Pew Survey On Ukraine
The PEW Research Center has a new opinion survey of several NATO countries and Russia with regards to the Ukraine conflict:
Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.
The last sentence is the reason why the neocon's will likely fail to instigate a NATO war on Russia.
Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively).
Sure. A war would not be on their ground these people believe. But a war on Russia could become nuclear and then all bets are off even for those living on the western side of the Atlantic. Did no one tell them?
There is lots of stuff in the survey and its worth to read it. I personally am somewhat comforted that my country stands out a bit. A majority of Germans are against Ukraine joining NATO or the EU. A majority is also against delivering weapons to Ukraine and against the use of force by NATO.
The survey confirms that Putin is at an all time high in Russian people's opinion and a very large majority trust him in all regards. Now compare that to the opinion Ukrainians have about the Nuland installed puppet government:
Ukrainians give both their president and prime minister negative marks. A plurality disapproves of President Petro Poroshenko’s job performance (43%), while just a third approves. A majority (60%) is unhappy with the way Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is handling his job. Roughly half or more of eastern Ukrainians give Poroshenko (49%) and Yatsenyuk (66%) negative reviews. Western Ukrainians also give Yatsenyuk bad marks (55%) but are divided on Poroshenko (39% approve, 39% disapprove).
PEW did not survey the people in the federalist held areas in the east. With those included the numbers for the Ukrainian government would be considerably worse. Given that the media in Ukraine are mostly in the hands of pro-western oligarchs these results are really quite bad. There was speculation some time ago that Nuland had planned to replace Proshenko with the Scientology follower Yatsenyuk but given these numbers there is no longer a chance for such a move.
Meanwhile the conflict in east Ukraine is flaring up again with Donetsk city again being under daily artillery fire from the Ukrainian government side. The summer in east Ukraine will likely get hot again.
Turkish Voters Slap Erdogan
Erdogan loses the parliament election in Turkey. With some 95% of the votes counted the results (seats) are:
- AKP 41.5% (261)
- CHP 25.3% (130)
- MHP 16.7% (84)
- HDP 12.0% (75)
Erdogans AKP lost nearly 9% compared to the last election. The Kurdish HDP jumped above the 10% limit and thereby prevents the AKP from ruling as the sole party. The AKP will have to arrange a coalition with the hard nationalist MHP to form a new government.
The reasons for the loss were the end of the credit fueled economic boom that the AKP had engineered since 2000. There was also a lot of infighting within the AKP and Erdogan's policy of fueling the war in Syria is quite unpopular.
Any coalition government the AKP may arrange will likely be less aggressive than the current one. It is doubtful that the current prime minister Davutoglu, the very aggressive promoter of a new Ottoman empire, will keep his position.
Erdogan as a politician is now wounded and the AKP is weakened. This will lead to more infighting within the AKP and maybe even a split of the party into several fractions. In all this result will likely leave less capacity in Turkey for wide ranging geopolitical adventures.
Open Thread 2015-24
Some news & views from me. Please add yours in the comments.
The Ukrainian government intensifies the economic war against the people in the area of Luhansk and Donetsk:
Luhansk Oblast Governor Hennadiy Moskal has completely cut off the water supply to Russian-occupied territories in retaliation for shelling by the Kremlin-separatist forces.
More general this in the NYT!
Senior officials in Kiev, complaining about Russian violations of the agreement and knowing their army can never defeat the Russian-backed separatists militarily, have decided simply to cut off the eastern regions from the rest of the country.
That policy would violate the Minsk accord, ...
The Ukrainian government never adhered to the Minsk agreements but now its official policy.
Don't ever give money to these folks until they completely changed their leadership: How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti and Built Six Homes.
The U.S. seems to (again) move the goal posts in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. China (and Russia) do not agree with this: China urges no new demands at Iran nuclear talks. My bet is still that the U.S. wants the talks to fail.
Did you know?
- Number of genuine terrorist plots in the US since 9/11: 6
- Number of terrorist plots manipulated by the FBI since 9/11: 175
But they need to spy on you because ... terrorism!!!
- FBI behind mysterious fleet of aircraft conducting surveillance over US cities">
- DEA eavesdropping tripled, bypassed federal courts">
- New Snowden Documents Reveal Secret Memos Expanding Spying. The NSA is sniffing for "malware" on the Internet backbone sucking up lots of personal data in the process. There is no legal base for this. More here.
To defend against these revelations of illegal surveillance the administration is pulling out stories it has obviously held back especially for this purpose: Federal Government Suffers Massive Hacking Attack. The claim is "the Chinese did it" but there is zero proof (and no good motive) for that. But claiming so helps to justify the illegal NSA activities.
Last but not least: A good one for its historic background by Gary Sick: Saudi Arabia's Widening War
Damascus Goes Into Defense Mode
When the enemy with overwhelming numbers is attacking in full force it makes sense to retreat to the best defensible lines and to protect only the most valuable assets.
The parallel onslaught of U.S., Turkey and GCC supported al-Qaeda "moderate rebels" and Islamic State Jihadists necessitates that the Syrian government concentrates its capabilities and assets and moves into a defensive stand.
This is not a strategic change of course or a sign of weakness but a tactical move. To sacrifice exhausted army units in further defending outlying and thereby indefensible minor parts of the country would simply be unwise. The Syrian government is still strong and at least 75% of the Syrian people within Syria are under its realm. The war on Syria will go on for years and there will come other phases when the Syrian army will again go on attack.
Some 10,000 al-Qaeda fighters, a third of them foreigners, crossed from Turkey with new U.S. supplied TOW anti-tank weapons and overran the Syrian defenses in the governate and city of Idleb. The move was unexpected in its size and force. The Syrian government recognized that more resources would be required to counter the attack and dispatched officials to Iran and Russia to request more help.
Iran released a new $1 billion loan and is also sending some 15,000 additional paramilitary fighters from Iraq and Iran to support the defenses of Damascus, Homs and the Latakia coast area. Hizbullah is engaged in the Qalamon mountains next to Lebanon and in the process of mopping up al-Nusra and other Jihadist groups in the area. Russia has publicly announced to further support the Syrian government. It is not yet known what exactly Russia is planning to do but we can expect to see more and newer weapons delivered to the Syrian army and air force.
Meanwhile the U.S. propaganda machine is working hard on three points. The first is to depict the Syrian government as no longer supported by its people and to sow doubt about its alliances with Iran and Russia. With the new support coming now that line is temporarily inoperable but will be revived when convenient.
The second propaganda stunt is to deny that Jabhat al-Nusra is a real operative part of Al-Qeada with the long-term aim to attack the "west". This claim is necessary to justify further U.S. support to the Nusra led campaigns in Idleb and elsewhere. There were rumors about al-Nusra rejecting al-Qaeda and attempts to invent some internal strife about the question. An AlJazeerah Arabic softball interview with Nusra chief Jolani was arranged to soften its image. But Jolani did not perform as AlJazeerah sponsor Qatar expected. He again declared full allegiance to al-Qaeda central and his obedience to al-Qeada chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nusra is thereby not "al-Qaeda aligned" or "al-Qaeda linked" or an "al-Qaeda franchise". Jabhat al-Nusra is al-Qaeda. Jolani left no doubt about it.
The third and most stupid propaganda claim is an alleged cooperation of the Syrian government with the Islamic State. "Look, we planned this big operation against Assad in Aleppo and Assad bombed us. The next day the Islamic State attacked us and Assad did not bomb them. See, he did not help us. He must be with the Islamic State." Some stupidity really has no bounds. Here is how well the Syrian army and the Islamic State really "cooperate":
Islamic State bombers have blown up about a dozen explosive-packed trucks at Syrian army checkpoints around the government-held northeastern city of Hasaka city over the past five days, the city governor said on Thursday.
"More than thirteen explosive-laden vehicles have attacked army checkpoints and sowed terror and fear among citizens," City Governor Mohammad Zaal al Ali told state television by telephone from inside the city.
The fighting in Syria is now between three parties. Al-Qaeda terrorists supported by U.S. aligned external states, the Syrian government and its allies and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. All three are fighting each other but the Syrian government hopes that the fighting between Nusra and the Islamic State will intensify and diminish its two enemies. It sees the Islamic State not as its own problem but as a problem for the whole world. It will now go into a defensive mode and protect its core assets. Other entities will have to attack the Islamic State. The bet is that the Islamic State will, probably soon, directly attack the "west" and/or Gulf entities and that these attacks will result in others taking care of the Islamic State problem.
Media's Beloved "Expert" Eliot Higgins - Wrong Again And Again And Again
Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses, the founder of Bellingcat "by and for citizen investigative journalists", is beloved by NATO media. Higgins is always able to "prove" by amateur "analysis" of open source data that the "bad guys", just as the U.S. or NATO claim, did indeed do the bad thing that happened. The problem is that Higgins is no expert of anything. He was an unemployed office worker who looked at Youtube videos from Syria and tried Internet searches to find out what weapons were visible in the videos. That is all that made him an "expert".
But Higgins claimed to prove that the Syrian government launched rockets with Sarin on Ghouta, an area south of Damascus. An MIT professor and real expert proved (pdf) that he was wrong.
Higgins claimed to "prove" that rockets launched from Russia hit Ukraine by looking at aerial pictures of impact craters. But a real expert of the method said that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy” and warned against its use without further corroboration.
Now another "expert" of Bellingcat, who's source of "expertise" is unknown but likely also low, tries to prove that Russia manipulated some aerial pictures it published about the MH17 airline incident in Ukraine. That made some splash in the usual NATO media but is complete nonsense. Yes, the pictures were obviously "manipulated" as labels were added to them. But that the visual content of the pictures were changed, as the "expert" claimed to prove by a JPEG compression analysis, is clearly bullshit. The "expert" claims that "all image content should present roughly the same [compression] error levels if the photo has not been altered." That is nonsense. JPEG compresses a flat white surface with low error level and a rough multicolor part of a picture with a higher compression error level. That is digital compression 101 which I myself learned when I was doing a bit of math work on the early PNG format definition. So it turns out that the "expert" simply does not understand how JPEG compression works.
Out of three big "finds" that made it into the media Higgins and Bellingcat had three that were proven to be wrong by real experts. Any media who further quote "analysis" by the "experts" Higgins and Bellingcat should be regarded as propaganda outlet and not as a serious source of news.
The Current Overproduction Crisis And War
Ian Welsh makes Fourteen Points on the World Economy as the US GDP Drops .7 Percent. He believes that the economy is again turning towards a global recession. This recession comes even as there has not been a real recovery from the last global economic crisis:
Let me put this another way: The developed world is in depression. It has been in depression since 2007. It never left depression. Within that depression, there is still a business cycle: There are expansions, and recessions, and so on. Better times and worse times.
The business cycle is again turning down and is doing so sharply. Not only in the U.S. but also in Europe and Asia.
Every central bank has been throwing money at the local economies but that money finds no productive use. Why would a company invest even at 0% interests when nobody will buy the additional products for a profitable price? How could consumers buy more when wages are stagnant and they are already overburdened with debt taken up in the last expansion cycle? The central banks are pushing on a string while distorting normal market relations. This intensifies the original crisis.
My belief is that the global crisis we see is one of overproduction, an excess or glut of supplies and on the other side a lack of consumption. The exceptional cheap money created by the central banks makes investment in machines preferable over employment of a human workforce. The result: Manufacturing hub starts work on first zero-labor factory
Chen predicted that instead of 2,000 workers, the current strength of the workforce, the company will require only 200 to operate software system and backstage management.
The (Central) bank gave Mr. Chen cheap money and at an interest rate of 0% a complete automation of his company may indeed be profitable. It is unlikely though that he would make the same move at an interest rate of 10%. But on the larger macro economic scale Mr Chen needs to ask this question: "How will the 1,800 laid off workers be able to buy the products my company makes?" Some of the laid off people may find marginal "service" job but the money they will make from those will likely be just enough to keep them alive. And over time flipping burgers will also be automated. And then?
Karl Marx described such overproduction crises. Their cause is a rising share of an economy's profits going to an ever smaller class of "owners" while the growing class of marginal "workers" gets less and less of the total pie. In the last decades this phenomenon can be observed all over the developed world. The other side of the overproduction crisis is an underconsumption crisis. People can no longer buy for lack of income.
While a realignment of central bank interest rates to historical averages, say some 6%, would help to slow the negative process it would not solve the current problem. Income inequality and overproduction would still increase though at a lesser pace. The historic imperialist remedy for local overproduction, capturing new markets, is no longer available. Global trade is already high. There is little land left to colonize and to widen the markets for ones products.
There are then two solutions to such an crisis.
One is to tackle the underconsumption side and to change the distribution of an economy's profits with a much larger share going to "workers" and a smaller share going to "owners". This could be achieved through higher taxes on "owners" and redistribution by the state but also through empowerment of labor unions and like means. But with governments all over the world more and more captured by the "owners" the chance that this solution will be chosen seem low.
The other solution for a capitalist society to a crisis of overproduction is the forced destruction of (global) production capabilities through a big war. War also helps to increase control over the people and to get rid of "surplus workers".
The U.S. was the big economic winner of World War I and II. Production capacities elsewhere got destroyed through the wars and a huge number of global "surplus workers" were killed. For the U.S. the wars were, overall, very profitable. Other countries have distinct different experiences with wars. In likely no other country than the U.S. would one find a major newspaper that arguing that wars make us safer and richer.
I am therefore concerned that the intensifying crisis of overproduction and its seemingly casual preference for war will, in years to come, push the U.S. into starting a new global cataclysmic conflict.
Neoconservatives like Victoria Nuland tried to goad Russia and the EU into a big war over Ukraine. The top lobbyist of the military industrial complex, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is trying to instigate a war between China and its neighbors over some atolls in the South China Sea. The U.S. is at least complicit in the rise of the Islamic State which will leave the Middle East at war for the foreseeable future.
Are these already, conscious or by chance, attempts by the U.S. to solve the problem of global overproduction in its favor?
Open Thread 2015-23
News & views ...
Imperial NYT: Each FIFA Member One Secret Vote Is "Strange Electoral Math"
The New York Times was tipped off about last weeks U.S. induced Swiss police raid on FIFA functionaries in Geneva. It seems to hold some grudge against the football association maybe because the U.S. lost its bid for the World Cup 2022 to Qatar.
It is obvious that the U.S. is trying to install its own puppet on top of FIFA. Their candidate is a member of the corrupt family of Jordanian king. It is not that the U.S. is against corruption. How would the situation be today if FIFA, like some huge banks, had given to the Clinton Foundation, Obama's presidential library or "lobbied" some Representatives and Senators? Corruption is just fine in the U.S. as long as it works in its interest. But FIFA rules make it difficult for the U.S. to get its will.
The reason, says the New York Times, is "the strange electoral math of FIFA".
So what is strange with that math?
The members of FIFA are the national football associations. Each gets one vote. The voting is secret.
Imagine that. Every member has an equal vote and can vote as it likes without any real way to pressure it. That's strange? From the NYT piece:
Mr. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term on Friday — in a vote only miles from the luxury hotel where Wednesday’s arrests took place — in part because of FIFA’s electoral math. The FIFA president is elected by a one-vote-per-country poll of its 209 member federations, making the many smaller countries who support Mr. Blatter an effective counterweight to his unpopularity elsewhere, most notably in Europe.
One country one vote is indeed strange math. Imagine the UN would be run this way. How would the U.S. and other Security Council members get their will if every country had a real vote?
There is no proposal in the NYT piece on how to change that strange math. How would the U.S. like to have the votes arranged? Countries ranked by population numbers? China, India, Nigeria, Brazil would certainly love that arrangement. But their votes would likely not go the way the U.S. wants them to go. Countries' votes ranked by local football popularity or historic football success? Portugal or some other small country might then have the greatest weight. The U.S. vote would rank somewhere at the very end of the list.
No. There is no better way to run FIFA than the way it is run today. A World Cup is a billion dollar business. The money collected by FIFA through TV licenses, advertisement and merchandizing is flowing back to the national soccer federations. They are supposed to use it to support and promote the sport. Unfortunately some corruption is inevitably involved in such a huge and complex business. The world will have to live with that. The alternative is to relinquish control over football to some totally unaccountable, likely U.S. controlled conglomerate. That would be the end of the game.
I suggested that the U.S. assault on FIFA for corruption cases going back to the early 1990s comes now because FIFA will today vote on a Palestinian proposal to eject Israel for impeding Palestinian football. Taking the 2018 World Cup from Russia is a convenient but secondary target. Israel has conceded that it is guilty of hindering Palestinian football by offering concessions in bid to avert vote to oust it from FIFA. But those concessions are likely not enough:
The source said FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed Israel’s proposal but stressed it would need [chairman of the Palestinian Football Association] Rajoub’s consent before removing the vote on banning Israel from FIFA’s slate.
The source said Rajoub acceded, but added another demand – that FIFA ask UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to issue a decision within three months on whether the five Israeli teams based in West Bank settlements were within Israeli territory.
FIFA regulations stipulate that teams not located within Israeli territory require the Palestinians’ consent to participate in Israeli leagues. Since the UN does not recognize the West Bank as part of Israel, the decision would de facto force Israel’s soccer federation to expel these teams from the league or run the risk of breaking FIFA’s rules.
The Palestinians should stick to this demand. Israel, like apartheid South Africa, should be kicked out of FIFA. There must be no tolerance for racism and occupation in the world's most beloved sport.
Reuters Exclusive: Russian Troops Near Ukraine's Border
European Union sanctions against Russia are up for renewal. To prevent them from being lifted some additional NATO propaganda hyping the Russia threat and warning of an imminent invasion if Ukraine is necessary.
Reuters is always willing to be helpful with this. Consider its record of uncritical Exclusive News on the topic:
- March 13 2014 Russia Masses Troops Near Ukraine
- April 10 2014 NATO Chief: 40,000 Russian Troops Amassed Near Ukraine's Border
- April 13 2014 Well-equipped Russian troops amass near Ukraine border -Britain
- May 28 2014 Russia May Have 40,000 Troops Near Ukraine's Border: US sources
- July 14 2014 NATO estimates Russia has 10,000-12,000 troops near Ukraine border
- July 25 2014 More than 15,000 Russian troops along Ukraine border -U.S. envoy
- July 30 2014 Russia increasing troops, moving towards Ukraine border
- August 6 2014 NATO says Russia could be poised to invade Ukraine
- August 11 2014 Ukraine says Russia has massed 45,000 troops on joint border
- November 4 2014 Russian troops moving closer to Ukraine border: NATO chief
- November 7 2014 NATO sees increase in Russian troops along Ukraine border
- March 28 2015 Russia May Have 40,000 Troops Near Ukraine's Border: US sources
- May 27 2015 Exclusive: Russia masses heavy firepower on border with Ukraine - witness
In none of the above stories have I seen any real reporting with a critical assessment of the veracity of such news.
Russia, like any normal state, always has some troops near its borders as well as training areas for larger unit exercises. Troops moving within the wider border area is simply normal.
Some 90% of the Canadian army is stationed less than a hundred miles from the U.S. border. When will Reuters finally manage to report that threat of an immediate invasion?
Ahead Of Israel Expulsion Vote U.S. Orders Raid On FIFA
Today the U.S. ordered Swiss police to raid, incarcerate and extradite to the U.S. six FIFA officials for alleged corruption. The raid, with obviously pre-alarmed New York Times reporters on the scene, comes shortly before a FIFA vote to expel Israel from the association.
This Friday the world football association FIFA is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, for its 65th regular World Congress. One of the votes on the agenda (pdf) is about the "Suspension or expulsion of a member". There is also an "Update on Israel-Palestine".
The Palestinian Football Association has called for a vote to suspend Israel from FIFA:
The Palestinian group objects to Israeli teams playing in the West Bank. They also say Israel restricts movements of Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for international matches.
"They keep bullying here and there, and I think they have no right to keep being the bully of the neighborhood," Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub said of Israel. "If the Israelis are using the issue of security, I can say that their security concern is mine. I am ready to fix parameters for security concerns, but security should not be used ... as a tool in order to keep this racist, apartheid policies."
He declared the situation in the West Bank far worse than apartheid that existed in South Africa because right-wingers and extremists in Israel want to "delete Palestine." In the 1960s, FIFA suspended South Africa for decades after it failed to comply with the association's nondiscrimination policies. The nation was also expelled from FIFA a month after the Soweto Youth Uprising of 1976.
"I am not asking for the suspension of the Israeli association; I am asking to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers," Rajoub said. "I am asking to end the grievances, the humiliation we are facing."
The vote requires a 75% majority of the 209 FIFA members. There was a good chance that it was going to be successful.
But now, just by chance, the U.S. government ordered the Swiss police to raid the hotel where the main FIFA functionaries are residing to arrest some of them on corruption charges going back to the early 1990s. The U.S. wants these to be extradited to face a U.S. court.
As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get keys and proceeded upstairs to the rooms.
The charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, which wields enormous power and does its business largely in secret.
While some of the indicted persons are U.S. citizens one wonders what contorted maneuvers the U.S. justice department will make to claim jurisdiction over foreign national FIFA functionaries:
United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.
Is there corruption involved when FIFA decides to run the World Championship in this or that country? Are there kickbacks when it sells media rights? Might there be gambling going on in the casino?
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.
Additional to their U.S. ordered raid the Swiss also feel compelled to open criminal proceedings around the 2018 and 2022 World Cup FIFA votes. The U.S. lost out against Russia and Qatar in its bid for those games and U.S. hawks still want to change that. It is not that paying bribes to be chosen for world games is unfamiliar to the U.S., but being rejected necessitates regime change at the top of the responsible organization.
In the United States it is legal to bribe politicians, via campaign financing, in practically unlimited amounts. Not one U.S. banker has been indicted for the massive Wall Street fraud that brought the world economy to a halt. The world is aware of this and it does not like the U.S. to lecture it about moral outrages. FIFA, while certainly corrupt, is also the soul of world football and the organizer of the most beloved championship in the world. If the U.S. believes that using something similar to terrorism charges against FIFA will have a positive echo in the world it is very mistaken.
Especially as the just by chance motive for this is pretty obvious.
As an Israeli journalist already gloats:
Poor Jibril Rajoub. Doesn't look like his gimmick is going to get much attention right now #FIFA
Let me guess: That was a main purpose of this raid?
Lack Of U.S. Air Support In Ramadi Points To Disguised Darker Aim
Why were there so few U.S. air attacks on the Islamic State attackers when they took Ramadi?
The first excuse put out by the U.S. military was "a sandstorm ate my lunch". That excuse was placed as news in the NYT:
Islamic State fighters used a sandstorm to help seize a critical military advantage in the early hours of the terrorist group’s attack on the provincial Iraqi capital of Ramadi last week, helping to set in motion an assault that forced Iraqi security forces to flee, current and former American officials said Monday.
The stenographer writing the piece did not bother to ask eyewitnesses or to check with some weather service. The myth of the "sandstorm" was thus born and repeated again and again. But people looking at the videos and pictures from the fighting could only see a bright blue sky. The military, though not the NYT, had to retract:
Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today that last weekend's sandstorm had not affected the coalition’s ability to launch airstrikes in Ramadi, though “weather was a factor on the ground early on.”
Now the U.S. military needs a new excuse to explain why it does not really bother to attack the Islamic State troops. Again it is the NYT that is willing to stenograph:
American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.
The alleged restrain in in fear of killing civilians in bonkers. The few U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets, though not admitted, have already killed hundreds of civilians.
This excuse for not helping the defenders of Ramadi is also nonsense as many occasions for potential attacks, like the Islamic State parade in this picture, are in areas with no or few civilians around. Why are Islamic State fighters free to travel the roads between Syria and Iraq in mass?
Nether the "sandstrom" excuse nor the "fear" of accidentally killing civilians seem to be an explanation for the decision to not support the Iraqi troops against the Islamic State attacks. A sound explanation can be found in the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, recently revealed, that says that the U.S. and the Gulf monarchies do want an Islamic State covering east Syria and west Iraq:
“… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”
In a recent Sunday show the neocon and former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton put it on the record:
I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What's left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. It's not anything we should try to aid.
The U.S. military in the Middle East is not helping the legitimate state of Iraq against the illegitimate Islamic State. It is shaping the environment so that it will allow for a delimited "Salafist Principality" in Syria and Iraq, mostly independent Kurdish areas and a rump state of Shia Iraq.
Not unrelated the Associated Press is running a home story about a nice, Islamic State financed, honeymoon in Raqqa:
The honeymoon was a brief moment for love, away from the front lines of Syria's war. In the capital of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed "caliphate," Syrian fighter Abu Bilal al-Homsi was united with his Tunisian bride for the first time after months chatting online. They married, then passed the days dining on grilled meats in Raqqa's restaurants, strolling along the Euphrates River and eating ice cream.
It was all made possible by the marriage bonus he received from the Islamic State group: $1,500 for him and his wife to get started on a new home, a family — and a honeymoon.
"It has everything one would want for a wedding," al-Homsi said of Raqqa ...
Who paid how much to AP for that Islamic State recruiting advertisement?
The only sound explanation for the very, very limited air support the U.S. is giving to Iraq is its aim of dismembering the Iraqi state and creating a new Sunni state entity under its tutelage. The Iraqi government should finally recognize this and should stay away from U.S. advice and dependency.
U.S. Military: Local Militia Are Bad Unless We Create Them
The U.S. military and the New York Times now rally against local militias in Afghanistan:
Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Fight Taliban
Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.
The effort is expected to eventually mobilize several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence.
Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, said he was skeptical of any plan that involved paying warlords to deploy their men. “I think if they’re looking for people that have volunteered to protect their villages, you know, that’s one thing,” he said. But if the government’s plan involved “going to a warlord and saying, ‘I need to take you, and pay you and move you, and go do something here,’ that’s a completely different thing,” he told reporters on Saturday. “We would not be supportive of that.”
Not one word in the NYT piece mentions that this same tactic, setting up local militia, has been tried and fiercely defended five years ago by the then American commander in Afghanistan:
Petraeus’ First Big Afghanistan Gamble:
General David Petraeus has persuaded Karzai to set up a new force to supplement Afghan soldiers and police. It’s not really Anbar Awakening 2.0, since it doesn’t involve insurgents switching sides. And don’t use the M-word, Pentagon officials say. “They would not be militias,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday. “These would be government-formed, government-paid, government- uniformed local police units.” Specifically, the new units will be paid by the Interior Ministry — or, rather, the foreign money that bankrolls the Afghanistan government will be disbursed to these new units through the ministry.
Stenographed the NYT at that time:
“Our position has been to develop a solution that bridges between having nothing and having Afghan National Police, and this program does that,” said the senior NATO official. “So it’s a good development and especially so since it has consensus within the Afghan government and the ownership that come with that,” he said.
The Afghan local police units the U.S. created in 2010 turned out to be unreliable local warlords who preyed on the civilian population. The new local forces the Afghan government now wants to create will turn out to be likewise but they are currently the only chance to keep the Taliban somewhat away from ruling over bigger chunks of the country.
Today's fierce resistance by the U.S. general against such forces has a certain "not invented by me" feeling. The total amnesia in today's NYT piece of the Petraeus program five years ago underlines that impression. It is like nothing can ever be good or useful unless the U.S. military invents and supports it.
Open Thread 2015-22
News & views ...
U.S. Intelligence Predicted: U.S. Support For Rebels in Syria Would Lead To Fall of Ramadi
Three new news items provide that the Obama administration, as well as Turkey and other countries, have knowingly created the current situation in Syria and Iraq. They knew that their support of the opposition which from the beginning included Al Qaeda would likely lead to the creation of an Islamic State. The administration was warned as early as August 2012 that this would then lead to the fall of Mosul and Ramadi to an Al Qaeda entity.
Thanks to Brad Hoff for pointing in the comments here to the Defense Intelligence Agency reports from August and October 2012 about the war on Syria. The DIA was the one U.S. intelligence agency that got the Iraq WMD case right but its appraisals, for example that the famous "aluminum tubes" were ordered by Iraq to build mortar tubes, were suppressed by the Bush administration. The now published heavily redacted DIA reports were released after Freedom Of Information Act litigation by the conservative Judicial Watch.
One report is mostly concerned with the attack on U.S personal in Benghazi in Libya on September 11 2012. My first analytic post on the issue was on September 12 2012 and it was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. The Obama administration long denied that the attack was an obviously planned AQ operation and that it was related, as I wrote, to arms smuggling from Benghazi to Syrian "rebels". The released DIA report dated October 2012 confirms my take from a day after the attack. It includes this:
Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.
During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo.
These weapons were shipped on Turkish vessels. A few hours before he was killed the U.S. ambassador met the with a Turkish diplomat likely to coordinate more such weapon shipments.
Another released DIA document written in August 2012 and also highly redacted explains that Al Qaeda was, from the beginning, a big part of the Syrian "revolution". It foresees and warns of the creation of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Some quotes (emph. added):
3 B: AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning ...
3 C: AQI conducted a number of operations in Syrian cities under the name of Jaish al-Nusra ...
These are the moderate rebels and activists the main stream media wrote and is still writing about. More from the report:
8 C: If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.
The "supporting powers" are earlier listed (in 7 B) as:
western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey
The DIA warns that the creation of such an Salafist principality would have "dire consequences" for Iraq and would possibly lead to the creation of an Islamic State and:
create the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi
These DIA folks really earned their salary.
The Obama administration, together with other supporter of the Syrian "opposition", knew that AQ was a large part of that "opposition" from the very beginning. The U.S. and others wanted a Salafist principality in east Syria to cut Syria and Lebanon off from a land route to Iran. It was warned that such a principality would create havoc in Iraq and to the return of AQ in Iraq (today the Islamic State) to Mosul and Ramadi. As this scenario was predicted and followed directly from the situation the U.S. and its partners wanted to achieve we do no longer have to wonder why the U.S. was so reluctant to prevent the fall of Ramadi. It is part of the plan.
Steve Chovanek at Reports From Underground investigates the recent fall of Palmyra to the Islamic State and finds that it is The Result of US-Coalition Ramping up Aid to Extremists. Steve draws from several reports (I had also mentioned here) and finds:
The Obama administration recently approves the shipment of heavy weaponry to the Syrian opposition after long hesitation, the US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan openly encourage working with al-Qaeda to defeat Assad’s army, and the new Saudi King Salman, whose country is the main funder of ISIS, openly has ramped up support to Islamists in Syria, all the while al-Qaeda makes recent gains in the northwest and south, while ISIS makes its gains in the eastern region of Palmyra.
All just one big coincidence? I think not…
I agree that there is obviously some plan behind the seemingly coordinated advances of Al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra or now also as Army of Conquest and the advance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Not only the facts but also the DIA report point to such a plan.
The third item of interest is a Reuters report that picks up on news that had so far only been locally reported in Turkey: Exclusive: Turkish intelligence helped ship arms to Syrian Islamist rebel areas:
Testimony from gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters allege that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials more than a year ago to parts of Syria under Islamist control.
With the publishing of the DIA reports, of reports on active military Turkish support for Al Qaeda Islamists and of pieces that admit the U.S. support for the current Al-Qaeda offense in Syria the Obama administration will probably come under some pressure to change course. The fall of Sirte in Libya to the Islamic State may add to the pile. The Obama administration could at least be pressed to refrain from further supporting Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.
But the Obama administration is notoriously difficult to shame and when in doubt always chooses the worst alternative. The best we can hope for is that information like above gets spread further around and will over time drain support for such policies.
Obama Administration Dilly-dallying On Islamic State Action
The Islamic State took Ramadi with the help of armored bulldozers and some 10 suicide vehicles. That many of the nominal defenders of the city had no real will to fight also helped. But there is another important actor that allowed it to happen. In the critical 24 hours the U.S. coalition which had promised to defend Iraq and to defeat the Islamic State launched just seven air strikes and all only against minor IS targets around the city. That's like nothing.
Now the paltry "dog ate my homework" excuse is a sandstorm no one but the U.S. air support group noticed.
Yesterday the Islamic State held victory parades around Ramadi. A hundred vehicles with black flags parading on a wide open road with black flags on every streetlight pole.
The Islamic State in Ramādī yesterday. Quite amazing the coalition didn't take them out actually. Makes one wonder about the coalitions rules of engagement. Now it "looks" as if Ramādī was offered to them on a silver plate ...
Indeed. The Obama administration and the Pentagon tried their best to play down the strategic loss of Ramadi as something minor that could be somehow repaired within a few days or weeks. But as McClatchy notes: Ramadi joins lengthening list of Pentagon misstatements on Iraq and Experts: U.S. claims Ramadi a mere setback are ‘delusional’.
The U.S. does not take the Islamic State seriously. It is as if Obama has decided that a Jihadist state in east-Syria and west-Iraq is a bright idea that should be given full support. Do his people and those U.S. experts on Saudi/Qatari payrolls tell him that the Islamic State is no danger to U.S. interests? They are wrong.
In his last speech the Islamic State Caliph announced something bigger then 9/11 probably during Ramadan which will be mid-June to mid-July. A big event on June 29, the date Caliph Baghdadi announced the creation of the Islamic State one year ago, would make for a great anniversary.
No mainstream media has followed up on that threat. But at the very end of one McClatchy piece today there is this short paragraph:
Meanwhile, an intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the ground rules of his agency offered a caution: With the anniversary of the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate coming next month, “it would not be surprising if the group sought to mount a major attack or propaganda blitz to demonstrate its capabilities, and attract additional recruits.”
I hate fear mongering and would advise against any panic reaction to that threat. But one could a least show some effort to keep the Islamic State busy and under steady pressure. That would not only probably prevent another Ramadi surprise but could keep important Islamic State actors on the run and too busy to harm even more people.
But whatever warning the Obama administration will get, its current behavior shows that it will, like the Bush administration, not take it seriously.
NYT And Kerry Use Retracted Propaganda Claim To Blame & Shame North Korea
The South Korean spy and propaganda agency makes ab obviously ludicrous claim about something in North Korea. Hours later, after the nonsense claim made the news, it completely retracts it. A few days after that the U.S. cites the original false claim to put more blame and shame on North Korea. The NYT stenographers note the blame and shame but completely ignore that the false claim it is based on had been retracted.
“The world is hearing increasingly more and more stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy by the leader against people who were close to him, sometimes on the flimsiest of excuses,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to Mr. Kim, during a news conference in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.
Mr. Kerry made the comment in response to a recent report that Mr. Kim had ordered one of his top generals, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Hyon Yong-chol, executed with an antiaircraft gun for disloyalty. General Hyon was accused, among other crimes, of dozing off during a meeting Mr. Kim presided over, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea said last week.
South Korea's spy agency said it cannot confirm the execution of North Korea defense chief Hyon Yong Chol, hours after making the opposite claim to South Korean lawmakers.
South Korean lawmaker Kim Kwang-jin told ABC News that Seoul's National Intelligence Service had said in a closed briefing that Hyon was publicly executed for napping and "behaving disrespectfully."
The NIS also said Hyon was executed on April 29 or 30 through the use of anti-aircraft machine guns in an area 13 miles north of Pyongyang – as hundreds of high-ranking military personnel watched.
By late afternoon, the spy agency revised its statement, saying Hyon was purged, but maybe not executed.
The "execution by anti-air gun for napping" was a lie invented, like most "North Korean horror" fairy tales, by the South Korean spy service to push some selected lawmakers to up its budget. When those idiots then talked to the press other people asked why the "disgraced" and "brutally killed" North Korean general was still presented favorably on North Korean TV. The spy agency had to retract its claim.
South Koreans who will have noted the retraction of the propaganda claim will just have learned that Kerry is really the dumb buffoon they probably had already assumed he is. Stupid propaganda stunts like this one is one reason why U.S. foreign policy is no longer seen as a serious endeavor.
Note to State Department briefers: Most people on this planet ain't as shallow-brained as your secretary.
A Movie Recommendation And Open Thread
The movie, again with fantastic music and pictures, tells the grant political story of the last seventy or so years using historic and current footage. The (non-)development of our world is investigated using the example of Afghanistan and the outer forces involved in it.
From Curtis' own description:
It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence - and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened - because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.
[I]t is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil - but instead really tries to makes sense of it.
The movie is quite long, some 140 minutes, but highly recommended.
Use as open thread.
Was The Killing Of The IS Oil Minister A Combined Syrian-U.S. Operation?
Compare these two success announcements about the killing of an alleged Islamic State oil functionary:
Reuters Sat May 16, 2015 7:30am EDT:
Syrian army kills Islamic State's "oil minister"-state TV
May 16 The Syrian army has killed an Islamic State leader responsible for oil-related affairs along with 40 other militants in an attack in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Syrian state media reported.
A news flash on state TV identified Islamic State's "oil minister" as Abu al-Taym al-Saudi. It said he had been killed in a special operation in the Omar oil field, Syria's largest, which Islamic State captured from rival insurgents last July.
Last night, at the President’s direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces.
Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL’s illicit oil and gas operations – a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians.
This operation was conducted with the full consent of Iraqi authorities ..
It is usual that people in the Arab language world are identified by multiple names. "Abu al-Taym al-Saudi" might well be also known as "Abu Sayyaf". The "Omar oilfield" may also be written as "al-Amr".
A later update of the Reuters/SANA version added this paragraph
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that tracks the war, said around 19 Islamic State members had been killed in an air strike on the oil field. Twelve of the dead were foreign fighters, it said.
So what was this? A combined operation of U.S. and Syrian special forces coordinated through Baghdad? An airstrike by either side? Or did one side, the Syrian government or the U.S. administration, "steal" the success from the other side for their own propaganda purpose?
We know that the story the U.S. told over the Bin Laden killing was almost completely false. We therefore have reason to doubt the truthfulness of the NSC statement. The Syrian SANA news agency may not be the most accurate source either but here it was the first to announce the raid. SOHR, while paid by the "west", has proven to be at least somewhat independent. We will need more information before we can really stitch up the story. My bet for now is on a combined Syrian-U.S. operation that neither side has interest in to publicize in full.
As Propaganda Fails Baghdadi Announces A Bigger 9/11
The propaganda war in Iraq and Syria is shifting into a higher gear.
The U.S. led International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria announced on May 9:
DAESH defeated in al-Anbar – DAESH was beaten in Ramadi, Kurma, and Tharthar.#CJTFOIR
Well, not so fast. There were also rumors that the Caliph Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, was incapacitated and that his number two was killed in an air strike. The death of the Baathist leader of the Naqshbandi Order Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri had also been announced. Al-Douri's men had fought together with the Islamic State in its first big offense in Iraq but were shunned as soon as the Islamic State took over Mosul.
Today it turned out that none of those propagandized successes was sustained:
The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.
Islamic State forces also appeared to be closing in on two other key locations in Anbar province, the towns of Baghdadi and Kharma, in a broad offensive that if successful would end the government presence in any of the province’s major population centers.
The announced defeat of DEASH, or IS, in al-Anbar did not hold very long. Six huge suicide car bombs were enough to completely change the situation in Ramadi.
"What's happening in our land today is a direct and comprehensive Persian occupation"- Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri #Iraq in new speech
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri singles out Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim as some of those who could have stood up for Iraqi sovereignty.
In reality, says Duri, the "opportunity has come to an end" and no one can truly express their opinion or stand against Iran.
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri mentions Islamic State by name in latest speech: he says 90% of Anbar province under them & 'armed men'.
Superficial cross-sectarianism: Duri appeals to the people of Karbala too about the problem of "Safavid" schemes, militias etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri says no real 'Popular Mobilization' (Hashd Sha'abi): just cover for Iran militias like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri attacks those in the media who might want to portray his speech as pro-IS. Clearest distancing from IS by name yet.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri on "Da'esh" (IS): "They declare the Ba'ath to be kuffar"
Towards end of speech Duri praises the Saudi-led intervention against the Houthis in #Yemen.
The rumored to be seriously wounded or dead Caliph Baghdadi also released a long audio message as well as transcripts of it in several languages. The Soufan Groups, which sells Middle East "intelligence", wrote in a brief (excerpts):
He begins by castigating any Muslim who won’t immigrate (hijra) to the Islamic State, and who won’t wage a violent war in its defense. For al-Baghdadi, joining him is an obligation, and that “there is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of performing hijrah (immigration) to the Islamic State, or capable of carrying a weapon where he is.”
He then focuses on the Arab governments that he insists are lying in their claims to represent and protect the beleaguered Sunni population. He makes specific mention of the anti-Islamic State Arab forces being trained both by regional governments such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey but also the hated West.
In his litany of complaints against perceived Sunni oppression and abdicated Arab leadership, al-Baghdadi effectively covers the globe in his attempt to be seen as the worldwide supreme leader of the Sunni. He wonders where is the protection for Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Burma, India, China, “Indonesia, the Caucasus, Africa, Khorasan, and everywhere else”. He then focuses on the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. He dismisses the fact the main targets of the Saudi air strikes are the Shi’a Houthis, and describes the effort as “not a storm of resolve, rather it is the kick of a dying person.”
In the speech’s most bizarre segment, al-Baghdadi talks about the sadness he and his group feel at the Iraqi Sunni “seeking refuge in the areas controlled by the Rāfidah (Shi’a) and Kurdish atheists in Iraq, ignoring that it is the savagery of the group that has caused so many people to flee before its advance.
It is interesting to observe the different positions al-Duri and Baghdadi have on the Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen.
There was more in Baghdadi's speech though possibly not in the transcripts. This seems to be quite sensational. Elijah J. Magnier reports:
I made a mistake in reading Baghdadi's voice message:
#ISIS al-Baghdadi is preparing something very big against the West, bigger than 9/11
#ISIS Baghdadi is also giving an approximative date and could be around the coming month of Ramadan (July).
I hope I am wrong but he is saying "the reaction will be huge on all Muslims living in the West". I believe him.
I have listen2 his speech 5 times. Minute 15. Moreover, other core accounts insinuate "something big coming up".
But the "possible date" is hinted and not as explicit as his intention.
So should we really expect some big event?
In other news the Islamic State also attacked in Deir Ez Zor in Syria. But that battle there, around a big military base and the city, has been going back and forth for months without decisive results. Meanwhile Hizbullah is attacking the Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra in the Qulamoun mountains near the Lebanese border. Hizbullah head Nasrallah is expected to give some kind of victory speech tomorrow which lets me assume that the battle goes well.
The former U.S. National Security Advisers Brzezinski and Snowcroft took part in a Congress hearing on Syria. Brzezinski remarks (vid) that of all groups in Syria the Syrian president Assad is clearly the one with biggest following:
“I'm not really sure we knew what we were doing when we [i.e. the U.S. government] made a statement [against Assad]”
The wars in Syria and Iraq will continue until there is a decisive political break on either side. Such a break is nowhere in sight though Baghdadi's 9/11, if it became real, could give an impetus to either side. I therefore agree with Aron Lund who warns of falling for the various "analyst" declarations of victory for this or that side:
Four years after the uprising began, Syria has gained a reputation as the graveyard of political analysis, and it is well deserved. Many more confident statements, reports, and articles will undoubtedly be added to the pile before the war is over—and given the extraordinary complexity of this tragic and brutal conflict, some humility would be in order before pronouncing in favor of either side.
HRW's Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture
Last week we found that Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth used an image of destruction in Gaza caused by Israel to accuse the Syrian government of indiscriminate use of "barrel bombs". We wrote:
This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.
That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.
After our post and many protests on Twitter Kenneth Roth retracted and deleted that tweet. He posted:
Not being happy about having to retract the accusing tweet he sent out a new one again accusing the Syrian government of causing the depicted destruction through "barrel bombs":
U.S. Military To Defend Feng Shui Of Southeast Asia
President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the violation of the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia.
China said it was “deeply concerned” on Wednesday about a reported U.S. proposal to consider sending naval ships and aircraft toward man-made islands in the South China Sea as tensions escalate between the two nations over the vital waters.
“Reclamation isn’t necessarily a violation of international law, but it’s certainly violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia, and it’s certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power,” Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said in a telephone interview.
As it does for a range of regional developments, the U.S. Pacific Command has drawn up contingency plans related to China’s buildup of artificial islands in the South China Sea, U.S. defense officials said.
The plans have not yet been examined at the most senior levels of the Obama administration, and officials said there had been no decision to immediately deploy assets near the artificial islands. Because the islands are in international waters, U.S. planes or ships could transit near them as a matter of course, the officials said.
To further defend the feng shui of Southeast Asia the U.S. is stationing B-1 strategic nuclear bombers and long range surveillance drones in Australia.
Light Posting - Several Issues
(Due to a (harmless) medical procedure my eyesight is temporarily restricted. For a few days I'll have some difficulties to read and write and to post here. Please bear with me.)
Some issues that (still) caught my eyes:
The Telegraph, like may other propaganda outlets, claims that the Syrian government is falling apart:
Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country's National Security Bureau, has been removed as the regime of Bashar al-Assad begins to show divisions over the role of Iran
Syria's security services chief Ali Mamluk attended a meeting between President Bashar Assad and an Iranian official on Wednesday, after a newspaper claimed he was under house arrest for plotting a coup.
Mamluk's presence at the meeting, which was reported by the official news agency SANA, came after Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the top regime official had been sidelined.
SANA said Mamluk was among the attendees at the meeting between Assad and the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaedin Boroujerdi.
The false Telegraph piece was cited as support in today's David Ignatius CIA kool-aid column which claims that the Jihadists are winning but therefore(?!) need more U.S. help. Or something like that. At least he somewhat admits that the "moderate rebels" are led by Al-Qaeda. A Saudi mouthpiece calls for opening "dialogue with moderate forces in Al-Qaeda such as Al-Nusra Front." The moderate cuddly homegrown Al-Qaeda? Where did he pick that up?
The Israelis do not mind Al-Qaeda and other Jihadists. The son of Ariel Sharon now prefers ISIS at the Golan border over a secular President Assad. His kool-aid:
Analysis: If the Syrian leader is toppled, Israel would have Islamic State on its doorstep, but it wouldn't have to face it alone; it would also mean the end of Hezbollah and leave the Golan permanently in Israel's hands.
Nice plan. Not gonna work.
One Sy Hersh hit piece follows dozens others. The authors of these piss poor laments have zero credentials compared to Hersh. But they are all invested in the White House fairy tales of the Bin Laden killing and even used it to market their books. They are mad that Hersh is taking them to the cleaners. Losers.
Hersh claims that the Pakistanis held Osama bin Laden as prisoner/guest on request of the Saudis. A Pakistani brigadier walked-in and told the CIA in exchange for money. The U.S. pressured the Pakistani generals to cooperate. The Seals flew in with the knowledge of the Pakistanis who held back their own troops. The Seals killed Bin Laden and White House fairy tales covered up the whole political mess.
The Hersh story makes sense. The News in Pakistan confirmed the walk-in part of the story. The Bin Laden house was known to be a ISI safe house with prison features. The longtime NYT correspondent to Pakistan finds the Hersh story quite plausible and fitting with her knowledge.
The Ukrainian coup parliament voted for "war time powers":
According to this law, the military command and the local administrations have the right to establish a regime of enhanced protection of critical facilities, to introduce labor service for able-bodied persons, forcibly confiscate private and communal property for state needs, to prohibit peaceful assemblies, meetings, marches, demonstrations and other public events, to prohibit activities of political parties, to carry out the evacuation of the population, and other actions.
Ahh - "western values" ...
The Israeli military had a press briefing to explained how it will commit more war crimes during its next war on Lebanon. The NYT of course "reports" the Israeli claims that Hizbullah is hiding with civilians and that Israel will therefore have to kill them all without any actual fact checking.
Notes a critic:
[The NYT] fails to recognize the irony of officials in their central Tel Aviv military headquarters lambasting Hezbollah for embedding among civilians.
Why Is The Hersh Abbottabad Story Coming Out Now?
The Hersh story about the killing of Osama bin Laden gets trashed by the usual suspects in the main stream media. They have fallen for, and "reported", the story the White House and the CIA told them. To acknowledge that Hersh is mostly right on this would embarrass them too much.
But they could have known better. The Hersh story is not new. It is pretty much the same story R.J. Hillhouse told back in 2011. Her take was also somewhat confirmed by the former Pakistani Brigadier FB Ali at Pat Lang's site.
Hillhouse is now pissed, rightly, that the current Hersh story does not mention her account:
On August 7, 2011, I wrote, among other things:
- The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
- OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the "Rewards for Justice" program.
- The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
- Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
- The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
- Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
- Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
- The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
- The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed
That all make sense and, as I do not believe that Hersh has a need to simply plagiarize her, is now confirmed by his sources.
The great heroic tales of the seals, the "torture let to bin Laden" claims by the CIA and all the other nonsense told about the event were just propaganda.
But one wonders why the story is coming out now. Sure it makes the White House look bad. It also lets the Pakistani generals look bad but only in the eyes of the Saudis. But it surely lets the Saudis look bad - those people who financed Bin Laden and paid the Pakistanis to keep him locked up. Who might have been that?
Coincidentally a piece in today's NYT about the new Saudi king gives hints:
In increasing the kingdom’s regional role, King Salman risks escalating the conflict with Iran, fueling further instability. And his support for Islamists could end up empowering extremists, just as Saudi support for the Afghan jihad decades ago helped create Al Qaeda.
King Salman has a history of working with Islamists. Decades ago, he was a royal point man and fund-raiser for jihadists going to Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere.
Salman just snubbed Obama by declining an invitation to Camp David. He is ignoring U.S. "advice" to stop the bombing of Yemen. Is someone trying to apply pressure on him.
It is always interesting when one sees such issues - the Hersh story, the NYT tale of his AlQaeda financing and Salman's resistance to the White House orders - come together at a single point in time. Is that directed or just coincidence?
Open Thread 2015-21
News & views ...
Human Rights Watch Again Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Done By Others
In February we pointed to a Human Rights Watch tweet that showed a picture of the Kurdish-Syrian city Kobane destroyed by U.S. bombing. The HRW tweet falsely claimed that the damage was caused by Syrian government "barrel bombs".
HRW is at it again. Today Kenneth Ross, director of Human Rights Watch tweeted this:
Neither does the picture fit to anything in Aleppo, nor could the damage shown reasonable have been achieved by "barrel bombs" thrown form helicopters.
But as Adam Johnson of Fair.org points out the picture is a still from a pirated copy of a video produced and uploaded on March 8 by the Danish TV station DR Nyheder. The original caption to that video is:
Unikke tv-optagelser med drone viser omfanget af ødelæggelserne efter Israels bombardement af Gaza i sommer.
The drone video shows the immense damage done by last summer's Israeli bombing of Gaza.
HRW also used a wrongly attribute picture to claim that a person hurt by Nazis in Ukraine was a victim of the Russian president Putin.
This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.
That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.
Saudi Arabia To Indiscriminate Bomb Yemen, U.S. Reportedly Amused
Saudi Arabia has reportedly beheaded five foreigners and hung their corpses from helicopter to set an example.
According to a report published in 'The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula' on Wednesday, the men were found guilty of murdering an Indian guard and stealing his money. After their beheading, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi officials hung the bodies from a helicopter so as to deter others from committing such crimes.
Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly amused.
Saudi-led forces carried out air strikes on Friday in Yemen's Saada province, a bastion of Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and warned all civilians to leave a day after Riyadh promised a harsh response to cross-border Houthi attacks.
Saudi state television channel Al Ekhbariya said the whole of the northwestern province would become a military target from Friday evening, hinting at an escalation in the Saudi-led coalition's six-week-old intervention in Yemen's civil war.
After six weeks of Saudi bombing and a total Saudi-U.S. blockade of Yemen there is no means of transport available for lack of fuel. The some 850,000 people of Saada have no way to leave to anywhere let alone anywhere to leave to. Indiscriminate bombing of Saada city and governate will lead to a huge loss of lives. And what use is a warning when all communications systems in the area have been bombed and when there is no electricity.
The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen notes:
With or without advanced warning, direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under #IHL. #Saada #Yemen
Issuing warnings of impeding attacks does not absolve warring parties of their obligations under rules and principles of #IHL. #Saada #Yemen
Warring parties must take all necessary precautions to spare civilian life and property. #Saada #Sanaa #Aden #Taiz #Yemen
Not that the Saudis will care. As I already remarked on April 1:
This is essentially the same strategy Israel uses against Gaza, only on a ten times bigger scale.
One wonders how many Israeli "consultants" are advising the Saudi general staff.
Having security talks in #Paris w some of our best partners: #Bahrain, #Kuwait, #Oman, #Qatar, #SaudiArabia & #UAE.
5:18 AM - 8 May 2015
Using Head-To-Head Polls To Decide ElectionsOne trick in national electioneering is to portrait the likely though narrow incumbents as the underdog in the run up to election day. Those doing the pools and the media who favor the likely winner will then propagandize a head to head race in which the opposition is slightly in front.
This helps the incumbents in two regards. It mobilizes their own marginal voters who now fear a victory of the demonized opposition. FUD - fear, uncertainty, doubt is their election tool. It also lets opposition leaders feel somewhat secure and to let them soften their campaign promises and announced policies. This then turns off their marginal voters.
We have seen this scheme over and over again. The German election in 1965 was a prime example. The poll institutions in favor of the conservatives published numbers that showed a possible and even likely opposition win. The conservative press and the conservative voters were mobilized by this and the opposition was distracted from more radical and popular policies it should have promoted. The outcome was defying the false polls and a conservative win by a wide margin ensued.
The recent elections in Israel saw the use the same trick. The likely outcome, so was said, was a loss for Netanyahoo to the (slightly) more liberal opposition. This helped Netanyahoo to mobilize the more radical parts of his base by warning of the "great dangers" a opposition win would lead to. He won.
The Conservatives in Britain, their supporting pollsters and the conservative supporting press (most of British media) also used this tactic. Even the final polls showed Labour and Conservatives being head to head but the election was a wide win for the Conservatives. While party leaders will resign over the "unexpected" losses no pollster will be disqualified, even when they should be, and they will therefore use the same trick again in the next elections. Instead of going for a more social policy, as it should have done during the campaign, Labour will continue to move to the right. This will marginalize it further just like several such moves by the social-democratic SPD in Germany which are leading to its demise.
Next time you see a head to head prognosis by this or that pollster be aware that the real numbers may well differ and that the published polls are just one trick of the campaign trade.
2020 may see a not-so-great-anymore Britain without Scotland and outside of the EU. I can't think of anyone who would lose tears over that turn of history.
It's Official: The U.S. Collaborates With Al Qaeda
The propaganda against Syria is milking the capture of Idlib city by Jabhat al-Nusra and assorted other Islamist groups. The general tone is "Assad is losing" illogically combined with a demand that the U.S. should now bomb the Syrian government troops. Why would that be necessary if the Syrian government were really losing control?
A prime example comes via Foreign Policy from Charles Lister, an analyst from Brooking Doha, which is paid with Qatari money but often cooperating with the Obama administration. That headline declares that Assad is losing and the assault on Idlib is lauded in the highest tone. Then the piece admits that this small victory against retreating Syrian troops was only possible because AlQaeda was leading in the assault.
The piece admits that the U.S. which wants to balance between AlQaeda and the Syrian government forces prolonging the conflict in the hope that both sides will lose, was behind that move:
The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions’ backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey, which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards. That operations room — along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria’s south — also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks.
Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.
The U.S. led operations room encouraged cooperation between the Islamists of the so called Fee Syrian Army and AlQaeda. A U.S. drone, shot down over Latakia in March, was gathering intelligence for the AlQaeda attack on Idlib. More that 600 TOW U.S. anti-tank missiles have been used against Syrian troops in north Syria. These are part of the 14,000 the Saudis had ordered from the U.S. producer.
Even if the U.S., as now admitted, would not officially urge its mercenaries to cooperate with Jabhat al-Nusra such cooperation was always obvious to anyone who dared to look:
In southern Syria [..] factions that vowed to distance themselves from extremists like Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-April were seen cooperating with the group in Deraa only days later.
The reality is that the directly U.S. supported, equipped and paid "moderate" Fee Syrian Army Jihadi mercenaries are just as hostile to other sects as the AlQaeda derivative Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. They may not behead those who they declare to be unbelievers but they will kill them just as much.
While the U.S. is nurturing AlQaeda in Syria, Turkey is taking care of the Islamic State. Tons of Ammonium Sulfate, used to make road side bombs, is "smuggled" from Turkey to the Islamic State under official eyes. Turkish recruiters incite Muslims from the Turkman Uighur people in west China and from Tajikistan to emigrate to the Islamic State. They give away Turkish passports to allow those people to travel to Turkey from where they reach Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile the Saudis bomb everyone and everything in Yemen except the cities and areas captured by AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula.
The U.S. and its allies are now in full support of violent Sunni Jihadists throughout the Middle East. At the same time they use the "threat of AlQaeda" to fearmonger and suppress opposition within their countries.
Charles Lister and the other Brooking propagandists want the U.S. to bomb Syria to bring the Assad government to the table to negotiate. But who is the Syrian government to negotiate with? AlQaeda?
Who would win should the Syrian government really lose the war or capitulate? The U.S. supported "moderate rebels" Islamist, who could not win against the Syrian government, would then take over and defeat AlQaeda and the Islamic State?
Who comes up with such phantasies?
Open Thread 2015-20
News & views ...
The Lies Of Anne Barnard
Anne Barnard is the New York Times’s Beirut bureau chief covering Syria, Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East region. Like her Washington Post's colleague Liz Sly she reports along the established Washington propaganda lines emphasizing Arab sectarianism and "U.S. does good" claims.
Here she writes on the killing of at least 52 civilians in Fridays bombing of Bir Mahli, in Aleppo Province by a U.S. led "coalition" air attack. The last sentence of her short report reads:
The Observatory said that members of at least six families were killed, along with some Islamic State fighters, and that 13 were missing.
Now compare that with the AFP report on the issue:
"Not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on Birmahle, said Abdel Rahman, adding that the village is inhabited by civilians only with no IS presence.
The Associated Press report of the incident:
On Saturday, the Observatory director Rami Abdurrahman said the strikes hit only civilians in their homes in Bir Mhali, a mixed Kurdish and Arab village, killing 52, including seven children and nine women.
How can Barnard claim the Observatory said the civilians were killed "along with some Islamic State fighters" when the Observatory, according to AFP and AP, said the opposite?
What Barnard wrote is not some fudging or misunderstanding. It is a clear lie.
That lie lets her readers believe that the murdered families were "collateral damage" of a well intended, legitimate strike. But that is clearly not the case. No IS fighters were killed and none were even nearby. The killing of these civilians may even have been intended from nefarious reasons.
McClatchy, with its own reporting and a historically much better record than the NYT, finds no IS fighters killed but suggests that the airstrikes and killing was part of an ethnic cleansing campaign by Kurds, supported by the U.S. "coalition", against the Arab population in the area:
The reported deaths of the villagers also embroiled the United States in Syria’s fierce ethnic rivalries, with activists pointing out that the fishing and farming village of about 4,000 Arabs has had tense relations with Kurds living nearby – especially with the Kurdish “People’s Protection Units” or YPG.
The activist, who spoke to McClatchy by Skype on condition of anonymity out of fear of both the YPG and the Islamic State, said the coalition may have received flawed intelligence about the target from its allies on the ground, a reference to YPG forces. “ Kurdish hostility towards Arabs in the area has been pretty clear for a long time,” the activist said. “Otherwise, how would you explain the Kurds burning Arab houses under their own control?”
He added that the coalition had bombed a bridge at the town of Karakozak some months ago that he said was the only crossing over the Euphrates River in the area. The bridge’s destruction had “put the whole area under siege.”
If the U.S. relies solely on YPG information about targets we can expect a lot more bombing of Arab civilians in the areas next to YPG positions. We can also expect that Anne Barnard will then again claim that all those murdered in such strikes were killed "along with some Islamic State fighters".
May 1 - A Terrific Day For U.S. Target Intelligence In Syria And Yemen
The U.S. military and intelligence groups involved with Central Command in the Middle East celebrated May 1 with a little competition and two terrific target selections:
US-led air strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in a village in northern Syria, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
"Air strikes by the coalition early on Friday on the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province killed 52 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Seven children were killed, and 13 people are still trapped in the rubble," he said.
Abdel Rahman told AFP that Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebel fighters were clashing with IS in a town roughly two kilometres (1 mile) away.
"But Birmahle is only civilians, with no IS positions and no clashes," he said.
Abdel Rahman said "not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on the village,...
Well done. But the CentCom military intelligence group supporting the Saudi war on Yemen showed that it could do better:
A series of Saudi airstrikes hit a hospital and medical camp in southwestern Yemen on Friday, killing at least 58 civilians and injuring at least 67, two local Yemeni government officials said.
Most of the dead and injured were medics and patients, they said.
Raheda Hospital is one of the largest and busiest in the area. The medical camp is part of the hospital.
Three local Yemeni government officials said the hospital was not being used by Houthi rebels and that none of the dead was a rebel fighter.
Seems like the war on Yemen targeting group won the sixpack.
The best overall briefing on the war of Yemen comes in today's Independent. It is a bit speculative on the Saudi motive though when it suggest that King Salman and his son saw the war on Yemen "as a way of securing their power and removing rival factions in the royal family from power." That may be a side motive but the real is more likely the one suggested by Hillary Mann Leverett:
[W]hat we’re seeing is a product of Saudi disorientation and terror at a region that could become more representative in terms of its governance, more independent in terms of its foreign policy. The Saudis are trying to prevent that kind of independence in foreign policy from emerging in Yemen, and they have yet again gone down this road with the United States to a war that has no end.
That description fits the fact that the Saudis started the bombing just in the moment a UN brokered power sharing deal in Yemen was about to be signed. As the Independent piece describes it:
[T]he beginning of the Saudi air war five weeks ago put a stop to negotiations which were about to succeed in establishing a power sharing government in the capital Sanaa according to the UN envoy Jamal Benomar. He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that “when this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis.”
The U.S. supported the bombing from the very beginning by giving the Saudis the necessary intelligence. This stopped the peaceful solution of the political competition in Yemen. No wonder that the UN envoy resigned in protest. From March 26:
Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and Persian Gulf allies early this week that it was preparing a military operation in neighboring Yemen, and relied heavily on U.S. surveillance images and targeting information to carry it out, according to senior American and Persian Gulf officials.
Since than the U.S. intelligence support for the Saudis has increased. From April 10:
The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters.
The U.S. officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom's targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.
What will those Yemenis who's relatives were killed in the hospital strike yesterday think about such U.S. targeting support?
The Independence piece linked above also includes this sentence which is I believe as a first in the main stream media:
[King Salman] has not only started an air war in Yemen but has given stronger backing to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa’ida affiliate, and other jihadi groups in Syria. These have recently won several victories in Idlib province over the Syrian army and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The Saudis are also supporting Al Qaeda in Yemen and are even pushing others to join them:
Haykal Bafana @BaFana3
Journalists need to wake up & write about the pressure being applied by Saudi Arabia on tribes & leaders in Hadhramaut to accept AQ rule.
The Saudis rush more support to Al Qaeda and U.S. intelligence is selecting civilian targets to be bombed.
Is there anyone who believes that this will end well?
How U.S. Journalists Inflame Middle East Sectarianism - e.g. Liz Sly
Sectarianism in the Middle East is regularly inflamed by the Sunni Salafi/Wahhabi groups and countries in the Middle East. It is directed against all other strains of Islam as well as against all other religions.
But as the "western" governments and media favor the Saudi Arabian side and often denigrate the "resistance" side, be it Shia, Sunni or whatever else, they insist that it is the Shia side that is preaching sectarianism. One can often experience this with reports on speeches of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah who is always very careful to not ever use sectarian language. When Nasrallah condemns Takfiri terrorists like AlQaeda and the Islamic State as non-Muslim and calls them the greatest danger to Sunnis, Shia and Christians alike the "western" media like to report that he warns of Sunnis in general and is thus spreading sectarianism.
Many such reports come from "western" reporters who are stationed in Beirut, speak no Arabic and depend on the spokespersons and translators in the offices of the Saudi-Lebanese Sunni leader Hariri. For an ever growing collection of typical examples see the Angry Arab here and here.
The finding of non-existent sectarian language in "resistance" leaders' communications and the emphasizing of it has been internalized by "western" reporters. You can clearly see the process in the exemplary Twitter exchange copied below.
Liz Sly is the Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post in Beirut and does not speak Arabic. Elijah J. Magnier is Chief International Correspondent for the Kuwaiti TV station AL RAI. He speaks Arabic and has covered the war on Iraq and other wars on the ground for decades.
The issue at hand is a defense bill in front of the U.S. Congress which refers to Sunni militia, Kurds and other groups in Iraq as distinguished "countries" which are to be armed separately from the state of Iraq. "Divide and rule" writ large. Many Iraqi politicians including the Prime Minister have spoken out against it. The Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr warned of the consequences should the bill go through which he says would include an unleashing of his troops against U.S. interests.
Notice how Liz Sly insist on a sectarian aspect/intent in Sadr's proclamation even when there clearly is none. She keeps in insisting on it even after she gets pointed to an official denial of any sectarian intent by a Sadr spokesperson. The exchange:
Liz Sly 17h17 hours ago
Moqtada Sadr to the US: if you arm Iraq's Sunnis, we will fight Americans in Iraq. https://twitter.com/jihadicas/status/593512749235249152 …
Elijah J. Magnier 8h8 hours ago
@LizSly Moqtada didn't say that https://twitter.com/EjmAlrai/status/593324552437903360 …
Liz Sly 6h6 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Didn't mean literally fighting US troops, but to fight against US presence in Iraq. Presumably would hit embassy, personnel etc?
Elijah J. Magnier 6h6 hours ago
@LizSly U r right as Moqtada said he will fight USA in Iraq and abroad but didn't say if Sunni are armed.
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly "We shall hit US interest in Iraq & abroad, as possible, ', if US approves supporting each religion independently",
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Right, he means if Sunnis are armed directly by the US under that weird bill
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly I spoke to S. Ali Seism who said it is not directed to Sunni but 2 all religions (incl Kurds) as there are more than Sunnis in Iraq.
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly In fact the communique' doesn't say in any line the word "Sunni" but "all religions".
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai The bill is aimed at arming Sunnis and my tweet makes it clear Muqtada is against the US arming Sunnis, not against arming them
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly Moqtada communique' clearly didn't mention Sunni: "Not arming religions": Fayli, Turkman, Sunni, Shia, Yazidi... Feel free.
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Ok, but it's clear he's against a bill whose goal is to permit the US to directly arm Sunnis, not eg Fayli. As are many Iraqis.
The last paragraph of Sadr's statement says:
American should know that if it wants to exacerbate sectarian sentiment, we would continue to tread on the path of national unity. Let sectarianism fall out of existence! This is the very sectarianism that seeks to create [artificial] borders.
The U.S. Congress introduces a law that would exacerbate sectarianism in Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr responses with a statement explicitly speaking out against sectarianism. Liz Sly insist that it is therefore Sadr who is playing a sectarian card.
Is this insistence by Liz Sly on sectarian "Shia leader Sadr is against Sunnis" justified by anything but sly, willful exaggeration, and even falsification, of what Sadr wrote? Who is the sectarian here?
NYT Propagandizes False Ukrainian History
The New York Times claims that the Ukraine Separatists Rewrite History of 1930s Famine. A headline nearer to the historic truth would be "NYT Propagandizes False Ukrainian History" or "Ukraine Separatists Correct Rewritten History of 1930s Famine".
An excerpt from the piece says:
Traditionally, Ukrainian historians have characterized the famine as a genocide, the direct result of Stalin’s forced collectivization and the Soviet government’s requisitioning of grain for export abroad, leaving Ukraine short — and its borders sealed shut. Since Ukraine gained independence, that is what its students have been taught.
But that is not what students in southeastern Ukraine are learning this year. Instead, under orders from the newly installed separatist governments, they are getting the sanitized Russian version, in which the famine was an unavoidable tragedy that befell the entire Soviet Union.
West-Ukrainians have claimed that the famine caused by the Soviet government under Stalin was a unique genocide targeted against ethnic Ukrainians. They often use this claim to demonize Russians. But that claim is ahistoric and false.
The famine happened in all agricultural areas of the Soviet Union. The Volga region of Russia was just as much effected as the Ukraine region But the most hurt area was Kazakhstan:
Kazakhs were most severely affected by the Soviet famine in terms of percentage of people who died (approximately 38%). Around 1.5 million people died in Kazakhstan of whom 1.3 million where ethnic Kazakhs.
Even the Ukrainians who claim that the famine was a special anti-Ukrainian genocide concede that point. In a 2009 piece on the issue the NYT quoted a Ukrainian professor who propagandizes the genocide myth:
“If in other regions, people were hungry and died from famine, then here people were killed by hunger,” Professor Kulchytsky said. “That is the absolute difference.”
So being "killed by hunger" in Ukraine and "died from famine" in the Volga region and Kazakhstan is an "absolute difference"? The cause as well as the outcome seem to be the same to me. What else but some national genocide myth making could create an "absolute difference" in that.
The reasons for the famine are also multiple and not caused by a Stalin order or intent to "kill the Ukrainians":
In War On Syria, Other, U.S. Is "Balancing" To Keep Control
After the fall of Idleb, a Syrian governate capitol near to the border with Turkey, the anti-Syrian forces have continued their attack on Syrian government positions in the north-west. These forces are Jabhat al-Nusra allied with other Salafi-Jihadist brigades. During the last month the well coordinated attackers used at least several dozens of U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles against Syrian army positions.
While some TOW missiles delivered by the U.S. to a CIA controlled anti-Syrian brigade were earlier seized by Jabhat al-Nusra the amount used by it in the Idleb campaign is far larger. Jabhat al-Nusra must now have a constant supply of such weapons. There was also a significant amount of Milan antitank weapons used though (vid) predominately in the south near the Jordan border. These are originally a German-French product. Both Milan and TOW are in the stocks of various Arab Persian Gulf countries.
The attackers also used encrypted radios which the Syrian army seem unable to decrypt in real time. The open radio traffic of 2-way-radios so far used by the foreign supported attackers was easy to follow and this had helped to defend army positions. To defend against an enemy which has secure communication is more difficult.
The CIA and U.S. special forces are involved in training and directing anti-Syrian forces and are part of attacker "control-rooms" in Turkey and Jordan. They certainly know down to each serial number who transferred these weapons to the Al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al-Nusra and others. Possible sources include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and, most likely, the U.S. itself.
The Syrian army seems to be in difficulties. Its attacks these year all stalled and it lines are thin with the troops being overwhelmed wherever the attackers concentrate forces and firepower. The army has no shortage of weapons and ammunition but its manpower is down. Unfortunately it again left much material behind when it retreated from Idleb. I find it inexplicable that such stocks are not blown up or otherwise made unusable when a retreat necessitates to leave them behind.
The usual suspects are already gloating that "Assad is finished". They have said so every few months since at least 2012. Talk of immediate victory for either side is unjustified. The fighting in Syria and elsewhere will continue for a long time.
To find a response to the current setback the Syrian army chief is visiting Tehran to seek additional support:
Leading a military delegation, the Syrian army chief will have talks with his Iranian counterpart, Col. Hussain Dahqan, and other senior military officials to discuss ways of cooperation to face the threats of terrorism and other regional challenges, according to the report.
The visit comes a day after Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, signed in Moscow a cooperation agreement on countering terrorism.
The agreement provides a new legal springboard to further bolster bilateral ties, Kolokoltsev said.
We can expect new Russian weapon deliveries as well as more Iran trained and supported fighters on the Syrian battle field. But the real response to the new offense must come in the diplomatic space. Iran as well as Russia will have to come up with ideas to press the other countries to end their support for the Jihadists.
The U.N. invited all parties, for the first time including Iran, for new Syrian peace talk in Geneva. I do not expect any concrete outcome from these talks.
In the big picture we see one part of the Arab and Muslim world financing and providing material and political support to AlQaeda and other Wahhabi Jihadist groups. This while another part of the Arab and Muslim world is fighting against these. The winner so far are the Jihadis themselves and the anti-Arab forces in Israel and the United States.
In the Saudi war on Yemen AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula is the winner and is now also, disguised as tribal fighters, receiving Saudi weapons. AlQaeda in Syria is, according to U.S. Vice President Biden, intensely supported by the Wahhabi Gulf states as are Islamist fighters in Libya and Iraq. The United States is now trying to be the arbitrator over those who finance AlQaeda and those fighting it. Its aim is to keep control over everyone involved by making sure that no side wins. Countries get destroyed that will need rebuilding, weapons and ammunition are bought and used up, oil prices stay reasonable high. What is not to like with that? The U.S. position will prolong all these conflicts until the inevitable blowback will push it to again change its policies.
NSA Failure - THIS Hacking Of The White House Was Not Really Severe
While spending billions for spying on citizens the NSA obviously lacks the capacity to protect the White House and the State Department:
Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.
The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.
Much of that "unclassified" email still contains restricted information like official schedules and briefings. The hack certainly did some damage. The blaming of "Russian" hackers though is dubious. How did the investigators attribute this? And if they are sure why not make a public case of it? There are some hints in the reporting that the "Russian" angle is not that clear at all:
One of the curiosities of the White House and State Department attacks is that the administration, which recently has been looking to name and punish state and nonstate hackers in an effort to deter attacks, has refused to reveal its conclusions about who was responsible for this complex and artful intrusion into the government.
This month, after CNN reported that hackers had gained access to sensitive areas of the White House computer network, including sections that contained the president’s schedule, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the administration had not publicly named who was behind the hack because federal investigators had concluded that “it’s not in our best interests.”
Usually Russia and its president Putin get officially blamed in Washington for every evil in this world. Why not now? May there have been someone else involved? We probably can guess who from this part:
The hackers appear to have been evicted from the White House systems by the end of October. But they continued to plague the State Department, whose system is much more far-flung. The disruptions were so severe that during the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna in November, officials needed to distribute personal email accounts, to one another and to some reporters, to maintain contact.
Official traffic was pushed off the official servers to completely unprotected and easy to surveil private accounts. This during the negotiations with Iran. Who could have had an interest in that? Were those "Russian" hackers speaking Hebrew? That would explain the spokesperson's claim that it was "not in our best interests" to reveal the source.
But again why isn't the NSA able to protect the unclassified email servers? Why would it take months to clean them up? Why is spying on others deemed more important than protecting ones own communication?
Think of network attacker as a needle lost on a dirty living room floor. What does the NSA do to find that needle? It goes off and searches the barn because "that's were the hay is."
There are of course also protected networks and systems but those may not be easy enough to use. Or they have also been hacked. There is a hint of that as the article ends with an ominously specific denial:
The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies put their most classified material into a system called Jwics, for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. That is where top-secret and “secret compartmentalized information” traverses within the government, to officials cleared for it — and it includes imagery, data and graphics. There is no evidence, senior officials said, that this hacking pierced it.
Hmm. "THIS hacking probably did not pierce that secret network. Why, if it has never been hacked, would the officials be so very specific in THIS claim? If THIS hack was not that severe which one was? What other cases of hacked government communication, by you know who, are covered up behind this claim?
Open Thread 2015-19
News & views ...
"Targeted" Drone Strikes Are Rather Random Murder
The president, in his most expansive public discussion on drones, defended their targeted killings as both effective and legal.
He acknowledged the civilian deaths that sometimes result, a consequence that has angered many of the countries where the US seeks to combat extremism, and said he grapples with that trade-off.
"For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live," he said. Before any strike, he said, "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set."
A U.S. drone strike targeting a compound frequented by al Qaida leaders accidentally killed two hostages, including one American, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in January, the White House announced Thursday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that two other Americans, both members of al Qaida, also had been killed in Pakistan in January.
Neither man had been targeted in the raids that killed them, U.S. officials said.
That "highest standard" for murder by drone is obviously less high that the CIA operators who killed and kill thousands of non-combatants through drone strikes on "suspect compounds," weddings and funerals.
Obama now apologizes because a somewhat "special" American got unintentionally killed in one strike. But out of eight U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes only one was ever the intended target. That's the "highest standard"? And why doesn't Obama apologize for the 4,000+ other civilians killed? Oh, those weren't Jews spying on Pakistan like the "aid worker" hostage killed in that strike? Why can't Obama admit that neither he nor his psychopathic CIA-director Brennan have any real idea who or what they are targeting when they order to press the kill-buttons?
In March Brennan fired the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. We now know why. But the man was just a subaltern. The drone-killing policy is made by Brennan and signed off by Obama. They must be held responsible.
Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. The appalling reason:
Despite the bad reviews overseas, drone strikes remain persistently popular with the American public, with about two-thirds expressing approval in polls. And despite the protests of a few liberal Democrats or libertarian Republicans, they have enjoyed unusual bipartisan support in Congress, where they are viewed as reducing the threat of terrorist attack and keeping American operators out of harm’s way.
Someone should probably start to drone-murder random people in the U.S. That might change the perspective.
Yemen: Saudis To Arm "Popular Committees" (aka Al Qaeda)
On the 17th Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula took a city, a military base, an oil terminal and an airport in south Yemen.
Military officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen's largest brigades outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, which the militants overran earlier this month. The militants then seized control of Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city's main seaport, which is also an oil terminal.
The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.
Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance to al-Qaida fighters.
Reading that I commented:
Now Saudis can fly in ammo and men
That was meant more as a joke but now turns out to be likely spot on.
The overrun brigade who's commander fled and who's soldiers did not fight AQ was the 27th Infantry brigade in Mukalla. Its supreme commander and "sponsor" is Mohammed Ali Mohsen:
The commander of the Eastern Area is BG Mohammed Ali Mohsen. The Eastern Area includes the governorates of Hadramawt and al-Mahra.
Ali Mohsen earlier fled to Saudi Arabia. He is near to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islah, which unlike other MB branches traditionally receives support from Saudi Arabia.
Calling from Saudi Arabi Ali Mohsen ordered his troops to put up no resistance to the takeover of the city and the airport by Al Qaeda.
To hide their traces a bit the Al Qaeda folks immediately renamed themselves:
Qaeda fighters have seized the airport, government buildings and a refinery around Al Mukalla, establishing themselves as the most powerful local force. In an effort to win popular support, they have begun calling themselves the Sons of Hadhramaut and have promised to quickly return control of the city to local civilian leaders. When they seized a major army base outside of the city on Friday, they allowed the soldiers inside to leave unharmed, according to a local tribal leader.
The Al Qaeda folks who captured the airport renamed themselves to get "popular support". My hunch is that the "Sons of Hadhramaut" are now a "popular committee."
[Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.] Adel Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia is providing support and weapons to so-called “Popular Committees,” militia groups who have in recent years emerged in Yemen as a counterweight to extremist groups in the country. Jubeir said that if the Houthis do not join the political process, these groups will step up activity against them.
To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are "extremist groups". Al Qaeda, especially in the form of "popular committees" like the "Sons of Hadhramaut", are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.
But the Saudis are again miscalculating if they believe that the Jihadist are a match for the war experienced Houthies and the Republican Guard troops under former president Saleh who are allied with them. Al Qaeda is not a capable ground force. It can be beaten in open fighting. Whether the Houthies could thereafter hold on to southern parts of country against the will of the local population is a different question.
What Is The Purpose Of This U.S. Fleet Concentration Next To Iran?
The Obama regime claims that it wants to hold the Saudis back from further killing in Yemen:
Top Obama administration officials have failed for several days to persuade Saudi Arabia’s government to limit the scope of its airstrikes on cities and towns in Yemen, a campaign that authorities said killed nearly 50 people Monday in Sana, the capital.
The White House would like Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies to curtail the airstrikes and narrow the objective to focus on protecting the Saudi border, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal deliberations.
The problem with this story is the acknowledged fact that the U.S. is still heavily supporting the Saudi attacks:
U.S. officials in Riyadh and Qatar are sharing intelligence from surveillance drones and spy satellites with officers from the Saudi-led coalition but are not approving individual targets, according to Pentagon officials.
“The air component is providing the Saudis intel on potential targets that include … civilian casualty mitigation procedures,” Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman, Air Force spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, said Monday.
If the White House would really want to stop the Saudis it could simply stop supporting them. Without U.S. intelligence the Saudis would be blind. It could stop providing more bombs and the Saudis would eventually run out of ammunition.
The Obama regime is simply not serious about this. It does not care one bit about Yemenis or about the expansion of AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula (which renamed itself into "Sons of Hadramout" to get more official Saudi support).
Meanwhile the U.S. is building up a fleet concentration in the Arab sea next to Yemen. Some 10 to 12 capital ships will soon be there. Several destroyers. Three helicopter carriers/landing ships with a battalion of Marines each, one air craft carrier and an unknown number of nuclear submarines. All this to prevent a non existing threat to international shipping lanes and to stop non-existing supply convoys from Iran to the Houthies. Claims by the White House that Iran supplies the Houthies are ludicrous propaganda. There is not much love between Houthis and Iran, Yemen is full of weapons anyway and there is no evidence that any supplies have ever been provided. Why then this propaganda and fleet concentration?
The administration has a problem. Sanction against Iran are coming to an end no matter how the nuclear talks with Iran will end. Iran has shown its willingness to resolve the issue. The U.S. is the party blocking it. If there is a pact signed in June sanctions will end. If there is no pact signed in June the U.S. will be blamed and the sanction regime will fall apart. The Russian decision to finally provide S-300 air defense to Iran was an explicit sign for that. The Chinese are currently heavily bribing Pakistan to get a land route to Iranian gas. The U.S. will soon no longer able to constrain Iran through an internationally supported "crippling sanctions" regime.
Before the U.S. attacked Iraq the sanction regime there was also falling apart. Without sanctions increased Iraqi oil production would have lowered the price of oil. The oil men, and the Bush administration had many of them, would have made much less money. The attack on Iraq prevented that oil dump.
Similar conditions apply to the Iran sanction regime. As soon as Iran can sell as much as it wants oil prices will go down even more. The major oil companies would suffer. The Saudis would lose market share. Is the Obama administration willing to go to war, or to at least create some "incident", to prevent that?
Why else is that fleet in the Arab sea? Pat Lang fears that some new Gulf of Tokin incident might unfold. Why would he think that?
Open Thread 2015-18
News & views ...
Ukraine: "Both Sides Touched" By NATO Related Murder Of The Other Side
The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum invented a new funny way to equalized victims and perpetrators of serious crimes:
MOSCOW — A pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist was gunned down in Kiev on Thursday, authorities said, a day after a Ukrainian politician supporting Moscow was found dead.
The killing of Oles Buzyna, 45, raised fears of a new wave of back-and-forth violence in the streets of Ukraine after a string of unsolved deaths that has touched both sides of the conflict between Ukraine’s Western-allied government and pro-Moscow separatists.
Indeed the "unsolved deaths" "touched both sides" with eleven people on one side getting murdered while the other side covered up these murders as "suicides" and very likely also provided the killers.
There is some curious connection between some of the recent killings and NATO. As RB at NiqNaq provides (recommended):
On Apr 14, a profile of Oles’ Buzina was added to https://psb4ukr.org/ site (where Ukrainian government encourages people to fink the authorities on the people suspected of separatism); on Apr 15, Oles’ Buzina was killed near his home with 4 shots. I (my correspondent – RB) looked up the Web address where they posted Buzina’s address, and found that it’s hosted on a NATO server.
The Niqnaq post provides details and screenshots demonstrating the connection to NATO. (A short take is also here.) I was myself researching the issue for MoA when I found that Niqnaq post and I can confirm the findings and add a bit.
Two names and personal data of persons recently assassinated in Ukraine were posted on a "nationalist" website shortly before those persons were killed. That website, psb4ukr.org (screenshot) auto-translated from Russian to English (screenshot), is headlined:
RESEARCH CENTRE FEATURES OF CRIMES AGAINST UKRAINE'S NATIONAL SECURITY, PEACE, SECURITY AND HUMANITY international law
Information for law enforcement authorities and special services about pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers.
Next to some news pieces the site carries a list for download with some 7,700 names of "saboteurs" and "terrorists".
On a first view the name "psb4ukr.org" is anonymously registered through the U.S. company Wild West Domains.
A "traceroute" command shows that Internet Protocol requests to the server "psb4ukr.org" end in a datacenter in Dallas, Texas at dallas-ipc.com and the IP number 18.104.22.168.
A "nslookup" command with the input "psb4ukr.org" confirms in its output the registered IP Number to be "22.214.171.124" (screenshot).
A reverse "nslookup" command with the input "126.96.36.199" provides the output "psb4ukr.nato.int". (screenshot).
"nato.int" is the Internet domain namespace registered and reserved for NATO. Why is a server for a website which is hunting for dissidents in Ukraine - some of whom have been killed - registered within the NATO Internet namespace?
After some additional research we find that the non-anonymous registration to "psb4ukr.org" is to one Vladimir Kolesnikov, 98 Lenin St, Velyka Oleksandrivka, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.
Further searching for Vladimir Kolesnikov we find that Mr. Kolesnikov has registered several other websites through Limestone Networks, Inc in Dallas, Texas.
Some of these website seem to be concerned with crypto payment, teletraining and unrelated stuff. Some others are related to the nasty "nationalist" side of the Ukraine conflict. Operativ.info asks for tip offs about "saboteurs" and "terrorists" and their operations while informnapalm.org is a general "nationalist" news collection.
There is no hint of any NATO-relation in these other sides. A reverse nslookup like the one that shows a relation like between "psb4ukr.org" and "psb4ukr.nato.int" does not deliver such results for the other website registered to Mr. Kolesnikov.
One possible explanation for the "psb4ukr.nato.int" lookup result might be that the website was originally build or tested within the NATO namespace and later transferred outside without cleaning up some of the original name references.
The Richard Engel Kidnapping Fake - MoA Scooped MSM By 28 Month
The veil is lifting a bit over the slew of the "bad Assad" propaganda stories that built the case for the war on Syria. The New York Times reports today: NBC News Alters Account of Correspondent’s Kidnapping in Syria
NBC News on Wednesday revised its account of the 2012 kidnapping of its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, saying it was likely that Mr. Engel and his reporting team had been abducted by a Sunni militant group, not forces affiliated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Moon of Alabama questioned the original Richard Engel story at that time and found that the whole "kidnapping" and "rescue" was likely a completely staged event:
Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, the Angry Arab, has reason to not believe that story and has indications that these were not Assad loyalists but FSA insurgents playing the role of Assad loyalists for a fake media stunt.
There is now new evidence that this was indeed a fake event and that, whatever Richard Engel may believe, he and the people with him (which included one ever unnamed "British engineer" who is more likely some special operations guy) were not in the hands of Shabiha but in the hand of well known experienced video fakers.
We had earlier looked at the fake citizen journalist Khaled Abu Salah who created and distributed fake videos about "Assad atrocities" sponsored by the shady U.S. para-government organization Avaaz. He was, as we documented, involved in the Richard Engels stunt. This led us to ask:
Why Does The World Wage War Against The People Of Yemen?
Nearly the whole world, seemingly paid off by Saudi money, is waging war against Yemen.
How else can one explain the silence that surrounds the Saudi bombing campaign that will lead to devastating starvation in Yemen and will turn that country into a second, bigger Gaza?
The sycophantic UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon kicked out the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, because Benomar did not endorse the Saudi bombing campaign. He will be replaced with the Saudi choice Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad from Mauritania:
Previously, in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad was “an embarrassment,” as multiple UN sources put it to Inner City Press. But, hey, whatever the Saudis want.
A UN Security Council resolution against the Yemeni people practically endorsed the Saudi blockade, bombing and starvation campaign by 14 to 0. Russia was criticized for only abstaining but not vetoing the resolution. I can see two reasons for the Russian vote. For one Russia may believe that the Saudi campaign will, in the end, severely hurt Saudi Arabia which would be to Russia's advantage. It may also have not vetoed because China, for whatever reason, endorsed the resolution. China and Russia prefer to veto together to avert to be singled out and blamed.
The Saudis have bombed not only refugee camps and food depots in Yemen but also the telecommunication networks, news stations and electricity networks. Sanaa has been without electricity for over 60 hours now. On Monday the soccer stadiums in Ibb, Aden, and Sanaa were bombed. Yesterday 16 gas stations, with long lines of cars waiting for fuel, were bombed in one case leaving at least 17 people dead and 50 wounded.
Between March 26 and April 11 the Saudis bombed Yemen over 1,200 times. According to an earlier account by a Yemeni army spokesperson 2,571 were killed of which 381 were children and 455 women. 1,200 official institution and 72 schools were destroyed. In the last 24 hours another 56 civilians were killed.
Fuel prices have increased by 600%, bread by at least 300%. Cooking gas is running out and without fuel or electricity water pumps can not run. People will starve but for lack of reporting abilities in the country no one will notice.
While the Saudis claim to bomb the Houthis but destroy Yemeni infrastructure Al Qaeda took full control over the harbor city al-Mukalla and slaughtered 15 Yemeni soldiers in Shabwa province in south Yemen. The Yemeni 2nd brigade, run by a Saudi stooge, gave up its weapons to AlQaeda. The Pakistanis were smart enough to reject the Saudi request for Pakistani foot soldiers to die in Yemen. The Saudi plan B is now to hire "local forces" to do their dirty bidding which means that the Saudis will, like in Syria, finance and support Al Qaeda's takeover of that country. Pakistan should send the Taliban to teach the Saudi how religious lunatics fight.
The U.S. is helping the Saudis not only with weapons and ammunition. At least 20 U.S. officers were send to a joint headquarter in Riyadh and are vetting the Saudi targeting lists.
Nobody in Washington or elsewhere believes that the Saudi campaign will solve anything in Yemen. But why then endorse and support it and the all the suffering it creates?
Rumor: Saudis Finance Israeli Anti-Iran Campaign
Over the past several years, as both Saudi Arabia and Israel have identified Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” as their principal enemies, this once-unthinkable alliance has become possible – and the Saudis, as they are wont to do, may have thrown lots of money into the deal.
According to a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts, the Saudis have given Israel at least $16 billion over the past 2 ½ years, funneling the money through a third-country Arab state and into an Israeli “development” account in Europe to help finance infrastructure inside Israel.
The claim is thinly sourced but I regard it as possible. Parry was the first to report the Iran-Contra scandal and has good journalistic credentials. There are many common interests Saudi Arabia and Israel have in Lebanon and Syria as well as in their common position against Iran. Just think about Israel's support for the Saudi financed Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan heights.
But the common interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel, documented in Parry's piece, are also entirely plausible without any money paid by Saudi Arabia.
A slush fund of that size, if it exists at all, can hardly be hidden for long. If there is some truth to the claim I expect more confirming leaks.
Until then let us file this under "rumor".
Repost: Günter Grass - What Has To Be Said
The German poet and writer Günter Grass died today. In his honer a repost from April 4 2012.
The following is my unauthorized (amateur) translation of the complete poem into English. I tried to stay as near as possible to the, sometimes seemingly awkward but certainly intended, original line breaks and punctuation.
What has to be said
Why am I silent, conceal too long,
what is obvious and in war games
has been trained, at whose end we as survivors
will at the most be footnotes.
It is the alleged right of first strike,
with which the Iranian people,
subjugated by a loudmouth
and steered towards organized elation,
could be snuffed out with,
because the building of a nuclear bomb
within its fiefdom is assumed.
But why do I prohibit myself,
to name that other country,
in which for years - though kept secret -
a growing capability exists
though out of control as
not open for audit?
Ukraine: Right Sector Breaks Ceasefire, Newsweek Smears Akhmetov
Serious fighting has again started in east Ukraine. The AP reports:
On Sunday alone, the OSCE recorded at least 1,166 explosions, caused mainly by artillery and mortar shell strikes in northern Donetsk as well as on its outskirts including the airport, now obliterated by fighting.
The OSCE also reported intense mortar fire outside the village of Shyrokyne, by the Azov Sea, but said its representatives were repeatedly barred from accessing the village on Sunday.
The AP report does not say who or what started these battles. It is dancing around the really important issue of who broke the ceasefire with this:
Col. Andriy Lishchynskyi, a Ukrainian representative for monitoring the cease-fire in the east, blamed the clashes on "a highly emotional state and personal animosity" between the fighters on both sides, according to the Interfax news agency.
Yeah, that is what a "Ukrainian representative" would probably say. What are the readers to assume from that?
The AP writers certainly read the relevant OSCE spot report. So why did they leave out this part?
Both the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative and the Russian Federation representative to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) told the SMM that the Ukrainian side (assessed to be the Right Sector volunteer battalion) earlier had made an offensive push through the line of contact towards Zhabunki (“DPR”-controlled, 14km west-north-west of Donetsk), ...
The Nazis from the Right Sector Azov battalion attacked, broke the ceasefire and started the fighting.
But readers of just AP reports will not learn that.
There is a comparable issue with this smear piece by Newsweek. It is somewhat laudable in that it is the first one I see in the "western" media which reports on the issue of the eight political functionaries who were "suicided" in Ukraine by unknown perpetrators:
US AID And The Ebola Scare Scam - $1.4 Billion For Unused Treatment Centers
Last years Ebola scare was ineffectively answered by the U.S. government by showering $1.4 billion, without any significant results, on some military contractors.
[A]fter spending hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying nearly 3,000 troops to build Ebola treatment centers, the United States ended up creating facilities that have largely sat empty: Only 28 Ebola patients have been treated at the 11 treatment units built by the United States military, American officials now say.
Nine centers have never had a single Ebola patient.
This was predictable and predicted:
“I warned them, ‘The only thing you’ll show is an empty E.T.U.,’ ” [Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish public health expert who advised Liberia’s health ministry,] added. “ ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
US AID and the U.S. military did it anyway. They played dumb if only to spend all the allocated money:
“Our initial expectation, based on some of the models and some of the experiences and precedents from past Ebola outbreaks, was that the way you would beat this would be to get enough E.T.U. beds,” [Jeremy Konyndyk, who headed the Ebola response for the United States Agency for International Development, which was in charge of the American campaign] said.
Bullshit. Epidemics are not fought and beaten by treatment but by reducing infection rates. That is well known and what we wrote about the Ebola scare turned therefore out to be true:
The means of infection are well known, in general body fluids of all kinds from an infected person will carry the virus. That knowledge alone will help enough to decrease the number of newly infected people as more are warned and protect themselves when caring for an infected person. The epidemic will thereby die out within a few weeks.
That is exactly what happened:
The emphasis on constructing treatment centers — so widely championed last year — ended up having much less impact than the inexpensive, nimble measures taken by residents to halt the outbreak, many officials say.
“Communities taking responsibility for their own future — not waiting for us, not waiting for the government, not waiting for the international partners, but starting to organize themselves,” said Peter Graaff, the leader of the United Nations intervention in Liberia.
In the neighborhood where the outbreak in Monrovia started in June, a 200-volunteer task force formed in July, with residents buying chlorine and buckets to put in public places and donating two vehicles so volunteers could monitor the sick.
Lowering the infection rates by teaching precaution and isolating infected cases is the only reasonable way to stop any epidemic. No overdose of Vitamin C or other crazy measures some commentators here suggested would help.
If and how those who are already infected get treated is solely a question of human dignity. One can, as was done in old times, completely isolate infected persons and just let them die. Or one can build expensive treatment units and give them full care. Neither alternative will make any real difference in the number of newly infected patients and only that number decides about the total epidemic trend.
All this is well known and practiced and thereby enabled this blogger to predict the way this scare was going to go.
That the US AID people thought differently will have one of two reasons:
- They are completely ignorant about epidemics
- They were in on the scam to shuffle some $1.4 billion to some contractors
They should be fired in either case.
As the Ebola scare is now over no money will be allocated to keep those empty treatment centers up and going. The will get looted, turned to scrap or go down by other means. There will be no constant if small flow of money to the health systems of the affected countries which would help them to prepare for the next epidemic crisis. Only when that comes and a new scare can be raised will again money flow and again be scammed away from those who really need it.
Open Thread 2015-17
News & views ...
Reward NYT's David D. Kirkpatrick By No Longer Hitting Him
This editorializing is part of a news-piece in today's New York Times:
Mr. Kerry said he was seeking to reassure allies, including Saudi Arabia, that the United States could “do two things at the same time.” The United States could help push back against Iranian attempts to project its influence around the region, he argued, while at the same time negotiating a deal that would reward Tehran for providing guarantees that it was not building nuclear weapons.
Someone should ask the NYT writer, David D. Kirkpatrick, if no longer hitting him in the face would be a "reward" for him.
How can lifting "punishing sanction" for something Tehran has long provided be a "reward"?
Iran has a long time ago given guarantees to not build nuclear weapons. It signed and ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968. The "reward" for that was the unkept promise by the nuclear weapon states to get rid of their weapons.
One wonders why such editorializing structure like the use of "reward" here is allowed in a news piece. Then again: It is the New York Times and most "news" therein is now expected to be editorializing propaganda. If only the "journalist" writing that stuff would stop to pretend otherwise. We could then "reward" them by no longer hitting them.
In Lack Of Self Awareness Kerry Accuses Iran Over War On Yemen
Is lack of self awareness a requirement for becoming U.S. Secretary of State?
To recap: The former Yemeni president was installed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. Depending on the narrative one chooses (all of these are somewhat true) his mandate expired, he resigned or was ousted in a coup by a locals tribal/religious group, the Houthi, in collusion with the former president Saleh. The president fled from the country to Saudi Arabia. No one in Yemen wants him back.
Next Saudi Arabia starts a war on Yemen and bombs military, government and economic targets killing soldiers as well as civilians and creating a massive hunger crisis. Yet another food distribution center was destroyed today. A ground attack is in planning and may commence soon.
Yemen is depend on food imports and also on imported hydrocarbon products like fuel, gasoline and for electricity. The ports are blocked and expected import transports with food and petrol get turned away. For lack of raw materials the last running refinery in Yemen just shut down. Lack of food and gasoline for water pumps and transport will predictably create mass starvation within the already destitute population.
The new ruling group in Yemen has no interest in creating trouble abroad. It is successfully fighting AlQaeda which tries to nab up parts of the country. Is that the reason for the Saudi attacks? The Houthis claim that Saudi air attacks on prisons are designed to free AlQaeda members.
The U.S. supports the illegal Saudi War on Yemen and the Saudi demand to return Hadi to power. When the president of Ukraine was driven out in a coup would that have justified bombing attacks by the Russian air-force against Kiev? Why shouldn't Russia act interfere in neighboring Ukraine when the U.S. is literally fueling the far-away war on Yemen?
There is little international support for the Houthi and while Iran has verbally supported them and called for a peaceful solution of the situation no evidence has been shown that that there is any material support coming from Tehran.
We’re well aware of the support that Iran has been giving to Yemen, and Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.
So we’re very concerned about it. And we will – what we’ve made clear to our friends and allies is we can do two things at the same time. We have an ability to understand that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a greater threat than an Iran without one; and at the same time, we have an ability to be able to stand up to interference that is inappropriate or against international law, or contrary to the region’s stability. and interests and those of our friends.
The U.S is the one that has for decades, including through several wars, destabilized the Middle East. It is the U.S. and the U.S. "ally" Saudi Arabia Who are engaging "in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries". They are waging a war on Yemen that is "inappropriate" and "against international law", and "contrary to the region’s stability".
It seems like Kerry looked into a mirror, lacked the self awareness to recognize himself and accused Iran of being all he saw.
Does he expect to be taken seriously?