While France Blocked Negotiations Kerry Blames IranAs has been widely reported it were French demands that blew the recent Geneva negotiations with Iran:
[F]rom the moment he arrived, Mr Fabius saw his role as the plug-puller in chief. His first act was to reveal details of negotiations that were meant to have been kept secret. His second was to tell France Inter radio that Paris would not accept a "fool's game"; and his third was to declare the results of the talks before Lady Ashton and Mr Zarif could do so jointly.
Under pressure from the Zionist lobby Secretary of State Kerry and his acolytes are now trying to change that story and to blame Iran for the failure of the negotiations. A propagandistic NYT story takes the lead in this attempt:
[W]hile France took a harder line than its partners on some issues, a senior American official said it was the Iranian delegation that balked at completing an interim agreement, saying that it had to engage in additional consultations in Tehran before proceeding further.It is easy to identify the "senior American official. After the Geneva negotiations Kerry dispatched his deputy Wendy Sherman to Israel:
A senior American official who briefed Israeli reporters and experts in Jerusalem on Sunday said that the six world powers in the talks had approved a working document and presented it to the Iranians, according to Herb Keinon of The Jerusalem Post, who attended the briefing.
US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman arrived in Israel Sunday for meetings with senior government officials, to update them on the recent round of Western negotiations with Iran over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.Why doesn't the NYT identify Sherman when it is obvious that she is the "senior American official" in Jerusalem? Is it because she is a racist?
“Deception is part of the DNA of the Iranian leadership.”Or is it because she is known to lie?
Sherman claims that “It has always been the U.S. position that Article IV of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty does not speak about the right of enrichment at all [and] doesn’t speak to enrichment, period.” But, in fact, the United States originally held that the right to peaceful use recognized in the NPT’s Article IV includes the indigenous development of safeguarded fuel-cycle capabilities.Whatever. The false Sherman claim is now supported by Kerry himself:
Earlier reports said the talks fell apart because France refused to accept the proposed deal. Kerry said the major powers reached an agreement but Iran was not able to accept the deal "at that particular moment".These false claims are supposed to reflect criticisms of Kerry from Netanyahoo and his helpers in Congress. To blame Iranian negotiators and racist bizarre Bazzar rhetoric might be helpful to achieve that in the short term. But it will make it more difficult for Kerry to achieve any real negotiation results. This while Iran, as its intensifying cooperation with the IAEA shows, is clearly willing to come to a reasonable agreement.
"The French signed off on it, we signed off on it," he said in Abu Dhabi. "There was unity but Iran couldn't take it."
France Blocks U.S. Pivot To PersiaFrance has been and is a major nuclear proliferator in the Middle East. While it worked and works to enable some countries to build nuclear weapons it wants to deny any and all civil nuclear capabilities to others. The primary reasons are greed and a certain craving for its former grandeur which today is no longer supported by the necessary economic and military means.
On 3 October 1957, France and Israel signed a revised agreement calling for France to build a 24 MWt reactor (although the cooling systems and waste facilities were designed to handle three times that power) and, in protocols that were not committed to paper, a chemical reprocessing plant. This complex was constructed in secret, and outside the IAEA inspection regime, by French and Israeli technicians at Dimona, in the Negev desert under the leadership of Col. Manes Pratt of the IDF Ordinance Corps.Saudi Gazette, Oct 3, 2013 France ready to be KSA’s strategic partner in nuke, renewable energy
Speaking to the Saudi Gazette, the French Ambassador to the Kingdom said “the aim of this meeting is very clear, France has been the first country to sign government to government agreement on nuclear and energy because we do think that taking it into account the huge program the Saudi government wants to implement in the nuclear field and France has a lot to bring in terms of the best nuclear technology in the world.”France 24 Hollande backs Israel on Iran nuclear threat
A day after Benjamin Netanyahu urged France to take a tough stance on Iran, French President François Hollande spoke to the Israeli Prime Minister by phone and promised French support.Guardian Geneva talks end without deal on Iran's nuclear programme
Three gruelling days of high-level and high-stakes diplomacy came to an end in Geneva with no agreement on Iran's nuclear programme, after France blocked a stopgap deal aimed at defusing tensions and buying more time for negotiations.A temporary deal in Geneva would have been the first step for a larger nuclear deal which then could have brought Iran "in from the cold". This would have been the start of a "Pivot to Persia" after which the U.S. would have balanced its difficult relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia with friendly relations with Iran. Without such a realignment in the Middle East the U.S. will be militarily and financially incapable of executing its plans for a pivot to Asia.
[D]iplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.
France blew up the historic deal and, despite earlier signals from France, the other "western" countries involved were not prepared for this and their foreign ministers incapable of handling French intransigeance. This disunity within the P5+1 group negotiating with Iran will hamper all further negotiations. Who can Iran negotiate with if there is no united opposition?
The current break down gives the U.S. Congress and the Netanyahoo lackeys therein a chance to add further sanctions on Iran by attaching them to next weeks National Defense Authorization Act. But the P5+1 disunity is, at least in the short term, positive for Iran. No one can accuse it now of not being willing to negotiate and of not actively seeking a compromise. The sanctions Congress will enact are third party sanctions where it will "punish" other countries for dealing with Iran. As it is obviously not Iran that is holding up a deal those third party countries will be quite unwilling to follow such a U.S. Congress diktat. The sanction regime will thereby break down. Slowly first, but then with ever increasing speed.
It is dubious that France, Saudi Arabia and Israel will be capable of holding up an Iran deal for more than a year or so. There is a historic logic in a U.S. and general "western" pivot to Persia as such a pivot would allow to disentangle itself from the capricious "allies" it currently has in the Middle East. The hostile reaction of the U.S. public towards the attempt of waging an open war on Syria was a sign that historic changes in the current alliances are unavoidable.
Afghan's Care For Human Rights - U.S. "Disappointed"Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states:
No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.The UDHR further guarantees the rights of liberty, due process and to be presumed innocent until proved guilty.
The United States does not like that Afghans and their parliament insist on these rights. The United States arbitrarily arrests Afghans who it assumes, without evidence, to be "terrorists" or at least "Taliban". After some struggle it finally agreed to hand over the arrested to the Afghan government. Now an Afghan commission decides if the evidence, if there is any at all, is sufficient enough for to case to go to a trial. In four out of five cases the evidence is insufficiant or lacking at all and the prisoner is set free.
Such laudable due process is disliked by the U.S. military. It therefore pressed on the Afghan government and the parliament to allow for long term detentions without evidence of guilt and without trials. The Afghan parliament, rightfully, rejected such severe violations of universal human rights. That, says the United States, is a "problem":
A key problem, U.S. officials said, is the Afghan parliament’s unwillingness to pass legislation that would permit the government to detain individuals even if insufficient evidence exists to prosecute them in court. Most of the detainees were apprehended in military operations where the collection of evidence was not a priority; in other cases, information leading to their capture came from sources the U.S. government deems too secret to share with the Afghan government.The U.S. military knows of course how to avoid such "disappointment":
“This is very disappointing,” said a U.S. official involved in Afghanistan policy who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss detention operations.
"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"But that solution is just as dumb as the anonymously quoted disappointment of the U.S. official above.
What is again the U.S. trying to do in Afghanistan?
Big Changes In U.S. Middle East Policy?
There seems to be big, though forced, moves in U.S. Middle East policy underway. Israel is getting some beating while a temporary deal with Iran is in the making.
After trying again and again to get Netanyahoo to accept serious negotiations with the Palestinians U.S. Secretary of State Kerry had finally enough and started to talk tough:
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday harshly criticized Israel’s decision to build roughly 5,000 new housing units in East Jerusalem and other settlements, alongside the release of a group of Palestinian prisoners. Kerry said settlement expansion sends a message that “perhaps you’re not really serious,” during an interview which aired on Israel’s Channel 2, as well as in Palestinian media.
“If we do not resolve the issues between Palestinians and Israelis, if we do not find a way to find peace, there will be an increasing isolation of Israel, there will be an increasing campaign of delegitimization of Israel that’s been taking place on an international basis,” he warned.
Adding an additional warning to the Israeli public, Kerry urged making peace “with a leadership that is committed to non-violence,” otherwise Israel “may wind up with leadership that is committed to violence.”
At the same time negotiations about Iran's nuclear developments in Geneva seem to come to a solution. In an unplanned move Kerry, as well as the French, German and British foreign ministers, will come to Geneva today to sign a preliminary deal with Iran. Netanyahoo called any such a deal a "historic mistake" and a very "bad deal" (video). He is losing it.
But the U.S. has no other chance. It is either deal with Iran now or see all the international sanctions against it disappear:
Robert Einhorn, a former State Department official who supports the administration’s negotiating strategy, dismissed as “not achievable” the maximalist approach advocated by Mr. Netanyahu.
“I don’t think any Iranian government could sell that deal at home,” Mr. Einhorn said during a conference call hosted by the Israel Project, a nonprofit organization that promotes Israel’s security. “I think we would pay a price in terms of the unraveling of sanctions if it looked like we, and not the Iranians, were the cause of the impasse.”
Iran's new government showing a friendlier face and explaining it's nuclear program in English while keeping its principal position is giving the U.S. a chance to unwind itself from an increasingly untenable hawkish position.
The other party against a U.S. deal with Iran is Saudi Arabia. Warning shots are now fired against it. Witness yesterday's BBC feature about a Saudi quest for Pakistan build nuclear weapons. There is nothing new in the piece. That the Saudis financed those weapons and will have emergency access to them has been known for decades. Relaunching the story now helps to move the eyes away from Iran and towards the real villain in the Persian Gulf area.
The Saudis will have to change their position on Iran as well as on Syria where the Syrian army is making steady progress or they will become, together with Netanyahoo, the new focus of U.S. and European enmity.
"If they can't prove they're Taliban, bam"In 2010 Seymour Hersh gave a talk in Geneva. In one part he said:
What they've done in the field now is, they tell the troops, you have to make a determination within a day or two or so whether or not the prisoners you have, the detainees, are Taliban. You must extract whatever tactical intelligence you can get, as opposed to strategic, long-range intelligence, immediately. And if you cannot conclude they're Taliban, you must turn them free. What it means is, and I've been told this anecdotally by five or six different people, battlefield executions are taking place. Well, if they can't prove they're Taliban, bam. If we don't do it ourselves, we turn them over to the nearby Afghan troops and by the time we walk three feet the bullets are flying. And that's going on now.As Matthieu Aikins reports in Rolling Stone this was still going on three years later and is likely going on today:
By February 2013, the locals claimed 10 civilians had been taken by U.S. Special Forces and had subsequently disappeared, while another eight had been killed by the team during their operations.After the U.S. special forces left the base the locals dug up corpse near the base. Those were the men who had vanished. Aikins found eyewitnesses who confirmed some of the killings. Others can be concluded on by the circumstances.
The men were kept for two nights, one of which they spent in a suffocating shipping container, before most of them were released, including Hekmatullah, who says Kandahari and an American soldier had selected who would be set free. When Hekmatullah, a 16-year-old student, finally came home, his family was overjoyed and hoped that Esmatullah and Sediqullah would soon be released too. They never saw them again.
A similar roundup occurred on December 6th in the nearby village of Deh Afghanan, after which another four men who were taken to the American base went missing.
If such things were to happen once it probably could be excused as one bad apple unit running wild. But this stuff has happened over years again and again, in Iraq as well as in Afghanistan. It is policy and a bad one.Since the second world war the United States did not win one of the many wars it waged. How much is such outrageous behavior against the locals, which also happened in the Korean and Vietnam war, responsible for that?
Syria: The Saudis Can Not LeadBob Woodward propagandizes for the Saudi prince Bandar in the Washington Post:
Persian Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia, are moving to strengthen their military support for Syrian rebels and develop policy options independent from the United States in the wake of what they see as a failure of U.S. leadership following President Obama’s decision not to launch airstrikes against Syria, according to senior gulf officials.In another attempt to unify the Syrian opposition the Saudis want to build a complete new external army with weapons from France and Pakistani special force training. That army is then supposed to defeat the Syrian government.
It is not going to work writes Carnegie's Yezid Sayigh:
This Saudi effort will only serve to further polarize the rebels. The main losers are likely to be the currently recognized leaders of the opposition—the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces and the allied Higher Military Council of the Free Syrian Army.That prediction was quite good. The head of Revolutionary Military Council of the so called Free Syrian Army, Abdul-Jabbar-Akidi just resigned. This came after his loss of Safira and the reopening of the government supply line between Damascus and Aleppo. Several Damascus suburbs were also recently cleared of insurgency forces.
Unless the Saudi-supported rebels adhere to an agreed political strategy and buy into being represented by the National Coalition, they are likely to suffer the same lack of cohesion and capacity as those they seek to supplant. And by funding its own chosen group of rebels, Saudi Arabia too risks slamming shut its windows of opportunity and undercutting its goals in Syria.
There are some scary phantasies of what the Saudis could do to press on the U.S. to wage open war against Syria. But any of the measures the Saudis could take could be easily countered. In the worst case, from the Saudi perspective, the U.S. would just turn around, make nice with the Persians and put the Saudi family dictatorship instead of Iran onto the "axis of evil" list. There are likely rather few people in this world who would have problems with such a move.
The Saudi rulers are internally devided over the succession of King Abdullah as well as their internal and external policies. That is not a consolidated position from which they could lead the Arab world or even seriously challenge the Syrian government.
"Disorder" In And "Saving" IraqSo who is responsible for "disorder" in Iraq ? Who created it? Who must "save" Iraq (whatever that may mean)?
Not the New York Times which spread the propaganda about weapon of mass destruction in Iraq and pushed the U.S. public to accept a war on Iraq. Not the editors of the NYT who called for sanctions and that disastrous war. Not the United States which destroyed the Iraqi state. Not the Saudis who currently, with CIA support, finance and weaponized AlQaeda and bring new fighters to Syria and Iraq.
No. It must be the fault of Iraqis and especially their prime minister al-Maliki.
Maliki and the Iraqi security forces need weapons and better intelligence to defeat AlQaeda, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. does not want to deliver such or help repair the damage it has done to Iraq. That is good, says the editors:
President Obama and Mr. Maliki, who met at the White House on Friday, agreed on the need for equipment so Iraqi forces can pursue militants. But there was no indication that Mr. Maliki, who plans to run for a third term, had received new commitments for American-made weapons like Apache helicopters and expedited delivery of F-16 fighters.It really needs very shallow minds and a lot of chutzpa to write such editorials without collapsing from some major cognitive disorder and dissonance.
Given his authoritarian duplicity, there is no reason to trust him with even more arms unless he adopts a more inclusive approach to governing and ensures that next April’s election will be fair and democratic.
Open Thread 2013-23
News & views ...
NSA Taps Google - But What About Economic Spying?As I once told a company I consult: "I urge you not to use ANY of those cloud based service. You are giving control of your data into many unknown hands." Using cloud services is a stupid rage. How can the New York Times expect any privacy in its news gathering when it outsources its email systems to Google? It can't.
Barton Gellman reports for the Washington Post: NSA infiltrates links to Yahoo, Google data centers worldwide, Snowden documents say
The National Security Agency has secretly broken into the main communications links that connect Yahoo and Google data centers around the world, according to documents obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and interviews with knowledgeable officials.I doubt that this scheme is restricted to inter-data-center-traffic of Google and Yahoo. It is likely that such traffic from other large cloud services - Apple, Microsoft, Amazon etc - is also sniffed off by some NSA system.
By tapping those links, the agency has positioned itself to collect at will from among hundreds of millions of user accounts, many of them belonging to Americans. The NSA does not keep everything it collects, but it keeps a lot.
Immediately after Gellman's report came out today the NSA head Alexander was asked about it during a Congress hearing:
National Security Agency Director Keith Alexander was forced to respond to the latest bombshell report on the agency’s surveillance activities on Wednesday, first saying he hadn’t heard of the story and then denying the substance of the story.The transcripts of the hearing are not out yet and it may well be that Alexander is literary right - the NSA may not tap into individual data centers - while factual incorrect. In a cloud based service multiple data centers are from a system point of view seen as one. That is also what the above NSA graphic shows. Tapping into traffic between them is no different than tapping into one of them. Alexander knows that and that makes his above statement a non-denial denial commonly also known as a lie.
“I don’t know what the report is,” Alexander said. When asked if the NSA tapped the data centers, he replied “Not to my knowledge, that’s never happened.”
It is all about 9/11, 9/11, 9/11 claim the NSA talking points (pdf) prepared for its officials and now FOIAed by AlJazeerah. The talking points are also full of lies about oversight over the NSA. Effectively there is none. None at all. The NSA is the deep state.
NSA spying is of course not about 9/11. It is in its ends about control of individuals and companies, societies and economies.
That last item is missing from all the recent reports though we can be sure that economic spying is one of the major NSA tasks. Back in 1995 an NYT piece explained:
Spying on allies for economic advantage is a crucial new assignment for the C.I.A. now that American foreign policy is focused on commercial interests abroad. President Clinton made economic intelligence a high priority of his Administration, specifically information to protect and defend American competitiveness, technology and financial security in a world where an economic crisis can spread across global markets in minutes.
At the Treasury Department, the trade representative's office and the Commerce Department, officials say they now receive a torrent of information from the C.I.A.
Economic spying is likely the major reason why the NSA keeps taps on militarily allied heads of states like chancellor Merkel. Knowing her likely decisions on economic issues allows the United States and NSA connected U.S. banks to take advantages before those decisions are made public. One wonders how many billions per day U.S. companies steal through these schemes.
One also wonders how much longer it will take for other countries, and people like my customer, to wake up to this fact and to enforce a much stricter security regime over all their information. What about the NSA's "access it all" attitude have they yet to understand?
Who Lost The Western Pacific? Obama did.Today the claim that the U.S. is the leader of the free world was again refuted. No one but a racist West-Asian colony of a few East-Europeans follows its lead:
The U.N. General Assembly has voted overwhelmingly to condemn the U.S. commercial, economic and financial embargo against Cuba for the 22nd year in a row.
The vote Tuesday was 188-2, with three abstentions. The United States and Israel voted against it.
The vote was lost despite Obama's alleged recent order to the NSA to curb some of its illegal spying on the United Nations. The outcome of the vote was worse than expected. Under Obama the United States has lost the western Pacific. This year Micronesia voted against the U.S. after abstaining last year. Palau abstained after voting with the U.S. last year.
Muslim Brotherhood Burns Dogs, Tortures Kittens, Eats ChildrenCBS New York reports:
Refugee Puppies From Egypt Looking For Homes In U.S.
Dogs Were Nearly Set On Fire By Muslim Brotherhood, Rescuer Says
DUMONT, N.J. (CBSNewYork) — They were nearly casualties of the ongoing violence in Egypt. Now two puppies rescued from the streets of Cairo are in New Jersey and looking for homes.
As CBS 2′s Amy Dardashtian reported, about two weeks ago, members of the Muslim Brotherhood marching toward Tahrir Square to demand that ousted President Mohamed Morsi be reinstated were using puppies as gas bombs — dipping them in gasoline and lighting them on fire, said Robyn Urman, a pet rescuer in Tenafly.
Urman received a Facebook message from Mervat Said, an animal rescue volunteer in Egypt, who said two puppies, Cleopatra and Cairo, were saved moments before they were to be used as weapons.
Three young kittens were tortured and two little children were grilled and eaten by the mob before the rescuers could intervene.
(h/t Erin Cunningham)
Vali Nasr - Wrong Premise, Bad AdviceVali R. Nasr is the dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In an op-ed in the New York times he writes:
The coup last July in Egypt opened a new divide in the Middle East, alienating the Gulf monarchies from the Muslim Brotherhood. This is a momentous change in the region’s strategic landscape that promises to influence governments and regional alliances for years to come.How wrong is it necessary to be to stay in such a prestige job?
For six decades, Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood were comrades in arms. Theirs was an Islamic alliance, formed in the 1950s to defend against the secular Arab nationalism that Egypt’s leader, Gamal Abdel Nasser, had unleashed. The alliance survived the end of that ideology, and since the 1980s it had defended the Sunni claim to Islamic leadership against the Shiite challenge from Iran.
While the Saudis have at times financed some parts of the Brotherhood and used them internationally when convenient, like sending them out against the Soviets in Afghanistan, while suppressing them in Saudi Arabia. There never was a major alliance between them and they were certainly never "comrades in arms". It is, and has always been, a serious danger to the Saudi family regime. At least since the early 1990s the Saudi regime sees the Brotherhood as one of its major foes. The "new divide" Nasr sees is nothing new but is decades old.
From a long 2004 piece on the Brotherhood:
The Brotherhood began to fall out of favor with the Saudis in 1990, when the Ikhwan backed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in his invasion of Kuwait. The Saudis slowly cut off funding.
After the Sept. 11 attacks, Saudi leaders began describing the transnational Brotherhood as the germ of al Qaeda while playing down the role of its government-backed clergy. Recently, Saudi Interior Minister Prince Nayef repeatedly denounced the Brotherhood, saying it is guilty of "betrayal of pledges and ingratitude" and is "the source of all problems in the Islamic world."
From his wrong premise Nasr argues that the U.S. should meddle more in Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia and Jordan and through economic help somehow miraculously create coalitions of secular democrats with "willing elements of the Muslim Brotherhood" in these countries. That he says would then somehow cure the current rift with the Saudis.
Does that sound confused? That is likely because it is confused. Nasr, despite being a so called Middle East expert, seems not to understand the basic history, believes and interests of the various powers in the Middle East. Vali Nasr is a member of the State Department's Foreign Affairs Policy Board. He is one of the reasons why U.S. Middle East policy is a chaos.
Merkel Sells Out For 5 Eyes AccessPresident Obama allegedly claims (German report) that he did not know about the 10+ years long NSA wiretap on the German chancellor Merkel's cellphones. I do not believe that. He will have been briefed about Merkel, her thoughts and positions each and every time he was calling or meeting her. Did he never ask where the information he got in those briefings was coming from?
(If he indeed did not know that Merkal was tapped by the NSA he should chop off not only the heads of the NSA and the DNI but also of his National Security Adviser who is supposed to know and explain such stuff.)
But I assume there is deal behind Obama's "I did not know" assertions. Merkel does not want to get rid of the "collect it all" spying on Germans and other people. She, who some believe was herself an nonofficial associate (IM) of the infamous East German state security service (Stasi), does not mind the violation of German citizens' rights to privacy. She wants to be, against German public opinion, part of the club that does the spying. She wants to have Germany accepted in the 5 eyes club which consists of the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Those countries have pledged not to spy on each other but to share everything they have. But in effect the secret services of these countries are just NSA appendages. The NSA even pays for many of the other services efforts.
To make a deal Merkel will have to claim that she can trust Obama. His claim that he did not know about the wiretap on her is supposed to make that possible.
I doubt that such a deal will happen. Neither the UK nor the United States ever really trust Germany especially over its relatively good relation with China, Russia and Iran. They do not want to share with its services. They will probably offer some 5-eyes-light agreement that will give them more information from the German services but will not allow full access to the 5-eyes secrets. Merkel may even fall for that.As Swoop remarks this week:
The first instinct of many members of the Intelligence Community is to dismiss the French and German complaints as naïve and hypocritical. However, a more conciliatory attitude is developing, motivated in part to prevent the Europeans from developing alternative Internet infrastructure that would be impermeable to US monitoring. With German intelligence officials due to visit Washington soon for talks on this issue, we expect a modus vivendi to be reached.
A Syria Expert - Twelve Month Ago
Twelve month ago an often quoted academic and so called expert on Syria tweeted the following:
Aleppo falling to FSA. Rebels take al-Syrian Jadide, heart of Christian area. #syria #aleppoThose hilarious illusions though, ended a few hours later:
4:46 AM - 25 Oct 12
al-Syiraan Adime just fell to rebel militias as well. Center of Aleppo fallen. #syria #aleppo
4:52 AM - 25 Oct 12
Syria Regime Gives up Aleppo. FSA sharpshooters on top of all buildings in a-Syrian jadide and Qadime, Christian heartland #Syria #Aleppo
4:54 AM - 25 Oct 12
Shooting has stopped totally in Aleppo. Eerie silence overtakes city as government relinquishes control and Rebels take over. #Syria #Aleppo
5:09 AM - 25 Oct 12
@FareedZakaria #syria Aleppo has fallen to rebels. Government gives up control as eerie silence decends over city.
5:12 AM - 25 Oct 12
Gov tanks descend on Faisal street - main road near al-Syriaan jadide, Rebel troops retreat into Ashrafiya. #syria #aleppo
12:33 PM - 25 Oct 12
Depending on the insurgency's propaganda for information, working with a simplistic sectarian mental model of the complex Syrian society and having zero experience in the art of war is the base of such sorry expertise.
Experience based realistic interpretation of all available facts would certainly provide for better analysis. Unfortunately there are few real practitioners of such a process in U.S. foreign policy discussions.
Syria: After CW Removal, Obama May Again Go For Regime ChangeThe NYT has a long piece on the development of Obama's policies towards Syria. While some on his staff pressed for outright open war on Syria others were going along the "let them kill each other" line. Their idea was and is to let both sides fight each other until no one is left standing. To this purpose the stream of weapons and ammunition to the mercenaries fighting the Syrian government was switched off when the mercenaries were in advantage and switched on again when the government seemed to win.
That position has somewhat changed after the agreement by Syria to get rid of its chemical weapons. The Obama administration had to give the preference to the Syrian government. But what happens after those chemical capabilities and weapons are dismantled, which is likely to be soon the case?
The world's chemical weapons watchdog says it is confident that Syria will meet an important early milestone in its disarmament, the 1 November deadline for destroying all equipment used in the production and mixing of poison gases and nerve agents.With the equipment destroyed Syria will still have some mustard gas and the precursor chemicals for Sarin. But whoever will get hold of those will no longer have the capability to use them effectively in any serious fight.
If there is therefore no longer any fear that the dangerous stuff might fall into bad hands Obama's former strategy to "let them kill each other" may come back and U.S. support for the mercenaries may return. Dan Drezner for one sees this coming:
Once the chemical weapons infrastructure is removed -- and the evidence to date suggests that this is proceeding apace -- then I don't see what keeps the administration from ratcheting up pressure on the Syrian regime. If Assad can't secure his position over the next 3-6 months, then he's facing a potentially more precarious situation afterwards.When the deal over the chemical weapon removal was done there was talk about a Russian security guarantee to Syria. We do not know if such a guarantee has indeed been given or what form it might take. But I, like Drezner, believe that it may well be needed as soon as Syria's chemical weapons are gone.
While - 30 years after the Marines barracks bombing in Beirut - the U.S. should have learned about such useless interventions and the danger of attacking Syrian forces it definitely has not done so. There is always the chance that it will commit another such blunder.
Prince Bandar's New Hissy Fit
From the WSJ piece:
Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief told European diplomats this weekend that he plans to scale back cooperating with the U.S. to arm and train Syrian rebels in protest of Washington's policy in the region, participants in the meeting said.From Reuters:
In Washington in recent days, Saudi officials have privately complained to U.S. lawmakers that they increasingly feel cut out of U.S. decision-making on Syria and Iran. A senior American official described the king as "angry."
Another senior U.S. official added: "Our interests increasingly don't align."
Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that Washington had failed to act effectively on the Syria crisis and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.
"The shift away from the U.S. is a major one," the source close to Saudi policy said. "Saudi doesn't want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent."
"Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.," the source close to Saudi policy said. "This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine.
Prince Bandar, who was ambassador to U.S. for 22 years and now runs the campaign against Syria, is leading this move. One wonders if the foreign minister and King Abdullah fully agree with it. Threatening to change the 80+ year old relations with the U.S. is quite offensive and the Saudis seem to believe that the U.S. has no choice but to follow their way.
They are wrong in this.
Reuters suggest that changes could come in Saudi arms purchases, in their oil sales or in their investment in U.S. government bonds. But these threats are not credible. The Saudis just ordered more ammunition for a cool $10 billion and their oil sales are fungible. There are also few other safe assets to invest in.
Prince Bandar and his media shills suggest that the Saudis could go rogue over Syria where Bandar's project to get rid of Assad has failed despite him spending hundreds of millions of dollars on the mercenary Jihadists. But what else but paying more can Bandar actually do? The Saudi's military logistics are run by unreliable foreigners. The Saudi army has good equipment but zero expeditionary capability.There are also no other partners that could prop up the Saudi family regime. While Bandar suggests that France may be a candidate, that country does no longer have the serious military capability to support such a colonial scheme. The Chinese may well be willing to sell arms to the Saudis but, as I wrote:
China will deliver but will be smart enough to not interfere in Gulf politics like the U.S. is doing day by day.
Bandar will also know that the open U.S. attack on Syria, which he demands, will not come as the U.S. public and the U.S. congress are overwhelmingly against it. Washington has no interest in a longterm broken Syria that is run by Saudi supported Al Qaeda types.Saudi Arabia does not have the means to seriously pressure the United States. It also does not have a strategic alternative to staying in the U.S. realm. In the end the relation is a protection racket. The Saudis pay the U.S. military industrial complex for not getting attacked by it. Throwing hissy fits in such position is senseless nonsense.
The only thing that this Saudi strategy may achieve is a faster reconciliation between Washington and Tehran. Should the U.S. sympathies move to the eastern side of the Persian Gulf Saudi Arabia could soon become the target of new animosities.
Obamacare Meets Brooks' LawObama is making a big mistake by continuing the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) enrollment while the main software this enrollment depends on, the healthcare.gov website, is buggy:
“There’s no excuse for the problems,” he added, “and they are being fixed.” He said the government is “doing everything we can possibly do” to repair the site, including 24-hour work from “some of the best IT talent in the country.”
Ahh -- the "best and the brightest" will now "surge" to win this decisive battle. Haven't those concepts failed before?
Throwing more resources onto a broken mammoth software project is likely to increase the problems and to delay a bug free version. Software engineers and IT managers have known this law for decades:
"adding manpower to a late software project makes it later"Engineers who have not been involved with this software so far will now have to be trained by the people who know it. Total productivity will therefore sink. Discussions about design issues that had been held and decided months or years ago will start anew. Bugs that had already been cleared will be reintroduced. Communication within a 24 hour team will be very difficult, lead to miscommunications and further delays.
If this report about the site's problems is halfway correct the troubles will not end within a month or two:
In interviews, experts said the technological problems of the site went far beyond the roadblocks to creating accounts that continue to prevent legions of users from even registering. Indeed, several said, the login problems, though vexing to consumers, may be the easiest to solve. One specialist said that as many as five million lines of software code may need to be rewritten before the Web site runs properly.The website's task is to mask the very complicate process that is demanded by the law with an easy user interface. Currently parts of the user interface are in trouble and will be fixed but the real problems are more likely in the various back end connections to other databases and the complicate rule base that transfers the letters of the laws into a product choice decision.
“The account creation and registration problems are masking the problems that will happen later,” said one person involved in the repair effort.
The reasons for this failure are the usual ones and were foreseeable at the project's start. An inexperienced integration management team, ever changing requirements and a lack of testing:
One major problem slowing repairs, people close to the program say, is that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the federal agency in charge of the exchange, is responsible for making sure that the separately designed databases and pieces of software from 55 contractors work together. It is not common for a federal agency to assume that role, and numerous people involved in the project said the agency did not have the expertise to do the job and did not fully understand what it entailed.Throughout my IT managing career I have seen dozens of such project disasters. They are quite normal. About every second big IT project fails to reach its intended usefulness. Most of the projects will not meet the proposed timeline. But those projects were not about political legacy and most of the processes they covered had some alternatives that, though more costly and time consuming, could replace them.
In the last 10 months alone, government documents show, officials modified hardware and software requirements for the exchange seven times. It went live on Oct. 1 before the government and contractors had fully tested the complete system. Delays by the government in issuing specifications for the system reduced the time available for testing.
So what should Obama do? He should stop the current enrollment process and push all relevant dates at least six month out. Stop the customers from coming, repair the shop and only open anew when you are sure that you can serve everyone. By sticking to the current process and the buggy software Obama will only increase the mess and the political damage.
All these problems were of course unnecessary and Obama can only blame himself for them. Medicare is a quite well run system that already does for some parts of the U.S. population what the new law wants to achieve: Provide some reasonably prized health insurance. Expanding medicare, an established system, would have been much easier than this new process which is more about shuffling money to insurers, and now also software developers, than about getting healthcare for everyone.
Looking For Somebody’s Ass To Kick?From a preview on Peter Baker's new book on the Bush administration:
As one senior official who came to rue his involvement in Iraq put it, “The only reason we went into Iraq, I tell people now, is we were looking for somebody’s ass to kick. Afghanistan was too easy.”
Were they really all just braindead primitives like "suck on this" Thomas Friedman? To me this sounds like a rather silly excuse for collectively committing a supreme crime.
Open Thread 2013-22News & views ...
Africa Beware - These Troops Don't Come To HelpThis New York Times piece on the U.S. army attempts to justify its existence by preparing for wars in Africa reads like an official army press release: U.S. Army Hones Antiterror Strategy for Africa, in Kansas
Here on the Kansas plains, thousands of soldiers once bound for Iraq or Afghanistan are now gearing up for missions in Africa as part of a new Pentagon strategy to train and advise indigenous forces to tackle emerging terrorist threats and other security risks so that American forces do not have to.The plan behind this is certainly not honest. If one wants to seriously train foreign troops or help the population one must send specialists who also understand the culture of their guest countries. But here the army plans to send troops that are trained to fight in main battle tanks and who get only 6(!) days of minimalistic cultural training by graduate students of African heritage without any additional language capacities.
The first-of-its-kind program is drawing on troops from a 3,500-member brigade in the Army’s storied First Infantry Division, known as the Big Red One, to conduct more than 100 missions in Africa over the next year. The missions range from a two-man sniper team in Burundi to 350 soldiers conducting airborne and humanitarian exercises in South Africa.
What good can such troops do in those 50 African countries which are about all internally diverse and sociological complicate? What but trouble could they create?
The official army answer is this:
Gen. Ray Odierno, the Army chief of staff, said in an interview that the goal was to field an Army that could be “engaged regionally in all the combatant commands to help them shape their theaters, set their theaters, in order to sustain and execute our national security strategy.”U.S. national security strategy, Obama's pivot to Asia, is to contain China. As China has made many investments in African good-will and resources the countries there have now come under new U.S. scrutiny. "Shape their theaters" and "set their theaters" means to prepare the country and area in question for an onslaught of U.S. military might.
The countries in question would be well advised to reject such U.S. intrusions. Their leaders should notice that it are usually those native troops which were trained by the United States who, like recently in Mali, overthrow the government in military coops.
P.S. Notice that the comments to that NYT propaganda piece are by very wide margin negative towards such deployments.
Why Do The Saudis Want Then Decline A UNSC Seat?Today Saudi Arabia got itself elected as non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It was the first time that Saudi Arabia gained this position and an experienced diplomat expected great Saudi influence:
No doubt, it is a show of determination that the Saudi voice should be heard lest it is taken for granted by the big powers. It is a conscious decision to be assertive on the international stage.But shortly after news of the election by the General Assembly ran over the ticker and the diplomats piece was published the Saudis backtracked. They declined to take the Security Council seat citing three reasons:
Clearly, the Saudis are flaunting their prerogative to pronounce on the Syrian conflict. Many crucial decisions on Syria’s future will be taken at the Security Council through the coming year or two and Saudis want to influence them instead of being a passive onlooker.
If all this is going to be a good thing or not, time will tell. The notorious P5 gang will be looking quizzically at the great pretender. But, the point is, Security Council will now have five-and-a-half veto holding members. This never happened before and a new alchemy is called for.
“The continuation of the Palestinian Cause without a just and lasting solution for 65 years, resulting in several wars that threatened international peace and security, is irrefutable evidence and proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.Notice that the first two very important and longstanding Arab issues will be barely mentioned, if at all, in "western" news reports. The Associated Press report includes "Syria" nine times but mentions the Palestinian and WMD-free zone issue only in its thirteenth and last paragraph.
“The failure of the Security Council to make the Middle East a region free of all weapons of destruction, its inability to subdue the nuclear programs of all countries in the region without exception…is more irrefutable evidence of its inability to shoulder its responsibilities,” it added.
“Allowing the ruling regime in Syria to kill and burn its people through the use of chemical weapons, while the world stands idly by, without applying any deterrent sanctions against the Damascus regime, is also proof of the Security Council’s inability to carry out its duties and responsibility,” the Foreign Ministry statement said.
The Saudi move is a bit weird. A country does not get elected to the UNSC seat without wanting it. There is usually quite a competition about that position and bribes flow here and there to get the votes.
The Saudi foreign minister Saud bin Faisal bin Abdulaziz Al Saud has his position since 1975. He by now certainly knows his job. Did he really attempt to get the UNSC seat only to decline it?
This is the second time the Saudis are throwing a temper tantrum at the United Nations. The Saudis canceled their planned speech at the last UN General Assembly also citing lack of action by the United Nations as their reason. Nobody really cared about that just like nobody will care about Saudi Arabia rejecting the UNSC position.
Why then are the Saudis doing this? What is their plan?
U.S. Campaign Against Turkish Spy Chief ContinuesHuman Rights Watch and the Wall Street Journal blamed Turkey and especially its intelligence chief Hakan Fidan for supporting the "bad" insurgents and terrorists in Syria and to thereby hindering the U.S. plans to use the "good" insurgents and terrorists to achieve regime change there. The recent allegations were also covered in the Turkish press, often in support of the Turkish government strategy.
U.S. interference and the recent campaign against Hakan Fidan continue. The unofficial CIA-spokesperson, Zionist defender and Washington Post columnist David Ignatius now peddles allegations, based solely on mysterious "knowledgeable sources", that the Turkish intelligence service outed ten Iranians who worked as informants for the Israeli Mossad:
The Turkish-Israeli relationship became so poisonous early last year that the Turkish government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is said to have disclosed to Iranian intelligence the identities of up to 10 Iranians who had been meeting inside Turkey with their Mossad case officers.
Knowledgeable sources describe the Turkish action as a “significant” loss of intelligence and “an effort to slap the Israelis.”
First allegations against Hakan Fidan about contacts with Iranian services were made by Israeli officials back in 2010. Ignatius surely knows about the poisonousness of Turkish-Israeli relations. It was Ignatius who in 2009 in Davos denied (vid) the Turkish premier Erdogan a chance to respond to Israel's president Peres defense of the deadly Israeli attacks on Gaza.
Now Ignatius is defending Israel again. He alleges that it is Turkey which is responsible for bad Israeli behavior. In May 2010 Israel attacked a Turkish ship, on its way in international waters to bring aid to Gaza, and killed nine Turkish activists on board. Turkey demanded an apology. Only earlier this year, which the Turkish president Gül called "too late", did Israel apologize. Ignatius now claims that the apology came so late because the Turks in 2012 outed the Iranian Mossad agents:
Israeli anger at the deliberate compromise of its agents may help explain why Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu became so entrenched in his refusal to apologize to Erdogan about the May 2010 Gaza flotilla incident.So according to Ignatius an incident that happened, allegedly, in spring 2012 prevented the Israelis to give an apology for the Mavi Marmara incident in 2010, 2011 and 2012. Either the Israelis have some mysterious capabilities of foresight or Igantius has the cause and effect relations backwards.
If the Turks indeed outed Mossad spies it was likely in response to Israeli drone support for the Kurdish liberation movement and terrorist group PKK.
The Ignatius attack on Hakan Fidan must be seen in light of a change in U.S. strategy towards Syria as the focus of U.S. policy moves from regime change towards the prevention of a new Al-Qaeda stronghold in northern Syria. The Turkish intelligence services actively supported the Jihadists and that support must now be starved off.
There are signs that the campaign against such support is somewhat succeeding. On Tuesday the Turkish army claimed to have shelled a Syrian hill next to its borders after Jihadists in Syria had taken it as a new military position. If that shelling indeed took place it did not help. Today ISIS and the Tawhid brigade took control of the Bab al Salama border gate with Turkey. Thanks to Hakan Fidan and his boss Erdogan Al-Qaeda is now a direct neighbor of Turkey.
The 'de-Americanized' WorldCongress is in a game of chicken over minor domestics political issues with both sides holding the world economy as hostage. With this and its generally reckless behavior in international policies, including spying on everyone, the U.S. has displeased too many other countries to keep its position as a leading nation. As the moment of one sole superpower ends new alliances will have to be formed and new arrangements for a stable international system will have to be found.
Long gone are the Deng Xiaoping days of "keeping a low profile". The Xinhua editorial summarizes the straw that broke the dragon's back - the current US shutdown. After the Wall Street-provoked financial crisis, after the war on Iraq, a "befuddled world", and not only China, wants change.That is exactly what I see coming over the next decade.
This paragraph couldn't be more graphic:
Instead of honoring its duties as a responsible leading power, a self-serving Washington has abused its superpower status and introduced even more chaos into the world by shifting financial risks overseas, instigating regional tensions amid territorial disputes, and fighting unwarranted wars under the cover of outright lies.
The solution, for Beijing, is to "de-Americanize" the current geopolitical equation - starting with more say in the International Monetary Fund and World Bank for emerging economies and the developing world, leading to a "new international reserve currency that is to be created to replace the dominant US dollar".
NYT's OPCW "He Said, She Said" Reporting Misses Major JudgementIn 2002 José Bustani, the then head of the now Nobel prized Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, was fired because his insistence on bringing Iraq into the Chemical Weapon Treaty conflicted with the war plans of the Bush administration.
The New York Times recently picked up on the story:
Mr. Bolton, then an under secretary of state and later the American ambassador to the United Nations, told Mr. Bustani that the Bush administration was unhappy with his management style.That bold sentence is wrong. The NYT presents the story as a mere "he said, she said" that misses any unambiguous judgement even as the case has been decided decisively in favor of Mr. Bustani:
But Mr. Bustani, 68, who had been re-elected unanimously just 11 months earlier, refused, and weeks later, on April 22, 2002, he was ousted in a special session of the 145-nation chemical weapons watchdog.
The story behind his ouster has been the subject of interpretation and speculation for years, and Mr. Bustani, a Brazilian diplomat, has kept a low profile since then.
Mr. Bolton insists that Mr. Bustani was ousted for incompetence. In a telephone interview on Friday, he confirmed that he had confronted Mr. Bustani. “I told him if he left voluntarily we would give him a gracious and dignified exit,” he said.The "interpretation and speculation" the Times insists on in giving this account has long been ended. After being fired on the U.S.'s insistence Mr. Bustani went to court and the International Labor Organization, which has jurisdiction over international organizations, was unambiguous in its judgement 2232:
As Mr. Bustani tells the story, the campaign against him began in late 2001, after Iraq and Libya had indicated that they wanted to join the Chemical Weapons Convention, the international treaty that the watchdog agency oversees.
“We had a lot of discussions because we knew it would be difficult,” Mr. Bustani, who is now Brazil’s ambassador to France, said Friday in his embassy office in Paris. The plans, which he had conveyed to a number of countries, “caused an uproar in Washington,” he said. Soon, he was receiving warnings from American and other diplomats.
“By the end of December 2001, it became evident that the Americans were serious about getting rid of me,” he said. “People were telling me, ‘They want your head.’ ”
1. THE DECISION TAKEN BY THE CONFERENCE OF THE STATES PARTIES OF THE OPCW ON 22 APRIL 2002 IS SET ASIDE.The court found that undue political influence by the United States led to Mr. Bustani's dismissal and that allowing such dismissal for purely political reasons was contrary to the principle neutral position of international organizations like the OPCW. The OPCW was ordered to pay Mr. Bustani not only for moral damage and legal costs but also his full salary up to 2005 when his term would have regularly ended.
2. THE OPCW SHALL PAY THE COMPLAINANT MATERIAL DAMAGES CALCULATED AS PER CONSIDERATION 17 OF THE PRESENT JUDGMENT.
3. THE ORGANISATION SHALL ALSO PAY HIM 50,000 EUROS IN MORAL DAMAGES.
4. IT SHALL PAY HIM 5,000 EUROS IN COSTS.
But in the NYT's account that ILO judgement never happened. It is not once mentioned in the story. For the Times the issue is still one of "interpretation and speculation" even as a court has judged fully in support of Mr. Bustani's version of the story. By that it defends the neo-conservatives of the Bush administration who would not for a moment care about law but only about their megalomaniac project of global hegemony.
The Afghan SOFA Farce ContinuesSecretary of State Kerry was in Afghanistan to convince the Afghan President Karzai to sign a Status of Force Agreement that would allow U.S. troops to stay in the country beyond 2014. While the long meeting was depicted as a success the main issue is still not agreed upon:
“Tonight we reached some sort of agreement,” Karzai said through an interpreter. “The United States will no longer conduct operations by themselves. We have been provided a written guarantee of the safety of the Afghan people. And a clear definition of invasion was provided.”The U.S. wants Afghan immunity for its soldiers and that any prosecution of their crimes should be handle in a U.S. court. Karzai can not agree with that. He will call a Loya Jirga to decide and will also ask the parliament for a vote on the issue. The United States will therefore have to pay a lot of bribes to get the vote it wants. But even if it should get a yes, which I doubt, it would not solve the problem of continued hostilities. In his Eid message the Taliban leader Mullah Omar warned against such a vote:
Kerry and Karzai broke an impasse in negotiations during two days of intensive talks in the Afghan capital, as an Oct. 31 deadline approaches for negotiating terms for some U.S. forces to remain in Afghanistan after combat forces depart in 2014.
“The one issue that is outstanding is the issue of jurisdiction,” Kerry said at an evening news conference with Karzai. “We need to say that if the issue of jurisdiction cannot be resolved, unfortunately there cannot be a bilateral security agreement.”
The Kabul Administration and the invaders are not only bent on playing havoc with Afghanistan domestically, but are marginalizing the country at regional and global level by signing colonial agreements and thus procure reasons for continuation of the war. Therefore, the invaders and their allies should understand that the strategic agreement will accompany grave consequences for them. Though they may get these documents rubberstamped by a fake Loya Jirga but it will not be acceptable to the Afghans. Throughout the history, the real representatives and Loya Jirgas of the country have never signed documents of slavery. So those who would sign this (document), could not be called a representative Loya Jirga of the country. Their decisions are not acceptable. The invaders should know that their limited bases will never be accepted. The current armed Jihad will continue against them with more momentum.That promised resistance is still looking strong and even seems to get stronger. A week ago, in what seems to have been a well prepared trap, four U.S.Rangers, considered to be elite forces, were killed and 13 were wounded in a raid on a well prepared house:
A Ranger regiment that included 36 troops and a canine unit were attempting to capture a high value target in Panjwai in southern Afghanistan. When the troops arrived at the home, U.S. military officials said, the unit did a typical “call out” asking for those inside to come out.Thirteen IEDs plus a female suicide bomber were ready to welcome the Ranger raid. It was a serious intelligence failure to fall for such a well set trap. It again shows that the U.S. enemy in Afghanistan can keep the initiative and continues to be able to inflict significant casualties. Even with a smaller footprint U.S. forces on the ground would still be in constant danger. In the fifteenth green on blue attack this year another U.S. soldier was killed today.
One man appeared. Reports from the battlefield suggest he dropped to his knees and lifted his shirt to show the U.S. forces that he was not wearing a suicide bomb vest.
As several members of the Ranger unit moved toward the man to begin questioning him, a woman wearing a suicide vest emerged from the house and blew herself up, killing several members of the unit instantly, along with the dog, and injuring others.
As U.S. army medics, explosives specialists and others in the unit moved in to help the wounded, 13 improvised explosive devices went off, killing and injuring more U.S. forces.
What is the significance of Afghanistan that makes the Obama administration seek a continued U.S. participation in the war? After twelve full years no success has been achieved in Afghanistan while hundreds of billions have been spent on it. Why continue for longer at such immense costs?
Syria: Turkey Blamed For "Regime Change" FailureTen days ago the Guardian was the first "western" media to report on a massacre U.S supported insurgents and terrorists had committed back in August in Syria's Latakia governate. U.S. media did not follow up on this. But now Human Rights Watch, a U.S. influenced para-government organization which has intensely propagandized against the Syrian government, is publishing a report on Executions, Unlawful Killings, and Hostage Taking by Opposition Forces in Latakia Countryside.
The fact that such a report is now published by HRW can be interpreted as a sign that U.S. policies on Syria are changing sides and will now, slowly slowly, turn against the insurgents and in favor of the Syrian government. While this will not yet change U.S. calls for "Assad must go" it is a significant change of the direction the winds are blowing.
This change is confirmed by other sources:
“I am beginning to think that the regime’s hardliners could win,” says the [European] ambassador [in Beirut], who maintains close contacts with sources inside the Assad regime and opposition forces. “They are turning the opposition into Al Qaeda and we are all playing into it. I hear this from my colleagues. The main fight now is against Al Qaeda, it's not against the regime."We have maintained all along that the insurgency was never a "peaceful protest" but an organized attack of sectarian radical Islamists on the Syrian state. As the true picture of the insurgency is now filtering into the "western" public, only 36% blame Assad for the chemical attack on August 21, someone will have to be blamed for the change of direction.
The HRW report sets up Turkey as the guilty party:
Given that most foreign fighters in these groups reportedly gain access to Syria via Turkey, from which they also smuggle their weapons, obtain money and other supplies, and retreat to for medical treatment, Turkey should increase border patrols, restrict entry of fighters and arm flows to groups credibly found to be implicated in systematic human rights violations. [...]A Wall Street Journal piece published yesterday also takes shots at the head of Turkey's intelligence service MIT for enabling the radical insurgents:
The UN Security Council and Turkey’s allies should call on Turkey in particular to do more to verify that no arms are passing through Turkey to these groups.
Syrian opposition leaders, American officials and Middle Eastern diplomats who worked with Mr. Fidan say the MIT acted like a "traffic cop" that arranged weapons drops and let convoys through checkpoints along Turkey's 565-mile border with Syria.Meanwhile the Syrian army has some further successes against the insurgents. The logistic corridor to Aleppo has been reopened, some more suburbs around Damascus have been cleared and the insurgency siege on a chemical facility has been broken.
In meetings with American officials and Syrian opposition leaders, Turkish officials said the threat posed by Jabhat al Nusra, the anti-Assad group, could be dealt with later, say U.S. officials and Syrian opposition leaders.
Mr. Obama told the Turkish leaders he wanted a close relationship, but he voiced concerns about Turkey's approach to arming the opposition. The goal was to convince the Turks that "not all fighters are good fighters" and that the Islamist threat could harm the wider region, says a senior U.S. official.
Turkey will now be pressed to stop providing to the insurgency in Syria. Without the very significant steady flow of fresh fighters and ammunition coming through Turkey the insurgency will slowly be starved off. This while the international mission to destroy Syria's chemical weapons continues according to the plans, without any trouble and with full support of the Syrian government. The flawless Syrian cooperation with the Nobel Peace Prize carrying OPCW enhances the Syrian governments standing.
The tide has turned and the earlier defamed international legitimacy of the Syrian government and President Assad is now on a steady rise. But Assad is right to be careful and to distrust any U.S. commitment:
Those who perceive that by abandoning our chemical weapons and signing the chemical weapons convention we have protected Syria from war are naïve because the US - with its history of aggression and destruction for decades, particularly after World War II - does not need pretexts. It can create new ones every day, and if it loses one pretext, it will look for another in different areas.
The destruction of Syria's chemical weapons was unlikely to change the "regime change" course of the U.S. government. The propagandists of the military industrial complex are still pressing for war. But the slow recognition that the only realistic alternative to the "regime" is an Al-Qaeda friendly broken state like Libya has become now seems to create a sufficient momentum to change Washington's course.
This may also be the sign of a much wider metamorphosis of U.S. interests which is driven by a change in the public mood and the U.S. "system's" opinion about a U.S. led global empire and the costs to achieve and maintain it.
Libya: PM Kidnappers Cause "No Trouble"MoA on Oct 6: Two Failed U.S. Raids
The various gangs that are the now the major powers in Libya will see this raid as (another) attack on Libya's sovereignty. Some major blowback against the interim government and other targets can be expected.CNN on Oct 10: Armed rebels kidnap Libyan PM, take him to undisclosed location
The blowback that this raid will create in Libya will only add to the severe problems the "western" friendly interim government there already has.
Rebels kidnapped Libyan Prime Minister Ali Zeidan at dawn Thursday and took him to an undisclosed location, his spokeswoman told CNN.Tellingly one of the groups involved in the kidnapping is the Libyan "Committee for the prevention of crimes". Detaining the man who allegedly gave tacit approval to U.S. military invasions and kidnapping of Libyans certainly fits such committee's name.
Armed rebels escorted the prime minister from the Corinthian Hotel in Tripoli into a convoy of waiting cars, said a hotel clerk who was not authorized to speak to the media.
The witness reported no gunfire during the incident, and said the gunmen were respectful and "caused no trouble."
Kerry In BaliAs I am too busy to write a decent piece here something to talk about. (And no, it is not photoshopped.)
Any wonders that some do not take him serious?
Syria: False NYT Claim May Serve U.S. Policy ChangeThe New York Times suggests that the admittance that "mistakes were made" in recent interviews with Syrian government official and its president is something new and unexpectedly conciliatory:
President Bashar al-Assad himself has declared that he and his government have made mistakes and that they share some blame for the crisis with rebels. Mr. Assad told the German magazine Der Spiegel, in an interview to be published on Monday, that he could not claim that the insurgents “did everything and we did nothing.” Reality, he said, has “shades of gray.”The claim that the Syrian government has so far painted a black and white picture and that the "mistakes were made" message and offers to the opposition are something new is pure propaganda and defies the historic record.
After years of describing the country’s civil war in black and white, as an international terrorist conspiracy, Syrian officials in recent days appear to be trying to sound more conciliatory, as global powers try to arrange peace talks in Geneva to end the bloody stalemate, and as international weapons inspectors began on Sunday to destroy Syria’s chemical arsenal.
May 18, 2011: Security forces made mistakes, says Assad
Syria’s president says the country’s security forces have made mistakes during the uprising against his regime and that thousands of police officers are receiving new training.August 10, 2011: Syria's Assad: "Some mistakes had been made"
Syria's President Bashar Assad met with envoys from India, Brazil and South Africa on Wednesday and "acknowledged that some mistakes had been made by the security forces in the initial stages of the unrest" and reassured the delegations that reforms were coming, according to a statement from the envoys.July 5, 2012: Assad: We can make mistakes
UC: Do you regret the fact that last year you crushed the first democratic protests by using arms?August 29, 2012: President Bashar al-Assad's interview with the Syrian TV station, Addounia
BA: Well, at the end of the day we are human also. We can make mistakes. You can always say, it would have been better if we did not do this, but did that, etc. And this is very normal.
President al-Assad: [...] There were mistakes that happened, there were transgressions that happened, there were violations, thefts, some of which was uncovered but in a limited number and those were referred to the judiciary many months ago. Everyone who made a mistake or wanted to prolong the crisis for different reasons must be held accountable.November 9, 2012: Assad: There is no civil war in Syria
Asked if he has any regrets, he said: “Not now,” although he acknowledged that “when everything is clear” it would be normal to find some mistakes.July 11, 2013: Bashar Al Assad: Baath party made mistakes in Syria
Ruling party leaders removed in a reshuffle this week had made mistakes while in office, Syria’s President Bashar Al Assad told the Baath party’s mouthpiece in an interview published on Thursday.The NYT's false claims of the historic standpoint of the Syrian government may serve to allow for a change in the U.S. position towards it. If the longstanding position of the Syrian government can be depicted as something "new" that claim allows the U.S. politicians to also take a new stand to towards it. "Look, Assad has changed his position and now we can change our position too."
There is hint of such a change of the U.S. position in today's remarks by Secretary of State Kerry:
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry offered qualified praise Monday for the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, crediting Syrian authorities for cooperating with a United Nations mandate to destroy the nation’s chemical stockpiles.
“I think it is also credit to the Assad regime for complying rapidly as they are supposed to,” Kerry said at a joint newspress conference with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, whose government helped craft the Syrian chemical disarmament plan, averting threatened U.S. airstrikes against Syria. “Now, we hope that will continue. I’m not going to vouch today for what happens months down the road. But it is a good beginning and we should welcome a good beginning.”
Two Failed U.S. RaidsYesterday two U.S. raids attempted to abduct a man in Libya and a man in Somalia. The raid in Libya did get the target but already has some bad impacts for the Libyan government. The raid in Somalia, by so called elite SEAL forces, failed completely.
The raid in Libya caught one Abu Anas Al-Libi, accused in connection with the bombing of a U.S. embassy in Kenia some 15 years ago. It also killed some 15 Libyan soldiers. The man, one Abu Anas Al-Libi, has lived away from Libya and came back after U.S. and NATO forces waged war against the Libyan government under Ghaddafi. He seems to have lived quite openly in the capitol Tripoli:
His brother Nabih told The Associated Press that just after dawn prayers on Saturday, three vehicles full of armed men approached Abu Anas’s home and surrounded him as he parked his car. The men smashed his window, seized his gun and sped away with him, the brother said.The raid will surely lead to some controversies:
CNN said that the Libyan government knew the raid was being carried out. This has been denied today by the government, which has posted a statement on its Facebook page, saying it knows nothing about the reported seizure. It went to to say that it had contacted the US “for clarification”.The various gangs that are the now the major powers in Libya will see this raid as (another) attack on Libya's sovereignty. Some major blowback against the interim government and other targets can be expected. There was already a tribal response against the government but the only mentioning of it is buried deep in the 25th paragraph of the NYT version of the story:
The capture of Abu Anas also coincided with a fierce gunfight that killed 15 Libyan soldiers at a checkpoint in a neighborhood southeast of Tripoli, near the traditional home of Abu Anas’s clan.Some "coincidence" ...
The botched raid in Somalia was on a beach house allegedly used by the local Al Shaabab jihadists. The raid was first reported by locals and then by the Al Shaabab itself:
Sheikh Abdulaziz Abu Musab, spokesman for Al Shabaab’s military wing, confirmed the raid and disclosed in a recorded press statement that the militants “repelled a midnight raid by white infidel soldiers”.There was a lot of confusion about this raid and it took nearly a day until the U.S. confirmed that it forces had been beaten back. At one time the NYT and Fox News said that a senior Shabaab boss was killed while NBC said he was captured and AP said he was not found. This reminds one of all the propaganda claims made about the Bin Laden raid. This time though we will immediately know for sure as the book about this SEAL raid has already been written (/snark).
Abu Musab said: "We fought back against the white infidel soldiers with bombs and bullets, and they ran back to their boats. One member of Al Shabaab was killed and the white infidel soldiers failed their mission. We found blood and equipment near the coast in the morning,” he added in a recorded press statement posted on militant websites.
But what is obvious is that this attack by SEAL personal by boat was somehow detected and responded to with heavy fire. The SEALs were said to had to call in helicopters and they had to retreat under fire.
In Somalia, the Navy SEAL team emerged before sunrise from the Indian Ocean and exchanged gunfire with militants at the home of a senior leader of the Shabab, the Somali militant group.On wonders what the Obama administration wants to achieve with such raids. The case for the guy snatched in Libya is fifteen years old. To bring him to court and prove his guilt will be costly. The blowback that this raid will create in Libya will only add to the severe problems the "western" friendly interim government there already has.
The SEAL team was forced to withdraw before it could confirm that it had killed the Shabab leader, a senior American security official said. Officials declined to identify the target.
Likewise the botched raid in Somalia. Not only will it create further trouble with Al Shaabab but it will also incite Somalian nationalists against such a breach of Somali sovereignty. It also shows that twenty years after the Blackhawk Down failure even the most elite U.S. forces have little luck in successfully operating there.These raids make little sense. They are driven by some silly concept of revenge, they scare off no one from joining Al-Qaeda or its affiliates while they create more and more future enemies. In this sense both raids are massive failures.
Open Thread 2013-21News & views ...
General Võ Nguyên Giáp died today at the age of 102.
A man who defeated two colonial powers and united his country is surely a great man. The message he send to the world was that the histories tide had turned on colonialism.
We will remember him. Here are some pictures of him throughout the years (vid) and excerpts from a French reporter's interview with him in the 1960 (vid, English subtitles). Notice the "Viet Cong? What do you mean?"
The AP's obit is deluded and in that somewhat funny. Notice how the French are depicted as colonists while the U.S. attempt to colonize it was to "a grueling effort to save the country from communism":
Vo Nguyen Giap, the brilliant and ruthless self-taught general who drove the French out of Vietnam to free it from colonial rule and later forced the Americans to abandon their grueling effort to save the country from communism, has died. At age 102, he was the last of Vietnam's old-guard revolutionaries.General Giap would certainly have laughed at that differentiation.
Syria: Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-QaedaThere seems to be a media campaign designed to differentiate between the "really bad Al-Qaeda terrorists" in Syria and the "maybe good moderate Al-Qaeda rebels".
The bad Al-Qaeda is the Saudi financed Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) while the good Al-Qaeda are those Salafi jihadist groups other than ISIS that are paid by the Saudi state:
“We want to keep Syria together as a country of freedom and equality,” a leader in an Islamist rebel group opposed to ISIS, called Suqour al-Sham, who gave his name as Abu Bashir, said via Skype. “They want to form an Islamic state that comes together with Iraq.”It is well known that ISIS has sworn allegiance to Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri. But Jabhat al-Nusra has also sworn allegiance to Zwahiri. That is of course not mentioned in the above NYT piece. What is the supposed meaning of this differentiation when both groups accept the same leader and the Al-Qaeda organization's ideology and aims?
Although the group sometimes cooperates in battle, ISIS is separate from the first Qaeda group to emerge in Syria, the Nusra Front, whose leader rejected a proposed merger this year.
Since then, foreign fighters have flocked to ISIS, while the Nusra Front has been more clearly accepted by mainline rebels for keeping its focus on the fight against Mr. Assad.
The Washington Post is on the same day (really by chance?) running a similar toned piece that also emphazises the alleged difference between JaN and ISIS:
Rifts have also emerged between the more radical Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra, the original Syrian al-Qaeda affiliate that has since sought to cast itself as the more moderate — and Syrian — of the two. But although an alliance announced last week between Jabhat al-Nusra and more-secular rebel groups was cast by some as an attempt to create a front against the ISIS, an organized effort would need a far greater influx of money, support and enthusiasm from fighters on the ground, most observers say.In Foreign Policy, part of the Washington Post company, an apologist for the Saudis claims that this is all well and good:
The rise of Salafi-leaning rebel groups offers an opportunity to combat the real extremists -- al Qaeda-linked groups such as Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), which have recently started wreaking havoc in Syria's north and east by fighting among themselves and against more moderate groups. Syria is no longer witnessing a struggle of moderates versus extremists, but of extremists versus both moderates and religious moderates. While recent developments are a setback for the FSA, they also have marginalized the truly radical factions.This, again, neglects to mention that the newly united groups, especially in north Syria, include Jabhat al-Nusra. And what please is the difference between "moderates and religious moderates"? The first are those psychopaths who eat their dead enemies lungs and the second are those cuddly homegrown Salafis who hack off any Christian's head?
This campaign is supporting the alleged "uniting" of Saudi paid Salafist bands in the northern Idlib and south of Damascus. The Saudis are said to do this to prevent the bad ISIS Al-Qaeda to gain more power in Syria. It is unlikely that any such risky scheme will ever work:
If Riyadh's aim is to thwart al Qaeda enemies by rallying local Syrian Islamists in the way Washington did with Iraq's Sunni tribal Sahwa, it may be miscalculating, said commentator Hazem Amin. Unlike the Iraqi fighters, he said, Syrian Salafists were increasingly embracing radical views close to al Qaeda.
"Syria is different," Amin wrote in al-Hayat newspaper. "The social fabric is less cohesive ... At its core, the new Syrian Salafism is jihadist in nature. It is moving towards extremism."
And lets not forget that even those Free Syrian Army gangs that are not officially endorsing religious extremism are quite beyond the pale. The Guardianfinally reports, two month after it happened, on the massacres these terrorists perpetrated in Alawite villages in the north Latakia province:
Shadi, a 32-year-old officer in a local defence unit that is separate from the Syrian army, was lightly wounded during the government's counter-attack. "When we got into the village of Balouta I saw a baby's head hanging from a tree. There was a woman's body which had been sliced in half from head to toe and each half was hanging from separate apple trees. "There are not many differences between any of the the insurgency groups in Syria. The Syrian insurgency was, from its very beginning, a brutal religiously motivated one that was run out of Sunni mosques and financed with money from the Wahabbi Gulf states. As this insurgency can no longer be sold in "western" media as "peaceful protesters" it is now depicted as somewhat moderate if only compared to the real savages of ISIS Al-Qaeda. But such differentiation makes no sense at all. Hanging baby heads from apple trees is psychopathic no matter what shade of religious extremism is used to justify it.
[T]he Guardian has obtained lists, compiled by local activists, with the names of victims from Hambushiya, Balouta, and five other villages. They include 62 people listed as killed, 60 kidnapped and 139 people who are missing. The dead range in age from a toddler of two to a man of 90. The vast majority are women, children and the elderly since most men in the villages were away on duty as part of the volunteer defence forces elsewhere in the region.
Syria: New Constellations EmergeIt is by Fisk and the guy is not always as sober as one would like but his story rings true:
Six weeks ago, a two-man delegation arrived in secret in Damascus: civilians from Aleppo who represented elements of the Free Syrian Army, the rebel group largely composed of fighters who deserted the regime’s army in the first year of the war. They came under a guarantee of safety, and met, so I am told, a senior official on the staff of President Bashar al-Assad. And they carried with them an extraordinary initiative – that there might be talks between the government and FSA officers who “believed in a Syrian solution” to the war.It makes sense for nationalist minded insurgents to stop the fight against the government as other parts of the armed opposition are now aligning themselves with Al-Qaeda and thereby against any nationalist form of Syria.
Last week some 10 to 14 groups in northern Syria, including the hardline Jabhat al-Nusra, united under an Islamic flag. Yesterday 43 groups south of Damascus united as a new Army of Islam under the command of the head of the Liwa al-Islam brigade. While the numbers seem impressive at least some of these "new" associations are fake and one has to keep in mind that there are some 1,200+ insurgency groups in Syria, most of those just local gangs or thieves. Many of those will not be happy with the ascent of a rigid Islamic system and will prefer an amnesty or some other arrangement with the Syrian government.
We may thereby now see a new configuration of the parties in the Syrian conflict. Insurgent groups with Islamic tendencies will unite under ever more radical banners and will depend on "private" money from the Gulf states. The more secular groups, who will no longer receive money or weapons from the defunct FSA command and the useless exile Syrian National Council, will now turn to the government to gain amnesty or some other understanding. They may well join the Syrian Arab Army in the fight against the radical groups. The Kurds have defended their areas against Jihadis as well as the Syrian government but the leftist PYD group leading them does not have good relation with the Barzani clan that leads in the Iraqi Kurd territories. The Syrian Kurds will therefore stay in the national Syrian realm but will demand some local and language autonomy which will be granted.
The precautious U.S. government move to detente with Iran, widely supported by the U.S. population, will put pressure on the Gulf regimes. They are financially bound to the "west" and can not stand against the U.S. will. When Obama will finally throw away the regime change platitudes and decide to shut down the supply lines to the Jihadis in Syria, the Gulf states, as well as Turkey, will have to comply. Iran and Russia put out some feelers that might make it it easier, especially for the Saudis, to dismount from the sectarian horse they have been riding in the wake of Shia ascendency. The only stumbling block for these new arrangements are the hardliners in Israel. But Netanyahoo's star is already sinking with other hawks arguing against his stand and any resistance to these developments will only accelerate its demise.
It will take time for the Syrian government to eliminate the terrorists from Syrian territory. But the now emerging new constellations of the war are much clearer and much more to the advantage of the government then they have been in the previous two years.
Mail Fakes Nairobi PicturesThe British Daily Mail, in a now deleted piece, promoted what it called exclusive CCTV pictures of the Nairobi mall attack.
London Times Africa correspondent Jerome Starkey points out that the picture in the middle is from an April 16 2010 FBI Miami release of photographs of a bank robbery (see pic 4). The picture on the left is from a Reuters distributed video of a raid on a hospital in Columbia released on September 19 2013. The provenance of the other two pictures are yet unknown.
The Rouhani WeekThe Rouhani week is over and it was a full success. Contrary to various propaganda claims the Iranian president said nothing essential that differed much from what his predecessor said. But he said it in a different tone and with a much better orchestration and that made all the difference. When Rouhani arrived back in Tehran he was greeted by some 50 protesters who condemned him for talking with the Great Satan. They may well have been part of the Rouhani show demonstrating to the United States that Rouhani can not go all the way it wants him to go. He was also welcomed by Ali Akbar Velayat who is a close advisor to supreme leader Khamenei. His week in New York and his phone-call with Obama can therefor claim to have high endorsement.
The White House seems to be very happy that it can now deal with someone who its own and Israel's propaganda have not (yet) demonized as the next Hitler. It is also glad, for now, that it can avoid a further escalation with Iran and a possible war which, as the campaign against open war on Syria demonstrated, would have no support from United States citizens. Indeed a deal with Rouhani over the nuclear file, easy to get if the U.S. walks back from its hostile position, may help to find a solution for Syria where the U.S. regime change project has thoroughly failed and the threat of a new Al-Qaeda base is now its most pressing concern.
These new developments are destroying the strategy of Israel's prime minister Netanyahoo. He can no longer outright push for War on Iran. The Israeli delegation was the only one that left the UN General Assembly when Rouhani spoke. A clear demonstration of Israel's new isolation. Its AIPAC lobby had already lost the fight for War on Syria and upcoming domestic business will keep Congress occupied with other issues. Sure, there are still some loyal Senators for AIPAC pressing for more sanctions and war "preventing Iran from achieving nuclear capability". Nuclear capability is something Iran achieved some years ago and the U.S. public is not in the mood to wage war to turn the clocks back on that. The lobby has lost for now and some of its leaders are recognizing it. David Harris, Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, warns Netanyahoo in a Haaretz piece:
[U]nless Israel wants to continue to find itself largely alone on the world stage, it will have to find new ways to make its case, so that it is not just talking to itself and its supporters. Simply implying, for instance, that anyone who sits down with Rohani is a modern-day Neville Chamberlain or Édouard Daladier won’t do the trick.One wonders what "more effective and less shrill ways" Mr Harris has in mind. One thing is sure, he is not yet willing to give up. We can expect some open and some hidden dirty tricks to derail any successful talks between Iran and the United States.
To the contrary, it will only give offense and alienate. There are more effective and less shrill ways of making the case for caution, vigilance, and strength.
But Netanyahoo may truly lose this one. We will know that he has given up when he changes his target. After the first Gulf war Israel's propaganda changed from demonizing the then defanged Saddam Hussein and instead started to demonize Iran. Israel always needs an enemy, the new Hitler, to distract from its continuing colonization of Palestine and to keep its picture as an eternal "victim" alive. As the War On Iran project fails could, please, Saudi Arabia become Israel's new villain?
Next week Netanyahoo will be visiting Washington and New York. He is unlikely to get the same attention and success that Rouhani got. Another stupid comic stunt at the UNGA in New York would make him even more irrelevant. He needs a new game but will have difficulties to find one.
Hersh On The Osama RaidWhat does Seymour Hersh know that we do not know?
Don't even get him started on the New York Times which, he says, spends "so much more time carrying water for Obama than I ever thought they would" – or the death of Osama bin Laden. "Nothing's been done about that story, it's one big lie, not one word of it is true," he says of the dramatic US Navy Seals raid in 2011.
Syria: The Mask Is OffIt was quite obvious from the very beginning of the protests and insurgency violence in Syria that the violent part was done by sectarian Sunni Jihadists aligned groups who's aim were to implement an Islamic state. Every name of the "brigades" that announced their youtube existence was taken from some famous Sunni hero, historic event or other sectarian religious scheme. The "western" media tried their best to avoid noticing such and for two and a half years continued to talk about "democratic" and "peaceful" "protesters".
But now the mask is finally off:
A collection of some of Syria's most powerful rebel brigades have rejected a Western-backed opposition group that announced the creation of an interim government in exile this month.The new group includes many who were until now members of the openly U.S. supported Free Syrian Army and include the very "democratic" folks Senator John McCain met at the Turkish-Syrian border.
The 13 rebel groups, led by the al Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front, also called on supporters of the Syrian opposition to embrace Sharia law "and make it the sole source of legislation."
Who does the Obama administration suggest should now sit on the opposition side to negotiate with the Syrian government in Geneva? Neither the exile National Syrian Council nor the exile Supreme Military Command have any control over or traction with the groups fighting against the Syrian government. And how will the Obama administration justify further support for these groups?
Obama will not yet abandon his aim of destructing the Syrian state but pursuing this aim is becoming more and more indefensible.
Some Agreement On U.S.-Iran NegotiationsIran and the United States have come to some agreement about Iran's nuclear program. They, at least, have agreed on the two main framework points that will be discussed the future negotiations - the points of rights and of peaceful nuclear program.
We are not seeking regime change, and we respect the right of the Iranian people to access peaceful nuclear energy.Rouhani:
We should be able to achieve a resolution that respects the rights of the Iranian people, while giving the world confidence that the Iranian program is peaceful.
Iran and other actors should pursue two common objectives as two mutually inseparable parts of a political solution for the nuclear dossier of Iran. Iran's nuclear program - and for that matter, that of all other countries - must pursue exclusively peaceful purposes. [...]
The second objective, that is, acceptance of and respect for the implementation of the right to enrichment inside Iran and enjoyment of other related nuclear rights, provides the only path towards achieving the first objective.
So these two points as a framework for further negotiations have now been accepted by both sides. The only difference in these positions is "enrichment". Obama still sticks to "access nuclear energy" which, in his mind, may not necessarily include enrichment.
In 2009 the Obama administration's (wrong) position on Iran's rights, like that of the Bush administration, was "nuclear energy yes but no enrichment":
RacistsOne wonders how much international condemnation such reports would (rightfully) provoke if they would read like this:
Hotline lets callers inform on Germanic-Jewish couples
A right-wing, anti-assimilation organization that campaigns to prevent Jewish men from dating Germanic women has opened a hotline enabling members of the public to inform on women so that they can be persuaded to end the relationship.
When called, a recording on the Flamme hotline says the service is meant to “save the daughters of Germania.” In addition to offering support for women, the line also provides the names and telephone numbers of Jewish men that the organization suspects of dating Germanic women.
Bundeswehr soldier passes IDs of Germanic girls who socialize with Jews to anti-assimilation NGO
A female Bundeswehr soldier who is often stationed at checkpoints is apparently very disturbed by the fact that some Germanics and Jews actually hang out. The soldier turned anonymously (on Facebook) to Hand of Brothers a religious organization whose mandate is to “save Germanics from assimilation,” in the hopes they can help her prevent this from happening in the future by talking some sense into these young women.
Some Syria Links
There seems to be little news of Syrian army action against the foreign sponsored insurgents but there is lots of action between some foreign Al-Qaeda bandits and the Syrian ones. One wonders how much of this is real. Could this be a spoof to make the Syrian bandits look more "secular"? Al Qaeda in Syria: We Fought FSA Because It Conspired With John McCain Against Us
There is also ongoing fighting between the Kurds and Al-Qaeda groups sponsored by Turkey: Turkey Stands With al-Qaeda Against the Kurds
The U.S. sponsored exiles are worthless: Rebels View Coalition Leadership Outside Syria as Detached From the Suffering
The Washington Post had a piece on "private" financing for Al-Qaeda in Syria. I regard this as propaganda that gives some plausible deniability to Saudi Arabia and Qatar who are state financing the terrorists and at the same time gives an argument to the "we must finance the good 'secular' terrorists to give them the edge" lunatics in the Senate. Private donations give edge to Islamists in Syria, officials say
On the CW stuff Syria is sticking to its words U.S. official: Syrian CW list more complete than anticipated
Please add other news on Syria in the comments.
Will They Whack That Socialist Too?
Someone in Manhattan called a guy in the City of London:
Hi Miles, did you see that Reuters piece about that new lunatic?
About that guy speaking in Sardinia? yeah I did. And I had thought we had the Soviets down the toilet.
Yeah, we had. But now these socialists are creeping up again.
That and with an long-term ideology and a big following.
How did this wacko come to power? He have had such a good run. That Polish guy was great for us and that German dude never made a fuss as long as he could get away with his hobby.
Hehe, a small boy a day ...
Look, we can't let this get any more grounds. It must be snuffed out and as soon as possible.
I agree. Do you still have those friends in Palermo.
You mean Mario and his brothers? Those silent knife folks? Yeah. Should I give them a call?
Do so immediately. This guy must be buried before he creates more damage. We have our bottom lines to watch.
I agree. I'll get Mario on the phone as soon as I'll hang up on you.
Kerry Can Not Be Trusted
Lavrov: US pressuring Russia into passing UN resolution on Syria under Chapter 7
“Our American partners are starting to blackmail us: ‘If Russia does not support a resolution under Chapter 7, then we will withdraw our support for Syria’s entry into the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). This is a complete departure from what I agreed with Secretary of State John Kerry',” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told Channel 1's Sunday Time program.There were two Geneva agreements on negotiations between the Syrian government and the opposition between the U.S. and Russia. Then there was the latest agreement on Syria's chemical weapons. The U.S. has tried to renegotiate or reinterpretate all three of these agreements.
“Our partners are blinded by an ideological mission for regime change,” said Lavrov. “They cannot admit they have made another mistake.”
“I am convinced that the West is doing this to demonstrate that they call the shots in the Middle East. This is a totally politicized approach,” said Lavrov.
It is obvious, not only to Russia, that the United States government and especially its current Secretary of State can not be trusted. It will not stick to even written agreements.Iran's new president Rouhani and his team must keep this in mind when they start to negotiate with their United States government colleagues.
Open Thread 2013-20News & views ...
Media Spins Syrian Chemical Disarmament ProcessThis is anti-Syrian propaganda:
Syria has submitted a letter detailing of its chemical weapons to the global chemical weapons regulator but officials said the information was only part of the required details.This is, more or less, reality:
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)said the letter had fallen short of its requirements and indefinitely postponed a Sunday meeting to discuss a Russia-US plan to destroy Syria's arsenal.
"We have received part of the verification and we expect more," an OPCW spokesman said.So the "letter" in the propaganda is in reality "quite long" and still has to be translated. That takes time and is likely the reason why the OPCW meeting has been postponed for a day or two. That there are additional yet unfulfilled requirements, like detailed documentation that could not have been produced on such short notice, was to be expected and is just normal. But notice how some media are trying to spoil the process of getting rid of Syria's chemical weapons even before it really starts.
A U.N. diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the details had been submitted, saying: "It's quite long ... and being translated."
The organization's core members are due to vote - probably next week - on a plan aimed at fast-tracking the destruction of Syria's chemical stockpiles by mid-2014.
They Only Understand Force
In the early days of the insurgency, some U.S. commanders appeared oblivious to the possibility that excessive force might produce a backlash. They counted on the iron fist to create an atmosphere conducive to good behavior. The idea was not to distinguish between "good" and "bad" Iraqis, but to induce compliance through intimidation.One would have thought that such language, which Bacevich rightly characterizes as racist and ethnocentric, would not be used in a White House under a black president.
"You have to understand the Arab mind," one company commander told the New York Times, displaying all the self-assurance of Douglas MacArthur discoursing on Orientals in 1945. "The only thing they understand is force -- force, pride and saving face." Far from representing the views of a few underlings, such notions penetrated into the upper echelons of the American command. In their book "Cobra II," Michael R. Gordon and Gen. Bernard E. Trainor offer this ugly comment from a senior officer: "The only thing these sand niggers understand is force and I'm about to introduce them to it."
Such crass language, redolent with racist, ethnocentric connotations, speaks volumes. These characterizations, like the use of "gooks" during the Vietnam War, dehumanize the Iraqis and in doing so tacitly permit the otherwise impermissible. Thus, Abu Ghraib and Haditha -- and too many regretted deaths, ...
But alas, it is:
But, the officials say, these are the long-delayed fruits of the administration’s selective use of coercion in a part of the world where that is understood.The result of such thought will of course be similar to the result in the War on Iraq where the United States lost and had to leave with its tail between its legs.
“The common thread is that you don’t achieve diplomatic progress in the Middle East without significant pressure,” Benjamin J. Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, said Thursday. “In Syria, it was the serious threat of a military strike; in Iran it was a sanctions regime built up over five years.”
Syria: NYT, HRW Wrong To Claim Chemical Attack OriginHuman Rights Watch and the New York Times are trying to implicate the Syrian Arab Army in a chemical incident that happened on August 21 in Ghouta near Damascus. Using the report of an United Nations commission which investigated various sites around Damascus they try to reconstruct from where the rockets suspected to have been used in the attack may have been fired from.
The UN commission identified two finds of largely intact rockets that landed in a way that lets one estimate from which directions these rockets have been fired. Lining out from the impact sites towards the direction from where the rockets came the crossing of the two lines point, say HRW and the NYT, to the possible launch point of both rockets. That point, a Syrian army artillery site, is then seen as implicated in the chemical attack.
When taken together, the azimuths drawn from different neighborhoods lead back to and intersect at Mount Qasioun — so far an impregnable seat of Mr. Assad’s power — according to independent and separate calculations by both The New York Times and Human Rights Watch.
“Connecting the dots provided by these numbers allows us to see for ourselves where the rockets were likely launched from and who was responsible,” Josh Lyons, a satellite imagery analyst for Human Rights Watch, noted in a statement on Tuesday.
“This isn’t conclusive,” Mr. Lyons added. “But it is highly suggestive.”
But that analysis is faulty. At least one of the two rockets the UN commission assessed contained no chemical agent at all. In the whole area where that one rocket was found none of the environmental probe showed any sign of a chemical weapon impact. It is therefore not legit to use that impact as a direction finding point for the launch point of the chemical weapon incident. Before and after the chemical incident the sites the UN visited had been reported to be under conventional artillery attack. There is no conclusive evidence that binds the rocket debris found to the chemical incident.
Specifically the first site the UN commission visited was near Moadamiyah, south of Damascus. The investigators took blood and urine samples from some people they met on their visit there. Those samples proved positive for exposure to Sarin. But all environment samples taken in Moadamiyah proved negative (Appendix 6 and 7 of the UN report. Sample 1 to 12 taken on August 26.) If those person found in Moadamiyah would have been exposed in Moadamiyah the environment there would also have been exposed. But the UN team found that this was not the case. The persons must have been moved to Moadamiyah after having been exposed elsewhere. The 140 mm rocket the UN team assessed in Moadamiyah can thereby not be implicated in the chemical attack.
The second point where the UN team found ammunition and assessed the direction where it came from was in Ain Tarma east/south-east of Damascus. The ammunition debris found there was from a 330 mm rocket. Environmental probes taken in Ain Tarma and from parts of the found rocket debris showed exposure to Sarin. The UN commission report does not explicitly state that the ammunition found carried the chemical agent. It notes that the area was well traveled and that people were seen moving ammunition debris around.
The UN commission report does not say how the chemical agent found in some of the investigated areas was distributed. It does not say that it came from rockets. It identified two impact sites of rockets and directions that allows to assume the direction, not the distance, from where those rockets were fired from. But one of those sites and rockets was never exposed to the chemical agent in question while the other site, and the ammunition debris found there, was. To conclude from these finds that ammunition carrying chemical agents were fired from a specific point or army unit or was fired by rockets at all is not legit but propaganda.
In 2008 Human Rights Watch falsely accused Russia of having used cluster ammunition in the Georgia war even while the ammunition found was easily identifiable as "western" sourced ammunition. C.J Chivers, who wrote the above for the New York Times, has been implicated in propaganda reporting on Syria claiming "poorly armed rebels" while he knew and had seen that those "rebels" had received many modern arms and ammunition from their "western" and Gulf sponsors.
Syria: Who Really Wants Assad To Go?Michael Oren, the outgoing Israeli ambassador to the United States, wants to lift any doubt about who really wants Assad to go:
“The initial message about the Syrian issue was that we always wanted [President] Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to the bad guys who were backed by Iran,” he said.So Israel, according to Oren, would rather have AlQaeda ruling in Syria than the current secular government. Israel is not the only country that has such desire:
This was the case, he said, even if the other “bad guys” were affiliated to al-Qaida.
“We understand that they are pretty bad guys,” he said, adding that this designation did not apply to everyone in the Syrian opposition. “Still, the greatest danger to Israel is by the strategic arc that extends from Tehran, to Damascus to Beirut. And we saw the Assad regime as the keystone in that arc. That is a position we had well before the outbreak of hostilities in Syria. With the outbreak of hostilities we continued to want Assad to go.”
On other issues, Oren – who has contact in Washington with some ambassadors from Persian Gulf countries – said that that “in the last 64 years there has probably never been a greater confluence of interest between us and several Gulf States. With these Gulf States we have agreements on Syria, on Egypt, on the Palestinian issue. We certainly have agreements on Iran. This is one of those opportunities presented by the Arab Spring.”Don't expect to read over any such agreements in the New York Times. The Times does not cover anything that might Israel shine in a bad light.
A week ago the Guardian reported that the National Security Agency "routinely" hands over raw, unfiltered intelligence data it illegally collects on U.S. citizens and others to Israeli agencies. The New York Times did not mention this in any of its own reports. It did not even provide a wire story from one of the news agencies on the issue. Its managing editor, rather incredible, claimed to the NYT's public editor that it was not "a significant or surprising story" and therefore not worth of any coverage.
How much of the NSA data does Israel use for its drive to install AlQaeda in Syria? And how much of does it use to influence the New York Times editorial policies?
A Spoiler Attempt On U.S.-Iran NegotiationsObama said in a recent interview that some letters have been exchanged between the U.S. government and the new government of Iran. The new Rohani administration in Tehran is doing its best to show its willingness to negotiate with the "west" over its nuclear program and other issues. The Obama side swwms also to be ready to at least feel out how far Iran might want to go.
Negotiations between Iran and the United States are not welcome by Israel and the Gulf states. Israel needs to have some "bad guy" bogeyman in the neighborhood to point away from its continuing colonization of the West Bank and the Golan heights. Saudi Arabia is unwilling to allow a somewhat enlightened and developed example of an Islamic State in its neighborhood. Its own people could get ideas that other forms of government than by some dictatorial king might be desirable and compatible with their religion. These two powers will attempt to spoil any negotiations between the "west" and Iran.
A recent report may be part of such an attempt. It asserts that the new Iranian government may be willing, in negotiations, to do away with one of its enrichment sites:
SPIEGEL has learned from intelligence sources that Iran's new president, Hassan Rohani, is reportedly prepared to decommission the Fordo enrichment plant and allow international inspectors to monitor the removal of the centrifuges. In return, he could demand that the United States and Europe rescind their sanctions against the Islamic Republic, lift the ban on Iranian oil exports and allow the country's central bank to do international business again.Fordo is an underground side and that would be difficult to dismantle through bombing. It is the guarantee Iran has build for itself that its nuclear program can not be erased solely by air attacks. Would Iran, as the first step in negotiations, dismantle on of its best defenses against an attack? That does not sound credible to me. Note also the very odd sourcing of that claim: "SPIEGEL has learned from intelligence sources ... that Iran ... is reportedly .." What "intelligence sources" from what country? And what does "reportedly" mean here? That those "intelligence sources" have read such a claim in some blogpost or fishwrap?
More plausible to me is that someone is trying to exaggerate what Iran could be willing to offer in a first step to thereby create disappointment and dismay when that first offer is made and does not meet the expectations created by such reports.
There will be more such spoiler attempts. Likely more intelligent ones and more severe ones. Some will aim at a solution of the Syria crisis and some directly at U.S. Iran negotiations. Such spoilers must be exposed and confronted to degrade their effects.
Three Current News-items On SyriaAs I am time restricted today just three points on the developments in Syria:
- The UN report on chemical stuff used in the Damascus suburb Ghouta on August 21 finds (pdf) that Sarin has been used which was probably distributed by unguided 140mm rockets. The report and the facts therein say nothing about who might have fired those missiles.
- The Turkish air force shot down a Syrian helicopter that, it alleges, violated Turkish airspace. The helicopter fell on Syrian ground. This, to me, seems to be an attempt to insert a spoiler into the recently achieved U.S.-Russian understanding about Syria's disarmament of chemical weapons. That spoiler, and others to come, will likely be ignored by the relevant sides.
- The U.S. is finally recognizing that to keep the Syrian government in place is the least bad choice it has. The former CIA No. 2 Mike Morell is the first of the Washington insiders to publicly make that point. He concludes though, wrongly, that there must be more balance between opposition and the government to achieve some transition first. That is not going to work. The core quote from his interview:
[I]t's going to take the institution of the Syrian military and the institutions of the Syrian security services to defeat al Qaeda when this is done. And every day that goes by, every day that goes by, those institutions are eroded.