Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
June 06, 2016

The Greatest - RIP

Why should me and other so-called negro go 10,000 miles from home here in America to drop bombs and bullets on other innocent brown people who never bothered us? And I will say directly: "No, I will not go."
Muhammad Ali - I Ain't Got No Quarrel With Them Viet Congs (vid)


---

"My conscious won't let me go shoot my brother, or some darker people, or some poor hungry people in the mud for big powerful America. And shoot them for what? They never called me nigger, they never lynched me, they put no dogs on me, they didn't rob me of my nationality, raped and killed my mother and father. Well, shoot them for what? I am not gonna shoot them. They are little poor black people, little babies and children, women. ... Why don't you just take me to jail."
Muhammad Ali on the Vietnam War (vid)


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“[T]he United States is the stronghold of Zionism and imperialism.”
...
"In my name and the name of all Muslims in America, I declare support for the Palestinian struggle to liberate their homeland and oust the Zionist invaders."
Ali Belts Zionism


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During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes have visited relentless persecution on them and received their teaching with the most savage hostility, the most furious hatred, the most ruthless campaign of lies and slanders. After their death, attempts are made to turn them into harmless icons, canonize them, and surround their names with a certain halo for the "consolation" of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping them, while at the same time emasculating and vulgarizing the real essence of their revolutionary theories and blunting their revolutionary edge.
Lenin, State and Revolution, Chap.1. - 1917 via Louis Allday

Confirming Lenin: Bill Clinton among those to give eulogies at service for Muhammad Ali

Posted by b at 09:14 AM | Comments (68)

June 04, 2016

Syria: The U.S. Is Unwilling To Settle - Russia Returns For Another Round

The Obama administration does not want peace in Syria. The Russians finally have to admit to themselves that the U.S. is no partner for a continuation of a cease fire, a coordinated attack against the Islamic State and al-Qaeda and for peace in Syria. Indeed, as Lavrov explains, the U.S. has again asked to spare al-Qaeda from Russian air strikes even as two UN Security Council resolutions demand its eradication. Huge supply convoys (vid) from Turkey are again going to the "rebels" who will, as always, share them with al-Qaeda and other terrorists.

The current renewed Syrian Arab Army attack towards Raqqa is being obstructed not only by sandstorms but also by a timely attack of al-Qaeda, Ahrar al Sham and Turkestan Islamist Party forces against government positions in the south Aleppo countryside.

More than 1,000 militants have begun an offensive against Syrian army positions southwest of Aleppo, the Russian ceasefire monitoring center in Syria said in a statement on Saturday.

The center also reported civilians in Aleppo as saying armed groups partly made up of Turkish soldiers had appeared north of the city.

The exactly same scheme happened in March and April when a move towards eastern Syrian by the Syrian army had to be stopped to prevent further losses against al-Qaeda south of Aleppo. It seems obvious that these moves U.S. supported forces are planned to prevent any gains of the Syrian government in the east.

Today Lavrov again talked to Kerry:

"Lavrov expressed concern about attempts to delay the resumption of political negotiations under various pretexts," the [Russian foreign] ministry said.

As the U.S. is unwilling to settle the Syria conflict Russia will have to retake the initiative.

Is this a trap? Does the U.S. want Russia to sink into a quagmire in Syria? That is certainly a possibility but it is hard to see how this could happen when Russia comes back with a vengeance and strikes hard and fast.

Russian airstrikes against terrorists in Syria have tripled over the last days. Additional resources have been silently dispatched:

Without stirring a buzz similar to that of their first military intervention in Syria, the Russians this week disembarked ground forces and paratroopers in the port of Tartus to support more than 3,000 Russian volunteers dispatched to the region in the past few weeks, in a bid to revive coordination with the Syrian army.
...
Syrian sources stated that the Russian joint command staff, which coordinated aerial support operations last fall, had returned to the Hmeimim military base in Latakia province to begin preparations for new operations.

One can only hope that the Russian leadership has learned its lesson. That it will not stop to pursue the enemy for no political gain when it is again, as it likely will soon be, on the run.

Posted by b at 02:11 PM | Comments (112)

June 03, 2016

Open Thread 2016-20

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (131)

June 02, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-03 - Yves Smith On "Not Hillary!"

Not Hillary!

Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism explains why many of her progressive acquaintances will either not vote, or vote for Trump in the upcoming U.S. election. I recommend to read this in full.

For starters two excerpts:

Hillary's experience is one of failure. And she did not learn from it.

Hillary has a résumé of glittering titles with disasters or at best thin accomplishments under each. Her vaunted co-presidency with Bill? After her first major project, health care reform, turned into such a debacle that it was impossible to broach the topic for a generation, she retreated into a more traditional first lady role. As New York senator, she accomplished less with a bigger name and from a more powerful state than Sanders did. As secretary of state, she participated and encouraged strategically pointless nation-breaking in Iraq and Syria. She bureaucratically outmaneuvered Obama, leading to U.S. intervention in Libya, which he has called the worst decision of his administration. And her plan to fob her domestic economic duties off on Bill comes off as an admission that she can’t handle being president on her own.

And the conclusion:

The Sanders voters in Naked Capitalism’s active commentariat also explicitly reject lesser-evilism, the cudgel that has previously kept true lefties somewhat in line. They are willing to gamble, given that outsider presidents like Jimmy Carter and celebrity governors like Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura didn’t get much done, that a Trump presidency represents an acceptable cost of inflicting punishment on the Democratic Party for 20 years of selling out ordinary Americans.

The Clintons, like the Bourbons before the French Revolution, have ensconced themselves in such a bubble of operative and media sycophancy that they’ve mistakenly viewed escalating distress and legitimate demands from citizens as mere noise.
...
If my readers are representative, Clinton and the Democratic Party are about to have a long-overdue day of reckoning.

To vote for the far right because the former center (left) has lost its bearing is a somewhat dangerous gamble. The U.S. has a relative stable, inertial system with lots of checks and balances that make this move less risky than similar moves underway in Poland, Germany or France. But unless the center left/right politicians recognize that they have lost their former majority there is no chance they will shun the neoliberal globalization nonsense they impose on their constituency.

Voting for a stronger movement towards a genuine left is be a better strategy than voting for the far right. But notorious lack of unity within the left, center-right control over the media and the absence of a successful current archetype will keep a majority away from taking that step.

I agree that the day of reckoning is a long-overdue day. But it may not bring the reckoning we want.

Posted by b at 03:36 AM | Comments (151)

June 01, 2016

The U.S./UK Financed "White Helmets" Shtick - Fake "Child Rescued" Videos

Below is a incomplete list of "rescue" videos showing "kids being rescued" from "rubble" after "Syrian/Russian bombing" prepared by the U.S./UK financed Syria Civil Defence aka the "White Helmets".

The group was created with the help of Purpose Inc, a U.S. company specialized in regime change NGO operations. Purpose Inc is also behind Avaaz which early on peddled fake war on Syria video propaganda. The White Helmets are financed, like all "Free Syrian Army" media propaganda, by USAID with some $23 million and by the UK Foreign Office with a total of some £23 million. The Netherlands and Japan also donated money to the scheme. The group was build up and trained since mid 2013 by a "former" UK military intelligence operator residing in Abu Dhabi. These are propaganda artists camouflaged as humanitarians.

The "White Helmets" cooperate closely with al-Qaeda. One of its leaders was recently denied an entry visa to the United States. More details about the group researched by Vanessa Beeley can be found here and here.

Back to the "rescue" videos. That shtick started in late 2013.

After that great marketing success the movie script was serialized. Since then a new version of a "child rescued" video appears every other month or so. Here are just a few of these with all of them following the same script.

This May 25 video is typical. Someone fiddles with professional rescue air pressure mats to show off but those mats are never put to use. Someone else digs with his hands under or behind a concrete slab which has a rather large opening on the side. A smiling and laughing child, totally unharmed and its favorite pupped in hand, is pulled from under or behind the concrete slab to lots of Allah Akbar shouting by the (always male) bystanders. Not shown: kid gets the promised candies for such great performance.

Other typical features of these movies, see this one, are smoke (grenades) in the streets, dramatic but small open fires nearby, dust or some red color on the children's face or arms. The camera is often used in a hectic, intentionally amateurish first person view, a style extensively developed in the 1999 horror clip Blair Witch Project. Sometimes sounds of additional "bomb impact" bangs or screaming/wailing women are added.

All the above videos are just as (un-)real as the faked "Hero Boy" video showing a "Syrian boy ducking sniper fire to rescue a trapped girl". Fake "opposition" videos have been a major feature of the media war on Syria. These fakes are often easily recognizable as such. We can be sure that the media professionals at the BBC and other outlets know that these are not real rescue scenes. They distribute them nonetheless.

Posted by b at 03:55 AM | Comments (50)

May 31, 2016

Not A Hospital, Not A Russian Strike, Not Civilian - Propaganda Fail In Syria

Below a dissection of another failed propaganda effort in the war of Syria. There are also two news items at the end which may be of interest.

A sometimes reliable account tweeted last night:

M Green ‏@MmaGreen M Green Retweeted الاعلام الحربي

Al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) is evacuating all of its HQs in Idlib after the RuAF began a massive wave of airstrikes

US gov funded White Helmets at the site of the Russian airstrikes on Al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) positions in Idlib - video

Important to note that this video was released by the official Jabhat Al Nusra (Al Qaeda in Syria) propaganda channel in Idlib.

3:47 PM - 30 May 2016

That sounded plausible. The U.S. funded White Helmets are known for their close cooperation with al-Qaeda.

The (British/U.S.?) propaganda account Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (@raqqa_sl) was awarded the International Press Freedom Award in 2015 from the Committee to Protect Journalists. It had a different version of the air strike.

Cont. reading: Not A Hospital, Not A Russian Strike, Not Civilian - Propaganda Fail In Syria

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (28)

May 30, 2016

On The Inevitability Of Human Progress

To those who believe in the inevitability of human progress ...


bigger

Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai

A Sumerian fighter in the 4th millennium BC smashing the head of his enemy & a Sumerian fighter 2016 with #ISIS

Posted by b at 09:52 AM | Comments (83)

May 28, 2016

More Messy Meddling In Libya

by Richard Galustian

Let us look at the latest 'comedy of errors' in Libya courtesy of the U.S./UN & UK and their appointed Presidency Council (PC) and Government of National Accord (GNA).

East Libya ordered four billion Libyan dinars to be printed by a Russian factory and first deliveries are starting and will be available through banks from the 1st June. Last week the PC wrote to the US Government saying the four billion was counterfeit. The US issued a formal statement, not from Washington, but on the Facebook page of the US Embassy in Libya stating they agreed, it was counterfeit. But the other day, the PC/GNA and PM designate Fayez Serraj himself made a volte face and said indeed that the currency being printed in Russia is legal. What is this currency confusion? Will the United States retract its statement saying that the democratically elected and internationally recognized Tobruk government is printing counterfeit currencies? Is Serraj trying to make nice with the Kremlin?

Questions abound. But what’s even more sickening is that the Islamic State (IS) in Libya reads all the same social media we do. They know Libya’s political spectrum and troubles like the currency double play works to their advantage.

Cont. reading: More Messy Meddling In Libya

Posted by b at 02:15 AM | Comments (51)

May 27, 2016

New Turkish-U.S. Quarrels About Syria

Some 300 U.S. special forces illegally invaded Syria to support the Syrian Kurds of the YPG organization. The Turks see the YPG as a sister organization to the Kurdish PKK guerrilla in Turkey which area designated terrorist organization while they are  fighting for autonomy within Turkey. Only yesterday six Turkish security personal died during fights with the PKK. To Turks the YPG are terrorists.

Yesterday the U.S. special forces screwed up mightily by displaying the insignia of the "terrorists" while combating the Islamic State. Leading U.S. media though try to calm the situation down by misleading their readers.

To mollify Turkey over the cooperation with the YPG the U.S. attached some Syrian Arab mercenaries to the Kurdish units and designated the gang the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). A current operation, probably just a diversion, is to move these forces from the north-eastern Kurdish area of Kobani towards the Syrian capital of the Islamic State in Raqqa. The Kurds do not have any interest in taking Raqqa as they would be unable to hold it and the Arab attachment to them is way to small to give it a try. What the real target of this operation is, except the western public, is yet unknown.

The U.S. special forces leading the YPG were caught on camera yesterday. They were obviously in combat even though the official Pentagon position is that these are just advisors and trainers. They also screwed up the U.S. relations with Turkey.

Here from pictures taken by an AFP photographer.

Cont. reading: New Turkish-U.S. Quarrels About Syria

Posted by b at 08:29 AM | Comments (95)

May 26, 2016

Clinton Arrogantly Declines To Debate Sanders - Who Counters And Wins

May 23 2016 - Hillary Clinton declines invitation to debate Bernie Sanders in California

Hillary Clinton’s campaign said on Monday that she will not participate in a California debate against Bernie Sanders before the state’s primary on June 7.

The two campaigns had agreed to additional debates beyond the slate of events that had been scheduled by the Democratic National Committee. The Sanders campaign had hoped to schedule a final debate in California and Fox News had agreed to host in San Francisco.

In a statement, Clinton’s communications director Jennifer Palmieri confirmed that they do not intend to participate. Instead, Palmieri indicated that Clinton would prefer to instead continue her pivot to the general election fight against Donald Trump, the likely Republican nominee.

Clinton was obviously afraid to lose votes in California should she keep her promise and again debate Sanders. She arrogantly sees herself as inevitable winner of the primaries as well as the general election. I believe she will lose either one.

Her "private" email sever during her time at the State Department was against all rules says the State Department Inspector General ina newly released report. Clinton declined to be interviewed by the IG even after she had promised to help with the issue. This does not only look bad. It is bad. It will cost her dearly. Should she have to compete against Trump she would get ripped apart over this issue alone. Additionally her record at the State Department, which she touts as experience, is a collection of miscalculations and misdeeds to anyone taking a deeper look.

Sanders now made the perfect countermove to Clinton's arrogant rejection of another debate:

May 25 2016 - On late night TV, Sanders and Trump agree to a debate — maybe

Thirteen minutes into his interview with Donald Trump, ABC late night host Jimmy Kimmel said he had a question from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). The Democratic primary underdog, who has camped out in California all week, was set to appear on Thursday night's episode.

"Here's the question from Bernie," said Kimmel. "Hillary Clinton backed out of an agreement to debate me before the Democratic primary. Are you prepared to debate the major issues facing our largest state and the country before the California primary?"

"Yes, I am," said Trump. "How much is he going to pay me? If I debated him, we would have such high ratings, I think I should take that money and give it to charity."

Sanders responded immediately:

@BernieSanders

Game on. I look forward to debating Donald Trump in California before the June 7 primary.

Trump has good media expertise. That debate will indeed have huge ratings. Clinton will be left out. This will catapult Sanders far in front of Clinton in the California primary.

It will also showcase to the super-delegates at the Democratic convention that Sanders, unlike Clinton who has huge disliked numbers, is able to defeat Trump in the general election. The overwhelming majority of the super-delegates is promised to Clinton and could give her the majority. But if they see that the party will lose with Clinton as candidate and may well win with Sanders then they have all reason needed to switch their votes.

The debate will also help to finally decapitate the Democratic National Committee (DNC) chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz who had unfairly favored the already well known Clinton by, for example, scheduling televised debates at times of lower viewership. The preparations for her dismissal are well along:

“There have been a lot of meetings over the past 48 hours about what color plate do we deliver Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s head on,” said one pro-Clinton Democratic senator.

Clinton has not yet lost the nomination. But she clearly lost this round of the fight. Her arrogant step of avoiding another debate with Sanders will cost her dearly and might be the final issue that takes her down.

Posted by b at 07:07 AM | Comments (85)

May 25, 2016

"How Many Villages Do They Have To Massacre Before They Become Bad Guys?"

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing May 23 2016

QUESTION: Well, sir, I know you said that you don’t know much about Ahrar al-Sham and what they did in al-Zahraa. I have the photograph that I mentioned. I was reluctant to show it because of how graphic it was, but now I think I will do so and maybe this will prompt you to look into this group. And I want to ask you why should this group have protection under the cessation of hostilities when they clearly don’t care about cessation of hostilities?

MR TONER: Look, I’m just not aware of this incident. I’m not – I was not casting doubt or not trying to – I just am not aware of it.


May 12, 2016 - Members of Ahrar al-Sham above their handiwork in Zahraa

U.S. State Department Daily Press Briefing May 24 2016

QUESTION: Yesterday, I asked a few questions that you said you would look into. First about the reported brief visit of an Ahrar al-Sham representative to Washington, D.C. Did his visit raise any red flags? Second, what does the U.S. think about this group Ahrar al-Sham, and why should they have the protection under the cessation of hostilities when, by many accounts, they don’t care much about that cessation of hostilities?

MR TONER: [...] Look, I mean, we talked a little bit about this yesterday, but Ahrar al-Sham is not a designated foreign terrorist organization. And as we talked about, it is part of this vetted group of opposition forces that are part of the HNC, High Negotiating Council. That was a process mostly led by Saudi Arabia [...] You talked about the attack, and I think we did condemn that. [..] We have serious concerns about that kind of violence.
[...]
MR TONER: -- we believe that that kind of action at this point in time would have a damaging effect on the cessation, as well as on the whole political process. We agreed that this group would be a part of the HNC, with the expectation that they will not commit violations of the cessation and that they will not carry out brutal attacks. We’re aware of last week’s attacks. [...]

QUESTION: Is this a yellow card?

QUESTION: Did you know that --

QUESTION: How many times – how many villages do they have to massacre before they become bad guys?

Cont. reading: "How Many Villages Do They Have To Massacre Before They Become Bad Guys?"

Posted by b at 05:04 AM | Comments (64)

May 23, 2016

No U.S. Troops in Libya? One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

Another excellent piece of journalism by Borzou Daragahi ...

Buzzfeed, May 23 2016

No, U.S. Ground Troops Aren’t Headed To Libya Anytime Soon

"... there won't be boots on the ground anytime soon."

Well ...

Washington Post, May 12 2016

U.S. establishes Libyan outposts with eye toward offensive against Islamic State

American Special Operations troops have been stationed at two outposts in eastern and western Libya since late 2015, tasked with lining up local partners in advance of a possible offensive against the Islamic State, U.S. officials said.
...

CNN, May 13 2016

U.S. military upping anti-ISIS activity in Libya

Washington Times, May 16 2016

Special ops teams deployed to Libya in campaign against Islamic State

AFP via AlArabiya, May 17 2016

Pentagon admits US troops still in Libya

You will have noticed that one of the above things is not like the others. It is spin piece at the top in which the stenographer dully wrote down what the Pentagon told him: that U.S. special forces in Libya do not wear boots or somehow levitate above the ground. Unless someone kills then. Then the Buzzfeed stenographer will note that they died on duty vacation wearing their boots sneakers. Or whatever nonsense the Pentagon will dictate.

The general quality of journalism really isn't great right now. But to write a piece which presents obvious falsehoods dictated by the Pentagon as factual claims when everybody else already reported the opposite is way below even the now usual level.

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (22)

May 22, 2016

Some Morally Defective 'Superpower' Claptrap

Please guess which two countries are meant here:

These two countries, bedeviled by decades of misunderstandings, violence and wariness, now have the chance to create a partnership ...

Cont. reading: Some Morally Defective 'Superpower' Claptrap

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (52)

May 20, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-02

Room to bash whatever candidate deserves it ...

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (58)

Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-19

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (141)

May 19, 2016

Syria - After Detours U.S. Finally Agrees To Russian Ceasefire Plan

The recent talk between the Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Secretary of State Kerry brought some progress. The U.S. was so far not willing to agree to a real ceasefire in Syria and persisted on a lower level "cessation of hostility" agreement. This now changed. The U.S., for the first time, agreed to proceed towards a full ceasefire between its proxy forces in Syria and the Syrian government and its allies. In the press availability after the Tuesday talks Kerry said:

[T]oday, we believe we moved the ball forward in some ways, and I’ll say specifically.

First, we pledged our support for transforming the cessation of hostilities into a comprehensive ceasefire. And we committed to use our influence to use the parties to the cessation in order to ensure compliance.

Second, we agreed that if a party to the cessation of hostilities engages in a pattern of persistent noncompliance, the task force can refer that behavior to the ISSG ministers or those designated by the ministers to determine appropriate action, including the exclusion of such parties from the arrangements of the cessation. Interpreted directly, that means that if they continue to do it and they’re pretending to be part of the cessation and they’re not, they could be subject to no longer being part of the cessation immediately.

Those last sentences are mainly directed at Ahrar al Sham which never signed the cessation agreement but claimed to be part of it while continuing its attack on Syrian government forces and civilians. Kerry is conceding to the Russian standpoint that Ahrar, by its action, is a terrorist group that needs to be fought down.

Fourth, we call on all parties to the cessation of hostilities to disassociate themselves physically and politically from Daesh and al-Nusrah and to endorse the intensified efforts by the United States and Russia to develop shared understandings of the threat posed and the delineation of the territory that is controlled by Daesh and al-Nusrah and to consider ways to deal decisively with terrorist groups.

Kerry had agreed to this position on al-Qaeda ad the Islamic State in earlier talks but later retracted with weak excuses that "intermingling" between al-Qaeda and "moderate rebels" made fighting al-Qaeda nearly impossible. That "intermingling" is no longer an excuse. The U.S. now agreed that Russia and the Syrian government will fight al-Qaeda and that any other groups standing nearby and getting hit have only themselves to blame.

By the way, the New York Times account of the talks and the press conference by chief manipulator David Sanger are waaay off from what was really said.

The "cessation of violence" has held up quite well since the end of February. The south is mostly quite and there are only few hotspots elsewhere where fighting still flares up. Over 100 settlements and their local forces have, with Russian mediation, signed ceasefire agreements with the government.

There is also a new, deeper level of Russian and U.S. cooperation of Syria and on fighting al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. A common rough plan was agreed upon to attack and eliminate both group. As part of this plan Iraqi forces under U.S. control attacked and occupied Rutba in west Iraq. Rutba, part of Anbar province, controls much of the open land and desert in the triangle of the Iraqi, Jordan and Syrian border. This move cuts off the southern route that connected the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. The Syrian/Russian part of this move will be the liberation of Deir Ezzor in south-east Syria in the upcoming months. An attack on the Islamic State held Raqqa will only follow later on after a large concentration of force is made possible.

There are a few other active flashpoints in Syria. In East Ghouta, east of Damascus city, the Saudi sponsored Salafists of Jaish al-Islam are fighting groups once supplied by the CIA and now associated with al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra for control of the area. This fight is already part of the disassociation from Nusra that the U.S. agreed upon. But the fighting is bloody with at least 500 losses on both sides during the last weeks. The Syrian army is the laughing third party in this and today took a significant part of the south of the East-Ghouta pocket.

The rebel part of Aleppo city, controlled by al-Qaeda, is now cut off from its only supply line. Improvised rockets from the rebel side are daily hitting civilians in the densely populated government held side. To eliminate the now besieged al-Qaeda in east Aleppo city will be a very bloody and destructive fight that might take months.

In the north Turkish supported "moderate rebels" still try to move towards east along the Turkish-Syrian border to eliminate the Islamic State access there. But each time they announce to have taken this or that town away from IS, a counterattack follows and IS regains its positions. This infighting between hostile forces is again to the advantage of the Syrian government.

Around Palmyra the Islamic State has made some surprise attacks on the Shear oil field and the T-4 military airport on the western road to Palmyra. There was, according to unofficial sources, some significant damage to Syrian and Russia material on the air base but no news about the incident was published. The advances the Islamic State made in area have by now, with significant Russian help, all been reversed. Following a consolidation phase a renewed push from Palmyra eastward to Deir Ezzor is expected.

Hizbullah has pulled back all troops for the Aleppo area where they were replaced by Iranian forces. It is unwilling to commit additional forces just to move some ceasefire lines a few miles back or forth. It continues its engagement around Damascus and in the border region to Lebanon with IS and al-Qaeda being the main targets.

Russia, Iran, Hizbullah and the Syrian government are all aware that the U.S. is "flexible" with its interpretation of agreements and tends to cheat whenever it believes that it can do so to its own advantage. They are fully prepared to respond and escalate again should the U.S. proxy forces divert from the new agreements or should some significant other changes on the battlefield occur.

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (108)

May 18, 2016

International Policy On Libya: Arm *Someone* And Hope For The Best

by Richard J. C. Galustian

The decision on Monday in Vienna to provide 'arms' to a Libyan Government that exists in name only, the GNA, has taken the international communities stance from the sublime to the completely ridiculous.

Exactly what military kit is being supposed to be supplied? This is a critical question which needs a whole article devoted to it and cannot be dealt with herein because of space.

To keep it simple, the West has decided to supply 'arms' to a not yet in existence Government of National Accord (GNA) sometimes referred to as a Unity Government yet its core, the nine-man Presidential Council and its Prime Minister were not at all selected by any Libyan but by a combination of the UN, EU, US and UK. Within the EU the primary mover with the most commercial interests of that side being Italy.

The GNA/PC means seven men (as two dropped out) who are essentially two or three members sometimes available to be seen by visiting dignitaries at a heavily fortified Naval Base a couple of miles away from the Militia controlled Mitega Airport. The PC of seven, if you will can be considered as a quorum for a yet to be selected 90 member government comprising of 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers. The PC/GNA control no territory, no area of either Tripoli or Libya except for the one naval 'bunker' they can meet people in to maintain the facade that they are legitimate. Its a ' Potemkin Village' lie of epic proportions.

But wait, the best I save till last. Their military component is an assortment of militias of varying shades of extremist mainly from Tripoli, Sabratha, Zuwaia and importantly Misrata. Not forgetting in addition the forces that represent the coalition between former LIFG (read for them an Al Qaeda affiliate) which has aligned itself squarely with the Muslim Brotherhood, best described as the Sinn Fein political wing to IRA terrorists of the 70s.

So as in Syria, the Americans are going to give 'arms' to the 'good' guys but not the 'bad' ones. Good luck with that one!

Cont. reading: International Policy On Libya: Arm *Someone* And Hope For The Best

Posted by b at 07:12 AM | Comments (52)

May 17, 2016

How Will The "West" Cover Up Its Retreat From Afghanistan?

The Obama administration seems to have given up on Afghanistan.  It should have done so seven years ago but the military ambushed the just installed Obama administration when the only alternatives it presented on Afghanistan was a huge surge and an even bigger surge in deployed troops. Those additional deployments failed to change the realities on the ground and Afghanistan is slipping back into the permanent local war between "western" supported warlords and Pakistan supported Taliban. The later have the huge advantage of some medieval but largely consistent ideology while the former are only driven by greed. This makes the Taliban the likely winner as the U.S. and others are no longer willing to sacrifice their own men and money for the enrichment of a small class of very greedy Afghan criminals.

Nearly all internal road communication lines in Afghanistan are now broken or under control of the Taliban:

Taliban insurgents have cut the main highway that links the capital with northern Afghanistan and neighboring countries for the past three days, according to Afghan officials in the area.
...
The northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif was cut off, as were road connections to eight northern provinces.
...
Earlier this month, insurgents launched heavy attacks on security check posts along the Ring Road between Greshk and Lashkar Gah, in Helmand Province, overrunning three police positions and killing 15 police officers, and taking six officers prisoner. That again cut the strategic stretch linking Kandahar, the biggest southern city, with Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand Province.

For months, the stretch of Ring Road linking Kandahar and Kabul has been subject to regular Taliban ambushes and so-called flying check posts, making travel dangerous except under heavy guard, for most of the distance. Only the short stretch between Kabul and Wardak Province is passable regularly.

The highway has also been shut down by insurgent ambushes in northern Jowzjan and Faryab Provinces, in western Farah Province and along stretches in Kunduz and Oruzgan Provinces, according to local officials and the police in those areas.

Recently, even the main highway from Kabul to the Torkhum border crossing with Pakistan has been occasionally shut down by Taliban ambushes.

The Afghan government and officials in Kabul are building more walls to surround their compounds out if fear of bomb attacks. Such walls will not keep mortars and rockets from falling onto their roofs. It is rather predictable how this will end. Those with some money will flee the country, those without will arrange themselves with the foreseeable winner, the Taliban. The official government will fall apart. The coalition government, U.S. imposed after the "democratic process" ended up in a stalemate of bribes, did not achieve anything.

The army and police exist on paper but in reality are just some gangs solely benefiting their leaders:

With an estimated 25,000 troops officially based in Helmand, the government should have enough muscle to confront the Taliban.

The problem is many of those troops don’t exist.
...
A recent investigation by Helmand’s provincial council found that approximately 40% of enlisted troops did not exist. The authors of an analysis commissioned by the Afghan government – and obtained by the Guardian – said the share might be even higher.

US officials are equally concerned: in a report released on 30 April, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) claimed that, “neither the United States nor its Afghan allies know how many Afghan soldiers and police actually exist, how many are in fact available for duty, or, by extension, the true nature of their operational capabilities”.
...
One security official cited in the government report said 300 troops had been deployed to a base in Sangin, but when the base fell, there were less than 15 left.

The "west" pays for the official number of Afghan troops but the money does not end up paying soldiers or policemen but only those who control the official enrollment lists.

The meager troops that do exists will soon leave the south where the Taliban are ready to again take full control:

According to the government report, insurgents control 95% of Kajaki district, a lynchpin for British efforts to win “hearts and minds” by powering a dam to supply southern Afghanistan with electricity.

In Marjah, where 15,000 coalition troops staged Operation Moshtarak, one of the largest offensives of the entire war, the Taliban control 80% territory.

In Sangin, only the army and police headquarters are standing. Nawzad and Musa Qala are fully under Taliban control, as is 60% of Gereshk, where most UK and US soldiers were based.

The situation in other parts of the country is not better. There were huge demonstrations in Kabul last week over the route of a new high voltage electricity line that will allow for the import of more energy. The original technical evaluation recommended to put the line through Bamyan, a Hazara-dominated central province. But someone in the recent government decided to route it through the much more vulnerable Salang pass. The demonstrators believe that ethnic hate against the Hazara led to that change though some local bribery seems more likely.

The project also shows that 15 years of "western" development in Afghanistan did nothing to really build the country. Afghanistan has no means to pay for the import of electricity. Instead of building high power import lines it should (have) build many small hydro-power dam projects. The generated electricity would likely be less than the possible imports but it would be sustainable. The new import line, should it ever be finished, will either get blown up by this or that side of a local conflict, or fall into disuse due to a lack of import payments.

The "west" has failed in Afghanistan in a more devastating way than the Soviet Union failed there. Despite deploying many troops over many years no military solution could be obtained. Despite billions spend on development no sustainable economic achievement is visible. Despite thousands of "democracy" initiatives the basic might-makes-right rules of the land did not change.

Whoever wins the presidential U.S. election will need some very creative propaganda writing to cover up the devastating results of the war on Afghanistan and the retreat from the country. What story line will they come up with?

Posted by b at 12:56 PM | Comments (52)

May 15, 2016

U.S. State Department Releases A Statement - As Instructed By Netanyahoo

10:01am · 15 May 2016

Barak Ravid @BarakRavid

Netanyahu spoke last night with SecState @JohnKerry and asked him to condemn the Holocaust denial cartoon contest in Iran

---

1:43pm · 15 May 2016

Matt Lee @APDiploWriter

#US @StateDept on #Iran Holocaust cartoon contest: pic.twitter.com/yirOSwNaQX

Meanwhile John Kerry expressed his concern (not) for human rights in Arab lands :

1:39pm · 15 May 2016

John Kerry @JohnKerry

Meeting with @KingSalman today in #Jeddah underscored breadth & depth of US-#SaudiArabia relationship. pic.twitter.com/B1idXVypXr

Posted by b at 09:59 AM | Comments (86)

May 14, 2016

MANPAD Used By PKK Against Turkish Helicopter May Have Come From Turkey Via "Rebels" In Syria

A Turkish helicopter was shut down by the Kurdish PKK with the help of a modern handheld air defense system. A possible source of this system may be an earlier delivery of such systems from Turkey to "rebels" in Syria.

July 31 2012 - Reuters Syrian rebels acquire surface-to-air missiles: report

Rebels fighting to depose Syrian president Bashar al Assad have for the first time acquired a small supply of surface-to-air missiles, according to a news report that a Western official did not dispute.

NBC News reported Tuesday night that the rebel Free Syrian Army had obtained nearly two dozen of the weapons, which were delivered to them via neighboring Turkey, whose moderate Islamist government has been demanding Assad's departure with increasing vehemence.
...
Precisely what kind of MANPADs have been delivered to Syrian rebels is unclear and NBC News did not provide details. Such weapons range from the primitive to highly sophisticated.

What anti-air missiles the "rebels" acquired became obvious in November 2012 when the "rebels" posted pictures of themselves posing with such weapons:

In photographs recently posted online, two fighters were shown holding modern variants of heat-seeking, shoulder-fired antiaircraft missiles.
...
So this development, the apparent capture of complete SA-16 and SA-24 systems, will bear watching. If these weapons are turned toward Syrian military aircraft, then supporters of the uprising will have reason to hail them, and Syrian military pilots will have new grounds for worry on their next sorties. But if these are sold — and weapons of this sort are often said to fetch four- and five-figure dollar sums on black markets — and fired at commercial aircraft, then the consequences and regional security implications of the war in Syria will have become much worse.

From known losses of the Syrian air-force it appears that at least some of the systems the "rebels" were given in 2012 were probably never used. They may indeed have been sold off.

Now they may have reappeared.

AP reported yesterday: Turkey: 8 soldiers dead in clash with PKK, helicopter crash

Clashes broke out early Friday with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK, near the town of Cukurca, in Hakkari province, killing six soldiers, a military statement said. Eight other soldiers were wounded.

A military helicopter sent to the area to support the soldiers later crashed, killing its two pilots, the military said, adding that the crash was due to a technical fault.

The PKK today published a video (alternative source) which shows that the claimed "technical fault" was a complete separation of the tail rotor section from the Turkish AH-1W SUPER COBRA attack helicopter due to direct hit by a SA-18 MANPAD.

While Russia might work with Kurdish elements in Syria it is extremely doubtful that it trusts any Kurdish group enough to provide it with modern MANPAD system just to anger Turkey. A possible source of the shown system is the older Turkish shipment to the "rebels" in Syria who might have "lost" or sold off some to whoever offered a decent amount.

What goes around comes around.

Independent of where the system revealed now came from, the hit on the Turkish helicopter will likely end any further talk of providing anti-air systems to the "rebels" in Syria. The battlefield there is too confusing to guarantee that any delivered system really ends up where it is supposed to go and not in the behind of its provider.

Turkey will likely have to reduce its use of attack helicopters against in own citizens in east Turkey. While some countermeasures can defeat older MANPAD systems none is really reliable. They are difficult to defeat especially in the mountainous east of Turkey. All Turkish air assets will now be vulnerable unless they fly very high.

Posted by b at 01:52 PM | Comments (34)

May 13, 2016

Terrorists Commit War Crimes, U.S. State Department: "We continue to have dialogue with them."

Russia asked the UN to blacklist Ahrar al Sham and Jaish al Islam as terrorist groups. The U.S. rejected that. "We continue to have dialogue with them," said the State Department.

A day later Ahrar al Sham joins al-Qaeda in breaking the ceasefire in Syria and in assaulting and ethnically cleansing a village loyal to the Syrian government. Meanwhile Amnesty International accuses both groups of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including by use of chemical weapons, and of other war crimes.

May 11 Russia's bid to blacklist Syrian rebel groups at UN blocked by US, others

The U.S. and other countries at the United Nations Wednesday blocked Russia’s bid to blacklist two rebel groups in Syria saying it would undermine the war-torn country’s halt in fighting.

Reuters reported that Britain, the U.S., France and Ukraine blocked the bid to blacklist Jaish al-Islam [(Army of Islam)] and Ahrar al-Sham. Moscow claimed the groups should have been excluded because of their ties to militant groups including ISIS and Al Qaeda.

May 11 - State Department Daily Press Briefing

QUESTION: -- on this issue? Both Ahrar al-Sham and Jaysh al-Islam – I mean, they have exactly the same bylaw, almost the same bylaws. They don’t have a constitution. They have what they call internal document. They espouse the same dogma, they believe the same thing, they practice the same practices as Jabhat al-Nusrah and as al-Qaida. Why shouldn’t they be designated as a terrorist organization?

MS TRUDEAU: So we constantly review information. We are constantly assessing these groups. At this stage our position is that these groups are members of the cessation of hostilities. We continue to have dialogue with them. If our position changes, we’ll make that assessment then. But we are in constant review of this.

May 12 - Syria's al-Qaida branch seizes central Alawite village

DAMASCUS, Syria – Syria's al-Qaida branch and allied fighters from ultraconservative rebel factions on Wednesday seized a village of President Bashar Assad's minority Alawite sect in central Syria, following fierce clashes with government troops.
...
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist group tracking the conflict, said families disappeared from Zaara after the militants overran the village. Along with Syria's al-Qaida branch known as the Nusra Front, other hard-line factions that took part in the raid on Zaara included Ahrar al-Sham and Faylaq al-Rahman.

May 13 - Syria: Armed opposition groups committing war crimes in Aleppo city

Armed groups surrounding the Sheikh Maqsoud district of Aleppo city have repeatedly carried out indiscriminate attacks that have struck civilian homes, streets, markets and mosques, killing and injuring civilians and displaying a shameful disregard for human life, said Amnesty International.
...
Two of the armed groups attacking YPG forces in Sheikh Maqsoud - Ahrar al Sham and Army of Islam - have sent their own representatives to the UN-brokered negotiations over the Syria conflict in Geneva. The other armed groups have approved other delegates to represent them at the talks.

“The international community must not turn a blind eye to the mounting evidence of war crimes by armed opposition groups in Syria. [...],” said Magdalena Mughrabi [interim Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.]

Posted by b at 11:17 AM | Comments (53)

May 11, 2016

U.S. Election Thread 2016-01

Months ago I was asked who will win. I responded: "Not Clinton."

 

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (91)

Open Thread (NOT U.S. Election) 2016-18

News & views (NOT related to U.S. elections) ...

Posted by b at 01:50 PM | Comments (68)

May 10, 2016

Charles Lister Asks "Moderate Rebels" To Hide Their Cooperation With Al-Qaeda

Dear moderate Jihadis in Syria,

your cooperation with al-Qaeda terrorists is fine with me.

But please cover it up.

Thx

Your Jihad advisor

Charles Lister


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At the end of April an influential Jihadist scholar in Syria, Sheikh Abdallah Muhammad al Muhaysini, lauched a new recruiting campaign. A few days later al-Qaeda's leader Ayman az-Zawahiri also called for all Muslims to join Jihad in Syria. The son of Osama Bin Laden, Hamza, also issued such a call. This is an unprecedented recruiting campaign which points to new upcoming offensives.

More and more experts wake up to the long term danger that an entrenched al-Qaeda in Syria poses. Al-Qaeda has little income from taxes or oil but must have some obviously quite generous individuals and state sponsors in the Gulf region. It has more money to spend than the "western" financed mercenaries and can afford to parade the nicer fire trucks. This lets it gain local support. The "water" the Jihadi "fish" can swim in.

Propagandists like Lister try to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as a "moderate" force. It is nothing like that. It is the same al-Qaeda with the same agenda then the one entrenched in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area. The more homegrown Salafist Jihadis of Ahrar al Shams in Syria are now the Taliban of Syria and Turkey is taking up Pakistan's duplicitous role.

Like in Afghanistan in the 1980s the U.S., while probably not directly supporting al-Qaeda, is indirectly facilitating it because it is an effective fighting force which can be used to further short term U.S policy aims. The U.S. delivers thousands of tons of weapons to "moderate" rebels in Syria even as it know that these give half of each haul to their al-Qaeda allies. It also protects al-Qaeda from being bombed by Russian forces during the on and off ceasefire.

But al-Qaeda is still al-Qaeda and its brutal fight for its ideology will not stay in Syria. Just like its earlier incarnation did not restrict its fight to Afghanistan but came back to bite its former sponsors.

Posted by b at 02:08 PM | Comments (46)

May 09, 2016

What The Russians Remember On Victory Day

On May 9 the Russian people and other people of the former Soviet Union celebrate Victory Day. It was the Red Army of the Soviet Union that utterly defeated the Axis armies in Operation Bagration and on its march to Berlin. Militarily the D-Day invasion of continental Europe by the U.S. and its "western" allies was a mere diversion from the huge Soviet offensives in the east. By end of August 1944 the German forces and their allies had essentially lost the war.

This graph, too little known, shows the huge sacrifices the Russians and others made. It explains why the Russians remember their victory.


purple=military death (millions); green=civilian death (millions); blue=total death (% of population)
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Posted by b at 02:40 PM | Comments (57)

May 08, 2016

North Korea (Again) Announces A Defensive Nuclear Policy

It was known to the various experts that North Korea poses no real "nuclear threat". It has sound reason to build nuclear weapon systems and it had never threatened to use them in any offensive capability.

But the "western" public learned little of these issue until now. It is somewhat refreshing to find two newspapers today which explain the basic issues.

First: Why does North Korea believe that nuclear weapon capability is to its people advantage?

Mr. Kim was using the rare political gathering to rally the party behind his so-called “byungjin” policy. On Saturday, Mr. Kim said that policy was not a temporary step but his party’s “permanent strategic line.”

The byungjin — or “parallel advance” — policy calls for stockpiling nuclear weapons in the belief that the deterrent would allow the country to focus on economic recovery.

During the Korea war North Korea was totally devastated. Nearly a third of its population died. Its industries were destroyed. Hardly any structure with more than one level had not been bombed. Thereafter North Korea poured an immense amount of human and material resources into the build up and maintenance of a large conventional army. The threat from the U.S. army and its South Korean cannon fodder was perceived as huge. All civil development was subordinate to a "military first" policy.

Attempts to find some accommodation with the U.S. failed. The probably best chance had been the Agreed Framework of 1994 that would have compensated North Korea for giving up any nuclear plans with hydrocarbon fuel deliveries and commercial nuclear reactors. Both the Clinton and the Bush administration first sabotaged and then abandoned the framework.

North Korea then decided to proceed with its byungjin policy. A credible nuclear weapon capability as deterrent against any invasion or decisive strike would allow for massive decreases in front line troops and mass artillery units. The saved expenses and resources would then be used for civil purposes. There are some signs that this strategy actually works. Currently neither the U.S. nor South Korea would dare to attack North Korea even though its nuclear arsenal is only small and unproven. According to some estimates the North Korean economy is now growing at a healthy 7% per years.

But "western" hawks, especially the revisionist rightwingers in Japan, want to use the imaginary "nuclear threat" from North Korea to build up their own (nuclear) capabilities. The U.S. military wants to use the "threat" from North Korea to install long range missile defense systems in South Korea. These systems would be useless against any North Korean system but could probably neutralize Chinese capabilities.

It is therefore important that North Korea now declared that it would not use its new weapon systems against South Korea or Japan unless these countries themselves deploy nuclear forces against it:

During the congress, Kim repeated the line that North Korea would not go on the offensive with its weapons.

“As a responsible nuclear weapons state, our republic will not use a nuclear weapon unless its sovereignty is encroached upon by any aggressive hostile forces with nukes,” Kim told the meeting, according to KCNA.

One might argue that such declarative policies are of no value but the seventy years history of nuclear deterrence have been build on such declarations and so far all of these have held what they promised.

Posted by b at 06:31 AM | Comments (28)

May 06, 2016

Syria: An "Airstrike" That Did Not Happen

There is reasons to believe that this "airstrike" did not happen:

Syrian monitors say at least 28 people have been killed in airstrikes on a makeshift refugee camp close to the border with Turkey. The attack on Sarmada, in Syrian rebel-held territory, follows more deaths in Homs.

Sarmada is in north-west Idleb province, just three miles from the Turkish borders and air defense.

Wounded were rushed across the border for treatment in Turkey, said the Britain-based Observatory for Human Rights, adding that the death toll was likely to rise.

Social media footage showed the charred frames of tents that had been pitched in a muddy field. The Observatory said those killed included women and children.

It was not initially clear who had carried out the raids on Sarmada in rebel-held territory in Syria's northwestern Idlib province and about 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of divided Aleppo.

Abu Ibrahim al-Sarmai, an activist, said "two aerial strikes" hit the makeshift camp for displaced people.
...
Nidal Abdul Qader, an opposition civilian aid official who lives about one kilometer (half a mile) from the camp, said around 50 tents and a school had burned down.

Take a look at the video evidence the rebel propaganda put out.

The camp is in a rather wide, flat but stony area. The tents and plastic tarp structures are 15 to 30 yards from each other. Both videos show the skeleton of one larger tent that burned down. There is smoldering school material on the ground. Fire fighters in expensive equipment are dousing some hot spots. These are "White Helmet" rescue workers, part of the large U.S. and UK government financed anti-Syrian propaganda campaign.


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The burned down tent is supposed to be the prove of an airstrike. But other tents and flimsy tarp structures just some 10-20 yards away from the fire show no damage or blast effects. None at all. Their thin plastic covers are intact. There is a small mobile phone antenna mast visible in the first video which also shows no damage. There are no people around but the rescue workers. There are no casualties visible, no ambulances, no blood, no civilians looking for next of kin or salvaging damaged property. There is no impact crater visible and no ammunition debris. There is also no potential military target around.


bigger

If this was an airstrike the pilot must have dropped some fire crackers from his cockpit. Any bomb or air to ground missile would have created an explosion blast that would have blown off tarps and created damage all around.


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So what happened here? It was windy. A local fire burned down some tents. Maybe some people got hurt. A nearby "reporter" and a few well paid "White Helmet" background actors make a show out of it. The media, even with zero real evidence of an airstrike or casualties, takes that as truth and splashes it around.

-UPDATE-

Someone just pointed me to this video which purports to show the alleged second airstrike on the camp. But the sound of the airplane in the video is not original. There is no sound at all of an impact or explosion. Nor is that tiny "explosion" dust cloud the result of an air delivered bomb. Why are there no civilians around? And why is that fireman, just after the "impact" of that second "air strike", so completely unfazed and busy taking pictures of his expensive engine?

-End Update-

This story, like others, is a diversion from the ongoing massive attacks by al-Qaeda and "moderate" rebels, again united under the Jaish al-Fatah label, against positions of the Syrian government south-west of Aleppo city and elsewhere. These attacks continue despite a ceasefire Secretary of State Kerry had agreed to in the name of the "moderate", U.S. financed and equipped opposition.

Posted by b at 04:49 AM | Comments (72)

May 05, 2016

One Way The White House Manipulates

A portrait of Obama's spokesperson and policy guru Ben Rhodes explains how government propaganda works. This part is about selling the Iran deal to the U.S. public:

As Malley and representatives of the State Department, including Wendy Sherman and Secretary of State John Kerry, engaged in formal negotiations with the Iranians, to ratify details of a framework that had already been agreed upon, Rhodes’s war room did its work on Capitol Hill and with reporters. In the spring of last year, legions of arms-control experts began popping up at think tanks and on social media, and then became key sources for hundreds of often-clueless reporters. “We created an echo chamber,” he admitted, when I asked him to explain the onslaught of freshly minted experts cheerleading for the deal. “They were saying things that validated what we had given them to say.

When I suggested that all this dark metafictional play seemed a bit removed from rational debate over America’s future role in the world, Rhodes nodded. “In the absence of rational discourse, we are going to discourse the [expletive] out of this,” he said. “We had test drives to know who was going to be able to carry our message effectively, and how to use outside groups like Ploughshares, the Iran Project and whomever else. So we knew the tactics that worked.” He is proud of the way he sold the Iran deal.

You can replace the "Iran deal" with "regime-change in Syria", "Russia's aggression" or some big trade deal the White Hosue wants to push through. It works the same way with every issue. Some experts in some (well paid) thinktanks get fed some juicy bits, they go out to cheerlead clueless reporters who then write whatever validates the various White House claims.

It is all test driven and works. Unless of course people have time and energy to inform themselves through other than the usual sources. Only few are able to do so.

Posted by b at 03:19 PM | Comments (148)

May 04, 2016

Pundits Knew It Early On - Trump Could Not Win The Nomination

Kasich Dropping Out Of Presidential Race; Donald Trump Assured GOP Nomination - NPR, May 4 2016

And now keep this in mind:

Paul Danahar @pdanahar

Hmm, all the reasons given for why Trump could NEVER win the nomination are now being used to explain why he’ll NEVER win the presidency

Posted by b at 01:08 PM | Comments (133)

May 03, 2016

The "Free Syrian Army" Media Efforts Are A British Government Operation

The U.S. government, via its CIA, has financed the "moderate" anti-Syrian mercenaries fighting against the legitimate Syrian government with at least $1 billion a year. The Wahhabi dictatorships in the Middle East have added their own billions to finance al-Qaeda's efforts against the Syrian people. The U.S. continues to purchase and transport thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition to feed the war against the Syrian people. It also pays the various fighters and opposition groups. The U.S. efforts for regime change in Syria have been running since at least 2006 when the U.S. government started to finance anti-Syrian exile TV stations and held intensive planning talks with various anti-Syrian Islamist elements.

Together with the British government it also runs the current pro-mercenary public relation show to influence the "western" public to support its imperial meddling in Syria.

The Guardian now unveils one of the British government efforts to effectively run the complete "Free Syrian Army" media show:

The British government is waging information warfare in Syria by funding media operations for some rebel fighting groups, ...
...
Contractors hired by the Foreign Office but overseen by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) produce videos, photos, military reports, radio broadcasts, print products and social media posts branded with the logos of fighting groups, and effectively run a press office for opposition fighters.

Materials are circulated in the Arabic broadcast media and posted online with no indication of British government involvement.
...
Through its Conflict and Stability Fund the government is spending £2.4m on private contractors working from Istanbul to deliver “strategic communications and media operations support to the Syrian moderate armed opposition” (MAO).

The contract is part of a broader propaganda effort focused on Syria, with other elements intended to promote “the moderate values of the revolution” ...
...
The documents call for contractors to “select and train a spokesman able to represent all the MAO groups as a single unified voice”, as well as providing media coaching to “influential MAO officials” and running a round-the-clock “MAO central media office” with “media production capacity”. One British source with knowledge of the contracts in action said the government was essentially running a “Free Syrian army press office”.

The British and the U.S. media also run various "civil" groups to further their regime change goals.

The "White Helmets", known for fake "rescue" videos and their strong cooperation with al-Qaeda (vid), are financed with $23 million by the U.S. government through USAID, with £18.7 million by the U.K. Foreign Office and with several millions more from other governments. But are the "White Helmets" not "moderates" who only want to help people? The U.S. government does not seem to believe that. It just banned the head of the "White Helmets" from entering the United States even though it finances his activities.

Many social media accounts like @raqqa_sl, which are promoted in "western" media, also distribute fake pictures and videos as part of these propaganda efforts.

But even when these media manipulation campaigns and fake "moderates" get exposed their operations continues unabated. The Guardian, after publishing the above, will not for one moment reflect on how its own publishing on Syria was influenced by the government financed fakes. It is, just like other mainstream media, an integrated part of the campaign.

No unveiling of the truth about the "western" attack on the Syrian state and its people seems to any effect on the ongoing media operations. On April 20 the U.S. military spokesperson for the anti-Islamic State coalition told some truth about the role of al-Qaeda in the "rebel" occupied eastern Aleppo city:

That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.

Only two weeks later the NYT propagandist Anna Barnard has the Chutzpah to claim that al-Qaeda only

has a small presence in Aleppo

Lies get repeated even after they have been debunked again and again. The relentlessness of the propaganda onslaught is effective in suppressing any larger opposition to it.

Posted by b at 12:26 PM | Comments (71)

May 02, 2016

Kerry To Negotiate New Ceasefire In Syria - But With His Own Side

U.S. Secretary of State is in Geneva today to renegotiate a cessation of hostilities between the Syrian government forces and the foreign supported "rebels" in Syria. But there is something very curious going on with these negotiations. Kerry will neither talk with the Syrian government nor with the Russians. The Russian Foreign Minister is not even expected to come.

No, Kerry is negotiating  with the U.S. allies Jordan and Saudi Arabia who support the same "rebels" that are opposed to the Syrian government that the U.S. itself supported all along. He now asks them to separate their proxy forces in Syria from the terrorist organization al-Qaeda/Jabhat al-Nusra.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sunday he hoped to make progress in talks in Geneva over the next two days toward renewing a cessation of hostilities agreement throughout Syria and resuming peace talks to end the fighting.

"The hope is we can make some progress," Kerry said at the start of a meeting with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh shortly after arriving in Geneva.
...
The Syrian army announced on Friday a "regime of calm", or lull in fighting, which applied to Damascus and some of its outskirts, and parts of northwestern coastal province Latakia. But it excluded Aleppo.

Kerry made clear that a ceasefire was needed throughout Syria and he hoped to be able to reaffirm the cessation of hostilities after talks in Geneva. He is due to meet Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir and De Mistura on Monday.

According to military spokesperson of the U.S. alliance against the Islamic State, Colonel Warren, the "rebel" occupied parts of Aleppo city are under control of al-Qaeda:

[I]t's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities. So it's complicated.

Two UN Security Council Resolution calls on all UN members to "eradicate" al-Qaeda/al-Nusra. ALL UNSC members agreed to Resolution 2254 which:

Reiterates its call in resolution 2249 (2015) for Member States to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh), Al-Nusra Front (ANF), and all other individuals, groups, undertakings, and entities associated with Al Qaeda or ISIL [...] and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Syria, and notes that the aforementioned ceasefire will not apply to offensive or defensive actions against these individuals, groups, undertakings and entities,...

There is simply no basis for Kerry to beg for a ceasefire for "rebel" held areas of Aleppo city when his own military says that these are in the hands of al-Qaeda which the UNSC calls to eradicate. The Russian's have said that much.

So here is what Kerry is left to do: Beg the U.S. allies to move away their "Free Syrian Army" proxy groups from al-Qaeda so al-Qaeda can be eradicated by the Syrian Army and its allies.

But al-Qaeda is by now an integrated part of those Saudi/Qatar/U.S. paid proxy forces and well accepted by those groups. It gets its weapons and ammunition from the very proxy groups the U.S. now wants to separate from it. Even if the Saudis and Jordanians assert their influence over these groups it is unlikely that the fighters on the ground will follow their directives.

The Russian air force is ready to renew its bombing campaign against all opposition forces in Syria that do not agree to a cessation of hostilities.

No U.S. propaganda campaign can wave away al-Qaeda's presence in Syria nor the UNSC resolutions the U.S. itself agreed to. Either Kerry manages to pressure Saudi Arabia and Jordan to move their proxies away from al-Qaeda or there will be again an all out Russian campaign to eradicate them. It is unlikely that any of those proxies would survive such a campaign.

Kerry is now left to negotiate with U.S allies against al-Qaeda. He now has to argue from the same perspective as the Syrian and Russian government. This is a mess of his own making. How will he escape from it?

Posted by b at 07:00 AM | Comments (76)

April 29, 2016

Open Thread 2016-17

(Sorry for not posting. A project I am involved has a hard end-of-month deadline and it will still take some effort to reach that. - b)

News & views ...

(Please keep the U.S. elections stuff to older threads.)

Posted by b at 09:08 AM | Comments (240)

April 26, 2016

Open Thread 2016-16

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (235)

April 25, 2016

Syria - Russia Rejects Kerry's New Attempts To Shield The Terrorists

The U.S. admits that the upcoming Aleppo offensive by the Syrian government and its allies is designed to hit al-Qaeda and associated terrorist forces and not primarily the "moderate" unicorns the U.S. propaganda blushes about. But the openly U.S. supported forces will also be hit as they are very much integrated with al-Qaeda. The U.S. has for long considered al-Qaeda a secret ally in its attempt to destroy the Syrian state. The French magazine L'Orient Le Jour sees the U.S. relation with al-Qaeda in Syria as part of the attrition strategy the U.S. is waging against Syria (and Russia).

Secretary of State Kerry tried to convince the Russian that al-Qaeda should not be attacked during the cessation of hostilities. But the Russian's did not agree. Al Qaeda is a UN recognized international terrorist organization which, under UNSC resolutions, must be fought. The U.S. only succeeded in downgrading the permanent ceasefire the Russians had preferred to into a temporary cessation hostilities. It thought to use the time to rearm and to regroup its proxy forces.

But then thing went wrong. An offensive along the Turkish border to push away the Islamic State and to seal the border between the Islamic State and Turkey failed. Al-Qaeda convinced other groups, including directly U.S. supported CIA assets, to prematurely attack Syrian government forces south of Aleppo on Tal el-Eis. The attack mad only little progress before it was stopped.

Now al-Qaeda and the U.S. proxies are heavily targeting the government held western arts of Aleppo city:

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 13h13 hours ago
#Aleppo observed the most violent day in d history of d war in #Syria causing 21 killed & 95 wounded. Every single street was hit by rebels+

Since the announcement of the cease-fire, over 492 killed & wounded were registered in the only 2 hospitals in regime held area in #Aleppo.

Rebels hell bombs fell on all streets w/o exception while a group of rebels were trying 2infiltrate d city in West #Aleppo, trapped n sewage

This continued today

Elijah J. Magnier ‏@EjmAlrai 2h2 hours ago
17 killed and 92 wounded in #Aleppo regime controlled area today following rebels Hell cannon bombing. #Syria.

These attacks on the population are designed to bait the Syrian government forces into an immediate all-out attack into the al-Qaeda held parts of Aleppo city. I doubt that they will fall for it. The response for now will be more intense bombing in preparation for a well thought out attack later on.

Kerry recently again tried to convince the Russian government of partitioning Syria into "zones of interest". This would shield terrorist forces form further Syrian and Russian attacks:

“We’ve even proposed drawing a line, an absolute line, and saying, ‘You don’t go over there, we don’t go over here, and anything in between is fair game.’ And they are considering that, and I think we will get there in the next week or so.”

The rather harsh public response to that Kerry nonsense came in today:

MFA Russia @mfa_russia
#Lavrov: Splitting Syria into zones of influence is a simplistic idea; the main objective must be to route terrorism @mod_russia @RussiaUN

#Lavrov: US has not fulfilled its promise made two months ago to move “good opposition forces” away from the terrorist front lines in Syria

#Lavrov: The US State Dept. may shy away from cooperation with Russia, but there is no place for shyness in the fight against terrorism

#Lavrov: The UNSC declared Jabhat al-Nusra a terrorist group. Those who want to distance themselves from this group should do so physically

Translation: Get your proxies out of the way or they will get hurt badly.

The U.S. "plan B" of splitting Syria into statelets has been rejected by the Syrian government and its allies.

The Syrian government and its allies are convinced that they can beat al-Qaeda and its various associates on the battle field. They are preparing a large attack against al-Qaeda and anyone nearby. There is little the U.S. can do to help the designated terrorists of al-Nusra in west Syria. But it continues its attempts to split Syria by inserting more of its special forces into north east Syria. These and their Kurdish proxy fighters have the task to take as much of eastern Syria from the Islamic State and others as possible before the Syrian government forces can do so. The thinking is that any captured town will be an asset in future negotiations. It will be interesting to see how the Syrian government and its allies will counter that move.

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (63)

April 24, 2016

U.S. Officials Confirm - Syrian Army Attack In Aleppo To Hit Al-Qaeda

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES, COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN AFFAIRS
HEARING - U.S. POLICY AFTER RUSSIA’S ESCALATION IN SYRIA
Assistant Secretary Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State
WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 4, 2015, Transcript (pdf)

Ambassador PATTERSON: That is true in the north, Mr. Issa. I would say that it is not true in the south. But, certainly, in the north, the al-Nusra Front, which is an al-Qaeda affiliate, has absorbed, as have other smaller groups, have absorbed a number of what we would have previously called the moderate opposition, yes, that is correct.

U.S. Department of State, Mark C. Toner Deputy Spokesperson, Daily Press Briefing, Washington, DC, February 22, 2016

QUESTION: -- [..] Is there not – I mean, my understanding is that at least some of these [moderate] groups are commingled [with alQaeda]. You assert that you feel that you are able to delineate the territories that are inhabited by ISIL or by Nusrah or by the other groups deemed terrorist. What makes you so confident you can do that? Do you not believe that there is at least some commingling of these groups? Or intermingling?

MR TONER: I would respectfully defer to others with a better knowledge of conditions on the ground. But yes, I believe there is some commingling of these groups. I think that’s a reality; we’ve talked about it before.

Department of Defense Press Briefing by Col. Warren via Teleconference from Baghdad, Iraq
Colonel Steve Warren, Operation Inherent Resolve spokesman - April 20, 2016

COL. WARREN: [..] What I do know is that we have seen, you know, regime forces with some Russian support as well begin to mass and concentrate combat power around Aleppo. So this is something we're concerned about and something we'll keep an eye on.

That said, it's primarily al-Nusra who holds Aleppo, and of course, al-Nusra is not part of the cessation of hostilities.

Russian Military Buildup Near Aleppo, Syria, Threatens Truce, Kerry Warns - NY Times April 23 2015

Mr. Kerry said that the Russians might be moving on Aleppo because members of the Al Nusra Front, an affiliate of Al Qaeda, were mixed throughout parts of the region, and that they were terrorists not party to the cease-fire. At the same time, he said, the region is home to insurgent groups that oppose Mr. Assad and have agreed to the cease-fire. 
“That has proven harder to separate them than we thought,” Mr. Kerry said. “And there’s a Russian impatience and a regime impatience with the terrorists who are behaving like terrorists and laying siege to places on their side and killing people.”

For the last several days the government held parts of Aleppo city and the 2,000,000 inhabitants and refugees there have been under constant bombardment with improvised gas-canister mortars and rockets from the al-Nusra side.

Some heavy operations against the al-Qaeda held areas in Aleppo governate and Aleppo city are inevitable and now seem to be imminent. The statements the U.S. officials made above seem to justify such an operation.

Posted by b at 01:44 PM | Comments (50)

April 23, 2016

Meltdown in Libya

by Richard Galustian

The fallout of the continuing meltdown of Libya will be felt hard in in particularly Southern European countries.

The Tripoli and western town's militias are continuing to make hundreds of millions of dollars sending even more tens of thousands of migrants north to the EU.

All changed for the worse last week with a number of pronouncements and events, though reading mainstream media, you would be forgiven for thinking otherwise. First Britain's Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond announced he didn't need Parliament to send troops involving the UK in another quagmire that would prove similar to its disastrous involvement in Afghanistan. Hammond, within hours, back tracked on that idea under pressure from Parliament.

Meanwhile the UN and EU has also stated it will change formally international recognition status, from the House of Representatives (HOR) parliament to Serraj, whether or not HOR recognize the Government of National Accord (GNA) which would give the UN appointed Serraj control of Libya’s vast foreign assets, estimated at $140 billion.

The saga further continued last Monday night when Serraj's addressed more than 50 of the great and good; foreign and defense ministers of the European Union gathered at a dinner in Luxembourg, his words coming to them by video screen.

Despite the fact that the HOR in Tobruk, had not decided to accept the GNA nevertheless illogically the EU's Federica Mogerini reaction to Serraj's presentation that same evening, perpetuating the charade of his Unity government, stated she had €100m to give him!

To remind readers, over two weeks ago Serraj arrived in Tripoli with no more than 7 men were on the ship, the remnants of what should have been a 9-man Presidential Council. And where are the 30 ministers and 60 deputy ministers that constitute the GNA?

Plucked from obscurity by the UN, a Tripoli businessman was selected, one Fayez Serraj, to bring peace to Libya, who they expect to end the war between the Islamist National Salvation government in Tripoli and the elected parliament (HOR) in Tobruk. The further expectation then is for Serraj to head a united Libyan army crushing both ISIS and the migrant-smuggling gangs, the West’s twin Libya headaches. Impossible!

To preserve this illusion, western dignitaries staged visits to the Libyan capital, a virtual 'Potemkin Village' show.

They land amid tight security at the city center Mitega airport, guarded by their own small army and by the few militias who have taken Serraj’s side, and his promise of fat pay rises. From there it is a nervy two mile dash in armored cars down the coastal highway to the naval base. Once the dignitaries are inside then there are the all-important photographs showing handshakes before scurrying away again.

Also last Monday the British Foreign Secretary, Philip Hammond paid a very short visit to Tripoli's Naval 'bunker' as it has become known.

A few days earlier the French, Italian and German foreign ministers completed this sham also. Soon after the French and German VIP planes flew away though, a militia blew up the home of a politician who had dared object to the new government. Hours later, another militia attacked the Tripoli home of deputy designate prime minister, Ahmed Maiteeg. Neither man was home, wisely staying well clear of this militia-infested city, but the second attack saw rival militias bring tanks onto the streets in fighting that spluttered for five hours. Of Serraj there was no sign. He has spent most of the last few weeks abroad, in Cairo, Istanbul, London and Tunis, anywhere but Libya.

None of this was mentioned in Monday night’s Luxembourg gala dinner. EU leaders maintained the facade, and in fact enhanced it, promising to send diplomats to Tripoli, a city almost equivalent to Sarajevo of the early 90s.

Last month both the EU and the UN however threatened sanctions on 'spoilers' - the threatened asset freeze and travel bans - on men for daring to object to the Serraj government. One, Abdul Rahman Swehli caved in quickly to EU pressure was rewarded by being anointed as 'President' of the so called State Council. Other 'spoilers', of which Gen. Hafter is one, can expect the same despite the fact he has almost won the Battle for Benghazi against extremists. However only one man this week so far has been named to the sanctions list under President Obama’s executive sanctions order against 'spoiler' Libyans and that is Khalifa al-Ghweil, the leader of the Islamist Tripoli Government. So far he’s the only addition. No doubt more will be added. That US Executive order will be implemented by the UN not the EU.

Unless the HOR's Saleh is also intimidated sufficiently by UN to say yes soon to Serraj's phantom GNA government, he could be next on the list. He is already sanctioned by the EU.

The UN's Martin Kobler also this week in Tobruk made Salah an offer, in Don Corleone's words, he can't refuse!

But even if the HOR does accept the GNA, which they allegedly did the other day, that still will not bring peace to Libya, only the facade of there being a unity government. Recently both Libya's rivals eastern and western central banks announced plans to print their own new currency. I predict a country that will eventually split.

Posted by b at 05:59 AM | Comments (37)

April 21, 2016

When Media Shill For Saudi Money

A timely Washington Post piece looks at how the Saudis bribe left, right and center:

Saudi government has vast network of PR, lobby firms in U.S.

The Saudi government and its affiliates have spent millions of dollars on U.S. law, lobby and public relations firms to raise the country’s visibility in the United States and before the United Nations at a crucial time.
...
Five lobby and PR firms were hired in 2015 alone, signaling a stepped-up focus on ties with Washington. The firms have been coordinating meetings between Saudi officials and business leaders and U.S. media, ...

The Saudis are getting some bang for their money.

And just today these three well-paid-for pieces appeared. Notice how they have a common, lobby induced theme:

They may have promoted al Qaeda’s poisonous ideology. But Saudi Arabia is too valuable an ally against today’s terrorism to allow ordinary Americans to make the kingdom pay.
While Tehran continues to sow anti-American terrorism across the Middle East, Riyadh holds the key to regional stability. This is not the time to back away from the House of Saud.
The Saudis are particularly angry about the Iran nuclear deal, and they believe that only the next U.S. president -- whether it's Hillary Clinton or even Donald Trump -- will be able to restore Saudi Arabia's status as America's key ally in the Middle East.
  • The biggest sellout yet is Bloomberg which whored out the May issue of Businessweek, including the cover, to a Saudi prince:

The $2 Trillion Project to Get Saudi Arabia’s Economy Off Oil - Eight unprecedented hours with “Mr. Everything,” Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

In Prince Mohammed, the U.S. may find a sympathetic long-term ally in a chaotic region.

The Saudi mafia clan is not just itself corrupt. It is massively corrupting others. It bribes them to do take part in their crimes, no matter how nefarious. Just consider this, mentioned in the WaPo lobby piece above:

In 2014, consultants at the PR firm Qorvis developed content for the Saudi Arabia embassy’s YouTube and Twitter pages, and ran the Twitter account for the Syrian Opposition Coalition.

The Saudis are the major money behind the war on Syria. They are building ISIS and Al-Qaeda not only in Syria but also in Yemen and elsewhere. A former Saudi foreign minister, quoted in in yesterdays Financial Times (see here), admitted such:

Saud al-Feisal, the respected Saudi foreign minister, remonstrated with John Kerry, U.S. secretary of state, that "Daesh [ISIS] is our [Sunni] response to your support for the Da'wa" - the Tehran aligned Shia Islamist ruling party of Iraq.

Whoever shills for the Saudis should be considered adhering to enemies.

Posted by b at 11:19 AM | Comments (94)

April 20, 2016

Open Thread 2016-15

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (163)

Israel's "Unique Global Breakthrough Technology" - Bribe The Enemy

The NYT is marketing some pretended Israeli technological supremacy.

Israelis Find New Tunnel From Gaza Into Israel

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the discovery, saying, “the state of Israel has achieved a global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels.”

Describing the breakthrough as “unique,” but without providing any details of the technology involved, Mr. Netanyahu added, “The government is investing considerable capital in countering the tunnel threat. This is an ongoing effort that will not end overnight.”

Hmm ... "considerable capital". Yes, I believe that was the indeed involved in this "detection" of a tunnel. But why is this described by the NYT journo as if there was some "technology involved"?

Did the NYT bureau in Israel really miss these rumors which have been circulating for days?

According to various reports, a senior commander of the Gaza tunnel division has defected to Israel. If this publication is accurate, he may be able to provide new details which were unknown to the IDF and ISA about what is happening under the Gaza Strip.

So the "global breakthrough in the ability to locate tunnels” is the "technology" of bribing a senior Hamas commander with "considerable capital".

That is historically "unique"? In Israel?

Posted by b at 01:37 PM | Comments (12)

April 19, 2016

Sec State Kerry: Proud Of Undermining The Nuclear Deal With Iran

When in January the deal about Iran's nuclear program (JCPOA) went into its implementation phase we asked When And How Will The U.S. Infringe On The Iran Deal?

I predicted:

[T]he U.S. is never short of some subterfuge to to break agreements. Some reason will be found that then will be used to infringe on the nuclear agreement and to implement new measures to hinder Iran's development.

That seems to have been correct and the answers to the "When" and "How" of U.S. infringement are now in.

On January 16, the implementation day, Secretary of State Kerry said:

To get to this point, ladies and gentlemen, Iran has undertaken significant steps that many – and I do mean many – people doubted would ever come to pass. And that should be recognized, even though the full measure of this achievement can only be realized by assuring continued full compliance in the coming years. In return for the steps that Iran has taken, the United States and the EU will immediately lift nuclear-related sanctions, expanding the horizon of opportunity for the Iranian people. And I have even tonight, before coming over here, signed a number of documents over those sanctions that the State Department has jurisdiction over in order to effect that lifting.

But four month later Iran can still not access its money that was frozen under sanctions. It can not buy anything significant with it. The U.S. is blackmailing the banks not to release one penny of Iran's money. It did not drain the sanction morass added to it.

Indeed the very next day after Kerry's announcement the U.S. raised new sanctions against Iran

The White House immediately announced a new set of sanctions against 11 Iranian companies, institutions and individual people because Iran had tested a ballistic missile the previous autumn.

Last month came more of the same. This time the Iranians conducted several missile tests over a period of two days. And on March 25 the administration announced another round of sanctions, these once again imposed by the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control.

The U.S. claims that Iran, by testing ballistic missiles, somehow infringes on UN Security Council Resolution 2231. But that resolution only "calls upon Iran", i.e. politely asks, to not test missiles designed to be nuclear capable.

There is also a deep logical flaw in the U.S. argumentation:

Iran has certifiably dismantled all aspects of its nuclear program that would have made it capable of weaponizing enriched uranium. Nonetheless, say the Americans, we will impose sanctions on Iran for developing missile technology that would make it capable of firing one of the nuclear weapons we have just made certain it cannot build.

Besides those new sanction over ballistic missiles the U.S. is doing everything to block any real relief from the old sanctions.

As soon as the sanctions over the nuclear program were formally lifted, the U.S. send its bureaucrats out to warn off any bank from doing business with Iran:

Cont. reading: Sec State Kerry: Proud Of Undermining The Nuclear Deal With Iran

Posted by b at 01:52 PM | Comments (46)

April 18, 2016

Syria - "Rebel" Sponsors Order A New Round Of Defeat

The Obama administration has obviously decided to restart the war in Syria. Thousands of tons of new weapons have been purchased and delivered to the Jihadists including anti-air MANPADs of U.S. (full text) and Chinese origin. Half of the weapons the "rebel" mercenaries are given by their sponsors regularly end up in the hands of Al-Qaeda in Syria. We will not be surprised when a few weeks from now a civilian passenger plane will be hit and come down in Turkey or elsewhere.

Two week ago the foreign supported "rebels" already broke the ceasefire when they took part in a large al-Qaeda attack south of Aleppo city. Several "rebel" attacks took place against the Kurdish quarter in Aleppo city with over a hundred civilian death. Other attacks took place in north Latakia.

Today the "rebels" announced a full return to open war and more fronts were reopened including in north Hama where Uighur "Turkmen" Jihadis used two suicide bombers against the Syrian government positions.

The UN sponsored talks in Geneva went nowhere and the "rebel" side now suspended them to renew the fighting. Only three men of the Saudi controlled "rebel" negotiating team attended today. They still insist on the unconstitutional removal of the Syrian president before agreeing to any further talks about a unity government.

The Syrian army has suspended its ongoing offensive against the Islamic State. The plan was to march from the recently freed Palmyra to the Islamic State held Deir Ezzor in the east. The troops have now been recalled to protect the Syrian people from the renewed "rebel" attacks in west Syria. This may well fit the U.S. intentions in its phony war on ISIS.

There will soon be reports about local retreats of the Syrian army from this or that town or hill. Do not give them too much weight. Since the Russian intervention last year the Syrian troops have orders to retreat when under hard pressure. This to preserve manpower. As soon has the enemy occupies a position the artillery and air force will take care of them. Then, when the enemy attack has been blunted, the Syrian army and their allies on the ground will reoccupy the position and if possible launch counterattacks.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard General Suleiman visited Moscow last week. After his first visit last summer the Russian intervention was planned and executed. It brought the "rebels" to the border of total defeat. Their sponsors then agreed to a ceasefire and to hold talks in Geneva. Since the ceasefire announcement on February 27 the time was used by the U.S. to rearm and reposition the "rebel" force.

It seems that another round of the cycle is now necessary. Iran has deployed regular ground troops in Syria and these, even while not yet battle-tested, will have some effect. The Syrian air force has been reequipped and its older planes have been updated. Russian helicopters are active on the Syrian front and new short range (200 km) "Iskander" ballistic missiles were recently seen. The Russian air force can additionally engage with long range flights from Russia against fixed targets in Syria within hours. Russia cruise missile carrying ships are near the Syrian coast.

It is foolish to believe that MANPADs and TOW anti tank systems can decisively change the situation on the ground. I expect that a few week of heavy fighting will now follow after which the "rebels" will again be exhausted and again on the border of defeat.

Posted by b at 02:32 PM | Comments (66)

April 17, 2016

Congress Threatens To Seize Saudi U.S. Assets

Some current nonsense headlines in the U.S. media read like this: Saudis threaten sell-off of U.S. assets if 9/11 suits are allowed:

Saudi Arabia has warned the United States not to revoke its sovereign immunity, protecting the kingdom from lawsuits related to Sept. 11, or it will sell off hundreds of billions in American assets.

It is not the Saudis who are threatening something. It is the U.S. Congress that is threatening to lift the immunity of nation states in front of U.S. courts:

The Senate bill is intended to make clear that the immunity given to foreign nations under the law should not apply in cases where nations are found culpable for terrorist attacks that kill Americans on United States soil. If the bill were to pass both houses of Congress and be signed by the president, it could clear a path for the role of the Saudi government to be examined in the Sept. 11 lawsuits.

Under the bill a civil U.S. person could file in a U.S. court against nation states for acts or omissions(!) of that nation state related to some "terrorist act". U.S. courts are notorious for dubious rulings against foreign states, impounding and seizing huge assets of such states.

In 2012 Congress passed a law that specifically allowed victims of terrorist attacks allegedly related to Iran to collect judgements against the Iranian state. Judges started to rule in favor of billions in compensatory damages to victims and to impound even assets of Iranian charities. One of these cases and the anti-Iranian law are now in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Immunity against such judgements is standard international law and known as "acta iure imperii" - the principal that no foreign court can judge the liability of a nation state for acts and omissions in the exercise of the nation state's authority.

Should the U.S. Congress break that principal, any foreign national wealth fund, pension fund or otherwise state related institution could have its U.S. assets impounded under this or that dubious terrorism judgement.

The Saudis would be utterly stupid to leave even a penny invested in the U.S. or in U.S. bonds should that law pass.

This not because the Saudi state had something to do or not with 9/11. Even a claim that the Saudi state somehow neglected to prevent some of its nationals to commit terrorism could, under the new law, be enough to seize U.S. investment of a Saudi national wealth fund. The Saudis said they would withdraw their $750 billion in U.S. assets should the law pass. That would be simply a necessary and prudent move and announcing that move is not "a threat".

If the law should pass not only the Saudis but any other nation state could and should pass similar laws and allow their use against the United States. Some Russian widow of a solider who died years ago from wounds received in Afghanistan by U.S. supported Mujaheddin, aka terrorists, could have U.S assets in Russia seized as compensation. Many South America countries have fought against U.S. instigated terrorism. There are many victims who could sue over such cases and there are many U.S. assets to seize.

To sue against U.S. assets under such laws would be a profitable business for some enterprising lawyers. One wonders how Congress would react when the first U.S. assets get seized.

Posted by b at 12:37 PM | Comments (63)

April 16, 2016

Clinton Lied - Benghazi Attack Was Part Of A Larger Operation

The conservative group Judicial Watch has FOIAed documents of then Secretary of State Clinton related to the September 11 2012 attack in Benghazi which killed a U.S. ambassador and several CIA honchos. The documents prove that the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of an Al-Qaeda operation. Clinton and the Obama administration have publicly claimed the attack was in reaction to some anti-Muslim movie that was circling on the Internet.

That was obviously nonsense. My post about the incidents written in the early morning of September 12 was headlined: U.S. Ambo in Benghazi Killed In AQ Operation. All known facts pointed to that conclusion.

The documents Judicial Watch got released through several Freedom of Information court decisions confirm that my take was correct and that Clinton and the Obama administration knew that the attack in Benghazi was part of a well organized al-Qaeda operation.

From the Judicial Watch press release:

Judicial Watch announced today it has obtained new documents from the Department of State containing the telephone transcripts from the evening of September 11, 2012, in which then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informs then-Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Kandil that the deadly terrorist attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi “had nothing to do with the film.”
...
Similarly, Judicial Watch litigation also forced the release of the September 11, 2012 email in which Secretary of State Hillary Clinton informed her daughter by email that the attack had been staged by an “Al Qaeda-like group,” rather than as the result of “inflammatory material posted on the Internet,” as Mrs. Clinton had claimed in her official public statement one hour earlier.

In her phone call with the Egyptian Prime Minister Clinton also said:

Based on the information we saw today we believe the group that claimed responsibility for these is associated with Al-Qaeda.

The known facts let me believe that the group who planned and initiated the attack was not only "associated with Al-Qaeda" but the Al-Qaeda leadership itself.


September 11 2012, U.S. Embassy Cairo

Consider again the circumstances as detailed in my earlier piece. On September 11 2012 three things happen:

Cont. reading: Clinton Lied - Benghazi Attack Was Part Of A Larger Operation

Posted by b at 01:00 PM | Comments (90)

April 14, 2016

Islamic State Attacks, Occupies Erdogan's "Safe Zone"

The Turkish President Erdogan offered the U.S. "Turkmen" troops to take the Syrian-Turkish border region currently held by the Islamic State. In return he demanded that the U.S. stop its support for the Syrian-Kurdish YPG group that also fights the Islamic State. Erdogan's new demand comes on top of the long standing plan to create a "safe zone" in north Syria in which refugees and "rebels" would be kept safe under a Turkish artillery and U.S. air umbrella.

Over the last two weeks "Turkmen" (Turkish special forces, Turkish volunteers and some Uighur fighters) together with al-Qaeda and some Syrian "rebels" proceeded from the Azaz area towards east along the Turkish-Syrian border. With Turkish cross-border artillery support and U.S. A-10 ground attack air support they managed to take a dozen Syrian villages from the Islamic State. They also captured the important Al-Rai border station.

But the Islamic State counterattacked, reoccupied Al-Rai and today cut off some of the attacking "rebel" forces from their support area around Azaz (black arrow).

Here is a map of the current situation in north Syria.


bigger

In yellow shade the YPG held enclave around Efrin. In red the Syrian government held area around Aleppo city. In green the al-Qaeda and "rebel" held areas. The northern part around Azaz next to the Turkish border is the current point of action. The dark blackish areas are held by the Islamic State.

One can see the corridor next to the Turkish border which the Islamic Sate managed to cut today. It took several villages and a refugee camp that was established on the Syrian side. The refugee camp was then shelled by Turkish artillery to again drive out the Islamic State.

This attack demonstrates that the idea of "safe zones" in norther Syria is nonsense. Such "safe zones" would be major battle ground and would be attacked, as today, from two sides. They are indefensible. On top of that Erdogan's "Turkmen" have proven to be less capable than the YPG Kurds who have withstood similar attacks by the Islamic State.

Further south the Syrian army is near closing the corridor into eastern Aleppo city which is held by al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) fighters. This "squeezing" and several other operations, marked with red arrows on the map, are in preparation for a large Syrian army attack along several axis in Aleppo governate and in Aleppo city.

Meanwhile hawks in the CIA and Pentagon want to turn the fighting in Syria into a campaign against the Russians. They want to provide serious anti-air capabilities to al-Qaeda and its "rebel" allies should the current cessation of hostilities not hold:

Officials said the CIA has made clear to its allies that the new systems, once agreed upon, would be given to the rebels only if the truce and the concurrent political track toward a lasting peace—Plan A—fall apart and full-scale fighting resumes.

I consider that to be a CIA offer to the "rebels": Break the ceasefire and you will be rewarded with better quality weapons.

One can only hope that the Obama White House, which earlier had rejected a proxy war with Russia, will therefore also reject this lunatic scheme.

Posted by b at 10:36 AM | Comments (52)

Pentagon Claims 2,750 Air Strikes Killed Just 500 Enemies

The Pentagon claims to have tens of thousands of Islamic State fighters by airstrikes. But, according to the published numbers, only very few were killed this year. At the same time the number of Islamic State fighters the Pentagon says are active and alive has remained essentially the same for over two years.

According to Pentagon claims documented below, just some 500 Islamic State fighters were killed by U.S. airstrikes in 2016. But its own Airpower Summary March 2016 says that between January and March 2,781 ground attack sorties were flown in Iraq and Syria with at least one weapon release each. Such a high sortie to kill rate is unprecedented. Who, if not Islamic State fighters, is the U.S. bombing?

Here is a list of the "Islamic State fighters killed" Pentagon claims:

Cont. reading: Pentagon Claims 2,750 Air Strikes Killed Just 500 Enemies

Posted by b at 09:05 AM | Comments (28)

April 12, 2016

Soft Coup In Libya Causes Meltdown, Breakup

(Note: This is a follow-up to Richard's recent introductive piece Libya - Tribes, Militia, Interests And Intervention)

By Richard Galustian

The UN backed General National Accord (GNA) arrived in Tripoli over a week ago and current events are looking more and more like a coup. Meanwhile last Friday PM Designate for the GNA suddenly flew to London on a "private visit"; odd time for him to leave Libya wouldn't you say?

There are consequences for Malta. A main one is that for most of the EU, the intended sanctions against GNA 'spoilers' are no problem for them as neither Abu Sahmain (Tripoli General National Congress, or GNC) nor Aguila Saleh (Tobruk House of Representatives, or HoR) are EU citizens and also neither have much in the way of overseas assets but the exception seems to be Malta. So the Maltese authorities are having to trawl through everything at the UN & EU's behest to find their assets and then to freeze them. Knowing that the UN/EU is likely to suddenly unfreeze them if these two men are intimidated enough to decide to cooperate. Either way Malta is put in an awkward position.

Let's backtrack a little. The GNA consisted in total of a nine-strong presidency council led by a UN selected prime minister, Fayez Serraj, and with Tripoli airspace closed, they were conveyed to their capital city by Italian frigate, transferring at sea to a small rusty Libyan coastal patrol vessel to preserve the illusion that they were not being helped by western powers. But the GNA had fractured even before they were helped aboard the Italian vessel, with two of the nine abruptly resigning, accusing the leadership of being too cozy with Tripoli militias and for their opposition to Gen. Hafter remaining head of the army.

Nevertheless, the so called GNA, more correctly called the Presidential Council, now reduced to seven, arrived in the capital, choosing to set up office in the naval base, the only part of the capital judged safe from roaming militias.

Cont. reading: Soft Coup In Libya Causes Meltdown, Breakup

Posted by b at 02:39 PM | Comments (31)

A Saudi U.S. Split Over Syria?

There is a flurry of Saudi diplomatic travel in its region. The context might be the U.S. arrangement with Russia over Syria and Saudi opposition to it. Consider:

April 7 - Saudi king starts Egypt visit in boost for Sisi

Saudi King Salman on Thursday started a five-day visit to Cairo in a show of support for Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, with the leaders due to sign a raft of investment deals.

April 11 - Saudi King Salman meets Turkey's Erdogan

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz was welcomed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after arriving in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Monday.

As part of king Salman’s official visit to the country, regional and international issues are expected to be discussed in meetings between Turkish and Saudi officials.
...
During his visit, will later be attending the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that will be taking place in Istanbul on April 14 and 15.

April 12 - The Saudi Deputy Crown Prince and King of Jordan Agree to Establish a Joint Investment Fund

Saudi Arabia and Jordan yesterday agreed to establish a joint investment fund during the Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Jordan. Prince Mohammed who is also the Saudi Second Deputy Prime Minister and the Minister of Defence met King Abdullah II and in a joint statement that was made at the end of the visit, the two sides stressed “the importance of strengthening the existing cooperation in the fields of security and fighting terrorism and extremism”. They also stressed the “importance of participating in existing international efforts to fight terrorism made by the international coalition and the military coalition”.

April 12 - Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed receives Saudi Deputy Crown Prince

Abu Dhabi: His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, on Monday received Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman Bin Abdulaziz, upon his arrival at the Presidential Airport in Abu Dhabi.

The Saudi King visits two heavy weight Middle East countries over the last days while his son visits two minor ones. Something is up here. Will there be a new Saudi organized "initiative" in Syria? What else could be the purpose of such diplomatic bustle?

On a side note:

This is the picture the Turkish President Erdogan arranged when the German chancellor Merkel visited him. Nostalgic Ottoman opulence for the frugal daughter of a Lutheran pastor.

Now compare that to the official picture with the pompous, ultra rich Saudi King.

Cont. reading: A Saudi U.S. Split Over Syria?

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (45)

April 11, 2016

Hired By Nuland, Fired By Nuland

When he was selected by the neocon U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, Yats is the guy, the expectations were that Arseniy Yatsenyuk would be capable to do whatever the U.S. would order him to do in Ukraine.

But as Prime Minister of Ukraine Yatsenyuk was just a too small figure in a big game. The oligarchs still rule Ukraine and the great power politics overshadow any local politics. Even there Yatsenyuk was in way over his head. He never had real power in the parliament and the people of Ukraine hated him.

He was finally told to go by the same people who put him into his position:

KIEV, Ukraine — Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, the prime minister of Ukraine, announced his resignation on Sunday in a surprise move that opened a new period of political uncertainty here.
...
Mr. Yatsenyuk and Petro O. Poroshenko, who became president, emerged as the nation’s most prominent political figures. But the revolution’s leaders soon turned on each other. [..] Ukraine’s Western allies eventually sided with Mr. Poroshenko and pushed Mr. Yatsenyuk to step aside.

Get hired by Nuland, get fired by Nuland.

The "good-bye" phone call Vice President Biden had with Yatsenyuk was lukewarm:

The Vice President thanked Prime Minister Yatsenyuk for his partnership during a historic time for Ukraine. He congratulated the government of Ukraine on its accomplishments over the past two years ..

"Partnership", "accomplishments" - I could think of greater words to express gratitude for the well paid, cushy job Biden junior was given in Ukraine. An abbreviated readout of the Biden-Yatsenyuk phone call would just say: "Don't dare to call me again".

Yatsenyuk is a good example of those who hope to ride to power on the back of U.S. regime change shenanigans. Such people are just expendable puppets to be put in the trash whenever their usefulness ends.

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (42)

April 10, 2016

Boston Globe Anti-Trump Scaremongering: He Would Continue Obama Policies

Today's Boston Globe provides some silly lubral scaremongering about Donald Trump. A piece under the headline The GOP must stop Trump is accompanied by a PDF of a Boston Globe frontpage as it would look, in the mind of the writers, should Trump win the presidency.

The top headline of the envisioned front page says "Deportations To Begin".

The Globe writers should for once start reading their own newspaper. Under Barack Obama, which the Globe supports, deportation happened all along and the government increased the numbers as well as the deportation personal.

A January 14 Boston Globe report ran under the original headline Deportations quietly continue. On March 18 a report under the headline Homeland Security using raids to curb border crossings remarked:

The Obama administration is openly and unapologetically stepping up efforts to find and deport unaccompanied children and families who arrived in the U.S. in the 2014 surge of illegal crossings.
...
Homeland Security officials have kept a wary eye on the border since more than 68,000 unaccompanied children and roughly as many people traveling as families, many fleeing widespread violence in Central America, were caught crossing the border illegally in 2014. The effort to step up enforcement against families and young immigrants started in the midst of a new wave of such immigrants.

Obama increased deportation efforts. But the Globe is now scaremongering that Trump may begin deportations? How does that fit?

Another stupid headline on the fake Trump front page says "U.S. soldiers refuse orders to kill ISIS families". Should that indeed happen it would be a very welcome surprise. Obama has ordered hundreds if not thousands of drone and air-strikes on al-Qaeda and ISIS "terrorists" which have killed not only the targets but also their families. Obama admitted that these murderous strikes happen without any due process. Despite the very murky legality of these strikes under national and international law no U.S. soldier is know to have refused orders to take part in them.

President Obama, and certainly Hillary Clinton, are more hawkish than Trump on issues of foreign policy and war. They both oppose illegal immigration just as Trump does.

It is certainly legitimate for the Globe as a more liberal paper to oppose Trump. But to do so on points where their own preferred politicians are just as bad is silly.

Posted by b at 01:09 PM | Comments (60)

Kerry's "Please Make Assad Go" Begging Rounds Look Utterly Silly

Ali Akbar Velayati, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei's top adviser on international affairs, said U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry had asked "Iran to help so that Bashar Assad leaves.

"We should ask them: "What does this have to do with you? Shouldn't the Syrian people decide?'"

"From Iran's point of view Bashar Assad and his government should remain as a legal government and legal president until the end of his term. And Bashar Assad shall be able to take part in a presidential election as any Syrian citizen. And their precondition that Bashar Assad should go is a red line for us."
Jerusalem Post

I have wondered for quite a while why Kerry is running from door to door with this childish insistence that Bashar al-Assad has to leave as President of Syria.

Let's assume that Assad leaves tomorrow and is replaced with some other intelligent Syrian nationalist. Someone who, like Bashar al-Assad, has majority support of the Syrian people to continue the current course.

What would change?

Yes, Bashar Assad has some symbolic character for the Syrians fighting for their state. But a good inner-Syrian propaganda campaign could easily project a like picture onto a new face. The strategic interests and the policies involved in Syria would not change at all.

After the U.S. supported "rebels" broke the ceasefire by attacking government position in south of Aleppo and in Latakia the Syrian army is preparing for a big offensive. The aim is to free all of Aleppo governate from the "rebel" al-Qaeda menace. Changing the Syrian head of state would not change these military plans. They have, like national interests, their own logic.

Does Kerry understand how silly he looks when he makes these 'Please make Bashar al Assad go' rounds?

Posted by b at 09:40 AM | Comments (40)

 
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