May 1 - A Terrific Day For U.S. Target Intelligence In Syria And Yemen
The U.S. military and intelligence groups involved with Central Command in the Middle East celebrated May 1 with a little competition and two terrific target selections:
US-led air strikes targeting the Islamic State group killed at least 52 civilians in a village in northern Syria, a monitoring group said on Saturday.
"Air strikes by the coalition early on Friday on the village of Birmahle in Aleppo province killed 52 civilians," said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
"Seven children were killed, and 13 people are still trapped in the rubble," he said.
Abdel Rahman told AFP that Kurdish militiamen and Syrian rebel fighters were clashing with IS in a town roughly two kilometres (1 mile) away.
"But Birmahle is only civilians, with no IS positions and no clashes," he said.
Abdel Rahman said "not a single IS fighter" was killed in the strikes on the village,...
Well done. But the CentCom military intelligence group supporting the Saudi war on Yemen showed that it could do better:
A series of Saudi airstrikes hit a hospital and medical camp in southwestern Yemen on Friday, killing at least 58 civilians and injuring at least 67, two local Yemeni government officials said.
Most of the dead and injured were medics and patients, they said.
Raheda Hospital is one of the largest and busiest in the area. The medical camp is part of the hospital.
Three local Yemeni government officials said the hospital was not being used by Houthi rebels and that none of the dead was a rebel fighter.
Seems like the war on Yemen targeting group won the sixpack.
The best overall briefing on the war of Yemen comes in today's Independent. It is a bit speculative on the Saudi motive though when it suggest that King Salman and his son saw the war on Yemen "as a way of securing their power and removing rival factions in the royal family from power." That may be a side motive but the real is more likely the one suggested by Hillary Mann Leverett:
[W]hat we’re seeing is a product of Saudi disorientation and terror at a region that could become more representative in terms of its governance, more independent in terms of its foreign policy. The Saudis are trying to prevent that kind of independence in foreign policy from emerging in Yemen, and they have yet again gone down this road with the United States to a war that has no end.
That description fits the fact that the Saudis started the bombing just in the moment a UN brokered power sharing deal in Yemen was about to be signed. As the Independent piece describes it:
[T]he beginning of the Saudi air war five weeks ago put a stop to negotiations which were about to succeed in establishing a power sharing government in the capital Sanaa according to the UN envoy Jamal Benomar. He told The Wall Street Journal in an interview that “when this campaign started, one thing that was significant but went unnoticed is that the Yemenis were close to a deal that would institute power-sharing with all sides, including the Houthis.”
The U.S. supported the bombing from the very beginning by giving the Saudis the necessary intelligence. This stopped the peaceful solution of the political competition in Yemen. No wonder that the UN envoy resigned in protest. From March 26:
Saudi Arabia told the Obama administration and Persian Gulf allies early this week that it was preparing a military operation in neighboring Yemen, and relied heavily on U.S. surveillance images and targeting information to carry it out, according to senior American and Persian Gulf officials.
Since than the U.S. intelligence support for the Saudis has increased. From April 10:
The United States is expanding its intelligence-sharing with Saudi Arabia to provide more information about potential targets in the kingdom's air campaign against Houthi militias in Yemen, U.S. officials told Reuters.
The U.S. officials said the expanded assistance includes sensitive intelligence data that will allow the Saudis to better review the kingdom's targets in fighting that has killed hundreds and displaced tens of thousands since March.
What will those Yemenis who's relatives were killed in the hospital strike yesterday think about such U.S. targeting support?
The Independence piece linked above also includes this sentence which is I believe as a first in the main stream media:
[King Salman] has not only started an air war in Yemen but has given stronger backing to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qa’ida affiliate, and other jihadi groups in Syria. These have recently won several victories in Idlib province over the Syrian army and forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad.
The Saudis are also supporting Al Qaeda in Yemen and are even pushing others to join them:
Haykal Bafana @BaFana3
Journalists need to wake up & write about the pressure being applied by Saudi Arabia on tribes & leaders in Hadhramaut to accept AQ rule.
The Saudis rush more support to Al Qaeda and U.S. intelligence is selecting civilian targets to be bombed.
Is there anyone who believes that this will end well?
How U.S. Journalists Inflame Middle East Sectarianism - e.g. Liz Sly
Sectarianism in the Middle East is regularly inflamed by the Sunni Salafi/Wahhabi groups and countries in the Middle East. It is directed against all other strains of Islam as well as against all other religions.
But as the "western" governments and media favor the Saudi Arabian side and often denigrate the "resistance" side, be it Shia, Sunni or whatever else, they insist that it is the Shia side that is preaching sectarianism. One can often experience this with reports on speeches of Hizbullah leader Nasrallah who is always very careful to not ever use sectarian language. When Nasrallah condemns Takfiri terrorists like AlQaeda and the Islamic State as non-Muslim and calls them the greatest danger to Sunnis, Shia and Christians alike the "western" media like to report that he warns of Sunnis in general and is thus spreading sectarianism.
Many such reports come from "western" reporters who are stationed in Beirut, speak no Arabic and depend on the spokespersons and translators in the offices of the Saudi-Lebanese Sunni leader Hariri. For an ever growing collection of typical examples see the Angry Arab here and here.
The finding of non-existent sectarian language in "resistance" leaders' communications and the emphasizing of it has been internalized by "western" reporters. You can clearly see the process in the exemplary Twitter exchange copied below.
Liz Sly is the Middle East correspondent for the Washington Post in Beirut and does not speak Arabic. Elijah J. Magnier is Chief International Correspondent for the Kuwaiti TV station AL RAI. He speaks Arabic and has covered the war on Iraq and other wars on the ground for decades.
The issue at hand is a defense bill in front of the U.S. Congress which refers to Sunni militia, Kurds and other groups in Iraq as distinguished "countries" which are to be armed separately from the state of Iraq. "Divide and rule" writ large. Many Iraqi politicians including the Prime Minister have spoken out against it. The Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr warned of the consequences should the bill go through which he says would include an unleashing of his troops against U.S. interests.
Notice how Liz Sly insist on a sectarian aspect/intent in Sadr's proclamation even when there clearly is none. She keeps in insisting on it even after she gets pointed to an official denial of any sectarian intent by a Sadr spokesperson. The exchange:
Liz Sly 17h17 hours ago
Moqtada Sadr to the US: if you arm Iraq's Sunnis, we will fight Americans in Iraq. https://twitter.com/jihadicas/status/593512749235249152 …
Elijah J. Magnier 8h8 hours ago
@LizSly Moqtada didn't say that https://twitter.com/EjmAlrai/status/593324552437903360 …
Liz Sly 6h6 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Didn't mean literally fighting US troops, but to fight against US presence in Iraq. Presumably would hit embassy, personnel etc?
Elijah J. Magnier 6h6 hours ago
@LizSly U r right as Moqtada said he will fight USA in Iraq and abroad but didn't say if Sunni are armed.
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly "We shall hit US interest in Iraq & abroad, as possible, ', if US approves supporting each religion independently",
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Right, he means if Sunnis are armed directly by the US under that weird bill
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly I spoke to S. Ali Seism who said it is not directed to Sunni but 2 all religions (incl Kurds) as there are more than Sunnis in Iraq.
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly In fact the communique' doesn't say in any line the word "Sunni" but "all religions".
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai The bill is aimed at arming Sunnis and my tweet makes it clear Muqtada is against the US arming Sunnis, not against arming them
Elijah J. Magnier 5h5 hours ago
@LizSly Moqtada communique' clearly didn't mention Sunni: "Not arming religions": Fayli, Turkman, Sunni, Shia, Yazidi... Feel free.
Liz Sly 5h5 hours ago
@EjmAlrai Ok, but it's clear he's against a bill whose goal is to permit the US to directly arm Sunnis, not eg Fayli. As are many Iraqis.
The last paragraph of Sadr's statement says:
American should know that if it wants to exacerbate sectarian sentiment, we would continue to tread on the path of national unity. Let sectarianism fall out of existence! This is the very sectarianism that seeks to create [artificial] borders.
The U.S. Congress introduces a law that would exacerbate sectarianism in Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr responses with a statement explicitly speaking out against sectarianism. Liz Sly insist that it is therefore Sadr who is playing a sectarian card.
Is this insistence by Liz Sly on sectarian "Shia leader Sadr is against Sunnis" justified by anything but sly, willful exaggeration, and even falsification, of what Sadr wrote? Who is the sectarian here?
NYT Propagandizes False Ukrainian History
The New York Times claims that the Ukraine Separatists Rewrite History of 1930s Famine. A headline nearer to the historic truth would be "NYT Propagandizes False Ukrainian History" or "Ukraine Separatists Correct Rewritten History of 1930s Famine".
An excerpt from the piece says:
Traditionally, Ukrainian historians have characterized the famine as a genocide, the direct result of Stalin’s forced collectivization and the Soviet government’s requisitioning of grain for export abroad, leaving Ukraine short — and its borders sealed shut. Since Ukraine gained independence, that is what its students have been taught.
But that is not what students in southeastern Ukraine are learning this year. Instead, under orders from the newly installed separatist governments, they are getting the sanitized Russian version, in which the famine was an unavoidable tragedy that befell the entire Soviet Union.
West-Ukrainians have claimed that the famine caused by the Soviet government under Stalin was a unique genocide targeted against ethnic Ukrainians. They often use this claim to demonize Russians. But that claim is ahistoric and false.
The famine happened in all agricultural areas of the Soviet Union. The Volga region of Russia was just as much effected as the Ukraine region But the most hurt area was Kazakhstan:
Kazakhs were most severely affected by the Soviet famine in terms of percentage of people who died (approximately 38%). Around 1.5 million people died in Kazakhstan of whom 1.3 million where ethnic Kazakhs.
Even the Ukrainians who claim that the famine was a special anti-Ukrainian genocide concede that point. In a 2009 piece on the issue the NYT quoted a Ukrainian professor who propagandizes the genocide myth:
“If in other regions, people were hungry and died from famine, then here people were killed by hunger,” Professor Kulchytsky said. “That is the absolute difference.”
So being "killed by hunger" in Ukraine and "died from famine" in the Volga region and Kazakhstan is an "absolute difference"? The cause as well as the outcome seem to be the same to me. What else but some national genocide myth making could create an "absolute difference" in that.
The reasons for the famine are also multiple and not caused by a Stalin order or intent to "kill the Ukrainians":
In War On Syria, Other, U.S. Is "Balancing" To Keep Control
After the fall of Idleb, a Syrian governate capitol near to the border with Turkey, the anti-Syrian forces have continued their attack on Syrian government positions in the north-west. These forces are Jabhat al-Nusra allied with other Salafi-Jihadist brigades. During the last month the well coordinated attackers used at least several dozens of U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles against Syrian army positions.
While some TOW missiles delivered by the U.S. to a CIA controlled anti-Syrian brigade were earlier seized by Jabhat al-Nusra the amount used by it in the Idleb campaign is far larger. Jabhat al-Nusra must now have a constant supply of such weapons. There was also a significant amount of Milan antitank weapons used though (vid) predominately in the south near the Jordan border. These are originally a German-French product. Both Milan and TOW are in the stocks of various Arab Persian Gulf countries.
The attackers also used encrypted radios which the Syrian army seem unable to decrypt in real time. The open radio traffic of 2-way-radios so far used by the foreign supported attackers was easy to follow and this had helped to defend army positions. To defend against an enemy which has secure communication is more difficult.
The CIA and U.S. special forces are involved in training and directing anti-Syrian forces and are part of attacker "control-rooms" in Turkey and Jordan. They certainly know down to each serial number who transferred these weapons to the Al-Qaeda entity Jabhat al-Nusra and others. Possible sources include Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Israel and, most likely, the U.S. itself.
The Syrian army seems to be in difficulties. Its attacks these year all stalled and it lines are thin with the troops being overwhelmed wherever the attackers concentrate forces and firepower. The army has no shortage of weapons and ammunition but its manpower is down. Unfortunately it again left much material behind when it retreated from Idleb. I find it inexplicable that such stocks are not blown up or otherwise made unusable when a retreat necessitates to leave them behind.
The usual suspects are already gloating that "Assad is finished". They have said so every few months since at least 2012. Talk of immediate victory for either side is unjustified. The fighting in Syria and elsewhere will continue for a long time.
To find a response to the current setback the Syrian army chief is visiting Tehran to seek additional support:
Leading a military delegation, the Syrian army chief will have talks with his Iranian counterpart, Col. Hussain Dahqan, and other senior military officials to discuss ways of cooperation to face the threats of terrorism and other regional challenges, according to the report.
The visit comes a day after Syrian Interior Minister Mohammad al-Shaar and his Russian counterpart, Gen. Vladimir Kolokoltsev, signed in Moscow a cooperation agreement on countering terrorism.
The agreement provides a new legal springboard to further bolster bilateral ties, Kolokoltsev said.
We can expect new Russian weapon deliveries as well as more Iran trained and supported fighters on the Syrian battle field. But the real response to the new offense must come in the diplomatic space. Iran as well as Russia will have to come up with ideas to press the other countries to end their support for the Jihadists.
The U.N. invited all parties, for the first time including Iran, for new Syrian peace talk in Geneva. I do not expect any concrete outcome from these talks.
In the big picture we see one part of the Arab and Muslim world financing and providing material and political support to AlQaeda and other Wahhabi Jihadist groups. This while another part of the Arab and Muslim world is fighting against these. The winner so far are the Jihadis themselves and the anti-Arab forces in Israel and the United States.
In the Saudi war on Yemen AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula is the winner and is now also, disguised as tribal fighters, receiving Saudi weapons. AlQaeda in Syria is, according to U.S. Vice President Biden, intensely supported by the Wahhabi Gulf states as are Islamist fighters in Libya and Iraq. The United States is now trying to be the arbitrator over those who finance AlQaeda and those fighting it. Its aim is to keep control over everyone involved by making sure that no side wins. Countries get destroyed that will need rebuilding, weapons and ammunition are bought and used up, oil prices stay reasonable high. What is not to like with that? The U.S. position will prolong all these conflicts until the inevitable blowback will push it to again change its policies.
NSA Failure - THIS Hacking Of The White House Was Not Really Severe
While spending billions for spying on citizens the NSA obviously lacks the capacity to protect the White House and the State Department:
Some of President Obama’s email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House’s unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation.
The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department’s unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama’s BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly.
Much of that "unclassified" email still contains restricted information like official schedules and briefings. The hack certainly did some damage. The blaming of "Russian" hackers though is dubious. How did the investigators attribute this? And if they are sure why not make a public case of it? There are some hints in the reporting that the "Russian" angle is not that clear at all:
One of the curiosities of the White House and State Department attacks is that the administration, which recently has been looking to name and punish state and nonstate hackers in an effort to deter attacks, has refused to reveal its conclusions about who was responsible for this complex and artful intrusion into the government.
This month, after CNN reported that hackers had gained access to sensitive areas of the White House computer network, including sections that contained the president’s schedule, the White House spokesman, Josh Earnest, said the administration had not publicly named who was behind the hack because federal investigators had concluded that “it’s not in our best interests.”
Usually Russia and its president Putin get officially blamed in Washington for every evil in this world. Why not now? May there have been someone else involved? We probably can guess who from this part:
The hackers appear to have been evicted from the White House systems by the end of October. But they continued to plague the State Department, whose system is much more far-flung. The disruptions were so severe that during the Iranian nuclear negotiations in Vienna in November, officials needed to distribute personal email accounts, to one another and to some reporters, to maintain contact.
Official traffic was pushed off the official servers to completely unprotected and easy to surveil private accounts. This during the negotiations with Iran. Who could have had an interest in that? Were those "Russian" hackers speaking Hebrew? That would explain the spokesperson's claim that it was "not in our best interests" to reveal the source.
But again why isn't the NSA able to protect the unclassified email servers? Why would it take months to clean them up? Why is spying on others deemed more important than protecting ones own communication?
Think of network attacker as a needle lost on a dirty living room floor. What does the NSA do to find that needle? It goes off and searches the barn because "that's were the hay is."
There are of course also protected networks and systems but those may not be easy enough to use. Or they have also been hacked. There is a hint of that as the article ends with an ominously specific denial:
The White House, the State Department, the Pentagon and intelligence agencies put their most classified material into a system called Jwics, for Joint Worldwide Intelligence Communications System. That is where top-secret and “secret compartmentalized information” traverses within the government, to officials cleared for it — and it includes imagery, data and graphics. There is no evidence, senior officials said, that this hacking pierced it.
Hmm. "THIS hacking probably did not pierce that secret network. Why, if it has never been hacked, would the officials be so very specific in THIS claim? If THIS hack was not that severe which one was? What other cases of hacked government communication, by you know who, are covered up behind this claim?
Open Thread 2015-19
News & views ...
"Targeted" Drone Strikes Are Rather Random Murder
The president, in his most expansive public discussion on drones, defended their targeted killings as both effective and legal.
He acknowledged the civilian deaths that sometimes result, a consequence that has angered many of the countries where the US seeks to combat extremism, and said he grapples with that trade-off.
"For me, and those in my chain of command, these deaths will haunt us as long as we live," he said. Before any strike, he said, "there must be near-certainty that no civilians will be killed or injured, the highest standard we can set."
A U.S. drone strike targeting a compound frequented by al Qaida leaders accidentally killed two hostages, including one American, near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border in January, the White House announced Thursday.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest announced that two other Americans, both members of al Qaida, also had been killed in Pakistan in January.
Neither man had been targeted in the raids that killed them, U.S. officials said.
That "highest standard" for murder by drone is obviously less high that the CIA operators who killed and kill thousands of non-combatants through drone strikes on "suspect compounds," weddings and funerals.
Obama now apologizes because a somewhat "special" American got unintentionally killed in one strike. But out of eight U.S. citizens killed in drone strikes only one was ever the intended target. That's the "highest standard"? And why doesn't Obama apologize for the 4,000+ other civilians killed? Oh, those weren't Jews spying on Pakistan like the "aid worker" hostage killed in that strike? Why can't Obama admit that neither he nor his psychopathic CIA-director Brennan have any real idea who or what they are targeting when they order to press the kill-buttons?
In March Brennan fired the head of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center. We now know why. But the man was just a subaltern. The drone-killing policy is made by Brennan and signed off by Obama. They must be held responsible.
Unfortunately that is unlikely to happen. The appalling reason:
Despite the bad reviews overseas, drone strikes remain persistently popular with the American public, with about two-thirds expressing approval in polls. And despite the protests of a few liberal Democrats or libertarian Republicans, they have enjoyed unusual bipartisan support in Congress, where they are viewed as reducing the threat of terrorist attack and keeping American operators out of harm’s way.
Someone should probably start to drone-murder random people in the U.S. That might change the perspective.
Yemen: Saudis To Arm "Popular Committees" (aka Al Qaeda)
On the 17th Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula took a city, a military base, an oil terminal and an airport in south Yemen.
Military officials and residents said al-Qaida fighters clashed briefly with members of one of Yemen's largest brigades outside Mukalla, the capital of Hadramawt province, which the militants overran earlier this month. The militants then seized control of Riyan airport and moved to secure their hold on the city's main seaport, which is also an oil terminal.
The security officials, speaking from Sanaa on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press, said the leaders of the brigade in charge of protecting the entire area fled.
Nasser Baqazouz, an activist in the city, said the troops guarding the airport put up little resistance to al-Qaida fighters.
Reading that I commented:
Now Saudis can fly in ammo and men
That was meant more as a joke but now turns out to be likely spot on.
The overrun brigade who's commander fled and who's soldiers did not fight AQ was the 27th Infantry brigade in Mukalla. Its supreme commander and "sponsor" is Mohammed Ali Mohsen:
The commander of the Eastern Area is BG Mohammed Ali Mohsen. The Eastern Area includes the governorates of Hadramawt and al-Mahra.
Ali Mohsen earlier fled to Saudi Arabia. He is near to the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, Islah, which unlike other MB branches traditionally receives support from Saudi Arabia.
Calling from Saudi Arabi Ali Mohsen ordered his troops to put up no resistance to the takeover of the city and the airport by Al Qaeda.
To hide their traces a bit the Al Qaeda folks immediately renamed themselves:
Qaeda fighters have seized the airport, government buildings and a refinery around Al Mukalla, establishing themselves as the most powerful local force. In an effort to win popular support, they have begun calling themselves the Sons of Hadhramaut and have promised to quickly return control of the city to local civilian leaders. When they seized a major army base outside of the city on Friday, they allowed the soldiers inside to leave unharmed, according to a local tribal leader.
The Al Qaeda folks who captured the airport renamed themselves to get "popular support". My hunch is that the "Sons of Hadhramaut" are now a "popular committee."
[Saudi Ambassador to the U.S.] Adel Al-Jubeir said that Saudi Arabia is providing support and weapons to so-called “Popular Committees,” militia groups who have in recent years emerged in Yemen as a counterweight to extremist groups in the country. Jubeir said that if the Houthis do not join the political process, these groups will step up activity against them.
To the Saudis the Zeyda Shia and especially the Houthis are "extremist groups". Al Qaeda, especially in the form of "popular committees" like the "Sons of Hadhramaut", are friends and tools to be armed and used to Saudi advantage. As the Houthies will certainly not give up under Saudi pressure the Riyan Mukalla Airport seized by the "popular" "Sons of Hadhramaut" will soon be indeed very busy.
But the Saudis are again miscalculating if they believe that the Jihadist are a match for the war experienced Houthies and the Republican Guard troops under former president Saleh who are allied with them. Al Qaeda is not a capable ground force. It can be beaten in open fighting. Whether the Houthies could thereafter hold on to southern parts of country against the will of the local population is a different question.
What Is The Purpose Of This U.S. Fleet Concentration Next To Iran?
The Obama regime claims that it wants to hold the Saudis back from further killing in Yemen:
Top Obama administration officials have failed for several days to persuade Saudi Arabia’s government to limit the scope of its airstrikes on cities and towns in Yemen, a campaign that authorities said killed nearly 50 people Monday in Sana, the capital.
The White House would like Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Arab allies to curtail the airstrikes and narrow the objective to focus on protecting the Saudi border, according to a senior administration official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in discussing internal deliberations.
The problem with this story is the acknowledged fact that the U.S. is still heavily supporting the Saudi attacks:
U.S. officials in Riyadh and Qatar are sharing intelligence from surveillance drones and spy satellites with officers from the Saudi-led coalition but are not approving individual targets, according to Pentagon officials.
“The air component is providing the Saudis intel on potential targets that include … civilian casualty mitigation procedures,” Lt. Col. Kristi Beckman, Air Force spokeswoman for U.S. Central Command, said Monday.
If the White House would really want to stop the Saudis it could simply stop supporting them. Without U.S. intelligence the Saudis would be blind. It could stop providing more bombs and the Saudis would eventually run out of ammunition.
The Obama regime is simply not serious about this. It does not care one bit about Yemenis or about the expansion of AlQaeda in the Arab Peninsula (which renamed itself into "Sons of Hadramout" to get more official Saudi support).
Meanwhile the U.S. is building up a fleet concentration in the Arab sea next to Yemen. Some 10 to 12 capital ships will soon be there. Several destroyers. Three helicopter carriers/landing ships with a battalion of Marines each, one air craft carrier and an unknown number of nuclear submarines. All this to prevent a non existing threat to international shipping lanes and to stop non-existing supply convoys from Iran to the Houthies. Claims by the White House that Iran supplies the Houthies are ludicrous propaganda. There is not much love between Houthis and Iran, Yemen is full of weapons anyway and there is no evidence that any supplies have ever been provided. Why then this propaganda and fleet concentration?
The administration has a problem. Sanction against Iran are coming to an end no matter how the nuclear talks with Iran will end. Iran has shown its willingness to resolve the issue. The U.S. is the party blocking it. If there is a pact signed in June sanctions will end. If there is no pact signed in June the U.S. will be blamed and the sanction regime will fall apart. The Russian decision to finally provide S-300 air defense to Iran was an explicit sign for that. The Chinese are currently heavily bribing Pakistan to get a land route to Iranian gas. The U.S. will soon no longer able to constrain Iran through an internationally supported "crippling sanctions" regime.
Before the U.S. attacked Iraq the sanction regime there was also falling apart. Without sanctions increased Iraqi oil production would have lowered the price of oil. The oil men, and the Bush administration had many of them, would have made much less money. The attack on Iraq prevented that oil dump.
Similar conditions apply to the Iran sanction regime. As soon as Iran can sell as much as it wants oil prices will go down even more. The major oil companies would suffer. The Saudis would lose market share. Is the Obama administration willing to go to war, or to at least create some "incident", to prevent that?
Why else is that fleet in the Arab sea? Pat Lang fears that some new Gulf of Tokin incident might unfold. Why would he think that?
Open Thread 2015-18
News & views ...
Ukraine: "Both Sides Touched" By NATO Related Murder Of The Other Side
The Washington Post's Michael Birnbaum invented a new funny way to equalized victims and perpetrators of serious crimes:
MOSCOW — A pro-Russian Ukrainian journalist was gunned down in Kiev on Thursday, authorities said, a day after a Ukrainian politician supporting Moscow was found dead.
The killing of Oles Buzyna, 45, raised fears of a new wave of back-and-forth violence in the streets of Ukraine after a string of unsolved deaths that has touched both sides of the conflict between Ukraine’s Western-allied government and pro-Moscow separatists.
Indeed the "unsolved deaths" "touched both sides" with eleven people on one side getting murdered while the other side covered up these murders as "suicides" and very likely also provided the killers.
There is some curious connection between some of the recent killings and NATO. As RB at NiqNaq provides (recommended):
On Apr 14, a profile of Oles’ Buzina was added to https://psb4ukr.org/ site (where Ukrainian government encourages people to fink the authorities on the people suspected of separatism); on Apr 15, Oles’ Buzina was killed near his home with 4 shots. I (my correspondent – RB) looked up the Web address where they posted Buzina’s address, and found that it’s hosted on a NATO server.
The Niqnaq post provides details and screenshots demonstrating the connection to NATO. (A short take is also here.) I was myself researching the issue for MoA when I found that Niqnaq post and I can confirm the findings and add a bit.
Two names and personal data of persons recently assassinated in Ukraine were posted on a "nationalist" website shortly before those persons were killed. That website, psb4ukr.org (screenshot) auto-translated from Russian to English (screenshot), is headlined:
RESEARCH CENTRE FEATURES OF CRIMES AGAINST UKRAINE'S NATIONAL SECURITY, PEACE, SECURITY AND HUMANITY international law
Information for law enforcement authorities and special services about pro-Russian terrorists, separatists, mercenaries, war criminals, and murderers.
Next to some news pieces the site carries a list for download with some 7,700 names of "saboteurs" and "terrorists".
On a first view the name "psb4ukr.org" is anonymously registered through the U.S. company Wild West Domains.
A "traceroute" command shows that Internet Protocol requests to the server "psb4ukr.org" end in a datacenter in Dallas, Texas at dallas-ipc.com and the IP number 22.214.171.124.
A "nslookup" command with the input "psb4ukr.org" confirms in its output the registered IP Number to be "126.96.36.199" (screenshot).
A reverse "nslookup" command with the input "188.8.131.52" provides the output "psb4ukr.nato.int". (screenshot).
"nato.int" is the Internet domain namespace registered and reserved for NATO. Why is a server for a website which is hunting for dissidents in Ukraine - some of whom have been killed - registered within the NATO Internet namespace?
After some additional research we find that the non-anonymous registration to "psb4ukr.org" is to one Vladimir Kolesnikov, 98 Lenin St, Velyka Oleksandrivka, Kyiv Oblast, Ukraine.
Further searching for Vladimir Kolesnikov we find that Mr. Kolesnikov has registered several other websites through Limestone Networks, Inc in Dallas, Texas.
Some of these website seem to be concerned with crypto payment, teletraining and unrelated stuff. Some others are related to the nasty "nationalist" side of the Ukraine conflict. Operativ.info asks for tip offs about "saboteurs" and "terrorists" and their operations while informnapalm.org is a general "nationalist" news collection.
There is no hint of any NATO-relation in these other sides. A reverse nslookup like the one that shows a relation like between "psb4ukr.org" and "psb4ukr.nato.int" does not deliver such results for the other website registered to Mr. Kolesnikov.
One possible explanation for the "psb4ukr.nato.int" lookup result might be that the website was originally build or tested within the NATO namespace and later transferred outside without cleaning up some of the original name references.
The Richard Engel Kidnapping Fake - MoA Scooped MSM By 28 Month
The veil is lifting a bit over the slew of the "bad Assad" propaganda stories that built the case for the war on Syria. The New York Times reports today: NBC News Alters Account of Correspondent’s Kidnapping in Syria
NBC News on Wednesday revised its account of the 2012 kidnapping of its chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, saying it was likely that Mr. Engel and his reporting team had been abducted by a Sunni militant group, not forces affiliated with the government of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.
Moon of Alabama questioned the original Richard Engel story at that time and found that the whole "kidnapping" and "rescue" was likely a completely staged event:
Professor As'ad AbuKhalil, the Angry Arab, has reason to not believe that story and has indications that these were not Assad loyalists but FSA insurgents playing the role of Assad loyalists for a fake media stunt.
There is now new evidence that this was indeed a fake event and that, whatever Richard Engel may believe, he and the people with him (which included one ever unnamed "British engineer" who is more likely some special operations guy) were not in the hands of Shabiha but in the hand of well known experienced video fakers.
We had earlier looked at the fake citizen journalist Khaled Abu Salah who created and distributed fake videos about "Assad atrocities" sponsored by the shady U.S. para-government organization Avaaz. He was, as we documented, involved in the Richard Engels stunt. This led us to ask:
Why Does The World Wage War Against The People Of Yemen?
Nearly the whole world, seemingly paid off by Saudi money, is waging war against Yemen.
How else can one explain the silence that surrounds the Saudi bombing campaign that will lead to devastating starvation in Yemen and will turn that country into a second, bigger Gaza?
The sycophantic UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon kicked out the UN envoy to Yemen, Jamal Benomar, because Benomar did not endorse the Saudi bombing campaign. He will be replaced with the Saudi choice Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad from Mauritania:
Previously, in Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmad was “an embarrassment,” as multiple UN sources put it to Inner City Press. But, hey, whatever the Saudis want.
A UN Security Council resolution against the Yemeni people practically endorsed the Saudi blockade, bombing and starvation campaign by 14 to 0. Russia was criticized for only abstaining but not vetoing the resolution. I can see two reasons for the Russian vote. For one Russia may believe that the Saudi campaign will, in the end, severely hurt Saudi Arabia which would be to Russia's advantage. It may also have not vetoed because China, for whatever reason, endorsed the resolution. China and Russia prefer to veto together to avert to be singled out and blamed.
The Saudis have bombed not only refugee camps and food depots in Yemen but also the telecommunication networks, news stations and electricity networks. Sanaa has been without electricity for over 60 hours now. On Monday the soccer stadiums in Ibb, Aden, and Sanaa were bombed. Yesterday 16 gas stations, with long lines of cars waiting for fuel, were bombed in one case leaving at least 17 people dead and 50 wounded.
Between March 26 and April 11 the Saudis bombed Yemen over 1,200 times. According to an earlier account by a Yemeni army spokesperson 2,571 were killed of which 381 were children and 455 women. 1,200 official institution and 72 schools were destroyed. In the last 24 hours another 56 civilians were killed.
Fuel prices have increased by 600%, bread by at least 300%. Cooking gas is running out and without fuel or electricity water pumps can not run. People will starve but for lack of reporting abilities in the country no one will notice.
While the Saudis claim to bomb the Houthis but destroy Yemeni infrastructure Al Qaeda took full control over the harbor city al-Mukalla and slaughtered 15 Yemeni soldiers in Shabwa province in south Yemen. The Yemeni 2nd brigade, run by a Saudi stooge, gave up its weapons to AlQaeda. The Pakistanis were smart enough to reject the Saudi request for Pakistani foot soldiers to die in Yemen. The Saudi plan B is now to hire "local forces" to do their dirty bidding which means that the Saudis will, like in Syria, finance and support Al Qaeda's takeover of that country. Pakistan should send the Taliban to teach the Saudi how religious lunatics fight.
The U.S. is helping the Saudis not only with weapons and ammunition. At least 20 U.S. officers were send to a joint headquarter in Riyadh and are vetting the Saudi targeting lists.
Nobody in Washington or elsewhere believes that the Saudi campaign will solve anything in Yemen. But why then endorse and support it and the all the suffering it creates?
Rumor: Saudis Finance Israeli Anti-Iran Campaign
Over the past several years, as both Saudi Arabia and Israel have identified Iran and the so-called “Shiite crescent” as their principal enemies, this once-unthinkable alliance has become possible – and the Saudis, as they are wont to do, may have thrown lots of money into the deal.
According to a source briefed by U.S. intelligence analysts, the Saudis have given Israel at least $16 billion over the past 2 ½ years, funneling the money through a third-country Arab state and into an Israeli “development” account in Europe to help finance infrastructure inside Israel.
The claim is thinly sourced but I regard it as possible. Parry was the first to report the Iran-Contra scandal and has good journalistic credentials. There are many common interests Saudi Arabia and Israel have in Lebanon and Syria as well as in their common position against Iran. Just think about Israel's support for the Saudi financed Jabhat al-Nusra in the Golan heights.
But the common interests between Saudi Arabia and Israel, documented in Parry's piece, are also entirely plausible without any money paid by Saudi Arabia.
A slush fund of that size, if it exists at all, can hardly be hidden for long. If there is some truth to the claim I expect more confirming leaks.
Until then let us file this under "rumor".
Repost: Günter Grass - What Has To Be Said
The German poet and writer Günter Grass died today. In his honer a repost from April 4 2012.
The following is my unauthorized (amateur) translation of the complete poem into English. I tried to stay as near as possible to the, sometimes seemingly awkward but certainly intended, original line breaks and punctuation.
What has to be said
Why am I silent, conceal too long,
what is obvious and in war games
has been trained, at whose end we as survivors
will at the most be footnotes.
It is the alleged right of first strike,
with which the Iranian people,
subjugated by a loudmouth
and steered towards organized elation,
could be snuffed out with,
because the building of a nuclear bomb
within its fiefdom is assumed.
But why do I prohibit myself,
to name that other country,
in which for years - though kept secret -
a growing capability exists
though out of control as
not open for audit?
Ukraine: Right Sector Breaks Ceasefire, Newsweek Smears Akhmetov
Serious fighting has again started in east Ukraine. The AP reports:
On Sunday alone, the OSCE recorded at least 1,166 explosions, caused mainly by artillery and mortar shell strikes in northern Donetsk as well as on its outskirts including the airport, now obliterated by fighting.
The OSCE also reported intense mortar fire outside the village of Shyrokyne, by the Azov Sea, but said its representatives were repeatedly barred from accessing the village on Sunday.
The AP report does not say who or what started these battles. It is dancing around the really important issue of who broke the ceasefire with this:
Col. Andriy Lishchynskyi, a Ukrainian representative for monitoring the cease-fire in the east, blamed the clashes on "a highly emotional state and personal animosity" between the fighters on both sides, according to the Interfax news agency.
Yeah, that is what a "Ukrainian representative" would probably say. What are the readers to assume from that?
The AP writers certainly read the relevant OSCE spot report. So why did they leave out this part?
Both the Ukrainian Armed Forces representative and the Russian Federation representative to the Joint Centre for Control and Co-ordination (JCCC) told the SMM that the Ukrainian side (assessed to be the Right Sector volunteer battalion) earlier had made an offensive push through the line of contact towards Zhabunki (“DPR”-controlled, 14km west-north-west of Donetsk), ...
The Nazis from the Right Sector Azov battalion attacked, broke the ceasefire and started the fighting.
But readers of just AP reports will not learn that.
There is a comparable issue with this smear piece by Newsweek. It is somewhat laudable in that it is the first one I see in the "western" media which reports on the issue of the eight political functionaries who were "suicided" in Ukraine by unknown perpetrators:
US AID And The Ebola Scare Scam - $1.4 Billion For Unused Treatment Centers
Last years Ebola scare was ineffectively answered by the U.S. government by showering $1.4 billion, without any significant results, on some military contractors.
[A]fter spending hundreds of millions of dollars and deploying nearly 3,000 troops to build Ebola treatment centers, the United States ended up creating facilities that have largely sat empty: Only 28 Ebola patients have been treated at the 11 treatment units built by the United States military, American officials now say.
Nine centers have never had a single Ebola patient.
This was predictable and predicted:
“I warned them, ‘The only thing you’ll show is an empty E.T.U.,’ ” [Dr. Hans Rosling, a Swedish public health expert who advised Liberia’s health ministry,] added. “ ‘Don’t do it.’ ”
US AID and the U.S. military did it anyway. They played dumb if only to spend all the allocated money:
“Our initial expectation, based on some of the models and some of the experiences and precedents from past Ebola outbreaks, was that the way you would beat this would be to get enough E.T.U. beds,” [Jeremy Konyndyk, who headed the Ebola response for the United States Agency for International Development, which was in charge of the American campaign] said.
Bullshit. Epidemics are not fought and beaten by treatment but by reducing infection rates. That is well known and what we wrote about the Ebola scare turned therefore out to be true:
The means of infection are well known, in general body fluids of all kinds from an infected person will carry the virus. That knowledge alone will help enough to decrease the number of newly infected people as more are warned and protect themselves when caring for an infected person. The epidemic will thereby die out within a few weeks.
That is exactly what happened:
The emphasis on constructing treatment centers — so widely championed last year — ended up having much less impact than the inexpensive, nimble measures taken by residents to halt the outbreak, many officials say.
“Communities taking responsibility for their own future — not waiting for us, not waiting for the government, not waiting for the international partners, but starting to organize themselves,” said Peter Graaff, the leader of the United Nations intervention in Liberia.
In the neighborhood where the outbreak in Monrovia started in June, a 200-volunteer task force formed in July, with residents buying chlorine and buckets to put in public places and donating two vehicles so volunteers could monitor the sick.
Lowering the infection rates by teaching precaution and isolating infected cases is the only reasonable way to stop any epidemic. No overdose of Vitamin C or other crazy measures some commentators here suggested would help.
If and how those who are already infected get treated is solely a question of human dignity. One can, as was done in old times, completely isolate infected persons and just let them die. Or one can build expensive treatment units and give them full care. Neither alternative will make any real difference in the number of newly infected patients and only that number decides about the total epidemic trend.
All this is well known and practiced and thereby enabled this blogger to predict the way this scare was going to go.
That the US AID people thought differently will have one of two reasons:
- They are completely ignorant about epidemics
- They were in on the scam to shuffle some $1.4 billion to some contractors
They should be fired in either case.
As the Ebola scare is now over no money will be allocated to keep those empty treatment centers up and going. The will get looted, turned to scrap or go down by other means. There will be no constant if small flow of money to the health systems of the affected countries which would help them to prepare for the next epidemic crisis. Only when that comes and a new scare can be raised will again money flow and again be scammed away from those who really need it.
Open Thread 2015-17
News & views ...
Reward NYT's David D. Kirkpatrick By No Longer Hitting Him
This editorializing is part of a news-piece in today's New York Times:
Mr. Kerry said he was seeking to reassure allies, including Saudi Arabia, that the United States could “do two things at the same time.” The United States could help push back against Iranian attempts to project its influence around the region, he argued, while at the same time negotiating a deal that would reward Tehran for providing guarantees that it was not building nuclear weapons.
Someone should ask the NYT writer, David D. Kirkpatrick, if no longer hitting him in the face would be a "reward" for him.
How can lifting "punishing sanction" for something Tehran has long provided be a "reward"?
Iran has a long time ago given guarantees to not build nuclear weapons. It signed and ratified the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968. The "reward" for that was the unkept promise by the nuclear weapon states to get rid of their weapons.
One wonders why such editorializing structure like the use of "reward" here is allowed in a news piece. Then again: It is the New York Times and most "news" therein is now expected to be editorializing propaganda. If only the "journalist" writing that stuff would stop to pretend otherwise. We could then "reward" them by no longer hitting them.
In Lack Of Self Awareness Kerry Accuses Iran Over War On Yemen
Is lack of self awareness a requirement for becoming U.S. Secretary of State?
To recap: The former Yemeni president was installed by Saudi Arabia and the United States. Depending on the narrative one chooses (all of these are somewhat true) his mandate expired, he resigned or was ousted in a coup by a locals tribal/religious group, the Houthi, in collusion with the former president Saleh. The president fled from the country to Saudi Arabia. No one in Yemen wants him back.
Next Saudi Arabia starts a war on Yemen and bombs military, government and economic targets killing soldiers as well as civilians and creating a massive hunger crisis. Yet another food distribution center was destroyed today. A ground attack is in planning and may commence soon.
Yemen is depend on food imports and also on imported hydrocarbon products like fuel, gasoline and for electricity. The ports are blocked and expected import transports with food and petrol get turned away. For lack of raw materials the last running refinery in Yemen just shut down. Lack of food and gasoline for water pumps and transport will predictably create mass starvation within the already destitute population.
The new ruling group in Yemen has no interest in creating trouble abroad. It is successfully fighting AlQaeda which tries to nab up parts of the country. Is that the reason for the Saudi attacks? The Houthis claim that Saudi air attacks on prisons are designed to free AlQaeda members.
The U.S. supports the illegal Saudi War on Yemen and the Saudi demand to return Hadi to power. When the president of Ukraine was driven out in a coup would that have justified bombing attacks by the Russian air-force against Kiev? Why shouldn't Russia act interfere in neighboring Ukraine when the U.S. is literally fueling the far-away war on Yemen?
There is little international support for the Houthi and while Iran has verbally supported them and called for a peaceful solution of the situation no evidence has been shown that that there is any material support coming from Tehran.
We’re well aware of the support that Iran has been giving to Yemen, and Iran needs to recognize that the United States is not going to stand by while the region is destabilized or while people engage in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries.
So we’re very concerned about it. And we will – what we’ve made clear to our friends and allies is we can do two things at the same time. We have an ability to understand that an Iran with a nuclear weapon is a greater threat than an Iran without one; and at the same time, we have an ability to be able to stand up to interference that is inappropriate or against international law, or contrary to the region’s stability. and interests and those of our friends.
The U.S is the one that has for decades, including through several wars, destabilized the Middle East. It is the U.S. and the U.S. "ally" Saudi Arabia Who are engaging "in overt warfare across lines, international boundaries, in other countries". They are waging a war on Yemen that is "inappropriate" and "against international law", and "contrary to the region’s stability".
It seems like Kerry looked into a mirror, lacked the self awareness to recognize himself and accused Iran of being all he saw.
Does he expect to be taken seriously?
Wars Are Always Short ... Until They Are Fought
November 15, 2002 - Rumsfeld: It Would Be A Short War
There will be no World War III starting with Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld declared Thursday, and rejected concerns that a war would be a quagmire.
"The idea that it's going to be a long, long, long battle of some kind I think is belied by the fact of what happened in 1990," he said on an Infinity Radio call-in program.
He said the U.S. military is stronger than it was during the Persian Gulf War, while Iraq's armed forces are weaker.
"Five days or five weeks or five months, but it certainly isn't going to last any longer than that," he said. "It won't be a World War III."
Sen. Tom Cotton says bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would take several days and be nothing like Iraq War.
Cotton said any military action against Iran would not be like the Iraq War and would instead be similar to 1999’s Operation Desert Fox, a four-day bombing campaign against Iraq ordered by President Bill Clinton.
“It would be something more along the lines of what President Clinton did in December 1998 during Operation Desert Fox. Several days air and naval bombing against Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction facilities for exactly the same kind of behavior. ..."
In Yemen Like Elsewhere The Saudi Sectarianism Creates Iran's Role
The Saudis continue their senseless war on Yemen. Next to bombing army troops and installation and thereby hindering it to go after AlQaeda they are systematically bombing electricity plants, water supplies and food centers:
Yemen Economic Corporation, one of Yemen’s largest food storage centres, was destroyed by three coalition missile strikes in Hodeidah last Tuesday, according to the Houthi-controlled defence ministry. The corporation had enough food for the entire country.
The government’s military food storage centre in Hodeidah was also targeted and destroyed on Tuesday, according to the defence ministry.
Also in Hodeidah, country’s second largest dairy plant was hit by five Saudi missiles on Wednesday, killing at least 29 people, mostly employees, and injuring dozens of others.
Unsurprisingly even those Yemenis who do not support the Zaydi Houthi rebellion are against the Saudi attacks. They will take revenge.
The Saudis continue to get favorable press coverage in the "western" media. No one seems to speak out against their war of aggression. Obama, who ordered the U.S. military to support the Saudi campaign, is only concerned with selling more weapons to them.
The Saudis want to invade Yemen but they need foot soldiers to do the bleeding. As their own people will no appreciate Saudi casualties they asked the Pakistani government to send them three divisions of cannon fodder. They specified that those division are to be purely Sunni. The Pakistani army, in a fight with Saudi supported radical Sunnis in its own country, was not amused. Some 30% of the army personal is not Sunni and the Pakistanis certainly want to keep sectarianism out of its rows. The conflict is Yemen is not about sects or religion but the Saudis, and most "western" media, do their best to turn it into one.
The Saudis have given Pakistan several "gifts" of billions of dollars and the current prime minister Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is a Saudi protege. But all parties in the parliament are against sending their troops to Yemen and Nawaz Sharif is therefore struggling to do his sponsor's bidding:
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said Pakistan is “not in a hurry” to decide whether to join the Saudi-led coalition against rebels in Yemen as Parliament resumed discussion on the issue.
The premier addressed a joint session of the Parliament a day after Defence Minister Khawaja Asif revealed Saudi Arabia wanted Pakistani warplanes, warships and soldiers. Not a single lawmaker has spoken in favour of sending troops.
The premier has repeatedly said he will defend any threat to Saudi Arabia's “territorial integrity” without defining what threat that could be, or what action he would take.
Pakistan, as well as Turkey and Iran, wants to stop the war before it gets out of hands. On Friday the Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu met his Pakistani counterpart, Nawaz Sharif, in Ankara.
That meeting is being followed by a flurry of diplomatic get-togethers: a visit to Ankara Monday for consultations by the Saudi deputy crown prince and interior minister, Mohammed bin Nayef; a visit by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to Tehran on Tuesday, where he’ll meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei; and a visit Wednesday by Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, to Islamabad. Later in the week, the Turkish foreign minister is expected in Islamabad.
The Saudis, Turks and Pakistanis want Iran involved because they believe that Tehran has control over the Houthis. I very much doubt that. Besides some minor money donations no serious material help has come from the Iranian site. The religious connections between the 12er Shia Persians and the 5er Shia Zaydis are less than those between the Zayhdis and mainstream Sunnis.
Iran did not instigate the Houthi revolt which originally started over lower fuel subsidies. It did not instigate the Saudis to bomb Yemen. But now everyone seems to want an Iranian role in a political process to end the war. While the Saudis criticize a greater role of Iran in the Middle East they themselves create the chaos that enlarges Tehran's influence.
The Saudi position reflects in the anti-Shia position of "western" media. Over the last days there were many "concerns" and hearsay reports about Shia paramilitaries looting Tikrit after liberating it from the Islamic State. It now turns out that Sunni tribes opposed to the Islamic State did the looting and that those effected were from Sunni tribes supporting the Islamic State.
U.S. media obviously believe in the immaculate conception of the current sectarian Middle East strife. It can have nothing to do with decades of U.S. wars in the Middle East or the instigation of fervent radical Saudi/Wahhabi believes. No. When in doubt, just blame Iran and who ever seems to have Iranian support. Will that ever change?
Part of my personal Easter ritual is reading out loud Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Part I
The Easter Walk
Faust. Spring's warm look has unfettered the fountains,
Brooks go tinkling with silvery feet;
Hope's bright blossoms the valley greet;
Weakly and sickly up the rough mountains
Pale old Winter has made his retreat.
Thence he launches, in sheer despite,
Sleet and hail in impotent showers,
O'er the green lawn as he takes his flight;
But the sun will suffer no white,
Everywhere waking the formative powers,
Living colors he yearns to spread;
Yet, as he finds it too early for flowers,
Gayly dressed people he takes instead.
Look from this height whereon we find us
Back to the town we have left behind us,
Where from the dark and narrow door
Forth a motley multitude pour.
They sun themselves gladly and all are gay,
They celebrate Christ's resurrection to-day.
For have not they themselves arisen?
From smoky huts and hovels and stables,
From labor's bonds and traffic's prison,
From the confinement of roofs and gables,
From many a cramping street and alley,
From churches full of the old world's night,
All have come out to the day's broad light.
See, only see! how the masses sally
Streaming and swarming through gardens and fields
How the broad stream that bathes the valley
Is everywhere cut with pleasure boats' keels,
And that last skiff, so heavily laden,
Almost to sinking, puts off in the stream;
Ribbons and jewels of youngster and maiden
From the far paths of the mountain gleam.
How it hums o'er the fields and clangs from the steeple!
This is the real heaven of the people,
Both great and little are merry and gay,
I am a man, too, I can be, to-day.
As usual, some people loathe such joy
Thoughts On That Maybe-Deal About Iran's Nuclear Achievements
Some preliminary deal has been agreed upon in Geneva that will restrict Iran's civil nuclear research and production program in exchange for lifting sanctions.
The deal is unfinished. The devil is in the details and those have yet to be agreed upon. The deal will fail when on June 30 those agreements will turn out to be unachievable.
There are many distortions and lies in the "western" reporting on the issue. Facts that are left out include:
- The whole crisis over a "nuclear Iran" is manufactured based on lies from Israeli and U.S. intelligence services. The target of the U.S. and Israeli operations was never a "nuclear Iran" but an Iranian Islamic Republic that insists on independent internal and foreign policies.
- Iranian leaders have declared that any weapons of mass destruction contradict the philosophical and religious base of the Islamic State of Iran. They have insisted on this and did not retaliate even when their cities came under chemical attacks during the Iraq-Iran war.
- All U.S. intelligence services agree that Iran does not have any military nuclear program. There is nothing to fear from a pure civil nuclear program in Iran.
- All sanctions on Iran are illegal in the very first place. They have no basis in facts or law.
There is now a very disturbing tendency in U.S. commentary, following Obama's lead, to say that the (unfinished) deal should be taken because it the only alternative is war.
- Who would start and wage such a war?
- On what legal basis?
- For what purpose given that Iran clearly has no military nuclear program?
Such stupid alternative "deal or war" as argument for a deal is dangerous because the deal can still fail and the hawks will then argue that "even the lubral commentators said 'deal or war' so now it must be war."
Indeed, given Obama's very aggressive foreign policy thus far I can not exclude that war on Iran is his real aim and only hidden behind very public but sham negotiations to make a public case for it.
Why Wage War On Yemen?
There is no sensible reason to wage war on Yemen.
Yemen is dirt poor. More than half of its 26 million people depend on food aid. Yemen has to import 90% of the wheat and 100% of the rice it consumes. That little water that is available for agriculture is used up for growing qat, a mild stimulant that everyone seems to be using. Growing qat is more profitable than growing wheat.
Yemen produced some oil and gas and this was the main income of the state. But with falling oil prices and increased conflicts the income was less than was already needed and has now come down to zero. Another important source of income are remittances by people working outside the country, often in Saudi Arabia.
Some 40% of the population, mostly the northern mountain tribes are Zaidi 5er Shia who in their believes, rites and laws are nearer to some Sunni interpretations of Islam than to the 12er Shia's versions in Iran and Iraq.
The other 60% of Yemenis are Sunnis of various Sufi tendencies. There was and is no real history of sectarian strife within the Yemeni society. In the current conflict the Zaidi Houthi rebels are fighting next to some units of the Yemeni army with mostly Sunni soldiers. The Houthi are a Zaidi revival movement which pushes for the historic leading role of the Zaidis in the country.
Over the last decades Saudi Arabia sponsored Salafi schools and preachers in Yemen. These follow the Wahhabi stream prevalent in Saudi Arabia and see the Zaidi as nonbelievers and the Sufi stream as unislamic. One Salafi school with 8,000 followers was situated in Dammaj, right in the middle of the Zaidi province Saada, has been central to the current inner Yemeni conflict.
The Houthi have been fighting against the central government since 2004. After the former president Saleh was ousted in 2011 during the Arab Spring a sham election was held to put the former vice president Hadi into the top job and a process of creating a new constitution and a sham democracy was initiated. The task was left to the Gulf Clown Council under the leadership of Saudi Arabia and some UN bureaucrats who had no real knowledge of Yemen. The Houthi were excluded from the process which of course failed.
Eventually the Houthi, with the help of some army units, took over the capital Sana and pressured president Hadi to create an inclusive technocratic government to solve some of the country's most urgent problems. Over several month a hassle ensued and in the end Hadi fled to South Yemen and eventually to Saudi Arabia. The Houthi, allied with some military units under the command of the former president Saleh started to take over the country.
The Saudis and their U.S. minders want Yemen to depend on them and dislike any real Yemeni independence. They are, like the "west", a neo-colonial state while the Houthi are, like Iran or China, a post colonial entity:
U.S. Trained Fascists To Storm Kiev
The United States plans to send soldiers to Ukraine in April for training exercises with units of the country's national guard.
Ukraine's Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said in a Facebook post on Sunday that the units to be trained include the Azov Battalion, ...
Avakov said the training will begin April 20 at a base in western Ukraine near the Polish border and would involve about 290 American paratroopers and some 900 Ukrainian guardsmen.
Though the 900-member Azov Brigade adds needed manpower to repulse the rebels, members who say they are Nazis are sparking controversy, and complaints of abuses against civilians have turned some residents against them.
A drill sergeant who would identify himself only as Alex wore a patch depicting Thor's Hammer, an ancient Norse symbol appropriated by neo-Nazis, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
In an interview with USA TODAY, he admitted he is a Nazi and said with a laugh that no more than half his comrades are fellow Nazis. He said he supports strong leadership for Ukraine, like Germany during World War II, ...
The U.S. military will train east European Nazis to fight east-Ukrainian "Russians". One wonder how well that will end. The last armies trained by the U.S. military were the Georgian, Afghan and Iraqi one. All turned out to be major failures in combat. All were prone to abuse of civilians, prisoners and other crimes.
The training will start on April 20. That is Hitler's birthday celebrated by Nazi groups like Azov. The decision to train fascist Ukrainian national guard troops instead of the Ukrainian military smells like a White House interference. Who else would up with such a childish idea of needling Russia?
Then again ... At least those Azov folks may in the end hurt the right people:
He vowed that when the war ends, his comrades will march on the capital, Kiev, to oust a government they consider corrupt.
U.S. Military Again Delays Training Of Jabhat al-Nusra Recruits
The U.S. had plans to train Syrian insurgents who are then supposed to fight the Islamic State. But Turkey, where the training is supposed to take place, wants those fighters to attack the Syrian government.
The U.S. plans, unrealistic to begin with, have again been delayed:
A U.S.-led program to train Syrian rebels to fight Islamic State militants will start in May, Turkey's Defense Minister Ismet Yilmaz was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency on Tuesday.
Details on the training - due to take place in Turkey, Jordan, Qatar and Saudi Arabia - have been scant, although it had previously been planned to start this month.
This delay comes after Jabhat al-Nusra, the Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, captured the Syrian city of Idlib. The Syrian military accuses Turkey of directly supporting Jabhat al Nusra:
Echoing more general comments by President Bashar al-Assad, the military source accused both Turkey and Jordan of supporting the insurgents in their Idlib offensive, saying they were "leading operations and planning them". The insurgents were using advanced communication apparatus that had been supplied to them via Turkey, the source added.
The Turkish foreign ministry declined to comment.
The Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi, who is near to the centers of power in Saudi Arabia, confirms the Syrian allegations:
Saudi Arabian and Turkish sponsors, [Mr. Khashoggi, the Saudi editor,] said, had backed the coalition of jihadist groups that recently captured the Syrian city of Idlib in the first major victory in months against the government of President Bashar al-Assad.
One participant in the coalition was the Nusra Front, the Syrian arm of Al Qaeda, a terrorist group in the eyes of the West. But members of the jihadi coalition “are the ones who captured Idlib, it is an important development, and I think we are going to see more of that,” Mr. Khashoggi said. “Coordination between Turkish and Saudi intelligence has never been as good as now.”
Western diplomat tells me Saudi has decided to provide al-Nusra (al-qaeda) in #Syria with whatever it needs.
If the U.S. military would train those fighters in Turkey they would likely turn into Jihadis attached to Jabhat al-Nusra as soon as they re-enter Syrian land. The Pentagon does not like to be seen in direct support of Al-Qaeda.
The CIA though ...
Open Thread 2015-16
News & views ...
Is The Fall Of Idlib Part Of The Nuclear Negotiations With Iran?
Some ten days ago there were rumors of an imminent jihadist attack on Idlib in north west Syria. Idlib, a governate city that once had 100,000 inhabitants, is only a few miles from the Turkish border and the Syrian government forces only held a narrow corridor towards it.
Three weeks ago the Turkish government closed all nearby border crossings between Turkey and Syria to civil traffic. Four days ago a coalition of Jabhat al-Nusra (the alQaeda affiliate in Syria), the Islamist Ahrar Al-Shams group and a few smaller groups started an all out attack on Idlib. At least 1,500 fighters took part in the attack. Four huge vehicle borne suicide attacks on government held road barriers broke the outer government defenses.
The Syrian army sent a few reinforcements but those were not enough to hold the attacks coming simultaneously from three sides. Today the government forces retreated and formed a new blocking line south of the city. Jabhat al-Nusra published videos showing some of its fighters in the center of the seemingly empty city. This map by Peto Lucem shows the current situation.
Other videos and pictures out of Idlib show only very few captured vehicles. One T-62 seems to have been destroyed and only one more plus three infantry carriers were captured. This suggest that the government side had already pulled out its heavy weapons and was ready to cede the city to its opponents.
Under current circumstances the city was of little strategic, military or economic value but it took rather large efforts to hold and resupply it. Giving it up while intensifying efforts in the more strategic areas in the south and around Damascus is the right decision from a purely military point of view but is still a loss in the propaganda and political ground of the war.
But with obvious nearby Turkish (and U.S.) support for Jabhat al-Nusra and other jihadist groups any further efforts to hold the city against a determined attack would have taken disproportionate forces and would have weakened defenses elsewhere.
It is an interesting coincidence that three simultaneous events in three countries,
- the attack on Idlib,
- the U.S. intervention against Shia militia in the Tirkit operation,
- the Wahhabi attack on Yemen,
all seem to be designed to weaken Iran-allied forces. This at the same time as the negotiations over Iran nuclear program in Switzerland reach their climax. Does this coincidence suggest a central coordination of these attacks designed to weaken Iran's (psychological) position in the nuclear negotiations?
U.S. Role In Iraq Endangers Anti-Islamic State Fight
Some 4,000 Iraqi army troops and some 25,000 Shia militia have surrounded Tikrit in Iraq. There are few civilians left in the city but some 1,000 Islamic State fighters have barricaded themselves inside and digging them out would be a very bloody and costly affair. Up to recent days the U.S. was not involved in the Tikrit campaign.
The Iranian advisers who accompany the militia had therefore decided not to storm the city but to revert to siege tactics cutting off electricity, water and all other supplies to weaken their opponents. They are using artillery against the Islamic State positions and plan to eventually storm the city but they see no urgent need to do it now.
But somehow that situation was disliked in Washington and the U.S. is has muscled itself into a position to command the campaign. But doing so endangers the whole anti-Islamic State campaign. There is suspicion that this is the indented purpose of the scheme.
Some elements in the Iraqi army, trained by the United States, have insisted on U.S. air strikes on Tikrit. The Shia militia and their advisers have insisted that these are unnecessary. Under U.S. pressure the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi sided with his U.S. trained military staff and allegedly ordered the Iranian general Suleiman to leave. Now the U.S. bombs the city but the bigger Tikrit campaign is falling apart.
Army Gen. Lloyd Austin, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees operations in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on Thursday that the United States had insisted that the militias and their Iranian advisers, including top Iranian commander Gen. Qassem Suleimani, withdraw from the battle before the U.S. would agree to launch airstrikes. Suleimani, a once shadowy figure who’d become an increasingly public presence in Iraq, left the Tikrit area over the weekend and may have returned to Iran.
Iraqi militia forces that have led the fight against Islamic State militants in Tikrit balked at U.S. intervention Thursday, saying that they would stop thousands of fighters under their influence from joining an offensive on the city.
Washington has pushed for Shiite militias to leave the battlefield, even as it is drawn into a fight against their enemy, the Islamic State militants. But the Shiite militias, many of which are hostile to the United States, play a dominant role among the Iraqi forces. Around Tikrit, they outnumber the regular Iraqi government troops by more than 6 to 1.
“All the popular mobilization will refuse to fight until the American airstrikes stop,” said Moeen al-Kadhimi, head of the popular mobilization committee on Baghdad’s provincial council. “Let them try to do it without us. America is just trying to steal our victory.”
That the U.S. wants "to steal the victory" is not the real concern. Many of the "Hashd" volunteers and their leaders believe that the U.S. created the Islamic State and that it has interests in keeping it alive:
“We don’t trust the American-led coalition in combating ISIS,” said Naeem al-Uboudi, the spokesman for Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the three groups which said it would withdraw from the front line around Tikrit. “In the past, they have targeted our security forces and dropped aid to ISIS by mistake,” he said.
The U.S. bombing of Tikrit started yesterday. Here are two results. Consider how the volunteer militia fighting the Islamic State will interpret these.
Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#BreakingNews: 6 killed and 13 wounded of Kataeb Hezbollah #Iraq & the federal Police by the #USA led coalition south of #Tikrit (c.damage)
12:02 PM - 26 Mar 2015
Elijah J. Magnier @EjmAlrai
#Iraq Hashd al-Sha'bi #Tikrit Brigade seems hit by an air strike today.Many casualties. Confidence between #USA and Hashd is lower than ever
3:05 AM - 27 Mar 2015
The awesome reconnaissance capabilities the U.S. air force uses and its expensive precise weapons managed to directly hit the "friendly forces" which are laying the siege on Tikrit. Twice within less than 24 hours?
Who will believe that these direct hits were made in error and are just collateral damage?
Why is the U.S. pressing for a role in the Tikrit affair when the result, for lack of feet on the ground, is now likely to be a complete failure?
The Wahhabis' War On Yemen
Just yesterday I wrote that the Saudis would not dare to attack Yemen. I was wrong with this:
While the Saudi army is now sending some troops to its southern border with Yemen neither the Saudi army nor the Egyptian will want to fight and lose again against the Yemeni tribes. The Pakistanis are unwilling to send troops. The request for troops the disposed president Hadi made will therefore be ignored. No foreign troops will invade Yemen and the Houthis will for now remain the ruling force.
Over night the Saudi air force attacked the Dulaimi military airbase in Sanaa, the capitol of Yemen.
Yesterday the Houthi led rebellion had kicked the Saudi/U.S. installed president Hadi out of the country and took control over most of its cities including the southern capitol Aden. The Houthi are allied with the former president Saleh, himself a Houthi and replaced two years ago with his vice president Hadi after a U.S. induced light coup. Saleh and the Houthi are supported by significant parts of the Yemeni army. The Saudis had warned that any move against Aden whereto Hadi hat earlier fled would have consequences but no one took that serious.
The Saudis have now announced, through their embassy in Washington(!), that a coalition of Sunni led countries will attack Yemen. These include at least nominally Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain. The Saudis say that 100 of its warplanes and 150,000 soldiers will take part in the campaign. They also announced an air and sea blockade against the country.
The U.S. is "supporting", i.e. guiding, the campaign through a coordination cell. The White House statement says:
In response to the deteriorating security situation, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, and others will undertake military action to defend Saudi Arabia’s border and to protect Yemen’s legitimate government. As announced by GCC members earlier tonight, they are taking this action at the request of Yemeni President Abdo Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
The United States coordinates closely with Saudi Arabia and our GCC partners on issues related to their security and our shared interests. In support of GCC actions to defend against Houthi violence, President Obama has authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support to GCC-led military operations. While U.S. forces are not taking direct military action in Yemen in support of this effort, we are establishing a Joint Planning Cell with Saudi Arabia to coordinate U.S. military and intelligence support.
While bashing Obama the usual warmongers in Congress support this attack.
There seems to be the idea that Saudi/U.S. selected president Hadi, out now, could be reintroduced through force. The U.S. claims that Hadi was "elected" but with a ballot like this any "election" is a mere joke. There is no way Hadi can be reintroduced by force. The chance to achieve the war's aim is therefore low.
Someone warned the Houthis of the imminent attack and they evacuated their offices before they were hit. They declared that all agreements between Yemen and Saudi Arabia , including the 1934 Taif border treaty line, are now null and void and the Saudi provinces of Najran, Asir and Jizan, long claimed as historic parts of Yemen, would be taken back.
The Yemenis are fiercely independent and dislike the arrogant Saudis. The Houthis especially have been at war for over a decade. There are tons of weapons in the country including some $500 million worth the U.S. "lost" after it delivered them to its allies on the ground. The chances for the Saudis to win in a fight against Yemen are very low. Pat Lang, former military attache in Yemen, writes about the Houthi:
Spectacularly gifted in field craft, endowed with a wry, dry sense of humor and fiercely independent among the clans and against whatever government might be, these perpetually armed little hill men make good friends but bad enemies.
Gregory Johnson, who studied Yemen, explains the roots of Houthi's campaign against the various U.S. supported governments in Yemen. Emad Mostaque describes the economic background. There are two Wikileaks cables (1 2) about the Saudi fight with Houthis in 2009. The Saudis ended that campaign after enduring unexpected losses.
While the Houthi have also enemies inside Yemen, and would likely not rule for long without a new internal political compromise, the attack by outsiders is likely to unite all Yemeni forces except maybe Al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula.
To see this whole conflict as a sectarian Shia-Sunni proxy war between Iran and Saudi Arabia is wrong:
While the chief combatants in the civil war are certainly playing the sectarian card to some degree, there is reason to think that Yemen will not necessarily become part of some regional sectarian conflict. Regardless of their foreign ties, both the Shiite Houthis and their Sunni opponents are deeply rooted in Yemen, and they are motivated primarily by local issues.
The main danger now is that the Western powers, Saudi Arabia or Egypt will overreact and seek to intervene, ostensibly to counter Iranian influence or to quash the efforts of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula to gain territory. Yet foreign intervention could very well be the worst approach now—further regionalizing what is still a local fight, injecting a stronger sectarian tone into the conflict while threatening to push Yemen closer to implosion.
As Pat Lang concludes:
The Houthi descendants of my old acquaintances are not servants of Iran. They are not dangerous to Western interests. They are dangerous to AQAP. Get it? Salih will return.
Seen like this the U.S. supported Saudi campaign is actually in support of their Wahhabi Al-Qaeda brethren, not in support of the majority of Yemenis. It is stupid (but typical) for the U.S to support such a move. The fight will, like the British dirty campaign against Yemen in the 1960s which Adam Curtis describes, not result in any progress or success for any of its participants.
The only immediate winners those oil producing countries which are currently distressed by low prices. Oil went up by 6% after the Saudis' plans were announced.
Yemen Joins The Axis Of Resistance
The tribal groups in north Yemen that make up the Houthi movement have always been distinct in their fighting spirits. When the Saudi army was send to beat them it was thoroughly defeated. They have also always felt that they did not receive a fair share of Yemen's not so big oil revenues and other spoils. During the last decades they fought some six small wars against the Yemeni army.
In 2012 the U.S. and its Wahhabi Arabic Gulf allies expelled the longtime Yemeni president Saleh and replaced him with his vice president Hadi. There was some hope that Hadi would change the quarrel on the ground and teh dysfunctional state but the unrest in the country kept growing and as the oil prices went down so went the Yemeni government.
Hadi could only beg the Saudis to finance him and in return had to fulfill their political demands. Meanwhile al-Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula kept growing in Yemen, U.S. drone strikes killed more and more tribe members in the south and deserved revenge and a southern independence movement added to the tumult. All this led to the rise of the Houthis (video, 45min).
The Houthis, allied with the former president Saleh and some parts of the dysfunctional Yemeni army, decided to take on the state. In 2014 they captured parts of the capitol Sanaa and expanded the territory they controlled. In January Hadi fled to Aden in the south. Many people belonging to the Houthi groups are Zaidi Shia. Their believe differs from Iranian 12er Shia believe and their religious rituals have more in common with Sunni rituals than with mainstream Shia. Yemen is in general not as sectarian as other gulf countries. Various variants of believe mix and often use the same mosques.
But Houthi, like many other Yemenis, despise the Saudis and their Wahhabism. It is mostly therefore that they are accused of being allied with Iran. While there are certainly some sympathies between Iran and the Houthi groups there is no evidence of outright support.
Today the Houthi expanded their rule to southern Yemen including to the southern main city Aden. President Hadi, deposed by the now ruling Houthi leaders, fled the city and allegedly went into exile in Oman. The Houthi are now the main force in the country and in control of the government.
The Gulf countries and the U.S., who supported Hadi, shut down their embassies and U.S. troops left the country. Hadi has called on the United Nations, Egypt and the Gulf Cooperation Council to send troops into Yemen. Egypt had troops fighting in Yemen during the North Yemen civil war between 1962 and 1970. It was a disaster and some 26,000 Egyptian soldiers were killed. In 2009 the Saudi army fought against north Yemeni tribes in a small conflict over the Saudi Yemeni border barrier, the smuggling of drugs, weapons and immigrants, as well as grazing rights. Within three month the Saudis lost at least 133 men and the overall conflict. In March the Saudis requested troops from Pakistan to fight its war against the allegedly Iran allied Yemeni Houthi groups. To their surprise Pakistan rejected the request.
While the Saudi army is now sending some troops to its southern border with Yemen neither the Saudi army nor the Egyptian will want to fight and lose again against the Yemeni tribes. The Pakistanis are unwilling to send troops. The request for troops the disposed president Hadi made will therefore be ignored. No foreign troops will invade Yemen and the Houthis will for now remain the ruling force. As they lack, like the whole country, money and other resources they will soon look for a "sponsor". Iran might give a bit but the Saudis will have to really pay up to keep their border with Yemen quiet. Unlike before that money will no longer buy them any influence but only keep trouble away.
Yemen has now joined the Iran led axis of resistance consisting of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Hizbullah in Lebanon. The Saudi Wahhabis see these mostly Shia forces as their eternal enemies. Like the other axis members Yemen will now fight against the Saudi sponsored AlQaeda and Islamic State jihadis.
The U.S., while allied with Saudi Arabia and the other anti-Shia Arab countries at the Gulf, needs Hizbullah to keep Lebanon from falling apart. It does not want the Syrian government to fall. It supports the Iraqi government against the Islamic State and it is likely to soon request support from the Houthis for its drone campaign against AlQaeda in the Arab peninsula.
This is a remarkable turn around from a decade ago when the resistance side was a major U.S. enemy and seemed to be losing the fight.
Blog Trouble (Meta)
As you will have noticed there was a bit of trouble with the blog. Typepad, the provider of the blog hosting service, closed the comments and prevented me from posting because of a payment issue.
The story behind that problem:
The credit card through which Typepad bills me had expired. I entered the renewed credit card data -only the expiration date had changed- and thought everything was fine. Then I received an email from Typepad saying they could not verify the credit card data. I again entered the data but that would not verify either and they blocked the blog because the credit card issuer assumed fraud.
After some back and forth we found that my office address attached to my Typepad account, and which is also used for credit card verification, did not fit the credit card address to which the card was issued to. But the credit card belongs to my office checking account and to my office address or so I thought. Everything looked correct to me.
After two days of phonecalls with the credit card issuer and my bank I found that the bank had issued the new credit card to the address of my private checking account instead of the office account where it belongs.
So I again entered the data and changed the address to my private one to which the credit card was now suddenly issued. That did not end the problem though. It still doesn't verify but Typepad now says that the problem for that may be with a changed verification process on the credit card issuer side. But after some SCREAMING at their help desk they also reopened the blog.
I 'll be back with some regular posting tomorrow.
Open Thread 2015-15
News & views ...
Created A Mess in The Middle East? Just Blame Iran.
A disgraced former U.S. general, who gave away top government secrets to get laid, has some opinion on the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq:
"I would argue that the foremost threat to Iraq’s long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium is not the Islamic State; rather, it is Shiite militias, many backed by — and some guided by — Iran."
With that logic the U.S. should help the Islamic State in its fight against militia who are backed by Iran.
Years ago the very same general created those sectarian Shia militias he now tries to sell as a threat. The Wolf Brigade, a Shia militia in Iraq created by the U.S., was under his direct command when it randomly tortured and killed Sunnis in Mosul. The sectarian war in Iraq is for a great part his personal doing:
[I]n order to advance to a still higher command and get his fourth star, Petraeus needed the support of Wolfowitz and the White House. The evidence that has emerged in recent years indicates he was involved in the key decisions to using Shi'a sectarian paramilitary forces for counterinsurgency operations in Sunni population centers.
It is the same general who created the new generation of warlords in Afghanistan under the deceiving label Afghan Local Police:
“This program mobilizes communities in self-defense against those who would undermine security in their areas,” Petraeus told congress in March 2011. “For that reason, the growth of these elements is of particular concern to the Taliban, whose ability to intimidate the population is limited considerably by it.”
It turns out that while Petraeus was burnishing his bio with black book fodder for Paula Broadwell’s 2012 hagiographical All In: The Education of General David Petraeus, his “community watch” was becoming a village horror show for Afghan civilians in a number of ways—right under the noses of the U.S. Special Forces who armed and trained them, and who in many cases insisted on appointing their commanders, sometimes against the locals’ adamant opposition.
Petraeus is a specialist in creating violent militia. But wiping away his own sponsoring of sectarian forces Petraeus is now blaming the creation of al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State on Iran:
The current Iranian regime is not our ally in the Middle East. It is ultimately part of the problem, not the solution. The more the Iranians are seen to be dominating the region, the more it is going to inflame Sunni radicalism and fuel the rise of groups like the Islamic State.
Al-Qaeda in Iraq and the Islamic State were created in U.S. prisons in Iraq when Iraq was under U.S. occupation. Their creation had nothing to do with Iran.
While Petraeus sees the Islamic State still somewhat as an enemy of the United State it is clear that he is excusing their being as a somewhat natural answer to a perceived bigger role of Iran. But it was the U.S. that took down the anti-Iranian Taliban government in Afghanistan. It was the U.S. that took down the Sunni led anti-Iranian government in Iraq. It is the war the U.S. is waging against Syria that created the Jihadist forces there which then drew in Iran on the side of the Syrian government. That Iran's role in the Middle East now looks bigger than fifteen years ago is the direct consequence of U.S. policies and military operations.
Like Tom Friedman Petraeus is blaming Iran for the consequences of polices he supported. Like Friedman, who even calls to arm the Islamic State, he shows sympathy for lunatic Jihadis by excusing their existence while blaming Iran.
There is little doubt where this late hand wringing over the fate of Iraqi Sunnis comes from. The Israel lobby and the neocons are afraid that the U.S. will make some kind of peace with Iran, at least on the issue of Iran's nuclear industry. Any U.S. deal with Iran will diminish Israel's position and it will lower the profits of U.S. weapon manufacturers. They want to prevent this and want to ally with the Sunni dictatorships and their bastard child Islamic State against Iran.
They should not worry so much. I doubt that the Obama administration is sincere in getting an agreement with Iran unless Iran offers an unconditional capitulation. The talks will end nowhere and the U.S. will blame Iran for U.S. intransigence. The Chinese government seems to also have the impression that the U.S. is stalling the talks:
Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi told U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday that talks on Iran's nuclear program must not fall at the last hurdle, and that all sides should meet each other half way.
"China is willing to increase communication with the United States on all levels, to together run the 'last mile' of the marathon that is the Iran nuclear talks."
Blaming Iran for the sectarianism in Iraq -which the U.S. created- for the rise of radical Jihadists -who developed in U.S. prisons- and for the consequences of the U.S. wars in the wider Middle East is against all historical facts. Blaming Iran for the failure of the nuclear talks will be added to that collection.
China Warns U.S. Not To Interfere With Its Spying
Syria yesterday zapped a U.S. spy drone over Latakia in north-west Syria. Latakia is a well protected pro-government area and fully in government hands. There are no Islamic State' nor any other anti-government fighters in the area.
"Did the drone come into Syrian territory just to have a picnic?" asked the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"As soon as it entered Syrian air space, we considered it to be gathering security and military information on Syria's territory," he told AFP.
The source said the aircraft was not immediately identified as being American, but was "dealt with as a hostile target".
Syrian air defences shot down the aircraft over the coastal province of Latakia, a stronghold of President Bashar al-Assad, state media said Tuesday.
There is a silent agreement between the Syrian government and the U.S. that U.S. strikes on Islamic State targets in areas held by forces hostile to the Syrian government will not be interfered with.
But that certainly does not extend to areas where the Syrian military is the only force worth to spy on. It is obvious that the drone, unidentified when it was shot down, was an imminent danger to Syrian interests. It had no legitimate business in the area and was correctly identified as hostile.
But U.S. hubris has no bounds so the spokesperson of the State Department, Jen Psaki, asked about the incident threatened Syria:
[W]e, of course, reiterate our warning to the Assad regime not to interfere with U.S. aerial assets over Syria.
In other news the Chinese government reiterated its warning to the Obama regime not to interfere with Chinese cyber assets on U.S. computer systems.
How will Psaki respond to that?
Kerry Renews Assault On Syria
The U.S. launched a renewed push for regime change in Syria.
It started with an interview Secretary of State Kerry gave to CBS with a question on Syria. Kerry's answer was (intentionally?) misreported as the U.S. position softening and being ready to negotiate with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. But that was not a new position, nor was that the remarkable part of Kerry's answer. Here is what he really said:
[T]he fact that there isn't something visible to the eye every day right now does not mean we haven't upped what we are doing, because we have, and our allies know that. [...] But we're also increasing our efforts in a very significant way, working with the moderate opposition, but doing much more than that also. We're also pursuing a diplomatic track.
[This] may require that there be increased pressure on [Assad] of various kinds in order to do that. We have made it very clear to people that we are looking at increased steps that can help to bring about that pressure. [...] I'm personally engaged in that effort, and President Obama is extremely seized of the issue and focused on it with the intent to see what we can do to change the dynamic.
Kerry announced that the U.S. will increase the pressure and use more force to pursue its lunatic plan for regime change in Syria. The Syrian government dismissed Kerry's words as meaningless.
These Kerry remarks come after the Syrian Arab Army and its allies failed to close the corridor between the insurgency occupied parts of Aleppo and the Turkish border. Their ill planned offensive in the area of Handradat broke down under a sustained counterattack from insurgency forces, mostly foreign mercenaries from Jabhat al-Nusra allegedly led by Turkish special forces. By supporting the Jihadists Turkey is now the becoming the new Pakistan.
The U.S., allied with various Islamists, has pushed for forced regime change since the earliest days of the conflict in Syria. According to the usually reliable Lebanese paper As-Safir the U.S. was directly responsible for the July 2012 terror attack which killed a high ranking crisis team of the Syrian government in Damascus. The attack was supposed to be the initiator for the regime to fall. In that it failed.
Even after most of the U.S. supported "moderate rebels" failed in recent months and handed the weapons the U.S. provided to al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria Jabhat al-Nusra new weapons seem to reach the battlefield. The U.S. also just provided another $70 million to the 5-star exile government including some $15 million for media activities. This is the money that pays for the anti-Syrian Twitter hordes and for fake anti-Assad videos.
It is in this context of the continuously supported insurgency that Kerry's remark came. Cued by Kerry a renewed media push for international condemnation and legal action against the Syrian government was launched. Yesterday an obviously fake video of "Victims of chemical attacks on Sarmin, Syria March 16, 2015" made the rounds. In it three small, naked kids are provided with "first aid" after what is said to have been a helicopter attack with chlorine gas. Some of the persons running around in played panic carry gas masks, others just surgery masks. The care the children receive is superficial and some of the kids seem to be sedated to emphasize their helplessness.
What is missing are explanations on why the Syrian government would throw ineffective chlorine, which is not a chemical weapon, from helicopters when simple bombs are likely to be more effective. What is also missing are other casualties than three naked kids. What is missing is an explanation for their nakedness when all people around them are clothed. And why, if they were really injured by gas, are people running around and filming instead of giving first aid?
Recently the UN Security Council had adopted a resolution that condemned the use of chlorine in Syria by all parties of the conflict. But chlorine has only been used by the insurgency sides, especially Jabhat al-Nusra which two years ago had captured Syria's sole chlorine factory. The Islamic State has recently also used chlorine as a weapon in improvised roadside bombs in Iraq.
The UN resolution was under Chapter 7 of the UN charter which, in principle, allows for force to be used to enforce it. One wonders why Russia and China agreed to it when it was likely and predictable that the U.S. or one of its allies would initiate a false flag event to abuse this?
But this campaign of UN resolution and fake video of a chlorine attack were not the only elements of Kerry's push for renewing the conflict. Yesterday a U.S. drone was shot down over western Syria. It had been coming from Incirlik airport in Turkey but was obviously flying in Syrian air space. What are U.S. drones doing over Syria?
There is also another push at the U.N. to initiate a "special tribunal" against the Syrian government. It is likely to fail but adds to the current propaganda onslaught.
Instead of concentrating on the real danger in the Middle East, the lunatic Jihadists of the Islamic State and al-Nusra, the U.S. continues its efforts to destroy the Syrian state and is thereby creating more space for the Jihadis to move into.
Towards The End Of The U.S. Dominated International Money System
Welcome to the end of Brenton Woods and the Washington Consensus that defined the world money systems around U.S. controlled institutions and the U.S. dollar as the sole reserve currency.
Germany, France and Italy said on Tuesday they had agreed to join a new China-led Asian investment bank after close ally Britain defied U.S. pressure to become a founder member of a venture seen in Washington as a rival to the World Bank.
The concerted move to participate in Beijing's flagship economic outreach project was a diplomatic blow for the United States, reflecting European eagerness to partner with China's fast-growing economy, the second largest in the world.
It comes amid prickly trade negotiations between Brussels and Washington, and at a time when EU and Asian governments are frustrated that the U.S. Congress has held up a reform of voting rights in the International Monetary Fund due to give China and other emerging economies more say in global economic governance.
Especially under the Obama administration the U.S. abused its important role in international finance to further its political pet projects at the cost of other participants in the system.
On Washington's insistence the International Monetary Fund is breaking its rules to finance a civil war in Ukraine. U.S. spying on the SWIFT banking information exchange is used to sanction U.S. enemies by excluding them from the international banking system. Foreign banks get punished with huge fines because they conduct business with countries the U.S. sees as unpalatable. Wall Streets huge mortgage scam and selling of worthless derivatives to foreign entities left the world economy in shambles and investors and whole countries bankrupt but went completely unpunished.
Enough. Over time the world will no longer adhere to the rules set in Washington. The global banking system will evolve into a multipolar system where different public international banks will act and where monetary information exchanges can be conducted on various systems under various jurisdiction.
This will be a huge loss to the coercive power of the U.S. and thereby a good step towards a more Westphalian world where power is more equally distributed. International sanctions against countries that defy U.S. regime change orders will no longer be sustainable.
Leader Of The Jewish People Reveals Vast Jewish Conspiracy
Many people have claimed that a vast Zionist conspiracy, funded by rich foreign Jews with communist leanings, is manipulating the people through the Zionist owned and controlled media. The purpose of this conspiracy is to overthrow the government and to implement policies which are against the will and the best interest of the people.
The above is an antisemitic slur? An excerpt from the fake Protocols of the Elders of Zion? A Nazi fantasy?
No. The above is the publicly proclaimed, learned opinion of the current Prime Minister of Israel Benjamin Netanyahoo:
Leftist activists and the foreign and international media are conspiring to get [the opposition] elected via illegitimate means, using innuendo and foreign money.
We have received many reports from people who work for Yedioth Ahoronoth regarding [publisher] Noni Mozes, who is leading a carefully orchestrated campaign against me. He is aided by various organizations that function with the support of tycoons in Israel and abroad, and also with the support of foreign governments.
The only response to Noni Mozes’s campaign of seduction and to the millions of dollars that are flowing in from abroad to leftist organizations, is to go next week and cast the only ballot possible: only Likud.
Who will deny any claims of greedy Jewish manipulations of the public when even the self-proclaimed leader of the Jewish people is publicly asserting such?
Whatever happens in politics musts be the result of a conspiracy by wealthy Jewish businessmen, Zionist media barons, foreign government interests under the influences of some despicable ideology.
Just ask Netanyahoo.
Neocons Probably Going Wobbly On Bombing Iran
Fred Hiatt's funny pages again and again come up with ever same demand "Bomb, bomb, bomb Iran". But the neocon crew now seem a little bit unsure about the issue.
Today's funny page "Bomb Iran" piece is by the notorious neocon Joshua Muravchik. It has astonishingly a somewhat qualified headline: War with Iran is probably our best option.
One wonders why this is qualified. Why only probably? Why not the guaranteed best option? Why not for sure?
Joshua Muravchik, a one trick bomb Iran pony, is usually much more assertive when calling for bombing Iran. Here he is straight out and unqualified in a 2006 op-ed in a LA Times headlined simply as Bomb Iran. In 2007 he is quoted in The Guardian with no reservations: Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring. In a 2009 in a Foreign Policy letter to his fellow neoconservatives: Operation Come back. 2011 in an American Enterprise piece: TWO CHEERS - Second Thoughts on the Bush Doctrine. 2014 in Hoover Institute paper: Time to Combat the Spreading Virus of Radical Islam
[W]e must stop Iran’s nuclear program, and the only likely way to achieve this is by military means.
It was always "bomb Iran" demanded as response to the ever false claim that Iran is striving for nukes. Bombing Iran was not "probably" the best option but "the only likely way". "Bomb Iran!" straight away, fully lunatic and unqualified.
Why is it now only probably good to bomb Iran?
Open Thread 2015-14News & views ... (and NOT evermore 9/11 theories)
The "Most Outlandish" Empire Semantics
The government of the Unites States (GDP US$ 16,768,100 million) declares that the situation in Venezuela (GDP US$ 371,339 million):
... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States
This, the White House says, requires to:
... declare a national emergency to deal with that threat
"Why," ask the Venezuelans, including the U.S. sponsored opposition, "do you think we are an unusual and extraordinary threat which requires you to declare a national emergency?
"We do not believe for a moment that you are an unusual and extraordinary threat which requires us to declare a national emergency", is the answer:
Officials in Washington said that declaring Venezuela a national security threat was largely a formality.
"A formality?" ask Venezuelans. "Why is it a formality to see us as an unusual and extraordinary threat to your national security? That does not make sense. What's next? Will it be a simply a formality to kill us?"
"It is formality needed to be able to sanction some of your government officials," an anonymous U.S. senior official explains. "To do so the law requires that we declare you to be an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security which requires us to declare a national emergency."
"But we ain't no such threat. You yourself says so. So why would you sanction our officials when you yourself say that there is no real basis for this? On what legal grounds are you acting? Why these sanctions?"
"Because the the situation in Venezuela ... constitutes an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States which requires us to declare a national emergency to deal with that threat."
"That is like declaring war on us. That does not make sense".
"Well, it's just a formality."
On might have hoped that the above would be the "most outlandish" nonsense the U.S. government could produce. But that is not yet the case.
The Venezuelan President Maduro responded in the National Assembly:
“The aggression and the threat of the government of the United States is the greatest threat that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, our country, has ever received,” he said to applause, [...] “Let’s close ranks like a single fist of men and women. We want peace.”
He spoke of past American military interventions in Latin America and warned that the United States was preparing an invasion and a naval blockade of Venezuela.
“For human rights, they are preparing to invade us,” he said, ...
During the last 125 years the U.S. intervened in South America at least 56 times through military or intelligence operations. This ever intervening country is the same country that just declared Venezuela to be an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States that requires to declare a national emergency.
It is certainly not outlandish for Maduro to believe that such a declaration will be followed by one of those continued interventions. Especially not when disguised U.S. officials travel around Venezuela and distribute money to opposition parties. Maduro is not alone in seeing the threat of another U.S. intervention. All South American nations have condemned the U.S. declaration and even pro-American opposition politicians in Venezuela were outraged about it.
But for the ever anonymous U.S. officials it is the victim of their outlandish exaggerations that doth protest too much:
“It’s remarkable that the [Venezuelan] government can say the most outlandish things about the U.S. government — what is this, the 16th or 17th coup attempt that we’re doing? And now we’re invading?” the official said. “The shelf life of all of these accusations is what, a day or two? Even the dullest of media consumers is going to see that there is no invasion.”
Noting the U.S. doublespeak in this whole affair it advise to be very careful in believing that "there is no invasion" claim.
Another "Let's Ally With Nusra" Campaign
In October 2013 a media campaign tried to sell Jabhat al-Nusra, Al-Qaeda's arm in Syria, as the "good terrorist" worthy of "western" support against the "bad terrorists" of the Islamic State. Other jihadist groups like Ahrar al-Shams were also seen by some as favorable allies.
Qatar, the main sponsor of Jabhat al-Nusra, is now again trying to sell the al-Qaeda terrorists as the solution against the Islamic State everyone has been waiting for. This as more and more U.S. sponsored "moderate rebels" defect towards al-Nusra.
The new campaign started with a claim in a Reuters piece, based solely on a the words of one unreliable Syrian "rebel" and anonymous Qatari sources, that Jabhat might loosen ties with al-Qaeda central in exchange for Qatari money and "western" help. Latter an official Jabhat al-Nusra paper only somewhat denied that. Then two pieces by "western" experts were launched which both try to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as the "good" side that deserves "our" support. These are not, like earlier, slightly hidden propaganda suggestions but straight out arguments to ally with al-Qaeda.
At the BBC site one Dr. Roberts is arguing for better relations with Jabhat al Nusra. In reference to the Reuters report of intensive Qatari contacts with Nusra (which Nusra somewhat denied) he writes:
Indeed, there is no chance that Qatar is doing this alone: the US and UK governments will certainly be involved in or at least apprised of Qatar's plans.
And, with increasing desperation in the face of IS and Bashar al-Assad's resilience, a reformed, effective fighting force would be welcomed by the West.
In such a changeable, fractured operating environment, Qatar will not be able to engineer a clean break of the Nusra Front from al-Qaeda.
But, in a context where the best that can be hoped for is the "least worst" solution, Qatar's plan is as viable as any other.
So working with al-Qaeda in Syria, which Dr. Roberts himself says can not really reform, is "as viable" as, for example, making peace with the Syrian government?
Dr Roberts "was the Director of the Qatar office of the Royal United Services Institute (Rusi). His book Qatar: Securing the Global Ambitions of a City State will be published in 2015." He is clearly a lobbyist for Qatar paid, in whatever way, to promote the policies of that Wahhabi dictatorship.
The piece by one Barak Mendlesohn in Foreign Affairs is worse and even headlined Accepting Al Qaeda - The Enemy of the United States' Enemy":
Since 9/11, Washington has considered al Qaeda the greatest threat to the United States, one that must be eliminated regardless of cost or time. After Washington killed Osama bin Laden in 2011, it made Ayman al-Zawahiri, al Qaeda’s new leader, its next number one target. But the instability in the Middle East following the Arab revolutions and the meteoric rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) require that Washington rethink its policy toward al Qaeda, particularly its targeting of Zawahiri. Destabilizing al Qaeda at this time may in fact work against U.S. efforts to defeat ISIS.
So further attack against al-Qaeda should be avoided? What would the victims of 9/11 say about such a demand?
That lunatic call comes from a "former" officer in the Israeli army assigned as "analyst of international affairs and strategy". The Israeli army is directly supporting Jabhat al-Nusra in south Syria and especially along the Golan heights.
The U.S. helped to create al-Qaeda as well as the Islamic State. In the Middle East its NATO ally Turkey is the logistic backbone for both groups. U.S. allies in the Persian Gulf are financing these terrorists. Now there are calls to accept al-Nusra as official ally against the Syrian government.
The Iraqi and the Iranian government are quite right to not believe that the U.S. wants the jihadi forces destroyed or even defeated. Their current success against the Islamic State around Tikrit demonstrates that IS and al-Nusra can be beaten with the forces they have on the ground and notably without any U.S. support. They have the reasonable suspicion that the U.S. would be happy to keep Nusra as well as IS alive if only to have reason to "stay involved" in the affairs of their nations. They therefore decided to keep the U.S. out of their fight against the Islamic State, to disregard its advice and to not inform it of their plans.
In light of the "let's ally with Nusra" campaign this looks like a sound decision.
Open Thread 2015-13
News & views ...
Another Netanyahoo Flip-Flop The U.S. Will Ignore
The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo has to address two different audiences. A foreign one that sponsors and protects his racist colony of east-Europeans in west-Asia and the colonists themselves who votes for him. Doing so requires some rather twisted rhetoric and leads to intellectual dissonances.
To attract voters Netanyahoo must insist that no occupied land will ever be given back to its rightful owners. To receive continued U.S. support he has to promise that the stolen land will be given back. Those positions are hard to unify but Netanyahoo insist on both at the very same time.
JERUSALEM (AP) — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday that Israel will not cede any territory due to the current climate in the Middle East, appearing to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state.
"Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that any evacuated territory would fall into the hands of Islamic extremism and terror organizations supported by Iran. Therefore, there will be no concessions and no withdrawals. It is simply irrelevant," read a statement released by his Likud party.
Netanyahu's office said the statement reflected the prime minister's long-held position.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says Israel will not cede territory due to the current climate in the Middle East, appearing to rule out the establishment of a Palestinian state, in statements which contradict his famous 2009 Bar Ilan speech in which he vowed his commitment to the two-state solution.
The statement by Netanyahu comes after Ynet published a secret list of concessions made by Netanyahu during his previous term to the Palestinians, concessions which stand in stark contradiction to Netanyahu's current talking points.
Finally, on Sunday afternoon, following a series of contradictory versions from Likud headquarters, Netanyahu himself told a press briefing that the Bar-Ilan speech is indeed “no longer relevant, in light of the current reality in the Middle East.”
As soon as the above statements hit the newswires Netanyahoo was told to paddle backwards. The result:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office denied reports on Sunday he has backed away from a 2009 commitment to seek a two-state peaceful solution with the Palestinians.
Netanyahu "never said such a thing," his office said in a statement responding to the reports.
That would be the same Netanyahoo office which shortly before confirmed his statements.
But does Netanyahoo really holds the two irreconcilable commitments at the same time?
The Jewish Daily Forward, not suspect of peddling the Protocols of the Elders on Zion, has a possible answer. Netanyahoo is, like other Israelis, simply lying to the Americans:
“Most Israelis think Americans are pro-Israel and we can sell them anything, especially mud from the Dead Sea,” said David Lifshitz, the lead writer for the Israeli comedy show “Eretz Nehederet,” or “Wonderful Land.”
“Or — just regular mud with a ‘Dead Sea’ sticker on it.”
But it’s not just American tourists whom many Israelis see as guileless. American foreign policy is held up to similar scrutiny here, even as Israel receives billions of dollars in foreign aid from the United States each year.
“Americans are perceived to be naive, especially when it comes to the Middle East,” said Uri Dromi, who served as a spokesman for the Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres governments.
"Whatever we tell them, the Americans will swallow it," seems to be the Israeli position. And that assessment is likely correct. The U.S. public can be endlessly duped and should it ever be wavering in its support of the colony one only has to remind it of those not-so-mystical shared values:
In a harsh comment Sunday, Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman advocated “cutting of the heads” of Arabs who were not loyal to Israel. “Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe,” Liberman said at an election event Sunday.
Chopping of heads, droning a wedding - what is, after all, the difference?
A Europe-U.S. Divorce Over Ukraine
The German government finally wakes up, a little bit at least, and recognizes the obvious fact that U.S. neocons want to drag Europe into a war. It is now openly blaming certain circles within the U.S. government and NATO of sabotaging the Minsk ceasefire agreement. Especially offensive is the fantasy talk of U.S. and NATO commander General Breedlove::
For months, Breedlove has been commenting on Russian activities in eastern Ukraine, speaking of troop advances on the border, the amassing of munitions and alleged columns of Russian tanks. Over and over again, Breedlove's numbers have been significantly higher than those in the possession of America's NATO allies in Europe. As such, he is playing directly into the hands of the hardliners in the US Congress and in NATO.
The German government is alarmed. Are the Americans trying to thwart European efforts at mediation led by Chancellor Angela Merkel? Sources in the Chancellery have referred to Breedlove's comments as "dangerous propaganda." Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier even found it necessary recently to bring up Breedlove's comments with NATO General Secretary Jens Stoltenberg.
But Breedlove hasn't been the only source of friction. Europeans have also begun to see others as hindrances in their search for a diplomatic solution to the Ukraine conflict. First and foremost among them is Victoria Nuland, head of European affairs at the US State Department. She and others would like to see Washington deliver arms to Ukraine and are supported by Congressional Republicans as well as many powerful Democrats.
Indeed, US President Barack Obama seems almost isolated. He has thrown his support behind Merkel's diplomatic efforts for the time being, but he has also done little to quiet those who would seek to increase tensions with Russia and deliver weapons to Ukraine. Sources in Washington say that Breedlove's bellicose comments are first cleared with the White House and the Pentagon. The general, they say, has the role of the "super hawk," whose role is that of increasing the pressure on America's more reserved trans-Atlantic partners.
The U.S., including Obama, wants to strengthen the U.S. run NATO and thereby its influence in Europe. And Europe, by losing business with Russia and risking war, is supposed to pay for it.
The German public, despite tons of transatlantic propaganda, has well understood the game and the government can not escape that fact. It has to come back to some decent course and if that means trouble with Washington so be it. The foreign ministers of Germany, France and the U.S. are currently meeting in Paris and Secretary of State Kerry will not like what he will hear:
Why Is The NYT Doubting The Syrian Airstrike Against Nusra?
The airforce of the Syrian Arab Army bombed a military leadership meeting of Jabhat al-Nusra in north Syria and killed four of Nusra's leading military commanders as well as some other Nusra members. This is a huge success for the Syrian government and a probably catastrophic loss for Nusra. This facts of the story are obvious when one reads the report Reuters put out. But reading the New York Times one has to dig down deep, deep into its piece to find a mealy mouthed paragraph about the Syrian success.
The Reuters version:
BEIRUT— Al-Qaida's Syrian branch was left reeling on Friday after its military chief was killed in an apparent army air strike, adding to confusion over the future path of the most powerful group opposing both President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State.
The Syrian military said it had carried out Thursday's attack, which also killed a number of other Nusra leaders. A Syrian military source said the headquarters had been struck from the air.
Jihadist sources had initially said Thursday's blast was the result of an air strike by a U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State in Syria. However, the coalition denied mounting any strikes in the province in the preceding 24 hours.
It is obvious who did this. It was an air attack as confirmed by Nusra sources and the U.S. had no planes in the area. The Syrian airforce is the only one that could have done this and it claims the strikes.
So why does the New York Times its best to confuse the issue and to not acknowledge the important victory of the Syrian government?
It starts out:
BEIRUT, Lebanon — A loyalist of Osama bin Laden who trained fighters to battle American troops in Iraq and became a commander of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria was killed there in the last week along with three fellow leaders, according to Syrian insurgents and a monitoring organization.
Reports differed on exactly when and how the commander, Samir Hijazi, and the other leaders of the affiliate, the Nusra Front, were killed. But the deaths of so many top figures, if confirmed, would signal a sharp blow to the Nusra Front, one of the strongest insurgent factions fighting the Syrian government.
Following the lead-in are sixteen additional paragraphs of conspiracy theories on how, when and where the Nusra leaders might have been killed or not. None of those is confirmed and the sources are dubious. Only down in paragraph nineteen (19) do we learn:
The Syrian state news agency, SANA, also reported the death of Mr. Hijazi, but said he had been killed by Syrian government forces further south of the Turkish border.
What is the NYT's motivation to not report that the Syrian government killed the Nusra leaders? Does it have sympathies for Nusra because Nusra, at least in south-west Syria, is allied with Israel? Does it want to obfuscate that Syria is fighting against the same jihadi enemies the U.S. claims to fight?
Open Thread 2015-12
News & views ...
Where The "Neutral" OSCE Mission in Ukraine Blames The Wrong Side
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has a military observer mission in east Ukraine. The mission is supposed to equally watch both sides of the conflict and to report incidents and military compliance with the agreements reached in the Minsk 2 ceasefire.
The OSCE's role is supposed to be neutral.
But its daily report of 18:00hrs, 4 March seriously calls this neutrality into question.
In an unusual long general footnote to the March 4 collection of observations the OSCE mission writes:
* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:
The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by security considerations including the lack of information on the whereabouts of landmines, and restrictions imposed by third parties.
The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere. For this reason, the SMM requires security guarantees from “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction on SMM freedom of movement.
From this one assumes that only the side of the eastern federalist, the Donetzk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic, are hindering the observers movement. Only these are blamed.
U.S., Qatar Plan To Rebrand AlQaeda Into "Moderate" Rebels
The CIA supported and equipped "moderate" rebels in Syria are losing out against al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The last "moderate" group active in north Syria, Harakat Hazzm, had to give up its headquarter -including a warehouse full of U.S. weapons- to Jabhat al Nusra and dissolved. Many of its members then joined Nusra.
The U.S. military plans to recruit, pay and train new "moderate" rebels but the effort is starting veeerrry slow. Just 100 have been vetted so far to be "moderate" enough for the program. There are simply too few non-Jihadi rebels and warlords available who are willing to die for U.S. dollars.
A solution to the lack of qualified "moderate" personal is the rebranding of non-moderate groups into "moderates". James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, recently moved into that direction:
Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who is not affiliated with ISIL. And so, you know, we are attempting to engage with them, and that's the whole point of the train and equip proposal -- project that the Department of Defense is gearing up for, is to vet, recruit and train and equip opposition in sufficient size and capability to actually make a military difference.
And so one of our challenges is, again, the recruiting and vetting part. So we picked people that not only are moderate, whatever that is, but also we have to be sensitive to complying with the international rules of law, which in this environment is a pretty tough order.
"Moderates", Clapper used gestural scare-quotes, is anyone who is not part of the Islamic State. That would, it seems, include Jabhat al-Nusra who three years ago parted from IS and kept their allegiance to AlQaeda. Jabhat al-Nusra has been fighting the Islamic State ever since.
That Clapper thought of Jabhat and similar Jihadi groups like Ahrar al-Sham, is obvious from his reference to international law. The United Nations Security Council classified Jabhat as an international terrorist organization. Supporting it, like Israel does in south Syria, is a violation of UNSC resolutions. As a veto wielding member the U.S. would not like to be caught doing that.
Jabhat al-Nusra is a Jihadi group following al-Qaeda. It is obviously a non-moderate groups but as it fights against the Islamic State it is now, under Clappers new definition "moderate" and thereby qualified to receive U.S. support. Still there is the damned international law issue that has to be circumvented.
Now just in time a U.S. puppet entity in the Persian Gulf, which already though silently arms and pays Jabhat al-Nusra, comes up with a solution for that problem:
Leaders of Syria's Nusra Front are considering cutting their links with al Qaeda to form a new entity backed by some Gulf states trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad, sources said.
Sources within and close to Nusra said that Qatar, which enjoys good relations with the group, is encouraging the group to go ahead with the move, which would give Nusra a boost in funding.
Intelligence officials from Gulf states including Qatar have met the leader of Nusra, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, several times in the past few months to encourage him to abandon al Qaeda and to discuss what support they could provide, the sources said.
They promised funding once it happens.
The Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. But for Qatar at least, rebranding Nusra would remove legal obstacles to supporting it.
A "rebranded" Jabhat al-Nusra would of course still fight the Syrian government as its primary enemy. Destroying the Syrian government is also the primary aim of the Wahhabi government of Qatar. New-Nusra would fight the Islamic State only after having secured enough resources and geography to be able to expand further. Its ideological essence would not change and its aim in the end would be to create its own version of an Islamic state.
[I]f Nusra is dissolved and it abandons al Qaeda, the ideology of the new entity is not expected to change. Golani fought with al Qaeda in Iraq. Some other leaders fought in Afghanistan and are close al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri.
Rebranding Jabhat al-Nusra to then declare it "moderate" in the new definition of DNI Clapper may be the plan. It worked in Libya. But I doubt its feasibility in the much longer Syria conflict. It would be a very difficult sale even for the mighty U.S. propaganda brigades. It would also mean that the organization Jabhat al-Nusra, as it now exists, would fall apart. Many of Nusra's fighters have joined for ideological reason and to be members of alQaeda. Should Nusra revoke its oath to al-Qaeda those fighters would leave and very likely join the Islamic State.
The only reason to stay with New-Nusra would be the Qatari and U.S. money and equipment that would flow to it. But as the demise of earlier U.S. supported "moderate" groups show money and weapons are not the decisive factor in winning the fights on the ground.