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September 28, 2018

Trump Administration Acknowledges Climate Change - Predicts Large Rise In Global Temperatures

The Trump administration admits that climate change will increase the global temperature more than anticipated:

Last month, deep in a 500-page environmental impact statement, the Trump administration made a startling assumption: On its current course, the planet will warm a disastrous 7 degrees [Fahrenheit] by the end of this century.

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists.

That increase though, says the Trump administration, is no reason to stop emitting gases that, for a large part, cause such warming:

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast, premised on the idea that the world will fail to cut its greenhouse gas emissions, as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

"The child already fell into the well, there is no longer any need to cover it."

The administration uses such faulty reasoning to eliminate regulations that are supposed to limit 'greenhouse' gas emissions. It is set to allow higher emissions from cars and trucks.

For millions of years plants on earth used the energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide and water into hydrocarbons. Where those plants were later covert with volcanic ash or sunk into the sea, geologic pressure and time converted them into coal, oil and gas. Since the start of industrialization humans have used an enormous amount of these dead plants to generate energy. Coal, oil and natural gas - the hydrocarbons - oxidize in exothermic reaction. They burn and give off heat which humans transform into various kinds of usable energy. The emissions from such fires are basically the stuff from which the plants were created - carbon dioxide and water.

A large part of the energy from the sun that hits the earth is reflected back into space. Carbon dioxide and other gases (Methane) in the atmosphere lower the reflection rate of the earth, they trap the energy (heat) the sun shines onto earth within the atmosphere just like the glass of a greenhouse traps the heat inside. Spectroscopic measurements from space over several decades show a decrease of reflections from earth at the spectral range of carbon dioxide. Long term measurements on earth of carbon dioxide concentrations correlate strongly with the general temperature increase.

All this is well known and not controversial. But, as John Maynard Keynes said, in the long term we are all dead. Humans are not willing to give up on their personal comfort and profits for the benefits of far away future generations. The 2015 Paris agreement to limit carbon dioxide emissions was largely a scam. Hardly any country stuck to the endorsed targets. After the Fukushima disaster the Merkel government in Germany decided to shut down nuclear power plants but increased the use of brown coal for electricity production.


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It was a 'populist' decision, sold as a "green" policy even as it was the opposite, and contradicted the commitment to decrease emissions. The Obama administration allowed a huge increase in fracking which, next to the hydrocarbons, releases a large amount of other greenhouse gases.

The decision by the Trump administration is wrong. Yes, we will likely not be able to stop a global temperature increase in next few decades. But future generations also deserve our compassion. We must still do our best to limit the long term increase by ending the use of hydrocarbons wherever possible.

It will not be easy to replace hydrocarbons as a source of energy. Large amounts of electric energy are difficult and expensive to store. We need a certain locally distributed base capacity in our electricity networks to provide energy when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow. For now nuclear energy is still the most climate friendly way to generate this base capacity. It also creates highly toxic waste that is extremely difficult to get rid of.

The effects of climate change, higher temperatures, rising sea levels and generally more extreme weather, will hit the poorest people the most. This within the U.S. as well as in a global frame. The consequences will be mass migration on a never before seen scale, widespread lack of consumable water and large violent conflicts arising from both.

Two countries may hope to profit from the rise in global temperature as it will increase their access to natural resources that are currently covert by ice. The U.S. (with Canada) and Russia may be the winners of the trend. Most other countries will be losers.

While short term human greed will likely prevent a reduction in hydrocarbon use, and a slowing down of climate change, there may be other effects that could suddenly turn the trend. A large volcanic eruption or a big asteroid impact could cloud the earth and bring back (much) colder times. Some yet unknown effect in the atmosphere that is not anticipated in current climate models could stop or reverse the current trend.

The human race is able to adopt to extreme climates. Humans can live in deserts as well as in the arctic. But such extreme climate zones do not allow for high density populations. The current number of people on this planet may prove to be too high to sustain. Climate change itself, through large scale conflicts and famines, may well provide for its own natural regulation. Reduced to some 100 million individuals humanity may well survive. Nature will not be compassionate in effecting such.

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (293)

September 27, 2018

British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File

The UK/NATO propaganda group Bellingcat asserts that the man in the left picture is the same man as the person in the other two pictures.


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The man in the middle and right picture is supposed to be Ruslan Boshirov, one of the two Russians who say (vid) that they went to visit Stonehenge via Salisbury on March 3 and March 4 2018, but could not reach it because the roads were closed after recent snowstorms. (Stonehenge was indeed closed during those two days.)

The British government asserts that the two visiting men are agents of the Russian military intelligence service GRU. It says that they applied 'Novichok' to the doorknob of Sergej Skripal's house with the intent to kill the former British spy. The 'highly deadly' poison is said to have affected Sergej Skripal, his daughter Yulia and a policeman. All are said to be well by now but all three have been vanished from the public by the British intelligence services.

The alleged GRU men went on, says the British government, to dispose the rest of the 'Novichok' in a perfume bottle, the packing sealed in cellophane, which was months later found by some bloke in Salisbury while rummaging through charity boxes. That 'perfume' is claimed to  have killed the blokes drug addicted girlfriend.

Today's release of these pictures adds another layer of disinformation to divert the public from the many contradictions in the case the British government presented. It is Novi-Fog™.

Bellingcat, which claims to work with open source material, does not really say how it found the picture at the left. It claims to have had access to "leaked Russian databases" and to have "obtained" Russian passport files without further explanation. It then asserts that the man in the left picture is one Colonel Anatoliy Chepiga, who, it says, is a highly decorated officer of the Russian GRU.

Bellingcat concludes that the man known as Ruslan Boshirov in the middle and right picture is indeed the supposed GRU officer in the left picture.

The former British ambassador Craig Murray does not believe that man on the left is the same one as the man in the other pictures. Other people have pointed out various inconsistencies with the pictures, seemingly faked papers, and the whole story presented by Bellingcat.

Elena Evdokimova @elenaevdokimov7 - 1:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

@Belligcat's new opus on #Skripal's alleged poisoning

  1. This is becoming hilarious🤣🤣 Person who filled the alleged passport form also forged the С.С. on the other form- its the SAME handwriting!
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Charles Wood @Mare_Indicum - 3:52 UTC- 27 Sep 2018

Bzzzt! #Bellingcrap two images, one of Anatoly Vladimirovich Chepiga, one of Ruslan Boshirov, only get a 75% match using facial recognition software and are classified 'from different persons', not even 'quite look-alike'.

Keep up the futile search guys!

(Follow the links in the above tweets to see the presented evidence and conclusions.)

Moon of Alabama commentator Debs is Dead is likewise unconvinced of the stroy. The following is his (edited for readability):
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Cont. reading: British Intelligence Throws More Novi-Fog™ To Hide The Holes In Its Skripal File

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (108)

September 26, 2018

The Trap Failed - Rosenstein Neither Fired Nor Resigned

Last Friday the New York Times published a story that reflected negatively on the loyalty of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein towards President Trump. Rosenstein, the NYT claimed, suggested to wiretap Trump and to remove him by using the 25th amendment. Other news reports contradicted the claim and Rosenstein himself denied it.

The report was a trap to push Trump towards an impulsive firing of the number two in the Justice Department, a repeat of Nixon's Saturday Night Massacre. The Democrats would have profited from such an 'October surprise' in the November 6 midterm elections. A campaign to exploit such a scandal to get-out-the-votes was already well prepared.

The trap did not work. The only one who panicked was Rosenstein. He feared for his reputation should he get fired. To prevent such damage he offered to resign amicably. He tried this at least three times:

By Friday evening, concerned about testifying to Congress over the revelations that he discussed wearing a wire to the Oval Office and invoking the constitutional trigger to remove Mr. Trump from office, Mr. Rosenstein had become convinced that he should resign, according to people close to him. He offered during a late-day visit to the White House to quit, according to one person familiar with the encounter, but John F. Kelly, the White House chief of staff, demurred.
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Also over the weekend, Mr. Rosenstein again told Mr. Kelly that he was considering resigning. On Sunday, Mr. Rosenstein repeated the assertion in a call with Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel. Mr. McGahn — [...] — asked Mr. Rosenstein to postpone their discussion until Monday.
...
By about 9 a.m. Monday, Mr. Rosenstein was in his office on the fourth floor of the Justice Department when reporters started calling. Was it true that Mr. Rosenstein was planning to resign, they asked.
...
At the White House the deputy attorney general slipped into a side entrance to the West Wing and headed to the White House counsel’s office to meet with Mr. McGahn, who had by then been told by Mr. Kelly that Mr. Rosenstein was on his way and wanted to resign.

McGhan punted the issue back to Kelly and finally Rosenstein spoke with Trump. Trump did not fire him nor did he resign. It is now expected that he will stay until the end of the year or even longer:

President Trump told advisers he is open to keeping Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein on the job, and allies of the No. 2 Justice Department official said Tuesday he has given them the impression he doesn’t plan to quit.

The trap did not work. Neither did Trump panic nor did the White House allow the panicking Rod Rosenstein to pull the trigger. The people who set this up, by leaking some dubious FBI memo to the NYT, did not achieve their aims.

There are only six weeks left until the midterm elections. What other October surprises might be planned by either side?

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (91)

U.S. Scaremongers About Iranian Missiles But Reduces Mideast Missile Defense

he propaganda of the Trump administration says that all must fear those ghastly Iranian missiles:

Trump’s Iran envoy blasts Tehran missile work .. - Sep 19

Brian Hook, the US special envoy on Iran, cited Iran’s continuing development, testing and transfer of ballistic missile technology as a key flaw of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal that President Donald Trump withdrew from in May.

John Bolton warns Iran 'there will be hell to pay' if aggression continues: 'We will come after you' - Sep 24

The Iran nuclear deal, Bolton said Tuesday, "did nothing to address the regime’s destabilizing activities or its ballistic missile development and proliferation.

Trump’s speech to the UN General Assembly - Sep 25

The Iran deal was a windfall for Iran’s leaders. In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget grew nearly 40 percent. The dictatorship used the funds to build nuclear-capable missiles, increase internal repression, finance terrorism, and fund havoc and slaughter in Syria and Yemen.

As with any government one must look at what the Trump administration actually does, not what it says.

U.S. Pulling Some Missile-Defense Systems Out of Mideast - Sep 26

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is pulling four Patriot missile systems out of Jordan, Kuwait and Bahrain next month in a realignment of forces and capabilities ..
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Two Patriot missile systems will be redeployed from Kuwait, and one each from Jordan and Bahrain, officials said. Patriots are mobile missile systems capable of shooting down missiles and planes.

The four systems have been taken offline and will be redeployed by next month, officials said. There are no plans for any of them to be replaced, ..

The Patriot missile defenses the U.S. kept in those countries were protecting U.S. bases in the region. If these were really threatened by Iranian missiles this reduction of defensive capabilities would be irresponsible. But the simple truth is that Iran's meager capabilities are no threat at all:

Patriot systems in the Gulf may not serve the purpose they once did, said Anthony Cordesman, senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, D.C. That is in part because Iran lacks the kind of missile capability required to level precision attacks.

In addition, if the Patriot deployments to the Gulf region were intended mainly for air defenses, that threat simply doesn’t exist as it once did, he said. Iran now is no match for U.S. allies in the Gulf region, which have superior air forces.

The Trump administration knows well that Iran's missile capabilities are no threat at all. Iran's best defense capabilities are its location next to a major hydrocarbon transport route, the Strait of Hormuz, and its ability to respond asymmetrically through proxy-forces.

The hype about "Iran's missiles" is just for show. It is a cheap way to convince the Saudis and the Zionist that Trump is doing something they like.

Posted by b at 09:51 AM | Comments (47)

September 24, 2018

Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down

The Russian Minister of Defense today announced some of the measures to be taken in Syria in response to last weeks destruction of its electronic warfare plane with 15 airmen on board. Yesterday the Russian MoD held Israel responsible for the incident.

Shortly after the event happened we noted:

On Netanyahoo's personal request Russia had stopped the delivery of original Russian S-300 long range air-defense missiles to the Syrian military. These would have been less likely to veer off towards the wrong target. In consequence an Iranian 747 was damaged and 15 Russian soldiers were killed. Netanyahoo can forget about any further such 'favors' from Moscow.

Yesterday we added:

The incident will have consequences on several levels. For one - the airspace along the Syrian coast will now be off limits for Israeli flights
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The Syrian air defense will be further strengthened and modernized. Its personal will get more specialist training. But the probably worst issue for Israel's military will be cooled down relations with the Russian forces. There will be no more freebies, no more looking aside and direct Russian fire on Israeli forces should they again try such stunts.

These predicted measures are exactly the ones Defense Minister Shoigu announced today. Syria will get the S-300, its air defense will be further updated, Syria's coast will be more heavily defended:

MOSCOW, September 24./TASS/. Within two weeks, the Syrian army will get from Russia S-300 air-defense missiles to strengthen its combat capabilities following the downing of a Russian Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft in Syria, Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Monday.

Syria ordered the S-300 systems in 2013 but Russia held back the delivery on Israel's request. Syria also had more urgent needs, especially for short range air-defense systems, which Russia delivered in large numbers. It were these systems that allowed the Syrian air defense to disable a high number of U.S. cruise missiles fired against it in April. The S-300, with a reach of up to 250 kilometers, will be able to target Israeli planes over Lebanon as well as deep within Israeli air space.

The delivery of the S-300s via transport planes from Russia already begun. There are several sub types of the system and a number of different radar combinations to guide them. There is no information yet about the exact types Syria will be equipped with and in what numbers. The first deployment will likely be around the capital Damascus.

Shoigu also announced that Syria's air defenses will now be equipped with Russian IFF systems:

Cont. reading: Russia Beefs Up Syria's Air Defenses - Tells "Hotheads" To Cool Down

Posted by b at 07:11 AM | Comments (276)

September 23, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Terror In Ahvaz - Modi's Huge Weapon Deal Scandal

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The strategic event of the week:

Netanyahoo will have to do some big favor for Russia to regain standing with it. Israel itself has little to give on its own that Russia wants or needs. But Israeli interests control the Trump administration. It could ask the U.S. to deliver something to Russia. What would be of sufficiently high value to compensate Russia for 15 killed airmen and a very expensive reconnaissance plane?

---

Yesterday terrorists attack an Iranian Memorial Day parade in the southwest Ahvaz region and killed some 30 unarmed conscripts, veterans and civilian bystanders. The United Arab Emirates, the Saudis, and behind them the U.S. are instigating such attacks. The U.S. military in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan is quite exposed and might well become the target of an asymmetrical response.

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The Hindu-fascist Modi government in India is crumbling. Its crazy monetary scheme put the economy, as MoA predicted, into shambles. A huge new scandal around a weapon deal with France implicates Modi directly. The always recommendable Caravan Magazine exposed the unbelievable deal in a long and detailed writeup (not paywalled): "On a Wing and a Prayer India gambles its defence interests on Reliance Group".

In short: The previous government signed a contract with France' Dassault to buy 126 Rafale jets for $10.6 billion. Thirty percent of the price would flow back from Dassault to the Indian state owned aviation manufacturer HAL, which would assemble most of the planes. Modi flew to Paris and changed the deal without the knowledge of his cabinet and the country's military. India will get only 36 Rafales but pay $8.7 billion for them. Thirty percent of the money would flow back to a private Indian company belonging to the largely bankrupt, privately held Reliance Group for unrelated projects and without any know-how transfer. How much Reliance, owned by the once very rich Ambani family, would hand over to Modi and his party is yet unknown. There are calls for Modi to step down which he is unlikely to do. The issue will escalate.

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Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:56 AM | Comments (78)

Russian MoD Presents IL-20 Investigation Results - Israel "Crossed The Line Of Civilized Relations"

The Russian Ministry of Defense just presented the results of its investigation (vid, English subtitles) into the September 17 incident in Syria. A Russian electronic warfare plane was hit by a Syrian air-defense missile during an ongoing Israeli attack on Syria. Fifteen Russian soldiers died when the plane fell into the Mediterranean.

The investigation confirms the early analysis published on Moon of Alabama:

The Israeli attack came out of the same direction as the Russian IL-20. The large 4 propeller plane creates a much bigger radar reflection than the small F-16s fighter jets. The S-200 missiles have a semi-active radar homing seeker. These are passive detectors of a radar signal which is provided by an external source, in this case the Syrian and Russian radars on the ground. While the missile was aimed at the F-16 its seeker likely mistook the larger radar reflection of IL-20 for the intended target.

Russian experts later provided more details that supported the above analysis.

The investigation presented today found that the Israeli jets intentionally used the Russian IL-20 as a shield against the Syrian air defenses.

Ru MoD Presentation 5:54min

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RT summarizes the Russian conclusion:

Cont. reading: Russian MoD Presents IL-20 Investigation Results - Israel "Crossed The Line Of Civilized Relations"

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (125)

September 22, 2018

The NYT's Rosenstein Story Is An Attempt To Bring Trump Down

The U.S. midterm election on November 6 will decide if the House and/or Senate will change from the current Republican majority to a Democratic majority. While the parties are do not differ much from each other, a few high political issues (and financial consequences) are at stake. The currently most important one is the Senate confirmation of the arch-conservative Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court. The Democrats are trying all they can to delay the confirmation process with the hope to move it towards a post election session in which they may have a majority. A majority might even give the Democrats a chance to impeach Trump.

Except Kavanaugh, who will by then likely have passed the confirmation, the Democrats have nothing big to run on. The Mueller investigation had no serious results so far. The economy is still running reasonably well except for the poor. A spike in oil prices because of Trump's sanctions against Iran will only come after the election. Trump ratings are negative but not so much that it will have a serious impact on the election. The Democrats need something big.

This is the context of a sensational New York Times story - Rod Rosenstein Suggested Secretly Recording Trump and Discussed 25th Amendment - which seems to be designed to give Trump a reason to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

Andrew Prokop at Vox summarizes its current state:

Did Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein seriously suggest to top Justice Department officials last year that someone should secretly tape President Donald Trump?

Or did he make an obviously sarcastic comment that he never intended anyone take seriously?

A new report from the New York Times’s Adam Goldman and Michael Schmidt says it was the former — and adds that Rosenstein also talked about invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office. (Neither ended up happening.) The reporters’ sources are anonymous people “briefed either on the events themselves or on memos” written by former deputy FBI director Andrew McCabe and others.

But a separate report from the Washington Post’s Devlin Barrett and Matt Zapotosky quotes an anonymous source who was in the room and disputes the account given to the Times. Per this source, Rosenstein was rebutting a suggestion by McCabe that the Justice Department open an investigation into Trump, and said something along the lines of, “What do you want to do, Andy, wire the president?”

Who’s right? The consequences could be enormous. It was Rosenstein who appointed Mueller as special counsel back in May 2017, and it’s Rosenstein who continues to oversee Mueller’s Russia investigation. Well before these new stories President Trump has privately mused about firing Rosenstein (or Sessions, or Mueller), so he could put someone he views as more loyal in charge of the Russia probe.

Marcy Wheeler at Emptywheel berates the NYT for publishing the piece:

NYT Gives Trump His Excuse to Fire Rod Rosenstein

The NYT has an inflammatory article claiming that Rod Rosenstein floated recording the President and/or invoking the 25th Amendment in the days after Trump fired Jim Comey.
...
The insinuation is clear: in an attempt to accuse Rosenstein of things known to set off the President (notably, being recorded), someone took memos McCabe wrote and read them to people who would then leak them to the NYT.

If the NYT version of the incident is true, it indeed would give Trump plenty of reasons to fire Rosenstein (and Mueller and Session.) Several prominent Trump supporters urge him to do such:

Cont. reading: The NYT's Rosenstein Story Is An Attempt To Bring Trump Down

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (87)

September 21, 2018

Facebook Allies With U.S. Regime-Change Orgs For 'Fact Checking' In Foreign Countries

As this outlet concluded yesterday:

Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically ...

In consequence of the alleged manipulation of new and opinions during the 2016 election, Congress threatened to regulate social media. It demanded testimony by the owners of social media companies - Facebook, Twitter and Google - about their plans to weed out so called "fake news" distributed through their systems. Instead of defending the freedom of individuals and organizations to publish opinions deviating from the mainstream, the companies promised to increase their censorship capabilities. To avoid to make judgments themselves, they decided to outsource these to 'independent' fact checking organizations. Anything those deem "fake news" will then be censored.

Facebook Inc just gave such powers to two well known U.S. government regime change operators. These will now have the capabilities to censor content in foreign countries:

Facebook Inc on Wednesday said it would team with two U.S. non-profits to slow the global spread of misinformation that could influence elections,
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The largest social network, under intense pressure to combat propaganda, said it would work abroad with the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, created in the 1980s and funded by the U.S. government to promote democratic processes.

The IRI and the NDI are sub-organizations of the infamous National Endowment for Democracy. They "promote democratic processes" to achieve regime change of governments the U.S. dislikes. The NED is an offshoot of the CIA:

Cont. reading: Facebook Allies With U.S. Regime-Change Orgs For 'Fact Checking' In Foreign Countries

Posted by b at 07:02 AM | Comments (87)

September 20, 2018

NYT Admits That Its "Mountain of Evidence" For Russian Collusion Is Smaller Than A Molehill

The New York Times spends 10,000 words in some 199 paragraphs on the alleged 'Russian influence' in the U.S. election.

The Plot to Subvert an Election - Unraveling the Russia Story So Far

For two years, Americans have tried to absorb the details of the 2016 attack —hacked emails, social media fraud, suspected spies — and President Trump’s claims that it’s all a hoax. The Times explores what we know and what it means.

The long piece is a repetition of unproven intelligence claims, spin around a few facts and lots of innuendo. Few readers will ever digest it in full.

That is why this sentence appears near the top in paragraph 5 of a total of 199 paragraphs:

President Trump’s Twitter outbursts that it is all a “hoax” and a “witch hunt,” in the face of a mountain of evidence to the contrary, have taken a toll on public comprehension.

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One-hundred-and-seventy-eight paragraphs later, near the end of the piece, we read the opposite and learn that Trump is indeed right:

Mr. Trump’s frustration with the Russian investigation is not surprising. He is right that no public evidence has emerged showing that his campaign conspired with Russia in the election interference or accepted Russian money.

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The "mountain of evidence" claimed in paragraph 5 turns out to be "no public evidence" in paragraph 183 near the end of the piece. But 99% of the readers will not walk through the whole mess and the 1% that do will likely miss the contradiction.

As Aaron Maté notes:

This is a pattern: ample words for Trump-Russia innuendo; quiet acknowledgment of no evidence. And 0 words on what has been debunked.

The 'Russian influence' and 'collusion' between Russia and Trump are still what they were two years ago, when the campaign started - they are fake news. Unfortunately the anti-Russian and anti-Trump propaganda campaign has had serious consequences. Censorship in social media increased drastically and international relations with Russia were seriously damaged. The main stream media though, will never take responsibility for that.

Posted by b at 02:42 PM | Comments (56)

Trump's Staff Overrides His Policies - They Are A Dangerous 'Resistance'

Three recent publications claim that U.S. President Trump is not allowed to make policies, that his staff is sabotaging him as much as it can.

An anti-Trump author at the Washington Post, Greg Miller, just released a new book about Trump. The Post prints an excerpt:

‘The Apprentice’ book excerpt: At CIA’s ‘Russia House,’ growing alarm about 2016 election interference

Trump’s admiration for the leader of Russia was inexplicable and never wavered after taking office. He praised the Russian leader, congratulated him, defended him, pursued meetings with him, and fought virtually any policy or punitive measure that might displease him.

A trained intelligence operative, Putin understood the power of playing to someone’s insecurities and ego. On cue, he reciprocated with frequent praise for the president he had sought to install in the White House.

In phone conversations with Trump, Putin would whisper conspiratorially, telling the U.S. president that it wasn’t their fault that they could not consummate the relationship that each had sought. Instead, Putin sought to reinforce Trump’s belief that he was being undermined by a secret government cabal, a bureaucratic “deep state.”

“It’s not us. We get it,” Putin would tell Trump, according to White House aides. “It’s the subordinates fighting against our friendship.”

The Putin quote is probably genuine. But is it "playing to someone's insecurity and ego"? Or is it simply the truth?

Cont. reading: Trump's Staff Overrides His Policies - They Are A Dangerous 'Resistance'

Posted by b at 10:51 AM | Comments (81)

September 19, 2018

Open Thread 2018-48

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (154)

September 18, 2018

Syria - Israel's Provocation Kills Russian Soldiers - Moscow Will Take Political Revenge

Yesterday Turkey and Russia agreed on a further de-escalation in Idelb province in Syria (see the update here). This agreement takes away the chance of an imminent wider war in which the U.S. and some of its allies would use a fake 'chemical attack' as a pretext to launch missiles against a large number of Syrian government targets and military positions.

A peaceful solution of the Idleb situation is unsatisfying for Israel. The successful Syrian defeat of the Jihadi enemy inside the country would allow Syria and its allies to concentrate their forces against Israel. Israel wants the Syrian government destroyed and the country in chaos.

On Sunday September 16 Israel tried to hit an Iranian Boeing 747 freight plane at Damascus airport. The plane allegedly carried an Iranian copy of the Russian S-300 long range air defense System for the Syrian army.

On Monday around 10:00pm local time 4 F-16 jets of the Israeli airforce, coming from the sea, launched missiles against at least three targets on Syria's coast. The strike came only hours after Israel released satellite images of what it called "strategic targets" in Syria. The integrated Syrian and Russian air-defenses responded.

The Israeli air force had warned the Russian forces in Syria only one minute before the strike. A Russian IL-20 electronic warfare airplane (red line) was preparing to land at the Russian airport near Latakia just as the Israeli attack (blue) happened.


Source: Russian defense Ministry - bigger

Cont. reading: Syria - Israel's Provocation Kills Russian Soldiers - Moscow Will Take Political Revenge

Posted by b at 06:09 AM | Comments (397)

September 16, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The theme of the week was the now delayed operation to liberate Idelb governorate in Syria.


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But the White Helmets will have to wait with their next 'chemical weapon' scam. The attack was delayed. The crisis has for now receded but the issue will be back in the news in some six to eight weeks.


The Bulgarian journalist Dilyana Gaytandzhieva published an extensive investigative piece on the secret U.S. biological weapon laboratory near Tbilisi, Georgia:

Cont. reading: The MoA Week In Review - Secret Bio-weapons - Skripals - OT 2018-47

Posted by b at 12:08 PM | Comments (203)

Syria - The Rationale Behind The Delay Of Idleb's Liberation - Updated 2x

Updated (twice) below

Southfront has an excellent longread on the Turkish role in the war on Syria from its very beginning. The piece includes a list of the groups Turkey currently supports and gives an outlook on Turkey's plans:

Turkish Strategy In Northern Syria: Military Operations, Turkish-backed Groups And Idlib Issue.

The conclusion:

In the contemporary military and diplomatic reality surrounding the Syrian crisis, Ankara is pursuing the following tactical goals:
  • To eliminate or at least disarm and limit influence of US-backed Kurdish armed groups in northern Syria;
  • To strengthen a united pro-Turkish opposition Idlib and to eliminate any resistance to it, including in some scenarios the elimination of Hayat Tahrir al-Sham and its allies;
  • To facilitate return of refugees from Turkey to Syrian areas under its own control;
If these goals are achieved, Ankara will significantly increase its influence on the diplomatic settlement of the crisis and on the future of the post-war Syria. The returned refugees and supporters of militant groups in the Turkish-controlled part of Syria will become an electoral base of pro-Turkish political figures and parties in case of the implementation of the peaceful scenario. If no wide-scale diplomatic deal on the conflict is reached, one must consider the possibility of a pro-Turkish quasi-state in northern Syria, confirming the thesis that Erdogan is seeking to build a neo-Ottoman empire.

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Elijah J. Magnier confirms our take that the Syrian-Russian operation to liberate Idleb is on hold but not canceled:

Cont. reading: Syria - The Rationale Behind The Delay Of Idleb's Liberation - Updated 2x

Posted by b at 11:05 AM | Comments (106)

September 15, 2018

The Dike Breaks - Netherland Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda

Updated below
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The Netherland just announced that it is ending its support for al-Qaeda's propaganda gang, the "White Helmets". It also ends its support for the so called Free Syrian Police. Last week the Netherlands shut down its "non lethal" support for the Free Syrian Army after Dutch news organizations found that members of these groups were accused of terrorism by their General Prosecutor.

According to the Volkskrant daily (in Dutch), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs ended the support for the White Helmets after its Directorate for International Research and Policy Evaluation issued a critical report about them. For the White Helmets, which had received €12.5 million from the Dutch government, it lists the following issues:

  • According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the supervision of the behavior of the rescue workers is 'inadequate'. The organization that supervises, Mayday, based in the Netherlands, is closely intertwined with the White Helmets itself. In practice, donors do not understand the difference between the two organizations.
  • Mayday wants to spend a maximum of 0.9% of its budget on supervision of the work of the White Helmets. 'That is why there is a lack of independent supervision of the activities and results of the project.'
  • The money for the White Helmets is transferred to the Syrian border in cash or enters the country via the hawala system. It is 'problematic' that Mayday does not know how much money is paid via which route. That is why there is a danger that money has fallen into the hands of armed groups. The cash flow can also indirectly be used for illegal trade. Systematic control of the money flow is missing.
  • The White Helmets are active in areas where armed groups are in power that are considered 'unacceptable' for the Netherlands. Contact between the White Helmets and local administrators who work together with extremist organizations is inevitable.

The seemingly intentional lack of transparency practically guarantees that much of the more than $150 million the White Helmets received from various governments will have flown into the private pockets of the people who organize the scam.

This blog published several pieces about the White Helmets, mostly pointing out their obviously faked media productions:

For background information on the White Helmets the earlier pieces by Vanessa Beeley's at 21stCenturyWire´are still the best: Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I and Part II – Syria’s White Helmets: ‘Moderate Executioners’.

Vanessa Beeley, Eva Barlett (vid) and others have tried for years to point out the nefarious scheme behind the propaganda scam "White Helmets". Roger Waters rightly calls them (vid) a "fake propaganda construct for terrorists". But 'western' media loved the dramatic fake photos and videos the White Helmets produced, partly because they could put them into print and on screen free of any charge. Whoever criticized them and questioned their narratives was publicly smeared and derided.

The Volkkrant notes:

Cont. reading: The Dike Breaks - Netherland Ends Support For "White Helmets" Terrorist Propaganda

Posted by b at 03:30 PM | Comments (92)

September 14, 2018

Syria - Al-Qaeda And Turkey Stage "Peaceful Civilians" Events

Turkey and other supporters of the terrorists in Syria arranged for fresh Friday demonstrations by "civilians" in Idleb governorate. These are supposed to show the 'western' public that the population of the al-Qaeda controlled province is still in favor of the anti-Assad "revolution".


Source video - bigger

Some tweets from yesterday make clear that these demonstrations are a highly choreographed propaganda exercise:

TØM CΛT @TomtheBasedCat - 17:34 utc- 13 Sep 2018

Supposedly, an array of European press agencies with security will enter Idlib city tomorrow to cover some demonstrations there.

Idelb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS), an internationally banned al-Qaeda organization. Turkey, which has friendly relations with al-Qaeda in Syria, will have arranged for the security of the foreign media.

Some prominent people also spoke about the event:

Harald Doornbos @HaraldDoornbos - 19:08 utc - 13 Sep 2018

Interesting. Son of Al-Qaeda co-founder Abdullah Azzam, Huthaifa Azzam, calls on opposition in Idlib not to raise black/jihadi flags during tomorrow's protest but only revolution flags because there are international journalists on the ground reporting on the protests.


original tweet - bigger

For once al-Qaeda does not want its flag to be seen. The demonstrations must only show "peaceful civilians".

Sam Heller, now with Crisis Group, caught two voice recordings that were distributed via Telegram. It is not completely clear that these are legit, but they make sense:

Cont. reading: Syria - Al-Qaeda And Turkey Stage "Peaceful Civilians" Events

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (119)

September 13, 2018

This Anti-China Foreign Policy Piece Makes No Sense

A recent Foreign Policy piece on the reeducation campaign in China's Xinjiang region is another example of nonsensical claims made in the current anti-China propaganda campaign.


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Notice the picture caption:

Uighur people pick up their children from school on July 27, 2017, in Kashgar City, Xinjiang, where everyday activities such as wearing a headscarf in the presence of the PRC flag can be cause for detainment.

The picture caption makes no sense. Carl Zha points out that every school in China flies the People's Republic of China flag. It is raised in a weekly ceremony each Monday morning. All the women in the picture above wear headscarfs in the presence of a PRC flag. Will they all be detained for some ideological training? How come they show no fear of being thrown into a "concentration camp"?

Cont. reading: This Anti-China Foreign Policy Piece Makes No Sense

Posted by b at 03:06 PM | Comments (90)

Syria - Turkish Tantrum Delays Liberation Of Idleb

Turkey is again turning to the U.S. to achieve its aim of controlling and annexing north Syria.

At the Tehran summit of the Russian, Iranian and Turkish presidents, Turkey presented a (likely U.S. induced plan) for Idleb governorate:

It included:
  • prolongation of the deescalation ceasefire
  • 12 armed groups, including Hayat Tahrir al Sham to be disbanded
  • Turkey will train a new rebel force to control Idleb under Turkish command
  • Groups who resist will be targeted in counter terrorism operations
  • ...

Russia and Iran rejected the plan. Idleb is controlled by Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS) (vid) which is an internationally banned terrorist group affiliated with al-Qaeda. Turkey had over a year to solve the HTS problem under the existing de-escaltion agreement and failed.

HTS, foreign Jihadis, as well as 'moderate' Islamists affiliated with Turkey prevent civilians from leaving and terrorize the population:

As a possible showdown approaches, the rebels have arrested and tortured people they accuse of conceding defeat, sowing fear in the local population. A doctor was recently pulled from his home at night, witnesses said. A pistachio peddler was arrested as masked men patrolled the street.
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Monitoring groups and local residents put most of the blame on HTS, formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra, but say the Turkish-backed fighters have also arrested dozens of people.
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[R]ebel groups have embarked on their wave of ­arrests, accusing those they ­detain of secret communications with government representatives. Many have been taken to secret prisons and tortured, groups documenting the arrests say.
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“Although this is certainly why some people have been arrested, the problem now is that it is also being used by al-Nusra to arrest the people who criticize their behavior, or to arrest their opponents,” said Fadel Abdul Ghany, director of the Syrian Network for Human Rights, a monitoring group.

After the Tehran summit the Syrian and Russian operation to liberate Idleb was to commence. The troops were in place,  air as well as artillery attacks to 'shape' the battlefield were ongoing.

But Erdogan again turned on his partners and is back flirting with the U.S. he otherwise despises. In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal he  begged for U.S. and NATO help:

Cont. reading: Syria - Turkish Tantrum Delays Liberation Of Idleb

Posted by b at 07:13 AM | Comments (98)

September 12, 2018

Open Thread 2018-46

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (136)

September 11, 2018

A Few Items Related To Syria

The U.S. candidate to (again) become Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, is out of the race. After the recent riots in Basra the party of Moqtada al-Sadr renounced its support for his candidacy. Even before that Abadi lacked the votes in parliament to get elected. On top of that Ajatollah Sistani let it be known that he will not support any candidate who had already tried and failed to solve Iraq's problems. Former Prime Minister Maliki and Abadi both fall into that category.

U.S. envoy Brett McGurk had tried to press the Sunni and Kurdish factions to support Abadi and encouraged the Saudis to bribe Moqtada al-Sadr.  He failed. It now looks like the various Shia parties, plus some Sunni and Kurdish independents, have a solid coalition large enough to reign the country. Most of them want the U.S. military to leave Iraq. Iraq will get a new prime minister and it will not be the person that U.S. would like to see in that role. This will create some serious logistic difficulties for the increasing U.S. deployment in Syria.

The fight against ISIS in Iraq is not over. The political instability allows ISIS to return (vid) in the form of a lose guerrilla army. Iraq still lacks some tools, intelligence and nighttime fighting capabilities, to wear down these groups. With an anti-U.S. government the ISIS problem will certainly increase as the U.S. will gain use ISIS to keep a foot in the door.

Robert Fisk travels along the frontline of Idleb governorate in Syria. He sees remarkably few Syrian forces. He expects that the upcoming attack will smaller than expected and a rather slow moving affair.

Geographer Fabrice Balanche reasonably assumes that the Syrian army will, in a first phase, only attack the Turkish supported "moderate" rebels, painted in light green, in the southern part of the Idleb pocket. The Al-Qaeda/Nusra/HTS brigades, painted in middle dark green, would only be attacked in a later phase. This fits to the observations Robert Fisk made on the ground.


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That the "moderate" rebels are not moderate at all is again proven through a recent scandal in the Netherlands. The Dutch newscaster NOS Nieuwsuur and the daily newspaper Trouw report (in Dutch) that the Dutch government until very recently spent at least €25 million to provide "moderate" rebels in Syria with pick-up trucks, uniforms, satellite phones, cameras, medical kits, tents and rubber mattresses.

Cont. reading: A Few Items Related To Syria

Posted by b at 01:40 PM | Comments (103)

September 09, 2018

MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The timestamp question is solved, but there still many, many other inconsistencies.

There is a report of a very large Turkish Army convoy entering Syria's Idleb province. That is wishful thinking by some "rebel" circles. Turkey is only strengthening its border position. It is unlikely to intervene in the Syrian and Russian 'Idleb Dawn' operation to free the province of terrorists.

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 Finally a realistic assessment of the British role in World War II:

Peter Hitchens @ClarkeMicah - 7:40 utc- 9 Sep 2018

Actually no, we didn't Win the Second World War. We started it, but, thanks to our weakness and shortage of cash had to hand it over to the USA and the USSR half way through. First extracts, in the Mail on Sunday, from my new book 'The Phoney Victory'

The limeys will be livid about this insult and ignore the truth. Recommended.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (213)

The Strategic Aspect Of Bashing China's Re-education of Uyghurs

The New York Times reports on China's re-education program for Uygurs in Xinjiang, who are in danger for falling to Islamist extremism. The report is part of a larger U.S. campaign to instrumentalize the issue as a pressure point against China. It is a strategic issue for both sides.

The lede:

HOTAN, China — On the edge of a desert in far western China, an imposing building sits behind a fence topped with barbed wire. Large red characters on the facade urge people to learn Chinese, study law and acquire job skills. Guards make clear that visitors are not welcome.

Inside, hundreds of ethnic Uighur Muslims spend their days in a high-pressure indoctrination program, where they are forced to listen to lectures, sing hymns praising the Chinese Communist Party and write “self-criticism” essays, according to detainees who have been released.

The goal is to remove any devotion to Islam.

There are rumors that up to a million people are moved through such programs. That estimate is based on only 8 vague interviews with locals. The real number is likely in the lower thousands. There is no evidence that any serious harm is done to them.

The NYT report includes this gem of Orientalism:

One official directive warns people to look for 75 signs of “religious extremism,” including behavior that would be considered unremarkable in other countries: growing a beard as a young man, praying in public places outside mosques or even abruptly trying to give up smoking or drinking.

The writers of the New York Times seem to have little knowledge of their own city. In 2007 the New York Police Department published a study on Islamist radicalization that remarked on exactly those points:

As these individuals adopt Salafism, typical signatures include:
  • Becoming alienated from one’s former life; affiliating with like-minded individuals
  • Joining or forming a group of like-minded individuals in a quest to strengthen one’s dedication to Salafi Islam
  • Giving up cigarettes, drinking, gambling and urban hip-hop gangster clothes.
  • Wearing traditional Islamic clothing, growing a beard
  • Becoming involved in social activism and community issues

The Chinese government probably copied its list of signs of religious radicalization from the NYPD and other 'western' sources. A French law prohibits public praying in the street. Other European states enacted laws against the wearing of certain religious attire. The Chinese do not lead in such analysis, they follow 'western' examples.

The re-education program became necessary after religious and even ethnic radicalization in Xinjiang became a real problem for the local population and the government. Deep down the NYT acknowledges this:

Cont. reading: The Strategic Aspect Of Bashing China's Re-education of Uyghurs

Posted by b at 12:49 PM | Comments (112)

September 08, 2018

NYT Reconfirms U.S. Coup Plot In Venezuela - Adds Pro-Coup Propaganda

U.S. rejects claim by Venezuela's Maduro that U.S. envoys engaged in conspiracy - Reuters - May 22 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department said on Tuesday it rejected accusations by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro that two top U.S. diplomats were engaged in what Maduro called a “military conspiracy” or had been meddling in the country’s economic and political issues.

Maduro earlier on Tuesday ordered the expulsion of U.S. charge d’affaires Todd Robinson and another senior diplomat, Brian Naranjo, ordering them to leave Venezuela within 48 hours.

As the saying goes: "Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied." The above denial confirmed Nicolas Maduro's claim of U.S. coup attempts against the Venezuelan government. A new report reconfirms the plot and reveals some new details of the still unwritten larger story.

Trump Administration Discussed Coup Plans With Rebel Venezuelan Officers - New York Times - September 8 2018

The Trump administration held secret meetings with rebellious military officers from Venezuela over the last year to discuss their plans to overthrow President Nicolás Maduro, according to American officials and a former Venezuelan military commander who participated in the talks.
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The administration initially considered dispatching Juan Cruz, a veteran Central Intelligence Agency official who recently stepped down as the White House’s top Latin America policymaker. But White House lawyers said it would be more prudent to send a career diplomat instead.
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After the first meeting, which took place in the fall of 2017, the diplomat reported that the Venezuelans didn’t appear to have a detailed plan and had showed up at the encounter hoping the Americans would offer guidance or ideas, officials said.
...

Cont. reading: NYT Reconfirms U.S. Coup Plot In Venezuela - Adds Pro-Coup Propaganda

Posted by b at 11:09 AM | Comments (124)

September 07, 2018

Syria - U.S. Reveals Underpants Plan For Indefinite Occupation

Today the United States officially announced a new policy in its war on Syria. It is an equivalent to the three step business plan (vid) of the underpants gnomes:

The new U.S. plan is to: 1. keep north-east Syria indefinitely occupied, 2. ???, 3. Iran leaves Syria and the 'regime' in Damascus falls:

President Trump, who just five months ago said he wanted “to get out” of Syria and bring U.S. troops home soon, has agreed to a new strategy that indefinitely extends the military effort there and launches a major diplomatic push to achieve American objectives, according to senior State Department officials.

Although the military campaign against the Islamic State has been nearly completed, the administration has redefined its goals to include the exit of all Iranian military and proxy forces from Syria, and establishment of a stable, nonthreatening government acceptable to all Syrians and the international community.

The first major step of the "diplomatic push" is to prevent the imminent Syrian army operation against al-Qaeda aligned groups in Idleb province:

While the United States agrees that those forces must be wiped out, it rejects “the idea that we have to go in there . . . to clean out the terrorists, most of the people fighting . . . they’re not terrorists, but people fighting a civil war against a brutal dictator,” as well as millions of civilians, [U.S. special representative for Syria James] Jeffrey said. Instead, the United States has called for a cooperative approach with other outside actors.

“We’ve started using new language,” Jeffrey said, referring to previous warnings against the use of chemical weapons. Now, he said, the United States will not tolerate “an attack. Period.

Jeffrey just visited Turkey. The intent was to stiffen Turkey's objection to the upcoming Idleb attack. The result was a plan that the Turkish president Erdogan presented today at the Tehran summit with President Putin of Russian and President Rohani of Iran. It included:

  • prolongation of the deescalation ceasefire
  • 12 armed groups, including Hayat Tahrir al Sham to be disbanded
  • Turkey will train a new rebel force to control Idleb under Turkish command
  • Groups who resist will be targeted in counter terrorism operations
  • ...

The plan is nonsense. It is a copy of the task list Erdogan was given when the deescalation zone in Idleb was established at an earlier summit in the Astana format. Erdogan failed to implement it. HTS still rules Idelb province. HTS still rejects to dissolve. The observation posts Turkey established around Idleb still depend on the goodwill and protection of HTS fighters.

Erdogan has no way to implement his plan. Accordingly today's summit in Tehran ended with a mealymouthed statement. It failed to come up with a common way forward for Idleb.


via Thomas van Linge - bigger

Syria and its allies Russia and Iran should proceed with their plans to cleanse Idleb of terrorist. The U.S. is bluffing. It has no realistic means to prevent the operation. Any U.S. attack on Syrian and Russian forces involved in it would likely escalate into a conflict between nuclear powers. That is a risk the U.S. military is unwilling to take. It knows that the forces it planted into Syria are vulnerable to attacks.

The U.S. is now screaming of imminent chemical attacks by the Syrian army on "civilians" in Idleb:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. Reveals Underpants Plan For Indefinite Occupation

Posted by b at 11:53 AM | Comments (143)

September 06, 2018

Syria - Mattis Lacks State Department's Intelligence ... On Al-Qaeda's Chemical Capabilities

The U.S. Secretary of Defense seems to lack the intelligence the Un and the U.S. Department of State obviously have.

U.S.'s Mattis says 'zero intelligence' that rebels in Syria's Idlib have chemical weapons capability

New Delhi (Reuters) - There was “zero intelligence” of chemical weapons capabilities possessed by groups opposing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the province of Idlib, U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis said, adding that the facts did not back Russian assertions.
...
We have zero intelligence that shows the opposition has any chemical capability,” Mattis told reporters traveling with him to the Indian capital of New Delhi.
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“We have made very clear that by putting out innuendo that somehow any chemical weapon use coming up in the future could be ascribed to the opposition, well, we want to see the data,” Mattis said. “We cannot see anything that indicates the opposition has that capability.

On October 18 2017 the U.S. State Department issued a travel warning for Syria:


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It says in the third paragraph (pic):

Terrorist and other violent extremist groups including ISIS and al-Qa’ida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (dominated by al-Qa’ida affiliate Jabhat al-Nusrah, a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization), operate in Syria. In July 2017, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham consolidated power in Idlib province after it clashed with other armed actors. [...] Tactics of ISIS, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, and other violent extremist groups include the use of suicide bombers, kidnapping, small and heavy arms, improvised explosive devices, and chemical weapons. ...

The UN also knows of and is similar concerned about Hayat Tahrir al-Sham's chemical weapon capabilities. During a press conference on August 30 the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura, explicitly discussed these:

So, the issue of avoiding the potential use of chemical weapons is indeed crucial and would be totally unacceptable. We all are aware that both the government and al-Nusra have the capability to produce weaponised chlorine, that’s the one people are talking about, not sarin. Hence an increased concern by all of us, and everyone else, and alert.

There is no doubt that HTS and other such groups have chemical capabilities. They do.

Why is Mattis lying about it?

Posted by b at 06:25 AM | Comments (74)

September 05, 2018

The Strange Timestamp In The New Novichok 'Evidence' - UPDATED

Please read the Update highlighted below.
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Today, in a politically convenient moment, the British government released new information about the poisoning of the British spy Sergej Skripal, his daughter, and three other persons. It claims to have identified two men with Russian passports who arrived in London from Moscow on March 2, went to Salisbury on March 3 on a 'reconnaissance' trip, came back to Salisbury on March 4 to put Novichok poison on the doorknob of Skripal's home and flew back from London to Moscow on the same day. The names of the men were given as Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov which are Russian language equivalents of Joe Smith and Sam Jones. These names are likely false.

The police says that CCTV pictures were taken at several steps of the men's travel. The British news agency Reuters seem to distribute these. Several media have picked up copies.

Here are screenshots of two CCTV pictures, taken from an 18 picture gallery in a report by The Independent headlined Salisbury poisoning suspects are Russian state assassins, Theresa May tells MPs.

These are pictures 7 and 8 of a 18 picture gallery within that piece.

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Pic 7 of 18 - full, uncropped screenshot
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Pic 8 of 18 - full, uncropped screenshot

The pics are also available at the Metropolitan police site: 1, 2.

Notice that the time stamp on both pics is identical, 02/03/2018 16:22:43. But the pictures show two different men, each walking alone through the same part of a jet bridge as they arrive in Britain. How can it be that both of these pictures were taken at the exactly same second? And who tilted the permanently installed CCTV camera between the two shots? How did the camera angle change between picture one and two which were apparently taken at the very same place and at the very same time?

If these two pictures can not be trusted how much can one trust the other CCTV pictures the Met showed to support its claims?

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UPDATE Sept 6 - 5:20 UTC

Here is the answer to the above questions. In the North Terminal of Gatwick Airport, at the northern end of arrival level zero, there are several parallel and apparently identical gates leading into the airport. Each of these has a camera.

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Thanks to Bruce Leidl who found the above picture in Google maps.
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The two pictures above with identical timestamps were taken in two of these gates with each of the 'Russian assassins' passing through one of them at the same time. Aeroflot flights from Moscow are serviced at the North Terminal.

End of the Update - the original text continues below.
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The full statement of the Metropolitan police is here. Excerpts of Prime Minister Theresa May's statement are here.

While May claims the two men were send by Russia's military spy service GRU, the Metropolitan police makes no such claims. Theresa May does not say on what evidence she based her conclusion. There seems to be none.

It also seems a bit curious that a 'Russian assassin' team, allegedly from a highly professional secret service, would travel together and use direct flights from Moscow to London and back. That seems extraordinary careless. Why not fly separate and via a third country?

And why would a professional assassin team drop a cellophane wrapped, unopened perfume bottle with the same poison into a charity bin behind shops in Catherine Street in Salisbury where Charlie Rowley would find it some 14 weeks(!?) later?

The police says that it found traces of Novichok in the crappy hotel the 'Russian agents' stayed in between March 2 and March 4. It found those traces on May 4 but it waited until today to publicly ask other guests at the hotel to contact the police?

If the incident was a professional assassination attempt with a highly potent 'Novichok' compound why did 4 out of 5 people who came into contact with it survive? The 80% failure rate is inconsistent with the scary tale about the highly potent 'Russian' Novichok poison. A decent dose of Megachok is probably more lethal.

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Sergej Skripal has not been seen in the public or even on video since the incident happened. His daughter Yulia Skripal appeared in a British government hostage video but then vanished. The Russian Embassy in London says that it has no access to them. The policeman, who allegedly was also injured during the incident, also never reappeared in public. Why are these people held incommunicado and under arrest?

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Previous Moon of Alabama posts on the Skripal case:

Cont. reading: The Strange Timestamp In The New Novichok 'Evidence' - UPDATED

Posted by b at 01:33 PM | Comments (170)

September 04, 2018

Syria - UN, U.S. Try To Delay Idlib's Liberation

The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria, Staffan de Mistura and his Special Advisor, Jan Egeland, held a press conference (vid) today. They appealed to the Russian President Putin and President Erdogan of Turkey to find a solution for Idleb province that would avoid the upcoming Syrian army attack on the province ruled by al-Qaeda.

De Mistura claimed that there are 2.9 million civilians in the area. That number is nonsense. In 2011 Idleb governorate had a population of 1.5 million. Several hundred thousands of those, Christians, Alawites, government employees, soldiers and their families, fled when in 2015 al-Qaeda and its Free Syrian Army allies attacked and occupied it. Some new people, 10-20,000 Chinese Uyghurs as well as other foreign Jihadis, arrived. But their total numbers were in the ten thousands, not in the hundred thousands. When in 2017 the Syrian army liberated Aleppo and then east-Ghouta and other areas, about 50,000 people in total asked to be put on buses and to be shipped off to Idleb. The total number of people in the province and the attached areas held by the Jihadis must be well under 2 million.

As for the number of terrorists in Idleb de Mistura only spoke of some 10,000 of the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), the former Jabhat Al-Nusra Front. But the total number of radical Jihadists in the governorate is much larger. There are two large groups of "rebels" in Idleb.

Turkey’s favourite is the NLF, which is led by Fadlallah al-Hajji, a Muslim Brotherhood ally. The NLF includes Turkey-friendly Islamists like Ahrar al-Sham, the Noureddine al-Zengi Brigades, Failaq al-Sham, Jaish al-Ahrar, and groups that fought under the Free Syrian Army banner, like the Victory Army and the 2nd Coastal Division.

Big but brittle, the NLF is held together by Turkish sponsorship and shared enemies: al-Assad’s government, Syrian Kurdish groups, and hardline jihadists.

These ain't your friendly neighbors but brutal Islamists. Ahrar al Sham is a recognized terrorist group founded by a senior al-Qaeda veteran. The al-Zengi brigades became famous when they published a video which showed them beheading a wounded 12 year old boy.

The second, larger, and even more brutal group is the alliance around HTS under its leader Abu Mohammed al-Golani. It includes several thousand Uyghur and Chechen fighters:

Cont. reading: Syria - UN, U.S. Try To Delay Idlib's Liberation

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (102)

September 02, 2018

MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-44

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (188)

Syria Sitrep - U.S. To Stay To "Create Quagmires"

Last week we looked at the upcoming campaign to liberate Idleb. The attack will commence only after the September 7 summit of the  presidents of Russia, Turkey and Iran in Tehran. Meanwhile the U.S. detailed its future role in the war on Syria.

The new U.S. aim in Syria is to hinder all potential progress in the reestablishing of government control as well as to obstruct any repair of the damage its war on Syria caused.

The semi-permanent U.S. occupation of north-east Syria will be used in a new (and futile) attempt to achieve the long held U.S. aim of regime change. Secretary of Defense Mattis declared as much in a recent press conference. Asked about Iran in Syria he said:

What are they doing in Syria in the first place, other than propping up someone who has committed mayhem and murder on his own people?

They have no business there. And our goal is to move the Syria civil war into the Geneva process so the Syrian people can establish a new government that is not led by Assad and give them a chance for a future that Assad has denied them, with -- with overt Russian and Iranian support.

If Iran, a treaty ally invited by the legitimate Syrian government, has 'no business' in Syria what business does the uninvited U.S. invasion force have?

Asked about the prospect of U.S. troops in Syria Mattis said:

[L]et me give three points here. One, we have to destroy ISIS. The president's been very clear that -- that ISIS is to be taken out, so that's got to happen. We also have to have trained local troops who can take over. We're doing that training as we speak. As we uncover ground, the chairman's got people assigned there specifically to train the locals. And third, we need the Geneva process, the U.N.-recognized process to start making traction towards solving this war.

Now, if the locals are able to keep the security, obviously during this time we might be reducing our troops commensurate with their ability to meet -- deny ISIS a return, but it really comes down to finding a way to solve this problem of Assad's making.

The claim that the U.S. is there to fight ISIS is a lie. ISIS is still active in two places in Syria. Both are under U.S. control.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - U.S. To Stay To "Create Quagmires"

Posted by b at 12:24 PM | Comments (69)

August 31, 2018

Which Fascist Said This?

Who said this?

Always before god and the world the stronger has the right to carry through what he wills. ... The whole of nature is a mighty struggle between strength and weakness, an eternal victory of the strong over the weak.

Who is paraphrased here?

The first state to adopt evolutionary ethics would prevail over all others in the struggle for existence. ... Extermination and war then became moral goods to eliminate the weak.

And who said this?

The weak crumble, are slaughtered and are erased from history while the strong, for good or for ill, survive. The strong are respected, and alliances are made with the strong, and in the end peace is made with the strong.

Cont. reading: Which Fascist Said This?

Posted by b at 09:32 AM | Comments (176)

August 30, 2018

On The ‘Soft Progressive-liberal Block'

by Noirette
picked from a comment

re Ort @ 14 who wrote:

The “soft” progressive-liberal bloc in the US, individuals and organizations alike, have become so pathologically consumed with the conviction that Donald Trump is the Great Orange Satan who must be removed from office forthwith, and by any means necessary, that they hysterically embrace any public figure who opposes (opposed) Trump.

The ‘soft progressive liberal set’ - just as ‘Dems’ and ‘Reps’ - don’t really present a political ideology, framework, view-point, or even low-level adherence and/or claims. They are cover for an underlying hidden structure: informal tribes/circuits and sections in an oligarchic corporatist régime, or even something different, which I won’t go into now.

Obama ran on a non-interventionist stance and a ‘re-set’ with Russia-relations platform, for which he was awarded the Peace Prize (which is not a recommendation). Trump did the same in a more loudmouthed vulgar pointed way and was vilified and is despised ‘to the death’ for it. While impeachment and a nasty accident seem out of reach, as wildly imprudent, he is prevented from acting. By the way, Bush junior did the same which garnered him the Muslim vote which probably won him the election. Yes, study the numbers. (Setting aside hanging chads and the Supreme Court, Bush still needed a pile of votes.)

The question is, what is the aim of the resurgent hate-Russia meme, now boiling-over and turned crazed hysterical? Is it at heart contra-Trump or contra-Russia? Of course one could answer ‘both’ but that doesn’t explain ‘russiagate’ and the self-harm the U.S. is trapped in.

Another sign that the political divisions are ‘pretend’ is that the ‘Dems’, the ostensive losers re. Trump, have not behaved like a political party who loses. These generally disband, retire, fold, or make efforts at reform, re-orientation etc. Renewal may be tough but they often try. (As did the Repubs after Obama’s election, though the effort was incredibly weak.) Nothing like that is going on, because the fight is not political. It is based on tribal desperate angst at the ‘surprise’ election of an outsider who holds cards in his hands nobody can speak about.

re Ort @ 24 who wrote:

To 'True Believers', if [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] seems equivocal, or even confused, about the nature of (Democratic) socialism or expresses anodyne, conformist, safe positions, they will justify this as sensible reticence. AOC has to appeal to the elusive "center", and charm skeptical voters by not appearing unduly extreme or, God forbid, radical.

As with Obama and others similarly situated, they pretend that once the ostensible Third Way newcomer is accepted and established, they can and will gradually disclose their true political selves, and act accordingly. Regardless of how often this scenario fails to work as hoped, they remain convinced that it's both unavoidable and prudent.

Ocasio-Cortez is merely a willing actress poster-babe (she will earn a LOT). The role is not different from prancing about in lovely swish skirts on some MSM-TV series. She was selected for her looks / background (not the best re. the background, but there aren’t many candidates, which is very hopeful imho), her naiveté, ignorance, and submissive stance. Some ‘fake’ younger figures -only women and male gays, girls are more acceptable to the general public- have to be pictured as up-n-coming Dems, in a kind of sketchy and unconvincing parade of ‘diversity’ and so on.

Posted by b at 01:07 PM | Comments (150)

August 28, 2018

How Media Failures Complicate The Nuclear Talks With North Korea

North Korea recently again asked the Trump administration to stick to the three steps agreed upon in the Singapore Statement.

The Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin characterizes the North Korean request as "belligerent":

Pompeo received the letter from Kim Yong Chol, vice chairman of North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party Central Committee, on Friday morning, and showed it to Trump in the White House, two senior administration officials confirmed. The exact contents of the message are unclear, but it was sufficiently belligerent that Trump and Pompeo decided to call off Pompeo’s journey ...

Reuters amplified the alleged "belligerence" when it headlined:

Trump called off Pompeo's North Korea visit after belligerent letter: report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump called off a visit to North Korea by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo after the latter received a belligerent letter from a senior North Korean official just hours after the trip was announced last week, the Washington Post reported on Monday.

Reuters must know that Josh Rogin does not do "reporting". He is not a journalist but a neocon shill with a direct line to John Bolton. He publishes his effusions in the Opinion section of the paper, not in its news parts.

CNN then entered the frail and reported the real content of the letter:

Cont. reading: How Media Failures Complicate The Nuclear Talks With North Korea

Posted by b at 11:53 AM | Comments (87)

August 26, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-43

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:00 PM | Comments (190)

Syria Sitrep - The Build Up For The Idleb Campaign

The long awaited Syrian army campaign to liberate Idleb governorate in Syria's northwest is supposed to start shortly after September 7, the date when the Turkish, Russian and Iranian presidents will meet. Strong forces have been put into place and are ready to strike. The Russian fleet in the Mediterranean has been strengthened, new air defense positions were established.

There are signs that al-Qaeda in Syria and similar groups will try to preempt the upcoming attack on them by an offense of their own. The U.S., UK and France prepare for another chemical incident in support of the Jihadi attack. They would strike Syrian government forces and institutions after a new fake incident would be attributed to the Syrian government.

Turkey was given until the summit to remove al-Qaeda and similar Jihadi groups from Idleb governorate. It so far failed to do so and its chance of achieving that is practically zero. Al-Qaeda in the form of Hayat Tahrir al Sham (HTS, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) and in coalition with other foreign Jihadis from all over the world rules about 70% of Idleb governorate:

“Idlib Province is the largest al-Qaeda safe haven since 9/11,” says Brett McGurk, the senior US envoy to the international coalition fighting Isis.

bigger

Idleb is a cesspool in which various Jihadi factions continuously fight each other. At least 290 members and leaders of such groups have been assassinated during the last four months. Hundreds of locals who talked with the Syrian government to negotiate rehabilitation were arrested by HTS. The Syrian army and Russian military police opened corridors to allow civilians to flee the area.

The Inspector General of the U.S. aid agency shut down an aid program through which al-Qaeda in Idleb was fed:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - The Build Up For The Idleb Campaign

Posted by b at 11:15 AM | Comments (98)

August 25, 2018

Trump Ties North Korea Talks To Trade Deal With China

Yesterday U.S. President Trump threw another hissy fit on the negotiations with North Korea:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 17:36 utc - 24 Aug 2018

I have asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo not to go to North Korea, at this time, because I feel we are not making sufficient progress with respect to the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula ...
... Additionally, because of our much tougher Trading stance with China, I do not believe they are helping with the process of denuclearization as they once were (despite the UN Sanctions which are in place) ...
... Secretary Pompeo looks forward to going to North Korea in the near future, most likely after our Trading relationship with China is resolved. In the meantime I would like to send my warmest regards and respect to Chairman Kim. I look forward to seeing him soon!

Pompeo was in Trump's office when Trump tweeted the above. Staff in the State Department was briefing foreign ambassadors on Pompeo's upcoming talks, planned for next week, when Trump stepped in. The decision was clearly a surprise.

Trump is suddenly binding the continuation of Korea talks to a trade deal with China. Such a deal is unlikely to happen anytime soon as China is convinced that it can win a tariff war, while the Trump administration overestimates the economic pressure it can create. That Trump now connects these two issues might mean that he has given up the "denuclearization" game.

Peter Lee, aka Chinahand, sees a larger plan behind the latest Trumping: to demonstrate to Kim Jong-un that China is hindering Kim's plans for a peace agreement and for economic development; then, when China will finally be pushed into open adversary status to the U.S., Kim Jong-un will have to chose and will end up in the U.S. camp. If that is really Trump's plan, which I doubt, then it is clearly bound to fail. North Korea would never end the relations with its long-term strategic partner for the dangerous vagueness of a nuclear treaty relations with the U.S. (see Iran, Libya).

It is more likely that Trump is punting here because there is no way he can get North Korea to denuclearize before signing an official peace agreement with it. Signing a peace agreement is not what the U.S. wants. With Korea at peace and on the way to re-unification, the U.S. would lose the justification for keeping U.S.troops in South Korea, its only major foothold on the east-Asian continent.

Cont. reading: Trump Ties North Korea Talks To Trade Deal With China

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (60)

August 24, 2018

Open Thread 2018-42

Your host messed up the piece that was supposed to be publish today. You will have to talk to yourself.

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:47 PM | Comments (122)

August 23, 2018

What The Party 'Strategists' Say Is Not What The Voters Want

Q: Why did the Democrats lose the Senate, House and presidency as well as more than a thousand state government positions?

A: They listened to their 'strategists', not to their voters.


Here is what the strategists currently say:

Staying out of the single-payer debate, party strategists say, could help Democrats in the general election, when they’ll have to appeal to moderates skeptical of government-run health care. Earlier this year, the DCCC warned candidates about embracing single payer, hoping to avoid Republican attacks on “socialized” medicine.

Why is "socialized" medicine supposed to be a bad thing? Why not defend it? It is what the voters want:


Reuters/Ipsos poll - June/July 2018 - bigger

The 'strategists' say the voters can not have the nice stuff they want. Their arguments lost the elections. If the Democrats want to win again their must tell their voters to demand more nice stuff. Some people get that:

Progressive insurgents believe Clinton’s defeat, on top of losing control of Congress and most state governments, proved them right. They aspire to overthrow conventional wisdom that Democrats must stay safely in the middle to compete.

Democrats have been fixated for 20 years on this elusive, independent, mythical middle of the road voter that did not exist,” said Crystal Rhoades, head of the Democratic Party in Nebraska’s Douglas County, where a progressive candidate, Kara Eastman, is trying to wrest a competitive congressional district from a Republican.

“We’re going to try bold ideas.”

Most social-democratic parties in Europe have the same problem the U.S. Democrats have. The party establishments angle for the ever elusive 'liberal' center. They move the parties further to the right and lose their natural constituencies, the working class. This gives rise to (sometimes fascist) 'populists' (see Trump) and to an ever growing share of people who reject the established system and do not vote at all.

This phenomenon is the micro version of a much larger trend. Liberal globalization, as promoted by the party 'elites', promises but does not deliver what the real people need and want. Liberal globalization turned out to be a class war in which only the rich can win. A revolt, locally on the level of voters, and globally on the level of nations, is underway to regain a different view.

Alastair Crooke recently outlined the larger trend within a global, 'metaphysical' perspective.

The progressive Democrats who are pushing for single payer healthcare still miss out on other issues. They also support higher wages, but are, at the same time, against restrictions on immigration. Wages rise when companies have to compete for workers. Immigration increases the available work force. A political program that supports both does not compute.

Working people understand this and in 2016 many of them voted for Trump. Neither LGBTXYZ identity policies nor other aloof 'liberal values' will increase the income of the poor. To win back the necessary masses the Democrats and social-democrats in Europe will have to shun, or at least de-emphasize such parts of their program.

It's a class war. The rich are winning. Fight.

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (155)

August 22, 2018

Facebook Kills "Inauthentic" Foreign News Accounts - U.S. Propaganda Stays Alive

The creation of digital content led to the re-establishment of claqueurs:

By 1830 the claque had become an institution. The manager of a theatre or opera house was able to send an order for any number of claqueurs. These were usually under a chef de claque (leader of applause), who judged where the efforts of the claqueurs were needed and to initiate the demonstration of approval. This could take several forms. There would be commissaires ("officers/commissioner") who learned the piece by heart and called the attention of their neighbors to its good points between the acts. Rieurs (laughers) laughed loudly at the jokes. Pleureurs (criers), generally women, feigned tears, by holding their handkerchiefs to their eyes. Chatouilleurs (ticklers) kept the audience in a good humor, while bisseurs (encore-ers) simply clapped and cried "Bis! Bis!" to request encores.

Today anyone can create content and rent or buy virtual claqueurs in from of  "likes" on Facebook or "followers" on Twitter to increase its distribution.

An alternative is to create artificial social media personas who then promote ones content. That is what the Internet Research Agency, the Russian "troll factory" from St. Petersburg, did. The fake personas it established on Facebook promoted IRA created clickbait content like puppy picture pages that was then marketed to sell advertisements.

The profit orientated social media giants do not like such third party promotions. They prefer that people pay THEM to promote their content. Selling advertisements is Facebook's business. Promotional accounts on its own platform are competition.

The anti-Russian mania in U.S. politics gives social media companies a welcome excuse to clamp down on promotional schemes for sites like Liberty Front Press by claiming that these are disinformation campaigns run by the U.S. enemy of the day.

Yesterday Facebook announced  that it deleted a number of user accounts for "inauthentic behavior":

We’ve removed 652 Pages, groups and accounts for coordinated inauthentic behavior that originated in Iran and targeted people across multiple internet services in the Middle East, Latin America, UK and US. FireEye, a cybersecurity firm, gave us a tip in July about “Liberty Front Press,” a network of Facebook Pages as well as accounts on other online services.
...
We are able to link this network to Iranian state media through publicly available website registration information, as well as the use of related IP addresses and Facebook Pages sharing the same admins. For example, one part of the network, “Quest 4 Truth,” claims to be an independent Iranian media organization, but is in fact linked to Press TV, an English-language news network affiliated with Iranian state media.

The FireEye report Facebook acted on notes:

Cont. reading: Facebook Kills "Inauthentic" Foreign News Accounts - U.S. Propaganda Stays Alive

Posted by b at 01:29 PM | Comments (85)

August 21, 2018

Microsoft Promotes Russia Scare To Gain Insider Access To Campaign Information

The software behemoth Microsoft Corp wants to gain an insider view on candidates and election campaigns at the federal, state and local level. The Seattle based company now offers a "special cybersecurity protection" to those candidates and campaigns that use its Office 365, Outlock or  Hotmail cloud services. Those who take up the offer will put their emails, internal strategy papers and financial records onto Microsoft owned and administrated servers where Microsoft personal will have a special eye on them.

The company hopes that a large amount of such data will enable it "to collect critical feedback" into developing political dangers and will allow it to "to address the specific needs of eligible organizations". This could, for example, be done by directing or withholding campaign contributions in line with its corporate interests. The acquired material will also be of interest to various national intelligence agencies and might be of value for future political trades.

Microsoft's new data acquisition path for its corporate intelligence has its own marketing campaign. This uses the well established bogeyman of the "Russian threat".

Microsoft engineers scanned the 220 million internet domain names to find a few domains that seem to have some similarities with know product names or known institutional names. The search found my-iri.org, hudsonorg-my-sharepoint.com, senate.group, adfs-senate.services, adfs-senate.email and office365-onedrive.com. These names, Microsoft claims, could potentially be mistaken for the names of known entities and could thus be used for login spoofing or email fishing campaigns.

Microsoft claimed that these domain names were trademark infringements of its office product, as well as of the conservative Hudson Institute, the International Republican Institute and the U.S. Senate. A judge agreed and allowed the company to seize the domain names. They now redirect to Microsoft honeypot servers. Any attempt to access them will be logged.

Its public relation department held a press conference and managed to spin a scare story of a "Russian threat" around the seized domain names. It did not provide any evidence or explanation how the seized domain names might or might not be related to "Russia". Journalists were pointed to a blog post by Microsoft's president which includes some mumble about "Russia" and "elections" they could pick for quotes. After apparently scaring the bejesus out of the stenographing scribes, the company made sure to emphasize the offer that, if taken up, will give its strategic intelligence department valuable internal insights into election campaigns.

Major U.S. news sites swallowed the bait, hook, line and sinker. The Washington Post headlines:

Microsoft says it has found a Russian operation targeting U.S. political institutions

Cont. reading: Microsoft Promotes Russia Scare To Gain Insider Access To Campaign Information

Posted by b at 09:18 AM | Comments (72)

August 19, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-41

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 09:07 AM | Comments (154)

August 18, 2018

New Interests Join The Clash About North-East Syria

Turkey's ongoing currency crises creates some new regional aspects that will influence the war on Syria and the fate of its U.S. occupied north-east.

Over the last two weeks Turkey's Lira (TL) behaved extremely volatile.


Chart via Xe - bigger

At the beginning of the year one U.S. dollar cost 3.5 lira. At the beginning of August it cost 4.80 lira. It then went up to 7.00 lira/$ and at Friday's closing it was down again at 6.00 TL/$. But Monday morning lira will again lose more of its value:

Turkey’s credit rating was cut further into junk Friday by S&P Global Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service, which said the volatile lira and wide current-account deficit may undermine the Middle East’s largest economy.

S&P reduced Turkey’s foreign-currency rating to four notches below investment grade at B+ from BB-, on par with Argentina, Greece and Fiji. Moody’s lowered its grade to Ba3 from Ba2, three notches below investment grade. The ratings companies said the weak currency, runaway inflation and current-account deficit are Turkey’s key vulnerabilities.

Turkey's crisis is homemade. The current spat with the United States only exaggerates it. For years Turkey borrowed large amounts of money from abroad and invested it into local infrastructure instead of producing exportable products. Its current account deficit this year will again be some $50 to $60 billion. International banks and other foreign lenders now demand interests rates above 20% from Turkish lenders because the chance of losing the lent money is high.

After the 17% crash on August 13 down to 7 TL/$ the Turkish Central Bank used some one-time measures to support the currency without raising its interest rate. The Turkish president Erdogan is ideologically adverse to interests and keeps the bank from doing what it must do to cool the Turkish economy and to stabilize the currency.

Erdogan asked Russia for help but received nothing but good advice. He also called in favors. When in June 2017 Saudi Arabia's clown prince Mohammed bin Salman (MbS) tried to take over Qatar and to steal its juicy $350 billion sovereign wealth fund, the emir of Qatar called on Turkey for help. Erdogan sent the Turkish army and air force. His troops protected Qatar from a Saudi invasion.

With the lira in trouble the emir flew to Ankara and promised a new $15 billion investment into Turkey. Additionally some mysterious cargo was unloaded from his plane. That saved the lira for a few days. But Turkey's structural problems are unsolved. Erdogan is no longer trusted and his son in law, who he made finance minister, lacks the necessary qualification for the job. Thus:

Cont. reading: New Interests Join The Clash About North-East Syria

Posted by b at 03:56 PM | Comments (76)

August 17, 2018

John Brennan Is No Match For Trump

U.S President Trump revoked the security clearance of former CIA Director John Brennan.

Good. It is probably the best thing Trump has ever done. Brennan is one of the most despicable former U.S. officials alive. He should rot in hell instead of making money off his former status.

Besides that there is no sound reason why anyone who does not work for the government, directly or indirectly, should have a clearance and thereby access to state secrets. ACLU and others are wrong in this. Revoking or keeping a security clearance has nothing to do with free speech or first amendment rights.

Abu Jihad Brennan was the CIA's station chief in Saudi Arabia. Some assert he went native, i.e. converted to Wahhabism. Brennan was in Riyadh when the Khobar Towers were bombed. Al-Qaeda did it, but Brennan was helpful in blaming the attack on Hizbullah and Iran. He was deputy executive director of the CIA on 9/11. That 9/11 happened was an intelligence failure or, as some have it, an incident arranged by the deep state. Brennan was CIA chief of staff while the agency concocted false stories about Iraqi WMD. He was within the line of command that ran the CIA torture program. It was Brennan who conspired with the Gulf dictators to hire Jihadis to destroy Libya and to attempt the same in Syria. In short - the man was always ruthless, incompetent and dishonest.

When Obama became president he wanted to make Brennan Director of the CIA. The Democrats in Congress were opposed to that. Obama then made him his high priest of targeted killings. After Obama's reelection, Brennan finally became director. He ordered the CIA to spy on the Congress committee investigating CIA torture. He lied to Congress under oath when he denied that it had happened. When it was proven that the CIA did what it did, he had to apologize.

At that time a Washington Post editorial headlined Obama should fire John Brennan. Today the Post calls the revocation of a security clearance of a former official, who -it had opined- should have long been fired, a "political vendetta against a career intelligence officer". Hypocrites.

Most important was "Brennan’s ringleader role in the so-far unsuccessful attempts to derail Trump, both before and after the 2016 election. As far as we can tell it was Brennan who concocted and launched the conspiracy to insinuate that Trump is connected with alleged Russian influence. Brennan bet that Hillary Clinton would win the election. He lost his bet and is now out in the cold. He fears that his role, especially his conspiring with British security services and with the Steele dossier, will come to light.

Since Trump became president Brennan publicly opposed him. That was a huge mistake. He is no match for Trump. By revoking Brennan's clearance Trump is now elevating him to 'hero' of the so called 'resistance' against him which he connects to the deep state. This is the Trump playbook:

[R]unning against the deep state provides Trump a rhetorical crutch. It’s a built-in excuse for failing to deliver on his 2016 campaign promises. Sitting presidents usually have to run as incumbents. Trump can try to run for re-election as an outsider. And is there a better poster boy for the alleged deep state than Brennan?

The idiots who express solidarity with Brennan by offering up their security clearances confirm, simply by doing so, that there IS a deep state cabal that is opposed to Trump. Attacking Brennan and them will help Trump to get reelected.

Trump uses the same playbook when he attacks the "fake news media" for opposing him. He is right in that nearly all U.S. and international editors favored Hillary Clinton over Trump. This week 200 U.S. papers united to write editorials against Trump's attacks against the "freedom of the press". They fell for his trick:

Most journalists agree that there’s a great need for Trump rebuttals. I’ve written my share. But this [Boston] Globe-sponsored coordinated editorial response is sure to backfire: It will provide Trump with circumstantial evidence of the existence of a national press cabal that has been convened solely to oppose him. When the editorials roll off the press on Thursday, all singing from the same script, Trump will reap enough fresh material to whale on the media for at least a month. His forthcoming speeches almost write themselves: By colluding against me, the fake media proved once and for all, that they are in cahoots with the Democrats and have declared themselves to be my true political opposition ...

Trump is excellent in playing his domestic opponents. Brennan made a huge mistake in publicly opposing him. He is now standing in the limelight and people will only dig further into his role in the "Russian collusion" campaign. Yesterday Brennan authored a New York Times Op Ed headlined President Trump’s Claims of No Collusion Are Hogwash. It does not provide any evidence for the "hogwash" claim. Brennan can not show that there was a Trump campaign collusion with Russia or anyone else.

Richard Burr, Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, gave a somewhat salty and fitting response:

“Director Brennan’s recent statements purport to know as fact that the Trump campaign colluded with a foreign power. If Director Brennan’s statement is based on intelligence he received while still leading the CIA, why didn’t he include it in the Intelligence Community Assessment released in 2017? If his statement is based on intelligence he has seen since leaving office, it constitutes an intelligence breach. If he has some other personal knowledge of or evidence of collusion, it should be disclosed to the Special Counsel, not The New York Times.

“If, however, Director Brennan’s statement is purely political and based on conjecture, the president has full authority to revoke his security clearance as head of the Executive Branch.”

In short: "Nut up or shut up."

It is doubtful that Trump will let go of the issue. Brennan is a too juicy target to stop shooting at it. Currently Brennan is still too valuable as an enemy for Trump to destroy him. But once that is over Brennan's day of judgment will come. Here are high hopes that Brennan will finally have to pay for at least one of his many crimes.

Posted by b at 03:09 PM | Comments (133)

August 16, 2018

Syria - Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

The U.S. aim in Syria is still 'regime change'. The Pentagon has made it clear that it wants to stay in the country even after the Islamic State vanished. A little propaganda trick is now used to create a justification for its continuing occupation.


The report by the UN Security Council's Sanctions Monitoring Team on ISIS, in parts discussed here, includes a number that smells of bullshit and manipulation:

3. Some Member States estimate the total current ISIL membership in Iraq and the Syrian Arab Republic to be between 20,000 and 30,000 individuals, roughly equally distributed between the two countries. Among these is still a significant component of the many thousands of active foreign terrorist fighters.2

Footnote 2 gives as source:

2 Member State information.

The high number given by a "Member State" exceed all prior assessments. The original strength of ISIS was estimated as a few thousand  and it swelled as it took more land and incorporated local auxiliary forces and newly arriving foreign fighters. In September 2014, when ISIS was near its peak, the CIA estimated a total of 31,000 ISIS fighters in Syria and Iraq. The number shrank as ISIS was kicked out of more places it earlier occupied while it lost ten thousands of its fighters to Russian, Syrian, Iraqi and U.S. bombs, artillery and other military means. In July 2017 the commanding general of U.S. Special Forces said that 60 to 70,000 ISIS fighters had been killed.

The numbers in the UN Sanctions Monitor report simply make no logical sense. It is also contradicted by earlier estimates that put the number of current ISIS fighters in the low thousands. In December 2017 President Trump claimed that only "1,000 or so" fighters remained in Iraq and Syria. In a June 5 Pentagon press conference the spokesman was asked about the number of ISIS fighters left in Syria. He responded:

As far as the numbers, there's -- there's been some numbers thrown out there over the past few months. You've heard the previous spokesmen range from 1,000 to 3,000. You've seen a lot of subject matter experts say something like that. I have nothing to add to that. What I will say is one ISIS fighter is one too many, and that's what we're pursuing. We're pursuing their defeat.

But there must of course be a reason why "some Member States" would give the UN Monitor team such an absurdly high number.

The U.S. is justifying its occupation of north-east Syria by claiming to fight ISIS under the legal cover of two UN Security Council resolutions. Now, as ISIS in Syria has shrunk to a few dozens of fighters, that justification is wearing thin. It is immensely important for the Pentagon to present a high number, as ISIS is its only legal justification to stay in Syria. It is doubtful that Congress would agree to a prolonged occupation if ISIS vanished.

To publicize a high number the Pentagon used an old propaganda trick, fake "multi-sourcing".

This trick was extensively used in the run up to the war on Iraq. Scooter Libby, the chief of staff of Vice President Dick Cheney, would call up pliant journalists, Judith Miller of the New York Times comes to mind, and tell them about a "top secret" assessment that Iraq bought aluminum tubes to build centrifuges for Uranium enrichment. (Experts knew that Iraq bought these tubes to make military mortars.) But the New York Times printed the 'nuclear' nonsense on page one of its Sunday edition. A few hours later Dick Cheney and other Bush administration members appeared on the Sunday morning talk shows and confirmed the story they had planted.

The tale of the 'nuclear' aluminum tubes was then perceived to have come from two independent entities and sources, the New York Times, and Vice President Cheney and other members of the Bush administration. It was thus widely believed.

We now see a similar scheme. A dubious fact, coming from a single source, is depicted as being multi-sourced. Another pliant journalist, this time Liz Sly of the Washington Post, is used to spread the fake news:

The Islamic State may still have in excess of 30,000 fighters in Syria and Iraq and appears to have rebounded from some of its worst setbacks, according to two new reports that call into question whether the militants are as close to defeat as the U.S. military has suggested.
...

Cont. reading: Syria - Pentagon Plants High ISIS Numbers To Justify Occupation

Posted by b at 01:21 PM | Comments (92)

August 15, 2018

Los Angeles Is First In US To Install Intrusive Subway Security - All Riders Will 'Volunteer'

The frog supposedly does not feel the slow increase of temperature until the water it sits in boils. In a similar vein people to not feel the loss of their freedoms when the observation and control instruments used on them are slowly more and more intrusive. The city of Los Angeles ratchets the screws up a few notches: Los Angeles is first in US to install subway body scanners

Los Angeles’ subway will become the first mass transit system in the U.S. to install body scanners that screen passengers for weapons and explosives, officials said Tuesday.
...
The machines scan for metallic and non-metallic objects on a person’s body, can detect suspicious items from 30 feet away and have the capability of scanning more than 2,000 passengers per hour.

The capacity to check 2,000 passengers per hour is way too small for a subway line which usually has between 20 and 30,000 passengers per hour. While the system is software supported it will still need a lot of paid staff to watch the screens and to bother all the people who might carry something 'suspicious'.  There will likely be dozens if not hundreds false alarms per day.


Pic: Thruvision - bigger

This is supposedly to prevent someone with an explosives belt or an automatic rifle from entering the subway with the intend to commit mass murder. But how often does that happen? Globally its probably once per decade with zero to a few dozen casualties in any such incident. The risk of an accident or fire is much higher. It is doubtful that the expenditure and operating costs are justifiable.

Such security theater has the effect and purpose to make people feel afraid. It also makes a few people very rich.

But we are told that it is good for us. And taking part in this nonsense it is of course completely "voluntary":

Signs will be posted at stations warning passengers they are subject to body scanner screening. The screening process is voluntary, Wiggins said, but customers who choose not to be screened won’t be able to ride on the subway.

The poor have little choice but to use the subway and to get 'voluntarily' screened. The rich though will not be bothered at all.

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (61)

August 14, 2018

UN Sanction Monitor: U.S. Stands By While ISIS In Syria Recuperates, Gains Money From Oil

Since November 2017 the U.S. largely stopped the fight against ISIS in north-east Syria. It gave ISIS the chance to regain power. A new report to the UN Security Council now confirms that ISIS in north-east Syria recuperated. It again profits from oil extraction under the nose of U.S. forces.

As noted here in April:

The U.S. military in Syria has refrained from fighting ISIS for months. The map of the territory held by ISIS (grey) at the Syrian-Iraqi border in the U.S. controlled zone north of the Euphrates (yellow) has not changed since November 2017.

Livemap: Nov 30 2017, Apr 24 2018 - bigger, bigger

(The yellow corridor going south east towards Iraq on the map is misleading. The U.S. has no forces there and ISIS crossed it several times to attack Syrian forces (red) across the river.)

The British group Airwars documents the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria. ... The U.S. strikes hit, if anything, only very minor targets.
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It is obvious that the U.S. wants to keep ISIS alive and well to again use it, if need be, against the Syrian and Iraqi government.

The Sanctions Monitoring Team of the UN Security Council recently released its 26nd report (pdf). It notes in the summary:

[The] Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), having been defeated militarily in Iraq and most of the Syrian Arab Republic during 2017, rallied in early 2018. This was the result of a loss of momentum by forces fighting it in the east of the Syrian Arab Republic, which prolonged access by ISIL to resources and gave it breathing space to prepare for the next phase of its evolution into a global covert network. By June 2018, the military campaigns against ISIL had gathered pace again, but ISIL still controlled small pockets of territory in the Syrian Arab Republic on the Iraqi border. It was able to extract and sell some oil, and to mount attacks, including across the border into Iraq.

Under the nose of more than 2,000 U.S. forces in north-east Syria ISIS recuperated and again gained force. It is still able to pump oil from the ground and sell it into the local market.

In the details of its report the Sanctions Monitor writes:

Cont. reading: UN Sanction Monitor: U.S. Stands By While ISIS In Syria Recuperates, Gains Money From Oil

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (56)

August 12, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-40

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Three weeks before the current Canadian-Saudi spat, the Canadian Revenue Agency took away the charity status of an Islamic center and mosque in Ottawa. The mosque had received largess from foreign donors and, it is alleged, featured radical preachers. The event may have caused the otherwise inexplicable Saudi behavior.

Just now the U.S. occupation suffers a new defeat.

On Friday some 1,000 Taliban infiltrated into Ghazni, an important city on the ring-road between Kabul and Khandahar. They have since taken most of the city:

Accounts from residents leaving the city said the only areas still being held by the government were the governor’s office, police and intelligence agencies headquarters, an ancient fort called the Bala Hisar and a few other government facilities.

Early today the Taliban brought the police headquarter under their control:

Intense fighting continues in Ghazni, the police HQ caught fire and collapsed to the Taliban. 113 dead bodies and 142 wounded were taken to Ghazni hospital. The hospital is running out of the capacity for treatment, they are using corridors and other available space.

Only the province government headquarter is still defended. More than 100 police and soldiers have been killed so far. Relief forces sent from Kabul are holed up in an army headquarter some five kilometers away. Telephone communication with the city is down. Some bridges were blown up by the Taliban which makes it difficult for the army bring in more re-enforcements. Some 150,000 civilians live in the city and bombing it to hit a few hundred Taliban would be catastrophic and of little use.  Additionally to the city 15 of the 18 districts of Ghazni province are under Taliban control and it is obvious that they have the support of a significant part of the population.


bigger

The U.S. occupation forces and their Afghan proxy government have long been in denial about the Taliban forces in Ghazni province as well as elsewhere. With the Taliban sitting on the ring-road, the south of Afghanistan is cut off from the center. They may eventually be evicted from the city but the attack is already a huge propaganda success for the Taliban and the negative moral effect on Afghan government forces will be huge. Another U.S. war that the empire obviously lost.

Right now Erdogan is holding a speech in Trabzon. He is defiant:

DAILY SABAH - @DailySabah
LIVE — President Erdoğan: The fluctuation in Turkish lira is a plot against Turkey, but Turkish people will not give in
LIVE — President Erdoğan: We might as well say goodbye to those who sacrifice their strategic partnership with a country of 81 million, alliance over 50 years for links with terror groups

Does that sounds like "Good bye NATO"? The Turkish military would not be happy with that. But by now it is presumably under Erdogan's full control.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:26 AM | Comments (160)

August 10, 2018

How Turkey's Currency Crisis Came To Pass

Updated below
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President Erdogan of Turkey often asserts that 'foreign powers' (meaning the U.S.) want to bring him down. He says that the 'interest lobby' (meaning (Jewish) bankers), wants to damage Turkey. He is somewhat right on both points.

Since last week the Turkish lira is on an extended down-slide. Today alone it lost nearly 20% of its value. It will likely take the Turkish economy with it and Erdogan need someone to blame for it.

But while foreign powers and banks surely use the crisis for their own aims, it its Erdogan's economic policy that is foremost to blame. The long boom he created with borrowed foreign money is finally turning into a bust.

Here is a recap of how it came to this.


The larger political picture:

During the U.S. induced 'Arab Spring' U.S. President Obama joined with Qatar and Turkey in an attempt to install Muslim Brotherhood governments throughout the Middle East. When Hillary Clinton left the position of Secretary of State and John Kerry took over, the Obama administration changed its position. It endorsed the coup against the elected Egyptian President Morsi and it refrained from actively using the U.S. military to bring the Syrian government down.

Especially with regards to Syria Turkey was left holding the bag. Erdogan had bet on the U.S. plan to overthrow the Syrian government. His invitation of Syrian refugees and support of radical Islamists fighting in Syria had cost a significant amount of money and brought a lot of trouble with it. The Turkish trade route through Syria to the Gulf countries was closed. Economic relations with Iran suffered. Erdogan needed to get something out of it.

But U.S. policies had turned against him. The Gezi protests in 2013 had all the signs of a  U.S. color revolution attempt. They failed. In 2014 the Obama administration began to support the Kurdish PKK/YPG forces in Kobane, east Syria. The PKK is a terrorist organization which tries to create its own country in the eastern part of Turkey, north Syria and north Iraq. The U.S. alliance with and arming of the Kurds created a PKK/YPG dagger pointed at Turkey's underbelly.

In response to a Turkish led attack on Latakia and Idleb in mid 2015 Russia deployed its forces to Syria. In hindsight it was the point where Erdogan's game in Syria was over. The U.S. would not launch a war against the nuclear armed Russia. Syria would not fall. But Erdogan played on.

In November 2015 the Turkish air defense ambushed and shot down a Russian jet. Russia responded with a total stop of all economic exchanges with Turkey.  These were not the needle prick sanctions the U.S. often uses, but a total abrupt end of all trade relations including millions of Russian tourist visits in Turkey. The economic damage for Turkey was huge. Erdogan had to submit to Russia. Putin was gracious and allowed Erdogan to save his face. The Russian government offered a lucrative pipeline deal and other sweeteners. In mid 2016 the CIA arranged for a hard coup against Erdogan but Russian intelligence warned Erdogan and the coup failed. Turkey is asking the U.S. to hand over Fethullah Gulen which it accuses of instigating the coup. Gulen is a Turkish preacher with a large following and a long time CIA asset who resides in Pennsylvania.

Flipping Turkey from the "western" to the "eastern" camp can be seen as part of Russia's Black Sea strategy. It is repeat of a mid 19th-century plan executed under Tzar Nicholas I. The current plan is so far successful. But it collides with the U.S. plans to revive NATO for another lucrative Cold War. Thus the current U.S. plan is to use Turkey's economy problems to finally bring Erdogan down.


The larger economic picture:

Cont. reading: How Turkey's Currency Crisis Came To Pass

Posted by b at 04:20 PM | Comments (200)

August 09, 2018

U.S. 'Fine Tuning' Of Saudi Airstrike Target List Creates Results

U.S. Deepens Role in Yemen Fight, Offers Gulf Allies Airstrike-Target Assistance - Wall Street Journal - June 12, 2018

The U.S. military is providing its Gulf allies with intelligence to fine-tune their list of airstrike targets ...
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Saudi-led coalition claims deadly Yemen attack - Daily Mail - August 9, 2018

A Saudi-led coalition battling in Yemen said it carried out a deadly attack in the rebel-held north on Thursday, which the Red Cross said hit a bus carrying children.
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"Following an attack this morning on a bus driving children in Dahyan Market, northern Saada, (an ICRC-supported) hospital has received dozens of dead and wounded," the organisation said on Twitter without giving more details.

Cont. reading: U.S. 'Fine Tuning' Of Saudi Airstrike Target List Creates Results

Posted by b at 02:59 PM | Comments (105)

August 08, 2018

Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

A new excerpt from a book by C.J. Chivers, a former U.S. infantry captain and New York Times war correspondent, tells the story of a young man from New York City who joined the U.S. army and was send to the Korengal Valley in Afghanistan. While the man, one Robert Soto, makes it out alive, several of his comrades and many Afghans die during his time in Afghanistan to no avail.

The piece includes remarkably strong words about the strategic (in)abilities of U.S. politicians, high ranking officers and pundits:

On one matter there can be no argument: The policies that sent these men and women abroad, with their emphasis on military action and their visions of reordering nations and cultures, have not succeeded. It is beyond honest dispute that the wars did not achieve what their organizers promised, no matter the party in power or the generals in command. Astonishingly expensive, strategically incoherent, sold by a shifting slate of senior officers and politicians and editorial-page hawks, the wars have continued in varied forms and under different rationales each and every year since passenger jets struck the World Trade Center in 2001. They continue today without an end in sight, reauthorized in Pentagon budgets almost as if distant war is a presumed government action.

That description is right but it does not touche the underlying causes. The story of the attempted U.S. occupation of the Korengal valley,  which Civers again describes, has been the theme of several books and movies. It demonstrates the futility of fighting a population that does not welcome occupiers. But most of the authors, including Chivers, get one fact wrong. The war with the people of the Korengal valley was started out of shear stupidity and ignorance.

The main military outpost in the valley was build on a former sawmill. Chivers writes:

On a social level, it could not have been much worse. It was an unforced error of occupation, a set of foreign military bunkers built on the grounds of a sawmill and lumber yard formerly operated by Haji Mateen, a local timber baron. The American foothold put some of the valley’s toughest men out of work, the same Afghans who knew the mountain trails. Haji Mateen now commanded many of the valley’s fighters, under the banner of the Taliban.

Unfortunately Chivers does not explain why the saw mill was closed. Ten years ago a piece by Elizabeth Rubin touched on this:

Cont. reading: Why They Fail - The Quintessence Of The Korengal Valley Campaign

Posted by b at 04:00 PM | Comments (65)