Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
January 21, 2016

Putin 'Probably Approved' Murder Of Baby Jesus

Thought you ought to know this.

Posted by b at 01:12 PM | Comments (118)

January 20, 2016

Syria - Some Preliminary Positioning For An Endgame

When the Russian campaign in Syria started Obama promised that it would end in a quagmire. Various media and opinion writer picked up that narrative. It was false as Russia was and is executing a well thought out campaign.

Being confronted with reality the U.S. media is now changing its false narrative. The LA Times writes:

The Latakia attack mirrors similar government gains across the country, as forces loyal to President Bashar Assad, backed by Russian air power, have been on the offensive.
It's a dramatic shift for the forces of Assad, who less than six months ago had warned supporters that the government would have to "give up areas" after a string of humiliating setbacks.
The gains have strengthened the government's position in the run-up to Syrian peace negotiations scheduled to begin next week in Geneva.

The Obama administration and its anti-Syrian allies had hoped for a defeated Syrian government in Geneva that would agree to their capitulation conditions. They now have to change the narrative. Peace talks in Geneva, they now argue, can not take place because the Syrian government is winning. Headlines the Washington Post - Russian airstrikes are working in Syria — enough to put peace talks in doubt:

[A]fter 3½ months of relentless airstrikes that have mostly targeted the Western-backed opposition to Assad’s rule, they have proved sufficient to push beyond doubt any likelihood that Assad will be removed from power by the nearly five-year-old revolt against his rule. The gains on the ground are also calling into question whether there can be meaningful negotiations to end a conflict Assad and his allies now seem convinced they can win.

“The situation on the ground in Syria is definitely not conducive to negotiations right now,” said Lina Khatib of the Paris-based Arab Reform Initiative think tank.

The Arab Reform Initiative is a bastard child of the U.S./Middle East Project, Inc. and various Middle East dictatorships. The Middle East Project was founded by Henry Siegman, a former National Director of the American Jewish Congress and has various hawkish U.S. politicians like Scowcroft and Brzezinski as its senior advisers.

In their view the Syrian government has to be regime changed and can not be allowed to win. Negotiations will have to be put off until the government is likely to fall. Thus the U.S./Saudi/Turkish controlled "opposition" of militant Islamists wants to exclude the Kurds and non-militant opposition from any negotiations and sets additional conditions that make negotiations impossible. They practically demand that Russia and Syria declare and keep a one-sided ceasefire before any ceasefire negotiations can happen.

In the meantime various parties are positioning themselves for the larger endgame. The Kurds in Syria want a corridor along the Turkish Syrian border to connect their areas in the east with the Kurdish enclave in the west. They are fighting against The U.S. supported gangs north-west of Aleppo with Russian support and with Russian and U.S. support against Islamic State gangs north-east of Aleppo. The U.S. is invading Syrian ground and building an airport in the Kurdish areas in east Syria. This probably to later support and guarantee an oil-rich Kurdish state:

The airport, known as “Abu Hajar”, lies southeast of the town of Remelan, site of one of Syria’s largest oilfields, run by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, which sells its production through Iraqi Kurdistan.

The Russians may counter that move with their own airport in the area.

Israel, which buys most of the Kurdish oil and just again made friend with Turkey, is now officially calling for an independent Kurdish state. The Turks will not like that at all.

Turkey wants to prevent a Kurdish corridor along its border. It has instigated the "Turkmen" insurgents in Syria under its control to attack the Islamic State from their Aleppo-Avaz-Turkey corridor towards the east right along the border fence where Turkey can provide artillery support. That campaign stalled after a few days and several captured towns are now back in the hands of the Islamic State. New Turkish equipment and soldiers arrived on the Turkish border near the Jarablus border crossing which is currently in the hand of the Islamic State. It is the Islamic State's only open crossing to a somewhat friendly state. Should the Kurds come near to that crossing Turkey is likely to invade Syria to set up a wider buffer against the Syrian Kurds.

In Iraq the Turks continue to occupy bases in Iraqi Kurdistan under the protection of the Iraqi-Kurdish mafia boss Barzani. This despite threats from the Iraqi government. But that government is now again controlled by the U.S. The Iranian influence had waned after clashes between the Iranian General Suleiman and the U.S. installed Prime Minister Abadi:

A source in the office of the Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi said, “The United States delay of its support to Baghdad was not a coincidence or an unintentional lazy reaction. It was a strategic decision to: Teach Iraq a lesson for rejecting U.S military bases; To observe the Iranian military capability and inability of Tehran to use air power and intelligence gathering to defeat ISIS; To submit Baghdad to its will and dictate its conditions”.

That the U.S. used the ISIS phenomenon to again achieve regime change and U.S. control in Iraq was confirmed by Obama in an interview with Thomas Friedman:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki. ...

But all those U.S. games are just short term thinking. The Kurdish areas in Iraq and Syria are landlocked and none of their direct neighbors has interest in a Kurdish state. After his mandate ran out and was not renewed by the parliament Barzani's presidency in Iraqi Kurdistan is illegitimate. The next ruler in the Kurdish areas in Iraq is likely to be less friendly with Turkey and the U.S. In Iraq the influence of Iran with the people will always be bigger than U.S. influence with parts of the elite. In Syria it is Russia that will dictate how the future of the state will look.

In the long run the U.S. has little chance to keep its currently regained dominant position. Obama is repeating his predecessors mistake of believing that U.S. meddling in the arena can be successful and continue forever.

The Islamic State is receding. It recently had to cut its wages by half. It is under continues bombing and has to fight ever bigger battles with ever higher losses. The population in the areas it holds is not happy. It will soon again revert to a guerrilla movement of underground terrorist cells. Then other interests of the various actors will again come to the fore, the U.S. will no longer be needed and again be dispelled from the theater. Then the U.S. will again wonder why it did not learn from the earlier lesson.

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (106)

January 19, 2016

Open Thread 2016-04

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (140)

January 18, 2016

No, The Nuclear Sanctions On Iran Did Not Work

Some (not so) smart people believe that the implementation of the Iranian nuclear deal shows that "sanctions worked":

Doug Saunders @DougSaunders
The Iran paradox: this week proved that sanctions worked. So it was the worst week for US Congress to impose new sanctions
10:42 AM - 17 Jan 2016

This is completely wrong. Sanctions did not work in the case of the nuclear issue with Iran. Sanctions will also not work one Iran's ballistic missile program.

Other authors have already expanded on this in length but it needs repeating.

For Iran the development of a civil nuclear program for electricity and other needs was and is seen as a precondition to become a fully developed modern state. The U.S. and Israel wanted to prevent that. Israel sees Iran as a competing power in the Middle East and the U.S. sees Iran as too independent and too powerful to be left alone. Both want to restrict Iran's development unless Iran agrees to again become the client state it once was.

The vehicle to pressure Iran was its nuclear program and an assertion that "Iran has no right to an enrich" Uranium. That assertion was wrong as a legal argument as any state has a natural right to use its resources as it like but the U.S. went to great length to make that claim. If it would have gotten its way it would have achieved a veto over how Iran, and others, could manage and use its natural resources.

It was that U.S. claim and Iran's will to resist it that prolonged the conflict over a decade. After first (false) claims were made that Iran was developing nuclear weapons negotiations ensued and made fast progress. Iran was willing to restrict its activities and to have its nuclear program under full inspection. But its was the U.S. "no right to enrichment" point that blocked any solution. Writes UK negotiator Peter Jenkins:

Having served on the UK’s Iran Nuclear negotiating team in 2004 and 2005, I know that in March 2005 President Hassan Rouhani and Minister Javad Zarif, then in different roles, were ready to offer a deal very similar in its essentials to the JCPOA.

At that time Iran had only a few experimental centrifuges and little enriched Uranium.

But the U.S. insisted that Iran had no right to enrichment and blew the negotiations. Sanctions followed and Iran responded by building up more enrichment capabilities. Several more sanction rounds followed and Iran responded to each round by again increasing its capabilities. After the last round of sanction Iran announced that it would create highly enriched Uranium to fuel nuclear submarines.

At that point the U.S. finally understood that it was senseless and impossible to ever increase international sanctions as a way to stop Iran's nuclear program. Only two alternatives were left. A very aggressive and expensive military attack on Iran followed by a lengthy occupation for which the U.S. public had zero appetite or negotiations and concessions to settle the issue.

A new negotiation round started in November 2013 and at the core of the issue was again Iran's right to enrich:

Disagreement over whether Iran has the right under international law to enrich uranium goes to the heart of the decade-old dispute over its nuclear program and has complicated diplomacy to end the standoff.

Iranian officials made clear on the third day of talks in Geneva on Friday that the Islamic state's "right" to enrich uranium must be part of any interim deal aimed at curbing its atomic activity in exchange for some sanctions relief.
The United States says no country has that explicit right under the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the 1970 global pact designed to prevent the spread of atomic bombs.

During those negotiations in 2013 the U.S. finally caved and a few days later an preliminary agreement was reached:

The initial nuclear deal struck with Iran at the weekend states unambiguously that the second step – or “comprehensive solution” – will “involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits.”

The wording allows Tehran to state that the U.S. and five other powers in the negotiations have conceded that a final agreement, due within six months, will leave Iran with a domestic uranium-enrichment program.

Iran interpreted that as the acknowledgement of its right to Uranium enrichment. After this key issue was solved further negotiations were about give-and-take points but no longer about a fundamental disagreement.

As was revealed only later the U.S. had given up on the "no right to enrichment" claim even before the November 2013 negotiations:

The secret US-Iran diplomatic channel that helped advance the interim nuclear deal last year got underway after a message from US President Barack Obama was conveyed to Iran: The United States would be prepared to accept a limited Iranian domestic enrichment program as part of a nuclear agreement in which Iran would take concrete and verifiable steps to assure the world its nuclear program would remain exclusively peaceful.
Obama’s message that he would be prepared to accept a limited Iranian enrichment program in an otherwise acceptable deal was conveyed to Iran at a secret meeting in Oman in March 2013, by a US delegation led by Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns, which also included Jake Sullivan, now Vice President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, as well as Einhorn and then-White House Iran adviser Puneet Talwar.

It was the U.S. that caved and pulled back from its (indefensible) position that Iran was not allowed to enrich Uranium. It was this concession by the U.S. - not the sanctions -  that brought Iran to the table and which allowed to end the conflict over Iran's nuclear program.

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (48)

January 17, 2016

In Less Than 24 Hours U.S. Breaks Spirit Of Agreement With Iran

Just yeterday, shortly before the Iranian nuclear deal went into implementation. I asked

How long until the U.S. will, one way or another, transgress against it - if not in letter then in spirit?

The answer is in. It took the U.S. less than 24 hours to break the spirit of the deal and to again promote hardliners in Tehran:

The US Treasury says it is imposing new ballistic missile sanctions on Iran after Tehran released five American prisoners. The move also comes less than a day after some of the sanctions imposed on Iran over its nuclear program were removed by the US and EU.

Washington has imposed sanctions on 11 companies and individuals for helping to supply Iran’s ballistic missile program, the Treasury Department stated.

“Iran’s ballistic missile program poses a significant threat to regional and global security, and it will continue to be subject to international sanctions,” Adam J. Szubin, acting Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a press release.
The US move comes after an Iranian missile test carried out in October that broke a UN Security Council resolution restricting the development of missiles that are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

The nuclear agreement makes sure that Iran does not have and can not develop nuclear warheads. What sense then does it make to restrict its ballistic missile capabilities?

Of Iran's neighbors Pakistan, Russia and Saudi Arabia all have medium to long range ballistic missiles. Missiles from Israel and the U.S. also can reach Tehran. Four out of those five have nuclear warheads for their missiles. Turkey is developing its own offensive missile capability.

Absent an Iranian program to develop nuclear weapons there is absolutely no justification for the upholding of the UN resolution and for new sanctions.

Even before U.S. prisoners were to be freed by Iran yesterday as part of the nuclear Hillary Clinton irresponsibly called for new sanctions on Iran. On can understand that as the money she wastes for egomaniac campaigning to become president comes from Israel-Firsters like Haim Saban.

Saban says his greatest concern is to protect Israel. At a conference in Israel, Saban described his formula. His three ways to influence American politics were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.

Clinton's statement likely added a seven digit figure to her campaign fund.

That Clinton is corrupt down to her last fiber is not news. But there was no such reason for the Obama administration to now make this move. It is an expression of arrogance and disdain for decency.

Next month the people of Iran will vote for a new parliament. The Rouhani government, with which the nuclear deal was successfully negotiated, now looks as if it was duped into the deal. The hardliners opposed to that government were just given the very best argument they could have asked for. They always said the U.S. can not be trusted. The Obama administration proved them to be right.

Posted by b at 11:01 AM | Comments (66)

January 16, 2016

When And How Will The U.S. Infringe On The Iran Deal?

The nuclear deal with Iran may go into implementation today.

The question I am currently asking myself is:

How long until the U.S. will, one way or another, transgress against it - if not in letter then in spirit?

Libya disarmed in December 2003 and was attacked by the U.S. and others -with the help of Islamist proxy forces- in February 2011.

I do not expect a Libya like war against Iran. But the U.S. is never short of some subterfuge to to break agreements. Some reason will be found that then will be used to infringe on the nuclear agreement and to implement new measures to hinder Iran's development. The time-frame for this will be much shorter than the eight years it took to attack Libya.

Other ideas?

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (90)

January 14, 2016

Feeling Ignored By Obama Saudi Dynasty Threatens To Hurt Itself

Someone paid Kim Ghattas, a BBC correspondent in Washington, to write an extremely pro-Saudi piece for Foreign Policy.

The money was not well spent. The piece, The Saudi-Iran War Is America’s Fault, is as lousy as its headline.

The central argument goes somewhat like this:

"If the U.S. does not stop the nuclear disarmament of Iran - the Saudis baddest foe -  then the Saudis will have no other choice but to destabilize Saudi Arabia."

No. That does not make sense. But that is the argument the piece makes. It is also something that the Saudis are actually doing.

Some excerpts:

The United States cannot ignore or choose to stay out of the brewing rivalry between Iran and Saudi Arabia. It is not a purely religious feud, and it is not someone else’s civil war — it’s a hornet’s nest in which Washington poked its finger by pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran. ... It is this shifting regional context caused by the JCPOA [nuclear deal] that explains not only Saudi Arabia’s increasingly assertive stance in recent months, but also its decision to execute Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr on Jan. 2.

Not only is the Obama responsible for Saudi warmongering at Tehran but he also killed the Saudi rabble-rouser Nimr al-Nimr!

How did he do that?

The Saudis knew that going ahead with the death sentence would provoke the Iranians and worry the Americans. So why did they choose this moment to do it? It was time to send a clear message to U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration that Riyadh is sufficiently antagonized by Washington that it no longer feels obligated to go along with American efforts to tiptoe around Iran.

So the Saudis killed Nimr because, like a child that stomps its feet, they needed Obama's attention.

The Saudis also went to war against Yemen because of Obama's lack of attention, says the author. That war goes badly she admits but the Saudis will go on anyway because Obama is dangling after Iran. How the support for the Saudis war on Yemen by U.S. air-tankers, intelligence, targeting advice and expedited ammunition delivery can be seen as a lack of U.S. attention is left unexplained.

The Saudis are also miffed that Obama did not protest when an anti-western terrorist on their payroll was killed:

In December, the head of a powerful Islamist Syrian rebel group, Zahran Alloush, was killed in an airstrike that rebels blamed on Russia. He was no moderate and no friend of the West, but he was a powerful rebel leader and his death was a blow to Syrian peace efforts.
In the eyes of Riyadh, Washington’s muted reaction to Alloush’s killing was worse than the strike itself.

So Obama should have protested the killing of an anti-western Jihadi, who publicly put children and women into cages as human shields, because ...

The nonsense continues like that. Yes, says the author, the Saudis are richer and have more and better weapon than Iran and more international support. But they still fear Iran and that is Obama's fault.

The threat is, the author says, that the Saudis will continue their childish behavior and further hurt themselves. That would, somehow, be bad. Obama must therefore pad them on their head and slap Iran.

The author does well in describing the irrationality of recent Saudi behavior. But she then uses that irrationality as a pro-Saudi argument for more U.S. engagement. It does not strike me as a compelling reasoning. I doubt it will convince anyone else. The Saudi embassy in Washington should ask for its money back.

There is no doubt that the Saudis are not doing well right now. Their war on Yemen is expensive, endless and has zero positive results. Big partners of the new alliances the Saudis announced repudiate to be part of it. The still sinking oil price is creating huge budget troubles.

But the Saudis could still behave worse and if this unconfirmed report is right they will soon start doing so:

Saudi King Salman Al-Saud plans to abdicate his throne and install his son Mohammed as king, multiple highly-placed sources told the Institute for Gulf Affairs.

Mohamed bin Salman is the current deputy crown prince, second in-line to the throne, and defense minister.

King Salman, 80, has been making the rounds visiting his brothers seeking support for the move that will also remove the current crown prince and American favorite, the hardline Mohammed bin Naif from his positions as the crown prince and the minister of interior.
Salman plans to abdicate and install his son as king while he is still alive to guarantee his offspring would not be marginalized and driven out of power like all the sons of former Saudi kings who lost power and influence after the death of their fathers.
The sources did not give a specific time line for the abdication but believed the matter will be concluded within a matter of weeks.

Deputy Clown Prince Mohamed bin Salman, the guy who has Debt To GDP, is responsible for the totally irresponsible war on Yemen and its continuation. His planned economic and social reforms practically guarantee social discontent within Saudi Arabia. His coronation would also lead to deep trouble within the very large al-Saud family. Many older princes would feel snubbed out and pull their strings to regain power.

The precipitant change of guard is probably the worst the Saudis could do to themselves. But, as the first quoted piece above argues, this is the very reason why Washington should pamper the Saudis and attack Iran.

Let us hope that no one else in Washington draws such a lunatic conclusion.

Posted by b at 01:24 PM | Comments (145)

January 13, 2016

Syria: Obama's Delusion Over Russian Retreat Continues

Some U.S. media say that Iran is "aggressive" when it detains U.S. ships and sailors ... who invade Iranian waters.

It is such delusional worldview that has people all over the world shake their heads over U.S. media and politics.

But this messy thinking starts at the top. The Obama administration is filled with delusional thinkers. Consider this nonsense, relayed by the unofficial spokesperson David Ignatius, over Putin's position towards the Syrian President Assad:

Putin this week seemed to take a public step toward the U.S. position that Assad must go eventually. In an interview with the German newspaper Bild released Tuesday, Putin hinted that he might grant Assad asylum.
Putin’s reference to asylum was taken “very seriously” by the White House, a second administration official noted Tuesday. “I think he was sending a signal about where he stands” that was consistent with what Russian officials have been telling the United States in private, the official said.

The transcript of the interview is available in English and Russian for all to see.

Putin was in no way "sending a signal". He was deflecting a direct question that the reporters asked. He took a firm stance that Assad must stay and be allowed to take part in new elections:

Question: If, contrary to expectations, al-Assad loses the elections, will you grant him the possibility of asylum in your country?

Vladimir Putin: I think it is quite premature to discuss this. We granted asylum to Mr Snowden, which was far more difficult than to do the same for Mr al-Assad.

First, the Syrian people should be given the opportunity to have their say. I assure you, if this process is conducted democratically, then al-Assad will probably not need to leave the country at all. And it is not important whether he remains President or not.

How is that "sending a signal"? The only signal I perceive therein is that - as far as Russia is concerned - Assad will stay where he is right now. I have no doubt that the private statements of Putin and the Russian government in this case are exactly the same than the official ones.

In October Obama demanded that Russia let go of Assad or end in a quagmire. Since then the position of the Syrian government has solidified and the Russian support has turned out to be very effective and not a burden. The position of the U.S. administration and its jihadist proxy forces in Syria has deteriorated. With each Islamic State attack the pressure to end the U.S. war on Syria is increasing.

How then can the "administration official" come up with this nonsense?

Is there still this neocon superiority illusion that lets U.S. news media and politicians believe they are the only ones who matter? That the U.S. is the only country which has a say in global issues?

One would have thought that the lost war in Iraq and the U.S. quagmire in Afghanistan would have cured such delusions. But stupid thinking seems hard to heal.

Posted by b at 10:52 AM | Comments (110)

January 12, 2016

Syria: Russian Campaign Enables Government Progress - Terrorist's Lines Fall Apart

To put pressure on Turkey for more support the Islamic State attacks the Turkish economy. But that is in vain if the Syrian government and its supporters can close the border to Turkey. That now looks very possible as the Syrian government, supported by Russian air force and indirect fire, is winning on all fronts.

Turkey received the fruits of its support for terrorists in Syria today. Ten people, most of them foreign tourists, were killed in a suicide attack in the Sultanahmet district, a main tourist area in Istanbul.

The Turkish government says the culprit was a 28 year old Saudi man. That mostly excludes that this was an attack of the PKK or any radical left group. The Islamic State is likely the organization behind this attack.

The attack's real target is the Turkish economy. Istanbul is the third most visited tourist city in Europe. That will now change. Earlier Russia warned its citizens against visiting Turkey. The German government and others are now likely to follow. Russians and Germans were the two top tourist origins for Turkey.  This will have significant consequences for the Turkish economy and employment situation.

Turkey has supported the Jihadists anti-government terrorists in Syria and Iraq. Until,very recently the Islamic State ran a sophisticated immigration operation through the Turkey-Syria border:

Turkey has long said that it is unable to secure its 500-mile border with Syria. In January, as Isis was logging people passing in and out of Tel Abyad, the Turkish prime minister, Ahmet Davutoğlu, told the Independent that sealing the border would be impossible.
The border crossing remained open until Kurdish forces took control of the town in June, at which point Turkey promptly sealed it. The crossing remains closed, a government official confirmed.

There are still other parts of the border where people can cross from Islamic State held territory to Turkey and back. Imports to the Islamic State come mostly from Turkey while stolen oil is exported to Turkey. Turkey will have to stop all support for the various terrorist groups in Syria and Iraq or it will experience ever increasing mayhem on its own soil.

Last year Turkey helped an alliance that included al-Qaeda in Syria and similar groups in capturing Idleb province and Idleb city from the Syrian government. That attack und the Turkish support for these groups was one of the reasons that prompted the Russians to intervene on the Syrian government side. Since then Russian intelligence and air support has helped to turn the war on Syria around. The government forces are now winning on every front.

But Turkey is not the only "western" country that is still actively supporting the Jihadidsts:

In a statement Monday to Foreign Policy, the Syrian Emergency Task Force said Russian planes bombed one of its offices in central Idlib province in a strike that “completely destroyed” the facility and equipment. The staff — which host civil society workshops, helps distribute U.S. humanitarian aid, and documents atrocities — was not present during the incident, and no one was killed, according to SETF.

Can someone explain why and how the U.S. Syrian Emergency Task Force, which is financed by the U.S. State Department, can continue to operate in al-Qaeda occupied Idleb?

When the Russian air support in Syria started and the Syrian army went on the offense a large number of U.S. provided anti-tank guided missiles where used by the terrorists. The number of such missile attacks has now significantly decreased. The Russian bombing broke the logistic lines of the various groups and ransacked their headquarters and support areas. The four month bombing campaign is now showing real results.

In Latakia in north west Syria the Syrian army today took the resort town Salma which had been a major center of terrorist activities in the area. Yesterday a whole suburb west of Aleppo city fell to the Syrian army. East of Aleppo city the Syrian army is advancing towards Al Bab which lies on one of the Islamic State's major roads to Turkey. Near Rastan in Homs province the Syrian army crossed the Orontes river and captured Jarjisah. Further south the Syrian army is progressing towards the Jordanian border. The Russian air attacks also support the advances of the Kurdish forces fighting the Islamic State under the label of the U.S. created Syrian Democratic Front. The SDF is now moving to Manbij north east from Aleppo from the east and towards Avaz north-west of Aleppo from the west which together with the Syrian government rush north towards Al Bab develops into a pincer movement that will cut the Islamic State and other terrorist groups from the Turkish border.

Since the beginning of active Russian support the Syrian army has - according to the Russian General Staff - liberated more than 150 towns and villages from the terrorist forces. Since the beginning of January more than twenty two towns have been freed.

Bombing is not a solution for conflicts. The U.S. started bombing Iraq 25 years ago and has bombed it ever since. last year alone it dropped over 23,000 bombs on Muslim countries. But the Russian bombing in Syria is in support a legitimate and capable government which has the majority support of its people and that makes all the difference.

The Russian campaign has significantly decimated the militant's fighting force. A few weeks ago the head of the Islamic State Baghdadi had called for a general mobilization of all Muslims to support his shrinking state. Yesterday the main religious leaders of Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's organization in Syria, also issued a call for total mobilization. The Chechen terrorist groups in Latakia under Emir Muslim Shishani are calling for help. The fronts held by these shrinking forces now regularly fall apart when under Russian style attacks. They are now near their breaking point.

During World War II a majority of casualties were caused by indirect fire. During the recent fighting in Ukraine some 80-90% of the casualties on the Ukrainian government side were caused by massive artillery attacks. The Syrian army has copied this Russian style of fighting by using more by artillery and airstrikes for the preparation of attacks. This preserves the manpower of friendlies but requires strong logistics and causes massive damage on buildings and infrastructure.

With the lack of manpower resulting in defeats everywhere the militants and their supporters have upped their "information operations". In a massive propaganda effort they asserted the people in Madaya, under siege by Syrian troops, were starving. Lots of fake and old pictures distributed by "activists" and mainstream media like the BBC showed starving people. But Madaya, like other cities under siege from the terrorists, had received food for several months in October and in late November. The militants seized all provisions and sold them to the inhabitants at extortion prices. Still the International Committee of the Red Cross could not confirm any famine casualties. The propaganda campaign over Madaya did not achieve the intended result of more "western" intervention. Madayan received fresh food but so did Fuar and Kefraya which are bigger and under siege by the terrorist forces.

The "starving" claims were fake assertions as they have accompanied the war on Syria from its very beginning. According to the Indian ambassador in Syria at that time al-Qaeda was involved even in the very first weeks of the 2011 "peaceful protests". A fact that at that time was denied by "western" media and is still covered up in recent reporting.

But as 9/11 showed and today's attack in Istanbul again demonstrates supporting fundamentalist terrorist forces always comes back to bite. Unfortunately only after creating terrible damage elsewhere.

Posted by b at 10:31 AM | Comments (68)

January 11, 2016

Open Thread 2016-03

(While I am busy ...)

Your news & views ...


Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (130)

January 10, 2016

So The DEA Sent Sean Penn To Get Al Chapo?

The Rolling Stones story in which actor Sean Penn meets and interviews the Mexican drug lord El Chapo is weird. Some of the details do not make sense. It smells.

El Chapo was recently (re-)captured in an large operation by Mexican marines together with U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency agents.

Even more suspect than the Sean Penn piece itself is the fact that the NYT published a large front page piece on the the Rolling Stone story some minutes before the Rolling Stone story itself was published. Who gave it to the NYT and when? The NYT repeats essentials parts of the Penn piece but in a more polished version.

It also adds this to the overall story:

A Mexican government official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to describe confidential matters, said the authorities were aware of the meeting with Mr. Penn.

An AP reporter seems to have talked to the same anonymous Mexican official who suggests:

[A] Mexican official said security forces at one point located the world's most-wanted trafficker thanks to a secret interview with U.S. actor Sean Penn.

Hmm ..

The NYT piece also has says this about the story:

In a disclosure that ran with the story, Rolling Stone said it had changed some names and withheld some locations. An understanding was reached with Mr. Guzmán, it said, that the story would be submitted for his approval, but he did not request any changes. The magazine declined to comment further Saturday.

But that is wrong. This is the actual Rolling Stones lawyerish wording:

Disclosure: Some names have had
 to be changed, locations not named, and an understanding was brokered with the subject that this piece would be submitted for the subject’s approval before publication. The subject did not ask for any changes.

How come "the subject" has no name? Is it really El Chapo aka Mr. Guzmán or is it some three letter agency?

Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel also thinks that the story has a smell and that it seems that Penn was used, likely knowingly, by some agency to get El Chapo.

That is why the story has some of the weird angels Marcy finds. That the NYT hangs this piece of another magazine so high is part of the cover up of the DEA's Penn operation.

Go read Marcy for additional details.

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (49)

January 08, 2016

Open Thread 2016-02

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (177)

January 07, 2016

Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Has Debt-To-GDP

The Economists interviews Muhammad bin Salman, Deputy Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. He has debt-to-GDP. And yes, that is sick.

There is quite a lot of obfuscation and lying in his answer, like when he denies to be responsible for the war on Yemen, but there are also some interesting points.

It turns out the guy wants to do a "Thatcher revolution for Saudi Arabia" with new regressive taxes, a large sell off of public assets, privatization of social services and so on. He does not believe that there will be any resistance against that or that people will call for "no taxation without representation". Actually he claims that there is a lot of consultation with the people going on all the time but he does not say how that supposedly happens.

The Saudi Arabia watchers I read never mention such consultations. So that is a bit weird. Does he really believe he can change the basic social contract of the country without any resistance?

He does.

And here are the parts of his answers where he slips and which explain why (emphasis added):

[W]e have clear programmes over the next five years. We announced some of them, and the rest we will announce in the near future. In addition to this, my debt-to-GDP is only 5%. So I have all points of strength, and I have the opportunities to increase our non-oil revenues in many sectors, and I have a global economic network.
We do not expect that our unemployment will grow, we believe it will decline over the next few years, to a good extent. At the same time I have reserves now, ten million jobs that are being occupied by non-Saudi employees that I can resort to at any time of my choosing. But I don’t want to pressure the private sector, unless this is the last resort.
Do you think having a greater proportion of women in the workforce would be good for Saudi Arabia?
No doubt. A large portion of my productive factors are unutilised. And I have population growth reaching very scary figures. Women’s work will help in both of these issues.

The young dude not only thinks he owns the country, he actually thinks he is the country. He has debt-to-GDP, he has ten million jobs in reserve, he has all women of Saudi Arabia as productive factor and he has scary population growth.

Does the guy understand that such an attitude guarantees that he personally will be held responsible for everything that will inevitably go wrong with his country?

It is doubtful that this dude will die of old age.

Posted by b at 01:08 PM | Comments (78)

January 06, 2016

Was This Fantasy Syria Timeline Leaked To Push For Open War?

Last years weed harvest at the White House must have produced some extraordinary strong stuff. That at least would explain this leaked administration timeline for regime change in Syria:

An internal timeline prepared for U.S. officials dealing with the Syria crisis sets an unspecified date in March 2017 for Assad to "relinquish" his position as president and for his "inner circle" to depart.
The document obtained by the AP starts Syria's new political process next month. An 18-month transition period would be initiated, consistent with the plan endorsed by the U.N. Security Council last month. The U.N.'s special envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, has set a Jan. 25 date for government-opposition peace talks to begin in Geneva.

The U.S. timeline envisions the Security Council signing off on a framework for negotiations between Assad's representatives and the opposition, leading to the formation of a security committee in April. That would be accompanied by an amnesty for some government and military members, and moderate opposition leaders and fighters. The transitional governing body would then be created.

In May, the Syrian parliament would dissolve, according to the timeline. The Security Council would recognize the new transitional authority and lay out the transition's next steps. These include major political reforms, the nomination of an interim legislature and an international donors' conference to fund Syria's transition and reconstruction.

The next six months, through November 2016 — when Obama's successor is elected — would be devoted to the sides drafting a new constitution. The Syrian people would get a chance to vote on that document in a popular referendum in January 2017, according to the timeline.
In March 2017, the timeline reads: "As[s]ad relinquishes presidency; inner circle departs."
Syria's new government would assume full powers from the transitional body after the parliamentary and presidential elections in August.

This reads as if a White House intern got high and dreamed up a wishlist for regime change planers. There are more problems here than actual steps:

  • Who is "the opposition"?
  • What is a "security committee" and who would decide who joins it?
  • Who would legislate an amnesty under what legal authority?
  • What is a "transitional government body" and who would decide who joins it?
  • On what basis should such a presumably unelected body have any authority to institute "major legal reforms"?
  • ...
  • Why would Assad "relinquish" his presidency?
  • Why would the "inner circle", which presumably includes Syria's military leaders, agree to depart?
  • What about the Islamic State and al-Qaeda in Syria?

Following this fantasy timeline would constitute a complete surrender of the current Syrian government and its allies. With the Syrian army progressing on all fronts there is no reason for them to agree to it.

The people who leaked the above nonsense must know that it is complete unrealistic. Why then was it leaked?

My hunch is that the leak is from someone who has a "faster please" mentality for spreading more chaos in the Middle East. The Associated Press story is framed as "Assad would outlast Obama presidency".  It is to incite the war hawks like Clinton to demand an faster if not immediate "solution". Such would require an open war including with Russia.

We expect this leak to be followed by new calls for a "no-fly zone" and other war starting gimmicks.


Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (79)

North Korea's Test Of A "Hydrogen Bomb" Was Only Somewhat Successful

A few hours ago North Korea exploded another nuclear device. It was its fourth test of a nuclear bomb and the 2055th global nuclear detonation of such a device.

First size estimates from seismic data measured by China and others say that the bomb developed a force equivalent to about 10 kilotons TNT.

The very exited DPRK TV anchor announced that its scientist exploded a "miniaturized H bomb". The English announcement says it "scientifically verified the power of smaller H bomb." A hydrogen bomb consist of two stages. A primary nuclear fission device is exploded to trigger a secondary nuclear fusion device consisting of hydrogen isotopes. Such bombs are very powerful and the rather low yield of roughly 10kt make it quite doubtful that this was an actual working H bomb as these are usually several magnitudes stronger.

The earlier North Korean tests of fission bombs had yields of 1 kt, 4 kt and 9 kt. The first one is considered to have been a partial dud. This fourth test today may have been a partial dud of an H bomb or it may have been just a basic fission device with probably added tritium for a boosted reaction. Only a measurement of the radionuclides resulting from this test will make it possible to determine its real configuration.

There had been recent signs that another nuclear test in North Korea would soon happen. Satellite images showed that a new test tunnel was dug into a mountain. There were rumors since 2013 that North Korea is working on a hydrogen device. In early December the North Korean leader announced that his country was ready to test an H bomb but this was dismissed by the U.S. as bluster. North Korean announcements are usually over the top exaggerated but also basically true. I therefore consider this to have been a real test of an H bomb as announced but one which was only partially successful.

After the Korea war the north of the country was completely obliterated. Hardly any structure with more than one level was left standing. The factories, the electricity network and its dams were destroyed:

American planes dropped 635,000 tons of bombs on Korea -- that is, essentially on North Korea --including 32,557 tons of napalm, compared to 503,000 tons of bombs dropped in the entire Pacific theatre of World War II.

Since then a huge amount of the North Korean gross domestic product has been spent on its military. When it started to test nuclear devices North Korea announced that it would use the new capabilities to replace or shrink its conventional military. The savings would be used to increase the standard of living for its people. Strategic assessments say that its nuclear and missile development is not aimed at creating a first strike force but a deterrence capability.

North Korea considers the U.S. and the U.S. influenced South Korean government as its primary enemies and aggressors and Japan as a secondary threat. China and Russia are seen as somewhat friendly countries but kept at a distance.

As the U.S. develops its 'pivot to Asia' anti-China posture it is pushing for more hawkish policies in South Korea and Japan and presses for an alliance between these historic enemies. Despite hawkish, rightwing governments in both countries the success of that strategy is only slowly developing. The North Korean test will be probably allow for further steps towards a NATO-like anti-China and anti-North Korea structure.

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (52)

January 05, 2016

Contrary To Media Claims U.S. Always Sides With Its Saudi Clients

The "western" public, especially in Europe, now prefers good relations with Iran over relations with Saudi Arabia. It is a natural development when one considers that jihadi terrorism is a real concern and that the people involved in most international terrorist incidents follow variants of the Saudi spread Wahhabi ideology.

This is now developing into a problem for the U.S. administration. Saudi Arabia, as other Gulf statelets, is a U.S. client state. Without U.S. support it would have ceased to exist a long time ago. The Saudis are made to pay for U.S. protection by buying overpriced U.S. weapon systems for tens of billion dollars per year. They also finance joint projects like the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan and currently the U.S. regime change war on Syria.

U.S. relation with Iran have become somewhat better due to the nuclear deal. But the Islamic Republic of Iran will never be a U.S. client state. Seen from the perspective of the global strategic competition it is in the same camp as the U.S. foes Russia and China. Unless the U.S. ceases to strive for global dominance it will continue to support its proxies on the western side of the Persian Gulf rather then the Iranians of the eastern side.

The changed public view, very much visible after the recent Saudi execution of Nimr Baqr al-Nimr, necessitates to mask the real U.S. position by claiming that it is opposed to Saudi Arabian policies. The stenographers in U.S. media are always willing to help their government when such a cover up for a shoddy position is needed.

In the Washington Post Karen De Young supports the administration by providing this lie:

The United States has long joined international human rights organizations and other Western governments in criticizing Saudi human rights abuses ..

Her colleague David Sanger at the New York Times is debunks that nonsense point with a rare reference to reality:

The United States has usually looked the other way or issued carefully calibrated warnings in human rights reports as the Saudi royal family cracked down on dissent and free speech and allowed its elite to fund Islamic extremists.

Sanger then replaces the "U.S. supports human-rights in Saudi Arabia" lie with another blatant one:

the administration has [..] been sharply critical of the Saudi intervention in Yemen

The Obama administration has since March provided expedited arms sales, logistics support, targeting intelligence, air refueling and combat search and rescue for the Saudi war on Yemen. Its navy helps with the blockade of the Yemeni coast. How can the Obama administration be "sharply critical" of the Saudi war on Yemen when it provides the critical means for that war?

Since Sunday there have been at least 11 Saudi air attacks on Yemen's capital Sanaa. Last night another wedding hall, the Commerce Chamber and the AlNoor Centre for the Blind were destroyed by U.S. provided Saudi bombs. I doubt that we will hear any "sharply critical" condemnation of that bombing of civilian infrastructure from U.S. officials.

In the Saudi-Iran proxy conflicts the U.S. supports and urges the Saudis on because it is in its geopolitical interest. Saudi financed jihadist have been helpful in achieving U.S. geopolitical goals in the 1980s in Afghanistan against the Soviets, in Yugoslavia, in Chechnya as now in Syria against the Russians and in Xinjiang against the Chinese. There is no room for human rights or other concerns within that framework. There is room though for billions of weapon sales and millions given by the Saudis to U.S. and UK politicians as well as for public relations.

The New York Times editors falsely claim there is no choice for the U.S. other then to do what it does:

The tangled and volatile realities of the Middle East do not give the United States or the European Union the luxury of choosing or rejecting allies on moral criteria. Washington has no choice but to deal with regimes like those in Tehran [..] or in Riyadh to combat the clear and present danger posed by Islamist terrorists or to search for solutions to massively destabilizing conflicts like the Syrian civil war.

That is utter bullshit. The U.S. is working on regime change in Syria at least since 2006. The U.S. is enabling "the clear and present danger posed by Islamist terrorists" through its alliance with al-Qaeda. It always had and has the choice to cease and desist from meddling in the Middle East and elsewhere to the benefit of the average U.S. citizen as well as to the benefit of the people living in the Middle East.

U.S. media lie when they depict the U.S. as a benevolent entity that stumbles through the Middle East and other areas misled in the dark by Saudi Arabia and Israel. It is the U.S. that is the ruthless superpower that solely enables those barbaric entities to exist.

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (48)

January 04, 2016

The Saudi War On Everything Iran May Bounce Back As New Houthi Missile

I still believe that, from the Saudi rulers viewpoint, the execution of a bunch of al-Qaeda types and the Saudi Shia rabble-rouser Nimr Baqr al-Nimr was a smart move to divert the attention of their people from the accumulating problems of their rulers and the recent 40% gas price hike. But it comes with now escalating costs.

The biggest danger to the al-Saud family which dictatorial rules over Saudi Arabia is the proven validity of an alternative Islamic system. The Islamic Republic of Iran has such an alternative system and its reintegration into the world after the nuclear deal shows its validity. Some people and Islamic scholars in Saudi Arabia might get the idea that they also could also have a system where every vote counts and policies are decided at the ballot box. This without a kleptocratic, dictatorial family and, importantly, without doing away with their core Islamic values. This, not religion, is why the Saudis have fought Iran since its revolution in 1979 and why they try to curb its influence wherever they can. The al-Sauds fear for their family and its sinecures.

The Saudis, together with Israel, tried everything to sabotage the nuclear deal. They want Iran back in the isolation box. But it is now too late. I have not read one piece in "western" media today that was negative on Iran and/or positive on Saudi Arabia. The wind of international politics has changed and it is now Saudi Arabia that comes under pressure. The impulsive reaction of the current Saudi rulers is to escalate and escalate even more and to fight Iran wherever it is present, like in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, or even where it is not present like in Yemen.

While the Saudis claim that Iran supports the Houthis in Yemen there is not the slightest proof for that assertion. There have been no Iranians found in Yemen and no Iranian weapons. The Houthis the Saudis fight in Yemen are not Shia like the Iranians but are nearer to Sunni Islam than to Iranian 12er Shia. There has been no evidence that Houthis have received anything from Iran and all stories about Iranian weapon shipment to Yemen turned out to be false.

This is now likely to change.

After the killing of al-Nimr some Iranian hardliners organized a mob that stormed and ransacked the Saudi embassy in Tehran. This was an attack on what they see as appeasement policies of the Iranian President Rouhani. It was stupid of the Rouhani administration to not have foreseen such a move and increase protection for the embassy. It is now bending over backwards to apologize for the incident but to no avail.

The Saudis cut diplomatic relations to Iran and pressed Bahrain and Sudan to do the same. The Bahraini rulers need Saudi protection and Sudan the Saudi money. The UAE only lowered its diplomatic presence in Tehran from ambassador to chargé d'affaires. Interestingly the other Gulf countries did not follow the Saudi decision. The Saudis also stopped all civil flights between Iran and Saudi Arabia and forbid their citizens to visit Iran. Business between the countries will be stopped. Iranians on pilgrimage to Mecca are still welcome.

It is unclear what this is supposed to achieve. What could Iran reasonably do that would let the Saudi rulers retract these measures without losing face? This was another impulsive and erratic move that only hurts the Saudis people and the ruling family's international reputation.

More dumb moves are expected. The Saudis will likely up their proxy fight against Iran in Syria and possibly also in Iraq by giving more weapons and financial support to Jihadists of all strife. A new government in Lebanon, on which Iran and Saudi Arabia had recently agreed, is now again far away. The Saudis will also try to escalate the fight against the Houthis and their imaginary Iranian support in Yemen. But after nine month of bombing Yemen's infrastructure to dust there is little to escalate. All ground attacks by the Saudis and their various hired proxies have been fought to a standstill.

This then is the place where Iran can escalate in response. It has the technology and know how to hand the Houthis some serious missile capabilities. Such missiles would allow them to achieve pinpoint hits on Saudi targets. The whole southern Saudi Arabia would then become a Houthi shooting range. Saudi Arabia would have to file for peace or would have to evacuate significant parts of the country.

The al-Nimr execution and the diversion of the Saudi public to strife with Iran will help the Saudi rulers to calm down internal disturbances. But the escalation comes at significant international political costs and may end up, via Houthi missiles, to increase the internal problems the Saudis are so keen to avert in the first place.

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (108)

January 03, 2016

The Saudi Execution Of Al-Nimr Was A Smart Move

The Saudi government executed  47 longtime prisoners who had be sentenced to death over terrorism and general revolting against the government.

From its viewpoint it was a smart political move.

The Saudis are in trouble over their war on Yemen. After nine month of bombing the hell out of the country there is no chance that the aim of their war, reinstalling their proxy government in Sanaa, will be reached anytime soon. Meanwhile Yemeni forces raid (vid) one Saudi town after another. The Saudi regime change projects via Salafi jihadists in Iraq and Syria are also faltering. The low oil price make it necessary for the Saudi government to introduce taxes on its people. New taxes are hardly ever popular.

To divert from these problems the Saudis decided to get rid of a bunch of prisoners and to use the event to regain some legitimacy. Many of the 47 killed were truly al-Qaida types who a decade ago had killed and blown up buildings in Saudi Arabia and wanted to violently overthrow the Saudi government. With the recent anti-Saudi calls of the Islamic State and al-Qaeda a jailbreak or some hostage taking to free the prisoners were a real possibility. Only four of the killed were of Shia believe. One of those was the prominent rabble rousing Shia preacher Nimr Baqr al-Nimr from the majority Shia eastern Saudi province Qatif.

Al-Nimr had called for the youth in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain to raise up against the government. He called for the overthrow of all tyrants not only in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain but also of the Assad government in Syria. He was no Iranian stooge but defended its form of government. Al-Nimr said he was against violence but several of the demonstrations he called for ended with dead policemen and protesters. It was quite astonishing that the Saudi government let him preach for so long. A Sunni cleric in Saudi Arabia would have been put to jail or killed for much less revolutionary talk.

Some dumb people like Human Right Watch's Kenneth Roth say that al-Nimr wanted a democratic state:

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth
Sheikh Nimr's real offense: leading peaceful protests for Saudi democracy, equality for Shia

That is nonsense. A U.S. diplomat talked with al-Nimr in 2008. A cable available through Wikileaks summarizes:

Al-Nimr described his and al-Mudarrasi's attitude towards Islamic governance as being something between "wilayet al-faqih," in which a country is led by a single religious leader, and "shura al-fuqaha," in which a council of religious leaders should lead the state. Al-Nimr, who conducted religious studies for approximately ten years in Tehran and "a few" years in Syria, stated that all governance should be done through consultation, but the amount of official power vested in the hands of a single official should be determined based on the relative quality of the religious leaders and the political situation at the time.

A system led solely by religious judges or clerics is not a democracy. From that interview it also seems that al-Nimr had no clear picture of what he really wanted. His point was to always "side with the people, never with the government" independent of who or what was right or wrong.

The Saudi government's patience ended when in June 2012 al-Nimr disparaged the death of the interior minister and crown prince Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud:

He stated that "people must rejoice at [Nayef's] death" and that "he will be eaten by worms and will suffer the torments of Hell in his grave"

That did him in. Al-Nimr was imprisoned and sentenced to death.

There was concern that actually killing al-Nimr would increase Sunni-Shia tensions. Several governments and the United Nations had warned that doing so would increase sectarian strife.

Well, that is the point!

The Saudi government's legitimacy depends on financial largess and on being a sectarian Wahhabi "defender of the faith". Raising the sectarian bar by provoking a Shia reaction only helps the Saudis to rally the Wahhabi Sunni clerics and the people to their side. The killing of a prominent Shia also gives cover for executing the al-Qaeda types. These do have many sympathizers within Saudi Arabia and killing them without killing al-Nimr would have led to protests or worse by Sunni radicals. Even with this cover some al-Qaeda type entities outside of Saudi Arabia are threatening revenge.

The Iranian government and Shia organizations in Iraq fell for the trick and protest against al-Nimr's execution. It allowed some organized gangs in Tehran to storm the Saudi embassy and to set it on fire. In Saudi Arabia's eastern province young Shia protesters violently attacked police forces (vid).

This was exactly what the Saudis rulers wanted and need.

It may also have been what some conservative Iranian circles were looking forward to.

Posted by b at 02:16 AM | Comments (100)

January 02, 2016

Open Thread 2016-01

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (147)

January 01, 2016

Iran Fends Off Childish New Sanction Threats

Last years agreement over Iran's nuclear program could have cleared the way to better relations between the U.S. and Iran. Better relation could lead to cooperation in solving conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

But the U.S. is not willing to go there. It is trying to keep Iran hostile even with the nuclear issue solved.

Just follow recent headlines:

Dec 9 - US official: Iran tested another ballistic missile in Nov.

The test occurred Nov. 21, according to the official, coming on top of an Oct. 10 test Iran confirmed at the time.

Dec 28 - Iran ships 25,000lb of low-enriched uranium to Russia as part of nuclear deal

“I am pleased to report that we have seen important indications of significant progress towards Iran completing its key nuclear commitments under the deal,” the US secretary of state, John Kerry, said.

Dec 30 - U.S. preparing missile sanctions against Iran

Dec 30 - US says Iran launched 'provocative' rocket test near ships

Iran fulfills the nuclear deal and ships out enriched Uranium. It thereby gives away its meager means to even produce one nuclear weapon. This is immediately followed by a hostile move from the U.S. together with some nonsense propaganda over small fireworks in the Gulf, the Persian Gulf.

Iran immediately reacted to these crazy moves.

Dec 31 - Iran's IRGC denies firing rockets near U.S. warship in Persian Gulf

Dec 31 - Iran Denounces U.S. Sanctions Over Missiles, Saying It Will Build More

Israel, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Pakistan and the U.S. all have ballistic missiles that can hit Iran. Why should Iran not have a capability to deter them with its own ballistic missile force? Given that Iran has no nuclear weapons program there is no sound reason to deny it conventional missile capabilities. China, Russia and the Europeans accept that and will prevent any UN sanctions over the issue.

Only after Iran made it clear that it will not take part in the childish games the Obama administration wanted to play did the administration retract.

Jan 1 - White House Said To Delay Sanctions On Iran After Tehran Retaliates

Duh! Why make the threat in the first place when it was clear from the onset that it would be a bad move?

Tally this up as other own goal the Obama administration inflicted onto itself.

Who came up with the crazy idea of sanctioning Iran over harmless ballistic missile tests? Why do this at a time, just after Iran shipped out its Uranium, that make it look like intended sabotage of the nuclear deal? The deal with Iran is the only major foreign policy success the Obama administration ever had. Why endanger this legacy?

It will be interesting to read and compare the self serving memoirs of Obama administration officials when their time in office is over. My perception is that Obama is completely disinterested in policies. That Susan Rice, his National Security Adviser, has the retarded mindset of a junior highschool brat. That the neolibcons at the State Department run circles around a hapless John Kerry. And that the Pentagon, CentCom and the CIA are all running the own tunnel vision policies without any regard of a bigger national strategy.

Unfortunately there is little hop that the next administration will be any better.

Posted by b at 08:25 AM | Comments (134)

December 31, 2015

A Happy 2016 To All Of You

A happy new year to all of you!

May the year 2016 be more peaceful than the last years.

Posted by b at 11:46 AM | Comments (94)

December 30, 2015

Kenneth Roth's Schizophrenic Positions On Zahran Alloush

Can someone explain the logic or thought behind these tweets of Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth?


Tweeted at 9:35 PM - 25 Dec 2015

Tweeted at 12:25 AM - 30 Dec 2015


Alloush was released from jail, which was then one of the demands of those peaceful protesters and Human Rights Watch, so he could "taint" the "uprising". But he also was a valid "choice" for the Syrian people even as Roth's own organization accused him of war crimes? How does that compute?

Interestingly the link in the first tweet goes to an NYT piece by Anne Barnard which the Angry Arab described as:

A moving tribute to moderately polygamous, moderately sectarian, and moderately murderous, and moderately Salafite Zahran Alloush

The link in the second tweet sent only five days later goes to a more realistic biography of Alloush written by Aron Lund for Syria Comment.

It seem that Roth's opinions are more influenced by the latest piece he read than by case based analysis. Or does it depend on which sponsor is  more ready at this moment to shuffle big money into his pockets?

Posted by b at 12:24 PM | Comments (96)

December 28, 2015

Russia's "Quagmire" In Syria Turns Out To Be A Well Designed Campaign

Recent "Official Washington" headlines:

The above was all nonsense and propaganda. It represented the typical self delusion of the Washington establishment. The Russian government and military knew exactly what they were doing. After some 100 days of Russian military support for the Syrian government the results are coming in. They look well. The Islamic State lost most of its oil income and is reduced in its capabilities. The Syrian army and its allies are progressing against they various enemies on several fronts. The costs of Russia's expedition is relatively small.

This reality is now setting in.

Three months into his military intervention in Syria, Russian President Vladimir Putin has achieved his central goal of stabilizing the Assad government and, with the costs relatively low, could sustain military operations at this level for years, U.S. officials and military analysts say.
"I think it's indisputable that the Assad regime, with Russian military support, is probably in a safer position than it was," said a senior administration official, who requested anonymity. Five other U.S. officials interviewed by Reuters concurred with the view that the Russian mission has been mostly successful so far and is facing relatively low costs.

The U.S. officials stressed that Putin could face serious problems the longer his involvement in the more than four-year-old civil war drags on.

Yet since its campaign began on Sept. 30, Russia has suffered minimal casualties and, despite domestic fiscal woes, is handily covering the operation's cost, which analysts estimate at $1-2 billion a year. The war is being funded from Russia's regular annual defense budget of about $54 billion, a U.S. intelligence official said.

With the Russian help time is now in favor of the Syrian government's position. As longer it takes to get to some negotiated end-state with the various groups supported from the outside, the less power on the ground and the less say in the outcome will those groups and their sponsors have. The Islamic State and several other Salafi groups like Ahrar al Sham will shrink back into underground terrorist forces. These will be able to continue random attacks but will not be able to hold ground. Unfortunately incidents like today's triple suicide bombing in Homs, which killed some 50 civilians, will continue to occur for some time. The biggest challenge will be the defeat of al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra. That group has pushed roots into the local ground and population and will be the hardest to eradicate. It will have to be isolated from its sponsors and all resupply before it can be defeated. Local intelligence will have to penetrate the group to go after its leadership.

Russia has not yet brought its full power to bear in Syria. It waits until a more complete intelligence picture has formed to pursue smaller and smaller opposition units. This may take some additional month. The big government offense against its enemies in Idleb province and city is also still in preparation. Unless some unforeseen exterior event happens it will be the major move over the next six month.

Posted by b at 11:49 AM | Comments (152)

December 27, 2015

The Islamic State Is Shrinking And Other News

Just some recent new items on Syria/Iraq:

The killed ruthless terrorist and sectarian Salafist insurgent leader Zahran Alloush was mourned by the Turkey backed Syrian Islamic Council, the U.S. backed FSA and affiliates, by Riad_Hijab the former Syrian Prime Minister who defected and who now heads the Saudi formed opposition body, by the terrorist groups Ahrar al Sham, Jabhat al Nusra/al-Qaeda and  by the head of Human Rights Watch who gets payed $450,000 per year for such valuable (for some rich people) service:

Kenneth Roth Verified account @KenRoth
Killing Zahran Alloush is part of Assad strategy of trying to reduce choice to him or ISIS.

So, according to Kenneth Roth, Zahran Alloush who lauded Osama bin Laden, shelled civilians in Damascus and put Alawite women into cages as human shields, was a potentially valid "choice" for the Syrian people?

The Islamic State Caliph Baghdadi published an audio speech in which he acknowledged loss of territory but promised victory after more hardship. He announced an attack on Israel or probably soft Jewish targets elsewhere. Baghdadi mentioned "Jews" eight times and "Palestine" five times in the 24 minutes tape. An attack on Israel would probably be a valuable recruiting tool for the Islamic State.

The Syrian Arab Army freed several Islamic State held villages north east of Aleppo.

The Syrian-Kurdish YPG, under its U.S. label Syrian Democratic Forces, took the Tishreen dam away from the Islamic State fighters. The move was supported by Russia and the U.S. There are plans to reroute electricity from Tishreen to the predominate Kurdish Kobane, a prospect that other parts of Syria will not like and a potential reason for future conflicts. From Tishreen the Kurds can cross to the west bank of the Euphrates and proceed towards Jarablus. This would cut the corridor the Islamic State has to Turkey. The Turkish government had announced that such a move by the Kurds would be a grave transgression of its red lines and against Turkish interests.

Iraqi government forces stormed the Islamic State held central government complex in Ramadi, Anbar province. Some IS fighters died there but more fled. The city of Ramadi was announced free of IS by the Iraqi government but I would expect that IS sleeper cells have staid in the city.

The Islamic State is definitely shrinking. It seemingly lacks manpower and is still wasting personal by ruling over far flung but useless areas and in pointless suicide attacks for minor tactical gains.

There is unconfirmed news of a deal between the U.S. and Russia on Syria. Some Syrian businessman currently in London would become new Prime Minister but Assad would stay on as President. There would follow a review of the constitution and new election in which Assad could be a candidate. Assad believes he would win in an election. Any group not following the plan would be declared a terrorist groups by the UN Security Council and Syria, Russia and their allies would continue to fight those groups.

The Russian envoy for Syria Alexander Lavrentiev is traveling to several Middle East countries in an attempt to sell the deal. He so far visited Baghdad, Amman, Jerusalem, Cairo and Abu Dhabi. A visit to Riyadh was postponed after the killing of Alloush.

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (121)

December 25, 2015

Big Christmas Gifts For Syria - Alloush Killed, Yarmouk Cleared

Today the Syrian airforce used air delivered missiles on buildings where a meeting of Jaish al-Islam (Army of Islam) leaders and others tool place and killed its leader Zahran Alloush, several of his lieutenants and some leading personal from Ahrar al-Shams, Failaq al Rahman, another anti-government Salafist group, and Jabhat al-Nusra.

Alloush, here a video of him preaching, was an extremely sectarian man. He called for the "cleansing" of all Alawite and Shia from Syria and he put Alawite women into cages on marketplaces to use them as human shields against government attacks. He praised Osama Bin Laden. Two Years ago Joshua Landis provided a profile of Alloush with some translation of his speeches.

Alloush had many enemies. Unlike other "moderates" he fought not only against the government. When challenged by ISIS, Jabhat al-Nusra or any local competition he fought them too. In the eyes of some Gulf propagandists that made him a "moderate". But his ideologically positions were nearly identical to those of the Islamic State or al-Qaeda. His pasture was the Ghouta area, east of Damascus and he had about 12,000 troops under his command. The Saudis and the Turks payed him and his men.

That the meeting could be targeted is great success for the Syrian and Russian intelligence.

In another success today some 2,000 Islamic State followers and their immediate families left Yarmouk after a deal with the government. Yarmouk is a large Palestinian quarter in Damascus. The men were allowed to leave to east Syria where the Islamic State rules. Heavy weapons were collected by the government and the Syrian army will take control of Yarmouk and two nearby quarters.

These are two very big Christmas gifts Syria received today. While Alloush will be replaced, his "army" is likely to fall apart under any less brutal and charismatic leader. Yarmouk will likely stay pacified for the foreseeable future.

Posted by b at 02:46 PM | Comments (132)

Merry Christmas

.. and a pretty solstice full moon to all of you.

Posted by b at 03:09 AM | Comments (57)

December 24, 2015

Still Hopeless For O'Hanlon

U.S. media do not care if a pundit they publish has been wrong in his or her earlier predictions. They allow such dimwits and deniers of reality to repeat their errors over and over and over again. A condition though is some connection of said pundit to a "reputable" organization or think tank with big money behind it.

Consider one Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institute on Afghanistan. In January 2014 we wrote Hopeless For O'Hanlon:

A casual and incomplete search for "O'Hanlon" "Hope" "Afghanistan" finds the following entries:, November 17 2009: Michael O'Hanlon: A blue line of hope in Afghanistan

LA Times, December 27 2009: A year of war -- and progress

The question is whether it will be too little too late, but there is reason for hope.

Washington Post, June 26 2010: Reasons to be hopeful about U.S. strategy in Afghanistan

Politico, September 28 2010: New reasons for hope in Afghanistan

NYT, May 20 2011: Finally, a Fighting Force

But there is reason to be hopeful. ...

CNN, March 16 2012: O'Hanlon: 7 reasons for hope in Afghanistan

Here are some highlights of the more hopeful indicators in Afghanistan: ...

CNN, May 2 2012: O'Hanlon: Reasons for hope on Afghanistan

Washington Times, June 1 2012: O’HANLON: Rays of hope in Afghanistan

Several hopeful things I saw on a recent trip ...

Politico, March 21 2013: Kandahar and hope

Now, Kandahar gives hope to the war effort. ...

Michael Cohan now extended the list on Twitter with some new hopeless-like O'Hanlon entries.

In Politico September 5 2013:

An update on a forgotten war

.. overall coalition troop strength has hardly declined, because as Americans have stood down, Afghans have stood up.
...while war is always a horrible business, make no mistake about it, this year’s campaign in Afghanistan is reasonably encouraging so far.

On January 2 2014 in the Washington Post:

U.S. intelligence is too pessimistic about Afghanistan

The case for hopefulness on Afghanistan is built largely on what were probably its three most notable developments of 2013 ..
There is still a powerful case for interpreting the facts in a hopeful vein.

Mach 23 2014 in Politico:

Afghanistan Is Doing Better Than You Think

But the overall military picture is fairly good. ... Afghanistan is doing far better than most critics imagine.
Most major cities, never as violent as many urban areas in Latin America or Africa even at the worst of the war, have improved further
Afghan security forces are doing better than almost anyone expected. ...This war may not be won in a classic sense, but it is also surely not being lost.

On February 4 2015 in the Wall Street Journal:

How Not to Squander Hard-Won Gains in Afghanistan

The woes are well-known, the strengths too often forgotten. Major cities and roads, for example, are increasingly safe. ..

O'Hanlon in the Washington Post on July 7 2015:

The U.S. needs to keep troops in Afghanistan

Beyond our own global counterterrorism exigencies, Afghanistan itself still needs help. The situation there is not hopeless, but it is serious.
But all is not lost. Far from it.
The right approach for the United States is not to pull out next year but to keep several bases and several thousand U.S. and other NATO-coalition troops in Afghanistan for the foreseeable future.

In Politico two days ago, December 22 2015:

How to Win in Afghanistan

The situation in Afghanistan is far from hopeless. For each negative trend, there is an important counterargument.
The deterioration has been significant, to be sure, but far from apocalyptic.
Postpone the reduction to 5,500 U.S. troops, which will almost certainly be premature. Indeed, we might better expand to 12,000 or so for a couple years

The war in Afghanistan was lost shortly after the Taliban were driven out. Afghanistan was ready to be left alone again to find its own way towards a new balance. Instead the U.S. decided to occupy the place and to hunt down, torture and kill any random "Taliban". Western money fueled an orgy of graft and corruption. With support from within an alienated population the real Taliban came back. Like some 20 years ago, they are wining the war against the occupiers and their proxies and there is nothing the "west" can do about it.

Meanwhile al- Qaeda has multiplied outside of Afghanistan. The theory that such a terror organization needs a secure retreat is wrong. If tomorrow Afghanistan were secured and free of any strife al-Qaeda an similar groups would still be able to exist and flourish there or elsewhere.

But such sane thought is not allowed in mainstream media. Too much moneyed interest is fed by waging war.

That is why hopelessly delusional idiots like O'Hanlon still get published.

Posted by b at 06:05 AM | Comments (42)

December 23, 2015

Open Thread 2015-49

News & views ...

Posted by b at 04:14 AM | Comments (127)

December 22, 2015

US Military In Iraq Circulates Fake Islamic State Document - Media Fall For it

Updated below

It seems that the U.S. military is propagandizing against the Islamic State by distributing fake Islamic State documents. This, in effect, will make the Islamic State look better than it is.

Iraqi Forces Fighting for Ramadi Make Their Way Toward City Center

In a telephone briefing on Tuesday, [Col. Steven H. Warren, the United States military spokesman in Baghdad,] said that coalition forces had recovered Islamic State leaflets in the nearby city of Falluja urging its fighters — if they lose control of the city — to impersonate Iraqi security forces and commit atrocities. “Some acts that they’re instructed to do on this document include blowing up mosques, killing and torturing civilians and breaking into homes while dressed as I.S.F. fighters,” Colonel Warren said, referring to Iraqi security forces. “They do all this to discredit the I.S.F.”

Colonel Warren called the instructions in the leaflets “the behavior of thugs, behavior of killers, the behavior of terrorists.”

Colonel Warren also tweeted the "Islamic State leaflet" and its translation:

COL Steve Warren Verified account @OIRSpox
ISIL fighters ordered to dress as ISF and commit atrocities before fleeing Fallujah.
[Photo of the document and its translation]

7:30 AM - 22 Dec 2015"

The document was immediately identified as fake by Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi, a well known researcher who curates a large collection of all published Islamic State documents:

Aymenn J Al-Tamimi @ajaltamimi
Aymenn J Al-Tamimi Retweeted COL Steve Warren

Dear Col. Steve Warren @OIRSpox, this purported 'Fallujah withdrawal' document is an obvious fake:

7:43 AM - 22 Dec 2015

Al Tamimi gives two main reasons why he believes the document is fake:

  • the document allegedly from Fallujah is under an IS letter head from Ninawa province. Fallujah is in Anbar province,
  • the document refers to the government militia with its real honorable name "Hashd Sha'abi" while the regular derogatory Islamic State term for the militia is "Hashd Rafidi".

Another writer with deep experience in the region also believes that the document is fake:

Anand Gopal @Anand_Gopal_

Anand Gopal Retweeted COL Steve Warren

Here’s a US military spokesman circulating fake ISIS documents as propaganda

9:41 AM - 22 Dec 2015

An Iraq security analyst concurs:

Alex M. @Alex_de_M

COL Warren needs a chat with his G2 section. The leaflets are pretty obviously fakes...

9:45 AM - 22 Dec 2015

One would think that the behavior the Islamic State displays in its own propaganda videos is argument enough to condemn it. By using obviously fake IS documents to condemn the Islamic State the U.S. military creates the opposite effect. That the U.S. needs fake evidence to let the Islamic State look bad actually makes it look better than it is. This not only in the eyes of its followers.

Update Dec 23, 3:45am

The NYT, quoted above, has now changed its piece without issuing a correction note. The text now says:

In a telephone briefing on Tuesday, Colonel Warren said that coalition forces had recovered what he said were Islamic State leaflets in the nearby city of Falluja urging its fighters — if they lose control of the city — to impersonate Iraqi security forces and commit atrocities.

The authenticity of the leaflets could not be independently confirmed, and experts on the Islamic State were debating their validity after the coalition publicized them on Tuesday.

The NYT first repeated the military propaganda of the fake leaflet without any doubt or checking of its authenticity. It now says that there is a "debate" about the genuineness of the document. There is no "debate". The experts all say that the document is fake. This is - if at all - a "debate" about the earth being flat. It is another low that the NYT can even not admit that it has again been taken in by military's propaganda.

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (47)

December 21, 2015

How Criticism Of Hersh's New Piece Fails To Understand What Really Happened

The latest Seymour Hersh piece alleges that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) under General Dempsey undermined the official White House policy on Syria. Their impetus to do so came after a Defense Intelligence Agency analysis found in 2012 that there were hardly any "moderate rebels" in Syria but only Islamists fighting against the Syrian state. The CIA was at least since early 2012 delivering weapons from Libya to Turkey as well as through other routes. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya Chris Stevens was killed on September 11 2012 in Benghazi over some issues with the weapon transfers. Once in Turkey those weapons, as well as plane loads of others purchased by Qatar and Saudi Arabia, were given to "moderate rebels" who took them into Syria. There they sold off at least part of every weapon and ammunition haul to the Islamists terror gangs which were, and still are, financed by the Wahhabi Gulf states. A new BBCRadio4 report by Peter Oborne explains in detail how that scheme works.

The JCS under Dempsey was quite disturbed that weapons transferred by the CIA were going to exactly those people they had fought in Iraq and Afghanistan just a few years ago. They decided, according to Hersh's source, to undermine the White House's and CIA's regime-change program. They provided intelligence to Syria via Germany, Russia and Israel. They also convinced the CIA that it was preferable to give away very old weapons that could be sourced in Turkey instead of newer but more difficult to transport weapons from Libya. As Hersh writes:

‘Our policy of arming the opposition to Assad was unsuccessful and actually having a negative impact,’ the former JCS adviser said. ‘The Joint Chiefs believed that Assad should not be replaced by fundamentalists. The administration’s policy was contradictory. They wanted Assad to go but the opposition was dominated by extremists. So who was going to replace him? To say Assad’s got to go is fine, but if you follow that through – therefore anyone is better. It’s the “anybody else is better” issue that the JCS had with Obama’s policy.’ The Joint Chiefs felt that a direct challenge to Obama’s policy would have ‘had a zero chance of success’. So in the autumn of 2013 they decided to take steps against the extremists without going through political channels, by providing US intelligence to the militaries of other nations, on the understanding that it would be passed on to the Syrian army and used against the common enemy, Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State.

And Hersh on the weapon dealing:

By the late summer of 2013, the DIA’s assessment had been circulated widely, but although many in the American intelligence community were aware that the Syrian opposition was dominated by extremists the CIA-sponsored weapons kept coming, presenting a continuing problem for Assad’s army. Gaddafi’s stockpile had created an international arms bazaar, though prices were high. ‘There was no way to stop the arms shipments that had been authorised by the president,’ the JCS adviser said. ‘The solution involved an appeal to the pocketbook. The CIA was approached by a representative from the Joint Chiefs with a suggestion: there were far less costly weapons available in Turkish arsenals that could reach the Syrian rebels within days, and without a boat ride.’ But it wasn’t only the CIA that benefited. ‘We worked with Turks we trusted who were not loyal to Erdoğan,’ the adviser said, ‘and got them to ship the jihadists in Syria all the obsolete weapons in the arsenal, including M1 carbines that hadn’t been seen since the Korean War and lots of Soviet arms. It was a message Assad could understand: “We have the power to diminish a presidential policy in its tracks.”’

The JCS, according to Hersh, was undermining its Commander in Chief. That is, arguably, treason but U.S. history is full of examples where the military chiefs were pushing into a very different direction than their civil commanders. Trueman versus Douglas MacArthur is just one example. Think of the closing of the Guantanamo prison which the military is actively preventing for seven years now despite Obama's promise, demand and orders to shut Gitmo down.

Max Fisher, a critic of Hersh not known for factual quality journalism, claims that the Hersh account must be false because Dempsey was not against weaponizing the insurgents but even publicly asked to give them weapons:

Hersh alleges that the mastermind of this entire conspiracy was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Martin Dempsey, whom Hersh says was horrified by Obama's plan to arm Syrian rebels and sought to aid Assad. This claim is difficult to believe: While in office, Dempsey famously and publicly clashed with Obama over Syria because Dempsey wanted to do more to arm Syrian rebels. Contemporaneous accounts of arguments within the White House support this, with Dempsey arguing the US should more robustly arm Syrian rebels, and Obama arguing for less.

Yet Hersh claims, with no evidence, that Dempsey was so opposed to arming Syrian rebels that he would commit an apparent act of treason to subvert those plans. Hersh makes no effort to reconcile this seemingly fatal contradiction, and indeed it is not clear Hersh is even aware that Dempsey is known for supporting rather than opposing efforts to arm the Syrian rebels.

Hersh is of course perfectly aware what Dempsey said and thought in early 2013. The one not aware is the critic.

Dempsey argued in early 2013 that the Pentagon should give weapons to a few carefully vetted rebels:

Testifying before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta acknowledged that he and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, had supported a plan last year to arm carefully vetted Syrian rebels.
[D]id the Pentagon, Mr. McCain continued, support the recommendation by Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Petraeus “that we provide weapons to the resistance in Syria? Did you support that?”

“We did,” Mr. Panetta said.

“You did support that,” Mr. McCain said.

“We did,” General Dempsey added.

The Pentagon plan was killed by the White House in favor of the ongoing CIA operation. This exchange then does not contradict but even supports the Hersh reporting. Let me explain the context.

By early 2013 Dempsey knew perfectly well that the CIA was supplying -directly or indirectly- everyone in Syria who asked for arms and ammunition. These weapons were going to the Jihadis who were simply the best financed groups. Because the CIA program was secret Dempsey of course could not say so in a public Congress hearing. But Dempsey wanted to give arms to "carefully vetted Syrian rebels" to replace the CIA program with a Pentagon program under his command. He would then have been able to direct the weapon flow and to prevent a further arming of the Islamist terrorists. Dempsey supported a Pentagon program arming the rebels so he could control the arming of the rebels that was already happening under a CIA program but was creating long term trouble.

When the hostile takeover of the CIA arming program failed, Dempsey and the JCS tried to sabotage it by providing old Turkish weapons to the CIA.

Only much later was the Pentagon allowed to run its own training program and to arm its own groups of Syrian rebels. But that program was running in parallel to the ongoing CIA program and was thereby useless for the purpose Dempsey had originally intended. It did not replace the dangerous CIA program. The Pentagon then sabotaged its own program by training only a few rebels and sending them into a Jihadi infested area where they promptly gave their arms up to Jabhat al-Nusra. This publicly proved Dempsey's main critic point of the long running CIA program: any arms going into Syria ended up in the hands of long term U.S. enemies.

I understand that Hersh's sourcing is rather weak. His main and sole direct source for the JCS story is a "former senior adviser to the Joint Chiefs". That could be a military or a civilian source. Colonel Pat Lang, one of Hersh's named sources for other points in the piece, thinks the main source is real and the story true. Lang, who sometimes still consults the military, surely has enough insider connections to have a quite clear picture of this issue.

It is fine to criticize Hersh. His reporting often relies on anonymous sources. But throughout his career Hersh's reporting was proven right more often than his critics criticism of it. Here the criticism of Hersh relies on a small tunnel vision of what Dempsey claimed he wanted in a public hearing without regard of the context of Dempsey's claim. Dempsey wanted to replace the then still secret CIA arming program that the DIA and other parts of the military had rightly found to be on a very dangerous path.

The Pentagon under Dempsey, fearing the CIA was repeating old errors, was turf fighting against the CIA under neocon Petraeus and later under the great friend of Saudi Arabia John Brennan. Unfortunately the White House backed the CIA and thereby, more or less willfully, allied with the Islamic State and the other assorted Jihadi organizations (pdf) in Syria.

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (96)

December 20, 2015

How Influential Are Turkish Spies Within The Islamic State?

Today Zaman is a Turkish daily and part of the Gülen organization. As such it is currently in opposition to the Turkish president Erdogan and some of his policies. So take this with a grain of salt:

During the meetings between Turkish officials and Barzani in Ankara, Barzani spoke on the 150 ISIL militants of Turkish origin who had been captured by Kurdish peshmerga forces during clashes with ISIL. According to sources, Barzani said some ISIL members captured by the peshmerga had identified themselves as members of MİT and he requested that MİT head Fidan clarify the issue.

Barzani also sought assistance from Ankara to remove 500 Turkish nationals in Mosul who are in leading positions in ISIL.

The MIT is the Turkish secret service. It is certainly not the only spy organization whicht has infiltrated the Islamic State. But as Turkey has been the rear base and travel route for the Islamic State and its members the MIT is likely the service with the biggest contingent.

How any spies and/or operators does it have within the Islamic State structures? Even more important - how influential are these within the Islamic State hierarchies?

The Kurdish organizations within Turkey believe that the two big Islamic State attacks on mostly Kurdish rallies, in Suruc and in Ankara, were intended to support Erdogan's reelection. Influential MIT agents within the Islamic State would have been be part of such conspiracies.

The latest piece by Seymour Hersh, just out, also touches on the Turkey - Islamic State cooperation:

[By January 2014] American intelligence had accumulated intercept and human intelligence demonstrating that the Erdoğan government had been supporting Jabhat al-Nusra for years, and was now doing the same for Islamic State. ‘We can handle the Saudis,’ the adviser said. ‘We can handle the Muslim Brotherhood. You can argue that the whole balance in the Middle East is based on a form of mutually assured destruction between Israel and the rest of the Middle East, and Turkey can disrupt the balance – which is Erdoğan’s dream. We told him we wanted him to shut down the pipeline of foreign jihadists flowing into Turkey. But he is dreaming big – of restoring the Ottoman Empire – and he did not realise the extent to which he could be successful in this.’

Posted by b at 08:13 AM | Comments (109)

December 18, 2015

Talks About A "Political Transition" In Syria Are Not Serious - Yet

A few days ago U.S. Secretary of State Kerry met the Russian president Putin in Moscow:

Mr. Kerry appeared, more carefully than on previous occasions, to couch America’s insistence that Mr. Assad leave office as a recondition of any settlement.

The United States, he said, was not seeking Mr. Assad’s ouster per se, but rather considers it unlikely that he could preside over a successful settlement.

“The United States and our partners are not seeking regime change in Syria,” Mr. Kerry said.

That the U.S. is no longer looking for regime change in Syria is doubtful. Kerry made somewhat similar remarks in March but was then immediately contradicted by the State Department's spokesperson.

This time so far Kerry's "no regime change" remarks in Moscow have not been contradicted. The U.S. also pulled back F-15 air superiority fighters from Turkey which can be interpreted as a step of deescalation. But NATO is still building up additional forces around Syria. That is sold as preventing Turkey from doing more foolish nonsense like shooting down another Russian plane. But the military reality as seen from Syria is an increase in potential enemy forces right at its borders. If the U.S. is serious it should show that by stopping the military build up and its support for Syria's enemies.

The combined air defense of Russian S-400 long range air defense in Latakia and Syrian SA-17/BUK medium range systems in other areas for now protect against air incursions into Syria. To knock them out means all out war. Putin says he will not allow any outside force to decide who rules in Syria and he is backing that up with all of Russia's capabilities. "Western" diplomats' claims that Russia is ready to dumps Assad are just face saving rumors. It is Russia that is calling the shots. The Russian support has now reached a level that enables the Syrian army to slowly defeat and destroy the various terrorist forces attacking its people. Meanwhile more anti-Syrian propaganda gets debunked and public support for the Syrian government's position increases.

In Iraq the army is also back on its feet and is making progress against the Islamic State. The Iraqi government has rejected U.S. offers of its Apache helicopters and more U.S. special forces. It is rightly suspicious that the U.S. is aiming at splitting up Iraq and Syria. Today the U.S. again bombed and killed Iraqi government forces that were moving against the Islamic State. That surely will be explained away as an "accident" but too many such "accidents" have happened. Should the U.S., with its support for the Kurds and Sunnis, continue its ambiguous stand in Iraq it will be kicked out and Russia will get invited to move in.

There are some talks today at the UN to proceed towards ceasefire negotiations in Syria. I do not expect any serious outcome. The opposition that met in Saudi Arabia was a collection of random 5-star-hotel exiles and terrorist groups. The U.S. and its allies claim that these can take over Syria. But they have no real constituency and no abilities to fight Jabhat al Nusra, the Islamic State or any of the other big terrorist groups that are not part of the negotiations. Why should they have any say over Syria?

There are also some evidence that the Obama administration does not really want any solution in Syria. The negotiations are smoke and mirrors to simply run out the clock and to dump the problem to the next president. This could change though, some say or wish, if a big attack on a U.S. target would happen and be claimed by or blamed on the Islamic State.

A solution of the war in Syria will require elections in which the current president Bashar Assad will be one of the candidates. Until the agrees to that position all talks about a "political transition" are just a waste of time.

Posted by b at 08:59 AM | Comments (163)

December 16, 2015

NYT Burned Again By Granting Anonymity To "Officials"

NYT, Dec 12 2015: U.S. Visa Process Missed San Bernardino Wife’s Zealotry on Social Media

WASHINGTON — Tashfeen Malik, who with her husband carried out the massacre in San Bernardino, Calif., passed three background checks by American immigration officials as she moved to the United States from Pakistan. None uncovered what Ms. Malik had made little effort to hide — that she talked openly on social media about her views on violent jihad.

She said she supported it. And she said she wanted to be a part of it.

American law enforcement officials said they recently discovered those old — and previously unreported — postings as they pieced together the lives of Ms. Malik and her husband, Syed Rizwan Farook, trying to understand how they pulled off the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil since Sept. 11, 2001.

Reuters, Dec 16, 2015: FBI director: San Bernardino shooters never expressed public support for jihad on social media

FBI Director James Comey said on Wednesday that there remains no evidence the couple who massacred 14 people in San Bernardino, California, on December 2 were part of an organized cell or had any contact with overseas militant groups.

Syed Rizwan Farook, 28, and Tashfeen Malik, 29, expressed support for "jihad and martyrdom" in private communications but never did so on social media, Comey said at a press conference in New York City.

The false NYT report was used by various interested politicians and bureaucrats to demand a stop to U.S. immigration, stricter visa vetting, back-doors to communications, giving social media sides some sort of police function and so on. The same happened when at first false reports emerged that the attackers in Paris had used encryption to communicate with each other. They actually used open SMS messages.

The NYT needs to publish how the false report found its way into the paper. Did it not crosscheck its sources?

It needs to burn the "American law enforcement officials" who gave it the false information by publishing their names and motives.

Without doing that its its readership will have to classify any other NYT report based on unnamed "officials" -  just like some bloggers already do - as likely false.

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (83)

Who Will End The Saudi's Salman Embarrassment?

Muslim nations form coalition to fight terror, call Islamic extremism 'disease'

Calling Islamic extremism a disease, Saudi Arabia has announced the formation of a coalition of 34 predominately Muslim nations to fight terrorism.

"This announcement comes from the Islamic world's vigilance in fighting this disease so it can be a partner, as a group of countries, in the fight against this disease," Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and Defense Minister Mohammed bin Salman said.
The coalition's joint operations center will be based in Riyadh.

In addition to Saudi Arabia, the coalition will include Jordan, the United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Benin, Turkey, Chad, Togo, Tunisia, Djibouti, Senegal, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Gabon, Guinea, the Palestinians, Comoros, Qatar, Cote d'Ivoire, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Maldives, Mali, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Yemen.

This seems to be the "Arab army" the two amigos, Lindsey Graham and John McCain, announced earlier:

Defense One: How are you planning on getting the Arab countries to put up 90 percent of the ground forces you’re calling for if we can’t even get them to put up in the air coalition?

Graham: Well, they’re not —

McCain: — If Bashar Assad is also the target, that’s the key to it … they fear Bashar al-Assad, who is backed by the Iranians, as much as they do ISIS.

Defense One: Sen. Graham, so if we promise them they can also target Assad, they’ll get in?

McCain: We would also target Assad. Assad right now is killing the people we armed and trained and equipped.

Graham: I can only tell you what they tell us. I’m not joking. The king of Saudi Arabia’s chief advisor said, ‘You can have our army.’ The emir of Qatar says, ‘I’ll pay for the war.’ They want to do two things: they want to stop ISIL before they come in and take their countries over or disrupt their way of life, and they also want to make sure Damascus doesn’t fall into the hands of the Iranians. I’m down for both.

It may well be that Mohammed bin Salman, as well as McCain and Graham, drank too much fermented camel milk.  Neither the Saudis nor the Qataris nor any "coalition member" will send their armies to fight in Syria or Iraq.

The reactions from some "members" of the just announced Saudi "coalition" make that obvious.

The Deputy Crown Prince launched a war on Yemen that goes on without any gain at all but with serious Saudi losses:

Gen. Sharaf Ghaleb Luqman, a military spokesman for the Houthi rebels, said in a telephone interview Monday that 146 "enemy soldiers and mercenaries in Bab al Mandab, including foreigners," were killed when a Houthi rocket struck the "enemy operations command" in Taizz province.

The slain troops included 23 Saudis, nine Emiratis and 12 Moroccan officers, according to Houthi news outlets. There was no independent confirmation of the death toll.

The dead included Saudi Col. Abdullah Sahyan, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

Parts of three Saudi provinces are now occupied by forces troops. Four special regiments from the Saudi  Interior Ministry were just called up to clear the areas the Saudi regular army, under Mohammed bin Salman's command, can not hold.

Another embarrassment for the Salman clan is the hajj stampede in Mecca which the Saudi insists killed only 769 while news agencies find that at least 2,411 were killed.

When will the other members of the wider Saudi family dump these dupes? Is there someone else who could do this?

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (129)

December 15, 2015

Open Thread 2015-48

News & views ...


(PS: I was sick and am still too dizzy to write something intelligible. I hope I'll be back tomorrow.)

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (130)

December 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-47

News & views ...

Posted by b at 04:38 AM | Comments (271)

December 11, 2015

Sistani Orders Turkey Out Of Iraq - Syria Oppo-Conference Fails

After the U.S. invasion of Iraq the U.S vice consul Paul Bremer tried to install a handpicked Iraqi government.  The top Shia religious authority in Iraq, Grand Ajatollah Sistani, demanded a democratic vote. The issue was thereby decided. There was no way the U.S could have circumvented Sisitani's edict without a massive revolt by the 65% of Iraqis who are Shia and mostly follow his advice. Bremer had to fold.

Now Ajatollah Sistani takes position against the Turkish invasion of Iraq:

Iraq's top Shi'ite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, called on the government on Friday to show "no tolerance" of any infringement of the country's sovereignty, after Turkey deployed heavily armed troops to northern Iraq.

Sistani's spokesman, Sheikh Abdul Mehdi Karbala'i, did not explicitly name Turkey, but a row over the deployment has badly soured relations between Ankara and Baghdad, which denies having agreed to it.
"The Iraqi government is responsible for protecting Iraq's sovereignty and must not tolerate and side that infringes upon on it, whatever the justifications and necessities," Karbalai'i said in a weekly sermon.

The issue is thereby decided. Turkish troops will have to leave or will have to decisively defeat all Shia of Iraq (and Iran). If Erdogan were smart he would now order the Turkish troops stationed near Mosul to leave Iraq.

The Russian President Putin also increased pressure on Turkey:

President Vladimir Putin on Friday ordered Russia's armed forces to act in an "extremely tough way" in Syria to protect Russian forces striking Islamic State targets there.

"Any targets threatening our (military) group or land infrastructure must be immediately destroyed," Putin said, speaking at a Defence Ministry event.

Note to Erdogan: Beware of funny ideas...


There was some Syrian opposition conference yesterday in Saudi Arabia were the Saudis tried to bribe everyone to agree on a common position. But the conference failed. Some 116 delegates took part under "international guidance" of their various sponsors. A spokesperson for the al-Qaeda aligned Ahrar al Sham, which closely cooperates with the al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al Nusra in Syria, also took part. No women were present.

The conference resulted in the decision to hold another conference. The 116 delegates at the conference decided to select 33 delegates for a conference which would decide on 15 delegates to confer and maybe take part in some negotiations with the Syrian government side. The NYT's Ben Hubbard, who was there, tweeted:

Ben Hubbard @NYTBen
...The meeting created yet another new opposition body, a high commission, meant to oversee negotiations.

There was debate about how large it should be and what proportion should represent armed groups. Final was 32, changed after meetings to 33.

Those 33 now tasked with choosing a 15 person negotiating team. So, yeah, umbrella groups making a new umbrella.

The political demands the conference agreed upon include non-starters for negotiations like the demand that the Syrian President Assad would leave within 6 weeks of the negotiations start. There was also this illuminating word game:

Islamist delegates objected to using the word “democracy” in the final statement, so the term “democratic mechanism” was used instead, according to a member of one such group who attended the meeting.

The Ahrar al-Sham delegate at the meeting signed the deal while the Ahrar al Sham bigwigs, who took not part, damned the deal and announced they were completely against it. They demand an Islamic State in Syria that would follow their militant Salafi line of believe. Hubbard again:

Ben Hubbard ‏@NYTBen
Re: @Ahrar_Alsham2. It's main delegate did not walk out. Before meeting ended, members not present released statement announcing withdrawal.

The session's moderator said Ahrar delegate was not aware of statement by his group until later, but did sign the final communiqué.

Then Ahrar members like @aleesa71 and @a_azraeel complained on Twitter, suggesting a split between military and political leaders.

The Saudi and Qatari Wahhabi rulers want Ahrar al Sham to be part of any future solution in Syria. They hired "western" think tanks like Brookings Doha to propagandize that Ahrar is "moderate". But Ahrar can not be "moderate" when it is fighting together with al-Qaeda and kills civilians because they are "unbelievers". It is now in an uncomfortable position. If it takes part in a peace conference with the Syrian government its Jabhat al-Nusra ally will roast it, if it doesn't take part its Saudi and Qartari financiers will fry it.

Since the start of the war on Syria no unity has been achieved in the opposition of the Syrian government. The U.S., in form of the CIA head John Brennan, teamed up (again) with al-Qaeda while the State Department tried to sponsor more "moderates". The ensuing chaos continues today.

To prevent further blowback from this nonsense strategy will obviously require a change towards a position that supports the Syrian government. It is doubtful that the U.S. is capable of such foresight and flexibility.

Posted by b at 08:18 AM | Comments (219)

December 09, 2015

Turkey's Imperial Motive In Attacking Syria And Iraq

Turkey's attack on Syria and Iraq and its support for Islamists in those countries and elsewhere is often described as religiously motivated. But that is only a part of the story. The real-political side is an imperialist effort to expand Turkey into the space of the former Ottoman empire.

A former head of Israel’s National Security Council Giora Eiland writes in The Guardian:

About a year before that meeting with the Russian, I met a senior Turkish official. That was at a time when relations between Jerusalem and Ankara were excellent. At that meeting, the Turkish official spoke openly about his country’s world view. “We know that we cannot get back the lands that were under the control of the Ottoman empire before 1917,” he said, “but do not make the mistake of thinking that the borders that were dictated to us at the end of the first world war by the victorious countries – mainly the UK and France – are acceptable to us. Turkey will find a way to return to its natural borders in the south – the line between Mosul in Iraq and Homs in Syria. That is our natural aspiration and it is justified because of the large Turkmen presence in that region.”

A U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency assessment in 2012 provided:


The former Turkish military adviser Metin Gurcan in AL-Monitor analyzes the aims of the Turkish invasion of Iraq:

Ankara — which realizes each player in Syria and Iraq is setting up its own “boutique power base” — feels a best-case scenario for Turkey will be:
  • To allow emergence of the Mosul-based "Sunnistan Autonomous Administration," which is loosely linked to Baghdad, as Baghdad's central authority is waning by the day.
  • To enable cooperation between the KRG and the Sunni bodies in Syria, and the "Iraqi Sunnistan" under the security umbrella of the Turkish military.
  • For Turkey to become the regional sponsor of this new three-entity structure.

Some U.S. circles like the plan. John Bolton recently wrote an NYT op-ed To Defeat ISIS, Create a Sunni State which endorses the deconstruction of Iraq.

I posted a link to the above piece with the "Sunnistan Autonomous Administration" line on Twitter and added:

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA
@MoonofA #pt Turkey IMHO wants even more: "Annex Mosul and seize the northern Iraqi oil fields".

There followed this little exchange:

Erdal Ϝ ϓ ſ Ϟ - F16 @CccErdal
@MoonofA Mosul has always been Turkish land until the beginning of the 20th century. They are just taking what is theirs.
Moon of Alabama @MoonofA
@CccErdal Mosul is as much "Turkish land" as India is "British land".
Erdal Ϝ ϓ ſ Ϟ - F16 @CccErdal
@MoonofA Turks will bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East after British/French destroyed/colonized it in ww1.

I have no idea who CccErdal is but his profile picture is full of "Türk" whatever flags.

All the above is just to show that Turkey under Erdogan has a neo-Ottoman expansionist view. It wants parts of Iraq and Syria incorporated into Turkey. This view is popular in the ethnic Turk parts of Turkey. Erdogan is getting some support - or at least little resistance - from his NATO allies in pursuing this aim.

The overall Turkish plan is to re-establish the Ottoman administrative units or vilayets of Aleppo, Diyarbekir in its southern extend to the Euphrates and Mosul. These areas include large oil and gas fields in Syria and north Iraq. The Russian intervention in Syria frustrates the Aleppo plan. The temporary U.S. alliance with the YPK Kurds in Syria hinders the southern extension of Diyarbekir to the Euphrates. A serious move on Mosul started last weekend and has not yet been challenged by force. If diplomatic pressure fails to dislodge the Turks from the area Iraqi militia will attack the new Turkish positions near Mosul.

Turkey's plans are illegal under international law and under the charter of the United Nations. Moreover they do not respect the will of the people living in those areas. Are we to believe that Christians, Alawites and Yezidis, Kurds and Arabs in Syria and Iraq crave for being again ruled by ethnocentric Turks? The "Turkmen brethren" in Iraq and Syria which Ankara provides as justification for its moves are after all just a tiny minority.

But the Turkish expansion plans are serious and have wide support in Turkey's nationalist and Islamist circles. Turks, like other people, can be ruthless and brutal in such endeavors:

One of the two [Russian] pilots was captured by the pro-Turkish forces, killed and mutilated by the rebels. Pieces of the body, extremities and face, were taken away.

Erdogan is willing to risk a lot, including a wider war, to pursue his neo-Ottoman dreams. Blackmailing Europe and Iraq and challenging Russia in Crimea and Chechnya through insertion of Turkish "Grey Wolf" fascist and "Tatar" are only minor measures. We can expect a lot more fool play and carnage before the Turks finally have to acknowledge that their expansionist plans will fail.

Posted by b at 04:24 AM | Comments (180)

December 07, 2015

Is Erdogan's Mosul Escapade Blackmail For Another Qatar-Turkey Pipeline?

Update: Iraqi sources confirm to Elijah J. Magnier that Turkey is indeed blackmailing Baghdad to get a Qatar-Turkey pipeline. The blackmail also has a water resource component. I wrote on that here back in August. I recommend to read the above linked Magnier piece together with my speculations below.

The Turkish move to annex Mosul is further developing into a serious conflict. Iraq has demanded that Turkey removes its soldiers and heavy weapons from the "training base" near Mosul within 48 hours. It asserts that these were put there without asking or informing the sovereign Iraqi government.

Turkey first denied that any new troops arrived in Iraq. It then said that the troops were only a replacement of the existing training force. Then it claimed that the new troops were there to protect the training force:

Turkish sources say the reinforcement plans were discussed in detail with Brett McGurk, U.S. President Barack Obama’s counter-ISIL fight coordinator, during his latest visit to Ankara on Nov. 5-6. “The Americans are telling the truth,” one high-rank source said. “This is not a U.S.-led coalition operation, but we are informing them about every single detail. This is not a secret operation.”

The U.S. was informed but Iraq was not? That makes it look as if the U.S. is behind this. Brett McGurk has also said that this is not a "U.S.-led coalition" operation but is otherwise playing "neutral" on the issue.

But Reuters now stenographed some other Turkish source which suddenly claims that the tanks and artillery are part of the coalition:

Turkey said on Monday it would not withdraw hundreds of soldiers who arrived last week at a base in northern Iraq, despite being ordered by Baghdad to pull them out within 48 hours.

The sudden arrival of such a large and heavily armed Turkish contingent in a camp near the frontline in northern Iraq has added yet another controversial deployment to a war against Islamic State fighters that has drawn in most of the world's major powers.

Ankara says the troops are there as part of an international mission to train and equip Iraqi forces to fight against Islamic State. The Iraqi government says it never invited such a force, and will take its case to the United Nations if they are not pulled out.

The force to be trained is under control of a former Iraqi state governor who is, like the Kurdish ex-president Barzani, a Turkish tool:

The camp occupied by the Turkish troops is being used by a force called Hashid Watani, or national mobilization, made up of mainly Sunni Arab former Iraqi police and volunteers from Mosul.

It is seen as a counterweight to Shi'ite militias that have grown in clout elsewhere in Iraq with Iranian backing, and was formed by former Nineveh governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, who has close relations with Turkey. A small number of Turkish trainers were already there before the latest deployment.

The former policemen who ran away when the Islamic State took over Mosul are not and will not be a serious fighting force against their Islamic State brethren in Mosul. They are just a fig leave for the Turkish occupation.

There are rumors, not confirmed yet, that Turkey now uses the presence of its force to blackmail the Iraqi government. Turkey, it is said, wants agreement from Baghdad for a gas pipeline from Qatar through Iraq to Turkey.

Cont. reading: Is Erdogan's Mosul Escapade Blackmail For Another Qatar-Turkey Pipeline?

Posted by b at 02:26 PM | Comments (161)

December 06, 2015

Erdogan Moves To Annexes Mosul

The wannabe Sultan Erdogan did not get his will in Syria where he had planned to capture and annex Aleppo. The Russians prevented that. He now goes for his secondary target, Mosul in Iraq, which many Turks see as historic part of their country:

At the end of World War I in October 1918, after the signature of the Armistice of Mudros, British forces occupied Mosul. After the war, the city and the surrounding area became part of the Occupied Enemy Territory Administration (1918-1920), and shortly Mandatory Iraq (1920-1932). This mandate was contested by Turkey which continued to claim the area based on the fact that it was under Ottoman control during the signature of the Armistice. In the Treaty of Lausanne, the dispute over Mosul was left for future resolution by the League of Nations. Iraq's possession of Mosul was confirmed by the League of Nations brokered agreement between Turkey and Great Britain in 1926. Former Ottoman Mosul Vilayet eventually became Nineveh Province of Iraq, but Mosul remained the provincial capital.

Mosul, Iraq's second biggest city with about a million inhabitants, is currently occupied by the Islamic State.

On Friday a column of some 1,200 Turkish soldiers with some 20 tanks and heavy artillery moved into a camp near Mosul. The camp was one of four small training areas where Turkey was training Kurds and some Sunni-Arab Iraqis to fight the Islamic State. The small camps in the northern Kurdish area have been there since the 1990s. They were first established to fight the PKK. Later their Turkish presence was justified as ceasefire monitors after an agreement ended the inner Kurdish war between the KDP forces loyal to the Barzani clan and the PUK forces of the Talabani clan. The bases were actually used to monitor movement of the PKK forces which fight for Kurdish independence in Turkey.

The base near Mosul is new and it was claimed to be just a small weapons training base. But tanks and artillery have a very different quality than some basic AK-47 training. Turkey says it will increase the numbers in these camps to over 2000 soldiers.

Should Mosul be cleared of the Islamic State the Turkish heavy weapons will make it possible for Turkey to claim the city unless the Iraqi government will use all its power to fight that claim. Should the city stay in the hands of the Islamic State Turkey will make a deal with it and act as its protector. It will benefit from the oil around Mosul which will be transferred through north Iraq to Turkey and from there sold on the world markets. In short: This is an effort to seize Iraq's northern oil fields.

That is the plan but it is a risky one. Turkey did not ask for permission to invade Iraq and did not inform the Iraqi government.

The Turks claim that they were invited by the Kurds:

Turkey will have a permanent military base in the Bashiqa region of Mosul as the Turkish forces in the region training the Peshmerga forces have been reinforced, Hürriyet reported.

The deal regarding the base was signed between Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani and Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirlioğlu, during the latter’s visit to northern Iraq on Nov. 4.

There are two problems with this. First: Massoud Barzani is no longer president of the KRG. His mandate ran out and the parliament refused to prolong it. Second: Mosul and its Bashiqa area are not part of the KRG. Barzani making a deal about it is like him making a deal about Paris.

The Iraqi government and all major Iraqi parties see the Turkish invasion as a hostile act against their country. Abadi demanded the immediate withdrawal of the Turkish forces but it is unlikely that Turkey will act on that. Some Iraqi politicians have called for the immediate dispatch of the Iraqi air force to bomb the Turks near Mosul. That would probably the best solution right now but the U.S. installed Premier Abadi is too timid to go for such strikes. The thinking in Baghdad is that Turkey can be kicked out after the Islamic State is defeated. But this thinking gives Turkey only more reason to keep the Islamic State alive and use it for its own purpose. The cancer should be routed now as it is still small.

Barzani's Kurdistan is so broke that is has even confiscated foreign bank accounts to pay some bills. That may be the reason why Barzani agreed to the deal now. But the roots run deeper. Barzani is illegally selling oil that belongs to the Iraqi government to Turkey. The Barzani family occupies  not only the presidential office in the KRG but also the prime minister position and the local secret services. It is running the oil business and gets a big share of everything else. On the Turkish side the oil deal is handled within the family of President Erdogan. His son in law, now energy minister, had the exclusive right to transport the Kurdish oil through Turkey. Erdogan's son controls the shipping company that transports the oil over sea to the customer, most often Israel. The oil under the control of the Islamic State in Iraq passes the exactly same route. These are businesses that generate hundreds of millions per year.

It is unlikely that U.S., if it is not behinds Turkey new escapade, will do anything about it. The best Iraq could do now is to ask the Russians for their active military support. The Turks insisted on their sovereignty when they ambushed a Russian jet that brushed its border but had no intend of harming Turkey. Iraq should likewise insist on its sovereignty, ask Russia for help and immediately kick the Turks out. The longer it waits the bigger the risk that Turkey will eventually own Mosul.

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (138)

December 05, 2015

Open Thread 2015-46

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (191)

December 04, 2015

Erdogan's "Turkmen" Lose Some Of Their Chechen And Saudi Leaders

Following the shoot-down of a Russian fighter jet over north Latakia the Turkish President Erdogan insisted that there were no terrorists in the area the Russians were bombing but only "Turkmen". Today a Russian air attack in the area hit major "Turkmen" fighting positions but the death notices that follow do not fit Erdogan's "Turkmen" claims:

Dismissing Russian claims that the Russian plane had been on an anti-terror mission against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) jihadists in northern Syria, Erdoğan said, “No one should ever fool themselves: There are no Daesh [ISIL] elements in the Bayırbucak region where Turkmen live.”

Erdoğan also attacked those who criticized his government’s ostensible aid to the Turkmens.

“You know the famous MİT truck betrayal which took place right after the Dec.17-25 coup attempt, don’t you? There are some who still make their headlines for their newspapers without any shame. Those trucks were trucks taking aid to our Bayırbucak Turkmens. Some are saying, ‘Prime Minister Erdoğan was saying that there were no weapons inside those [trucks].’ What if there were, what if there weren’t? What are we saying: ‘We are taking humanitarian assistance there.’ Who are they? They are our mistreated and oppressed Bayırbucak Turkmen siblings. That’s what we did,” Erdoğan said late Nov. 24.

So there are just Turkmen, says Erdogan. And he finally admits that he sent them weapons.

But the "Turkmen" Erdogan speaks of are not the 100,000 or so ethnic Turkmen who for hundreds of years have lived in the area. The "Turkmen" who killed the parachuting Russian pilot was a Turkish radical nationalist who belongs to the fascist Grey Wolf organization.

Today Russian planes flew extensive attacks in the area where the "Turkmen" fight against the approaching Syrian army:

[T]he Russian Aerospace Forces destroyed a terrorist stronghold in the Syrian province of Latakia, which was located at a strategically important height.

"Near the village of Kessab in the Latakia province, a major stronghold of militants located at a tactically important height was destroyed."

The strikes were in support of a Syrian Arab Army attack north of Arafit (map). This afternoon several death of anti-Syrian insurgents reported or mourned. Here are some samples:

Hassan Ridha ‏@sayed_ridha
#Jaish_Fateh's Sh. Muhseni was wounded by an #RuAF airstrike in NE #Latakia countryside

The "Sheik"'s wounding was confirmed:

Earlier Friday, activists said that a Russian airstrike the previous day wounded a senior commander of al-Qaida's branch in Syria, a preacher from Saudi Arabia, but that his injuries are not life-threatening.

The Observatory and Syria-based activist Bebars al-Talawy said that Sheikh Abdullah al-Mheisny was wounded in the northwestern province of Latakia.

A Saudi citizen, al-Mheisny had been fighting in northern Syria for months, serving both as a senior religious and military commander with the al-Qaida branch, known as the Nusra Front.

Activists posted on social media Friday a photo of al-Mheisny, showing his head bandaged.

This "Turkmen" in Latakia was a Saudi preacher fighting with al-Qaeda.

Peto Lucem ‏@PetoLucem
Reports emerge claiming terrorist leader Muslim Shishani was eliminated by #SAA in #Latakia Governorate. #Syria .

This "Turkmen" is from Chechnya but his death was not confirmed.

Hassan Ridha ‏@sayed_ridha
Pic of Muslim Al-Shar'i, commander in Ansar Al-Sham killed by #SAA near Arafit #Latakia countryside

We do not know where Al-Shar'i came from but Ansar Al-Sham is a terrorist organization founded by al-Qaeda personal and not a "Turkmen" folklore club.

Hassan Ridha ‏@sayed_ridha
Muslim Al-Shar'i was killed in clashes with #SAA in #Latakia countryside
Muslim Al-Shishani, commander of Jund Al-Sham was NOT killed
Beware The Tiger ‏@Souria4Syrians
Chechen terrorist and Abu Muslim Shishani's right hand man; Haneef Al Karabdini has been killed by Syrian Army

The Russian air force and the Syrian army had a quite successful day while Erdogan's "Bayırbucak Turkmen" from all around the world lost some key leaders.

Posted by b at 03:08 PM | Comments (96)

December 03, 2015

Hunt On For Tayyeep Bin Ardogan Over Fighter Shoot-Down And Bosphorus Blockade

Today the Russian President Putin gave his yearly address to the Russian Federal Assembly. In the context of terrorism and the shooting down of the Russian fighter in Syria he addressed some very harsh words to the Turkish President Erdogan:

[T]he Turkish people are kind, hardworking and talented. We have many good and reliable friends in Turkey. Allow me to emphasise that they should know that we do not equate them with the certain part of the current ruling establishment that is directly responsible for the deaths of our servicemen in Syria.

We will never forget their collusion with terrorists. We have always deemed betrayal the worst and most shameful thing to do, and that will never change. I would like them to remember this – those in Turkey who shot our pilots in the back, those hypocrites who tried to justify their actions and cover up for terrorists.

I don’t even understand why they did it. Any issues they might have had, any problems, any disagreements we knew nothing about could have been settled in a different way. Plus, we were ready to cooperate with Turkey on all the most sensitive issues it had; we were willing to go further, where its allies refused to go. Allah only knows, I suppose, why they did it. And probably, Allah has decided to punish the ruling clique in Turkey by taking their mind and reason.

But, if they expected a nervous or hysterical reaction from us, if they wanted to see us become a danger to ourselves as much as to the world, they won’t get it. They won’t get any response meant for show or even for immediate political gain. They won’t get it.

Our actions will always be guided primarily by responsibility – to ourselves, to our country, to our people. We are not going to rattle the sabre. But, if someone thinks they can commit a heinous war crime, kill our people and get away with it, suffering nothing but a ban on tomato imports, or a few restrictions in construction or other industries, they’re delusional. We’ll remind them of what they did, more than once. They’ll regret it. We know what to do.

That was strong stuff from someone who usually stays very cool. These were not even threats but direct declarations that Russia will take revenge and will follow through.

What are "all the most sensitive issues" Turkey had and on which Russia was ready to cooperate? What has enraged Putin so much to declare Erdogan out of "mind and reason"? Was it only the ambush of the fighter plane? Or was there another, deeper provocation?

At the end of last week there were some rumors that Russian ships crossing the Bosphorus between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea were unreasonably delayed. Someone claimed that Turkey was holding them up but the issue soon vanished again. I filed that under "false rumor" but I was wrong. It apparently happened:

Cont. reading: Hunt On For Tayyeep Bin Ardogan Over Fighter Shoot-Down And Bosphorus Blockade

Posted by b at 03:26 PM | Comments (132)

What Happens After ISIS Claims The San Bernadino Attack?

We may never know why Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife Tashfeen Malik went on a rampage and killed 14 people in San Bernadino. The pair may have left no note or electronic trace about their motives. But it makes perfect sense for the Islamic State to claim that the two acted in its name.

The details of their life make it somewhat plausible that the two were religiously influenced:

Syed Rizwan Farook was looking for a wife. On at least two online sites, he posted details for prospective brides. “Religious but modern” he apparently wrote on one. He made a point of noting his American citizenship in another.

How he ultimately made contact with Pakistan-born Tashfeen Malik remains unclear. But family members said Farook traveled to Saudi Arabia, where Malik was living, and returned to Southern California as a couple and began a life in quiet Redlands,
Wednesday morning, they dropped off their 6-month-old daughter with Farook’s mother, according to family members. Sometime around midday, police say they donned masks and armed themselves with assault rifles and handguns before storming a holiday party hosted by the county health agency where Farook worked. At least 14 people died. Hours later, 28-year-old Farook and 27-year-old Malik were dead by police gunfire just two miles from the massacre site.

The attackers imitated a military style attack with assault rifles, lots of ammunition and pipe bombs. The killers in Paris also preferred this style.

The bios of the shooters has the smell of sleeper agents. Recruited to live a normal life but to act later when the time is right and a ruthless attack within the U.S. is needed. Many original members of the Islamic State were trained intelligence people from Saddam Hussein's era. They know how to handle such an effort.

Even if the police finds that the reason for the San Bernadino attack was a personal issue the Islamic State could still claim that the attack was its act. Most people in the U.S. would rather believe IS than anything their government claims.

IS waited quite some time to announce its responsibility for bringing down the Russia airliner over Sinai. So we may get an announcement only in a week or two.

The IS folks believe that the end-times are near and they wants the big battle in Daqib, a town held by IS in Syria. As a Hadith says:

The Last Hour would not come until the Romans land at al-A’maq or in Dabiq. An army consisting of the best (soldiers) of the people of the earth at that time will come from Medina (to counteract them).

The Islamic State is waiting for the Romans of our days, the U.S. and its NATO, to come to Daqib. It wants to suck the "west" in. It is sure that it can and will defeat it. What better to achieve this than to attack the U.S. at home?

But the game has two sides. If IS claims responsibility Obama may decide, just like GW Bush did, to use the attack for his own purpose. He would  claim that Assad must go to defeat the Islamic State and start to openly attack the Syrian people and their government.

There is only the small problem that Syria is now too well defended to be simply overrun:

A high-ranking officer within the joint operation room in Damascus (consisting of Russia, Iran, Syria and Hezbollah) said “Damascus received sets of S -300 advanced Russian missiles, ready to enter active service. Soon, Syria will announce that any country using the airspace without coordinating with Damascus will be viewed as hostile and will shoot the jet (s) without warning. Those willing to fight terrorism and coordinate with the military leadership will be granted safe corridors”.

In another development, according to the same source, “Iran is preparing two squadrons of Sukhoi to engage the war in Syria. These will be stationed at the T4 Syrian military airport in Homs, very close to Palmyra (Tadmur), previously known as Tiyas. The Iranian Air Force will join the Russian Air Force in their war against extremist terrorist Kafeeree in Syria”.

The Russian are said to increase the numbers of their jets in Syria to 96. Together with Iran's then 24 jets of the Su-24 type in Tiyas and the Syrian air force the fighter capability of that force is quite noteable. There are of course also the anti-air missiles on the ground. They airports are protected by Pantsyr S1 short range systems. There are TOR M1/M2 medium range anti-air missile systems. The Syrian S-300, the Russian S-400 in Latakia and the additional S-300s on board of the Moskva near the Syrian coast are long range systems and would an attack very costly. The U.S. tends to avoids attacking countries with competent air defense and Syria has by now an excellent one.

But what else could Obama do when IS claims the attack in San Bernadino? The pressure to "do something" and to escalate and escalate again will be immense. Every presidential candidate will demand that Obama sends an army division or two to destroy IS.

The way through Syria is closed. The Iraqis will not allow more U.S. troops on their ground. They reasonably believe that the U.S. is on the side of IS. Several Shia militia in Iraq have announced that they will attack any additional U.S. forces. Using the Kurdish areas in Iraq to attack IS would be very difficult as supplies would have to go through treacherous, blackmailing Turkey, which is secretly allied with IS, and pass through areas where the Turks and the Kurdish PKK are fighting each other. Going through Jordan and from there to Anbar province in Iraq would enrage the many IS followers in Jordan and destroy that state too.

Making peace with Assad, as even tea party candidate Ted Cruz now recommends, to then attack IS would be the logical way to go. But Obama and the people around him are too presumptuous to take such a step. They can not admit that they were wrong all along and that Assad and Putin were and are right.

So what will Obama do?

Posted by b at 01:07 PM | Comments (70)

December 02, 2015

The Real "Terrorist Sympathizers" Want To Wage War On Syria ... And Russia

Syria airstrikes: Cameron accuses Corbyn of being 'terrorist sympathiser'

David Cameron has appealed to Conservative MPs to give him an overall parliamentary majority in favour of military action in Syria by warning them against voting alongside “Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers”.
“You should not be walking through the lobbies with Jeremy Corbyn and a bunch of terrorist sympathisers,” the prime minister reportedly told the committee.

To get rid of the "terrorist sympathizers" who do not want to bomb Syria the pig-fucker will have to incarcerate half of the British people.

Surely terrorist sympathizer should not be allowed to run around freely and to influence the children. These could end up no longer believing what the government and the media are telling them. They would become radicals:

A leaflet drawn up by an inner-city child safeguarding board warns that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” is a sign “specific to radicalisation”.

Parents and carers have also been advised by the safeguarding children board in the London Borough of Camden that “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and a belief in conspiracy theories” could be a sign that children are being groomed by extremists.

The "war on terror" is turning into a war on the local opposition of the ruling classes. Those who oppose its polices are labeled 2terrorists" and those who doubts its word are "radicalized extremists". How far is it from such verbal insults to actually concentration camps?


Who initiated this sudden rush within major NATO governments to get parliamentary blank checks for waging a long war on Syria? Not only in the UK but also in France and Germany?

The German government turned on a dime from "no military intervention in Syria ever" to "lets wage a war of terror on Syria" without any backing from the UN or international law. (The German government's legal argument for war is so flimsy that the constitutional court will probably stop it.) Who initiated this? A simple, medium size terror attack in Paris by some Belgians and French can not be the sole reason for this stampede.

Did Obama call and demanded support for his plans? What are these?

I smell that a trap is being laid, likely via a treacherous Turkey, to somehow threaten Russia with, or involve it in, a wider war. This would include military attacks in east-Ukraine or Crimea as well as in Syria. Obama demanded European backing in case the issue gets of of hands. No other reason I have found explains the current panic. The terrorists the "west" supports in Syria are in trouble. The real terrorist sympathizers need to rush to their help. It is a start of all-out war on Syria and its Russian protectors.

But Russia is cool headed and is preparing to make its position in Syria even stronger. There will soon be at least 100 Russian military planes in Syria, some say up to 150 in total, plus dozens of ground attack helicopters including the very modern KA-52 (vid). New airfields for Russian fighter jets are being prepared in Shayrat (map), south-east of Homs. 10 fighter jets and 15 attack helicopters are already stationed there. Another airport will be in Tiyas (map), some 30 km west of Palmyra. This one will be used to cover east Syria and the Syrian army's movement against the Islamic State in Raqqa. A fourth airport for jets, likely near Hama, is planned and several smaller airfields are to be used for more helicopters. Some 1,000 additional Russian personal will include special forces to designate targets and to provide support for Syrian troops.

The Syrian army was provide with new electronic snooping systems to be able to listen to its enemies communication. To protect against U.S. made anti-tank missiles (TOWs), which the CIA handed to the Jihadists, Syrian tanks are upgraded with the Shtora anti-missile systems. Brand new artillery has also arrived.

The "moderate rebels" of Jabhat al Nusra and Ahrar al Sham which Turkey and others support currently get squeezed (map) in their corridor from the Turkish border down to Aleppo. The Islamic State is pressing from the east against the corridor while Kurdish YPG fighters, with Russian air support(!), are attacking from the west and the Syrian army is pushing from the south. The moves on the government and YPG side and the IS side are not coordinated but a race to conquer as much as possible of the area before the other party reaches it. Two month ago the Kurdish leader had hinted at this plan to close the uncontrolled gap at the Turkish border.

This is the area Turkey wanted to occupy as a "safe zone" for the terrorists it supports. It also needs the corridor to smuggle oil from the Islamic State to Turkey. Should Turkey, backed by the U.S. and NATO, have funny ideas and try to invade Syria to secure that safe zone, it will have to take on very well armed and serious opponents. From there to World War III is only a small step.

I prefer to be called a terrorist sympathizer over supporting any move into that direction.

Posted by b at 08:21 AM | Comments (193)

November 30, 2015

Guess Why The U.S. Is Not (Seriously) Bombing ISIS's Oil Business

The U.S. did not start bombing the Islamic State's oil infrastructure and oil distribution system until the Russian president Putin shamed U.S. President Obama at the G20. Putin showed around satellite pictures of huge oil truck assemblies waiting in the desert to be filled. These were through 13 month of bombing left completely unmolested by U.S. air strikes. The U.S. then bombed a bit and claimed to have destroyed 116 waiting oil trucks while the Russians claimed to have destroyed over 1,000.

So far I have found four reason given to explain why the U.S. did not bomb, and does not seriously bomb,  the oil truck convoys.

Civilian casualties:

The Obama administration has also balked at attacking the Islamic State’s fleet of tanker trucks — its main distribution network — fearing civilian casualties.

Environmental damage:

A former CIA director says concerns about environmental impact have prevented the White House from bombing oil wells that finance the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

“We didn’t go after oil wells, actually hitting oil wells that ISIS controls, because we didn’t want to do environmental damage, and we didn’t want to destroy that infrastructure,” Michael Morell said Tuesday on PBS’s “Charlie Rose.”

Long-term economic damage to Iraq and Syria

In the aftermath of the attacks in Paris this month, the United States has more aggressively targeted the militants’ oil production and smuggling operations, which it had held off from doing for fear of inflicting long-term damage to the Iraqi and Syrian economies.

Regime change in Syria has precedence

Just think of it: IS has killed American nationals and yet the Pentagon has been ordered to handle the IS with kid gloves! President Barack Obama waxes eloquently about his determination to “degrade and destroy” the IS, but the Pentagon is under instructions not to disrupt the IS’ oil trade! This is cold-blooded statecraft. Obama probably knows all about the Turkish elite’s flourishing business, but then, he has uses for Erdogan, too. Simply put, the regime change agenda in Syria got precedence over cutting off the IS’s funding sources.

Three of the above four reasons were given by the Obama administration or its proxies,  one by an astute observer,  Guess which of those reasons is the real one.

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (209)

November 29, 2015

Open Thread 2015-45

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:38 PM | Comments (213)

November 28, 2015

Will Turkey Close Or Erase Its Border With Syria?

There are some new and worrying development on the ground next to Syria.

The Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov yesterday said that Russia is ready to close the Turkish Syrian border:

Lavrov recalled that French President Francois Hollande earlier voiced the proposal to adopt specific measures to block the Turkish-Syrian border.

"We actively support that. We are open for coordination of practical steps, certainly, in interaction with the Syrian government," he said. "We are convinced that by blocking the border we will in many respects solve the tasks to eradicate terrorism on Syrian soil."

Russia is taking active steps to make that happen. Six or seven truck staging areas near the crossing points north of Aleppo have been bombed over the last several days. Truckers and truck owners will now think twice before taking on a cross border trip. In Latakia the Syrian army and its allies are pushing Turkey's "turkmen" mercenaries back over the border into Turkey. From the east Kurdish forces with Russian air support push along the border towards the Aleppo corridor.

A day after Lavrov's statement the U.S. suddenly claims it also urges Turkey to seal the border. But that claim may be false:

The Obama administration is pressing Turkey to deploy thousands of additional troops along its border with Syria to cordon off a 60-mile stretch of frontier that U.S. officials say is used by Islamic State to move foreign fighters in and out of the war zone.

The U.S. hasn’t officially requested a specific number of soldiers. Pentagon officials estimated that it could take as many as 30,000 to seal the border on the Turkish side for a broader humanitarian mission. Cordoning off just one section alone could take 10,000 or more, one official estimated.

It’s unclear how Turkey will respond.

We do not know how serious the U.S. is about this. We do know that the U.S. connives the Islamic State's oil trade with Turkey and handles weapon transfers to the "moderate" rebels through the Turkish-Syrian border. I doubt that these issues have changed.

But Turkey is moving troops to the border:

Turkey deployed additional tanks, armoured personnel vehicles and other weapons alongside its border with Syria on Saturday after the downing of a Russian military jet by Turkish Armed Forces heightened the tensions between the two countries.

A convoy of military trucks, coming from western Turkish provinces and towing armoured personnel vehicles and 20 tanks, entered into the 5th Armored Division Command in the border province of Gaziantep.

Previous day, another batch of tanks were deployed alongside Turkish border with Syria.

Tanks are not very useful to close down borders. That needs infantry, lots of it. But tanks are good to fight other state's forces. There were also a report that Turkey deployed an ASELSAN Koral electronic jammer system at the border. That could probably jam the Russian air defense in Syria or could blind Russian fighter jets. Such a system was used to electronically blind the Syrian army and to disable its radios when the "moderates" earlier this year stormed in from Turkey and conquered Idleb.

To me the Turkish deployments so far look offensive, not like preparations to shut off the border.

Syria alleges that Turkish weapon shipments to the rebels increased and that its soldiers were fired on from Turkish ground:

"We have certain information that the Turkish government has recently increased its support to the terrorists and the level of their supplies of weapons, ammunition and equipment necessary to continue their criminal acts," an army statement said.
The statement by the Syrian army command alleged that weapons were being delivered in shipments which Turkey claimed to be humanitarian assistance. It also alleged the weapons were supplied in exchange for looted Syrian and Iraqi antiquities and oil sold at low prices.
The Syrian statement also said Turkey had fired a number of mortar bombs toward Syrian army positions on Friday night from a location just over the border from Latakia province in northwestern Syria.

Turkey may pull back from its aggression against Syria and really close its border. The weapons supply to the "moderates" would then shrink significantly. If Turkey does just sits tight and does nothing Russia will do it the way it already started to do it. It will bomb any truck or other transport that crosses into Syria.

But maybe Turkey wants to prevent that and will try to scare the Russian away from the border and to push its troops into Syria to create a "safe zone" and attack Aleppo and other Syrian cities from there. It is a bad idea. It would not work but it would be bloody and potentially escalate further into a bigger war. One wonders if Obama will give a green light for that and promises the "moderate" Erdogan his support.

PS: This may well be a good book: The Dirty War on Syria

Posted by b at 02:18 PM | Comments (102)

"Moderate" Head Choppers As Defined By Brookings Doha

Charles Lister, a propagandist at Brookings Doha which is financed by the Wahhabi regime of Qatar, has been tasked to sell Islamist radical head choppers in Syria as "moderate" rebels. He isn't good at it but the "western" media love him as a talkative"expert" from a formerly reputable think tank.

The mask comes off when Lister has to find the 70,000 "moderates" the British Premier Cameron promised to support by waging war on Syria. He finds those by ignoring a word's literal meaning. Here is Lister's new Orwellian definition of "moderate":

As diplomatic efforts for Syria gain pace and as Saudi Arabia prepares to host a major conference bringing together 60-80 representatives of a broad spectrum opposition, the definition of “moderate” has been shifting. The most effective definition now must be based upon a combined assessment of (a) what groups are acknowledged as being opposed to ISIL and (b) what groups our governments want, or need to be involved in a political process.

He says that a group is "moderate" when:

  1. it dislikes ISIS for whatever reason
  2. some government wants or needs the group to be categorized as "moderate"

The first fits for everyone who claims to be not ISIS including al-Qaeda. The second part is just dependent on who the sponsor of a specific groups is. If Saudi Arabia sponsors al-Qaeda and wants it "moderate", al-Qaeda is "moderate". If Turkey sponsors the Turkistan Islamic Party its head-choppers are "moderate". The Lister definition is completely independent of the observable actions of these groups and of the believes or plans such groups openly or secretly hold. It is bollocks.

Lister goes on to lists two handful of groups, some existing, some mere fantasy, and adds imaginary numbers of how many fighter belong to each of the various groups. Add them up and there you have the 70,000 Cameron was trolling about.

Lister lists, for example, Asala wa-al-Tanmiya with 5,000 fighters as "moderate". It is an Islamist gang sponsored by Saudi Arabia. Its main allies on the battlefield, according to its Wiki entry, are the Islamic Front and the al-Nusra Front. But they do fight the Islamic State and have a government backing them. Thus these al-Qaeda allies are now "moderate".

Lister's original "moderate" table tweeted by him here (backup) even includes Jaish al-Islam with allegedly 12,500 fighters and Ahrar al-Sham with 15,000 fighters. Both of these groups follow the same ideology as the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and commit (incl. video) similar atrocities:

The largest Islamist rebel group “Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham” has posted a video on their multiple social media accounts that show their fighters mutilating the head of a wounded militant from the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) in the northern Aleppo countryside.
Harakat Ahrar Al-Sham has attempted to promote themselves as a “moderate” rebel group after their Op-Ed in the Washington Post; however, their behavior and their numerous crimes in northern Syria have made them appear closer to ISIS and Jabhat Al-Nusra in ideology, rather than a “moderate” Islamist group that is simply fighting for the interests of the Syrian people.

These literal head choppers are "moderates" on Lister's list.

Support for al-Qaeda and similar groups is illegal under several UN resolutions. U.S. law is even more stringent. Al-Qaeda allies like the groups Lister lists as "moderate" would surely be guilty under 18 U.S. Code § 2339A - Providing material support to terrorists. The "material" as defined by that law includes "intangible, or service" and "expert advice or assistance". How far from those categories are Lister's propaganda pieces and actions?

Lister ones worked as analyst at IHS Janes, a well known military journal, and did a decent job. He then followed the smell of Qatari money to Brookings Doha and threw away his reputation. It can only go downwards from there.

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (32)

November 27, 2015

Erdogan Establishes No-Fly Zone Over Syria

Turkey PM 'will support' Syria no-fly zone - May 10 2013

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has told a US television station that his country will support a US-enforced no-fly zone in Syria.

Turkey's Erdogan says U.N. must decide on any Syria no-fly zone- May 17 2013

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday it would be up to the U.N. Security Council to decide whether to establish a no-fly zone inside Syria and said he backed the involvement of Russia and China in planned peace talks.

Turkey's Erdogan calls for no-fly zone in Syria - Sep 26 2014

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that a "no-fly zone" should be created in Syria to protect part of it from attacks by Syria's air force.

Erdogan: Allies Warming to Idea of Syria ‘Safe Zone’ - Nov 10 2015

Speaking to CNN today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed that his allies are “warming” to the idea of imposing a safe zone in northern Syria, a plan that his government had advocated for years as an alternative to Turkey accepting massive numbers of refugees.

Turkey's Erdogan renews call for creation of secure, no-fly zone in Syria - Nov 11 2015

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has renewed a call for the creation of a no-fly zone in Syria that would allow refugees to return to their homeland.

Only a few weeks ago Erdogan's long desired no-fly zone looked increasingly possible. But then the guardsman passed by.

by Viliam Weisskopf, published 1958 in the Czech magazine Roháč (bigger)

Caught in the act Erdogan is now compelled to install the desired no-fly zone over Syria. For Turkish jets.

Turkey suspends Syria flights after crisis with Russia - Nov 27 2015

The Turkish army has suspended flights over Syria as part of an ongoing joint military campaign with the United States against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) after it shot down a Russian jetfighter, sparking an unprecedented crisis between Ankara and Moscow.

The decision was taken following the eruption of the crisis with Russia in which a Turkish F-16 downed a Russian warplane early Nov. 24 after it allegedly violated Turkish airspace, according to diplomatic sources.

Posted by b at 06:02 AM | Comments (199)

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