Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 07, 2015

Why Is The NYT Doubting The Syrian Airstrike Against Nusra?

The airforce of the Syrian Arab Army bombed a military leadership meeting of Jabhat al-Nusra in north Syria and killed four of Nusra's leading military commanders as well as some other Nusra members. This is a huge success for the Syrian government and a probably catastrophic loss for Nusra. This facts of the story are obvious when one reads the report Reuters put out. But reading the New York Times one has to dig down deep, deep into its piece to find a mealy mouthed paragraph about the Syrian success.

The Reuters version:

BEIRUT— Al-Qaida's Syrian branch was left reeling on Friday after its military chief was killed in an apparent army air strike, adding to confusion over the future path of the most powerful group opposing both President Bashar al-Assad and Islamic State.
...
The Syrian military said it had carried out Thursday's attack, which also killed a number of other Nusra leaders. A Syrian military source said the headquarters had been struck from the air.

Jihadist sources had initially said Thursday's blast was the result of an air strike by a U.S.-led coalition that has been bombing Islamic State in Syria. However, the coalition denied mounting any strikes in the province in the preceding 24 hours.

It is obvious who did this. It was an air attack as confirmed by Nusra sources and the U.S. had no planes in the area. The Syrian airforce is the only one that could have done this and it claims the strikes.

So why does the New York Times its best to confuse the issue and to not acknowledge the important victory of the Syrian government?

It starts out:

BEIRUT, Lebanon — A loyalist of Osama bin Laden who trained fighters to battle American troops in Iraq and became a commander of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in Syria was killed there in the last week along with three fellow leaders, according to Syrian insurgents and a monitoring organization.

Reports differed on exactly when and how the commander, Samir Hijazi, and the other leaders of the affiliate, the Nusra Front, were killed. But the deaths of so many top figures, if confirmed, would signal a sharp blow to the Nusra Front, one of the strongest insurgent factions fighting the Syrian government.

Following the lead-in are sixteen additional paragraphs of conspiracy theories on how, when and where the Nusra leaders might have been killed or not. None of those is confirmed and the sources are dubious. Only down in paragraph nineteen (19) do we learn:

The Syrian state news agency, SANA, also reported the death of Mr. Hijazi, but said he had been killed by Syrian government forces further south of the Turkish border.

What is the NYT's motivation to not report that the Syrian government killed the Nusra leaders? Does it have sympathies for Nusra because Nusra, at least in south-west Syria, is allied with Israel? Does it want to obfuscate that Syria is fighting against the same jihadi enemies the U.S. claims to fight?

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

March 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-12

News & views ...

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

March 05, 2015

Where The "Neutral" OSCE Mission in Ukraine Blames The Wrong Side

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has a military observer mission in east Ukraine. The mission is supposed to equally watch both sides of the conflict and to report incidents and military compliance with the agreements reached in the Minsk 2 ceasefire.

The OSCE's role is supposed to be neutral.

But its daily report of 18:00hrs, 4 March seriously calls this neutrality into question.

In an unusual long general footnote to the March 4 collection of observations the OSCE mission writes:

* Restrictions on SMM access and freedom of movement:

The SMM is restrained in fulfilling its monitoring functions by security considerations including the lack of information on the whereabouts of landmines, and restrictions imposed by third parties.

The security situation in Donbas is fluid and unpredictable and the cease-fire does not hold everywhere. For this reason, the SMM requires security guarantees from “DPR” and “LPR” which are not always provided. Where such guarantees are limited to escorted movements, and escorts are not provided for all planned patrols or are delayed, this also represents a restriction on SMM freedom of movement.

From this one assumes that only the side of the eastern federalist, the Donetzk Peoples Republic and the Luhansk Peoples Republic, are hindering the observers movement. Only these are blamed.

But wait:

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

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

March 04, 2015

U.S., Qatar Plan To Rebrand AlQaeda Into "Moderate" Rebels

The CIA supported and equipped "moderate" rebels in Syria are losing out against al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra. The last "moderate" group active in north Syria, Harakat Hazzm, had to give up its headquarter -including a warehouse full of U.S. weapons- to Jabhat al Nusra and dissolved. Many of its members then joined Nusra.

The U.S. military plans to recruit, pay and train new "moderate" rebels but the effort is starting veeerrry slow. Just 100 have been vetted so far to be "moderate" enough for the program. There are simply too few non-Jihadi rebels and warlords available who are willing to die for U.S. dollars.

A solution to the lack of qualified "moderate" personal is the rebranding of non-moderate groups into "moderates". James Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, recently moved into that direction:

Moderate these days is increasingly becoming anyone who is not affiliated with ISIL. And so, you know, we are attempting to engage with them, and that's the whole point of the train and equip proposal -- project that the Department of Defense is gearing up for, is to vet, recruit and train and equip opposition in sufficient size and capability to actually make a military difference.

And so one of our challenges is, again, the recruiting and vetting part. So we picked people that not only are moderate, whatever that is, but also we have to be sensitive to complying with the international rules of law, which in this environment is a pretty tough order.

"Moderates", Clapper used gestural scare-quotes, is anyone who is not part of the Islamic State. That would, it seems, include Jabhat al-Nusra who three years ago parted from IS and kept their allegiance to AlQaeda. Jabhat al-Nusra has been fighting the Islamic State ever since.

That Clapper thought of Jabhat and similar Jihadi groups like Ahrar al-Sham, is obvious from his reference to international law. The United Nations Security Council classified Jabhat as an international terrorist organization. Supporting it, like Israel does in south Syria, is a violation of UNSC resolutions. As a veto wielding member the U.S. would not like to be caught doing that.

Jabhat al-Nusra is a Jihadi group following al-Qaeda. It is obviously a non-moderate groups but as it fights against the Islamic State it is now, under Clappers new definition "moderate" and thereby qualified to receive U.S. support. Still there is the damned international law issue that has to be circumvented.

Now just in time a U.S. puppet entity in the Persian Gulf, which already though silently arms and pays Jabhat al-Nusra, comes up with a solution for that problem:

Leaders of Syria's Nusra Front are considering cutting their links with al Qaeda to form a new entity backed by some Gulf states trying to topple President Bashar al-Assad, sources said.

Sources within and close to Nusra said that Qatar, which enjoys good relations with the group, is encouraging the group to go ahead with the move, which would give Nusra a boost in funding.
...
Intelligence officials from Gulf states including Qatar have met the leader of Nusra, Abu Mohamad al-Golani, several times in the past few months to encourage him to abandon al Qaeda and to discuss what support they could provide, the sources said.

They promised funding once it happens.
...
The Nusra Front is listed as a terrorist group by the United States and has been sanctioned by the United Nations Security Council. But for Qatar at least, rebranding Nusra would remove legal obstacles to supporting it.

A "rebranded" Jabhat al-Nusra would of course still fight the Syrian government as its primary enemy. Destroying the Syrian government is also the primary aim of the Wahhabi government of Qatar. New-Nusra would fight the Islamic State only after having secured enough resources and geography to be able to expand further. Its ideological essence would not change and its aim in the end would be to create its own version of an Islamic state.

[I]f Nusra is dissolved and it abandons al Qaeda, the ideology of the new entity is not expected to change. Golani fought with al Qaeda in Iraq. Some other leaders fought in Afghanistan and are close al Qaeda chief Ayman Zawahri.

Rebranding Jabhat al-Nusra to then declare it "moderate" in the new definition of DNI Clapper may be the plan. It worked in Libya. But I doubt its feasibility in the much longer Syria conflict. It would be a very difficult sale even for the mighty U.S. propaganda brigades. It would also mean that the organization Jabhat al-Nusra, as it now exists, would fall apart. Many of Nusra's fighters have joined for ideological reason and to be members of alQaeda. Should Nusra revoke its oath to al-Qaeda those fighters would leave and very likely join the Islamic State.

The only reason to stay with New-Nusra would be the Qatari and U.S. money and equipment that would flow to it. But as the demise of earlier U.S. supported "moderate" groups show money and weapons are not the decisive factor in winning the fights on the ground.

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

March 03, 2015

The Failing Clinton Candidacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

March 02, 2015

Open Thread 2015-11

News & views ...

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

March 01, 2015

Whodunnit?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So whodunnit?

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

Your guess is as good as mine.

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

February 27, 2015

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

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

Yesterday Human Rights Watch send out this tweet:


bigger

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

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

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

February 26, 2015

Open Thread 2015-10

News & views ...

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

February 25, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 24, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 23, 2015

White House Denies Interference In Venezuela - Promises More Of It

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 22, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As Elijah Magnier remarks

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

Indeed. Which leads me to this question:

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

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

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

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

February 20, 2015

Biden Donates Counter Mortar Radar To Russian Weapon Exhibition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Open Thread 2015-09

News & views ...

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

February 19, 2015

Syria: Special Forces From Turkey Attack The Syrian Arab Army

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 18, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 16, 2015

Ukraine - The Ceasefire Stalemates

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

From the first piece:

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

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

From the second report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

One wonders to what purpose. 

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

February 15, 2015

NYT Commits Orange Jumpsuit Trademark Infringement

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

February 13, 2015

Open Thread 2015-08

News & views NOT related to current events in Ukraine.

For commenting on current events in Ukraine please go here.

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

Ukraine Ongoing Thread

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

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

February 12, 2015

Minsk 2.0 Is Just The Pause Button

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 11, 2015

Who Murdered Kayla Jean Mueller?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cont. reading: Who Murdered Kayla Jean Mueller?

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

February 10, 2015

The Syrian Government Counterattack In The South

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

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

The report says:

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

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

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

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

Earlier Elijah J. Magnier reported on the operation:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 09, 2015

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

February 08, 2015

The Islamic State Is In Retreat

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 07, 2015

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


bigger

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February 06, 2015

Open Thread 2015-07

News & views ...

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

February 05, 2015

U.S. Pushes For War In Europe

Updated below

It is pretty obvious that significant forces in Washington push for a big war in Europe, cold at least but hot if possible. European countries, aside from some small U.S. puppets, are well aware that they would be hit hard in such a war, and do not want it.

The U.S. wants to deliver additional weapons to Ukraine and to thereby goad Russia into such a wider war. The arguments made that such weapon delivers would somehow restrict Russia are just stupid and only hide the real plans: Escalation until Europe is (again) up in flames.

There is full steam lobbying by the U.S. to widen the conflict in Ukraine which it instigated in the first place:

As President Barack Obama’s pick to run the Pentagon said Wednesday he’s inclined to support lethal weapons transfers, Ukraine’s president said he was confident the U.S. would do so. Meanwhile, outgoing Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry were flying to discuss Ukraine and other issues with allies in Europe. Vice President Joe Biden is due to follow them Thursday.

France, the U.K., Germany and other Europeans have spoken out against any such weapon deliveries and the escalation they bring.

Kerry has flown to Kiev today to push for the Ukraine puppets into escalation. Merkel and Hollande will also fly to Kiev and will hopefully try to convince Poroshenko to deescalate and to make peace with the federalists in east-Ukraine. I have my doubts about their independence though and it may be that their appearance is is just part of the show. Why else did they agree to NATO's increase in capacities and infrastructure in east Europe?

The solution for the Ukraine is simple. Federalization, official acceptance of the Russian language which is spoken in the East and democratic elections of local governors. These have been the demands in the east and these have been solutions even U.S. foreign policy luminaries urged to accept a year ago.

The Ukraine is bankrupt. This morning its currency lost 30% in just a few hours. Instead of further instigating a civil war and pushing for its escalation it is urgently time to discuss how that problem can be solved. The solution can not be waging war and permanent subsidization of Europe's most corrupt country.

Federalization and constitutional reform (i.e. Point 3 Decentralization of power ...) are a major point agreed upon by both sides in the Minsk protocol about a ceasefire in east-Ukraine. But despite insisting on other points of the agreement himself Poroshenko still rejects those most important agreed upon conditions.

Should the U.S. win in its drive to escalate the situation by delivering more weapons to Kiev Russia will not cave in. History suggest that a Ukraine under NATO at its border is a deadly danger. Russia must and will take countermeasures. The U.S. will then cite those countermeasures as signs of "further aggression" and as justification for another round of escalation. A few more rounds of such and Europe will be up in flames.

That would be good for the U.S. economy but terrible for the Ukraine and Europe.

Update Funny. What "important" people are told:

Cont. reading: U.S. Pushes For War In Europe

Posted by b at 07:57 AM | Comments (145)

February 04, 2015

CNBC Uses Daft Economic "Logic" To Spred Anti-Venezuelan Propaganda

This anti-Venzuela propaganda segment by CNBC doesn't even get basic economics right:

For many countries, cheaper oil is helping boost economic growth. But if you're a struggling Caribbean nation dependent on energy subsidies from Venezuela, the crash in oil prices is not welcome news.
...
[The fall in oil prices] has also jeopardized generous financing terms extended to more than a dozen Caribbean nations that rely on Venezuelan oil to fuel their own economies.

Venezuela launched the so-called Petrocaribe accord in 2005 as it sought to become a low-cost energy provider and win political favor among small island economies heavily reliant on oil imports. But as oil prices have fallen, Venezuela's energy blessing has turned to something of a curse.
...
Under the terms of the Petrocaribe agreement, the drop in oil prices has—paradoxically—raised members' oil import costs. That's because, as crude prices fall, they lose access to extremely generous financing terms that amount to subsidies.

When oil was over $100 a barrel, Petrocaribe member countries paid just 40 percent of the upfront costs, and Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, covered the rest of the expense with a low interest rate loan payable over 25 years. Some have also paid their oil bills with bartered agricultural products or services.

The extra cash from deferred payments helped some countries finance infrastructure projects and other spending programs.

But those finance terms become much less generous as the price of oil falls, forcing member countries to pay more upfront, with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel, according to RBC economist Marla Dukharan.

Lets unwrap that with an example.

When oil was at $100 per barrel the Caribbean countries paid $40 in cash plus $60 in deferred payments which were spread over 25 years.

When oil is at $50 per barrel the Caribbean countries pay $40 in cash plus $10 in deferred payments which are spread over 25 years. The money they will owe to Venezuela and will have to pay is less than it was at higher oil prices. That is certainly very good for them.

Now how is that "not welcome news"?

How has that "jeopardized generous financing terms"?

How has that "turned to something of a curse"?

How are they now to "lose access to extremely generous financing terms"?

Venezuela did not simply hand out money. It granted vendor loans bound to the purchase of its product. Not having to take out additional loans because the product is cheaper now is not losing "extremely generous financing terms" because those terms were never available for anything else.

It is unclear from the piece how the financial amateurs at CNBC got their crazy ideas and claims.

They provide a link to the RBC "analysis", written in November, which says:

PetroCaribe member countries "pay 40 per cent upfront when the price is over US$100 per barrel; 50 per cent upfront when the price is between US$80-100 per barrel; 60 per cent upfront when the price is between US$50-80 per barrel; and full payment upfront when the price is below US$50 per barrel.

So its full payment starting at $50/bl and CNBC got it wrong when it wrote "with payment in full when prices fall below $40 a barrel". The CNBC writers are obviously unable to correctly copy from the sources they linked to.

Now looking at the RBC numbers CNBC was unable to copy and paste some economically ignorant people, like those CNBC folks, might argue that the $40 upfront at above $100/bl is less than the $50 upfront at a $50/bl price. But at a price of $40/bl the cash payment would be again the same as at $100/bl. To argue from one extreme price-point when there are ranges is wrong. But that $50 cash versus $40 cash argument is also incorrect as the $40 at a $100/bl price is not the total payment. When one includes the cost to pay off a $60 per barrel loan including the interest at a $100/bl price the $10/bl additional cash payment at $50/bl will be a lot cheaper. 

At the end of the CNBC piece we get to know who likely came up with the whole stupid argumentation (and also why):

With the future of Venezuelan oil sales in doubt, the White House last month invited Petrocaribe countries to Washington for a Caribbean Energy Security Summit, hosted by Vice President Joe Biden.
...
Over the weekend, Maduro claimed in a televised address that Biden had tried to foment the overthrow of his socialist government during the Caribbean energy summit. Maduro claimed that Biden told the Caribbean leaders that the Venezuelan government's days were numbered and it was time they abandon their support, a claim Biden's office dismissed.

Why would anyone think that the "future of Venezuelan oil sales" to the Caribbean countries is "in doubt"? It is not as long as the dully elected government of Venezuela is in its place.

But should the U.S. be successful with its current, renewed (pdf) "regime change" attempts in Venezuela the Petrocaribe scheme would likely be in jeopardy. As the leaders of the Caribbean countries are certainly smarter than the CNBC writers they will know that the Petrocaribe deal is incredibly good for them.

Why Biden believes that he can convince the Caribbean countries otherwise is beyond me.

Posted by b at 12:02 PM | Comments (40)

February 03, 2015

AFP: Calling Americans "A Great People" Is "Anti-American"

This, by AFP, is one of the most misleading propaganda efforts I have ever seen.

The headline:

Ukraine run by 'miserable' Jews: rebel chief

80% of the readers will not read more than that headline.

The first paragraph:

Donetsk (Ukraine) (AFP) - Ukraine's pro-Russian rebel chief on Monday branded the country's leaders "miserable" Jews in an apparent anti-Semitic jibe.

Of those 20% of the readers who will read the first paragraph only one forth will also read the second one. The "anti-semitic" accusation has thereby been planted in 95% of the readership. Now here is the second paragraph:

Alexander Zakharchenko, leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, claimed that Kiev's pro-Western leaders were "miserable representatives of the great Jewish people".

Saying that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were "miserable representatives of the great American people" would be "anti-American"? What is anti-semitic in calling "the Jewish people" "great"?

The AFP reporter and editor who put that up deserve an Orwellian reward. It is one of the most misleading quotations I have ever seen. Accusing Zakharchenko of anti-semitism when he is actually lauding Jews.

Now I do not agree with Zakharchenko. There is no such thing as "the Jewish people" in the sense of a racial or national determination. There are people of various nationalities and racial heritages who assert that they follow, or their ancestors followed, religious Jewish believes. Some of them may have been or are "great". But that does not make them "the Jewish people" just like followers of Scientology do not make "the Scientologish people".

Posted by b at 06:51 AM | Comments (83)

February 02, 2015

Financial Warfare As The New Regime Change Instrument

Just two weeks ago some idiot published this on "War Is Boring":

After six years of massive expenditures and lurid propaganda, on Jan. 9 Tehran shut down its troubled space program. The unceremonious cancellation occurred without notice in the Iranian press.

Authorities are spreading the space agency’s manpower and assets across four ministries including the telecoms ministry and the ministry of defense.

That story was likely planted to instigate some riffs within Iranian politics. That did not work well. Here is notice in the Iranian press:

Tehran, Feb 2, IRNA - Manager of Electronic Industries Space Projects Mehdi Sarvi on Monday declared that Fajr satellite has established its contact with ground station, hours after it was launched and put into the orbit.
...
During the ceremony, Iran's Defense Minister Brigadier General Hossein Dehqan said the project was accomplished only thanks to the sincere endeavors of the Iranian scientists.

Developed by indigenous technology and know-how, he noted, the satellite which is called 'Fajr' indicated the high capabilities of Iran's satellite-carriers.
...
The minister referred to the chance to develop and design a new generation of satellite-carriers and also enter the world market of space services, using domestic potential and planning complicated space missions as some of the achievements of the project.

Congrats to Iran for this successful launch.

The above just demonstrates again that one can not trust any "news" on countries not liked by Washington. Consider this headline by NBC: Ex-Los Alamos Scientist Gets 5 Years in Venezuelan Nuclear Bomb Plot. A headline fitting the story would be something like "Crazy old scientist falls for FBI sting". The story has nothing to do with Venezuela and the whole "nuclear bomb" stuff was just phantasies an FBI agent used to entrap some poor old person. But Venezuela is on Washington's shit list and the CIA is currently busy instigating another coup against the elected Venezuelan government.

The CIA and the State Department are also involved in instigating the current demonstrations in Hungary. Another attack on an elected government that does not walk the line the U.S. administration orders it to walk. Next in line is likely the new government of Greece.

But instigating color revolutions, protests and coups is often not enough to destroy a government that the U.S. dislikes. In a recent interview Alastair Crooke points to the newest weapon in Washington's regime change arsenal - financial warfare:

The International Order depends more on control by the US Treasury and Federal Reserve than on the UN as before.

It started principally with Iran and it has been developed subsequently. In a book, “Treasury's War,” the tool of exclusion from the dollar-denominated global financial system is described as a “neutron bomb.” When a country is to be isolated, a "scarlet letter" is issued by the US Treasury that asserts that such-and-such bank is somehow suspected of being linked to a terrorist movement -- or of being involved in money laundering. The author of "Treasury's War" [Juan Zarate], who was the chief architect of modern financial warfare and a former senior Treasury and White House official, says this scarlet letter constitutes a more potent bomb than any military weapon.

This system of reliance on dollar hegemony no longer requires American dependency on the UN and hands control to the US Treasury overseen by Steve Cohen -- a reflection of the fact that the military tools have become less available to the US administration, for domestic political reasons.

Crooke believes that the drop in the Russian ruble a few weeks ago was engineered by the U.S. Treasury. He is not completely right though about David S. Cohen, the U.S.Treasury man who has implemented the financial warfare instruments against Iran and Russia. That man is no longer with the U.S. Treasury but is the new number 2 in the CIA. That tells you all you need to know about the intensity with which the U.S. plans to use these new weapons.

Any country that does not do do what Washington wants is now threatened with financial ruin. China and Russia are preparing defenses against such a threat but smaller countries have little chances to escape such attacks.

The media though will not delve into that. Should some country's economy drown (see Venezuela) because of U.S. financial marked manipulations all blame will be put on the foreign government and its "irresponsible economic policies" and the media will again call for and support "regime change".

Posted by b at 02:14 PM | Comments (41)

February 01, 2015

Open Thread 2015-06

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:56 PM | Comments (158)

January 31, 2015

Some Questions On Today's Mughniyah Stories

In the Washington Post Adam Goldman and Ellen Nakashima report today on the 2008 death of Hizbullah operator Imad Mughniyah.

On the same day Jeff Stein reports the same story for Newsweek. There are some differences in the details.

Mughniyah died from a tire blowout on a spare tire. The tire was filled with C4 explosives and metal balls and exploded at the back of a Toyota 4wd when Mughniyah walked past.

So far it had been assumed that the assassination had been a Mossad plot but the "news" in the story, based on "former U.S. intelligence officials", is that the CIA was heavily involved and that Bush gave the order to kill Mughniyah.

Two Israeli reporters, sometimes disseminators for Mossad phantasies, add some not so important bits.

The main difference between the two main stories, important in its legal aspect, is in who pressed the button. The Washington Post version:

The device was triggered remotely from Tel Aviv by agents with Mossad, the Israeli foreign intelligence service, who were in communication with the operatives on the ground in Damascus. “The way it was set up, the U.S. could object and call it off, but it could not execute,” said a former U.S. intelligence official.

The Newsweek version:

The kill was made all the harder by the way the bomb would be detonated. There was a two-second delay from the time the CIA and Mossad agents in the lookout post pushed the button to when the bomb exploded. Under the plan, the Mossad agent would ID Mugniyah, and the CIA man would press the remote control.
...
Finally, on the night of February 12, 2008, after two months of round-the-clock surveillance, they caught Mugniyah alone.

“They made a positive ID. Click. One, one thousand; two, one thousand...ka-boom.

So in the Neweek version some CIA guy is guilty of murder while in the Washington Post version somebody in Tel Aviv should be hanged for it.

According to Elijah J. Magnier, who in 2008 reported the story from the Syrian side, the Newsweek version is the more correct one. Magnier also had some additional details in his tweets today.

But aside from the content of the story, which I do not believe to be really relevant, there are questions that could need some answers:

Why is the Washington Post "dumping" the story into the Friday evening/Saturday morning news hole? Usually such a story would be published Saturday evening/Sunday morning thereby and fetch some time on the Sunday shows.

Why is the story coming out now? Has it to do with the spat between Obama and Netanyahoo? Is it a diversion from Israel's recent loss against Hizbullah? Has it to do with the U.S. negotiations with Iran?

The story was obviously ready for some time to be put out by two competing papers. Both were likely waiting for a go from their sources to publish it. Why was the "go" given now? By whom?

Posted by b at 01:54 PM | Comments (48)

January 30, 2015

Obama's Advice: "Do Not Trust My Public Words"

The Hill Jan 29 2015

Obama to Dems: 'Get informed, not by reading the Huffington Post'

PHILADELPHIA – President Obama on Thursday asked wary House Democrats to hold their fire while the administration negotiates several trade deals opposed by scores of liberal lawmakers.

“Keep your powder a little dry,” he told the Democrats assembled here for an annual retreat, according to a source in the closed-door session.

"Get informed," Obama also advised, "not by reading The Huffington Post."

What Obama meant to say was "Don't read the shit I write at the Huffington Post. It has nothing to do with my real plans."

Huffington Post Jan 29 2015

A Blueprint for Middle-Class Economics


bigger

I agree with Obama's advice. Do not read what he (lets) write for the public. Those claims are all wrong. Those words are lies. He is very likely to plan and do something very different from what he says. Do not trust him. Especially when he publicly opens his mouth.

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (33)

January 29, 2015

Libya - Why Hillary Clinton Should Never Again Hold A Public Office

Today's must read: Exclusive: Secret tapes undermine Hillary Clinton on Libyan war

Top Pentagon officials and a senior Democrat in Congress so distrusted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's 2011 march to war in Libya that they opened their own diplomatic channels with the Gadhafi regime in an effort to halt the escalating crisis, according to secret audio recordings recovered from Tripoli.

The tapes, reviewed by The Washington Times and authenticated by the participants, chronicle U.S. officials' unfiltered conversations with Col. Moammar Gadhafi's son and a top Libyan leader, including criticisms that Mrs. Clinton had developed tunnel vision and led the U.S. into an unnecessary war without adequately weighing the intelligence community's concerns.
...
Instead of relying on the Defense Department or the intelligence community for analysis, officials told The Times, the White House trusted Mrs. Clinton's charge, which was then supported by Ambassador to the United Nations Susan E. Rice and National Security Council member Samantha Power, as reason enough for war.

Clinton is still laughing at that (vid): "We came, we saw, he died. Hahahahahaha ..."

I doubt that this was the last laugh on this issue.

Posted by b at 01:26 PM | Comments (85)

January 28, 2015

Lebanon, Syria: The Resistance Strikes Back

Around noon local time today Hizbullah attacked an Israeli military convoy in the occupied Sheeba farm area. Hizbullah released a statement claiming to have hit several Israeli vehicles with Kornet anti-tank missiles. The statement was labeled as "No. 1". Hizbullah obviously expects the situation to further escalate and to release further statements. It claims that the attack killed several Israeli soldiers. Israel's censors have so far not revealed the number of casualties on its side.

Last week Israel attacked a convoy in the Golan area in Syria killing Hizbullah fighters and Iranian Revolutionary Guard troops including high ranking officers. The UN declared that the attack was in breach of the 40 year old armistice between Syria and Israel. Before the attack the general situation in the Golan had calmed down. After the unprovoked attack Hizbullah and Iran threatened to respond. But Israel was not deterred.

Yesterday two un-aimed rockets were fired from the Syrian side of the Golan demarcation line, probably by Syrian Fee Army or Jabhat al-Nusra fighters which partially occupy the Syrian side and receive logistic and armed help from Israel. The rockets fell into open field and left no damage. The Israeli military responded with artillery fire on a Syrian army headquarter. Its twisted logic says that any attack on the Israeli side from Syria, even when done by Israel supported insurgents, is the responsibility of the Syrian army.

Tonight Israel again escalated the situation with an airforce attack on a Syrian army position in the Golan. Today's attack on the Israeli convoy is the (deserved) response for the various Israeli peace violations.

Israel responded to today's attack by firing some 30+ missiles and artillery rounds into Lebanon. One Spanish UN peacekeeper was killed when the well known UN position was hit by Israeli fire.

Hizbullah's intention is to re-introduce "rules of the game" and to deter any further Israeli attacks on Syria and Lebanon. It will take some serious damage and casualties on the Israeli side before Netayahoo, currently attempting to get reelected,  will accept such.

Posted by b at 06:40 AM | Comments (76)

January 27, 2015

Syria: IS Gives Up On Kobani, U.S. Rehabilitates Assad

The Islamic State has finally given up its attack on the Kurdish-Syrian town Kobani on the border to Turkey. It took 18 weeks to understand what deadly game the U.S. was playing there.

After pressuring Turkey the US. had inserted Kurdish fighters and forward air controllers (FACs) into the besieged city. These sucked Islamic State fighters into position where the FACs could observe them and direct U.S. air attacks onto them.

The tactic was used sparsely but that is what it made valuable. The Islamic State fighters fell for it again and again. One wave of reserves after the other was sucked into observable positions and destroyed. During four and a half month some 600 air-strikes killed about 1,400 Islamic State fighters around Kobani including high ranking commanders, important scholars and many foreigners. 600 air strikes during such a long time frame is a low number. During the 2006 Lebanon war the Israeli air force flew about as many strikes per day. But that low number deceived the Islamic State and let it believe that it could win a fight which in reality turned out to be a meat grinder.

The campaign is an important loss for the Islamic State because it shows that it is not invincible and can be defeated in a combined air and ground campaign when its fighters are attacking fixed targets. But this tactic will only work when the Islamic State army is out in the open, at the end of its logistic chain and attacking an buildup area that allows for decent defense. To dislodge the Islamic State when it itself is holding a town or city, like Mosul, will be more difficult.

Meanwhile a propaganda campaign in the U.S. media was launched to rehabilitate the Syrian president Bashar Assad. On January 19 the NYT propagandist Anna Barnard pointed to a (yet hardly observable) shift in the U.S. position towards the Syria war. On January 22 Leslie Gelb, Former chair of the influential Council of Foreign Relations, called for a deal with Assad. Gelb also pointed out that the Liberal Interventionists and Neocons in Obama's administration are still against cooperation with the Syrian establishment while the military seems to agree to such. Four days later a NYT editorial remarked on shifting realities in Syria:

[T]he greater threat now is not Mr. Assad but the Islamic State, especially if it continues to expand in Syria, entices more foreign fighters into its ranks and uses its territory to launch attacks on the West. A recent study by the RAND Corporation, which does research for the government, says the collapse of the Assad regime, while unlikely now, would be the “worst possible outcome” for American interests — depriving Syria of its remaining state institutions and creating more space for the Islamic State and other extremists to spread mayhem.

Yesterday Foreign Affairs, the magazine of the Council of Foreign Relations, published an interview with President Bashar Assad. In it Assad formal offers cooperation by the Syrian army with the U.S. air-force to defeat the Islamic State. He urges to put pressure on the Turkish government which allows the supplies and additional manpower for the Islamic State to cross its borders. Erdogan, Assad says, is "fanatical".

Interestingly I find nothing mentioned against Jordan and the U.S. puppet ruling it in the Assad interview. Jordan like Turkey supports Syrian insurgents including al-Qaeda in Syria in the form of Jabhat al-Nusra in their attacks in Syria. Does Assad believe that cooperating with the U.S. would take Jordan, and the southern campaign directed at Damascus, out of the game?

The southern campaign, also supported by Israel which Assad called al-Qaeda's air-force, announced a victory yesterday when it claimed to have taken out the Syrian's army brigade 82 in Sheik Miskin. Jabhat al-Nusra as well as the Fee Syrian army claimed to have won that battle. But it soon turned out that only the little defended brigade headquarter buildings were taken by them and that the brigade's fighting battalions and their weapons, stationed elsewhere, were not affected.

Comments to the various Assad rehabilitation pieces show that a lot of people in the "west" support cooperation with the Syrian government. The current spat between the White House and the Israeli premier Netanyahoo allow for a more lenient U.S. position toward Syria and helps push back Israeli wishes to destroy it. The fight in Kobani has shown that such cooperation with reliable boots on the ground is necessary and effective in defeating the Takfiris. The moment is right for a U.S. turn towards a reliable cooperation with Syria and with its president Bashar al-Assad.

Posted by b at 04:59 AM | Comments (74)

January 26, 2015

Should Syriza's Choose The Soft Or The Hard Path?

So Syriza won in Greece. It formed a new government in coalition with the small, rightwing Independent Greece party. Before the election Syriza announced a program that would have Greece stay in the Euro but renegotiate conditions for loans.

I hope that was a ploy. Yves Smith describes the difficulties with Syriza's soft path:

The nut of that problem, as we will see, is that while may be a very estimable-sounding position, it may not be as pragmatic as it appears. Greece likely has better odds of winning concessions if it is less reasonable, since the Germans and the even more implacable Fins are convinced that the periphery countries are immoral beggars who deserve to be ground into the dust if they cannot or will not pay their debts. Greece is unlikely to be able to shake the perception in the North that they have the upper hand and can force Greece to heel, giving at most only fairly minor concessions.

Greece’s best hope is if it there is an upsurge in popularity of other anti-austerity and anti-Eurozone parties in the rest of Europe. And they are more likely to rally support in the rest of the Eurozone if they take bold positions rather than careful, studied ones. And even then, that may not be enough for them to resolve the deep-seated problems they face. It isn’t simply that they face a very difficult challenge politically vis-a-vis the Troika, but that even if they get most of what they want, their policies do not look likely to generate enough demand to pull Greece out of its ditch.

Like Ian Welsh I would argue for Greece to take a harder course, at least during negotiations and, if those fail, to really walk the walk:

Greek debt is at a level which is effectively impossible to pay off and has been made much, much worse by all the “aid packages” and “bailouts” given by their “fellow” Europeans. (Aka. they should have defaulted years ago.)

As for the Euro, Greece can’t print it, and Greece will need to print money.

I worry that Syriza is serious about negotiating on the debt. There is essentially no chance the Troika (well, really, Germany) will give them acceptable terms on a writedown. Negotiations should be intended only to go on long enough to demonstrate that a good deal is not possible. While they are ongoing, the Greeks should be preparing for Grexit and repatriating all the resources they can.

Greece would become another pariah of the "western" world and Ian, correctly in my view, thinks that is a position in which it is not alone and which can be used to Greece's favor:

The media is playing this as an anti-austerity vote, and it is. But voting anti-austerity for a country like Greece which can’t feed itself, has no oil, and doesn’t have a lot of industry, is one thing: not being austere is another. If the Greeks want a decent life again, they will have to take on some of the most powerful nations in the world and at least fight to a draw.

Many nations are in the same boat as Greece is: Russia, Iran, Venezuela, Argentina. Greece needs to make the necessary alliances with such countries and it needs to align with the rising Chinese block.

Doing this requires a psychological step that Greeks may be unwilling to take: a recognition that their interests do not lie with Europe; an understanding that Europeans are willing to see them impoverished, homeless and dead. Greeks who are living in the past and think the EU is about prosperity for everyone in the EU need to learn otherwise.

Syriza might go the more radical path. If not it is likely to fail and then the door will be open for the hard right to take power and to start wars to divert the attention from the ever falling economy.

Posted by b at 12:29 PM | Comments (125)

January 25, 2015

Open Thread 2015-05

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:43 PM | Comments (189)

January 24, 2015

Fox News(!) Says Israel Wants To Wipe Iran Off The Face Of The Earth

Fox News, the rightwing Rupert Murdock TV station, finally gets it:

The Israelian leaders talk about wiping Iran off the face of the earth"

Yep, that's right. Fox News is finally talking truth. It is the Israeli leaders who want to destroy Iran. It is not the other way around as the Israel lobby always claims.

The revelation comes from Fox News White House correspondent Chris Wallace at 3:35min (vid) in a discussion with Fox News anchor Shephard Smith about Netanyahoo's "invitation" to speak to Congress which was issued by the Republican speaker without the White House's knowledge.

Fox News is bashing Natanyahoo for the invite and the quote above is the topping on the ice cream.

Fox News defending Obama against Netanyahoo? Fox News explaining that Israel wants to destroy Iran? A moment ago I would have thought that impossible. What happened?

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (32)

Wondering About Today's Mariupol Attack

Today some barrage of Grad rockets was fired on an eastern suburb of Mariupol, a city in the south east of Ukraine and in the hands of the Ukrainian government. The 400,000 strong population of the city is believed to be in favor of the federalists fighting against the Ukrainian coup government. Last year it overwhelmingly voted (vid) to leave Ukraine. Some 30 people, all civilians, died in today's attack. There was no military target nearby. Whodunnit?

In September 2014 Hromadske TV, a new Ukrainian TV station financed by George Soros and the U.S. government, interviewed (vid) a former Ukrainian general Colonel General Vladimir Ruban. According to the provided translation he lauds the Ukrainian artillery which at that time shelled Donetsk from the airport but says that this just welds the people in Donetsk together. "They understand they are being shot at. It's one thing if attack groups or any mobile mortar troops drive through the city and shoot because you could say that this is just a sort of provocation by a third party. But if the artillery units fired from the airport then no one can claim that the separatists shoot themselves."

Two days ago a mortar attack on a bus in federalist held Donetsk which killed 13 people was likely done from within the federalists held city. While the Ukrainian government claimed that the federalists had themselves shelled the city they hold this seems quite unlikely to me. The Russia supported federalist later claimed that ten groups of Ukrainian partisans had infiltrated the city and that eight of those had been caught. This would fit the operational design earlier laid out by the former general.

Today's attack on Mariupol has no discernible military purpose. It makes absolutely no sense for the federalists to shell civilians in a city that is believed to be favorable to them. There is no clear evidence from where the shells were coming. The Ukrainian government claims the federalists did it while the federalists said they have no artillery nearby that could have reached the city and blame the coup government for the attack.

Today's attack is already used by hardliners to call for more European sanctions against Russia. Such sanctions would have no effect on Russia's position and are to the disadvantage of Europe. Only the U.S. and other hardliners who want a wider conflict with Russia would benefit form these.

In light of the mindset demonstrated by the former general and after the attack in Donetsk I tend to believe that this attack was a planned provocation by the Ukrainian side.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (194)

January 23, 2015

Saudi Arabia: The Monster Is Dead, May The New Monster Die Soon

The obituaries of mainstream U.S. media and "western" politicians on the Saudi King Abdullah are laughingly sycophantic:

A master politician, he gained a reputation as a reformer without changing his country’s power structure and maintained good relations with the United States while striking an independent course in foreign policy.

The Post closed its comment section on the obit to not be called out for its bootlicking. How much did the Saudis pay for this coverage? For a realistic view on the now dead monster read the Guardian obit: Monarch whose reign saw the spread of division, corruption and strife, and was saved only by ‘black gold’. The deceased left dozens of wives, tens of kids and ten-thousands of terrorists behind him.

The new king Salman, a fervent Wahabbi who has Alzheimer and is unlikely to rule for long, immediately launched an internal coup to further empower his branch of the tribal family:

Salman moved swiftly to undo the work of his half-brother. He decided not to change his crown prince Megren, who was picked by King Abdullah for him, but he may choose to deal with him later. However, he swiftly appointed another leading figure from the Sudairi clan. Mohammed Bin Nayef, the interior minister is to be his deputy crown prince. It is no secret that Abdullah wanted his son Meteb for that position, but now he is out.

More significantly, Salman, himself a Sudairi, attempted to secure the second generation by giving his 35- year old son Mohammed the powerful fiefdom of the defense ministry. The second post Mohammed got was arguably more important. He is now general secretary of the Royal Court. All these changes were announced before Abdullah was even buried.

There will likely be some resistance and strife within the Saudi ruling family about these changes. The smooth transfer of power today may turn out to be the start of rather chaotic developments.

No country deserves the troubles of a revolution more than Saudi Arabia does. Its combination of extreme archaic interpretation of religion and tons of oil money has proven to be dangerous for mankind. An uproar in Arabia could, in the short term, lead to even more repressive and backward religious regime. But such would at least stop the ass-licking and support "western" politicians offer to it.

Posted by b at 11:01 AM | Comments (29)

January 22, 2015

Ukraine: War In Kiev And Beyond?

Today the Ukrainian government finally admitted, three days after it happened, that it has lost its foothold at the Donetsk airport. Its position at the airport covered the artillery position the Ukrainian army has to the north-west of Donetsk. Those artillery units were shelling the federalist held city and the federalists attacked the airport to push them further away.

According to statistics provided to VICE News by the morgue, 157 casualties have been recorded in Donetsk since the beginning of January, with 119 of these occurring in the last two weeks.

It took quite a while but the federalist finally managed to capture the whole airport. Several counterattacks by the Ukrainian army were repelled and the counterattacking forces were destroyed.

Parts of the airport had been held for months by the "volunteer" right sector radicals that are now the "National Guard" of Ukraine. Their number three on the election list was captured by the federalists and their leader Dmytro Yarosh was wounded when he visited their airport position.

There is also some indecisive fighting further south near Mariupol and fighting in the north east near Lukhansk with the federalist making some slight advance. Still the general map has not changed much over the last months.

The Ukrainian army continues to mobilize and, with the help of some NATO members, is building up more forces. I doubt that whatever they come up with will have the motivation, training, equipment or leaders needed to be successful on the battlefield. Grandma's won't do. The soldiers on the other side have proven to be better in all aspects. Despite repeated claims form the Ukrainian government that 1,000, 2,000 or 9,000 Russian regular soldiers and hundreds of Russian tanks are fighting with the federalists none have been documented.

The Ukrainian army can not win a war against the federalist backed by Russia. The Ukrainian government is broke and will not get bailed out. Why is it still trying to wage war? My impression is that the U.S. is still pushing the Ukrainian government to continue its useless efforts to make any Europe-led ceasefire agreement with Russia null an void and to thereby keep the sanctions against Russia in place. Cold War 2.0 with proxy fighting in Ukraine is the U.S. plan to keep Russia from challenging its me-and-only-me-first global position.

The whole conflict seem to be based on more long-term plans:

American soldiers will deploy to Ukraine this spring to begin training four companies of the Ukrainian National Guard, the head of US Army Europe Lt. Gen Ben Hodges said during his first visit to Kiev on Wednesday.

The number of troops heading to the Yavoriv Training Area near the city of L'viv — which is about 40 miles from the Polish border — is still being determined, however.

Hmm. The Ukrainian National Guard mainly consists of the fascist units responsible for the Maidan fighting that led to the coup against the Ukrainian government. Lviv is the west Ukrainian capitol of the Ukrainian fascists. Why would the U.S. military train those units near Lviv when the regular Ukrainian army is also obviously in urgent need of training? Why train them in spring when the conflict, with some good will from both sides, could be over in a month or two?

Experience tells that whenever the U.S. announces official training will start then and there that unofficial training is already ongoing. I have zero doubt that some U.S. special forces, probably under the guise of "contractors", are already training semi-irregular Ukrainian units. As conventional warfare is unlike to help the Ukrainian government's cause those units may prepare for other means.

There are indeed signs that partisan warfare against the federalists is already happening. Today some mortars fired at civilian areas in Donetsk hit a bus and killed at least 13 people. Unlike regular artillery mortars are rather short ranged weapons. Those who fired them likely did so from inside the generally federalist held, but only lightly controlled areas. Also Alec Luhn, reporting for the Guardian from Donetsk, tweeted today:

Partisan war? Dnipro-1 battalion says pro-Ukraine partisans in Luhansk region blew up a train carrying coal to Russia http://nr2.com.ua/News/...

If what I suspect is happening, that Ukrainian government semi-regular units are waging a guerrilla campaign in federalist held regions, then the obvious response by the federalists will be the dispatch of similar units to Ukrainian government held areas. That means war in Kiev and beyond.

Posted by b at 12:26 PM | Comments (95)

January 21, 2015

SOTU: An Annual Monarchist Ritual To Acclaim U.S. Hypocrisy

From Obama's State of the Union remarks (via Micah Zenko):

... we reserve the right to act unilaterally, as we have done relentlessly since I took office ... while making sure that other nations play by the rules ...

The above fragments were both followed by applause.

---

Adding:

How foreigners perceive such nutty speech:

Russia's foreign minister says the United States wants to dominate global affairs and expects all others to bow to its supremacy.

He is right. See above.

Speaking at Wednesday's news conference, Sergey Lavrov said that President Barack Obama's State of the Union speech reflected the U.S. aspirations to remain "the No. 1" power. He added that the United States will come to realize that such approach is unsustainable.

The reality that an uncooperative and unilateral U.S. can not achieve the aims it wants is slowly, slowly setting in. Currently Obama's foreign policy is blamed for the various U.S. foreign policy disasters (Yemen anyone? Ukraine?). But Obama's foreign policy is not really different from the one Bush and Carter followed and the next president will likely try the same foolish hypocritical paths.

The self-delusion of U.S. allmightiness has deep roots and it will take some near catastrophic events to rip it apart.

Posted by b at 09:11 AM | Comments (79)

January 20, 2015

Israel's Golan Attack Turns Heights Into An Active Resistance Zone

As response to the Israeli attack on the Iranian commander in Syria Iran and Hizbullah will open an active new front in Golan heights:

"The response will be firm and decisive.” This, in short, was the Iranian reaction to the Israeli attack in the Syrian province of Quneitra, which killed a senior commander in the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), among others. The Iranian reaction indicates the possibility of opening the Golan front, where work is underway to build the necessary infrastructure.
...
Islamic Shura Council head Hussein Sheikh al-Islam said that “the resistance will open the Golan front in response to the Zionist aggression, which was a grave miscalculation by this entity.”

“Without intelligence assistance from terrorist groups in Syria, the Zionist entity would not have managed to execute this operation,” the aim of which is “to please the extremist groups in the Zionist entity and serve electoral objectives.”

The terrorist groups Israel is cooperating with is mainly Jabhat al-Nusra the AlQaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Israeli hit on the high ranking Iranian and Hizbullah targets will have significant repercussions and Israel may have miscalculated the extend to which this will come true.

There are already feeble efforts by the Israel to avoid the consequences of its deed:

An Iranian general killed in an Israeli air strike in Syria was not its intended target and Israel believed it was attacking only low-ranking guerrillas, a senior security source said on Tuesday.

The remarks by the Israeli source, who declined to be identified because Israel has not officially confirmed it carried out the strike, appeared aimed at containing any escalation with Iran or the Lebanese Hezbollah guerrilla group.

"We did not target the general and, by the way, here is a well maintained bridge for sale."

In the 80s and 90s Israel tried to turn the south of Lebanon into a comfort zone for itself by supporting the rogue forces of the South Lebanese Army. Hizbullah was founded to counter that force and a few years later Israel and its mercenaries were thrown out of the country.

During the last two years Israel tried the same strategy on the Golan demarcation line with Syria organizing and supporting Free Syrian Army gangs and Jabhat al-Nusra terrorists. Syria and Hizbullah had responded to this by fortifying position in the Golan and preparing defenses on the heights. Both had refrained from active attacks on that front.

But with the attack on the Iranian general and high Hizbullah commanders Israel has opened a new chapter and in reaction to that Hizbullah and Iran will turn the Golan heights into an open front of active combat against Israel. The game changed because Israel disregarded the established rules.

It will take time but the whole of Golan, just like south Lebanon before, will be an increasing unfriendly area for Israel and the cost to further hold on to it will over time become prohibitive.

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (121)

January 18, 2015

Netanyahoo Responds To Nasrallah Speech With Big Escalation

Update (Jan 19 2:00pm)

It turned out today that the highest rank killed and main target of the attack was not the Hizbullah special force commander in Syria and the other Hizbullah fighters but Iran's Islamic Revolution Guards Corps commander in Syria General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi. The general was new to the job and will certainly soon be replaced.

While some Jabhat al-Nusra media claim that Jabhat was responsible for the attack the UN observer mission on the Golan height says it observed drones from Israel above the area of the attack. It added:

"This incident is a violation of the 1974 Agreement on Disengagement between Israeli and Syrian forces."

Original post follows

Three days ago the leader of the Lebanese Hizbullah, Hassan Nasrallah, warned Israel against "stupid moves":

A key ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Nasrallah said that Israeli strikes on Syria "target the whole of the resistance axis,” which includes Hezbollah, Damascus and Tehran.

Nasrallah said Hezbollah fighters in Syria are battling extremist groups in an attempt to thwart threats for Syria, Lebanon and the entire region.

Describing the fight in Syria as “existential,” he said the plot against the neighboring country targets the resistance and their intervention into Syria was in order to preserve the country as well as Lebanon.

"The repeated bombings that struck several targets in Syria are a major violation, and we consider that any strike against Syria is a strike against the whole of the resistance axis, not just against Syria," he told the Beirut-based Arab news television.

"The axis is capable of responding. This can happen any time," he warned.

Israel disregarded the warning. It today attacked a Hizbullah convoy on the Syrian side of the Golan heights and killed the Hizbullah commander in Syria as well as six other Hizbullah fighters. One of those killed today was Jihad Imad Mughniyeh the son of Hizbullah commander Imad Mughniyeh killed by Israeli agents a few years ago. The attack was carried out by missiles released from a helicopter within Israeli borders.

Two points about the attack:

Israel is supporting Al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al-Nusra, in the Syrian part of the Golan height. The attack on Hizbullah today must (also) be understood as direct Israeli support for Al-Qaeda.

How did Israel know where to hit? Either Hizbullah's communication security was lousy, or there is a(nother) spy in Hizbullah's ranks or this was pure luck. I do not believe that such a "success" is just pure luck. The missile attack points to exact knowledge of the position of the target which lets me believe that some opf those killed might have carried a known cell phone or some other electronic beacon.

Hizbullah reacted so far by immediately putting its forces at the Lebanese Israeli border on alarm while Israeli intensified its (illegal) overflights of Lebanese territory.

I do not doubt that Hizbullah will retaliate harshly for this attack. But it will do so on a timetable that fits its needs and capabilities. I therefore find an immediate response, though justified, not very likely. But I do expect an answer within the next two month before the general election in Israel.

Nasrallah's speech three days ago was relatively aggressive. Netanyahoo now challenged that by escalating the situation. He calculates that Hizbullah can not response effectively or not within a time frame that would endanger his election chances. That may well turn out to have been a huge mistake.

Posted by b at 02:18 PM | Comments (99)

January 17, 2015

Open Thread 2015-04

(Sorry, no post. A family emergency that requires some travel etc. keeps me busy.)

News & views ...

(..and pleaze behave ...)

Posted by b at 01:30 PM | Comments (218)

January 15, 2015

Open Thread 2015-03

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (113)

January 14, 2015

Liberté D´Expression?

Dieudonné arrested over Facebook post on Paris gunman

French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala has been arrested for being an “apologist for terrorism” after suggesting on Facebook that he sympathised with one of the Paris gunmen, a judicial source has said.

Prosecutors had opened the case against him on Monday after he wrote “Tonight, as far as I’m concerned, I feel like Charlie Coulibaly” – mixing the slogan “Je suis Charlie”, used in tribute to the journalists killed at magazine Charlie Hebdo, with a reference to gunman Amédy Coulibaly. Dieudonné was arrested on Wednesday.

One wonders what "apologist for terrorism" may additionally include. When Hollande delivers weapons to terrorists in Syria isn't he also an "apologist for terrorism"?

Defending the racism of Charlie Hebdo is seen as heroic but criticizing Zionist racism in Israel is not allowed?

France now deploys 10,000 soldiers and 5,000 police to protect "Jewish sites". Meanwhile 26 places of worship for Muslims have been attacked and 34 have been threatened.

Liberté and égalité are supposed to be center tenets of France. They are now completely out of whack.

Posted by b at 12:11 PM | Comments (84)

 
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