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February 01, 2018

Syria - Erdogan's Bashibazouk Want To Ravage Afrin

The map shows the situation in Afrin canton in north-west Syria. The Turkish army and associated Takfiri militia (green) are trying to push the Syrian Kurds (yellow) out of the area.


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What is claimed as newly Turkish conquered (light green arrows) on the map may overnight change back into Kurdish hands. This has happened several times over the last week. The fighting is quite intense (vid). The Kurds seem to have many anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) and the Turks have all the tools of a professional army plus a fanatic militia that serves as their infantry. These (vid) Turkish sponsored Takfiris in the Afrin area seem to come from various countries. One sings a Nasheed:

"...
We were steadfast in Grozny,
We were steadfast in Dagestan.
And we took Tora Bora as our den,
And we took Tora Bora as our den.
We made glory in Afrin and in sad Aleppo.
And Afrin is calling for us: 'Oh welcome good people.' "

Grozny and Dagestan, both in the Russian Federation, were devastated in wars against Takfiris. The Tora Bora caves in east-Afghanistan were al-Qaeda's stronghold before the U.S. waged war on the country. 

Here is another video of Erdogan's henchmen:

SURA‏ @AlSuraEnglish - 4:26 PM - 1 Feb 2018
#BREAKING - (Graphic Warning) #Turkish-backed #Syrian rebels strip and mutilate dead female #Kurdish #YPG (YPJ) fighter in #Afrin as offensive against #Afrin continues.

The graphic video, available through the tweet above (or on request through me), shows a dead young woman, partially clothed in military attire, who's breasts have been cut off. Some ten men in mixed military-civil cloth are standing around her in the 13 seconds video. They can not be identified.

SURA @AlSuraEnglish
Laughter is heard before #Syrian rebel pushes her chest with his boot, another says "No don't do things like this guys". The next fighter says "Bring the other one" referring to the female #Kurdish #YPG (YPJ) fighters corpse. #Turkey has not commented on rebel behavior yet.

I am not sure these are "Syrian militia" or "Syrian rebel" as SURA says - see first video above.

These marauding groups are Erdogan's neo-ottoman version of the Bashibazouk:

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan's Bashibazouk Want To Ravage Afrin

Posted by b at 03:48 PM | Comments (132)

January 31, 2018

Sleuthhound Puppy Takes 'Deep Dive' Into MoA - (Funny)

This is funny.

The Twitter conservation below started when Borzou Daragahi, a main stream scribe and gullible simpleton, asked about Moon of Alabama. He had been made aware of and disliked the head scarf piece which was posted here yesterday. One Jett Goldsmith volunteered to respond.


Jett Goldsmith (left)
Borzou Daragahi @Borzou - 10:36 PM - 30 Jan 2018
Who’s or what’s behind Moonie Alabama?

Jett Goldsmith‏ @JettGoldsmith - 10:48 PM - 30 Jan 2018
Replying to @borzou
Moon of Alabama is an American conservative/quasi-conspiracy theorist forum. It's run by a German Vietnam veteran named Billmon.

Jett Goldsmith @JettGoldsmith
Replying to @JettGoldsmith @borzou
Out of curiosity, I dived rather deep into his story a few weeks ago. I found a bunch of articles from mutual friends who served with him in Vietnam, referencing his life. Let me try and find them.

Jett Goldsmith @JettGoldsmith
Here we go. Bernhard Horstmann, the founder of Moon of Alabama, is a dual national current resident of Germany who opted to serve in the US Army Corps of Engineers during Vietnam. He's written about at length here. http://www.tombutt.com/pdf/letters%20home.pdf …

Jett Goldsmith @JettGoldsmith
Here's Horstmann pictured in 2012 with local Richmond, CA community member Tom Butt, who served with him in Vietnam. Butt later became mayor of Richmond. pic

Moon of Alabama @MoonofA - 11:22 PM - 30 Jan 2018
You made 9 factual claims in the above of which 8 are completely wrong. That's an F.

Cont. reading: Sleuthhound Puppy Takes 'Deep Dive' Into MoA - (Funny)

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

January 30, 2018

U.S. Runs Headscarf Campaign Against Iran

A U.S. government funded public relation campaign tries to incite women in Iran to break the law. The reporting of the campaign in western media is unproportionate to its effects in Iran. The professional propagandist who runs the campaign on behalf of the U.S. government is introduced as ordinary "women’s rights activist". The larger propaganda scheme and the U.S. government influence in it are willfully ignored.

In June 2017 the CIA created a new "mission center" for attacking Iran:

The Iran Mission Center will bring together analysts, operations personnel and specialists from across the CIA to bring to bear the range of the agency’s capabilities, including covert action, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.

The first visible results of the new center's work was the hijacking of economic protests in Iran at the end of last year. The slogans and symbols used and the specific western media support lets one assume that exile MEK terrorists and monarchist organizations were involved in the affair. The demonstrations immediately turned violent and lost all public backing. They petered out, as predicted, within a few days.

On December 28, the very same day the demonstrations started, this picture made the rounds:


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A woman in Tehran defied the law by taking off her headscarf. The pictures and a video showed that people around mostly ignored the stunt. Only after the photo made the rounds in "western" media, was the woman taken in for questioning but later released. The picture and video was first posted by @masihpooyan:

Cont. reading: U.S. Runs Headscarf Campaign Against Iran

Posted by b at 01:12 PM | Comments (87)

January 29, 2018

Syria - Neo-Conservatives Demand "Action" - Hope For A Larger War

The U.S. polity and media now acknowledge what we reported on December 21. The U.S. announcement to build up a 30,000 strong PKK army in north-east Syria was a disaster. It prompted Turkey to initiate its attack on YPG/PKK Kurds in Afrin. It threatens do drive it out of NATO and into Russia's open arms. It gives the Syrian government new leverage against the Syrian Kurds.

Under Turkish threats to attack U.S. forces in Syria the Trump administration had to pull back - at least in its rhetoric. Independent of who rules Turkey the country will never acquiesce to an armed Kurdish entity on its southern border. The U.S. should have know this.

This failure of the Trump administration's plan has prompted a new push from neoconservative propagandists for a full U.S. war on Syria and its allies. The lobby shop of the Kagan family, the Institute For The Study of War, had its junior staff pen an op-ed for Foxnews to argue for a new study object:

It's time for Trump to face reality in Syria

The U.S. must rapidly change how it is executing policy in five key areas.
  1. Russian military bases. ...
  2. Acceptance of Bashar al-Assad. ...
  3. Syrian “de-escalation.” ...
  4. The “peace” process. ...
  5. Iran and al Qaeda. ...

The hinted at solutions, couched in vague language, are for 1. nuke them, 2. kill him, 3. stop it, 4. who cares, 5. destroy 'em all:

The U.S. must face reality in Syria. It must recognize the threat Russia poses. It must acknowledge the limits of its current partners on the ground. It cannot put faith in a diplomatic charade. It must implement a real strategy against al Qaeda and Iran. And it must recognize the value of American action over American rhetoric.
...
It will take a long time and a hard struggle to achieve any outcome in Syria that the U.S. should be willing to live with. It is time to focus on it, devote resources to it, and prepare to do so for a long time.

"For a long time" sounds to me like a multi decade occupation of the Syrian battlefield and the adjacent areas. I doubt that any politician who wants to be reelected will vote for that.

A second neocon op-ed, this by Josh Rogin, was posted at Jeff Bezos' blog: Team Trump must match its new rhetoric on Syria with action.

It is not useful to quote the nonsense but here are some of the rhetoric figures it uses:

... the will and leverage needed to lead a solution to the Syrian crisis - defend U.S. interests - confronting the ongoing terrorist threat - Iranian expansion - Bashar al-Assad’s brutal aggression - on-the-ground influence - herculean effort - a contingent that wants to cut and run - a real plan - fundamental flaw - a lack of sufficient leverage on the ground ...

After having set the scene for a massive U.S. occupation of Syria, Rogin claims that "nobody is advocating" a "large increase in U.S. troops". His advice then is to do more of the stuff that evidently just failed: stick to the Kurds, pay some Arab tribes (aka former ISIS), arm rebels (aka al-Qaeda) in Idleb. But then comes the real blopper:

the Trump administration should raise the pressure on Assad, Russia and Iran, including through sanctions, the credible threat of U.S. force and whatever else might persuade them.

Now what please is a "credible threat of U.S. force" against those three countries? And might they have the capability to credibly threat back? Who will win the thermonuclear war over the Tanf desert base in south-east Syria?

A year into Trump’s presidency, his administration is saying the United States has a long-term interest in Syria. The next step is to match those words with action.

I have no doubt that the two op-eds were coordinated. More of this kind will likely come. The common theme is "action" and - while not openly said - they demand a larger U.S. war over Syria. The unmentioned beneficiary of such a war, next to the weapon producing financiers of those writers, would be Israel and Saudi Arabia.

The neoconservative writers and their op-eds should be ignored. But the war on Iraq has shown that there is some serious political power behind them. Now someone in the White House will have to pick up those arguments and try to convince Trump with them. Who will that be and will s/he be successful?

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (74)

January 28, 2018

Robert Parry Has Died

Robert Parry, the classic investigative journalist, founder and editor of the Consortium News website, has died.

This is a huge loss for everyone who has kept some skepticism about the propagandistic media onslaught on our consciousness. Parry's writing was always fact based, well grounded and beyond the usual claptrap. The Iran-Contra stroy, Reagan's October surprise and dozens of other political crimes would have been buried had Robert Parry not dug into them.

In his last post on December 31, An Apology and Explanation, he offered these closing words of his long career:

[A]s the New Year dawns – if I could change one thing about America and Western journalism, it would be that we all repudiate “information warfare” in favor of an old-fashioned respect for facts and fairness — and do whatever we can to achieve a truly informed electorate.

Robert's son Nat Parry, who also writes and edits at Consortium News, gives an overview of Robert's work in his obituary. There was hardly any large political scandal in the last 40 years, that Robert Parry had not reported on. He truly made a difference.

May he rest in peace.

Posted by b at 03:35 PM | Comments (61)

January 27, 2018

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-04 (also Jordan)

Jan 15 - Syria - U.S. Traps Itself, Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement
Jan 18 - Syria - Tillerson Announces Occupation Goals - Erdogan Makes Empty Threats

A few days later those threats turned out to be not so empty - see below.

Jan 20 - Sundry - Shutdown, Ukraine, Omidyar And Syria

Jan 21 - Syria - Turks Attack Afrin, U.S. Strategy Fails, Kurds Again Chose The Losing Side
Jan 22 - Syria - Some Random Oddities

Jan 23 - Calls Upon" Trickery - How Europe Cheats On Iran's Nuclear Agreement
Jan 25 - Why Europe Must Reject U.S. Blackmail Over Iran's Nuclear Agreement - An Update

Tillerson just said that negotiations between the U.S. on Iran's nuclear deal have started:

“The working groups have already begun to meet on efforts to agree principles, what is the scope of what we attempt to address and also how much we engage Iran on discussions to address these issues,” he said.

Oh my ...

Jan 25 - Who Lost Turkey?" - The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria Endangers NATO

There is trouble with another U.S. ally in its war on Syria. Bread prices in Jordan doubled (fr) today after the state removed subsidies. There will be protests and these may developed into something bigger. The country is nearly bankrupt and under severe IMF restrictions. Under U.S. and Saudi pressure Jordan took part in the war on Syria by hosting "rebels", their refuge families and the U.S. "war room". The war cut off the transit traffic from Turkey through Jordan to Saudi Arabia as well as the local commerce with Syria. The Syrian government will only allow regular traffic if it is in control of the border stations. Attempts to achieve that in a truce and to reopen the border with Syria failed over resistance from the "rebels" in south Syria.

The policy of accommodating the Saudis and the U.S. has failed. The war on Syria created huge damage for Jordan for no gain. The Jordanian Hashemite Kingdom is also responsible for the Haram esh-Sharif and Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Trump administration's move to take the issue of Israel control over Jerusalem "off the table" and the Saudi acceptance of it has seriously de-legitimized the Jordanian king. Jordan is looking to reorientate its foreign policy. It is moving nearer to Turkey and also held talks with Iran. The next step is probably an invitation for the king for a visit in Moscow.

Some Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander has said: "Bush gave us Iraq, Obama gave us Syria and Trump will give us Israel."  Maybe not Israel yet, but Jordan looks like a decent mosaic piece in that larger picture.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:10 PM | Comments (100)

January 25, 2018

"Who Lost Turkey?" - The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria Endangers NATO

Back in the 1950s the U.S. political sphere was poisoned by a groundless smear campaign against country-experts in the State Department  who were identified as those who lost China. If the Trump administration proceeds on its current course we may soon see similar accusations. The accused, those "who lost Turkey", will again be the ones who warned of the possibility and not the real culprits.

The Turkish attack on the Kurd held Syrian canton of Afrin (Efrin) is not progressing as fast the Turks had hoped. The infantry component of the operation are Turkish proxy forces in Syria. These Chechen, Uighur, Turkestanis and other Takfiris are cannon fodder in the operations, not a well integrated component of an army.


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The Kurds know their local mountainous territory, are well armed and willing to fight. They can holdout for a while. Politically they will still be the ones who will lose the most in the conflict. The above linked piece noted that the Kurdish YPG/PKK leaders had rejected the Syrian and Russian government offer that would have prevented the Turkish attack. The offer still exists but the conditions will become less favorable as longer the Kurds hold out.

Elijah Magnier just published more details on that offer and analyses the strategic situation:

[T]he US is observing the performance of the Turkish army with interest and wishes to see Erdogan humiliated, broken on the rocks of the Kurds in Afrin. Indeed, the US has delivered anti-tank weapons, already effectively used by the Kurds against the Turkish army (many tanks damaged during the attack on Afrin).
...
The US can’t understand that Ankara is not ready to see a rich and well-armed Kurdish “state” on its borders, disregarding the US’s tempting and generous offer [of a "safe zone" (see below)]. Actually, the US is offering a territory that not only does not belong to the Americans but is actually occupied by the US forces in north east Syria.

The US is one of the losers in this battle, regardless of the results, because Turkey will continue its operations until the defeat of the Kurds, either by military means or if Afrin returns to [Syrian] central government’s control.

I am not convinced that the above prediction will hold. There is still a possibility that Turkey might again change sides and (again) join the U.S. "regime change" efforts in Syria.

This depends on the winner of a conflict within the U.S. military where opposing forces are pulling for the Turkish and respectively the Kurdish side. Should the pro-Turkish side win, Erdogan can be offered a new deal and might be induced to again change sides from his current pro-Russian (pro-Damascus?) position back towards a pro-NATO/U.S. stand. (There is also a tiny chance that Turkey already has a secret back deal with the U.S. administration but I see no indication for it.)

From the very beginning of the conflict in Syria Turkey worked with the U.S., NATO, the Saudis and Qataris, against the Syrian government. It supported the Saudi and U.S. position of "regime change", let ten-thousands of terrorists pass through its borders and delivered ten-thousands of tons of weapons and supplies to the forces fighting the Syrian government. Finally Russia entered the picture, defeated the Takfiris, put harsh pressure on Turkey and offered new economic deals. At the same time the U.S. attempted "regime change" in Ankara and allied with the Kurdish YPG/PKK in Syria and Iraq.

Erdogan, though unwillingly, changed sides and now works with Russia (and Syria) to bring the war to a conclusion. "Regime change" in Damascus has become an unlikely scenario he no longer supports. At the same time he is still willing to invest money and forces to gain something for his failed investment in the war. Taking Afrin to later incorporate it into an enlarged Turkey is one of those plays. He is clearly still aiming for additional territory. The U.S. now offered him some in form of a safe zone in Syria:

Cont. reading: "Who Lost Turkey?" - The U.S.-Kurdish Project In Syria Endangers NATO

Posted by b at 01:11 PM | Comments (289)

Why Europe Must Reject U.S. Blackmail Over Iran's Nuclear Agreement - An Update

The Trump administration has threatened to end the nuclear deal with Iran. In our last post we argued in detail that the attempt of the European 3, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, to soothe Trump by condemning Iran's ballistic missiles is itself a breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and the UN Security Council Resolution 2231.

The University of Alabama endorsed Moon of Alabama's legal reasoning :-). Professor Daniel Joyner, author of several books on international law, non-proliferation and the nuclear deal with Iran, responded to the piece:

Dan Joyner @DanJoyner1 - 6:43 PM - 24 Jan 2018
Replying to @MoonofA
Hi, I enjoyed your post and agree with its analysis.
I examined 2231 in a chapter you can download here: Iran's Nuclear Program and International Law: From Confrontation to Accord, Chapter 7
I addressed the missile issue at pg. 240, and reached the same conclusion you do.

Ellie Geranmayeh, a member of the European Council of Foreign Relations (a U.S. aligned institution), is also defending the nuclear deal and warns against endorsing its breach. She argues in Foreign Policy that the Europeans should not soothe Trump but take a strong stand against any U.S. attempt to put Iran back into the bad corner:

Some European officials state in private that the best option is for Europe to muddle through in the hope that Trump will eventually shift his position. But muddling through just won’t do. Trump is likely to continue increasing his maximalist demands unless Europe flexes its political muscle.

In order to protect its economic and security interests, Europe must not only reject Trump’s ultimatum — which would be a kiss of death for the nuclear deal — but also push back. Europe should put in place a viable contingency plan if the United States continues backtracking on the deal and let Washington know it’s ready to use it.

The author puts forward a four point plan which would indemnify European companies which are dealing with Iran but threatened by secondary U.S. sanctions:

Put simply, EU officials must tell Trump: If you fine our companies’ assets in the United States, we will reclaim those costs by penalizing U.S. assets in Europe. This would cause a major trade conflict that the Europeans want to avoid by all means. But the option and the precedent exist.

Pressing Iran on the ballistic missile issue leads to a dead end, and possibly a new conflict that is not in European interest. Europe should  therefore address that issues on a wider, regional base:

Cont. reading: Why Europe Must Reject U.S. Blackmail Over Iran's Nuclear Agreement - An Update

Posted by b at 04:47 AM | Comments (46)

January 23, 2018

"Calls Upon" Trickery - How Europe Cheats On Iran's Nuclear Agreement

[An addition to the original piece below was added here: Why Europe Must Reject U.S. Blackmail Over Iran's Nuclear Agreement - An Update]
---

The Trump administration wants to abolish the nuclear agreement with Iran. The big European countries want to keep the formal agreement but are actively looking for other reasons, specifically Iran's ballistic missiles, to put new sanctions on Iran. A detailed look into the issue reveals that those European countries are willfully misreading the relevant UN resolutions and mislead the public about their real motivations.

Elijah Magnier just published an excellent piece on the history of U.S. attempts to restrict Iran in the Middle East and to again put it again under its tutelage. He touches on the nuclear deal with Iran and the Trump administration attempts to abolish it. The deal was cosigned by three European countries, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, as well as by Russia and China. Magnier writes:

Iran will not re-negotiate the nuclear deal and relies on Europe to stand firm, confirming its signature and commitment. Europe is in need of Iran because the Islamic Republic is part of the continent’s national security and an advanced guard against terrorism. Europe has had enough of wars [... .]

[The] Iranians and their allies are the partners Europe is looking for, ready to stand back from the US, that faraway continent that is less vulnerable than nearby Europe to terrorism and terrorists.

That assessment of the European position is wrong.

  1. The European governments care about terrorism just as much as the U.S. government does - which means they do not care at all. Remember that the war on Libya, with the help of Qatari paid Takfiris of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, was cooked up by the French President Sarkozy and the Britain Prime Minister Cameron a full year before it happened. Ghaddafi was killed, Libya drowned in blood and terrorism thrived. The blow back came in May 2017 when a Libyan Takfiri blew himself up and killed more than 20 people in Manchester UK. No one was held responsible. Instead the Europeans repeat the same scheme in Syria and are still supporting the terrorist assaults against the legitimate Syrian government.
  2. These Europeans want Iran back under a strict sanction regime just like the U.S. wants it. They Europeans do not want to formally break the nuclear agreement. (They might fear that some companies would file for indemnity.) But they are actively looking for ways to circumvent it. They want to provoke Iran into breaking the agreement by claiming that Iran's ballistic missile program is in violation of the nuclear agreement and the relevant UN resolutions. If they use the issue to apply unilateral sanctions or to "snap back" old ones, Iran has little choice but to declare the agreement null and void.

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Some relevant headlines:

Cont. reading: "Calls Upon" Trickery - How Europe Cheats On Iran's Nuclear Agreement

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (83)

January 22, 2018

Syria - Some Random Oddities

A tweet:

Asaad Hanna @AsaadHannaa 4:26pm · 22 Jan 2018
Assad army dropped chlorine bombed barrels on Abo Aldhoor military base #Idlib countryside in a big attempt to take control of it.

The above is from an anti-Syrian "Media Adviser, researcher and freelance journalist" previously published or quoted by Al Jazeerah, The Guardian, Business Insider and several other outlets. His twitter account has a "Verified" mark.

There is only a tiny problem with the tweet about the Abu Duhur air base. Since Saturday the base is in government hands. Yesterday the Syrian Ministry of Defense officially announced the full capture of the air base. There are pictures available and videos from a Russian news outlet showing Syrian army soldiers strolling within the base. Meanwhile the fighting has moved several kilometers beyond the base limits. The Syrian Army dropping "chlorine bombed barrels" on an air base that is in the army's hands would be rather curious incident. There are no such reports from anyone else. The claim does not seem to fit reality. Then again - little of what was published from such "activist journalists" ever made any sense.

---

Quod licet Iovi ...

Secretary of State Tillerson on January 17:

The United States will maintain a military presence in Syria ... Our military mission in Syria will remain conditions-based.
...
The United States desires five key end states for Syria: ...

... non licet bovi

State Dep. Spokesperson Heather Nauert on January 21:

[W]e urge Turkey to exercise restraint and ensure that its military operations remain limited in scope and duration [...] We call on all parties to remain focused on the central goal of defeating ISIS.

Today U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis added this gem of imperial self awareness:

We don't invade other countries, in Russia's case -- Georgia, Ukraine. That we settle things by international rule of law, you know, this sort of thing. And so I think that in terms of great power and competition. One point I want to make is we respect these as sovereign nations with a sovereign voice and sovereign decisions, and we don't think anyone else should have a veto authority over their economic, their diplomatic or their security decisions.

So one of the points I will be making just by being there is we respect these countries, and we respect their sovereignty, their sovereign decisions.

---

The delusions the Syrian YPG/PKK Kurds have of their position is truly amazing:

[Sinam Mohamad, a senior official in the YPG-backed Syrian Kurdish administration in northern Syria and] currently in Washington with fellow Syrian Kurdish representative Nobahar Mustafa, said the Syrian Kurdish people expected the United States to declare a no-fly zone over the Kurdish-controlled north, “including Afrin.” Mustafa, who was present at the interview, concurred that Afrin “presents a very real and immediate test of US commitment to their Kurdish partners.” The United States “must and can stop Turkey,” Mustafa said.

That statement is a real head scratcher. The main U.S. operation base in the area is the NATO airbase Incerlik in Turkey. Should the U.S. fly its jets from Incerlik to fight off the Turkish jets over Afrin which also take off from Incerlik? And what about Syrian and Russian air defenses that cover the area? Do the Kurds expect the U.S. to start World War III over their inability to compromise with the Syrian government?

---

Is this diplomatic artistry or are these helpless gestures?

U.S. allied Turkish forces invade Syria to kill and "cleanse" U.S. allied Syrian YPG/PKK Kurds in Afrin. The Trump administration immediately steps in to assure the respective allies of its continued support:

  • Today the Deputy Secretary General of NATO, the U.S. diplomat Rose Gottemoeller, visited Ankara to tell the Turkish allies that everything is fine. The U.S. will stand with them.
  • Today Commander of U.S. Central Command General Votel and U.S. Diplomat Brett McGurk visited Kobane to tell their Syrian YPG/PKK allies that everything is fine. The U.S. will stand with them.

The U.S. also called on ‘both sides for restraint’ after Turkey attacks Afrin.

My hunch is that despite these visits neither the Turks nor the Kurds were happy with their U.S. allies.

---

Bonus:

The New York Times Editors are very concerned. People with lots of money might get undue representation:

On the same day the NYT publishes a 6,000(!) word promo-piece about that cute (Wahhabi infested) sheikdom of Qatar. The headline is rather revealing:

Posted by b at 02:37 PM | Comments (92)

January 21, 2018

Syria - Turks Attack Afrin, U.S. Strategy Fails, Kurds Again Chose The Losing Side

After negotiations between Russia/Syria and the Kurds of Afrin had failed, the Russian side made a deal with Turkey. Now Turkey attacks Afrin while everyone else looks aside. The main impetus for this development was the announcement of a U.S. occupation in north-east Syria with the help of the Kurdish YPG/PKK. The occupation strategy is already failing. The Kurds made the false choice. They will be the losers of this game.

We had wrongly predicted that Turkish threats against the Kurdish held north-west area of Afrin were empty:

The threat is not serious:
  • ...
  • Afrin is under formal protection of Russian and Syrian forces.
  • The real danger to Turkey is not Afrin but the much larger Kurdish protectorate the U.S. publicly announced in north-east Syria.

The Turkish threats and its artillery noise have led to counter noise from Syria and more silent advice from Russia. The Syrian government wants to show that it is the protector of all Syrian citizens be they ethnic Arabs or Kurds. Russia is proud of its role as the grown up who is calming down all sides.

Turkey is now attacking the Afrin canton in full force. With help from one George Orwell the operation was dubbed "Olive Branch"


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The Turkish operation to go after Afrin was triggered by two events. The more important one was the U.S. announcement of a permanent occupation of north-east Syria with the help of a 30,000 men strong SDF "border protection force" consisting of mainly Kurds and some Arabs who earlier fought under ISIS. We had noted at that time:

The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a "terrorist gang", trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country.

The U.S. move was amateurish. It ignored the security needs of its NATO ally Turkey in exchange for an illegal and unsustainable occupation of north-east Syria. Secretary of State Tillerson tried to calm the Turks by claiming that the "border protection force" was not for border protection. Reports from the training ground expose that as a lie:

Cont. reading: Syria - Turks Attack Afrin, U.S. Strategy Fails, Kurds Again Chose The Losing Side

Posted by b at 07:44 AM | Comments (142)

January 20, 2018

Sundry - Shutdown, Ukraine, Omidyar And Syria

As I am currently somewhat handicapped in writing a consistent piece (possible reasons: the flu, writers block or temporary burnout) I'll restrict this to some short thoughts on recent issues.

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The so called government shutdown in the U.S. is no shutdown. It is political theater that pretends a political divide between the two parties that simply is not there. All the bad stuff - the military operations, the spying on you and me, and of course the payments to Congress and the White House are designated as "essential" and will continue. Only the nicer stuff, services for the common people, will be restricted. Adam H. Johnson wrote about this split the last time a "government shutdown" happened: It’s Not a Government Shutdown. It’s a Right-Wing Coup.

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The Ukrainian Parliament has practically declared the Minsk agreements null and void and decided to militarily "liberate" Donetsk, Lugansk and Crimea from the will of the people living there. Just in time the neo-nazi fanatics of the Azov Battalion received a U.S. military delegation and U.S. arms.

The 2015 Minsk II agreement (full text) demanded that the Ukraine creates a new law for the administration of these regions:

Without delays, but no later than 30 days from the date of signing of this document, a resolution has to be approved by the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine, indicating the territory which falls under the special regime in accordance with the law “On temporary Order of Local Self-Governance in Particular Districts of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” based in the line set up by the Minsk Memorandum as of Sept. 19, 2014.

Russia is not a party of the agreement. But when the resolution by the Ukrainian parliament was not forthcoming western propaganda falsely blamed Russia for "not fulfilling the Minsk agreement" and the west has since bound the sanctions on Russia to this fake conclusion.

The National Bank of Ukraine announced that an independent accountant found that PrivatBank, then owned by the coup financier and billionaire Ihor Kolomoyskiy, was plundered of $5.5 billion shortly before it went bankrupt and nationalized by the coup government. In connection with that an IMF loan of $1.8 billion to the Ukraine allegedly went directly into Kolomoyskiy's pockets. How much of this stolen money was paid to U.S. politicians?

While the anti-Trump politicians and media still fret about "Russian influence" on U.S. social media everyone seems to have forgotten that in early 2016 the Ukraine set up a massive troll farm and a Ministry of Truth. Back then even the U.S. ambassador to the Ukraine disliked that. If every troll tweeting in Russian or with Cyrillic letters in its name is under the direct command of Vladimir Putin where then are those Ukrainians trolls?

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Back in December I described how the Silicon Valley billionaires Bezos and Omidyar helped the Obama administration to privatize and hide the NSA papers leaked by Edward Snowden. Mintpress now took a deeper look into Omidyar's service to the deep state and his active suppression of financial resources for WikiLeaks.

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The Turkish military has started to bomb the Afrin (Efrin) canton in north-west Syria. "Free Syrian Army" fighters under Ottoman/Turkish flags stand ready to invade it. The canton is held and administrated by YPK/PKK Kurds. Neither I nor Elijah Magnier nor Joshua Landis had expected that Erdogan would really do this. One wonders what deals have been made with Russia and Syria to allow for this invasion.

There was a plausible rumor yesterday that Syria had offered to send its security forces to protect the Afrin area but that the Kurds rejected that. Now Russia and Syria think that the best way to prevent the announced U.S. protectorate of Kurdish held territory in the north-east is to prove to the Kurds that the U.S. is unwilling to protect them and their brethren in Efrin from Turkish attacks. The Kurds had quite good relations with the Russians and to some extend also with the Syrian government. They then changed sides to get U.S. protection with the intent of splitting up Syria and anbing a big chunk for themselves. "Well, here is your payback. Now you will see what your new "allies" are willing to do for you."

I now expect a rather short fight, minor losses of territory to Erdogan's goons and a lot of bloody noses.

Posted by b at 10:50 AM | Comments (106)

January 18, 2018

Syria - Tillerson Announces Occupation Goals - Erdogan Makes Empty Threats

For a few days now Turkey has threatened to invade Afrin (Efrin), a Kurdish held canton in the north-west of Syria.


Afrin (topographic) bigger
yellow - Kurdish control, grey - Turks, red - Syrian government, green - al-Qaeda

The threat is not serious:

  • Afrin is mostly mountainous.
  • Pictures from Turkey showed (scroll down) the unloading of some tanks near to Afrin but within Turkey. These were old M-60 tanks. They have been slightly upgraded by Israel but can be knocked out by modern Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG) and certainly by Anti Tank Guided Missiles. (ATMG). These tanks would get slaughtered should they enter the tricky Afrin terrain.
  • There are several tens of thousands of Kurdish fighters in Afrin. They are well armed.
  • Afrin is under formal protection of Russian and Syrian forces.
  • The real danger to Turkey is not Afrin but the much larger Kurdish protectorate the U.S. publicly announced in north-east Syria.

The Turkish threats and its artillery noise have led to counter noise from Syria and more silent advice from Russia.  The Syrian government wants to show that it is the protector of all Syrian citizens be they ethnic Arabs or Kurds. Russia is proud of its role as the grown up who is calming down all sides.

The two real issues the wannabe-Sultan Erdogan has are:

  • the upcoming meeting of Syrian opposition and government parties in Sochi and
  • the U.S. backing of the PKK/YPG terrorists in north-east Syria.

Russia wanted to invite several Kurdish parties, including the YPG, to the big meeting in Sochi. Turkey rejects any official inclusions of Kurds as a distinct constituency. Russia will fudge the issue by inviting certain personalities of Kurdish ethnic who will take part in their 'private capacities'.

The second issue only came up again because of military bombast at CentCom and some uncoordinated and unsound U.S.  policy:

On Sunday, the U.S.-led military coalition battling Islamic State issued a statement trumpeting the creation of the 30,000-strong “Border Security Force.” But the announcement, which triggered Turkish denunciations, caught officials in Washington off guard. On Wednesday, U.S. officials said the coalition’s declaration was misguided—and the Pentagon issued a statement trying to calm Turkish fears.

“This is not a new ‘army’ or conventional ‘border guard’ force,” the Pentagon statement said.

This was not the first time the Central Command in the Middle East acted in a overtly hawkish and bombastic way without considering the wider strategic impact. Turkey is a  NATO member and to announce the installation of a terrorist force to guard a NATO border from the outside is just nuts. For years now the Pentagon has given way too much leash to CentCom and needs to tighten control over it.

The "border guard" force has now been renamed an internal security force which will also make sure that none of the ISIS fighters in the area, which Washington diligently keeps alive in the Syrian east, will escape across the border to  evade their next assignments.

Yesterday Secretary of State Tillerson announced the official "new" U.S. position on Syria. It is essentially a recap of the position the Obama administration had long held and does not make any more sense:

Speaking in a major Syria-policy address hosted at Stanford University by the Hoover Institution, Tillerson listed vanquishing al-Qaeda, ousting Iran and securing a peace settlement that excludes President Bashar al-Assad as among the goals of a continued presence in Syria of about 2,000 American troops currently deployed in a Kurdish-controlled corner of northeastern Syria.

(The real number of U.S. troops in Syria is around 5,000 soldiers plus an equal number of 'contractors'.)

Other listeners detected even wider ambitions :

The United States has five key goals in Syria, Mr. Tillerson said. They are: ensuring that the Islamic State and Al Qaeda never re-emerge; supporting the United Nations-led political process; diminishing Iran’s influence; making sure the country is free of weapons of mass destruction; and helping refugees to return after years of civil war.

These goals are mutually exclusive. Nothing will happen in the UN process in Geneva as long as anyone insists in removing the Syrian President Assad. Al Qaeda and ISIS in Syria are a consequence of U.S. action and (covered) presence in the country. Iran currently has little presence and limited influence in Syria. It would only increase again  should the U.S. try to militarily attack the Syrian government. Refugees will not return as long as the U.S. threatens to again widen the war.

I have yet to read one analyst who believes that the U.S. administration can achieve any of the wishes it announced. It is a hapless policy of "doing something" which will fail when resistance on the ground will ramp up and the political costs of the occupation will become apparent. The YPG Kurds in the north-east, who agreed to their occupation, will be the ones who will have to to bear the wrath. All other parties involved in Syria will hold them responsible.

For now the new announcement and its botched presentation only helped Erdogan to again play to his crowd. None of this will be of much consequence.

Posted by b at 10:19 AM | Comments (143)

January 16, 2018

Open Thread 2018-03

The post I worked on today is unsatisfying.

I'll leave you with your own news & views ...

Posted by b at 02:09 PM | Comments (155)

January 15, 2018

Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

The Trump administration policy in Syria is finally coming into daylight. It has decided to permanently separate north-east of Syria from the rest of Syria with the rather comical idea that this will keep Iranian influence out of Syria and give the U.S. a voice in a final Syrian settlement. This move lacks strategical foresight:

The U.S.-led Coalition against Islamic State is currently training a force to maintain security along the Syrian border as the operation against ISIS shifts focus. The 30,000-strong force will be partly composed of veteran fighters and operate under the leadership of the Syrian Democratic Forces, CJTF-OIR told The Defense Post.
...
“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” CJTF-OIR Public Affairs Officer Colonel Thomas F. Veale said.
...
Veale acknowledged that more Kurds will serve in the areas of northern Syria, while more Arabs will serve in areas along the Euphrates River Valley and along the border with Iraq.

The SDF and the Kurds are under control of the PKK/YPK, a terrorist organization that is nearly daily fighting and killing Turkish forces within Turkey. The Arabs which ostensibly shall seal the area off from the rest of Syria are most likely tribal forces that were earlier aligned with the Islamic State.

The Turks were not consulted before the U.S. move and are of course not amused that a "terrorist gang", trained and armed by the U.S., will control a long stretch of their southern border. Any Turkish government would have to take harsh measures to prevent such a strategic threat to the country:

Cont. reading: Syria - U.S. Traps Itself , Commits To Occupation, Helps To Sustain The Astana Agreement

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (145)

January 14, 2018

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-02

What was behind the false missile attack alarm in Hawaii yesterday. Poynter has some context:

One of the big stories in the Honolulu Star-Advertiser Saturday morning was that military "brass" updated island officials on how the military would respond to a nuclear attack from North Korea. Military authorities warned there was a "real" threat.

At 8:07 a.m. Saturday, Hawaiian residents saw a terrifying alert message on their phones.

It took 38 minutes to correct the "mistake". A missile from North Korea would take 32-35 minutes from launch to impact in Hawaii.

But of interest is the newspaper report hyping the "threat" followed by the false alarm. Coincidence? And the "leaking" of the Draft Nuclear Posture Review this week, in which the military demands hundreds of new "small" nuclear weapons to fight North Korea and Russia, is also just a coincidence? Or is all of this part of a public relation campaign designed to increase the acceptance of new nuclear weapons and "limited" nuclear warfare? A preparation for war on North Korea? (Related: Deconstructing the North Korean ‘Threat’ and Identifying America’s Strategic Alternatives (pdf))

Anyway - here are the Moon of Alabama posts of the last week.

Jan 8 - How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

Jan 9 - Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

The reaction to this scoop was quite interesting:

I was criticized for using the word "murder" in the headline even though it is not clear what happened after the gunshot at the truck driver. Well, it is a headline and such have a certain purpose. How do we know this incident did not end deadly? Shooting the driver of a 15 ton truck which is rolling at a decent speed is at least accepting the risk of a deadly accident or even the attempt to cause one. What would a prosecutor accuse the culprit of if such had happened on a U.S. highway?

Only on Friday, after other mainstream media had published about it, did the NYT come out with a piece on the issue. It made several wrong or misleading points. I asked if it was plagiarized from my content as it used several sources that had vanished shortly after I published on January 9. I was told that the NYT had the material since late December but that the piece was held back for unknown reasons. Holding back stuff that lets the U.S.  military or the government look bad seems to be standing NY Times policy.

My tweet announcing my above piece was censored in Germany after someone had contacted Twitter and alleged that its content was illegal. This is a consequence of new law the lunatic social-democratic justice minister Maas had pressed for. Twitter would risk a high fine in Germany if it would not block allegedly illegal stuff. The law is a perfect tool for trolls to suppress any author or content they dislike. (It is also obviously unconstitutional and will soon be discarded by the relevant courts.)

Jan 10 - Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

Jan 11 - Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Jan 13 - Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

Two important Syria pieces by William Van Wagenen had earlier escaped my attention. Both take a long term view back and are well founded, quoting from a large number of media reports. They are:

These are excellent reference pieces one should recommend to people who were deceived on Syria or have not followed the issue at all. Both are recommended readings.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

 

Posted by b at 11:02 AM | Comments (110)

January 13, 2018

Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

The success of the current Syrian government operations against al-Qaeda in Idleb governorate can be measured by the volume of U.S. propaganda against it. A similar situation occurred when Aleppo was liberated from al-Qaeda's control. Certain U.S. media, (non-)government-organizations and politicians obviously prefer Takfiri al-Qaeda rule in Syria over control by the legitimated secular government.

According to the various streams of such propaganda Idleb is crowded with hospitals, bakeries and little children who all get "barrel bombed" by the nefarious Iranians and Russians while no Takfiri militant can ever be seen.

Amnesty International, which famously begged "NATO: KEEP THE PROGRESS GOING" in Afghanistan, is again on the forefront:

Amnesty International‏ @amnesty - 3:41 PM - 12 Jan 2018
We’re outraged by the attacks on civilians in #Idlib governorate which hosts thousands of internally displaced people from across #Syria. They now have nowhere else to flee to anymore.

The tweet is decorated with a picture of al-Qaeda's first aid mercenaries, the White Helmets, who are paid by the British and other governments and receive propaganda cover from British media.

The overpaid (more than $450,000 pa) eternal leader of Human Rights Watch, Ken Roth chips in:

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth - 11:47 PM - 12 Jan 2018
Putin-Assad fooled Great Negotiator Trump into believing Syrian "de-escalation zone" would mean a halt in attacks on civilians rather than just a lull to regroup.

Roth links to a Washington Post editorial which finds that fighting al-Qaeda in Idleb is not in the interest of the United States:

Cont. reading: Syria - Volume of Al-Qaeda Propaganda Forecasts Syrian Army Success

Posted by b at 10:47 AM | Comments (91)

January 11, 2018

Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Turkey, in line with U.S. services, decided to block the current Syrian advance in south-east Idleb. Yesterday an ad-hoc alliance of jihadi "rebels" launched a counteroffensive to stop the Syrian army from cutting off a big chunk of "rebel" held territory in east-Idleb.

The Syrian army attack

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The area of the "rebel" counterattack (green)

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The Turkish and U.S. supplied "rebels" (see below) made a few local advances capturing some 12 villages of the 150 villages the Syrian army had recently liberated. They were soon beaten back. Some 50 Ahrar al-Sham fighters were killed or wounded after they ran into a trap. Some 10 Syrian soldiers have been captured by the enemy. Syrian and Russian air support is very active in the area and the Syrian army is again moving forward.

There is no mention or picture (yet) of al-Qaeda in Syria, currently labeled HTS, taking part in the "rebel" counterattack. Four days ago HTS published photos of its leader Joulini meeting with his military commanders to assess the situation. It looked bad for them. The squabble with other "rebels" increased. Two days ago Jouliani issued a statement that HTS would stop fighting other factions in Idleb to enable all to confront the advancing Syrian government forces. It seems that this was a condition for the renewed Turkish/U.S. support.

The counteroffensive could only proceed because Turkey (again) delivered hundreds of tons of weapons to the jihadis. New supplies of TOW anti-tank missiles, distributed exclusively by the CIA, have also been seen. (Turkey is also again supplying jihadists in Libya. The Greek navy just caught a ship going from Turkey to Libya with 29 containers full of bomb precursors, detonators and other bomb making parts.)

Here are some relevant tweets from the last few hours:

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan (Again) Switches Sides - Delivers New Supplies For Terrorist Attacks

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (154)

January 10, 2018

Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

While the U.S. seems to have given up on regime change in Syria it is still trying to sabotage the progress of the Syrian government and its allies.

The recent drone attack on the Russian base Khmeimim in Latakia is just one example. Thirteen sophisticated armed drones with a reach of some 100 kilometers attacked the base at the same time as a U.S. electronic warfare plane was circling off the Syrian coast. The attack was unsuccessful. Russia has sophisticated electronic warfare means and hijacked the command over six of the drones. The other seven were taken down by Russian air defenses.

To claim, as the U.S. does, that ISIS or some "rebels" did this is nonsense. ISIS has made short range weaponized drones flown by remote control in line of sight mode. This attack was by autonomous drones using GPS and barometric sensors to find their way to their targets. This is qualitatively on a whole new level. I doubt that Russia will let this go unanswered. Look out for some "mishap" that may soon hit some U.S. troops or interests abroad.

Three significant military operations took place over the last few weeks.


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Cont. reading: Syria - Army Gains In Idleb - Insurgents To Challenge Foreign Occupiers

Posted by b at 08:48 AM | Comments (77)

January 09, 2018

Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

Updated below
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A recent video mashup provided by some U.S. Special Force soldiers in Afghanistan seems to show evidence of a warcrime.

A military truck passes a civilian truck on a paved road at normal traveling speed. A soldier fires directly and intentionally at the driver of the civilian truck without any discernible reason.

This is the relevant two second long cut (repeated 5 times) from a private video mix of scenes taken during the last few months in Afghanistan.

The whole video is 3:09 minutes long and mostly a mashup of juvenile behaving soldiers wasting lots of ammunition on invisible entities in the Afghan landscape. The scene above is from 19 to 21 seconds into the video. Detailed screenshots are below. The whole clip was available on Youtube on January 7. The account which originally posted it and the original video have since been deleted.

Cont. reading: Afghanistan - U.S. Special Forces Commit Drive-By Murder (Video)

Posted by b at 06:58 AM | Comments (97)

January 08, 2018

How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

The "western" media like to rant against fake news. But they are indeed the biggest provider of such.

Yesterday the British news agency Reuters claimed: Iran bans English in primary schools after leader's warning

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran has banned the teaching of English in primary schools, a senior education official said, after the country’s Supreme Leader said early learning of the language opened the way to a Western “cultural invasion”.

Kamenei indeed has made such a remark, early learning of a foreign language opens the people to influence through that language. That conclusion is not particular controversial. But has Iran really banned the teaching of English in primary schools? Why would any non-English country teach English in primary school in the first place? And why would especially Iran do so?

Ali Ahmadi, an Iranian analyst, asked the same question:

Who in Iran studied English in primary schools? Nat curriculum calls for English to be taught from 7th grade to graduation.

The British-Iranian journalist Sanam Shantyaei offers her personal experience:

I was in Iran until 5th grade, and I don’t recall being taught neither Arabic nor English (though that’s a long long time ago.) I picked up a little in private tutorials: “the elegant is big. The ant is little.”

Ahmadi confirms:

Yes 7th grade is the norm. They don't even start teaching Arabic usually until 6th grade - except for a little in context of religion classes.

So, according to Reuters, Iran "banned" something from its school curriculum that was not and is not in there. The Reuters piece quotes an Iranian official who does not confirm what Reuters alleges:

“Teaching English in government and non-government primary schools in the official curriculum is against laws and regulations,” Mehdi Navid-Adham, head of the state-run High Education Council, told state television late on Saturday.

The official only confirms that the official curriculum is binding. As English language is not in the official primary school curriculum it can not be taught as part of that curriculum. It is banal statement: "Yes, the relevant regulations apply as the always have applied." How Reuters can construe that into a new "ban" is beyond me.

But as most readers will only skim the headlines and probably the first sentence of such pieces the British agency will have achieved the intended anti-Iranian propaganda effect.

Another piece of fake news is a recent New York Times report about an alleged Egyptian acceptance of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. It is based on some mysterious tapes in which an alleged Egyptian government intelligence agent tells TV moderators what they are supposed to say about Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the Israeli capital.

The story is headlined: Tapes Reveal Egyptian Leaders’ Tacit Acceptance of Jerusalem Move

Cont. reading: How Mainstream Media Lose Their Reputation - #Fakenews On Iran And Egypt

Posted by b at 07:36 AM | Comments (53)

January 07, 2018

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2018-01

We covered the protests in Iran and the foreign attempts to hijack them for their purpose.

Dec 29 - Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Dec 31 - Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

Jan 2 - Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Jan 4 - Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

Protests against the fallout of neoliberal policies by the Rouhani government are surely justified. Even Supreme Leader Khamenei supports them. But in late December people chanting "regime change" slogans started to take part. They were obviously pushed from abroad by the MEK, the monarchist and other CIA front groups. The situation changed. Directed through Telegram channels, groups of young rioters tried to take over police stations and to gain access to weapons. The Iranian people saw the dangers therein and did not support such behavior. The original protesters disappeared, their important voice was no longer heard. But for lack of local backing the riots soon died down.

The riots exposed the anti-Iran propagandists and imperial dreamers who believe that there is some significant internal movement in Iran against the Islamic Republic. But a few ten-thousand total protesters are absolutely insignificant when they have no backing from the masses. Still, the U.S. tried to use the riots to expand sanctions against Iran. It was slapped down when it brought the issue up at the UN Security Council.

Jan 1 - NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

The full Clinton conspiracy against Trump, which was supported by the intelligence services,  has not yet been exposed. But bit by bit more details are coming out. The main stream media are heavily invested in the anti-Trump/anti-Russia narrative and therefore continue to throw smoke bombs.

Jan 6 - Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

Results of Trump's foreign policy seem to be consistent with his generally isolationist views. Is he playing more clever than it seems?

Upcoming:

  • An update on the military situation in Syria. The Syrian army continues to make significant progress despite the efforts by the U.S., Israel and Turkey to each strengthen their particular variant of Jihadist "rebels".
  • The simmering water war between Egypt and Ethiopia. The issue is existential for both sides. They and their respective allies are currently positioning their troops. There is a high chance that the conflict will suddenly explode.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:54 AM | Comments (120)

January 06, 2018

Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

The U.S. is more and more isolated in international politics and even Europe is growing some spine and implements an independent foreign policy. U.S. imperialists are miffed but can do little about it. This development may well be part of Trump's plan of "Making America Great Again".

After Trump declared that the U.S. sees Jerusalem as Israel's capital, the UN Security Council as well as the UN General Assembly condemned the move. The U.S. had to veto a UNSC resolution that 14 other members supported.

While the minor protests and riots in Iran are calming down (as predicted here), the U.S. ambassador Haley tried to use them to stage some UNSC verdict against the country. She was rebuffed by several countries including the U.S. allies Sweden and France:

A United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday to discuss recent protests in Iran turned into criticism of the United States for requesting to meet on what some member states said was an internal issue for Tehran.

The EU spoke out against any condemnation of Iran. Russia and China repeated Iran's arguments that such internal issues have no place in the UNSC and that a string of much worse riots and police massacres in the U.S. would be more deserving of such attention:

China and Russia -- which seldom like to discuss political protests at the UN -- led a group of countries that said the demonstrations were a domestic affair that didn’t threaten international security and shouldn’t be taken up. China’s envoy said that if Haley’s logic were to be followed consistently, the Security Council should have held hearings after the 2014 racial protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations in 2011.

France spoke for the EU:

“We must be wary of any attempts to exploit this crisis for personal ends, which would have the diametrically opposed outcome to that which is wished,” Ambassador Francois Delattre said.

“However worrying the events of the last few days in Iran may be, they do not constitute per se a threat to international peace and security.”

This was a repeat of the fear that President Macron expressed two days ago and which we quoted here. Even U.S. media are now taking note of it:

“The official line pursued by the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, who are our allies in many ways, is almost one that would lead us to war,” Macron told reporters, according to Reuters.

It was “a deliberate strategy for some,” he added.

The U.S. attempt to use protests against neoliberal policies of the Rohani government as a step to regime change in Iran has evidently failed.

Trump has threatened to end the nuclear agreement with Iran but his administration is wary of the consequences. The agreement is between a number of countries, not the U.S. and Iran alone, and the UNSC has endorsed it. But Trump also loathes to certify Iran's adherence to the agreement every three month. It keeps the issue boiling and he has no interest in that. The certification is a condition the Republicans in the U.S. Congress had written into law. Trump's solution is not to kill the nuclear agreement but to change the law to relief him of the certification demand:

Cont. reading: Trump Offloads Foreign Policy Problems - Lets EU Grow A Spine

Posted by b at 08:25 AM | Comments (138)

January 04, 2018

Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

The reaction to the minor protests in Iran drive another wedge between the U.S. and Europe. It exposes the belligerence of the Zionist lobby and its influence in the U.S. media and politics. The issue shows the growing divergence between genuine U.S. interests and the interests of Israel.

Some anti-government demonstration and attacks on public institutions continue in Iran. But, as the graph shows, such protests and riots continue to decrease. Yesterday's events took place in only 15 places while, since December 28, a total of 75 towns and cities had seen some form of protest or incidents. Additional to these several pro-government marches took place yesterday each of which was by far bigger than the anti-government events.


by M. Ali Kadivar - bigger

The violence against public property by some young rioters has alienated the original legitimate protesters who have ample economic reasons to reject the neo-liberal policies of the current Iranian government. The instigating of violence from the outside of Iran, likely due to CIA machinations, has robbed them of their voice.

I had earlier asked:

Why is the U.S. doing this?

The plan may well be not to immediately overthrow the Iranian government, but to instigate a sharp reaction by the Iranian government against the militant operations in its country. ... That reaction can then be used to implement wider and stricter sanctions against Iran especially from Europe. These would be another building block of a larger plan to suffocate the country and as an additional step on a larger escalation ladder.

and:

The administration just called for a UN emergency session about the situation. That is a laughable move ...

Laughable indeed. Other members of the Security Council and the UN Human Rights council have rejected the U.S. plans. It is not the UN's business to insert itself into internal affairs of any country. But even for those who believe that the UN has a right to intervene, the protests in Iran, estimated at no more than 15,000 people at any time and maybe 45,000 in cumulation, are way too insignificant to justify any UN reaction.

Cont. reading: Iran - Europe Rejects U.S. Drive To War

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (124)

January 02, 2018

Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Updated below:
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The riots and protests in Iran continue for a 6th day. While "western" media claim that the protests are growing I see no evidence for that in the various videos that appear online. The legitimate protests over price rises, failing private banks and against the new neoliberal austerity budget of President Rohani were hijacked early on by rioting gangs. These are obviously coordinated from the outside of the country through various internet applications, especially Telegram and Instagram:

Amad News, a channel on Telegram, appears to have played a pivotal role in the wave of protests. Reportedly administered by exiled journalist Rohollah Zam — a son of a senior Reformist cleric said to have escaped the country after being accused of having links with foreign intelligence agencies ...

Blocking the specific control channels proved to be insufficient:

Special software used to circumvent the government filters could still be downloaded easily. And on Monday, as on other days, there were calls for protests online and on foreign-based Persian-language satellite channels.

The blockage of the internet applications was lifted today.

The original protests over economic issues seem to have died down after President Rouhani confirmed the right to protest, conceded economic problems and promised to take them on. Indeed there are only few new videos of genuine protest marches but an avalanche of videos of rioting, arson and tussling with police forces. The size of the protests are in a few hundred people or less. Counter demonstrations, expressing loyalty for the republic (not noted in "western" media), are bigger in size than the anti-government protests. Since December 28 protests and riots have occurred in a total of 66 cities by now, but only about 30 have been taking place each night. This might point to some planning behind the events. A daily switching of venues might be intended to prevent police preparations.

The groups of rioters are between 30 and 80 people in size with a some bystanders milling around. They seem to follow a flash mob strategy appearing here and there and to vanish again when police appears in force. In some cities rioters attacked police stations, military posts and were even stealing firetrucks. Some of the rioters are evidently trying to get their hands on weapons.

Altogether only a few thousand people, overwhelmingly male youth, seem to be involved. Thousands protest in Israel each week against the corruption of Prime Minister Netanyahoo. On New-Years-Eve more than 1,000 cars in France were set alight by arsonists. None of this is front page news but a few dozen riots in Iran get elevated to a "revolution".

The total death toll of the "peaceful protests" is now some 21 of which (by my count) at least five were policemen killed in attacks by "protesters" and two unrelated civilians who were run over and killed by rioters driving a stolen firetruck. Six rioters were killed when they tried to attack a police station in the town of Qahderijan. The governor there claimed that the attackers were armed with guns.

The same faking of pictures of large demonstrations and "evidence" of government brutality that we have seen with regard to the war on Syria is taking place with Iran. Videos of demonstrations from Argentine and Bahrain are used to claim large demonstrations in Iran. A tweet with the Bahrain video by a "journalist" who claimed it was in Iran has received more than 17,000 re-tweets. Videos from Spain or even movie scenes are purported to show police violence in Iran. A video of a man lying on his back and being cared for is once claimed to show that he has been shot by police while at the same time another propagandists claims that the man had a cardiac arrest after police used a taser on him. There are no signs of wounds or other trauma. The dude probably just passed out.

The terrorist group MEK (NCRI, MKO) "leaked" fake protocols of an alleged government meeting which it claims shows panic over the protests. Allegedly the government fears the leader of the MEK, Marjam Rajavi. The MEK has paid large sums to get support from politicians, including John McCain in Washington and elsewhere. During the Iraq-Iran war it fought against Iran on the side of Iraq. After the U.S. invaded Iraq the MEK was held in special camps under U.S. control. According to a 2012 Seymour Hersh report the U.S. military trained MEK fighters in the U.S. in sabotage and insurgency technics. These people are deeply hated in Iran but feared they are not. Their early engagement in the "protests" via their website and propaganda ops in Iran may point to deeper role in the riots.

The usual neoconservatives in the U.S. media are arguing for "more help" for the "Iranian people". The help they want to offer is designed to worsen their economic situation.

I earlier argued that the larger plan of the instigators of these riots is not aimed at winning a violent "regime change" conflict, but at causing a reaction by the Iranian government which can then be used to press especially Europeans to again isolate Iran. This plan is now confirmed by an op-ed in the Washington Post. Michael Singh of the Zionist lobby in Washington writes:

Cont. reading: Iran - Few Protests - Some Riots - U.S. Prepares The Next Phase

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (268)

January 01, 2018

NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

Updated below

In July 2016 the FBI under its director James Comey launched an investigation against the Donald Trump campaign and "Russian influence" on it.

Comey and the FBI is under pressure to explain why they launched this investigation. The assumption has been that the Steele dossier, fabricated by a former British agent hired by the Clinton campaign, was handed to the FBI and led to the launch of its investigation.

If that is true (as it likely is), the FBI and Comey are in deep trouble. The dossier was full of hearsay and abstruse rumors. It was obviously made up and fake stuff paid for by Trump's opponent. To use it to launch an official investigation against a candidate in the presidential election and to get FISA warrants to spy on the Trump campaign stinks of partisan motives and may well have been a criminal offense.

On Saturday the New York Times came up with a story that is designed to usher the question away and to give cover to the FBI.

The headline already tells the reader what to believe: How the Russia Inquiry Began: A Campaign Aide, Drinks and Talk of Political Dirt

See - it wasn't the Clinton paid Steele dossier that triggered the FBI!

The NYT presents a wild story, with epic details and with lots of obfuscation to confuse the reader. At the core is a minor member of the Trump campaign, George Papadopoulos, who was mostly in London while communicating via email with the campaign staff in the U.S. Papadopoulos advised on foreign policy and tried to build contacts between the campaign and foreign government officials. (He helped to set up a meeting between candidate Trump and the President of Egypt Sisi.)

In the words of the NYT authors:

During a night of heavy drinking at an upscale London bar in May 2016, George Papadopoulos, a young foreign policy adviser to the Trump campaign, made a startling revelation to Australia’s top diplomat in Britain: Russia had political dirt on Hillary Clinton.

... two months later, when leaked Democratic emails began appearing online, Australian officials passed the information about Mr. Papadopoulos to their American counterparts, ...

The hacking and the revelation that a member of the Trump campaign may have had inside information about it were driving factors that led the F.B.I. to open an investigation in July 2016 into Russia’s attempts to disrupt the election and whether any of President Trump’s associates conspired.

The claim that the Papadopoulos rumor, detailed extensively in the NYT piece, triggered an FBI investigation does not seem plausible.

Cont. reading: NYT Writes Epic Cover For Comey's FBI - Its Sole Source: "Officials Said"

Posted by b at 12:40 PM | Comments (74)

December 31, 2017

A Happy 2018 To All Moonkind

Dear readers and commentators,

thank you for coming here, reading and discussing about the events of our world.

I wish for a happy new year for you and everyone else.

A Happy New Year to all moonkind!

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

Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

In Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests we looked at the developing U.S.-Israeli operation to instigate a revolt in Iran. What follows are a few more background points and a view on the developments since. A color revolution or revolt in Iran have only little chances of success. But even as the fail they can be used as pretext for additional sanctions and other anti-Iranian measures. The current incidents are thus only one part of a much larger plan.

The "western" democracies are used to distinguish political parties as left or right with fixed combinations of economic and cultural policies. The "left" is seen as preferring a social economy that benefits the larger population and as cultural liberal or progressive. The right is seen as cultural conservative with a preference for a free market economy that favors the richer segments of a nation.

The political camps in Iran are different.

The simplified version: The conservatives, or "principalists", are cultural conservative but favor economic programs that benefit the poor. Their support base are the rural people as well as the poorer segments of the city dwellers. The last Iranian president near to them was Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. One of his major policies was the implementation of cash payments to the needy as replacement of general and expensive subsidies on oil products and foodstuff. The current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani is a member of the "reformist" camp. His support base are the merchants and the richer parts of the society. He is culturally (relative) progressive but his economic polices are neoliberal. The new budget he introduced for the next year cuts back on the subsidies for the poor Ahmedinejad had introduced. It will increase prices for fuel and basic food stuff up to 30-40%.

The protests on December 28 and 29 were about these and other economic issues. Such protests have regularly occurred in Iran throughout the decades. But the current ones were soon hijacked by small groups which chanted slogans against the Iranian system and against the strong Iranian engagement in Syria and Palestine. These are not majority positions of the 80 million inhabitants of Iran:

According to the poll, 67.9% say Iran should increase backing for anti-IS groups, up from 59.8% a year ago. Meanwhile, a majority of 64.9% backs the deployment of Iranian military personnel to Syria to help the regime of Bashar al-Assad, up slightly from 62.7% a year ago.

The small groups that hijacked the protests against Rouhani's economic polices were heavily promoted by the usual suspects of U.S. influence operations. Avaaz, the RAND cooperation, Human Rights Watch and others immediately jumped onto the bandwagon. (True to form HRW's Ken Roth used a picture of a pro-government rally to illustrate the much smaller anti-government protests.) The smaller groups that hijacked and publicized the demonstration seem well coordinated. But they are far from a genuine movement or even a majority.

On the morning of December 30 large demonstrations in support of the Iranian republic were taking place in several cities. In Tehran several thousand people took part.


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The self described "Iran junkie" of the Brookings Center for Middle East Policy, Suzanne Maloney, interpreted these as counter-demonstrations to the small gatherings the night before:

Suzanne Maloney‏ @MaloneySuzanne - 12:40 PM - 30 Dec 2017

The Islamic Republic has a well-oiled machine for mobilizing pro-regime rallies (Rouhani himself headlined one in 1999 after student protests.) What's interesting is that it was deployed almost immediately this time.

The "Iran junkie" and "expert" did not know that yearly pro-government demonstrations are held in Iran on each 9th of Dey (Iranian calender) since 2009 and are planned well in advance. They commemorate the defeat of the CIA color revolution attempt in 2009. That attempt had followed the reelection of the president Ahmedinejad. It had used the richer segment of the Iranian society in north Tehran as its stooges. It is not yet clear what social strata, if any, this attempt is using.

Cont. reading: Iran - Early U.S. Support For Rioters Hints At A Larger Plan

Posted by b at 09:06 AM | Comments (189)

December 29, 2017

Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Yesterday and today saw some small protests in Iran. They are probably the first stage of a large "regime change" operation run by the U.S. and Israel with the help of Iranian terrorist group.

Earlier this month the White House and the Zionist prepared for a new assault on Iran:

A delegation led by Israel's National Security Adviser met with senior American officials in the White House earlier this month for a joint discussion on strategy to counter Iran's aggression in the Middle East, a senior U.S. official confirmed to Haaretz.

Another report about the meeting quotes Israeli officials on the result:

"[T]he U.S. and Israel see eye to eye the different developments in the region and especially those that are connected to Iran. We reached at understandings regarding the strategy and the policy needed to counter Iran. Our understandings deal with the overall strategy but also with concrete goals, way of action and the means which need to be used to get obtain those goals."

This is probably a result of the above meeting:

Hundreds took to the streets of Iran’s second largest city of Mashad on Thursday to protest over high prices, shouting slogans against the government.

Videos posted on social media showed demonstrators in Mashad in northwest Iran, one of the holiest places in Shia Islam, chanting “death to (President Hassan) Rouhani” and “death to the dictator”.

The semi-official ILNA news agency and social media reported demonstrations in other cities in Razavi Khorasan Province, including Neyshabour and Kashmar.

A video of that protest in Mashad showed some 50 people chanting slogans with more bystander just milling around.

Protests against the (neo-)liberal economic policies of the Rohani government in Iran are justified. Official unemployment in Iran is above 12% and there is hardly any economic growth. The people in the streets are not the only ones who are dissatisfied with this:

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has repeatedly criticized the government’s economic record, said on Wednesday that the nation was struggling with “high prices, inflation and recession”, and asked officials to resolve the problems with determination.

On Thursday and today the slogans of some protesters turned the call for economic relief into a call for regime change.

My hunch is that the usual suspects are behind these protests. Note that these started in several cities at the same time. This was not some spontaneous local uproar in one city but had some form of coordination.

Then there is this:

Carl Bildt‏ @carlbildt - 9:38 PM - 28 Dec 2017 from Rome, Lazio

Reports of signals of international satellite TV networks jammed in large cities of Iran. Would be sign of regime fear of today’s protests spreading.

A search in various languages finds exactly zero such "reports". Carl Bildt is a former Swedish prime minister. He was recruited in 1973 as a CIA informant and has since grown into a full blown U.S. asset. He was involved in the Ukraine coup and tried to personally profit from it.

The only response to Bildt's tweet was from one Riyad Swed‏ - @SwedRiyad who posted several videos of protests with one of them showing burning police cars.

I am not sure the video is genuine. The account has some unusual attributes (active since September 2016, 655 tweets but only 32 followers?).

Just yesterday one lecture at the CCC "hacker" congress was about the British GHCQ Secret Service and its sock-puppet accounts on Twitter and Facebook. These are used for acquiring human intelligence and for running "regime change" operations. Page 14-18 of the slides (11:20 min) cite from obtained GCHQ papers which lists Iran as one of the targets. The speaker specifically notes a GCHQ account "@2009Iranfree" which was used in generating the protests in Iran after the reelection of then President Ahmedinejad.

Today, Friday and the weekly day off in Iran, several more protest took place in other cities. A Reuters report from today:

About 300 demonstrators gathered in Kermanshah after what Fars called a “call by the anti-revolution” and shouted “Political prisoners should be freed” and “Freedom or death”, while destroying some public property. Fars did not name any opposition groups.
...
Footage, which could not be verified, showed protests in other cities including Sari and Rasht in the north, Qom south of Tehran, and Hamadan in the west.

Mohsen Nasj Hamadani, deputy security chief in Tehran province, said about 50 people had rallied in a Tehran square and most left after being asked by police, but a few who refused were “temporarily detained”, the ILNA news agency reported.

Some of these protests have genuine economic reasons but get hijacked by other interests:

In the central city of Isfahan, a resident said protesters joined a rally held by factory workers demanding back wages.

“The slogans quickly changed from the economy to those against (President Hassan) Rouhani and the Supreme Leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei),” the resident said by telephone.
...
Purely political protests are rare in Iran [...] but demonstrations are often held by workers over layoffs or non-payment of salaries and people who hold deposits in non-regulated, bankrupt financial institutions.
...
Alamolhoda, the representative of Ayatollah Khamenei in northeastern Mashhad, said a few people had taken advantage of Thursday’s protests against rising prices to chant slogans against Iran’s role in regional conflicts.
...
“Some people had came to express their demands, but suddenly, in a crowd of hundreds, a small group that did not exceed 50 shouted deviant and horrendous slogans such as ‘Let go of Palestine’, ‘Not Gaza, not Lebanon, I’d give my life (only) for Iran’,” Alamolhoda said.

Two videos posted by BBC Persian and others I have seen show only small active protest groups with a dozen or so people while many more are just standing by or film the people who are chanting slogans.

Videos published by the terrorist group Mujahedin-e Khalq [MEK], 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, also show mostly small protests despite the MEK's claim of Tens of thousands of people chant “death to dictator". The MEK, or its "civilian" organization National Council of Resistance of Iran , seem to be most involved in the current protests. Its website is currently filled with the protest issue with a total of ten reports and its head figure issued a supportive statement:

Mrs. Maryam Rajavi, President-elect of the Iranian Resistance, saluted the heroic people of Kermanshah and other cities who rose up today chanting “death or freedom”, “death to Rouhani”, “death to the dictator”, and “political prisoners must be freed”, and protested against high prices, poverty and corruption.

She said, “Yesterday Mashhad, today Kermanshah, and tomorrow throughout Iran; this uprising has tolled the death knell for the overthrow of the totally corrupt dictatorship of the mullahs, and is the rise of democracy, justice and popular sovereignty.

This very early engagement of the MEK -its first report was published yesterday at 10:26 am- is extremely suspicious.

In 2012 it was reported that Israel had used the MEK terrorist organization to assassinate nuclear scientists in Iran:

Cont. reading: Iran - Regime Change Agents Hijack Economic Protests

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (127)

December 28, 2017

Open Thread 2017-47

Sorry, the post I was working on didn't pan out. You will have to talk to yourself.

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (67)

December 26, 2017

From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media

The promotion of the alleged Russian election hacking in certain media may have grown from the successful attempts of U.S. intelligence services to limit the publication of the NSA files obtained by Edward Snowden.

In May 2013 Edward Snowden fled to Hongkong and handed internal documents from the National Security Agency (NSA) to four journalists, Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras, and Ewen MacAskill of the Guardian and separately to Barton Gellman who worked for the Washington Post. Some of those documents were published by Glenn Greenwald in the Guardian, others by Barton Gellman in the Washington Post. Several other international news site published additional material though the mass of NSA papers that Snowden allegedly acquired never saw public daylight.

In July 2013 the Guardian was forced by the British government to destroy its copy of the Snowden archive.

In August 2013 Jeff Bezos bought the Washington Post for some $250 million. In 2012 Bezos, the founder, largest share holder and CEO of Amazon, had already a cooperation with the CIA. Together they invested in a Canadian quantum computing company. In March 2013 Amazon signed a $600 million deal to provide computing services for the CIA.

In October 2013 Pierre Omidyar, the owner of Ebay, founded First Look Media and hired Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras. The total planned investment was said to be $250 million. It took up to February 2014 until the new organization launched its first site, the Intercept. Only a few NSA stories appeared on it. The Intercept is a rather mediocre site. Its management is said to be chaotic. It publishes few stories of interests and one might ask if it ever was meant to be a serious outlet. Omidyar has worked, together with the U.S. government, to force regime change onto Ukraine. He had strong ties with the Obama administration.

Snowden had copies of some 20,000 to 58,000 NSA files. Only 1,182 have been published. Bezos and Omidyar obviously helped the NSA to keep more than 95% of the Snowden archive away from the public. The Snowden papers were practically privatized into trusted hands of Silicon Valley billionaires with ties to the various secret services and the Obama administration.

The motivation for the Bezos and Omidyar to do this is not clear. Bezos is estimated to own a shameful $90 billion. The Washington Post buy is chump-change for him. Omidyar has a net worth of some $9.3 billion. But the use of billionaires to mask what are in fact intelligence operations is not new. The Ford Foundation has for decades been a CIA front, George Soros' Open Society foundation is one of the premier "regime change" operations, well versed in instigating "color revolutions".

It would have been reasonable if the cooperation between those billionaires and the intelligence agencies had stopped after the NSA leaks were secured. But it seems that strong cooperation of the Bezos and Omidyar outlets with the CIA and others continue.

The Intercept burned a intelligence leaker, Realty Winner, who had trusted its journalists to keep her protected. It smeared the President of Syria as neo-nazi based on an (intentional?) mistranslation of one of his speeches. It additionally hired a Syrian supporter of the CIA's "regime change by Jihadis" in Syria. Despite its pretense of "fearless, adversarial journalism" it hardly deviates from U.S. policies.

The Washington Post, which has a much bigger reach, is the prime outlet for "Russia-gate", the false claims by parts of the U.S. intelligence community and the Clinton campaign, that Russia attempted to influence U.S. elections or even "colluded" with Trump.

Just today it provides two stories and one op-ed that lack any factual evidence for the anti-Russian claims made in them.

In Kremlin trolls burned across the Internet as Washington debated options the writers insinuate that some anonymous writer who published a few pieces on Counterpunch and elsewhere was part of a Russian operation. They provide zero evidence to back that claim up. Whatever that writer wrote (see list at end) was run of the mill stuff that had little to do with the U.S. election. The piece then dives into various cyber-operations against Russia that the Obama and Trump administration have discussed.

A second story in the paper today is based on "a classified GRU report obtained by The Washington Post." It claims that the Russian military intelligence service GRU started a social media operation one day after the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was illegally removed from his office in a U.S. regime change operation. What the story lists as alleged GRU puppet postings reads like normal internet talk of people opposed to the fascist regime change in Kiev. The Washington Post leaves completely unexplained who handed it an alleged GRU report from 2014, who classified it and how, if at all, it verified its veracity. To me the piece and the assertions therein have a strong odor of bovine excrement.

An op-ed in the very same Washington Post has a similar smell. It is written by the intelligence flunkies Michael Morell and Mike Rogers. Morell had hoped to become CIA boss under a President Hillary Clinton. The op-ed (which includes a serious misunderstanding of "deterrence") asserts that Russia never stopped its cyberattacks on the United States:

Russia’s information operations tactics since the election are more numerous than can be listed here. But to get a sense of the breadth of Russian activity, consider the messaging spread by Kremlin-oriented accounts on Twitter, which cybersecurity and disinformation experts have tracked as part of the German Marshall Fund’s Alliance for Securing Democracy.

The author link to this page which claims to list Twitter hashtags that are currently used by Russian influence agents. Apparently the top issue Russia's influence agents currently promote is "#merrychristmas".


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When the authors claim Russian operations are "more numerous than can be listed here" they practically admit that they have not even one  plausible operation they could cite. Its simply obfuscation to justify their call for more political and military measures against Russia. This again to distract from the real reasons Clinton lost the election and to introduce a new Cold War for the benefit of weapon producers and U.S. influence in Europe.

Cont. reading: From Snowden To Russia-gate - The CIA And The Media

Posted by b at 11:53 AM | Comments (269)

December 24, 2017

Christmas

Roman Christianity moved the day to commemorate the birth of Jesus to the winter solstice. It thus replaced a holiday of older religions that celebrated the end of the dark times and the coming of more light. The deeper meaning stayed. Hope for new beginnings, needed as much today than ever. Hope for walls of darkness to come down.


Picture courtesy of the Bethlehem Association

Like every year I am visiting my larger family and enjoy to cook for the whole crowd. The challenge is to meet everyone's taste. The kids seem to change theirs each year. I try to come up with stories to make them like those odd side dishes. It works with the younger ones. The older folks, just like myself, are a bit less flexible. It does not have to be this way. We can and should stay open for new insights and challenges.

I wish you all a contemplative, hope- and peaceful Christmas.

Bernhard

Posted by b at 05:42 AM | Comments (97)

December 22, 2017

Washington Post Calls For Outrage About War On Yemen - Hides U.S. Role In It

Just in time for Christmas the Washington Post laments the cholera epidemic in Yemen caused by the U.S.-Saudi war on the country: One million people have caught cholera in Yemen. You should be outraged.

The International Committee of the Red Cross reported today that a million Yemenis have contracted cholera in the last 18 months. More than 2,000 have died, according to the United Nations. It's the largest cholera outbreak in world history.
...
Sixteen million people lack reliable access to clean food and water. The disease could spike again in March, when the rainy season begins. Experts warn, too, that diseases kill more people, and more quickly, when a population is underfed. In Yemen, 1.8 million children are acutely malnourished. Nearly half a million babies and toddlers are starving.

YOU SHOULD BE OUTRAGED, says the Washington Post. But outraged at whom? Not one word in the piece mentions that the U.S. is directing the war on Yemen and providing to the Saudis all they need to commit the ongoing war crimes.

The U.S. provides the bombs, it provides the intelligence and since early this year it doubled its refueling flights for the Saudi bombing attacks. (The military is now intentionally muddling that data.)

The Saudi attacks, with U.S. bombs, based on intelligence the U.S. provides and enabled by U.S. refueling, intentionally targets water, food supplies and infrastructure to starve the population:

Ahmad Algohbary @AhmadAlgohbary
1000 days of #Saudi war on #Yemen led by #UK-#US:
12k civilians killed.
21k civilians wounded.
Infrastructure:
Schools & institutes: 763
Popular markets & malls: 576
Water tanks networks: 524
Governmental facilities: 1.654
Bridges & roads: 1.941
Ports: 15
Airports: 14
We are devastated

During the last days weeks alone the U.S./Saudi airstrikes have killed at least 130 civilians:

According to Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), 136 civilians and non-combatants – including women and children – have been killed and another 87 injured in airstrikes in Sana'a, Sa'ada, Al Hudaydah and Taizz governorates in the period from 6 to 16 December.

Last week U.S. provided bombs also killed at least ten women on their way to a wedding.

While destroying its infrastructure the Saudis and the U.S. have erected a total blockade around the country. U.S. ships help sealing off the Yemeni coast. U.S. soldiers are on the ground in Yemen and there have been more than 120 U.S. drone strikes on Yemen this year.

While some parts of the U.S. government are working with the Saudis to cause the genocide in Yemen other parts are trying to prevent that. The incoming legal advisor of the State Departmnet conceded that the blockade is illegal under U.S. and international law. The Deputy Secretary of State calls for lifting the blockade which the Pentagon is upholding.

The Saudis claimed several times to have lifted the blockade to let aid come into the country. The U.S. claims to have increased its humanitarian aid to Yemen. But USAID, the government organization which distributes such supplies, says that this is not true. It has money to spend but no way to get any goods into the country and to the people in urgent need:

There are no signs that a blockade of Yemen’s ports by a Saudi-led military coalition has eased to allow aid to reach communities increasingly at risk of starvation, the head of the U.S. government’s aid agency said on Tuesday.

There is not one word about all that that in Washington Post piece. According to the Post the U.S simply does not exist in that war. It is a "Saudi campaign" and "Saudi coalition" that wages the war and causes the cholera without one word that the U.S. and UK are part of it. Apparently it is editorial policy of the Washington Post to never mention the U.S. culpability in that war. Earlier reports, editorials and op-eds also make no mention of U.S. military role in the war.

Apparently you should be outraged that lack of basic food and easily preventable cholera is killing people in Yemen, but not at those who cause it.

I for one am outraged at the Washington Post and those despicable editors and writers who are covering up the war crimes their country is committing.

Posted by b at 08:02 AM | Comments (84)

December 20, 2017

Republican Tax Bill Is A Prelude To Higher Taxes

Yesterday the Republican controlled U.S. Senate passed a gigantic tax bill. The House will today agree to it and Trump will sign it as soon as possible.

The bill lowers the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%. It lowers the top tax bracket from 39.6% to 37%. It will burden at least half of the poor people. It is wholesale looting:

When fully-phased in, the bill will give 83 percent of its benefits to the top 1 percent. Incredibly, it raises taxes on half of working families.

Republicans always argue along the fraudulent theory of supply side economics. They claim that higher income for companies will allow them to invest more and to thereby increase economic activity. It is a stupid argument. There is no empirical data to support it and no real social scientist takes it seriously. Most companies do not lack money. They can also borrow at record low rates. No company holds back on investing if there is additional profitable demand for its products. Without additional demand there is simply no justification for any additional investment.

Demand can not increase if the people have no money to buy. To increase demand, disposable income has to rise via higher wages, more welfare distribution or less taxes in the lowest tax brackets. (An increase of consumer debt can only work so long and has negative long term consequences.) 

The new tax law will increase the federal deficit by roughly $1.5 trillion over ten years. The giant rise in debt is intentional. It will be the justification for step two of the republican plan to bring the U.S. back to the Gilded Age. Speaker Paul Ryan already announced such plans:

Congressional Republicans and the Trump administration are eyeing sweeping legislative and regulatory changes to the country’s welfare system next year.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said he wants to use the fast-track reconciliation process next year for entitlement reform, with a focus on promoting work and career-based education.
...
There’s broad support in the Republican conference for changing the federal safety net to impose stricter work requirements on programs like Medicaid and food stamps.

For now the Republicans will likely hold back on medicare and social security. These are earned benefits, not "welfare". Even Republican voters want to keep them without major changes. Any attempt to touch these programs would lead to a heavy electoral backlash. It is thereby unlikely that the Republicans will be able to steal enough from the poor to compensate for all the money they now hand to the rich. Instead they will increase the federal debt.

While most voters do not like the current tax bill, the Republicans might benefit from it in the 2018 midterm election. Most of the negative effects of the bill will only be felt in 2019 and later years. It is those future years that the republicans have to fear. As long as interests rates are low an increase in federal debt has little effect. But when interest rates rise, as they will, the federal budget situation will become way more difficult.

The mini-Reagan in the White House and Republican Congress members like to compare their current bill with Ronald Reagan's 1981 tax bill. That one went into a similar direction than the current one. The top tax rate decreased from 70% to 28%. But by 1982 and in later years Reagan had to introduce the highest tax increases ever to keep the budget at least somewhat stable. Tax revenue as a percentage of GDP did not decrease at all under Reagan.

The two steps of decreasing taxes and slashing welfare the Republicans planned for will likely be followed by third (and forth) step that will decrease the impact of the original bill. Historically the overall positive and/or negative impact of this pandering to their rich sponsors will likely be much less than both sides of the aisles are predicting.

Posted by b at 02:54 PM | Comments (167)

December 19, 2017

The New National Security Strategy Paves A Path To Isolation

Yesterday the White House published a new National Security Strategy (pdf). The publication was, unusually, announced by the president in a stump speech. The new NSS is unusually long:

Reagan National Security Strategy was 41 pages, Bush 2002 was 31, Obama 2015 was 29. Trump's is 55 pages: Buffet of priorities without much prioritization.

The first "fundamental responsibility" the NSS sets out is:

.. to protect the American people, the homeland, and the American way of life ..

Micah Zenko points out that it does not really do that:

[A]lmost nothing in the .. document deals with the actual domestic threats, risks, and systemic harms that Americans experience every day.
...
The Trump NSS .. mentions terrorists 58 times, and pledges to “defeat jihadist terrorists,” just as all previous NSS documents have done since 9/11. Over the past 16-plus years, jihadis have killed 103 Americans within the United States, while right-wing terrorists have killed 68. During that same time period, drug-induced deaths have more than tripled, with over 59,000 Americans dying in 2016, while America’s suicide rate has risen by 25 percent, resulting in 43,000 deaths annually.
...
The Trump administration’s NSS fails to do what it claims — protect Americans — largely because it does not address the real threats and risks faced by Americans. It might be an “America First” foreign policy, as the president contends, but it does not put Americans themselves first.

While it touches lots of foreign policy issues, the emphasis of the new NSS is more realist than the - on paper - more idealistic version of Obama's imperial strategy. There is less schmoozing about "values" and a new emphasis on "rivals", most importantly China and Russia.

Labeling those two countries as rivals implies that they are again seen on a similar level than the U.S. itself. It thus marks the end of the "unilateral moment" that the U.S. felt entitled to after the end of the Soviet Union. Sure, the U.S. is still trying to set itself apart from others. It just ridiculously vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that reaffirmed the occupied status of Jerusalem. But voting against all other members of the UNSC, including close allies like Britain, is not a sign of global leadership but of a pariah state.

That the "unilateral moment" has passed might have some very positive aspects for the world. The end of a global competition had allowed the U.S. to wage more wars:

[W]hile the United States engaged in forty-six military interventions from 1948–1991, from 1992–2017 that number increased fourfold to 188.

The interventions after 1991 occurred even while the U.S. had lost the ideological rationale of "countering communism" and while the chance of military operations against it was smaller than before. Moreover many of those interventions were not successful. Other states have found means to counter overwhelming military might.

The unchecked United States felt no necessity to weight potential responses from competitors. It did not show a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind". It proved itself to be a danger to global peace. It intervened because it could, not because there was a real national interest at stake, or even a decent chance of winning. The "unilateral moment" has cost the U.S. a lot of money and goodwill, and it brought little gain.

A rational U.S. strategy would recognize that the unilateral approach failed and thus emphasize other means. Real global cooperation and increasing economic and diplomatic power would likely be more successful than military might. The new National Security Strategy does not offer that. While it says it "will advance American influence" it ignores or rejects climate change and international "rules of the road", like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The Trump administration in putting more resources into the military and less into diplomatic and economic foreign policy measures. It is thereby, true to Trump's campaign stance, isolationist.

One can either have an overwhelming role or finesse one's influence through cooperation with others. The overwhelming role, demonstrated by military interventions, has not been successful. The cooperation approach is spelled out in the words of the NSS but rejected in its specific policies. The third way it is paving is one of isolation.

As a global citizen I welcome this development. A U.S. that again feels limited in its global reach will likely be more careful when it considers initiating new conflicts. It will do less damage to others and to itself.

Posted by b at 06:46 AM | Comments (93)

December 17, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-46

Due to this week's network problems at my home you were offered too few posts. Most of the research I do is naturally online. So while I probably could have posted I lacked the material to write up decent pieces. I was told that my regular network and phone connections will be back by Monday afternoon. We'll see ...

Dec 12 - U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

A New Yorker piece by a borg journalist suggests that the U.S. political heave mind has for now given up on regime change in Syria. The military junta in the White House still seems to disagree with that, but might be coming around. There will for sure be no clear-cut change, but a gradual move away from the senseless occupation of north-east Syria. Meanwhile the first truck convoy from Iran reached Syria by road. This new supply line will give the Israeli military some serious headaches.

Dec 14 - "Russian Influence" - $0.97 That Changed The Fate Of Britain

The "Russian influence" nonsense is dying a slow death for lack of any evidence that there is any "Russian influence" campaign. The subject is now changing to "Chinese influence". The Rothschild organ The Economist has a title story about that nefarious "Chinese influence" and laments its alleged attempts to move public opinion to its favor. That is of course something "the west" would never even do! To prove that this is a well coordinated campaign the U.S. Council of Foreign Relations adds a piece of its own on "Chinese Influence" . Australia just kicked out a minister for allegedly being to frendly with something Chinese. Trump's new strategic guidance for the military will emphasize China as the new potential enemy. This is a stupid move that will only solidify the Russian-Chinese partnership and further isolate the U.S.

Dec 15 - Haley Fails To Make Case About Yemeni Missiles - Ignores Saudi War Crimes

Haley tried to give her best Colin Powell imitation but failed. Defense Secretary Mattis has said that there will be no military move against Iran. Thus some sanity prevails on the issue. But only in the U.S.. Some Saudi organization put out a funny comic movie (vid) about a Saudi attack on Iran. In it the Saudis defeat the Iranian navy, air- and missile forces. They invade Iran, capture IRGC General Suleimani and are welcome by the people in Tehran with sweets and flowers. Clown prince MbS is overseeing the operation. It is hilarious fiction.

But why do the Saudi grunts talk in English?

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:46 PM | Comments (129)

December 15, 2017

Haley Fails To Make Case About Yemeni Missiles - Ignores Saudi War Crimes

Yesterday the U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley went to the Defense Intelligence Agency for a little show. She claimed to expose Iran as an illegal source of weapons used by Yemeni forces in their fight against Saudi aggressors.

It reminded of the times when Vice President Dick Cheney visited the CIA to tell its analysts what they were supposed to write about "Saddam's weapons of mass destruction".

Haley covered the advice she was giving to the DIA as a press conference. Her props were alleged missile parts recovered somewhere at some unknown time. She claimed that these were provided by the Saudis and the UAE and showed debris of missiles fired from Yemen. Haley further claimed that Iran had delivered such missiles to Yemen in breach of UN resolution 2231 that restricts such transfers.

There are several possible explanations of where the Houthi and their then allied Yemeni army might have acquired such missiles. But even if one accepts that Iran delivered these, it is unknown when such deliveries might have taken place. It could have happened years before the UN resolution restricted such deliveries. Haley's show proved nothing with regards to any breach.

Haley claimed that the UN had found that the missile debris on display was from an Iranian Qiam missile. But the UN has made no such findings. It only said that the debris and Qiam missiles "had similar structural and manufacturing features". The Iranian Qiam missile ..

.. is a short-range ballistic missile designed and built by Iran. It was developed from the Iranian Shahab-2, a licensed copy of the North Korean Hwasong-6, all of which are versions of the Soviet Scud-C missile.

There are many variants of the Soviet Scud family (A, B, C) produced in various countries and they naturally all have "similar structural and manufacturing features".

The Yemeni military bought Soviet Scuds (pdf) and Scuds were used in earlier conflicts between north and south Yemen. The Yemeni military also bought North Korean Hwasong 5 and likely also Hwasong 6 missiles directly from North Korea. The Yemeni army has over 30 years of experience with such missiles and qualified personal to modify these if needed.

Haley simply lied about the UN findings. They do not say what she claims. Indeed the UN panel acknowledged that the similarities found do not prove the origin:

[T]he panel said it “as yet has no evidence as to the identity of the broker or supplier” of the missiles, ..

Haley pointed to one alleged part of the missile debris that bore a logo of an Iranian company. She neglected to point out that the UN panel also found U.S. made hardware as part of the missiles. Neither proves where the missile came from.

The Zionist lobby wants the U.S. to wage war on Iran and Nikki Haley is in their pocket. The extremely rich, ultraright Zionist Sheldon Adelson was the biggest sponsor of her political career.

Haley neglected to point out that Yemeni missiles have killed no one in Saudi Arabia while Saudi Arabia has killed then-thousands of Yemeni civilians with U.S. provide bombs and missiles. It is Saudi Arabia that is blockading Yemen and causing a very large famine. The Saudis recently claimed that they has lifted the blockade but even USAID says that there is no sign that the blockade has changed. Hundreds of people in Yemen are dying each day for lack of food and simple medicine.

In view of such a catastrophe one might even hope that Iran provides hundreds of missiles to Yemen to push the Saudis into ending their genocidal policies.

Haley's show did not go down well. She convinced the Saudis of course but neither U.S. media nor European governments accepted her show. As the NY Times correctly writes:

.. the evidence she showcased at Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling — ... — fell short of proving her claims.

Reuters remarked:

The United States acknowledged it could not say precisely when the weapons were transferred to the Houthis, and, in some cases, could not say when they were used. There was no immediate way to independently verify where the weapons were made or employed.

The Trump administration is looking for reasons to push more sanctions on Iran. It especially wants the EU to take part in a renewed sanction regime. A "ballistic missile threat" might be a way to get there. France and Germany had offered the U.S. to follow its anti-Iranian course with regards to ballistic missiles if it keeps busting the nuclear agreement with Iran off the table.

Haley's stunt shows that this was an extremely stupid move. If one makes an offer to the U.S. that one will follow policy A when B is proven, the U.S. will simply lie and fabricate evidence to claim that B is there. 

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (73)

December 14, 2017

"Russian Influence" - $0.97 That Changed The Fate Of Britain

A big bear broke into a house, allegedly. The bear trashes the interior - it is said. Enraged authors write extensive pieces about the bear and how much damage it causes. The authors and their big bear scare are amplified throughout the media. They get rewards.

There are doubters though. They point out that no one has actually seen the bear. No one listens to them. 

Politicians insinuate that the bear is even bigger than is said. Experts talk of huge damage and terrible dangers. There might even be multiple bears. Finally someone is asked to open the door of the house and to look inside.

There is no bear. There is no damage. The only living thing that is found is a tiny cute mouse.

Brexit, the ministers, the professor and the spy: how Russia pulls strings in UK - by Carole Cadwalladr - Observer/Guardian - Nov 4 2017

But on Brexit, Facebook has said nothing. Not a word. No ads have been scrutinised. Nothing – even though Ben Nimmo of the Atlantic Council thinktank, asked to testify before the senate intelligence committee last week, says evidence of Russian interference online is now “incontrovertible”. He says: “It is frankly implausible to think that we weren’t targeted too.”

Intelligence watchdog urged to look at Russian influence on Brexit vote - Guardian - Nov 15 2017

Britain’s intelligence watchdog is facing demands to examine whether Russian “troll factories” interfered in UK politics, amid mounting evidence that thousands of fake accounts may have been used to influence the Brexit vote.
...
UK academics have already established that at least 419 Twitter accounts operating from the Kremlin-linked Russian Internet Research Agency (IRA) tweeted about Brexit ..

Guardian and Observer scoop three prizes in British Journalism Awards - Guardian - Dec 11 2017

The Observer’s Carole Cadwalladr won the technology journalism award for her investigation into Russia’s influence on the Brexit referendum...
...

Facebook says Russian-linked accounts spent just 97 cents on ads over Brexit - Reuters - Dec 14 2017

Some British lawmakers have called for an inquiry into whether Russia meddled in Britain’s vote to leave the EU after social media platforms said Russian operatives sought to interfere in the U.S. election of Donald Trump.
...
Facebook sent its findings to the Electoral Commission which is examining how digital campaigning is affecting politics in Britain, including activity funded from outside the country.

Facebook said it had examined whether any account profiles or pages linked to the Internet Research Agency (IRA) had funded ads during the Brexit vote. The IRA is a Russian organization that according to researchers employs hundreds of people to push pro-Kremlin content on social media.

“We have determined that these accounts associated with the IRA spent a small amount of money ($0.97) on advertisements that delivered to UK audiences during that time,” Facebook said.

“This amount resulted in three advertisements (each of which were also targeted to U.S. audiences and concerned immigration, not the EU referendum) delivering approximately 200 impressions to UK viewers over four days in May 2016.”

The above is a typical example of the nonsense that is fed to the people by the media. Neither is there evidence for a "Russian influence" campaign of any significance nor is there evidence of "collusion" between the Trump campaign and anything Russia. The "collusion" campaign was run by the Clinton campaign and the borg to politically disable Trump. The "Russian influence" scare campaign is run by the military-industrial complex to institute a profit raising Cold War 2.0.

 

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (55)

Open Thread 2017-46 - UPDATE II

2nd UPDATE - 1:40pm:

Unfortunately my line is not yet up again. But two neighbors and I took the day to jury-rig a chain of WLAN repeaters to deliver a net connection to our places. The signal crosses two gardens and a small forest in between. it feeds from a different trunk than the damaged one in front of this house. Unless some squirrel decides to feed on the repeater power supply cables I am back in business.

UPDATE - 7:00am:

I am currently again without usable Internet access.

The telecom provider decided to replace the whole local trunk that was damaged two days ago (see below). Neither the customer service nor the workers replacing the line could tell me when the service will be back.

Cellphone coverage within my flat is spotty at best and not usable for data connections.

I am currently trying to set up an interim solution. Please bear with me.

b.

End-update - original December 12 post follows.
---

Yesterday an excavator disrupted several building connections here. Repairs are ongoing. Posting will hopefully resume later today.

b.

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (74)

December 12, 2017

U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

This New Yorker piece is notable for its arrogant headline, and several false assertions. Those may be necessary to divert from its real message - the U.S. surrender to the realities of Syria: Trump to Let Assad Stay Until 2021, as Putin Declares Victory in Syria

[T]he Trump Administration is now prepared to accept President Bashar al-Assad’s continued rule until Syria’s next scheduled Presidential election, in 2021, according to U.S. and European officials. The decision reverses repeated U.S. statements that Assad must step down as part of a peace process.
...
The Trump Administration says it still wants a political process that holds the prospect of Assad’s departure. But it has concluded that it may take until 2021, when the next election is scheduled, to pull it off.
...
U.S. officials worry that Assad could win the 2021 Syrian election, one way or the other, and remain in power for years to come.

The U.S. "lets Assad stay" because there is simply nothing else it can do without waging a large scale war. It has tried everything else - and lost. In 2012 it attempted to assassinate Assad, but he wasn't at the security meeting that the CIA blew up. It send 100,000 Takfiri fighters from all over the world to Syria and shipped in ten-thousands of tons of weapons and ammunition. The global anti-Syrian propaganda campaign in favor of the Takfiris was unprecedented. It tried to build a political opposition and sponsored it with hundreds of millions. It lastly invaded the country and tried to split it by force. It failed on all fronts.

The U.S. decision reflects the Administration’s limited options, the military reality on the ground, and the success of Syria’s Russian, Iranian, and Hezbollah allies in propping up the beleaguered Assad regime.
...
The Syrian opposition groups backed by the United States have been ineffectual. They have squabbled among themselves and split into factions.
...
Diplomatically, Washington has been marginalized by the powerful troika of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, which now dominates the peace process.

In 2013 the author of the piece, Robin Wright, presented the Israeli dream of a split up Middle East.


bigger

It was a remake of the "Blood Borders" map peddled in 2006 by the neoconservatives Col. Ralph Peters. That gain was an updated version of a map of a "New Middle East" by Bernhard Lewis published in Foreign Affairs. Those maps went into the trash-bin when the U.S. had to leave Iraq. Wrigth's cartographic expression of imperial arrogance will end there too.

Wright is heavily wired in Washington. She is part of the *borg* and held/holds positions at the U.S. Institute of Peace (which plans wars), the Wilson Center, Brookings and Carnegie Endowment. That she has now given up on her ludicrous map likely reflects the leading opinions within those institutions.

One wonders if the military junta in the White House is on board with this. It continues to dream of keeping Syria and Iraq under its thumb:

Cont. reading: U.S. Surrenders On Syria - Resistance Turns Eyes On Israel

Posted by b at 01:48 PM | Comments (110)

December 10, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-45

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Dec 4 - Yemen Without Saleh

The unexpected end of Yemen's former president Saleh was followed by a Houthi campaign against his functionaries in Sanaa. At the same time the Saudi and UAE proxy forces in south-Yemen renewed their attacks towards Sanaa. The Houthi need to hold back on revenge against Saleh followers and concentrate on defense against the advancing enemy forces.

Dec 5 - Slapstick In Kiev

Saakashvili escaped the police, first by fleeing over the roofs of Kiev and then by being freed from a police car through the help of his supporters. He has since been apprehended again and is now in jail. No noise was heard from those foreign powers who supported the 2014 coup in Kiev. Only a few neocons still seem to hope that Saakashvili can play a role in their games. But without a big push from outside in favor of Saak the nazis and oligarchs that rule Kiev will let him rot in jail. That would a well deserved end of his career.

Dec 6 - Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

The "Arab leaders", aka the Gulf sheiks, have been mostly mum about Trump's prostration to the Zionists. The mildly criticizes his Jerusalem decision but took no action at all. Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah and leaders of militia in Iraq and Syria have publicly shown some backbone and called fro active resistance. They have a long-term strategy of building up forces to tackle Israel. The decisive action following from Trump's remarks on Jerusalem is still years away.

Dec 7 - Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

Republican's betray their voters. Nothing new here, so do the Democrats. A welcome side-effect of the whole Russia-gate theater is to detract from the Democrats support for the Republican agenda.

Dec 8 - Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

Yesterday the WSJ and the NYT had pieces on the changed atmosphere between Trump and the Saudis. But just like us they found no clue of what is really going on behind the scene. A head-fake?

Dec 9 - Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Iranian General Soleimani is warning the U.S. military to leave Syria. He predicts that it can not hold the ground. The Kurds are slowly moving back into the Syrian-Russian-Iranian camp. The neocons at the British Henry Jackson Society are already up in arms about this and foresee the end of the U.S. occupation. How do they feel about being in the same camp as Soleimani?

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:13 AM | Comments (90)

December 09, 2017

Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

The Islamic State in Syrian and Iraq is officially defeated. The UN resolution which allowed other countries to fight ISIS within Syria and Iraq no longer applies. But the U.S. military, despite the lack of any legal basis, wants to continue its occupation of Syria's north-east. The attempt to do so will fail. Its Kurdish allies in the area are already moving away from it and now prefer Russian protection. Guerrilla forces to fight the U.S. "presence" are being formed. The U.S. plan is shortsighted and stupid. If the U.S. insists on staying there many of its soldiers will die.

Two days ago the Syrian Arab Army closed the last gaps on the west bank of the Euphrates. Having fought all the way from Aleppo along the river towards the east the Tiger Force reached the liberated Deir Ezzor from the west. All settlements on the way are now controlled by the Syrian government. The remaining Islamic State fighters were pushed into the desert where they will be hunted down and killed.


Map via Southfront - bigger

Two days ago the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, declared a "complete victory" in Syria:

“Two hours ago, the (Russian) defense minister reported to me that the operations on the eastern and western banks of the Euphrates have been completed with the total rout of the terrorists,” Putin said.

“Naturally, there could still be some pockets of resistance, but overall the military work at this stage and on this territory is completed with, I repeat, the total rout of the terrorists,” he said.

Today the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi declared victory and the 'end of the war' against ISIS on the Iraqi side:

"Our forces are in complete control of the Iraqi-Syrian border and I therefore announce the end of the war against Daesh (IS)," Abadi told a conference in Baghdad.

North of the Euphrates the U.S. proxy force SDF had recently negotiated another agreement (42) with the remaining Islamic State fighters there. ISIS allegedly handed over a border crossing with Iraq to the SDF and in exchange was guaranteed free passage through SDF controlled areas. This agreement came after an earlier one in which the U.S. and SDF let 3,500 ISIS fighters flee from Raqqa to fight the Syrian Army in Deir Ezzor. That was a U.S. attempt to delay or prevent the victory of Syria and its allies. It failed.

Shortly after the claimed new ceasefire between the U.S. SDF proxies and ISIS, Russian officers met with officials of the Kurdish YPG, the central force of the SDF. The talks completely changed the situation. In a joint press conference the Kurds and the Russians committed to work together to fight ISIS east of the Euphrates. It seems that the YPG is no longer convinced that the U.S. is willing to do so. The Russians took command and the Russian air forces has since supported the YPG in its fight against ISIS in Deir Ezzor governate on the eastern bank of the river:

Cont. reading: Syria - ISIS Is Defeated - The U.S. Is Next In Line

Posted by b at 11:37 AM | Comments (81)

December 08, 2017

Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

The Trump administration seemed to get along very well with the Saudi tyrant and his son Mohammed bin Salman. They together admired the orb and joined up to bash Iran. But now the Trump administration scolded and embarrassed MbS three times in as many days. One wonders what is going on behind that scene.

In mid November a mysterious buyer bought a probably fake Leonardo da Vinci painting of Jesus Christ for a cool $450 million. On December 6 the New York Times reported that some Saudi prince was the front-man for the purchase:

He is a little-known Saudi prince from a remote branch of the royal family, with no history as a major art collector, and no publicly known source of great wealth. But the prince, Bader bin Abdullah bin Mohammed bin Farhan al-Saud, is the mystery buyer of Leonardo da Vinci’s painting “Salvator Mundi,” which fetched a record $450.3 million at auction last month, documents show.

The revelation that Prince Bader is the purchaser, according to documents reviewed by The New York Times, links one of the most captivating mysteries of the art world with palace intrigues in Saudi Arabia that are shaking the region. Prince Bader splurged on this controversial and decidedly un-Islamic portrait of Christ at a time when most members of the Saudi elite, including some in the royal family, are cowering under a sweeping crackdown against corruption and self-enrichment.

As it happens, Prince Bader is a friend and associate of the leader of the purge: the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman.

The NYT did not explain how it had gained access to the documents it reviewed. Later that day Bloomberg reported that the painting would be shown in Abu Dhabi. This somewhat diverted from the trail to MbS:

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is getting Leonardo Da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi,” which sold last month at a Christie’s auction for $450 million, the most ever paid for a work of art.

Christie’s said the artwork will be going to the museum, but declined to say whether the Louvre Abu Dhabi bought the painting. The Louvre Abu Dhabi said in a tweet Wednesday: “Da Vinci’s Salvator Mundi is coming to #LouvreAbuDhabi.

A day later, on December 7 the Trump administration gave a tip to the Wall Street Journal's Shane Harris. The real buyer, it confirmed, was the Saudi clown prince:

Prince Mohammed, known by his initials MBS, was identified as the buyer of the 500-year-old painting, “Salvator Mundi,” in U.S. intelligence reports, according to people with direct knowledge of the information. American officials have closely watched the activities of the 32-year-old, who is trying to portray himself as a reformer determined to root out corruption in the oil-rich kingdom.

The NYT had already hinted at MbS as the real buyer. But it did not say from where it had that information. The WSJ confirmed the buyer and made explicit that the Trump administration was behind the embarrassing leak.

A few weeks ago MbS arrested 200 of the richest and most powerful people in his country. He locked them in a hotel and is fleecing them for their money which, he says, was gained though corruption. That claim is nonsense. He simply wants to steal that money and let them know who the boss is.

The Saudis have a budget problem and are cutting on social spending in the country they rule. It does not look good to cut money from the poor, fleece other members of the wider family and to then waste a large fortune on a picture that might even be fake. On top of that owning that picture is religiously problematic for MbS. Under Wahhabi doctrine no visual portrayals of prophets like Jesus Christ are allowed.

The UAE again came to the rescue. Today the museum tweeted:

Louvre Abu Dhabi @LouvreAbuDhabi - 1:57 PM - 8 Dec 2017
Louvre Abu Dhabi is looking forward to displaying the Salvator Mundi by Leonardo Da Vinci. The work was acquired by the Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi for the museum.

The Department of Culture and Tourism seemed to confirm (ar) that, but when the museum was directly asked by the AP it went mum:

Jon Gambrell جون @jongambrellAP - 8:07 AM - 8 Dec 2017
The Louvre Abu Dhabi refused to say whether they made the $450 million bid or if someone gave the Department of Culture and Tourism the painting when asked by the @AP.

Hmmm ... this is a cover up. Why is the UAE doing this?

The de-facto ruler of the UAE is the 56-year-old crown prince Mohammed bin Zayed. He is the mentor of (and brain behind) the 32-year-old crown prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman. Did MbS buy a little Christmas gift for MbZ, but was embarrassed when the Trump administration let the world know about it? Or is MbZ running covering for an outrageous buy MbS made for himself?

The buying of the picture is not the only issue at hand. Just the day before the administration leaked to the WSJ about the art deal, President Trump had publicly  scolded MbS about the situation in Yemen:

Cont. reading: Trump Is Bashing The 'Salvator Saudi' - Why?

Posted by b at 02:52 PM | Comments (66)

December 07, 2017

Republican 'Deficit Hawks'

The Republican way of governing.

  • This deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut taxes to spur growth. This will help to lower the deficit.
  • [Cut taxes, increase deficit.]
  • The deficit is increasing!
  • We need to cut Social-Security, Medicare and Medicaid to lower the deficit.
  • (rinse, repeat)

Ryan: Tax cuts have to be deficit neutral to conform with reconciliation - Sep 28 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Thursday said the tax cuts included in the tax reform package Republican lawmakers crafted in conjunction with the Trump Administration have to be deficit neutral so as to conform with budget reconciliation rules.

GOP tax plan unlikely to swell deficit: Speaker Ryan tells Reuters - October 25, 2017

The U.S. Republican tax cut plan that President Donald Trump wants passed by the end of the year is unlikely to trigger a big deficit expansion because it will spur more investment and job growth, House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday.

Ryan: I'm a deficit hawk and 'a growth advocate' - Nov 5 2017

"Paul Ryan deficit hawk is also a growth advocate. Paul Ryan deficit hawk also knows that you have to have a faster growing economy, more jobs, bigger take-home pay, that means higher tax revenues," Ryan told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."

Ryan Dismisses Deficit Concerns to Chase a Political Win on Taxes - Nov 27 2017

The tax overhaul legislation that Ryan shepherded through the House -- the Senate takes up its version this week -- would add at least $1 trillion to budget deficits over the next decade, even when accounting for economic growth, according to independent tax analysts.

CBO: Senate tax plan would increase deficit by $1.4T over 10 years - Nov 27 2017

The Senate GOP's tax plan would increase the deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years, the Congressional Budget Office estimates.

Ryan pledges 'entitlement reform' in 2018 - Dec 6 2017

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) on Wednesday said House Republicans will aim to cut spending on Medicare, Medicaid and welfare programs next year as a way to trim the federal deficit.

“We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said during an interview on Ross Kaminsky's talk radio show.

And no. The Democrats aren't any better. Look at the trillions Obama handed to Wall Street. That wasn't even a tax cut, it was a give-away. Obamacare is a sham,  willfully constructed in way that makes sure it can't survive. The Democrats only pretend to care for the people. As soon as they again have a majority and fake intent for pro-social reforms the Repubs will again whine about the deficit and the Democrats will be happy to fold.

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (51)

December 06, 2017

Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

U.S. President Trump announced today a change in the official U.S. view of the city of Jerusalem in Palestine:

President Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, reversing nearly seven decades of American foreign policy and setting in motion a plan to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to the fiercely contested Holy City.

“It is time to officially recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” said Mr. Trump.

This is not Trump's lone doing. The position has long had support of both parties in Congress:

The Senate’s top Democrat, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, told THE WEEKLY STANDARD Tuesday that he had advised Trump to declare Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided” capital.
...
A 1995 law declares that Jerusalem should “remain an undivided city” and “be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel,” but allows the president to issue waivers every six months delaying the move of the embassy for national security reasons. The Senate reaffirmed that law in June.
...
Maryland senator Ben Cardin, the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, reiterated his support for recognizing Jerusalem when asked Monday about the president’s potential announcement.

“I believe that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, so to me, that’s not news,” he told TWS.

In 2008 then presidential candidate Obama pandered to the Zionist Lobby in the U.S.:

Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.

Obama though left it at that speech and never made it official policy. Officially declaring Jerusalem an "undivided city" and capital of the Zionist entity means that there is no room for a Palestinian capital in east-Jerusalem. It buries the (fairy-)tale of a sovereign Palestinian state.

But that idea had been dead all along. The only reasons for U.S. presidents to circumvent the 22 year old law by issuing waivers was to pretend that the U.S. would be a neutral broker towards some peace between the (east-)European colonists and Palestinians. That was from start to end a deception. Congress and U.S. presidents are under control of the Zionist Lobby which can marshal enormous amounts of money to make or defeat candidates for legislative or executive offices. The Zionist billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who also sponsors the fascist Israel Prime Minister Netanyahoo, donated more then $100 million to the Trump campaign and tens of millions to Congress races. Today was time for Trump to settle some of that debt.

With the increasing buildup of Zionist settlements in the Palestinian West Bank areas under Netanyahoo, the two state solution had long been killed. The Palestinian dictator Mahmoud Abbas, who let this happen without resistance, is just a kapo used by the Israelis to keep the Palestinians down. The Palestinians in Gaza which defied the Zionist occupation were bombed whenever an Israeli Premier needed some diversion from domestic political trouble.

The U.S. is alone in its move. The global consensus and international legal status is that the issue of Jerusalem must be decided through negotiations. A city divided into of two capitals is the most expected outcome. The EU nations and other countries rejected the move. The Pope and other dignitaries spoke out against it.

The Trump declaration only reveals the true long-standing U.S. position but it still matters. It provides without doubt that the U.S. is the enemy of the people on the Middle East. It exposes those Arab rulers that seek to ally with the U.S. It elevates all those who have been fighting the U.S. all along.

The tyrant of Saudi Arabia and his clown prince son have agreed to Trumps move. Instead of declaring retaliatory measures they only issued pro-forma condemnations. Other Arab rulers which depend on Saudi money, like the Jordan King "Playstation" Abdullah, will likewise stay mostly quiet.

There will likely be only little violence in the immediate aftermath of the Trump declaration. The long term effects though will be significant. The Arab public, which gets little coverage in the "western" press, is seething. Professor Assad AbuKhalil reports:

Cont. reading: Trump Settles Debt With Zionists - Confirms That Iran's Struggle Is Righteous

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (204)

December 05, 2017

Slapstick In Kiev

Today a slapstick comedy played out in Kiev. It's background though is mysterious.

In 2015 the billionaire currently ruling the Ukraine by the grace of Washington, Petro Poroshenko, invited the disgraced former president of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, to run the city and region of Odessa. Saakashvili is charged in is home country Georgia with abuse of office and he has lost his Georgian citizenship.

The administration of Odessa is as corrupt as any other in the Ukraine but the money was flowing into the wrong pockets. Saakashvili set out to change that. He soon stepped on the sensible toes of some mighty people. After a year Poroshenko dismissed him. Saakashvili moved to the capital Kiev and started a ruckus against his former benefactor. Soon he was under investigation and accused of this or that criminal deed. When as he traveled outside of the country his Ukrainian passport was revoked and his reentry into the Ukraine was prohibited. Saakashvili entered anyway under the protection of some mysteriously paid supporters and moved back to Kiev. He recently led several protests marches against Poroshenko. Saakashvili was again indicted, this time for allegedly being paid by Moscow to arrange for a "Russian winter" coup against Poroshenko in Ukraine. Today the police went to arrest him at his apartment in Kiev.

When the police arrived Saakashvili fled onto the roof of the eight story house where he was caught (vid) by the police.

He was brought to the ground and pushed into a police van.

His supporters, who somehow had arrived in mass, blocked the road. After an hour and some clashes with the police they freed him (video) from the vehicle.

Saakashvili and his supporters went to hold a protest in front of the parliament. At the same time the Ukrainian Prosecutor General reported inside the parliament of tapped phone-calls in which some Russian middleman agrees to pay Saakashvili half a million for running more protests. Local TV transmitted a split-screen live stream of both.

One wonders what this really is about.

Who pays Saakashvili and his "protesters"?

What does Saakashvili, or the people behind him, want?

Why doesn't Poroshenko arrest Saakashvili in some unsuspicions moment?

Why not let him have an 'accident'?

Why not deport him to Georgia where he would likely go to jail?

Posted by b at 02:07 PM | Comments (57)

December 04, 2017

Yemen Without Saleh

Updated below

The former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh has been killed today. He was 75 years old but still very active in Yemeni politics. Video of his dead body being thrown onto the back of a pickup is making the rounds. One hears Houthi slogans shouted in the background. The pictures show a gun wound on the chest and at the side of the head. The face is easily recognizable. There are also pictures of his ID card.

Though several media report his death there is no confirmation yet from his GPC party or his family.

Over the last few days Houthi media had announced several times that Saleh had been killed. This morning Saleh's house was blown up. This time the Houthi news proved right. The circumstances of Saleh's death are not yet known, but it was said that he was fleeing Sanaa when fate caught up with him.

As we wrote in our recap on Saturday, Saleh had suddenly made peace with the Saudis and asked his followers to take up arms against his former allies. For more than two years he had allied with the Houthi against the U.S. and UK supported Saudi invasion and proxy forces. On Friday, after several days of local clashes with the Houthi, he had called for his followers to throw the Houthi out of the Yemeni capital Sanaa.

For a day his fighters, led by some 1,000 soldiers of Saleh's personal guards, were successful and the Houthi were kicked out of many of their positions. But they were not defeated. They called up more of their troops and on Sunday regained the lost ground and buildings. They occupied Saleh's media. His TV station started to transmit his enemies chants. Over the last night and throughout today they defeated Saleh's troops.

It is yet a mystery why not more of Saleh's supporters came to his help. Sanaa is his home turf and whenever he had called for demonstrations in the city, hundreds of thousands attended. For much of his 34 years of rule as president and even after his forced resignation Saleh could call on the seven "collar tribes" who's territory surround the capital. This time they did not come to his aid. Saleh also continued to command significant parts of the former Yemeni army. These currently hold positions far outside of Sanaa against Saudi proxy forces who try to conquer the mountainous territory of northwest Yemen. One wonders why he had not called them back in time. 

It may be that his unexpected turn-on-a-dime towards a new alliance with the eternal enemies of Yemen, the Saudis, has alienated his followers.

The Saleh family and clan is quite big and resourceful. Many of his relatives have held high military positions in the Yemeni army and keep enough money to pay for their troops loyalty. Some nephew of his may take up his banner. It is unsure though if such a replacement could gain the following of the former army units Ali Abdullah could call on.

The Saudis had recently bet on Saleh to end the stalemate in their war on Yemen. Had he won out, it could have meant a pause in the war and probably its end. With the Houthi now having the upper hand in Sanaa, the war, the permanent Saudi bombing and the blockade of Yemen are likely to continue. The Houthi will continue to attack within Saudi Arabia and the fight against the Saudi proxy forces on the ground will go on.

It will need another breakthrough event for the war to stop.

Update:

In previous pieces on Yemen MoA had quoted Haykal Bafana and Iona Craig. Both live in Yemen. Here are their first thoughts on Ali Abdullah Saleh's death:

@BaFana3 - 6:49 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I cannot describe the deep grief I feel. Ali Abdullah Saleh was the greatest leader #Yemen ever had. He never surrendered: He died a martyr in his homeland Yemen, as a Yemeni fighting for Yemen's cause. I salute Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh, both in life and in death.

 

@ionacraig - 6:13 AM - 4 Dec 2017

I was 1st foreign journalist to interview Saleh after he stepped down. He said his memoirs wouldn't be published until after his death as they contained secrets about many people. I responded "So a lot of people should be afraid the day that you die?" He laughed & said "InshAllah"

Followers of Saleh and his family will now consider revenge against the Houthi for Saleh's death as their highest priority:

@SaadAbedine - 2:21 PM - 4 Dec 2017

Unconfirmed reports that Ahmed, #Saleh’s eldest son & former commander of #Yemen’s Republican Guard, will be addressing the nation tonight at 9 PM local & that he was released from his house arrest in #UAE, en route to Marib to lead the fight & seek revenge from #Houthi rebels

Posted by b at 08:23 AM | Comments (205)

December 03, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-44

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 27 - Saudi Arabia - Budget Dilemma Escalates - Salmans Resort To Product Placement?

That question was, of course, not  serious. But the issue documented in those pictures is still a true mystery to me. Why do the Saudi tyrants insist of prominently placing trivial Cisco phones in their official pictures of international meetings? What are the phones supposed to symbolize? Wealth? Style? Command authority? Power?

Nov 28 - Turning The Corner In Afghanistan

The U.S. has "turned the corner" in Afghanistan so often that it is now too dizzy find an exit.

Nov 28 - Last Call - Please Support This Unique Endeavor

Moon of Alabama asked for donations. The response has been uplifting. (If you haven't donated yet, please click above.) It will take weeks until the last donation arrives and a finally tally can be made. A heartfelt "Thank you!" to everyone who donated and helps to keep this site going. Related - sometime  yesterday this blog broke the 25 million pageviews mark! 

Nov 29 - State Department Condemns* Designation Of Media As Foreign Agents (*only applies to Russia)

The U.S. started a spat with Russia by designating Russia Today as a "foreign agents". It laments about press freedom when Russia does likewise. Hypocrites. The latest U.S. move was to deny Russia Today access to the Congressional Gallery and the White House. Russia will retaliate in kind. All "western" media will be banned from reporting from the Russian Duma. To what end was this nonsense started?

Nov 30 - North Korea: "The Missile Program Is Now Complete

The Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea aka North Korea demonstrated a new missile that can deliver a nuclear warhead to the continental U.S.. The huge new missile was the last item missing in its arsenal. It is now a fully nuclear capable. Washington is still in denial of that and speaks of an illegal "preemptive strike" against North Korea. Such a strike would risk the loss of one or more U.S. cities to a nuke shot off in retaliation. The only path forward is through negotiations.

Dec 1 - Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The plea deal of Trump's former National Security Advisor turns out to be nothing-burger with regards to the alleged "collusion" with Russia. Flynn lobbied the Russians ambassador in favor of Israel and to fulfill Trump's campaign promise of better relations with Russia. Flynn was stupid enough to lie to the FBI about the content of phone-calls that the FBI had transcripts of. Robert Parry rightly argues that Flynn was intentionally set-up and trapped by operatives of the outgoing Obama regime.

Dec 2 - Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

Yesterday's post said that former president Saleh was recovering the capital Sanaa from his previously ally, the Houthi. It may have been premature. After having been ousted from most of their positions in Sanaa, the Houthis called up reinforcements and came back with vengeance. As of now they recovered some positions and took over the TV station and other media of Saleh's GPC party. Fighting in Sanaa is ongoing. If Saleh loses this fight the war on Yemen is likely to continue.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:14 AM | Comments (61)

December 02, 2017

Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

The war on Yemen has finally taken a turn towards an end. Former President Saleh is back in his leading position. They Saudis accepted their defeat. The Houthis will be thrown out of the capital Sanaa and return to their northern areas. Yemen is devastated and will need to rebuild. Everyone who participated in this war has lost. The only winner is Russia.

A recap:

During the "Arab spring" (U.S.) induced Yemeni revolution President Saleh was kicked out after ruling the country for 34 years. In 2012 the former Vice-President Hadi was "elected" as the new president on a one choice ballot. With U.S. support the system prevailed.


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As I noted at that time:

The U.S. missed the chance to use the movement against Saleh for some real transition in Yemen. This will come back to bite.

Hadi was a Saudi puppet unable to rule the country. He tried to form a unity government under the National Dialogue Conference sponsored by the Gulf Cooperation Council. But two major constituencies were left out of the effort: the northern Yemeni Houthis of Zaidi belief, who for years had fought against Saudi-Wahhabi indoctrination in Yemen, and the followers of the ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The Houthis and Saleh had fought each other for over a decade. Now they had a common enemy and united their efforts.

In 2015 the Houthi and Yemeni army troops loyal to Saleh took over the capital Sanaa. Hadi resigned (twice), fled to Aden in the south and later onto Riyadh in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis were afraid to lose influence over their dirt poor but self-confident neighbor. They falsely alleged that the Houthis were supported by their perceived arch-enemy Iran. They declared war on the country and tried to invade it. The U.S. and the UK supported and still support the Saudi war with intelligence, refueling flights for Saudi bombers and massive weapon supplies.

The Saudis sent their troops to invade the country, their neighboring United Arab Emirates sent its forces and additional mercenaries were hired from Sudan, south America and where ever they could be found. All to no avail. While the Saudis dropped more than 100 bombs per day onto Yemen their forces were defeated every time they tried to enter the mountainous heartland. The Houthi counterattacked within Saudi Arabia. They had no shoes but huge balls. Hundreds of Saudi border posts and military checkpoints were destroyed by them.

The Saudis tried to starve the Houthis of weapons, food and other supplies. They blockaded the country and bombed weapon depots, factories and all infrastructure. They completely destroyed Houthi cities in the north and tried to assassinate the leaders of the rebellion. Tens of thousands of Yemenis died in the often indiscriminate attacks. But the Houthi held out. For decades Yemen had been filled up with weapons. During his decades long rule former president Saleh had stashed ten-thousands of tons of ammunition and equipment. Additional supplies were captured or bought from the Saudi mercenaries.

The former Yemeni army units loyal to Saleh, as well as Saleh himself, stayed in the background. Their most visible contribution to the war was the launch of short range ballistic missiles (SRBM) against Saudi cities and military positions. These weapons had been bought earlier and were modified to have extended reach (see the excursion below).

The Saudi were stuck in a stalemate that cost them over $800 million per month. Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State were flourishing in the south which the Saudis and their allies nominally controlled. Saudi proxies were infighting with troops from the UAE. Missiles were falling down on Saudi cities. While only few missiles hit their targets each of them demonstrated the impotence of the Saudi rulers.

The Saudis finally send out peace feelers to former president Saleh. The Russians, who had kept their embassy in Sanaa open throughout the war, acted as the middleman. In mid October the first results of the diplomatic efforts became visible:

Cont. reading: Yemen - Saudis Throw The Towel - Saleh is Baaack - Russia Wins

Posted by b at 12:41 PM | Comments (127)

December 01, 2017

Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

The anti-Trump "resistance" campaign alleges that the Russian government tried to "influence" the U.S. election. It insinuates that Trump "colluded" with the Russians in these alleged attempts. It has no evidence for any of its claims. The intent of this campaign is to handicap the Trump administration as much as possible and to prevent better U.S. relations with Russia.

A witch hunt was launched in which the Mueller investigation in the alleged election manipulation as well as Congress hearings are used to throw as much dirt as possible into the direction of the Trump administration to then see what might stick. 

While retired army-general Michael Flynn worked for the Trump campaign he was also a lobbyist for a rich person near to the Turkish government. He made $600,000 off that gig. The Trump campaign did not know about this. Flynn also attended an anniversary celebration for Russia Today in Moscow. He had been hired as a paid speaker for the occasion and his speaker agency charged $40,000 for it.

Flynn was fired from the job as National Security Advisor 24 days after Trump#s inauguration. He had been stupid enough to announce that he wanted to reform the CIA and the other intelligence agencies. Those agencies made sure that such would not happen.

Flynn was questioned by the FBI in connection with the Mueller investigation into alleged Russian influence on the 2016 election campaign. He lied to the FBI about some diplomatic contacts he had made on request of the then incoming Trump administration. The FBI managed to prove that he had lied. In the U.S. lying to the FBI is a serious crime. (I am not aware of other country that has such a stupid rule.) Flynn was offered a plea deal. He is supposed to tell Mueller what Mueller wants to hear in exchange for a lower penalty for his "crime" of lying to the FBI.

But look what the real issues were Flynn lied about:

Former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty Friday to lying to the FBI about his contacts with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak, and authorities indicated in court he was acting under instructions from senior Trump transition officials in his dealings with the diplomat.

Flynn contacted the senior Russian diplomat in Washington DC. He was surely aware that the NSA and CIA notice and listen in to all such contacts. Flynn had no reason to believe that such contacts were out of norm because they ain't. Incoming administrations need such contacts to prepare their polices.

There are two different issues about which Flynn contacted the Russian ambassador:

In one of the conversations described in court documents, the men discussed an upcoming United Nations Security Council vote on whether to condemn Israel’s building of settlements. At the time, the Obama administration was preparing to allow a Security Council vote on the matter.
...
Mr. Mueller’s investigators have learned through witnesses and documents that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel asked the Trump transition team to lobby other countries to help Israel, according to two people briefed on the inquiry. Investigators have learned that Mr. Flynn and Mr. Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, Jared Kushner, took the lead in those efforts. Mr. Mueller’s team has emails that show Mr. Flynn saying he would work to kill the vote, the people briefed on the matter said.

The Security Council vote was on December 23 2016. The Israeli government lobbied the incoming administration to influence that vote in the Israeli government's interest. The Trump administration in-waiting could not influence the Obama administration which had decided to abstain. It contacted the Russian ambassador to influence the Russians to block the vote in the UNSC. The Russian's did not do such.

The "collusion" here is between the Israeli government and the Trump campaign. The "influence" is two part. A successful Israeli attempt to influence the incoming Trump administration and an unsuccessful attempt by Trump people to influence the Russian UNSC vote. The issue has absolutely zero to do with the U.S. election.

Now onto the second issue:

Cont. reading: Flynn's Devastating Confessions: Trump Colluded With Israel, Tried To Fulfill Campaign Promises

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (93)