Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
February 09, 2015

Ukraine: Use Of U.S. Ambassador's "False Flag" Offer Aborted

In an interview this morning a former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine made a completely speculative statement on Russian air attack plans against Ukrainian forces reported the Ukrainian propaganda outlet Censor.net:

If Putin uses aviation in Donbas, US response will be swift - former Ambassador to Ukraine Herbst"
"Certainly, everyone is concerned that the Kremlin is making this war in Ukraine increasingly open. They used to hide all their steps, all their aggression. Now it's increasingly clear what Moscow is doing. So, conceivably, Moscow can decide to use its Air Force," he stated, adding that if it does that even the most skeptical Europeans who doubted the hand of the Kremlin in the conflict will see that Russia is conducting war.

"Our report (on the situation in Ukraine to President Obama - ed.) did not specifically recommend anti-aircraft weapons … but we talked about it," Herbst said. He added that the reason for that is a possible major escalation of the conflict. The former ambassador stated that if Putin were to use his Air Force, the United States' reaction would be swift.

That statement by the former ambassador was a huge invitation for a "false flag" event. As the Ukraine and Russia fly similar types of air planes a "false flag" attack by Ukrainian planes on Ukrainian forces could easily be "sold" as a Russian attack. The ambassador seemingly offers that as a way to get the U.S. militarily involved.

The propaganda managers of the neo-Nazi Ukrainian Azov battalion immediately picked up the offer.


A group of Azov battalion members with their most revered flags.

On its Facebook page Azov proclaimed (auto translated original):

Cont. reading: Ukraine: Use Of U.S. Ambassador's "False Flag" Offer Aborted

Posted by b at 10:01 AM | Comments (158)

February 08, 2015

The Islamic State Is In Retreat

The Islamic State is in retreat. It has lost several towns in north Iraq to the Kurdish Peshmerga. It is under attack in central and west Iraq from Iraqi security forces and militia. In Syria U.S. air attacks and the supported Kurdish YPG forces defended (and destroyed) Kobani and IS had to give up its plans to capture that border route to Turkey. The Kurdish forces have now pushed the Islamic State away from some 75 settlements and towns in the Kobani area.

At the same time as the much published attack on Kobani happened the Islamic State tried to capture the city of Deir Ezzor in east Syria and the important Syrian air force base next to it. For a few days it looked like the air base would fall but air support from the Syrian air force and powerful counterattacks have relieved the air base and the city is at least partially back under Syrian army control.

In last two days the Islamic State left several areas in central and west Syria. It is giving up positions it had fought for, now passing them back to local Islamist or warlord forces it had earlier kicked out of their positions. It is likely that this move has two reasons. The Islamic State can no longer supply its forces in west and center Syria and it needs to concentrate its forces for the defense of the core areas it still holds - Mosul and Fallujah in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

The Islamic State is under aerial attack from Syrian, U.S. and now also again from Jordan forces. While these attacks are not as intense as they could be they do destroy and kill enough material and people to make the movement of Islamic State fighters difficult.

The Pentagon claims (take with lots of salt) that it damaged or destroyed 3,222 Islamic State targets since August including 58 tanks; 184 Humvees; 673 fighting positions; 980 buildings or barracks; 26 APCs vehicles; 303 technical vehicles; 94 other vehicles; 79 artillery, anti-aircraft weapons or mortars; 41 staging areas; 11 improvised explosive device positions; 16 command posts; 92 checkpoints; 17 guard shacks; 52 bunkers; 14 boats; 23 stockpiles; 259 oil infrastructure sites. According to the head of the Royal Jordanian Air Force the Islamic State has in total lost 20% of its military capabilities. I believe that the damage rate is higher than 20% with regard to heavy weapons like tanks which are easy to kill from the air and lower with regard to IS men under arms. The Islamic State has lots of infantry as it can recruit from several million people under its rule but it has only a very limited capability to replace material losses.

In the last two days the Islamic State gave up some 15 villages in Al-Qamishli district in eastern Syria. It offered the Al-Bab border crossing with Turkey in northeast Aleppo governate and the Qweiris military airport east of Aleppo to the local Islamist group Jamat Ansar-eddine. It pulled its forces out of Jarabulus next to Turkey and out of Ayn Issa and Sarrin. All these positions were on the most northern and most western positions in Syria under Islamic State control. These are all quite strategic positions but the Islamic State no longer has the resources to hold onto them. It had paid quite some blood to gain these position but now has to give them up without a fight.

All these moves may be because IS wants to consolidate and concentrate forces for a new attack against maybe Jordan or Saudi Arabia but my hunch is that its material capabilities are now in serious decline and that the Islamic State is no longer able to project and supply large forces and heavy equipment over longer distances.

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (34)

February 07, 2015

More War In Ukraine Needed So Lindsey Graham Can "Feel Better"


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There was a lot of stupid talk today at the Munich Security Conference where U.S. hawks are trying to instigate a big war in Europe. Such war would result in a lot of destruction in Europe but the U.S., secured by oceans, would hardly be touched. Especially in the current deflationary environment the destruction of European production capacity would be to the economic advantage of the United States.

The U.S. hawks (and their European puppets) want to deliver more weapons to Ukraine, they want to instigate Russia to harsher reactions to their coup in Kiev and they want to strongly escalate the situation there. That is not in Europe's interest.

The U.S. commander of NATO Breedlove's talk of the "military option" in Ukraine is dangerous nonsense. But even more nonsense came today in Munich from Senator Lindsey Graham, a member of the Senate Committee on Armed Services. He is, together with John McCain and the lunatic editorial boards of the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, one of the loudest voices screaming for more war.

Graham has problems justifying any escalation. He admits that pushing more weapons into the Ukraine would not change much. But he says it would make him "feel better". Now that is really good reason to escalate a war? You can see and hear him saying that at 33:40 in this video:

I don’t know how this will end if you give [Ukraine] defensive capability. But I know this: I will feel better because when my nation was needed to stand up to the garbage and to stand by freedom I stood by freedom. They may die, they may lose ...

More war, more death, more destruction so Lindsey Graham "will feel better"? And that is supposed to be a good reason for war?

I doubt that Graham meant that seriously. It is simply his usual neocon sales-talk for more war and while such talk works in certain segments of the U.S. public it is unlikely to win him any following in Europe.

Fortunately some leading figures in Europe have at last recognized what the U.S. wants to do and are now strongly pushing back. The German chancellor Merkel said several times, including today, that "there is no military solution" to the problem and that the only way to go is through negotiations. She, together with the French president Hollande, is just back from long negotiations in Kiev and Moscow. The renewed Minsk agreement they talked about would freeze the war at the current front line and give the eastern parts of Ukraine autonomy.

Moscow would likely agree to that. But it seems that Kiev is the bigger problem because the Ukrainian president Poroshenko is unwilling to adopt the Minsk agreement for a ceasefire to his loosing positions on the actual battlefield. He also spoke out against autonomy for the east or a federalization of the Ukraine. He probably fears to be kicked out of office in another coup if he agrees to compromise. The Ukrainian prime minister Yatsenyuk, the puppet of the U.S. neocons, is an even stronger hawk and could be the one Victoria Nuland wants to use to replace Poroshenko.

The picture above, taken at a side meeting in Munich today, is quite symbolic. Poroshenko is sitting next to Biden and Kerry and the German government, Merkel and Steinmeier, are sitting at the opposite side of the table. It is obvious who's puppet Poroshenko is.

Hollande made clear today that the position Kiev, and the U.S. behind it, hold is the one he does not agree with:

French President Francois Hollande called for “quite strong” autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions while speaking on France 2 TV.
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The French President also revealed part of the joint document under negotiation between Berlin, Moscow, Paris and Kiev. He said it will feature a 50- to 70-kilometer demilitarized zone on each side of the current line dividing militia-held and Kiev-controlled territories.

The Ukraine is bankrupt, loosing militarily and no amount of "defensive" weapons (which are of course also offensive ones) would change the power relations in the field. The U.S. attempt to push Europe into a wider war has for now failed but it is unlikely that this was the last one. The government in Kiev will have agree to the compromise Merkel and Hollande are pressing for or it will lose even more soldiers, land and money.

Posted by b at 01:49 PM | Comments (146)

February 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-07

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (99)

February 05, 2015

U.S. Pushes For War In Europe

Updated below

It is pretty obvious that significant forces in Washington push for a big war in Europe, cold at least but hot if possible. European countries, aside from some small U.S. puppets, are well aware that they would be hit hard in such a war, and do not want it.

The U.S. wants to deliver additional weapons to Ukraine and to thereby goad Russia into such a wider war. The arguments made that such weapon delivers would somehow restrict Russia are just stupid and only hide the real plans: Escalation until Europe is (again) up in flames.

There is full steam lobbying by the U.S. to widen the conflict in Ukraine which it instigated in the first place:

As President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Pentagon said Wednesday he’s inclined to support lethal weapons transfers, Ukraine’s president said he was confident the U.S. would do so. Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were flying to discuss Ukraine and other issues with allies in Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is due to follow them Thursday.

France, the U.K., Germany and other Europeans have spoken out against any such weapon deliveries and the escalation they bring.

Kerry has flown to Kiev today to push for the Ukraine puppets into escalation. Merkel and Hollande will also fly to Kiev and will hopefully try to convince Poroshenko to deescalate and to make peace with the federalists in east-Ukraine. I have my doubts about their independence though and it may be that their appearance is is just part of the show. Why else did they agree to NATO's increase in capacities and infrastructure in east Europe?

The solution for the Ukraine is simple. Federalization, official acceptance of the Russian language which is spoken in the East and democratic elections of local governors. These have been the demands in the east and these have been solutions even U.S. foreign policy luminaries urged to accept a year ago.

The Ukraine is bankrupt. This morning its currency lost 30% in just a few hours. Instead of further instigating a civil war and pushing for its escalation it is urgently time to discuss how that problem can be solved. The solution can not be waging war and permanent subsidization of Europe's most corrupt country.

Federalization and constitutional reform (i.e. Point 3 Decentralization of power ...) are a major point agreed upon by both sides in the Minsk protocol about a ceasefire in east-Ukraine. But despite insisting on other points of the agreement himself Poroshenko still rejects those most important agreed upon conditions.

Should the U.S. win in its drive to escalate the situation by delivering more weapons to Kiev Russia will not cave in. History suggest that a Ukraine under NATO at its border is a deadly danger. Russia must and will take countermeasures. The U.S. will then cite those countermeasures as signs of "further aggression" and as justification for another round of escalation. A few more rounds of such and Europe will be up in flames.

That would be good for the U.S. economy but terrible for the Ukraine and Europe.

Update Funny. What "important" people are told:

Cont. reading: U.S. Pushes For War In Europe

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (145)

February 04, 2015

CNBC Uses Daft Economic "Logic" To Spred Anti-Venezuelan Propaganda

This anti-Venzuela propaganda segment by CNBC doesn't even get basic economics right:

For many countries, cheaper oil is helping boost economic growth. But if you're a struggling Caribbean nation dependent on energy subsidies from Venezuela, the crash in oil prices is not welcome news.
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[The fall in oil prices] has also jeopardized generous financing terms extended to more than a dozen Caribbean nations that rely on Venezuelan oil to fuel their own economies.

Venezuela launched the so-called Petrocaribe accord in 2005 as it sought to become a low-cost energy provider and win political favor among small island economies heavily reliant on oil imports. But as oil prices have fallen, Venezuela's energy blessing has turned to something of a curse.
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Under the terms of the Petrocaribe agreement, the drop in oil prices has—paradoxically—raised members' oil import costs. That's because, as crude prices fall, they lose access to extremely generous financing terms that amount to subsidies.

When oil was over $100 a barrel, Petrocaribe member countries paid just 40 percent of the upfront costs, and Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, covered the rest of the expense with a low interest rate loan payable over 25 years. Some have also paid their oil bills with bartered agricultural products or services.

The extra cash from deferred payments helped some countries finance infrastructure projects and other spending programs.

But those finance terms become much less generous as the price of oil falls, forcing member countries to pay more upfront, with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel, according to RBC economist Marla Dukharan.

Lets unwrap that with an example.

When oil was at $100 per barrel the Caribbean countries paid $40 in cash plus $60 in deferred payments which were spread over 25 years.

When oil is at $50 per barrel the Caribbean countries pay $40 in cash plus $10 in deferred payments which are spread over 25 years. The money they will owe to Venezuela and will have to pay is less than it was at higher oil prices. That is certainly very good for them.

Now how is that "not welcome news"?

How has that "jeopardized generous financing terms"?

How has that "turned to something of a curse"?

How are they now to "lose access to extremely generous financing terms"?

Venezuela did not simply hand out money. It granted vendor loans bound to the purchase of its product. Not having to take out additional loans because the product is cheaper now is not losing "extremely generous financing terms" because those terms were never available for anything else.

It is unclear from the piece how the financial amateurs at CNBC got their crazy ideas and claims.

They provide a link to the RBC "analysis", written in November, which says:

PetroCaribe member countries "pay 40 per cent upfront when the price is over US$100 per barrel; 50 per cent upfront when the price is between US$80-100 per barrel; 60 per cent upfront when the price is between US$50-80 per barrel; and full payment upfront when the price is below US$50 per barrel.

So its full payment starting at $50/bl and CNBC got it wrong when it wrote "with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel". The CNBC writers are obviously unable to correctly copy from the sources they linked to.

Now looking at the RBC numbers CNBC was unable to copy and paste some economically ignorant people, like those CNBC folks, might argue that the $40 upfront at above $100/bl is less than the $50 upfront at a $50/bl price. But at a price of $40/bl the cash payment would be again the same as at $100/bl. To argue from one extreme price-point when there are ranges is wrong. But that $50 cash versus $40 cash argument is also incorrect as the $40 at a $100/bl price is not the total payment. When one includes the cost to pay off a $60 per barrel loan including the interest at a $100/bl price the $10/bl additional cash payment at $50/bl will be a lot cheaper. 

At the end of the CNBC piece we get to know who likely came up with the whole stupid argumentation (and also why):

With the future of Venezuelan oil sales in doubt, the White House last month invited Petrocaribe countries to Washington for a Caribbean Energy Security Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden.
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Over the weekend, Maduro claimed in a televised address that Biden had tried to foment the overthrow of his socialist government during the Caribbean energy summit. Maduro claimed that Biden told the Caribbean leaders that the Venezuelan government's days were numbered and it was time they abandon their support, a claim Biden's office dismissed.

Why would anyone think that the "future of Venezuelan oil sales" to the Caribbean countries is "in doubt"? It is not as long as the dully elected government of Venezuela is in its place.

But should the U.S. be successful with its current, renewed (pdf) "regime change" attempts in Venezuela the Petrocaribe scheme would likely be in jeopardy. As the leaders of the Caribbean countries are certainly smarter than the CNBC writers they will know that the Petrocaribe deal is incredibly good for them.

Why Biden believes that he can convince the Caribbean countries otherwise is beyond me.

Posted by b at 12:02 PM | Comments (40)

February 03, 2015

AFP: Calling Americans "A Great People" Is "Anti-American"

This, by AFP, is one of the most misleading propaganda efforts I have ever seen.

The headline:

Ukraine run by 'miserable' Jews: rebel chief

80% of the readers will not read more than that headline.

The first paragraph:

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country's leaders "miserable" Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.

Of those 20% of the readers who will read the first paragraph only one forth will also read the second one. The "anti-semitic" accusation has thereby been planted in 95% of the readership. Now here is the second paragraph:

Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were "miserable representatives of the great Jewish people".

Saying that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were "miserable representatives of the great American people" would be "anti-American"? What is anti-semitic in calling "the Jewish people" "great"?

The AFP reporter and editor who put that up deserve an Orwellian reward. It is one of the most misleading quotations I have ever seen. Accusing Zakharchenko of anti-semitism when he is actually lauding Jews.

Now I do not agree with Zakharchenko. There is no such thing as "the Jewish people" in the sense of a racial or national determination. There are people of various nationalities and racial heritages who assert that they follow, or their ancestors followed, religious Jewish believes. Some of them may have been or are "great". But that does not make them "the Jewish people" just like followers of Scientology do not make "the Scientologish people".

Posted by b at 06:51 AM | Comments (83)

February 02, 2015

Financial Warfare As The New Regime Change Instrument

Just two weeks ago some idiot published this on "War Is Boring":

After six years of massive expenditures and lurid propaganda, on Jan. 9 Tehran shut down its troubled space program. The unceremonious cancellation occurred without notice in the Iranian press.

Authorities are spreading the space agency’s manpower and assets across four ministries including the telecoms ministry and the ministry of defense.

That story was likely planted to instigate some riffs within Iranian politics. That did not work well. Here is notice in the Iranian press:

Tehran, Feb 2, IRNA - Manager of Electronic Industries Space Projects Mehdi Sarvi on Monday declared that Fajr satellite has established its contact with ground station, hours after it was launched and put into the orbit.
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During the ceremony, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said the project was accomplished only thanks to the sincere endeavors of the Iranian scientists.

Developed by indigenous technology and know-how, he noted, the satellite which is called 'Fajr' indicated the high capabilities of Iran's satellite-carriers.
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The minister referred to the chance to develop and design a new generation of satellite-carriers and also enter the world market of space services, using domestic potential and planning complicated space missions as some of the achievements of the project.

Congrats to Iran for this successful launch.

The above just demonstrates again that one can not trust any "news" on countries not liked by Washington. Consider this headline by NBC: Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Gets 5 Years in Venezuelan Nuclear Bomb Plot. A headline fitting the story would be something like "Crazy old scientist falls for FBI sting". The story has nothing to do with Venezuela and the whole "nuclear bomb" stuff was just phantasies an FBI agent used to entrap some poor old person. But Venezuela is on Washington's shit list and the CIA is currently busy instigating another coup against the elected Venezuelan government.

The CIA and the State Department are also involved in instigating the current demonstrations in Hungary. Another attack on an elected government that does not walk the line the U.S. administration orders it to walk. Next in line is likely the new government of Greece.

But instigating color revolutions, protests and coups is often not enough to destroy a government that the U.S. dislikes. In a recent interview Alastair Crooke points to the newest weapon in Washington's regime change arsenal - financial warfare:

The International Order depends more on control by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve than on the UN as before.

It started principally with Iran and it has been developed subsequently. In a book, “Treasury's War,” the tool of exclusion from the dollar-denominated global financial system is described as a “neutron bomb.” When a country is to be isolated, a "scarlet letter" is issued by the US Treasury that asserts that such-and-such bank is somehow suspected of being linked to a terrorist movement -- or of being involved in money laundering. The author of "Treasury's War" [Juan Zarate], who was the chief architect of modern financial warfare and a former senior Treasury and White House official, says this scarlet letter constitutes a more potent bomb than any military weapon.

This system of reliance on dollar hegemony no longer requires American dependency on the UN and hands control to the US Treasury overseen by Steve Cohen -- a reflection of the fact that the military tools have become less available to the US administration, for domestic political reasons.

Crooke believes that the drop in the Russian ruble a few weeks ago was engineered by the U.S. Treasury. He is not completely right though about David S. Cohen, the U.S.Treasury man who has implemented the financial warfare instruments against Iran and Russia. That man is no longer with the U.S. Treasury but is the new number 2 in the CIA. That tells you all you need to know about the intensity with which the U.S. plans to use these new weapons.

Any country that does not do do what Washington wants is now threatened with financial ruin. China and Russia are preparing defenses against such a threat but smaller countries have little chances to escape such attacks.

The media though will not delve into that. Should some country's economy drown (see Venezuela) because of U.S. financial marked manipulations all blame will be put on the foreign government and its "irresponsible economic policies" and the media will again call for and support "regime change".

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (41)

February 01, 2015

Open Thread 2015-06

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:56 PM | Comments (158)

January 31, 2015

Some Questions On Today's Mughniyah Stories

In the Washington Post Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima report today on the 2008 death of Hizbullah operator Imad Mughniyah.

On the same day Jeff Stein reports the same story for Newsweek. There are some differences in the details.

Mughniyah died from a tire blowout on a spare tire. The tire was filled with C4 explosives and metal balls and exploded at the back of a Toyota 4wd when Mughniyah walked past.

So far it had been assumed that the assassination had been a Mossad plot but the "news" in the story, based on "former U.S. intelligence officials", is that the CIA was heavily involved and that Bush gave the order to kill Mughniyah.

Two Israeli reporters, sometimes disseminators for Mossad phantasies, add some not so important bits.

The main difference between the two main stories, important in its legal aspect, is in who pressed the button. The Washington Post version:

The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

The Newsweek version:

The kill was made all the harder by the way the bomb would be detonated. There was a two-second delay from the time the CIA and Mossad agents in the lookout post pushed the button to when the bomb exploded. Under the plan, the Mossad agent would ID Mugniyah, and the CIA man would press the remote control.
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Finally, on the night of February 12, 2008, after two months of round-the-clock surveillance, they caught Mugniyah alone.

“They made a positive ID. Click. One, one thousand; two, one thousand...ka-boom.

So in the Neweek version some CIA guy is guilty of murder while in the Washington Post version somebody in Tel Aviv should be hanged for it.

According to Elijah J. Magnier, who in 2008 reported the story from the Syrian side, the Newsweek version is the more correct one. Magnier also had some additional details in his tweets today.

But aside from the content of the story, which I do not believe to be really relevant, there are questions that could need some answers:

Why is the Washington Post "dumping" the story into the Friday evening/Saturday morning news hole? Usually such a story would be published Saturday evening/Sunday morning thereby and fetch some time on the Sunday shows.

Why is the story coming out now? Has it to do with the spat between Obama and Netanyahoo? Is it a diversion from Israel's recent loss against Hizbullah? Has it to do with the U.S. negotiations with Iran?

The story was obviously ready for some time to be put out by two competing papers. Both were likely waiting for a go from their sources to publish it. Why was the "go" given now? By whom?

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (48)

January 30, 2015

Obama's Advice: "Do Not Trust My Public Words"

The Hill Jan 29 2015

Obama to Dems: 'Get informed, not by reading the Huffington Post'

PHILADELPHIA – President Obama on Thursday asked wary House Democrats to hold their fire while the administration negotiates several trade deals opposed by scores of liberal lawmakers.

“Keep your powder a little dry,” he told the Democrats assembled here for an annual retreat, according to a source in the closed-door session.

"Get informed," Obama also advised, "not by reading The Huffington Post."

What Obama meant to say was "Don't read the shit I write at the Huffington Post. It has nothing to do with my real plans."

Huffington Post Jan 29 2015

A Blueprint for Middle-Class Economics


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I agree with Obama's advice. Do not read what he (lets) write for the public. Those claims are all wrong. Those words are lies. He is very likely to plan and do something very different from what he says. Do not trust him. Especially when he publicly opens his mouth.

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (33)

January 29, 2015

Libya - Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Again Hold A Public Office

Today's must read: Exclusive: Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war

Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The tapes, reviewed by The Washington Times and authenticated by the participants, chronicle U.S. officials' unfiltered conversations with Col. Moammar Gadhafi's son and a top Libyan leader, including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community's concerns.
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Instead of relying on the Defense Department or the intelligence community for analysis, officials told The Times, the White House trusted Mrs. Clinton's charge, which was then supported by Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and National Security Council member Samantha Power, as reason enough for war.

Clinton is still laughing at that (vid): "We came, we saw, he died. Hahahahahaha ..."

I doubt that this was the last laugh on this issue.

Posted by b at 01:26 PM | Comments (85)

January 28, 2015

Lebanon, Syria: The Resistance Strikes Back

Around noon local time today Hizbullah attacked an Israeli military convoy in the occupied Sheeba farm area. Hizbullah released a statement claiming to have hit several Israeli vehicles with Kornet anti-tank missiles. The statement was labeled as "No. 1". Hizbullah obviously expects the situation to further escalate and to release further statements. It claims that the attack killed several Israeli soldiers. Israel's censors have so far not revealed the number of casualties on its side.

Last week Israel attacked a convoy in the Golan area in Syria killing Hizbullah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops including high ranking officers. The UN declared that the attack was in breach of the 40 year old armistice between Syria and Israel. Before the attack the general situation in the Golan had calmed down. After the unprovoked attack Hizbullah and Iran threatened to respond. But Israel was not deterred.

Yesterday two un-aimed rockets were fired from the Syrian side of the Golan demarcation line, probably by Syrian Fee Army or Jabhat al-Nusra fighters which partially occupy the Syrian side and receive logistic and armed help from Israel. The rockets fell into open field and left no damage. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire on a Syrian army headquarter. Its twisted logic says that any attack on the Israeli side from Syria, even when done by Israel supported insurgents, is the responsibility of the Syrian army.

Tonight Israel again escalated the situation with an airforce attack on a Syrian army position in the Golan. Today's attack on the Israeli convoy is the (deserved) response for the various Israeli peace violations.

Israel responded to today's attack by firing some 30+ missiles and artillery rounds into Lebanon. One Spanish UN peacekeeper was killed when the well known UN position was hit by Israeli fire.

Hizbullah's intention is to re-introduce "rules of the game" and to deter any further Israeli attacks on Syria and Lebanon. It will take some serious damage and casualties on the Israeli side before Netayahoo, currently attempting to get reelected,  will accept such.

Posted by b at 06:40 AM | Comments (76)

January 27, 2015

Syria: IS Gives Up On Kobani, U.S. Rehabilitates Assad

The Islamic State has finally given up its attack on the Kurdish-Syrian town Kobani on the border to Turkey. It took 18 weeks to understand what deadly game the U.S. was playing there.

After pressuring Turkey the US. had inserted Kurdish fighters and forward air controllers (FACs) into the besieged city. These sucked Islamic State fighters into position where the FACs could observe them and direct U.S. air attacks onto them.

The tactic was used sparsely but that is what it made valuable. The Islamic State fighters fell for it again and again. One wave of reserves after the other was sucked into observable positions and destroyed. During four and a half month some 600 air-strikes killed about 1,400 Islamic State fighters around Kobani including high ranking commanders, important scholars and many foreigners. 600 air strikes during such a long time frame is a low number. During the 2006 Lebanon war the Israeli air force flew about as many strikes per day. But that low number deceived the Islamic State and let it believe that it could win a fight which in reality turned out to be a meat grinder.

The campaign is an important loss for the Islamic State because it shows that it is not invincible and can be defeated in a combined air and ground campaign when its fighters are attacking fixed targets. But this tactic will only work when the Islamic State army is out in the open, at the end of its logistic chain and attacking an buildup area that allows for decent defense. To dislodge the Islamic State when it itself is holding a town or city, like Mosul, will be more difficult.

Meanwhile a propaganda campaign in the U.S. media was launched to rehabilitate the Syrian president Bashar Assad. On January 19 the NYT propagandist Anna Barnard pointed to a (yet hardly observable) shift in the U.S. position towards the Syria war. On January 22 Leslie Gelb, Former chair of the influential Council of Foreign Relations, called for a deal with Assad. Gelb also pointed out that the Liberal Interventionists and Neocons in Obama's administration are still against cooperation with the Syrian establishment while the military seems to agree to such. Four days later a NYT editorial remarked on shifting realities in Syria:

[T]he greater threat now is not Mr. Assad but the Islamic State, especially if it continues to expand in Syria, entices more foreign fighters into its ranks and uses its territory to launch attacks on the West. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, which does research for the government, says the collapse of the Assad regime, while unlikely now, would be the “worst possible outcome” for American interests — depriving Syria of its remaining state institutions and creating more space for the Islamic State and other extremists to spread mayhem.

Yesterday Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council of Foreign Relations, published an interview with President Bashar Assad. In it Assad formal offers cooperation by the Syrian army with the U.S. air-force to defeat the Islamic State. He urges to put pressure on the Turkish government which allows the supplies and additional manpower for the Islamic State to cross its borders. Erdogan, Assad says, is "fanatical".

Interestingly I find nothing mentioned against Jordan and the U.S. puppet ruling it in the Assad interview. Jordan like Turkey supports Syrian insurgents including al-Qaeda in Syria in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra in their attacks in Syria. Does Assad believe that cooperating with the U.S. would take Jordan, and the southern campaign directed at Damascus, out of the game?

The southern campaign, also supported by Israel which Assad called al-Qaeda's air-force, announced a victory yesterday when it claimed to have taken out the Syrian's army brigade 82 in Sheik Miskin. Jabhat al-Nusra as well as the Fee Syrian army claimed to have won that battle. But it soon turned out that only the little defended brigade headquarter buildings were taken by them and that the brigade's fighting battalions and their weapons, stationed elsewhere, were not affected.

Comments to the various Assad rehabilitation pieces show that a lot of people in the "west" support cooperation with the Syrian government. The current spat between the White House and the Israeli premier Netanyahoo allow for a more lenient U.S. position toward Syria and helps push back Israeli wishes to destroy it. The fight in Kobani has shown that such cooperation with reliable boots on the ground is necessary and effective in defeating the Takfiris. The moment is right for a U.S. turn towards a reliable cooperation with Syria and with its president Bashar al-Assad.

Posted by b at 04:59 AM | Comments (74)

January 26, 2015

Should Syriza's Choose The Soft Or The Hard Path?

So Syriza won in Greece. It formed a new government in coalition with the small, rightwing Independent Greece party. Before the election Syriza announced a program that would have Greece stay in the Euro but renegotiate conditions for loans.

I hope that was a ploy. Yves Smith describes the difficulties with Syriza's soft path:

The nut of that problem, as we will see, is that while may be a very estimable-sounding position, it may not be as pragmatic as it appears. Greece likely has better odds of winning concessions if it is less reasonable, since the Germans and the even more implacable Fins are convinced that the periphery countries are immoral beggars who deserve to be ground into the dust if they cannot or will not pay their debts. Greece is unlikely to be able to shake the perception in the North that they have the upper hand and can force Greece to heel, giving at most only fairly minor concessions.

Greece’s best hope is if it there is an upsurge in popularity of other anti-austerity and anti-Eurozone parties in the rest of Europe. And they are more likely to rally support in the rest of the Eurozone if they take bold positions rather than careful, studied ones. And even then, that may not be enough for them to resolve the deep-seated problems they face. It isn’t simply that they face a very difficult challenge politically vis-a-vis the Troika, but that even if they get most of what they want, their policies do not look likely to generate enough demand to pull Greece out of its ditch.

Like Ian Welsh I would argue for Greece to take a harder course, at least during negotiations and, if those fail, to really walk the walk:

Greek debt is at a level which is effectively impossible to pay off and has been made much, much worse by all the “aid packages” and “bailouts” given by their “fellow” Europeans. (Aka. they should have defaulted years ago.)

As for the Euro, Greece can’t print it, and Greece will need to print money.

I worry that Syriza is serious about negotiating on the debt. There is essentially no chance the Troika (well, really, Germany) will give them acceptable terms on a writedown. Negotiations should be intended only to go on long enough to demonstrate that a good deal is not possible. While they are ongoing, the Greeks should be preparing for Grexit and repatriating all the resources they can.

Greece would become another pariah of the "western" world and Ian, correctly in my view, thinks that is a position in which it is not alone and which can be used to Greece's favor:

The media is playing this as an anti-austerity vote, and it is. But voting anti-austerity for a country like Greece which can’t feed itself, has no oil, and doesn’t have a lot of industry, is one thing: not being austere is another. If the Greeks want a decent life again, they will have to take on some of the most powerful nations in the world and at least fight to a draw.

Many nations are in the same boat as Greece is: Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Argentina. Greece needs to make the necessary alliances with such countries and it needs to align with the rising Chinese block.

Doing this requires a psychological step that Greeks may be unwilling to take: a recognition that their interests do not lie with Europe; an understanding that Europeans are willing to see them impoverished, homeless and dead. Greeks who are living in the past and think the EU is about prosperity for everyone in the EU need to learn otherwise.

Syriza might go the more radical path. If not it is likely to fail and then the door will be open for the hard right to take power and to start wars to divert the attention from the ever falling economy.

Posted by b at 12:29 PM | Comments (125)

January 25, 2015

Open Thread 2015-05

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:43 PM | Comments (189)

January 24, 2015

Fox News(!) Says Israel Wants To Wipe Iran Off The Face Of The Earth

Fox News, the rightwing Rupert Murdock TV station, finally gets it:

The Israelian leaders talk about wiping Iran off the face of the earth"

Yep, that's right. Fox News is finally talking truth. It is the Israeli leaders who want to destroy Iran. It is not the other way around as the Israel lobby always claims.

The revelation comes from Fox News White House correspondent Chris Wallace at 3:35min (vid) in a discussion with Fox News anchor Shephard Smith about Netanyahoo's "invitation" to speak to Congress which was issued by the Republican speaker without the White House's knowledge.

Fox News is bashing Natanyahoo for the invite and the quote above is the topping on the ice cream.

Fox News defending Obama against Netanyahoo? Fox News explaining that Israel wants to destroy Iran? A moment ago I would have thought that impossible. What happened?

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (32)

Wondering About Today's Mariupol Attack

Today some barrage of Grad rockets was fired on an eastern suburb of Mariupol, a city in the south east of Ukraine and in the hands of the Ukrainian government. The 400,000 strong population of the city is believed to be in favor of the federalists fighting against the Ukrainian coup government. Last year it overwhelmingly voted (vid) to leave Ukraine. Some 30 people, all civilians, died in today's attack. There was no military target nearby. Whodunnit?

In September 2014 Hromadske TV, a new Ukrainian TV station financed by George Soros and the U.S. government, interviewed (vid) a former Ukrainian general Colonel General Vladimir Ruban. According to the provided translation he lauds the Ukrainian artillery which at that time shelled Donetsk from the airport but says that this just welds the people in Donetsk together. "They understand they are being shot at. It's one thing if attack groups or any mobile mortar troops drive through the city and shoot because you could say that this is just a sort of provocation by a third party. But if the artillery units fired from the airport then no one can claim that the separatists shoot themselves."

Two days ago a mortar attack on a bus in federalist held Donetsk which killed 13 people was likely done from within the federalists held city. While the Ukrainian government claimed that the federalists had themselves shelled the city they hold this seems quite unlikely to me. The Russia supported federalist later claimed that ten groups of Ukrainian partisans had infiltrated the city and that eight of those had been caught. This would fit the operational design earlier laid out by the former general.

Today's attack on Mariupol has no discernible military purpose. It makes absolutely no sense for the federalists to shell civilians in a city that is believed to be favorable to them. There is no clear evidence from where the shells were coming. The Ukrainian government claims the federalists did it while the federalists said they have no artillery nearby that could have reached the city and blame the coup government for the attack.

Today's attack is already used by hardliners to call for more European sanctions against Russia. Such sanctions would have no effect on Russia's position and are to the disadvantage of Europe. Only the U.S. and other hardliners who want a wider conflict with Russia would benefit form these.

In light of the mindset demonstrated by the former general and after the attack in Donetsk I tend to believe that this attack was a planned provocation by the Ukrainian side.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (194)

January 23, 2015

Saudi Arabia: The Monster Is Dead, May The New Monster Die Soon

The obituaries of mainstream U.S. media and "western" politicians on the Saudi King Abdullah are laughingly sycophantic:

A master politician, he gained a reputation as a reformer without changing his country’s power structure and maintained good relations with the United States while striking an independent course in foreign policy.

The Post closed its comment section on the obit to not be called out for its bootlicking. How much did the Saudis pay for this coverage? For a realistic view on the now dead monster read the Guardian obit: Monarch whose reign saw the spread of division, corruption and strife, and was saved only by ‘black gold’. The deceased left dozens of wives, tens of kids and ten-thousands of terrorists behind him.

The new king Salman, a fervent Wahabbi who has Alzheimer and is unlikely to rule for long, immediately launched an internal coup to further empower his branch of the tribal family:

Salman moved swiftly to undo the work of his half-brother. He decided not to change his crown prince Megren, who was picked by King Abdullah for him, but he may choose to deal with him later. However, he swiftly appointed another leading figure from the Sudairi clan. Mohammed Bin Nayef, the interior minister is to be his deputy crown prince. It is no secret that Abdullah wanted his son Meteb for that position, but now he is out.

More significantly, Salman, himself a Sudairi, attempted to secure the second generation by giving his 35- year old son Mohammed the powerful fiefdom of the defense ministry. The second post Mohammed got was arguably more important. He is now general secretary of the Royal Court. All these changes were announced before Abdullah was even buried.

There will likely be some resistance and strife within the Saudi ruling family about these changes. The smooth transfer of power today may turn out to be the start of rather chaotic developments.

No country deserves the troubles of a revolution more than Saudi Arabia does. Its combination of extreme archaic interpretation of religion and tons of oil money has proven to be dangerous for mankind. An uproar in Arabia could, in the short term, lead to even more repressive and backward religious regime. But such would at least stop the ass-licking and support "western" politicians offer to it.

Posted by b at 11:01 AM | Comments (29)

January 22, 2015

Ukraine: War In Kiev And Beyond?

Today the Ukrainian government finally admitted, three days after it happened, that it has lost its foothold at the Donetsk airport. Its position at the airport covered the artillery position the Ukrainian army has to the north-west of Donetsk. Those artillery units were shelling the federalist held city and the federalists attacked the airport to push them further away.

According to statistics provided to VICE News by the morgue, 157 casualties have been recorded in Donetsk since the beginning of January, with 119 of these occurring in the last two weeks.

It took quite a while but the federalist finally managed to capture the whole airport. Several counterattacks by the Ukrainian army were repelled and the counterattacking forces were destroyed.

Parts of the airport had been held for months by the "volunteer" right sector radicals that are now the "National Guard" of Ukraine. Their number three on the election list was captured by the federalists and their leader Dmytro Yarosh was wounded when he visited their airport position.

There is also some indecisive fighting further south near Mariupol and fighting in the north east near Lukhansk with the federalist making some slight advance. Still the general map has not changed much over the last months.

The Ukrainian army continues to mobilize and, with the help of some NATO members, is building up more forces. I doubt that whatever they come up with will have the motivation, training, equipment or leaders needed to be successful on the battlefield. Grandma's won't do. The soldiers on the other side have proven to be better in all aspects. Despite repeated claims form the Ukrainian government that 1,000, 2,000 or 9,000 Russian regular soldiers and hundreds of Russian tanks are fighting with the federalists none have been documented.

The Ukrainian army can not win a war against the federalist backed by Russia. The Ukrainian government is broke and will not get bailed out. Why is it still trying to wage war? My impression is that the U.S. is still pushing the Ukrainian government to continue its useless efforts to make any Europe-led ceasefire agreement with Russia null an void and to thereby keep the sanctions against Russia in place. Cold War 2.0 with proxy fighting in Ukraine is the U.S. plan to keep Russia from challenging its me-and-only-me-first global position.

The whole conflict seem to be based on more long-term plans:

American soldiers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin training four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said during his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.

The number of troops heading to the Yavoriv Training Area near the city of L'viv — which is about 40 miles from the Polish border — is still being determined, however.

Hmm. The Ukrainian National Guard mainly consists of the fascist units responsible for the Maidan fighting that led to the coup against the Ukrainian government. Lviv is the west Ukrainian capitol of the Ukrainian fascists. Why would the U.S. military train those units near Lviv when the regular Ukrainian army is also obviously in urgent need of training? Why train them in spring when the conflict, with some good will from both sides, could be over in a month or two?

Experience tells that whenever the U.S. announces official training will start then and there that unofficial training is already ongoing. I have zero doubt that some U.S. special forces, probably under the guise of "contractors", are already training semi-irregular Ukrainian units. As conventional warfare is unlike to help the Ukrainian government's cause those units may prepare for other means.

There are indeed signs that partisan warfare against the federalists is already happening. Today some mortars fired at civilian areas in Donetsk hit a bus and killed at least 13 people. Unlike regular artillery mortars are rather short ranged weapons. Those who fired them likely did so from inside the generally federalist held, but only lightly controlled areas. Also Alec Luhn, reporting for the Guardian from Donetsk, tweeted today:

Partisan war? Dnipro-1 battalion says pro-Ukraine partisans in Luhansk region blew up a train carrying coal to Russia http://nr2.com.ua/News/...

If what I suspect is happening, that Ukrainian government semi-regular units are waging a guerrilla campaign in federalist held regions, then the obvious response by the federalists will be the dispatch of similar units to Ukrainian government held areas. That means war in Kiev and beyond.

Posted by b at 12:26 PM | Comments (95)

January 21, 2015

SOTU: An Annual Monarchist Ritual To Acclaim U.S. Hypocrisy

From Obama's State of the Union remarks (via Micah Zenko):

... we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office ... while making sure that other nations play by the rules ...

The above fragments were both followed by applause.

---

Adding:

How foreigners perceive such nutty speech:

Russia's foreign minister says the United States wants to dominate global affairs and expects all others to bow to its supremacy.

He is right. See above.

Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Sergey Lavrov said that President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech reflected the U.S. aspirations to remain "the No. 1" power. He added that the United States will come to realize that such approach is unsustainable.

The reality that an uncooperative and unilateral U.S. can not achieve the aims it wants is slowly, slowly setting in. Currently Obama's foreign policy is blamed for the various U.S. foreign policy disasters (Yemen anyone? Ukraine?). But Obama's foreign policy is not really different from the one Bush and Carter followed and the next president will likely try the same foolish hypocritical paths.

The self-delusion of U.S. allmightiness has deep roots and it will take some near catastrophic events to rip it apart.

Posted by b at 09:11 AM | Comments (79)

January 20, 2015

Israel's Golan Attack Turns Heights Into An Active Resistance Zone

As response to the Israeli attack on the Iranian commander in Syria Iran and Hizbullah will open an active new front in Golan heights:

"The response will be firm and decisive.” This, in short, was the Iranian reaction to the Israeli attack in the Syrian province of Quneitra, which killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), among others. The Iranian reaction indicates the possibility of opening the Golan front, where work is underway to build the necessary infrastructure.
...
Islamic Shura Council head Hussein Sheikh al-Islam said that “the resistance will open the Golan front in response to the Zionist aggression, which was a grave miscalculation by this entity.”

“Without intelligence assistance from terrorist groups in Syria, the Zionist entity would not have managed to execute this operation,” the aim of which is “to please the extremist groups in the Zionist entity and serve electoral objectives.”

The terrorist groups Israel is cooperating with is mainly Jabhat al-Nusra the AlQaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Israeli hit on the high ranking Iranian and Hizbullah targets will have significant repercussions and Israel may have miscalculated the extend to which this will come true.

There are already feeble efforts by the Israel to avoid the consequences of its deed:

An Iranian general killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria was not its intended target and Israel believed it was attacking only low-ranking guerrillas, a senior security source said on Tuesday.

The remarks by the Israeli source, who declined to be identified because Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike, appeared aimed at containing any escalation with Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group.

"We did not target the general and, by the way, here is a well maintained bridge for sale."

In the 80s and 90s Israel tried to turn the south of Lebanon into a comfort zone for itself by supporting the rogue forces of the South Lebanese Army. Hizbullah was founded to counter that force and a few years later Israel and its mercenaries were thrown out of the country.

During the last two years Israel tried the same strategy on the Golan demarcation line with Syria organizing and supporting Free Syrian Army gangs and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists. Syria and Hizbullah had responded to this by fortifying position in the Golan and preparing defenses on the heights. Both had refrained from active attacks on that front.

But with the attack on the Iranian general and high Hizbullah commanders Israel has opened a new chapter and in reaction to that Hizbullah and Iran will turn the Golan heights into an open front of active combat against Israel. The game changed because Israel disregarded the established rules.

It will take time but the whole of Golan, just like south Lebanon before, will be an increasing unfriendly area for Israel and the cost to further hold on to it will over time become prohibitive.

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (121)

January 18, 2015

Netanyahoo Responds To Nasrallah Speech With Big Escalation

Update (Jan 19 2:00pm)

It turned out today that the highest rank killed and main target of the attack was not the Hizbullah special force commander in Syria and the other Hizbullah fighters but Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander in Syria General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi. The general was new to the job and will certainly soon be replaced.

While some Jabhat al-Nusra media claim that Jabhat was responsible for the attack the UN observer mission on the Golan height says it observed drones from Israel above the area of the attack. It added:

"This incident is a violation of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces."

Original post follows

Three days ago the leader of the Lebanese Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel against "stupid moves":

A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis,” which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah fighters in Syria are battling extremist groups in an attempt to thwart threats for Syria, Lebanon and the entire region.

Describing the fight in Syria as “existential,” he said the plot against the neighboring country targets the resistance and their intervention into Syria was in order to preserve the country as well as Lebanon.

"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.

"The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time," he warned.

Israel disregarded the warning. It today attacked a Hizbullah convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan heights and killed the Hizbullah commander in Syria as well as six other Hizbullah fighters. One of those killed today was Jihad Imad Mughniyeh the son of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh killed by Israeli agents a few years ago. The attack was carried out by missiles released from a helicopter within Israeli borders.

Two points about the attack:

Israel is supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, in the Syrian part of the Golan height. The attack on Hizbullah today must (also) be understood as direct Israeli support for Al-Qaeda.

How did Israel know where to hit? Either Hizbullah's communication security was lousy, or there is a(nother) spy in Hizbullah's ranks or this was pure luck. I do not believe that such a "success" is just pure luck. The missile attack points to exact knowledge of the position of the target which lets me believe that some opf those killed might have carried a known cell phone or some other electronic beacon.

Hizbullah reacted so far by immediately putting its forces at the Lebanese Israeli border on alarm while Israeli intensified its (illegal) overflights of Lebanese territory.

I do not doubt that Hizbullah will retaliate harshly for this attack. But it will do so on a timetable that fits its needs and capabilities. I therefore find an immediate response, though justified, not very likely. But I do expect an answer within the next two month before the general election in Israel.

Nasrallah's speech three days ago was relatively aggressive. Netanyahoo now challenged that by escalating the situation. He calculates that Hizbullah can not response effectively or not within a time frame that would endanger his election chances. That may well turn out to have been a huge mistake.

Posted by b at 02:18 PM | Comments (99)

January 17, 2015

Open Thread 2015-04

(Sorry, no post. A family emergency that requires some travel etc. keeps me busy.)

News & views ...

(..and pleaze behave ...)

Posted by b at 01:30 PM | Comments (218)

January 15, 2015

Open Thread 2015-03

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (113)

January 14, 2015

Liberté D´Expression?

Dieudonné arrested over Facebook post on Paris gunman

French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathised with one of the Paris gunmen, a judicial source has said.

Prosecutors had opened the case against him on Monday after he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday.

One wonders what "apologist for terrorism" may additionally include. When Hollande delivers weapons to terrorists in Syria isn't he also an "apologist for terrorism"?

Defending the racism of Charlie Hebdo is seen as heroic but criticizing Zionist racism in Israel is not allowed?

France now deploys 10,000 soldiers and 5,000 police to protect "Jewish sites". Meanwhile 26 places of worship for Muslims have been attacked and 34 have been threatened.

Liberté and égalité are supposed to be center tenets of France. They are now completely out of whack.

Posted by b at 12:11 PM | Comments (84)

January 12, 2015

No. The Islamic State Did Not Hack CENTCOM - Updated - Cui Bono?

Updated below

BBC: US Centcom Twitter account 'hacked by Islamic State'

US Central Command's Twitter and YouTube accounts have been hacked by a group claiming to back Islamic State.

One message said: "American soldiers, we are coming, watch your back."

It was signed by Isis, another name for the Islamic State. Some internal military documents also appeared on the Centcom Twitter feed.

US Centcom said it was taking "appropriate measures". The Twitter account was later taken down so no tweets could be viewed.

The hack happened as President Barack Obama was preparing a major speech on cybersecurity.

Several Centcom Twitter accounts and its Youtube channels were compromised and the "hackers" posted some military papers which are unclassified and available on the internet. The accounts are now suspended.

These "hackers" called themselves Cyber Caliphate, are already known and have a Twitter account @cybercaliphate but they used the acronym ISIS in a pastebin post on the Centcom "hack" to attach themselves to the Islamic State:

Pentagon networks hacked

AMERICAN SOLDIERS,
WE ARE COMING, WATCH YOUR BACK. ISIS. #CyberCaliphate


In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful, the CyberCaliphate under the auspices of ISIS continues its CyberJihad. While the US and its satellites kill our brothers in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan we broke into your networks and personal devices and know everything about you.
You'll see no mercy infidels. ISIS is already here, we are in your PCs, in each military base. With Allah's permission we are in CENTCOM now.. ...

The Islamic State and its real followers never use the acronym ISIS for Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In their mind the Islamic State is not confined to the borders of Iraq and Syria. It is universal and has no geographical limits. Any real follower of the Islamic State will know this.

The "hackers" also posted some photo depicting a view down the neckline of a voluptuous woman. Islamic State followers would not do such - at least not in any public representation. For them it is a sin to even view such a pic.

My conclusion is that these were some cyberpunks. Some media guy at Centcom was owned and revealed his password after some social fishing through an email. Or his iPhone was stolen and cracked. Or something similar. Some "hacker" had fun with that. A rather common and irrelevant incident. A fitting XKCD comic strip is here.

Or this "incident" was some military Information Operation to further Obama's attempts to introduce more extensive internet spying which he is likely to push for in next week's State of the Union speech.

It would fit to the false claim by the Obama administration that the Sony hack, likely done by former Sony employees, was somehow related to North Korea.

UPDATE (Jan 13 2:00am): See how well the "hack" works as an argument for Obama's new law which will indemnify private companies which hand over YOUR private data to the government.

A screenshot from the current Washington Post homepage:

Terror! Terror!! Terror!!! We have been hacked!!! Give us your data!

From that first piece:

President Obama plans to announce legislation Tuesday that would shield companies from lawsuits for sharing computer threat data with the government in an effort to prevent cyber­attacks.
...
The provision’s goal is to “enshrine in law liability protection for the private sector for them to share specific information — cyberthreat indicators — with the government,” the official said.

If this law passes, which currently looks likely, all data stored or passing through a private company will be available for the government to copy, to store forever and to sift through however it likes. This even when you never intended to make such data public.

Meanwhile the British government wants to legally ban all private and public encryption it can nor readily break:

Mr. Cameron, who has started to campaign ahead of a national election in Britain in May, said his government, if elected, would ban encrypted online communication tools that could potentially be used by terrorists if the country’s intelligence agencies were not given increased access. The reforms are part of new legislation that would force telecom operators and Internet services providers to store more data on people’s online activities, including social network messages.

Both proposals, Obama's and Cameron's, would be catastrophic for Internet freedom.

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (46)

January 11, 2015

Paris - A Photo-Op For the Hypocrites

Update: The New York Times is lying to its readers about the photo-op:

The world leaders — including President François Hollande of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain — joined the march in a solemn line. They moved slowly, clasping arms to show solidarity with the victims. The crowd roared in approval.
At various times, those in attendance burst into spontaneous applause and occasionally into “La Marseillaise,” the national anthem.

The NYT description is completely fake. As you can see below the crowd never had a chance to even see the "world leaders". They never joined the march. There was no crowd at the photo op to roar approval.

Original post follows

Many people marched in Paris to express solidarity with those killed in attacks there last week.

As often happens in big marches, a small, violent minority hijacked the event for their own twisted ends.

Cont. reading: Paris - A Photo-Op For the Hypocrites

Posted by b at 10:52 PM | Comments (137)

The Stench Of Hypocrisy

Thousands of people take part in silent march in Paris in remembrance of the victims of last weeks terror attacks in France. The attacks, by a bunch of criminals, were depicted as an assault on "free speech".

Unfortunately a bunch of hypocrites, invited by the French president Hollande, insisted on walking at the front of the march and to devalue the intended purpose. Many of these "leaders" sawed and saw terror in their own and other countries. As one Charlie Hebdo cartoonist says:

'We vomit on all these people who suddenly say they are our friends"

David Wickham documented the "free speech" credentials of these so called "leaders" who now compel the participants of the march to follow in the stench of their hypocrisy.

The right response to the attacks comes from the brother of the killed police officers Ahmed Merabet:

“My brother was Muslim and he was killed by two terrorists, by two false Muslims,” he said. “Islam is a religion of peace and love. As far as my brother’s death is concerned it was a waste. He was very proud of the name Ahmed Merabet, proud to represent the police and of defending the values of the Republic – liberty, equality, fraternity.”

Malek reminded France that the country faced a battle against extremism, not against its Muslim citizens. “I address myself now to all the racists, Islamophobes and antisemites. One must not confuse extremists with Muslims. Mad people have neither colour or religion,” he said.

“I want to make another point: don’t tar everybody with the same brush, don’t burn mosques – or synagogues. You are attacking people. It won’t bring our dead back and it won’t appease the families.”

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (88)

January 10, 2015

Some Additional Bits On The Hebdo Attack

On the Hebdo attack go read "Unmournable Bodies" by Teju Cole who seems to somewhat agree with my take.

It seems that the attackers were underclass French boys who, out of not finding much sense in their lives, jumped on the first ideology that came along and promised them meaning. They were only tangentially, if at all, related to the various fundamentalist AQ entities in the Middle East.

The whole political outrage over "free speech" in this case is completely made up. There is no "free speech" in France or elsewhere in Europe or in the U.S. Most states have blasphemy and lèse-majesty laws. Additionally social laws are effectively in place against other speech issues. Just try to make a few public point about the racist colonizations project of some east European in west Asia and see the reaction. Hebdo Charles itself fired one of its writers for alleged anti-semitism. A court ruled the writer was unlawfully terminated without a sane reason.

My personal position is that there is not, and should not be, an absolute right to "free speech". "Free speech" is often abused to provide cover for sawing strife within groups and nations and between them. Societies are, in my view, right to keep the most vile stuff within their frames of reference off limits.

Some people think that all Muslims should somehow responsible for the three lunatics in Paris and should apologize. Here (audio) is a really good response to such nonsensical requests.

Posted by b at 11:13 AM | Comments (179)

January 08, 2015

Open Thread 2015-02

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (219)

January 07, 2015

Charlie Hebdo - The Chickens Come Home To Roost

Twelve people, including two police, were killed in France when unknown gunmen attacked the office of the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo today.

Some forty people were killed in Saana, Yemen, today in a bomb attack on people who were hoping to enlist with the police. These forty people and the many more wounded in the attack will get much less headlines than those killed in France.

Videos (1, 2) from the attack in Paris show the attackers in black clothing and behaving as if they had at least some military training. They were armed with automatic weapons and, according to the police, with a rocket launcher. At least two attackers are still on the run. We do not yet know the motive of the attackers, but I consider the following more likely than a false flag attack.

In 2011 the magazine Charlie Hebdo was one of those that printed the Mohammed caricatures, a crude and insulting attempt to smear the prophet and all Muslim as terrorists. In 2012 the magazine continued the campaign depicting the prophet Mohammed as naked, attention seeking gnome.

Unlike U.S. "liberals" most of the world does not consider free speech as an absolute right. Indeed like screaming "fire" in a filled theater, insulting the believe of other people is likely to get you hurt in most parts of the world. To claim such insults should not matter is itself an insult in that it declares one culture, that of absolute free speech rights, to be superior to other values. It is indecent.

That the Charlie Hebdo satire was indecent and insulting does not justify the murderous attack, but explains the probable motivation of the attackers. It is deeply wrong to kill people for their speech. But it is also wrong to insult others for no good reasons, be it profit or "free speech" worship.

The attackers in Paris are believed to be militants who pretend to be true Muslims fighting for their believes. The state of France under its presidents Sarkozy and Hollande has empowered and supported such pretenders in their attacks on the people and governments of Libya and Syria. In Syria Jihadi fighters of the Islamic State and Jabhat al-Nusra are using U.S. supplied anti-tank missiles. A German air defense regiment is defending their areas of retreat in Turkey against Syrian government attacks. While it supports Jihadis in Syria France is now deploying an air craft carrier to the Persian Gulf to attack the Islamic State in Iraq. The last  point could also be the actual motive of today's attack.

The fundamentalists were cheered on by "western" politicians when they attacked civilians in Tripoli and Aleppo. When they attack in countries which cater to "western interests" or within "western" countries these attacks are seen as hostile and used to justify another lurch to the extreme right, to war and towards more totalitarian states.

Unless they push for saner, less aggressive policies the average people in the middle, no matter their believes, are the ones losing in this war.

Posted by b at 08:37 AM | Comments (283)

January 06, 2015

Wishing Back Ghaddafi

Libya is now split along tribal and religious lines with two governments claiming to rule the country. The war between them is also a proxy war between the Saudi and Qatari governments who finance the various warlords.

The economy of the richest African country before the "western" war against Libya is now in shambles and its bankruptcy in sight. The last airline connecting to Libya, Turkish Airlines, suspended all further flights.

While many "western" politicians were happy to take down Ghaddafi none of them are now willing to take responsibility for the consequences.

The plan seems to be to let the conflict "burn out" - that is to make enough Libyans kill each other until no one is left to fight. Those who then control the oil, under "western" supervision of course, will rule the country.

Was that the plan all along?

Posted by b at 12:28 PM | Comments (56)

January 04, 2015

Open Thread 2015-01

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:51 AM | Comments (105)

Children, Extremist Ideas And The British Establishment - Updated

Update

The Independent is on the same story the Telegraph has on noticing the authorities of toddler terrorism indoctrination. The presentation of the story makes it clear what the concerns are about.

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The caption to the picture reads:

Nursery school employees will have a duty to report young children who are at-risk of becoming terrorists under proposed new legislation

With nursery staff like those depicted the threat of terror toddlers may indeed come true. But can such staff be expected to report to authorities other than their Caliph?

Original post follows here

The British government has been taken over by lunacy reports the Telegraph:

Nursery school staff and registered childminders must report toddlers at risk of becoming terrorists, under counter-terrorism measures proposed by the Government.

The directive is contained in a 39-page consultation document issued by the Home Office in a bid to bolster its Prevent anti-terrorism plan.
...
The document accompanies the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill, currently before parliament. It identifies nurseries and early years childcare providers, along with schools and universities, as having a duty “to prevent people being drawn into terrorism”.

The consultation paper adds: “Senior management and governors should make sure that staff have training that gives them the knowledge and confidence to identify children at risk of being drawn into terrorism and challenge extremist ideas which can be used to legitimise terrorism and are shared by terrorist groups.

“They should know where and how to refer children and young people for further help.”

"Refer to further help ..." What might such "help" include? Some hints to such "help" may be disguised in some other Telegraph headlines:

A central registration for unruly young children "terrorists" might come in handy when the British establishment is looking for new material for its seemingly favorite pastime.

One wonders who came up with this idea ...

Posted by b at 11:45 AM | Comments (24)

January 02, 2015

Ukraine: "From the spirits that I called ..." - Part II

Published here on February 22 2014: Ukraine: "From the spirits that I called - Sir, deliver me!"

The opposition in the Ukraine and its paymasters in the U.S. and EU called up the spirits of the right, the fascist, to wage a coup against the elected president and to push their selfish objectives onto the Ukrainian public.

Now those spirits won't go away ...

Parts of the Ukraine will soon show signs of anarchy with those that protested and rioted without having any real aim moving towards criminal activities. The opposition, which is now empowered and will have to deliver results, will soon squabble and will again fall apart. The fascist forces, euphemistically called "nationalists" in "western" media, will win more power.

Those predictions have turned into reality and even those who arranged the coup against the legal government of Ukraine can no longer deny the dangers.

On Tuesday a member of the imperialists Atlantic Council wrote in the Washington Post about a "new threat" to Ukraine which is not Russia but are "independently operating warlords and armed groups"

[N]ow several of these units, especially those linked to oligarchs or the far right, are revealing a dark side. In recent months, they have threatened and kidnapped government officials, boasted that they will take power if Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko fails to defeat Russia, and they served as armed muscle in illegal attempts to take over businesses or seize local governments.

Yesterday thousand of fascists marched with torches (vid) in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities to remember the birth of the fascist mass murderer of Poles and Jews and Nazi collaborator Stephan Bandera. Those forces will not go away and they will drag Ukraine further to the right and further apart.

Goethe's sorcerer's apprentice marshaled the spirits to help clean the house. But he could not control them:

O, you ugly child of Hades!
The entire house will drown!
Everywhere I look, I see
water, water, running down.
Be you damned, old broom,
why won't you obey?
Be a stick once more,
please, I beg you, stay!

This spring and summer the fighting in east Ukraine will again flare up in earnest. The coup government in Kiev will likely falter and Ukrainian state will be declared bankrupt.

The Washington Post OpEd is the first glimpse of realization of these dangers. More will follow. It will be a rude awakening and after much gnashing of teeth the apprentices will call for help:

What a deluge! What a flood!
Lord and master, hear my call!
Ah, here comes the master!
I have need of Thee!
from the spirits that I called
Sir, deliver me!

As I wrote in the February piece:

The sorcerer's apprentices in Washington and Brussels will come to understand that they can not control the spirits they called upon. They will need to call the master to put the spirits they awoke back into their holes. The international number they will need to call starts with 007 495.

Anyone with a bit of knowledge about the social history of Ukraine could have predicted this. The Kremlin knew that this would happen and it warned of the dangers again and again.

It will be waiting for the call.

Posted by b at 03:49 AM | Comments (102)

December 31, 2014

Do Svidanya 2014

The most moving event to me in 2014 was the closing ceremony (vid, best parts of opening start here) of the Winter Olympics in Sochi.

Today we know that the stupid denigration of the Sochi Olympics in "western" propaganda media was part of the plan for the coup in Ukraine.

That illegal regime change was itself part of a bigger plan to restart a cold war, which will allow the U.S. to assert even more control over Europe, and eventually for regime change in Russia.

I am confident that in 2015 the non-poodle parts of Europe and Russia itself will assert themselves and block and counter the neo-imperial U.S. moves. As my Do Svidanya Sochi piece said:

The Russians will be very proud of these games. They will be grateful to their government and president for having delivered them. The internal and external message is understood: Russia has again found itself and it is stronger than ever.

The U.S. is ill informed about and underestimating Russia. Therein lies the possibility of serious miscalculations.

My hope for 2015 is that any miscalculations will be avoided and that peace will mostly prevail.

My very best wishes to all of you for a happy year 2015.

Posted by b at 12:19 PM | Comments (56)

Wither The Media - Part XXXIV

A so called serious paper, The Guardian, has one of its assistant editor's exploring this rather difficult question: How has Bismarck escaped most of the blame for the first world war?

Before we leave the centenary year of the outbreak of war in 1914 there’s someone we should talk about. Everyone now knows about the famous Christmas truce and football matches. But this was a war that was meant to have been “over by Christmas” 1914, not dragging on for four blood-soaked years. Plenty share blame for that, but one major culprit who seems to have been conspicuous by his absence in 2014 deserves a name check: Otto von Bismarck.

Duh. Really - how could we not blame Bismark for World War I?

Maybe because he was fired as German Reichskanzler in March 1890, twenty-four years before World War I started? Maybe because he died in July 1898, sixteen years before World War I started? Maybe because politics and social development changed in a rapidly industrializing Germany during that time? Maybe because the actual rulers at that time, like a somewhat crazy German Kaiser - held back by Bismarck before he left -, were the main culprits for that war?

Is it any wonder that people like me stopped regularly reading the Guardian? A paper that is now oscillating between blatant "western" propaganda themes and the most silly yellow journalism?

Next in The Guardian: "How Michael Jackson's moonwalk cause the rise of the Nazis and World War II" plus a tearful lament on how "Reader Atrophy Drives Papers' Demise".

Posted by b at 11:35 AM | Comments (30)

December 30, 2014

Obama Gambled, Lost U.S. Credibility On Cyber Claims

The Obama administration claims that North Korea was responsible for the Sony hack even though early analysis already pointed to an insider attack by a disgruntled former Sony employee.

The Obama claim is supported by some FBI mumble which includes a lot of conjecture but no real evidence. This FBI mumble, likely ordered by the White House, came after the FBI earlier said that it had no evidence, zero that is, which was pointing to North Korea.

We said early on that claims of North Korean involvement are likely false. This is by now supported by many experts. A Politico piece from yesterday lists some of them:

Security expert Bruce Schneier called the evidence “circumstantial at best” and considered a number of other possible explanations. CloudFlare principal researcher and DefCon official Marc Rogers wrote that the FBI’s indicators seem to rely on malware that is widely available for purchase and IP addresses easily hijacked by any bad guy. Errata Security’s Robert Graham also noted the hacker underground shares plenty of code, calling the FBI’s evidence “nonsense.”

The above folks are some of the best in the information security business.

Security company Norse yesterday briefed the FBI on the results of its own investigation which clearly point to the insider responsible for the attack and to her helpers. But even after being briefed on real evidence the FBI is not taking back its false claim. Obama has publicly used the FBI subterfuge to blame North Korea and changing the story now would be too embarrassing for him.

It is for this reason that some anonymous "official" is now changing the story - again without any evidence - from "North Korea did it" to "North Korea hired someone who did it":

U.S. investigators believe that North Korea likely hired hackers from outside the country to help with last month's massive cyberattack against Sony Pictures, an official close to the investigation said on Monday.

This is even more laughable than the original claim.

The White House, likely the National Security Council under Susan Rice, screwed up on this issue. It wanted to pressure China by blaming its client North Korea for a hack which had only in media phantasies to do with that country. It ordered the FBI to come up with some "evidence" to support its attempts.

But attribution in cyberspace is a difficult if not hopeless issue and private researchers found indications in the real world that show that the alleged North Korean culpability is very unlikely.

It is not the first time that the U.S. is bringing itself into such an awkward position. The Politico story quoted above includes as second paragraph:

Even the unprecedented decision to release details of an ongoing FBI investigation and President Barack Obama publicly blaming the hermit authoritarian regime hasn’t quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn’t add up.

Pulling on the same comparison to the Saddam WMD claims we made Billmon reformulates that graph into:

Even the unprecedented decision to declassify details of Saddam's efforts to purchase Yellowcake Uranium ore and Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly blaming the crazed Iraqi dictator hasn’t quieted a chorus of well-qualified skeptics who say the evidence just doesn’t add up.

Hardly anyone serious will ever again believe the U.S. on Weapons of Mass Destruction claims after the Bush administration lied about WMDs in Iraq. Hardly anyone serious will ever again believe the U.S. on cyber attack claims after the Obama administration lied about the "Sony hack by North Korea".

This White House screw up has, as law professor Jack Goldsmith writes, important consequences (emph. add.):

If the FBI mis-attributed the Sony hack, it will be more than an embarrassing mistake. Such a mistake might have led the United States to take action against the wrong target, and going forward it will significantly weaken U.S. attribution credibility. Indeed, even if the FBI’s attribution turns out to be right – will we ever know for sure? – its hesitation in the face of credible questions about its very thin public evidence will exacerbate the demand for publicly verifiable attribution before countermeasures (or other responses) are deemed legitimate. In this small but significant sense, the United States has lost a battle in the early days of cyber conflict.

This was not even a "battle" as there was no "enemy", just a disgruntled former Sony employee and some hacker folks who do not like Sony's harsh anti-piracy policies.

Obama risked - for no good reason - and lost U.S. credibility on anything it might ever want to, rightly or not, claim about cyber.

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (58)

December 29, 2014

Congress Leader Benjamin Netanyahoo

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham on who leads Congress:

Graham (R-S.C.), who is expected to take over as chairman of the Foreign Appropriations Subcommittee when the Republicans assume control of the Senate in January, met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in the Israeli capital on Saturday night.

Graham told Netanyahu that “the Congress will follow your lead” ...

Is it bribery or extortion that turns U.S. politicians into compliant fools?

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (52)

December 28, 2014

N.Y.P.D. Officers Earn Disrespect - Except One Of Them

Officers of the world's seventh biggest army, the New York Police Department, defied their commander in chief, mayor de Blasio, by turning their back to him while he gave a funeral eulogy for one of them. de Blasio had earlier refrained from endorsing the killing of an unarmed black man by some N.Y.P.T. officers. Such racist murder by policemen is a regular occurrence in New York.

One officer though did not follow the sheeple.

Billmon rightly compares the picture above with this one. It was shot, I believe, in 1936 in Hamburg, Germany.

The story did not end well for the man in 1936. How will it end for the black N.Y.P.D. officer?

de Blasio should fire every officer that defied him. That likely would not even increase the number of criminals on New York's streets. They would only no longer wear a uniform.

Posted by b at 08:00 AM | Comments (55)

December 26, 2014

Open Thread 2014-33

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:28 PM | Comments (149)

December 24, 2014

Hope

The old story associated with Bethlehem and commemorated by many these days is about hope.

Hope for more light and new beginnings, needed as much today than ever.  Hope for walls to come down.

I wish you all some contemplative, hope- and peaceful holidays.


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

Posted by b at 02:29 AM | Comments (54)

Sony Hack - Likely Inside Attacker Found - Obama Claim Discredited

The U.S. claims, with zero reliable evidence, that Sony was hacked by North Korea. The NYT editors believed that Weapon of Mass Destruction claim and called for action against North Korea. MoA, like others, seriously doubted the story the Obama regime told:

The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

Later "explanation" of the "evidence" by the FBI was unconvincing. Now a serious security company claims to have identified the real hacker:

Kurt Stammberger, a senior vice president with cybersecurity firm Norse, told CBS News his company has data that doubts some of the FBI's findings.

"Sony was not just hacked, this is a company that was essentially nuked from the inside," said Stammberger.
...
"We are very confident that this was not an attack master-minded by North Korea and that insiders were key to the implementation of one of the most devastating attacks in history," said Stammberger.

He says Norse data is pointing towards a woman who calls herself "Lena" and claims to be connected with the so-called "Guardians of Peace" hacking group. Norse believes it's identified this woman as someone who worked at Sony in Los Angeles for ten years until leaving the company this past May.

"This woman was in precisely the right position and had the deep technical background she would need to locate the specific servers that were compromised," Stammberger told me.

The piece also points out that the original demand by the hackers was for money and had nothing to do with an unfunny Sony movie that depicts the murder of the head of a nation state.

Attributing cyber-attacks, if possible at all, is a difficult process which usually ends with uncertain conclusions. Without further evidence it will often be wrong.

That a person has now be identified with the insider knowledge and possibly motive for the hack and without any connection to North Korea makes the Obama administration's claim of North Korean "guilt" even less reliable.

It now seems likely that Obama, to start a conflict with North Korea, just lied about the "evidence" like the Bush administration lied about "Saddam's WMD". The NYT editors were, in both cases, childishly gullible or complicit in the crime.

Posted by b at 02:22 AM | Comments (36)

December 21, 2014

Open Thread 2014-32

News & views ...

Posted by b at 11:43 AM | Comments (122)

December 20, 2014

Iraq: The Death Of The "Sunni National Guard" Idea

The U.S. wants to create a Sunni National Guard in Iraq. The prime minister of Iraq and the parliament, dominated by Shia, are slow walking that idea to death. They do not want to give weapons to the Sunni tribes. They suspect that these weapons would end up in the hands of Islamic State fighters and would be used against themselves. There are good reason to believe that this would indeed be the case.

In fact the Sunni revolt against the now Shia led state of Iraq never ended. U.S official propaganda pretended otherwise and declared the civil war over. It then blamed the former prime minister Maliki of alienating Sunnis. But such alienating went on in two directions. One also needs to consider what type of fighters those National Guard people would be. What would be their qualities in a fight against their brethren in the Islamic State?

This piece gives a not-so-positive impression:

Like many of the men here, Col. Hamdani — no direct relation to the general — wants the US to play a larger role in retaking Mosul, to commit more trainers and directly arm the Sunni fighters.

In the meantime, Hamdani says the men spend most of their day preparing for the eventual Mosul offensive.

“We do physical training every morning,” the Colonel said between drags on a cigarette. “We run for one kilometer, you know, about 30 minutes, then we do stretching for 15 minutes and then we rest.”

When asked what the men do for the remainder of the day, the colonel replied: “Weapons training.” But when asked to elaborate, he reluctantly explained that because until recently the men had no weapons, “for weapons training we just talk about the guns.”

These folks do not seem to be very enthusiastic. I can't blame them. They are sitting between all chairs.

But what is not going to help them is further U.S. involvement and the creation of a Sunni National Guard in Iraq against the will of the majority. What would be the endgame for them should the survive the fight and should the Islamic State be defeated?

Would the U.S. guarantee that there will be some autonomy for them? How? Would the Shia majority agree to that? Who found finance an autonomous federal Sunni entity within the state of Iraq?

These folks are screwed. Should they join some U.S. driven National Guard scheme they will get screwed even more. They should hunker down and wait for the whole storm to blow over them. Apparently that is exactly what they are doing.

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (20)

December 19, 2014

Sony Hack - NYT Editors Find New Iraq WMD

A Japanese company with some offices in California was hacked. Several terrabytes of data were copied off its internal networks and some of it was put on file sharing sites. One of the items copied was a film produced in Canada that depicts as comedy the terror act of killing of a current head of state. The U.S. State Department applauded that movie scene. But there were tons of other data like social security numbers, payroll data, and internal emails stolen all of which that might have been the real target of the hackers.

The tools to hack the company are well known and in the public domain. The company, Sony, had lousy internal network security and had been hacked before. The hackers probably had some inside knowledge. They used servers in Bolivia, China and South Korea to infiltrate. There is zero public evidence in the known that the hack was state sponsored.

But the U.S. is claiming that the event is a "national security matter". Who's national security? Japan's? Canada's? Why? A private Japanese entertainment(!) company left the doors open and had some equipment vandalized and some of its private property stolen. Why, again, is that of U.S. "national interest"? Why would the U.S. even consider some "proportional response"?

The White House is anonymously accusing the state of North Korea of having done the hack. It provides no evidence to support that claim and the government of North Korea denied any involvement. The FBI and Sony say they have no evidence for such a claim.

Still the New York Times editors eat it all up:

North Korean hackers, seeking revenge for the movie, stole millions of documents, including emails, health records and financial information that they dished out to the world.

How do the editors know that these were "North Korean hackers"? The same way the knew about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction? Make believe and anonymous claims by U.S. government officials? Yeah - those folks never lie. Right?

Posted by b at 09:13 AM | Comments (72)

December 17, 2014

Washington Making Nice With Havana - Cubans Beware

So Cuba and the United States are making nice?

In a move to wipe away one of the Cold War's last vestiges, President Barack Obama will launch negotiations with Cuba on resuming full diplomatic relations five decades after they broke off, a U.S. official told Yahoo News on Wednesday. Obama's decision comes after Cuba freed U.S. aid contractor Alan Gross.

The U.S. will free the last three of the Cuban Five while Cuba also released an unknown U.S. "asset".

Alan Gross was a contractor for U.S. Aid on a clandestine mission to, allegedly, distribute secret satellite telephones to circumvent Cuba's control of its electromagnetic spectrum.

It is interesting that this news comes the very same day as the head of U.S.Aid, Raj Shah, was fired. Was his firing a condition the Cuban's made for the prisoner exchange?

Shah spoke to us Tuesday night, but gave very little insight into why he was leaving now other than the oft-cited government official reason that after six years working in the Obama administration he wanted to spend time with his family.

Shah had to go after several stupid clandestine attempts by U.S. Aid, the Alan Gross scheme, creating a fake Cuban Twitter, holding fake HIV prevention seminars and infiltrating Cuba's hip hop scene, to undermine Cuba's political system.

But should indeed a U.S. embassy return to Havana that job will fall again to the CIA. Cuba should be very worried about that. The only reason why the U.S. government has never fallen to a CIA coup is the lack of a U.S. embassy in Washington DC.

There is no reason for Cuba to trust the U.S. and it should be very careful about opening the country. It is not only the U.S. Aid meddling or the Cuban missile crisis, (which eliminated U.S. nuclear weapons in Turkey pointing at Moscow), that give reason for caution, but also the various other attack plans and assassination attempts against Cuban leaders. There are also all the recent "regime operations" the U.S. ran and runs in Ukraine, Libya, Syria, Hongkong and elsewhere. Whatever it may say publicly the U.S. will certainly continue to undermine Cuba's socialist system and to press for "regime change".

Cubans should recognize that any embrace by the U.S. is at least suffocating if not deadly for their self-determination.

Posted by b at 11:31 AM | Comments (117)

December 16, 2014

Torture And Exceptionalism

New poll finds majority of Americans believe torture justified after 9/11 attacks

By an almost 2-1 margin, or 59-to-31 percent, those interviewed support the CIA’s brutal methods, with the vast majority of supporters saying they produced valuable intelligence.

In general, 58 percent say the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “often” or “sometimes.”

Is any European politician still talking about the "common values" Europe and the U.S. are alleged to have?

Do the people of the United States understand the logic of their thinking?


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Or is it just the usual "exceptionalism" Obama professes to believe in?


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Cordesman warns of the Strategic Cost of Torture, Racism, and Bigotry but he only points to Asia and the Middle East as areas where the view of the U.S. is in trouble. I believe (or maybe just hope?) that the U.S. support for torture, support only as long as the U.S. does it, will move it further away from Europe.

Torture And Exceptionalism

Posted by b at 09:55 AM | Comments (65)

December 15, 2014

When #Sydneysiege Happened in Syria

The Abbott regime sent its heavily armed regime forces and shabiha to storm a beloved chocolatey place where a moderate anti-Abbott rebel was protecting peaceful protesters.

Standing under a dark version of the flag of Saudi Arabia the protesters had presented (vid) simple and reasonable demands. Instead of agreeing to step down or to at least to offer a compromise Abbott coldly rejected all of them.

During the guns blazing assault (vid) by regime forces the honorable moderate guard, Mufti Sheik Haron, was killed and several peaceful protesters were severely wounded.

Why didn't Obama provide them with weapons to defend themselves?

Posted by b at 10:55 AM | Comments (39)

 
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