Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 01, 2015

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:

Cont. reading: Why Wage War On Yemen?

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (98)

U.S. Trained Fascists To Storm Kiev

US forces to hold exercises in Ukraine

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.

Volunteer Ukrainian unit includes Nazis

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.

Posted by b at 09:45 AM | Comments (89)

March 31, 2015

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.”

Also this:

Trita Parsi

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 ...

Posted by b at 08:42 AM | Comments (18)

March 29, 2015

Open Thread 2015-16

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:08 PM | Comments (156)

March 28, 2015

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,

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?

Posted by b at 12:49 PM | Comments (44)

March 27, 2015

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.

Consider this:

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.

and this:

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? 

Posted by b at 07:19 AM | Comments (52)

March 26, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 02:52 AM | Comments (78)

March 25, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 12:20 PM | Comments (51)

March 24, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 03:14 PM | Comments (28)

March 21, 2015

Open Thread 2015-15

News & views ...

Posted by b at 03:25 PM | Comments (114)

March 20, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 03:10 PM | Comments (19)

March 19, 2015

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?

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (41)

March 18, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 04:27 AM | Comments (51)

March 17, 2015

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.

Defying U.S., European allies say they'll join China-led bank

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.

Posted by b at 10:27 AM | Comments (163)

March 15, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 09:15 AM | Comments (81)

March 14, 2015

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?

Posted by b at 01:35 PM | Comments (38)

March 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-14

News & views ... (and NOT evermore 9/11 theories)

Posted by b at 03:12 PM | Comments (183)

March 12, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 11:01 AM | Comments (47)

March 11, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 02:20 PM | Comments (38)

March 10, 2015

Open Thread 2015-13

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:44 PM | Comments (145)

March 09, 2015

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.

Netanyahu says Israel will not cede land to Palestinians

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.

Netanyahu says Israel won't cede land to Palestinians, despite reports, docs claiming otherwise

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.

Why Bibi Nixed Two-State Solution

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:

Netanyahu denies report he's backed off two-state solution

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?

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (37)

March 07, 2015

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:

Cont. reading: A Europe-U.S. Divorce Over Ukraine

Posted by b at 01:09 PM | Comments (121)

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?

Posted by b at 09:33 AM | Comments (39)

March 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-12

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (102)

March 05, 2015

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.

But wait:

Cont. reading: Where The "Neutral" OSCE Mission in Ukraine Blames The Wrong Side

Posted by b at 01:39 PM | Comments (43)

March 04, 2015

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.

Posted by b at 10:09 AM | Comments (72)

March 03, 2015

The Failing Clinton Candidacy

As opined earlier I believe that a Clinton candidacy for president will inevitably fail. Besides having too much historic baggage through her husbands presidency Hillary Clinton is a person that has been shown to be too brutal and irresponsible in her personal and political behavior to succeed.

This alone should be enough to disqualify her from any public office other than dog catcher:

Hillary Rodham Clinton exclusively used a personal email account to conduct government business as secretary of state, State Department officials said, and may have violated federal requirements that officials’ correspondence be retained as part of the agency’s record.

Mrs. Clinton did not have a government email address during her four-year tenure at the State Department. Her aides took no actions to have her personal emails preserved on department servers at the time, as required by the Federal Records Act.

Throughout four years as secretary of state Clinton used insecure, off-the-record,  private email to conduct state business. This to avoid public and historic scrutiny of her management and personal attitudes. At the end of the Bush presidency several Bush figures were condemned by Democrats for using exactly such a scheme. That Clinton then did the same, despite strengthened laws against it, is baffling. How did she expect to avoid the shit-storm this was sure to raise?

This scandal comes right after one about the Clinton Foundation where her family was taking in millions in foreign and domestic bribes without any scrutiny of conflict of interests by the State Department's ethics lawyers.

Her political carrier at the State Department is littered with failures. The "reset" with Russia failed when she installed an amateur ideologue as ambassador to Moscow. Here "pivot to Asia" as well as her "new silk road" phantasies never materialized. Her bragging over her attack on Libya - "We came, we saw, he died" - ended in the death of a U.S. ambassador and the Jihadist anarchy throughout the country. She installed the neocon Victoria Nuland in the State Department who failed on Ukraine. Indeed Clinton herself is the neocon "vessel into which many interventionists are pouring their hopes".

Only Republican strategist say that her campaign could still succeed. They do so because she would be the easiest target for them to beat. If the Democrats want a serious chance in taking the next presidency they will need a more plausible candidate.

Posted by b at 09:18 AM | Comments (82)

March 02, 2015

Open Thread 2015-11

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:03 PM | Comments (92)

March 01, 2015


So someone killed Boris Nemtsov while the 56 year old man walked with his 22 year old Ukrainian "model" on a bridge in Moscow. There is some CCTV coverage of the crime scene.

As vice-premier under Boris Yeltsin Nemtsov was at least partially responsible for the mafiazation of the Russian economy. Everyone but some oligarchs and the "western" neoliberals was happy when he and the Yeltsin gang had to leave.

After he was kicked out and until yesterday Nemtsov was a very minor opposition politician polling at some 1%. The communists, the real opposition party in Russia, poll at about 20%. No one in the government had reason to care about or fear Nemtsov.

The former Soviet president Gorbachov points to those who will gain from Nemtsov's death:

Asked if he thought anti-Russian forces abroad might exploit the crime in pursuit of their own ends, he argued this would definitely happen.

"Of course, certain forces will try to take advantage of this crime for their own ends - all of them are thinking how to get rid of Putin, aren't they? But I don't think, after all, that the West will go as far as that, that it will use that crime to attain its own purposes. However, that was unquestionably the goal of the criminals who murdered Boris," he said.

"Crimes of this kind are taken on by executors who are hard to find. All efforts must be made to find the criminals," the ex-president said.

Gorbachov still uses rose colored glasses when locking at the "west". The "west" would never use a crime to attain its purpose? That is laughable naive.

And what about all those legitimate and popular opposition politicians currently getting suicided in Ukraine?

So whodunnit?

Someone with relations to the "model"? Someone hurt in the gangster "privatizations" executed under Nemtsov's rule? Some Ukrainian oligarch interested in creating more schism between the "west" and Russia? Some "western" government plotting the destabilization of Russia?

Your guess is as good as mine.

Posted by b at 08:41 AM | Comments (301)

February 27, 2015

Human Rights Watch Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Created By U.S. Attacks

Human Rights Watch has been part of a sectarian anti-Syrian propaganda campaign. It is hyping the "barrel bombs", allegedly used by the Syrian government, as inhumane weapons. I have yet to see Human Rights Watch equally damning the indiscriminate use against civilians of improvised rockets by the Jihadist "moderate rebels".

Yesterday Human Rights Watch send out this tweet:


According to HRW the picture of the destroyed town is somehow related to Syrian "barrel bombs". That is not the case.

Cont. reading: Human Rights Watch Accuses Syria Of "Barrel Bomb" Damage Created By U.S. Attacks

Posted by b at 03:57 AM | Comments (53)

February 26, 2015

Open Thread 2015-10

News & views ...

Posted by b at 03:24 PM | Comments (243)

February 25, 2015

Yemen: Reuters Sells Unfounded Activist Claims As U.N. Expert Findings

Reuters is supposed to be a high quality news agency but some of its reporting is ridiculously wrong or slated in ways that turn rumors into "facts". Consider this current Reuters piece on Yemen.

Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion, colluded with rebels: U.N. experts

(Reuters) - Yemeni ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh is suspected of corruptly amassing as much as $60 billion, equivalent to Yemen's annual GDP, during his long rule, and colluding in a militia takeover last year, U.N.-appointed investigators have told the Security Council.

The report by the world body's Panel of Experts on Yemen echoes criticism by his opponents that Saleh's rule from 1978 to 2012 was marred by graft, and that even out of office he is fomenting instability - allegations he has consistently denied.

The headline lets it seem that U.N. experts claim that Saleh amassed up to $60 billion.

But that is wrong. The U.N. experts do not claim such. In their report (Word download) they repeat anonymous allegations which seem unfounded and unsourced. They write:

182. Ali Abdullah Saleh, on the other hand, is in a very different situation. Ali Abdullah Saleh was President of Yemen for 33 years, until 2012, and during that time he is alleged to have amassed assets between $32 billion and $60 billion, most of which are believed to have been transferred abroad under false names or the names of others holding the assets on his behalf. These assets are said to take the form of property, cash, shares, gold and other valuable commodities. At the time of writing this report, these assets were believed to be located in at least 20 countries.

The U.N. experts repeat hear-say without any factual evidence to support it. How do such claims pulled from hot air justify a headline claim of "Yemen ex-president amassed up to $60 billion"?

A footnote in the U.N. expert report point to the possible source on which they may have based the above. It is link to an article written by one Catherine Shakdam for Shakam writes:

According to Abdul Ghani-Iryani, a Yemeni development analyst, Yemen’s former leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and his cronies skimmed about $2 billion a year for private gain over the last three decades – money stolen from the fuel-subsidy programme that uses up to 10% of Yemen’s GDP, as well as other ventures involving abuse of power, extortion and embezzlement. It has been estimated that Saleh's family holdings alone run well into tens of billions of dollars, much of it held overseas.

Some $2 billion per year over 30 years and there is your $60 billion claim. But note that this claim, again without any evidence, is not solely about Saleh but includes "his cronies" and various corrupt schemes that may have been used.

In an interview on Democracy Now Abdul Ghani-Iryani, the source of the claim, was introduced as "political analyst and co-founder of the Democratic Awakening Movement". The Middle East Institute says says

Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is a businessman and a political consultant based in Sana‘a. He received an MA from Portland State University and an MPH from Boston University.

So Abdul-Ghani al-Iryani is U.S. educated, businessman, political consultant, development analyst, political analyst or whatever. But he mainly is an anti-Saleh activist (U.S.paid?) making some unfounded claims about Saleh which are then quoted as pure "allegations" by U.N. experts and turned into U.N. expert findings by Reuters.

The Reuters assertion that the U.N. expert report "echoes criticism by his opponents" is true. But that is not, as readers would assume, because the experts independently confirmed those claims but because their report is solely based on and sourced to those Saleh opponents claims.

The collapse of the government (recommended) in Yemen has many reasons but the main ones are not at all related to Saleh or to corruption. Yemen's oil production has plummeted and the government revenues with it. Yemen lacks water and other resources and has to import much of its food. There is a demographic youth bulge and very high unemployment which pushes the young into the various fighting forces. It is difficult to see how any government, even a non-corrupt one, could have prevented those problems.

A society that is historically based on tribes and patronage simply does not work like a liberal democracy. The real world examples (recom.) of corruption in Yemen do not point to only one man or only one institution that is corrupt but to a "way of life" where disguised bribes need to be paid to whatever entity one needs to work with. Those in positions of power need those funds to pay off those they need to support for family or tribal reasons and to pay off those they need to support their position. They will also skim off some money to allow themselves a more affluent life style.

Those who lose out in these schemes and are not connected to the money flow, and there are many, will of course rally against them and increase the general insecurity.  The corruption problem must be tackled over time through changes in law and new incentive structures. But it will not be done in a day or through a simple change at the top of the pyramid.

To claim that all bad, all corruption and all vanished money in Yemen is somehow to be blamed on the former president Saleh, as his opponents, the U.N. experts and Reuters seem to do, is nonsense. It is not based on facts but on lazy thinking and more dubious motivations. It does not help in understanding Yemen and it does not help in solving Yemen's problems. It can only lead to more misguided and ill advised interferences.

Posted by b at 11:27 AM | Comments (26)

February 24, 2015

U.S. Pushes For Escalation, Arms Kiev By Laundering Weapons Through Abu Dhabi

The U.S. is circumventing its own proclaimed policy of not delivering weapons to Ukraine and is thereby, despite urgent misgivings from its European allies, increasing the chance of a wider catastrophic war in Europe.

The Ukrainian coup president Poroshenko went to an international arms exhibition in Dubai. There he met the U.S. chief military weapon salesman.

ABU DHABI – Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko is expected to meet with U.S. defense companies Tuesday during a major arms exhibition here even though the American government has not cleared the firms to sell Kiev lethal weapons.

Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s acquisition executive is scheduled to meet with a Ukrainian delegation Monday evening, however Poroshenko is not expected to be there. Kendall, in an interview, said he will be bringing a message of support from the United States.

“I expect the conversation will be about their needs,” Kendall told Defense One a few hours before the meeting. “We’re limited at this point in time in terms of what we’re able to provide them, but where we can be supportive, we want to be.”

Poroshenko, urged on by his neocon U.S. sponsors, wants total war with Russia. Porosheko's deputy foreign minister, currently on a visit in Canada, relayed the message:

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister says he is preparing for "full-scale war" against Russia and wants Canada to help by supplying lethal weapons and the training to use them.

Vadym Prystaiko, who until last fall was Ukraine's ambassador to Canada, says the world must not be afraid of joining Ukraine in the fight against a nuclear power.

In the mind of these folks waging a "full-scale war" against a nuclear superpower like Russia is nothing to be afraid of. These are truly lunatics.

Russia says that U.S. weapons delivered to Ukraine would create real trouble. They mean it. To hint how Russia would counter such a move it just offered a spiced up S-300 missile defense system to Iran:

Sergei Chemezov, chief executive of the Russian defense corporation Rostec, said Tehran is considering its offer to sell an Antey-2500 anti-ballistic air defense system,

The Antey-2500 is a mobile surface-to-air missile system that offers enhanced combat capabilities, including the destruction of aircraft and ballistic missiles at a range of about 1,500 miles, according to its manufacturer, Almaz-Antey.

The system was developed from a less advanced version -- the 1980s-generation S-300V system -- which has a 125-mile range. A 2007 contract to supply the S-300 system to Iran was canceled in 2010, after the U.S. and Israel lobbied against it, ...

Such a system in Iran would, in case of a conflict, endanger every U.S. airplane in the Middle East.

But that threat did not deter the U.S. As the U.S. arms dealer in Abu Dhabi said: "where we can be supportive, we want to be". The U.S. will now disguise its arms-to-Kiev program by laundering it through its sponsored Middle East dictatorships:

Christopher Miller ‏@ChristopherJM 
Poroshenko, UAE agree on "delivery of certain types of armaments and military hardware to #Ukraine."

The United Arab Emirates is not known as arms producer. But it buys lots of U.S. weapons. It will now forward those to Ukraine while the U.S. will claim that it does not arm Ukraine. Who do they think will believe them?

This is again a dangerous escalation of the conflict in Ukraine by U.S. machinations. It comes at the same moment that Russia, France, Germany and Ukraine meet in Paris to push for faster implementation of the Minsk 2 accord for a ceasefire and for a political solution of the civil war in Ukraine:

On Monday spokesman for the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry Yevhen Perebyinis said that during their Paris meeting, the foursome of foreign ministers will focus on the implementation of the Minsk agreements and withdrawal of heavy artillery in Donbas.

The Ukrainian government has said that it will not withdraw its artillery as long as there are still skirmishes around a few flashpoints along the ceasefire line. In Shirokyne east of Mariupol the government aligned neo-nazi battalion Azov continues to attack the federalists. The Ukrainian propaganda claims that the federalists plan an immediate attack on Mariupol. That is nonsense and the federalist have denied any plans for further fighting. Unlike the Ukrainian government the federalist started to pull back their artillery and will continue to do so.

The Ukrainian government is breaking the Minsk 2 agreement by not pulling back its heavy artillery from the ceasefire line. The U.S. is arming the Ukrainian army and will soon train its volunteer neo-nazi "national guard" forces.

The major European powers, Germany, France and Russia, try to tame the conflict down. The U.S. and its poodles in Kiev continue to poor oil into the fire. If the Europeans do not succeed in pushing back against Washington the Ukraine with burn and Europe with it.

In Further Escalation U.S. Delivery Of Weapons To Kiev Will Be Laundered Through Abu Dhabi

Posted by b at 10:20 AM | Comments (61)

February 23, 2015

White House Denies Interference In Venezuela - Promises More Of It

White House Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 2/20/2015

To Question 1: "We, of course, do not interfere in Venezuela!"

Q: What is the reaction of the administration to the latest events in Venezuela? And also, President Nicolás Maduro accused the government, the U.S. government of trying to overthrow his government in a plot that they say they discovered last Wednesday.

MR. EARNEST: These allegations that we’ve seen from the Maduro government, like all previous such allegations, are ludicrous. The fact is the Venezuelan government should stop trying to blame the United States and other members of the international community for events inside Venezuela. The Venezuelan government actually needs to deal with the grave situation that it faces.

The United States is not promoting unrest in Venezuela, nor are we attempting to undermine Venezuela’s economy or its government.

To Question 2: "We, of course,  do interfere in Venezuela! We obviously will now do even more of it!"

Q The U.S. government has already taken some actions against Venezuelan individuals with some sanctions. Are you considering any other action? Are you seeking -- maybe seeking help from other countries in the hemisphere, like Brazil, that could put pressure on the government of Nicolás Maduro?

MR. EARNEST: Well, I can tell you that the Treasury Department and the State Department are obviously closely monitoring this situation and are considering tools that may be available that could better steer the Venezuelan government in the direction that they believe they should be headed. That obviously means that we’re continuing to engage other countries in the region in talking about operating in coordinated fashion as we deal with the situation there.

Do these spokespersons even recognize how those proclaimed positions, uttered just seconds apart, conflict with each other?

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (32)

February 22, 2015

What Did Turkey Pay To Free The Süleyman Şah IS Hostages?

Last night some 700 heavily armed Turkish soldiers invaded Syria and evacuated some 40 of their comrades. Those 40 had guarded the tomb of the 12th century military leader of the Seljuk Empire, Süleyman Şah. The area of the tomb was seen as a Turkish enclave since a 1921 agreement with the then colonial administrator of the Levant, France:

During the operation that was launched late Feb. 21, airborne early warning and control (AWACS) aircraft, military helicopters and drones were on duty as 39 tanks and 57 armored vehicles penetrated the border with support teams from Turkey’s Special Forces. Live footage and other data from the field were followed in an operation room at the General Staff’s headquarters.

Without engaging in any clashes, Turkish troops left Syria early Feb. 22, after detonating the symbolic building to prevent ISIL militants from using it as a base.

Davutoğlu announced in a series of tweets on Feb. 22 that the artifacts had been “temporarily” brought to Turkey, while the Turkish army “took control of an area in the Ashma region of Syria, raising our flag, where Süleyman Şah will later be transferred.”

So Turkey wants to steal more Syrian land next to the Turkish border to put the remains of the Shah there. Why should that be considered legal?

But back to the reason of the evacuation. The troops at the tomb, only some 40 kilometers from the Turkish border, were surrounded by Islamic State fighters. Usually Turkey would rotate the guards every three or four weeks but those evacuated now have been at the tomb for over 11 month. They were practically hostages of the Islamic State. So why did the Islamic State let them go?

It is very unlikely that the Turkish operation was not known to IS. Turkey used nearly 100 armored vehicles. With Islamic State fighters swarming all over south Turkey the assembling of this force near to the border will not have gone unnoticed. Two days ago Turkey had informed the Kurdish YPK, who fight IS in the area, of the operation. When the troops entered Syria they were filmed (vid) passing a huge Islamic State flag at the border station.

The Islamic State does not like tombs. It has demolished hundreds of important historic tombs in the areas it rules in Iraq and Syria. It did not touch the tomb of Süleyman Şah but kept the troops guarding it under its control. IS must have known that the Turks were coming to evacuate the soldiers and the remains but it did nothing against them. How come?

As Elijah Magnier remarks

We can say loudly: The "Islamic State" group allowed a NATO member army to enter its territory and gave it a free passage.

Indeed. Which leads me to this question:

What did Turkey give to the Islamic State to get the Süleyman Şah hostages freed without a fight?

Turkey already has a free trade agreement and bilateral touristic facilitation with the Islamic State. Something additional and very valuable for the Islamic State must have been agreed upon in exchange for the return of the hostages. What is it?

The U.S. wants to cooperate with Turkey to train Syrian fighters to fight against the Islamic State. It will be quite important to have the answer to the above question before continuing down that road.

Posted by b at 07:16 AM | Comments (68)

February 20, 2015

Biden Donates Counter Mortar Radar To Russian Weapon Exhibition

via TASS - The Technical Institute of the Army of the Russian Federation would like to express its gratitude to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden for donating the AN/TPQ-48A Lightweight Counter Mortar Radar, NSN 5840-01-541-8783, Serial #369 to our museum. We intend to add the system, after a short period of technical evaluation, to our permanent public exhibition.

The above press release has not been written yet. But it might well soon be published. Consider:

November 21, 2014 - US delivers anti-mortar radars to Ukraine: Pentagon

Washington (AFP) - The US military has delivered three radars to Ukraine designed to detect incoming mortar fire, the Pentagon said Friday, amid appeals from Kiev for Washington to send weapons to help fight pro-Russian rebels.

The counter-mortar radar systems were flown to Ukraine in a C-17 cargo plane that accompanied US Vice President Joe Biden, who paid a visit to Kiev on the first anniversary of protests that unleashed a year of upheaval.

Before Biden flew to Ukraine a Presidential Drawdown Notfication documented the serial number of the three counter mortar radars he took with him. The value of one such radar was noted as $117,968.

Cont. reading: Biden Donates Counter Mortar Radar To Russian Weapon Exhibition

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (93)

Open Thread 2015-09

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:43 PM | Comments (185)

February 19, 2015

Syria: Special Forces From Turkey Attack The Syrian Arab Army

Yesterday the Syrian Arab Army tried to relief the insurgent-besieged villages of Nubl and al-Zahraa and to close the corridor between the city of Aleppo and the Turkish border to the north. The troops captured three villages and nearly closed the gap in their ring around Aleppo but were pushed out again in an onslaught by hundreds of enemies coming from the direction of the Turkish border.

The map shows the areas gained and lost again by the SAA in light green. (bigger)

A bloody video from the aftermath (now deleted) showed several dozens of dead Syrian Army fighters massacred in what looked like a well executed ambush.

This was curious as the usual insurgent groups in the area are not know for good military planning:

Regime sources say that the defining characteristic of yesterday’s “ferocious” battle was Turkish support for the armed groups, as evidenced by the transfer of fighters and military supplies from inside Turkey to Aleppo’s northern countryside, including Caucasian fighters who answer directly to Turkish intelligence.

On Twitter one Ömer Khãn, who claims to be a Turkish soldier and is an avid supporter of the Syrian opposition, looks at the gruesome pictures of the dead soldiers and remarks (1, 2, 3):

Who where these SAA up against in #Mallah ? Shooting only Head is feat for a Regular Army, much less for #Rebels.

SAA skulls shattered/shot in/bet Eyes. this is only work of special units, unlikely any Rebel Org.

#Aleppo Whoever killed those SAA was no Mere Rebel, Pro-Reg cry about Turkish Intervention.

I concur. Whoever attacked those Syrian troops must have had, unlike the usual insurgents or jihadists, some extensive and professional special forces experience.

This is not the first time that Turkey actively intervenes in Syria. Recently released Turkish court documents show that Turkey, on top of logistic help, gave direct artillery fire support to the insurgents in several case.

There are new reports that the U.S. plans to give the insurgents radios and other equipment to call in air strikes especially to the Kurds. But the U.S. has already given such equipment to a few selected Kurdish fighters in Kobani for use against the Islamic State. I doubt very much that these will be given to "moderate rebels" or will be used against the Syrian army.

I also doubt that the U.S. will really train or further equip additional "moderate" anti-Syrian fighters. The biggest lobbyist for such arming was the former U.S ambassador to Syria Robert Ford. He has now changed course and admits that there are no "moderates" who could sensibly be armed:

Cont. reading: Syria: Special Forces From Turkey Attack The Syrian Arab Army

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (78)

February 18, 2015

The "West's" Dilema After Debaltseve: What To Do About Poroshenko?

Despite the best that has been done by everyone — the gallant fighting of the military and naval forces, the diligence and assiduity of Our servants of the State, and the devoted service of Our one hundred million people — the war situation has developed not necessarily to Japan's advantage, while the general trends of the world have all turned against her interest.
Emperor Hirohito acknowledging Japan's defeat

The Ukrainian puppet president Poroshenko should have delivered a similar speech. Indeed the war situation in Ukraine has developed not necessarily to his governments advantage. But the speech Proshenko gave (see below) was even more delusional than Hirohito's whitewashing.

Since six days ago several thousand Ukrainian government troops were surrounded in the Debaltsevo pocket. The only road out towards friendly lines was mined and under direct and indirect opposition fire. Several attempts to break out and also into the pocket were defeated with lots of lives and material lost.

Since yesterday and after severe artillery preparations the federalist troops are storming the city. They claim that some 3,000 government troops died there and some 1,000 capitulated (vid) and went into captivity. A few hundred sneaked out at night mostly by foot and today reached the government controlled Artemivsk some 30 kilometers to the north of Debaltsevo. Others fled south away from their own lines and deeper into the pocket. They will be mopped up in due time. Huge amounts of weapons and ammunition was left behind for the federalists to pic up. Reporters in Artemivsk observed some 40-50 dead and some 200 wounded arriving. These were, reporters said, mostly casualties of the escape under fire, not of the earlier fights in Debaltseve. Those who made it out alive are in seriously angry about their higher-ups.

The Minsk-2 meeting was urgently arranged by the German chancellor Merkel when the situation around Debaltsevo deteriorated. But during the negotiations in Minsk Poroshenko insisted that there was no pocket and that his troops were in total control of the situation. The French president Hollande tried to explain the real situation to him but to no avail.

The ceasefire was arranged but the Debaltsevo pocket was not mentioned in the protocols. The federalists reasonably concluded that the pocket was within their acknowledged lines and could be eliminated without breaking the general agreed upon ceasefire. Over the last days we have heard very little protest against this move from the "western" side. Was there a silent agreement to make Poroshenko eat his necktie over the issue like his new adviser Saakashvili once did?

Now the above is the reality. And here is Proshenko's delusional version delivered in a speech today:

I can inform now that this morning the Armed Forces of Ukraine together with the National Guard completed the operation on the planned and organized withdrawal of a part of units from Debaltseve. We can say that 80% of troops have been already withdrawn. We are waiting for two more columns. Warriors of the 128th brigade, parts of units of the 30th brigade, the rest of the 25th and the 40th battalions, Special Forces, the National Guard and the police have already left the area.
We were asserting and proved: Debaltseve was under our control, there was no encirclement, and our troops left the area in a planned and organized manner with all the heavy weaponry: tanks, APCs, self-propelled artillery and vehicles.
It is a strong evidence of combat readiness of the Armed Forces and efficiency of the military command. I can say that despite tough artillery and MLRS shelling, according to the recent data, we have 30 wounded out of more than 2,000 warriors.

Many "western" journalist are no streaming into Debaltsevo and their will soon be reports about the real disaster and the real losses the Ukrainian government troops had there. Those will be hard to hide.

It will then be difficult for the "west" to continue working with Poroshenko. He has now been shown to be completely off his rockers. He can no longer be sold to the public as the bearer of the truth, the sincere white knight against the dark forces of Russia.

How will the "west", Obama and his neoconned State Department react to that? Will they prepare a coup against Poroshenko or do they have other means to get rid of their useless puppet or to save the situation?

Posted by b at 10:51 AM | Comments (192)

February 16, 2015

Ukraine - The Ceasefire Stalemates

So who moves first? "No one," say these current news items:

From the first piece:

A shaky new truce in Ukraine was already at risk on its second day Monday as Kiev said there was "no question" of its troops pulling back heavy weapons, and the EU ratcheted up sanctions on Russia.

"There is no question at the moment of us withdrawing heavy weapons" from the frontline because of persistent attacks by pro-Russian rebels, a Ukrainian military spokesman, Vladyslav Seleznyov, told AFP.

From the second report:

The self-proclaimed Donetsk people’s republic is not planning to pull back heavy weaponry until Kiev troops halt shellings, the deputy commander of the DPR’s Defense Ministry’s corps, Eduard Basurin, said on Monday.
"The heavy weaponry withdrawal starts only after the ceasefire. And if the Armed Forces of Ukraine do not stop shellings, which come in violation of the Minsk agreements, the DPR militias will not pull back their weaponry," Basurin was quoted by the Donetsk news agency as saying.

The Donetsk troops are pummeling the Ukrainian government troops in the Debaltseve cauldron. Meanwhile the fascist Azov battalion is bragging (video) about attacking Donetsk troops in Shirokino east of Mariupol and Ukrainian artillery is again hitting the destroyed Donetsk airport.

Pressure on both sides is needed to actually implement the ceasefire. But no one is pressuring Kiev. Instead the EU just implemented new sanctions against Russia just after Russia helped to negotiate this ceasefire. The EU did the same after the first Minsk ceasefire agreement. That will not help to convince Russia that good behavior will be honored and rewarded.

The lack of pressure against Kiev is difficult to understand. The federalists had offered to let the government troops encircled in Debaltseve go free, though without their weapons. The government in Kiev rejected that and ordered those troops to keep on fighting. They will all die if they continue to do so. Their big hope is that OSCE observers will come to them and help them to retreat. That will not happen. Their only chance now is to capitulate.

Kiev seems not to understand that it is about to lose at least a quarter of its usable front line troops in that cauldron. But the incompetence of Ukrainian leadership knows no bounds. How can any army, while having superior numbers, lose troops in four cauldrons within just six month?

The "western" European countries arranged the Minsk 2.0 ceasefire especially to first avoid and, when that became impossible, to relief the cauldron:

Debaltsevo was one of the reasons Merkel and Hollande launched their most recent diplomatic offensive nine days ago.

An immediate ceasefire after Minsk would probably have avoided the full enclosure of Debaltseve. But the Ukrainian government held out:

Poroshenko, too, seemed to prefer a delayed cease-fire -- apparently not fully understanding the situation facing his military. The Europeans were trying to protect the Ukrainians from themselves.

Someone other than the Europeans is telling Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, to sacrifice those troops and to keep the fighting going.

One wonders to what purpose. 

Posted by b at 08:47 AM | Comments (162)

February 15, 2015

NYT Commits Orange Jumpsuit Trademark Infringement

A New York Times piece about new Islamic State offshots infringes on the U.S. military's trademark of using orange jumpsuit when torturing prisoners by assigning that trademark to the Islamic State:

A publication released by the central group last week included a photograph of fighters in Libya with its affiliate there parading 20 Egyptian Christian captives in the Islamic State’s trademark orange jumpsuits, indicating at least a degree of communication.

This is like saying the Statue of Liberty is a trademark of the Islamic State because some of its propaganda videos depicts the Statue as falling down.

It is obvious that the orange jumpsuit trademark is fully owned by the U.S. military and has been used  by it for at least a decade now. Here is some photographic proof.

The Times suggests that the use of orange jumpsuits for prisoners by Jihadi groups is "indicating at least a degree of communication" with the Islamic State. As the trademark attribution by the NYT is wrong the correct conclusion in the NYT's logic is that the Libyan Jihadists have "at least a degree of communication" with the U.S. military.

That conclusion would also be supported by the historic fact that the U.S. in 2011 actively supported the Libyan Jihadist in overthrowing the Libyan government.

But the NYT would like you to forget that. Just like it wants you to forget that the NYT itself propagandized for the war in Iraq and that the U.S. military used the orange jumpsuits for torturing prisoners there, many of whom turned out to be not guilty of anything.

The trademark infringing NYT article itself is a shill piece to propagandize for more global war of terror and for Obama's requests to Congress to give him limitless authority to wage it. But the NYT will conveniently forget that too when the guaranteed blowback will hit home.

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (33)

February 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-08

News & views NOT related to current events in Ukraine.

For commenting on current events in Ukraine please go here.

Posted by b at 01:17 PM | Comments (126)

Ukraine Ongoing Thread

Please use this thread for collecting and discussing news and opinions about the current events in Ukraine.

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (168)

February 12, 2015

Minsk 2.0 Is Just The Pause Button

After 15 hours of negotiations in Minsk Poroshenko, Putin, Merkel and Hollande achieved a renewal, with a few changes, of the Minsk 1.0 ceasefire for Ukraine framed as the new Minsk 2.0 ceasefire. The two heads of the federalists in Donetsk and Lughanks also signed the agreement. There was no common press conference to announce the deal.

The terms, as far as I can tell, are nearly the same as in Minsk 1.0. twittered the main points:

1.Ceasefire 2.Heavy weapons 3.Monitoring (OSCE) incl satellites & drones 4. Regional elections & self-gov 5. 'special status' in 30 days 6. POWs 7.Humanitarian corridors 8.Pensions & social ties 9.Kiev controls borders 10. Foreign fighters out 11. Disarm irregulars 12. reform by end 2015, decentralization 13.Donbass elections under 3-party contact group (3PCG) 14.3PCG to intensify activities

The full, original text in Russian is here, a preliminary English translation here. There is also a Declaration of Minsk in support of the "Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements" from the German and French side.

The actual ceasefire will start on February 15. We can expect some heavy fighting up to the last minute as each side will try to consolidate its position. There will surely be different interpretations of the clauses on both sides. It is also questionable if the paramilitary groups, especially on the Ukrainian state side, will follow orders to cease fighting.

The Ukrainian President Poroshenko seems to have severe illusions. As the Russian President Putin mentioned in his short press conference (video) Poroshenko does not believe that his several thousand troops in Debaltsevo are surrounded and cut off. That is ludicrous as even major, though unofficial sources on the Ukrainian side had confirmed the closing of the cauldron two days ago. It seems that the military leaders of the Ukrainian army do not tell him what is really happening in the field. Putin also said that the federalist expect the Ukrainian troops in the cauldron to put down their arms. Will they be given orders to do so or will they be ordered to fight on?

The U.S. inserted itself into the negotiation via the International Monetary Fund which it controls. The IMF announced new $17 billion plan for Ukraine, over four years, two hours before the negotiations ended. That was the U.S. joker telling Poroshenko that he would get enough money to continue fighting and does not have to give up any position. Merkel and Hollande, who tired to wring more concessions out of Poroshenko, must have fumed at that news.

For the moment the Minsk 2.0 plan is welcome relief. This certainly for the people in Donetsk and Luhanks who are under constant Ukrainian artillery fire. The EU countries will be happy that the pressure for new sanctions is off and the U.S. hawks will have to shelf their "arm Ukraine" campaign for now. But the ceasefire does not solve the main questions. The radical constituency of the Ukraine coup government will demand more "punishment" of the east while the people there will, without more representation, reject any demands from the central government.

We can therefore expect that the fighting will stop in the short term only. The violent conflict will likely resume in a month or two or so.

Posted by b at 06:28 AM | Comments (152)

February 11, 2015

Who Murdered Kayla Jean Mueller?

The U.S. claims that the Islamic State killed its hostage Kayla Jean Mueller. But the sequence of events and the surrounding circumstance point to her being killed, willful or not, by an U.S. ally and based on U.S. intelligence.

Last Thursday the Jordanian air-force attacked targets U.S. intelligence associated with the Islamic State in Raqqa. The next day the Islamic State said that a hostage, a U.S. citizen, was killed in the attack:

The terrorist group claimed Kayla Jean Mueller was killed by Jordanian aircraft rockets that a struck the building in which she was being held.
"[..] we can confirm the death of an American hostage by the rockets which targeted that area."

The group released images showing a damaged building it said had been targeted in air strikes, but no photos of the hostage.

Jordanian fighter jets bombed Islamic State sites on Thursday, after the militants burned to death a captured Jordanian pilot.

The White House, State Department and Pentagon said they could not confirm the unsubstantiated report.

How are official statements after a confirmed attack with pictures of the destroyed location "unsubstantiated"?

Over the weekend the Islamic State sent pictures of the dead body of the hostage to her family. The family acknowledged and the FBI confirmed that the hostage is dead:

Cont. reading: Who Murdered Kayla Jean Mueller?

Posted by b at 04:38 AM | Comments (42)

February 10, 2015

The Syrian Government Counterattack In The South

Notice the wording in this Reuters headline: Syrian government launches offensive against rebels in south

For Reuters Syria now has - again - a "government", and not a "regime" as Reuters had labeled the Syrian government for a quite a while. That is an important change.

The report says:

Syria's army gained ground from rebels in the south on Tuesday in what a monitoring group described as a large-scale offensive in the region backed by Lebanese Hezbollah fighters against insurgents including al Qaeda's Syrian wing.
"The operation started two days ago and is very big," Rami Abdulrahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group, said on Tuesday.

Abdulrahman said the offensive aims to take a triangle of rebel-held territory from rural areas southwest of Damascus to Deraa city to Quneitra. Syrian media and rebel sources said on Tuesday that battles raged in several areas of southern Syria.

The south eastern triangle of Syria between the Golan and and Deraa had been taken by Jabhat al-Nusra (disguised as "moderate rebels") with the help of the Israelis and the U.S. dominated "operations room" in Jordan which distributes the weapons Saudi Arabia and others supplied. The general U.S. operation plan was, as we reported in September, to let Nusra attack Damascus from the south.

The current Syrian government operation, long in planning, is aimed at rolling back the Jabhat al_Nusra attack if possible down to the Jordan border. It is supported by Hizbullah (and Iranian?) fighters who will likely do most of work on the Golan heights.

Earlier Elijah J. Magnier reported on the operation:

#BreakingNews: #SAA called d mil ops n Quneitra/Daraa "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" referring 2 d #Israel/i attack killing 6 Hezbollah & 1 #Iran/ian

The ongoing huge military operation is run by #SAA and #Hezbollah in the south and SW of #Syria .

#Hezbollah considers this ops as a prevention to an ongoing #JN plan to attack #Lebanon from Hasbaiya and to endanger #Damascus". #Syria.

This is no doubt the communique' N. 2 of #Hezbollah to #Israel following the Shebaa Farms attack last week. #Syria #Lebanon.

("Shuhada" is the plural of "Shaheed" which means Martyr. "Shuhada' al-Quneitra" means "Martyrs of Quneitra".)

Several towns and areas were already reported cleared today but this likely will be a difficult and long fight.

The question is if or how Israel will try to disrupt this campaign by again supporting Jabhat al_Nusra with air attacks, artillery strikes and supplies. Hizbullah will surely have prepared some "surprises" to challenge any Israeli support to its enemies. Will the U.S. led operations room try to counter the Syrian attack? How? Will Jordan, now heavily involved against the Islamic State, now also shun the IS brethren Jabhat al-Nusra?

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (35)

February 09, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 08, 2015

The Islamic State Is In Retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 07, 2015

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-07

News & views ...

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

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