Friday?
Jesus: Friday?
Judas: Yeah, the last supper.
Jesus: The what?
Judas: Supper, normal supper with the fellas.

---

News & views ...

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (140)

March 24, 2016

Clinton's Plan To "Defeat ISIS" Is A Threat

Hillary Clinton's three part plan to defeat ISIS is to:

  • Defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria
  • Destroy ISIS everywhere
  • Prevent ISIS attacks in the U.S.A.


bigger

That plan, to me, seems similar to George W. Bush's plan to defeat the Taliban which was to defeat the Taliban. Or maybe more like Nixon's plan to defeat drugs which had nothing to do with drugs but was actually a plan to criminalize blacks and antiwar hippies.

The real motive behind the above Clinton nonsense may be the interest of the powers-that-are to keep the war on ISIS going forever. Obama already did his best to establish ISIS. He refrained from fighting it in its infancy in 2012, refrained from holding it back in Iraq to "regime change" Prime Minister Maliki and kept its revenues flowing until Putin shamed him into finally bombing its oil infrastructure.

Clinton's plan, which declares only aims without any steps to reach them, would mean endless wars in this or that Middle East country and/or in Africa or Asia. It means further suppression of any privacy and opposition at home.

It is not a plan but a threat. Will she win votes with such nonsense?

Posted by b at 02:22 AM | Comments (109)

March 22, 2016

Mr. Trump Goes To Washington

Donald Trump toured Washington yesterday for backroom meetings with Republican party bigwigs, for pandering to the Israel lobby and for an examination by the neoconned Washington Post editors.

The Republican party has given up its resistance to Trump. See for example the Republican functionary John Feehery who opined on February 29 that Trump is an authoritarian, and:

We beat the Nazis and the Japanese in the World War II and protected freedom and democracy by beating the Soviet Union in the Cold War. It would be a damn shame if we lost it all by giving in to the authoritarian impulse in this election.

The same guy only twenty-two days later:

Republican voters can support the nominee picked by a majority of the voters, they can sit this election out, or they can start a third party. The last two choices give the White House to the Clinton machine.

I am not happy that Donald Trump could be our nominee, but I am learning to live with that distinct possibility.

That, in short, is the revised position of the Republican party. It has given up on fighting Trump and will now propel him into the White House. What will happen thereafter? Who knows?

Trump is pure marketing. A salesperson throughout. This video explains how his linguistics works - words with only very few syllables, strong buzzword at the end of the sentences. It is fourth grade reading level language. Exactly the level needed to sell his product to the U.S. public and the Republican party. He is an expert in doing this.

But what product does Trump sell? Does he know it? Does he know how that product functions? Is he serious in what he claims that product to be. I have my doubts.

So has Par Lang. He remarks on yesterday's Trump appearance at the U.S. Zionists beauty contests:

Trump's pander was so extreme that one ponders the possibility that he was mocking the audience.

Trump probably does not even care what political product he sells. For now he is selling the salesman himself. Buy Trump and all problems will be solved. He does this convincingly. Most of what he said so far is just nonsense and solely for marketing purpose. There are only few consistent political lines that did not (yet) change over time. These are the lines that rile the Washington Post editors:

Donald Trump endorsed an unabashedly noninterventionist approach to world affairs Monday during a day-long tour of Washington, casting doubt on the need for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and expressing skepticism about a muscular U.S. military presence in Asia.
...
“At what point do you say, ‘Hey, we have to take care of ourselves?’ ” Trump said in the editorial board meeting. “I know the outer world exists, and I’ll be very cognizant of that. But at the same time, our country is disintegrating, large sections of it, especially the inner cities.”

Trump said U.S. involvement in NATO may need to be significantly diminished in the coming years, breaking with nearly seven decades of consensus in Washington. “We certainly can’t afford to do this anymore,” he said, adding later, “NATO is costing us a fortune, and yes, we’re protecting Europe with NATO, but we’re spending a lot of money.”

To this the editors opine:

Unfortunately, the visit provided no reassurance regarding Mr. Trump’s fitness for the presidency. “I’m not a radical person,” he told us as he was leaving. But his answers left little doubt how radical a risk the nation would be taking in entrusting the White House to him.

But who are the real radicals, the real radical risk? The salesperson Trump or the neoconned Washington Post publisher and editors? You may judged that from this excerpt at the end of the talk's transcript:

[FREDERICK RYAN JR., WASHINGTON POST PUBLISHER]: You [MUFFLED] mentioned a few minutes earlier here that you would knock ISIS. You’ve mentioned it many times. You’ve also mentioned the risk of putting American troop in a danger area. If you could substantially reduce the risk of harm to ground troops, would you use a battlefield nuclear weapon to take out ISIS?

TRUMP: I don’t want to use, I don’t want to start the process of nuclear. Remember the one thing that everybody has said, I’m a counterpuncher. Rubio hit me. Bush hit me. When I said low energy, he’s a low-energy individual, he hit me first. I spent, by the way he spent 18 million dollars’ worth of negative ads on me. That’s putting [MUFFLED]…

RYAN: This is about ISIS. You would not use a tactical nuclear weapon against ISIS? [CROSSTALK] ...

The salesperson stopped there. Instead of answering that question Trump asked for personal introduction to the people taking part in the event. To nuke some lunatics in Toyota technicals is not Trumps idea of his product. He would not sell that. Not even for gaining the support of the WaPo neocons.

Buying Trump is buying a pig in a poke. One does not know what one might get. But I find it unlikely that he would pursue an interventionist policy. Then again - George W. Bush also pretended to be a non-interventionist - until that changed.

But Trumps current non-interventionist position is a big contrast to Hillary Clinton. She unashamedly offers her well known toxic brew of neo-liberal and neo-conservative orthodoxy. She will wage war, Trump may. As a foreigner that is the decisive difference to me.

But if I were a voter in the U.S. my position would be based on economic policies. There Bernie Sanders is surely preferable to Trump and very much preferable to Clinton.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (115)

March 21, 2016

How Do Weekly Demonstrations Indicate A Lack Of Free Speech?

This sentence, in a typical Guardian human rights sniveler piece about Cuba, has me confused:

“I’ve been detained and beaten countless times,” said Eralidis Frómeta Polanco, an activist who turned up in the all-white clothes of the demonstrators, who march silently along 5th Avenue each week in protest at the lack of freedom of expression. [emphasis added]

What actual "freedom of expression" do these people claim to lack? It is obviously not the freedom to publicly demonstrate each week. So what is it?

My hunch is that these are the typical rabble rousing agitators who accompany each and every U.S. "regime change" attempt. By promoting these the Guardian is propagandizing the weaponization of human rights. "Regime change", chaos and atrocities are allowed if done behind the veil of promoting a few selected human rights like some freedom of expression. Indeed, the U.S. government co-opted "human rights" (vid, start at ~10min) as pretext for nefarious deeds.

But what about the human right to work, the human right to equal pay, the human right to just and favorable remuneration, the human right of an adequate standard of living or the human right to free education? Cuba is a champion of promoting these rights while the U.S. is shunning all human rights whenever it fits its purpose. When was the last time Human Rights Watch, or the Guardian, has called out for economic and social human rights? Would they ever support "moderate rebels" who fight for those?

Posted by b at 05:31 AM | Comments (77)

March 19, 2016

A U.S. 2016 (S)Election Circus Threat

Your likely choices:


Pics via Billmon

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (109)

March 18, 2016

The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

There are currently two governments in Libya. A "moderately Islamist" one in the west in Tripoli and one in the east in Tobruk. The eastern one is internationally recognized and "secular" but also supported by some Salafist groups. Both governments have their own parliament and various supporting militia. In the middle of the long east-west coastline the Islamic State led by some cadres from Iraq and Syria has taken a foothold in Sirte. It is recruiting followers from north Africa and moving to capture nearby oilfields to finance its further expansion.

The "west" is alarmed about this development and wants to intervene with military force. Special forces from several countries are already on the ground. But both governments and their parliaments do not want such foreign intervention.

The UN or someone came up with the glorious idea of creating a third government which is supposed to supersede the two existing ones. The task of this third government will be to "invite" foreign forces and to rubber-stamp whatever they will do. That third government is now constituted in Tunisia and has zero power on the ground in Libya:

[T]here is no guarantee that the other factions will back down. So what is a war between two rival governments backed by militias risks becoming a war among three rival governments, none of which recognize the others ..

Naturally the Libyans hate that idea of a foreign imposed government. They will likely fight any third force that tries to usurp their sovereignty. Confronted with a foreign imposed government and foreign military forces more Libyans will join the Islamic State to fight the intruders. The shortsightedness of the UN and the "western" governments on this issue is breathtaking.

But there is still a lot of money to be made in Libya and especially the French and British governments want to keep robbing the country blind. This requires some feet on the ground. The "brain" and a likely main profiteer behind all this seems to be one well known figure.

A revealing piece in the Times of Malta describes some of the astonishing political-business connections behind the scenes:

[A] major military operation by a collection of foreign powers is in the works to tackle Isis and install a UN-backed government but the shabby way it has been put together carries the risk it will blow back in everyone’s faces.

First, there is the strange situation that [Britain’s Ambassador to Libya, Peter] Millett takes his orders from Britain’s Libya envoy, Jonathan Powell, a contractor to the FCO. Yes, the same Powell who, along with then prime minister Tony Blair, brokered the deal with Muammar Gaddafi to end his dictatorship’s isolation a decade ago - and lead to fat Blair consultancies with that same tyrant after the prime minister left office.

Among other beneficiaries of this new opening up of Gaddafi’s dictatorship was a massive property development contract handed out to a company chaired by none other than Powell’s brother, Lord Charles Powell, which also involved an array of colourful London-based, well-known Arab millionaires. Which makes Powell more of a close relative of an interested party.

Libya is awash with weapons and munitions of all kinds and these are bought and sold in open markets. With the right amount of money one can easily buy powerful anti-tank weapons or anti-air guns readily installed on the ubiquitous Toyota technicals. But Britain also wants to sell, not buy weapons:

Millett revealed that he wants to sell Libya yet more [weapons] - but only to the ‘right’ militias, that is, those supporting the new UN-backed government of national accord (GNA).

The GNA, designed to replace Libya’s two warring governments, in Tripoli and Tobruk, is the cornerstone of Western policy in Libya, designed to unite the country to turn its united guns on Isis. Hence the weapons.

Millett insists the weapons will only go to the ‘right’ militias, an echo of a Western statement about supporting the ‘right kind’ of terrorists in Syria in the war against Isis.

Here now comes the real business part with the most valuable piece being the Libyan Investment Authority with some $65 billion in assets. This fond is owned by the Libyan people but whoever controls it will be able to siphon off tons of money:

Cont. reading: The Islamic State Is Pretext To Again Mug Libya

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (43)

March 17, 2016

Open Thread 2016-11

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (211)

March 16, 2016

Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Everyone seems to agree that the recent Russian surprise move in Syria is to its advantage. The Russian government declared that it had achieved most of its aims in Syria and decided to continue its operations there with a smaller forces. As the current ceasefire seem to hold the necessity of further air attacks is much diminished. About half of its planes in Syria were ordered to fly back home. Significant forces will stay deployed and the planes could be back within 24 hours should the need arise.

A Russian source on the ground explains how this fits into a larger plan:

Russia has managed to turn the balance of power up side down in six months of its intervention in Syria. Regardless the control of a vast strategic land to the regime in Damascus, the Kremlin forces all parties to sit with Assad representative around the Geneva table when these were rejecting the idea for the last four years of war. Russia is pushing for a free election, within the area under the regime and the rebels’ control, under the supervision of the United Nations.
...
Russia, according to high-ranking sources, informed Washington, Damascus and Tehran of its step of reducing forces in Syria. The Kremlin expects from the United States to exert its promises to impose on regional parties, i.e. Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Turkey, to stop all sorts of weapons and financial supply to all rebels without exception. The USA is confident to obtain from its regional allies in the Middle East this commitment at the cost of joining the bombing, with Russia, of all those willing to continue fighting and violate the open-date Cease-fire in Syria. Saudi Arabia and Turkey see no longer Syria as a possibility to implement their old plans and agreed to act accordingly.

We will see if the U.S. is really committed to this plan. Will it stop arming al-Qaeda or will it launch another crazy attempt to achieve "regime change" in Syria.

It would be out of character for Washington to just let go and to let Russia win the cause. That is why I suspect that the U.S. somehow arranged the following scheme.

Cont. reading: Syrian Kurds Risk Their Gains With New Federalization Demands

Posted by b at 10:45 AM | Comments (97)

March 14, 2016

Putin: Withdrawal Of Russian Forces From Syria Starting March 15

This is an extremely interesting and likely very smart move. Putin again catches everyone off guard.

TASS reports:

Putin orders to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15

March 14, 20:40 UTC+3

The Russian leader hopes the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces in the country

MOSCOW, March 14. /TASS/. Putin orders Russian defense minister to begin withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria from March 15.

The Russian president said he hopes the start of the withdrawal of Russian troops will become a good motivation for launching negotiations between political forces of that country and instructed the foreign minister to intensify Russia’s participation in organization of peace process in Syria.

Via other sources Putin said: The armed forces achieved their goals in Syria. The two Air Force and Naval bases in Syria will stay and operate normally. The move was in agreement with the Syrian government.

I believe that, for this to have happened, there must be a deal in place with the U.S. to wind up the Syria situation. What did Putin get in return?

And what units will actually pull out? Three military cooks departing while civilians take up their jobs?

The tide of the war on Syria has changed. There is no longer a danger that Assad will lose the fight.

There were some Russian artillery and special forces units taking part in the ground operations in north Latakia. Latakia is now mostly cleaned up and the Russian bases there are no longer in danger. (The S-400 air defense will of course stay.) Will these troops now be pulled out?

Or is this, as announced, an "incentive" to put some urgency on progress in the Geneva negotiations?  (An "incentive" that can be taken back should it not have the intended results.)

One can also think of this as a message to the U.S. to get serious: "Don't take our help in fighting ISIS for granted. We can simply secure Assad and leave. Then you alone will have to clean up the Jihadi mess you created."

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (135)

U.S. Politicians Discuss Accountability

At Nancy Reagan's funeral George W. Bush and Hillary Clinton discussed the prospects of being held accountable.


bigger (source)

 

Posted by b at 10:35 AM | Comments (45)

March 13, 2016

Syria: Another CIA Supplied Group Hands Its Weapons To Al-Qaeda

Syria's Idleb province is held by Jabhat al-Nusra, aka al-Qaeda in Syria, and Ahrar al Sham with a sprinkling of "moderates" added to the mix. While Nusra and Ahrar have support from Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, the "moderates" are supported by the CIA which provides them with anti-tank weapons.

When in 2013 these groups stormed government held positions in Idleb, Nusra, Ahrar and Islamic State Jihadis were leading the fighting and employed suicide bombers. Their attacks were supported by electronic warfare measures from Turkey which disabled the Syrian Army's communication. The CIA "moderates" were integrated as anti-tank teams using their U.S. supplied weapons in support of the Jihadi offense.

The U.S. supported groups in Idleb are currently grouped under the moniker "Division 13" or "Brigade 13". The cessation of hostilities in Syria means that all these "moderates" in Idleb province have time to discuss their ideological differences. Jenan Moussa (@JenanMoussa) is the "Roving reporter Arabic Al Aan TV. Based in Dubai but roams around MidEast". She reports on Syria from a mostly pro-opposition standpoint and has long favored "moderate" as well as "not-so-moderate" Jihadis.

Here are some of here recent tweets:

Jenan Moussa @jenanmoussa

Jenan Moussa Retweeted ياسين ابو رائد

Nusra attacks FSA supporters protesting Assad in #Idleb province. Nusra bans FSA flags, allows only Jihadi banners.

4:44 AM - 11 Mar 2016

Yesterday Nusra had meeting in Idleb with activists & local Syrian journalist urging them all not to carry FSA flags, only Jihadi banners.

Here full video of Nusra attack on protestors in Maaret ElNoman. Its seriously amazing some dared to carry FSA flag https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=youtu.be&v=D-_ymP4BMxo

Anti regime protests also in Sarmada, Harem &Darkoush in Idleb province. Protestors carried both FSA &Jihadi banners

In Nusra mentality, FSA flag seen as 'pro-democracy &pro-secularism'. They have banned it but can't yet enforce ban in their territories.

Moment when Nusra attacked AbuElias AlMaaeri, local anti-Assad celebrity. They took his mic for singing FSA slogans https://pbs.twimg.com/media/CdRReICWEAAq-sa.jpg

On Saturday some reports from Idleb claimed that Division 13 fighters, enraged that their propaganda protests were disrupted by Nusra, attacked some Nusra positions and fighters in Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria: Another CIA Supplied Group Hands Its Weapons To Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 03:30 AM | Comments (58)

March 12, 2016

NYT Conceals U.S. Control Over Anti-Russian "Pro-Democracy Nonprofit"

What is a pro-democracy nonprofit?

Pro-Democracy Nonprofit Is Banned in Russia

MOSCOW — A nonprofit group that promotes democracy has become the latest American-linked group to be banned in Russia under restrictions on “undesirable” organizations signed into law by President Vladimir V. Putin in May.

The office of Russia’s prosecutor general on Thursday outlawed the group, the National Democratic Institute, claiming in a statement that the it posed “a threat to the foundations of Russia’s constitutional order and national security.”

The above quoted NYT piece studiously avoids to describe what the "pro-democracy nonprofit" really is. There is no mention at all of its sources of money or its relations to non-Russian governments.

The National Democratic Institute, a group promoting democracy and civil society, had operated in Russia directly since the late 1980s, but it decided to close its offices there in 2012, according to its website. It has continued to establish programs in Russia through partner organizations, however. Madeleine K. Albright, an former United States secretary of state, is its chairwoman.

When asked about U.S. sanctions against Iraq Madeleine Albright once said (vid) that 500,000 killed Iraqi children were "worth it". Any organization led by here must surely be a morally good. But who pays it? And what for? 

To know what exactly this "nonprofit" is, is certainly relevant to understand the Russian position. But the NYT writer hides from the readers the fact that the NDI is a U.S. government financed organization. It is a "nonprofit organization" in the same sense that the U.S. Armed Forces are a "nonprofit organization". The NDI has been involved throughout the years in dozens of right-wing "regime change" coups. Its direct parent organization is the U.S. National Endowment of Democracy:

The private, congressionally funded NED has been a controversial tool in U.S. foreign policy because of its support of efforts to overthrow foreign governments. As the writers Jonah Gindin and Kirsten Weld remarked in the January/February 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas: "Since [1983], the NED and other democracy-promoting governmental and nongovernmental institutions have intervened successfully on behalf of 'democracy'—actually a very particular form of low-intensity democracy chained to pro-market economics—in countries from Nicaragua to the Philippines, Ukraine to Haiti, overturning unfriendly 'authoritarian' governments (many of which the United States had previously supported) and replacing them with handpicked pro-market allies."[2]

NED works principally through four core institutes: the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDIIA or NDI), the International Republican Institute (IRI), the American Center for International Labor Solidarity (ACILS), and the Center for International Private Enterprise—representing, respectively, the country's two major political parties, organized labor, and the business community.

To call the NDI and its brothers and sisters non-government organization is obviously wrong. To call them "pro-democracy" is only right when one has some fondness for the peculiar kind of "democracy" in foreign countries that sets U.S. business interests above the interest of its own people.

What the Russian prosecutor general kicked out of Russia is obviously a U.S. government organization. The NDI was acting clandestinely by secretly financing local groups in Russia which work against the duly elected Russian government and against the interest of the Russian people.

But the petty-minded NYT, with its slavishly U.S. centric view, can not allow its readers to learn such facts.

Posted by b at 12:03 PM | Comments (48)

March 10, 2016

'The Obama Doctrine' Is To Whitewash His Foreign Policy

The Atlantic publishes Obama's great whitewashing of his own foreign policy. It is the result of a series of interviews with Jefferey Goldberg written up into one gigantic piece under the headline "The Obama Doctrine". Throughout the piece Goldberg and Obama touch various foreign policy issues, mainly in the Middle East.

The ostensible purpose is to refute hawkish critics of Obama who say that he has not been militaristic enough or was 'leading from behind.' Judging from comments to the piece in various media the readers seem to fall for that. But the real purpose of the piece is to hide the militaristic, dangerous to catastrophic decision Obama has made on many foreign policy issues.

The real Obama has used the military to wage open or hidden wars in more countries than any president since the second world war. Obama has ordered thousands of unknown people be killed by drone strikes in ten or so countries. He has used clandestine means for illegitimate regime change from Honduras over Ukraine to Iraq where, as he admitted in an earlier interview, let the evil of ISIS grow for the sole purpose of ousting Prime Minister Maliki. Instead of making room for the inevitable growth of China, Obama is preparing to wage a preemptive war against it.

The whitewash includes a lot of juicy, diverting quotes that many people will like. It bitches about foreign paid think tanks in Washington and the Saudis. It lambastes Cameron and Sarkozy. It badmouths his own hawkish advisers.

When it discusses why Obama let his 'red line' on chemical weapons in Syria slip and did not bomb the country it tries to paint Obama's decisions on Syria as sensible and reasoned. But what is sensible or reasoned in ordering the CIA to ship thousands of Jihadis, recycled from his war on Libya and earlier conflicts, to Syria? What is peaceful in arming and paying sectarian "rebels" with billions of dollars to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government? The piece does not mention those facts and the interviewer never touches those questions.

Obama criticizes the Saudis and Iran for waging proxy wars in Syria and Yemen. But Iran came in only after Obama and the Saudis waged war on those countries. Without him Yemen would not be bombed and Syria would be peaceful. It is he who enables the Saudi misdeeds.

On Libya the president blames France and Britain for dropping the ball after Ghaddafi was killed. But it was the U.S. that enabled and directed the war, flew most attacks, dropped 7,700 bombs and had its people on the ground training and organizing the Jihadis for attacks on government positions. Here the fake 'leading from behind' is used to blame the allies when the inevitable consequences of the war, the destruction of the functioning state Libya, appear.

In general the piece is somewhat interesting and shows some insight into Obama's thinking. But if you take the hour that is at least needed to read it keep in mind that this was published for a purpose. Obama is preparing his next career step. With the Goldberg interviews and this piece he is attempting to wash the blood off his hands and to whitewash his legacy.

Posted by b at 01:13 PM | Comments (135)

March 09, 2016

Ignatius, Off His Meds, Has Syria Delusions

The public relation functionary for the CIA, the Pentagon, Israel and the Saudis - David Ignatius of the Washington Post - forgot to take his meds. Thus he experienced an outbreak of acute delusions:

The campaign in eastern Syria is directed by about 50 U.S. Special Operations forces now on the ground there, joined by about 20 French and perhaps a dozen British commandos. They’re working with about 40,000 Syrian Kurdish and Arab fighters dubbed the Syrian Democratic Forces; all but about 7,000 are from the Syrian Kurdish militia known as the YPG.

Those numbers are waaay off. The more realistic numbers are some 10,000 YPG and some 1,000 Arabs. Even those numbers include lots of village guards that can not be counted on as soldiers. The core forces are in the low thousands.

U.S. commanders hope soon to augment the U.S. ground force in Syria to about 300 troops who can train and assist these fighters. With this broader U.S. base of operations inside Syria, it’s hoped that special forces from other countries, such as the United Arab Emirates, could play a role there.

Us.commanders may "hope" that they will be allowed 300 more forces on the ground. But I doubt that the Obama administration will now agree to such an escalation. It would risk to spoil the current understandings with the Russians. Likewise with the UAE contingent.

The next stage in the assault may come to the west of Raqqa. Syrian fighters backed by Turkish commandos appear poised to move south from Jarabulus, where the Euphrates River crosses from Turkey into Syria, toward the area around Manbij. Other U.S.-backed forces hold the Tishrin Dam, about 55 miles northwest of Raqqa. The Turkish-led campaign could finally close the gap in its border, through which the Islamic State has maintained its supply lines.

What a load of bollocks. The Turkish military has said laud and clear that will not commit any forces to Syria without an explicit UN mandate. No such mandate is likely to pass.

The "other U.S. backed forces" at the Tishirn Dam are YPG Kurds. The Turks have declared them to be terrorists and the Kurds see any Turkish soldier as their enemy. There is no way that they would let Turkish commandos pass towards Manbij. And why does Turkey need to invade Syria to close the "gap in its border"? How about closing the border on the Turkish side as is usual. Are there Mexican troops in Texas to close the southern U.S. border "gap"? If the Turks would invade through Jarablus their aim would be to protect their allies in the Islamic State, to keep the logistic line to it open and to fight the Kurds. The Ignatius take is completely off from any reality.

A limited southern push toward Raqqa was begun recently by a small unit of Jordanian and British special forces that captured a former regime outpost in southeastern Syria, close to the Iraqi and Jordanian borders.

Here is news Mr Ignatius. The "capture" of Al Tanaf crossing by some Jordanian trained Syrian "rebels" and with U.S. air support failed. The crossing is still in the hands of the Islamic State.

In Ignatius' fairy tale book the Syrian government forces and its allies are nowhere to be seen fighting against the Islamic State. But is the Syrian Arab Army and its allies who are squeezing the Islamic State from the west and the south with the current attacks on Palmyra, south-east of Aleppo and towards Tabqa. It is the Syrian army that is defending some 200,000 civilians which are besieged in Deir Ezzor. It is the Syrian army that just launched a big operation in the south-eastern desert that will clear the approaches towards Raqqa and Deir Ezzor.

A sane policy discussion on Syria will never take place in the U.S. when the news consists of such insane fantasies.

Posted by b at 09:46 AM | Comments (78)

 
Site Meter