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November 26, 2017

Please Support This Poor Poet

A recent BBC Breaking "Exclusive" showed how the U.S. and its proxy forces made a deal with the Islamic State. Under U.S. supervision hundreds of ISIS fighters in Syria were allowed to leave the besieged Raqqa. This site reported the *breaking* news when it happened, a full month earlier than the BBC.

Moon of Alabama provides news and analysis which mainstream media cover late, or not at all. That's not an easy feat. This site is free. It offers information which is hard to find elsewhere. It offers original thought and no-nonsense writing on a (nearly) daily basis. It has an open and lively comment section. It is the full-time effort of this single person.

bigger

The growing readership of the blog and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. I have little other income. Thus every donation to this Poor Poet, be it $5, $50 or $500, is welcome and needed. A recurring contribution or institutional sponsorship would be great.

Cont. reading: Please Support This Poor Poet

Posted by b at 07:58 AM | Comments (48)

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-43

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 20 - The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

Nov 21 - Russia In Syria - Military 'Failure' Sets Off Intense Diplomacy

Nov 22 - Google Does Evil

Nov 23 - Syria - This U.S. Occupation - Or "Presence" - Is Unsustainable

Nov 24 - And Then The Clown Prince Told Friedman: 'Suck On This.'

Nov 25 - Trump Wants Peace With Erdogan - The Miltary Wants To Sabotage It

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (45)

November 25, 2017

Trump Wants Peace With Erdogan - The Miltary Wants To Sabotage It

President Trump is attempting to calm down the U.S. conflict with Turkey. The military junta in the White House has different plans. It now attempts to circumvent the decision the president communicated to his Turkish counterpart. The result will be more Turkish-U.S. acrimony.

Yesterday the Turkish foreign minister surprisingly announced a phone call President Trump had held with President Erdogan of Turkey.

United States President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan spoke on the phone on Nov. 24 only days after a Russia-Turkey-Iran summit on Syria, with Ankara saying that Washington has pledged not to send weapons to the People’s Protection Units (YPG) any more.

“President Trump instructed [his generals] in a very open way that the YPG will no longer be given weapons. He openly said that this absurdity should have ended much earlier,” Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu told reporters after the phone call.

Trump had announced the call:

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump

Will be speaking to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey this morning about bringing peace to the mess that I inherited in the Middle East. I will get it all done, but what a mistake, in lives and dollars (6 trillion), to be there in the first place!
12:04 PM - 24 Nov 2017

During the phone call Trump must have escaped his minders for a moment and promptly tried to make, as announced, peace with Erdogan. The issue of arming the YPG is really difficult for Turkey to swallow. Ending that would probably make up for the recent NATO blunder of presenting the founder of modern Turkey Kemal Atatürk and Erdogan himself as enemies.

The YPG is the Syrian sister organization of the Turkish-Kurdish terror group PKK. Some weapons the U.S. had delivered to the YPK in Syria to fight the Islamic State have been recovered from PKK fighters in Turkey who were out to kill Turkish security personal. Despite that, supply for the YPG continued. In total over 3,500 truckloads were provided to it by the U.S. military. Only recently the YPK received some 120 armored Humvees, mine clearance vehicles and other equipment.

The generals in the White House and other parts of the administration were caught flat-footed by the promise Trump has made. The Washington Post writes:

Initially, the administration’s national security team appeared surprised by the Turks’ announcement and uncertain what to say about it. The State Department referred questions to the White House, and hours passed with no confirmation from the National Security Council.

The White House finally released what the Associated Press called:

a cryptic statement about the phone call that said Trump had informed the Turk of “pending adjustments to the military support provided to our partners on the ground in Syria.”

Neither a read-out of the call nor the statement AP refers to are currently available on the White House website.

The U.S. military uses the YPG as proxy power in Syria to justify and support its occupation of north-east Syria, The intent of the occupation is , for now, to press the Syrian government into agreeing to a U.S. controlled "regime change":

U.S. officials have said they plan to keep American troops in northern Syria — and continue working with Kurdish fighters — to pressure Assad to make concessions during peace talks brokered by the United Nations in Geneva, stalemated for three years now. “We’re not going to just walk away right now,” Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said last week.

To solidify its position the U.S. needs to further build up and strengthen its YPG mercenary forces.

When in 2014 the U.S. started to use Kurds in Syria as its foot-soldiers, it put the YPG under the mantle of the so called Syrian Democratic Forces and paid some Syrian Arabs to join and keep up the subterfuge. This helped to counter the Turkish argument that the U.S. was arming and supporting terrorists. But in May 2017 the U.S. announced to arm the YPG directly without the cover of the SDF. The alleged purpose was to eliminate the Islamic State from the city of Raqqa.

The YPG had been unwilling to fight for the Arab city unless the U.S. would provide it with more money, military supplies and support. All were provided. The U.S. special forces, who control the YPG fighters, directed an immense amount of aerial and artillery ammunition against the city. Any potential enemy position was destroyed by large ammunition and intense bombing before the YPG infantry proceeded. In the end few YPG fighters died in the fight. The Islamic State was let go or eliminated from the city but so was the city of Raqqa. The intensity of the bombardment of the medium size city was at times ten times greater than the bombing in all of Afghanistan. Airwars reported:

Since June, an estimated 20,000 munitions were fired in support of Coalition operations at Raqqa. Images captured by journalists in the final days of the assault show a city in ruins.

Several thousand civilians were killed in the indiscriminate onslaught.

The Islamic State in Syria and Iraq is defeated. It no longer holds any ground. There is no longer any justification to further arm and supply the YPG or the dummy organization SDF.

But the generals want to continue to do so to further their larger plans. They are laying grounds to circumvent their president's promise. The Wall Street Journal seems to be the only outlet to pick up on the subterfuge:

President Donald Trump’s administration is preparing to stop sending weapons directly to Kurdish militants battling Islamic State in Syria, dealing a political blow to the U.S.’s most reliable ally in the civil war, officials said Friday.
...
The Turkish announcement came as a surprise in Washington, where military and political officials in Mr. Trump’s administration appeared to be caught off-guard. U.S. military officials said they had received no new guidance about supplying weapons to the Kurdish forces. But they said there were no immediate plans to deliver any new weapons to the group. And the U.S. can continue to provide the Kurdish forces with arms via the umbrella Syrian militant coalition.

The "military officials" talking to the WSJ have found a way to negate Trump's promise.

A spokesperson of the SDF, the ethnic Turkman Talaf Silo, recently defected and went over to the Turkish side. The Turkish government is certainly well informed about the SDF and knows that its political and command structure is dominated by the YPK. The whole concept is a sham.

But the U.S. needs the YPG to keep control of north-east Syria. It has to continue to provide whatever the YPG demands, or it will have to give up its larger scheme against Syria.

The Turkish government will soon find out that the U.S. again tried to pull wool over its eyes. Erdogan will be furious when he discovers that the U.S. continues to supply war material to the YPG, even when those deliveries are covered up as supplies for the SDF.

The Turkish government released a photograph showing Erdogan and five of his aids taking Trump's phonecall. Such a release and the announcement of the call by the Turkish foreign minister are very unusual. Erdogan is taking prestige from the call and the public announcement is to make sure that Trump sticks to his promise.

This wide publication will also increase Erdogan's wrath when he finds out that he was again deceived.

Posted by b at 12:14 PM | Comments (38)

November 24, 2017

And Then The Clown Prince Told Friedman: 'Suck On This.'

The Moustache of Understanding, Thomas Friedman, has written the probably most embarrassing fanfiction ever:

The most significant reform process underway anywhere in the Middle East today is in Saudi Arabia. Yes, you read that right. Though I came here at the start of Saudi winter, I found the country going through its own Arab Spring, Saudi style.

Unlike the other Arab Springs — all of which emerged bottom up and failed miserably, except in Tunisia — this one is led from the top down by the country’s 32-year-old crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, and, if it succeeds, it will not only change the character of Saudi Arabia but the tone and tenor of Islam across the globe.

Friedman once said that U.S. soldiers must shove their guns into the face of random Arabs and tell them to "suck on this".  How things change. Friedman now went to Riyadh to suck on whatever side of his abdomen Mohammed bin Salman shoved into his mustached mouth:

We met at night at his family’s ornate adobe-walled palace in Ouja, north of Riyadh. M.B.S. spoke in English, while his brother, Prince Khalid, the new Saudi ambassador to the U.S., and several senior ministers shared different lamb dishes and spiced the conversation. After nearly four hours together, I surrendered at 1:15 a.m. to M.B.S.’s youth, pointing out that I was exactly twice his age. It’s been a long, long time, though, since any Arab leader wore me out with a fire hose of new ideas about transforming his country.

"Look here! MbS SPEAKS ENGLISH (and pays in dollars)! This must be OUR GUY."

("And don't ya all love those (homo-)sexual allusions I enwombed in those words?")


Tom Friedman (left) being "instructed" of his next fellacious duty (artist conception)

It hasn't been such a "long, long time" since Friedman used that "wore me out" cliche. Only two years exactly, or four Friedman units, have passed since he last fellatiated MbS like this:

Cont. reading: And Then The Clown Prince Told Friedman: 'Suck On This.'

Posted by b at 12:32 PM | Comments (131)

November 23, 2017

Give Thanks To MoA

It is Thanksgiving. It will soon be Christmas. Please consider to give some thanks, or a Christmas present, to this site.

Moon of Alabama publishes original content, stuff that is hard to find elsewhere. It provides fact checked no-nonsense writing on a (nearly) daily basis. The site is free. It has an open and lively comment section. It is the full-time effort of this single person.

bigger

The growing readership of the blog and your feed back keep me going. But I also need to eat and pay rent. Thus every donation to this Poor Poet, be it $5, $50 or $500, is welcome and needed. A recurring contribution or institutional sponsorship would be great.

Cont. reading: Give Thanks To MoA

Posted by b at 11:12 AM | Comments (16)

Syria - This U.S. Occupation - Or "Presence" - Is Unsustainable

[It takes time and effort to write such analyses. Please consider to support their publication.]

The U.S. is now occupying north-east Syria. It wants to blackmail the Syrian government into "regime change". The occupation is unsustainable, its aim is unattainable. The generals who devised these plans lack strategic insight. They listen to the wrong people.

The Islamic State no longer holds any significant ground in Syria and Iraq. What is left of it in a few towns of the Euphrates valley will soon be gone. Its remnants will be some of several terror gangs in the region. Local forces can and will hold those under adequate control. The Islamic State is finished. This is why the Lebanese Hizbullah announced to pull back all its advisors and units from Iraq. It is the reason why Russia began to repatriated some of its units from Syria. Foreign forces are no longer needed to eliminate the remains of ISIS.


Map by Southfront - bigger

In its UN Security Council resolutions 2249 (2015) for the fight against ISIS the UNSC was:

Reaffirming its respect for the sovereignty, territorial integrity, independence and unity of all States in accordance with purposes and principles of the United Nations Charter,
...
Calls upon Member States that have the capacity to do so to take all necessary measures, in compliance with international law, in particular with the United Nations Charter, ... on the territory under the control of ISIL also known as Da’esh, in Syria and Iraq, to redouble and coordinate their efforts to prevent and suppress terrorist acts committed specifically by ISIL ... and entities associated with Al-Qaida ... and to eradicate the safe haven they have established over significant parts of Iraq and Syria;

There is no longer any "territory under the control of ISIL". Its "safe havens" have been "eradicated". The task laid out and legitimized in the UNSC resolution is finished. It is over. There is no longer any justification, under UNSC Res 2249, for U.S. troops in Syria or Iraq.

Other legal justifications, like an invitation from the legitimate governments of Syria and Iraq, could apply. But while Syria has invited Russian, Iranian and Lebanese forces to stay in its country it has not invited U.S. forces. These are now illegally occupying Syrian land in the north-east of the country. The Syrian government explicitly called it such.

(One wonder how long it will take the sanctimonious European Union to sanction the U.S. for its egregious breach of international law and for violating the sovereignty of Syria.)

According to official documents more than 1,700 U.S. troops are currently in Syria. The publicly announced number is only 500. "Temporary" forces make the up the difference. (Overall U.S. troop numbers in the Middle East have increased by 33% over the last four month. The numbers doubled in Turkey, Kuwait, Qatar and the UAE. No explanation has been given for these increases.)

The U.S. troops in Syria are allied with the Kurdish YPG. The YPG is the Syrian branch of the internationally designated Kurdish terrorist organization PKK. Only about 2-5% of the Syrian population are of Kurdish-Syrian descent. Under U.S. command they now control more than 20% of Syrian state territory and some 40% of its hydrocarbon reserves. This is thievery on a grand scale.

To disguise its cooperation with the Kurdish terrorists, the U.S. renamed the group into the "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF). Some Arab fighters from east Syrian tribes were added to it. These are mostly former foot-soldiers of ISIS who changed sides when the U.S. offered better pay. Other fighters were pressed into service. The people of the Syrian-Arab city Manbij, which is occupied by the YPG and U.S. forces, protested when the YPG started to violently conscript its youth.

New troops were added to the SDF during the last days when ISIS fighters escaped from the onslaught of Syrian and Iraq forces in Abu Kamal (aka Albu Kamal aka Bukamal). They fled northwards towards YPG/U.S. held areas. Like other ISIS fighters the U.S. helped to escape their deserved punishment these forces will be relabeled and reused.

The Russian Ministry of Defense accused the U.S. of blocking the lower airspace over Abu Kamal while its Syrian allies were trying to liberate it. For eight days Russian high flying long range bombers had to come all the way from Russia to provide support for its troops on the ground. In a recent TV speech the leader of the Lebanese Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, accused the U.S. troops in Syria of providing drone intelligence to ISIS in Abu Kamal. ISIS used it to shell Syrian and allied forces. Several high officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps were killed in such attacks. Nasrallah also said that the U.S. used electronic warfare measures to disable the radios of the attacking force. He said that it rescued fleeing ISIS troops. Nasrallah's accusations are consistent with reports from the ground. (The U.S. and its allies also continue to supply other terrorist groups in north-west and the south-west of Syria.)

Neither Nasrallah nor the IRGC will forget those misdeeds. The operation commander of the IRGC, General Quasem Soleimani, recently reported to Iran's Supreme Leader Khamenei:

Cont. reading: Syria - This U.S. Occupation - Or "Presence" - Is Unsustainable

Posted by b at 10:05 AM | Comments (56)

November 22, 2017

Google Does Evil

Up to about 2006 or 2007 Google provided an excellent search engine. It then started to prioritize and present more general results even where one searched for very specific information. It became cumbersome to search for and find details. The situation has since further deteriorated.

The Google News search is now completely useless. It delivers the main stream media trash without showing divergent views or opinions. What is the use of a search result page that links to twenty sites with the same slightly rewritten Associated Press story?

Google's algorithms now amount to censorship. Since August it downgrades websites that offer alternative views to the left of the pack. Searches that earlier led to the World Socialist Web Site or to Media Matters no longer show these sites, or show them way down the result pages. Traffic to these sites collapsed.

This week Google announced that it will censor RT.com, the website of the international Russian TV station: Google will ‘de-rank’ RT articles to make them harder to find – Eric Schmidt. Schmidt, the CEO of Google and its parent company Alphabet, claims that he is "very strongly not in favor of censorship.” That is a laughable. Intentional downgrading a website that has relevant content IS censorship. Down-ranking means that less people will find and come to the site. Its content will have less viewers. It will be censored out of the public perception.

The original Google algorithm used the number of links to one site as a measure for its relevance. It was reasonable. In 2004 Google's founder proclaimed:

“Our search results are the best we know how to produce. They are unbiased and objective, and we do not accept payment for them or for inclusion or more frequent updating … We believe it is important for everyone to have access to the best information and research, not only to the information people pay for you to see.”

Back then the motto of Google was "Don't be evil". When its new parent company Alphabet was launched that motto was discarded.

Google has become a prime cooperator and contractor for U.S. intelligence services. The private data it collects from it users is fed the dark-site's databases.

But its new evilness is not restricted to data. The company ran a campaign against homeless people near its headquarter in Venice California (video). Google conspired with other tech-giants to keep the wages of its engineers down.

Cont. reading: Google Does Evil

Posted by b at 01:02 PM | Comments (83)

November 21, 2017

Russia In Syria - Military 'Failure' Sets Off Intense Diplomacy

Western media predicted that the Russian military campaign in Syria would end in `failure`. That - presumably - has been achieved (not). Now follows a push of diplomatic efforts to settle the war.

In September 2015 the "west" prepared for an open military aggression on Syria. The purported aim was to fight ISIS and to stop the migrant flow into Europe. The real aim was "regime change". Russia stepped in by sending its cavalry to Syria:

The U.S., Britain, France and others announced to enter Syrian skies to "fight the terror" of the Islamic State. Russia will use the same claim to justify its presence and its air operations flying from Latakia. Simply by being there it will make sure that others will not be able to use their capabilities for more nefarious means. Additional intelligence from Russian air assets will also be helpful for Syrian ground operations.

The Obama administration was surprised by the Russian (and Iranian) intervention. It had no sensible means to counter it. The administration and the U.S. commentariat tried to hide this impotence by predicting that the Russian campaign would fail.

Obama himself led the pack:

“An attempt by Russia and Iran to prop up Assad and try to pacify the population is just going to get them stuck in a quagmire and it won’t work,” Mr. Obama said during a news conference at the White House on Friday ...

As reminder, and for your amusement, an incomplete list of the then published "Russia fails" nonsense:  

Cont. reading: Russia In Syria - Military 'Failure' Sets Off Intense Diplomacy

Posted by b at 12:52 PM | Comments (97)

November 20, 2017

The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

The Saudi clown prince Mohammad Bin Salman is an impulsive tyrant. But what accounts for his urge to purge the country of any potential competing power center Why does he run a such an activist foreign policy? The answer might be Iran. Not Iran the country, but Iran the system.

Since the U.S. war on Iraq the sclerotic Saudi Arabia continuously lost standing in its region. The Iranian model gained ground. A decade later the authoritarian Arab systems were challenged by the so called "Arab spring". While the movements in the various countries -as far as they were genuine- have failed, they were a warning sign for things to come.

Saudi Arabia reacted to the challenges by moving away from a sedate, consensual run family business towards a centrally controlled, supercharged tyranny. The move allows for more flexible and faster reactions to any future challenge. But it also increases the chance of making mistakes. To understand why this endeavor is likely to fail one needs look at the traditional economic and social system that is the fabric of the country. The fate of the Hariri dynasty is an example for it.

Since Salman climbed the throne he has moved to eliminate all competition to his rule. The religious establishment was purged of any opposition. Its police arm was reigned in. First crown prince Murqrin was removed and then crown prince Nayef. They were replaced with Salman's inexperienced son. Economic and military powers were concentrated in his hands. During the recent night of the long knives powerful family members and business people were detained. The Wall Street Journal reports of a second arrest wave. More higher ups have been incarcerated. This round includes senior military commanders and very wealthy business people.

 

As the prison for the arrested VIPs, the Ritz-Carlton hotel, is fully booked, the next door Mariott is now put to use. Qualified staff was hired to handle the prisoners:

As many as 17 people detained in the anti-corruption campaign have required medical treatment for abuse by their captors, according to a doctor from the nearest hospital and an American official tracking the situation.
...
The former Egyptian security chief, Habib el-Adli, said by one of his advisers and a former Egyptian interior minister to be advising Prince Mohammed, earned a reputation for brutality and torture under President Hosni Mubarak.

After the torture reports spread due to employees of local hospitals, a medical unit was established in the Ritz itself.

Cont. reading: The Saudi System And Why Its Change May Fail

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (86)

November 19, 2017

Weekly Review And Open Thread 2017-42

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 13 - Yemen - Having Lost The War Saudis Try Genocide - Media Complicit

No progress has been made towards lifting or breaking the total Saudi blockade. There are new rumors of an imminent attack of Saudi proxy forces on the capital Sanaa. All earlier attacks failed miserably.

Nov 14 - Revealed - Saudis Plan To Give Up Palestine - For War On Iran

Has anyone seen other English language sites pick up the Al-Akhbar report? I continue to believe that it is true and important to understand the ongoing issues.

Nov 15 - The Non-Coup Coup In Zimbabwe

A new tick-tock report of the preparations and execution of the non-coup coup is here. China and South Africa were informed and had agreed to an unbloody internal regime change. The U.S. was in the known but not involved. Action was planned for mid December when Mugabe was expected to lift his former mistress "Gucci" Grace into the leading position. It was pushed forward when Mugabe fired his (coup plotting) vice-president.

An unofficial account of the leading party in Zimbabwe tweeted today:

ZANU PF @zanu_pf - 3:49 AM - 19 Nov 2017

We have recalled president Mugabe, he is no longer the president of ZANU PF. May he leave with grace.

Nov 16 - Syria Summary: The Idlib Battle Comes Into Sight

At noon local time today the last ISIS held city, Abu Kamal (aka Albu Kamal, AlBoukamal) in east-Syria, was declared liberated. Remaining ISIS fighters fled northwards across the Euphrates into areas controlled by the U.S. proxy force SDF. They will be relabeled and reused. An unimpeded road drive between Beirut in Lebanon and Tehran in Iran is again possible.

Nov 17 - NATO Adds To Turkey's Chagrin

Erdogan aligned media assert now that the subject of the troublesome NATO exercise in Norway was an attack on Turkey. The issue stays hot.

Nov 18 - Is Satire "Fakenews"? - How Fact-Checkers Peddle Snake-Oil

A fitting New Yorker cartoon on the issue:

bigger

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 09:07 AM | Comments (89)

November 18, 2017

Is Satire "Fakenews"? - How Fact-Checkers Peddle Snake-Oil

Since the issues of alleged "fake news" and "Russian influence" have cropped up, several media institutions highlight their public fact-checkers. Social media companies hire them to filter "fake news" from their content.

Traditional fact-checkers within a newsroom considered the veracity of the pieces their own reporters wrote up. They corrected factual mistakes before those were printed or aired. The new crop of fact-checker is testing the veracity of claims made by other media outlets and public entities.

The Tampa Bay Times's PolitiFact is one of the oldest and biggest of these organizations. It was founded in 2007 and has offices in several states. Like all such entities it has a certain political flavor. Thus the supposedly neutral fact-checking site PolitiFact gets fact check by a site named PolitiFact Bias.

Last week Amy Sherman wrote an important piece for PolitiFact. Facebook users had pointed her to this month old report about a military court case:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — Bowe Bergdahl, the Army sergeant facing charges of desertion, walked out of a military courtroom during a pre-trial hearing Monday and has not been seen since approximately 10:35 AM, prompting a statewide manhunt for the missing soldier.

Sources inside the courtroom say that Bergdahl took only a half-full Camelbak and a long hunting knife with him as he calmly made his way to the exit during his own lawyer’s remarks to the judge regarding a possible plea deal.
...
Pentagon leadership is offering an unusual reward for information on Bergdahl’s whereabouts: $25,000 or seven Guantanamo detainees, depending on the credibility of the information.

The fact-checker applied the best of her abilities to debunk the assertions of the above piece:

"Bowe Bergdahl wanders off during court-martial," said the October headline in Duffel Blog.
...
Facebook users flagged the post as being potentially fabricated, as part of the social network’s efforts to combat fake news. This story is fake.
...
We rate this headline Pants on Fire.
...
Multiple news outlets including the AP reported that Bergdahl entered a plea of guilty during the Oct. 16 hearing at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He didn’t wander off during his hearing.

"I understand that leaving was against the law," Bergdahl testified.

(Liar Liar) "Pants on Fire" is the worst rating on PolitiFact's truthiness scale.

But something is wrong with "fact-checking" when such rating is applied to satirical content. For those brain-dead folks who do not recognize satire in the hilarious screwiness of its content the Duffel Blog's About page provides it in very clear words:

Cont. reading: Is Satire "Fakenews"? - How Fact-Checkers Peddle Snake-Oil

Posted by b at 01:46 PM | Comments (28)

November 17, 2017

NATO Adds To Turkey's Chagrin

There has long been speculation about a Turkish good-bye to NATO.

The U.S. and its military proxy organization in Europe are doing their best to further such a move:

The image of Atatürk was displayed as a target during the drill at NATO’s Joint Warfare Center in Stavanger, Norway held between Nov. 8 and Nov. 17, while a NATO soldier posted defamatory words about Erdoğan on the social media.

Atatürk is the founder of the secular Turkey. He was designated as "target" during a desk-top drill. NATO's Joint Warfare Center is not a low level school but an elite officer training institution led by a Major-General. The 40 Turkish soldiers who attended the training course were immediately ordered back home.

Secularists in Turkey have long suspected NATO as promoting "moderate Islamists". That belief is not without factual ground. U.S. President Obama allied with the Muslim Brotherhood during the so called "Arab Spring". But the second incident at the very same NATO institution points to a more comprehensive anti-Turkish position:

A Kurdish-origin Norwegian officer signed up to a social networking website within NATO, using a fake account in the name of President Erdoğan and sharing posts against the organization.

To vilify the Turkish secularist hero Atatürk and its Islamist President Erdogan in related occasions is a comprehensive move against the whole country.

NATO's political spokesperson Jens Stoltenberg, a Norwegian politician, apologized for the incidents. It will soothe no one.

A comparable incident happened in 2006. U.S. Lt. Colonel Ralph Peters published a map with redrawn borders of Middle East in the Armed Forces Journal. The map showed a "Free Kurdistan" and Turkey cut to half its size.

The map was then presented by an American colonel at the NATO’s Defense College in Rome while Turkish officers were attending. An uproar ensued and the U.S. had to apologize.

In July 2016 parts of the Turkish military attempted a coup against Erdogan. Turkish jets which attacked the capitol Ankara had launched from the U.S. and NATO base in Incirlik. When the attempt failed several NATO countries granted asylum to Turkish officers who did not want to return to their home country.

After the failed coup Turkey decided to buy Russian air defense systems. The move makes sense. The alternative U.S. systems are suspected to be ineffective against attacking U.S. planes and missiles. The Russian S-400 systems is designed to counter threats from U.S. weapons.

Turkey is a partner in the U.S. F-35 fighter jet program. It has plans to purchase one hundred of them. Now the U.S. Air Force suggests that the deal could be restricted:

Cont. reading: NATO Adds To Turkey's Chagrin

Posted by b at 02:22 PM | Comments (98)

November 16, 2017

Syria Summary: The Idlib Battle Comes Into Sight

There have been few significant movements during the last weeks. The war on Syria slowly grinds towards its end. The political tussle continues as ever. U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis made a curious announcement of plans he can not fulfill.


General Situation on November 3 - bigger

Our last Syria summary looked at the situation around the last refuge area of the Islamic State near the Syrian-Iraqi border:

The twin-cities of Abu Kamal (al-Bukamal) in Syria and al-Qaim in Iraq are ISIS' last urban refuge. The cities are on the south site of the Euphrates with the important border crossing between them. Coming from the east Iraqi government troops retook the al-Qaim crossing today. They now control the border and are breaking into the city proper. Syrian government forces approach Abu Kamal from the north-west and from south-east.
...
The U.S. proxy forces north of the Euphrates announced that they had taken several oil-fields north of the river and were also progressing towards Abu Kamal. The Syrian government and its allies fear that the U.S. [is trying to take] Abu Kamal itself. It could then claim to have control over the border crossing towards Iraq and severe that important line of communication. A race is on to prevent that.


Situation on November 10 - Abu Kamal is at the bottom right of the map - bigger

For a few days it seemed that Syrian government forces were easily winning the race. Coming through Iraq, troops moved deep into Abu Kamal and found it empty. They prematurely declared victory but had been deceived. ISIS used tunnels to move undetected into well prepared positions and attacked them from the rear. The Syrian forces were badly mauled and had to retreat.

Since then more troops have arrived and are now ready to launch an all out attack. Coming from Russia long range bombers hit ISIS positions. The U.S. is trying to make such support more difficult by claiming an "air corridor" over the city:

Cont. reading: Syria Summary: The Idlib Battle Comes Into Sight

Posted by b at 12:48 PM | Comments (52)

November 15, 2017

The Non-Coup Coup In Zimbabwe

Yesterday's coup in Zimbabwe is of global interest. The country is one of the few that have long resisted the colonial "western" attempts to control its mineral and agricultural riches. Such coups are often driven by the CIA or other "services". But there is no evidence yet that this is the case here. Local rivalry is for now the more plausible explanation.

Since 1980, when Zimbabwe gained independence from Britain, the country is ruled by Robert Mugabe. He has run an anti-colonial and socialist policy. Unfortunately his economic policies, together with "western" sanctions and currency manipulations, have devastated the country's economy. In 2000 Mugabe ousted some 4,000 white farmers who had owned and ran large estates. In a sweeping land reform the farms were split into plots and redistributed to local people. Agricultural productivity tanked and has since not fully recovered. A deep economic crisis with high unemployment ensued.

Mugabe is now 93 years old and apparently frail. There has long been infighting over his succession. Mugabe's wife "Gucci" Grace Mugabe and her children are well known for being exceptional corrupt and prodigal when it comes to their personal amenities. On November 5 Grace Mugabe asked her husband to be named as his successor.

On November 6 then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a 73-year-old lawyer and veteran of the liberation wars, was ousted after a conflict with Grace Mugabe. Mnangagwa allegedly planned [long backgrounder] to form a unity government with the opposition and to bring back some of the white farmers. It is claimed that he has British backing but that the U.S. and the EU oppose him.

The ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party is split in its loyalties to these two persons. The G40 "youth-wing" is following Grace Mugabe while the old guards of the party despise her.

Yesterday the military moved into the capital Harare. At 4am this morning Major-General Sibusiso Moyo appeared on TV and announced that it has taken control. It denies that coup has taken place. In a statement the military "guaranteed" Mugabe's safety and said that it was only targeting "criminals" around him. Mugabe and his family have been put under house arrest. There has been so far no fighting and no visible public opposition to the "non-coup coup". Traffic and life in the capitol appears to be normal (vid).

According to the African editor of the partly Soros funded IRINnews:

Obi Anyadike @Enugu62 5:02 AM - 15 Nov 2017

This is all to do with stopping Grace Mugabe from taking over. The assumption is the military will keep Robert Mugabe on ice. Purge those around him. Bring back ex-VP Emmerson Mnangagwa from South Africa. And have him anointed at the ZANU-PF congress in December.

Your host has not followed the developments in Zimbabwe diligently enough to reliably predict the consequences of this development. Please use the comments to add your knowledge to the above wrap-up.

Posted by b at 04:52 AM | Comments (91)

November 14, 2017

Revealed - Saudis Plan To Give Up Palestine - For War On Iran

The tyrants of Saudi Arabia developed a plan that sells away Palestine. They see this as necessary to get U.S. support for their fanatic campaign against their perceived enemy Iran.

An internal Saudi memorandum, leaked to the Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar, reveals its major elements. (Note: The genuineness of the memo has not been confirmed. In theory it could be a "plant" by some other party. But Al-Akhbar has so far an excellent record of publishing genuine leaks and I trust its editors' judgement.)

According to the memo the Saudis are ready to give up on the Palestinian right of return. They forfeit Palestinian sovereignty over Jerusalem and no longer insist of the status of a full state for the Palestinians. In return they ask for a U.S.-Saudi-Israeli (military) alliance against their perceived enemy on the eastern side of the Persian Gulf.

Negotiations on the issue were held between the Saudis and the Zionist under the aegis of the United States. Netanyahu and Trump’s "shared personal assistant, wunderkind Jared Kushner", is the point men in these negotiations. He made at least three trips to Saudi Arabia this year, the last one very recently.

The Saudi operations over the last month, against the internal opposition to the Salman clan as well as against Hizbullah in Lebanon, have to be seen in the context and as preparation of the larger plan. To recap:

  • Last week the current front-man of the Palestinians, Mahmoud Abbas, was ordered to Riyadh. There he was told to accept whatever will be presented as U.S. peace plan or to resign. He was urged to cut all Palestinian ties with Iran and Hizbullah:
Since the warnings, which could threaten the new Palestinian unity agreement signed by Fatah and the Iranian-backed Hamas in the Gaza Strip, Palestinian media displayed a rare degree of unity in recent days by coming out against Iran.
  • On November 6 a letter by the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo to Israeli embassies was intentionally "leaked". In it Netanyahoo urges his diplomats to press for full support for the Saudi plans in Lebanon, Yemen and beyond. On the same day Trump tweeted:
Donald J. Trump‏ @realDonaldTrump - 3:03 PM - 6 Nov 2017
I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing....

(The tweet was heavily promoted by Saudi Twitter bots.)

  • The Saudi tyrant abducted the Prime Minister of Lebanon, Saad Hariri, and declared war on the country. The purpose of this move is to remove or isolate Hizbullah, the Shia resistance of Lebanon which is allied with Iran and opposes the Saudi plans for Palestine.
  • On November 11 the New York Times reported on the U.S. drafting of a "peace plan" but provided little detail. The chance for such a plan to succeed was described as low.

The left-wing Lebanese paper Al-Akhbar has obtained a copy of the plan (Arabic) in form of a memorandum by the Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir to the Saudi clown prince Mohammed Bin Salman (English machine translation):

The document, which is being unveiled for the first time, proves all that has been leaked since President Trump's visit to Saudi Arabia last May on the launch of US efforts to sign a peace treaty between Saudi Arabia and Israel. This was followed by information on the exchange of visits between Riyadh and Tel Aviv, the most important being the visit of the Saudi Crown Prince to the Zionist entity.

The document reveals the size of concessions that Riyadh intends to present in the context of the liquidation of the Palestinian issue, and its concern to get in return the elements of power against Iran and the resistance, led by Hezbollah.

The Saudi foreign ministry memo starts by laying out its strategic perspective:

Cont. reading: Revealed - Saudis Plan To Give Up Palestine - For War On Iran

Posted by b at 05:42 AM | Comments (162)

November 13, 2017

Yemen - Having Lost The War Saudis Try Genocide - Media Complicit

Fakenews:

From the last link:

Saudi Arabia reacting to UN famine warnings says ports in Yemen it controls will reopen for aid deliveries. Riyadh shut them down last week after a missile attack blamed on Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

The above headlines are false. The Saudi government announced the re-opening of some Yemeni ports and airports. All of these are in the south and under control of Saudi proxy forces who are fighting the Houthi-Saleh alliance in north-west Yemen. Some 70% of the population lives in the north-western areas which will continue to be under an extreme blockade. The most important port in their area is Hodeida which will stay closed. Back in March the U.S. Pentagon tried to get control of the port. But fighting for it would have destroyed the piers and thereby the supply route for some 20 million people. The most important airport is in Sanaa. The Saudi/U.S./UK alliance blocks even UN flights with medical supplies from using it.

The Saudis now "request" the UN to send an expert commission to Riyadh to "discuss" procedures for future control of the ports that are not held by its proxies. Such a process will take weeks if not months. The Saudis will, like the Pentagon earlier, demand total control over the ports which their opponents will of course not give. Any such fighting will only worsen the situation.

Thanks to local smugglers some food and other goods will still be able to pass through the blockade. But these will be way too few and too expensive for the vast majority of Yemenis. When the recent blockade was announced, food and gas prices in Yemen doubled overnight. Public service employees have not been paid for more than 15 months. People simply can no longer afford to keep their children alive:

In Sana’a, Nor Rashid sold her family’s cow to pay for the transport costs to get her four year-old daughter, who weighs 16lbs, to the city’s feeding centre in Al-Sabaeen hospital. She has other children who are also sick but she cannot afford to pay for the medical care if she brings them in for treatment too. “It’s because of the lack of government wages,” she said. “Usually we go to the person in the village with a wage to ask for help and borrow money if someone needs to go to the hospital. But since the wages stopped we have no support.”

The UN warns, rightly, that the blockade is causing a mass famine. This famine is not a side effect of the war - it is a weapon:

To starve Yemeni civilians is an overt act by Riyadh, enraged by a humiliating failure to achieve a Saudi military victory.

The media claim that only 10,000 civilians have been killed in the two and a half years of the war. The number is laughable. Neither the UN nor others have published any detailed account. The 10,000 number seems to be plugged from hot air.  Compare, for example, the dates and content of these two reports:

Al Jazeerah - 31 Aug 2016: UN: At least 10,000 killed in Yemen conflict

The United Nations has significantly revised the estimated death toll from Yemen's 18-month civil war to up to 10,000 people
...
Speaking from the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator, said the new figure was based on official information from medical facilities in Yemen.

Al Jazeerah - 17 Jan 2017: Death toll in Yemen conflict passes 10,000

The United Nations' humanitarian aid official in Yemen has said that the civilian death toll in the nearly two-year conflict has reached 10,000, with 40,000 others wounded.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs' Jamie McGoldrick said that the figure is based on lists of victims gathered by health facilities ...

The same low number is claimed by the same official in August and in January while a devastating war has been ongoing throughout that time frame. That does not make sense. To provide a cynic laugh attack, or out of stupidity, the later Al Jazeerah report says:

The announcement marks the first time a UN official has confirmed such a high death toll in Yemen

Up to July 2017 the U.S.-Saudi coalition had flown more than 90,000 air-sorties over Yemen. Most of those will have involved weapon releases. Are we to believe that only 10,000 civilians have been killed by all these bombs and the additional artillery, sharpshooters and suicide attacks? That would be inconsistent even with western reports of the  known mass incidents during the war. 100,000 dead civilians caused by the war so far is a more likely number than the never changing 10,000.

On November 1 a Saudi bomb attack killed at least 29 people in a busy market in Saada. The Yemeni missile launch against the airport of Riyadh on November 4 was in response to that deadly Saudi attack. The Saudis claim that these Yemeni missiles are from Iran and the U.S. military is, without providing evidence, supporting that fairy tale:

Cont. reading: Yemen - Having Lost The War Saudis Try Genocide - Media Complicit

Posted by b at 09:32 AM | Comments (56)

November 12, 2017

Open Thread 2017-41

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Nov 7 -Defeated Elsewhere, Saudi Tyrant Declares War On Lebanon

The quasi kidnapping of Saad Hariri has been reported in detail by Robert Fisk in The Independent, David Ignatius in the Washington Post and by a team of Reuters reporters. It is undeniable that Hariri is held against his will and was pressed to resign. Neither Trump nor Macron nor Merkel will be able to defend that. With the kidnapping MbS has achieved something everyone thought to be impossible. He made Saad Hariri likable.

Tonight Hariri will be interviewed in Saudi Arabia by a reporter of his own Future TV station. The interviewer will use a Saudi camera crew. She is also a parliament candidate for Hariri's party and on the Saudi payroll. The President of Lebanon has warned of believing anything Hariri says while he is in Saudi Arabia and under duress.

Nov 9 - Priti Patel Resigns - Israel Lobby Mourns The Loss Of A Valuable British Asset

It was too obvious that Patel was a tool of the Israel lobby. Many other politicians in "western" polities are similar tools, but better at hiding it.

Nov 10 - Saudi Arabia - This "Liberal Reformer" Is An Impulsive Tyrant

The stars are slowly turning against MbS. Only paid lobbyist still speak of him as a "liberal reformer". The kidnapping of Hariri seems to have broken the camels back. A real Bedu would have avoided that.

Nov 11 - Trump Points To Falsehoods In "Russian Hacking" Claims - Media Ignore What He Says

Trump makes one point every reasonable men should be able to agree to. Curiously it is the very one point on which the borg is united in fighting him.

Donald J. Trump @realDonaldTrump - 1:18am · 12 Nov 2017

When will all the haters and fools out there realize that having a good relationship with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing. There always playing politics - bad for our country. I want to solve North Korea, Syria, Ukraine, terrorism, and Russia can greatly help!

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 03:01 PM | Comments (70)

November 11, 2017

Trump Points To Falsehoods In "Russian Hacking" Claims - Media Ignore What He Says

Each day we get more "Russian influence" and "Russian hacking" claptrap. Like this from the once honorable Wired which headlines:

Here's the first evidence Russia used Twitter to influence Brexit

Russian interference in Brexit through targeted social media propaganda can be revealed for the first time. A cache of posts from 2016, seen by WIRED, shows how a coordinated network of Russian-based Twitter accounts spread racial hatred in an attempt to disrupt politics in the UK and Europe.

Interesting, enthralling, complicate and sensational ...
                                                    ... until you get down to paragraph 14(!):

Surprisingly, all the posts around Brexit in this small snapshot were posted after the June vote.

"Russian-based Twitter accounts" influenced the Brexit vote in the UK by tweeting affirmative AFTER the vote happened.

"Russian agents" influenced the U.S. election by buying irrelevant Facebook ads - 25% of which were never seen by anyone and 56% of which were posted AFTER the election.

During a flight of his recent Asia tour U.S. President Donald Trump held a press gaggle on board of the plane. Part of it were questions and answers about the alleged "Russian hacking" of the U.S. election.

There is no public transcript available yet but the Washington Post's Mark Berman provided a screenshot of some relevant parts:

Mark Berman @markberman - 6:20 AM - 11 Nov 2017

Full comment from @realDonaldTrump again questioning the US intel community conclusion that Russia meddled last year

Note that the three (not four, not seventeen) U.S. intel agencies Berman talks of did not come to "conclusions" as he claimed. They delivered an "assessment" (pdf) - their word - an estimate or judgement based on observation of behavior and other vague data. Its Annex B points out:

Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact. Assessments are based on collected information, which is often incomplete or fragmentary, as well as logic, argumentation, and precedents.

In the gaggle transcript attached to Berman's tweet Trump talks about his short encounter with the Russian President Putin in Hanoi:

Q: When did you bring up the issue of election meddling? Did you ask him a question?

A: Every time he sees me he says he didn't do that and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says, I didn't do that. I think he is very insulted by it, ...
...
He says that very strongly and he really seems to be insulted by it he says he didn't do it.

Q: Even if he didn't bring it up one-on-one, do you believe him?

A: I think that he is very, very strong on the fact that didn't do it. And then you look and you look what's going on with Podesta, and you look at what's going on with the server from the DNC and why didn't the FBI take it? Why did they leave it? Why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI? You look at all of this stuff, and you say, what's going on here? And you hear it's 17 agencies. Well its three. And one is Brennan. And one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They're political hacks. So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey's proven now to be a liar and he's proven to be a leaker. So you look at that. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently say he has nothing to do with that. Now, you are not going to get into an argument, you are going to start talking about Syria and the Ukraine.

Trump gets it. He knows the weak points of the propaganda claims of "Russian hacking": Podesta and the fake Steele dossier, the DNC server, the lack of any FBI investigation of the alleged hack, the NYT's long false insistence on the '17 agencies' assessment, the "political hacks" who fitted their claims to the Obama/Clinton narrative.

But neither the Washington Post nor the NY Times or others mention the crucial points Trump spelled out in their write-ups of the gaggle. There is no word on the DNC email server in them, nor of Podesta. Instead they create a claim of "Putin says and Trump just believes him". They do not name the facts and questions Trump listed in support of his position. Taking up the valid questions Trump asked would of course require the news outlets to finally delve into them. We can't have that.

Trump is not the brightest bulb and he is not well informed. I dislike nearly all of his policies. But he understands that the "Russian hacking" narrative is false and is carried forward by lunatic political hacks and hostile media who want to push the U.S. back into a cold, or maybe even hot war with Russia, China, Iran and probably everyone else.

Posted by b at 02:00 PM | Comments (88)

November 10, 2017

Saudi Arabia - This "Liberal Reformer" Is An Impulsive Tyrant

It is becoming more difficult to hide the mess the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman creates. The propaganda about the "liberal reformer" is too inconsistent with his obviously tyrannical behavior.

The clown prince of Saudi Barbaria practically abducted the Prime Minister of Lebanon, blackmailed him to resign and holds him since under house arrest. This is an unprecedented attack on the sovereignty of Lebanon and all other countries. Yet the U.S. and some European leaders cowardly pretend that Saad Hariri is free to go where he wants:

A French official says that Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri has told foreign ambassadors that he is not a prisoner in Saudi Arabia, where he has been holed up since an unusual resignation announcement.

An official in French President Emmanuel Macron's office said on Friday that the French and U.S. ambassadors in Saudi Arabia met with Hariri, and that Hariri "says he is not a prisoner, the (Saudi crown) prince says he is not a prisoner."

Macron paid a surprise visit to Saudi Arabia on Thursday night and met with the crown prince, notably about rising tensions in Lebanon, a former French protectorate.

Hariri may not be "a prisoner" but he is as free to leave his current residence as Julian Assange in free to leave the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Macron did not even meet with Hariri but slipped over into the United Arab Emirates. There an unexpected sale of two French corvettes was signed. The president of the UAE, Mohammed bin Zayed, is the mentor of the Saudi clown prince Mohammed bin Salman. Macron took the thirty pieces of silver and let Hariri and Lebanon hanging.

It is obvious that Hariri did not travel to Saudi Arabia last Saturday with the intent to resign from his job:

Hariri had scheduled meetings in Beirut on the following Monday – with the IMF, the World Bank and a series of discussions on water quality improvement; not exactly the action of a man who planned to resign his premiership.

The unofficial version of Hariri's meeting with the U.S. and French ambassador is diverging from the one above:

Mr. Hariri, a dual citizen of Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, met the ambassadors of Britain and the European Union and the chargé d’affaires from the American Embassy on Wednesday and Thursday at his Riyadh residence. Other Western diplomats, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said that those envoys, too, came away with the impression that he could not speak freely.

Even the State Department spokesperson lets slip that Harairi is not free to go:

"We have seen him. In terms of the conditions of him being held or the conversations between Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Hariri, I would have to refer you to the government of Saudi Arabia and also to Mr Hariri's office."

Hariri's own political party in Lebanon has united with its enemy Hizbullah and the Christian President Aoun in a call for Hariri to come back and explain himself to the Lebanese people:

“The return of the head of the Lebanese government, the national leader and the head of al-Mustaqbal Movement Saad Hariri is necessary to restore respect for Lebanon's balance at home and abroad, in the framework of full respect for the Lebanese legitimacy represented in the Constitution and the Taef Accord and in respecting the Arab and international legitimacies,” said Mustaqbal in a statement issued after an emergency meeting for its parliamentary bloc and political bureau.

The Saudis have told their citizens in Lebanon to leave the country. Its allies Kuwait, UAE and Bahrain have followed suit. There have been some four such orders during the last five years and the move is in itself not significant. Should the Saudis start to block the Gulf money flow to Lebanon or take other measures the economic damage in Lebanon could be quite larger If the Gulf states expulse Lebanese workers the economic damage to Lebanon would be huge. But these Lebanese workers are the people who actually run the businesses in the Gulf states. Without the 160,000 Lebanese book keepers and managers the Saudi economy would probably collapse.

The similarities with the idiotic Saudi campaign against Qatar is obvious. The Saudi made an impulsive hostile move without having thought through the second or third step. He soon found himself out of ammunition but had left no way out to solve the issue without losing face.

Cont. reading: Saudi Arabia - This "Liberal Reformer" Is An Impulsive Tyrant

Posted by b at 10:41 AM | Comments (119)

November 09, 2017

Priti Patel Resigns - Israel Lobby Mourns The Loss Of A Valuable British Asset

A British Minister of Hindu heritage was fired after it emerged that she secretly met Israeli officials in Israel and elsewhere without informing the Foreign Office. Back in Britain she then tried to arrange additional finances for Israel's arming of al-Qaeda in the Golan heights. The affair shines light on the nefarious influence of the Israel lobby on British politics.

Priti Patel was International Development Secretary, responsible for British aid to various countries and organizations. She is a Thatcherite Conservative, a vocal supporter of Britain's exit from the European Union and of Hindu fascism in India:

She has been a strong cheerleader of the Narendra Modi government, publicly praising a number of its policies including demonetisation.

In August Patel went on a "family holiday" to Israel. Instead of enjoying the beach she met dozens of Israeli officials from Prime Minister Netanyahoo down to the heads of Zionist aid organizations. She was shepherded by one Lord Polak, a long time Israel lobbyist in British politics. Polak accompanied her to every meeting. None of these were disclosed to the British Embassy, the Foreign Office or Downing Street. Cabinet rules demand that all such meetings are coordinated and briefed through these official channels.

Stuart Polak is a major character in Zionist lobbying in Britain:

Ennobled by David Cameron two years ago, Lord Polak is a veteran of Westminster’s corridors of power. He has taken literally hundreds of Tory MPs to Israel over the years, educating them about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and securing their support in parliamentary votes and the public arena.

Under his guidance, CFI became the biggest lobbying group in Westminster, holding lunches for 700 guests, making countless Downing Street visits, and developing contacts throughout Israel and the Middle East.

Polak fled when the media tried to question him about his Israel visit arrangements for Patel.

One of Patel's meetings was at an army hospital in the Israel occupied Syrian Golan heights where the Israeli military patches up al-Qaeda Jihadis which were wounded while fighting the Syrian government. Only last week the Israeli army in the occupied Golan supported a murderous attack of al-Qaeda Jihadis on the Syrian Druze village of Hader in the Quneitra area. The Jihadis in the Golan are surrounded by Syrian government forces. Their only supply line is through Israel occupied land. Druze in Israel who protested against the attack were arrested.

Back in Britain Priti Patel asked her department to move British aid money from Palestinian causes to the Israeli military operation in the occupied Golan. (Funny how the Guardian in its wrap-up fails to mention that point ...)

Additionally to her busy holiday, Priti Patel had two other meetings with Israeli officials which she similarly did not disclose.

When it became clear yesterday that Priti Patel's behavior would cost her her job, the British Zionist lobby launched a rescue attempt. Based on anonymous sources  the Jewish Chronicle claimed that Prime Minister May had been informed about two of the meetings and had ordered Patel to not disclose them:

Number 10 instructed Development Secretary Priti Patel not to include her meeting with the Israel foreign ministry official Yuval Rotem in New York on 18 September in her list of undisclosed meetings with Israelis which was published on Monday, the JC has learned.

Downing Street immediately denied the claim and no other source backed it up. The blackmail attempt failed. The Jewish Chronicle also was at the forefront of the slander campaign that tried to smear the British labor leader Corbyn as anti-semite.

The Independent notes about the Patel affair:

Cont. reading: Priti Patel Resigns - Israel Lobby Mourns The Loss Of A Valuable British Asset

Posted by b at 06:29 AM | Comments (99)

November 07, 2017

Defeated Elsewhere, Saudi Tyrant Declares War On Lebanon

The Saudi clown prince Mohammed bin Salman is purging all potential internal resistance and solidifies his dictatorial position. (The move includes a huge money grab. All assets of those accused of corruption are confiscated by the state which, in Saudi Arabia, is the tyrant himself.) The internal consolidation of power is the prelude for a larger external venture.

At the same time as the internal purges proceed, MbS implements an extremely aggressive foreign policy agenda targeted at Iran and its allies. Having been defeated in Iraq and Syria and at stalemate in Qatar and Yemen the Saudi ruler decided to try his luck in Lebanon. The Saudi declares war on Lebanon and will put enormous economic and political pressure on it. But all of that will be to no avail. The war will only cause Lebanon to move deeper into the "resistance" camp an join its forces with Syria, Iran and Russia.

(The recap below is mostly an accumulation of sources. My own analysis will follow in a later piece.)

The Saudi plans are well coordinated with the United States and have the full support of the Israeli government. The point man in the Trump administration for all Middle East issues is Trump's son-in-law (and arch Zionist) Jared Kushner. He made three trips to Saudi Arabia this year, the last one very recently. The Washington Post's David Ignatius brown noses:

[L]ast month, Jared Kushner, Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law, made a personal visit to Riyadh. The two princes are said to have stayed up until nearly 4 a.m. several nights, swapping stories and planning strategy.

A week ago the Saudi minister (and extremists) Thamer al-Sabhan called for toppling Hizbullah and promised "astonishing developments". Friday night the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al Hariri was ordered back to his home-country Saudi Arabia and pressed to read a resignation statement on a Saudi TV station. None of his advisors in Lebanon knew that this was coming. It is claimed that Hariri did not voluntarily resign and is now under house arrest. There is even a Free Hariri Clock counting the hours, minutes and seconds of his ordeal. The Lebanese President has not accepted the PM's resignation and demands that Hariri returns to Lebanon. We called the resignation The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah.

On Saturday the Saudi ruler engaged in the night of the long knives and arrested all his potential internal competition.

In the same night a missile launched by Houthi/Saleh forces in Yemen hit near the airport of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Such missile attacks are in retaliation for the intense two years of Saudi bombing of Yemen which by now probably killed more than a hundred-thousand people. While this was likely unrelated to the other events it added to the general anti-Iranian narrative the Saudis propagate. The Saudis claim that Yemeni missiles are of Iranian origin and launched by Iranian specialists. Iran denies this. Weapon experts at IHS Janes refute that claim:

Burkan-2 missile launched by Houthis is Scud derivative and is unlike variants made by Iran or DPRK.

The Houthi in Yemen are supported by elements of the Yemeni army under command of the former Yemeni President Saleh. The Yemen army has for decades owned and used variants of Scud missiles. It is unlikely that it needs help to modify and launch these.

The Saudis nominally support Yemeni forces under Saleh's successor Hadi. The former(?) President of Yemen Hadi is, like the former(?) Prime Minister of Lebanon,  held under house arrest in Saudi Arabia. The former(?) Palestinian President Abbas, long beyond his legal term, was also summoned to Riyadh. One wonders if he will ever return.

Yesterday the Saudi Minister Thamer al-Sabhan declared war on Lebanon:

Cont. reading: Defeated Elsewhere, Saudi Tyrant Declares War On Lebanon

Posted by b at 03:41 AM | Comments (175)

November 06, 2017

Open Thread 2017-40

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 29: UN On Khan Sheikhoun - Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

A rather laughable report about an obviously faked incident.

October 31: How General Kelly's Attitudes Reflect the U.S. of A

Stories about generals, and the U.S. of A, as enlightened defenders of humanity are fairy tales.

November 1: Is The "Moderate Al-Qaeda" Set To Target Hizbullah?

We anticipate that the Saudis have devious plans for Lebanon.

November 2: Neocons Push Dubious Paper To Allege Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

The CIA pushes an likely fake paper to reinforce animosity against Iran.

November 3: Syria Summary - ISIS Loses Control Of Its Last Urban Refuge

The Islamic State is gone. The Saudis and the U.S. lost their war on Iraq and Syria.

November 4: Lebanon - Hariri's Resignation - The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah

The starting signal for the Saudi Lebanon operation.

November 5: Saudi Arabia - This 'Night Of The Long Knives' Is A Panic-Fueled Move

The clown prince robs his peers and breaks the ruling consensus in his country.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 05:47 AM | Comments (102)

November 05, 2017

Saudi Arabia - This 'Night Of The Long Knives' Is A Panic-Fueled Move

Yesterday the ruling Salman clan in Saudi Arabia executed a Night of the Long Knives cleansing the state of all potential competition. The Saudi King Salman and his son Clown Prince Mohammad bin Salman initiated a large arrest wave and purge of high ranking princes and officials. Part of this internal coup was the confiscation of huge financial estates to the advantage of the Salman clan.

The earlier forced resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri is probably related to the last night's events. The Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo endorsed the resignation. This guarantees that Hariri will never again be accepted in a leading role in Lebanon.

In Saudi Arabia eleven princes, including sons of the deceased King Abdullah, more than thirty former and acting ministers as well as the heads of three major TV stations were taken into custody or put under house arrest. The National Guard Commander Prince Mitieb Bin Abdullah was relieved from his post and replaced with Prince Khalid Bin Abdulaziz al Muqrin. The National Guard was the last intelligence and security power center held by the Abdullah branch of the al-Saud family.

An earlier purge in July had dethroned the former Crown Prince Nayaf and replaced him with the young Mohammad Bin-Salman. Then the Nayef branch of the al-Saud family was removed from all power centers. The Abdullah branch followed yesterday. The purged officials were replaced with stooges of the ruling Salman clan.

The Salman branch of the current king and clown prince has now eliminated all of potential internal competition. This goes against the consensus model that had been the foundation of the Saudi family rule over the last century. Tens of thousands of clans and people depended on the patronage of the removed princes and officials. They will not just sit back as their fortunes evaporate.

One effect of the purges will be the concentration of Saudi wealth in the hands of the Salmans.

One of the arrested persons is the allegedly sixth richest man of the world, Prince Al-Waleed Bin Talal (video). He has (had?) an estimated net-worth between $18 and $32 billion. Al-Waleed had publicly clashed with U.S. President Donald Trump. (Al-Waleed is (was?) the largest shareholder of Citygroup which selected Barack Obama's cabinet before receiving a huge government bailout.) Another casualty is Bakr bin Laden, brother of Osama Bin Laden, chairman of the Saudi Binladin Group and fifth richest man of the country.

Official pretext for the purge are corruption allegations going back to 2009. This financial subterfuge will allow the ruling Salmans to confiscate the wealth of the accused. The total haul of this raid will amount to dozens of billions of dollars. A new anti-corruption committee was installed under Clown Prince Mohammad bin Salman. It has dictatorial powers and can freeze and confiscate whatever financial assets it deems worth its attention:

Cont. reading: Saudi Arabia - This 'Night Of The Long Knives' Is A Panic-Fueled Move

Posted by b at 06:43 AM | Comments (139)

November 04, 2017

Lebanon - Hariri's Resignation - The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah

Update (Nov 5, 3 am): After publishing the piece below the Saudi rulers initiated a "house cleaning" in Saudi Arabia. Many princes and businessmen were arrested. The new development wll be covered in another piece later today.
---

Four days ago we asked: Is The "Moderate Al-Qaeda" Set To Target Hizbullah?. The implied answer in that piece was "Yes, the war is coming to Lebanon."

Today the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri resigned with a statement issues from Saudi Arabia on the Saudi Arabian TV station Al Arabia (video). This is the opening shot of the war.

The Saudi-Israeli-U.S. axis will lose this war while Iran and Russia will win from it.

Earlier this week the extremely sectarian Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan had threatened Hizbullah in Lebanon and announced surprises:

Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”
...
Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

While the fighting in Syria and Iraq was ongoing, Lebanon was kept at peace. With the wars ending Lebanon is again the place where proxy fights are carried out. In mid October Joseph Bahout predicted this development:

Regionally, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are now seeking ways to compensate for the loss of Syria as a place where they could defy and bleed Iran. A renewed desire to reverse their regional fortunes could lead them to try regaining a foothold in Lebanon. The Gulf states, Israel, and the United States do not want Iran to reap the benefits of a victory in Syria. If ever they seek to rebalance the regional relationship with Tehran in the Levant, the only place to do so would be Lebanon, despite the many risks that would accompany such an effort.

In such an event, and despite its reticence to jeopardize its Lebanese sanctuary, Hezbollah could have no choice but to accept such a challenge, especially if there is an Israeli component to it.

Lebanese politics are regulated by a complicate agreement. The Sunni camp, financed by the Saudis, holds the position of Prime Minister. The position of the President is held by the Christian former general Michel Aoun. The position of Speaker of the Parliament is held by the leader of the Shia Amal movement Nabih Berri. Two month ago Berri had proposed elections to a new parliament before the end of the year. An election would likely diminish the Sunni position.

Saad Al-Hariri was put into the prime minister position after a long quarrel in Lebanon that had reignited when Saad's father Rafic Hariri, the former PM, was assassinated. Hizbullah was accused of that assassination but an Israeli plot seemed more likely.

The Hariri family made its money as owner of Saudi Oger, a construction company in Saudi Arabia. The Hariris have Saudi passports. Business has gone bad under Hariri junior. In July Saudi Oger closed shop and the former billionaire family is rumored to be bankrupt. The Saudi rulers sponsors them.

Hariri had recently assigned a Lebanese ambassador to Syria. Yesterday Hariri was visited in Beirut by Ali Velayati, a top advisor of the supreme leader Khamenei of Iran. The Saudis did not like either. Thamer's plan was set into motion. They sent a private jet and hauled Hariri to Riyadh. There the Saudi clown prince Mohammad bin Salman gave Hariri his resignation statement (written by Thamer?) to be read by him on Saudi TV.

Irony alert: The Lebanese PM (with a Saudi passport) resigns on order of Saudi Arabia, in Saudi Arabia, on Saudi Arabian TV. In his Saudi written resignation statement (excerpts) he accuses Iran of foreign meddling in Lebanese politics.

(Hariri also suddenly claims that there was an assassination planned against him in Lebanon. This is nonsense. The Lebanese internal security organization says it has no knowledge of such a plot. Hariri needs an excuse to stay away from Lebanon and from the wrath of his followers. Saudi media are trying to create some fantastic story from that assassination claim. But there is nothing evident to back it up.)

The resignation of Hariri is intended to provoke a constitutional crisis in Lebanon and to prevent new parliament elections. The further Saudi plan is likely to evolve around these elements:

Cont. reading: Lebanon - Hariri's Resignation - The Opening Shot Of The Saudi War On Hizbullah

Posted by b at 10:35 AM | Comments (110)

November 03, 2017

Syria Summary - ISIS Loses Control Of Its Last Urban Refuge


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Today the Syrian Arab Army liberated the city of Deir Ezzor from ISIS. The last resistance ended over night. The remaining ISIS fighters tried to flee north across the Euphrates towards the area held by U.S. proxy forces. Most of them were not successful in their attempts. It will take another few days to remove the remaining improvised mines in the city and to secure the ammunition and weapons ISIS abandoned.

For five years a contingent of some 5-7,000 Syrian soldiers and policemen had held a part of Deir Ezzor city first against Jabhat al-Nusra and then against ISIS. They secured the life of some 100,000 civilian inhabitants. Many soldiers and civilians died. Despite intense attempts and U.S. air support ISIS did not manage to dislodge the Syrian government forces. Only two month ago a serious SAA attempt to relief the city from the outside was launched. It went remarkably well. The defense of Deir Ezzor and its relief deserve an epic novel.

With Deir Ezzor cleared the supply lines of the Syrian army are secured and the push along the Euphrates towards the last urban area held by ISIS can proceed.


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The twin-cities of Abu Kamal (al-Bukamal) in Syria and al-Qaim in Iraq are ISIS' last urban refuge. The cities are on the south site of the Euphrates with the important border crossing between them. Coming from the east Iraqi government troops retook the al-Qaim crossing today. They now control the border and are breaking into the city proper. Syrian government forces approach Abu Kamal from the north-west and from south-east. These forces still have to cross some 30 kilometers of desert area. ISIS had prepared strong defense lines and the SAA progress was slower than hoped. During the last three days the Russian air force has flown a strong bombing campaign against those ISIS lines. The Lebanese Hizbullah has re-injected several thousand fighters into Syria to push the campaign. The Iraqi and Syrian forces are tightly coordinating and will move together to take Abu Kamal during the next two or three days.

The U.S. proxy forces north of the Euphrates announced that they had taken several oil-fields north of the river and were also progressing towards Abu Kamal. But there was little if any fighting. Instead the U.S. is bribing the local tribes in the area with Saudi money. These tribes had earlier sworn allegiance to ISIS and were part of its forces. When they switch sides the U.S. claims to be in control of the land they hold. The Syrian government and its allies fear that the U.S. is currently trying a similar stunt with the whole city of Bukamal itself. It could then claim to have control over the border crossing towards Iraq and severe that important line of communication. A race is on to prevent that.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - ISIS Loses Control Of Its Last Urban Refuge

Posted by b at 05:57 AM | Comments (66)

November 02, 2017

Neocons Push Dubious Paper To Allege Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

The anti-Iran powers in the U.S. again try to smear Iran as allied with al-Qaeda. The accusations will be used to justify further hostilities against the country.

Suddenly an anonymous, and likely fake, document appears and is prominently launched into the public circulation. To provide plausibility for the publishing the new CIA director Mike Pompeo ordered his staff to release additional data allegedly found in Osama Bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad in Pakistan.

These "new" papers were first released to the neoconservative anti-Iran lobby Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Among the "hundred thousands" of pages a mysterious 19 page document is claimed to prove Iranian collaboration with al-Qaeda. The way the release was handled and the prominence put on this one specific paper indicates that the now released stash was "spiked" with this document to initiate hostilities against Iran.

We have been here before. Fake documents produced by the CIA and neo-conservative think-tanks were used to allege that Saddam Hussein was buying Uranium in Niger (copy below). False claims were made that Saddam had contacts with the perpetrators of the 9/11 attack in New York.

Former CIA Career Analyst Ned Price explains the politics behind the new release:

Ned Price‏ @nedprice - 6:30 PM - 1 Nov 2017
  • @CIA released what it claims are the final public files from Bin Laden’s lair. I’m all for transparency, but this isn’t about that.
  • In Jan, DNI, which led the declassification effort, released what it said was the final tranche of Bin Laden files. Link
  • The DNI-led review was overseen by career intel officials, who concluded that, w the Jan files, all those of public interest were released.
  • But a funny thing happened when CIA Director Pompeo came into office. I’m told he re-launched a review of the files.
  • In doing so, he took officers away from important missions to pore—and re-pore—over the millions of documents.
  • How can we be sure this was a CIA effort? Unlike previous releases, today’s files are hosted on CIA.gov, not the DNI site.
  • He said as much at the gathering of a conservative group, @FDD, opposed to the Iran deal in September. Link
  • As luck would have it, CIA provided an advance copy of today’s files to @LongWarJournal, this group’s publication. Link
  • The ploy is transparent despite the fact that the newly-released documents don’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.
  • What’s not as transparent are the motives of Pompeo, the administration’s leading and most influential Iran hawk.
  • Remember Cheney on @MeetThePress, pointing to Atta’s supposed Prague meeting w Iraqi officials? It was a key element of the march to war.
  • History doesn’t repeat itself but it does rhyme. Need to remain vigilant to ensure Pompeo isn’t able to write it.

The CIA's outlet for these papers, the FDD, writes about the cache:

Cont. reading: Neocons Push Dubious Paper To Allege Iran - Al-Qaeda Connection

Posted by b at 07:36 AM | Comments (80)

November 01, 2017

Is The "Moderate Al-Qaeda" Set To Target Hizbullah?

Since 2011 two propaganda campaigns have attempted to sell al-Qaeda in Syria as "moderate". The purpose was to justify the arming and cooperation with al-Qaeda to eliminate the secular Syrian state.  Recently a third "moderate al-Qaeda" wave has been launched. A possible purpose is to use al-Qaeda in a new war on Hizbullah in Lebanon.

The first wave occurred in October 2013. We wrote about it in Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda. The New York Times, the Washington Post and various other outlets depicted al-Qaeda in Syria, which was operating together with U.S. supported "moderate rebels", as tempered and less harmful than the Islamic State organization ISIS. Meanwhile the "moderate rebels" allied with al-Qaeda were engaged in sectarian massacres against any Syrian non-Muslim. (The media has always whitewashed that part of the rebels' record.)

Two years later a second pro al-Qaeda campaign was launched. Qatari and Israeli lobbyists tried to sell al-Qaeda as a force that could be used to fight ISIS and the Syrian government. The neoconservative General Petraeus promoted an U.S. alliance with it.

Both campaigns muddied the waters but were not completely successful. Al-Qaeda in Syria, under its various names and alliances, continued to be officially recognized as terrorist group. But hidden from mainstream reporting the CIA armed it by providing freely to the Free Syrian Army rebels who were allied with it.

In May 2016 the Wahhabi paid anti-Syrian propagandist Charles Lister still had to ask the "moderate rebels" to better hide their allegiance with al-Qaeda. The same Charles Lister is now engaged in the third attempt to whitewash al-Qaeda into some moderate entity. Lister is claiming that the latest renaming of al-Qaeda/Jabhat al Nusra/Jabhat Fateh al-Sham into Hayet Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) was a serious step away from al-Qaeda's global leadership and ideology towards a local moderate position:

While still a jihadist group seeking the creation of local Islamic Emirates as future components of a global caliphate, HTS bore virtually no loyalty or allegiance to al-Qaeda or Nusra.
...
A groundless and frequently conspiratorial debate isolated to the distant Washington, D.C., beltway claimed the evolution of Nusra-to-JFS-to-HTS was merely a ploy to fool the West.

Unfortunate for Lister the fake "moderate" HTS does not agree with his claims:

HTS leaders themselves say the initial AQ break was a ruse. ... Nusrah’s leadership sold the al-Qaeda split internally on the grounds that it was basically false.

The Lister piece seems coordinated with a pamphlet from the Pentagon think-tank RAND (also published in Foreign Affairs) which again sells al-Qaeda as "a moderate alternative":

It remains unthinkable to most that the term “moderate” could ever be applied to an affiliate of the group responsible for the attacks of September 11, 2001. But al Qaeda's Syrian franchise has quietly emerged as the less extreme alternative to ISIS within the jihadist universe. And that could spell a situation, at least in the long term, in which al Qaeda begins to resemble the Lebanese group Hezbollah.

The comparison with Hizbullah is laughable. Hizbullah is a local Lebanese group founded to fight against the Israeli occupation of its country. It is currently engaged in Syria to protect Lebanon from attacks of al-Qaeda and the like. Hizbullah never seriously engaged outside of that role. It refrains from sectarian strife and unlike al-Qaeda does not have an expansive ideology. Al-Qaeda and its "rebel" affiliates continue to strive for a global emirate and brutally oppose any person and entity that does not follow their Salafi/Wahhabi rules. To depict these groups as similar is not sound analysis but sets the stage for a "fair" confrontation between them.

Turkey has recently negotiated and allied with al-Qaeda to position its army against the Kurdish enclave Efrin in north-west Syria. The Turkish troops were escorted by al-Qaeda/HTS towards their positions. Officially Turkey continues to oppose al-Qaeda in any form. Its active co-operation with al-Qaeda received no negative coverage or condemnation from "western" media. It is expected that Turkey will later use al-Qaeda in Syria to justify an continued occupation of the country:

Ankara’s troops entered the northern Syrian city of Idlib – following an understanding with al-Qaeda – without any clash. This indicates that Turkey has not ended its role within Syria or the role of al-Qaeda: Ankara is expecting to play the al-Qaeda card when its forces will be asked to withdraw from Syria.

The campaign to whitewash al Qaeda was also joined by the Syrian "rebel journalist" Moussa al-Omar who reports from northern Syria that he fails to find any al-Qaeda at all. The current propaganda wave trivializes al-Qaeda in Syria and prepares for further cooperation with it. But the CIA is no longer arming the "rebels" and has no further immediate purpose for al-Qaeda.

What then is the operational aim behind this?

A hint may be in a recent announcement by the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan who is well known for his extreme sectarian positions. The U.S. envoy McGurk recently introduced Thamer to the eastern Syrian tribes who were allied with ISIS until they were bought off to act as U.S. auxiliaries. Shortly thereafter Thamer visited Lebanon:

Firebrand Saudi State Minister for Gulf Affairs Thamer al-Sabhan on Monday called for “toppling Hizbullah” and promised “astonishing” developments in “the coming days.”
...
Referring to his Sunday tweet about the Lebanese government, the minister said: “I addressed my tweet to the government because the Party of Satan (Hizbullah) is represented in it and it is a terrorist party. The issue is not about toppling the government but rather that Hizbullah should be toppled.”

“The coming developments will definitely be astonishing,” al-Sabhan added.

Nicholas Noe reliably reports from Lebanon. He warns of an upcoming campaign:

Nicholas Noe‏ @NoeNicholas Oct 30

Strong pessimism over this next stage here in Lebanon 4 Syria+Leb. Little hope of draw down/stabilization. New+deeper conflicts on the way
It looks very likely that the major conflict some of us have warned of for a while, w/ Hezbollah as primary target but huge effect, is near.

Hizbullah can only be fought by a force with a strong ideology that nonetheless is acceptable to the outside world. Fighting Hizbullah is a long pursued aim of the Saudis. Earlier Saudi proxy forces in Lebanon failed because they lacked the right mindset and support. A "moderated" al-Qaeda, transferred through Turkey via sea to Lebanon, would be the adequate tool for a renewed anti-Hizbullah campaign.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (44)

October 31, 2017

How General Kelly's Attitudes Reflect the U.S. of A

When retired Marine General John Kelly became White House Chief of Staff and thereby the leader of the ruling junta the media were effusive about the "grown-up," and "adult" man.

With Kelly, “you’ve got an adult in the room,” said Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary for Homeland Security and author based in Cambridge.

Kelly just proved again that the lauded "adult" and "grown-up" is just another militaristic right-winger, has little knowledge outside of his narrow training and is as smug as the president he nominally serves:

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly on Monday called Robert E. Lee “an honorable man” and said that “the lack of an ability to compromise” led to the Civil War, once again thrusting himself into the public spotlight on an emotionally charged issue.

How does one compromise over slavery? The "right" to own and abuse other humans to increase the wealth of their owners was the main issue the southern states fought for:

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world.

General Lee was not a nice man. A slave owner himself. he liked to torture his "property" when it did not obey:

Wesley Norris, one of the slaves who was whipped, recalled that “not satisfied with simply lacerating our naked flesh, Gen. Lee then ordered the overseer to thoroughly wash our backs with brine, which was done.”

Was that the deed of "an honorable man"?

It is not the first time the "adult" Kelly has shown his real face:

Long seen as a force of order and discipline in the White House, the retired Marine general became part of the controversy over the president’s calls to Gold Star families this month when he defended Trump’s statements to a widow, made false claims about a Florida congresswoman who had criticized the White House and said he would only take questions from reporters who knew families that had lost service members overseas. He told Ingraham on Monday that he did not believe he had anything to apologize for.

There is nothing astonishing about this. Kelly did not become a 4-star Marine general for being an enlightened defender of humanity.

The illusions some liberal luminaries expose when the lament about Kelly is quite astonishing:

Ta-Nehisi Coates‏ @tanehisicoates - 9:29 AM - 31 Oct 2017

Shocking that someone charged with defending their country, in some profound way, does not comprehend the country they claim to defend.

The White House and the U.S. military are not about "defending their country". The U.S. is surrounded by two oceans and two weak neighbors. The coast guard and some local police forces are sufficient to defend its borders. How many of the hundred-some wars the U.S. has fought were truly defensive? Most, if not all of them, were and are fought for imperial power and for the enrichment of the people of the United States. The methods were and are brutal and the enemies were and are nearly always depicted in racist terms.

The differences between the motives and attitudes of the southern states in the civil war and the motives and attitudes of the U.S. of A towards the world are marginal. Kelly comprehends that well.

Lamenting about Kelly's biased view of history looks silly when the speaker then misconstrues the imperialism of the U.S. and the role of its military.

Kelly and the other members of the junta are, like Trump, not abnormities but reflections of the United States.

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (103)

October 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-39

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 23: Help Wanted - State Department Seeks Self-Consistent Secretary

In which I speculate that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson hates his job and would be happy to leave.

October 24: Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

The White House approved a huge expansion of the CIA's torture and killing campaign in Afghanistan. The 'advantage': While the military has some minimum of accountability the CIA has none at all.

October 25: Nil

Draft piece moved to /dev/null for lack of substance.

October 26: British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

There are several strong indications that British secret services were deeply involved in the efforts to derail Trump's campaign. Did Brennan arrange for this or did  Clapper?

October 27: Cuba - U.S. Diplomats Retreat In Horror ... Because ... 'Crickets'

U.S. diplomats can't resist mating calls of Cuban gryllidae.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:36 AM | Comments (103)

October 29, 2017

UN On Khan Sheikhoun - Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

A UN commission concluded that the Syrian government is responsible for a widely discussed incident in Khan Sheikhoun. An alleged gas attack by air happened in April in an al-Qaeda controlled area in Syria. It was used by the White House to justify its bombing of a Syrian airbase.

The now released report was made to fit the narrative. The details below show that it was not the result of a serious investigation. This explains why Russia blocked the extension of the mandate of the reporting commission. 

On October 26 Reuters reported: Syrian government to blame for April sarin attack: U.N. report

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad is to blame for a chemical attack on the opposition-held town of Khan Sheikhoun that killed dozens of people last April, according to a report sent to the United Nations Security Council on Thursday.

“The Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017,” the report from the U.N. and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons’ Joint Investigative Mechanism (JIM) said.

The official report has not been published. But someone obtained a copy of the Seventh report of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons-United Nations Joint Investigative Mechanism (pdf) and we make it herewith available.

The reports notes "irregularities" that makes one wonder how its writers could ever have come to this conclusion:

Based on the foregoing, the Leadership Panel is confident that the Syrian Arab Republic is responsible for the release of sarin at Khan Shaykhun on 4 April 2017. The findings of the Leadership Panel regarding the evidence in this case are based on the information set forth in detail in annex II.

Note the verbal choices the commission made: ".. is confident .." is not a wording that conveys surety and "..is responsible for the release" does not mean that the Syrian Arab Republic in fact did it.

The reports conclusions are NOT by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons or even endorsed by it. They were made by the "Joint Investigative Mechanism" which consists of a Guatemalan diplomat, an UN bureaucrat from Malaysia educated in the U.S. and a chemical expert who works for the Swiss government. It is a political board with a political judgement.

The reasons for that rather vague wording, which is not reflected in the news reports, can be found in the details. The report says on page 10:

The Mechanism determined that sarin was released from the location of a crater in the northern part of Khan Shaykhun between 0630 and 0700 hours on 4 April 2017.

Many of the reports findings are based on open source videos and photographs published by the opposition. It acquired witnesses statements from the area which is under control of al-Qaeda. It also examined forensic evidence for which no chain of custody existed. Some findings are strange.

In annex II, on page 36 (of 39) of the pdf, it notes:

Certain irregularities were observed in elements of information analysed. For example, several hospitals appeared to start admitting casualties of the attack between 0640 and 0645 hours. The Mechanism received the medical records of 247 patients from Khan Shaykhun who were admitted to various health-care facilities, including those of survivors and a number of victims who died from exposure to chemical agent. The admission times of the records range between 0600 and 1600 hours. Analysis of the aforementioned medical records revealed that in 57 cases, patients were admitted in five hospitals before the incident in Khan Shaykhun (at 0600, 0620 and 0640 hours). In 10 such cases, patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 125 km away from Khan Shaykhun at 0700 hours while another 42 patients appear to have been admitted to a hospital 30 km away at 0700 hours. The Mechanism did not investigate these discrepancies and cannot determine whether they are linked to any possible staging scenario, or to poor record-keeping in chaotic conditions.

At least 23% of the alleged casualties of the incident WERE ADMITTED TO HOSPITALS BEFORE THE INCIDENT HAPPENED.

Cont. reading: UN On Khan Sheikhoun - Victims Hospitalized BEFORE Claimed Incident Happened

Posted by b at 01:03 PM | Comments (40)

October 27, 2017

Cuba - U.S. Diplomats Retreat In Horror ... Because ... 'Crickets'

This incident earlier this month will probably go down in the annals as the most stupid diplomatic f***-up ever:

President Trump on Tuesday expelled 15 Cuban diplomats, escalating his response to a mysterious affliction that has stricken American Embassy personnel in Havana in a move that cast a Cold War chill over relations between the two countries.
...
American diplomats and their spouses began reporting symptoms that included hearing loss, dizziness, balance and visual problems, headaches and cognitive issues last December. By late January, the State Department realized that the illnesses were related and might have resulted from some sort of attack, perhaps by a sonic device, toxin or virus.

The U.S. diplomats were hearing strange noises at night. This within certain parts of their embassy as well as in some homes. Lots of mischief was suspected - from huge infrasound weapons to food poisoning. But no technical or medical explanation was found. The State Department described the noise as "specific attacks" on its diplomats. At least 21 were affected and half of the U.S. staff in Havana was ordered home. Cuban diplomats were expelled from the U.S.

Recordings of the mysterious sound were made available to AP. The agency noted:

It sounds sort of like a mass of crickets. A high-pitched whine, but from what?
...
The sound seemed to manifest in pulses of varying lengths — seven seconds, 12 seconds, two seconds — with some sustained periods of several minutes or more. Then there would be silence for a second, or 13 seconds, or four seconds, before the sound abruptly started again.

A Cuban investigation now found the obvious answer to the AP's "but what?" question - 'crickets':

Officials with Cuba’s Interior Ministry said that U.S. investigators had presented them with three recordings made by presumed victims of sonic attacks and that analysis of the sounds showed them to be extremely similar to those of crickets and cicadas that live along the northern coast of Cuba.

“It’s the same bandwidth and it’s audibly very similar,” said Lt. Col. Juan Carlos Molina, a telecommunications specialist with the Interior Ministry. “We compared the spectrums of the sounds and evidently this common sound is very similar to the sound of a cicada.”

Crickets can make noise as loud as 100 decibel, loud enough to cause health problems. The U.S. diplomats in Cuba were "attacked" by Cuban crickets which made enough noise to cause discomfort or even symptoms of illness. As someone only exposed to crickets when traveling abroad I can confirm that night-long cricket noise can be extremely unsettling to those who are not used to it.

But why did the State Department not know this? Why did the diplomats not recognize the noise for what it was? Cicadas and crickets are not uncommon in the southern U.S. states.

Presumable some in the CIA and in the State Department do not want better relations with Cuba and resisted the 2016 reopening of the embassy. It is possible that they used the cicada "attacks" to sabotage the relations.

Whatever. The incident lets the U.S. State Department look extremely silly. Imagine all the "crickets" jokes diplomats from other countries will make about their U.S. colleagues.

The mighty U.S. was defeated! Its diplomats retreated in panic! ... because ... 'crickets'.

Posted by b at 03:50 AM | Comments (90)

October 26, 2017

British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

We noted back in July that the only relevant "collusion with the Russians" during the 2016 election cycle was the Democratic Party and Hillary Clinton smear campaign against Donald Trump:

Hillary Clinton campaign cut-out hires the (former?) British intelligence agent Steele to pay money to (former?) Russian intelligence agents and high-level Kremlin employees for dirt about Donald Trump. They deliver some fairy tales. The resulting dossier is peddled far and wide throughout Washington DC with the intent of damaging Trump.

There was never evidence that Steele indeed talked to any Russian, or really had contact with his claimed sources. He has been for years persona non grata in Moscow and could not visit the country.

Yesterday, our assertion that Clinton campaign cut-outs paid for the dossier, was finally confirmed: Clinton campaign, DNC paid for research that led to Russia dossier

Marc E. Elias, a lawyer representing the Clinton campaign and the DNC, retained Fusion GPS, a Washington firm, to conduct the research.
..,
After that, Fusion GPS hired dossier author Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with ties to the FBI and the U.S. intelligence community, according to those people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Told ya so ...

Michael Sussmann, a lawyer from the same firm that hired Fusion GPS on order of Democrats, hired the Crowdstrike cyber-outlet to investigate the leak of DNC emails. Crowdstrike and the DNC denied the FBI access to the relevant servers but asserted that "Russian hacking" was the source of the leak.

The "Trump dossier" was opposition research ordered up and paid for by the Clinton/DNC mafia. Most of its content was obviously fake or patched together from publicly known facts. But it took up to now for U.S. media to point that out. The fake dossier, paid for by the Democrats, was used by the FBI under Obama to get FISA warrants to spy on Republican party operatives.

We noted in January that the dossier was additionally used by the British and American deep state to sabotage Trump's plans for better relations with Russia (see  original for source quotes):

The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake.
...
Steele spread the fakes throughout the press corps in Washington DC but no media published them because these were obviously false accusations.

Steele then decided to hand the papers to the FBI and to talk to its agents hoping they would start an official investigation. He cleared his move (or was ordered to proceed?) at the highest level of the British government:
...
When Steele's first move with the FBI in October did note deliver the hoped for results an attempt to stove pipe them through Senator John McCain was launched. A "former" British ambassador to Moscow arranged the hand over:
...
The MI6 is well known for launching fakes on behalf of the British government.

Even the second, more official handover to the FBI still did not result in the hoped for publication of the allegations. But by that time Clinton was widely expect to win the election anyway so no further steps were taken.

After Trump unexpectedly won the election a new effort was launched to publish the smears. The Director of National Intelligence decided (or was ordered to) "brief" the President, the President elect and Congress on the obviously dubious accusations.

It was this decision that made sure that the papers would eventually be published. As the NYT noted:
...
Only after Clapper or others leaked to CNN about the briefing of Obama, Trump and Congress, did CNN publish about the 35 pages:
...
The attack was a deep state attempt to stage a coup against Trump:

After the election the Democrats stopped paying for new Steele reports. But by then efforts to make the fake Steele reports public and to thereby sabotage Trump policies turned into high gear. McCain had already been involved in distributing the report and it was he or the Brits who who paid for the last fake report Steele delivered:

Let me remind you of the basic facts about the Dossier--It consists of 13 separate reports. The first is dated 20 June 2016. That date is important because it shows that it took a little more than two months [after the Democrats started paying] for Fusion GPS to generate its first report on Trump's alleged Russian activities. If Fusion GPS already had something in the can then I would expect them to have put something out in early May. Eleven more reports were generated between 26 July and 19 October 2016. That tracks with the letter from Perkins Coie that the engagement by the Clinton Campaign ended at the end of October.

But there is a big problem and unanswered question--The Dossier includes a final report that is dated 13 December 2016. Who paid for this? Was it John McCain?

The purpose of the final fake report Steele added to the dossier was to provide "evidence" that Trump was involved in the "Russian hacking" of the DNC:

Cont. reading: British Involvement In "Trump Dossier" Needs Further Investigation

Posted by b at 03:26 AM | Comments (151)

October 24, 2017

Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

Last week the new head of the CIA Mike Pompeo publicly threatened to make the CIA a "much more vicious agency". His first step towards that is to unleash CIA sponsored killer gangs onto the people of Afghanistan:

The C.I.A. is expanding its covert operations in Afghanistan, sending small teams of highly experienced officers and contractors alongside Afghan forces to hunt and kill Taliban militants across the country ...
...
The C.I.A.’s expanded role will augment missions carried out by military units, meaning more of the United States’ combat role in Afghanistan will be hidden from public view.

This will be mass murder campaign. People will be pulled from their houses at night and vanish - 'eliminated'. That has been happening in Afghanistan for years, but on a relatively small scale. So far the targets were 'al-Qaeda', a small terrorist group, not the local insurgency. The new campaign will target the Taliban, a mass insurgency against the U.S. occupation. Thus is will be a mass campaign and cause mass casualties.

It is not going to be a counter-insurgency campaign, even though some will assert it is. A counter-insurgency campaign combines political, security, economic, and informational components. It can only be successful in support of a legitimate authority.

The current Afghan government has little legitimacy. It was cobbled and bribed together by the U.S. embassy after wide and open election fraud threatened to devolve into total chaos. In August CIA director Pompeo met the Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and likely discussed the new plan. But the now announced campaign has neither a political nor an economic component. Solely centered on "security" it will end up as a random torture and killing expedition without the necessary context and with no positive results for the occupation.

The campaign will be a boon for the Taliban. While it will likely kill Taliban aligned insurgents here and there, it will also alienate many more Afghan people. Some 75%  of the Taliban fighters are locals fighting near their homes. Killing them creates new local recruits for the insurgency. It will also give the Taliban a more sympathetic population which it can use to cover its future operations.

A similar campaign during the Vietnam war was known as Operation Phoenix. Then some 50,000-100,000 South-Vietnamese, all 'suspected communists', were killed by the CIA's roving gangs. The polished Wikipedia version:

[Phoenix] was designed to identify and "neutralize" (via infiltration, capture, counter-terrorism, interrogation, and assassination) the infrastructure of the National Liberation Front of South Vietnam (NLF or Viet Cong). The CIA described it as "a set of programs that sought to attack and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong". The major two components of the program were Provincial Reconnaissance Units (PRUs) and regional interrogation centers. PRUs would kill or capture suspected NLF members, as well as civilians who were thought to have information on NLF activities. Many of these people were then taken to interrogation centers where many were allegedly tortured in an attempt to gain intelligence on VC activities in the area. The information extracted at the centers was then given to military commanders, who would use it to task the PRU with further capture and assassination missions.

The Phoenix program was embedded into a larger civil political and economic development program known as Civil Operations and Revolutionary Development Support. The civil part of CORDS partially failed over bribery and incompetence. It was too expensive and not sustainable. The accepted historical judgement is that the 'security' part, Phoenix, failed to achieve its purpose despite its wide conceptualization. Its utter brutality alienated the people. The passive support for the Viet Cong increased due to the campaign.

In recent years there have been revisionists efforts by the Pentagon's RAND Corporation to change that view. They claim that the campaign went well and was successful. But those who took part in Phoenix (Video: Part 1, part 2) paint a very different picture. The brutality of Phoenix, which enraged the public, was one of the reason that forced the U.S. government to end the war.

The now announced campaign looks similar to Phoenix but lacks any political component. It is not designed to pacify insurgents but to 'eliminate' any and all resistance:

The new effort will be led by small units known as counterterrorism pursuit teams. They are managed by C.I.A. paramilitary officers from the agency’s Special Activities Division and operatives from the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence arm, and include elite American troops from the Joint Special Operations Command. The majority of the forces, however, are Afghan militia members.

Cont. reading: Phoenix 2.0 - CIA To Unleash Vietnam Era Terror Campaign On Afghanistan

Posted by b at 06:43 AM | Comments (87)

October 23, 2017

Help Wanted - State Department Seeks Self-Consistent Secretary

European business deals with Iran are safe: Tillerson - AFP, October 20 2017

Washington (AFP) - The United States does not intend to disrupt European business deals with Iran, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in comments published Friday.
...
"The president's been pretty clear that it's not his intent to interfere with business deals that the Europeans may have under way with Iran," Tillerson told The Wall Street Journal.

"He's said it clearly: 'That's fine. You guys do what you want to do.'"

Tillerson Warns Europe Against Iran Investments - NYT, October 22 2017

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia —
...
Speaking during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Mr. Tillerson said, “Both of our countries believe that those who conduct business with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, any of their entities — European companies or other companies around the globe — really do so at great risk.” Mr. Tillerson appeared at a brief news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital, with the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir.
...
Mr. Tillerson’s remarks were the administration’s most pointed warning to date ...

This not the way to get the European Union in line with U.S. policies. So what is going on here?

Trump in often inconsistent in what he says. That is his privilege. But it does not mean that the Secretary of State has to contradict himself each and every day. It is Tillerson's task to project a steady foreign policy. If there is none - for whatever reason - he must keep his comments vague. Contradictions like the above make him a joke.

'Rexxon' has experience in doing international businesses. He knows that consistency is one of the most important factors in getting things done. No one will make deals with a party that changes its mind every other day.

So why is Tillerson jumping around like this? He seeks to replace Ms. Jubeir as court jester in Riyadh? Or does he want to sabotage his own position?

One inevitably gets the impression that Tillerson wants out. That he wants to chuck his job rather sooner than later. That he longs for the inevitable day he will be fired.

Tillerson is a realist at heart. He is no fan of Netanyahoo. He despises the fake human rights blabber others use to hide their motives. The neo-conservatives would love to see him go. Josh Rogin lists their favorite candidates:

The most popular parlor game in Washington right now is speculating who will replace Rex Tillerson as President Trump’s next secretary of state ... two qualified and apparently willing candidates have emerged. ... The top two contenders, Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley and CIA Director Mike Pompeo, ...

Haley is way too loud and incompetent. Pompeo is too narrow minded.

I wonder who the White House junta will prefer as new Secretary of State. One from its own stable? David Petraeus?

He would be another nail in the coffin of Trump's presidency.

 

Posted by b at 09:28 AM | Comments (36)

October 22, 2017

Open Thread 2017-38

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

October 16: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Ahab Jezebel dissects the bullshit the Washington Post peddles on Syria.

October 16/17: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Egged on by Netanyahoo the Barzani mafia made a bid to steal Kirkuk and its oil from Iraq. The Iraqis disagreed with being robbed and took back their land. Barzani failed. The Kurdish bubble deflated. There will be no Kurdish independence.

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Background analysis on the failure of Barzani's bid and thoughts on the consequences in Iraq and Syria.

October 18: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

After having bused out the remaining ISIS fighter, the U.S. declared victory in Raqqa. But after more than 20,000 bomb impacts the city lies in ruins. U.S. envoy McGurk brought in the Saudis to pay for rebuilding it. They will pay, but only for new Wahhabi mosques that will then create the next incarnation of ISIS.

October 19: The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

Members of the U.S. military are well cared for and mostly live a safe life. There is factually little 'sacrifice' in being a U.S. soldier. While one side of the propaganda depicts the military as 'heroic', another side emphasis the ever growing 'fears' it allegedly has. That doesn't compute.

October 20: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Three op-eds in four days? Clearly, someone hired Emma Sky for an influence campaign. She argues for keeping U.S. soldiers in Iraq. But the U.S. occupation of Iraq, and Emma Sky's very active role in it, created the mess in the first place.

October 21: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

The generals have consolidated their power within the White House. They are now moving to extend it over the public.

Please use the comments as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:32 AM | Comments (110)

October 21, 2017

"Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

In an advertising campaign in 2008 the U.S. Air Force declared itself to be "Above All". The slogan and symbol of the campaign was similar to the German "Deutschland Über Alles" campaign of 1933. It was a sign of things to come.

On Thursday Masha Gessen watched the press briefing of White House Chief of Staff General John Kelly and concluded:

The press briefing could serve as a preview of what a military coup in this country would look like, for it was in the logic of such a coup that Kelly advanced his four arguments.
  1. Those who criticize the President don’t know what they’re talking about because they haven’t served in the military. ...
  2. The President did the right thing because he did exactly what his general told him to do. ...
  3. Communication between the President and a military widow is no one’s business but theirs. ...
  4. Citizens are ranked based on their proximity to dying for their country. ...

Gessen is late. The coup happened months ago. A military junta is in strong control of White House polices. It is now widening its claim to power.

All along Trump has been the candidate of the military. The other two power centers of the power triangle, the corporate and the executive government (CIA), had gone for Clinton. The Pentagon's proxy defeated the CIA proxy. (Last months' fight over Raqqa was similar - with a similar outcome.)

On January 20, the first day of the Not-Hillary presidency, I warned:

The military will demand its due beyond the three generals now in Trump's cabinet.

With the help of the media the generals in the White House defeated their civilian adversary. In August the Trump ship dropped its ideological pilot. Steve Bannon went from board. Bannon's militarist enemy, National Security Advisor General McMaster, had won. I stated:

A military junta is now ruling the United States

and later explained:

Trump's success as the "Not-Hillary" candidate was based on an anti-establishment insurgency. Representatives of that insurgency, Flynn, Bannon and the MAGA voters, drove him through his first months in office. An intense media campaign was launched to counter them and the military took control of the White House. The anti-establishment insurgents were fired. Trump is now reduced to public figure head of a stratocracy - a military junta which nominally follows the rule of law.

The military took full control of White House processes and policies:

Everything of importance now passes through the Junta's hands ... To control Trump the Junta filters his information input and eliminates any potentially alternative view ... The Junta members dictate their policies to Trump by only proposing certain alternatives to him. The one that is most preferable to them, will be presented as the only desirable one. "There are no alternatives," Trump will be told again and again.

With the power center captured the Junta starts to implement its ideology and to suppress any and all criticism against itself. 

On Thursday the 19th Kelly criticized Congresswoman Frederica Wilson of South Florida for hearing in (invited) on a phone-call Trump had with some dead soldiers wife:

Kelly then continued his criticism of Wilson, mentioning the 2015 dedication of the Miramar FBI building, saying she focused in her speech that she “got the money” for the building.

The video of the Congresswoman's speech (above link) proves that Kelly's claim was a fabrication. But one is no longer allowed to point such out. The Junta, by definition, does not lie. When the next day journalists asked the White House Press Secretary about Kelly's unjustified attack she responded:

MS. SANDERS: If you want to go after General Kelly, that's up to you. But I think that that -- if you want to get into a debate with a four-star Marine general, I think that that's something highly inappropriate.

It is now "highly inappropriate" to even question the Junta that rules the empire.

Cont. reading: "Above All" - The Junta Expands Its Claim To Power

Posted by b at 03:58 PM | Comments (70)

October 20, 2017

Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

While the Iraqi government forces sweep Kirkuk clean of the Kurdish occupation, one writer strongly pushed pro-Kurdish/anti-Iranian views. Three pieces by Emma Sky appeared in three prestigious imperial outlets within just four days. They are noticeable for the slander and lies. Obviously they are part of a well prepared lobbying campaign.

The author is not an neutral observer or academic specialist. Emma Sky is the person most responsible for messing up Kirkuk. She is also a 'Mother of ISIS'.

On October 16 Emma Sky published in Foreign Affairs: Mission Still Not Accomplished in Iraq - Why the United States Should Not Leave.

On October 18 she plants the same notion in The Atlantic: America Has Become Dispensable in Iraq. The subtitle reveals what it is really about:

The conflict in Kirkuk offers further evidence of Iran’s steady rise.

Sky pushes hard to implant a sectarian, anti-Iran meme. Consider this howler:

Once more, Iran is playing the key role, helping to broker a deal between the PUK and the Iraqi government and guiding the Shia militias supporting the Iraqis.

What nationality please to the "Shia militia" in Iraq have? Are they from Mars?

When ISIS rose in 2014 U.S. President Obama held back support for the Iraqi government to get rid of the just reelected Prime Minister Maliki:

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

Iran with its Revolutionary Guards jumped in and hastily trained and equipped volunteers into Popular Mobilization Units. These groups managed to stop ISIS from taking Baghdad. The PMU  are under the exclusive command of the Iraqi government. They are official Iraqi government forces, not exclusively Shia and no longer accompanied by Iranian advisors. No Iranian troops or advisers were involved in the liberation of Kirkuk. Sky's claim is all wrong. Sky has a hobby horse:

A compromise of some sort could be reached on confederation for Kurdistan and a special status for Kirkuk.

On October 19 Emma Sky appears in The Guardian: Iraq’s Kurds have overplayed their hand. Now both sides must talk. Within that piece she claims:

When the Iraqi security forces fled in the face of Isis in 2014 it was the Kurds, with support from the US-led coalition, who fought back and pushed them out of Kirkuk.

That was definitely not the case. ISIS never touched Kirkuk. Indeed the piece Emma Sky links to as reference never says so. It mentions that Iraqi army deserters were fleeing from ISIS in Mosul towards Kirkuk. In June 2014 the Kurdish Peshmerga invaded Kirkuk, threw out disoriented Iraqi government forces and occupied the city. This was at the very same time as ISIS took Mosul. ISIS and Peshmerga fighters delineated their borders and had their checkpoints only a few meters apart. Video showed them inviting each other for dinner. Sky's core point in the piece is that the Kurds, for their falsely claimed "rescue" of Kirkuk from ISIS, now deserve some part of it:

It is time to revisit the idea of a special status for Kirkuk, with power-sharing between the different communities

A "special status" for Kirkuk is not reasonable. It is a normal Iraqi city and, like many others, has a religiously and ethnic diverse population. That Sky tries to justify a special status for Kurds in Kirkuk with a fight against ISIS that never happened demonstrates how dishonest the claim is.

The "special status" idea for Kirkuk came up in 2003 when an ignorant British governor of Kirkuk, imposed by the U.S./UK occupation, was lost in internecine claims to the oil rich province between Kurdish expansionists and local Arabs. That governor was one Emma Sky.

Like other imperial freaks Sky later found a warm place at Yale.

An extensive discussion of Emma Sky's prior misdeeds in Iraq was published in June 2016 by Maniza Naqvi. The author summarized:

Emma Sky—the woman who assisted in the unraveling of Iraq and the region, who became the right hand of General Odierno in Iraq—and the architect of the ‘Sunni Awakening'---is perhaps, the Mother of Daesh, the word for terror in Iraq and Syria and the entire region or as the West calls it, ISIS.

The piece follows Sky's way as imperial overlord throughout the U.S. occupation. It quotes from her questioning in front of the the British Iraq Inquiry Committee. The transcripts reflect how completely unprepared the U.S. and its British stooges were when they arrogantly imposed themselves onto the country.

Cont. reading: Emma Sky - British 'Mother of Daesh' Wants To Reoccupy Iraq

Posted by b at 03:43 PM | Comments (68)

October 19, 2017

The U.S. Military - Pampered, Safe And Very Scared

The U.S. military is a socialist paradise:

Service members and their families live for free on base. People living off base are given a stipend to cover their housing costs. They shop in commissaries and post exchanges where prices for food and basic goods are considerably lower than at civilian stores. Troops and their families count on high-quality education and responsive universal health care. They expect to be safe at home, as bases, on average, have less violence than American cities of comparable size. And residents enjoy a wide range of amenities—not just restaurants and movie theaters but fishing ponds, camp sites, and golf courses built for their use.

Of course, some bases are better than others. But even the most austere provides a comprehensive network of social welfare provisions and a safety net that does not differentiate between a junior employee and an executive.

For those who stay on, the military provides a generous retirement pay.

"But life in the military is dangerous!"

Not so.

According to a 2012 study by the Armed Forces Health Surveillance Center (AFHSC) the risk to ones life is lower for soldiers than for civilians:

In the past two decades (which include two periods of intense combat operations), the crude overall mortality rate among U.S. service members was 71.5 per 100,000 [person-years]. In 2005, in the general U.S. population, the crude overall mortality rate among 15-44 year olds was 127.5 per 100,000 p-yrs.

The huge difference is quite astonishing. The death rate for soldiers would still have been lower than for civilians if the U.S. had started another medium size war:

If the age-specific mortality rates that affected the U.S. general population in 2005 had affected the respective age-groups of active component military members throughout the period of interest for this report, there would have been approximately 13,198 (53%) more deaths among military members overall.

Those working in the U.S. military, even when the U.S. is at war, have a quite pampered life with lots of benefits. They have less risk to their lives than their civilian peers. But when some soldier dies by chance, the announcements speak of "sacrifice". The fishermen, transport and construction workers, who have the highest occupational death rates, don't get solemn obituaries and pompous burials.

There may be occasions where soldiers behave heroic and die for some good cause. But those are rather rare incidents. The reports thereof are at times manipulated for propaganda purposes.

The U.S. military spends more than a billion per year on advertisement.  It spends many uncounted millions on hidden information operations. These are not designed to influence an enemy but the people of the United States. In recent years the U.S. military and intelligence services have scripted or actively influenced 1,800 Hollywood and TV productions. Many of the top-rated movie scripts pass through a military censorship office which decides how much 'production assistance' the Department of Defense will provide for the flick.

A rather schizophrenic aspect of its safe life is the military's fear. Despite being cared for and secure, the soldiers seem to be a bunch of scaredy-cats. The military's  angst is very ambiguous. It meanders from issue to issue. This at least to various headlines:

Members of the U.S. military live quite well. They are safe. Their propaganda depicts them as heroes. At the same time we are told that they are a bunch of woosies who fear about anything one can think of.

I find that a strange contradiction.

/snark

Posted by b at 12:32 PM | Comments (120)

October 18, 2017

Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

There is dangerous news evolving from Raqqa, Syria. While ISIS is largely defeated seeds get sown for its reappearance.

The Kurdish forces under the label SDF and led by U.S. special forces have defeated ISIS in Raqqa. Cleanup operations continue. The victory came only after the the U.S. and its proxies agreed to give free passage to the last few hundreds of foreign and Syrian ISIS fighters and their families. Since these boarded buses and were moved out of Raqqa on Saturday night nothing has been heard of them.

On Monday the U.S. coordinator for the fight against ISIS, Brett McGurk, brought an unwelcome visitor to Syria.

Raqqa24 @24Raqqa - 9:49 AM - 17 Oct 2017

Brett McGurk visited Ayn Issa today with the Saudi minister Thamer al-Sabhan (former Ambassador to Iraq) & joined 3 different meetings. #R24

First meeting was with the local council of #Raqqa then with reconstruction committee at the least they met with elders of Raqqa

Picture of the visit of Brett McGurk and Thamer al-Sabhan. Source: Unknown


via Raqqa24 - bigger

The visit was confirmed by a (pro Kurd) journalist:

Wladimir‏ @vvanwilgenburg - 5:06 PM - 17 Oct 2017
Wladimir Retweeted Raqqa24

I was there. No pictures allowed. Meeting was indeed about reconstruction.

Thamer al-Sabhan is the Saudi Minister for Gulf Affairs. He is known to be extremely sectarian and anti-Shia.

In 2015 Thamer al-Sabhan was appointed as the first Saudi ambassador to Iraq since the Iraqi takeover of Kuwait in 1990. He made no friends in Baghdad when he ranted against the Popular Mobilization Units, which had stopped and fought back ISIS. He denigrated the most revered religious scholar in Iraq:

Cont. reading: Saudi Money Invades Raqqa - Sowing The Seeds Of ISIS 2.0

Posted by b at 10:04 AM | Comments (58)

October 17, 2017

Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

The bid of the Kurdish Barzani clan for an independent Kurdistan in north Iraq and beyond has utterly failed. Masoud Barzani, the strongman of the Iraqi Kurdish  region, had called for the referendum to divert from his government's financial problems. Other Kurdish powerhouses saw it as a last attempt by Barzani to save his failing political position. The referendum asked for independence including in "Kurdistani areas outside the (Kurdistan) Region". It was an annexation bid. National Iraqi forces as well as the international powers turned against it. Masoud Barzani and his family are now likely to lose their leading position.

The various unilateral Kurdish assertions since 2003 will be driven back. The dream of Kurdish independence in Iraq and Syria is, for now, dead. This is a positive development for both countries.

bigger

Since 2003 and especially since 2014 the Kurds had pushed far beyond their original borders. They occupied areas with diverse populations and with critical Iraqi oil reserves. With backing from the Iraqi parliament, public opinion and international support the Iraqi government of Prime Minister Abadi had for months demanded a return of the 2003 borders. It condemned the illegal independence bid.

The ruling Barzani family mafia sold the oil and pocketed the money that by law was owned to Iraq's federal government. The Barzani militia mafia occupied the federal border stations to neighboring countries and kept all custom income to themselves. Meanwhile teachers and other public workers in the Kurdish region went unpaid.

The Barzani family clan is only one of the powers in the Kurdish region of Iraq. Historically its main competitors are the Talabani clan. Both clans control their own political parties (KDP and PUK) and militia. Both had been fighting against each other during a civil war in the 1990s. Then the Barzanis called in help from Iraqi president Saddam Hussein to defeat their local enemies.

Over the last decade the Talabanis were handicapped by their ailing patriarch Jalal Talabani. After the U.S. invasion of Iraq he eschewed a major role in the Kurdish region in exchange for the ceremonial position of a president of Iraq. When Jalal Talbani died on October 2 his family immediately asserted its position. It negotiated a deal with the central Iraqi government to reign in the Barzanis' quasi dictatorial powers. The Iranian General Qassam Suleiman helped to arrange the agreement.

When the Iraqi government forces, as previously announced, moved to retake Kirkuk from the Kurds the Kurdish militia forces (peshmerga) under PUK/Talibani command retreated as planned. The militia under KDP/Barzani command were left in an indefensible position and had to flee in haste.

Yesterday and today Iraqi national forces retook control of various large oil fields the Kurds had occupied. They are also back in control of border stations with Syria and Turkey. After three years the Yazidi can finally go back to Sinjar. The Mosul Dam is again in government hands. Without oil and customs dues the Kurdish region lacks the assets and income to finance any regional independence. While his project collapsed in front of everyone's eyes, not a word was heard from Masoud Barzani.

The Iraqi government will not only retake full control of the areas the Kurds under Brazani had illegally usurped. It will also demand new regional elections. It is doubtful that Masoud Barzani, or any of his sons, can win such local elections after all the mismanagement and disasters they caused.

In Syria the Kurdish YPG/SDF forces today took full control of Raqqa. It will take months to clear the last remands ISIS left behind. It will take years to rebuild the city as it was largely destroyed by U.S. air support during the fight against ISIS.

Cont. reading: Syria, Iraq - Why The Kurdish Independence Project Failed

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (81)

October 16, 2017

How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

by Ahab Jezebel

One of the most prestigious US medias, The Washington Post clearly has no built-in review mechanism for monitoring the quality and veracity of its source material relating to the coverage of war zone news. This is particularly apparent with regard to the reporting of the ongoing war situation in Syria. At present these professional standards have slipped and the paper has placed itself outside the ranks of real journalism and professionalism on which it built its enviable reputation - long before the war in Syria.

Spreading propaganda, and relying only on activists, is not professional. It resembles paid publicity, designed to affect public opinion, and it takes advantage of less informed readers and politicians.

We can open a small window into one of the latest articles on Syria by The Washington Post entitled:”Civilian casualties spiral in Syria as air raids target areas marked for cease-fire”. The article was not written from Syria but from Beirut (Lebanon), although it speaks authoritatively about Syria in great detail – and this from a journalist who has never been to Syria, and certainly not during the six years of the war.

In its second paragraph the newspaper talks of "groups monitoring the conflict": but every single human being on Earth interested in the Syrian war is monitoring the conflict - including my 87 year-old neighbour, Louise (her name). She is able to tell me stories about daily bombing and "Daesh" (The "Islamic State" – ISIS) attacking "every day and maybe coming to Europe," according to her conclusions drawn from monitoring mainstream media. She believes Syria is a country of ghosts and that Assad, Daesh and the US are "working together against evil Russia".

The Washington Post further undermines its own credibility by quoting the “White Helmets,” who apparently report that “80% of ... attacks targeted civilian areas”. Not everybody knows how biased the White Helmets are: in fact some of their histrionic performances have been said to rival Shakespeare. Professional journalism by a reputable newspaper should be ill at ease when quoting “a fake professional exhibitionist group.” And where, indeed, in Syria were the White Helmets based? In an al-Qaeda controlled city, working very closely with that terrorist group- the very same group responsible for 9/11!

The newspaper doesn’t stop at that: it insinuates - according to its title and introduction - that "pro-government forces launched hundreds of bombing raids across areas marked for international protection": yet the same journalist who wrote that article re-tweeted that "there were also 1,278 declared Coalition strikes in Syria last month".

Cont. reading: How The Washington Post Deceives Us About The War In Syria

Posted by b at 09:21 AM | Comments (58)

Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Today the Iraqi government took Kirkuk back from occupying Kurdish forces. This marks the end of the Kurdish independence project in Iraq.

in 2014 the Islamic State occupied Mosul.  At the same time the regional Kurdish government under Masoud Barzani sent its Peshmerga troops to take the oil rich city of Kirkuk from the collapsing forces of the central Iraqi government. There were plausible allegations and some evidence (vid) that the Kurds had made a deal with ISIS and coordinated the move.

In 2016 and 2017 Iraqi forces defeated ISIS in Mosul. Kurdish groups took the opportunity of the ISIS defeat to occupy further land, even as that did not have a Kurdish majority population and did not belong to their autonomous region.

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The red lined area is the autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq as accepted by the Iraqi constitution. The red dotted line is the additional area the Kurds intended to take and at times controlled.

The Iraqi government insisted that the situation be turned back to the pre-2014 lines. The vast majority of the people in Kirkuk are Arab and Turkmen. Kirkuk produces two-third of all oil in north-Iraq. There was not a chance that any central government of Iraq would leave the city and these riches to Kurdish occupiers. The central government move to reassert federal authority is backed by parliament decisions and was announced in a press conference on Tuesday.

bigger

But the Kurdish leaders did neither think nor listen. The leading Barzani clan and his KDP party, long associated with Israel, tried to solidify their resource robbery. On September 25 they held an "independence referendum" in all areas under their control. All countries, except Israel, spoke out against this move.

But Barzani was urged on by the Zionists and international neo-conservatives:

Cont. reading: Iraq - Thus Ends The Kurdish Independence Project

Posted by b at 04:38 AM | Comments (58)

October 15, 2017

Open Thread 2017-37

Last week's posts at Moon of Alabama:

October 7 - Syria - Erdogan Is Afraid Of Entering Idleb

Turkish forces eventually entered Idleb (see below). But not as the Astana agreement had foreseen.

October 8 - Missing - A Motive For The Las Vegas Killing Spree

There has been no new information on the massacre in Las Vegas. No new gun laws to restrict (semi-)automatic weapons seem to be forthcoming. The whole affair has vanished from the news.

October 9 - Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda could do so much damage to Turkey that Erdogan has to ally with it. Here are details of the Idleb arrangement between Turkey and al-Qaeda as narrated by an al-Qaeda member. Turkey will not touch al-Qaeda and enters Idleb only to besiege the Kurds.

October 10 - Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

The fires are still raging - 6,000 house so far have been completely destroyed (vids). Only the chimneys are left.

October 11 - Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

The latest Russia nonsense comes from CNN which, in the headline and lede, say that Russia used the Pokemon game to influence Americans, but down in the piece admits that it has no evidence for the claim.

October 12 - Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

The U.S. secret services dislike the Kaspersky anti-virus package presumably because it is difficult to hack. They use their bullhorns to practically ban it from the market. This makes the Kaspersky suite the most recommendable anti-virus snake-oil.

October 13 - 8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Recent examples of headlines asserting facts that the pieces below those headlines do not back up or even refute.

October 14 - Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump acts like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Fun to watch - until one is part of the china.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:33 PM | Comments (106)

October 14, 2017

Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

After free passage negotiations with the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy forces, ISIS is moving its fighters out of Raqqa city. When the Syrian government reached similar agreements the U.S. childishly criticized it. The U.S. coalition claims that it was "not involved in the discussions" that led to the Raqqa free passage agreement. A BBC News report shows that the opposite is true.

Over the last two years the U.S. and its Kurdish proxy force in Syria made several deals with the Islamic State. In 2016, for example, they negotiated a deal with Islamic State fighters to move from Manbij to the Turkish border to avoid further casualties in the fight about the city.

But when in August 2017 Hizbullah and the Lebanese and Syrian government negotiated a deal with some 300 besieged ISIS fighters and their families at the Lebanese-Syria border, the U.S. loudly protested. The U.S. military blocked and threatened to bomb the evacuation convoy over several days and the U.S. envoy McGurk ranted against it:

7:20 AM - 30 Aug 2017 - Brett McGurk @brett_mcgurk

Irreconcilable #ISIS terrorists should be killed on the battlefield, not bused across #Syria to the Iraqi border without #Iraq's consent 1/2
Our @coalition will help ensure that these terrorists can never enter #Iraq or escape from what remains of their dwindling "caliphate." 2/2

Over the last months U.S. supported Kurdish proxy fighters besieged the city of Raqqa and fought to take it from ISIS. An immense amount of U.S. bombs was released to lower the casualty numbers of the U.S.proxy forces. The city was literally "destroyed to save it". Many of its civilian inhabitants were killed. During the last days rumors abounded that a deal was made between the U.S. and ISIS. It would give ISIS fighters free passage when leaving the city. Today these rumors were confirmed:

Cont. reading: Free Passage Deal For ISIS In Raqqa - U.S. Denies Involvement - Video Proves It Lies

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (80)

October 13, 2017

Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Trump hates the international nuclear deal with Iran.  The agreement put temporary restriction of Iran's nuclear program and opened it up to deeper inspections. The other sides of the deal committed to lifting sanctions and to further economic cooperation. Trump wants to get rid of the deal; but he is unwilling to pay the political price.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was negotiated and signed by the five permanent UN Security Council members (U.S., Ch, Ru, UK, F), Germany, the EU and Iran. If the U.S. defaults on the deal it will be in a lone position. The diplomatic isolation would limit its abilities to use its influence on other issues.

Trump has little knowledge of Iran, the nuclear deal, the Middle East or anything else. What he knows comes from Fox News and from Netanyahoo and other Zionist whisperers who get to his ear. All he heard is that the deal with Iran is bad. Therefore, he concluded, it must end.

The White House handed a paper to the media which is supposed to describe President Donald J. Trump's New Strategy on Iran. But there is no strategy in that paper. It list a number of aims the Trump wants to achieve. But it does no explain how he plans to do that. It is a wish list, not a program to follow.

The "Core Elements of the Presidents New Iran Strategy" are:

Cont. reading: Iran - Trump Has No Strategy, Only Aims And No Way To Achieve Them

Posted by b at 01:42 PM | Comments (87)

October 12, 2017

8 Out Of 10 Will Only Read This Headline

Headlines lie to catch attention. Only few read beyond them.

They will miss the facts, and the falsehood of the headlines. It is a dangerous development.

Here is an Australian example of current headline writing:


Top secret information about Australia’s military hacked

The lede:

TOP secret technical information about new fighter jets, navy vessels, and surveillance aircraft has been stolen from an Australian defence contractor.

The story could be relevant - if true. But it does not hold what the headline promises. The text says:

  • ".. the firm was subcontracted four levels down from defence contracts."
  •  ".. a mum and dad type business ... with about 50 employees"
  • "the admin password, to enter the company’s web portal, was ‘admin’ and the guest password was ‘guest’"
  • "the information ... included a diagram in which you could zoom in down to the captain’s chair and see that it was one metre away from the navigation chair"
  • "the information disclosed was commercially sensitive, it was unclassified"

The last snippet completely rebuts the headline. It appears in 18th of the 20 paragraph story.

A truthful (but boring) headline might have said: "Mechanics rat-shop puts marketing stuff on open website". No one would have clicked on it.

Headlines disproved by the following text have become common:

"It was not immediately clear what Trump was responding to."
"A large number of ads appeared in [other] areas of the country that were not heavily contested in the elections."
"It is too soon to map out exactly how the drug war will affect the health of Filipinos."

News content is now of lesser relevance than ever. "Clicks" are generated by headlines:

"Clicks" generate "visits" which convert into advertising revenue. Such headlines make economic sense - short-term. But the best paying advertisers seek a quality audience. In the long-term they will avoid such sites.

Once upon a time sensationalist false headlines were the loony realm of tabloid media. That is unfortunately no longer the case. Headlines of even reputable media no longer transmit facts. One has to dive deep into the stories to get to real information.

This trend will lead to a further stultification of the population. It makes it easier to manipulate the plebs.

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (42)

October 11, 2017

Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Since May 2017 certain U.S. circles openly campaign against security products provided by the Russian company Kaspersky Labs. Three recent stories claim involvement of the software in rather fantastic "Russian hackers" stories. It is renewed attack after a silent spy campaign in 2015 against Kaspersky had failed. The current stories seem inconsistent, lack logic and evidence.

If one believes all the now made claims then Israel hacked Kaspersky, which was hacking an NSA employee who had stolen NSA hacks, while being hacked by Russia which was hacked by the NSA, while the NSA was warned by Israel about Russian hacks. Makes sense?

The Russian company Kaspersky Lab makes and sells the probably best anti-virus protection software available. All anti-virus software packages need full access to the system they run on. It is the only way to assure that the packages themselves are not compromised by some super-virus. Anti-virus packages upload malware they find for further analysis. They also update themselves through a secure internet connection. This enables the product to detect new viruses soon after they have been discovered in the wild. Both of the characteristics, full system access and online-update, make these tools inherently dangerous. They can be abused either by their producer or by someone who infiltrates the producers systems.

Computer geeks call such products "snake-oil" as they promise a grade of security that can not be guaranteed, even while they themselves constitute a significant security risk. One either must trust such anti-virus packages or not use them at all.

Since May 2017 Congress made noise about banning Kaspersky products from the U.S. Defense Department and other government entities. In September the Department of Homeland Security order all federal agencies to remove Kaspersky software from their system. Kaspersky Lab makes some 60% of its total revenues in the United States. The DHS order and the resulting press reports will do very serious damage to its business. It will help to sell competing U.S. products.

Eugene Kaspersky, the owner of the company, has offered to provide the source code of the products for review by U.S. government specialists. He also offered to testify before Congress. Both to no avail.

There is fear mongering, without any evidence, that Kaspersky may cooperate with the Russian government. Similar accusations could be made about any anti-virus product. U.S. and British spies systematically target all anti-virus products and companies:

The British spy agency regarded the Kaspersky software in particular as a hindrance to its hacking operations and sought a way to neutralize it.
...
An NSA slide describing "Project CAMBERDADA" lists at least 23 antivirus and security firms that were in that spy agency's sights. They include the Finnish antivirus firm F-Secure, the Slovakian firm Eset, Avast software from the Czech Republic. and Bit-Defender from Romania. Notably missing from the list are the American anti-virus firms Symantec and McAfee as well as the UK-based firm Sophos.

That the NSA and the British GCHQ did not list U.S. and British made anti-virus products on their "to do" list lets one assume that these packages can already be controlled by them.

In February 2015 Kaspersky announced that it found U.S. and UK government spying and sabotage software infecting computers in some 42 countries. It released a detailed report about the "Equation group", its name for NSA and GCHQ spy tools. In June 2015 Kaspersky Lab detected a breach in its own systems by an Israeli government malware. It published an extensive autopsy of the breach and the malware programs used in it. Meanwhile the NSA attacked Kaspersky products and customers:

The NSA has also studied Kaspersky Lab’s software for weaknesses, obtaining sensitive customer information by monitoring communications between the software and Kaspersky servers, according to a draft top-secret report. The U.S. spy agency also appears to have examined emails inbound to security software companies flagging new viruses and vulnerabilities.

Later that year the CIA and FBI even tried to recruit Kaspersky employees but were warned off.

That the U.S. government now attempts to damage Kaspersky is likely a sign that Kaspersky Lab and its products continue to be a hard-target which the NSA and GCHQ find difficult to breach.

To justify the public campaign against Kaspersky, which began in May, U.S. officials recently started to provide a series of cover stories. A diligent reading of these stories reveals inconsistencies and a lack of logic.

On October 5 the Wall Street Journal reported: Russian Hackers Stole NSA Data on U.S. Cyber Defense:

Cont. reading: Spy Spin Fuels Anti-Kaspersky Campaign

Posted by b at 08:14 AM | Comments (58)

October 10, 2017

"Russia Interfered!" - By Purchasing Anti-Trump Ads?

After the ludicrous "Russian hacking" claims have died down for lack of evidence, the attention was moved to even more ludicrous claims of "Russian ads influenced the elections". Some readers are upset that continue to debunk the nonsense the media spreads around this. But lies should not stand without response. If only to blame the reporters and media who push this dreck.

As evidence is also lacking for any "Russian interference" claims the media outlets have started to push deceiving headlines. These make claims that are not covered at all by the content of the related pieces. The headlines are effective because less than 20% of the viewers ever read beyond them.

On the NYT Homepage today we find another one of these: Google Finds Russia Bought Ads to Interfere in Election.

Google has found no ads that "Russia", the state or nation, has bought. There is also no evidence that the ads in question interfered in any way with the election. There is evidence that any of the ads in questions aimed to achieve that. The opener of the piece repeats the false headline claims. But now we have "Russian agents", not "Russia", which allegedly did something.

Google has found evidence that Russian agents bought ads on its wide-ranging networks in an effort to interfere with the 2016 presidential campaign.

The term "Russian agents" is not defined at all. Where these "secret agents" or Public Relation professionals in Washington DC hired by some Russian entity?

Using accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government, the agents purchased $4,700 worth of search ads and more traditional display ads, according to a person familiar with the company’s inquiry ...

"Accounts believed to be connected to the Russian government." Believed by whom? And how is "connected" defined? Isn't any citizen "connected" to his or her government?

Those believed, connected accounts bought a whopping $4,700 of ads? Googles 2016 revenue was $89,000,000,000. The total campaign expenditures in 2016 were some $6,000,000,000. The Clinton campaign spent some $480,000 on social network ads alone. But something "Russian" spending $4,700 was "interference"?

But wait. There is more:

Google found a separate $53,000 worth of ads with political material that were purchased from Russian internet addresses, building addresses or with Russian currency. It is not clear whether any of those were connected to the Russian government, and they may have been purchased by Russian citizens, the person said.

So now we are on to something. A full $53,000 worth of ads. But ....

The messages of those ads spanned the political spectrum. One account spent $7,000 on ads to promote a documentary called “You’ve Been Trumped,” a film about Donald J. Trump’s efforts to build a golf course in Scotland along an environmentally sensitive coastline. Another spent $36,000 on ads questioning whether President Barack Obama needed to resign. Yet another bought ads to promote political merchandise for Mr. Obama.

The film is anti-Trump. Obama not resigning would have been anti-Trump. Selling Obama merchandise may have been good business, but is certainly not pro-Trump. So at least $43,000 of a total of $53,000 mentioned above was spent by believed, connected "Russians" on ads that promoted anti-Trump material. How does that fit with the claims that "Russia" wished to get Trump elected? Putin pushed the wrong button?

The allegedly "Russian" Facebook ads were just a click-bait scheme by some people trying to make money. The allegedly "Russian" Goggle ads were of a volume that is unlikely to have made any difference in anything. They were also anti-Trump.

Clinton lost because people on all sides had learned to dislike her policies throughout the years. She was unelectable. Her party was and is acting against the interest of the common people. No claim of anything "Russian" can change those facts.

Posted by b at 11:37 AM | Comments (56)

Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Below the fold:

An impressive video of a ten minutes bicycle ride, at night, through a burning Santa Rosa neighborhood.

The people got out. But those plywood buildings had no chance. (One wonders why such buildings are seen as investments.)

Cont. reading: Impressive Videos Of Santa Rosa Fires

Posted by b at 02:21 AM | Comments (59)

October 09, 2017

Syria - Turkey Violates Astana Agreement - Renews Alliance With Al-Qaeda

Yesterday Turkish army forces entered the Syrian Idleb governate from the west. The move is officially part of a de-escalation supervision process agreed upon between Syria, Turkey, Russia and Iran. One point of the agreement is to continue the fight against al-Qaeda in Syria, currently operating under the name Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). HTS controls large parts of Idleb governate.

This is confirmed in the official Turkish Idleb Operation Explanation. "To purge terrorist organisations, especially DAESH, PKK/PYD-YPG and HTS from the region," is  describes as one aim of its de-escalaton force.

But the Turkish forces have made a deal with HTS. When their reconnaissance teams entered Idleb yesterday they were escorted by heavily armed HTS forces (video). According to their agreement with the terrorists the Turkish forces will only take up three positions. All of these will be bordering the Kurdish enclave Efrin (Afrin).


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An (anti-Syrian government) journalist reports:

Hassan Hassan‏ - Verified account @hxhassan - 5:22 PM - 8 Oct 2017

1. Turkey established three checkpoints in Darat Izzat, west of Aleppo, in coordination with HTS.
A senior HTS official tells @MousaAlomar Turkish forces won't be present anywhere other than those checkpoints "for now."
2. Mousa asks a series of questions to the HTS official:
 Q. Will the Turkish army enter [rebel-held] areas?
 A. Yes (but not beyond the three areas agreed with HTS)
 Q. Any imminent battle in Idlib?
 A. No. So far things are good, unless Turkey changes its position
My own sources confirm that an effort to keep things peaceful between Turkey and HTS is so far successful.

The purpose of this Turkish incursion is obviously not to counter al-Qaeda/HTS but only to surround the Kurdish held enclave around Efrin.

An aggressive Turkish move could now  try to cut of the Kurdish Efrin area (yellow) from the Syrian government held areas (red) by connecting the Turkish controlled rebel area in the north (blue) with the al-Qaeda controlled Idleb governate (green). Such a move would encounter fierce resistance not only from Kurdish elements and the Syrian government but also from Iran. Auxiliary Iranian troops hold the government corridor between Aleppo and Efrin to protect some important Shia villages in the area.

On one side one can understand the Turkish abrogation of its duties under the Astana agreement. Erdogan is afraid of the domestic backlash a real fight against  HTS would likely cause. But it was Turkey that created the mess by supplying al-Qaeda in Syria with men and goods for nearly six years. It is its duty to kill the monster it created. It also has to uphold its diplomatic agreements.

Turkey has proven again that it is not trustworthy. Erdogan may hope to get NATO cover should he incur new Russian wrath about his breach of trust and his abrogation of the de-escalation agreement. But the expanding spat between the State Department and the Turkish government, as well as low Turkish standing within NATO populations, do not bode well for any bet on that alliance.

Posted by b at 05:35 AM | Comments (88)