Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
September 13, 2015

After Creating Migration Flood Merkel Throws Up Emergency Dikes

The German chancellor Merkel tried to gain some points with her neoliberal friends and with big companies and donors by suddenly opening the border for "refugees" of all kinds, even for those who come from safe countries. These migrants would help to further depress German wages which, after years of zero growth, slowly started to increase again.

But neither she nor her allies ever prepared the German public for a sudden influx of several hundred thousand foreigners. Changes in immigration policy were sneaked in without any public discussion. Suddenly 800,000 foreign people are expected to arrive this years and many more over the next years. People who neither speak German nor readily fit into the national cultural and social-economic environment. Most of these do not come out of immediate dangers but from safe countries.

While Merkel was lauded by all kinds of Anglo-american neoliberal outlets, from the Economist over FT and Newsweek to the Washington Post the backlash in Germany was brewing. In Who Runs The Migrant Media Campaign And What Is Its Purpose? I predicted:

There will be over time a huge backlash against European politicians who, like Merkel, practically invite more migrants. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still much too high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support.

Despite a major campaign of pro-migrant propaganda in Merkel friendly media the German population in general is furious with her stunt. The backlash comes from all sides but especially from her own conservative party. Additionally many European leaders point out that Merkel, who insistent on sticking to the letter of law in the case of Greece, is now openly breaking European laws and agreements.

The flood of migrants Merkel, and the publicity over her open border policies, released seriously endangers her position in the next elections. The flood now needs to be stopped. Urgently. Merkel is pulling the emergency break:

Germany is preparing to reintroduce some form of controls along its border with Austria, according to local media reports.

The German newspaper Bild said Bavarian officials were set to "close" the border with Austria, in what it described as a "dramatic shift in refugee policy".
Germany's interior minister, Thomas de Maizière, has scheduled a press conference for 6pm local time (5pm BST), when he is expected to announce further details of the planned move.

I predict that in a week or two German borders will be tightly controlled and new migrants will have difficulties to be accepted. Many, if not most of them, will be send back to either their home country or the country they came from.

On this issue Merkel had lost her feeling for German political realities. This might well cost her a reelection. That would then be the only positive effect of this affair.

Posted by b at 12:08 PM | Comments (89)

September 12, 2015

British Labour Elects Corbyn

The British Labour party just found back to light. Against resistance and condemnation from the Blairite Labour establishment, as well as the Grauniard and other pseudo-left media, the party members elected Jeremy Corbyn as their new leader. Corbyn received more votes than any Labour leader, including Blair, before him.

The veteran left winger got almost 60% of more than 400,000 votes cast, trouncing his rivals Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall.
Mr Corbyn was a 200-1 outsider when the three month contest began.

This victory is biggest party mandate for any political leader in Britain's political history.

In social economic policies Corbyn is a moderate left, neither a socialist nor a communist. In foreign policies he prefers (unlike Bernie Sanders) non-intervention instead of imperialistic and militant behavior. A genuine old flavor European social-democrat. We could certainly need more of those to kick out the neoliberal centrists that captured and domesticated the original social-democratic parties over the last decades.

It is amusing to observe the genuine horror Corbyn's election creates within the doom mongering Blairite establishment as well as with the Conservatives. We can also expect the U.S. establishment in both parties to follow this line:

Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, giving the Conservative Party's reaction, said: "Labour are now a serious risk to our nation's security, our economy's security and your family's security.

"The RED MENACE is coming!!!"

Congrats to Labour in Britain. May other European social-democratic parties follow your example.

Posted by b at 11:59 AM | Comments (102)

September 11, 2015

Syria: The (Russian Air) Cavalry Is Coming

In light of the catastrophic outcome of the "western" war on Libya the Russian government declared to oppose any further such "regime change" in the Middle East. But the U.S. continues to train, arm and finance insurgents against the Syrian Arab Republic and, under the disguise of fighting the Islamic State, prepares to take down the Syrian government. Eliminating the Syrian government would likely create a radical jihadist state in Damascus and lead to massacres and mass refugee movements.

But Russia means what it says and will now use its military capabilities to confront the U.S. plans:

Elijah J. Magnier
#Russia is providing #Syria with precision military and destructive equipment. #Russia will start soon operating n #Syria sky to hit rebels+

The participation of the #Russian Air Force in #Syria worries #Israel that won';t be able to have a free sky to hit Syrian troops.+

This is THE major change in #Russia approach and support to #Damascus regime, to prevent game change on the ground in #Syria +

The decision of #Russia comes mainly from regional support 2rebels, not satisfy w/ d north f #Syria (#Idlib) and aiming to #Hama & #Damascus

Russian air-support for Syria against the various forces attacking the state will allow for additional air attacks against those forces. The Syrian air force is today already flying more than 100 sorties per day against it enemies. The Russian forces will add to that but not necessarily in a decisive amount.

The main support for Syria by Russian air assets will come by keeping away those foreign air forces forces that threaten the Syrian government under disguise of "fighting terror". With Russian fighters in Syrian skies Israel will no longer be able to use its air force in support of Jabhat al-Nusra (and for its oil stealing endeavors in the Syrian Golan heights).

The U.S., Britain, France and others announced to enter Syrian skies to "fight the terror" of the Islamic State. Russia will use just the same claim to justify its presence and its air operations flying from Latakia. Simply by being there it will make sure that others will not be able to use their capabilities for more nefarious means. Additional intelligence from Russian air assets will also be helpful for Syrian ground operations.

The Russian air capabilities will be supplemented with air defense cover from Russian naval assets on the Syrian coast. Russia announced several air defense drills with live missile launches off the Syrian coast near Tartus. New land based air defense assets are said to be on their way. I would not be surprised to see, over time, some Chinese naval assets joining the Russian presence.

Secretary of State Kerry whined to Russia that its intervention in Syria might intervene with the U.S. intervention in Syria. Well, yes sir, that is the sole purpose:

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday coordination was needed between Russia's military and the Pentagon to avoid "unintended incidents" around Syria, where both countries have a military presence.

Lavrov said Russia would continue to supply weapons to Syrian President Bashar Assad to help the Syrian armed forces fight against ISIS militants.

He told a news conference Russia was conducting military exercises in the Mediterranean Sea, that it had been for some time, and that they were in line with international law.

The neoconned State Department childishly pressured Greece and Bulgaria to disallow Russian military air transport over their countries. But Russian planes can just as well fly via Iran and Iraq and both countries are very unlikely to ever block such flights. As Russian ground forces will not be involved in any fighting the supply needs can be kept limited.

Any attempt by Turkey, pressured by State Department lunatics, to block the Bosporus sea route between Russia and Syria would be in breach of the Montreux Convention and could be interpreted as hostile act against Russia on which Turkey depends for a large amount of its energy supplies. After losing control over the predominantly Kurdish south-eastern city Cizre Turkey also has to take care of its own civil war which Erdogan foolishly ignited to regain a parliamentarian majority. That internal war will hinder resupplies for the Islamic State through Turkey.

The U.S. plan to use the fight against the Islamic State as cover to remove the Syrian government is now in tatters. The months long U.S. supported "Southern Front" attack in south Syria failed to make any gains against the government. The Islamic State attack against Syrian government forces in Deir ez-Zor was repelled and further moves against Syria in the north will have to defy Russian air power.

Washington will now have to decide to risk war against Russia or to shelf the Syria regime change project.

Posted by b at 09:32 AM | Comments (109)

September 09, 2015

Foreign Invasion Force In Yemen Grows

The invasion force in Yemen is growing. The invasion troops now include:

  • 3,000 United Arab Emirates
  • 1,000 Qatar
  • 1,000 Saudi Arabia
  • 6,000 (somewhat unreliable) Yemeni expats hired and trained by Saudi Arabia
  • 600-800 Egypt
  • small contingents from Bahrain, Kuwait and Jordan

All together the force ha now nearly the size of an infantry division in a "western" army. That is not really much should these want to advance from Marib towards the capital Sanaa through the mountainous terrain inhabited by an unfriendly and well armed population. I would recommend at least three division or some 40-50,000 men for that partial task. (For comparison: In the 1960s Egypt sent some 70,000 troops to a proxy civil war in Yemen of which some 12,000 got killed and many more wounded.)

Coordinating such an array of forces with different military cultures will be extremely difficult. There have already been several cases in which the Saudi air force "successfully" bombed ground elements of its Yemeni allies.

Announced are also some 6,000 troops from Sudan though I doubt that so many will ever arrive. Smaller contingents are also to come from Senegal and Morocco.

The U.S. is not only supporting the Saudis with targeting advice, intelligence and logistics. It has now silently joined the fighting:

Haykal Bafana
#Yemen : US drones in Sirwah area of Marib tonight where Saudi allies trying for weeks to dislodge Houthi/Saleh forces. 2 missiles missed

There are no al-Qaeda forces around Marib so this was not a U.S. "anti-terror" strike.

The devastating blockade of Yemen continues. Yesterday an Indian fisherboat smuggling some small load of fuel near Hudaydah harbor was bombed by Saudi aligned forces. Twenty Indian fisherman died. Eleven food trucks with inspected load on their way from "liberated" Aden toward Mocha were bombed and destroyed. Over the last months Yemen received only 10% of the fuel it needs to keep emergency generators, ambulances and water pumps going. Child male nutrition in several areas is now above 30%. Half of the Yemeni population of 26 million are in danger of famine. Yemen's religious and cultural heritage gets literately ruined.

The capital Sanaa is under constant bombing even though there are hardly any Houthi forces or valuable targets left but a Saudi general now announced that it is time to completely "cleanse" it.

All peace talks have broken down and the UN envoy, selected by the Saudis, is hapless and gets ignored.

"Western" media mostly ignore the war on Yemen and "western" governments excuse their very best customers, the Saudis, by repeating that the Houthis are aligned with Iran which is just one of the false myths around this war.

Posted by b at 02:05 PM | Comments (41)

September 07, 2015

Are Manned U.S. Helicopters Flying In Syria?

A NYT piece on the failure if the  "Division 30" Pentagon mercenaries in Syria and their coming Version 2 includes some interesting bits (in bold). The general line of the piece is that the failure of the first group sent in does not lead to significant changes but to attempts to create more of the same. That is not really new but the usual Pentagon mindset. Interesting though are some details:

The proposed changes come after a Syrian affiliate of Al Qaeda attacked, in late July, many of the first 54 Syrian graduates of the military’s training program and the rebel unit they came from.
The rebels were ill-prepared for an enemy attack and were sent back into Syria in too small numbers. They had no local support from the population and had poor intelligence about their foes.
Predator drones quickly rushed to help the Division 30 fighters once they came under attack from the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria, killing dozens of the attackers, American officials said.
While most of the fighters were Sunni Arabs, Nadim Hassan, an ethnic Turkmen whom few people had heard of before, was named as its leader, a decision many rebels felt had been imposed by the Turkish government.
The trainees were to get good weapons and monthly salaries ranging from $225 for soldiers to $350 for officers, Mr. Freiji said.
on July 30, Mr. Hassan, the group’s leader, and another commander, Farhan Jassem, entered Syria to meet with Nusra Front leaders and assure them that the American-trained force intended to fight only the Islamic State,
Soon after entering Syria, the two men and six others were promptly captured by the Nusra Front. They are still being held.

The next day, the Nusra Front attacked Division 30’s base in the village of Mariameen in northwestern Syria
A black-and-white video on his phone, apparently shot by an American drone, showed dozens of fighters he said were from the Nusra Front approaching the base before a large blast hit them, followed by automatic fire from the sky.

The U.S. paid mercenaries have no local backing. Their commander is under Turkish control and was friendly with al-Qaeda leaders but is now their hostage. Still later the Division 30 people called al-Qaeda their "brothers". Somehow all of that does not fit to the "idealistic moderate Syrian rebels" propaganda language U.S. officials use to describe them.

But the most curious issue in the piece is the description of the "drone" attack that helped to fend off attacking Nusra fighters. No drone I am aware of and certainly not the "Predator" are equipped with automatic weapons like machine guns. The Drones carry fire-and-forget missiles or bombs but no drone has the necessarily heavy rotating tower and swiveling weapon holder that would allow the use of automatic weapons. "Automatic fire from the sky" as the reporter describes from the video he has seen can only have come from manned helicopters. Or is there some other explanation that I miss?

If there were helicopters who's birds were these? U.S. or Turkish? Are there more of these flying over Syria and to what purpose? And what would be the Search & Rescue assets that could be used should such a bird come down involuntarily?

Something we are not told about is happening at the Turkish-Syrian border. Is that the reason why the Russians, despite U.S. efforts to hinder them, prepare air fields for the delivery of new air assets to the Syrian army?

Posted by b at 08:05 AM | Comments (99)

September 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-33

News & views ...

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (122)

September 05, 2015

Under Fight-Against-ISIS Disguise "West" Prepares To Openly Attack Syria

Updated below

The German chancellor Merkel called for a migrant avalanche when she declared Germany an open house and disbanded the Dublin agreement on asylum seeker in Europe. A media campaign followed and thousands of migrants from Syria are now shepherded through Europe by dozens of journalists who record every move for tonight's news - fake photos (in German) included. No one is asking the migrants why they are now leaving Turkey, where most have been the last months or years, or who now provided them with money.

I asked what purpose this media campaign may have. It now seems clear that it is part of preparing the European public for all-out war on Syria, its government and its people.

The Guardian editors use the created migrant crisis to demand that "something" be done. They ridiculously first remind us that the false "no-fly-zone" campaign against Libya ended in a country ripped apart and more refugees only to then demand a similar campaign in Syria. Saner British voices remind us that "western" meddling in the Middle East is the source, not the solution for the current catastrophes.

But the BBC lets us know that the UK government is preparing for war on Syria despite an earlier parliament vote against such a move:

Ministers will start to make a case for British military action in Syria next week - with Downing Street keen to take the "next step" against so-called Islamic State - the BBC understands.

France is, of course, on board:

Europe’s refugee crisis, largely caused by vast numbers of people fleeing the civil war in Syria, the failure to push back Islamic State and a rising presence of Russia in the region may prompt a change in policy, Le Monde reported, saying Hollande discussed the issue with his defence team at a meeting on Friday.

The campaign will be "led" by the U.S. and it will not be against the Islamic State. The U.S. let the Islamic State rise in a willful decision and its current bombing campaign against IS is less than halfhearted at best. It is also holding back the Shia militia in Iraq from attacking the Islamic State in Ramadi and Fallujah. The coming attack will be against the Syrian government and its people with the Islamic State and the "refugee crisis" only being the convenient pretext.

To add to the artificial urgency to bomb now, now, now a rumor campaign was started to claim that Russia is sending lots of fighter planes and troops to Syria. There were "reports" of new Russian fighter jets arriving in Syria even though none were ever seen. A normal move of material transport for the Syrian army by Russian ships which have happened regularly over the last years is now suddenly hyped. Old social media pictures of a few Russian soldiers in Syria ore even fake ones are suddenly "found" and presented as "evidence" of somehow nefarious Russian intent. The Russians denied any move of fighter jets or troop contingents to Syria.

The Russians also held talks with various Syrian opposition figures and with several of Syria's neighbor countries. Putin has voiced a new plan that would include Syria and Russia into an anti-Islamic State campaign and thereby sabotage the U.S. regime change plans:

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has agreed to early parliamentary elections and to share some power with his opponents, a concession that may facilitate a broader international coalition against Islamic State, Russian President Vladimir Putin said.

Russia would consider participating in the coalition and the Russian president has already discussed the issue with U.S. President Barack Obama, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi, Putin told reporters in Vladivostok on Friday. Russia has been pushing for a wider campaign against Islamic State that would include Assad, something the U.S. and Europe have opposed.

The U.S. has not issued any official response to the plan. It would of course make a lot of sense to have the Syrian government and Russia included in any real steps against the Islamic State. By publicly announcing the plan Russia shows that the U.S. is indeed not interested in really fighting the Islamic State but follows its long term plans to destroy Syria.

Putin also denied the rumored troop movements:

“It’s too early” to talk about Russian military action in Syria, though “we are considering various options,” Putin said. Russia is actively helping the Assad government with weapons and military training, he said.

I regard Putin's "considering various options" as a warning clause. But I do not expect that Russia would fully engage in Syria. Russia correctly fears another "Afghanistan trap" laid by the U.S. But there might be other options available for Russia to beef up Syria's air defense or to otherwise sabotage U.S. attack plans. For now sowing fears and doubt into U.S. planning is the best way to proceed.


The State Department just released this Readout of Secretary Kerry's Call With Foreign Minister Lavrov:

The Secretary called Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov this morning to discuss Syria, including U.S. concerns about reports suggesting an imminent enhanced Russian military build-up there. The Secretary made clear that if such reports were accurate, these actions could further escalate the conflict, lead to greater loss of innocent life, increase refugee flows and risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria.

The two agreed that discussions on the Syrian conflict would continue in New York later this month.

Would "risk confrontation with the anti-ISIL Coalition operating in Syria". Exactly. And that makes some folks in the White House and Pentagon really nervous.

So nervous that Kerry offers more "discussions".

"Hey Sergey, you can't be serious. Oh, you are? Please let's talk."

Posted by b at 11:40 AM | Comments (117)

September 04, 2015

More Saudi Losses In Yemen, Washington Warns Riyadh To Toe Its Line

The U.S.-Saudi-UAE campaign against Yemen has failed to achieve its aims. While the bombing of Yemen continues and the nation is blockaded an all sides the losses on the Saudi side are also increasing.

The UAE attack from the south is now stuck in Taiz and skirmishes there continue. Strong UAE lobbying power in Washington does not make up for a lack of military capacity. The attack from the north-east towards Sanaa is stuck in Marib. Over the last weeks the Saudis, UAE troops and hired Yemeni tribal forces build up a huge force east of Marib. It includes Apache helicopter and now nearly two brigades of motorized troops. During the last few days these troops, while preparing to attack Sanaa, were themselves under attack from Houthi and Yemeni army forces.


Today a SS-21 Tochka tactical ballistic missile was launched by the Yemeni army and hit the invaders camp. According to a report and tweets from Yemen two Saudi Apache helicopter, armored vehicles and an ammunition dump were blown up. The United Arab Emirates announced that at least 22 of its troops were killed. The Saudis have not yet announced their casualties.

Mortar attacks by Houthi forces also hit (vid) more Saudi border station and military outposts within Saudi Arabia.

The Saudi king just arrived for a visit in Washington. The U.S. takes part in the Saudi campaign against Yemen by providing ammunition, air refueling, intelligence and targeting capabilities. With criticism of the campaign and warning of imminent mass starvation in Yemen coming from various international organizations the U.S. would probably like to wrap up the Yemeni issue and to stop the war. But the Saudis seem so far unwilling to concede that they will not achieve their aims.

This is the context in which was has to read Wednesday's NYT column by Tom Friedman:

[I]f you think Iran is the only source of trouble in the Middle East, you must have slept through 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers came from Saudi Arabia. Nothing has been more corrosive to the stability and modernization of the Arab world, and the Muslim world at large, than the billions and billions of dollars the Saudis have invested since the 1970s into wiping out the pluralism of Islam — the Sufi, moderate Sunni and Shiite versions — and imposing in its place the puritanical, anti-modern, anti-women, anti-Western, anti-pluralistic Wahhabi Salafist brand of Islam promoted by the Saudi religious establishment.

It is not an accident that several thousand Saudis have joined the Islamic State or that Arab Gulf charities have sent ISIS donations. It is because all these Sunni jihadist groups — ISIS, Al Qaeda, the Nusra Front — are the ideological offspring of the Wahhabism injected by Saudi Arabia into mosques and madrasas from Morocco to Pakistan to Indonesia.

And we, America, have never called them on that — because we’re addicted to their oil and addicts never tell the truth to their pushers.

Strong stuff coming from a columnist with good direct contacts in the White House. The oil argument though fails to hit the mark. There is enough oil available on the markets and even more capacity coming online from Iran and Iraq so that the Saudi oil role is now diminished.

It is unlikely that Friedman would have written that column on the eve of the Saudi king's arrival and in such strong words without some White House nudging. This is a message to Saudi Arabia to cut back on its unilateral activities. Its unconditioned support for al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria is out of line of U.S. plans and the bombing of Yemen has gone out of hand.

The message Washington is sending via Friedman is: "Stick to our line or we will move on to Iran."

Together with the losses in Yemen the warning may indeed lead to changes in the Saudi stand. A likely casualty would be the Saudi deputy crown prince, the "young general" Mohammad Bin Salman.

Posted by b at 07:50 AM | Comments (66)

September 03, 2015

Who Runs The Migrant Media Campaign And What Is Its Purpose?

The current moral hand-wringing media campaign around migrants from Syria has some similarities with the propaganda campaign that accompanied the putsch in Ukraine and the attack on Libya. It includes false information, photos of unknown provenance, lame "heartbreaking" personal stories and no mentioning or questioning at all of the real reasons why people are moving.

That the U.S., Turkey and the GCC countries are actively waging war against Syria and causing the plight is not discussed at all. That these "refugees" are now mostly migrants coming from rather safe places in Turkey is left out. Instead we get, at least in Europe, a sudden barrage of the-sky-is-falling coverage in all media all the time.

There will be over time a huge backlash against European politicians who, like Merkel, practically invite more migrants. Wages are stagnant or falling in Europe and unemployment is still much too high. The last thing people in Europe want right now is more competition in the labor market. Parties on the extreme right will profit from this while the center right will lose support. Why is Merkel willing to pay this price?

Though I can not pinpoint it, the feeling I and others get is that this campaign is directed and has some certain aims.

Help me here. What is behind this campaign?

Is Erdogan pushing refugees out of Turkey towards Europe because of criticism against his policies?

Is the campaign intended to gain public support in Europe for a big intensification of the war on Syria?

The war in #Syria is due to escalate as never seen before with #Turkish & #Arab forces are drawing plans to enter the country "2fight #ISIS"

The migrants media campaign does not feel like a normal headline rush but like a planned information operation. Who is behind this campaign and what is the intent?

Posted by b at 10:15 AM | Comments (133)

September 01, 2015

Petraeus' Trial Ballon - "Let's Work With Al-Qaeda"

An ex-CIA boss, fired for divulging secrets to his lover, wants the U.S. to ally with al-Qaeda to defeat the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

The former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan has been quietly urging U.S. officials to consider using so-called moderate members of al Qaeda’s Nusra Front to fight ISIS in Syria, four sources familiar with the conversations, including one person who spoke to Petraeus directly, told The Daily Beast.

Petraeus is thus providing material support for a terrorist organization. Some judge should put him finally where he belongs.

The heart of the idea stems from Petraeus’s experience in Iraq in 2007, when as part of a broader strategy to defeat an Islamist insurgency the U.S. persuaded Sunni militias to stop fighting with al Qaeda and to work with the American military.

Yeah, because that worked so well. Many of those Sunni militias Petraeus temporarily bribed to not attack U.S. occupation forces in Iraq are now part of the Islamic State. So look up "What could possible go wrong" Volume 7 page 133 and you will find that any such alliance always ends in a worse situation. But that may the intent of Petraeus paymasters':

The concept of arming one purported enemy of the United States, which itself emerged out of a prior enemy (al-Qaeda in Iraq), in order to destroy the latest enemy ensures an environment of constant enemies, and thus warfare.

You may ask who gave Petraeus this lunatic idea? Well:

Neri Zilber @NeriZilber
Fwiw many in Israeli army-intel-media circles argue same thing as Petraeus re. Nusra.…

Indeed the Israeli military has been working with al Qaeda for quite some time. It enabled al-Qaeda in Syria to take over large parts of the Golan heights by providing it with healthcare as well as artillery support against the Syrian Arab Army.

Petraeus and Hillary Clinton early on argued for arming and supporting Syrian "rebels". Much of such arming and supporting has been going on clandestinely through the CIA which Petraeus then led. Since at least 2012 the CIA  trained and payed some 10,000 anti-Syrian fighters many of whom, with their CIA provided weapons, moved on to join Jabhat al-Nusra or the Islamic State.

The U.S. has also somewhat openly worked with al-Qaeda though so far mostly unofficially and through the Free Syrian Army proxies it provides with weapons:

Whereas these multinational operations rooms have previously demanded that recipients of military assistance cease direct coordination with groups like Jabhat al-Nusra, recent dynamics in Idlib appear to have demonstrated something different. Not only were weapons shipments increased to the so-called “vetted groups,” but the operations room specifically encouraged a closer cooperation with Islamists commanding frontline operations.

But it is one thing to work clandestinely with nefarious forces and a completely different issue to do so publicly. Just think of the legal implication. The Obama administration claims to have legal backing for fighting the Islamic State on the basis of the 2003 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists which holds:

Joint Resolution [...] [t]hat the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.

The Department of Defense usually uses the phrases "Al-Qaeda and associated forces" or "affiliated forces" when it describes those defined in the AUMF. How then can one legally claim to fight the Islamic State under the AUMF when an ally in that fight is the major enemy cited under said AUMF?

And what would be planned for the case that al-Qaeda would actually win?

There is no way that Obama would officially declare to work with al-Qaeda or "former" al-Qaeda forces to fight against the Islamic State. "You are either with us or against al-Qaeda" won't work. The public and Congress would rip him apart.

Petraeus and his handlers know this. But why then are they launching this trial balloon?

Posted by b at 10:52 AM | Comments (75)

August 31, 2015

Netanyahoo Gives Up On Iran Deal Opposition

Netanyahoo concedes that he lost the fight against Obama:

Israel is not opposed to an Iranian nuclear program that is civilian in nature, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his Italian counterpart, Matteo Renzi, during a visit to Florence on Saturday.

The Iranian nuclear program is of course exclusively civilian in nature:

United States intelligence community and its allies, including Israel, have long assessed that Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and, even in the abstract, that its leadership has not made any decision to build nuclear weapons, despite the technical capacity to do so inherent in having a functional nuclear energy program.

Netanyahoo and anyone else of relevance knows this. When he no longer opposes a civilian nuclear program in Iran he has nothing left to complain about the agreement which six world powers negotiated with Iran.

The Israel lobby attack against the Iran agreement did not have the results Natanyahoo had hoped for. It was a major bust. Some of his followers in the Democratic Party, like Senator Schumer and Democratic National Committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, will probably loose their leadership positions for their open stand against the Democratic president on this issue. Good.

For a while the lobby's loss may dampen the influence Israel has over U.S. foreign policy. But in a year or two the Iran deal will be out of the news headlines and the lobby will have spent enough money to recuperate its influence.


Posted by b at 08:49 AM | Comments (89)

August 30, 2015

Pentagon Needs More Money To Counter Chinese Submarine Threat



That the Chinese military comes up with this devious idea demonstrates that we urgently need to marshal new resources to counter this imminent threat.

No longer are the Chinese hiding their submarines in the mountains, woods or bathtubs. No. They found a new hideout for this menace:

“The South China Sea would be a good place to hide Chinese submarines,” said Carl Thayer, a U.S.-born security specialist who has taught at the University of New South Wales and other Australian institutions. The sea floor is thousands of meters deep in places, with underwater canyons where a submarine could easily avoid detection.

Putting submarines below the sea surface to avoid detection is indeed a brilliant idea. How come we did not think of this?

But don't fear. A few hundred billion dollars more for the Navy will be a great first step to counter this Chinese threat.

One or the other presidential candidate will soon make such bolstering of the Navy a core tenet of his or her program.

Posted by b at 04:29 AM | Comments (45)

August 27, 2015

The Wars In Syria And Iraq Are Also Water Wars - More Will Come

Foreign Affairs has a recommendable piece on the water wars between Turkey, Syria and Iraq: Rivers of Babylon.

Turkey has build many, many dams throughout the country to provide electricity but also for farming. When I traveled in the Turkish east in the 1990s many new projects, parts of the Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) were visible and newly dammed water was provided to the dry regions in the south-east through open channels. A lot of this water was wasted due to vaporization but also due to the choice of water intensive news crops in a hot and often desert like region.

The water newly provided to farmers in Turkey used to flow down the Euphrates and Tigris to Syria and Iraq. Three drought years in Syria, 2006-2009, induced many farmers to leave their dry field and to move to cities where they found little work:

By 2011, drought-related crop failure had pushed up to 1.5 million displaced farmers to abandon their land; the displaced became a wellspring of recruits for the Free Syrian Army and for such groups as the Islamic State (also called ISIS) and al Qaeda. Testimonies gathered by reporters and activists in conflict zones suggest that the lack of government help during the drought was a central motivating factor in the antigovernment rebellion. Moreover, a 2011 study shows that today’s rebel strongholds of Aleppo, Deir al-Zour, and Raqqa were among the areas hardest hit by crop failure.

The situation is Iraq is similar if not worse. Major regions have lost the basis for their agriculture and the farmers ask for solutions and more support.

In Karbala, Iraq, farmers are in despair and are reportedly considering abandoning their land. In Baghdad, the poorest neighborhoods rely on the Red Cross for drinking water. At times, the Red Cross has had to supply over 150,000 liters a day. Further south, Iraq’s central marshes, the Middle East’s largest wetlands, are disappearing again after being re-flooded after Saddam Hussein was ousted. In Chibayish, a town in the wetlands that one of the authors of this piece recently visited, buffalo and fish are dying. Currently, agriculture there supports at least 60,000 people. Those and hundreds of thousands more will face great hardship as water resources continue to decline.

The lack of water is not the only reason for the wars in Syria and Iraq. But it made these countries prone to inner conflicts and vulnerable to outside meddling.

But the governments of Syria and Iraq can do little to help their farmers. While there are agreements about a minimum waterflow between Turkey, Syria and Iraq there is no ways Syria and Iraq could actually press Turkey to deliver the agreed upon waterflow.

Although current agreements between Syria and Turkey provide for 500 cubic meters per second, 46 percent of which goes to Iraq, summer flows can be far less. According to Jasim al Asadi, a hydrologist with Nature Iraq, by the time the Euphrates reaches Nasiriyah in Southern Iraq, a minimum of 90 cubic meters per second is required for municipal, industrial, and agricultural use. Sometimes, the flow can be as low as 18 cubic meters per second, so unsurprisingly the marshes are receding rapidly. Before major dam construction in the 1970s, the average flow in the Euphrates was about 720 cubic meters per second. Now it is about 260 as it enters Iraq.

Nearly two-third of the waterflow Iraq used to get is gone. There is no way to replace it. Moreover what little water is currently still flowing may soon be gone too:

Turkish dams, of which there are over 140, have far more storage capacity than those downstream. And when the new Turkish dam projects are completed in the next few years, as much as 1.2 million additional hectares inside Turkey will be irrigated—an eightfold increase from today.
Given Turkey’s relatively better water health, it might be reasonable to think that it would stop building dams at the expense of its downstream neighbors. Instead, it has done the opposite, planning to complete 1,700 new dams and weirs within its borders.

Missing in the Foreign Affairs piece is another Turkish project which diverts even more water away from its southern neighbors. In 1974 Turkey invaded and since occupied the north of Cyprus. The occupied parts  of the island were ethnically cleansed of Greek people and as many as 150,000 Turks were transferred from Turkey and settled on their land.

Turkey has now built a pipeline to provide water from onshore Turkey to the Turkish occupied part of the island:

A recently completed pipeline crossing beneath the Mediterranean will carry 75 million cubic meters of fresh water annually from Turkey to the northern i.e. Turkish part of the divided island of Cyprus.
The water coming through the pipelines will make the Turkish Cypriots, who already count on subsidies from Ankara for their economic survival, even more dependent on Turkey. One scenario is, therefore, that being more closely bound to the mainland, Turkish Cypriots will have less freedom when negotiating reunification with their Greek Cypriot compatriots, which will make it difficult to reach a solution.

Another Turkish project, on, off and on again over the years, are plans to lay water and gas pipelines to Israel. Israel hopes to deliver gas to Turkey and Turkey would provide water to Israel. Water that would additionally be missed in Syria and Iraq.

We need a global solution process, with enforcement instruments, to regulate natural waterflows that cross borders. The alternative is a serious of widening wars between those countries who extensively use water in their own land while downstream countries dry up.

The Turkey, Syria, Iraq situation is not the only active water war. Pakistan and India are fighting over India occupied Kashmir which holds the headwaters of the Indus river system. The Indus is Pakistan's sole water lifeline and India has used its control over Kashmir to pressure Pakistan. The next war between India and Pakistan might be just a drought away and such a war could go nuclear.

Another water war is looming between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Ethiopia is building a mega-dam on the Nile which threatens Egypt's main water supply. It is doubtful that Egypt will allow the dam to be finished. All these cases have already or will lead to wars between countries and/or civil wars over (the lack of) water.

The flow of water between countries is one of the few issue that need global governance. A rule book and a global judicial body which provides that all people along a water stream shall benefit from it. Mega-projects like the GAP in Turkey should be tested in front of such a court and its binding rulings should be backed by significant coercive powers.

The alternative not only may but will be intense wars over access to water.

Posted by b at 12:58 PM | Comments (67)

August 26, 2015

Open Thread 2015-32

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:43 PM | Comments (97)

August 24, 2015

The Trump Dystopia



Credit: Mark Wallheiser/Getty (via Gregory Djerejian)

So THAT is the real America?

The above impressive but somewhat disturbing picture inspired some creative variations of the scene.

Cont. reading: The Trump Dystopia

Posted by b at 10:46 AM | Comments (198)

August 23, 2015

How The Saudi/UAE Invasion Of Yemen Fails

The predicted cauldron of a ground attack in Yemen is taking its toll of the invaders of the United Arab Emirates and the Saudi army. Their invasion is stuck. News and videos from the last few days show that the fighting is quite kinetic and not to the invaders advantage.


In Aden, through which the UAE troops invaded, al-Qaeda blew up a security headquarter (video 1 min) and took over several parts of the city. AQAP militants allegedly also blew up three Yemeni coast guard vessels in Aden. There are rumors of some cooperation between UAE troops and al-Qaeda. UAE special forces freed one Robert Stuart Douglas in Aden. Douglas is a British hostage held by al-Qaeda since 2014. Was this "hostage rescue" part of a deal?

In southern Yemen a convoy of UAE mine resistant armor protected (MRAP) vehicles was ambushed on a long and windy road up into the mountains. At least three MRAPs were destroyed (video 7 min).

In another incident at least three UAE MRAPs were captured intact by Houthi forces and are now used by them (video, 2 min). Four more destroyed UAE MRAPs are visible in the clip.

Near Lawdar in Abyan, Central Yemen, another UAE patrol with at least three armored vehicles was destroyed by Houthi aligned forces using Russian made Kornet anti-armor missiles (video 3 min). This was again in mountainous terrain where road bound armored vehicles are sitting ducks for small groups armed with anti-armor missiles.

Around Jizan in Saudi Arabia, former Yemeni territory, a Saudi engineering platoon was ambushed in leafy terrain (video 3 min, photos). One M88A1 armored recovery vehicle, 1 M2A2 infantry fighting vehicle, 1 Al Shibl armored fighting vehicles, 3 armored bulldozers and 1 smaller tactical vehicle were destroyed.

A Saudi soldier was killed at the border after shelling from the Yemeni side.

Some 50 armored vehicles of Saudi backed and trained forces arrived in Marib under air cover from Saudi Apache helicopters. photo. In total some 150 such vehicles are said to have arrived in Marib. This is the brigade that days ago crossed from Saudi Arabia. The way from the Saudi desert to Marib is mostly through flat desert. From thereon to the Yemeni capital Sanaa is an uphill fight through the mountains. Few, if any, of the armored vehicles now arriving in Marib will ever reach Sanaa.

The Houthi claim that they shot down four Saudi Apache helicopters so far. At least one loss has been confirmed by the Saudi side. There is video of one Apache falling down but the moment it was hit and any the traces of the weapons used seems to have been edited out from the video video 2 min). Someone does not want the Saudis to know what anti-air toys are used against them.

When the UAE troops landed in Aden video showed a convoy of main battle tanks in battalion size. There have been no new pictures of these MBTs since then. As the above reports demonstrate taking those tanks into the mountains towards Sanaa would be a bloody mess. What then are the plans for these units?

The U.S. is supporting the Saudis and the UAE. U.S. cluster bombs are used to kill Yemeni civilians. The White House is faking concern about Yemeni civilians while doubling its support for the Saudi campaign.

It is obvious that the U.S/Saudi/UAE campaign against Yemen will not achieve any of its aims. The former U.S. installed Yemeni president Hadi will never be welcomed back in Yemen. The country is on the edge of a large scale famine. Meanwhile al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Yemen are taking over more territory. What then is the real aim the White House is trying to achieve here?

Posted by b at 05:47 AM | Comments (71)

August 21, 2015

Syria: Is Israel Planing To Escalate?

Yesterday four rockets or mortars fired from the Syrian side of the Golan heights landed on Israel occupied parts of the Syrian Golan without causing any damage. A recent report cited the Israeli defense expert Tzvi Yechezkieli:

He noticed that all terrorist activity directed at Israel on the Golan Heights is the work of Hezbollah and not of Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al Qaeda affiliate that is in control of the border with Israel.

If al Qaeda is in control of the Golan border how would Hizbullah fire small, short ranged missiles over it?

And if Hizbullah could do this why would the Israeli official accuse the Islamic Jihad group?

The Israeli army warned the government in war-wracked Syria it will "suffer the consequences" after four rockets crashed Thursday into the north of the Jewish state and the occupied Golan.

"This was the work of Islamic Jihad, an organisation financed and working for Iran, and we consider the Syrian government responsible for the firing and it will suffer the consequences," the army said in a statement.

It was referring to a Palestinian militant group which is based in the Gaza Strip.
The Islamic Jihad denied the military's accusation, saying it was not behind the rocket fire.

So how did the Islamic Jihad fire from Jabhat al Nusra, i.e. their enemies, occupied Syrian border when they are based in Gaza?

It is much more likely that the mortars were fired by al Qaeda to "request" fire support against the advancing Syrian Arab Army. Such has happened before to support Nusra advances and indeed the Israeli forces again obliged. At least 14 attacks against Syrian Army positions were flown and one additional attack against a civil car:

Israel said it carried out an air raid Friday that killed up to five Iran-backed militants it said were behind a rare rocket attack from across the border in Syria.

The strike came a day after Israel launched a dozen air raids on the Syrian-side of the occupied Golan Heights, raising concerns about a possible escalation.
Syrian television identified them as unarmed civilians, the Israeli military source said they were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad militant group, and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group spoke of pro-regime National Defence Forces.

Israel earlier said that it hit 14 Syrian army positions in the Syrian-controlled sector of the Golan on Thursday night in response to the rocket attacks.

There is indeed fear that this could be the start of a larger Israeli operation against the Syrian government and in support of al Qaeda.

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai
Keep an eye on what is happening in #Israel and on the #Syria/n borders. Israel is deploying Iron Dome and Syria+allies on full alter now.

Over 10 #SAA positions facing Syrian rebels were air strikes by #Israel. Syrian allies believe this is not a normal #israeli response +

Front from #Syria to #Lebanon is boiling. #Hezbollah declared full alert ...

Israel is not the only entity supporting Jabhat al Nusra. In southern Syria the CIA trained mercenaries fighting against the Syrian army largely fought together with Jabhat al Nusra. They shared their CIA provided resources and their advances along the Golan height had Israeli fire support.

The Pentagon trained mercenaries who recently were infiltrated from Turkey into Syria before they got routed also had tight coordination with Nusra. Their leader said:

“We were surprised by the attack by Nusra, because we coordinated in advance with Nusra,” Abu Iskandar said. “Four months ago, Nusra showed great admiration for the training project. Nusra said . . . go get guns and come fight [the Islamic State].”

So the very selected "moderate rebels" the Pentagon trained claim tight "coordination" with al-Qaeda. One wonders how those in the U.S. military who spent the last 14 years fighting this or that al Qaeda entity feel about that.

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (41)

August 19, 2015

Yemen: U.S. Doubles Down, Saudi-UAE Invasion Stuck

The U.S./Saudi/UAE attack on Yemen continues. The air attacks on various Yemeni cities are hitting more and more civilians and few fighters. The U.S. doubled the number its "advisers" that select targets for the Saudi airforce to bomb. Recent targets include a group of 40 fighters allied with the Saudis. Another target was the port of Hodeida, the last access point through which aid could be transported into the norther part of Yemen. The four harbor cranes and the piers were destroyed. Today the airport of the capital Sanaa was again bombed and the terminal building set on fire. One wonders why as the Yemeni airspace is under complete control of the U.S. and Saudi airforces. Smaller cities from which little reporting is coming through also get hit. Julien Harneis, a UNICEF staff member in Sanaa, tweeted today:

Yesterday in Amran an airstrike killed 20 & injured 30 educators and children who were preparing exams for students who had missed the year

Over 3600 schools in Yemen are closed down and some kids get recruited by the various militia.


The ground attack into the cauldron of Yemen by UAE and Saudi forces makes little progress. Aden and the al-Anad Air Base were cleared from Houthi forces in a well equipped campaign by the invading UAE forces and some local proxies. But where the Houthi forces left AlQaeda and local gangs of southern separatists have taken over. Further UAE attacks northward against Taizz and Ibb got stuck. Under pressure the Houthis forces melted away only to come back in the rear of the advancing UAE forces. At least three UAE vehicles were hit and destroyed.

There is no news available of the Saudi move from the north towards Marib. These forces may have been pulled back after the Houthis turned the table and invaded Saudi Arabia. They claim to have taken the Saudi Shirfa military base and are now broadcasting their successes on TV from a high point above the Saudi city of Najran.

The "young general" in Riyadh must be furious over such a disgrace. But how can he respond? There is nothing left to destroy in Yemen from the air, the ground troops are not successful and he burned all bridges with the UN so there is no one left to mediate. Washington, with zero regard to Yemeni casualties, seems to be willing to give him more rope with which, the White House may hope, he will hang himself.

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (37)

August 17, 2015

Obama Announces Readiness To Accept Another $1 Billion In Bribes

U.S. President Barack Obama declared his willingness to take in another $1 billion in bribes. He intends to use the money to bolster his ego.

As service in return Obama is offering certain political preferences during the rest of his time in office as well as selected lobbying activities after he leaves office. Bribes from particular industrial sectors will be considered as privileged.

The above is the translated content of a NYT piece today which describes Obama plans after leaving his office. For comparison parts of the long form follows:

Privately, [Mr.Obama] is preparing for his postpresidency with the same fierce discipline and fund-raising ambition that characterized the 2008 campaign that got him to the White House.
[T]he president, first lady and a cadre of top aides map out a postpresidential infrastructure and endowment they estimate could cost as much as $1 billion.
Shailagh Murray, a senior adviser, oversees an effort inside the White House to keep attention on Mr. Obama’s future and to ensure that his final 17 months in office, barring crises, serve as a glide path to his life as an ex-president.
[O]fficials in the West Wing said the president’s thinking about some of his signature issues — including health care, economic inequality and fighting climate change — also involves considering their incorporation into his life after January 2017.
The heart of the postpresidential planning is Mr. Obama’s own outreach to eclectic, often extraordinarily rich groups of people.
The advisers said [the director Steven] Spielberg was focused on helping to develop a “narrative” for Mr. Obama in the years after he leaves office.

At a dinner this year at Spruce, a restaurant in the Presidio Heights neighborhood of San Francisco, Mr. Obama urged technology executives to focus their philanthropic efforts on helping government become more efficient, giving some the impression that the topic would most likely be a theme of his agenda after leaving office.

The "technology executives" will have understood. Pay Obama and he will take care that the government will have to buy many more of their technology products to "become more efficient". Ditto for the other sectors mentioned.

Posted by b at 12:25 PM | Comments (74)

August 16, 2015

Trump/Kane: "If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged ..."

The U.S. presidential campaign season is usually a drag. It is much too long and the lies and false promises get so obvious that refuting them is no fun and senseless.

But watching Donald Trump is fun. He seems to be unbriefed and says whatever he thinks in that moment. His foreign policy opinions are refreshing. Here he is bashing the Saudis:

Trump called on Riyadh to share its vast wealth with the U.S. in exchange for the alliance between the two nations.
“They make a billion dollars a day,” he told host Chuck Todd on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “Saudi Arabia, if it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be here,” Trump said. “They wouldn’t exist.”
“They should pay us,” he added. “Like it or don’t like it, people have backed Saudi Arabia. What I really mind though is we back it at tremendous expense. We get nothing for it.”

The Saudis would of course disagree. The U.S. weapons industry is making lots of profits by selling its useless junk to the Saudis and other Gulf countries. But anyway this point is smart.

“Look, Saudi Arabia is going to be in big trouble pretty soon,” he added. “And they’re going to need help. I think Saudi Arabia is a major target, a major target.”

I agree.

Trump does not care about the Ukraine joining NATO. He seems to find it a rather useless country. He is right in that too. No wonder Trump was rated public enemy no. 9 and a "Kremlin agent" on some Ukrainian list.

The Republican party apparatus will do everything to make a Trump candidacy impossible and to put one of its pliant usual suspects into the front position. But Trump could run on his own. And that would mean more fun.

Someone compared Trump to the Citizen Kane character in the 1941 Orson Wells movie. Citizen Kane was a portrait of the rightwing newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. In the Cítizen Kane movie there is a line that Donald Trump would probably use to explain why he is running at all. Mr. Kane therein says of himself:

Charles Foster Kane is a scoundrel, his paper should be run out of town; a committee should be formed to boycott him. You may, if you can form such a committee, put me down for a contribution of one thousand dollars. On the other hand, I am the publisher of the Inquirer! As such, it is my duty - and I'll let you in on a little secret, it's also my pleasure - to see to it that the decent, hard-working people in this community aren't robbed blind by a pack of money-mad pirates just because - they haven't anybody to look after their interests. I'll let you in on another little secret, Mr. Thatcher. I think I'm the one to do it; you see, I have money and property. If I don't look after the interests of the underprivileged, maybe somebody else will - maybe somebody without any money or property - and that would be too bad...

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (78)

August 14, 2015

Narrative And Reality Of The U.S. War On Syria

The Washington Post "It Never Happened" piece on Syria documented yesterday is far from the only one that avoids to mention the intimate U.S. involvement in waging war on Syria.

A New York Times piece today falsely claims:

The United States avoided intervening in the civil war between rebels and the government of Mr. Assad until the jihadist group took advantage of the chaos to seize territory in Syria and Iraq.

McClatchy, which is usual better, currently has two pieces by Hannah Allam looking into U.S. involvement in the war on Syria. Unfortunately these are also full of false narratives and unchecked administration propaganda. Obama administration still predicts ‘Assad’s days are numbered’ is a take of what administration officials now claim about their early believes of the war on Syria. It also includes this whoopers:

The Americans were determined to keep the United States out of an armed conflict in Syria, but turned a blind eye as Persian Gulf allies sent weapons to hardline factions with ties to al Qaida.

Years ago the NYT and several other outlets reported that the CIA was the entity which organized the weapon transfers, thousands of tons, for the Saudis and other Gulf countries. The U.S. did not turn a blind eye. It was actively organizing the whole war from the very beginning.

In The ‘magic words:’ How a simple phrase enmeshed the U.S. in Syria’s crisis Hannah Allam lets the former ambassador to Syria Ford claim that the administration never really wanted to ouster Assad but was pressed into it:

Ford, the U.S. ambassador to Syria at the time, said he initially opposed calling for Assad’s ouster for two reasons: it was clear to him that sanctions were the only punishment the White House was willing to use, and that such a call would kill his efforts to start a dialogue with the regime.

Ford said he was up against the same outside pressures other officials listed – influential Republicans, a few senior Democrats, the “very loud” Syrian-American community and foreign governments – but he added one force that’s often overlooked.

“To be very frank, the press, the media, was baiting us. It’s not like the media was impartial in this,” Ford said. “Because once the Republicans started saying he has no legitimacy, the question then became at press conferences every day: Do you think he has legitimacy? What are we supposed to say? Yes, he does?”

Hogwash. Ford was one of the first to press for the ouster of Assad. He even organized the early demonstration and the media training for the "peaceful demonstrators" who were early on killing policemen and soldiers. One of the "revolutionaries" reacts to Ford's claims:

The 47th
Out of all ppl, Robert Ford is talking about Syrians being mislead by the magic words? Ford "promised" us Syrians full support in 2011.

The 47th
In private meetings In damascus, Robert Ford promised his syrian oppo friends full U.S. Support and encouraged Syrians to go on.

The 47th
He even went to fucking Hama, during the biggest protest in Syria's modern history

The 47th
I wdnt talk abt ppl misinterpreting U.S public statements, U were ur Admin's amb, say the truth: u promised Syrians the moon, gave them shit

All these media pieces, yesterday's WaPo piece, today's false NYT claims, the McClatchy pieces, are part of the Obama strategy to play as if it was/is doing "nothing" or "just something" while at the time time running a full fledged proxy war against the Syrian government.

Joel Veldkamp lays out and analyses that strategy:

Why does the U.S. only have sixty fighters to show for its $500 million, year-old training program? Because it reinforces the narrative – nurtured by a raft of previous hopelessly inadequate, publicly-announced and -debated programs to support the opposition – of the U.S. as a helpless bystander to the killing in Syria, and of President Obama as a prudent statesman reluctant to get involved. While the Senate berates the Pentagon chief over the program’s poor results, the U.S. is meanwhile outsourcing the real fight in Syria to allies with no qualms about supporting al Qaeda against their geopolitical opponents – unless the U.S. is, as before, cooperating directly or indirectly in that support.

Once it is recognized that the “helpless bystander” narrative is false, and that the U.S. has been deeply involved in the armed conflict almost from the start, it becomes both possible and necessary to question that involvement.

What I find astonishing is that the U.S. media are able to have it both ways on Syria. Every other day there is a piece with the false narrative that the U.S. is not and has not been involved in Syria while at the same time the very same media, NYT, WaPo, McClatchy, publish other pieces about the massive "secret" military effort with thousands of tons of weapon shipments and billions of dollars the Obama administration pushes into Syria to wage war against the Syrian people.

The media know that the "helpless bystander” narrative is false. But Joel Veldkamp's hope that this would make it "possible and necessary to question that involvement" is not coming true. Besides in fringe blogs like this one there is no such public discussion at all.

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (53)

August 13, 2015

U.S. War On Syria - For WaPo's Erin Cunningham "It Never Happened"

At $1 billion, Syria-related operations account for about $1 of every $15 in the CIA’s overall budget, ...
U.S. officials said the CIA has trained and equipped nearly 10,000 fighters sent into Syria over the past several years — meaning that the agency is spending roughly $100,000 per year for every anti-Assad rebel who has gone through the program.
Secret CIA effort in Syria faces large funding cut
Greg Miller and Karen DeYoung, Washington Post, June 12 2015


The ambiguity of the mission has highlighted concerns about the United States’s growing involvement in the Syrian conflict, which is estimated to have killed more than 230,000 people since 2011.

The United States has so far played a limited role, training a handful of Syrian rebels who it says were vetted for ties to extremists.

U.S. said it will create a safe zone on Syrian border. But nobody knows how.
Erin Cunningham, Washington Post, Aug 13 2015


It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the U.S. throughout the world have been systematic, constant, clinical, remorseless, and fully documented but nobody talks about them.
It Never Happened, Harold Pinter, 1997

Posted by b at 08:01 AM | Comments (19)

August 12, 2015

Open Thread 2015-31

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:16 PM | Comments (90)

August 10, 2015

Turkey Invades Syria, Goes For Aleppo

Today al Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al Nusra which the U.S. has nurtured since 2012, pulled back from its areas in Aleppo governate. The Turkish president Erdogan wants these areas to block a Kurdish autonomous area in north Syria but also as a supply zone for his forces which those will need to later take Aleppo city, Erdogan's real strategic target.

Nusra claims that the retreat was because it would not support Turkey's attack on Syria and/or fight against the Islamic State for solely Turkish and U.S. gains. But the timing makes it clear that it had simply received an order or an offer it could not refuse: "Move now or we will cut you off from the money and logistics you have received for so long."

A few hours after Nusra pulled away from the fronts in Aleppo governate and moved towards Idlib the Turkish invasion started:

Reports of first Turkmen Battalion from the #Turkey backed Sultan Murad Army entering #Syria via Bab Al-Salame #Aleppo

BREAKING Kurdish ANF: "occupying forces organized by MİT" entered Syria from the Bab Al-Selamê border gate #TwitterKurds #Turkey #Syria 1/2

ANF: (Turkmen) “Sultan Murat Brigade” & “Fatih Sultan Mehmet Brigade” entered #Syria via Bab al-#Salameh + one group coming from Idlib 2/2

Al-Nusra leaves N Aleppo 4 Idlib, Turkmen groups leave Idlib 4 N Aleppo = preparation 4 Turkish controlled Safe-Zone

U.S. Air Force fighter jets have arrived at Incerlik air-base in Turkey and provide air cover for the Turkish invasion.

The Turkish intelligence service M.I.T. has trained some 5,000 Turkmen, allegedly Syrians of Turkish heritage and speaking the Turkish language, to take Erdogan's corridor to Aleppo:

Touching the Turkish border at the provinces of Kilis and Gaziantep, it is nearly 100 km in width, from Azaz in the west and Cerablus in the east and with an approximate depth of 40 km. Turkish jets (and artillery when necessary) will hit targets mostly in this region for “cleaning” it of ISIL forces. This is planned to be executed with the help of a 5,000 strong army mainly consisting of Turkmens living in Syria. One source said that this force, which has been assisted by Turks, would be in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition. (Turkish government had announced earlier that the ammunition carried by the trucks belonging to the National Intelligence Organization and seized by gendarmerie on their way to Syria in January 2014 were not going to ISIL nor al-Nusra related groups but Turkmens defending themselves.)

Many of these "Turkmen" will simply be relabeled Jabhat al Nusra mercenaries and jihadists, others will be Turkish special forces. They are to hold the ground for the coming Turkish "moderate rebel" attack to take all of Aleppo.

Meanwhile international negotiations over ending the war on Syria are proceeding. Some interesting new information came to light today.

From Al-Akhbar but with Mujtahid quoted tweets… nevertheless… an interesting turn we are seeing in many media reports – the essence is a way to get an Arab agreement on Bashar staying (for now) and stopping this war.

Translated by in tonight’s Daily Briefing: “…The first reaction came from within the Kingdom through the tweets of famous Saudi Tweeter, Mujtahid, who revealed the existence of “an Emirati, Egyptian, Jordanian, Omani agreement to rehabilitate the Syrian regime; and attempts at convincing Saudi Arabia to approve the plan.”
“Mujtahid indicated that the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince promised that the Kingdom will not object to the rehabilitation of the Syrian regime and the return of the ambassadors of any country to Damascus “provided that the Saudi participation in this arrangement is delayed.” He added that “Ben Salman has no reservations and the reason for his hesitation is because the American and Turkish intelligence services believe that Al-Assad will not be lasting for much longer and that it’s wrong to bet on him….”

The Arabs dictators who wanted Assad to go have changed their opinions. Russia (and Iran) nudge them along. They are ready to again accept Assad and the Syrian state. As they are mostly paying all the mercenaries fighting against the Syrian state this would be a real step towards peace.

But the Turks and the U.S. have different plans. How else could they now insist that Assad will soon fall? Something they have predicted since 2011. They must have their plans to continue the war and Erdogan's attack on Syria today is exactly into that direction.

As the Arabs are now turning away from regime change in Syria the U.S. and Turkey come under time constrains. They will now move faster to achieve their aims.

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (97)

August 08, 2015

Nine Crazy Men ... And Donald Trump

GOP candidates for the 2016 presidential election after their first debate.

Nine dull and rather crazy men. And Donald Trump.


Posted by b at 07:05 AM | Comments (89)

August 07, 2015

Into The Cauldron - Saudi And UAE Troops Invade Yemen

While many "western" media missed it, we reported that one brigade of regular United Arab Emirate troops invaded Yemen through the port of Aden. Videos from Yemen show large columns of French build Leclerc tanks and other modern UAE equipment. The Saudi and UAE spokesperson declared that they only brought equipment for Yemenis but that can not be true. The tanks will certainly be operated by people with the necessary extensive training on these expensive high tech vehicles, not with fresh off the street recruits with a few weeks of basic training.

After taking Aden the UAE military, some Yemeni infantry forces trained over the last months outside the country and some local southern separatist groups moved north and attacked the Al Anad airbase held by the Houthi militia and parts of the Yemeni army loyal to former president Saleh. After only a few short skirmishes the Houthi retreated and the UAE troops moved into the base. They then moved further north  towards Taiz.

But the UAE military is not the only force invading Yemen.


With again few mentions in the media a Saudi brigade invaded Yemen from the north and moved from Sharoah in Saudi Arabia to AlAbr District and from there west towards Marib:

"Dozens of tanks, armoured vehicles and personnel carriers, as well as hundreds of Yemeni soldiers trained in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Yemen overnight" via the Wadia border post in the north of the country, a Yemeni military source told AFP.

I guestimate that the Saudi unit is likely to be about the same size as the UAE one. Each has about one regular mechanized brigade of some 3,000 to 4,000 troops with several battalions of freshly trained Yemeni infantry troops and local mercenaries attached to it.

The strategic target of this two-pronged attack is the capitol Sanaa currently held by the Houthi. They are to be pushed back north into their home province Sadah.

For the invading force the easy part is over. This will now be literally an uphill battle. The capitol and the approaches the Saudi and UAE military will have to take are mountainous. The roads there are easy to block and in such confined space, as the Israelis learned in Lebanon 2006, huge main battle tanks are simply sitting ducks to be killed by small anti-tank teams.

There is also an unknown factor in the form of AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula which rules disguised as "Sons of Hadramaut" that eastern province and the harbor city Mukalla. AQAP just expressed its comfort with Yemeni culture and religion by blowing up a 700 year old mosque in the area.

Some months ago AQAP received weapons from Saudi Arabia to hold up the Houthis but its loyalty towards the Saudis and UAE is very dubious. There are confirmed reports that AQAP has taken over some towns near to Aden and now rumors that AQAP has a presence in Aden and wants to take that big harbor city. Will the UAE troops be comfortable with an uncontrollable AQAP sitting right on their main supply line?

The Wadia border station the Saudis used to cross into Yemen is also not safe. About a year ago two Saudi soldiers were killed there when some AQAP types attacked from Yemen.

There are also Islamic State forces in Yemen and an ISIS aligned group in Saudi Arabia took credit for yesterday's suicide bombing which killed some 17 Saudi security personal in Abha near the border with Yemen.

The troops invading Yemen will not only have to watch out for Houthi traps and ambushes when they move up into the mountains towards Sanaa. They will also have to intensively watch their backs. Has the "young general", as the Saudi Minister of Defense is mocked now, any idea of the cauldron his troops are getting into?

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (36)

August 06, 2015

Obama Wants Nuclear Deal With Iran But Argues A (False) Case For War

In arguing for the international deal over Iran's nuclear program the Obama administration is selling, quite intentionally it seems, a (false) case for war on Iran.

The White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, argues that the deal is good because the agreed upon additional IAEA inspections would make war on Iran easier:

The military option would remain on the table, but the fact is, that military option would be enhanced because we’d been spending the intervening number of years gathering significantly more detail about Iran’s nuclear program. So when it comes to the targeting decisions that would be made by military officials either in Israel or the United States, those targeting decisions would be significantly informed, and our capabilities improved, based on the knowledge that has been gained in the intervening years through this inspections regime.

Q So if Israel wants to contemplate it, it should wait?

MR. EARNEST: Well, again, what we believe --

Q That’s what you just said.

See - war is easier when we wait a while and let some inspections happen first. Then, when we have a new targeting list, ...

Iran has official protested against that remark:

The International Atomic Energy Agency should “condemn categorically” statements made last month by a White House press secretary, Josh Earnest, Iran’s representative to the IAEA wrote in a July 24 letter to the agency’s director general, Yukiya Amano.
Earnest’s “statement jeopardizes the role of the IAEA” under the Vienna agreement, Reza Najafi, Iran’s envoy to the agency, wrote in the letter. The IAEA must “ensure scrupulous compliance with the principle of confidentiality regarding all information related to the implementation of safeguards,” he added.

The IAEA, under the sycophantic U.S. puppet Yukiya Amano, did not respond to the Iranian letter.

Secretary of State Kerry is also boosting for war on Iran. In front of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he argued that Iran is untrustworthy and a bad actor and actually wants nuclear weapons:

Cont. reading: Obama Wants Nuclear Deal With Iran But Argues A (False) Case For War

Posted by b at 01:18 AM | Comments (54)

August 04, 2015

Syria: Negotiating Ethnic Cleansing And A Temporary Partition

The U.S. has no interest to defeat the Islamic State or to end the conflict in Syria and Iraq. Instead it is following a policy, successfully so far, which is designed to split Syria as well as Iraq into autonomous statelets which later may or may not realign into loose confederacies. There are now attempts to somewhat formalize that situation.

Many of the recently inserted 60 Pentagon trained mercenaries are by now captured, wounded or dead. Last night Jabhat al-Nusra captured another five of them. Mary Wheeler thinks that the whole theater around these few idiots was possibly just a fake to find a reason for the declaration of a U.S. imposed no-fly zone over north Syria. An illegal invasion of Syria to justify an even more illegal U.S. annexation of Syrian land and air space.

Media accounts describe the 60 fighters as the "first U.S. trained rebels". The 10,000 Syrian and foreign mercenaries the CIA trained and equipped since at least 2012 at a cost of $1 billion per year are conveniently put down the memory hole. The many more jihadis financed, trained and equipped by Jordan, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar who went to join the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are also missing from such accounts. The media insist that the whore's just born seventh child originates from an immaculate conception.

The U.S. may, for now, get its wish for a splintered Syria and Iraq. After four years of a massive onslaught from outside actors the Syrian government is no longer able to control all of the country. It needs to buy time to recuperate resources and wait for a major change in international policies. There has been a flurry of diplomacy recently, mostly pushed by Russia, to somewhat formalize the current situation.

The chief of the Syrian intelligence was recently in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi chief of intelligence will visit Syria at the end of the month. The Russia foreign minister Lavrov met several parties in Moscow and over the last two days in Doha. He spoke with the Syrians, with Hamas, with the leader of the U.S. proxy Syrian exile group, with Hizbullah, with Qatari and Saudi liaisons to Jabhat al Nusra and the Islamic State as well as with secretary of state Kerry. The Syrian foreign minister Muallem and the Russian deputy foreign minister Bogdanov will soon touch down in Tehran.

There are certainly some deeper discussion about longer term issues going on but one of the more urgent negotiating points is the fate of some 40,000 Shia Syrians in two insurgent besieged towns just north of Idlib. These are under daily artillery barrage from Nusra and other jihadi groups and the humanitarian situation in Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa is dire. The Syrian army currently supplies the towns by air and local forces so far held off all attack but there is no way to relief the towns from the ground and no longer term solution. Meanwhile Hizbullah is besieging and operating against several hundred jihadis in Zabadani near the Lebanese border. Unlike in earlier operations Hizbullah will not let any of its enemies flee from this cauldron.

A complicate deal is in the making that would exchange the besieged 40,000 civilians in Kafraya and Al-Fou’aa for the militants in Zabadani. Such a deal would be a "negotiated ethnic cleansing". There are many parties involved including Hizbullah and Jabhat al Nusra and the exchange would take place under the supervision of the United Nations. Nothing is fixed yet and transferring such a huge number of people through enemy territory and lines will be difficult to achieve.

Should the deal go through and the evacuations successfully executed a model would have been found that could then be repeated in other areas. In the end some homogenous territories would be defined, each under rule of one armed entity, and some of the fighting over enclaves would die down.

But that state would be far from peace. The fighting would continue along internal border areas with no side giving up yet on its maximalist aims. Neither the more secular Sunnis nor the Alawi, Shia, Kurds or the Druze want independent statelets. They want to be Syrians. The Syrian government will reassert itself, if needed with the help of Russian paratroopers. The war will still go on for a long time.

Posted by b at 09:48 AM | Comments (129)

August 03, 2015

The Cruel And Aimless War On Yemen

The situation for the people in Yemen is catastrophic. Doctors Without Borders, which has experience from many war zones, says it is the worst conflict they ever worked in.

The theocratic family dictatorship of Saudi Arabia, with U.S. support, is relentlessly bombing the country and blockading it from all urgently needed supply for the people. The declared aim of the war is to reinstate the Saudi/U.S. selected President Hadi. But no one in Yemen wants Hadi back. He now would not survive there even one day.  The UN warns of the danger of mass starvation.

The Houthi supporters and forces aligned with former president Saleh failed to capture the southern harbor town Aden. Infiltrated special forces from the United Arab Emirates directed Saudi air attacks against Houthi positions. After the Saleh forces and the Houthi retreated UAE forces, which include many mercenaries from Pakistan, invaded the city via its airport and from the sea.

Landing ships have been supplying heavy vehicles. TV pictures show newly arrived French Leclerc main battle tanks, Russian build BMP-3 infantry fighting vehicles and motorized heavy mortars. Additionally many armored and armed wheeled vehicles have been supplied. This is an invasion force of at least brigade size - some 4-5,000 soldiers. That this operation is so far very well planned and executed lets me believe that it is under direct U.S. supervision.

The newly arrived forces are supported by some local tribes and southern separatist groups. Today the invaders are trying to kick Saleh forces from the Al Anad air base near Aden. The invasion force wants to drive the Houthi not only from the south but also from power up north in the capitol Sanaa. The few planes with humanitarian aid that were allowed to fly into Sanaa are now ordered to land only in Aden. The north of Yemen is thereby completely isolated and cut off from all resources.

But look at this map of tribal areas within Yemen and around it.


Will all those various tribes and local interests agree with a foreign imposed agenda? Will the starving but still well armed Yemenis let those rich troops just pass? Or will they rather fight and sabotage any foreign forces that try to move out of Aden?

Not bothered by the U.S.-Saudi war on Yemen  AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula has practically taken over the comparably rich eastern Yemeni governate of Hadhramaut. The 23rd brigade of Yemeni forces holding the governate was, allegedly accidentally, bombed by Saudi jets. AlQaeda also captured the eastern port of AlMukallah and uses it to supply its area. No Saudi air strike hindered its recent expansion. There are rumors that AQAP will soon declare Hadhramaut a new Islamic Emirate under its rule.

Between 1962 and 1970 Egypt fought a war in Yemen against predominately Yemeni forces. Some 25,000 of its soldiers were killed in that war. I expect that the current U.S. supported invasion of Yemen, like the Egyptians, will get bogged down within a month or two.

Meanwhile many Yemeni civilians will silently die from lack of access to water, food and medicine.

Posted by b at 11:35 AM | Comments (43)

August 01, 2015

Obama Administration SHOCKED That People Being Bombed By It Retaliate (Updated)

Over the last year the U.S. bombed Jabhat al-Nusra personal and facilities in Syria some five or six times. The al-Qaeda subgroup also has a history of attacking U.S. paid "relative moderate" proxy forces in Syria.

The Pentagon recently inserted another U.S. mercenary group into north Syria. This was accompanied by a media campaign in which the administration lauded itself for the operation. The newly inserted group is especially trained and equipped to direct U.S. air attacks like those that earlier hit al-Nusra fighters.

Now that freshly inserted group was attacked by Jabhat al-Nusra. Some of its members were killed and others were abducted.

The Obama administration is shocked, SHOCKED, ABSOLUTELY SHOCKED that Jabhat al-Nusra would do such a ghastly deed. "Why would they do that?" "Who could have known that they would attack U.S. proxy forces???"

The attack on Friday was mounted by the Nusra Front, which is affiliated with Al Qaeda. It came a day after the Nusra Front captured two leaders and at least six fighters of Division 30, which supplied the first trainees to graduate from the Pentagon’s anti-Islamic State training program.

In Washington, several current and former senior administration officials acknowledged that the attack and the abductions by the Nusra Front took American officials by surprise and amounted to a significant intelligence failure.

While American military trainers had gone to great lengths to protect the initial group of trainees from attacks by Islamic State or Syrian Army forces, they did not anticipate an assault from the Nusra Front. In fact, officials said on Friday, they expected the Nusra Front to welcome Division 30 as an ally in its fight against the Islamic State.
A senior Defense Department official acknowledged that the threat to the trainees and their Syrian recruiters had been misjudged, and said that officials were trying to understand why the Nusra Front had turned on the trainees.

Like other Obama administration operations this one did not fail because of "intelligence failure" but because an utter lack of common sense.

Could someone explain to the fucking dimwits in the Pentagon and the Obama administrations that people everywhere, and especially terrorists group, hate it when you bomb them and kill their leaders? That those people you bomb might want to take revenge against you and your proxies? That people you bombed will not like your targeting team moving in next door to them? That alQaeda is not an "ally"?

These people are too pathetically clueless to even be embarrassed about it.

The accumulated intelligence quotient of the administration and Pentagon officials running the anti-Syria operation must be below three digits. But aside from their lack of basic intelligence the utter lack of simple "street smarts" is the real problem here. These people have no idea how life works outside of their beltway cages.

UPDATE: The one sane guy at the Council of Foreign relations, Micah Zenko, foresaw this debacle and wrote on March 2:

[The U.S. trained mercenaries] will immediately be an attractive target for attacks by the Islamic State, Assad’s ground and air forces, and perhaps Nusra and other forces. Killing or taking prisoner fighters (or the families of those fighters) who were trained by the U.S. military will offer propaganda value, as well as leverage, to bargain for those prisoners’ release.

He compared the whole operation to the 1961 CIA invasion of Cuba:

Last September, the White House and Congress agreed to authorize and fund a train-and-equip project similar to the Bay of Pigs, but this time in the Middle East, without any discussion about phase two. The Syrian project resembles 1961 in two ways: What happens when the fighting starts is undecided, and the intended strategic objective is wholly implausible.

On more thought from me on why the dimwits did not foresee that Nusra would attack. The White House insisted on calling a part of Nusra the "Khorasan group" and explained that it was only bombing this groups of alQaeda veterans now part of Nusra because the "Khorasan group" planning to hit in "western" countries. No expert nor anyone on the ground in Syria thought that this differentiation was meaningful. Nusra is alQaeda and so are all of its members.

But the White House and Pentagon probably thought that Nusra would accept the artificial separation they themselves had made up. That Nusra would understand that it is seen as an "ally" and only the "Khorasan group" is seen as an enemy. If that was the line of thinking, and the situation seems to point to that, then these people have fallen for their own propaganda stunt. They probably believed that the "Khorasan group" was an accepted narrative because they were telling that tale to themselves. Poor idiots.

Posted by b at 07:10 AM | Comments (81)

July 31, 2015

"ISIS Free Zone" Plans Lead To Even More Chaotic Situation In Syria And Iraq

The fifty something mercenaries the U.S. military trained to act as Forward Air Controllers to direct U.S. air attacks towards whatever target in Syria have run into trouble. Shortly after entering Syria some were abducted by the al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and last night some were killed and more wounded when Jabhat al Nusra attacked their headquarter. The defenders then used their new skills to direct U.S. air attack on the attackers. Nusra released a statement saying that it would now fight against any "American project" in Syria.

The U.S. wants its mercenaries to occupy parts of Syria that will allow resupplies to be safely transported for further attacks on the Syrian government as well as for attacks on the Islamic State. It markets the areas to be occupied as Islamic State free zones. Turkey wants those areas to be Kurd free zones as it wants to keep them to resupply the Islamic State and other extremist organization which operated with Turkish, Saudi and Qatari support against the Syrian and Iraqi government.

The plan to insert these Forward Air Controller specialists to direct air capabilities is on top of the CIA program which for years now trains, equips and pays some 10,000 mercenaries to attack the Syrian government at a cost of $1 billion/year. Another force that will soon be inserted into Syria are Syrian Turkmen trained and supplied by Turkey:

Turkish jets (and artillery when necessary) will hit targets mostly in this region for “cleaning” it of ISIL forces. This is planned to be executed with the help of a 5,000 strong army mainly consisting of Turkmens living in Syria. One source said that this force, which has been assisted by Turks, would be in coordination with the U.S.-led coalition.

One wonders how Jabhat al-Nusra will react to that "Turkish project".

Last night a warehouse in Reyhanli on the Turkish side of the Syrian border and allegedly controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood welfare organization IHH went up in flames. A while ago trucks allegedly belonging to IHH with supplies on their way to Syria were stopped by Turkish police who found that those trucks were actually under control of the Turkish secret service M.I.T. and carrying weapons and ammunition into Syria. (The policemen were later arrested for doing their job.) The IHH warehouse that went up last night might well have been a M.I.T. depot with supplies for the Turkmen mercenaries.

If the U.S. really wants to use its newly hired Forward Air Controllers against the Islamic State it will now have to protect them not only against the Islamic State but also against Jabhat al-Nusra and probably also against the Turkmen on the Turkish payroll.

A U.S. general said today that "All credible anti-ISIL forces on the ground in Syria will receive coalition support as required." Which groups does he actually mean? "Credible anti-ISIL forces" are the Syrian Arab Army and Hizbullah? The Syrian Kurds with the YPG and PKK who the Turks are currently bombing? The Jabhat al-Nusra al-Qaeda affiliates who, on and off again, also fight against the Islamic State? Who the hell does he mean? Does he know who he means?

As it looks now the whole "ISIS Free Zone" attempt is likely to make the fight against ISIS more difficult.

Is it this chaos that the White House really wants?

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (19)

July 30, 2015

Death Of Mullah Omar Will Make Afghan Peace More Difficult And ISIS Stronger

Yesterdays some announcements were made that the leader of the Afghan Taliban Mullah Omar died. It was the fifth or sixth time that Mullah Omar was said to have died so I ignored it. But today the official Taliban political office confirmed the news and said that Mullah Omar had died on April 23 2013 in south Afghanistan.

This confirmation, and the date of the death, will have all kinds of ramifications. Not only in Afghanistan but also in Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

A few weeks ago an official Taliban Eid message that was attributed to Mullah Omar. It endorsed negotiations with the Afghan government. Some negotiations were already happening through the good office of the Chinese and with participation of Pakistani and (likely) U.S. government officials. What will happen with those is now up in the air. As Barnett Rubin explains:

The death of Mullah Omar may allow Pakistan to put leaders it controls more fully in charge of the Taliban. It may also cause the Taliban to splinter. Some may stop fighting and enter the system, while others may join even more extremist groups, such as the Islamic State, and fight the governments of both Afghanistan and Pakistan. If the two governments cannot gain the willing participation of most of the Taliban in the peace process, Kabul may demand that Islamabad use force to shut down whatever part of the Taliban’s military machine it does not control directly. But the Pakistani Army [...] will be reluctant to take on a battle-hardened Afghan group, some of whose members it hopes to use as future agents of influence.

Michael Semple adds:

[F]or many involved in the conflict, Mullah Omar’s Islamic Emirate has been a flag of convenience. They should be expected to defy any attempt by his successors to impose a ceasefire. Acknowledgement of Omar’s death is likely to hasten the shift to a multi-actor insurgency in Afghanistan. That would be a bitter reality for Afghans who hope for peace. But ultimately the Afghan government, with continuing international support, should be far more confident of ultimately prevailing over a fragmented insurgency than in a fight against a unified Taliban movement.

I doubt that a fragmented insurgency is more easy to overcome than a united one. With whom will you talk about peace when the Taliban fall apart?

The Taliban named Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur as new leader of the Taliban but not (yet) as Emir of the Islamic Emirate. [UPDATE: The official Taliban site now named Mansur also as "Amir-ul-Momineen" and thereby as official leader of the Islamic Emirate.] He has been the acting deputy Taliban leader for some time. His rise to power is explained by two huge mistakes in U.S. policy in Afghanistan. Anand Gopal gives this short biography of Mullah Mansur:

  • Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur is from Band-i-Timor, Maiwand, Kandahar. He fought in 80s jihad in taliban fronts
  • Most notably, he fought for a time under Mullah Faizlullah Akhundzada, alongside Mullah Omar
  • During the Taliban regime he was head of the air force and also the (often absent) head of the civil aviation ministry
  • In 2002 he surrendered & retired to his home in Kandahar, agreeing to abstain from politics. However, the US did not accept reconciliation
  • Militias/US raided his home repeatedly. Final straw came when the US killed Hajji Burget Khan, revered leader of Mansur’s Ishaqzai tribe
  • He asked friends in the Afghan gov’t to protect him, and they advised that he flee to Pakistan. There, he reconnected with old comrades
  • As other important leaders (Osmani, Obaidullah, Beradar) were eliminated, Mansur rose steadily up the ranks to become de facto leader

In 2002 and 2003 U.S. special forces went after former Taliban leaders who had given up fighting and retired. This revenge driven campaign reignited the Taliban. They went back underground and again took up weapons. Then the manhunt campaign against Taliban leaders targeted the most experienced leaders who were in control of the fighters. These were the grown ups one could have talked with. Instead younger, more fierce leaders took over after the elder ones were killed and these are now less likely to agree to compromises. U.S. tactics in Afghanistan restarted a war against the Taliban that had been over and prolonged the new war by killing the leadership ranks of the Taliban who could have made peace.

Like Osama bin Laden the current head of al-Qaeda Ayman al-Zawahiri had pledged allegiance (bay'a) to the Emir of the Islamic Emirate Mullah Omar. He renewed that pledge only last fall. He and his followers now learns that his pledge has been to a dead man. That is a huge disgrace. Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, as well as al-Qaeda in Yemen had prevented their fighters to give bay'a to Caliph Baghdadi and the Islamic State with the argument that al-Qaeda had already given bay'a to Mullah Omar. That argument is now more than dead and the leaders who used it are discredited. A lot of Jabat al-Nusra fighters will now turn towards the Islamic State giving more power to that already quite strong group.

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (13)

Human Rights Watch Markets ISIS As Safe Haven, Then Laments About It

A piece in the New York Times reports about second generation immigrants in Britain who now emigrate to the Islamic State:

Leaving behind the Western opportunities their parents came to Britain for, those young Muslims make for a promised land of religious virtue, Muslim community and righteous revolution.

“It’s the ultimate marketing success,” said Mr. Akunjee, who represents the families of three teenage girls who recently absconded to Syria. “They manage to sell a war zone as a Muslim safe haven.

One Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, finds that lamentable:

“They manage to sell a war zone as a Muslim safe haven.” says the NYT quote. But who are "they"? is t the Islamic State? Are the dozens of beheading videos the Islamic State publishes really promoting a safe haven? Why would anyone feel safe with all such killing and gore? Are "they" maybe others involved in such a lying "safe haven" marketing campaign?

How about the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch?

Cont. reading: Human Rights Watch Markets ISIS As Safe Haven, Then Laments About It

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (15)

July 29, 2015

Open Thread 2015-30

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (93)

July 27, 2015

The U.S. and Turkey Have A *Something* Plan

According to several news reports the U.S. and Turkey have agreed to do something in north Syria. But  there seems to be no agreement on anything else. There is disunity about the aim of something as well as on the target of any something operation. The means of achieving something are in dispute. Even the geographic space in which something is supposed to happen is undefined. The only agreed upon issue besides doing something is to throw the Kurds, the most successful force against the Islamic State so far, under the bus. 

Consider all the caveats and general vagueness in the NYT report about the "agreement":

BAGHDAD — Turkey and the United States have agreed in general terms on a plan that envisions American warplanes, Syrian insurgents and Turkish forces working together to sweep Islamic State militants from a 60-mile-long strip of northern Syria along the Turkish border, American and Turkish officials say.

The plan would create what officials from both countries are calling an Islamic State-free zone controlled by relatively moderate Syrian insurgents, which the Turks say could also be [...]

[...] many details have yet to be determined, including how deep the strip would extend into Syria, [...]
“Details remain to be worked out, [...]
[...] the plan faces the same challenges that have long plagued American policy in Syria.
Whatever the goal
,[...] raising the question of what they will do [..]
[...] questions also remain about which Syrian insurgents and how many will be involved in the new operation. [...] relatively moderate have been trained in a covert C.I.A. program, but on the battlefield they are often enmeshed or working in concert with more hard-line Islamist insurgents.

In another complication, gains for such insurgents would come at the expense of Syrian Kurdish militias
Turkish officials and Syrian opposition leaders are describing the agreement as something [...] But American officials say [...] it was not included in the surprise agreement reached last week
[...]  United States officials said Turks and Americans were working toward an agreement on the details of an operation [...]
That is an ambitious military goal [...] American officials emphasized that the depth of the buffer zone to be established was one of the important operational details that had yet to be decided.
Insurgents, as well as their supporters in the Syrian opposition and the Turkish government, are already envisioning the plan as a step toward [...]
American officials in recent months have argued to Turkish counterparts [...]
But until now [...]
By contrast, the new plan [...]
“Any weakening of ISIS will be a privilege for us on the battlefield,” Ahmad Qara Ali, a spokesman for Ahrar al-Sham, an insurgent group that often allies with the Nusra Front, Al Qaeda’s Syria affiliate. [...]
Such Syrian Arab insurgents would gain at the expense of the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia known by the initials Y.P.G. that is seeking to take the same territory from the east. While the United States views the group as one of its best partners on the ground, Turkey sees it as a threat; [...]
[...] challenges to this border strategy still remain, American officials acknowledged. [...] American officials [...] conceded [...]

(Did we notice the new "relative moderate" category the NYT introduced here for anti-Syrian insurgents? This especially for Ahrar al Shams like ilk who are nearly indistinguishable from AlQaeda.)

The vagueness of this "agreement" lets me assume that the Turks railroaded the U.S. negotiators with their surprise announcement about the use of Incirlik airbase last week. That announcement came after a phonecall between Obama and Erdogan. Did they really agree on anything but throwing the Kurds under the bus, with Turkey now shelling their positions in Syria?

Or is this vagueness about the strategy an administration ploy to make it look as if it is dragged into its policy by an ally. If things go wrong it could then always blame Turkey for overreaching.

Or the administration intentionally committing to nothing and just giving Erdogan enough rope to hang himself?

Would the Obama administration even have the legal authority to support the "moderate" AlQaeda "rebels" with airstrikes? So far it could not name any.


This something plan has little chance of achieving anything but more war and chaos in Syria, Turkey and Iraq. Something will fail.

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (88)

July 26, 2015

Turkey's War On Kurds Realigns Syrian Kurds With Their Government

A short update to yesterday's (corrected) post on the situation in Turkey and Syria.

Last weeks suicide attack on a meeting of young, mostly Kurdish socialists attributed to the Islamic State was probably a false flag operation initiated by Erdogan's secret service. I discussed the possibility of such an attack a month ago: The Turkish Military Rejects Erdogan's War Plans - "False Flag" Needed?. The attack on the Kurds was then used to justify an operation against the Islamic State. But that operation is only pretended. That Erdogan's claim of attacking the Islamic State is only theater and that his real aim is a war on the Kurds who fight the Islamic State can be seen best in these tweets:

Turkey arrests 593 individuals on terrorism charges, though only 32 are #ISIS members, the rest are from Kurdish parties.

(The expression "Kurdish parties" is not completely correct here. Some people from the marxist DHKP-C party, which is mostly not Kurdish, were also arrested.)

From yesterday:

#BREAKING Sources tell CNN Türk last night Turkish jets made 159 sorties against #PKK camps in N.Iraq&hit 400 targets

#BREAKING Sources tell CNN Türk last night there was no air strike against #ISIS, targets were hit by tank fire near #Kilis.

In yesterday's post I named as one of Erdogans aims as to: "Rally nationalist for a new round of elections to Erdogan's side. Shut out the Kurdish HDP from the next election to again win an outright AKP majority."

Today the leader of rightwing-nationalist MH Party and a vice leader of Erdogan's AK Party called for prohibiting the leftist HDP from taking part in the next elections likely this fall. The HDP won 12% in the last election and is the party that is also representing the PKK Kurds. Kicking out the HDP would assure that Erdogan's AKP could again achieve an outright majority of parliament seats. It could then continue with Erdogan's plan to change the constitution and to move all executive powers to the president's office which he occupies.

Two soldiers killed, 4 others injured in car bombing in Turkey’s southeast which guarantees a further tit-for-tat escalation of the revived conflict between the Kurds and the Turkish state.

Turkey has called for NATO consultative meeting under chapter 4. I doubt very much that his operations, obviously in support of the Islamic State, will get official help from NATO.

In Syria President Assad held a public speech and described the current situation in the country. Reuters headlines: Syria's Assad: Army focusing on holding most important areas

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad said on Sunday the army had been forced to give up areas in order to hold onto more important ones in its fight with insurgents ...

Reuters, and others who now report this, are a bit late to the game. That the Syrian government had decided to keep the army mostly to holdable defensive positions was reported and explained here on June 4(!):

The parallel onslaught of U.S., Turkey and GCC supported al-Qaeda "moderate rebels" and Islamic State Jihadists necessitates that the Syrian government concentrates its capabilities and assets and moves into a defensive stand.

This is not a strategic change of course or a sign of weakness but a tactical move. To sacrifice exhausted army units in further defending outlying and thereby indefensible minor parts of the country would simply be unwise.

The Kurds in Syria and their leader Salih Muslim are under attack from the Islamic State and now also from Turkey. They have now offered to reconcile with their only reliable partner, the Syrian government. Salih Muslim said that the Kurds would join the Syrian army if that army would show a "new mentality". He spoke favorably of the father of Bashar al Assad and his relations with the Kurds and discussed various forms of federalism.


Should the Syrian government take up this offer for talks (likely!) and guarantee some kind of Kurdish autonomy within some federal Syrian structure the Syrian army would regain the manpower to again go on the offense. Supported by Iran and Russia and united with the Kurds the Syrian army would again be dominant power in the country and likely be able to retake the insurgency and islamist occupied areas.

Posted by b at 01:36 PM | Comments (46)

July 25, 2015

Turkey Lauches War On Islamic State's Worst Enemies - The Kurds

Since 2013 a ceasefire between the state of Turkey and Kurdish PKK rebels in south-east Turkey held up well. The government pledged some support for Kurdish cultural autonomy and in return the ruling AK Party gained votes from parts of the Kurdish constituency. The AKP government also has good relations with the Kurds in north Iraq. It buys oil from the Kurdish regional government and supports the kleptocracy of the ruling Barzani clan in that autonomous Iraqi region.

The PKK is a militant Kurdish organization in Turkey. The equivalent in Syria is known as YPG. In Iran the group is called PJAK and in Iraq HPG. The HDP party in Turkey is the political arm of the PKK. The PYD is the political arm of the Syrian YPG. All these are essentially the same egalitarian, secular marxist/anarchist organization striving for Kurdish autonomy or independence.

[Correction per CE in comments:
The PKK is main Kurdish party in Turkey. Its military arm is the HPG. Usually though only PKK is used to identify both. The equivalent in Syria is the PYD as the party and the YPG as its military arm. The HDP that now sits in the Turkish parliament after wining 12% of the vote is not the political wing of the PKK (which is itself a political party). HDP is an umbrella party of several far-left secular parties, including Kurdish, and is for minority rights including and foremost those of Kurds. (Confused? So was I.)]

Turkey has now reopened its war on the PKK Kurds in Turkey, Iraq and in Syria. Turkish police rounded up hundreds of Kurdish activists in Turkey and tonight dozens of Turkish fighter planes attacked PKK positions in Syria and Iraq. This war is likely to escalate and will be long and bloody. It will be mostly fought on Turkish ground. How did it come to this?

The war on Syria and support by Turkey for even the most radical islamists fighting the Syrian government changed the relations with the Kurds. It is undeniable that Turkey not only supports the Free Syrian Army but also the Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. Turkey is the transit country for international suicide bomber candidates joining these organizations. Weapons, ammunition and other goods are smuggled into Syria with the help of the Turkish secret services and the Islamic State exports oil to Turkey. The Islamic State is recruiting in Turkey and is believed to have many sleeper cells throughout the country.

When the Islamic State attacked Kurdish positions in Kobane in north Syria the U.S. intervened on the side of the Kurds. Turkey was miffed and at first blocked all support. The Kurds in Kobane are, like the Kurdish rebels in Turkey, organized in the PKK/YPG. They want an continuous autonomous region in north Syria connecting all Kurdish enclaves along the Turkish Syrian border.

Ankara fears that such a region could be joined by the Kurdish areas in south-east Turkey. This would be a threat to the Turkish state. Turkey wants to gain land in the war on Syria not lose any. Idleb and Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq are regions that Erdogan would like to add to his realm.

Cont. reading: Turkey Lauches War On Islamic State's Worst Enemies - The Kurds

Posted by b at 04:03 AM | Comments (38)

July 24, 2015

Blog Trouble (Meta) II

In March we had payment problems with Typepad, the provider of the hosting service for this blog. After some hefty discussions they admitted that the fault was on their side and they again made the blog accessible. The same problem recently reappeared and the same discussion started all over again with the same result.

One would hope that organizations, or at least the people talking with their customers, are somewhat learning entities. Unfortunately, most are not.


Posted by b at 10:27 AM | Comments (25)

July 21, 2015

Hiding Its Own Role NYT Publishes Anonymous Officials' Snowden Smears

What do certain U.S. administration officials do when they want to push a line of propaganda out to the world? They call up some willing stenographer from the New York Times. The NYT stenographers guarantee anonymity to the government officials and they certainly do not check the logical or factual plausibility of the fairy tales they are told. Instead they write up what they whatever is said as exclusive and a scoop.

In today's fairy tale, by Eric Schmidt and Ben Hubbard, we are told that the Islamic State leader "takes steps to ensure [his] groups survival".

Funny idea. Why would a group that survived the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the years since under constant, intensive military pressure NOW take steps for its survival? I had imagined it had taken such steps years ago. Otherwise how would it still exist?

But asking real questions is not a NYT journalist's job:

The Islamic State’s reclusive leader has empowered his inner circle of deputies as well as regional commanders in Syria and Iraq with wide-ranging authority, a plan to ensure that if he or other top figures are killed, the organization will quickly adapt and continue fighting, American and Iraqi intelligence officials say.

The officials say the leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, delegates authority to his cabinet, or shura council, which includes ministers of war, finance, religious affairs and others.

The Islamic State has deputy leaders which run various different parts of the organization? Wow. How would we ever have known this without anonymous "American and Iraqi intelligence officials" explaining such?

Any bigger organization has a leadership that delegates to deputies who run various parts of the business. That's how people organize and how they have done about anywhere and anytime. Would anyone, and for what reason, have expected something different from the Islamic State? Why then are we presented such a story?

There is nothing really new in the piece. It says that IS is run as a large organization and has somewhat autonomous branches in various countries. That was all well known. But the real agenda of the whole story may be condensed in just one paragraph which stands out as an obvious lie:

The Islamic State has also studied revelations from Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor, about how the United States gathers information on militants. A main result is that the group’s top leaders now use couriers or encrypted channels that Western analysts cannot crack to communicate, intelligence and military officials said.

IT IS ALL SNOWDEN'S FAULT say anonymous government officials and the NYT's voice activated tape recorders, aka <I>journalists</I>,  write it down and publish it.

But Osama Bin Laden was killed before Snowden left the NSA. Did he use cell phones or did he fear that those would be used to trace him? Have AlQaeda and the Islamic State started to use encryption only after the Snowden revelations? No :

[AlQaeda] ditched cell phones in favor of walkie-talkies and coded names. Information was passed through intermediaries. If someone needed to send an email, it was shielded by highly sophisticated encryption software.

That quote is from 2011, years before Snowden. But protecting communication started even earlier. In 2008 the Taliban in Afghanistan shut down cell phone towers that traced their movements. Such groups always protect their communication because they know that their enemies will use those to find and kill them. There is nothing new about this and whatever Snowden did has nothing to do with that. The NYT stenographers surely know this but they still write down the smears they are told without examining and explaining the actual facts.

And by the way - what secret did Snowden actually publish? He gave NSA papers to reporters and newspaper and they are the ones who selected some and made them public. One of those papers was the New York Times. The sentence inculpating Snowden should thereby have said:

The Islamic State has also studied revelations published by the New York Time about how the United States gathers information on militants.

That the NYT was involved in the same issue that is now used by anonymous officials to smear Snowden is of course not mentioned in the story.

The New York Times fired Judith Miller who wrote down fairy tales told by anonymous administration officials about no existing Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. How was whatever she did different from the stenographing Schmidt and Hubbard are doing in today's piece?

Posted by b at 12:29 PM | Comments (19)

July 20, 2015

U.S. Military Seeks Reasons To Prolong Afghanistan Occupation

When the U.S. attacked Afghanistan the purpose was to remove the Taliban government which had given guest status to the AlQaeda leadership. Only a few weeks later, that job was done.

The alleged purpose of the occupation of Afghanistan then changed into hunting down AlQaeda remnants. But those had already fled to Pakistan and elsewhere.

The U.S. military instead started to hunt and kill former Taliban members even when those were just local farmers or former Taliban leaders who had given up any fighting and were willing to cooperate. This manhunt and the accompanying torture and killing of civilians revived the Taliban movement and a new revolt, now against the U.S. occupation and its puppet government, started. The alleged purpose of the U.S. military in Afghanistan changed again.

The task was now to fight the new anti-government forces while building an Afghan army that would be able to later take care of that job. But finally peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban leadership started. An end of the inner Afghan conflict is slowly coming into sight.

But now, as pressure on the military to leave Afghanistan grows, a new threat conveniently springs up just in time to argue for a further occupation:

The emergence of militants in Afghanistan claiming allegiance to Islamic State could disrupt White House plans to remove the remaining U.S. troops in that country by the end of next year.

Islamic State has provided new ammunition to Pentagon and Afghan officials seeking to persuade the White House to reverse its decision to pull out U.S. troops. Their argument, in effect, is that Islamic State could grow and the same security collapse that occurred in Iraq could happen in Afghanistan if the U.S. removes its troops as planned.

Gen. John Campbell, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday that President Obama’s pledge to withdraw most of the 9,800 troops in Afghanistan by the end of 2016 was made before the appearance of Islamic State. He said the militant group has contributed to a worsening overall security situation in the country this year.

The threat of the somewhat imaginary Islamic State group in Afghanistan is vague. Those who are said to have joined it are former Taliban. The overall picture and number of potential enemies has thereby not changed at all. There has also been no significant operation yet of Islamic State followers in Afghanistan. They have likely killed less Afghan troops and civilians than the U.S. does with its regular friendly fire mistakes:

NATO forces launched an airstrike on an Afghan army outpost Monday, killing eight Afghan soldiers and wounding five others in an apparent friendly-fire incident, local officials told NBC News.
A later statement by Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense said that helicopters belonging to the U.S.-led military coalition had come under enemy attack in the area and returned fire, mistakenly hitting the army post, according to The Associated Press.

The U.S. military has recently intensified its air strikes in Afghanistan. But air strikes can never solve the issues on the ground nor can foreign troops. Only the local people can. There are no real justifications for the U.S. military to stay in Afghanistan. The inner Afghan conflict has been going on since at least 1978. It will take another decade or even longer to calm down. There will always be this or that group that disagrees with the Afghan government and takes up arms. Outer forces with whatever motive would only prolong that time frame.

The U.S. military should be ordered out of Afghanistan and the country shielded from further outer military intervention. Only then can it find back to peace.

Posted by b at 12:31 PM | Comments (30)

July 18, 2015

Open Thread 2015-29

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (104)

July 17, 2015

U.S. Air Force Is Supporting AlQaeda In Yemen And - Coming Now - Also In Syria

A few days ago newly Saudi trained Yemeni forces were inserted into the southern harbor city Aden to fight against Houthi and parts of the Yemeni army loyal to the former president Saleh. The inserted forces had brand new mine resistant vehicle and were led by special forces from the United Arab Emirates. With Saudi and U.S. air support they managed to push the Houthis from several Aden quarters. But after a day of fighting the attack got stuck and the Houthi hit back. An Emirati officer, likely acting as Forward Air Controller providing target designation for the air attacks, was killed. The Wall Street Journal notes that AlQaeda was part of the Saudi/U.S. supported forces:

Local militias backed by Saudi Arabia, special forces from the United Arab Emirates and al Qaeda militants all fought on the same side this week to wrest back control over most of Yemen’s second city, Aden, from pro-Iranian Houthi rebels, according to local residents and Houthi forces.

The U.S. is providing the ammunition, refueling and targeting intelligence for the "Saudi" campaign. Not only did it help to recently destroy various important bridges, hospitals and all three cement factories in Yemen, it is now actively giving air support to AlQaeda.

The same is likely to happen in Syria:

They arrived in Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, the favored vehicle of Islamist fighters in the Middle East and South Asia. But these men, the first graduates in the faltering U.S. train-and-equip program, were traveling into Syria to fight against an extremist insurgency, the Islamic State. The U.S. military calls them the “New Syrian force” and disclosed that they are to coordinate with rebel forces already on the ground who have a different objective – to fight the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The goal, a spokesman said, is to expand the effectiveness of all moderate forces.

Who please are the "moderate forces" in Syria? The clowns from Jaish al Fatah, Jabhat al Nusra (AlQaeda) and their best friends, the Brookings favorite Ahrar al-Shams, come to mind.

These groups, supported with the help of U.S. intelligence by Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Qatar, last month took Idlib in northern Syria. As reaction to that the Syrian government received additional support from its allies and pulled back to defensive positions. Since then new Jihadist attacks against Aleppo, Daara and in the Golan heights all failed with high casualties on the attackers side.

So now it is time to insert those "new" forces and, like in Yemen, offer AlQaeda the help of the U.S. air force:

[Maj. Curtis J. Kellogg, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command, told McClatchy] “However, it is anticipated that New Syrian Force personnel will coordinate with other moderate opposition forces to build trust between organizations that are countering ISIL and apply the skills they have learned through the train-and-equip program to increase the combat effectiveness of all forces they operate with.”
The “New Syrian Force” will be able to call in U.S. airstrikes, as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units or YPG, a militia that has captured dozens of villages from the Islamic State in recent weeks. A U.S. government official who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to discuss details of the program said the force on the ground will communicate with a U.S. military officer who’ll pass requests for air support to coalition commanders.

The "new" forces the U.S. is inserting will thereby be the Forward Air Controllers who will call in the U.S. air force "to increase the combat effectiveness of all forces they operate with". They will join the other insurgents on the ground, AlQaeda and other Jihadis, who have the premier aim of overthrowing the Syrian government.

Does anybody believe that the targeting data the "new" U.S. trained forces in Syria will be submitting will be solely of Islamic State targets?

But while the U.S. is giving air support to AlQaeda in Yemen and in Syria the lunatics of the Washington Post are threatening Iran for "meddling" in the Middle East:

Stopping Iran’s destabilizing behavior is the priority in the Middle East, as senior Israeli, Saudi and Emirati officials agree privately, whatever the public commotion about the nuclear deal. This essential task of confronting Tehran should be easier now that the Iranian nuclear program is capped for at least a decade.
What’s the best way to confront Tehran on these regional issues? As with the nuclear problem, the right strategy is a combination of pressure (including possible military force) and diplomacy.

"So yeah. Let's bomb Iran so we can help AlQaeda to swallow up Yemen and Syria."

I remember from years ago travel that the water in Washington DC is heavily chlorinated. Since then, it seems, they added LSD to it.

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

July 16, 2015

Billmon: The Eurosystem's (Monetary) Control of Europe's Politics

Note: This post was composed from a Twitteressay by Billmon.

J.W. Mason lists some Lessons from the Greek Crisis:

Before the crisis no one even knew that national central banks still existed — I certainly didn’t. But now it’s clear that the creditors’ unchallenged control of this commanding high ground was decisive to the outcome in Greece. Next time an elected government challenges the EU authorities, their first order of business must be getting control or cooperation of their national central bank.

The quote says "control or cooperation," but I can guarantee the latter is never going to happen.

It is nearly impossible to exaggerate the degree to which the campaign for central bank "independence" has made them the enemies within for any left governments.

The central bankers waged a 50-60 year political war to wrest back the monetary flexibility that the break down of Bretton Woods gave to national governments. Having won that war across most of the developed world in the 70s and 80s, they extended the battlefield to the emerging markets in '90s and '00s.

The autonomy of central banks (meaning the political allegiance to Wall Street/London City/Frankfurt etc.) was maybe the biggest neoliberal victory of all. If rightwing political victories (Reagan, Thatcher et. al.) were the beachheads of the Great Counterattack on social democracy then "independent" central banks became the citadels of the occupation forces: Neoliberalism's "Republican Guard."

Ironically, the ECB was originally conceived - or at least was sold to the European left - as a way for governments to regain monetary flexibility at a higher level. As a way to a) escape US dollar hegemony and to b) outflank the Bundesbank by formalizing the joint political control of European monetary policy. I do not know if the hack establishment Social Democrats who sold that vision ever believed it, but if so, more fool them. Because what the European Monetary Union became, obvious now, was a way to turn the vision on its head: formalize joint MONETARY control of Europe's politics.

The "Eurosystem", the network of national central banks governed by the European Central Bank, gives central bankers unprecedented ability to squeeze and manipulate national governments in a coordinated way. It is as if every government in the Eurozone ALREADY has a colonial entity watching it like the Troika's agents are supposed to watch Syriza in Athens. And, since the ECB Governing Council (like other EU institutions) tries to operate by a non-transparent "consensus" (i.e. the votes are not revealed), the degree to which national central bank heads are representing the ECB in their countries, rather than the other way around, is often not clear.

As long as the cozy comprador system tied peripheral governments to the core (i.e. Berlin), the role of the ECB and the Eurosystem could be obscured. Peripheral governments appointed "made guys" (i.e. banksters and/or their technicians) to national central bank boards and pretended to govern. Core politicians and their local comprador politicians let the Eurosystem technicians in Frankfurt tell them what "structural reforms" they should push to make the EMU "work."

But the moment an outsider government like Syriza came to power, the role of the Eurosystem and the national central banks in it could no longer be hidden. The fact that the Greek National Bank was an instrument of the ECB in Frankfurt, not of the Greek government in Athens, became obvious to everybody. The ECB's role as the muscle behind the Eurogroup's (Berlin's) diktats put the Greek National Bank in the position of helping to choke its own banks and terrorize its own citizens. And under the rules of EMU the Greek government was completely powerless to do anything about it. A defining moment.

The inescapable conclusion is that the allegedly "independent" Eurosystem now operates not as a network of central banks but as a parallel government.

The role of the Eurosystem within the half-hidden political order of the eurozone really is comparable to the Soviet or Chinese Communist Party. Like the Communist Party, the Eurosystem is now the "leading organ" of the neoliberal order, operating at all levels of the EU structure and providing "guidance" to elected political structures which are not formally under its legal control, but in reality are dominated by it. And behind the administrative apparatus of the party (Eurosystem) is the Central Committee (Eurogroup) and the Politburo (the key creditor government officials). And behind THEM is the real locus of the party's centralized power: the General Secretary (Germany/Merkel).

So J.W. Mason is quite right: it is impossible for any left government to attack the dictatorship of finance unless it controls its national central bank. But while control of the national central bank is necessary, it is hardly sufficient. As long as the EMU exit is off the table, verboten, so to speak, control of the national central banks only eliminates the "near enemy."

Ultimately it comes down to political will, which in parliamentary democracies, comes down to public support. As long as the majority (of all voters or of propertied influentials, depending on the system) is more loyal to the Euro than to national sovereignty an effective challenge to the dictatorship of finance is impossible - no matter how many national central banks the left controls.

Posted by b at 06:57 AM | Comments (230)

July 14, 2015

First Thoughts About The Iran Deal

Some deal was agreed upon between Iran and some security council countries. It will take some time to read and understand the full paper and the annexes, some 160 pages, to judge the outcome. What the media will write about it will be mostly spin from either side and the devil is as always in the details.

The deal itself is a major infringement on Iran's sovereignty extorted though a manufactured crisis about an Iranian nuclear weapons program that does not and did not ever exist. To see the hypocrisy of it just count the nukes:


The U.S. has a bad record of sticking to international deals it made. North Korea was promised two civil nuclear electricity plants to be build by the United States for stopping its nuclear activities. None was build and North Korea restarted its weapon program. Libya agreed to give up the tiny preliminary nuclear program it had and the U.S. destroyed the state.

Netanyahoo's puppets in the U.S. congress will do their best to blockade the current deal. Should they not be able to do so attempts will be made to press the next U.S. president into breaking the agreement.

Iran must now be very careful to not get trapped into more concessions or even a war.

Posted by b at 06:36 AM | Comments (80)

EU To Greece: Capitulate Or We Will Send In The Turks

"There are two ways to conquer and enslave a nation. One is by the sword. The other is by debt." - John Adams (1735-1826) When the threat of debt slavery not immediately worked some EU "leaders" threatened Greece with war.

Are threats of war now again a "European value"?

During a pivotal meeting with Merkel, French President François Hollande and European Council President Donald Tusk, Tsipras at one point received a thinly veiled threat that if he walked away and left the euro, Greece risked going it alone geopolitically, too.

According to two officials in Brussels with knowledge of the exchange, the specter was raised of aggression from Turkey — a neighboring nation viewed in Greece as a historic antagonist.

Even if Tzirpas manages to get the dictates from Brussel through the parliament in Athens no problem will be solved. Debt that can not be paid back will not be paid back. There is no chance that Greece will ever be able to come up with the money it formally owns. There is an assumption that some €50 billions can be raised through a sell off of state assets. Zero to may be €5 billion is realistic. No money will be available for economic expansion. Austerity will kill the sick and old.

That or the Turks are coming? I am not sure what I would choose.

Posted by b at 06:06 AM | Comments (67)

July 12, 2015

Greece: Schaeuble's Track

by Harm Bengen

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (111)

July 11, 2015

Washington Post Promotes Al-Qaeda Affiliate As "Moderate"

The Fred Hiatt funny pages, aka the Washington Post Opinon page, has a leader of Ahrar al-Shams writing against the official definition of "moderate rebels" in Syria.

Ahrar al-Shams is a violent Salafi terrorist group in Syria which was co-founded by an old time Al-Qaeda member:

Abu Khalid al-Suri, also known as Abu Omeir al-Shami : Suri was a co-founder of Ahrar al-Sham and acted as Ayman al-Zawahiri’s representative in Syria, charged with facilitating reconciliation amongst Islamist militants in the region. Suri was killed in a suicide bombing against Ahrar al-Sham’s headquarters. Ahrar al-Sham and other militant organizations blamed ISIS. Suri's close ties with Al Qaeda became clear after his death, when AQ commander Ayman al-Zawahiri published a eulogy for the fallen Ahrar al-Sham leader and AQ posted a video documenting his participation in Al Farouq training camp in Afghanistan, including photos of him with Osama bin Laden and Zawahiri.

While al Suri is dead the group he founded has not "moderated" one bit. It regularly cooperates and fights together with Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda arm in Syria. Here is recent a picture of both groups leaders affirming their allegiance to each other.

Keep that in mind when the Ahrar al-Shams ideologue writes:

[T]he United States has defined the term “moderate” in such a narrow and arbitrary fashion that it excludes the bulk of the mainstream opposition.

The group to which I belong, Ahrar al-Sham, is one example. Our name means “Free Men of Syria.” We consider ourselves a mainstream Sunni Islamic group that is led by Syrians and fights for Syrians. We are fighting for justice for the Syrian people. Yet we have been falsely accused of having organizational links to al-Qaeda and of espousing al-Qaeda’s ideology.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Washington Post now prints op-eds by one of the most despicable terrorist groups in Syria and allows it to spew pure lies. Ahrar al-Shams has no links to al-Qaeda? Except that it was founded by a top al-Qaeda guy and cooperates, like in the recent attack on Idleb, with the official al-Qaeda arm in Syria.

Time for a joke?

  • This weekend the Washington Post has Ahrar al-Shams writing: "We are moderates. At least we're not Al-Qaeda. Support us."
  • Next weekend the Washington Post will have a Jabhat al-Nusra op-ed claming: "We are moderates. So at least we're not ISIS. Support us.
  • Then, a week later, the Washington Post will print an op-ed by ISIS leader al- Baghdadi: "We at least are honest."

There has been a campaign, in several phases, to portrait first the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood with its bloody history and later al-Qaeda aligned Salafi terrorists as Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda. Qatari and Saudi money was involved in these campaigns.

One wonders how much the Washington Post was paid to let such dreck appear in a U.S. mainstream paper.

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (25)

July 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-28

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:37 PM | Comments (145)

July 08, 2015

U.S. Wants To Trick Iran Into Never Ending Nuclear Talks

The talks between the P5+1 and Iran about the nuclear issues have been prolonged and prolonged. The U.S. does not get what it wants, total Iranian capitulation, and is not ready to find real compromises.

It seems that the Obama administration now wants to trick the Iranians into never ending talks and to thereby keep Iran under those restrictions that were agreed upon when the talks started:

[T]he White House may allow Iran nuclear talks to continue indefinitely under an interim agreement that already limits Iran's nuclear program.

While the pressure of deadlines set for June 30 and Tuesday succeeded in squeezing important concessions from Iran, "we haven't gotten everything that we wanted yet," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"What we want to make sure of is that we continue to …keep in place, an agreement that freezes Iran's nuclear program, rolls it back in some key areas, while we continue to have these conversations," he said.

This may have been the plan all along.

The idea to keep the talks and the restrictions on Iran forever as An Alternative to the Iran Deal? was first published by one Yishai Schwartz on the conservative lawfareblog in May:

First, American negotiators would have to allow the current round of negotiations to fail, but without blowing up or reneging on any already-made commitments. Doing so should not be too difficult. ... Every few months, the sides will hold a summit and announce progress. Occasionally, limited sanctions relief will be exchanged for better inspections and increased constraints. In a few years, when memories have faded and sanctions are once again strangling the Iranian economy, we might pursue another comprehensive deal on more favorable terms. But more likely, we will continue to muddle along for years to come, exchanging limited relief for limited constraints---always keeping Iran from a nuclear capability, but never fully relaxing the vise.

Ali Gharib pointed out at that time that the Iranians are unlikely to go with such a plan:

Hardliners in Iran have already, for two years, been sniping and attacking negotiations, attacking Iran’s moderate president Hassan Rouhani and his foreign minister Javad Zarif. For the moment, Iran’s chief hardliner, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has backed his negotiating team, but with caution and reservations. What the JPOA held for Iran was a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s not clear that Khamenei will simply hang on if Iran fails to get closer to it. If the big prize—lifting the harshest sanctions—remains elusive, Iran’s incentive to check itself will fade.

It is quite clear who is stalling the talks now. Iran wants all UN sanctions, including those on its weapon purchases and ballistic missiles, lifted. Those sanctions were put onto Iran over the nuclear issue dispute. The U.S. does not want to lift those, as it earlier agreed to, even when the nuclear dispute is resolved:

Russia and China have expressed support for lifting the embargo, which was imposed in 2007 as part of a series of penalties over Iran's nuclear program.

But the U.S. doesn't want the arms ban ended because it could allow Tehran to expand its military assistance for Syrian President Bashar Assad's embattled government, for the Houthi rebels in Yemen and for Hezbollah in Lebanon.

What have these issues to do with the nuclear agreement? Nothing. The U.S. is now trying to abuse the 2007 UN sanctions over nuclear activities to press completely unrelated issues. This may well be part of a strategy to forever prolong the talks.

The hawks in Iran as well as the Supreme Leader will not agree to such U.S. trickery. They will end all talks and return the nuclear program to its earlier status lifting all restrictions. The rather liberal Rouhani government will be damned as having fallen for the U.S. negotiation ploy.

Posted by b at 02:54 PM | Comments (56)

July 07, 2015

Countdown To Grexit

The Greek referendum seemed to have given some push towards a compromise. But the powers that rule the Euro did not agree. The European Central Bank continues to starve the Greek banks. In a few days they will be toast and a Greek exit from the Euro will be inevitable. That seems to be what the hardliners in Berlin around the psychopathic Finance Minister Schaeuble want to achieve.

The Greek Prime Minister Tzirpas managed to get the backing of the people and most other political parties for a compromise offer. But the promises he made before the referendum already fall apart. The banks did not reopen, a deal is not in sight and given the fast deterioration of the real economy the situation will soon be immensely more difficult.

He will have to answer questions. Why can't he present a written proposal in Brussels today as he promised to do? Why hasn't he anticipated the assault on the banks by the ECB and the powers behind it? Why hasn't he prepared for an exit from the Euro? Why was there no scenario planning anticipating the current situation?

The German media and politicians have villainized the Greek so much, based on crude propaganda a denial of the on facts, that a Grexit seems to be the now favored public opinion in Germany. The public opinion in other northern and eastern European countries is very much the same. People do not want to "give more money to the Greek" even though hardly any money was given to them so far. What was given in taxpayer guarantees was given to German and French banks. The consequences of a Grexit seem to be beyond the realm of discussions.

Supporting some partial debt jubilee now, hardly noticeable when stretched over decades, and giving the Greek economy the ability to grow out of debt would be much cheaper for European taxpayers than a complete Greek default which will trigger the payment of hundreds of billions of guarantees. With an exit from the Euro such a default is very likely. Greece would then have no debt at all. It could again borrow from maybe Russia and other sources who would be happy to make some money lending to a then nearly debt free country.

On top of the catastrophic results of a five years austerity program the carnage in Greece from a hasty, unplanned bankruptcy and exit from the Euro would be huge. But the example of other cases of state bankruptcy show that the recovery is usually quite fast and the long term possibilities much more favorable than the slow death a continued austerity program would guarantee.

(I am still under an unusual workload but the end is in sight.)

Posted by b at 12:19 PM | Comments (182)

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