Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 24, 2017

Yemeni Forces Create Heat Wave In Saudi Arabia

The rich U.S. military has long dreamed of and tried to influence the weather. No practical results have been achieved.

Now the Yemen Armed Forces, under constant bombardment due to the U.S-Saudi war on Yemen and with meager resources, have accomplished the feat. They created a night-time heat wave in Saudi Arabia.

Saudi refinery operations not affected by transformer fire

Reuters, Khobar Sunday, 23 July 2017

The Saudi Aramco Mobile Refinery (SAMREF) at Yanbu is operating normally after a fire hit a power transformer at the gate of the facility on Saturday, a spokesman for a Saudi government body was quoted as saying on the state news agency.
Operations are ongoing and have not been affected by the incident, which happened due to hot weather, Abdulrahman Al-Abdulqader, the spokesman for the Royal Commission for Jubail and Yanbu, which manages and operates industrial cities in Saudi Arabia. The fire broke out at 21:22 local time, according to the spokesman.

Here is (vid) how the Yemeni forces created the "hot weather" .

@BaFana3 - 7:21 PM - 22 Jul 2017

Now by #Yemen armed forces: "New ballistic missile "Burkan 2H" launched. Target : #Saudi Aramco Yanbu oil refinery. Range : ≈1,300km."

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By Ahmed Jahaf - bigger


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@Lee_Saks - 9:00 PM - 22 Jul 2017

#SaudiArabia | transformer fire at Yanbu refinery due to hot weather. [Houthi rebels claimed to hit refinery with ballistic missile]. #OOTT

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The Yemeni weather service predicts that another heat wave will soon reach the United Arab Emirates.

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@BaFana3 - 9:59 PM - 23 Jul 2017

#Yemen army spox: "Ballistic missile Burkan-H2 hit #Saudi oil refinery in Yanbu. This missile has the range to hit Dubai."

Posted by b at 04:02 PM | Comments (50)

July 23, 2017

Syria Summary - Consolidating The West - Marching East

There were no major changes  in the situation in Syria since our last post. Several smaller steps have further consolidated the position of the government of Syria and its allies while the positions of its enemies continue to deteriorate.


Source: Fabrice Balanche/WINEP - bigger (with legend)

In the north-west Idleb governate and the city of Idleb saw new infighting between Ahrar al-Sham and al-Qaeda in Syria under its current moniker Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). Ahrar, historically also an al-Qaeda offspring, was supported by Qatar and Turkey while al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al Nusra aka HTS) was said to have support from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Rudiments of local CIA paid Free Syrian Army gangs are intermixed with these. Their primary task was to collect supplies from the CIA in Turkey and to distribute those to their friends in al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham. Each of these groups received support in the range of at least $1 billion per year. 

The spat between Qatar and Saudi Arabia mostly ended their interest in their proxies in Syria. The Trump administration decided to end the CIA support program for its FSA proxies in the north-west (but not for others elsewhere). This was a significant change of the situation for each group.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - Consolidating The West - Marching East

Posted by b at 12:28 PM | Comments (103)

July 21, 2017

Murder, Spies And Weapons - Three Fascinating 'Deep State' Stories

350 "diplomatic" flights transporting weapons for terrorists - Trud

Azerbaijan's Silk Way Airlines transported hundreds of tons of weapons under diplomatic cover to Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan Congo

  • the weapons and ammunition are usual from east Europe (Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Ukraine ...)
  • the contracts are with U.S. companies themselves hired by the CIA and/or Pentagon as well as with Saudi and Israeli companies
  • offloading during unusual "fueling stops" allowed to disguise the real addressee of the loads

With lots of details from obtained emails.

Ten thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition to al-Qaeda and other Takfiris in Syria also came first from Libya by ship, then on at least 160 big cargo flights via Saudi Arabia and Qatar to Turkey and during the last years by various ships under U.S. contracts from mostly east-European countries.

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With all the Trump-Russia nonsense flowing around one person's involvement in the creation of the issue deserves more scrutiny:

McCain and the Trump-Russia Dossier: What Did He Know, and When? - Reason

A British spy. An Arizona senator. And one inflammatory dossier on Donald Trump. The connection between them is starting to unravel...

  • there are indications that McCain was the one who hired the company which created the infamous Steele dossier.
  • there is evidences that he distributed it to the CIA, FBI and to the media.
  • the issue is now in front of a British court.

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Another Scorpene Submarine Scandal - Asia Sentinel (a bit older but it was new to me)

Document hack could imperil subs in Oz, India, other countries

  • a commercial cyber-crime case but likely with state involvement
  • French submarine sales usually include the payment of various "commissions" with kickbacks to French politicians
  • sometimes people involved in the business end up dead

 

Posted by b at 12:22 PM | Comments (82)

July 20, 2017

Saudi Arabia - Bin Salman's Coup Is A Model For His Own Ouster

Someone wanted the public to know that the new Saudi clown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (MbS) took up his new position by unceremoniously disposing his predecessor Mohammed bin Nayef (MbN) by force. The juicy details, true or not, were briefed to Reuters, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times on the same day:

As next in line to be king of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Nayef was unaccustomed to being told what to do. Then, one night in June, he was summoned to a palace in Mecca, held against his will and pressured for hours to give up his claim to the throne.

By dawn, he had given in, and Saudi Arabia woke to the news that it had a new crown prince: the king’s 31-year-old son, Mohammed bin Salman.

Bin Nayef was a darling of the CIA and his disposal was not welcome. It may well be that the author of the tale of his ouster has his office in Langley, Virginia.

We had correctly called the MbN removal a coup and predicted that "the old al-Saud family king [..] will be offed soon." From the current Reuters piece:

Quoting a witness at the palace, one Saudi source said King Salman this month pre-recorded a statement in which he announces the transfer of the throne to his son. The announcement could be broadcast at any time, perhaps as soon as September.

We also wrote that "[m]any Arab peninsula citizens will want to see [the new clown prince's] head on a pike."

The details of how MbS deposed the previous crown prince MbN will enrage additional parts of Saudi Arabia's population. Additional leaks about extensive MbS contacts with Israel will increase the bad feelings against him. This especially as Israeli is further encroaching on the al-Haram a-Sharif and the Al-Aqsa mosque on the (likely falsely) claimed Jewish temple mount.

MbS' attempt to push Qatar around has, as predicted, failed. The four countries that had joined against Qatar could not agree to increase the pressure. The demands made to Qatar have now been retracted. This is a huge loss of face for MbS and his Emirati mentor Mohammad bin Zayed. The Saudi war against Yemen kills many civilians and costs billions of dollars but is militarily lost. The announced big economic reforms have made no progress. The Gulf Cooperation Council is defunct and may fall further apart.

Everything MbS has touched failed. His actions violate traditions and religious commandments. His coup has set an example that can now be used against himself. It would not be astonishing to see a revolt against Mohammed Bin Salman even before he is able to make himself king. The way he shifted MbN to the side broke all traditional rules. The example he set with the ouster of the former crown prince can now be used against himself.

UPDATE: Bin Salman is now consolidating all internal security organizations and functions under himself. The Interior Ministry, traditionally headed by the Nayef family branch, will be stripped of all significant powers. MbS is afraid. He knows that many forces, including the CIA, are now working against him. This attempt to coup-proof his rule is probably coming too late.

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (41)

July 19, 2017

On Crapified News And Foreign Policy

Significant parts of the Trump administration, Congress and the general Zionist borg would love to start a war between the U.S. and Iran.

A war is unlikely. Iran's geography and strategic position is unassailable. Its global political standing has increased during the last decades. Any war with Iran would be extremely costly yet unwinnable.

But with U.S. pressure again increasing on Iran it is important to learn and understand what happens inside of country. Unfortunately most reporting about politics within Iran is bit of a mess. Considers the piece below from the Washington Post. Written from Turkey by a journalist who (to my best knowledge) does not speaks Farsi nor has any special knowledge of the country: With U.S. scholar’s conviction, power struggle escalates between Iran’s president and hard-liners

ISTANBUL — A high-stakes power struggle between Iran’s moderate president and his hard-line opponents in the judiciary appeared to escalate with the arrest of the president’s brother and the conviction of an American student for espionage this weekend — rulings that seemed timed to embarrass the Iranian leader at home and abroad.

The piece should be classic foreign reporting. But who is speaking here?

  • ... Nader Hashemi, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Denver, said ...
  • ... Khamenei said in a speech this month, according to the Center for Human Rights in Iran, an independent nonprofit based in New York
  • ... said Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington
  • ... said Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington
  • ... [a]ccording to Suzanne Maloney, a senior fellow and expert on Iran at the Brookings Institution ...

There is certainly no reason to lambast the journalist, Erin Cunningham, for being lazy. Getting five telephone or email interviews and authorized quotes for the piece was surely a day's work. But how come there is no voice from Iran? The only quote from an Iranian person, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is in translation of a lobby shop in New York which does not reveal its sponsors. Is the quote correct? The other "expert" are all from outlets that are more or less adverse to Iran's system of governance.

The piece makes the recent dispute and judicial action look extraordinary and sensational. It connects it to actions in Washington DC:

The tensions come as Iran and the United States spar over the terms of a nuclear deal struck with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
...
The Trump administration has taken a much harsher stance on Iran, threatening to abandon the deal, and the Treasury Department on Tuesday announced new sanctions primarily targeting Iran’s ballistic missile program.
...
The arrest and conviction of Wang, a 37-year-old scholar at Princeton, appeared to target Rouhani’s wider foreign policy and engagement with the West. Although Wang was detained in August 2016, the timing of the verdict is suspect, analysts say.

“Why did they keep it a secret as long as they did? Timing is important,” said Alex Vatanka, an Iran expert at the Middle East Institute in Washington.

Conflicts between the executive and the judiciary in Iran are legend and reoccur at least every other year. They are independent of the president being "moderate" or "hard-line" himself. Consider the obvious similarities between the above lede and this one from 2012:

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The head of Iran's judiciary lashed out at the country's president Wednesday, the latest salvo in an escalating political conflict that has undermined much of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political clout.

The Iranian constitution and political system is build on the principal of Vilayat-e Faqih, the guardianship of the (Islamic) jurists. The undecided question is how absolute the primacy of the jurists is supposed to be. The interpretations vary widely and often depend on the issue at hand. The executive will naturally assert primacy wherever it can, while absolute principalists in the judiciary will always assert that their jurisprudence is prime. The conflict is daily bread in Tehran and it makes no sense to sensationalize it.

The arrest of the president’s brother for corruption may well be justified. It should astonish no one. It could be timed to assert pressure but we have no way to know that. It would be mere speculation to say so. Experience has show that effective coordination within the Iranian state machinery is way less than western authors tend to assume.

The U.S. student/spy had already been imprisoned for eleven months. That he was convicted now is likely not related to any Trump tantrum or epiphany. Washington's capers are less important in Tehran as the U.S. would like them to be.

All together the piece shows the typical pitfalls of U.S. reporting on Iran (and many other countries).

  • Original and relevant voices from the ground are absent. None of the people involved in the issues is questioned. "Expert" quotes from often partisan western think thanks are the sorry substitute.
  • Cultural and historic characteristics are neglected. The current dispute between Rouhani and the judiciary has its background in a century old discussion in Iran about the limits of vilayat-e faqih. (The importance of this is comparable to conflicts about "executive privilege" or "state rights vs. federal rights" in U.S. politics.) With that background the spat between Rouhani and the judiciary is simply the marking of territories for his now beginning second term.
  • Most of the issues happening in a foreign country's politics are NOT related to whatever happens in Washington DC. U.S. writers love to draw such causal connections. But not every hiccup in Moscow is in response to some fart in DC. More often then not there is no connection at all.

One original voice from within Tehran's ruling circuit would have been more valuable to the above piece than the five think tank quotes.  A few more words about the historic role of the judiciary would have helped to set some perspective. Connecting the political theater in Tehran to Trump's zigzags makes it easier to write the lede. But there is no justification for it without evidentiary backing. 

Despite the nitpicking I don't regard the Cunningham piece as bad at all. Each day there are way worse reports in the papers and on cable TV. It is probably the best one can do when the editors demand a fast one on some less familiar issue. Over the last years many experienced foreign correspondents were fired or paid to leave. Main-stream media replaced serious foreign reporting with childish "listicals", high school level "explainers" and cat pictures. 

When a few dailies and news shows drive foreign policy making the lack of in-depth reporting becomes a serious issue. Members of Congress and the administration get much of their foreign policy knowledge from U.S. media reports. It is no wonder that they are clueless when those reports lack insight and details. The crapification of high decision making is probably directly related to the crapification of the news media. Trump taking his clues from Fox News (and others) is bad. Fox News (and others) having no well reported clues at all is even worse.

Posted by b at 11:36 AM | Comments (70)

July 18, 2017

"Zero Day" for Violent Regime Change in Venezuela

The U.S. supports the right-wing opposition in Venezuela against the socialist government of President Maduro.

Since April the opposition tries to dislodge the government by instigating a regime change by force. Its protests and street fights with the police are led by violent, militarized gangs:

Venezuela’s ongoing street protests are increasingly looking like outright warfare. As security forces shoot rubber bullets, tear-gas canisters and sometimes live rounds at the churning crowds, increasingly restive mobs are responding with lethal slingshots, homemade mortars and Molotov cocktails.

This week, seven National Guard members were injured in Caracas when a roadside bomb exploded as they drove by on motorcycles.

Leading the opposition shock-troops are loose-knit groups of young men and women that have names like The Templars, The Warriors and The Arcadias. Collectively, they’re known as the Chamos de la Resistencia or, roughly, the Youth Resistance.

This is not just by chance a similar development as was seen during the U.S. instigated color revolutions by force in Libya, Ukraine and Syria. Para-military forces hiding behind "peaceful protesters" attack police, military and civil government institutions to provoke an escalation towards a civil war. Last week the opposition in Venezuela announced that today is the "zero day" for another violent coup attempt against President Maduro:

The fugitive police pilot who allegedly stole a helicopter and used it to attack Venezuela's Supreme Court has appeared at an opposition rally in the capital, Caracas, attendees tell CNN.

Oscar Perez, an officer in the country's investigative police force, addressed the gathering, urging the opposition to continue protesting.
...
"A general walkout for July 18, walkout with no return. The zero-hour will start on Tuesday. The referendum we'll do it, with dignity, we'll be in the street defending the people."

The date was confirmed yesterday:

Venezuelan opposition leaders have called for their supporters to escalate street protests and support a 24-hour national strike later this week after more than 7.1 million people rejected a government plan to rewrite the constitution.
...
A coalition of some 20 opposition parties assembled in its headquarters Monday to call for a “zero hour” campaign of civil disobedience in the two weeks leading to the government vote.

On Sunday the opposition held a private poll in which less people attended than the opposition had hoped for. No results but the number of attendees was announced:

The opposition released only turnout numbers Sunday night, not tallies of responses to those questions, although virtually all who voted were believed to have answered “yes” to the central rejection of the constitutional rewrite.

There are some 19 million registered voters in Venezuela. A seven million turnout for a private poll, if real, is significant but neither decisive nor relevant. The hiding of the results lets one assume that the answers to the poll questions were not in favor of the opposition's plan.

It is difficult to ascertain what the real opinion of people in Venezuela is. Polls in the country are traditionally skewed. Maduro's economic polices, restricted by falling oil prices, sabotage by rich im- and exporters and U.S. sanction, was not successful. But the 2015 National Assembly vote won by the opposition was more a protest vote against the economic problems than a vote for the opposition's vague program.

It is obvious that the opposition in Venezuela is heavily supported by the various regime change institutions of the United States. Some of its operatives have deep ties with DEA and the CIA. U.S. media is -as usual- completely on the side of the U.S. regime change program. It has long agitated against the socialist government of Venezuela.

An official Trump statement on Venezuela released yesterday is noticeable for its lack of facts:

Yesterday, the Venezuelan people again made clear that they stand for democracy, freedom, and rule of law. Yet their strong and courageous actions continue to be ignored by a bad leader who dreams of becoming a dictator.

The United States will not stand by as Venezuela crumbles. If the Maduro regime imposes its Constituent Assembly on July 30, the United States will take strong and swift economic actions.

Would Trump write a similar statement about the will of the "American people" if Democrats held a private poll against him with an assured multi-million strong turnout?

The Maduro government has called for a July 30 vote to elect members of an upcoming constitutional assembly. There is nothing "imposed" with that. The opposition will try to sew chaos in the streets up to that date and likely has planned for some culmination point of action.

The government has so far reacted passively to the violent protests. The police protects some government buildings and removes some road blocking barricades. But no arrest wave or more assertiveness for government control has been ordered. One wonders at what point such measures will become inevitable.

Posted by b at 08:10 AM | Comments (125)

July 17, 2017

Can Washington Prevent The Death Of The Gulf States?

U.S. Secretary of State Tillerson is angry that Saudi Arabia and the UAE rejected his efforts to calm down their spat with Qatar. His revenge, and a threat of more serious measures, comes in the form of a WaPo "leak" - UAE orchestrated hacking of Qatari government sites, sparking regional upheaval, according to U.S. intelligence officials:

The United Arab Emirates orchestrated the hacking of Qatari government news and social media sites in order to post incendiary false quotes attributed to Qatar’s emir, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad al-Thani, in late May that sparked the ongoing upheaval between Qatar and its neighbors, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Officials became aware last week that newly analyzed information gathered by U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed that on May 23, senior members of the UAE government discussed the plan and its implementation. The officials said it remains unclear whether the UAE carried out the hacks itself or contracted to have them done.

That the UAE and/or the Saudis were involved in the hack was pretty clear from the get go. They were the only ones who had a clear motive. Qatar already had specific evidence for the source of the hacking. Congressional anti-Russian sources ignored that and accused, as usual, Russia and Putin.

Tillerson's real message is not the hacking accusation. The hacks themselves are not relevant to the spat and to Tillerson's efforts to defuse it. The "leak" sets the UAE and Saudi leadership on notice that the U.S. has sources and methods to learn of their government's innermost discussions. The real threat to them is that other dirt could be released from the same source.

It is doubtful that this threat will change the minds of these rulers. They believe in their own invincibility. Ian Welsh describes the mindset in his prediction of The Death of Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states:

This is fairly standard: all dynasties go bad eventually because the kings-to-be grow up in wealth and power and think it’s the natural state of things: that they are brilliant and deserve it all, when it was handed them on a platter. Perhaps they are good at palace intrigue and think that extends beyond the palace.

It doesn’t.

Welsh comes to the same conclusion as I did when the recent GCC infighting broke out:

No matter how the spat with Qatar ends, the GCC unity has (again) been exposed as a sham. It can not be repaired. Saudi "leadership" is shown to be just brutal bullying and will be resisted. U.S. plans for a united GCC under Saudi leadership and U.S. control are in shambles.
...
The Saudi under their new leadership overestimate their capabilities. So did Trump when he raised their role. The Saudi "apes with Macbooks" do not have the capabilities needed for a serious political actor in this world. Their money can paper over that for only so long.

The step Tillerson and some "intelligence officials" now took may be a sign panic. The "leak" revealed "sources and methods". Like every other government the UAE senior officials suspect that the U.S. is trying to listen to their internal deliberations. But they now know for sure. The specific date given in the "leak" will help them to take some countermeasures. Leaking "sources and methods" is not done lightly. That it has to resort to such measures shows that the U.S. administration is not in control of the situation.

During the fall of the Ottoman empire Britain created today's Saudi Arabia. Two world wars exhausted Britain's power. The U.S. took over the management of the  empire including the Gulf states. It needs Saudi Arabia for its fossil energy and the related reserve currency status of the U.S. dollar. Unrest in Saudi Arabia is not in the U.S. interest but such is now in sight. The "leak" is just a tactical measure of an inexperienced administration. It is not enough to defuse or mitigate the conflict and its consequences.

What strategies will Washington develop to counter the foreseeable instability in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states?

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (64)

July 16, 2017

As Anti-Trump / Anti-Russia Campaign Fails - Yascha Mounk Feeds New Lies

[Updated at the end (Jul 18, 4:00 am Est)]

The U.S. borg is vehemently trying to set up Russia as an enemy of the "west". Their anti-Russian propaganda has become part of the campaign against U.S. President Trump who seeks détente with Russia. It requires intense efforts to denigrate the country, its citizens and its leaders. Here is an example of how such propaganda is fabricated.

Yascha Mounk is:

a Lecturer on Political Theory at Harvard University's Government Department, a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund, and a Nonresident Fellow at New America's Political Reform Program.

He is a self declared liberal internationalist who has been published and quoted by lots of international media.

Yesterday Mounk tweeted this:


bigger

The Mounk tweet is a series of lies:

Cont. reading: As Anti-Trump / Anti-Russia Campaign Fails - Yascha Mounk Feeds New Lies

Posted by b at 11:06 AM | Comments (85)

July 14, 2017

Is Killing "Leaders" Useful Or Not - CentCom Can't Make Up Its Mind

A contrasting juxtaposition in my twitter feed:


bigger

First the U.S. Central Command tweet with this statement by the commander of the U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, General Nicholson:

GENERAL NICHOLSON STATEMENT ON THE KILLING OF THE THIRD ISIS-K EMIR BY U.S. AND AFGHAN FORCES IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS
...
"This operation is another success in our campaign to defeat ISIS-K in Afghanistan in 2017," said Nicholson. "Abu Sayed is the third ISIS-K emir we have killed in the last year and we will continue until they are annihilated. There is no safe haven for ISIS-K in Afghanistan." [bold added]

Then the Micah Zenko tweet with this interview with the commander of U.S. Central Command, General Votel. Votel is the direct superior of the above Nicholson:

Q: ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi — dead or alive? And does it matter anymore?

Votel: [..] I hope that he is (dead), frankly. [..] That said, we've been doing this long enough to know that leaders are killed and we've killed plenty of them. And that there's always somebody who is going to step up into those positions so we shouldn't think that just killing Baghdadi is the key here. He can be replaced. So in that regard, it may not matter as much. [bold added]

Nicholson says he can win the war against XYZ by killing a bunch of successive XYZ "leaders". Votel rightly says that this is clearly not so. During sixteen years of War of Terror and constant killing of various "emirs" special boilerplate statements were prepared for the typical "victory" announcements. Votel seems to have understood that such killings do not matter. His direct subordinate Nicholson did not. Shouldn't they talk to each other about such issues?

But it may well be that Votel would have sounded very different if his troops had killed Baghdadi and not a Russian(!) air strike.

Posted by b at 05:11 PM | Comments (78)

July 13, 2017

Syria Summary - Will The Trump-Putin Agreement Hold?

The conflict between the U.S. and Russia over Syria seems to have calmed down after the recent G-20 meeting between Putin and Trump. Some kind of agreement was made but neither its scope nor its bindingness is known. One common current aim is the defeat of ISIS.


Source: Fabrice Balanche/WINEP - bigger

At the meeting between the Presidents Trump and Putin in Hamburg a temporary truce was agreed for the south-west area of Syria. The Syrian government (violet) holds the city of Deraa while various foreign sponsored insurgent groups (green), including al-Qaeda and ISIS, occupy the borders towards Israel and Jordan. There had been some serious fighting after recent al-Qaeda attacks on Baath city neat the Golan. During these the Israeli airforce had multiple times supported the al-Qaeda groups with attacks on the Syrian army.

Under the truce agreement the Russian side guarantees that the Syrian government and its allies stop fighting while the U.S. guarantees that Israel, the various FSA groups, al-Qaeda and ISIS stay quiet. The truce has now held for several days. There were no spoilers. The U.S. seems to have strong influence with ALL those entities.

East of the Deraa area in the governate of Sweida the Syrian army has continued operations against U.S. supported Free Syrian Army groups. Within a few days it has taken a lot of ground against little resistance including a deserted U.S. base that was not publicly known. It is possible that a secret part of the Deraa truce agreement allows for the Syrian army to liberate the whole area next to the Jordan border towards the east up to the U.S. held border crossing at al-Tanf.

The U.S. base in Tanf had become nonviable after the Syrian army had taken all ground north of it and Iraqi militia had blocked it from the Iraqi side. The U.S. had trained some Syrian mercenaries at Tanf and had planned to march those north towards Deir Ezzor. As that route is now blocked some of the trained mercenaries were recently transferred by air to Shadadi base in north-east Syria where they will have to fight under Kurdish command. Others have refused to move north. Jaysh Maghawir al-Thawra, previously called the New Syrian Army, is mostly made up of local men who probably do not want to leave their nearby families and do not want to come under Kurdish leadership. The U.S. should send them home and leave the area.

Today a new two-pronged move against the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor was started. Syrian army forces and its allies moved east from their Palmyra positions and south-east from their positions south of Raqqa. An additional move against Deir Ezzor may come from the Syrian forces further south-east near the Iraqi border. The Iraq air force has recently flown attacks against ISIS position in the Deir Ezzor areas. This was done in agreement with the Syrian government. That may be a sign that Iraqi forces will join the fight to relief the city with an additional move south-west from their positions near Tal Afar. The U.S. military has for now given up its dream of assaulting and occupying Deir Ezzor with its proxy forces.

The west and north west of Syria have been relatively quiet. A rumored imminent Turkish attack on Kurdish held areas has not happened. The mostly al-Qaeda held areas in Idleb governate are still unruly. Al-Qaeda, ISIS, Turkmen, Uighurs, Kurds, local Free Syrian Army gangs all have their little fiefdoms in the area. Assassinations and attacks on each other are daily occurrences. There is no reason for the Syrian government to intervene in that melee.

The agreement between Trump and Putin over Syria might be more wide ranging than is publicly known. For now it seems that the parties have agreed on areas of influences with the U.S. for now; occupying the north-east currently under control of its YPG proxies. It is building more bases there with the total number now being eight or nine. At least three of these have their own airstrips. It is asking Congress to legalize further base building. It is obvious that the U.S. military plans to stay in the area even after ISIS is defeated.

But the Kurds in Syria are only a minority in almost all areas they currently control. They are not united and the YPG, the only U.S. partner, is a radical anarcho-marxist group that has no legitimacy but force. The area is landlocked and all its neighbors are against Kurdish autonomy.

The U.S. effort to impose itself on the area is doomed. The use of the Kurds as a Trojan horse is unlikely to succeed. The Defense Department, it seems, has not yet accepted that fact. It still may try to sabotage whatever Trump and Putin have agreed upon.

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (108)

July 12, 2017

Open Thread 2017-29

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:56 PM | Comments (84)

July 11, 2017

Which Campaign Truly Colluded With Russia?

Case 1:

A Hillary Clinton campaign cut-out hires the (former?) British intelligence agent Steele to pay money to (former?) Russian intelligence agents and high-level Kremlin employees for dirt about Donald Trump. They deliver some dirty fairy tales. The resulting dossier is peddled far and wide throughout Washington DC with the intent of damaging Trump.

Case 2:

Some lobbyist for Russian business interests contacts the Trump campaign with a promise to deliver some dirt on Hillary Clinton. She meets campaign officials but no dirt on Clinton is offered. Instead the lobbyist uses the time to lobby for the business' cause. There is no follow up.

Question:

Which of the two cases stinks of "collusion with the Russians"?

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (98)

July 10, 2017

Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

Max Blumenthal is a well connected and known author who has done work on the Palestinian cause from a somewhat leftish perspective. He is also an arrogant and ignorant showman.

Blumenthal currently edits the Alternet Grayzone project. In their recent writings he and his co-writers profess to dislike the al-Qaeda led opposition in Syria. Yet it is exactly the same opposition they earlier vehemently supported.

Yesterday the Real News Network interviewed Blumethal on his recent piece about CNN's al-Qaeda promotion. The headline: Max Blumenthal on How the Media Covers Syria. During the interview Blumenthal laments the failure of progressive media on Syria:

In my opinion, they have abrogated their mission, which should be to challenge mainstream narratives and particularly imperial narratives on issues like Syria. I understand there are massive human rights abuses by the Syrian government, but that's not reason enough to not explore what the West's agenda, the Gulf agenda is for that country, what the consequences are, to actually get into the geopolitical issues. Instead, we've seen Democracy Now propagate generally a regime change narrative.

I don't believe they actually have a line on Syria. It's more a fear of actually taking on the official line. I haven't found a single article in the Intercept challenging the regime change line on Syria.

Blumenthal is outraged, OUTRAGED, that "progressive" media peddle the Syria conflict along "the official line".

Yet in 2012 Max Blumenthal resigned as columnist from the Lebanese paper Al Akhbar English because the paper did not write along "the official line". He publicly (also here) smeared and accused his Al Akhbar collegues for taking a cautious or even anti-opposition position on Syria.

The Al Akhbar writers challenged the mainstream narratives while Blumenthal, with his resignation and his writing about it, solidly aligned with the imperial project. Back then he himself went along "the official line". Then as now the Real News Network helped him along:

I noticed that it was publishing op-eds by people like Amal Saad-Ghorayeb, who were just openly apologetic of the Assad regime, if not cheerleading Assad as this kind of subaltern freedom fighter leading what she called a front-line resisting state, or Sharmine Narwani, the blogger who was nickel-and-diming civilian casualty counts, [..]
...
This just was really too much for me.
...
My problem was that the opinions at Al-Akhbar's website in support of the Assad regime, which I've identified specifically by Amal Saad-Ghorayeb and Sharmine Narwani and by the editor-in-chief, Ibrahim al-Amin, were not based on any journalistic fieldwork. They're based on poring over YouTube clips, looking at textbooks, or really disturbing citations by Amin of anonymous regime sources, including documents that he cited which he referred to as investigations of people detained for trafficking weapons.

At that time Max Blumenthal was sitting in the U.S. stenographing Syrian opposition propaganda. Yet he accused Sharmine Narwani and other writers living in Lebanon and Syria of lack of journalistic fieldwork and of "poring over YouTube clips". Narwani wasn't amused by his ignorance:

I have made two trips to Syria in the past six months – the first to interview a wide range of domestic opposition figures, most of whom have spent years languishing in Syrian prisons; the second just a week ago, to spend time with the UN Observer team and learn about the changed military landscape throughout the country.

No journalistic fieldwork? How would Max know? He has done none on Syria, yet he presumes to condemn the dogged pursuit of truth by others.

Al Akhbar early on recognized the foreign sponsored insurgency in Syria for what it is. Max Blumenthal took the easy route of joining the anti-Syrian propaganda train. Even worse - he publicly smeared the writers at Al Akhbar who were searching for the least harmful solution for Syria.

Now Max Blumenthal has found an outlet that pays him for writing along the very line he condemned when he resigned from Al Akhbar. Nowhere do I find an explanation by Blumenthal for his change of position. No public apology for smearing his former colleagues has been issued by him.

 

Max Blumenthal's sidekick and often co-author at the Grayzone project is Ben Norton. In his own latest piece Norton blames various pundits and main-stream media for pushing for regime change in Syria. Conveniently he does not mention that he himself wrote along that line.

[NOTE: Norton replied to this piece in an email to me. I have published his statement, and my response to it, in the comments below.]

In January 2015 Norton accused the Syrian government of besieging Palestinian refugees in a suburb of Damascus: ‘No to martyrdom by hunger in Yarmouk camp’: Palestinian refugees protest Assad’s siege. Norton had never set a step inside of Syria. His reporting was solely based on opposition talk and videos.

Others did fieldwork. Three month before Norton published his piece Sharmine Narwani had written about her recent visit to Yarmouk:

Cont. reading: Syria - The Alternet Grayzone Of Smug Turncoats - Blumenthal, Norton, Khalek

Posted by b at 11:16 AM | Comments (166)

July 08, 2017

Mosul Is Liberated! My Congrats To Iraq

The people of Iraq have won the biggest battle in the very bloody fight against the nihilists of the Islamic State:

Elijah J. Magnier‏ @ejmalrai - 11:59 AM - 8 Jul 2017

#Mosul fully liberated and #ISIS is defeated in the city. Well done #Iraq.

My congratulations to the Iraqi men and women who achieved this.

The pest shall come down on those Gulf dictators who financed the growth of the sectarian "Sunni resistance" in Iraq and Syria. The Obama administration, which intentionally let ISIS grow for its own perfidious aims, the Turkish wannabe Sultan who pampered it and the "journalists" and "experts" who hailed ISIS and alike criminals along shall join them in hell.

Islamic State remnants will continue to exits but the organization is now degraded to a mere guerilla that will no longer threaten the existence of any state. It will eventually die out.

Posted by b at 08:54 AM | Comments (72)

July 07, 2017

Open Deescalation Thread

I am off to appreciate the deescalation measures Hamburg police prepared for tonight.


Picture via Der Postillon bigger

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (135)

July 06, 2017

The Undeniable Pattern Of Russian Hacking (Updated)

Updated below

A wide review of news sources finds an undeniable patter of international "Russian hacking" claims:

  • Many, if not all such accusation, are based on say-so by some anonymous "official" or self-promoting "expert".
  • Many, if not all such accusation, are rebutted within a few days or weeks.
  • News about any alleged "Russian hacking" is widely distributed and easy to find.
  • News of the debunking of such claims is reported only sparsely (if at all) and more difficult to retrieve.


Source: Jeff Darcy, Cleveland.com - bigger

Examples:

Ukraine

United States

Germany

Cont. reading: The Undeniable Pattern Of Russian Hacking (Updated)

Posted by b at 09:35 AM | Comments (78)

July 05, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - Qatar And Iran Are Winning - MbZ, MbS Lose Face

The Saudi/UAE campaign against Qatar quickly turned into a mess. Qatar did not fold as had been expected. There was no plan B. The instigators of the plan have now to fear for their head.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Qatar have all build up and pamper extremists groups fighting in other countries. They supply money, weapons and political and media support to various kinds of murderous Takfiris. Unlike the other three, Qatar not only supported arch-conservative Salafists but also groups aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. The MB do not accept the primacy of the Arab absolute monarchs. They provide an alternative way of governing by adopting some democratic participation of the people. That makes them an imminent danger to the Saudis and other family dictatorships. The military dictator of Egypt, which joined the Saudis on the issue, had led a coup against the elected MB government of his country.

In the view of the Saudis and the other three Qatar had to be reigned in. While its media arm Al-Jazeerah Arabic promotes the sectarian and anti-Iran positions the Saudis support, it also promotes the Muslim Brotherhood. That needed to be stopped.

On June 5 the four countries launched a boycott and blockade of Qatar. Three weeks later they issued a list of demands to Qatar which could be summed up as "surrender your sovereignty or else ...". The "offer" was designed to be refused. It practically demanded total capitulation while threatening more sanctions and even war.

As MoA predicted on June 7, two days after the spat started, Qatar did not fold. It has hundreds of billions in monetary reserves, international support from its liquefied gas customers and allies, and it secured supplies and support from Turkey and Iran. It simply did not response to the "offer" in time for the ultimatum's end.

The Saudis blinked first. On Sunday the ultimatum was prolonged for two days. Yesterday Qatar responded with its own demands which were, like the "offer", designed to be refused. It also announced that it would increase its liquefied gas exports by a third which threatens to take market share and income away from the Saudis. It reminded the UAE that 80% of its electricity supplies depend on natural gas delivered from Qatar.

Today the Saudis, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain met to discuss further consequences and new measures against Qatar. The Gulf media predicted more sanctions.

But the gang of four decided to do ... nothing:

The foreign ministers of four Arab countries, meeting in Cairo, said they regretted Qatar's "negative" response to their list of demands.
...
The Saudi foreign minister said further steps would be taken against Qatar at the appropriate time, and would be in line with international law.
...
The meeting came as the deadline for Qatar to accept the list of demands or face further sanctions expired.

This is a huge embarrassment for the clown princes of the UAE and Saudi Arabia. They, Mohammad bin Zayed and Mohammad bin Salman, are the instigators of the campaign against Qatar. The meeting today had to deliver some penalty against Qatar for not giving in to any demand: some additional significant sanctions , a more intense blockade, some threat of military strikes. But the meeting came up with ... nothing.

The clown princes had shot their wad on the very first day. They could not come up with any new measures that were agreeable. Kuwait and Oman reject to push Qatar out of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the UAE would lose all its international businesses in Dubai should the Qatari gas supplies, and thereby its electricity, shut down. An additional blockade of Qatar is impossible without the agreement of the U.S. Russia and other big states.

Such a huge loss of face will have consequences. When the Saudi clown prince launched the war against Yemen he expected, and announced, that Sanaa would fall within days. Two years later Sanaa has not fallen and the Saudis are losing the war. Qatar was expected to fold within days. But it has enough capital and income to sustain the current situation for many years to come. The war against Yemen and the sanctions against Qatar were indirectly aimed against Iran- the Saudis' cpsen arch-enemy. But without investing even a dime Iran is now the winner from both conflicts. MbS, the Saudi clown prince, has twice proven to be a terrible strategist who endangers his country.

The Saudi King Salman and his son said that neither of them will take part in the upcoming G-20 meeting in Hamburg. Rumors have it that they fear an imminent coup should one of them leave the country.

No one should be surprised if the Salman era finds a bloody end within the next week or month.

Posted by b at 02:40 PM | Comments (67)

July 04, 2017

"... And the rocket's red glare ..." - North Korea Wishes A Happy 4th of July

In recognition of the U.S. Independence Day the Democratic People's Republic of Korea launched some remarkable fireworks.

DPRK State TV confirmed a successful launch and the basic data others had measured (video).

The announcement comes nearly exactly six month after President Donald Trump issued this prediction.

That forecast turned out to be false.

Jonathan McDowell @planet4589 - 7:02 AM - 4 Jul 2017
Recap: North Korea launches Hwasong-14 ICBM at 0040 UTC Jul 4 from Kusong's Panghyon Airport 933 km eastward to Sea of Japan, 2802 km apogee

More official pictures of the launch were published. The North Korean head of state Kim Jong-Un attended.

North Korea fired the missile at a steep trajectory reaching a very high apogee. This limited the range of the test launch. The flight time of 37 minutes was extremely long. Recalculating the data into a more normal trajectory the maximum flight range of the missile is estimated to be 6,700 kilometers with a normal payload. Launched from North Korea it could cover Alaska but not the lower 49 states. With a light warhead, possibly a small nuclear load, the range could be up to 10,000 kilometer and cover at least the north-western states.

Trump will be rightfully blamed for the braggadocious formulation of his tweet. But one can not blame him for not stopping North Korea's missile development. A war on North Korea would also destroy South Korea and have implications far beyond the peninsula. Only the end of U.S. military maneuvering around Korea and the perspective of a full peace agreement could have achieved a stop of North Korea's development. The U.S. Congress would support neither. Trump tried to press China to reign in North Korea, But China has no reasonable way to do that. One could just as easy blame former U.S. presidents - Clinton for breaking his agreements with North Korea, Bush for his general hostility and Obama for his do-nothing excuse of "strategic patience".

North Korea has very good reasons to perceive the U.S. as vicious enemy and to never trust any U.S. statement or agreement. It needs nuclear weapons for its self-defense. As it can not trust any of its neighbors it needs strategic independence. That has now been achieved.

The U.S., and Trump personally, has been just been "shown the finger" by a small underdeveloped state. One wonders how Trump and the official U.S. it will react to that.

Posted by b at 04:25 AM | Comments (97)

July 02, 2017

NYT, WaPo Send Top Reporters To Stenograph Five O'Clock Follies

When the U.S. military takes a bunch of journalists on a press junket to a foreign country it has a certain intention and prepares every detail in advance. There will be witnesses and local people who are briefed for their two minute talk with the journalists to convey exactly what the military wants them to convey. After enjoying local flair, for ten minutes max, some U.S. diplomatic official or a general will treat the journos to some good whiskey and a genuine local steak. The official will speak a few prepared lines on the record that will reinforce the story the locals were tasked to tell.

The outcome is predictable. The stories the journalists will write will be the same.

Michael Gordon in yesterday's New York Times and David Ignatius in yesterday's Washington Post both report of their latest junket, a visit of Tabqa in Syria.

Gordon's piece: In a Desperate Syrian City, a Test of Trump’s Policies

The young man unburdened himself about the dark years of living under the Islamic State as a crowd of curious onlookers gathered in front of a weathered storefront in the town marketplace. The militants, said the man, a 22-year-old named Abdul Qadir Khalil, killed many residents, doled out precious jobs and severely limited travel to and from the city. ...

He ticked off a list of the things Tabqa needs: electricity, water, fuel and a sizable bakery. Then, laughing about his new freedom to openly denounce the militants, he said, “If they ever come back, they will slaughter all of us.”

The Ignatius' piece: As the Islamic State falls in Syria, one city offers a preview of the country’s future

A boisterous group of young Syrian men is gathered outside a tire and vehicle-parts shop across from the warehouse. American military advisers aren’t sure at first that it’s safe to talk with them, but the men press eagerly toward two visiting reporters. Abdul-Qadr Khalil, 22, dressed in a bright blue-nylon jacket, speaks for the group. He complains that there’s not enough food, water, gas or bread, and there are no jobs. But he dismisses the idea that the Islamic State will ever take hold here again.

“No, never!” says Khalil, and the young men around him nod in unison. “It will be impossible to live if they come back. They will kill all of us.”

Gordon:

.. small children greet visitors with a “V” sign for victory.

Ignatius:

Young children flash V-for-victory signs.

Gordon:

“A fundamental problem in our society is that ISIS’ ideology has been implanted in little kids’ brains, which means it will carry on in the future,” said Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the council.

Ignatius:

Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the newly formed Tabqa Civil Council, ... Young boys who were indoctrinated at Islamic State training camps are trying to find their balance in a new world where beheadings and the chanting of Islamist slogans are over.

Gordon:

Nearly 50 tons of flour, paid for by the Pentagon, were trucked in from Iraq to an American-funded warehouse on Wednesday.

Ignatius:

At a warehouse near the town center, the first shipment of American food arrived on Wednesday; sacks of flour and rice are stacked on pallets, ready for distribution, ...

Gordon:

We are not going to get beauty; it’s about pragmatism,” said Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones of the British Army, the deputy commander of the coalition force.

Ignatius:

This is not a work of beauty. This is pragmatism,” says Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, the British deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria ..

I agree with the British general. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times from this military press junket is not a work of beauty but pragmatism. These highly paid journalists do not want to get their new desert dress dirty. They pragmatically repeat what the well briefed (and bribed) locals say, picture the children that make V-signs (and receive the promised candy) and they stenograph whatever the military or some diplomats say. No real reporting, no thinking and no dirty boots are required for their job.

The military wanted to convey that nearly everything is fine now in Tabqa. The people love the U.S. occupation and all that is needed now are a few billion $$$ for some minor nation building. The journalists ate up the prepared bites and transmit exactly what the military wanted them to say.

The mainstream media want their readers to believe that their narratives from war zones are genuine reporting. The above examples show that they are not. Their journalists are simple recording highly choreographed shows the Pentagon and State Department press advisors made up and the local press officers prepared in advance. A modern version of the Vietnam war's five o'clock follies.

Richard Pyle, Associated Press Saigon bureau chief during the war, described the [military press] briefings as, "the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia's theater of the absurd."

Back then most media did not fell for the nonsense. Now they willingly join in.

Posted by b at 03:09 PM | Comments (108)

July 01, 2017

Syria - These Maps Show A Year Of Progress

Three maps of Syria show the immense progress the Syrian government forces and their allies have made over the last few month.

During the last half year the Syrian Arab Army not only liberated al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo city, but also the Islamic State held eastern part of Aleppo governate. The closing move happened yesterday when the last ISIS held area in the governate was cut off and the enemy retreated. The area north of the arrows is now free of ISIS fighters. Mines, IEDs and sleeper agents still need to be searched for.


via IslamicWorldUpdate - bigger

In a next step the Syrian Army will move simultaneously from north and south to connect the red areas between (roughly) south of Al-Thawrah and Palmyra. This will enclose and clean the ISIS bulge in the west and secure Homs governate as well as the supply line to Aleppo city.

The Russian rearming, retraining and reorganizing of the Syrian Army has really helped. Russian air support delivers the necessary protection and interdiction capabilities for large movements. De-conflicting zones in the western part of the country as well as the cleanup of several pockets of "rebels" near the big cities freed up ten-thousands of Syrian soldiers. The reinforcements provided through Iran created the additional temporary manpower needed to regain and clean the liberated areas. A total of 40,000 men are engaged in the eastern campaign. When the local Syrian government structures are re-established in the liberated areas the additional forces will no longer be needed.

On a larger scale the immense progress of the Syrian government during the last six month becomes even more obvious. The (red) government held areas were enlarged considerably:

Cont. reading: Syria - These Maps Show A Year Of Progress

Posted by b at 12:44 AM | Comments (98)

June 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:43 PM | Comments (119)

June 29, 2017

U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf - Gives Up On Occupying South East Syria

The U.S. is giving up its hopeless position at the Syrian-Iraq border crossing near  al-Tanf in south east Syria. The U.S. military had earlier bombed Syrian forces when they came near that position but it then found itself outmaneuvered, cut off from the north and enclosed in a useless area.

Al-Tanf is in the blue area with the two blue arrows at the bottom of the map. It will soon be painted red as liberated and under Syrian government control.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

A more expressive version of the map:


Source: Doloroso

To recap:

The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came.
Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight - June 13

The U.S. military even moved a HIMARS missile launcher with 300 km reach from nearby Jordan to al-Tanf. That was a laughable stunt. It made no difference in capabilities from the earlier launcher position in Jordan just a few miles west. But someone the U.S. military believed that showing off such weapons in a doomed area would impress Syrian or Russian forces and change the facts of life. It didn't. It was clear that the U.S. would have to move out.

That now seems to happen. A knowledgeable source just posted:

Cont. reading: U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf - Gives Up On Occupying South East Syria

Posted by b at 12:45 PM | Comments (86)

White House Encouraged After Elephants Abstain From Climbing Trees

Trump administration officials are walking back the White House announcement of its plans to fake another "chemical weapon attack" in Syria.

There are plenty of reasons why the U.S. would want to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons but zero sane reasons for the Syrian government to use such. Russia and Syria have long insisted on sending chemical weapon inspectors to the airbase the Trump administration claims is at the center of its "chemical" fairy tale. The U.S. has held the inspectors back. The claims make thereby zero sense to any objective observer.

The walk back, as well as the statement itself, may not be serious at all. This White House seems unpredictable and the U.S. military, the intelligence services and the White House itself have no common view or policy. One day they claim the U.S. will leave Syria after ISIS is defeated, the next day they announce new bases and eternal support for the Syrian Kurds.

The way the White House statement came out, without knowledge of the relevant agencies and little involvement of the agency principals, was not cynical but just dumb. It sounds like the idea was dropped by Natanyahoo to his schoolboy Jared Kushner who then convinced his father in law to issue the crazy statement. Now officials are send out with the worst argument ever to claim that the White House "warning" made sense.

"The elephants did not climb up the trees. Warning them off was successful," they say. "The trees were saved!"

"It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis said. "They didn't do it," he told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

He offered no evidence other than the fact that an attack had not taken place.

---
"I can tell you that due to the president's actions, we did not see an incident," [U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing Tuesday.[..]
[...]
"I would like to think that the president saved many innocent men, women and children," Haley continued.

Haley "would like to think" a lot of stuff - unfortunately she is not capable of such. A bit later she issued an egocentric tweet about UN peacekeeping that will surely increase U.S. political standing in the world (not):

Cont. reading: White House Encouraged After Elephants Abstain From Climbing Trees

Posted by b at 03:47 AM | Comments (70)

June 27, 2017

White House Says It Will Fake "Chemical Weapon Attack" In Syria

The White House claims that the Syrian government is preparing "chemical weapon attacks". This is clearly not the case. Syria is winning the war against the country. Any such attack would clearly be to its disadvantage. The White House announcement must thereby be understood as preparation for another U.S. attack on Syria in "retaliation" for an upcoming staged "chemical weapon attack" which will be blamed on the Syrian government.

In August 2013 Syria invited inspectors of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian army. As soon as the inspectors arrived in Damascus a "chemical attack" was staged in Ghouta near Damascus. Lots of Jihadist video coverage of killed children was published and the "western" media blamed the incident on the Syrian government. It never explained why targeting a militarily irrelevant area with chemical weapons at the same time as inspectors arrived would have been a rational decision for a Syrian government that was just regaining control and international standing.

The "attack" was clearly staged by the opposition of the Syrian government and its foreign supporters. The Obama administration had planned to use it to launch U.S. attacks on the Syrian government but refrained from this when Russia arranged to remove Syria's strategic chemical weapons, aimed at Israel, instead.

In early 2017 the new U.S. president Trump made positive comments about the Syrian government. Assad can stay, he said. The Syrian military and its allies had gained the upper hand and were victorious on all fronts. Two days later another "chemical attack" was staged in the al-Qaeda held town of Khan Sheikhun. Lots of Jihadi video coverage of killed children, likely prepared in advance, was spilled onto the "western" public. U.S. intelligence knew that no chemical attack by the Syrian government had taken place. But the Trump administration used the incident to launch a volley of cruise missiles against a Syrian military airport. The neoconservatives were delighted. They finally had Trump where they wanted him. The media coverage changed from damming Trump for his alleged "Russian connections" to lauding his decisiveness in response to the faked attack.

Late May the new French president Macron ostensibly changed his position towards the Syrian government. The hostile position of France (and other EU countries) against the Syrian president Assad that had been eminent throughout the last six years changed on a dime:

Macron said that on Syria: “My profound conviction is that we need a political and diplomatic roadmap. We won’t solve the question only with military force. That is a collective error we have made. The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said the deposing of Bashar al-Assad is a prerequisite for everything. Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor!

But Macron also added:

"I have red lines on chemical weapons and humanitarian corridors. I said it very clearly to Vladimir Putin. I will be uncompromising on that. So the use of chemical weapons will be met with a response, and even if France acts alone.”

This immediately set off my warning lights:

Cont. reading: White House Says It Will Fake "Chemical Weapon Attack" In Syria

Posted by b at 07:49 AM | Comments (184)

June 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-25

WaPo has a 8,300 word weekend opus on how Obama failed to react to CIA director Brennan's claims that Putin himself ordered to hack the U.S. election.

Note:

Reading that piece it becomes clear (but is never said) that the sole source for that August 2016 Brennan claim of "Russian hacking" is the absurd Steele dossier some ex-MI6 dude created for too much money as opposition research against Trump. The only other "evidence" for "Russian hacking" is the Crowdstrike report on the DNC "hack". Crowdstrike has a Ukrainian nationalist agenda, was hired by the DNC, had to retract other "Russian hacking" claims and no one else was allowed to take a look at the DNC servers. Said differently: The whole "Russian hacking" claims are solely based on "evidence" of two fake reports.

Democrats tell party leaders: Stop talking about Russia. No one is interested in that bullshit. Get back to basic issues.

The first spinner toy was developed in Iraq around 2000 BC and Adam Smith copied many of his economic theories from Ibn Khaldun who had developed these 400 years before Smith plagiarized him.

A Middle Eastern regime drops plans for mixed-gender worship under pressure from religious hardliners.

Uber has no valid business model and will go down in disgrace (no link, just a fact).

Trump launched cruise missiles against Syria knowing that no Sarin was used in the Khan Sheikhun attack. (Background on the suppression of this Seymour Hersh story in U.S and British media: The Fog of War.)

The new French Defense Minister had to leave her office after it became known that she was paid €10,000 per month by a U.S. think tank (french, machine translation.)

Please add your news & views in the comments.

Posted by b at 10:47 AM | Comments (184)

June 25, 2017

Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

The U.S. military has, for now, given up on occupying south-east Syria. Recent remarks at the Department of Defense press conference concede the defeat of its original plans.

Let us recap: The U.S. military had occupied the al-Tanf border station between Syria and Iraq some 12 kilometer east of the Jordan-Syria-Iraq border triangle. The economically important road between Damascus and Baghdad runs through al-Tanf. When Syrian government forces moved towards the al-Tanf area the U.S. military bombed them and unilaterally claimed a "deconfliction-zone", i.e occupied territory, around the station.

The U.S. plan was to disrupt any connection between Syrian government held areas in the west and Iraq in th east by moving north from al-Tanf up to the Euphrates river valley around Deir Ezzor. The neoconservatives and Zionist propagandists claimed that this was necessary to interrupt the "Shia crescent" that allegedly would connect Iran through Iraq and Syria with Lebanon. The U.S. forces would thereby interrupt Iranian support for Hizbullah forces defending Lebanon from Israeli incursions. But the "Shia crescent" was never more than an idea. Iran supplies to Hizbullah have never depended on a land connection alone. The "crescent" connection was not disrupted when the U:S. occupied Iraq or when ISIS held the area.

The real U.S. plan was much larger. It wanted to control a Sunni corridor from the Saudi-Iraqi border in the south through Anbar province in west-Iraq through south-east Syria up through the Kurdish held north-east Syria to Turkey. This was the planned "Salafist principality" a 2012 Defense Intelligence paper had talked about.

The Syrian forces (red), with Iraqi support, sabotaged the U.S. plans by connecting west-Syria with the Syrian Iraqi border northward of the U.S. held area of al-Tanf (blue). They met allied Iraqi forces at the border north-east of al-Tanf and are now proceeding north-east along the border towards Abu Kamal and the Euphrates valley.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The Russian military command told the U.S. that any attack on those forces would be a very unfriendly act that would be severely punished. To make the point Iran fired medium range missiles from Iranian territory to Islamic State held areas in Syria. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean towards similar targets. The message was that the small U.S. contingent in al-Tanf would be toast if the U.S. military further messed around with the Syrian forces. Meanwhile Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from Iraq, allied with Syria, closed off al-Tanf from the south. The U.S. forces there have nowhere to go but home.

As we wrote in our June 13 piece Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight:

Cont. reading: Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

Posted by b at 08:59 AM | Comments (90)

June 24, 2017

Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

 

12:13 PM - 24 Jun 2017

12:16 PM - 24 Jun 2017

2:24 PM - 24 Jun 2017

Al-Qaeda attacked a Syrian Arab Army position in Madinat al-Baath (map) next to the Israel occupied Golan heights. Al-Qaeda requested Israeli fire-support by launching some mortars towards empty space in the Israel occupied area. The Israeli Defense Force accepted the request and destroyed two Syrian Arab Army tanks. Two Syrian soldiers were killed. The SAA held steady and the al-Qaeda attack on its position failed.

This was very easy to predict. Israel has supported al-Qaeda in the area since at least 2014. The al-Qaeda fire-request-by-mortar scheme has been in place for at least three years. In October 2014 the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which back then still covered the area, reported to the UN Security Council:

Cont. reading: Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (57)

June 23, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

(Updated last graphs on June 24 9:00am est)

Today the Saudi ruler issued an ultimatum to Qatar that was written to be rejected. Such has happened before and one should not forget the lessons to be learned from it.

After the crown prince of the Austria-Hungary monarchy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was shot and killed in Sarajevo, the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by Serbian private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."

The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.


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The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the U.S. - the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which the C&I-Service considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. According to the U.S. government the U.S. government is a state sponsor of terrorism. But the biggest terrorist sponsor of all are and have been the Saudis.)

Spats between member of the Gulf Cooperation Council are usually mediated by the U.S. government. But without any official demands issued against Qatar there was nothing to mediate about. Three day ago U.S. Department of State finally issued a rather angry statement towards Saudi Arabia:

Cont. reading: The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (97)

June 22, 2017

U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

The U.S. military and/or the CIA outsourced parts of their ongoing torture campaign in Yemen to the United Arab Emirates, reports AP. Some "interrogations" are done in the presence of U.S. personal and on U.S. ships:

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses.
...
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away.

There have long been rumors in Yemen that detainees were transported to U.S. ships off the coast for intense "interrogations":

@BaFana3 - 3:42am · 6 May 2016
All on #Yemen now : US aircraft carrier, 2 naval destroyers, amphibious ready group & Marine expeditionary unit. That's near 15,000 troops
Now I know whose ships the captured AQAP militants are being ferried to from Al Mukalla, Hadhramaut.

AP now:

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations.
...
Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt.
...
Former detainees and one Yemen official provided the AP with the names of five suspects held at black sites who were interrogated by Americans.

The UAE had been part of the CIA's "black sites" torture apparatus. Its agents are thereby well trained. The U.S. military and/or the CIA now seem to have outsourced (vid) most of the "dirty" stuff to them. That does not make them less culpable.

The Obama administration has called this acting "by, with and through" allies. The Trump administration continues with the scheme.

The tortured "militants" were most likely not al-Qaeda chaps. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula held the harbor city of Mukalla in Yemen. The UAE "liberated" the city in April 2016 by making a deal with AQAP and letting them go. It is allied with the group while fighting the Yemeni Houthi. If the U.S. torture crews believe that they are "interrogating" real "al-Qaeda" they are hoodwinked by the UAE operators.

The U.S. military is, of course, denying all torture accusations and the CIA is, of course, not commenting, but denigrating the accusers. We have heard such denials before.

---
Yesterday an al-Saud family clown prince replaced another al-Saud family clown prince to replace the old al-Saud family king who will be offed soon. This in a country named after the al-Saud family. It is change you can believe in. The soon to be dictator-king Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the guy who has debt-to-GDP, is fawned over in U.S. media. That is no wonder. He has lot of money and no idea of its value. He paid €500 million for a used ship that had cost only €300 million when it was build six years earlier. Some of his money will drop here or there when a journalist writes a pretty piece about him. If the journo is really good at it s/he will get payed off in some CIA endorsed weapon deal with the Gulf sheiks. Bin Salman is not very bright. He visited Israel and is in constant contact with Israeli officials. His development program for Saudi Arabia, based on austerity, was written by McKinsey consultants and is thereby likely to fail. With his extreme anti-Iranian stand he looks like a mere U.S.-Israeli puppet.


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The 26 million people he rules over will not like either. Many Arab peninsula citizens will want to see his head on a pike. The House of Saud is now a house of cards destined to fall.

Cont. reading: U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

Posted by b at 06:47 AM | Comments (92)

June 20, 2017

Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Just got this new little video-drone.

Now I read that drones can be 'pro-Assad' and probably also anti-Assad. They can be 'pro-regime' or 'pro-Assad regime' or 'Iranian' or 'Iranian made'.

I know my drone is not Iranian made. It says "Made in China".

Drones can also 'display hostile intent'. I did not know that. Where is that display?

And how do I tell if it is pro- or anti-? Is there a switch for that?


Cont. reading: Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (42)

Open Thread 2017-24

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (138)

June 19, 2017

Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Our last summary said that the end of the war in Syria is now in sight:

Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over.

There are a few civilian lunatics in the White House who push for widening the war on Syria into an all out U.S.-Iran war. The military leadership is pushing back. It fears for its forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the larger area. But there are also elements within the U.S. military and the CIA that take a more aggressive pro-war position.

Yesterday a U.S. F-18 jet shot down a Syrian air force bomber near the city of Raqqa. The U.S. Central Command ludicrously claims that this was in "self defense" of its invading forces and its Kurdish proxies (Syria Democratic Forces - SDF) within a "deconflicting zone" after the SDF was attacked in the town of Jardin.

Those were lies. Neither is there any agreed upon "deconflicting zone" in the area nor was the town of Jardin held by SDF forces at the time of the attack. The attack was clearly illegal:

The U.S.[...] has no legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are pursuing regime change or other political objectives. There is no right of collective self-defense of non-state actors, ...

The Syrian government as well as witnesses on the ground refute the U.S. claims. The Syrian Observatory in Britain, often cited as authoritative about events in Syria, says no Syrian attack on the SDF took place. The U.S. jets attacked the Syrian one in support of Islamic State forces:

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area [...] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

Here is an overview of the situation in south-east Syria:


Map via Peto Lucem - bigger

On the bottom left is the area of Palmyra on the right is Deir Ezzor, at the top is Raqqa. The dark areas are occupied by the Islamic State. A hundred thousand civilians and a small Syrian army garrison in Deir Ezzor is besieged by the Islamic State. The Syrian army is moving east from two directions to relieve the city. One thrust is from the Palmyra area along the road towards the north-east to Deir Ezzor. The distance still to go is about 130 kilometer and a major Islamic State held city, Al-Sukhnah, will have to be taken before the advance can proceed.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (177)

June 18, 2017

When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Non factual, false news reporting has political consequences. This especially when it is picked up by partisan propagandists to push their agenda. It is often not easy to forensically follow the trail of fake news but here is a recent example "caught in the wild".

The Associated Press is a nonprofit and political neutral news agency financed by U.S. newspapers and other media outlets of various political stripes. Its wide range of customers (mostly) prevents it from partisan domestic reporting. It takes on international issues are different. The selection of the news items it reports on is driven by customer interests and thereby slanted in its selection. But the factual reporting on news items is generally straight forward - or supposed to be such. Political decisions are sometimes based on its reports. It is therefore causing concern when it spreads obviously fake news.

Yesterday the AP pushed out this item:

The Associated Press ‏Verified account @AP
Russia claims it has killed IS leader al-Baghdadi. https://apnews.com/...
7:51 AM - 16 Jun 2017

NY Daily news, FOX News, Politico and many, many other outlets reedited and/or republished that AP piece. The Politico version reads:

Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group's de facto capital in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

The AP item seemed wrong to me. Russia is usually very cautious with such claims and tends not to make such absolute statements. ( The U.S. military though ...)

I checked with the official Russian agency TASS and it indeed reported something different: IS top leader may have been killed by Russian airstrike in Syria

Cont. reading: When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Posted by b at 04:14 AM | Comments (60)

June 16, 2017

Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

The spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar gives us some amusing entertainment. Both countries spent billions to arm and supply tens of thousands of brutal Takfiris to fight the Syrian government and people. They also spent millions to buy this or that "western" think-tank and/or writer. Now that the two Wahhabi dictatorships are fighting each other they spill the beans over each others nefarious deeds. Various "western" think-tanks and media, who avidly supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other criminals in Syria, are the well deserved collateral casualties in this fight.

Here is one example:

Bilal Abdul Kareem‏ Verified account @BilalKareem
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. But I'm smiling!
4:24 PM - 16 Jun 2017

Bilal Abdul Kareem 2 hrs
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won the prestigious Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. High respects to CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward for mentioning me even if CNN didn't! Alhamdo lilaah I got another award from some good hearted Syrians that's worth more than those put together. Check it out!

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Max Blumenthal‏ Verified account @MaxBlumenthal
In Saudi media, "independent journalist" @BilalKareem is ID'ed as having joined Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise in 2012
https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/...
5:37 AM - 11 Jun 2017

Cont. reading: Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

Posted by b at 04:45 PM | Comments (54)

When Generals Make Policies - From Tactics To Strategy To Political Decision

June 13, 2017 - Mattis promises new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday promised to deliver a new military strategy for Afghanistan to lawmakers by mid-July, ...

June 15, 2017 - About 4,000 more US troops to go to Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. [...]

The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump's move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels ...

The U.S. has a problem with the former Marine General Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis thinks tactics, not strategy.

It makes little sense to send additional troops when one does not have a strategy they will have to serve. There is so far no other way to end the war in Afghanistan other than to simply pull out of it. The racket that the war has become can only be stopped by such a grand strategic decision. Sending troops before deciding on the strategy practically guarantees that the choice of a pull-out will be excluded from the evaluated possibilities. The tactical decision of sending more troops will drive the strategy.

Mattis already screwed up by allowing the U.S. Central Command to loudly stump around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq. The small al-Tanf garrison is legally very dubious and now surrounded on three sides. The only choices left are to pull out to Jordan or to start a big war with Syria, Russia and Iran. This could happen by accident. Some low officer on the ground making the decision to attack this or that Syria allied unit could launch a huge and ever escalating chain of events. A much bigger war is likely not what the Trump administration wants or needs. But to pull out will now be an acknowledgement that the tactical decision of deploying to al-Tanf was wrong and become a loss of face. Here again the tactics are driving the strategy:

Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around. Otherwise, the United States risks upending other elements of the war effort in Syria for ill-defined reasons. This may include expanding the role of an already over stretched Special Operations Command and more wear and tear on other elements of the U.S. military — all for ill-defined and unachievable goals. The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose ...

Mattis is liked by some because of his aggressive stance against Iran. His career is otherwise only remarkable for the massacres he was part in (Fallujah 2004). It is claimed that he owns 7,000 books. I doubt that he understood or even read them. To me he seems to be just one of dozens of rather mediocre general officers the U.S. military has produced. Such officers are incapable of making sound strategic decisions. They know how to run the military machine, but that is the easy part. They lack a real feel for diplomacy, economics and cultural issues. They are unable to see the world through the eyes of the other side. They never learned statecraft.

General McMaster, the current National Security Advisor, seems likewise a man of tactics, not strategy. How else can we explain that there is yet no consistency visible in any of the grand games the U.S. plays. The reaction to the flare up in the Gulf Cooperation Council was chaotic, no game plan has been shown for Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the "pivot to Asia" seems dead. The current policies are reactive and not part of a larger view or scheme.

The grand scheme should run from policy decision to (military) strategy and then down to the tactical decisions. What we see now are tactics driving a strategy and the strategy then driving the greater policies.

One may be grateful, especially as a foreigner, that U.S. foreign policy is in such a miserable state. But the damage that can occur due to a miscalculated tactical decisions or an emotional response to an event - without any thinking about the bigger picture - is likely bigger than the one any well chosen political strategy could cause.

Posted by b at 09:42 AM | Comments (82)

June 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-23

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (124)

June 14, 2017

The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

The United States will again escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years ago the U.S, invaded the country and decided to eliminate the ruling Taliban for something that was planed elsewhere by a different group. Since the invasion the U.S. tried to defeat the Taliban. It has lost that fight. As soon as it leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will be back in power. But no one is willing to pull the plug on the nonsensical military approach.

The Taliban are part of Afghanistan and a significant segment of the population supports them. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan it put the brutal and utterly corrupt warlords back into power. These were exactly the people the Taliban were created to hold down and the reason why they could take power in the first place. While demanding a strict religious life the Taliban successfully took care of local security and eliminated the lawless and corrupt rule of the warlords.

It is no wonder then that a large part of the population wishes to have them back in power.

The U.S. supported government in Kabul is utterly corrupt. The Afghan military and police the U.S. pays is likewise only motivated by money. It is not willing to fight. It takes high casualties during Taliban attacks and therefore avoids contact with them whenever possible. Some 60 % of the country is now more or less back under Taliban control. The government's say is restricted to the bigger cities.

It is obvious that this trend will continued and sooner or later the Taliban will be back in power. The only sensible strategy is to negotiate with them and to find some solution that allows them to rule while they guaranteeing that no harm will emanate from Afghanistan for the rest of the world.

But no one in the U.S. is willing to take responsibility for that. Who would want to be blamed for "neglecting" Afghanistan when another 9/11 happens - as unlikely as that might be? Therefore additional troops need to be send whenever the Taliban seem to gain the advantage over the puppet government forces.

President Trump has punted on the issue and has given full authority to the Defense Department to continue the war in Afghanistan with as many troops as it sees fit. It is now the generals, not Trump, who will be blamed should things in Afghanistan go wrong. But the military has no idea what to do about Afghanistan.

Yesterday the Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked during a Congress hearing what "winning" in Afghanistan would mean:

The idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.

Winning in Afghanistan is an "era of frequent skirmishes" in which the proxy government is continuously endangered? That does, of course, not make any sense. It is a holding strategy that will only work as long as the general framework stays the same. Should the Taliban change their strategy or a new actor come in the "holding" strategy will be finished.

One new actor is already there. An Afghan variant of the "Islamic State" just kicked out the Taliban from the Tora Bora cave complex near the Pakistani border. Tora Bora was once though to be the retreat area of Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin-Laden and was attacked during the U.S. invasion in 2001/2.

But who is behind the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) in Afghanistan? Most of its fighters seem to be former Taliban who either defected in Afghanistan or were kicked out of Pakistan when the Pakistani military put pressure on their home areas. The real question now is who pays them and what do they want?

Officially no one seems to know.

For the warlords in Afghanistan the U.S. occupation has become a huge source of money. The U.S. pays them for protecting the goods shipped in from the states  and elsewhere. It is a protection racket. Should the U.S. not pay, its convoys will be attacked by "Taliban". As soon as it pays the local warlords, the "Taliban" will be defeated and the area will be clear again for the trucks to pass. The money the Afghan government receives is likewise dependent on a continuation of the U.S. occupation. No one in the ruling class of Afghanistan has an interest in ending that. The government in Kabul will do nearly anything to keep its money source available.

That may well be the reason why ISIS in Afghanistan was created. It was feared in Kabul that sooner or later the U.S. would find a compromise with the Taliban and leave the country. A new reason had to be found to continue the war.

It is therefore not astonishing that the Afghan secret services, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was the first sponsor of "ISIS" in Afghanistan. The first "ISIS" fighters were refugees of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) who settled in the eastern province of Nangahar and were put on the NDS payroll:

Cont. reading: The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (91)

June 13, 2017

Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

A look at recent developments in Syria. [Updated below June 14 1:00am EDT]


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached. The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north. The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat.

The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria. A large group of "rebels", which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east. But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.

The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.

In the north-west the Takfiri "rebel" groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri "rebels" in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.

In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Russian military bridging equipment recently started to arrive in Syria. It will be needed to cross the Euphrates and to recover the areas north of it.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (106)

June 11, 2017

E.J. Magnier - Why ISIS Will Persist

Elijah J. Magnier has decades of experience as foreign policy and war correspondent in the Middle East.

Here is an excerpt from his latest piece:

The danger of ISIS will remain even after the liberation of Syria and Iraq: why?

ISIS benefited from immeasurable experiences of sympathisers who chose to join the ranks; doctors, engineers, university degree holders and many from all walks of life, including experts with large competence in propaganda. Those served ISIS and managed to create a regular magazine, radios and short films in many languages. They integrate the widespread electronic games with pictures of battles and killing in real life. An abundance of informative materials emanates daily from ISIS through the Internet to deliver ideas and messages to every home and continent no group ever had access to before.
...
The way mainstream media is handling the war in Iraq and above all the war in Syria has had a devastating role and negative influence on various communities around the globe, mainly those previously considered as passive radicals but who never went into action. The media coverage has encouraged “lone wolves” and contributed to providing valid reasons for large convoys who joined in the exodus to “Caliphate land”. The media have helped mislead young people by adopting unverified and fake news related to the war in Syria, and in so doing, disregarded their responsibility towards the profession.
...
In all places, US soldiers were part of the events, on the ground or in the sky participating in regime changes, building military bases and occupying more territories but leaving behind a fertile ground for terrorist organisation to proliferate and grow, like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Still today the US and Europe have not learned from history and still want to occupy territory: they set up four new military bases in Syria and are prepared to plant roots in Bilad al-Sham under the excuse of recovering ISIS-occupied areas. But ISIS will not be totally annihilated and these new occupying forces will face stronger and more experienced insurgency: history will repeat itself.
...

More here ...

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (148)

June 09, 2017

Open Thread 2017-22

(Meta: Travel and family commitments will allow for only light (if any) posting over the weekend - b.)

News & views ...

Posted by b at 08:30 AM | Comments (198)

Corbyn's Success Will Revitalize Europe's Social-Democracy

My heartfelt congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and the social-democratic wing of the British Labour Party. You won the June 2017 election against huge resistance from the establishment even when Theresa May, for now, will continue to head the government.

AP: May’s UK election gamble backfires as Tories lose majority

Spectacularly punished by voters who took away her majority in parliament, a politically wounded Theresa May sought to soldier on Friday as Britain’s prime minister, resisting pressure to resign after the failure of her high-stakes election gamble made the massive challenge of untangling Britain from the European Union only more complex and uncertain.
...
With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, May’s bruised Conservatives had 318 seats — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority and well down from the 330 seats they had before May’s roll of the electoral dice. Labour has 261.
...
The results confounded those who said [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.
...
Many predicted [May] would soon be gone.

“Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government, then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative Party leader,” former Conservative Treasury chief George Osborne said on ITV.

May will now join into a coalition with the north-Irish conservative Democratic Union (DUP) which has won 12 seats in Parliament. Even then she will only have a slim majority. The DUP is tainted with some shady Saudi money involvement. We may well see another snap-election later this year.

Labour won the vote of the young people who turned out in high numbers. Most of the older people voted for the Tories. How will that development transfer into party percentages ten years from now?

Corbyn delivered the best results for Labour since at least 1997. This even though the Labour establishment and its media organs had defamed him since he was elected party leader in 2015. Consider the fake-leftist (and Zionist) columnist Nick Cohen, one of several of his kind in the Guardian columnist stable. Only three month ago Cohen wrote:

The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.

In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.

For the record: Labour won at least 261 seats, 31 more than in the last election. The Tories won 42.5% of the votes, Labour 40% - 10 percent points more than the last time. The British elections system transfers the small Tory advantage in voter share into a rather big difference in parliament seats.

The Corbyn win gives hope for future developments in other European countries. (The long-term trends are way more important than Brexit shenanigans.) Corbyn has proven that social-democratic parties can again be competitive if they shun the neo-liberal dogma and go back to their class based policy roots. The lesson comes too late for the elections in France and the upcoming elections in Germany. In both countries the establishment still rules the social-democratic parties and loses one election after the other. Like Labour in Britain they need a renewal in which real left-wing politicians and socialist policies move back to the top. (The U.S. would probably have made a comparable move if the party establishment had not sabotage Bernie Sanders in favor of an un-electable Hillary Clinton. Sanders though was probably a one-of-a kind chance that will not return for a long time.)

It will need some time for Jeremy Corbyn's win to transfer into a Europe wide renaissance of social-democratic policies. But his was a huge step forward and the movement and trend are coming along well.

Posted by b at 08:09 AM | Comments (93)

June 08, 2017

News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Big stories are coming up today but I will have no time to extensively post on them. A short take:

The Conservatives in Britain will likely win today's elections - at least according to recent polls. This even as the Labour Party, under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn, will achieve its best results since "New Labour" under Tony Blair wreaked the party.

The unnecessary loss for Labour can be solely blamed on the media, especially the "liberal" ones like the Guardian, who viciously defamed and fought against Corbyn ever since he was elected to lead the party.

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In hearings at the U.S. Congress the former director of the FBI Comey will do his best to put a bad light on Trump. Trump fired him, later than he should have done, for good reasons:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in U.S. elections] that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. [...]

That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar.

The anti-Trump media (which means about 90% of all) will push the Comey testimony as evidence for malfeasance by Trump even though nothing of that kind will be in there.

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Micah Zenko writes that there is a danger that the Trump administration will wage war somewhere against someone as a diversion from the pressure it is under within Washington DC:

Cont. reading: News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Posted by b at 04:48 AM | Comments (173)

June 07, 2017

The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Many people believe that Qatar will soon give in to recent Saudi demands and threats. I first though so too but have changed my opinion. Qatar will likely hold out way longer than anyone assumes and fight more intensive and much longer than foreseen.

The Saudi "young leader" has now given Qatar 24 hours to submit to 10 demands. These include (unconfirmed) the dismantling of Al Jazeera, breaking off of all diplomatic relations with Iran and (the Israeli demand of) ending all support for the Muslim Brotherhood and especially Hamas. The Saudis threaten with a military invasion.

But Qatar is not like Bahrain where 1,000 Saudi troops could easily take over to save a dictator from a mostly unarmed uprising of its people. It has way more resources and capable allies on its side and recent news shows that it knows how to use them.

Two days ago we extensively described the complex conflict between Qatar and some of its neighbors that has recently been escalating. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main forces on one side, joined yesterday by Donald Trump but not by the Pentagon. On the other side is Qatar, geographically isolated and seemingly without any real allies even though it hosts a very large U.S. command center and air-base.

The conflict has been simmering for years. Qatar has a strong media arm with Al Jazeera TV and other prominent news outlets. Qatar and its media support the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood which won elections in Egypt before being kicked out in a Saudi financed military coup. The ruling Turkish AK Party is a Muslim Brotherhood branch as is Hamas in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood parties have thereby proven that it's possible to have an Islam(ist) aligned government without a hereditary dictatorship. Their pure existence de-legitimates the al-Saud clan and other dictatorial family enterprises in the wider Middle East.

There is little reason to waste tears on Qatar. It is a small country with only 200,000 original inhabitants but with 2,000,000 expatriates living there too. Thanks to its large natural gas reserves Qatar is ultra rich and has a very modern (but also vulnerable) infrastructure. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Its cities are somewhat cosmopolitan. Unlike in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive and other religions than Islam can build their places of worship. But the rulers of Qatar officially follow the same ultraconservative and proselytizing Wahhabi cult as the al-Sauds. They support terrorists of the worst kind in the war against the Syrian people and elsewhere (just as the al-Sauds do).

The Saudis currently lack money. Oil prices are too low to finance the needs of its 26 million people and the exorbitant expenditures of its ruling family. The Qatari gas fields would be a very profitable extension of their oil empire. The UAE would like to take over strategic Qatari islands in the Gulf (and the hydrocarbon fields around them). Taking over Qatar would bring both countries into a better position to fight their presumed enemy in Iran.

As we wrote:

The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.

I have since changed my opinion and said so in a few conversation on Twitter. Qatar will hold out way longer than anticipated. It may not fold at all:

Cont. reading: The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (104)

June 06, 2017

Do Not Trust The Intercept or How To Burn A Source

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.


Intercepted source - R.L. Winner

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The documents proved that the NSA is hacking and copying nearly all electronic communication on this planet, that it was breaking laws that prohibited spying on U.S. citizen and that it sabotages on a large scale various kinds of commercial electronic equipment. Snowden gave copies of the NSA documents to a small number of journalists. One of them was Glenn Greenwald who now works at The Intercept. Only some 5% of the pages Snowden allegedly acquired and gave to reporters have been published. We have no idea what the unpublished pages would provide.

The Intercept, a subdivision of First Look Media, was founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. Omidyar is a billionaire and "philanthropist" who's (tax avoiding) Omidyar Network foundation is "investing" for "returns". Its microcredit project for farmers in India, in cooperation with people from the fascists RSS party, ended in an epidemic of suicides when the farmers were unable to pay back. The Omidyar Network also funded (fascist) regime change groups in Ukraine in cooperation with USAID. Omidyar had cozy relations with the Obama White House. Some of the held back NSA documents likely implicate Omidyar's PayPal.

The Intercept was funded with some $50 million from Omidyar. Its first hires were Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras - all involved in publishing the Snowden papers and other leaks. Its first piece was based on documents from the leaked NSA stack. It has since published on this or that but not in a regular media way.  The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some were highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. The website seems to have no regular publishing schedule at all. Between one and five piece per day get pushed out, only a few of them make public waves. Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing. Despite its rich backing and allegedly high pay for its main journalists (Greenwald is said to receive between 250k and 1 million per year) the Intercept is begging for reader donations.

Yesterday's published story (with bylines of four(!) reporters) begins:

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The NSA "intelligence report" the Intercept publishes alongside the piece does NOT show that "Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack". The document speaks of "cyber espionage operations" - i.e someone looked and maybe copied data but did not manipulate anything. Espionage via computer networks is something every nation in this world (and various private entities) do all the time. It is simply the collection of information. It is different from a "cyberattack" like Stuxnet which are intended to create large damage,

Cont. reading: Do Not Trust The Intercept or How To Burn A Source

Posted by b at 06:09 AM | Comments (150)

June 05, 2017

"The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"

Emboldened by U.S. backing Saudi Arabia launched a campaign to finally subjugate Qatar into client state status. The plan has now reached a high point. A few hours ago Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia severed all ties with Qatar.

All sea- and airspace have been closed for Qatari traffic and the land-routes severed. All Qataris will have to leave those countries within 14 days. Qatari diplomats were given just 48 hours.

The immediate consequences are huge. Some 37 million passengers cross through Doha each year. But Qatar Airways now has to fly through Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish airspace to reach Europe. (If the situation persists the UAE owned Emirates Airways will likely order a huge bunch of new planes.) Half of the food in Qatar comes via Saudi Arabia through Qatar's only land border. 600-800 trucks per day can no longer pass. The 19 flights per day between Doha and Dubai are called off.  Oil prices rose some 1.6% and the Qatari stock exchange tanked.

The reasons for the immediate spat are manifold. It has only little to do with Iran.

The Saudis accuse Qatar of supporting terrorists. That is like Britain accusing the U.S. of imperialism, or the mafia cutting ties with the mob over gangsterism. As Joe Biden remarked (vid) when still Vice President, both Wahhabi countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been funding and fueling terrorism in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But the Saudi view is that the more "liberal" Qatar is simply supporting the "wrong" kind of terrorists.

Cont. reading: "The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"

Posted by b at 06:50 AM | Comments (199)

June 04, 2017

Theresa May Says "Enough Is Enough" - We Agree - Remove Her From Office

Some links on Britain - the terror attacks and the upcoming election:

BBC: British rebels attack Theresa May's strongholds in London

That is what the headline of BBC should have been yesterday and today. That is the way it reported when the "rebels" were "Syrians" and the attacks occurred in Damascus. Was that not objective? Why change it now?

Related to the Manchester attack John Pilger asks: What did the Prime Minister Know? (vid)

He points out, as we did, that Theresa May was Home Secretary when control orders were lifted to allow Libyan Takfiris move from Britain to Libya to destroy that country. Half of those came back, well trained, and one killed 22 people in Manchester. A blowback from May's personal decision to sent well known terrorists into British proxy wars. Now she says there is "too much tolerance of extremism"? Who tolerated these?

The current Home Secretary is no better: Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism

That is the typical response of authoritarian rulers when their shady deals are openly discussed and their competence is questioned: more censorship: Theresa May calls on internet companies to eradicate 'safe spaces' for extremism in wake of London Bridge terror attack

Is the London Bridge a web server? Were the "safe spaces" on the internet used to attacked it? Or are the "safe spaces" the ones used to question Britain's and May's lucrative love affair with terrorist financing Wahhabi nuts in Saudi Arabia and Qatar? For an even deeper dive read You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

May's collusion with the terror sponsors is not allowed to be officially known or discussed: Home Office may not publish terrorist funding report amid claims it focuses on Saudi Arabia - Inquiry is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which the UK recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to.

It would be bad for business to publicly acknowledge the real sources of Takfiri terrorism. A few dozens Brits here and there, in Manchester and London, will have to die every now and then to keep the shareholders of BAE Systems and other British arm producers happy. Jermey Corbyn would likely change that. He called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.

London attack: Theresa May says 'things need to change' Prime Minister Theresa May: 'enough is enough' (vid)

We hope that the British voters will agree with her. Thinks need to change. Enough is enough. Vote May out of office. End the cushy relations with the medieval dictatorships of the Arab peninsula.

A change of leadership in Britain is well possible if the young Labour voters turn out in large numbers. Those British who want to end the terror against others and against themselves must now help to achieve that.

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (109)

June 03, 2017

Open Thread 2017-21

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (149)

June 02, 2017

France Debunks "Russian Hacking" Claims - Clinton Again Loses It

In April the New York Times, published this bullshit: Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report.
...
Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.

The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one onedrive-en-marche.fr and another mail-en-marche.fr to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche.

Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group. American and European intelligence agencies and American private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year.

The "Macron attack" was very curious. Gigabytes of campaign emails were released by "the hackers" just hours before a media silence period before the election. The campaign immediately found fakes with Cyrillic markings and blamed "Russia". None of the released emails contained anything that was even remotely scandalous. It was likely a planned Public Relations stunt, not a cyber attack.

That NYT report was complete nonsense. The "cybersecurity firm" it quoted was peddling snake oil. Phishing attacks are daily occurrences, mostly by amateurs. Phishing emails are not cyber attacks. They are simply letters which attempt to get people to reveal their passwords or other secrets. They are generally not attributable at all. Likewise APT's, "Advanced Persistent Threats", are not "groups" but collections of methods that can be copied and re-used by anyone. After their first occurrence "in the wild" they are no longer attributable.

That isn't just me saying so. It is the head of France's cyber security agency:

Cont. reading: France Debunks "Russian Hacking" Claims - Clinton Again Loses It

Posted by b at 02:21 AM | Comments (55)

May 31, 2017

Trump Dumps Pretense Of Altruism From U.S. Foreign Policy

For decades the U.S. foreign policy elite and its presidents played the farce of an altruistic United States that acts for the global good and in the interest of humanity.

That was always a lie. Wherever one took a deeper look the U.S. acted solely in its (perceived) self interests. But the rhetoric helped to drag others along. Tributary governments could pretend they worked for the "universal good" when they in fact just followed orders from Washington DC. U.S. pressure was applied behind the curtain - through bribes, threats of revealing private secrets or -if necessary- via well managed "democratic" coups.

Those times are over. Thanks to the honesty of the Trump administration the foremost positions of hard U.S interests and deadly threats are now openly declared fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy.

The neo-conservative chaperone in the White House, National Security Advisor General McMaster, and the Goldman Sachs veto holder in the White House, economic advisor Gary Cohn, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that reveals the new true face of the U.S. empire:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

Translation: "Power is with the strong. We feel strong. Screw you!"

At every stop in our journey, we delivered a clear message to our friends and partners: Where our interests align, we are open to working together to solve problems and explore opportunities. We let adversaries know that we will not only take their measure, deter conflict through strength, and defend our interests and values, but also look for areas of common interest that allow us to work together. In short, those societies that share our interests will find no friend more steadfast than the United States. Those that choose to challenge our interests will encounter the firmest resolve.

From now on the U.S. will only engage in selective, temporary friendships: "Where our interests align", and only there, will the U.S. be friendly because it obviously serves U.S. interests. Wherever a country deviates from that, even partially, it will "encounter the firmest resolve." That is as clear a threat as it can be.

Cont. reading: Trump Dumps Pretense Of Altruism From U.S. Foreign Policy

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (134)

May 30, 2017

France Prepares Pro-AlQaeda Intervention In Syria

It seems like France is looking for excuses to extend the war on Syria.

On May 25 the French news agency AFP published a propaganda piece about Arab horse racing in Idleb:

The spectators broke out into a lively line-dance and shot celebratory gunfire into the air as each muscled creature blasted past the finish line, kicking up clouds of golden sand.

"Muscled creatures", "clouds of golden sands" - is that modern French poetry?

bigger

The AFP pictures only show two horses - not much of a race. Adding to that fail they also show an al-Qaeda child soldier (on the right) with a gun way too big for him:

Cont. reading: France Prepares Pro-AlQaeda Intervention In Syria

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (108)

 
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