Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
July 02, 2017

NYT, WaPo Send Top Reporters To Stenograph Five O'Clock Follies

When the U.S. military takes a bunch of journalists on a press junket to a foreign country it has a certain intention and prepares every detail in advance. There will be witnesses and local people who are briefed for their two minute talk with the journalists to convey exactly what the military wants them to convey. After enjoying local flair, for ten minutes max, some U.S. diplomatic official or a general will treat the journos to some good whiskey and a genuine local steak. The official will speak a few prepared lines on the record that will reinforce the story the locals were tasked to tell.

The outcome is predictable. The stories the journalists will write will be the same.

Michael Gordon in yesterday's New York Times and David Ignatius in yesterday's Washington Post both report of their latest junket, a visit of Tabqa in Syria.

Gordon's piece: In a Desperate Syrian City, a Test of Trump’s Policies

The young man unburdened himself about the dark years of living under the Islamic State as a crowd of curious onlookers gathered in front of a weathered storefront in the town marketplace. The militants, said the man, a 22-year-old named Abdul Qadir Khalil, killed many residents, doled out precious jobs and severely limited travel to and from the city. ...

He ticked off a list of the things Tabqa needs: electricity, water, fuel and a sizable bakery. Then, laughing about his new freedom to openly denounce the militants, he said, “If they ever come back, they will slaughter all of us.”

The Ignatius' piece: As the Islamic State falls in Syria, one city offers a preview of the country’s future

A boisterous group of young Syrian men is gathered outside a tire and vehicle-parts shop across from the warehouse. American military advisers aren’t sure at first that it’s safe to talk with them, but the men press eagerly toward two visiting reporters. Abdul-Qadr Khalil, 22, dressed in a bright blue-nylon jacket, speaks for the group. He complains that there’s not enough food, water, gas or bread, and there are no jobs. But he dismisses the idea that the Islamic State will ever take hold here again.

“No, never!” says Khalil, and the young men around him nod in unison. “It will be impossible to live if they come back. They will kill all of us.”

Gordon:

.. small children greet visitors with a “V” sign for victory.

Ignatius:

Young children flash V-for-victory signs.

Gordon:

“A fundamental problem in our society is that ISIS’ ideology has been implanted in little kids’ brains, which means it will carry on in the future,” said Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the council.

Ignatius:

Ahmad al-Ahmad, the co-president of the newly formed Tabqa Civil Council, ... Young boys who were indoctrinated at Islamic State training camps are trying to find their balance in a new world where beheadings and the chanting of Islamist slogans are over.

Gordon:

Nearly 50 tons of flour, paid for by the Pentagon, were trucked in from Iraq to an American-funded warehouse on Wednesday.

Ignatius:

At a warehouse near the town center, the first shipment of American food arrived on Wednesday; sacks of flour and rice are stacked on pallets, ready for distribution, ...

Gordon:

We are not going to get beauty; it’s about pragmatism,” said Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones of the British Army, the deputy commander of the coalition force.

Ignatius:

This is not a work of beauty. This is pragmatism,” says Maj. Gen. Rupert Jones, the British deputy commander of coalition forces in Iraq and Syria ..

I agree with the British general. The reporting in the Washington Post and New York Times from this military press junket is not a work of beauty but pragmatism. These highly paid journalists do not want to get their new desert dress dirty. They pragmatically repeat what the well briefed (and bribed) locals say, picture the children that make V-signs (and receive the promised candy) and they stenograph whatever the military or some diplomats say. No real reporting, no thinking and no dirty boots are required for their job.

The military wanted to convey that nearly everything is fine now in Tabqa. The people love the U.S. occupation and all that is needed now are a few billion $$$ for some minor nation building. The journalists ate up the prepared bites and transmit exactly what the military wanted them to say.

The mainstream media want their readers to believe that their narratives from war zones are genuine reporting. The above examples show that they are not. Their journalists are simple recording highly choreographed shows the Pentagon and State Department press advisors made up and the local press officers prepared in advance. A modern version of the Vietnam war's five o'clock follies.

Richard Pyle, Associated Press Saigon bureau chief during the war, described the [military press] briefings as, "the longest-playing tragicomedy in Southeast Asia's theater of the absurd."

Back then most media did not fell for the nonsense. Now they willingly join in.

Posted by b at 03:09 PM | Comments (108)

July 01, 2017

Syria - These Maps Show A Year Of Progress

Three maps of Syria show the immense progress the Syrian government forces and their allies have made over the last few month.

During the last half year the Syrian Arab Army not only liberated al-Qaeda held parts of east-Aleppo city, but also the Islamic State held eastern part of Aleppo governate. The closing move happened yesterday when the last ISIS held area in the governate was cut off and the enemy retreated. The area north of the arrows is now free of ISIS fighters. Mines, IEDs and sleeper agents still need to be searched for.


via IslamicWorldUpdate - bigger

In a next step the Syrian Army will move simultaneously from north and south to connect the red areas between (roughly) south of Al-Thawrah and Palmyra. This will enclose and clean the ISIS bulge in the west and secure Homs governate as well as the supply line to Aleppo city.

The Russian rearming, retraining and reorganizing of the Syrian Army has really helped. Russian air support delivers the necessary protection and interdiction capabilities for large movements. De-conflicting zones in the western part of the country as well as the cleanup of several pockets of "rebels" near the big cities freed up ten-thousands of Syrian soldiers. The reinforcements provided through Iran created the additional temporary manpower needed to regain and clean the liberated areas. A total of 40,000 men are engaged in the eastern campaign. When the local Syrian government structures are re-established in the liberated areas the additional forces will no longer be needed.

On a larger scale the immense progress of the Syrian government during the last six month becomes even more obvious. The (red) government held areas were enlarged considerably:

Cont. reading: Syria - These Maps Show A Year Of Progress

Posted by b at 12:44 AM | Comments (98)

June 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-26

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:43 PM | Comments (119)

June 29, 2017

U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf - Gives Up On Occupying South East Syria

The U.S. is giving up its hopeless position at the Syrian-Iraq border crossing near  al-Tanf in south east Syria. The U.S. military had earlier bombed Syrian forces when they came near that position but it then found itself outmaneuvered, cut off from the north and enclosed in a useless area.

Al-Tanf is in the blue area with the two blue arrows at the bottom of the map. It will soon be painted red as liberated and under Syrian government control.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

A more expressive version of the map:


Source: Doloroso

To recap:

The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came.
Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight - June 13

The U.S. military even moved a HIMARS missile launcher with 300 km reach from nearby Jordan to al-Tanf. That was a laughable stunt. It made no difference in capabilities from the earlier launcher position in Jordan just a few miles west. But someone the U.S. military believed that showing off such weapons in a doomed area would impress Syrian or Russian forces and change the facts of life. It didn't. It was clear that the U.S. would have to move out.

That now seems to happen. A knowledgeable source just posted:

Cont. reading: U.S. Retreats From Al-Tanf - Gives Up On Occupying South East Syria

Posted by b at 12:45 PM | Comments (86)

White House Encouraged After Elephants Abstain From Climbing Trees

Trump administration officials are walking back the White House announcement of its plans to fake another "chemical weapon attack" in Syria.

There are plenty of reasons why the U.S. would want to accuse the Syrian government of using chemical weapons but zero sane reasons for the Syrian government to use such. Russia and Syria have long insisted on sending chemical weapon inspectors to the airbase the Trump administration claims is at the center of its "chemical" fairy tale. The U.S. has held the inspectors back. The claims make thereby zero sense to any objective observer.

The walk back, as well as the statement itself, may not be serious at all. This White House seems unpredictable and the U.S. military, the intelligence services and the White House itself have no common view or policy. One day they claim the U.S. will leave Syria after ISIS is defeated, the next day they announce new bases and eternal support for the Syrian Kurds.

The way the White House statement came out, without knowledge of the relevant agencies and little involvement of the agency principals, was not cynical but just dumb. It sounds like the idea was dropped by Natanyahoo to his schoolboy Jared Kushner who then convinced his father in law to issue the crazy statement. Now officials are send out with the worst argument ever to claim that the White House "warning" made sense.

"The elephants did not climb up the trees. Warning them off was successful," they say. "The trees were saved!"

"It appears that they took the warning seriously," Mattis said. "They didn't do it," he told reporters flying with him to Brussels for a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

He offered no evidence other than the fact that an attack had not taken place.

---
"I can tell you that due to the president's actions, we did not see an incident," [U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki] Haley told the House Foreign Affairs Committee during a hearing Tuesday.[..]
[...]
"I would like to think that the president saved many innocent men, women and children," Haley continued.

Haley "would like to think" a lot of stuff - unfortunately she is not capable of such. A bit later she issued an egocentric tweet about UN peacekeeping that will surely increase U.S. political standing in the world (not):

Cont. reading: White House Encouraged After Elephants Abstain From Climbing Trees

Posted by b at 03:47 AM | Comments (70)

June 27, 2017

White House Says It Will Fake "Chemical Weapon Attack" In Syria

The White House claims that the Syrian government is preparing "chemical weapon attacks". This is clearly not the case. Syria is winning the war against the country. Any such attack would clearly be to its disadvantage. The White House announcement must thereby be understood as preparation for another U.S. attack on Syria in "retaliation" for an upcoming staged "chemical weapon attack" which will be blamed on the Syrian government.

In August 2013 Syria invited inspectors of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons to investigate chemical weapons attacks on the Syrian army. As soon as the inspectors arrived in Damascus a "chemical attack" was staged in Ghouta near Damascus. Lots of Jihadist video coverage of killed children was published and the "western" media blamed the incident on the Syrian government. It never explained why targeting a militarily irrelevant area with chemical weapons at the same time as inspectors arrived would have been a rational decision for a Syrian government that was just regaining control and international standing.

The "attack" was clearly staged by the opposition of the Syrian government and its foreign supporters. The Obama administration had planned to use it to launch U.S. attacks on the Syrian government but refrained from this when Russia arranged to remove Syria's strategic chemical weapons, aimed at Israel, instead.

In early 2017 the new U.S. president Trump made positive comments about the Syrian government. Assad can stay, he said. The Syrian military and its allies had gained the upper hand and were victorious on all fronts. Two days later another "chemical attack" was staged in the al-Qaeda held town of Khan Sheikhun. Lots of Jihadi video coverage of killed children, likely prepared in advance, was spilled onto the "western" public. U.S. intelligence knew that no chemical attack by the Syrian government had taken place. But the Trump administration used the incident to launch a volley of cruise missiles against a Syrian military airport. The neoconservatives were delighted. They finally had Trump where they wanted him. The media coverage changed from damming Trump for his alleged "Russian connections" to lauding his decisiveness in response to the faked attack.

Late May the new French president Macron ostensibly changed his position towards the Syrian government. The hostile position of France (and other EU countries) against the Syrian president Assad that had been eminent throughout the last six years changed on a dime:

Macron said that on Syria: “My profound conviction is that we need a political and diplomatic roadmap. We won’t solve the question only with military force. That is a collective error we have made. The real change I’ve made on this question, is that I haven’t said the deposing of Bashar al-Assad is a prerequisite for everything. Because no one has introduced me to his legitimate successor!

But Macron also added:

"I have red lines on chemical weapons and humanitarian corridors. I said it very clearly to Vladimir Putin. I will be uncompromising on that. So the use of chemical weapons will be met with a response, and even if France acts alone.”

This immediately set off my warning lights:

Cont. reading: White House Says It Will Fake "Chemical Weapon Attack" In Syria

Posted by b at 07:49 AM | Comments (184)

June 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-25

WaPo has a 8,300 word weekend opus on how Obama failed to react to CIA director Brennan's claims that Putin himself ordered to hack the U.S. election.

Note:

Reading that piece it becomes clear (but is never said) that the sole source for that August 2016 Brennan claim of "Russian hacking" is the absurd Steele dossier some ex-MI6 dude created for too much money as opposition research against Trump. The only other "evidence" for "Russian hacking" is the Crowdstrike report on the DNC "hack". Crowdstrike has a Ukrainian nationalist agenda, was hired by the DNC, had to retract other "Russian hacking" claims and no one else was allowed to take a look at the DNC servers. Said differently: The whole "Russian hacking" claims are solely based on "evidence" of two fake reports.

Democrats tell party leaders: Stop talking about Russia. No one is interested in that bullshit. Get back to basic issues.

The first spinner toy was developed in Iraq around 2000 BC and Adam Smith copied many of his economic theories from Ibn Khaldun who had developed these 400 years before Smith plagiarized him.

A Middle Eastern regime drops plans for mixed-gender worship under pressure from religious hardliners.

Uber has no valid business model and will go down in disgrace (no link, just a fact).

Trump launched cruise missiles against Syria knowing that no Sarin was used in the Khan Sheikhun attack. (Background on the suppression of this Seymour Hersh story in U.S and British media: The Fog of War.)

The new French Defense Minister had to leave her office after it became known that she was paid €10,000 per month by a U.S. think tank (french, machine translation.)

Please add your news & views in the comments.

Posted by b at 10:47 AM | Comments (184)

June 25, 2017

Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

The U.S. military has, for now, given up on occupying south-east Syria. Recent remarks at the Department of Defense press conference concede the defeat of its original plans.

Let us recap: The U.S. military had occupied the al-Tanf border station between Syria and Iraq some 12 kilometer east of the Jordan-Syria-Iraq border triangle. The economically important road between Damascus and Baghdad runs through al-Tanf. When Syrian government forces moved towards the al-Tanf area the U.S. military bombed them and unilaterally claimed a "deconfliction-zone", i.e occupied territory, around the station.

The U.S. plan was to disrupt any connection between Syrian government held areas in the west and Iraq in th east by moving north from al-Tanf up to the Euphrates river valley around Deir Ezzor. The neoconservatives and Zionist propagandists claimed that this was necessary to interrupt the "Shia crescent" that allegedly would connect Iran through Iraq and Syria with Lebanon. The U.S. forces would thereby interrupt Iranian support for Hizbullah forces defending Lebanon from Israeli incursions. But the "Shia crescent" was never more than an idea. Iran supplies to Hizbullah have never depended on a land connection alone. The "crescent" connection was not disrupted when the U:S. occupied Iraq or when ISIS held the area.

The real U.S. plan was much larger. It wanted to control a Sunni corridor from the Saudi-Iraqi border in the south through Anbar province in west-Iraq through south-east Syria up through the Kurdish held north-east Syria to Turkey. This was the planned "Salafist principality" a 2012 Defense Intelligence paper had talked about.

The Syrian forces (red), with Iraqi support, sabotaged the U.S. plans by connecting west-Syria with the Syrian Iraqi border northward of the U.S. held area of al-Tanf (blue). They met allied Iraqi forces at the border north-east of al-Tanf and are now proceeding north-east along the border towards Abu Kamal and the Euphrates valley.


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The Russian military command told the U.S. that any attack on those forces would be a very unfriendly act that would be severely punished. To make the point Iran fired medium range missiles from Iranian territory to Islamic State held areas in Syria. The Russian navy fired cruise missiles from the Mediterranean towards similar targets. The message was that the small U.S. contingent in al-Tanf would be toast if the U.S. military further messed around with the Syrian forces. Meanwhile Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) from Iraq, allied with Syria, closed off al-Tanf from the south. The U.S. forces there have nowhere to go but home.

As we wrote in our June 13 piece Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight:

Cont. reading: Locked Into Al-Tanf U.S. Military Concedes It Lost The Race To Occupy South-East Syria

Posted by b at 08:59 AM | Comments (90)

June 24, 2017

Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

 

12:13 PM - 24 Jun 2017

12:16 PM - 24 Jun 2017

2:24 PM - 24 Jun 2017

Al-Qaeda attacked a Syrian Arab Army position in Madinat al-Baath (map) next to the Israel occupied Golan heights. Al-Qaeda requested Israeli fire-support by launching some mortars towards empty space in the Israel occupied area. The Israeli Defense Force accepted the request and destroyed two Syrian Arab Army tanks. Two Syrian soldiers were killed. The SAA held steady and the al-Qaeda attack on its position failed.

This was very easy to predict. Israel has supported al-Qaeda in the area since at least 2014. The al-Qaeda fire-request-by-mortar scheme has been in place for at least three years. In October 2014 the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), which back then still covered the area, reported to the UN Security Council:

Cont. reading: Israel's Fire Support For Its Al-Qaeda Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (57)

June 23, 2017

The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

(Updated last graphs on June 24 9:00am est)

Today the Saudi ruler issued an ultimatum to Qatar that was written to be rejected. Such has happened before and one should not forget the lessons to be learned from it.

After the crown prince of the Austria-Hungary monarchy, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, was shot and killed in Sarajevo, the government of Austria waited three weeks to issue a 10 point ultimatum to Serbia which it held responsible for the incident. At least three of those points concerned the suppression of "propaganda against Austria-Hungary" and the Austrian Monarchy by Serbian private and state entities. It demanded a response within two days:

Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, commented that he had "never before seen one State address to another independent State a document of so formidable a character."

The Austrian ultimatum was an offer to be refused. But Serbia did not fall into that trap. It conceded everything but two minor points. This was to no avail. The issues and plans Austria had were not about the assassination of [the disliked] Franz Ferdinand or the demands issued in the ultimatum. Two days later Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia. Allies jumped to either side. World War I had started.


bigger

The now official demands by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and some minor Gulf sheikdoms against Qatar have a similar smell to them. They are also "an offer to be refused."

The demands come late, three weeks after Saudi Arabia first accused Qatar of "supporting terrorism", three weeks after it closed the border and laid siege on the country.

(Qatar is surly "supporting terrorism". So is the U.S. - the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service just rejected an asylum request because the person in question has relations with the Free Syrian Army which the C&I-Service considers to be an "undesignated terrorist organization". The CIA built and supports the FSA. According to the U.S. government the U.S. government is a state sponsor of terrorism. But the biggest terrorist sponsor of all are and have been the Saudis.)

Spats between member of the Gulf Cooperation Council are usually mediated by the U.S. government. But without any official demands issued against Qatar there was nothing to mediate about. Three day ago U.S. Department of State finally issued a rather angry statement towards Saudi Arabia:

Cont. reading: The Saudi-Qatar Spat - An Offer To Be Refused

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (97)

June 22, 2017

U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

The U.S. military and/or the CIA outsourced parts of their ongoing torture campaign in Yemen to the United Arab Emirates, reports AP. Some "interrogations" are done in the presence of U.S. personal and on U.S. ships:

MUKALLA, Yemen (AP) — Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.

Senior American defense officials acknowledged Wednesday that U.S. forces have been involved in interrogations of detainees in Yemen but denied any participation in or knowledge of human rights abuses.
...
At one main detention complex at Riyan airport in the southern city of Mukalla, former inmates described being crammed into shipping containers smeared with feces and blindfolded for weeks on end. They said they were beaten, trussed up on the “grill,” and sexually assaulted. According to a member of the Hadramawt Elite, a Yemeni security force set up by the UAE, American forces were at times only yards away.

There have long been rumors in Yemen that detainees were transported to U.S. ships off the coast for intense "interrogations":

@BaFana3 - 3:42am · 6 May 2016
All on #Yemen now : US aircraft carrier, 2 naval destroyers, amphibious ready group & Marine expeditionary unit. That's near 15,000 troops
Now I know whose ships the captured AQAP militants are being ferried to from Al Mukalla, Hadhramaut.

AP now:

A Yemeni officer who said he was deployed for a time on a ship off the coast said he saw at least two detainees brought to the vessel for questioning. The detainees were taken below deck, where he was told American “polygraph experts” and “psychological experts” conducted interrogations.
...
Two senior Yemen officials, one in Hadi’s Interior Ministry and another in the 1st Military District, based in Hadramawt province where Mukalla is located, also said Americans were conducting interrogations at sea, as did a former senior security official in Hadramawt.
...
Former detainees and one Yemen official provided the AP with the names of five suspects held at black sites who were interrogated by Americans.

The UAE had been part of the CIA's "black sites" torture apparatus. Its agents are thereby well trained. The U.S. military and/or the CIA now seem to have outsourced (vid) most of the "dirty" stuff to them. That does not make them less culpable.

The Obama administration has called this acting "by, with and through" allies. The Trump administration continues with the scheme.

The tortured "militants" were most likely not al-Qaeda chaps. Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula held the harbor city of Mukalla in Yemen. The UAE "liberated" the city in April 2016 by making a deal with AQAP and letting them go. It is allied with the group while fighting the Yemeni Houthi. If the U.S. torture crews believe that they are "interrogating" real "al-Qaeda" they are hoodwinked by the UAE operators.

The U.S. military is, of course, denying all torture accusations and the CIA is, of course, not commenting, but denigrating the accusers. We have heard such denials before.

---
Yesterday an al-Saud family clown prince replaced another al-Saud family clown prince to replace the old al-Saud family king who will be offed soon. This in a country named after the al-Saud family. It is change you can believe in. The soon to be dictator-king Muhammad bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the guy who has debt-to-GDP, is fawned over in U.S. media. That is no wonder. He has lot of money and no idea of its value. He paid €500 million for a used ship that had cost only €300 million when it was build six years earlier. Some of his money will drop here or there when a journalist writes a pretty piece about him. If the journo is really good at it s/he will get payed off in some CIA endorsed weapon deal with the Gulf sheiks. Bin Salman is not very bright. He visited Israel and is in constant contact with Israeli officials. His development program for Saudi Arabia, based on austerity, was written by McKinsey consultants and is thereby likely to fail. With his extreme anti-Iranian stand he looks like a mere U.S.-Israeli puppet.


bigger

The 26 million people he rules over will not like either. Many Arab peninsula citizens will want to see his head on a pike. The House of Saud is now a house of cards destined to fall.

Cont. reading: U.S. Torture, A Saudi Coup And ISIS Crimes - "By, With And Through Allies"

Posted by b at 06:47 AM | Comments (92)

June 20, 2017

Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Just got this new little video-drone.

Now I read that drones can be 'pro-Assad' and probably also anti-Assad. They can be 'pro-regime' or 'pro-Assad regime' or 'Iranian' or 'Iranian made'.

I know my drone is not Iranian made. It says "Made in China".

Drones can also 'display hostile intent'. I did not know that. Where is that display?

And how do I tell if it is pro- or anti-? Is there a switch for that?


Cont. reading: Is Your Drone Pro- or Anti-?

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (42)

Open Thread 2017-24

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:55 PM | Comments (138)

June 19, 2017

Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Our last summary said that the end of the war in Syria is now in sight:

Unless the U.S. changes tact and starts a large scale attack on Syria with its own army forces the war on Syria is over.

There are a few civilian lunatics in the White House who push for widening the war on Syria into an all out U.S.-Iran war. The military leadership is pushing back. It fears for its forces in Iraq and elsewhere in the larger area. But there are also elements within the U.S. military and the CIA that take a more aggressive pro-war position.

Yesterday a U.S. F-18 jet shot down a Syrian air force bomber near the city of Raqqa. The U.S. Central Command ludicrously claims that this was in "self defense" of its invading forces and its Kurdish proxies (Syria Democratic Forces - SDF) within a "deconflicting zone" after the SDF was attacked in the town of Jardin.

Those were lies. Neither is there any agreed upon "deconflicting zone" in the area nor was the town of Jardin held by SDF forces at the time of the attack. The attack was clearly illegal:

The U.S.[...] has no legal right to protect non-state partner forces who are pursuing regime change or other political objectives. There is no right of collective self-defense of non-state actors, ...

The Syrian government as well as witnesses on the ground refute the U.S. claims. The Syrian Observatory in Britain, often cited as authoritative about events in Syria, says no Syrian attack on the SDF took place. The U.S. jets attacked the Syrian one in support of Islamic State forces:

A regime warplane was targeted and dropped in the skies of the al-Resafa area [...] the warplane was shot down over Al-Resafa area of which the regime forces have reached to its frontiers today, and sources suggested to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights that warplanes of the International Coalition targeted it during its flight in close proximity to the airspace of the International Coalition’s warplanes, which caused its debris to fall over Resafa city amid an unknown fate of its pilot, the sources confirmed that the warplane did not target the Syria Democratic Forces in their controlled areas located at the contact line with regime forces’ controlled areas in the western countryside of Al-Tabaqa to the road of Al-Raqqah – Resafa.

Here is an overview of the situation in south-east Syria:


Map via Peto Lucem - bigger

On the bottom left is the area of Palmyra on the right is Deir Ezzor, at the top is Raqqa. The dark areas are occupied by the Islamic State. A hundred thousand civilians and a small Syrian army garrison in Deir Ezzor is besieged by the Islamic State. The Syrian army is moving east from two directions to relieve the city. One thrust is from the Palmyra area along the road towards the north-east to Deir Ezzor. The distance still to go is about 130 kilometer and a major Islamic State held city, Al-Sukhnah, will have to be taken before the advance can proceed.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - U.S. Attack Fails To Disrupt Push To Deir Ezzor

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (177)

June 18, 2017

When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Non factual, false news reporting has political consequences. This especially when it is picked up by partisan propagandists to push their agenda. It is often not easy to forensically follow the trail of fake news but here is a recent example "caught in the wild".

The Associated Press is a nonprofit and political neutral news agency financed by U.S. newspapers and other media outlets of various political stripes. Its wide range of customers (mostly) prevents it from partisan domestic reporting. It takes on international issues are different. The selection of the news items it reports on is driven by customer interests and thereby slanted in its selection. But the factual reporting on news items is generally straight forward - or supposed to be such. Political decisions are sometimes based on its reports. It is therefore causing concern when it spreads obviously fake news.

Yesterday the AP pushed out this item:

The Associated Press ‏Verified account @AP
Russia claims it has killed IS leader al-Baghdadi. https://apnews.com/...
7:51 AM - 16 Jun 2017

NY Daily news, FOX News, Politico and many, many other outlets reedited and/or republished that AP piece. The Politico version reads:

Russia claimed Friday it killed the leader of the Islamic State group in an airstrike targeting a meeting of IS leaders just outside the group's de facto capital in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi was killed in a Russian strike in late May along with other senior group commanders.

The AP item seemed wrong to me. Russia is usually very cautious with such claims and tends not to make such absolute statements. ( The U.S. military though ...)

I checked with the official Russian agency TASS and it indeed reported something different: IS top leader may have been killed by Russian airstrike in Syria

Cont. reading: When AP Spreads #Fakenews - A Forensic Appraisal

Posted by b at 04:14 AM | Comments (60)

June 16, 2017

Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

The spat between Saudi Arabia and Qatar gives us some amusing entertainment. Both countries spent billions to arm and supply tens of thousands of brutal Takfiris to fight the Syrian government and people. They also spent millions to buy this or that "western" think-tank and/or writer. Now that the two Wahhabi dictatorships are fighting each other they spill the beans over each others nefarious deeds. Various "western" think-tanks and media, who avidly supported al-Qaeda, ISIS and other criminals in Syria, are the well deserved collateral casualties in this fight.

Here is one example:

Bilal Abdul Kareem‏ Verified account @BilalKareem
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. But I'm smiling!
4:24 PM - 16 Jun 2017

Bilal Abdul Kareem 2 hrs
Piece I filmed w/CNN (Undercover in Syria) won the prestigious Overseas Press Club & Peabody awards but CNN "forgot" to mention me. High respects to CNN correspondent Clarissa Ward for mentioning me even if CNN didn't! Alhamdo lilaah I got another award from some good hearted Syrians that's worth more than those put together. Check it out!

bigger

Max Blumenthal‏ Verified account @MaxBlumenthal
In Saudi media, "independent journalist" @BilalKareem is ID'ed as having joined Al Qaeda's Syrian franchise in 2012
https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/...
5:37 AM - 11 Jun 2017

Cont. reading: Qatar-Saudi Catfight Unveils "Western" Terrorist Propaganda Outlets

Posted by b at 04:45 PM | Comments (54)

When Generals Make Policies - From Tactics To Strategy To Political Decision

June 13, 2017 - Mattis promises new Afghanistan strategy by mid-July

Defense Secretary James Mattis on Tuesday promised to deliver a new military strategy for Afghanistan to lawmakers by mid-July, ...

June 15, 2017 - About 4,000 more US troops to go to Afghanistan

The Pentagon will send almost 4,000 additional American forces to Afghanistan, a Trump administration official said Thursday, hoping to break a stalemate in a war that has now passed to a third U.S. commander in chief. [...]

The decision by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis could be announced as early as next week, the official said. It follows Trump's move to give Mattis the authority to set troop levels ...

The U.S. has a problem with the former Marine General Mattis as Secretary of Defense. Mattis thinks tactics, not strategy.

It makes little sense to send additional troops when one does not have a strategy they will have to serve. There is so far no other way to end the war in Afghanistan other than to simply pull out of it. The racket that the war has become can only be stopped by such a grand strategic decision. Sending troops before deciding on the strategy practically guarantees that the choice of a pull-out will be excluded from the evaluated possibilities. The tactical decision of sending more troops will drive the strategy.

Mattis already screwed up by allowing the U.S. Central Command to loudly stump around the al-Tanf border crossing between Syria and Iraq. The small al-Tanf garrison is legally very dubious and now surrounded on three sides. The only choices left are to pull out to Jordan or to start a big war with Syria, Russia and Iran. This could happen by accident. Some low officer on the ground making the decision to attack this or that Syria allied unit could launch a huge and ever escalating chain of events. A much bigger war is likely not what the Trump administration wants or needs. But to pull out will now be an acknowledgement that the tactical decision of deploying to al-Tanf was wrong and become a loss of face. Here again the tactics are driving the strategy:

Strategy should drive tactics when it comes to handling Iranian-backed elements in Syria, not the other way around. Otherwise, the United States risks upending other elements of the war effort in Syria for ill-defined reasons. This may include expanding the role of an already over stretched Special Operations Command and more wear and tear on other elements of the U.S. military — all for ill-defined and unachievable goals. The United States has the capability to defend a garrison in the Syrian desert. However, the reasons for doing so are devoid of any purpose ...

Mattis is liked by some because of his aggressive stance against Iran. His career is otherwise only remarkable for the massacres he was part in (Fallujah 2004). It is claimed that he owns 7,000 books. I doubt that he understood or even read them. To me he seems to be just one of dozens of rather mediocre general officers the U.S. military has produced. Such officers are incapable of making sound strategic decisions. They know how to run the military machine, but that is the easy part. They lack a real feel for diplomacy, economics and cultural issues. They are unable to see the world through the eyes of the other side. They never learned statecraft.

General McMaster, the current National Security Advisor, seems likewise a man of tactics, not strategy. How else can we explain that there is yet no consistency visible in any of the grand games the U.S. plays. The reaction to the flare up in the Gulf Cooperation Council was chaotic, no game plan has been shown for Afghanistan, Iraq or Syria, the "pivot to Asia" seems dead. The current policies are reactive and not part of a larger view or scheme.

The grand scheme should run from policy decision to (military) strategy and then down to the tactical decisions. What we see now are tactics driving a strategy and the strategy then driving the greater policies.

One may be grateful, especially as a foreigner, that U.S. foreign policy is in such a miserable state. But the damage that can occur due to a miscalculated tactical decisions or an emotional response to an event - without any thinking about the bigger picture - is likely bigger than the one any well chosen political strategy could cause.

Posted by b at 09:42 AM | Comments (82)

June 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-23

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:34 PM | Comments (124)

June 14, 2017

The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

The United States will again escalate the war in Afghanistan.

Sixteen years ago the U.S, invaded the country and decided to eliminate the ruling Taliban for something that was planed elsewhere by a different group. Since the invasion the U.S. tried to defeat the Taliban. It has lost that fight. As soon as it leaves Afghanistan the Taliban will be back in power. But no one is willing to pull the plug on the nonsensical military approach.

The Taliban are part of Afghanistan and a significant segment of the population supports them. When the U.S. invaded Afghanistan it put the brutal and utterly corrupt warlords back into power. These were exactly the people the Taliban were created to hold down and the reason why they could take power in the first place. While demanding a strict religious life the Taliban successfully took care of local security and eliminated the lawless and corrupt rule of the warlords.

It is no wonder then that a large part of the population wishes to have them back in power.

The U.S. supported government in Kabul is utterly corrupt. The Afghan military and police the U.S. pays is likewise only motivated by money. It is not willing to fight. It takes high casualties during Taliban attacks and therefore avoids contact with them whenever possible. Some 60 % of the country is now more or less back under Taliban control. The government's say is restricted to the bigger cities.

It is obvious that this trend will continued and sooner or later the Taliban will be back in power. The only sensible strategy is to negotiate with them and to find some solution that allows them to rule while they guaranteeing that no harm will emanate from Afghanistan for the rest of the world.

But no one in the U.S. is willing to take responsibility for that. Who would want to be blamed for "neglecting" Afghanistan when another 9/11 happens - as unlikely as that might be? Therefore additional troops need to be send whenever the Taliban seem to gain the advantage over the puppet government forces.

President Trump has punted on the issue and has given full authority to the Defense Department to continue the war in Afghanistan with as many troops as it sees fit. It is now the generals, not Trump, who will be blamed should things in Afghanistan go wrong. But the military has no idea what to do about Afghanistan.

Yesterday the Secretary of Defense Mattis was asked during a Congress hearing what "winning" in Afghanistan would mean:

The idea, [Mattis] said, would be to drive down the violence to a level that could be managed by Afghan government forces with the help of American and allied troops in training their Afghan counterparts, providing intelligence and delivering what Mr. Mattis called “high-end capability,” an apparent allusion to air power and possibly Special Operations forces.

The result, he said, would be an “era of frequent skirmishing,” but not a situation in which the Afghan government no longer faced a mortal threat.

Winning in Afghanistan is an "era of frequent skirmishes" in which the proxy government is continuously endangered? That does, of course, not make any sense. It is a holding strategy that will only work as long as the general framework stays the same. Should the Taliban change their strategy or a new actor come in the "holding" strategy will be finished.

One new actor is already there. An Afghan variant of the "Islamic State" just kicked out the Taliban from the Tora Bora cave complex near the Pakistani border. Tora Bora was once though to be the retreat area of Al-Qaeda's Osama Bin-Laden and was attacked during the U.S. invasion in 2001/2.

But who is behind the Islamic State Khorasan Province’s (ISKP) in Afghanistan? Most of its fighters seem to be former Taliban who either defected in Afghanistan or were kicked out of Pakistan when the Pakistani military put pressure on their home areas. The real question now is who pays them and what do they want?

Officially no one seems to know.

For the warlords in Afghanistan the U.S. occupation has become a huge source of money. The U.S. pays them for protecting the goods shipped in from the states  and elsewhere. It is a protection racket. Should the U.S. not pay, its convoys will be attacked by "Taliban". As soon as it pays the local warlords, the "Taliban" will be defeated and the area will be clear again for the trucks to pass. The money the Afghan government receives is likewise dependent on a continuation of the U.S. occupation. No one in the ruling class of Afghanistan has an interest in ending that. The government in Kabul will do nearly anything to keep its money source available.

That may well be the reason why ISIS in Afghanistan was created. It was feared in Kabul that sooner or later the U.S. would find a compromise with the Taliban and leave the country. A new reason had to be found to continue the war.

It is therefore not astonishing that the Afghan secret services, the National Directorate for Security (NDS), was the first sponsor of "ISIS" in Afghanistan. The first "ISIS" fighters were refugees of the Pakistani Taliban (TTP) who settled in the eastern province of Nangahar and were put on the NDS payroll:

Cont. reading: The War In Afghanistan Is A Racket

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (91)

June 13, 2017

Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

A look at recent developments in Syria. [Updated below June 14 1:00am EDT]


Source: Al Watan Online - bigger

The most important change over the last days was the Syrian government forces move (red areas and arrows) in the south-east towards the Iraqi border. The original plan was to retrieve al-Tanf further south-west to secure the border crossing of the Damascus-Baghdad highway there. But al-Tanf was occupied by U.S., British and Norwegian invaders and some of their proxy forces (blue). Their airplanes attacked Syrian army convoys when they approached. The U.S. plan was to move from al-Tanf north towards the Euphrates river and to thereby capture and control the whole south-east of Syria. But Syria and its allies made an unexpected move and prevented that plan. The invaders are now cut off from the Euphrates by a Syrian west-to-east line that ends at the Iraqi border. On the Iraqi side elements of the Popular Military Unites under the command of the Iraqi government are moving to meet the Syrian forces at the border.

The U.S. invaders are now sitting in the mid of a piece of rather useless desert around al-Tanf where their only option is to die of boredom or to move back to Jordan from where they came. The Russian military has made it very clear that it would intervene forcefully should the U.S. attack the Syrian line and move further north. The U.S. and its allies have no mandate to be in Syria in the first place. There is no justification or legal ground for them to attack any Syrian units. Their only option now is to retreat.

The U.S. move into al-Tanf was covered by an attack of U.S. proxy forces in the south-west of Syria. A large group of "rebels", which include al-Qaeda elements and is supplied from Jordan, moved to take the city of Deraa from Syrian government control. It was hoped that this attack would divert Syrian forces from their move east. But despite the use of suicide bombers the attack on Deraa failed to overwhelm the strong defenses of the Syrian forces. It did not provide the necessary diversion. The Syrian position in Deraa was reinforced by units from Damascus which are now attacking the U.S. proxy gangs. Significant progress was made today in the southern suburbs of Deraa and the Syrian army attack will likely continue the move until it has reached the Jordanian border.

The U.S. plans in south Syria, in the west as well as in the east, have failed for now. Unless the Trump administration is willing to invest significant more forces and to openly and against all laws wage war on the Syria government and its allies the situation there is contained. The Syrian forces will over time recapture all the (blue colored) land in the south that is currently held by the various U.S. proxies and other terrorist groups.

In the north-west the Takfiri "rebel" groups are concentrated around Idleb and further north. These groups are sponsored by Saudi, Qatari and Turkish money. The recent spat between Qatar and other Gulf states has throw the Idleb situation into further chaos. Saudi sponsored groups are now fighting Qatari and Turkish sponsored groups. These conflicts come on top of other animosities between al-Qaeda aligned forces and those of Ahrar al-Sham. The Syrian government forces keep the province surrounded and Turkey in the north has kept its border mostly closed. The Takfiri "rebels" in Idleb will cook in their own juices until they are well done and completely exhausted. Eventually government forces will move in and destroy whatever is left of them.

In the center of the map the Syrian army (red) arrows are pointing towards the central desert areas held by ISIS forces which are retreating towards the east (black arrows). Moving simultaneously from the north, west and south the Syrian government forces make fast progress with several kilometers of ground retaken each day. During the last month 4,000 square kilometers and over 100 settlements and towns have been recovered. Within a few weeks they will have recovered all the (brown) ISIS held areas up to the Euphrates river line and the Syrian-Iraqi border.

Russian military bridging equipment recently started to arrive in Syria. It will be needed to cross the Euphrates and to recover the areas north of it.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - The End Of The War Is Now In Sight

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (106)

June 11, 2017

E.J. Magnier - Why ISIS Will Persist

Elijah J. Magnier has decades of experience as foreign policy and war correspondent in the Middle East.

Here is an excerpt from his latest piece:

The danger of ISIS will remain even after the liberation of Syria and Iraq: why?

ISIS benefited from immeasurable experiences of sympathisers who chose to join the ranks; doctors, engineers, university degree holders and many from all walks of life, including experts with large competence in propaganda. Those served ISIS and managed to create a regular magazine, radios and short films in many languages. They integrate the widespread electronic games with pictures of battles and killing in real life. An abundance of informative materials emanates daily from ISIS through the Internet to deliver ideas and messages to every home and continent no group ever had access to before.
...
The way mainstream media is handling the war in Iraq and above all the war in Syria has had a devastating role and negative influence on various communities around the globe, mainly those previously considered as passive radicals but who never went into action. The media coverage has encouraged “lone wolves” and contributed to providing valid reasons for large convoys who joined in the exodus to “Caliphate land”. The media have helped mislead young people by adopting unverified and fake news related to the war in Syria, and in so doing, disregarded their responsibility towards the profession.
...
In all places, US soldiers were part of the events, on the ground or in the sky participating in regime changes, building military bases and occupying more territories but leaving behind a fertile ground for terrorist organisation to proliferate and grow, like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Still today the US and Europe have not learned from history and still want to occupy territory: they set up four new military bases in Syria and are prepared to plant roots in Bilad al-Sham under the excuse of recovering ISIS-occupied areas. But ISIS will not be totally annihilated and these new occupying forces will face stronger and more experienced insurgency: history will repeat itself.
...

More here ...

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (148)

June 09, 2017

Open Thread 2017-22

(Meta: Travel and family commitments will allow for only light (if any) posting over the weekend - b.)

News & views ...

Posted by b at 08:30 AM | Comments (198)

Corbyn's Success Will Revitalize Europe's Social-Democracy

My heartfelt congratulations to Jeremy Corbyn and the social-democratic wing of the British Labour Party. You won the June 2017 election against huge resistance from the establishment even when Theresa May, for now, will continue to head the government.

AP: May’s UK election gamble backfires as Tories lose majority

Spectacularly punished by voters who took away her majority in parliament, a politically wounded Theresa May sought to soldier on Friday as Britain’s prime minister, resisting pressure to resign after the failure of her high-stakes election gamble made the massive challenge of untangling Britain from the European Union only more complex and uncertain.
...
With 649 of 650 seats in the House of Commons declared, May’s bruised Conservatives had 318 seats — short of the 326 they needed for an outright majority and well down from the 330 seats they had before May’s roll of the electoral dice. Labour has 261.
...
The results confounded those who said [Labour leader Jeremy] Corbyn was electorally toxic. Written off by many pollsters, Labour surged in the final weeks of the campaign. It drew strong support from young people, who appeared to have turned out to vote in bigger-than-expected numbers.
...
Many predicted [May] would soon be gone.

“Clearly if she’s got a worse result than two years ago and is almost unable to form a government, then she, I doubt, will survive in the long term as Conservative Party leader,” former Conservative Treasury chief George Osborne said on ITV.

May will now join into a coalition with the north-Irish conservative Democratic Union (DUP) which has won 12 seats in Parliament. Even then she will only have a slim majority. The DUP is tainted with some shady Saudi money involvement. We may well see another snap-election later this year.

Labour won the vote of the young people who turned out in high numbers. Most of the older people voted for the Tories. How will that development transfer into party percentages ten years from now?

Corbyn delivered the best results for Labour since at least 1997. This even though the Labour establishment and its media organs had defamed him since he was elected party leader in 2015. Consider the fake-leftist (and Zionist) columnist Nick Cohen, one of several of his kind in the Guardian columnist stable. Only three month ago Cohen wrote:

The Tories have gone easy on Corbyn and his comrades to date for the transparently obvious reason that they want to keep them in charge of Labour.

In an election, they would tear them to pieces. They will expose the far left’s record of excusing the imperialism of Vladimir Putin’s gangster state , the oppressors of women and murderers of gays in Iran, the IRA, and every variety of inquisitorial and homicidal Islamist movement, while presenting itself with hypocritical piety as a moral force. Will there be 150, 125, 100 Labour MPs by the end of the flaying? My advice is to think of a number then halve it.

For the record: Labour won at least 261 seats, 31 more than in the last election. The Tories won 42.5% of the votes, Labour 40% - 10 percent points more than the last time. The British elections system transfers the small Tory advantage in voter share into a rather big difference in parliament seats.

The Corbyn win gives hope for future developments in other European countries. (The long-term trends are way more important than Brexit shenanigans.) Corbyn has proven that social-democratic parties can again be competitive if they shun the neo-liberal dogma and go back to their class based policy roots. The lesson comes too late for the elections in France and the upcoming elections in Germany. In both countries the establishment still rules the social-democratic parties and loses one election after the other. Like Labour in Britain they need a renewal in which real left-wing politicians and socialist policies move back to the top. (The U.S. would probably have made a comparable move if the party establishment had not sabotage Bernie Sanders in favor of an un-electable Hillary Clinton. Sanders though was probably a one-of-a kind chance that will not return for a long time.)

It will need some time for Jeremy Corbyn's win to transfer into a Europe wide renaissance of social-democratic policies. But his was a huge step forward and the movement and trend are coming along well.

Posted by b at 08:09 AM | Comments (93)

June 08, 2017

News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Big stories are coming up today but I will have no time to extensively post on them. A short take:

The Conservatives in Britain will likely win today's elections - at least according to recent polls. This even as the Labour Party, under its new leader Jeremy Corbyn, will achieve its best results since "New Labour" under Tony Blair wreaked the party.

The unnecessary loss for Labour can be solely blamed on the media, especially the "liberal" ones like the Guardian, who viciously defamed and fought against Corbyn ever since he was elected to lead the party.

---

In hearings at the U.S. Congress the former director of the FBI Comey will do his best to put a bad light on Trump. Trump fired him, later than he should have done, for good reasons:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in U.S. elections] that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. [...]

That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar.

The anti-Trump media (which means about 90% of all) will push the Comey testimony as evidence for malfeasance by Trump even though nothing of that kind will be in there.

---

Micah Zenko writes that there is a danger that the Trump administration will wage war somewhere against someone as a diversion from the pressure it is under within Washington DC:

Cont. reading: News of the Day - Elections in Britain, Comey Testimony, Gulf Troubles

Posted by b at 04:48 AM | Comments (173)

June 07, 2017

The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Many people believe that Qatar will soon give in to recent Saudi demands and threats. I first though so too but have changed my opinion. Qatar will likely hold out way longer than anyone assumes and fight more intensive and much longer than foreseen.

The Saudi "young leader" has now given Qatar 24 hours to submit to 10 demands. These include (unconfirmed) the dismantling of Al Jazeera, breaking off of all diplomatic relations with Iran and (the Israeli demand of) ending all support for the Muslim Brotherhood and especially Hamas. The Saudis threaten with a military invasion.

But Qatar is not like Bahrain where 1,000 Saudi troops could easily take over to save a dictator from a mostly unarmed uprising of its people. It has way more resources and capable allies on its side and recent news shows that it knows how to use them.

Two days ago we extensively described the complex conflict between Qatar and some of its neighbors that has recently been escalating. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are the main forces on one side, joined yesterday by Donald Trump but not by the Pentagon. On the other side is Qatar, geographically isolated and seemingly without any real allies even though it hosts a very large U.S. command center and air-base.

The conflict has been simmering for years. Qatar has a strong media arm with Al Jazeera TV and other prominent news outlets. Qatar and its media support the political Islam of the Muslim Brotherhood which won elections in Egypt before being kicked out in a Saudi financed military coup. The ruling Turkish AK Party is a Muslim Brotherhood branch as is Hamas in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood parties have thereby proven that it's possible to have an Islam(ist) aligned government without a hereditary dictatorship. Their pure existence de-legitimates the al-Saud clan and other dictatorial family enterprises in the wider Middle East.

There is little reason to waste tears on Qatar. It is a small country with only 200,000 original inhabitants but with 2,000,000 expatriates living there too. Thanks to its large natural gas reserves Qatar is ultra rich and has a very modern (but also vulnerable) infrastructure. The country is way more liberal than Saudi Arabia. Its cities are somewhat cosmopolitan. Unlike in Saudi Arabia women are allowed to drive and other religions than Islam can build their places of worship. But the rulers of Qatar officially follow the same ultraconservative and proselytizing Wahhabi cult as the al-Sauds. They support terrorists of the worst kind in the war against the Syrian people and elsewhere (just as the al-Sauds do).

The Saudis currently lack money. Oil prices are too low to finance the needs of its 26 million people and the exorbitant expenditures of its ruling family. The Qatari gas fields would be a very profitable extension of their oil empire. The UAE would like to take over strategic Qatari islands in the Gulf (and the hydrocarbon fields around them). Taking over Qatar would bring both countries into a better position to fight their presumed enemy in Iran.

As we wrote:

The extreme bullying of Qatar by the Saudis and the UAE, with total closure of all its borders, is designed to create an immediate capitulation. So far Qatar holds onto its course but in the end it is likely to fold. It will have to stop its support for "terrorism" i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood. Another scenario is a putsch in Doha with some Saudi puppet prepared to take over the realm. If that is unsuccessful a military move could follow. Qatar has little capabilities to withstand a potential Saudi invasion.

I have since changed my opinion and said so in a few conversation on Twitter. Qatar will hold out way longer than anticipated. It may not fold at all:

Cont. reading: The Saudis Demand Total Surrender But Qatar Will Not Fold

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (104)

June 06, 2017

Do Not Trust The Intercept or How To Burn A Source

Yesterday The Intercept published a leaked five page NSA analysis about alleged Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections. Its reporting outed the leaker of the NSA documents. That person, R.L. Winner, has now been arrested and is likely to be jailed for years if not for the rest of her life.


Intercepted source - R.L. Winner

FBI search (pdf) and arrest warrant (pdf) applications unveil irresponsible behavior by the Intercept's reporters and editors which neglected all operational security trade-craft that might have prevented the revealing of the source. It leaves one scratching one's head if this was intentional or just sheer incompetence. Either way - the incident confirms what skeptics had long determined: The Intercept is not a trustworthy outlet for leaking state secrets of public interests.

The Intercept was created to privatize the National Security Agency documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The documents proved that the NSA is hacking and copying nearly all electronic communication on this planet, that it was breaking laws that prohibited spying on U.S. citizen and that it sabotages on a large scale various kinds of commercial electronic equipment. Snowden gave copies of the NSA documents to a small number of journalists. One of them was Glenn Greenwald who now works at The Intercept. Only some 5% of the pages Snowden allegedly acquired and gave to reporters have been published. We have no idea what the unpublished pages would provide.

The Intercept, a subdivision of First Look Media, was founded by Pierre Omidyar, a major owner of the auctioning site eBay and its PayPal banking division. Omidyar is a billionaire and "philanthropist" who's (tax avoiding) Omidyar Network foundation is "investing" for "returns". Its microcredit project for farmers in India, in cooperation with people from the fascists RSS party, ended in an epidemic of suicides when the farmers were unable to pay back. The Omidyar Network also funded (fascist) regime change groups in Ukraine in cooperation with USAID. Omidyar had cozy relations with the Obama White House. Some of the held back NSA documents likely implicate Omidyar's PayPal.

The Intercept was funded with some $50 million from Omidyar. Its first hires were Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill and Laura Poitras - all involved in publishing the Snowden papers and other leaks. Its first piece was based on documents from the leaked NSA stack. It has since published on this or that but not in a regular media way.  The Intercept pieces are usually heavily editorialized and tend to have a mainstream "liberal" to libertarian slant. Some were highly partisan anti-Syrian/pro-regime change propaganda. The website seems to have no regular publishing schedule at all. Between one and five piece per day get pushed out, only a few of them make public waves. Some of its later prominent hires (Ken Silverstein, Matt Taibbi) soon left and alleged that the place was run in a chaotic atmosphere and with improper and highly politicized editing. Despite its rich backing and allegedly high pay for its main journalists (Greenwald is said to receive between 250k and 1 million per year) the Intercept is begging for reader donations.

Yesterday's published story (with bylines of four(!) reporters) begins:

Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The NSA "intelligence report" the Intercept publishes alongside the piece does NOT show that "Russian military intelligence executed a cyberattack". The document speaks of "cyber espionage operations" - i.e someone looked and maybe copied data but did not manipulate anything. Espionage via computer networks is something every nation in this world (and various private entities) do all the time. It is simply the collection of information. It is different from a "cyberattack" like Stuxnet which are intended to create large damage,

Cont. reading: Do Not Trust The Intercept or How To Burn A Source

Posted by b at 06:09 AM | Comments (150)

June 05, 2017

"The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"

Emboldened by U.S. backing Saudi Arabia launched a campaign to finally subjugate Qatar into client state status. The plan has now reached a high point. A few hours ago Bahrain, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia severed all ties with Qatar.

All sea- and airspace have been closed for Qatari traffic and the land-routes severed. All Qataris will have to leave those countries within 14 days. Qatari diplomats were given just 48 hours.

The immediate consequences are huge. Some 37 million passengers cross through Doha each year. But Qatar Airways now has to fly through Iranian, Iraqi and Turkish airspace to reach Europe. (If the situation persists the UAE owned Emirates Airways will likely order a huge bunch of new planes.) Half of the food in Qatar comes via Saudi Arabia through Qatar's only land border. 600-800 trucks per day can no longer pass. The 19 flights per day between Doha and Dubai are called off.  Oil prices rose some 1.6% and the Qatari stock exchange tanked.

The reasons for the immediate spat are manifold. It has only little to do with Iran.

The Saudis accuse Qatar of supporting terrorists. That is like Britain accusing the U.S. of imperialism, or the mafia cutting ties with the mob over gangsterism. As Joe Biden remarked (vid) when still Vice President, both Wahhabi countries, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, have been funding and fueling terrorism in Syria, Iraq and elsewhere. But the Saudi view is that the more "liberal" Qatar is simply supporting the "wrong" kind of terrorists.

Cont. reading: "The GCC States Led By Saudi Arabia Will Collapse Into Oblivion"

Posted by b at 06:50 AM | Comments (199)

June 04, 2017

Theresa May Says "Enough Is Enough" - We Agree - Remove Her From Office

Some links on Britain - the terror attacks and the upcoming election:

BBC: British rebels attack Theresa May's strongholds in London

That is what the headline of BBC should have been yesterday and today. That is the way it reported when the "rebels" were "Syrians" and the attacks occurred in Damascus. Was that not objective? Why change it now?

Related to the Manchester attack John Pilger asks: What did the Prime Minister Know? (vid)

He points out, as we did, that Theresa May was Home Secretary when control orders were lifted to allow Libyan Takfiris move from Britain to Libya to destroy that country. Half of those came back, well trained, and one killed 22 people in Manchester. A blowback from May's personal decision to sent well known terrorists into British proxy wars. Now she says there is "too much tolerance of extremism"? Who tolerated these?

The current Home Secretary is no better: Amber Rudd Prevents Independent Candidate Questioning Arms Sales to Saudi Sponsors of Terrorism

That is the typical response of authoritarian rulers when their shady deals are openly discussed and their competence is questioned: more censorship: Theresa May calls on internet companies to eradicate 'safe spaces' for extremism in wake of London Bridge terror attack

Is the London Bridge a web server? Were the "safe spaces" on the internet used to attacked it? Or are the "safe spaces" the ones used to question Britain's and May's lucrative love affair with terrorist financing Wahhabi nuts in Saudi Arabia and Qatar? For an even deeper dive read You Can’t Understand ISIS If You Don’t Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia

May's collusion with the terror sponsors is not allowed to be officially known or discussed: Home Office may not publish terrorist funding report amid claims it focuses on Saudi Arabia - Inquiry is thought to focus on Saudi Arabia, which the UK recently approved £3.5bn worth of arms export licences to.

It would be bad for business to publicly acknowledge the real sources of Takfiri terrorism. A few dozens Brits here and there, in Manchester and London, will have to die every now and then to keep the shareholders of BAE Systems and other British arm producers happy. Jermey Corbyn would likely change that. He called for an arms embargo against Saudi Arabia.

London attack: Theresa May says 'things need to change' Prime Minister Theresa May: 'enough is enough' (vid)

We hope that the British voters will agree with her. Thinks need to change. Enough is enough. Vote May out of office. End the cushy relations with the medieval dictatorships of the Arab peninsula.

A change of leadership in Britain is well possible if the young Labour voters turn out in large numbers. Those British who want to end the terror against others and against themselves must now help to achieve that.

Posted by b at 01:31 PM | Comments (109)

June 03, 2017

Open Thread 2017-21

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (149)

June 02, 2017

France Debunks "Russian Hacking" Claims - Clinton Again Loses It

In April the New York Times, published this bullshit: Russian Hackers Who Targeted Clinton Appear to Attack France’s Macron

The campaign of the French presidential candidate Emmanuel Macron has been targeted by what appear to be the same Russian operatives responsible for hacks of Democratic campaign officials before last year’s American presidential election, a cybersecurity firm warns in a new report.
...
Security researchers at the cybersecurity firm, Trend Micro, said that on March 15 they spotted a hacking group they believe to be a Russian intelligence unit turn its weapons on Mr. Macron’s campaign — sending emails to campaign officials and others with links to fake websites designed to bait them into turning over passwords.

The group began registering several decoy internet addresses last month and as recently as April 15, naming one onedrive-en-marche.fr and another mail-en-marche.fr to mimic the name of Mr. Macron’s political party, En Marche.

Those websites were registered to a block of web addresses that Trend Micro’s researchers say belong to the Russian intelligence unit they refer to as Pawn Storm, but is alternatively known as Fancy Bear, APT 28 or the Sofacy Group. American and European intelligence agencies and American private security researchers determined that the group was responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee last year.

The "Macron attack" was very curious. Gigabytes of campaign emails were released by "the hackers" just hours before a media silence period before the election. The campaign immediately found fakes with Cyrillic markings and blamed "Russia". None of the released emails contained anything that was even remotely scandalous. It was likely a planned Public Relations stunt, not a cyber attack.

That NYT report was complete nonsense. The "cybersecurity firm" it quoted was peddling snake oil. Phishing attacks are daily occurrences, mostly by amateurs. Phishing emails are not cyber attacks. They are simply letters which attempt to get people to reveal their passwords or other secrets. They are generally not attributable at all. Likewise APT's, "Advanced Persistent Threats", are not "groups" but collections of methods that can be copied and re-used by anyone. After their first occurrence "in the wild" they are no longer attributable.

That isn't just me saying so. It is the head of France's cyber security agency:

Cont. reading: France Debunks "Russian Hacking" Claims - Clinton Again Loses It

Posted by b at 02:21 AM | Comments (55)

May 31, 2017

Trump Dumps Pretense Of Altruism From U.S. Foreign Policy

For decades the U.S. foreign policy elite and its presidents played the farce of an altruistic United States that acts for the global good and in the interest of humanity.

That was always a lie. Wherever one took a deeper look the U.S. acted solely in its (perceived) self interests. But the rhetoric helped to drag others along. Tributary governments could pretend they worked for the "universal good" when they in fact just followed orders from Washington DC. U.S. pressure was applied behind the curtain - through bribes, threats of revealing private secrets or -if necessary- via well managed "democratic" coups.

Those times are over. Thanks to the honesty of the Trump administration the foremost positions of hard U.S interests and deadly threats are now openly declared fundamentals of U.S. foreign policy.

The neo-conservative chaperone in the White House, National Security Advisor General McMaster, and the Goldman Sachs veto holder in the White House, economic advisor Gary Cohn, penned an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that reveals the new true face of the U.S. empire:

The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a “global community” but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage. We bring to this forum unmatched military, political, economic, cultural and moral strength. Rather than deny this elemental nature of international affairs, we embrace it.

Translation: "Power is with the strong. We feel strong. Screw you!"

At every stop in our journey, we delivered a clear message to our friends and partners: Where our interests align, we are open to working together to solve problems and explore opportunities. We let adversaries know that we will not only take their measure, deter conflict through strength, and defend our interests and values, but also look for areas of common interest that allow us to work together. In short, those societies that share our interests will find no friend more steadfast than the United States. Those that choose to challenge our interests will encounter the firmest resolve.

From now on the U.S. will only engage in selective, temporary friendships: "Where our interests align", and only there, will the U.S. be friendly because it obviously serves U.S. interests. Wherever a country deviates from that, even partially, it will "encounter the firmest resolve." That is as clear a threat as it can be.

Cont. reading: Trump Dumps Pretense Of Altruism From U.S. Foreign Policy

Posted by b at 02:24 PM | Comments (134)

May 30, 2017

France Prepares Pro-AlQaeda Intervention In Syria

It seems like France is looking for excuses to extend the war on Syria.

On May 25 the French news agency AFP published a propaganda piece about Arab horse racing in Idleb:

The spectators broke out into a lively line-dance and shot celebratory gunfire into the air as each muscled creature blasted past the finish line, kicking up clouds of golden sand.

"Muscled creatures", "clouds of golden sands" - is that modern French poetry?

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The AFP pictures only show two horses - not much of a race. Adding to that fail they also show an al-Qaeda child soldier (on the right) with a gun way too big for him:

Cont. reading: France Prepares Pro-AlQaeda Intervention In Syria

Posted by b at 11:52 AM | Comments (108)

May 29, 2017

U.S. Wants Control Over Anbar And Beyond - Iraq and Syria Will Prevent It

The U.S. is casting its net over the desert between Iraq and Syria, Saudi Arabia and Jordan to install military bases and power-structures that will guarantee major influence in the area for the foreseeable future. A part of that plan is to develop Sunni proxy forces that will keep the government forces of Damascus and Baghdad out of the area. Another part is to privatize important infrastructure to keep it under direct U.S. control.

To privatize the Iraqi Highway 1 between Baghdad and the Jordanian capital Amman, is a major point in these plans. According to the NYT:

As part of an American effort to promote economic development in Iraq and secure influence in the country after the fight against the Islamic State subsides, the American government has helped broker a deal between Iraq and Olive Group, a private security company, to establish and secure the country’s first toll highway.


Map by New York Times

The map shows Highway 1 from Baghdad to Amman. Notice the road junction east of the Jordan-Iraq border. There the road splits with one branch going north-west towards Damascus. The point where that road crosses from Iraq to Syria is the al-Tanf border station currently occupied by U.S. forces and their British and Norwegian auxiliaries as well some Syrian "rebels" under U.S. control. The U.S. recently bombed a convoy of Syrian and allied Iraqi forces which was moving towards that area.  The U.S. military dropped leaflets to Syrian troops to order them to stay away from their own border. Who the f*** do those U.S. troops think they are? What is there justification to be there in the first place? Large Iraq and Syrian government forces are now moving towards al-Tanf from the two sides of the border to evict the occupiers. Iraq, Syria, Iran and Russia have agreed that no U.S. position will be tolerated there. U.S. and other foreign troops will either move out voluntary from al-Tanf or they will be removed by force.

Highway 1 and its branch to Damascus is the most important economic lifeline between Syria and Jordan in the west and Iraq and beyond in the east. Whoever controls it, controls major parts of commerce between those countries. Iraq is a country with rich resources. While it is under economic strains after decades of U.S. sanctions and war against it by the U.S. and Takfiri proxy forces it has no long-term need to rent out such major real estate.

Nevertheless the current Iraqi government under Prime Minister al-Abadi signed a preliminary agreement for a 25 year contract with the U.S. company:

Mr. Abadi has awarded the development project to Olive Group, although the final details are still being worked out. The project would include repairing bridges in western Anbar Province; refurbishing the road, known as Highway 1; and building service stations, rest areas and roadside cafes. It would also include mobile security by private contractors for convoys traveling the highway.

Al Abeidi is now under pressure from the Shia majority who elected him into office to renounce the deal. It is obviously that the deal is not in their interest nor that of the country. According to U.S. diplomats one purpose of the deal is:

pushing back on the influence of Shiite Iran, whose growing power in Iraq has alarmed important Sunni allies of the United States like Saudi Arabia and Turkey.

Iran has little to do with the road. It is the Shia majority of Iraq that would benefit most from free flowing traffic and commerce on it.

Turkey and Saudi Arabia have enabled the Sunni insurgency in Iraq of which ISIS is just the latest incarnation. To allow the U.S. to control the road and thereby Anbar province in the name of Turkey and Saudi Arabia would guarantee that future Sunni insurgencies could threaten Baghdad whenever "needed". Just remember how Obama said he used ISIS to throw then Prime Minster Maliki out of office:

The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.

A U.S. controlled west-Iraq and south-eastern Syria would be a highway for Saudi Arabian miscreants from their country up towards Baghdad and Damascus. It would be an incarnation of the "Salafist principality" the U.S. and other early ISIS supporters have wished for since at least 2012.

The U.S. is willing to obfuscate and to lie to further its imperial plans. The NYT is, as usual, complicit in that:

Playing on painful memories and fears of Iraqis, news outlets have also run false reports that Blackwater — the private security firm that acted with impunity in the early days of the American occupation and gunned down innocent Iraqis in Baghdad’s Nisour Square in 2007 — had taken on the project.

“The politics of this country are challenging,” said Christian Ronnow, executive vice president of Constellis, the parent company of Olive Group, a private security firm that has worked for years in Iraq.

What the NYT claims are "false reports" are in fact reasonable conclusions:

The [Constellis] Group combines the specialized skills and operational excellence of ACADEMI, Edinburgh International, Strategic Social and Triple Canopy,

ACADEMI

is an American private military company founded in 1997 by former Navy SEAL officer Erik Prince as Blackwater, renamed as XE Services in 2009 and now known as Academi since 2011 after the company was acquired by a group of private investors.

Olive Group is Constellis Group is Academi is Blackwater - the "false reports" in Iraqi media are way more truthful on that than the NYT is.

The U.S. project in Anbar province and its potential control of Highway 1 through private U.S. forces threatens to put an economic stranglehold on Iraq, Syria and Jordan. I trust that nationalist forces in those countries as well as their allies will do their best to prevent it.

Posted by b at 07:37 AM | Comments (80)

May 28, 2017

Open Thread 2017-20

News & views ...

Posted by b at 05:08 AM | Comments (117)

May 27, 2017

The Real Foreign Policy Scandal Is Its Sabotage By Trump Enemies

During the election campaign Donald Trump argued for better relations with Russia. He wanted to engage in a common fight against the Islamic State and other terrorists. Hillary Clinton argued for a confrontational policy against Russia and a new cold war. The foreign policy establishment, the media and the CIA were solidly on Clinton's side. The people of the United States made their choice. It was Trump and his views of policies that were elected.

After Trump had won the election, he advised his staff to set up a confidential track-2 communication channel with the Russian government. He rightfully did not trust the established official channels through the State Department and the CIA. His incoming National Security Advisor Flynn and his foreign policy advisor Kushner worked on his behalf when they soughed contacts with Russian officials. Such diplomacy is by nature not acted out in public.

But now the U.S. people are told by their media that it is a scandal, A SCANDAL, that President Trump's advisors pursue the policies the candidate Trump had argued for. Today's headlines: NYT - Kushner Is Said to Have Discussed a Secret Channel to Talk to Russia; WaPo - Russian ambassador told Moscow that Kushner wanted secret communications channel with Kremlin; The Hill - Kushner wanted secure line with Kremlin before inauguration: report; The New Yorker - Jared Kushner’s Russia Problems; Reuters - Exclusive: Trump son-in-law had undisclosed contacts with Russian envoy - sources.

The various formulations in those pieces are painting the discrete diplomatic contacts as something sinister and illegal:

NBC News reported on Thursday that Kushner was under scrutiny by the FBI, in the first sign that the investigation, which began last July, has reached the president’s inner circle.
...
FBI investigators are examining whether Russians suggested to Kushner or other Trump aides that relaxing economic sanctions would allow Russian banks to offer financing to people with ties to Trump, said the current U.S. law enforcement official.

But paragraphs down from that:

While the FBI is investigating Kushner’s contacts with Russia, he is not currently a target of that investigation, the current law enforcement official said.
...
There may not have been anything improper about the contacts, the current law enforcement official stressed.

The WaPo author has at least the honesty to note:

It is common for senior advisers of a newly elected president to be in contact with foreign leaders and officials.

As an aside the Washington Post leakers reveal that U.S. intelligence can listen to Russian diplomatic communication between the embassy in Washington and Moscow. This is a criminal breach of a "sources and methods" secrets that should be punished.

The scandal here are not various contacts of Trump advisors with Russian and other country's diplomats. The scandal is the undermining of the constitutional prerogative of the elected President of the United State to set foreign policy:

Under the Constitution, the President serves as head of state and head of government. [..] As head of government, he formulates foreign policy, supervises its implementation and attempts to obtain the resources to support it. He also organizes and directs the departments and agencies that play a part in the foreign policy process. Along with the Vice President, he is the only government official elected nationally. This places him in a unique position to identify, express and pursue the “national interests” of the U.S.

The scandal here is not Trump and are not his advisors' contacts with Russian officials. The scandal are the leaks by "officials" about confidential diplomacy, the sham FBI "investigations" and the general undemocratic hostility and resistance of the foreign policy establishment, the security services and the media towards the president's chosen policies. This is completely independent of whether one likes those policies or not.

Posted by b at 05:38 AM | Comments (112)

Al-Qaeda's Godfather Is Dead - Good Riddance

The ruthless U.S. imperialist Zbigniew Brzezinski died last night. Good riddance.

Brzezinski was the godfather of al-Qaeda and similar groups.

As National Security Advisor of U.S. President Jimmy Carter Brzezinski devised the strategy of using religiously motivated radical militants against secular governments and their people. He sent Saudi financed Wahhabi nuts to fight the government of Afghanistan before the USSR intended to send its military in support that government. His policy of rallying Jihadis (vid) caused millions of death. Brzezinski did not regret that:

What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?

Brzezinski hailed from a Polish nobility family in Galicia, now west Ukraine. (Galicia is, not by chance, also the place of origin of today's Ukrainian neo-nazis.) The family fled Poland after its German/Soviet partition and and the socialization of the vast nobility properties during and after the second world war. Zbigniew Brzezinski hate of anything socialist and Russian derived from that.

The 9/11 attacks, the war on Syria, the recent massacre in Manchester and the murder of 28 Copts yesterday in Egypt are direct consequences of Brzezinski's "some stirred-up Moslems" strategy of exporting revolutions. The growth of the fundamentalist Saudi Wahhabi creed, a danger to all mankind, was prepared and propagated by him.

May he burn in hell - soon to be joined by the other "total whore" and fellow war criminal Henry Kissinger,

Posted by b at 05:31 AM | Comments (71)

May 26, 2017

Poor Poet In A Squeeze

(Pinned to top May 19 - May 26 2017. Scroll down for new content.)
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Dear friends,

this Poor Poet is in a squeeze and needs your support.


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Cont. reading: Poor Poet In A Squeeze

Posted by b at 05:30 PM | Comments (61)

Syria - Truth Slips Through In The New York Times - NATO Preps to Fight Iran And Russia

The New York Times Magazine has an interesting piece about east Aleppo. Robert Worth visited it recently and talked to people there. The NYT editors/censors inserted many of their standard slander against the Syrian government, but the can not drown out the realities described therein.

Thus the piece is headline: Aleppo After the Fall but one of the key sentences in it says just the opposite:

Yasser said he was one of the first people to come back [to east-Aleppo], right after what he — like everyone else I met — called the liberation.

Jihadi propaganda claims of government bombing of random hospitals without reason "verified" by a Skype call to some al-Qaeda propagandist in Idleb- are mixed with reality based on-the-ground reporting:

On my second day in the city, I went to see the Aleppo Eye Hospital, a sprawling compound that the rebels had used as a military headquarters. As we walked through the burned and shattered building, my government minder and the soldiers guarding the place kept picking up markers of the rebels’ Islamist leanings. They weren’t hard to find. A fire-blackened car out front still had the Qaeda logo on its hood. ...

Unfortunately the piece also includes factual errors:

The reporter, an Aleppan named Rida al-Basha, described the neighborhoods where [looting] had taken place and named the militias, including the notorious Tiger Forces, whose leaders include well-known thugs.

I do not doubt that looting has taken place after the liberation of east-Aleppo. Those who supported the "rebel" invasion of their city will have lost everything. But looting by the Tiger Force "militia"? The Tiger Force are the Special Operations Division of the Syrian Arab Army, not a "militia". It is led by highly professional officers, not by "thugs". Its leader, General Suheil al-Hassan, has been in the army for over 26 years. The division is armed with Russian T-90 tanks and other heavy assault equipment. It is an offensive unit which has been very busy on various fronts. It is not a mopping up or occupation force for urban areas that would have time for organized looting in Aleppo. The quoted claim is inconsistent with those facts.

But still - the Magazine piece is filled with detailed story of real people who factually tell what the "rebels" have done to their city. How they looted every factory and house down to the copper electricity wire and sold everything off to Turkey. Wherever the story is based on real reporting it confirms the view and position of the anti-Islamist Syrian majority which supports its government. After years of claiming the opposite in its hundreds of anti-Syrian propaganda pieces one wonder how the NYT editors let this pass.

One anecdote even reveals who the Syrians will choose as their future leader:

My Syrian businessman friend told me that he twice gathered about a dozen people for dinner and offered them a hypothetical in strict confidence. It is up to you to name the next president of Syria, he said. Whom would you choose? The guests were all Syrians, and none supported the regime. To his surprise, almost all of them named Assad.

And that, dear reader, is why the U.S. and its proxies are against truly democratic elections in Syria. Their nemesis would easily win and prevent the planned neo-liberal looting of what is left of the Syrian state.

The Islamic proxy forces of the "west", al-Qaeda under its various disguises, Ahar al-Sham and even ISIS are mostly done. The latest especially is no longer a capable military force but is reverting to guerilla levels of operation. Its final defeat will take a long time but it must and will be achieved by local forces.

Despite that the U.S. pressed on NATO members to let the NATO organization join its "fight against ISIS". The single NATO members were already part of the U.S. coalition. But NATO as an organization brings large scale command and control capabilities as well as additional resources. (All under U.S. control.)

Make no mistake - "fighting ISIS" is not the real purpose of the move. The U.S. wants NATO support to invade Syria from the north in Idleb as well as from the south near Deraa and from the south-east starting at the al-Tanf border station to Iraq. Syria and its allies will now be fought under the disguise of "fighting ISIS" which factually can no longer be the purpose. Thus NATO, together with Wahhabi Gulf forces, will now be engaged in an expanded war not only against the Syria government but especially against its Russian and Iranian allies. Trump's endorsement of anti-Iranian rhetoric on his visit in Saudi Arabia served a similar purpose.

Syria and its allies will try to prevent a further invasion by cutting off al-Tanf and holding on to Deraa city - thereby blocking any wider military moves. But those measures will probably be in vain. Unless some sane voices intervene we are now at the beginning of a far wider and more dangerous war that can easily slip out of anyone's control.

---
Moon of Alabama needs your support to continue publishing. Please consider a donation.

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (77)

May 25, 2017

Details Emerge On The Manchester Blowback From Britain's Terror Support

There are now a few more details on the Manchester attack and how it relates to British support for Takfirs in its wars on independent countries in the Middle East and elsewhere. The picture has not changed though from the one we painted yesterday. The attack was a blow back from the British use of Takfiris to take down governments it dislikes.

In 2011 when the British, French and the U.S. waged war on Libya, the British government sent British-Libyan Takfiris to fight against the Libyan government forces:

Belal Younis, another British citizen who went to Libya, described how he was stopped under 'Schedule 7' counter-terrorism powers on his return to the UK after a visit to the country in early 2011. ...

He said he was subsequently asked by an intelligence officer from MI5, the UK's domestic security agency: "Are you willing to go into battle?"

"While I took time to find an answer he turned and told me the British government have no problem with people fighting against Gaddafi," he told MEE.

Known Libyan radicals were released from control order in Britain, given their passports back and hauled off to Libya. There British special forces were on the ground and British fighter planes in the air to support their fighting against the legitimate Libyan government. MI-5, the domestic British spy service, "sorted" the fighters sent from Britain. The responsible British Home Secretary at that time? One Theresa May, now the British Prime Minister.

The father of the Manchester assassin fought in Libya in a gang related to the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, a known al-Qaeda entity. His son, then 16 years old, joined him:

In 2011, when Abedi was still a teenager, he traveled to Libya and fought alongside his father in a militia known as the Tripoli Brigade to oust Gadhafi as the revolts of the Arab Spring swept North Africa and the Middle East, a family friend said.

The son returned to Manchester but became a well known danger to society. Members of Libyan exile society in Manchester reported him at least five times as a dangerous Jihadi to the local authorities. There were no reactions. Additionally:

Abedi's own family background might also have been a red flag to authorities. His father was a member of the militant Libyan Islamic Fighting Group.
...
France’s interior minister said the 22-year-old had “proven” links with Islamic State and that both British and French intelligence services had information that the attacker had been in Syria.

According to the Financial Times Salman Abedi came back to Britain a few days before the attack via Turkey and Germany. He had come from Libya to Turkey but probably stayed a few days in Syria to receive his last orders.

All these attacks by Takfiris, in Paris, in Brussels, Berlin and Manchester as well as in Libya, Syria and Iraq, have their ideological roots in Wahhabism, the extreme version of Salafist Islam promoted in Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The roots of such terrorism are in Riyadh and Doha and will have to be fought there.

But the Saudi and Qatari rulers pay extraordinary amounts of protection money in the form of weapon purchases from British and U.S. companies. As long as they keep doing so they will be kept in place as useful props in the bigger scheme.

For the ruling classes in Britain and elsewhere the victims in Manchester are just collateral damage in their quest to rule the world with help of the Wahhabi storm troopers.

Meanwhile "western" media and news agencies continue to promote life in al-Qaeda country, "Now with Arabian horse races !", and incited more youngsters into joining the deadly cult.

Posted by b at 12:59 PM | Comments (120)

May 24, 2017

The Manchester Attack - A Blowback From Britain's Terror Support In Libya, Syria And Beyond

When I first learned of yesterday's terror incident in Manchester, UK I snarked:

Moon of Alabama‏ @MoonofA

So another heroic "Syrian rebel" - which the British government avidly supports - blew himself up. But why in #Manchester?

6:26 AM - 23 May 2017

Several people attacked my over that tweet.

How would I know it was a "Syrian rebel" who blew himself up in the Manchester Arena?

Well, how would you know that any of the takfiri "Syrian rebels" the UK, the U.S. and their Gulf proxies support in Syria are from Syria? Many are definitely not.

Then news appeared that the attacker's name was Abedi and that he hailed from an anti-Ghaddafi tribe in eastern Libya. It was eastern Libya from where in Macrh 2011 a tribal insurrection to overthrow the Libyan government was initiated. Weapons were flown in from Qatar and handed out to Jihadists. British special forces were on the ground to help the takfiris of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) in their attacks towards the Libyan capital in western Libya. The leader of the eastern front was Abdelhakim Belhadj, a long time al-Qaeda member, After Ghaddafi was overthrown with British help al-Qaeda's flag went up over the court house of the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi.

The Manchester plot thickened.

Now we read this:

Cont. reading: The Manchester Attack - A Blowback From Britain's Terror Support In Libya, Syria And Beyond

Posted by b at 05:53 AM | Comments (217)

May 23, 2017

Libya - Massacre At Brak al-Shatti May Trigger Larger Civil War

Egypt, the UN and Arab governments try to mediated between the two governments in Libya. A massacre at an air base interrupted the process and threatens to intensify the civil war.

by Richard Galustian

(Cairo) Nobody has their eye on Libya with all "western" media preoccupied with DC machinations, Russiaphobia and the first overseas trip of President Trump.

What about the implosion we are on the brink of seeing in Libya following the murder of all LNA Air Force personnel at the Brak al-Shati AFB?

The death toll in the attack of a Libyan National Army airbase, in south Libya, rose to over 140, a spokesman for Field Marshall Khalifa Haftar said on Sunday.

Remarkably it was militia (called 'the third force') of the UN unelected Government of National Accord (GNA) under Faez Serraj that attacked and executed the unarmed men in the Brak al-Shati Air base. There were allegedly foreigners among the attackers possibly aligned with al-Qaeda.

LNA spokesman Ahmad al-Mesmari said on Friday most of the fatalities were maintenance and support Air Force personnel including some pilots. He added the victims included many civilians such as cooks and cleaners who worked at the airbase or were in the nearby area, adding that barbaric summary executions were carried out one by one, all head shots. "Many of the young airmen were returning from a military parade. They weren't armed but still were executed," the spokesman said.

Cont. reading: Libya - Massacre At Brak al-Shatti May Trigger Larger Civil War

Posted by b at 02:01 AM | Comments (26)

May 22, 2017

The Orb - Wahhabis And Zionists Urge Trump To Regime-Change Syria To Fight Iran

There is something deeply wrong with what you do when even Satan feels the need to distance himself from you:

The picture is cropped but the original is even worse - the Wahhabi orb rules them all:

Cont. reading: The Orb - Wahhabis And Zionists Urge Trump To Regime-Change Syria To Fight Iran

Posted by b at 10:52 AM | Comments (114)

May 21, 2017

Talking Tactics, Lacking Strategy - The Generals On Syria And Iraq

On Friday Secretary of Defense [General ret.] Mattis, General Dunford and Special Envoy McGurk on the Campaign to Defeat ISIS held a press briefing. A transcript is available.

My first thought after reading its was: "These people live in a different world. They have no idea how the real word works on the ground. What real people think, say,  and are likely to do." There was no strategic thought visible. Presented were only some misguided tactical ideas.

One purpose of the briefing was obviously to souse the Saudis in preparation of Trumps weapons sales campaign there. There was no mention at all of any (Saudi financed) Jihadis in Syria or elsewhere besides ISIS. Questions about Kurdish or Iraqi paramilitary groups were answered with trash talk about Iran.

Besides that some notable points were made.

Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff remarked at one point that the Raqqa campaign was not delayed by the decision of Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn to temporarily halt the Obama order to launch that operation. He thereby rejected the accusations in a McClatchy news piece that Flynn's decision significantly delayed the campaign and that he was motivated by Turkish payments to him. A MoA piece had listed that McClatchy report as fake news. Turkish consulting payments to Flynn had ended three month earlier,  the decision was reasonable and the Raqqa campaign was not delayed by it. Dunford confirmed that.

The recent unprovoked and illegal U.S. air attack on a Syrian Army contingent moving towards the al-Tanf border station with Iraq was probably a local decision taken by an over-eager U.S. commander on the ground. Dunford said:

Cont. reading: Talking Tactics, Lacking Strategy - The Generals On Syria And Iraq

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (66)

May 20, 2017

Weekend Leisure - Drumming (Anika Nilles)

I have been listening to some drumming lately. From Mannheim, Germany, Anika Nilles with her composition Mister.

 

 

This lesson, with also more of her pieces, gives a bit of background on her particular style.

I also like these as a comparison of a master player and a quite good apprentice drummer:

Posted by b at 11:10 AM | Comments (22)

May 19, 2017

U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

Addendum added below
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The Syrian army is on the way to liberate the ISIS besieged city of some 100,000 and garrison of Deir Ezzor in the east of the country. The U.S. has trained a few thousand "New Syrian Army" insurgents in Jordan and is reportedly prepared to march these and its own forces from Jordan through the east-Syrian desert all the way up to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. About a year ago it occupied the al-Tanf (al-Tanaf) border station which consists of only a few buildings in the mid of the desert. The station between Syria and Iraq near the Jordan border triangle was previously held by a small ISIS group.

A U.S. move from the south up towards the Euphrates would cut off the Syrian government from the whole south-east of the country and from its people in Deir Ezzor. While that area is sparsely populated it also has medium size oil and gas fields and is the land connection to the Syrian allies in Iraq.

With the western part of the country relatively quiet, the Syrian government and its allies decided to finally retake the south-eastern provinces from ISIS. They want to lift the ISIS siege on Deir Ezzor and close the border between Syria and Iraq with its own forces. The move will also block any potential U.S. invasion from the south by retaking the road to al-Tanf and the Syrian-Iraqi border (red arrows). The sovereign Syrian state will not give up half of the country to an illegal occupation by ISIS or the U.S. At the same time as the eastern operations are running consolidation and clearing operations against ISIS in the middle and west of the countries will take place (green arrows).


Map by OZ_Analysis (modified by MoA) - bigger

Yesterday a small battalion size force (~2-300 men) of the regular Syrian army, Syrian National Defense Organization volunteers and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF/PMU of the Kata'ib al-Imam Ali) marched on the road from the west towards al-Tanf. They were about 23 kilometers away from the border station when they were attack by U.S. aircraft coming in low from Jordan. The U.S. jets directly fired at the convoy, allegedly after earlier giving some "warning shots". At least one Syrian tank and several other vehicles were destroyed. Six Syrian government forces were reported killed and more were wounded.

Cont. reading: U.S. Attacks Syrian Government Forces - It Now Has To Make Its Choice

Posted by b at 04:02 AM | Comments (195)

May 18, 2017

The Special Council Inquisition - Bad For Trump - And All of Us

The Trump administration made a huge mistake by not preventing the just announced special council investigation into the alleged, but likely non-existing "Trump-Russia" connections:

The Justice Department appointed a special counsel Wednesday to investigate possible coordination between President Trump’s associates and Russian officials — a clear signal to the White House that federal investigators will aggressively pursue the matter despite the president’s insistence that there was no “collusion’’ with the Kremlin.

Robert S. Mueller III, a former prosecutor who served as the FBI director from 2001 to 2013, has agreed to take over the investigation as a special counsel, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein announced. The move marks a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation to be run independently of the Justice Department. Calls for a special counsel intensified after Trump fired FBI Director James B. Comey last week.

It is weird that the WaPo report above calls this "a concession by the Trump administration to Democratic demands for the investigation". It further states that the White House was not informed about it until it had been made:

The White House did not learn of Rosenstein’s decision until just 30 minutes before the public announcement was made.

Anyway. This is bad and the Trump administration should have pulled all strings to prevent it. Such investigations NEVER stick to their original, limited tasks but extend further and further. The order the Acting Attorney General wrote includes language which allows for nearly unlimited digging in "any matters that arose or may arise directly from the investigation.” It will thereby continue until -inevitably- some dirt will be found that can be blown out of all proportion and lead to prosecutions or impeachment.

Robert S. Mueller is also a bad choice as a special council as he is a former colleague and friend of former FBI director James Comey who Trump recently fired. From 2013:

Forged Under Fire—Bob Mueller and Jim Comey’s Unusual Friendship

Both men were rising stars mentored and guided by Eric Holder in the 1990s during Holder’s time in the Justice Department under the Clinton administration.
...
Mueller, now 68, and Comey, now 52, would become close partners and close allies throughout the years ahead.
...

Both, Comey and Mueller, were involved in the dramatic hospital scene at the bed of Attorney General Ashcroft to stop Bush's illegal program of spying on U.S. citizens. The program in question stopped for a moment but the spying simply continued under a different legal justification.

The attempts to smear Trump and those around him over foreign connections have entered absurd territory. The lead headline at McClatchy today is a. old news, b. confusing the timeline only to further throw dirt into the direction of Trump:

Flynn stopped military plan Turkey opposed – after being paid as its agent

One of the Trump administration’s first decisions about the fight against the Islamic State was made by Michael Flynn weeks before he was fired – and it conformed to the wishes of Turkey, whose interests, unbeknownst to anyone in Washington, he’d been paid more than $500,000 to represent.

The incoming Trump administration temporarily stopped the Raqqa campaign which the Obama administration had decided would be done with Kurdish forces. This was on January 17, only a few days before the Trump administration took over. The Obama administration itself had deliberated about the issue for over 8 month and its choice was not its preferred option:

Cont. reading: The Special Council Inquisition - Bad For Trump - And All of Us

Posted by b at 07:07 AM | Comments (93)

May 17, 2017

Open Thread 2017-19

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (127)

James Comey Is Losing His Game With Another Non-News Leak

This is a short follow up on yesterday's false news stories topped with a Comey leak.

1. The New York Times tries to add to the story of the WannaCry ransom virus (which is based on NSA exploits),  hyping the unfounded claim that North Korea is behind it: Focus Turns to North Korea Sleeper Cells as Possible Culprits in Cyberattack. The story curiously does not even mention the nonsensical claim of a Google staffer that points to common code snippets in reused software stacks. Instead we get a long elaboration on how North Korea sends students abroad to be trained in IT and programming. In paragraph 4 the story asserts:

As evidence mounts that North Korean hackers may have links to the ransom assaults ...

But no evidence, none at all, is cited in the piece. The "mounting evidence" is a molehill without the hill. Eleven paragraphs later we learn that:

It also is possible that North Korea had no role in the attacks,

Duh. Six NYT reporters collaborated in writing that twenty paragraph story which contains no reasonable news or information. What a waste.

2. The State Department claim that Syria built a crematorium inside a prison to burn executed prisoners saw no follow up. But it had consequences. The presented "evidence" was too thin to make it believable. Even the staunchly anti-Syrian SPIEGEL doubted it: USA bleiben Beweise für Assads Leichenöfen schuldig. Translated: "U.S. fails to give evidence for Assad crematorium claims."

The State Department claim was presented in a special news conference by Stuart Jones, the acting assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs. A day later Jones announced that he would retire:

Jones, 57, told colleagues the decision was his own and that he had not been pushed out or asked to leave the department.

Ahem. Sure. Maybe. Or Secretary of State Rex Tillerson disliked the lame propaganda shows Jones presented under the official State Department seal.

3. Yesterday's "Trump revealed critical intelligence to Russia" nonsense is already dying down. Even regular NYT readers criticize their paper's reporting of it:

It’s quite strange that the media is giving such prominence to and broadcasting so much detail about supposedly highly secret information and its source in order to show how irresponsible President Trump is.
...
It seem that of the two, the media and the President, the media is by far the most at fault for leaking state secrets. Strange indeed: it seems the goal of bringing down Trump overrides all other considerations.”

To recap - in March the U.S. and the UK had issued a ban on laptops for fights from certain Middle Eastern airports:

The U.S. officials said intelligence "indicates terrorist groups continue to target commercial aviation" by "smuggling explosive devices in various consumer items."

It was known from other reports that the threat was from ISIS. Trump repeated this to the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and added that the origin of the treat is the ISIS capital Raqqa. Anyone would have guessed that. It was no secret. But "current and former officials" phoned up reporter after reporter to claim that Trump revealed critical intelligence because the Russians might now guess which country the information was coming from. A few hours later the Washington Post and the New York Times, not Trump, revealed that the original information came from Israel. It will be difficult to blame Trump for "leaking to the Russians" less information than "current and a former American official" leak to mainstream paper.

But as that smear against Trump and Russia has failed a new one is needed.

A week ago Trump unceremoniously fired FBI boss James Comey:

After six months of investigation the FBI had no evidence for any of the rumors about Russian interference [in the U.S.] that were thrown around. It should have closed the case with a clear recommendation not to prosecute the issue. That Comey kept the case open was political interference from his side. Hearings and public rumors about the case blocked the political calendar. Instead of following the facts, and deciding based upon them, he was himself running a political campaign.

Comey had hoped that he would not be fired as long as the investigation was running. Since Trump kicked him out Comey tried to get a public hearing in Congress to spill the beans and get some revenge. The Republican majority leaders smelled the trap and did not invite him. Today he upped his game: Comey Memo Says Trump Asked Him to End Flynn Investigation

President Trump asked the F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, to shut down the federal investigation into Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser, Michael T. Flynn, in an Oval Office meeting in February, according to a memo Mr. Comey wrote shortly after the meeting.

“I hope you can let this go,” the president told Mr. Comey, according to the memo.

Comey leaked the memo to raise new allegations against Trump and to finally get his day in Congress. But Trump's “I hope you can let this go” is not a clear interference in a judicial investigation. Trump just wished that the FBI would use its resources to look into other issues, like the extensive leaking of secret intelligence that occurred during recent months. Nothing nefarious can be constructed from that reasonable explanation. The investigation into Flynn, for violating the Foreign Agent Registration Act with relation to Turkey(!), continues. Trump has had no influence on it. If this talk has been so important as to possibly constitute a breach of law why did Comey wait months, until after he was fired, to leak it?

The Comey claim is another non-issue and non-story. The Republican congress leaders will not jump on Comey's bandwagon (- or will they?) If this was the worst Comey can present he has lost the fight.

The deep-state, which opposes any collaboration with Russia and wants Trump impeached (RealNews vid), will now have to find a new angle for its attack.

Posted by b at 05:17 AM | Comments (46)

May 16, 2017

One Day, Three Serious News Stories That Turn Out To Be False

It is a fakenews day. Three stories are making the rounds through the media that are each based on false or widely exaggerated interpretation of claims. North Korea, Syria and the U.S. President are the targets.

1. The Wall Street Journal asserts with a #fakenews headline that bits of computer-code in the recent WannaCry ransom virus are identical with bits of computer code that was allegedly used in a 2014 hack of Sony. (The Sony attack was falsely attributed to North Korea.)

Researchers Identify Clue Connecting Ransomware Assault to Group Tied to North Korea

Neel Mehta, a security researcher at Alphabet Inc.’s Google unit, on Monday pointed out similarities between that earlier WannaCry variant and code used in a series of attacks that security specialists have attributed to the Lazarus group.

The "Lazerus group" (which probably does not exist at all) was attributed to North Korean state agencies. Six paragraphs later we learn that the "similarities" were found in often reused code:

Cont. reading: One Day, Three Serious News Stories That Turn Out To Be False

Posted by b at 03:25 AM | Comments (96)

May 15, 2017

State Department: Renamed Al-Qaeda Not A Terrorist Organization - Can Receive CIA Supplies

Max Abrams, a professor who works about terrorism, came up with this new definition of "terrorism":

Nonstate actors who use violence against civilians for a political goal and haven't been supported by the US.

The highlighted part is "new" to those who have not learned from history and the many occasions of U.S. support for (typically extremely right-wing) terrorist organizations like the "contras" in Nicaragua, OUN fascists in Ukraine or Jihadi Mujahedin in Afghanistan. It can indeed be argued that the U.S. created al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State (ISIS).

But lets just be happy that people get again reminded of the issue.

Prof. Adams remark came after a report by the Canadian CBC which found that the U.S. has not designated al-Qaeda's recently renamed organization in Syria as a "foreign terrorist entity". HTS rules (vid) the Syrian city and governate of Idleb.

The U.S. offered a $10,000,000 reward (official pdf) for Abu Muhammad al-Joulani the founder al Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra aka Jabhat Fatah al-Sham). But newly again renamed organization which he leads as the official military commander, the Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), is not on any U.S. (and Canadian) terrorist entity list:

The Syrian branch of al-Qaeda, currently calling itself Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), has succeeded in getting itself off Canada's list of designated terrorist entities following its latest identity shift.
...
[I]n January of this year, the group shifted again, nominally dissolving itself and joining with four other jihadi groups. It altered its name, changing the word "Jabhat" (Front) to "Hay'at" (Organization), and "Fateh" (Conquest) to "Tahrir" (Liberation).
...
The State Department did issue a statement in March, in Arabic only, branding HTS a terrorist group. But the State Department's Nicole Thompson told CBC that was a mistake.

"Though closely affiliated with al-Nusra, Hay'at Tahrir al-Sham is not a designated terrorist organization," she said in an email. "The statement you found should have said al-Nusrah Front and has been corrected."

Al-Nusra, however, no longer exists.

The non-designation will make it more difficult to prosecute members and supporters of the organization. Donations and other support to HTS are now legal. While Nusra and HTS had claimed to no longer be part of al-Qaeda (but never retracted their oath to it), scholars within those organization frequently argue for publicly admit the connection. No professional working on the issue denies that HTS is part of al-Qaeda and a terrorist group. But, apparently, the U.S. State Department does.

The CBC speculates why HTS is not (or no longer) designated:

Cont. reading: State Department: Renamed Al-Qaeda Not A Terrorist Organization - Can Receive CIA Supplies

Posted by b at 10:12 AM | Comments (78)

 
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