Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-28

News & views ...

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

July 08, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

This may have been the plan all along.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 07, 2015

Countdown To Grexit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

July 05, 2015

Greece: Oxi Wins

Here are the first preliminary official result of the Greek referendum:

Counted votes 10%
YES 40,1%
NO 59,9%

Oxi ("no" in Greek) wins. The shameless blackmail and terrorism of the eurocrats failed.

Unfortunately they are unlikely to yet give on their neoliberal nonsense. But this vote sets an example for others and other referenda will follow. The European idea may still have some life in it.

Posted by b at 01:36 PM | Comments (194)

July 04, 2015

Some More Greece Referendum Links

Some more links to Greece ...

Interfluidity with probably the best piece on Greece explaining how the Euro introduction led to the current situation in Europe and in Greece.

The IMF econometrics people tried to save whatever is left of their reputation by publishing their results that call for debt relief for Greece. Some European countries tried to prevent the release. This attempt to keep the information away from the Greek before they vote shows again how undemocratic these "leaders" are. That the European Central Bank closed the money line of Greek banks and thereby forced their closure before the referendum is part of such an undemocratic and a terrorizing strategy. How can the ECB under its rules offer money to a basket case like Bulgaria, which is not even an ECB member, but not keep the money line to Greek banks open?

The IMF, like the rest of the troika, still pretends that more austerity in Greece could somehow end the crisis. That is nonsense! You can not increase taxes on the general population, cut government expenditures and at the same time expect economic growth. That does not compute and any model that forecasts such an outcome is obviously bogus. Need proof? Look at Greece which by now had to try this impossible stunt for some five years. It can't and therefore doesn't work.

A fifteen minute interview (vid) with the Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis. The government of Greece seems to be reacting, not acting according to a well though out plan. Varoufakis tries to paper over it but I don't find him convincing.

(On a Monday deadline and therefore still very busy ...)

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (70)

July 02, 2015

Greece: Sane Voices Call For A "No" Vote

The IMF still wants austerity for Greece but is now also demanding a huge debt relief which the European governments do not want to give. They earlier transferred the private risks from the banks who had stupidly lend to Greece to their tax payers. Having to admit now that this will cost their taxpayers a lot of money is a political threat to them.

James K. Galbraith is right with his description of those leaders:

[T]he leaders of today's Europe are shallow, cloistered people, preoccupied with their local politics and unequipped, morally or intellectually, to cope with a continental problem. This is true of Angela Merkel in Germany, of François Hollande in France, and it is true also of Christine Lagarde at the IMF. In particular North Europe's leaders have not felt the crisis and do not know the economics, and in both respects they are the direct opposite of the Greeks.

Galbraith hopes for a "no" vote in the Greek referendum. The "offer" the Troika made would be refused. This would give the Greece government a new mandate to negotiate and to not surrender.

Joseph Stiglitz, with an economics Nobel prize under his belt, says he personally would vote "no":

[A] no vote would at least open the possibility that Greece, with its strong democratic tradition, might grasp its destiny in its own hands. Greeks might gain the opportunity to shape a future that, though perhaps not as prosperous as the past, is far more hopeful than the unconscionable torture of the present.

His op-ed was also printed in today's Handelsblatt, the main German business paper. It may even have some effect on some politicians in Berlin.

The officialdom, and commercial interests, are trying to push for a yes vote. In that they don't even refrain from deception and outright fraud. That claim in the media that a poll showed that the Greek would vote "yes"?

Greek polling company GPO disown PNB Parisbas "sell side" sponsored vote survey widely reported in press today.


PS: (I am still very busy and posting will be light.)

Posted by b at 12:02 PM | Comments (125)

June 30, 2015

Open Thread 2015-27


News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (137)

June 28, 2015

The Turkish Military Rejects Erdogan's War Plans - "False Flag" Needed?

The war on Syria would not be possible without the huge involvement of Turkey on the side of the islamists fighting the Syrian government. Despite some success by Kurdish guerrillas along the border with Turkey against the Islamic State there are still open routes that allow the islamists to cross and which are their most important supply lines.

The Kurdish success against the Islamic State and other Turkey supported islamist groups, created with U.S. air support, is seen as a strategic threat to Turkey. The Kurds already have a semi-autonomous state in north Iraq. They now could possibly create one in Syria along the Syrian Turkish border. They may later want to integrate Kurdish areas in Turkey.

"I am addressing the whole world: We will never allow a state to be formed in northern Syria, south of our border," Erdoğan said at a Ramadan event organized by Turkish Red Crescent in Istanbul late June 26.

"We will keep up with our struggle whatever the cost is. They are trying to complete an operation to change the demographics of the region. We will not condone," he said.

The economic situation in Turkey is getting worse. Erdogan and his AKP party lost in the recent elections but want to avoid a coalition government. Erdogan isn't finished. He will call for new elections but will first create a situation that will diminish the vote for the mostly pro-Kurdish party HDP and thereby recoup their parliamentary votes for his AKP.

All three issues: the Turkish proxy attack on Syria through islamists forces, countering the threat of Kurdish consolidation in Syria and diminishing support for the pro-Kurdish party in Turkey could possibly be furthered in Erdogan's favor if he could create a wider conflict with the Kurds.

Last weeks Islamic State raid on Kobane, allegedly from Turkey, killed over 200 people, mostly civilians. This was a much bigger terrorist attack than the ones in Tunisia, Kuwait and France which were hyped in "western" media. But with U.S. support on the side of the Kurds the islamist Turkish proxy forces have trouble to defeat the Kurds.

Erdogan's solution to his problems is to send the Turkish military. Its task would be to keep the Kurds in Syria from progressing further and to keep the logistic lines for the Islamic State to Turkey open. The army fighting against Kurds in Syria could also help to diminish non-Kurdish support for the pro-Kurdish HDP in Turkey.

But the Turkish army does not want to fight Erdogan's war:

Turkey’s government wants more active military action to support the Free Syrian Army (FSA) against the regime, Kurdish and jihadist forces in Syrian territory, but the military is reluctant to do so, playing for time as the country heads for a new coalition government, official sources told the Hürriyet Daily News.
One source explained the “need” as to “prevent more clashes between the ISIL and the Kurdish forces led by the Democratic Union Party (PYD), prevent the PYD from taking full control over the Turkish-Syrian border and create a safe zone against a new wave of refugees on Syrian territory, no longer in Turkey.”

Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has delayed the government directive with justifications of international law and politics and the uncertainty of reactions from the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, as well as from its supporters Russia and Iran, together with the United States.

The government has been conducting dialogue since then to convince the army on its plans.

The army is blocking Erdogan's move to send at least one division into Syria. It wants its orders in writing and from a new, yet to be formed, government. The Turkish attack will therefore - should happen at all - not be launched before fall.

With this move the army leadership, surely in contact with the U.S., takes one of three of Erdogan's reasons for sending the military off the table:

Twitter whistleblower Fuat Avni wrote in the early hours of Saturday that President Erdoğan is concerned about what the anonymous account alleged to be secret coalition efforts between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and that a Syrian war appears to be the only way to create chaos that will lead to increased support for the AK Party.

As the army does not want to follow Erdogan's plan he may to have look for other ways to create an emergency situation. Could some "terrorist attacks" on Turkish land from Syria be used to press the army into immediate action? The Turkish intelligence service M.I.T. is in Erdogan's hand. It does not shy away from dirty "false flag" business. Could it be used to create the crisis Erdogan needs? Could the neoliberalcons in Washington DC help him?

Posted by b at 12:12 PM | Comments (46)

June 27, 2015

The Greek Tragedy: Curtain Closes On Most Absurd Act

Nothing was posted here so far on the Greece tragedy. I did not touch the issue as there was excellent coverage elsewhere and what the whole issue produced so far was more absurd theater than serious economic policy. But one act of the drama is now coming to a preliminary end and the tragedy may now unfold into something new with potential serious geopolitical consequences.

Greece took up a lot of debt when banks were giving away money without caring for the ability of the debtor to pay back. When that game ran out, some six years ago, Greece could not no longer take up new credit to pay back its old debts. That is the point where it should have defaulted.

But the Greece government was pressed on to pay back the debt to the commercial banks even when it had no money and not enough income to ever do so. Bank lobbyists pressed other EU governments to raid their taxpayers to indirectly cover the banks' losses. These other governments then pushed Greece to take on "emergency loans" from their states to pay the foreign commercial banks.

Nothing of that money ever reached the people in need in Greece. Here is a gif that explains what happened to all those foreign taxpayer loans treats "given to the Greek".

To get these new loans Greece had to agree to lunatic economic measures, an austerity program and neoliberal "reforms", to fix its balance of payments. But austerity has never worked, does not work and will never work. It crashes economies, lowers tax incomes and thereby further hinders a government to pay back it debts. It creates a vicious cycle that ends in an economic catastrophe.

After six years of austerity nonsense the Greece voted for a new party that promised to end the cycle and stop the austerity measures. But the new Syriza government misjudge the situation and the nastiness and criminal energy of the other governments and organizations it was negotiating with. It early on said it would not default and thereby took away its own best negotiation argument. The negotiations failed. The creditors still demand more and more austerity. Now it will have to default but under circumstances that will make it much more difficult for Greece to get back on its feet.

Yesterday the Syriza prime minister Tsirpas, in a speech to his people, called for an end of the blackmail and for a referendum to decide on the way forward:

Fellow Greeks, to the blackmailing of the ultimatum that asks us to accept a severe and degrading austerity without end and without any prospect for a social and economic recovery, I ask you to respond in a sovereign and proud way, as the history of the Greek people commands.

To authoritarianism and harsh austerity, we will respond with democracy, calmly and decisively.

Greece, the birthplace of democracy will send a resounding democratic response to Europe and the world.

Paul Maison of Channel 4 news sees this as a positive and likely successful step. The people will vote no to austerity and the IMF, European Central Bank and various country governments will still keep giving fresh money to Greece. Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism does not believe that this will happen. She calls the referendum a sham. Greece will default and the only thing the referendum will do is to keep Syriza in the political business. She blames Tsirpas for having misjudged the situation and for being unprepared of what is likely to come:

Greek defiance of its creditors will make it more, not less dependent on them in the next year. How badly things turn out for Greece will depend in significant degree on how much they do to ameliorate the impact of the implosion of the banking system, whether they take extreme measures to keep Greece in the Eurozone, and if Greece tumbles out, how much they provide in humanitarian aid and targeted trade financing (most important, for petroleum imports).

Greece should have defaulted six years ago. Tsirpas should have prepared for default immediately after he became premier. He should have used it as a threat during the negotiations. Greece will now have to default in the worst possible situation and with little thought given to the consequences of the default.

But the consequences will not be limited to Greece.There will be consequences for the EU, for NATO and for the political balance in the Mediterranean. Greece may now decide to leave the "western" realm and thereby set an example others could follow.

The German and other European governments promised their taxpayers that Greece will not default and that the austerity program pushed onto it will succeed. They will now rightfully lose some of their political and economic credibility. The Greece default will be a somewhat harsh and expensive lesson for the voters in those countries too. Let's hope that they will draw the right conclusions.

Posted by b at 10:30 AM | Comments (153)

June 25, 2015

The NYT Pre-Announces Iran Deal Failure

Judging from this NYT editorial a nuclear deal with Iran is not going to happen. The blame will of course be put on Iran even while the real reasons for the likely failure are unreasonable U.S. demands.

The editorial blames the Iranian senior leader Khamenei for the failure. Khamenei yesterday held a speech and repeated his red lines and parameters for a deal. There was nothing new in it. The same points have been made by him in since the start of the negotiations.

He says there will no IAEA snap inspections of Iranian military sites. It is well known that the U.S. used such international inspections in Iraq to extensively spy on the Iraqi military. There will be no questioning of Iranian scientists by the IAEA. Five nuclear scientist have been murdered in Iran after their names and faces became publicly known. Israel is suspected to be behind those killings. It is unreasonable to ask those scientist to risk their lifes to answer irrelevant questions about unfounded allegations of former nuclear research. Khamenei insist on an immediate lift of the sanctions when a deal is signed. He reasonably suspects that any other scheme, like with the sanctions on Iraq, would be used to keep the sanctions on forever while pressing on Iran to fulfill additional commitments. This especially when the IAEA, which is under strong U.S. influence, would be the agency to judge if a commitment is fulfilled or not. The agency would never be satisfied and the sanctions would stay.

The NYT editorial says Khamenei's points are "at odds with a framework agreement reached on April 2". That is a bit weird as the actual full framework agreement has not been made public. So how do the editorial writers know this? "Western officials also say Iran has agreed to ..." Oh, western officials claim something. Then of course they, not Khamenei who has repeated the above points over and over again, must be right?

The editorial comes two days after the NYT published an op-ed by one Alan Kuiperman which claimed that the Iran deal "has a fatal flaw". The op-ed was so fatally flawed on the facts that the Arms Control Association felt it necessary to rebuke (scroll down) it in detail.

Today the news side of the NYT carries a piece by its main sophister David Sanger which reports on a letter some republicans and five former functionaries of the Obama administration sent to him about the Iran deal warning that the deal "may be flawed". Only in the 11th paragraph do we learn their names and that the group was led by Dennis Ross, a well known Israel stooge. Only in the 26th of 27 long waxing paragraphs do we learn that letter was not written by those who sent it:

The letter emerged from a study group on nuclear issues organized by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a policy institute.

Not mentioned is that the Washington Institute was founded by AIPAC and is part of the Israeli lobby. Any letter that "emerged" there was likely written in Tel Aviv.

That the NYT now seems to run against any reasonable deal is suspicious. The paper is often the pre-publishing administration outlet spiked by background talks to "announce" official administration positions before they become official. I regard its current onslaught on a reasonable deal and the early assignment of guilt as a pre-announcement of the U.S. government position which will become official when, in a week or two, the current talks in Geneva will have failed.

Posted by b at 02:51 PM | Comments (57)

June 23, 2015

Israel's Plan To Steal More Syrian Land Runs Into Trouble

Despite supportive propaganda in U.S. media Israel's plan to steal more Syrian land "to protect the Syrian Druze" runs into trouble.

Israel claims that the Druze in the north-eastern Golan heights need protection against attacks by the Jabhat al-Nusra Jihadis. It "offers" to send its soldiers to keep the Al-Qaeda terrorists away.

But the Druze are no fools. They know that Israel supports the Jihadis and has done so for a quite long time now. Israeli soldiers were filmed exchanging goods with Nusra terrorists. Wounded Jihadis find help in Israeli military hospitals. Attacks on Syrian soldiers by Syrian "rebels" including Al Qaeda were supported by Israeli artillery fire.

The Syrian army protects the Druze in Syria from attacks by Jabhat al-Nusra Jihadists and other terrorists. Now, after sitting on the sideline for quite some time, Druze militia have joined the Syran army and will fight on its side:

The overstretched Syrian military, fighting battles across multiple front lines, is relying here on a key ally: members of the Druze sect, an offshoot of Islam that has adherents in Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Thousands of men from the province are said to have signed up to protect Suwayda, the Druze heartland. Syria is believed to be home to about half of the estimated 1.5 million Druze worldwide.

"We, the sons of Suwayda, will be martyred on our front doors before we let them pass," vowed Maj. William Abu Fakher, a pro-government militiaman who stood guard with other Druze volunteers, several in their 50s, at a checkpoint in the sun-scorched terrain.
"Our only choice is to repel and refuse the entry of any terrorist group into the area of Suwayda," Sheikh Yusef Jarboo, a top Druze cleric in Syria, told Lebanese broadcaster Al Mayadeen in an interview this month. "We shall resist with all the power we have."

About 27,000 Druze fighters, the cleric said, were being incorporated "under the umbrella" of the Syrian military, which numbers perhaps 200,000 plus tens of thousands of pro-government militiamen and allies from Lebanon and beyond.

There are also rumors of support by Hizbullah fighters and trainers for the Druze militia. All that does not sound like those Druze really need Israeli "protection". The Druze are famously suspicions of other groups intends. It is part of their sect's survival strategy. They do not fall for the Israeli plot.

There are some 100,000 Druze in Israel and some of those serve in the Israeli army. An additional 20,000 Druze live on the Israel occupied side of the Golan heights. They reject Israeli citizenship and do not serve in the army.

But that Israel supports Jihadis who attack Druze in Syria is also a concern for the Israeli Druze in the military:

A Druze army officer, on patrol at one of the outlooks, said: "If Israel continues to treat wounded from rebel units, the Druze will have to take off their uniforms."
He said that he was angered by the fact that Israeli Druze soldiers were forced, in his words, to evacuate wounded Syrians who had fought under the rebel command which threatened their Syrian brothers.

The Druze on the Israel occupied side of the Golan heights have family on the other side of the border.  As the terrorists now attack their families on the Syrian side they have now twice attacked Israeli ambulances which were transporting Jihadis wounded in Syria to an Israeli military hospital:

One Syrian militant was beaten to death and one was wounded in very serious-to-critical condition after Druze protesters attacked Monday night an Israel Defense Forces ambulance in northern Israel carrying Syrian members of armed militias wounded in the civil war there. Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded.
This is the second time in 24 hours that protesters have struck an ambulance carrying wounded Syrians.

The Israeli government claims that it does not help terrorist in Syria but only wounded normal Syrian people who would not hurt the Druze. That sounds unconvincing not only to the Druze as even the wounded terrorists claim the opposite:

Sheikh Muafiq Tarif, the Druse spiritual leader in Israel, told Army Radio on Tuesday that the community’s anger reached a boiling point following an interview on Channel 2 with one of the injured Syrians being treated in Israel. According to Tarif, the patient was a Syrian rebel who said that he was willing to return to the civil war and harm Druse.

“This broadcast stirred up emotions throughout the Druse community,” Tarif said. “The wounded man said that he was going back to Syria to kill Druse. This should’ve sounded the alarm for everyone.”

If Israel continues its plans to "protect" the Druze in Syria and to occupy their land it will run into more trouble. It will first have to ask Jabhat al-Nusra to attack the Syrian army and the Druze protecting their homeland. Such an attack must be successful enough to provide that Israel's "help" is indeed needed. Israel will then have to "attack" Jabhat al-Nusra or at least to let it seem that way. But the Syrian army and the Druze militia on the Syrian side will still be there and defend against any Israeli invasion. At the same time the 20,000 Druze on the occupied Golan side will create trouble for any Israeli move and even the Druze in the Israeli military might subvert the operation.

The whole plan to use Israel supported Jihadists in Syria as an excuse to "protect Syrian Druze" and to take over Syrian land does no longer look like an easily implementable idea.

Posted by b at 12:22 PM | Comments (76)

June 22, 2015

So The Spy Services Are The Real Internet Trolls

Glenn Greenwald at The Intercept provides new material from the Snowden stash.

The British Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) includes a "Joint Threat Research and Intelligence Group" which "provides most of GCHQ’s cyber effects and online HUMINT capability. It currently lies at the leading edge of cyber influence practice and expertise." In 2011 the JTRIG had 120 people on its staff.

Here are some of its methods, used in support of British policies like for regime change in Syria and Zimbabwe:

All of JTRIG’s operations are conducted using cyber technology. Staff described a range of methods/techniques that have been used to-date for conducting effects operations. These included:
  • Uploading YouTube videos containing “persuasive” communications (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Setting up Facebook groups, forums, blogs and Twitter accounts that encourage and monitor discussion on a topic (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Establishing online aliases/personalities who support the communications or messages in YouTube videos, Facebook groups, forums, blogs etc
  • Establishing online aliases/personalities who support other aliases
  • Sending spoof e-mails and text messages from a fake person or mimicking a real person (to discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deceive, deter, delay or disrupt)
  • Providing spoof online resources such as magazines and books that provide inaccurate information (to disrupt, delay, deceive, discredit, promote distrust, dissuade, deter or denigrate/degrade)
  • Providing online access to uncensored material (to disrupt)
  • Sending instant messages to specific individuals giving them instructions for accessing uncensored websites
  • Setting up spoof trade sites (or sellers) that may take a customer’s money and/or send customers degraded or spoof products (to deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter)
  • Interrupting (i.e., filtering, deleting, creating or modifying) communications between real customers and traders (to deny, disrupt, delay, deceive, dissuade or deter)
  • Taking over control of online websites (to deny, disrupt, discredit or delay)
  • Denial of telephone and computer service (to deny, delay or disrupt)
  • Hosting targets’ online communications/websites for collecting SIGINT (to disrupt, delay, deter or deny)
  • Contacting host websites asking them to remove material (to deny, disrupt, delay, dissuade or deter)

It is unlikely that the British GHCQ is the only secret service using these tactics. Other government as well as private interests can be assumed to use similar means.

To "deny, disrupt, degrade/denigrate, delay, deceive, discredit, dissuade or deter" is exactly what Internet trolls are doing in the comment sections of blogs and news sites. Usually though on a smaller scale than the GHCQ and alike.  The more these services grow and their methods proliferate the less possible will it become to have reasonable online discussions.

Posted by b at 10:56 AM | Comments (42)

June 21, 2015

Saudi Cables: The "Iran Kills Saudi Ambassador in DC" Plot Was A U.S.-Saudi Conspiracy

Update: Please see comment 3 on this thread which claims that the Saudi file in question below is not a genuine Saudi product but a translation of an Iranian newspaper piece. I currently have no way to verify the source but will update when we learn more.

In October 2011 the Obama administration accused one Mansour Arbabsiar and Iran of a rather weird "plot" to kill the Saudi ambassador in Washington DC. Recently released Saudi foreign ministry papers published by Wikileaks shine some new light on the case.

The "plot" accusations as reported at that time:

The United States on Tuesday accused Iranian officials of plotting to murder Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States in a bizarre scheme involving an Iranian-American used-car salesman who believed he was hiring assassins from a Mexican drug cartel for $1.5 million.

The alleged plot also included plans to pay the cartel, Los Zetas, to bomb the Israeli Embassy in Washington and the Saudi and Israeli Embassies in Argentina, according to a law enforcement official.

The plotters also discussed a side deal between the Quds Force, part of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Los Zetas to funnel tons of opium from the Middle East to Mexico, the official said. The plans never progressed, though, because the two suspects — the Iranian-American and an Iranian Quds Force officer — unwittingly were dealing with an informant for the Drug Enforcement Administration, officials said.

I called the plot "nonsense" and another well known blogger suspected "a black flag operation by Israel or Saudi Arabia". I later added:

The failed used car salesman Mansour J. Arbabsiar, who is accused in the "Iran kills Saudi ambassador" movie plot, is a hapless idiot and petty criminal whose businesses deals always went wrong. He couldn't even match his socks, smoked marihuana and drank a lot of alcohol, was nonreligious, an opponent of the Iranian regime and only cared about money. A business man who knows him calls him "worthless" and his neighbors believed he was dealing in drugs.
Every Iran expert interviewed thinks the story as presented is nonsense: Alireza Nader from Rand Corp, Kenneth Katzman of the Congressional Research Service, former CIA agent Robert Baer, Carter era NSC official Gary Sicks, Bush 2 NSC official Hillary Mann Leverett (also here), Muhammad Sahimi of PBS/Tehran Bureau and Iran scholar Hamid Serri.

As reasons for the Obama administration to run the story I listed:

  • To get some momentum for additional international sanctions on Iran
  • To prop up the connections with the Saudi regime as that had threatened to distance itself from the U.S. over the U.S. veto of a Palestinian state

Now Arash Karami, who covers Iran for AL-Monitor, found a document in the Saudi leak stash that is relevant to the plot. The document is in Arabic. He asked the public:

Arash Karami - @thekarami

Does this say anything about the Arbabsiar-Saudi ambassador case?

The document is dated April 2012.

Journalist Farhad Pouladi responded:

  • yup. "a week before accusing Iran, Prince Moqrin met with VEEP Biden to initiate a political and media game against Iran which..
  • focus on an Iranian living in the US called ...ArbabSeyr...
  • it is not in this page... but it is a lengthy plot, part three is the assassination plot... part 2 is about Amano's role!

Wessam el-Deweny a "political researcher and translator", described by NPR as a "young Egyptian activist",  also responded to Arash Karami's question:

  • It says head of Saudi intelligence met Joe Biden a week before they accuse Iran of assassinating the Saudi ambassador
  • they agreed on a diplomatic hoax which is stirring the media against Iran over the story of this person called Mansour Arbabsiar
  • The scenario is expected to pave th way for a request from Security Council to issue a new decision against Iran
  • They also agreed that the accusations will be directed against Al-Quds Force for its leading role in Iran's regional politics

The source of the Saudi leak stash is unknown and some of the documents in it may be fake. But this one could well be genuine.

All signs at the time of the plot and all expert opinions about it were saying that the plot was either a total fake or some sting operation by the Justice Department that was turned into political fodder against Iran. The now published document confirms as much.

In May 2013 Mansour Arbabsiar was sentenced to 25 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in 3 counts of the originally wider accusations. Guilty pleas after sting operations are a regular occurrence. There were some irregularities on the legal side of the case:

The authorities have said that Mr. Arbabsiar knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights to remain silent or to have a lawyer present during his interrogation in his first 12 days in custody, and that he confessed to his role in the plot and shared “extremely valuable intelligence.”

For all we know the guy was just a hapless dupe of Iranian descent and the Justice Department, having caught him in a drug sting, wanted a big political case. It seems the guy will have to die in prison for falling for a confidential informer for the Drug Enforcement Administration.

If the case really turns out to have been a conspiracy between the Obama administration and the Saudi dictatorship than he may have a chance to be set free. But despite the new found document that conspiracy will be hard to prove.

Posted by b at 11:40 AM | Comments (17)

WaPo Propagandizes For Israeli Takeover Of More Syrian Land

Israel plans to steal more Syrian land by claiming a "buffer zone" in the Syrian Golan heights under the pretext of protecting Syrian Druze from Jihadists it supports there in the first place.

The Washington Post is promoting the Israeli propaganda version of "protection" by obfuscating and lying about the events in the area. Here is the relevant headline on the Washington Post home page. "Israel's Druze minority" is threatened? Hmm ... that indeed would be news.

The section page then has a bit more correct headline talking about "Druze in the Golan". But it still does not inform who of the Druze, those on the Israeli side or those on the Syrian side of the demarcation line, are really threatened.  Only the sub-headline informs that the threat is to Druze in Syria, not - as the homepage claims - to Druze in Israel.

The piece itself is a mess, quotes only Israeli viewpoints and contains several lies. Here are some of the most obvious ones:

After four years on the sidelines, the complex and violent dynamic in the Golan highlands threatens to draw Israel into the Syrian war

How was Israel "on the side line" when in fact Israeli jets have several times bombed Syrian army positions, when the Israeli army is using tanks to help Jabhat al-Nusra jihadists take over Syrian army positions at the border and when Israel publicly serves as general hospital for wounded jihadists? UN observers on the Golan have reported exchanges and cooperation between Israel and the jihadis. That is not a sideline position but an explicitly one-sided one.

Both the presence of Jabhat al-Nusra and especially the Islamic State, worry the Druze, because the two Sunni militias consider the Druze, a heterodox offshoot of Shiite Islam, as infidels and defilers of Islam.

Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State are now just Sunni "militia"? Harmless vigilance committees protecting their home turf?

In the past, the Druze have supported Assad, living under his protection, but now they fear they will be overrun. Their leaders are refusing to send more sons to enlist for Assad, saying they need fighters at home to protect their clans but also signaling their calculus that Assad is losing ground.

The claim that "the Druze have supported" Assad is false. How do we know? We can just follow the link in the Washington Post piece which goes to an April 2014 tweet another Washington Post reporter made. That tweet says:

The Druze still on the sidelines

So how does that back up the claim that the Druze supported Assad? It doesn't. It contradicts that claim.  The Syrian government claims that no Druze conscripts have joined the Syrian army since the conflict started. How did that "support Assad"?

Aside from false headlines and unsupported claims the piece reeks of pure propaganda bullshit because it does not include any Syrian voice. There is no mentioning of the Syrian government position or any first hand voice from the Syrian Druze. The only sources are Israeli officials and Israeli Druze who are identified as former members of the Israeli army.

How are such false headlines and one sided "reporting" supposed to be journalism?

Posted by b at 05:49 AM | Comments (25)

June 20, 2015

Open Thread 2015-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:57 PM | Comments (82)

June 19, 2015

"Moderate Rebels" Spent CIA $$$ To Finance The Islamic State

ISIS-Imposed Fuel Embargo Threatens Syria’s Medical Centers  NYT - June 18 2015

Islamic State fighters are preventing fuel shipments from reaching rebel-held parts of northern Syria, causing severe shortages ...

Since the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL, seized oil-rich regions in Syria’s north and east, it has used the output to finance its efforts to build an Islamic caliphate that straddles the Syria-Iraq border.

Traders from elsewhere in Syria, such as the rebel-held regions in the northwest, have long bought locally refined petroleum products in Islamic State-controlled areas and trucked them home, where residents came to rely on them to power their cars and fuel generators that ran clinics, bakeries and other essential facilities.

But, but , but ... weren't we told that buying oil from ISIS is a great sin? Weren't alleged Syrian government purchases of oil from the Islamic State seen as a sign that Assad was in bed with Caliph Baghdadi? Indeed:

Presumably that propaganda line is now dead as the "rebels" themselves now admit buying oil from the Islamic State.

But why do they really have a shortage of fuel? Most of the oil the Islamic State sells is going through Turkey so one might ask why the "rebels" in north Syria, with direct access to the Turkish border, have no other source than buying directly from the Islamic State.

Diligent observers of the war on Syria have know for quite long that oil under Islamic State control ends up with "western" states and their proxy forces in Syria. In September 2011 the EU banned oil imports from Syria but in April 2013 the ban was rather silently lifted to allow imports of oil from areas under Syrian "rebel" control. In September 2014 a EU official told the EU parliament that some EU member states were buying oil from the Islamic State. Even in 2013, when the embargo was lifted, it was obvious that the "rebels" were largely radical islamist jihadis. As a Defense Intelligence Agency document noted already in 2012:

The Salafist, the Muslim Brotherhood, and AQI are the major forces driving the insurgency in Syria.

So some "moderate" islamists in Syria were buying oil from the other islamists in Syria. They must have spend millions on it. It is thereby very likely that a part of the $1 billion per year the CIA spends on these "moderates" ended up in the pockets of the Islamic State. This while the Syrian government was condemned for allegedly financing the Islamic State through its oil purchases.

Posted by b at 10:00 AM | Comments (39)

June 17, 2015

Years Too Late - Media Suddenly Recognize Futility Of Drone Strikes

Two days ago when news appeared of the alleged killing of Mokhtar Belmokhtar in Yemen I wrote:

Aside from the obvious unreliability of such reports one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves. There will always be another one and the next one and so on and the violence will only get worse ...

Then some U.S. drone strike killed Al-Qaeda old guard member Nasser al-Wuhayshi in Yemen and suddenly main stream media also start to doubt the value of this tactic.

This is an astonishingly synchronous recognition of the problem. While the U.S. may be "successful" in killing this or that leader of some terrorist gang the overall phenomenon just keeps growing. The Telegraph's sub headline catches it best:

'America has taken on a foe 5,000-strong. It has killed 10,000 of them. There are only 20,000 left'

Except that the original Al-Qaeda was only a few hundred strong and existed only in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Some fifteen years later, after the U.S. War of Terror killed and several hundred thousands of unrelated persons and thousands of jihadists, Al Qaeda and its derivatives are active in over a dozen countries and have several ten-thousands of followers. As I wrote:

The constant U.S. resort to military means is an expression of the lack of conflict resolution policies.

Still none of the above pieces comes up with a decent list of  policies that could start to address the problem without increasing it.

Here is a first try:

  • Stop drone strikes and the like as they obviously only creating more terrorists.
  • Stop using extremists, like jihadists and neo-nazis, as a policy tool against this or that inconvenient ruler.
  • Restrict the resources such groups need to grow on. This will require to pressure the Saudi and Qatari dictators, including with threats to their regimes existence, to stop financing the proselyting of their radical version of Islam as well as the "private" financing of such groups from their countries.

It is unlikely for now that such steps will be taken. But it took years for the media to recognize the futility of drone strikes. A few years on they may even start to consider the obvious first steps towards a solutions of the problem.

Unfortunately many more will die in the War of Terror before that will happen. 

Posted by b at 10:53 AM | Comments (57)

June 16, 2015

China Announces Rice Bag Fallen Over - NYT: "It's About US!"

This willful misinterpreting of Chinese government announcement by the New York Times can only be explained by some laughable egocentric U.S. view. "It's all about US!"

NYT: China to Halt Its Building of Islands, but Not Its Projects on Them

BEIJING — China announced on Tuesday that it would soon halt island-building projects around some reefs and shoals in disputed waters of the South China Sea but that it would continue constructing military and civilian facilities on those outcroppings.

The announcement may have been intended to ease tensions with the United States, which has strongly criticized the building of the islands and has sent surveillance flights close to the sites, to the chagrin of the Chinese military. The construction of facilities, though, would further establish the sites as islands that China could claim as its territory.

No, the Chinese institutions did not announce the HALT of its building of islands. It announced that the building of some islands was about to be FINISHED.

Xinhua: China to complete land reclamation of construction on some Nansha Islands soon

BEIJING, June 16 (Xinhua) -- The land reclamation project of China's construction on some stationed islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, as planned, will be completed in the upcoming days, according to relevant Chinese competent departments.
After the land reclamation, China will start the building of facilities to meet relevant functional requirements, Lu said.

He stressed the construction activities on the Nansha islands and reefs fall within the scope of China's sovereignty, which are "lawful,reasonable and justified."

The NYT speculates on no factual basis that the "halt", which never happened, "may have been intended to ease tensions with the United States".

No. The "halt" clearly was not intended for that. There was no "halt". The reclamation phase is finished. It is complete. The building projects on the islands will continue. And no, China does not care what the U.S., or the NYT writers, want to spin around its projects. Like other countries in the South China Sea it uses the islands it controls as it sees fit and without regard for empty U.S. bullying.

Are there some magical red, white and blue colored glasses one can wear to misread clearly worded Chinese announcement in such a way?

Update: The NYT has now heavily edited and changed its story without noting the changes. The first sentence now reads:

BEIJING — By declaring Tuesday that it would soon complete its contentious program of building artificial islands in the South China Sea, Beijing hopes to diminish tensions with the United States while reassuring its home audience that it has delivered on its pledge to resist American military pressure, experts said.

The "halt" turned into the more correct "complete". But the general "it's about US" nonsense continues and is now supported with "expert" voices. Here are screenshots of the original version (1, 2) quoted above.

Posted by b at 03:31 PM | Comments (16)

June 15, 2015

The Deprofessionalized Empire

We can be sure that the number of times Mokhtar Belmokhtar was reported being killed is greater than the number of times he actually was killed:

Aside from the obvious unreliability of such reports one wonders what the killing of this or that "terrorist" is supposed to achieves. There will always be another one and the next one and so on and the violence will only get worse:

When their leaderships are debilitated in a successful strike, militant groups become far less discriminate in their target selection by redirecting their violence from military to civilian targets.

The constant U.S. resort to military means is an expression of the lack of conflict resolution policies.

As Chas Freeman elaborates:

In recent years, the United States has killed untold multitudes in wars and counterterrorist drone warfare in West Asia and North Africa. Our campaigns have spilled the blood, broken the bodies, and taken or blighted the lives of many in our armed forces, while weakening our economy by diverting necessary investment from it. These demonstrations of American power and determination have inflicted vast amounts of pain and suffering on foreign peoples. They have not bent our opponents to our will. Far from yielding greater security for us or our allies, our interventions – whether on the ground or from the air — have multiplied our enemies, intensified their hatred for us, and escalated the threat to both our homeland and our citizens and friends abroad.

Freeman sees a lack of a diplomatic mindset in U.S. policies. The militarization of policy is evolving into a self licking ice cream cone. The root cause he identifies is a lack of professionalism in leading policy positions:

The post-Cold War period has seen major expansion in the numbers of political appointees and their placement in ever lower foreign policy positions along with huge bloat in the National Security Council staff. This has progressively deprofessionalized U.S. diplomacy from the top down in both Washington and the field, while thinning out the American diplomatic bench. Increasingly, the U.S. military is being thrust into diplomatic roles it is not trained or equipped to handle, further militarizing U.S. foreign relations.

The chaotic response of U.S. political actors to this or that perceived problem, with contradicting alliances and daily changes of priorities, does not help to achieve anything but chaos. What does it say when even U.S. proxy forces do not understand what is going on:

“Until now we don’t know what the coalition wants. Does it intend to fight ISIS or empower ISIS?” said Gen. Ahmed Berri, the deputy chief of staff of moderate rebel forces, using an alternative name of the Islamic State.

I find it likely that even the policy makers in the National Security Council and the State Department have no real idea of what they are doing. As political appointees they lack, as Freeman says, foresight and experience. They are daily pulled into different directions of ever changing policies based on competing mediocre analyses from a manifold of self interested pressure group. Run this way the U.S. can be sure to soon lose even the pretense of being an empire.

Posted by b at 04:17 AM | Comments (40)

June 14, 2015

Israel Plans To Steal More Syrian Land

Israel actively helped Al Qeada in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, with artillery strikes against the Syrian Arab Army. The United Nations observers in the Golan height reported contacts between the Israeli army and AlQaeda terrorists. Israel supplies equipment to AlQaeda and prominently gives medical care to injured AlQaeda fighters.

The CIA is also prominently helping AlQaeda by sponsoring "moderate rebels" in Syria and providing them with weapons at a cost of $1 billion per year. These weapons as well as the CIA trained fighters inevitable end up with the jihadists.

One part of the Israeli plan behind its support for AlQaeda is to hurt the Syrian state as much as possible. A destroyed Syria is no threat to Israel but the destruction of the Syrian state would be a welcome excuse to appeal for more military help from its allies because of the "chaos" beyond its borders. Another part of the plan is to simply steal more Syrian land. Israel has already occupied the south western Golan heights and top positions on the heights. It is now planning to steal the north eastern parts and to control the valuable water resources there.

The excuse for doing so is the chaos it created itself by supporting AlQaeda against the Syrian army and the threat AlQaeda now poses against the local population on the Syrian side of the heights:

Reports Sunday afternoon on Israel's Walla news website claimed that Israel is making plans to create a special buffer zone in Syrian territory meant to offer safety and humanitarian aid to Syrian Druze refugees that face the growing threat of massacres at the hands of Islamic State militants and other jihadist groups like the Nusra Front, al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate.

The "buffer zone" will soon be Israeli occupied land and overtime Israel will annex the land for Jewish settlements. 

Misjudging the circumstances the Druze in Syria had taken a neutral stance in the war on Syria and did not defend the Syrian state. Some 27,000 of them evaded mandatory conscription in the Syrian army. A few days ago AlQaeda fighters killed some 20 people in a Druze village. With scarce resources the Syrian army can and will no longer defend the Druze enclaves and the Druze now have the choice to come under the control of the jihadis and be pressed to convert to Wahhabi Islam or to come under a brutal Israeli occupation.

Other minorities and communities in Syria which did not or do not support the Syrian state will over time likely end up with similar objectionable choices.

Posted by b at 09:41 AM | Comments (21)

June 12, 2015

Open Thread 2015-25

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:25 PM | Comments (118)

June 11, 2015

The Guardian Joins The "Moderate Al Qaeda" Public Relation Campaign

This long read in the Guardian is the next attempt to beautify AlQaeda as the "moderate" Islamists that deserve our support. Meanwhile the Wall Street Journal suggests to "reach out" to AlQaeda in Syria and that it should be "wooed rather than bombed.

The Guardian journalists interview the AlQaeda ideologues Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi and Abu Qatada who are both under control of the Jordanian secret service. Their job is to condemn the Islamic State while letting Al Qaeda appear as a poor but honest social movement of Islamism. The Guardian writers lap it all up.

On a sunny spring afternoon, three weeks after his release from prison, Maqdisi sat on a sofa at his friend Abu Qatada’s house, fuming about Isis: the group had lied to him and betrayed him, he said, and its members were not worthy of calling themselves mujahideen. “They are like a mafia group,” Abu Qatada added, while Maqdisi nodded his assent.

Jordan lives off money from Saudi Arabia. It supports al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, as long as the dollars keep rolling in from Riyath. Israel is supporting Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan heights. Is it by chance that a fervent Zionist, Spencer Ackerman, is one of the authors of this flattering homestory?

The two ideologues make an odd pair in the fight against Isis. Qatada is 6ft 3in tall, broad shouldered and lumbering, while Maqdisi is rake thin and full of hyperactive energy, bounding round the room and speaking at double speed; at serious moments, Maqdisi is given to making a sudden joke or bursting into giggles. Sometimes they will go for walks with each other in the Jordanian countryside. More often they travel long distances by road after being asked to attend funerals of fallen al-Qaida fighters.

See? These are really nice people ... and AlQaeda is really just a very poor movement:

Dr Munif Samara – a veteran of the jihad in Afghanistan and a close associate of Maqdisi and Qatada, who sat with both men as they were interviewed – painted an even more gloomy picture of al-Qaida’s position. A GP who runs a free clinic treating injured Syrian fighters and civilians, Samara has more experience than Maqdisi or Qatada with the day-to-day operations of jihadi organising, and has often handled the affairs of the two men during their frequent jail stints. He said that donations, which once came in waves of “hundreds of thousands”, have dried up as donors directed their money to Isis, or else refused to fund further bloodletting between the two groups. Another former al-Qaida member, Aimen Dean – who defected to become a spy for British intelligence – told the Guardian that one of his sources in Pakistan’s tribal areas said the finances of al-Qaida central in Waziristan were so desperate that it was reduced at one point last year to selling its laptops and cars to buy food and pay rent.

So we are to believe a British spy who tells us that AlQaeda can't pay its rent? What nonsense.

The whole piece is made to make it look as if AlQaeda is somewhat just a small group of engaged people on their long travel to fulfill their ever escaping dreams. And see, they even have a sad about this 9/11 thing:

In recent years, Maqdisi has even come to believe that al-Qaida’s conception of jihad – one licensed in part by his own scholarship – may have been incorrect, a jihad of “spite” rather than “empowering believers”. Even the attacks of 9/11, Maqdisi said, were part of a misguided strategy. “The actions in New York and Washington, no matter how great they appeared to be – the bottom line is they were spiteful.”

Instead AlQaeda is now destined to become the new salvation army:

Maqdisi now wants al-Qaida to begin providing social services, as Hamas has done in Gaza. “That kind of enabling jihad will establish our Islamic state. It will enable it to become a place of refuge for the weak,” he said. Al-Qaida branches in Tunisia and elsewhere have been putting this suggestion into practice – with jihadis guarding hospitals, building infrastructure, and even picking up litter.

(Nice try, by the way, to falsely link Hamas to AlQaeda.) Now compare that to the savages of the Islamic State. Isn't AlQaeda so much nicer? And poor? And overwhelmed by the savages of the Islamic State? And in demise?

These folks really only want to do good. Like yesterday, when they murdered dozens of Druze in north Syria, including children and elderly.

Who asked the Guardian to write such a dreck admiring piece of these Jihadist? Who gave them direct access to these terrorists? Under what conditions and to what purpose?

Posted by b at 06:04 AM | Comments (53)

June 10, 2015

Pew Survey On Ukraine

The PEW Research Center has a new opinion survey of several NATO countries and Russia with regards to the Ukraine conflict:

Publics of key member nations of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) blame Russia for the ongoing conflict in Ukraine. Many also see Russia as a military threat to other neighboring states. But few support sending arms to Ukraine. Moreover, at least half of Germans, French and Italians say their country should not use military force to defend a NATO ally if attacked by Russia.

The last sentence is the reason why the neocon's will likely fail to instigate a NATO war on Russia.

Americans and Canadians are the only publics where more than half think their country should use military action if Russia attacks a fellow NATO member (56% and 53%, respectively).

Sure. A war would not be on their ground these people believe. But a war on Russia could become nuclear and then all bets are off even for those living on the western side of the Atlantic. Did no one tell them?

There is lots of stuff in the survey and its worth to read it. I personally am somewhat comforted that my country stands out a bit. A majority of Germans are against Ukraine joining NATO or the EU. A majority is also against delivering weapons to Ukraine and against the use of force by NATO.

The survey confirms that Putin is at an all time high in Russian people's opinion and a very large majority trust him in all regards. Now compare that to the opinion Ukrainians have about the Nuland installed puppet government:

Ukrainians give both their president and prime minister negative marks. A plurality disapproves of President Petro Poroshenko’s job performance (43%), while just a third approves. A majority (60%) is unhappy with the way Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk is handling his job. Roughly half or more of eastern Ukrainians give Poroshenko (49%) and Yatsenyuk (66%) negative reviews. Western Ukrainians also give Yatsenyuk bad marks (55%) but are divided on Poroshenko (39% approve, 39% disapprove).

PEW did not survey the people in the federalist held areas in the east. With those included the numbers for the Ukrainian government would be considerably worse. Given that the media in Ukraine are mostly in the hands of pro-western oligarchs these results are really quite bad. There was speculation some time ago that Nuland had planned to replace Proshenko with the Scientology follower Yatsenyuk but given these numbers there is no longer a chance for such a move.

Meanwhile the conflict in east Ukraine is flaring up again with Donetsk city again being under daily artillery fire from the Ukrainian government side. The summer in east Ukraine will likely get hot again.

Posted by b at 11:32 AM | Comments (61)

June 07, 2015

Turkish Voters Slap Erdogan

Erdogan loses the parliament election in Turkey. With some 95% of the votes counted the results (seats) are:

  • AKP 41.5% (261)
  • CHP 25.3% (130)
  • MHP 16.7% (84)
  • HDP 12.0% (75)

Erdogans AKP lost nearly 9% compared to the last election. The Kurdish HDP jumped above the 10% limit and thereby prevents the AKP from ruling as the sole party. The AKP will have to arrange a coalition with the hard nationalist MHP to form a new government.

The reasons for the loss were the end of the credit fueled economic boom that the AKP had engineered since 2000. There was also a lot of infighting within the AKP and Erdogan's policy of fueling the war in Syria is quite unpopular.

Any coalition government the AKP may arrange will likely be less aggressive than the current one. It is doubtful that the current prime minister Davutoglu, the very aggressive promoter of a new Ottoman empire, will keep his position.

Erdogan as a politician is now wounded and the AKP is weakened. This will lead to more infighting within the AKP and maybe even a split of the party into several fractions. In all this result  will likely leave less capacity in Turkey for wide ranging geopolitical adventures.

Posted by b at 02:31 PM | Comments (44)

June 05, 2015

Open Thread 2015-24

Some news & views from me. Please add yours in the comments.

The Ukrainian government intensifies the economic war against the people in the area of Luhansk and Donetsk:

Luhansk Oblast Governor Hennadiy Moskal has completely cut off the water supply to Russian-occupied territories in retaliation for shelling by the Kremlin-separatist forces.

More general this in the NYT!

Senior officials in Kiev, complaining about Russian violations of the agreement and knowing their army can never defeat the Russian-backed separatists militarily, have decided simply to cut off the eastern regions from the rest of the country.

That policy would violate the Minsk accord, ...

The Ukrainian government never adhered to the Minsk agreements but now its official policy.

Don't ever give money to these folks until they completely changed their leadership: How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.

The U.S. seems to (again) move the goal posts in the nuclear negotiations with Iran. China (and Russia) do not agree with this: China urges no new demands at Iran nuclear talks. My bet is still that the U.S. wants the talks to fail.

Did you know?

  • Number of genuine terrorist plots in the US since 9/11: 6
  • Number of terrorist plots manipulated by the FBI since 9/11: 175

But they need to spy on you because ... terrorism!!!

To defend against these revelations of illegal surveillance the administration is pulling out stories it has obviously held back especially for this purpose: Federal Government Suffers Massive Hacking Attack. The claim is "the Chinese did it" but there is zero proof (and no good motive) for that. But claiming so helps to justify the illegal NSA activities.

Last but not least: A good one for its historic background by Gary Sick: Saudi Arabia's Widening War

Posted by b at 02:31 PM | Comments (105)

June 04, 2015

Damascus Goes Into Defense Mode

When the enemy with overwhelming numbers is attacking in full force it makes sense to retreat to the best defensible lines and to protect only the most valuable assets.

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

This is not a strategic change of course or a sign of weakness but a tactical move. To sacrifice exhausted army units in further defending outlying and thereby indefensible minor parts of the country would simply be unwise. The Syrian government is still strong and at least 75% of the Syrian people within Syria are under its realm. The war on Syria will go on for years and there will come other phases when the Syrian army will again go on attack.

Some 10,000 al-Qaeda fighters, a third of them foreigners, crossed from Turkey with new U.S. supplied TOW anti-tank weapons and overran the Syrian defenses in the governate and city of Idleb. The move was unexpected in its size and force. The Syrian government recognized that more resources would be required to counter the attack and dispatched officials to Iran and Russia to request more help.

Iran released a new $1 billion loan and is also sending some 15,000 additional paramilitary fighters from Iraq and Iran to support the defenses of Damascus, Homs and the Latakia coast area. Hizbullah is engaged in the Qalamon mountains next to Lebanon and in the process of mopping up al-Nusra and other Jihadist groups in the area. Russia has publicly announced to further support the Syrian government. It is not yet known what exactly Russia is planning to do but we can expect to see more and newer weapons delivered to the Syrian army and air force.

Meanwhile the U.S. propaganda machine is working hard on three points. The first is to depict the Syrian government as no longer supported by its people and to sow doubt about its alliances with Iran and Russia. With the new support coming now that line is temporarily inoperable but will be revived when convenient.

The second propaganda stunt is to deny that Jabhat al-Nusra is a real operative part of Al-Qeada with the long-term aim to attack the "west". This claim is necessary to justify further U.S. support to the Nusra led campaigns in Idleb and elsewhere. There were rumors about al-Nusra rejecting al-Qaeda and attempts to invent some internal strife about the question. An AlJazeerah Arabic softball interview with Nusra chief Jolani was arranged to soften its image. But Jolani did not perform as AlJazeerah sponsor Qatar expected. He again declared full allegiance to al-Qaeda central and his obedience to al-Qeada chief Ayman al-Zawahiri. Nusra is thereby not "al-Qaeda aligned" or "al-Qaeda linked" or an "al-Qaeda franchise". Jabhat al-Nusra is al-Qaeda. Jolani left no doubt about it.

The third and most stupid propaganda claim is an alleged cooperation of the Syrian government with the Islamic State. "Look, we planned this big operation against Assad in Aleppo and Assad bombed us. The next day the Islamic State attacked us and Assad did not bomb them. See, he did not help us. He must be with the Islamic State." Some stupidity really has no bounds. Here is how well the Syrian army and the Islamic State really "cooperate":

Islamic State bombers have blown up about a dozen explosive-packed trucks at Syrian army checkpoints around the government-held northeastern city of Hasaka city over the past five days, the city governor said on Thursday.
"More than thirteen explosive-laden vehicles have attacked army checkpoints and sowed terror and fear among citizens," City Governor Mohammad Zaal al Ali told state television by telephone from inside the city.

The fighting in Syria is now between three parties. Al-Qaeda terrorists supported by U.S. aligned external states, the Syrian government and its allies and the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. All three are fighting each other but the Syrian government hopes that the fighting between Nusra and the Islamic State will intensify and diminish its two enemies. It sees the Islamic State not as its own problem but as a problem for the whole world. It will now go into a defensive mode and protect its core assets. Other entities will have to attack the Islamic State. The bet is that the Islamic State will, probably soon, directly attack the "west" and/or Gulf entities and that these attacks will result in others taking care of the Islamic State problem.

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (45)

June 03, 2015

Media's Beloved "Expert" Eliot Higgins - Wrong Again And Again And Again

Eliot Higgins aka Brown Moses, the founder of Bellingcat "by and for citizen investigative journalists", is beloved by NATO media. Higgins is always able to "prove" by amateur "analysis" of open source data that the "bad guys", just as the U.S. or NATO claim, did indeed do the bad thing that happened. The problem is that Higgins is no expert of anything. He was an unemployed office worker who looked at Youtube videos from Syria and tried Internet searches to find out what weapons were visible in the videos. That is all that made him an "expert".

But Higgins claimed to prove that the Syrian government launched rockets with Sarin on Ghouta, an area south of Damascus. An MIT professor and real expert proved (pdf) that he was wrong.

Higgins claimed to "prove" that rockets launched from Russia hit Ukraine by looking at aerial pictures of impact craters. But a real expert of the method said that crater analysis is “highly experimental and prone to inaccuracy” and warned against its use without further corroboration.

Now another "expert" of Bellingcat, who's source of "expertise" is unknown but likely also low, tries to prove that Russia manipulated some aerial pictures it published about the MH17 airline incident in Ukraine. That made some splash in the usual NATO media but is complete nonsense. Yes, the pictures were obviously "manipulated" as labels were added to them. But that the visual content of the pictures were changed, as the "expert" claimed to prove by a JPEG compression analysis, is clearly bullshit. The "expert" claims that "all image content should present roughly the same [compression] error levels if the photo has not been altered." That is nonsense. JPEG compresses a flat white surface with low error level and a rough multicolor part of a picture with a higher compression error level. That is digital compression 101 which I myself learned when I was doing a bit of math work on the early PNG format definition. So it turns out that the "expert" simply does not understand how JPEG compression works.

Out of three big "finds" that made it into the media Higgins and Bellingcat had three that were proven to be wrong by real experts. Any media who further quote "analysis" by the "experts" Higgins and Bellingcat should be regarded as propaganda outlet and not as a serious source of news.

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (39)

June 01, 2015

The Current Overproduction Crisis And War

Ian Welsh makes Fourteen Points on the World Economy as the US GDP Drops .7 Percent. He believes that the economy is again turning towards a global recession. This recession comes even as there has not been a real recovery from the last global economic crisis:

Let me put this another way: The developed world is in depression. It has been in depression since 2007. It never left depression. Within that depression, there is still a business cycle: There are expansions, and recessions, and so on. Better times and worse times.

The business cycle is again turning down and is doing so sharply. Not only in the U.S. but also in Europe and Asia.

Every central bank has been throwing money at the local economies but that money finds no productive use. Why would a company invest even at 0% interests when nobody will buy the additional products for a profitable price? How could consumers buy more when wages are stagnant and they are already overburdened with debt taken up in the last expansion cycle? The central banks are pushing on a string while distorting normal market relations. This intensifies the original crisis.

My belief is that the global crisis we see is one of overproduction, an excess or glut of supplies and on the other side a lack of consumption. The exceptional cheap money created by the central banks makes  investment in machines preferable over employment of a human workforce. The result: Manufacturing hub starts work on first zero-labor factory

Chen predicted that instead of 2,000 workers, the current strength of the workforce, the company will require only 200 to operate software system and backstage management.

The (Central) bank gave Mr. Chen cheap money and at an interest rate of 0% a complete automation of his company may indeed be profitable. It is unlikely though that he would make the same move at an interest rate of 10%. But on the larger macro economic scale Mr Chen needs to ask this question: "How will the 1,800 laid off workers be able to buy the products my company makes?" Some of the laid off people may find marginal "service" job but the money they will make from those will likely be just enough to keep them alive. And over time flipping burgers will also be automated. And then?

Karl Marx described such overproduction crises. Their cause is a rising share of an economy's profits going to an ever smaller class of "owners" while the growing class of marginal "workers" gets less and less of the total pie. In the last decades this phenomenon can be observed all over the developed world. The other side of the overproduction crisis is an underconsumption crisis. People can no longer buy for lack of income.

While a realignment of central bank interest rates to historical averages, say some 6%, would help to slow the negative process it would not solve the current problem. Income inequality and overproduction would still increase though at a lesser pace. The historic imperialist remedy for local overproduction, capturing new markets, is no longer available. Global trade is already high. There is little land left to colonize and to widen the markets for ones products.

There are then two solutions to such an crisis.

One is to tackle the underconsumption side and to change the distribution of an economy's profits with a much larger share going to "workers" and a smaller share going to "owners". This could be achieved through higher taxes on "owners" and redistribution by the state but also through empowerment of labor unions and like means. But with governments all over the world more and more captured by the "owners" the chance that this solution will be chosen seem low.

The other solution for a capitalist society to a crisis of overproduction is the forced destruction of (global) production capabilities through a big war. War also helps to increase control over the people and to get rid of "surplus workers".

The U.S. was the big economic winner of World War I and II. Production capacities elsewhere got destroyed through the wars and a huge number of global "surplus workers" were killed. For the U.S. the wars were, overall, very profitable. Other countries have distinct different experiences with wars. In likely no other country than the U.S. would one find a major newspaper that arguing that wars make us safer and richer.

I am therefore concerned that the intensifying crisis of overproduction and its seemingly casual preference for war will, in years to come, push the U.S. into starting a new global cataclysmic conflict.

Neoconservatives like Victoria Nuland tried to goad Russia and the EU into a big war over Ukraine. The top lobbyist of the military industrial complex, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter is trying to instigate a war between China and its neighbors over some atolls in the South China Sea. The U.S. is at least complicit in the rise of the Islamic State which will leave the Middle East at war for the foreseeable future.

Are these already, conscious or by chance, attempts by the U.S. to solve the problem of global overproduction in its favor?

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (85)

May 30, 2015

Open Thread 2015-23

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:56 PM | Comments (108)

May 29, 2015

Imperial NYT: Each FIFA Member One Secret Vote Is "Strange Electoral Math"

The New York Times was tipped off about last weeks U.S. induced Swiss police raid on FIFA functionaries in Geneva. It seems to hold some grudge against the football association maybe because the U.S. lost its bid for the World Cup 2022 to Qatar.

It is obvious that the U.S. is trying to install its own puppet on top of FIFA. Their candidate is a member of the corrupt family of Jordanian king. It is not that the U.S. is against corruption. How would the situation be today if FIFA, like some huge banks, had given to the Clinton Foundation, Obama's presidential library or "lobbied" some Representatives and Senators?  Corruption is just fine in the U.S. as long as it works in its interest. But FIFA rules make it difficult for the U.S. to get its will.

The reason, says the New York Times, is "the strange electoral math of FIFA".

So what is strange with that math?

The members of FIFA are the national football associations. Each gets one vote. The voting is secret.

Imagine that. Every member has an equal vote and can vote as it likes without any real way to pressure it. That's strange? From the NYT piece:

Mr. Blatter is widely expected to win a fifth term on Friday — in a vote only miles from the luxury hotel where Wednesday’s arrests took place — in part because of FIFA’s electoral math. The FIFA president is elected by a one-vote-per-country poll of its 209 member federations, making the many smaller countries who support Mr. Blatter an effective counterweight to his unpopularity elsewhere, most notably in Europe.

One country one vote is indeed strange math. Imagine the UN would be run this way. How would the U.S. and other Security Council members get their will if every country had a real vote?

There is no proposal in the NYT piece on how to change that strange math. How would the U.S. like to have the votes arranged? Countries ranked by population numbers? China, India, Nigeria, Brazil would certainly love that arrangement. But their votes would likely not go the way the U.S. wants them to go. Countries'  votes ranked by local football popularity or historic football success? Portugal or some other small country might then have the greatest weight. The U.S. vote would rank somewhere at the very end of the list.

No. There is no better way to run FIFA than the way it is run today. A World Cup is a billion dollar business. The money collected by FIFA through TV licenses, advertisement and merchandizing is flowing back to the national soccer federations. They are supposed to use it to support and promote the sport. Unfortunately some corruption is inevitably involved in such a huge and complex business. The world will have to live with that. The alternative is to relinquish control over football to some totally unaccountable, likely U.S. controlled conglomerate. That would be the end of the game.

I suggested that the U.S. assault on FIFA for corruption cases going back to the early 1990s comes now  because FIFA will today vote on a Palestinian proposal to eject Israel for impeding Palestinian football. Taking the 2018 World Cup from Russia is a convenient but secondary target. Israel has conceded that it is guilty of hindering Palestinian football by offering concessions in bid 
to avert vote to oust it from FIFA. But those concessions are likely not enough:

The source said FIFA president Sepp Blatter welcomed Israel’s proposal but stressed it would need [chairman of the Palestinian Football Association] Rajoub’s consent before removing the vote on banning Israel from FIFA’s slate.

The source said Rajoub acceded, but added another demand – that FIFA ask UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to issue a decision within three months on whether the five Israeli teams based in West Bank settlements were within Israeli territory.

FIFA regulations stipulate that teams not located within Israeli territory require the Palestinians’ consent to participate in Israeli leagues. Since the UN does not recognize the West Bank as part of Israel, the decision would de facto force Israel’s soccer federation to expel these teams from the league or run the risk of breaking FIFA’s rules.

The Palestinians should stick to this demand. Israel, like apartheid South Africa, should be kicked out of FIFA. There must be no tolerance for racism and occupation in the world's most beloved sport.

Posted by b at 05:43 AM | Comments (112)

May 28, 2015

Reuters Exclusive: Russian Troops Near Ukraine's Border

European Union sanctions against Russia are up for renewal. To prevent them from being lifted some additional NATO propaganda hyping the Russia threat and warning of an imminent invasion if Ukraine is necessary.

Reuters is always willing to be helpful with this. Consider its record of uncritical Exclusive News on the topic:

In none of the above stories have I seen any real reporting with a critical assessment of the veracity of such news.

Russia, like any normal state, always has some troops near its borders as well as training areas for larger unit exercises. Troops moving within the wider border area is simply normal.

Some 90% of the Canadian army is stationed less than a hundred miles from the U.S. border. When will Reuters finally manage to report that threat of an immediate invasion?

Posted by b at 12:16 PM | Comments (34)

May 27, 2015

Ahead Of Israel Expulsion Vote U.S. Orders Raid On FIFA

Today the U.S. ordered Swiss police to raid, incarcerate and extradite to the U.S. six FIFA officials for alleged corruption. The raid, with obviously pre-alarmed New York Times reporters on the scene, comes shortly before a FIFA vote to expel Israel from the association.

This Friday the world football association FIFA is meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, for its 65th regular World Congress. One of the votes on the agenda (pdf) is about the "Suspension or expulsion of a member". There is also an "Update on Israel-Palestine".

The Palestinian Football Association has called for a vote to suspend Israel from FIFA:

The Palestinian group objects to Israeli teams playing in the West Bank. They also say Israel restricts movements of Palestinian players between the West Bank and Gaza as well as for international matches.

"They keep bullying here and there, and I think they have no right to keep being the bully of the neighborhood," Palestinian Football Association President Jibril Rajoub said of Israel. "If the Israelis are using the issue of security, I can say that their security concern is mine. I am ready to fix parameters for security concerns, but security should not be used ... as a tool in order to keep this racist, apartheid policies."

He declared the situation in the West Bank far worse than apartheid that existed in South Africa because right-wingers and extremists in Israel want to "delete Palestine." In the 1960s, FIFA suspended South Africa for decades after it failed to comply with the association's nondiscrimination policies. The nation was also expelled from FIFA a month after the Soweto Youth Uprising of 1976.

"I am not asking for the suspension of the Israeli association; I am asking to end the suffering of the Palestinian footballers," Rajoub said. "I am asking to end the grievances, the humiliation we are facing."

The vote requires a 75% majority of the 209 FIFA members. There was a good chance that it was going to be successful.

But now, just by chance, the U.S. government ordered the Swiss police to raid the hotel where the main FIFA functionaries are residing to arrest some of them on corruption charges going back to the early 1990s. The U.S. wants these to be extradited to face a U.S. court.

Also, just by chance, reporters and photographers of the New York Times happen to be in that very Swiss hotel lobby, at 6 am, to capture the incident live:

As leaders of FIFA, soccer’s global governing body, gathered for their annual meeting, more than a dozen plain-clothed Swiss law enforcement officials arrived unannounced at the Baur au Lac hotel, an elegant five-star property with views of the Alps and Lake Zurich. They went to the front desk to get keys and proceeded upstairs to the rooms.
The charges allege widespread corruption in FIFA over the past two decades, involving bids for World Cups as well as marketing and broadcast deals, according to three law enforcement officials with direct knowledge of the case. The charges include wire fraud, racketeering and money laundering, and officials said they targeted members of FIFA’s powerful executive committee, which wields enormous power and does its business largely in secret.

While some of the indicted persons are U.S. citizens one wonders what contorted maneuvers the U.S. justice department will make to claim jurisdiction over foreign national FIFA functionaries:

United States law gives the Justice Department wide authority to bring cases against foreign nationals living abroad, an authority that prosecutors have used repeatedly in international terrorism cases. Those cases can hinge on the slightest connection to the United States, like the use of an American bank or Internet service provider.

Is there corruption involved when FIFA decides to run the World Championship in this or that country? Are there kickbacks when it sells media rights? Might there be gambling going on in the casino?

Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds? Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here! [a croupier hands Renault a pile of money] Croupier: Your winnings, sir. Captain Renault: Oh, thank you very much.

Additional to their U.S. ordered raid the Swiss also feel compelled to open criminal proceedings around the 2018 and 2022 World Cup FIFA votes. The U.S. lost out against Russia and Qatar in its bid for those games and U.S. hawks still want to change that. It is not that paying bribes to be chosen for world games is unfamiliar to the U.S., but being rejected necessitates regime change at the top of the responsible organization.

In the United States it is legal to bribe politicians, via campaign financing, in practically unlimited amounts. Not one U.S. banker has been indicted for the massive Wall Street fraud that brought the world economy to a halt. The world is aware of this and it does not like the U.S. to lecture it about moral outrages. FIFA, while certainly corrupt, is also the soul of world football and the organizer of the most beloved championship in the world. If the U.S. believes that using something similar to terrorism charges against FIFA will have a positive echo in the world it is very mistaken.

Especially as the just by chance motive for this is pretty obvious.

As an Israeli journalist already gloats:

Anshel Pfeffer
Poor Jibril Rajoub. Doesn't look like his gimmick is going to get much attention right now #FIFA

Let me guess: That was a main purpose of this raid?

Posted by b at 03:31 AM | Comments (84)

May 26, 2015

Lack Of U.S. Air Support In Ramadi Points To Disguised Darker Aim

Why were there so few U.S. air attacks on the Islamic State attackers when they took Ramadi?

The first excuse put out by the U.S. military was "a sandstorm ate my lunch". That excuse was placed as news in the NYT:

Islamic State fighters used a sandstorm to help seize a critical military advantage in the early hours of the terrorist group’s attack on the provincial Iraqi capital of Ramadi last week, helping to set in motion an assault that forced Iraqi security forces to flee, current and former American officials said Monday.

The stenographer writing the piece did not bother to ask eyewitnesses or to check with some weather service. The myth of the "sandstorm" was thus born and repeated again and again. But people looking at the videos and pictures from the fighting could only see a bright blue sky. The military, though not the NYT, had to retract:

Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters today that last weekend's sandstorm had not affected the coalition’s ability to launch airstrikes in Ramadi, though “weather was a factor on the ground early on.”

Now the U.S. military needs a new excuse to explain why it does not really bother to attack the Islamic State troops. Again it is the NYT that is willing to stenograph:

American officials say they are not striking significant — and obvious — Islamic State targets out of fear that the attacks will accidentally kill civilians. Killing such innocents could hand the militants a major propaganda coup and alienate both the local Sunni tribesmen, whose support is critical to ousting the militants, and Sunni Arab countries that are part of the American-led coalition.

The alleged restrain in in fear of killing civilians in bonkers. The few U.S. airstrikes on Islamic State targets, though not admitted, have already killed hundreds of civilians.

This excuse for not helping the defenders of Ramadi is also nonsense as many occasions for potential attacks, like the Islamic State parade in this picture, are in areas with no or few civilians around. Why are Islamic State fighters free to travel the roads between Syria and Iraq in mass?

Nether the "sandstrom" excuse nor the "fear" of accidentally killing civilians seem to be an explanation for the decision to not support the Iraqi troops against the Islamic State attacks. A sound explanation can be found in the 2012 Defense Intelligence Agency assessment, recently revealed, that says that the U.S. and the Gulf monarchies do want an Islamic State covering east Syria and west Iraq:

“… there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist Principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime, which is considered the strategic depth of the Shia expansion (Iraq and Iran).”

In a recent Sunday show the neocon and former U.S. ambassador to the UN John Bolton put it on the record:

I think our objective should be a new Sunni state out of the western part of Iraq, the eastern part of Syria run by moderates or at least authoritarians who are not radical Islamists. What's left of the state of Iraq, as of right now, is simply a satellite of the Ayatollahs in Tehran. It's not anything we should try to aid.

The U.S. military in the Middle East is not helping the legitimate state of Iraq against the illegitimate Islamic State. It is shaping the environment so that it will allow for a delimited "Salafist Principality" in Syria and Iraq, mostly independent Kurdish areas and a rump state of Shia Iraq.

Not unrelated the Associated Press is running a home story about a nice, Islamic State financed, honeymoon in Raqqa:

The honeymoon was a brief moment for love, away from the front lines of Syria's war. In the capital of the Islamic State group's self-proclaimed "caliphate," Syrian fighter Abu Bilal al-Homsi was united with his Tunisian bride for the first time after months chatting online. They married, then passed the days dining on grilled meats in Raqqa's restaurants, strolling along the Euphrates River and eating ice cream.

It was all made possible by the marriage bonus he received from the Islamic State group: $1,500 for him and his wife to get started on a new home, a family — and a honeymoon.

"It has everything one would want for a wedding," al-Homsi said of Raqqa ...

Who paid how much to AP for that  Islamic State recruiting advertisement?

The only sound explanation for the very, very limited air support the U.S. is giving to Iraq is its aim of dismembering the Iraqi state and creating a new Sunni state entity under its tutelage. The Iraqi government should finally recognize this and should stay away from U.S. advice and dependency.

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (42)

May 25, 2015

U.S. Military: Local Militia Are Bad Unless We Create Them

The U.S. military and the New York Times now rally against local militias in Afghanistan:

Afghans Form Militias and Call on Warlords to Fight Taliban

Facing a fierce Taliban offensive across a corridor of northern Afghanistan, the government in Kabul is turning to a strategy fraught with risk: forming local militias and beseeching old warlords for military assistance, according to Afghan and Western officials.

The effort is expected to eventually mobilize several thousand Afghans from the north to fight against the Taliban in areas where the Afghan military and police forces are losing ground or have had little presence.
Gen. John F. Campbell, the American commander in Afghanistan, said he was skeptical of any plan that involved paying warlords to deploy their men. “I think if they’re looking for people that have volunteered to protect their villages, you know, that’s one thing,” he said. But if the government’s plan involved “going to a warlord and saying, ‘I need to take you, and pay you and move you, and go do something here,’ that’s a completely different thing,” he told reporters on Saturday. “We would not be supportive of that.”

Not one word in the NYT piece mentions that this same tactic, setting up local militia, has been tried and fiercely defended five years ago by the then American commander in Afghanistan:

Petraeus’ First Big Afghanistan Gamble: Militias Local Cops

General David Petraeus has persuaded Karzai to set up a new force to supplement Afghan soldiers and police. It’s not really Anbar Awakening 2.0, since it doesn’t involve insurgents switching sides. And don’t use the M-word, Pentagon officials say. “They would not be militias,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell told reporters Wednesday. “These would be government-formed, government-paid, government- uniformed local police units.” Specifically, the new units will be paid by the Interior Ministry — or, rather, the foreign money that bankrolls the Afghanistan government will be disbursed to these new units through the ministry.

Stenographed the NYT at that time:

“Our position has been to develop a solution that bridges between having nothing and having Afghan National Police, and this program does that,” said the senior NATO official. “So it’s a good development and especially so since it has consensus within the Afghan government and the ownership that come with that,” he said.

The Afghan local police units the U.S. created in 2010 turned out to be unreliable local warlords who preyed on the civilian population. The new local forces the Afghan government now wants to create will turn out to be likewise but they are currently the only chance to keep the Taliban somewhat away from ruling over bigger chunks of the country.

Today's fierce resistance by the U.S. general against such forces has a certain "not invented by me" feeling. The total amnesia in today's NYT piece of the Petraeus program five years ago underlines that impression. It is like nothing can ever be good or useful unless the U.S. military invents and supports it.

Posted by b at 03:48 AM | Comments (23)

May 23, 2015

Open Thread 2015-22

News & views ...

Posted by b at 05:08 AM | Comments (135)

May 21, 2015

U.S. Intelligence Predicted: U.S. Support For Rebels in Syria Would Lead To Fall of Ramadi

Three new news items provide that the Obama administration, as well as Turkey and other countries, have knowingly created the current situation in Syria and Iraq. They knew that their support of the opposition which from the beginning included Al Qaeda would likely lead to the creation of an Islamic State. The administration was warned as early as August 2012 that this would then lead to the fall of Mosul and Ramadi to an Al Qaeda entity.

Thanks to Brad Hoff for pointing in the comments here to the Defense Intelligence Agency reports from August and October 2012 about the war on Syria. The DIA was the one U.S. intelligence agency that got the Iraq WMD case right but its appraisals, for example that the famous "aluminum tubes" were ordered by Iraq to build mortar tubes, were suppressed by the Bush administration. The now published heavily redacted DIA reports were released after Freedom Of Information Act litigation by the conservative Judicial Watch.

One report is mostly concerned with the attack on U.S personal in Benghazi in Libya on September 11 2012. My first analytic post on the issue was on September 12 2012 and it was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. The Obama administration long denied that the attack was an obviously planned AQ operation and that it was related, as I wrote, to arms smuggling from Benghazi to Syrian "rebels". The released DIA report dated October 2012 confirms my take from a day after the attack. It includes this:

Weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the Port of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The weapons shipped during late-August 2012 were Sniper rifles, RPG’s, and 125 mm and 155mm howitzers missiles.

During the immediate aftermath of, and following the uncertainty caused by, the downfall of the ((Qaddafi)) regime in October 2011 and up until early September of 2012, weapons from the former Libya military stockpiles located in Benghazi, Libya were shipped from the port of Benghazi, Libya to the ports of Banias and the Port of Borj Islam, Syria. The Syrian ports were chosen due to the small amount of cargo traffic transiting these two ports. The ships used to transport the weapons were medium-sized and able to hold 10 or less shipping containers of cargo.

These weapons were shipped on Turkish vessels. A few hours before he was killed the U.S. ambassador met the with a Turkish diplomat likely to coordinate more such weapon shipments.

Another released DIA document written in August 2012 and also highly redacted explains that Al Qaeda was, from the beginning, a big part of the Syrian "revolution". It foresees and warns of the creation of an Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Some quotes (emph. added):

3 B: AQI supported the Syrian opposition from the beginning ...
3 C: AQI conducted a number of operations in Syrian cities under the name of Jaish al-Nusra ...

These are the moderate rebels and activists the main stream media wrote and is still writing about. More from the report:

8 C: If the situation unravels there is the possibility of establishing a declared or undeclared Salafist principality in eastern Syria (Hasaka and Der Zor), and this is exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.

The "supporting powers" are earlier listed (in 7 B) as:

western countries, the Gulf States and Turkey

The DIA warns that the creation of such an Salafist principality would have "dire consequences" for Iraq and would possibly lead to the creation of an Islamic State and:

create the ideal atmosphere for AQI to return to its old pockets in Mosul and Ramadi

These DIA folks really earned their salary.

The Obama administration, together with other supporter of the Syrian "opposition", knew that AQ was a large part of that "opposition" from the very beginning. The U.S. and others wanted a Salafist principality in east Syria to cut Syria and Lebanon off from a land route to Iran. It was warned that such a principality would create havoc in Iraq and to the return of AQ in Iraq (today the Islamic State) to Mosul and Ramadi. As this scenario was predicted and followed directly from the situation the U.S. and its partners wanted to achieve we do no longer have to wonder why the U.S. was so reluctant to prevent the fall of Ramadi. It is part of the plan.

Steve Chovanek at Reports From Underground investigates the recent fall of Palmyra to the Islamic State and finds that it is The Result of US-Coalition Ramping up Aid to Extremists. Steve draws from several reports (I had also mentioned here) and finds:

The Obama administration recently approves the shipment of heavy weaponry to the Syrian opposition after long hesitation, the US-led operation rooms in Turkey and Jordan openly encourage working with al-Qaeda to defeat Assad’s army, and the new Saudi King Salman, whose country is the main funder of ISIS, openly has ramped up support to Islamists in Syria, all the while al-Qaeda makes recent gains in the northwest and south, while ISIS makes its gains in the eastern region of Palmyra.

All just one big coincidence? I think not…

I agree that there is obviously some plan behind the seemingly coordinated advances of Al-Qaeda in Syria under the name Jabhat al-Nusra or now also as Army of Conquest and the advance of the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq. Not only the facts but also the DIA report point to such a plan.

The third item of interest is a Reuters report that picks up on news that had so far only been locally reported in Turkey: Exclusive: Turkish intelligence helped ship arms to Syrian Islamist rebel areas:

Testimony from gendarmerie officers in court documents reviewed by Reuters allege that rocket parts, ammunition and semi-finished mortar shells were carried in trucks accompanied by state intelligence agency (MIT) officials more than a year ago to parts of Syria under Islamist control.

With the publishing of the DIA reports, of reports on active military Turkish support for Al Qaeda Islamists and of pieces that admit the U.S. support for the current Al-Qaeda offense in Syria the Obama administration will probably come under some pressure to change course. The fall of Sirte in Libya to the Islamic State may add to the pile. The Obama administration could at least be pressed to refrain from further supporting Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq.

But the Obama administration is notoriously difficult to shame and when in doubt always chooses the worst alternative. The best we can hope for is that information like above gets spread further around and will over time drain support for such policies.

Posted by b at 12:11 PM | Comments (76)

May 19, 2015

Obama Administration Dilly-dallying On Islamic State Action

The Islamic State took Ramadi with the help of armored bulldozers and some 10 suicide vehicles. That many of the nominal defenders of the city had no real will to fight also helped. But there is another important actor that allowed it to happen. In the critical 24 hours the U.S. coalition which had promised to defend Iraq and to defeat the Islamic State launched just seven air strikes and all only against minor IS targets around the city. That's like nothing.

Now the paltry "dog ate my homework" excuse is a sandstorm no one but the U.S. air support group noticed.

Yesterday the Islamic State held victory parades around Ramadi. A hundred vehicles with black flags parading on a wide open road with black flags on every streetlight pole.

The pictures show a bright and sunny blue sky. No U.S. air interdiction was seen. Remarks one knowledgeable tweep looking at those pictures:

The Islamic State in Ramādī yesterday. Quite amazing the coalition didn't take them out actually. Makes one wonder about the coalitions rules of engagement. Now it "looks" as if Ramādī was offered to them on a silver plate ...

Indeed. The Obama administration and the Pentagon tried their best to play down the strategic loss of Ramadi as something minor that could be somehow repaired within a few days or weeks. But as McClatchy notes: Ramadi joins lengthening list of Pentagon misstatements on Iraq and Experts: U.S. claims Ramadi a mere setback are ‘delusional’.

The U.S. does not take the Islamic State seriously. It is as if Obama has decided that a Jihadist state in east-Syria and west-Iraq is a bright idea that should be given full support. Do his people and those U.S. experts on Saudi/Qatari payrolls tell him that the Islamic State is no danger to U.S. interests? They are wrong.

In his last speech the Islamic State Caliph announced something bigger then 9/11 probably during Ramadan which will be mid-June to mid-July. A big event on June 29, the date Caliph Baghdadi announced the creation of the Islamic State one year ago, would make for a great anniversary.

No mainstream media has followed up on that threat. But at the very end of one McClatchy piece today there is this short paragraph:

Meanwhile, an intelligence official who spoke on the condition of anonymity under the ground rules of his agency offered a caution: With the anniversary of the Islamic State’s declaration of a caliphate coming next month, “it would not be surprising if the group sought to mount a major attack or propaganda blitz to demonstrate its capabilities, and attract additional recruits.

I hate fear mongering and would advise against any panic reaction to that threat. But one could a least show some effort to keep the Islamic State busy and under steady pressure. That would not only probably prevent another Ramadi surprise but could keep important Islamic State actors on the run and too busy to harm even more people.

But whatever warning the Obama administration will get, its current behavior shows that it will, like the Bush administration, not take it seriously.

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (77)

May 18, 2015

NYT And Kerry Use Retracted Propaganda Claim To Blame & Shame North Korea

The South Korean spy and propaganda agency makes ab obviously ludicrous claim about something in North Korea. Hours later, after the nonsense claim made the news, it completely retracts it. A few days after that the U.S. cites the original false claim to put more blame and shame on North Korea. The NYT stenographers note the blame and shame but completely ignore that the false claim it is based on had been retracted.

NYT today: Kerry Calls for More Pressure on North Korea Over ‘Horrendous’ Acts

“The world is hearing increasingly more and more stories of grotesque, grisly, horrendous, public displays of executions on a whim and fancy by the leader against people who were close to him, sometimes on the flimsiest of excuses,” Mr. Kerry said, referring to Mr. Kim, during a news conference in Seoul, the capital of South Korea.

Mr. Kerry made the comment in response to a recent report that Mr. Kim had ordered one of his top generals, the minister of the People’s Armed Forces, Hyon Yong-chol, executed with an antiaircraft gun for disloyalty. General Hyon was accused, among other crimes, of dozing off during a meeting Mr. Kim presided over, the National Intelligence Service of South Korea said last week.

UPI on May 13: North Korea defense chief was purged, maybe not executed, says Seoul's spy agency

South Korea's spy agency said it cannot confirm the execution of North Korea defense chief Hyon Yong Chol, hours after making the opposite claim to South Korean lawmakers.

South Korean lawmaker Kim Kwang-jin told ABC News that Seoul's National Intelligence Service had said in a closed briefing that Hyon was publicly executed for napping and "behaving disrespectfully."

The NIS also said Hyon was executed on April 29 or 30 through the use of anti-aircraft machine guns in an area 13 miles north of Pyongyang – as hundreds of high-ranking military personnel watched.
By late afternoon, the spy agency revised its statement, saying Hyon was purged, but maybe not executed.

The "execution by anti-air gun for napping" was a lie invented, like most "North Korean horror" fairy tales, by the South Korean spy service to push some selected lawmakers to up its budget. When those idiots then talked to the press other people asked why the "disgraced" and "brutally killed" North Korean general was still presented favorably on North Korean TV. The spy agency had to retract its claim.

South Koreans who will have noted the retraction of the propaganda claim will just have learned that Kerry is really the dumb buffoon they probably had already assumed he is. Stupid propaganda stunts like this one is one reason why U.S. foreign policy is no longer seen as a serious endeavor.

Note to State Department briefers: Most people on this planet ain't as shallow-brained as your secretary.

Posted by b at 05:43 AM | Comments (42)

May 17, 2015

A Movie Recommendation And Open Thread

Adam Curtis' new masterpiece, Bitter Lake, was unfortunately only released for the iPlayer platform. But there are now some free sources available online. 

The movie, again with fantastic music and pictures, tells the grant political story of the last seventy or so years using historic and current footage. The (non-)development of our world is investigated using the example of Afghanistan and the outer forces involved in it.

From Curtis' own description:

It tells a big historical narrative that interweaves America, Britain, Russia and Saudi Arabia. It shows how politicians in the west lost confidence - and began to simplify the stories they told. It explains why this happened - because they increasingly gave their power away to other forces, above all global finance.
[I]t is important to try and understand what happened. And the way to do that is to try and tell a new kind of story. One that doesn’t deny the complexity and reduce it to a meaningless fable of good battling evil - but instead really tries to makes sense of it.

The movie is quite long, some 140 minutes, but highly recommended.

Part 1, 2 and 3.

Use as open thread.

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (191)

May 16, 2015

Was The Killing Of The IS Oil Minister A Combined Syrian-U.S. Operation?

Compare these two success announcements about the killing of an alleged Islamic State oil functionary:

Reuters Sat May 16, 2015 7:30am EDT:

Syrian army kills Islamic State's "oil minister"-state TV
May 16 The Syrian army has killed an Islamic State leader responsible for oil-related affairs along with 40 other militants in an attack in the eastern province of Deir al-Zor, Syrian state media reported.

A news flash on state TV identified Islamic State's "oil minister" as Abu al-Taym al-Saudi. It said he had been killed in a special operation in the Omar oil field, Syria's largest, which Islamic State captured from rival insurgents last July.

U.S. National Security Council press release Sat May 16, 2015 8:19am EDT

Last night, at the President’s direction, U.S. personnel based out of Iraq conducted an operation in al-Amr in eastern Syria to capture an ISIL senior leader known as Abu Sayyaf and his wife Umm Sayyaf. During the course of the operation, Abu Sayyaf was killed when he engaged U.S. forces.
Abu Sayyaf was a senior ISIL leader who, among other things, had a senior role in overseeing ISIL’s illicit oil and gas operations – a key source of revenue that enables the terrorist organization to carry out their brutal tactics and oppress thousands of innocent civilians.
This operation was conducted with the full consent of Iraqi authorities ..

It is usual that people in the Arab language world are identified by multiple names. "Abu al-Taym al-Saudi" might well be also known as "Abu Sayyaf". The "Omar oilfield" may also be written as "al-Amr".

A later update of the Reuters/SANA version added this paragraph

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a UK-based organisation that tracks the war, said around 19 Islamic State members had been killed in an air strike on the oil field. Twelve of the dead were foreign fighters, it said.

So what was this? A combined operation of U.S. and Syrian special forces coordinated through Baghdad? An airstrike by either side? Or did one side, the Syrian government or the U.S. administration, "steal" the success from the other side for their own propaganda purpose?

We know that the story the U.S. told over the Bin Laden killing was almost completely false. We therefore have reason to doubt the truthfulness of the NSC statement. The Syrian SANA news agency may not be the most accurate source either but here it was the first to announce the raid. SOHR, while paid by the "west", has proven to be at least somewhat independent. We will need more information before we can really stitch up the story. My bet for now is on a combined Syrian-U.S. operation that neither side has interest in to publicize in full.

Posted by b at 09:53 AM | Comments (54)

May 15, 2015

As Propaganda Fails Baghdadi Announces A Bigger 9/11

The propaganda war in Iraq and Syria is shifting into a higher gear.

The U.S. led International Coalition for Operation Inherent Resolve against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria announced on May 9:

DAESH defeated in al-Anbar – DAESH was beaten in Ramadi, Kurma, and Tharthar.#CJTFOIR

Well, not so fast. There were also rumors that the Caliph Baghdadi, the head of the Islamic State, was incapacitated and that his number two was killed in an air strike. The death of the Baathist leader of the Naqshbandi Order Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri had also been announced. Al-Douri's men had fought together with the Islamic State in its first big offense in Iraq but were shunned as soon as the Islamic State took over Mosul.

Today it turned out that none of those propagandized successes was sustained:

The Islamic State on Friday took control of the provincial government center of Ramadi, the capital of Iraq’s largest province, in a major defeat for the Iraqi government.

Islamic State forces also appeared to be closing in on two other key locations in Anbar province, the towns of Baghdadi and Kharma, in a broad offensive that if successful would end the government presence in any of the province’s major population centers.

The announced defeat of DEASH, or IS, in al-Anbar did not hold very long. Six huge suicide car bombs were enough to completely change the situation in Ramadi.

The "dead" Izzat Ibrahim al-Douri today released an audio message to his followers. He sounds a bit old and tired but also very much alive. Some excerpts via Aymenn J Al-Tamimi:

"What's happening in our land today is a direct and comprehensive Persian occupation"- Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri #Iraq in new speech
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri singles out Muqtada al-Sadr and Ammar al-Hakim as some of those who could have stood up for Iraqi sovereignty.
In reality, says Duri, the "opportunity has come to an end" and no one can truly express their opinion or stand against Iran.
Notable Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri mentions Islamic State by name in latest speech: he says 90% of Anbar province under them & 'armed men'.
Superficial cross-sectarianism: Duri appeals to the people of Karbala too about the problem of "Safavid" schemes, militias etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri says no real 'Popular Mobilization' (Hashd Sha'abi): just cover for Iran militias like Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq, Badr etc.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri attacks those in the media who might want to portray his speech as pro-IS. Clearest distancing from IS by name yet.
Izzat Ibrahim al-Duri on "Da'esh" (IS): "They declare the Ba'ath to be kuffar"
Towards end of speech Duri praises the Saudi-led intervention against the Houthis in #Yemen.

The rumored to be seriously wounded or dead Caliph Baghdadi also released a long audio message as well as transcripts of it in several languages. The Soufan Groups, which sells Middle East "intelligence", wrote in a brief (excerpts):

He begins by castigating any Muslim who won’t immigrate (hijra) to the Islamic State, and who won’t wage a violent war in its defense. For al-Baghdadi, joining him is an obligation, and that “there is no excuse for any Muslim who is capable of performing hijrah (immigration) to the Islamic State, or capable of carrying a weapon where he is.”
He then focuses on the Arab governments that he insists are lying in their claims to represent and protect the beleaguered Sunni population. He makes specific mention of the anti-Islamic State Arab forces being trained both by regional governments such as Saudi Arabia and Turkey but also the hated West.
In his litany of complaints against perceived Sunni oppression and abdicated Arab leadership, al-Baghdadi effectively covers the globe in his attempt to be seen as the worldwide supreme leader of the Sunni. He wonders where is the protection for Muslims in Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Burma, India, China, “Indonesia, the Caucasus, Africa, Khorasan, and everywhere else”. He then focuses on the Saudi-led air campaign against Houthi rebels in Yemen. He dismisses the fact the main targets of the Saudi air strikes are the Shi’a Houthis, and describes the effort as “not a storm of resolve, rather it is the kick of a dying person.”
In the speech’s most bizarre segment, al-Baghdadi talks about the sadness he and his group feel at the Iraqi Sunni “seeking refuge in the areas controlled by the Rāfidah (Shi’a) and Kurdish atheists in Iraq, ignoring that it is the savagery of the group that has caused so many people to flee before its advance.

It is interesting to observe the different positions al-Duri and Baghdadi have on the Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen.

There was more in Baghdadi's speech though possibly not in the transcripts. This seems to be quite sensational. Elijah J. Magnier reports:

I made a mistake in reading Baghdadi's voice message:
#ISIS al-Baghdadi is preparing something very big against the West, bigger than 9/11
#ISIS Baghdadi is also giving an approximative date and could be around the coming month of Ramadan (July).
I hope I am wrong but he is saying "the reaction will be huge on all Muslims living in the West". I believe him.
I have listen2 his speech 5 times. Minute 15. Moreover, other core accounts insinuate "something big coming up".
But the "possible date" is hinted and not as explicit as his intention.

So should we really expect some big event?

In other news the Islamic State also attacked in Deir Ez Zor in Syria. But that battle there, around a big military base and the city, has been going back and forth for months without decisive results. Meanwhile Hizbullah is attacking the Islamic State and Jabhat al Nusra in the Qulamoun mountains near the Lebanese border. Hizbullah head Nasrallah is expected to give some kind of victory speech tomorrow which lets me assume that the battle goes well.

The former U.S. National Security Advisers Brzezinski and Snowcroft took part in a Congress hearing on Syria. Brzezinski remarks (vid) that of all groups in Syria the Syrian president Assad is clearly the one with biggest following:

“I'm not really sure we knew what we were doing when we [i.e. the U.S. government] made a statement [against Assad]”

The wars in Syria and Iraq will continue until there is a decisive political break on either side. Such a break is nowhere in sight though Baghdadi's 9/11, if it became real, could give an impetus to either side. I therefore agree with Aron Lund who warns of falling for the various "analyst" declarations of victory for this or that side:

Four years after the uprising began, Syria has gained a reputation as the graveyard of political analysis, and it is well deserved. Many more confident statements, reports, and articles will undoubtedly be added to the pile before the war is over—and given the extraordinary complexity of this tragic and brutal conflict, some humility would be in order before pronouncing in favor of either side.

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (38)

HRW's Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture

Last week we found that Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth used an image of destruction in Gaza caused by Israel to accuse the Syrian government of indiscriminate use of "barrel bombs". We wrote:

This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.

That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.

After our post and many protests on Twitter Kenneth Roth retracted and deleted that tweet. He posted:


Not being happy about having to retract the accusing tweet he sent out a new one again accusing the Syrian government of causing the depicted destruction through "barrel bombs":

Cont. reading: HRW's Kenneth Roth Continues Unfounded Accusations With Another False Picture

Posted by b at 02:16 AM | Comments (30)

May 14, 2015

U.S. Military To Defend Feng Shui Of Southeast Asia

President Obama today issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) declaring a national emergency with respect to the unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States posed by the violation of the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia.

China said it was “deeply concerned” on Wednesday about a reported U.S. proposal to consider sending naval ships and aircraft toward man-made islands in the South China Sea as tensions escalate between the two nations over the vital waters.
“Reclamation isn’t necessarily a violation of international law, but it’s certainly violating the harmony, the feng shui, of Southeast Asia, and it’s certainly violating China’s claim to be a good neighbor and a benign and non-threatening power,” Daniel Russel, assistant secretary of state for East Asia, said in a telephone interview.
As it does for a range of regional developments, the U.S. Pacific Command has drawn up contingency plans related to China’s buildup of artificial islands in the South China Sea, U.S. defense officials said.

The plans have not yet been examined at the most senior levels of the Obama administration, and officials said there had been no decision to immediately deploy assets near the artificial islands. Because the islands are in international waters, U.S. planes or ships could transit near them as a matter of course, the officials said.

To further defend the feng shui of Southeast Asia the U.S. is stationing B-1 strategic nuclear bombers and long range surveillance drones in Australia.


Posted by b at 01:39 PM | Comments (34)

May 13, 2015

Light Posting - Several Issues

(Due to a (harmless) medical procedure my eyesight is temporarily restricted. For a few days I'll have some difficulties to read and write and to post here. Please bear with me.)

Some issues that (still) caught my eyes:

The Telegraph, like may other propaganda outlets, claims that the Syrian government is falling apart:

Ali Mamlouk, the head of the country's National Security Bureau, has been removed as the regime of Bashar al-Assad begins to show divisions over the role of Iran

Utter nonsense:

Syria's security services chief Ali Mamluk attended a meeting between President Bashar Assad and an Iranian official on Wednesday, after a newspaper claimed he was under house arrest for plotting a coup.

Mamluk's presence at the meeting, which was reported by the official news agency SANA, came after Britain's Telegraph newspaper said the top regime official had been sidelined.

SANA said Mamluk was among the attendees at the meeting between Assad and the head of the Iranian parliament's national security and foreign policy committee, Alaedin Boroujerdi.

The false Telegraph piece was cited as support in today's David Ignatius CIA kool-aid column which claims that the Jihadists are winning but therefore(?!) need more U.S. help. Or something like that. At least he somewhat admits that the "moderate rebels" are led by Al-Qaeda. A Saudi mouthpiece calls for opening "dialogue with moderate forces in Al-Qaeda such as Al-Nusra Front." The moderate cuddly homegrown Al-Qaeda? Where did he pick that up?

The Israelis do not mind Al-Qaeda and other Jihadists. The son of Ariel Sharon now prefers ISIS at the Golan border over a secular President Assad. His kool-aid:

Analysis: If the Syrian leader is toppled, Israel would have Islamic State on its doorstep, but it wouldn't have to face it alone; it would also mean the end of Hezbollah and leave the Golan permanently in Israel's hands.

Nice plan. Not gonna work.


One Sy Hersh hit piece follows dozens others. The authors of these piss poor laments have zero credentials compared to Hersh. But they are all invested in the White House fairy tales of the Bin Laden killing and even used it to market their books. They are mad that Hersh is taking them to the cleaners. Losers.

Hersh claims that the Pakistanis held Osama bin Laden as prisoner/guest on request of the Saudis. A Pakistani brigadier walked-in and told the CIA in exchange for money. The U.S. pressured the Pakistani generals to cooperate. The Seals flew in with the knowledge of the Pakistanis who held back their own troops. The Seals killed Bin Laden and White House fairy tales covered up the whole political mess.

The Hersh story makes sense. The News in Pakistan confirmed the walk-in part of the story. The Bin Laden house was known to be a ISI safe house with prison features. The longtime NYT correspondent to Pakistan finds the Hersh story quite plausible and fitting with her knowledge.


The Ukrainian coup parliament voted for "war time powers":

According to this law, the military command and the local administrations have the right to establish a regime of enhanced protection of critical facilities, to introduce labor service for able-bodied persons, forcibly confiscate private and communal property for state needs, to prohibit peaceful assemblies, meetings, marches, demonstrations and other public events, to prohibit activities of political parties, to carry out the evacuation of the population, and other actions.

Ahh - "western values" ...


The Israeli military had a press briefing to explained how it will commit more war crimes during its next war on Lebanon. The NYT of course "reports" the Israeli claims that Hizbullah is hiding with civilians and that Israel will therefore have to kill them all without any actual fact checking.

Notes a critic:

[The NYT] fails to recognize the irony of officials in their central Tel Aviv military headquarters lambasting Hezbollah for embedding among civilians.

Posted by b at 02:36 PM | Comments (51)

May 11, 2015

Why Is The Hersh Abbottabad Story Coming Out Now?

The Hersh story about the killing of Osama bin Laden gets trashed by the usual suspects in the main stream media. They have fallen for, and "reported", the story the White House and the CIA told them. To acknowledge that Hersh is mostly right on this would embarrass them too much.

But they could have known better. The Hersh story is not new. It is pretty much the same story R.J. Hillhouse told back in 2011. Her take was also somewhat confirmed by the former Pakistani Brigadier FB Ali at Pat Lang's site.

Hillhouse is now pissed, rightly, that the current Hersh story does not mention her account:

On August 7, 2011, I wrote, among other things:
  • The US cover story of how they found bin Laden was fiction
  • OBL was turned in by a walk-in informant, a mid-level ISI officer seeking to claim $25 million under the "Rewards for Justice" program.
  • The Pakistani Intelligence Service -- ISI -- was sheltering bin Laden
  • Saudi cash was financing the ISI operation keeping bin Laden captive
  • The US presented an ultimatum to Pakistan that they would lose US funding if they did not cooperate with a US operation against bin Laden
  • Pakistani generals Kiyani and Pasha were involved in the US operation that killed OBL
  • Pakistan pulled out its troops from the area of Abottabad to facilitate the American raid
  • The Obama administration betrayed the cooperating Pakistani officials
  • The Obama administration scrambled to explain the crashed helicopter when their original drone strike cover story collapsed

That all make sense and, as I do not believe that Hersh has a need to simply plagiarize her, is now confirmed by his sources.

The great heroic tales of the seals, the "torture let to bin Laden" claims by the CIA and all the other nonsense told about the event were just propaganda.

But one wonders why the story is coming out now. Sure it makes the White House look bad. It also lets the Pakistani generals look bad but only in the eyes of the Saudis. But it surely lets the Saudis look bad - those people who financed Bin Laden and paid the Pakistanis to keep him locked up. Who might have been that?

Coincidentally a piece in today's NYT about the new Saudi king gives hints:

In increasing the kingdom’s regional role, King Salman risks escalating the conflict with Iran, fueling further instability. And his support for Islamists could end up empowering extremists, just as Saudi support for the Afghan jihad decades ago helped create Al Qaeda.
King Salman has a history of working with Islamists. Decades ago, he was a royal point man and fund-raiser for jihadists going to Afghanistan, Bosnia and elsewhere.

Salman just snubbed Obama by declining an invitation to Camp David. He is ignoring U.S. "advice" to stop the bombing of Yemen. Is someone trying to apply pressure on him.

It is always interesting when one sees such issues - the Hersh story, the NYT tale of his AlQaeda financing and Salman's resistance to the White House orders - come together at a single point in time. Is that directed or just coincidence?

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (79)

May 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-21

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:25 PM | Comments (93)

May 09, 2015

Human Rights Watch Again Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Done By Others

In February we pointed to a Human Rights Watch tweet that showed a picture of the Kurdish-Syrian city Kobane destroyed by U.S. bombing. The HRW tweet falsely claimed that the damage was caused by Syrian government "barrel bombs".

HRW is at it again. Today Kenneth Ross, director of Human Rights Watch tweeted this:


Neither does the picture fit to anything in Aleppo, nor could the damage shown reasonable have been achieved by "barrel bombs" thrown form helicopters.

The Kenneth Roth tweet links to a video uploaded by some Armanian website owner on May 5.

But as Adam Johnson of points out the picture is a still from a pirated copy of a video produced and uploaded on March 8 by the Danish TV station DR Nyheder. The original caption to that video is:

Unikke tv-optagelser med drone viser omfanget af ødelæggelserne efter Israels bombardement af Gaza i sommer.

The drone video shows the immense damage done by last summer's Israeli bombing of Gaza.

HRW also used a wrongly attribute picture to claim that a person hurt by Nazis in Ukraine was a victim of the Russian president Putin.

This is thereby at least the third time HRW is using a wrongly attributed pictures to depict current enemies of U.S. imperialism as having causing the damage the U.S. empire and/or its friends have caused.

That is not mere bias by HRW. It is willful fraud.

Posted by b at 05:29 AM | Comments (60)

May 08, 2015

Saudi Arabia To Indiscriminate Bomb Yemen, U.S. Reportedly Amused

Saudi Arabia has reportedly beheaded five foreigners and hung their corpses from helicopter to set an example.
According to a report published in 'The Committee for the Defence of Human Rights in the Arabian Peninsula' on Wednesday, the men were found guilty of murdering an Indian guard and stealing his money. After their beheading, which took place in Jeddah, Saudi officials hung the bodies from a helicopter so as to deter others from committing such crimes.

Secretary of State John Kerry was reportedly amused.


Saudi-led forces carried out air strikes on Friday in Yemen's Saada province, a bastion of Iranian-allied Houthi rebels, and warned all civilians to leave a day after Riyadh promised a harsh response to cross-border Houthi attacks.

Saudi state television channel Al Ekhbariya said the whole of the northwestern province would become a military target from Friday evening, hinting at an escalation in the Saudi-led coalition's six-week-old intervention in Yemen's civil war.

After six weeks of Saudi bombing and a total Saudi-U.S. blockade of Yemen there is no means of transport available for lack of fuel. The some 850,000 people of Saada have no way to leave to anywhere let alone anywhere to leave to. Indiscriminate bombing of Saada city and governate will lead to a huge loss of lives. And what use is a warning when all communications systems in the area have been bombed and when there is no electricity.

The International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen notes:

With or without advanced warning, direct attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under #IHL. #Saada #Yemen

Issuing warnings of impeding attacks does not absolve warring parties of their obligations under rules and principles of #IHL. #Saada #Yemen

Warring parties must take all necessary precautions to spare civilian life and property. #Saada #Sanaa #Aden #Taiz #Yemen

Not that the Saudis will care. As I already remarked on April 1:

This is essentially the same strategy Israel uses against Gaza, only on a ten times bigger scale.

One wonders how many Israeli "consultants" are advising the Saudi general staff.


John Kerry

Having security talks in #Paris w some of our best partners: #Bahrain, #Kuwait, #Oman, #Qatar, #SaudiArabia & #UAE.
5:18 AM - 8 May 2015

Posted by b at 12:40 PM | Comments (18)

Using Head-To-Head Polls To Decide Elections

One trick in national electioneering is to portrait the likely though narrow incumbents as the underdog in the run up to election day. Those doing the pools and the media who favor the likely winner will then propagandize a head to head race in which the opposition is slightly in front.

This helps the incumbents in two regards. It mobilizes their own marginal voters who now fear a victory of the demonized opposition. FUD - fear, uncertainty, doubt is their election tool. It also lets opposition leaders feel somewhat secure and to let them soften their campaign promises and announced policies. This then turns off their marginal voters.

We have seen this scheme over and over again. The German election in 1965 was a prime example. The poll institutions in favor of the conservatives published numbers that showed a possible and even likely opposition win. The conservative press and the conservative voters were mobilized by this and the opposition was distracted from more radical and popular policies it should have promoted. The outcome was defying the false polls and a conservative win by a wide margin ensued.

The recent elections in Israel saw the use the same trick. The likely outcome, so was said, was a loss for Netanyahoo to the (slightly) more liberal opposition. This helped Netanyahoo to mobilize the more radical parts of his base by warning of the "great dangers" a opposition win would lead to. He won.

The Conservatives in Britain, their supporting pollsters and the conservative supporting press (most of British media) also used this tactic. Even the final polls showed Labour and Conservatives being head to head but the election was a wide win for the Conservatives. While party leaders will resign over the "unexpected" losses no pollster will be disqualified, even when they should be, and they will therefore use the same trick again in the next elections. Instead of going for a more social policy, as it should have done during the campaign, Labour will continue to move to the right. This will marginalize it further just like several such moves by the social-democratic SPD in Germany which are leading to its demise.

Next time you see a head to head prognosis by this or that pollster be aware that the real numbers may well differ and that the published polls are just one trick of the campaign trade.

2020 may see a not-so-great-anymore Britain without Scotland and outside of the EU. I can't think of anyone who would lose tears over that turn of history.

Posted by b at 06:50 AM | Comments (32)

May 06, 2015

It's Official: The U.S. Collaborates With Al Qaeda

The propaganda against Syria is milking the capture of Idlib city by Jabhat al-Nusra and assorted other Islamist groups. The general tone is "Assad is losing" illogically combined with a demand that the U.S. should now bomb the Syrian government troops. Why would that be necessary if the Syrian government were really losing control?

A prime example comes via Foreign Policy from Charles Lister, an analyst from Brooking Doha, which is  paid with Qatari money but often cooperating with the Obama administration. That headline declares that Assad is losing and the assault on Idlib is lauded in the highest tone. Then the piece admits that this small victory against retreating Syrian troops was only possible because AlQaeda was leading in the assault.

The piece admits that the U.S. which wants to balance between AlQaeda and the Syrian government forces prolonging the conflict in the hope that both sides will lose, was behind that move:

The involvement of FSA groups, in fact, reveals how the factions’ backers have changed their tune regarding coordination with Islamists. Several commanders involved in leading recent Idlib operations confirmed to this author that the U.S.-led operations room in southern Turkey, which coordinates the provision of lethal and non-lethal support to vetted opposition groups, was instrumental in facilitating their involvement in the operation from early April onwards. That operations room — along with another in Jordan, which covers Syria’s south — also appears to have dramatically increased its level of assistance and provision of intelligence to vetted groups in recent weeks.

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

The U.S. led operations room encouraged cooperation between the Islamists of the so called Fee Syrian Army and AlQaeda. A U.S. drone, shot down over Latakia in March, was gathering intelligence for the AlQaeda attack on Idlib. More that 600 TOW U.S. anti-tank missiles have been used against Syrian troops in north Syria. These are part of the 14,000 the Saudis had ordered from the U.S. producer.

Even if the U.S., as now admitted, would not officially urge its mercenaries to cooperate with Jabhat al-Nusra such cooperation was always obvious to anyone who dared to look:

In southern Syria [..] factions that vowed to distance themselves from extremists like Jabhat al-Nusra in mid-April were seen cooperating with the group in Deraa only days later.

The reality is that the directly U.S. supported, equipped and paid "moderate" Fee Syrian Army Jihadi mercenaries are just as hostile to other sects as the AlQaeda derivative Jabhat al-Nusra and the Islamic State. They may not behead those who they declare to be unbelievers but they will kill them just as much.

While the U.S. is nurturing AlQaeda in Syria, Turkey is taking care of the Islamic State. Tons of Ammonium Sulfate, used to make road side bombs, is "smuggled" from Turkey to the Islamic State under official eyes. Turkish recruiters incite Muslims from the Turkman Uighur people in west China and from Tajikistan to emigrate to the Islamic State. They give away Turkish passports to allow those people to travel to Turkey from where they reach Syria and Iraq. Meanwhile the Saudis bomb everyone and everything in Yemen except the cities and areas captured by AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula.

The U.S. and its allies are now in full support of violent Sunni Jihadists throughout the Middle East. At the same time they use the "threat of AlQaeda" to fearmonger and suppress opposition within their countries.

Charles Lister and the other Brooking propagandists want the U.S. to bomb Syria to bring the Assad government to the table to negotiate. But who is the Syrian government to negotiate with? AlQaeda?

Who would win should the Syrian government really lose the war or capitulate? The U.S. supported "moderate rebels" Islamist, who could not win against the Syrian government, would then take over and defeat AlQaeda and the Islamic State?

Who comes up with such phantasies?

Posted by b at 03:37 AM | Comments (53)

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