Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
October 09, 2014

Open Thread 2014-23

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:39 PM | Comments (122)

October 08, 2014

Was Obama "Yanked" Into The New Middle East War?

There are big B1-B bombers flying over Kobane and there are U.S. friendlies' eyes on the ground telling them where to drop their bombs. There were many strikes today but the Islamic State fighters, with the help of massive car bombs, are still progressing against the Kurdish defenders.

Last night there were big demonstrations in Turkey by Kurds who demand that the border to Syria be opened to resupply the defenders in Kobane. The Erdogan regime gunned down at least 19 of the peaceful protesters. When will Obama say that Erdogan has "lost his legitimacy"?

The Erdogan regime has put a curfew on all major towns and cities in south east Turkey and deployed the military in the streets. But there are 14 million Turks of Kurdish heritage and if they rise up even the military's might will have trouble to hold them back.

Pat Lang is running a war-game about the Islamic State versus the Coalition war and the first task for the participants was to describe the current situation. One of them, Bandolero, wrote an interesting long term conspired overview over the Middle-East intrigues starting in 2001. I do not necessarily agree with it but find it thought provoking. Bandolero suggests that Obama did not want to engage in the Middle East but was dragged into it. Here is an excerpt as an appetizer:

Despite that Al Qaeda in Syria and Iraq are labeled terror organisations, US partners for regime change in Syria, like the Sauds and Turkey, continued to heavily support these organisations (ISIS, Nusra Front et al) deep into 2014, because they deemed them the most effective fighters against the Syrian army, and they want regime change in Syria at any price. Israel and it's friends made clear that they agree with that policy, as they too think, better have Al Qaeda ruling in Syria than Assad. But one such Al Qaeda group, ISIS, - which is likely heavily infiltrated by Syrian, Iranian and Russian intelligence - slipped out of control of it's Saudi masters. ISIS's attack on Mosul (a megacity where Al Qaeda is very strong and deeply entrenched since many years) was planned by it's masters as a blow against the Iranian-backed government in Baghdad and coordinated with Israel's and Turkish clients in the KRG, but Tehran and Baghdad doubled down, and let it happen largely unchallenged while playing surprised. Their bet is, ISIS takeover of Mosul and some more towns in Iraq and Syria will turn against those countries interests, who fuel the sectarian insurgencies in Syria and Iraq.

Chinahand, aka Peter Lee, like Bandolero sees an unwilling Obama dragged into a war he did not want:

Given the too little too late bombing at Kobane, wonder if one of the rules is "targeting by coalition consensus only". So Turkey saying

"IS stands for 'infrastructure', doesn't it? So let's bomb some buildings!". Becoming clearer that GCC/TK want to drag US back into ME

do the dirty work of checking Shia power in Baghdad, removing Assad, and injecting the money & troops to deal with the mess they created.

& let's not forget Israel is doing its bit by working w/ JAN at the ISR/SYR border. "Want to pivot to Asia? Well, pivot to Hell!"

Hate to say it, but US looks like it's totally getting its chain yanked by GCC, Israel, and Turkey,the most brutally inept actors in ME

& this IS campaign will be quite a bloody debacle

Is Obama really unwilling, yanked on by Netanyahoo, Erdogan and the Saudis, or is this going along his own plans? Bandolero and Chinahand think the first is the case. I am not so sure.

It reminds of those Russian peasants who lamented their lot in life with the phrase: "If only the Czar knew." They believed that if the leader only knew how bad things were, something would change. But of course the Czar did know but didn't care. 

A lot of Obama voters seem to be a bit like those peasants: "If only he could". "If only he were not surrounded by those gastly other folks". "If only those damned Middle Easterners would not yank him into war".

So what is it? Was Obama "yanked" into the new Middle East war or were these his plans all along?

Posted by b at 12:43 PM | Comments (114)

October 07, 2014

Ukraine: Waiting For Jack Frost

As little new as happening in Ukraine I refrained from writing on the issue. But there still seems to be a lot of interests in the comments so please have at it.

The Minsk ceasefire is largely holding even as daily battles occurs at the Donetsk airport. There coup-government troops are holed up in the nuclear bunkers beneath the airport and resist all attacks from the federalists while other government units indiscriminately shell the city every day.

But that fight is a bit of a sideshow. The government troops have lost too much material to go on a large offense and the federalists currently lack resupplies from Russia and are thereby restricted to generally defensive positions.

Russia is for now happy with the situation. It sits comfortable and waits for its largest traditional ally, Jack Frost, to come and to squeeze the Ukrainian government into further concessions. As the Washington Post editors with weeping and gnashing of teeth remark:

Mr. Putin is on the cusp of achieving all his major objectives. In addition to Crimea, he has captured a strategic slice of territory containing up to 10 percent of Ukraine’s population, creating a “frozen conflict” that he can use to keep the rest of the country permanently destabilized. He has bluffed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko and the European Union into postponing the implementation of an economic-association agreement that was the original cause of the conflict. He has pushed Ukraine’s economy into a free fall likely to intensify this winter, especially if Moscow fails to deliver supplies of gas or purchase Ukraine’s goods. If the Kiev government manages to hold successful elections this month and begins to find its footing, Mr. Putin can use his Donetsk clients to restart the war whenever he wishes.

The editorial puts too much hope on the coup government and fails to mention that the Ukraine, or what is left of it, is a crumbling cookie:

Poroshenko, who represents and pleases practically no one besides his Western patrons, finds himself exceptionally isolated, being opposed on all sides and to different degrees by Pravy Sektor, pro-war provocateurs, anti-war activists, and the remaining Russian speakers. With such tense societal fractures, Ukraine seems to be living up to its name as a ‘frontier’, albeit not only one between East and West, but now of one Ukrainian against the other.

The WaPo editors demand more sanctions on Russia or at least no lifting of those already applied. But they are unlikely to have their wishes fulfilled.

There are already signs that the U.S. (and NATO) is trying to make peace with Russia. The U.S. needs Russia in many international venues. When, for example, a solution is found in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, the U.S. will need Russian (and Chinese) agreement to conclude an agreement.

For now the Russian government only needs to wait for winter to come. The political fallout of the internal disunity in Kiev will then become even more apparent as will the costs the "west" will have to bear to keep Ukraine alive.

The current stalemate may not be to the liking of those fighting for Novorussiya but without Russian support and supplies they have few means to change the situation. They should now hole up for winter and prepare for a new campaign in spring.

Posted by b at 10:37 AM | Comments (280)

U.S. Finally Reacts To Islamic State Attack On Kobane

After days of doing nothing while the Islamic State fighters encroached on Kobane the U.S. finally started air strikes against IS positions. Reporters near the locations said that several IS tanks were hit.

I assume that it was becoming too awkward to keep up all the rhetoric about the "evil" of the Islamic State while the world media were standing on a hill in south Turkey looking over the border at Kobane, counting the IS tanks surrounding the city and reporting exactly zero U.S. or Turkish attacks on them.

One wonders how the Turkish president Erdogan will feel about these attacks now. He tried to use the Islamic State advance to blackmail first the Kurds in Kobane and then the United States.

His demands to the Kurdish leader of the YPG forces holding the city in exchange for some help were: 1) Cut ties with Assad 2) Join the Free Syrian Army and fight Assad 3) Accept a Turkish buffer zone in Syria on your grounds 4) Stop any striving for independence 5) Do not threaten Turkey. The Kurds rejected these conditions.

Towards the United States Erdogan demanded that the U.S. should set the priority on destroying the Syrian government if it wants any Turkish help in its fight against the Islamic State. It should also install a no-fly-zone over Syria acting, like in Libya, as the insurgent's air force and it should support a Turkish buffer zone within Syria.

Especially after the recent spat between Erdogan and Biden I find it unlikely that Obama agreed to Erdogan's and believe that the air attacks today were ordered against Turkey's wishes.

How will Erdogan respond to this? The Kurds will have taken note of his behavior and the war the Kurdish PKK in Turkey waged against the state may soon become hot again. With his relations with all neighbors and now also with U.S. damaged one of Erdogan's few political successes, the peace negotiations with the Kurds, is now also in tatters. Who will he blame for this latest mistake?

After Washington dithered these attacks now come too late. While over the last week Islamic State forces were more or less out in the open around Kobane and easy targets they are now within the city and thereby much difficult to hit from the air. It is also somewhat disconcerting that the U.S. Central Command reports attacks on Kobane and Ayn al-Arab as two categories as if those were different places and not just the Kurdish and Arabic names for and the very same city.

Still - while the whole campaign against the Islamic State is likely to fail I do find it important that at least the heavy weapons it controls get destroyed before they create more suffering and damage.

Posted by b at 07:45 AM | Comments (47)

October 05, 2014

Sitrep Iraq And Syria

A situation report gathered from public and private news sources.

In north east Syria next to the Turkish border fighters from the Islamic State are besieging the Kurdish fighters of the YPG. Up until this afternoon media in Turkey could watch right across the border and see Islamic State tanks surrounding the city. Despite clearly visible and identifiable targets there were no U.S. airstrikes to fend off the IS attack and the Turkish army kept the border close.

One mortar shell, very likely fired by the Islamic State, hit a house on the Turkish side. The army then declared the area a no-go zone and started to evacuate the village on its side. Some month ago errant mortar shells fired by the Syrian army had hit some vegetable fields in Turkey. The Turks retaliated for that with artillery fire. There was no such reaction when the IS mortar hit today.

Media in the area were told to leave and while they were leaving vans with the crews from CNN and BBC were fired on with tear gas by Turkish police/troops. Two vans had their back windows broken with tear gas grenades landing inside (vid). The Turks clearly have no interest in letting the public know what is now happening in Kobane. This evening Kurdish media reported firefights within the city.

In Iraq the Islamic State today attacked Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar, and took over most parts of it. The Iraqi Security Forces have allegedly left the city.

IS now controls the axis Hit, Ramadi, Fallujah and highway 1 between Baghdad and Jordan and highway 12 between Baghdad and Syria. The only significant town left between the IS controlled area west of Baghdad and Baghdad International Airport (BIAP) is Abu Ghraib where a quite intense IS presence has already been reported. Should IS be able to set up some of the artillery it earlier captured in Abu Ghraib it could close down BIAP and thereby make any evacuation of U.S. personal a challenge.

The U.S. today used AH-64 Apache attack helicopters to attack IS positions in Ramadi and Hit. Such helicopters are vulnerable to ground fire and would not be used unless the need is dire. The Apaches are stationed at BIAP with the sole purpose of protecting the airport.

Some U.S. paid mercenaries from the Free Syrian Army took a Syrian government position at al-Hurrah half way between the Jordan border and south Damascus. They came from a western direction where they, together with Jabhat al-Nusra, have positions next to the Golan height demarcation zone with Israel and are protected by Israeli artillery. Videos showed them using plenty of U.S. provided TOW anti-tank missiles.

A group of Jabhat al-Nusra fighters coming from the Golan zone tried to attack a Hizbullah position in east Lebanon. They were ambushed and lost some 30 fighters.

North of Aleppo the Syrian army has nearly closed the ring around Aleppo and insurgents who have occupied some parts of the city will soon be under a tight siege.

A big number of Ahrar al-Shams fighters in Aleppo province have today pledged allegiance to the Islamic State. IS will soon be the only anti-Syrian-government game in town.

Posted by b at 03:38 PM | Comments (74)

Hubris "Far Beyond" Any Borders

The Washington Post claims:

A recent spate of dangerous midair encounters between American military aircraft and Chinese and Russian planes in the Pacific is the result of increasingly assertive strategies by both U.S. adversaries to project power far beyond their borders, according to the top U.S. Air Force commander in the region.

Far beyond their borders? That is a bit curious as neither China nor Russia have, besides their nuclear missiles, any real military capability for such power projection. So how "far beyond their borders" does this really go?

[Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, the head of U.S. Pacific Air Forces, ] said U.S. and Chinese forces are frequently encountering each other in parts of the East China and South China seas ... China’s navy has conducted more exercises farther away from its shores and is closely patrolling areas in disputed waters where Chinese companies are drilling for oil.
...
That incident occurred in international airspace about 135 miles east of China’s Hainan Island.

Funny how all the incidents listed to provide examples for China's power projection "in the Pacific" and "far beyond" its borders happened in the two China seas and near the Chinese shoreline.

Now how about Russian power projection "far beyond" its borders?

On Sept. 17, U.S. fighter jets intercepted a half-dozen Russian military planes — two fighter jets, two long-range bombers and two refueling tankers — as they were flying in international airspace near the coast of Alaska.

Umm - is that the same Alaska from which a certain U.S. vice president candidate could actually see Russia? That then must really be "far beyond" Russia's borders, right?

Really, how dare these countries to have their borders so very near to U.S. ships and air-planes?

I find the hubris expressed in such nonsensical claims "far beyond" any rationality.

Posted by b at 08:25 AM | Comments (53)

October 04, 2014

Hong Kong: The "Radicalize Or Fold" Alternative

The protest in Hong Kong, instigated by U.S. financed groups, were on the verge of ending in a fizzle.

Hong Kong protests dwindle after talks offer

Mass protests in Hong Kong appear to have lost steam after the leader of the Chinese territory refused to step down, instead offering dialogue.
...
The Hong Kong Federation of Students said in a statement early on Friday that they planned to join the talks with the government, focused specifically on political reforms. They reiterated that Leung step down, saying he "had lost his integrity".

A wider pro-democracy group that had joined the demonstrations, Occupy Central, welcomed the talks and also insisted that Leung quit.

The offer for talks, the weather and the end of a two day holiday was the point where the protests largely died down. A few diehards kept blocking streets and buildings but the end was in sight.

Remarked a political editor of a U.S. magazine:

Blake Hounshell
‏@blakehounshell

When protesters don't get at least some of what they want, they have to radicalize or fold. Key moment in Hong Kong right now.

5:36 AM - 2 Oct 2014

It seems that other people had the same thought and some idea of how to radicalize the crowd:

Hundreds of people opposed to Hong Kong's pro-democracy demonstrations converged on one of the movement's main sites Friday, prompting some of the ugliest scenes of violence yet in the past week of protests.

In the early afternoon on Friday, opponents of the demonstrations moved en masse against the occupation site in the neighborhood of Mong Kok, a popular shopping district across the harbor from Hong Kong. They dismantled tents and removed the protesters' supplies. Scuffles broke out, with reports of roving street battles between protesters and their opponents.

The predictable consequence of that attack, certainly not in the interest of the government, was a revival of the protests and a hardening of the protesters position:

Student leaders called off talks with the government – offered the previous night – accusing officials of allowing violence to be used against them. It dashed the hopes of a resolution to a mass movement that has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets of the city at its height.

So who paid the thugs, the police says some attackers were members of criminal triads, who instigated the radicalization? The government which wants to end the protests, the businesspeople who lose money due to the blockades or some three letter agency of foreign provenience?

The government now announced that it will end the protesters' blockades of public roads and buildings by Monday. As I had warned in an earlier piece:

While earlier Color Revolutions employed mostly peaceful measures the aim now is blood in the streets and lots of infrastructure damage to weaken the forces resisting the regime change attempts. Accordingly the authorities in Hong Kong should prepare for much more than just unruly demonstrations.

Posted by b at 08:38 AM | Comments (134)

October 03, 2014

Israel Lobby Supports Jabhat Al-Nusra, Insurgents In Aleppo Surrounded

Israel gives cover and opened a corridor for Jabhat al-Nusra along the Golan height demarcation line to reach south Lebanon and the southern approaches to Damascus.

There seems to be no concern in Tel Aviv that one day Jabhat al-Nusra could turn against Israel too. That is somewhat astonishing as both Hizbullah and Hamas started with Israeli support as counterweights to the Palestinian Liberation Organization only to later become the most capable foes of the Israeli occupation forces. One might have thought that Israeli strategists had learned from such foolishness.

But obviously they have not and now their lobby in the United States, here in form of the Washington Institute, supports that dumb policy by calling for further support for the Al-Qaida affiliate:

The risk of empowering an al Qaida affiliate is a small price to pay for Nusra’s contributions on the battlefield, said Jeffrey White, a former senior Defense Intelligence Agency analyst who’s now with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank.

But while the White House Syria policy is foolish enough to continue its feud against the Syrian president Assad it is unlikely to give direct support, silently or openly, to a designated part of Al-Qaeda.

That would be of no help anyway. Jabhat al-Nusra recently lost several hundred of its fighters. These left their positions in Idleb and Aleppo and went to Raqqa in east Syria to join the Islamic State. This again enabled the Syrian army to regain control over several villages east of Damascus and to now close the ring around the insurgency held parts of Aleppo. Cut off from resupply and under constant bombardment those parts will likely fall within a few weeks.

Posted by b at 09:11 AM | Comments (75)

October 01, 2014

Syria: Turkey's Plans And Other Confused Thinking

Under U.S. pressure the Turkish parliament will vote tomorrow on joining the coalition against the Islamic State. But that will only be a disguise. The real aim of the Turkish president Erdogan is to install a puppet Islamist regime in Damascus. That is the price he is asking for:

Turkey will not allow coalition members to use its military bases or its territory in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) if the objective does not also include ousting the Bashar al-Assad regime, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan hinted on Oct. 1.

Erdogan's Turkey is cooperating with the Islamic State, partly for ideological reasons, partly out of fear the Islamic State fighters in Turkey would attack within the country.

Erdogan is now planning for some Turkish controlled border zone in Syria where he could train anti-Syrian forces and continue to deal we the Islamic State out of the eyes of interested observers. The likely false pretense for a Turkish invasion in Syria will be a tomb under Turkish protection which has been for some time surrounded, but never attacked, by IS fighters:

Yeni Safak, a pro-government daily, said that as many as 1,100 fighters of the Islamic State, which now controls more one-third of Iraq and one-third of Syria, had deployed around the shrine of Suleyman Shah, the grandfather of the founder of the Ottoman Empire. [...] Turkey maintains an honor guard and protective detachment of 36 troops at the tomb, which lies about about 15 miles inside Syria.

Another reason to occupy a border zone within Syria are the Kurdish held areas within Syria under control of the YPG, a sister organization of the Kurdish PKK which is fighting for Kurd rights within Turkey. The area around Kobane is currently under attack by the Islamic State and neither Turkey nor the U.S. is doing anything to prevent a takeover there:

[I]n recent days, the Islamic State has been advancing, and the U.S. coalition, no doubt spurred on by Turkey’s fears that the YPG is allied with its own Kurdish separatist insurgents, hasn’t come to the rescue. When Turkish Kurds tried to send in fighters, the Turkish government stopped them, using tear gas.On Tuesday there was no sign of more volunteers, and none of the two dozen or so returning Kobane residents said they intended to join the militia, and a sense of hopelessness swept those who’d fled.

Russia has given warnings to Turkey to not proceed with its plans. Moscow surely has contingency plans for further support of Syria should the U.S. or Turkey attack the Syrian government.

During the last week the Islamic State has pulled back some of its fighters around Damascus. This has allowed the Syrian army to widen its protection zone around the city. But the last time the Islamic State pulled back, then in north-west Syria, the planned retreat was followed by the big attack on Mosul. The current retreat around Damascus is therefore likely in preparation for yet another big push against an unknown bigger target.

The U.S. acting against the Islamic State seems to be without any strategic framework. It has none to little intelligence about the targets it attacks and the lack of care of civilian casualties is quite astonishing. If this continues the U.S. will again end up as the one party hated by all other parties of the conflict.

The confused thinking is not limited to the White House. For the last three years the Washington Post's David Ignatius has propagandized for a united "moderate opposition" in Syria. That pink pony has yet to arrive. But he today has a new great idea of how to finally reach that aim: "Bomb Christians and more civilians":

[I]f U.S. airstrikes and other support are seen to be hitting Muslim fighters only, and strengthening the despised Assad, this strategy for creating a “moderate opposition” will likely fail.

Posted by b at 01:26 PM | Comments (147)

September 29, 2014

The (NED Financed) Hong Kong Riots

Some organized "student groups" in Hong Kong tried to occupy government buildings and blocked some streets. The police did what it does everywhere when such things happen. It used anti-riot squads, pepper spray and tear gas to prevent occupations and to clear the streets.

The "western" media are making some issue about this as if "western" governments would behave any differently.

The alleged issue in question is the election of new Hong Kong chief executive in 2017. According to Hong Kong's basic law, which was implemented when Britain gave up its dictatorship over the colony, there will be universal suffrage - everyone will be allowed to vote - but the candidates for the position will have to go through some pre-screening by a commission. This is what China had promised and this is what the students, falsely claiming that China is backtracking from its promises, want to change.

Peter Lee aka Chinahand has an excellent piece on the issue at Asia Times Online. But Lee is making one mistake in that he does not consider outside influence:

Occupy Hong Kong decided to light it, starting with a class boycott and demonstrations organized by the Hong Kong Federation of Students. And, since I’m never afraid to mix a metaphor, the Hong Kong government poured fuel on the fire by pepper-spraying and teargassing it.

Who really "decided to light this"? To me the protests, and the "western" reporting about it, have the distinct smell not of tear gas but of some expensive Color Revolution perfume of "western" origin.

So lets look up the usual source of such exquisite fragrance. The 2012 annual report of the U.S. government financed National Endowment of Democracy, aka the CCA - Central Color-Revolution Agency, includes three grants for Hong Kong one of which is new for 2012 and not mentioned in earlier annual reports:

National Democratic Institute for International Affairs - $460,000

To foster awareness regarding Hong Kong's political institutions and constitutional reform process and to develop the capacity of citizens - particularly university students - to more effectively participate in the public debate on political reform, NDI will work with civil society organizations on parliamentary monitoring, a survey, and development of an Internet portal, allowing students and citizens to explore possible reforms leading to universal suffrage.

So the U.S. government in 2012 (2013 numbers are not yet available) hands over nearly half a million to "develop the capacity" of "university students" related to the issue of "universal suffrage" in the election of Hong Kong's chief executive.

Two years after the money starts to flow from the U.S. government university students in Hong Kong provoke street riots with demands exactly on the issue the U.S. government money wanted to highlight.

That is just some curious coincidence - right?

---

PS (1): There is no reason to believe that a majority of the people in Hong Kong are supporting the U.S. induced demands of the "students". Hong Kong has some 7 million inhabitants. Ten to twenty thousands protesting amounts to some rather marginal 0.2% of the population.

PS (2): We noted earlier that the new Color Revolution scheme 2.0 - see Libya, Syria, Ukraine - now includes lots of violence:

Color revolutions in the old form had become too obvious a scheme to be of further use. The concept was therefore extended to include intensive use of force and mercenaries and to support those forces from the outside with weapons, ammunition, training and other means.

While earlier Color Revolutions employed mostly peaceful measures the aim now is blood in the streets and lots of infrastructure damage to weaken the forces resisting the regime change attempts. Accordingly the authorities in Hong Kong should prepare for much more than just unruly demonstrations.

PS (3): The NDI through which the NED money was funneled is the Democratic Party arm for regime change campaigns. It also does quite a bit of other Hong Kong meddling by financing various other organizations. Such foreign agents need to be restrained.

Posted by b at 12:48 PM | Comments (231)

September 27, 2014

A "Responsibility To Protect" Mercenaries?

From a recent Senate Committee on Armed Services hearing on Iraq and Syria picked up by Micah Zenko:

SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R-AZ): I take it from your answer that we are now recruiting these young men to go and fight in Syria against ISIL, but if they’re attacked by Bashar Assad, we’re not gonna help them?

SECRETARY OF DEFENSE CHUCK HAGEL: They will defend themselves, Senator.

MCCAIN: Will we help them against Assad’s air…

HAGEL: We will help them and we will support them, as we have trained them.

MCCAIN: How will we help them—will we repel Bashar Assad’s air assets that will be attacking them?

HAGEL: Any attack on those that we have trained and who are supporting us, we will help ‘em.

The Pentagon confirmed to Zenko that Hagel meant what he said.

But what does this really mean? One hires a bunch of young fanatics, trains them to kill and sends them to fight some foreign government. Then, when that foreign government dares to defend itself against the mercenary goons, one has a "Responsibility To Protect" them? What a sorry illegal excuse for waging a war of aggression.

There is more of such nonsense coming up again. New talk of a "no-fly zone" as the U.S. is somehow the only one allowed to bomb civilians in Iraq and Syria and also new talk of some kind of buffer zone along the Turkish border.

I don't believe that any of these things will happen. Syria and its allies do have the means to block any legal justification for such issues and they have the means to deter against their implementation.

The policy the Obama administration is trying to implement now is too contradictory and not sustainable. It wants to destroy the ideological fighters of the Islamic State with the support of the states, Saudi Arabia and Qatar, which are based on the same ideology the IS fighters espouse and in which significant parts of the populations support the Islamic State. Obama wants recruit Turkey while the Islamic State is fighting against the Kurd paramilitaries from the PKK/YPK. Turkey has for decades fought against the PKK and the struggle has cost tens of thousands of death. It is also supportive of the Islamic State and similar movements in Syria.

The U.S. wants to bomb the IS in support of the "moderate rebels" who are protesting against such bombing:

The protesters singled out the reported deaths of a dozen or so civilians in the town of Kafr Daryan in northern Idlib province, where a U.S. cruise missile allegedly struck a building that housed displaced people near a base belonging to al Qaida’s Nusra Front.

These "moderate rebels" will now likely put themselves under the command of the Islamic State.

This policy and the lunatic alliances it is based on will break apart. Has there ever been a coalition with such discrepancies that has held throughout the ups and downs of a war? I do not know where, when and how the breaking up will occur but such a mess is simply not sustainable.

That is why I believe that Hagel's "R2P for mercenaries" is just nonsense and something that will never be implemented.

Posted by b at 11:34 AM | Comments (185)

September 25, 2014

A Too Complicated Game: Obama's Deals With The Saudis And Al-Nusra

According to the Wall Street Journal Obama made a deal with the Saudis. They will lend legitimacy for his attacks against the Islamic State and AlQaeda in Syria (aka Jabhat al-Nusra) and he will later overthrow the Syrian government under president Assad. Like the Saudi prince Bandar, who nutured the Jihadists, was ousted over it, but is now back in the deal, the neocon editors of The Economist are doing victory jumps. They managed to get the U.S. back into their war. Hurray!

But as I understand it Obama's part of the deal is supposed come only later. It will take a year to train the "moderate, vetted" insurgents in Saudi Arabia and only when those are ready, and Obama a lame duck, may such action start (or not). U.S. voters know very well that Obama always keeps his promises (not). A year can be a quite a long time and who knows what will happen in between.

The urgency of the deal with the Saudis may have come because some folks felt a time-critical need to attack the al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) leadership in Syria. It may also have come from the low polls of Obama's leadership and his need to keep the Senate in the hands of Democrats after Novembers election. The second reason seems more likely.

To justify the hit on the leadership group it had to be differentiated from the ""the moderate Jihadis" al-Nusra organization with which there is cooperation on other issues. The "Khorasan" group was invented and a FUD campaign launched to justify the attack. The U.S. media predictably ate it all up and propagandized every fearmongering bit of what "officials said" about Khorasan. Only after the attack has taken place are doubts allowed to be aired:

Several of Mr. Obama’s aides said Tuesday that the airstrikes against the Khorasan operatives were launched to thwart an “imminent” terrorist attack, possibly using concealed explosives to blow up airplanes. But other American officials said that the plot was far from mature, and that there was no indication that Khorasan had settled on a time or location for the attack — or even on the exact method of carrying out the plot.

Some speculation: Jabhat al-Nusra is a nominal part of the al-Qaeda organization. It was led by al-Qaeda veterans who had been fighting in AfPak but came to Syria when the insurgency started. The U.S. relabeled these veterans the "Khorasan" group to have some reason to separately eliminate them. Their replacement may well turn out to be local men currently leading the groups in southern Syria and willing to further cooperate with USrael. A new version of the moderate cuddly homegrown al-Qaeda ploy.

The whole game played within the various proxy wars within the current Syriraq war is becoming increasingly complicate. I would not be astonished to see Obama throw the towel on this whole affair. After the November election he may well say "enough" and just leave the chaos behind him.

Posted by b at 12:45 PM | Comments (146)

September 24, 2014

WaPo Propaganda vs. McClatchy Journalism

Washington Post

At least on the first day of bombing, there was little public backlash, with virtually no outcry beyond a pro-Islamic State protest in Istanbul."

McClatchy

On Facebook, critics of the U.S. and its Arab allies, calling them “aggressors” and the “Crusade Coalition,” dominated the postings Tuesday by almost 10 to 1.

Washington Post

The attacks against the Islamic State militants were openly welcomed by rebels who have fought for three years against the government of President Bashar al- Assad.

McClatchy

Raad Alawi, the commander of a smaller group of fighters, the Squadrons of Al Haq, told McClatchy he was very angry.“Starting the war with the bombing of Nusra is an indication that this is a war against the revolution and not Daash,” he said, using the pejorative Arabic acronym for the Islamic State. “Maybe next they will bomb the bases of the Free Syrian Army.”
The Hazm movement, which also receives U.S. and international support, issued a statement condemning the airstrikes, the failure to consult the Free Syrian Army and the deaths of civilians.

Posted by b at 01:45 PM | Comments (64)

September 23, 2014

Concealed By U.S. Airstrikes Israel Opens Nusra Path To Lebanon

Screenshot from the current NYT homepage:

The first piece is about the U.S. air attack last nights against various targets in east Syria. The second piece right next to it explains that such strikes in Iraq have had little effect. The juxtaposition demonstrates the futility of today's bombing campaign, part of the ongoing wars of proxy in Syria. As a result the Islamic State will only gain further legitimacy.

The U.S. and some "coalition" of Arab dictatorships bombed various targets related to the Islamic State in east Syria. The Syrian government was informed about the attack and did not overly protest against it.

The U.S. did not attack IS positions around the northern Syrian city Kobane where the IS is fighting against Kurdish militia in an attempt to open up a new logistic path for the IS to Turkey. Agreeing to this new logistic path was probably part of the price Turkey paid for recently getting its diplomats freed from IS internment.

The U.S. alone additionally bombed a target related to one specific part of Jabhat al-Nusra in north west Syria. It claims that it hit the "Khorasan group". But that groups is just a Pentagon FUD invention. It is nothing but the a segment of the long established leadership group of al Nusra. While ISIS had prepared for the announced U.S. air attacks and dispersed its personal and material Jabhat al-Nusra was unprepared and lost some 50 of its fighters. One of the Nusra leaders, Mohsen al-Fadli al-Kuwaiti, was killed in this attack.

Also today the Syrian airforce wanted to bomb Jabhat al-Nusra positions in the Golan heights where Nusra is, as first reported here, opening a corridor from Jordan towards Lebanon and for attacks on Damascus right along the demarcation line between Israel and Syria. Israel, in quite open support effort for the Nusra plan, shot down the Syrian SU-24 using U.S. provided Patriot missiles. While Israel claims that the plane violated its border the reported crash site was far from the border near Kanaker, Syria which is halfway between the demarcation line and Damascus.

Under the protection of the U.S. attack on IS and other targets Israel now practically established a no-fly-zone next to the Golan which will allow Jabhat al-Nusra to safely use the corridor and to attack Hizbullah in Qalamoun and in south Lebanon. It also opens space for new attacks on Damascus.

The U.S. attack on the IS in Syria will, as the NYT headlines express, have as little effect as such attacks have in Iraq. Without coordinating air attacks with a capable, available ground force like the Syrian army such strikes on IS will make no conceivable difference. I have yet to see any report that the U.S. planes have hit some of the major weapons or ammunition depots the IS captured from the Iraqi army. There are some 50 main battle tanks and lots of heavy artillery pieces in the hands of IS. What is done to disable those?

Posted by b at 08:43 AM | Comments (106)

September 22, 2014

Why The Islamic State Announced Retaliation

One Shaykh Abū Muhammad al-‘Adnānī ash-Shāmī, allegedly the number two of the Islamic State, gave a speech today (English translation, pdf) and asked Islamic State followers everywhere to attack the countries that promised to wage war against the IS.

Now the man may be, just like earlier instances of al-Baghdad, fictional. But that does not make the speech irrelevant.

One can argue that this is in attempt by the Islamic State to deter any additional attacks on it. But if that was the intend then it is likely to fail. The "west", i.e. the U.S., is much too aggressive and secure to be deterred and such threats will merely increase the push for another decade of wars. The military machine is already reeving up and by now nearly impossible to stop. The U.S. is rebuilding its former Forward Operating Base Speicher north of Tikrit as operations center for the next phases and coming escalations.

The Obama's administration argument that the IS was a threat to the "west", and those foggy "interests" it always claims to have, was false. The Islamic State did not start this war as a war against the "west". That happened for two reasons. One is obvious - it was attacked and it had to respond:

[E]fforts to establish its version of an Islamic caliphate unsettled the wider region, prompting U.S. airstrikes aimed at stemming its advance.

The Islamic militant group has responded by beheading three of its Western hostages in recent weeks
...
The killings of Foley and Sotloff took place after the U.S. military began airstrikes against ISIS positions in Iraq ..

Now, after nearly 200 U.S. and French airstrikes against it, a real threat of retaliation for these has been made.

To probably the surprise of many readers I had argued for airstrikes. But I was quite specific. Those airstrikes should have been against the heavy equipment the IS seized from the Iraqi and Syrian armies. It is that mountain of heavy equipment, not the running loons, that make IS dangerous to everyone in the Middle East.

It would take the U.S. air-force supported by special operation groups on the ground only a few weeks to reduce the Islamic State to an infantry force incapable of larger geographic actions.

This video of the recent IS attacks on the (Kurdish) Syrian city of Kobane show the IS fighters successfully using main battle tanks and several pieces of heavy artillery. The Syrian air-force for now stopped that attack on the city by destroying a bridge which the attackers needed. But it is the heavy equipment (and the ammunition for it) that needs to be destroyed.

But back to that speech. Shaykh al-Adnani claims another reason for his call to war:

Cont. reading: Why The Islamic State Announced Retaliation

Posted by b at 02:06 PM | Comments (81)

September 21, 2014

U.S. Launches New FUD Campaign

Dear Americans, last week we told you to be very, very afraid of this Caliph guy. You know the one that may blow up your car tires or something else. We were all wrong with that.

Now look there, no there, THERE! Notice that other guy you never, ever heard about? He is the real menace. He will really blow things up. May be even your car engine!

U.S. Suspects More Direct Threats Beyond ISIS

As the United States begins what could be a lengthy military campaign against the Islamic State, intelligence and law enforcement officials said another Syrian group, led by a shadowy figure who was once among Osama bin Laden’s inner circle, posed a more direct threat to America and Europe.

American officials said that the group called Khorasan had emerged in the past year as the cell in Syria that may be the most intent on hitting the United States or its installations overseas with a terror attack. The officials said that the group is led by Muhsin al-Fadhli, a senior Qaeda operative who, according to the State Department, was so close to Bin Laden that he was among a small group of people who knew about the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks before they were launched.

Scarry stuff, ain't it? 9/11, 9/11, 9/11. Now why care about the hundreds of Syrians, Kurds and Iraqis ISIS is killing with weapons we provided. Look at this new guy and his group who are a much better bogeyman because:

There is almost no public information about the Khorasan group, ...

That's right. No one ever heard of them. It's only us who tell you they are there. Now bend over already! Why?

Members of the cell are said to be particularly interested in devising terror plots using concealed explosives. It is unclear who, besides Mr. Fadhli, is part of the Khorasan group.

Bend over already! Open up! Can't let anyone fly without a thorough inspection. Now fear, Fear FEAR!

Fear, doubt, uncertainty. That's how we rule!

Posted by b at 06:47 AM | Comments (92)

September 20, 2014

Open Thread 2014-22

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:05 PM | Comments (116)

September 19, 2014

CIA Anti-Syria Program Finances Wahhabi Headchoppers


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The picture of the man above is cut from a one that  accompanies a NYT piece about the CIA support for the Syrian "rebels". The caption says the man is "A rebel leader, Sheikh Tawfiq Shahabuddin, right, on Monday in Reyhanli, Turkey."

The type of beard (no mustache) and the cloth clearly identify the man as a Salafi/Wahhabi who believes that everyone should live like in the times of Mohammed.

As Ben Hubbard, one of the more reliable NYT journalists, writes:

In a secret office near the Syrian border here, intelligence agents from the United States and its allies are laying the groundwork for what they hope will become an effective force of Syrian rebels to serve as ground troops in the international battle against the extremist Islamic State.

The office, the Military Operations Command, has slowed funding to Islamist groups, paid salaries to thousands of “vetted” rebels and given them ammunition to boost their battlefield mettle.
...
most of the support from governments who back the rebels is now channeled through the Military Operations Command. [...] the military command has built direct ties with rebel leaders it deems moderate and active inside Syria.
...
It is now paying monthly salaries of at least $100 to about 10,000 fighters in northern Syria, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss a covert program.

Now here comes the guy in the picture, very likely taken in the CIA run "secret office" Ben Hubbard visited:

“The international position has to be to fight all kinds of terrorism, both ISIS and the regime,” said Sheikh Tawfiq Shahabuddin, the head of the Nureddin Zengi Movement. “You can’t treat only one part of the disease.”

This Salafi nutjob is paid by the CIA. That he is no "moderate" is not only obvious from his outer appearance but also from the name he has chosen for his movement, Nureddin Zengi:

Nūr ad-Dīn Abū al-Qāsim Maḥmūd ibn ʿImād ad-Dīn Zangī (February 1118 – 15 May 1174), also known as Nur al-Din (from Arabic: نور الدين‎, "Light of the Faith") or Nur ed-Din, was a member of the Turkic Zengid dynasty which ruled the Syrian province of the Seljuk Empire. He reigned from 1146 to 1174.
...
In 1146, Nur ad-Din massacred the entire Christian population of [Edessa] and destroyed its fortifications,[1] in punishment for assisting Joscelin in this attempt. Although according to Thomas Asbridge, the women and children of Edessa were enslaved. He secured his hold on Antioch after crushing Raymond of Poitiers at the Battle of Inab in 1149, even presenting to the caliph, Raymond's severed head and arms.

That, dear U.S. taxpayer, is the cause the CIA finances with your money.

Posted by b at 02:16 PM | Comments (101)

September 18, 2014

The Dishonest Reporting Of Anne Barnard

Anne Barnard reports from Beirut for the New York Times on the war on Syria. The Angry Arab has several times called out her biased and misleading writings. But today's report on Syrian air attacks is probably the worst she has ever written:

In Talbiseh and across Syria, insurgent fighters who oppose the government of President Bashar al-Assad and the foreign-led militants of the extremist group called the Islamic State are being pummeled by a new wave of attacks and assassination attempts.
...
Insurgents of all stripes, except for the Islamic State group, say the Syrian government appears to be stepping up its attacks on them ahead of the threatened American air campaign. Pro-government and antigovernment analysts say Mr. Assad has an interest in eliminating the more moderate rebels, to make sure his forces are the only ones left to benefit on the ground from any weakening of the Islamic State, also known as ISIS.

Mr. Assad has maintained from the start of the conflict that he and his allies are the only force in Syria capable of battling the extremists effectively. But Islamic State activists in Homs said on Wednesday that there had been no recent government airstrikes against the group, adding to opposition suspicions that Mr. Assad prefers to focus on attacking his other opponents while letting the Islamic State’s unchecked brutality argue the case to Syria and the world that his rule is the best alternative.

Barnard is insinuating, not for the first time, that the Syrian government is not hitting ISIS but is solely hitting other insurgents. The "moderate", human liver eating insurgent groups the U.S. supports have claimed several times that there is some truce between ISIS and the government.

But that is a lie and Anne Bernard knows it is one because even her paper, the New York Times, reported on intensified Syrian air force attacks against ISIS targets only some ten days ago:

Raids by Syrian warplanes killed at least 25 people, most of them civilians crowding into a bakery, in the northeastern province of Raqqa on Saturday as government forces continued air attacks on territory controlled by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, the extremist Sunni militant group.

The Syrian government has increased airstrikes on the group in recent months after it took over government military outposts in Raqqa in a series of newly assertive attacks.

Guess who wrote that report, just ten days ago, about "increased airstrikes on the group in recent months". Yes, the same Anne Barnard who now quotes and supports the false claims that the Syrian air force does not hit ISIS.

If there is something like journalistic honor Anne Barnard surely lost it.

There is of course a reason why Barnard is lying about the Syrian air-force attacks on ISIS.

Those attacks have indeed intensified and have become much more precise. During the last months Russia delivered new Yak-130 traing jets to Syria which are modified to enable ground attacks. The Syrian air-force MIG and Suchoi jets were update too and are now much more capable of precise targeting. The Syrian air-force is by now said to fly more than 100 sorties per day.

These new capabilities make it, of course, completely unnecessary for U.S. planes to attack ISIS targets in Syria. The Syrian air-force is quite capable of doing that on its own. Where it could need additional help is in intelligence on ISIS targets.

But the U.S. aim is "regime change" in Syria by whatever means and with total disregard of the consequences. Admitting that the Syrian air-force is capable and willing to attack ISIS would take away the pretense for those U.S. air strikes that are meant to destroy the Syrian government and to achive "regime change".

Posted by b at 06:37 AM | Comments (31)

September 17, 2014

The Scottish Independence Vote

It would be quite astonishing if the "Yes" vote would be allowed to win. There are too much money, personal political reputations and too many strategic assets involved for the "powers that are" to allow or accept a result that would not fit their plans.

Then again - why not hope for some really game changing event like Scottish independence, and the end of the big perfidious Albion, would be for Europe, NATO and the whole world?

Posted by b at 10:25 AM | Comments (172)

Confirmation Of Southern Damascus Attack Plans By Jabhat al-Nusra/CIA

The National newspaper published in the United Arab Emirates confirms our earlier report about the new Syrian insurgency positions in Quneitra at the Israeli Golan border as the launching pad for southern attacks on Damascus:

Western and Arab military advisers based in Amman have quietly stepped up their role on Syria’s southern front, helping win recent advances for opposition factions.

After weeks of heavy fighting, rebel groups announced the seizure of 80 per cent of Qunietra province on Saturday, including areas along the border with Israel. The territory could prove to be a key link between opposition forces in the south and those fighting in and around the Syrian capital.

Qunietra borders the south-west side of rural Damascus and rebel commanders say they will now be able to work on establishing a reliable supply chain to besieged opposition units in districts on the western and southern sides of the capital, areas that have been largely cut off by regime troops since last summer.

This is exactly what we, scooping The National, wrote about this plan.

What the new report misses though is the role Israel plays in protecting the insurgents in the Quneitra zone, mostly Islamists from Jabhat al-Nusra, from Syrian government attacks.

But The National does confirm the role of the joint Arab-American operations room in Amman, Jordan:

Rather than a dramatic increase in training or influx of weaponry [...] the growing role of a secretive Military Operations Command (MOC) centre in Amman has been subtle but distinct, in the form of increasingly focused, hands-on planning and coordination for rebel operations.
...
The organisational changes put in place by the MOC have helped clear jams in the chain of command that rebels complained had hamstrung their attempts to effectively work with international backers, in particular when it came to intelligence-sharing and coordinating units for attacks on regime forces.

McClatchy reporters recently interviewed the military commander of the Fee Syrian Army who claims that CIA is cutting him out and is, especially in the South, directly working with the insurgent groups on the ground:

Some 12 to 14 commanders receive military and non-lethal aid this way in northern Syria and some 60 smaller groups are recipients in southern Syria, al Bashir said. They report to the CIA.

The leadership of the FSA is American,” says the veteran officer, who defected from the Syrian army two years ago and won respect for leading rebel forces in southern Syria. “The Americans are completely marginalizing the military staff. Not even non-lethal aid comes through this office.”

The National notes:

This timing coincides with the rapid rise of Jabhat Al Nusra, an Al Qaeda affiliate, on the southern front.

But The National report then makes it look, without evidence, as if the CIA/MOC involvement is a counter move to the Jabhat al-Nusra rise

Bolstered by an increase in fighters and funding, Al Nusra, once considered a bit-player in southern Syria, suddenly seemed poised to become its most influential actor.

That prospect appears to have galvanised the western and Arab states involved with the southern front into more concerted action designed to better organise moderate factions.

The last paragraph is a rather wild assertion. Facts on ground, especially the Israeli protection for JAN in Queintra, are inconsistent with that claim. Instead the rise of Jabhat al-Nusra in the south and its prominent role in the Quneitra launching pad operation seem to be a consequence of the greater CIA involvement.

This conclusion is also supported by the earlier campaign in U.S. media which falsely established JAN, despite its sworn allegiance to al-Qaeda, as Your Moderate Cuddly Homegrown Al-Qaeda which is, so it is claimed, much less evil than the savages of ISIS.

Cont. reading: Confirmation Of Southern Damascus Attack Plans By Jabhat al-Nusra/CIA

Posted by b at 07:21 AM | Comments (28)

September 16, 2014

Israel Introduces Iran Bogeyman To Cover Up Its Military Help For ISIS JAN

/Correction/

Below I described the Islamist fighters covered by Israel in the Golan area as "ISIS". The sole source for qualifying those fighters as "ISIS" was from the UNDOC report quoted below: "the appearance of “black flags”—a symbol associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham".

"Black flags", associated by the UN report with ISIS, are also used by Jabhat al-Nusra and some other Islamic groups fighting in Syria. Current reports of insurgency activities in Quneitra do not mention ISIS at all but only Jabhat al-Nusra, Islamic Front and the Syrian Revolutionary Front which all have a different ideologies and are under different command chains than ISIS. It is therefore likely that these groups, not ISIS, were the ones observed by the UN forces in the area.

I have therefor now replaced the "ISIS" description in the original piece below.

/end correction/

In yesterday's post about attack plans against Damascus I mentioned Israeli cover fire for anti-Syrian Islamists occupying the Syrian side of the Golan demarcation zone:

This movement, [...], was supported by Israeli artillery strikes against Syrian units that tried to prevent it.

In what looks like an attempted to cover up the obvious Israeli military help for Islamist anti-government fighters the Jerusalem Post today quoted Israeli intelligence using the Iranian Revolutionary Guard bogeyman to justify such attacks (original link seem unreliable, copy here - Israeli Intel: Iranian Revolutionary Guards Directed Attacks On Israeli Border From Syria):

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), which is present in Syria, directed a number of attacks by pro-Assad regime militias on Israel in recent months, according to Israeli intelligence evaluations.

In one such attack in June, a number of shells were fired by Syrian militias at IDF posts on Mount Hermon. There were no injuries or damages on the Israeli side, and the IDF responded by returning artillery fire.

That is quite a laughable tale. The story of that June incident is also definitely not what Israel told the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) which covered the area at that time:

On 17 June, Council members met to consider the 10 June UNDOF report, which detailed continued violations of the ceasefire line. [...] This report indicated that UNDOF had begun to observe that the more violent aspects of the conflict were now evident in its area of operations, including the use of airstrikes by the government, the use of heavy weapons and captured military equipment by armed opposition groups and the appearance of “black flags”—a symbol associated with the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham.
[...]
On 23 June, Israel targeted nine Syrian army positions with tank fire and air strikes after mortar fire from the Syrian side the previous day killed an Israeli civilian. Israel’s assessment is that most of these incidents are due to errant fire resulting from fighting in Syria. Israel said that armed opposition groups were probably responsible but that its forces fired on Syrian military positions to stress that Syria was responsible for security on its side of the ceasefire line.

There were ISIS "black flag" forces in the area fighting the Syrian army and some "errant fire" hit Israel. Israel suspected that ISIS "black flag" forces had fired the shells but responded by firing on Syrian government forces thereby helping ISIS "black flag" forces in its fight.

There were no ICRG force and no regime militias, only regular Syrian army troops. It were these troops that Israel attacked after ISIS "black flag" forces fired onto Israeli ground.

Similar happened on March 19:

Syria said one of its soldiers was killed and seven were injured when three army positions near the town of Quneitra were struck on the Syrian side of the cease-fire line between the two countries in the Golan Heights.

Israel said that the targets were an army training facility, a military headquarters and an artillery battery, and that the raid was a response to a bombing along the line Tuesday that injured four Israeli soldiers.
...
Lt. Col. Peter Lerner, an Israeli army spokesman, said Israel did not know whether the Syrian army, its ally Hezbollah or the rebels they are fighting may have been responsible for planting the bomb. But Israel holds the Syrian army responsible, he said.

August 27:

Cont. reading: Israel Introduces Iran Bogeyman To Cover Up Its Military Help For ISIS JAN

Posted by b at 12:08 PM | Comments (47)

September 15, 2014

The New "Regime Change" Plan - Attack Damascus From The South

There are serious active preparations for a new attack on Damascus. Anti-government forces, including the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra, have been trained and equipped in Jordan and are now moving into their starting position in Quneitra governate in south-west Syria. (A similar plan in spring 2013 was only partially executed and later aborted,)

Quneitra governate is a strip next to the Israel occupied Golan heights with a southern border to Jordan and a north western border with Lebanon.


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The anti-government forces cooperating for this operation are the Syrian Revolutionaries Front (SRF), which is backed by the United States, assisted by the Islamic Front, backed by Saudi Arabia, and al-Qaeda's Jabhat al-Nusrah which just received some $20 million from Qatar. These forces infiltrated from Jordan through Daara and then up north-westward along the border with Israel. This movement, during which some UN observers were kidnapped by these forces, was supported by Israeli artillery strikes against Syrian units that tried to prevent it. The sole border station between Israel and Syria is now in the hands of the anti-government forces. The Israeli military is also providing medical support to these anti-government forces. The UN has pulled out all peacekeepers from the Syrian side of the Golan height demarcation line.

The anti-government forces now control a 40 miles (70km) long, three miles (5km) wide strip from Jordan along the Golan frontier up to Lebanon. This strip can be used to infiltrate into Hizbullah territory in south Lebanon but its main purpose is likely an attack on Damascus from the south. The Syrian military would have great difficulties to dislodge the anti-government forces from this strip as it is covered by Israeli anti-air and artillery fire.

There are rumors that Jabhat al-Nusra is leaving positions it has been holding in Hama governate in north Syria. It's groups are pulling back into Turkey to be transferred to Jordan and then as reinforcements into Quneitra.

The rather empty Quneitra area makes little sense to conquer except to be used as a launching pad for an attack from the south towards Damascus. The distance to the capital is only some 40 miles (60km). While two Syrian army divisions are stationed between Quneitra governate and Damascus coordinated air attacks against them could open and secure a route from Quneitra governate into the capital. Recent truce agreements between the U.S. supported Syrian Revolutionary Front and ISIS in the area south of Damascus may have been concluded with these attack plans in mind.

The U.S. military in the joint Arab-American operations room for the Syrian insurgency in Amman Jordan may well plan to use the murky new "war on ISIS" as pretext for attacks on the Syrian army divisions protecting Damascus from the south. Coordinated with a ground attack by Jabhat al-Nusra and others from Quneitra such air attacks would seriously degrade the Syrian forces and enable a destructive push into Damascus.

(update) Obama already announced the escalation path for such air attacks:

He made clear the intricacy of the situation, though, as he contemplated the possibility that Mr. Assad might order his forces to fire at American planes entering Syrian airspace. If he dared to do that, Mr. Obama said he would order American forces to wipe out Syria’s air defense system, which he noted would be easier than striking ISIS because its locations are better known. He went on to say that such an action by Mr. Assad would lead to his overthrow, according to one account.

The stampede to attack ISIS may have been pure maskirovka to hide this violent regime change attack plan against Syria under some "anti-terrorism" label. This at the same time as the plan is coordinated with and actively supported by Jabhat al-Nusra, al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and made possible through truce agreements with ISIS.

Posted by b at 11:42 AM | Comments (122)

September 14, 2014

The Caliphate's Anti-Imperial/Imperial Dualism

A bit more on the tweets by Peter Lee aka Chinahand I had quoted:

Westerners mock pretensns of IS Caliphate bt it seems 2 strike chord among quite a few Muslims: effort to reestablish theocratic rule in 1/3
heartland of Umayyad/Abbasid caliphates, turn page on disastrus century of colonial/postcolonial rule, replace fragmented/corrupt states 2/3
w/ united Islamic power. West passivty validates the caliphate & its transnational strategy. May be PRC/Rus that try 2 draw the line. 3/3

(BTW - Denigrating those ideas because of shortened spelling in a Tweet(!) is petty.)

After further thinking about that I believe that Peter is right. ISIS, the group now claiming a Caliphate, might have had roots in some sectarian scheme the CIA and the U.S. Special Forces were running in Iraq. But it has by now far exceed that realm. The Caliphate is based on original Wahhabi ideas which were in their essence also anti-colonial and at first directed against the Ottoman rulers.

See Alastair Crooke's essays, You Can't Understand ISIS If You Don't Know the History of Wahhabism in Saudi Arabia and Middle East Time Bomb: The Real Aim of ISIS Is to Replace the Saud Family as the New Emirs of Arabia, on the origin and history of these thoughts.

After 1741 the minor Ibn Saud Bedouin tribe collaborated with the radical cleric Abd al-Wahhab to justify its expansion. Several decades later they became too successful and the Ottoman rulers, with the help of their Egyptian army, exterminated the movement and the first Saudi proto-state. When a hundred years later the Ottoman empire fell apart the Wahhabi ideas and the Saudi movement sprang back to life. But the Saudi rulers were now under British imperial influence and that required to put their Puritans down:

Abd-al Aziz, however, began to feel his wider interests to be threatened by the revolutionary "Jacobinism" exhibited by the Ikhwan. The Ikhwan revolted -- leading to a civil war that lasted until the 1930s, when the King had them put down: he machine-gunned them.

Wahhabism survived after that but in a crippled form subordinated to the ruling Saud family.

The new Caliphate followers are copies of the original Wahhabis who do not recognize nation states as those were dictated by the colonial "western" overlords after the end of the Ottoman empire. They do not recognize rulers that deviate, like the Saudi kings do, from the original ideas and subordinate themselves to "western" empires. It is their aim to replace them. As there are many people in Saudi Arabia educated in Wahhabi theology and not particular pleased with their current rulers the possibility of a Caliphate rush to conquer Saudi Arabia and to overthrow the Ibn Saud family is real.

In that aspect the Caliphate is anti-colonial and anti-imperial. That is part of what attracts its followers. At the same time the Caliphate project is also imperial in that it wants to conquer more land and wants to convert more people to its flavor of faith.

Both of these aspects make it a competitor and a danger to imperial U.S. rule-by-proxy in the Middle East. That is, I believe, why the U.S. finally decided to fight it. To lose Saudi Arabia to the Caliphate, which seems to be a real possibility, would be a devastating defeat.

Espousing a (reactionary) anti-imperial, anti-colonial ideology while at the same time furthering an imperial project is not as strange as it appears. The U.S. itself is of anti-colonial heritage and is now trying to establish a global empire. This dualism requires some serious doublethink. Billmon wrote a short Twitter essay yesterday on how the originally anti-colonial U.S. and its officials now have to lie to themselves to justify their imperialism. See also Guest77's comment on the unconscious doublethink of U.S. officials. They lie to a New York Times reporter one day then read their lies the next morning, believe them and feel confirmed in their false views.

There is not that much difference between the unaltered Wahhabi ideology ISIS espouses and the puritanical believes of the first white conquerors in North America. The anti-imperial/imperial duality is only one commonality. Indeed I believe that there are quite a lot parallels between both movements.

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (130)

September 12, 2014

Some Links On That "War On ISIS"

Just some snippets and headlines on that non-war on ISIS.

On training, arming the "moderate rebels" there is pessimism all around:

“We need to do everything we can to figure out who the non-ISIS opposition is,” said Ryan C. Crocker, a former United States ambassador to Iraq and Syria. “Frankly, we don’t have a clue.”

 That's right. No clue at all. From a White House Briefing by a "Senior Administration Official":

"ISIL has been I think a galvanizing threat around the Sunni partners in the region. They view it as an existential threat to them. Saudi Arabia has an extensive border with Syria."

These clueless folks can't even read a map. But we saw that before with those neocons who didn't know that there were Shia in Iraq before they invaded it. There is anyway not much difference between those and the "liberal interventionist" in Obama's administration. As Melkulangara Bhadrakumar notes:

Obama’s presidency has come full circle by reinventing the neocon dogmas it once professed to reject. On the pretext of fighting the IS, which the US and its allies created in the first instance, what is unfolding is a massive neocon project to remold the Muslim Middle East to suit the US’ geopolitical objectives. Call it by whatever name, it is an imperial war – albeit with a Nobel as commander-in-chief.

But the other side has its own ideas. Food for thoughts in three tweets by Peter Lee aka Chinahand:

Westerners mock pretensns of IS Caliphate bt it seems 2 strike chord among quite a few Muslims: effort to reestablish theocratic rule in 1/3
heartland of Umayyad/Abbasid caliphates, turn page on disastrus century of colonial/postcolonial rule, replace fragmented/corrupt states 2/3
w/ united Islamic power. West passivty validates the caliphate & its transnational strategy. May be PRC/Rus that try 2 draw the line. 3/3

Is ISIS an anti-Imperial movement?

Posted by b at 01:51 PM | Comments (174)

September 11, 2014

Ukraine: As Economic War Escalates, Fighting May Resume Soon

The ceasefire of Minsk between the Ukrainian coup-government and the federalists of east Ukraine was something both sides needed.

The Ukrainian army was on the verge of completely  loosing it. It was temporarily defeated and needed to rearm and reorganize. While the federalist insurgents were successful and probably able to continue their fight for a few days their forces were overstretched and needed to consolidate.

But many on the insurgent side did not like the ceasefire. It did not give them the federal autonomy they demanded. The neo-nazi "national-guard" battalions on the other side also criticized the ceasefire. They want the total destruction of their enemy and ethnic cleansing of all Russia-affine Ukrainians.

Russia had pressed for the ceasefire to avoid further sanctions. It was an offer to the "western" side to step back from the cliff of an economic war. Obama and NATO tried to sabotage the ceasefire through false claims of a Russian invasion and other propaganda. But the Ukrainian president had to ignore the pressure from Washington and Brussels or he would have lost another city, Mariupol, to the insurgents.

The main Russian reason to support the ceasefire, to hold back sanctions, has now vanished. Three days ago the EU, against the will of several of its members, decided on new sanctions on Russia:

The European Union adopted new sanctions against Moscow on Monday despite the leaders of Russia and Ukraine vowing to uphold a truce aimed at halting a devastating five-month war.
...
In Brussels, the EU formally approved fresh sanctions against Russia but said they would not come into force for a few more days, effectively delaying the measures to see if the current truce will hold.

The truce held and despite that facts and its earlier claims the EU today announced that the new sanctions will be implemented immediately:

The European Union has agreed to impose further sanctions on Russia on Friday over its role in the Ukraine crisis, diplomats say.

The move is aimed at maintaining pressure on Russia, the sources said.

Russia says it is preparing a response "commensurate with the economic losses" caused by the EU sanctions.

This is another catastrophic and escalating EU move with regards to Ukraine and Russia. This turns the conflict into an economic war between the EU and Russia in which no side can win. Only the United States and China will profit from it. 

Additonally Poland had the crazy idea of supplying gas which it purchases from Russia to Ukraine which is not willing or able to pay for direct deliveries from Russia. This is a breach of contract as the deliveries from Russia to Poland are not allowed to be resold to other Russian gas customers. Russia allegedly responded by lowering the volume of gas it supplies to Poland and Poland immediately folded and stopped the reverse gas flow to Ukraine:

Russia’s OAO Gazprom limited natural gas flows to Poland, preventing the European Union member state from supplying Ukraine via so-called reverse flows.

Polskie Gornictwo Naftowe i Gazownictwo SA, or PGNiG, got 20 to 24 percent less fuel than it ordered from Gazprom Export over the past two days and is compensating flows with alternative supply, the company said today in an e-mailed statement.

Poland halted gas supply to Ukraine at 3 p.m. Warsaw time today, according to Ukraine’s UkrTransGaz.

We can be not sure that this is the whole story though. Gazprom says it provides all the gas Poland ordered through its pipelines but hints that Ukraine, where those pipelines cross, may be the party which is taking the gas:

Russia has denied that its state-run gas giant Gazprom has been limiting flows to Poland.

"Reports by news agencies on the reduction of volumes of gas supplies by Gazprom to Poland's PGNiG are incorrect,” Itar-Tass reported Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov as saying. “The same volume of gas as in previous days – 23 million cubic meters a day – is being supplied to Poland now."

Before Gazprom issued its statement, Uktransgaz’s Prokopiv blamed Russia for trying to “derail” the plan for Poland to supply Ukraine with “reverse” gas, while Ukraine refused to pay its debt to Gazprom and is currently cut off from Russian supplies, and accused Russia of limiting the supply of gas.
...
In August, Russia’s energy minister, Aleksandr Novak, warned that in the upcoming winter Ukraine may begin siphoning off Russian supplies intended for Europe if it fails to build up its reserves.

There is more conflicting news. The Ukrainian president Poroshenko claimed that most of the "Russian troops", which no one, including the OSCE observers in the area, has ever seen, have left Ukraine:

“Based on the latest information I have received from our intelligence services, 70 percent of the Russian troops have moved back across the border,” Poroshenko said. “This bolsters our hope that the peace initiatives enjoy good prospects.”

NATO, likely fearing that Poroshenko was again moving towards a peaceful solution, disputed the claim:

"The reported reduction of Russian troops from eastern Ukraine would be a good first step, but we have no information on this. The fact of the matter is there are still approximately 1,000 Russian troops in eastern Ukraine with substantial amounts of military equipment and approximately 20,000 troops on the Russian border with Ukraine," the NATO military officer said.

Push, push, push for war ...

But some parts of the "western" media are slowly waking up to the fact that not all is well with Ukraine and the "western" strategy. They note that Ukraine can not afford the IMF's 'Shock Therapy' and needs money without conditions which it will likely never pay back:

Absent this "bail-in" of foreign creditors, Ukraine will simply be taking on more debt that it lacks the capacity to service, risking a long-term compound debt spiral for the country and practically guaranteeing a wholesale default down the road -- and continuing political instability.

After months of ridiculing anyone who pointed to neo-nazis within Ukraine's regime and military forces as "Putin lover" reports about those neo-nazis now pop up in several "western" media.

Russia best reason to hold the insurgents in east Ukraine back from further fighting has vanished. The economic war is escalating no matter what Russia does or does not do. As the media have more time to look into the real issues in Ukraine the state of the sorry affair will become more clear and "western" public support for Ukraine will decline. This is a threat to "western" warmongering and to again escalate to fighting is the best method to suppress such news.

Hawks on both sides now have reason to restart the fighting. Expect the ceasefire to completely fail very soon.

Posted by b at 01:47 PM | Comments (259)

September 10, 2014

The Stampede Towards War On ISIS

The stampede towards waging war on ISIS and whoever else is quite weird. I see no real discussions of the sense of it all. How much will this cost? What are possible unintended consequences? How long will it take? How will we know when it is over?

No one seems to ask these questions. Instead this is considert to be journalism and reporting on teh issue:

Over a dinner of D’Anjou pear salad and Chilean sea bass, Obama, Vice President Biden and the outside experts engaged in a deep discussion of the options to combat the Islamic State, those who participated said.

"D’Anjou pear salad" - how interesting. But what are the options discussed, what are their up- and downsides and what are their costs? There is nothing about that in the Washington Post. The fourth estate is gone, nowhere to be found.

But what about the parliament. Isn't the United States supposed to be a democracy? What about those people who were voted into Congress? Cowards:

Democratic leaders in the Senate and Republican leaders in the House want to avoid a public vote to authorize force, fearing the unknown political consequences eight weeks before the midterm elections on Nov. 4.

“A lot of people would like to stay on the sideline and say, ‘Just bomb the place and tell us about it later,’ ” said Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, who supports having an authorization vote. “It’s an election year. A lot of Democrats don’t know how it would play in their party, and Republicans don’t want to change anything. We like the path we’re on now. We can denounce it if it goes bad, and praise it if it goes well and ask what took him so long.

Obama would be crazy to let Congress get with this position. A war on ISIS will certainly have some very bad consequences, as any war does, and he will be solely blamed for all of them should Congress be allowed to dodge its responsibility.

Should Congress be forced to vote the real discussion, missing now, would have to take place and the vote in the end would likely be a resounding "No!"

These are the two groups. Which one would have, after an open public discussion, more support with the people?

some lawmakers in both parties will team with conservatives who do not want to support Mr. Obama on anything to oppose or limit any authorization of force, Mr. Kingston said. Hawks in the Republican Party will team with pro-Israel lawmakers and humanitarian interventionists in support.

The warmongers are of course trying to avoid the discussion and the vote and that is why they are pressing the stampede and hope that everyone else will panic with them and jump off the cliff.

The reporting today makes it look as if Obama has already taken the decision to, illegally by the way, bomb Syria. I sense a lot of hawkish spin in that and will not be surprised should Obama kick the problem over to Congress and demand a vote.

Posted by b at 11:29 AM | Comments (175)

September 09, 2014

Why Fight ISIS? And How Fight ISIS When There Are No Allies?

Why is there this artificial panic about ISIS in the United States? Why would a majority agree to air-attacks on ISIS, a "strategy" that is very likely to fail and that will certainly create more aggrieved people willing to fight the "west"?

The whole issue does not make sense. Yes, ISIS is dangerous as it is build on a brutal and strict ideology that can attract many, many followers. It was created in the aftermath of the U.S. attack on Iraq. The U.S. czar Bremer disbanded the Iraqi military creating a jobless army of several hundred thousand military men. Additionally his de-Baathification campaign send tenths of thousands of Sunni state employees and technocrats into poverty. The U.S. written Iraqi constitution enshrined sectarianism.

"Western" propaganda tales about the Syrian government "slaughtering Sunnis" - even when the majority of the government was and is Sunni - never made sense. But such claims, repeated over and over again together with empty words about "freedom" and "democracy" helped to mobilize an exceptional force of foreign fighters that has now joined ISIS.

ISIS is dangerous for the people living in Iraq and Syria. It is a threat to some of the governments in the area. But it is neither a threat to the U.S nor to Europe. Even if some ISIS influenced people would blow up something somewhere in Europe it would be jsut another minor event in a decades old series of various homegrown terror incidents. Why is there then a necessity to fight it?

And fight ISIS together with whom?

In Iraq the U.S. pressed for prime minister Maliki to go. The new prime minister Abadi is no less sectarian that Maliki. His cabinet now has 11 Sunni members while Maliki's had fifteen. The Kurds joined the new government only for a trial period of three month and the two most important ministries, interior and defense, will be, like under Maliki, in the hands of the prime minister himself. How then did this "regime change" move against Maliki change actually anything? Any Iraqi help against ISIS will be sectarian mass slaughter. Any foreign help to the Kurds or the Shia will be abused to create gains solely for that community.

The "moderate rebels" of the "Free Syrian Army" which the CIA is feeding with Saudi dollars and weapons are just a sham. They are criminals and/or religious fanatics and the difference between them and ISIS are tiny. In Lebanon the FSA is openly cooperating with ISIS:

“We are collaborating with the Islamic State and the Nusra Front by attacking the Syrian Army’s gatherings in ... Qalamoun,” said Bassel Idriss, the commander of an FSA-aligned rebel brigade.

Some FSA group seems to have kidnapped the journalist (and Mossad spy?) Steven Sotloff and sold him off to ISIS. The later beheading of Sotloff by ISIS was marketed by the Obama administration as one reason to bomb them. Why then not bomb the FSA who kidnapped him in the first place? Weapons delivered through the CIA to FSA rebels are now in the hands of ISIS fighters. Any thought that FSA groups, certainly thoroughly infiltrated by ISIS sympathizers, can somehow help in a campaign against ISIS is pure lunacy.

Then there is the lack of international cooperation in the area. The only two countries who have actually offered help are Iran and Syria. Jordan has asked not to be (officially) involved in the campaign for fear of internal revolt. Turkey, led by an Islamist, is giving comfort and logistic help to ISIS. It has not even labeled ISIS a terrorist group. Israel just helped the Al-Qaeda affiliate Jabhat al-Nusra to take the Syrian border station on the Golan by shelling the Syrian government position that was trying to prevent that. The Kurds are busy defending their home turf in the mountains against ISIS incursions. They are neither capable nor willing to go on a military offense. The Saudi Arabia dictators fear ISIS because it is more truly Wahhabi then the sham Wahhabi Islamic State construct in Saudi Arabia. Ironically ISIS will likely soon target the Saudi state which ideology and money helped its birth in the first place. The Saudis will not help against ISIS, their spiritual kin, out of fear of such internal strife.

None of the local allies the U.S. wants to use against ISIS is willing or capable to help. The only three forces that offered and could (Syria, Iran, Hizbullah) help against ISIS are seen as hostile by the United States.

How then please can anyone in the U.S. think of a military campaign against ISIS? Without any local allies? With no boots, not even friendly foreign ones, on the ground?

The U.S. now wants some kind of UN Security Council resolution against ISIS. Russia and China should be very, very careful about this. The U.S. is likely to abuse any such resolution to justify a new attack on Syria.

Posted by b at 12:24 PM | Comments (105)

September 08, 2014

Open Thread 2014-21

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:28 PM | Comments (218)

September 07, 2014

"Moral" Interventions In Syria And Ukraine

When one reads the incredibly vague ceasefire agreement for Ukraine (in Russian, various English versions) it is immediately clear that this can not and will not hold. Russia had pressed for the ceasefire, despite battle advantage of the Novorossiya forces it supports, to avoid a further round of sanctions from the EU and in the hope that some of the warmongers in the "west" might come to their senses and listen to sane people. The Ukrainian president needed the ceasefire because his forces were defeated and, without reorganisation, would not have been able to defend against any further onslaught.

As soon as the forces on both sides have reorganized the battle will continue beyond the small skirmishes that are already taking place today. Neither side has full control over the various groups involved in the fighting and any flare up can immediately escalate.

Meanwhile NATO continues a increase its forces in East Europe for "troop training" and in the black sea. Military people in Moscow will certainly interpret this NATO build up as the threat that it is meant to be.

It was the "west" that provoked the war in Ukraine by organizing a coup against the democratically elected government. It is also the "west" that created the civil war in Syria. There the "west" and its various Arab poodles feed the war in Syria through money, weapons and substantial propaganda for the cause of the Jihadis fighting the Syrian government. It now wants to fight the Syrian government as well as the head choppers of ISIS by supporting the FSA organ eaters who are allied with the 9/11 plane hijackers of Nusra and Al Qaeda. That is seen as morally good even though no "western" country has any case for an involvement in Syria except for some very vaguely defined "interests".

Russia has an very important security interest in Ukraine. It is its immediate neighbor and the cradle of the Rus civilization. Several large attacks on Russia, by Napoleon as well as Hitler, used the plains of Ukraine as their concentration area and for their marches on Moscow. Many of the forces of the Ukrainian government now fighting against their Russia affine compatriots in the east are outright Nazis. 70 years ago over 20 million Russian lost their life to defeat that ideology.

Why is it seen as morally wrong when Russia, with much more immediate interest, is helping forces in Ukraine when similar intervention by the "west", much less, if at all justified, is depicted as morally right?

The sole answer one can get to that question is that whatever "we" do, no matter what, is right and whatever those oppose to what "we" do do is automatically wrong. That position is the recipe for much bigger conflicts than the ones we currently sees.

Posted by b at 01:04 PM | Comments (180)

September 05, 2014

Obama Administration (Re-)Starts Marketing Campaign For Bombing Syria

September 2002: TRACES OF TERROR: THE STRATEGY; Bush Aides Set Strategy to Sell Policy on Iraq

White House officials said today that the administration was following a meticulously planned strategy to persuade the public, the Congress and the allies of the need to confront the threat from Saddam Hussein.
...
"From a marketing point of view," said Andrew H. Card Jr., the White House chief of staff who is coordinating the effort, "you don't introduce new products in August."

It is September 2014 and we are past the summer and past Labor Day. Time to roll out the (old) new product:

United Nations Ambassador Samantha Power says the United States is concerned that the most dangerous terrorist groups could get a hold of chemical weapons if Syria is hiding any stockpiles.

We know of course that Syria has disposed of all its chemical weapons and that these were destroyed under the eyes of the OPCW. But Iraq had also disposed of all its WMD and that it has none left was in fact one reason why it could be and was easily attacked.

So is Obama is doubling down (again) on Syria? Hoping that the mystical "Free Syrian Army" (Jihadis in disguise) heavily supports by the U.S. will fight the Islamic State and the Syrian government?

The chronic warmonger Juan Cole is already searching for flimsy legal excuses, using the false pretense of fighting ISIS, to bomb whatever in sovereign Syria even without a UN Security Council resolution. Maybe Syria should invite the Russian air force to help against ISIS. A few Russian jets in Damascus would likely  keep despicable nuts like Juan Cole away.

The new big international enemy is the Islamic State which is fighting the Syrian government. It would likely replace it should the government fall. But the Obama administration is not willing to draw the consequences and to ally with the Syrian army. It still wants to dispose the Syrian government under president Assad. It hopes that more weapons given to its mystic "moderate rebels" will somehow enable those to win.

But for that they will need at least additional air support and to enable such some "legal" reasoning -  ISIS, Al-Qaeda, WMD - must be found and marketed to the war tired public.

Posted by b at 08:37 AM | Comments (100)

On Fighting ISIS NATO Members Tell Obama To Shove It

President Obama and his British poodle tried hard to push other NATO countries in repeating the mistakes the U.S. and UK made when they attacked Iraq:

President Obama and Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain have called on NATO to reject “isolationist” impulses and confront the rising terrorist threat posed by Sunni militants in the Middle East, saying the United States and Britain “will not be cowed by barbaric killers.”

“We will not waver in our determination to confront” the militant group known as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, the two leaders wrote in a joint opinion piece published in Thursday’s editions of The Times of London. “If terrorists think we will weaken in the face of their threats they could not be more wrong.

The problem with their call may have been that it was published behind the Times of London's pay-wall. Why should any NATO head of state bother to hand over a British Pound to Rupert Murdoch for the questionable fun of reading more U.S./UK lobbying for their weapon industries?

Mr. Obama and Mr. Cameron argued that NATO must transition to a “more effective security network that fosters stability around the world,” urging member nations to bolster military spending.

The leaders of other NATO states know that their tax-payers will not agree to higher military spending. They reject the call. But the effort to write the op-ed was not completely for naught?

NATO leaders are set to agree at a summit on Friday to help organize security assistance for Iraq in its fight against Islamic State militants, including coordinating the airlift of supplies, a Western official said.

NATO is expected to set up a clearing house that would match offers of military supplies to help the Iraqi authorities with available transport aircraft, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

NATO would not take part in any combat operations, and the security assistance would be provided by individual member states and partners, he said.

Somewhere in Brussels some U.S./UK sergeant stashed away in a dark corner of NATO headquarters will have some spreadsheet saying five mattresses are waiting to be flown from Croatia to Basra. That will "help" a lot.

Notice that this is a complete rejection of the Obama/Cameron request. The "help to coordinate" phrase means that there is not even the tiniest bit NATO will do. Anything to be actually done is up to "individual members" i.e. the U.S. and UK.

Two days ago I wrote that NATO is in decline:

there is little left of NATO that future taxpayers might want to support

At least with regards to Iraq (and Syria) NATO members just told the self proclaimed "leader of the free world" to shove it.

Count that as one positive outcome of the current NATO summit in Wales.

Posted by b at 07:04 AM | Comments (29)

September 04, 2014

Do European Governments Buy Overpriced Steel From Ukrainian Oligarchs?

Anonymous Europe, allegedly some hacker group, claims in a video uploaded three days ago to have letters from officials near the German chancellor Merkel to officials in Poland. The letters are about deals of buying hundreds of thousand tons of Ukrainian steel from Ukrainian oligarchs at above market prices. Other countries supposed to buy overpriced Ukrainian steel are Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria.

I have no idea if these claims are true and the copies of the letters shown are legit. The uploaded video seems to have only some 820 views so far which seems very low.

If these claims are true there will certainly be some scandal about this abuse of taxpayer money for bribing Ukrainian oligarchs and subsidizing the coup government in Ukraine.

(Screenshots of the letters below the fold.)

Cont. reading: Do European Governments Buy Overpriced Steel From Ukrainian Oligarchs?

Posted by b at 02:36 PM | Comments (75)

September 03, 2014

Ukraine: Obama Doubles Down?

Included in yesterdays assessment of the Ukrainian loss of the war and the coming ceasefire was this caveat:

Obama may still decide to double down and that destroying Ukraine -like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria- by prolonging the conflict is in U.S. "interests".

Pat Lang believes that Obama will take the escalation path:

Will the United States let the world "off the hook" by accepting this outcome? Perhaps it will not. The lure of the Children's Crusader vision of a future devoid of schoolyard bullies may prove too strong to ignore. NATO exercizes are planned. Speeches have been made. Grand posturing has taken place. Obama wills it! pl

That "Obama wills it" may be the reason for the confusion about a Ukrainian presidential statement today on a ceasefire agreement that came after Poroshenko had had a phonecall with Putin:

Mr. Poroshenko’s office first issued and then retracted a statement saying that the two had agreed to a “lasting cease-fire.” A spokesman for Mr. Poroshenko’s office said the initial statement, posted on the presidential website, went too far in describing the results of a telephone call between the two leaders, and that the call had not produced a formal agreement.

The statement, "The conversation resulted in an agreement on XXX in the Donbas." actual changed twice from XXX being first "lasting ceasefire" then "ceasefire" then "ceasefire regime". After the Poroshenko call Putin went public with a 7 point ceasefire plan which seems to have been the one Poroshenko had agreed to. But some "intervention", I assume from the U.S., took place to change Poroshenko's statement of a "lasting ceasefire".

The main U.S. puppet, scientology prime minister "Yaz" Yatsenyuk, is still throwing verbal bombs even though Ukraine has run out of significant military means:

“Putin’s real plan is the destruction of Ukraine and the resumption of the U.S.S.R.,” Mr. Yatsenyuk was quoted as saying. He said “the best plan to stop Russia’s war against Ukraine” would be if "Russia withdraws their regular troops, mercenaries and terrorists from Ukrainian territory — then peace will be reinstated in Ukraine.”

... and pink ponies will fly by.

To the delight of U.S. hardliners France has "postponed" the delivery of the two helicopter carrier of the Mistral type to Russia. The Russians will be happy about that. Such carriers are useful in small conflicts against minor enemies but Russia has now again to prepare for larger ones. The deal (once given to Sarkozy for his help in the 2008 Georgia conflict) included several ships some of them to be build in Russia. As part of the deal a shipyard in Russia has been modernized for the project and that important work has been finished. Russia can now (again) build such ships on its own.

If the two ships from France get not finally delivered Russia will demand back some €600 million already paid and a €1.2 billion contractual penalty. Without the Russia deal France may also have to close its shipyard in Saint-Nazaire. To hold back the ships is a terrible deal for France but president Hollande's poll rating is already so bad that the further drop in the polls for kissing Obama's ass will likely be irrelevant.

If Obama, as Pat Lang believes, wants to keep the conflict brewing we will see more destruction, more dead people and larger land losses for the current Ukraine. The end state will not change. Ukraine will become a bankrupt finlandized federation, not join the EU and not join NATO. The EU will lose a lot of business with Russia and take even longer to get out of the second great depression. China will win a lot. Not only in commerce but also because the U.S. will be busy to herd the NATO cats and to fight the non-existing Russian "threat". This will give China probably a decade of less pressure in south Asia. All for the genius of Obama and his Children's Crusader.

Posted by b at 02:50 PM | Comments (334)

September 02, 2014

Ukraine: War, For Now, Over And NATO Still In Decline

There is only little news of new developments out of east-Ukraine. The insurgents kicked the Ukrainian troops out of the airport in Lughansk and the Ukrainian troops at the Donetsk airport are said to be confined in a basement and will have to negotiate their surrender.

According to Spiegel NATO generals assess (in German) that Ukraine has lost the war. It is out of material in decent shape and out of enough soldiers with the moral to successfully fight for the oligarchs. But that does not mean the fighting is over. Obama may still decide to double down and that destroying Ukraine -like Afghanistan, Libya and Syria- by prolonging the conflict is in U.S. "interests".

The "western" financed Kyiv Post is lamenting that the Ukrainian president Porochenko did not keep the promises he made before he got elected. That snub may well be a sign that his time is already over. The current Ukrainian campaign of claiming that Russia has "invaded" Ukraine is making his position weaker. Apparently all those T-90 tanks only fly in by night and their cloaking devices prevent any picture of them appearing anywhere.

Putin said somewhere that if Russia would really invade Ukraine it would take 14 days to get Kiev. "Western" media claimed that was a "threat". It was rather a somewhat pessimistic statement of fact. Kiev would probably fall in four days though preparing the victory parade may indeed take a bit longer.

The United Nation has found that 1 million Ukrainians have fled from their homes, more than 800,000 of them to Russia. The Ukrainian "Anti-Terrorist-Operation" is apparently a campaign of ethnic cleansing. But as that campaign for now comes to an end the population movement may well reverse.

There will hopefully now be some negotiated solution which will likely end in a federalized Ukraine with great autonomy for the federal states. Ukraine as a nation, if that has ever existed at all, is over. Ukraine as a confederation of states is still a possibility.

The sad reality is that such a development was foreseeable and indeed in detail foreseen. The whole war was completely unnecessary.

NATO will get some temporary propaganda push out of the conflict but I do not expect any longterm change in its downward trajectory. Defense budgets will not increase and the newly announced rapid reaction force for east Europe is at least the third version of such an multinational emergency force concept. These never can work as their activation still depends on the the lengthy political process NATO needs to go to war. Such forces also depend on rotating "pledged" units by member states and, as experience has shown, many such units get "pledged" even when they are not available or incapable to fight.

After this conflict the loss of credibility of NATO will likely be greater than its leaders today anticipate. Showing off satellite pictures even a naive can recognize as irrelevant and propagandizing an "invasion" when obviously none happened will leave marks. Top that with the catastrophic results in Libya and the strategic loss in Afghanistan and there is little left of NATO that future taxpayers might want to support.

Posted by b at 12:14 PM | Comments (164)

September 01, 2014

Russia's State Media "Misinforms" Russians By Translating WaPo Editorial Lamenting Russia's "Misinformation"

The Washington Post Funny pages have added a really good one today:

In prosecuting his widening war in Ukraine, [Putin] has also resurrected the tyranny of the Big Lie, using state-controlled media to twist the truth so grotesquely that most Russians are in the dark — or profoundly misinformed — about events in their neighbor to the west.

Most Russians get their news from state-controlled broadcast outlets, which have moved beyond mere propaganda into outlandish conspiracy theories and unhinged jingoism.

To prove the Washington Post editors right the state-controlled Russian internet outlet inoSMI, personally advised by Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin, "moved beyond mere propaganda into outlandish conspiracy theories and unhinged jingoism" by immediately translating the WaPo editorial into Russian so that Russians can now dive further "into the dark" and "profoundly misinform" themselves by reading this editorial of the Washington Post in their native language.

Dear Washington Post. Your funny pages can not beat Russian humor.

Posted by b at 05:30 AM | Comments (113)

August 31, 2014

NSA Uses Speech-To-Text Systems To Record (Your?) Phonecalls

Der Spiegel and The Intercept have a new story about the NSA and Turkey based largely on NSA files Edward Snowden acquired. While the NSA is cooperating with Turkey's secret services and helps them to assassinate Kurdish separatists it is also intensely spying on the Turkish leadership.

That is all the way I would have expected.

But there is one detail in the story which, to my best knowledge, reveals a NSA capability that was so far only rumored about:

In January 2012, US officials proposed supporting Turkey in their fight against the PKK with diverse measures, including access to a state-of-the-art speech recognition system that enabled real-time analysis of intercepted conversations. The system can even search for keywords and identify the person speaking if a voice sample of that individual has been stored.

There was always some assumption that the NSA would store not only all the medadata of all phone calls but also the content. Barton Gellman had published about the MYSTIC and RETRO program which back in 2009 allowed phone call storage of all calls in Afghanistan for up to a month. Some people refuted that the NSA could or would do this in more countries or for a longer time arguing that the storage of sound files of the phone calls would require too much data space.

But when the NSA, as is now revealed, uses sophisticated automated speech-to-text systems then it has only to store the text data of phone calls which is at least one magnitude smaller in data size than the sound data.

Every NSA target, potentially ever human being, has now to assume that everything it says or hears on the phone will be recorded and automatically searched by keywords and then marked, categorized and stored forever by some NSA system.

This is, I believe, a whole new dimension of NSA spying that may well change the way people are used to communicate and the intensity in which they are willing to express themselves "in private". "In private" now hardly exists anymore.

Posted by b at 12:21 PM | Comments (33)

August 30, 2014

The WaPo Funny Pages Fear "Secular Extremists"

The Washington Post editorial page reads like a collection of funnies. Sorry ones though.

There you have the wife of the Polish foreign minister preparing for total war with Russia. Yeah, lets roll out the nukes already! The winner of course, with Europe then devastated, would be the U.S. economy. Those radiating bits left of it.

But the idea might be better than asking the Russian oligarchs to assassinate Putin like a former CIA honcho does. Or better than the idea of an air bombing campaign against Novorossiya right next to the Russia's border and its excellent air-defenses.

There really are a lot of crazy people around. Surely the editors of the Washington Post are part of them. Yesterday they wrote this crazy nonsense:

IF ANY international norm can still be called uncontroversial, it is the stricture against cross-border aggression by one sovereign state against another. Certainly any failure to enforce it in one place invites violations elsewhere.

Fair points out that the "uncontroversial norm" the editor want to apply seemed not to be so uncontroversial when those same editors called for the invasion of Iraq and for the bombing of Syria, Libya, Sudan or whatever other state wins their weekly lottery for threatened destruction.

But the best of the recent funnies was surely this one by David Ignatius which certainly will earn him a decent pile of petro-dollars:

For a generation, Americans and Saudis have worried that the kingdom was a potential tinderbox, with Muslim and secular extremists vying to undermine the conservative monarchy.

"Secular extremists" - now there is a real terrorist threat! The biggest threat EVER! What Americans then have ever "worried" about "secular extremists" overthrowing the Wahhabi nutters in Riyadh? Others then the ones paid by them?

Posted by b at 03:58 AM | Comments (71)

August 29, 2014

Ukraine Lost A Battle - West Escalates With More Russia Sanctions

Throughout August the Ukrainian president and cabinet, likely following U.S. "advisers", pushed their army into a big attack on the insurgency held south east areas of the country. But the attack of bad equipped, half trained units ran into problems. Some of them reached their attack targets only to find themselves cut off from any resupply. Without ammunition, gas and food they were locked into place and easy targets for the insurgents artillery.

The attack was stretched too far. The "culmination point in the attack" Clausewitz wrote about was reached and crossed. The negative effects of the attack on its own troops became bigger then the positive effects and the government in Kiev, not recognizing the real situation, still pressed on. It now lost the initiative. The parts of the Ukrainian army not surrounded and caught up surrounded in "cauldrons" retreated to be reorganized.

Some of the "volunteer" territorial battalions are simply going home. There is even a revolt against the defense ministry.

By Aug. 27, the battalion had left the war zone and made its way to the city of Znamyanka in Kirovohrad Oblast. Romanyuk said they were in discussion with the Defense Ministry whether to continue home to their base in Ivano-Frankivsk region, or be sent back to the Anti-Terrorist Operation.

In what is becoming a repeated refrain, the apparent failure of the government to provide its soldiers with even the most basic supplies is undermining both the conduct of the war and the morale of those fighting it.

“They were dumped,” said Romanyuk. “And absolutely all the territorial defense battalions are in this position. So they are in revolt against the Ministry of Defense. No one wants to endure this idiotic command anymore, and this inadequate attitude to soldiers, to the needs of the army and the National Guard.”

The situation is not looking good for the coup government in Kiev. Some of the neo-nazi national guard battalions have even threatened to come to Kiev to "clean the house."

The loss of the battle is also the reason why Ukraine now really, really fast wants to join NATO. That is not going to happen. NATO has a simple rule that countries with internationally disputed areas can not join. Should Ukraine give up on Crimea its move would make sense. But as it can not yet do so the joining request is just helpless yapping. As a little consolidation price the IMF squandered another $1.4 billion by giving it to bancrupt Kiev as a part of a larger loan. Ukraine will probably use that to pay for the T-72 tanks it recently bought from Hungary. Officially the IMF is not allowed to give money to countries at war. That may be the reason why yesterday official talk of an "invasion" by Russia was later toned down to "incursion".

The military battle defeat was the reason why Russia was accused of an invasion even when the OECD observers says (in German) that they have "no objective information" to support such a claim. Such propaganda rushes as yesterday always follow when the shit hits the fan for the "western" side. They are also occasions to introduce new sanction which from the U.S. point of view, have the nice feature of solely hurting both Europe and Russia. The U.S. poodle in No. 10 now wants to kick Russia out of the SWIFT inter-banking systems:

The Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication, known as SWIFT, is one of Russia’s main connections to the international financial system. Prime Minister David Cameron’s government plans to put the topic on the agenda for a meeting of EU leaders in Brussels tomorrow, according to the official, who asked not to be named because the discussions are private.

“Blocking Russia from the SWIFT system would be a very serious escalation in sanctions against Russia and would most certainly result in equally tough retaliatory actions by Russia,” said Chris Weafer, a senior partner at Moscow-based consulting firm Macro Advisory. “An exclusion from SWIFT would not block major trade deals but would cause problems in cross-border banking and that would disrupt trade flows.”

"Trade flows" in this case are gas supplies from Russia needed in Europe throughout the winter. If the gas bill can not be paid because Russia gets kicked out of SWIFT the spice will not flow. Only the U.K., which does not need Russian gas supplies, could come up with such a lunatic idea.

On the other side it would probably be good for the world in the longer term should Russia be kicked out of SWIFT. The BRICS countries would of course immediately introduce an alternative under their control which would then lead to more preferential trade between them. Such an alternative would make SWIFT no longer indispensable and useless as a tool for "western" sanctions.

Also today the Iranian foreign minister Zarif visited Moscow for talks with Russia. The atmosphere was said to be quite positive. But someone in Washington took this visit as an insult and immediately slapped more sanctions on Iran:

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on more than 25 people and companies it accused of violating sanctions against Iran, including shipping firms, airlines, and six Iranian banks.

Why, in the mid of so far positive talks with Iran about its nuclear program, does the U.S. feel this need to escalate again? Iran and Russia see their national aspirations as just and can therefore not be moved by sanctions. Is that really so hard to understand?

Such sanctions and childish petty acts, like Poland's overflight blockage of a Russian Defense Minister flight, will only create more strife in the world and a stronger urge for many states to distance themselves from the "west" with its seemingly more and more crazy leaders.

Posted by b at 01:01 PM | Comments (140)

August 28, 2014

ISIS Trained By Whom?

Photos show gruesome Islamic State seizure of base

Dressed in an orange jumpsuit against the backdrop of an arid Syrian landscape, ...

Captives held by Islamic State were waterboarded

At least four hostages held in Syria by the Islamic State, including an American journalist who was recently executed by the group, were waterboarded in the early part of their captivity, according to people familiar with the treatment of the kidnapped Westerners.

Where, one wonders, did they learn such shit?

Posted by b at 08:18 PM | Comments (100)

"Zero Proof" - The "Russian Invasion" Of Ukraine

Updated below

The authors of this NYT piece, Ukraine Reports Russian Invasion on a New Front, are not really convincing when presenting these reports by the Ukrainian government as truthful:

The latest incursion, which Ukraine’s military said included five armored personnel carriers, was at least the third movement of troops and weapons from Russia across the southeast part of the border this week, further blunting the momentum Ukrainian forces have made in weakening the insurgents in their redoubts of Donetsk and Luhansk farther north. Evidence of a possible turn was seen in the panicky retreat of Ukrainian soldiers on Tuesday from a force they said had come over the Russian border.
...
Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military in Kiev, said the Russian armored column entered the town of Amvrosiyivka, south of Donetsk, expanding what Western and Ukrainian officials have described as one of the main fronts in a multipronged counteroffensive directed by Russia.

The "momentum" the Ukrainian troops had was never as big as the Ukrainian government had claimed. A few motorized brigades ran through open territory held by few insurgents and when coming to a halt at their primary target were immediately cut off and surrounded. Their moral is bad, their equipment old, ammunition is low and the entire aim of their campaign is dubious. Now even a few weak counterattacks, the "counteroffensive", have them on the run.

While the piece repeats the Ukrainian claim that Russian material, including ammunition, passed over the border the third picture shows some 20+ wooden boxes of RPGs and the caption says:

"A villager opened a box of rocket-propelled grenades left by the Ukrainian Army in Starobecheve, southeast of Donetsk. Pro-Russia rebels took over the town after the military withdrew."

Obviously the fleeing Ukrainian troops are leaving a lot of goodies behind.

Then there is this:

The separatists have asserted that they are using captured Ukrainian equipment. But American officials say they are confident that the artillery in the Krasnodon area of Ukraine is Russia’s since Ukrainian forces have not penetrated that deeply into that separatist-controlled region. American officials also say the separatists have no experience in using such weaponry.

That bold part is of course utter bullshit. The Donetsk miners and volunteers from Russia all have had regular military service. They surely will be able to handle Grad systems, little evolved from World War II, and other artillery.

The United States has photographs that show the Russian artillery moved into Ukraine, American officials say. One photo dated last Thursday, shown to a New York Times reporter, shows Russian military units moving self-propelled artillery into Ukraine. Another photo, dated Saturday, shows the artillery in firing positions in Ukraine.

"Shown to one NYT reporter" who likely can not differentiate a Grad system from a pipe organ is hardly any proof. Why doesn't the U.S. publish the picture?

On the highway in Novoazovsk on Tuesday, Sgt. Ihor Sharapov, a soldier with the Ukrainian border patrol unit, said he had seen tanks drive across the border, although they were marked with flags of the Donetsk People’s Republic. Others suggested the flags were a ruse.

“I tell you they are Russians, but this is what proof I have,” said Sgt. Aleksei Panko, holding up his thumb and index finger to form a zero.

Zero proof - indeed. I have absolutely no doubt that Russian volunteers are fighting on the insurgency side. I have no doubt that some ammunition is coming from Russia. But judging from pictures of equipment and ammunition the insurgents use nearly all of it seems to be the same Soviet era stuff the Ukrainian army is using. I have yet to see and big updated Russian equipment in their hands. The big Russian invasion the Ukrainian government claims is very unlikely to have happened.

Update

This is a quite amazing "information operation" without doubt of U.S. origin.

Consider: The Ukrainian President talks about Russian affiliated insurgents in east-Ukraine and Reuters and others distribute this as "invasion". After all major news-entities repeated the "invasion" claim and the public damage is done they simply take it back.

Consider this from Tagesschau, the highest rated German TV news show:

Translation:

On #Ukraine there was a translation error by the agency Reuters: According to the correction Poroshenko did not talk of an invasion.

So there was an "invasion", distributed by major news agencies, which then turns out to have been a translation error or an intentional Poroshenko 'screw up'.

Notice that one author of the NYT piece above is Michael Gordon, who, together with Judith Miller, wrote sensational reports about proof of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. The current head of NATO who is promoting war against Russia, Fogh-of-war Rassmussen, said 11 years ago: "Iraq has WMDs. It is not something we think, it is something we know".

These folks and the western news agencies that promoted the WMD in Iraq claims are now claiming a Russian "invasion" in Ukraine only to retract it when the damage is done. Warmongers. All of them.

Posted by b at 07:49 AM | Comments (162)

August 27, 2014

Open Thread 2014-20

(Unexpected travel and busy days - sorry)

News & views ...

(Please refrain from personal attacks on other commentators. Otherwise ...)

Posted by b at 02:30 PM | Comments (205)

August 26, 2014

Quiz: "Not Restricted By Borders"

Who said this?

“We’re actively considering what’s going to be necessary to deal with that threat and we’re not going to be restricted by borders.”

Possible answers:

  1. Dmitryi Olegovich Rogozin, deputy prime minister of the Russian Federation with regards to Fascists gangs in Ukraine.
  2. Benjamin J. Rhodes, U.S. deputy national security adviser with regards to Jihadi gangs in Syria.
  3. Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates with regards to Muslim Brotherhood gangs in Libya.

Cont. reading: Quiz: "Not Restricted By Borders"

Posted by b at 10:32 AM | Comments (117)

August 25, 2014

Ukraine: Economy Declines, Merkel Sues For Peace

Recent statistics show that the already decaying Ukrainian economy is further turning towards depression. New money from IMF loans, if granted, will solely go into military costs. The European Union will not bail out Ukraine and Germany, hurt by Russian counter-sanctions, is suing for peace with Russia.

Nulandistan's wheels are falling off and no one one will help to repair it.

According to the Ukrainian government statistics production in July 2014 decrease compared to July 2013 (both ex-Crimea). Mining of coal and lignite was only 71% of its former numbers. Manufacture of coke and refined petroleum products was 84% of its 2013 value. Manufacture of chemicals and chemical products 77% and natural gas production and distribution was 78% of its 2013 number. As the government's fight  against the people in Ukraine's industrial heartland continues these numbers will continue to go down.

Ukraine's standard of living did not, unlike in Russia, significantly increase over the last 20 years. Since the beginning of the year inflation increased to 19% and the Ukrainian central bank had to raise interest rates from 6.5% at the beginning of 2014 to 17.5% now. This to support the value of the Ukrainian currency as the hryvnya has fallen 40% since early 2014. The banking system is coming apart:

The ratio of banks’ non-performing loans will reach 30 percent this year as credit costs rise, Moody’s Investors Service predicted in a May report.
...
Ukraine’s lenders are already in a precarious position, according to the IMF, which estimates that the nation’s biggest 22 banks would require fresh capital of as much as 5 percent of gross domestic product if the hryvnia averages 12.5 per dollar this year.

The Ukraine is now requesting a third and fourth tranche of an IMF loan but the $2.2 billion it expects to receive is about as much as it plans to additionally spend for military operations. Under the conditions of the new IMF loans Ukraine's standard of living will decrease further and poverty will rise.

Some delusional minds in Kiev may hope that the EU will hand them some money. That is not going to happen. EU economies ex Germany are in serious trouble and Germany is not eager to help either:

There is precious little enthusiasm among the German public for bailout of other Eurozone members. The idea that Germany will consent to spending tens of billions of dollars rebuilding Eastern Ukraine is completely and totally divorced from political reality. Can anyone seriously imagine Angela Merkel, whose country recently had its 2014 growth estimate downgraded to a mere 1.5%, going in front of the German public to demand a substantial outlay for Ukrainian infrastructure? It would be political suicide, and Merkel is clearly a clever enough politician to understand this.

The German government had to cut is GDP forecast because of the insecurity the sanction back and forth with Russia introduced into businesses. The issue will clearly hurt her in the polls. That is likely why she is sending peace signals to Russia:

[Merkel] mentioned Ukrainian “decentralisation”, a deal on gas prices, and Ukraine’s “trade relations” with Russia as elements that could bring about an accord [between Ukraine and Russia].
...
"I want to find a way, as many others do, which does not damage Russia. We [Germany] want to have good trade relations with Russia as well. We want reasonable relations with Russia. We are depending on one another and there are so many other conflicts in the world where we should work together, so I hope we can make progress”.

This also from an interview Merkel gave to public German TV yesterday:

A solution must be found to the Ukraine crisis that does not hurt Russia and which the Ukrainian people must choose for themselves, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Sunday.
...
"There must be dialogue. There can only be a political solution. There won't be a military solution to this conflict," she said.
...
On Saturday, her vice chancellor Sigmar Gabriel had suggested that establishing a federal Ukraine was the only viable solution to the crisis pitting Kiev against pro-Russian separatists.

Merkel said that if Ukraine opted to rejoin the Eurasian Union with Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, then Europe would not make "a huge conflict" out of it.

Especially the last point is clearly a big step back from the earlier all out "Ukraine is EU" position.

Additionally to the economic side, pressure on Merkel also grows because there is more and more doubt, even in German mainstream media, about the veracity of the Ukrainian propaganda and about the destruction of flight MH17. Why is there is no news about it? Is there a coverup (in German)?

The wheels are coming off in Victoria "Fuck the EU" Nuland's new Ukraine. Her project of capturing Ukraine from Russia while letting the EU pay for it is not going as planned. The likely result of Nuland's coup in Kiev will be a destroyed Ukrainian economy and no winner at all.

Posted by b at 01:30 PM | Comments (151)

August 24, 2014

Open Thread 2014-19

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:24 PM | Comments (113)

August 23, 2014

The Fishy James Foley Video

What is fishy with the James Foley beheading video?

1. I have not seen it yet.

2. The video was well produced and at least partially staged:

"My experience of these things is when the knife gets close the knees buckle and you become like a rag doll, whereas this guy seemed to sit upright. It could be that that particular knife wasn't the one that killed him, that that was a play-acting thing," the expert told The Times.

After the part where the executioner was shown cutting Foley's head, the video fades.

The next part of the video already showed Foley's decapitated head while he was upturned back. His hands were handcuffed. But his right ankle already had bruises hinting that he had been kneeling on the ground longer than what was shown in the video. And most importantly, a different looking knife lies on the ground, next to Foley's corpse.

"The guy is obviously dead but it may be that particular scene was acted and that was why he is staying stiff," the security expert noted.

3. Unlike other beheading videos this one apparently does not show the actual beheading. It just blends from the first appearance of a slight cut to a decapitated body.

4. Few others have seen the video. It was, on behalf of U.S. officials, aggressively blocked on Youtube and Twitter even deleted accounts that linked to the video. Hundreds of other ISIS videos showing very graphic beheading of Syrians and Iraqis second by second were never censored away like this.

5. Lots of people believe the video and the "death" of James Foley is fake.

The journalist James Foley was a propagandist for the Free Syrian Army. In that he had joined important U.S. politicians. The FSA terrorists were trained by the U.S. and then converted to ISIS which the U.S. now claims to fight. The U.S. is still giving rocket launchers and TOWs to FSA gangs, aka soon-to-be-ISIS followers.

ISIS is the typical cartoon supervillain the U.S. creates whenever it wants to propagandize for more wars. It is the best possible enemy. ISIS allows for ridiculous threat inflation that will probably give Obama new wide-open congressional Authority for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) in Iraq and probably in Syria and elsewhere.

Those are a lot of miles from a few bloody drops in a somewhat staged video. Staged how much though is an open question.

Posted by b at 12:15 PM | Comments (184)

Poland Wants Bigger Freeride On U.S. Military Force And Money

Anne Applebaum, neocon Washington Post columnist and wife of Poland's Minister of Foreign Affairs, demands a "revitalized NATO":

NATO also needs to become a lot clearer about its goals. Europe has two immediate security issues: the threat from Russia in the east and the threat from Islamic fundamentalism to the south. [...] The basing of troops and equipment needs to be rethought completely: If we were starting from scratch, nobody would put them where they are now. NATO needs to shut down unnecessary commands and legacy bases, and move on.

Move on whereto one might ask and it is clear that Applebaum would love U.S. troops stationed in Poland and the Baltic countries. She also adds this nonsense:

... the United States contributes three-quarters of NATO’s budget ...

That math only works if you attribute the U.S. investment in aircraft carriers in the South China Sea or in  military Golf courses in Hawaii to NATO. Given the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's obviously limited geographic and political function such math is rather stupid.

Another Polish op-ed by one Slawomir Sierakowski in the NYT is more direct in making the point:

Those members who have no NATO bases are simply a gray area of second-class membership. What has become clear is that not all NATO members are equal. First-class members — Britain, Germany, Italy — are those everyone knows would be immediately defended by NATO forces if attacked. Second-class members like Poland and the Baltics would most likely be ravaged for weeks or months before NATO forces made an appearance.

This logic is also revealingly stupid. Polish military forces as well as the Baltic countries' forces are NATO forces. Poland has thereby 120,000 NATO troops stationed within its borders plus some 500,000 NATO reservists. These local NATO troops are in Poland and the Baltics. Would they not defend their countries if those were attacked?

Both Applebaum and Sierakowski do not want "NATO forces" stationed in Poland and elsewhere. They would rather howl at the suggestion of a German tank brigade stationed in Warsaw. What they want is the expensive (for U.S. taxpayers) permanent stationing of United States' military forces. This for rather obvious reasons. With U.S. forces in their backyard they would:

  • get a free ride on U.S. money,
  • have less need to invest in their own forces,
  • achieve more political freedom for aggression against their neighbors because U.S. "tripwire" troops would likely prevent possible blow backs.

For this they would break the NATO treaty with Russia which prohibits permanent foreign NATO military stationing in the former Warsaw Pact states. After the NATO coup in Ukraine Russia would surely regard such a treaty breach as a further act of aggression that requires a forceful response.

If Applebaum and Sierakowski would really fear, as they claim, "Russia's aggression" they therefore would refrain from calling for foreign NATO troops in eastern European countries.

Posted by b at 11:17 AM | Comments (43)

August 22, 2014

Ukraine Accuses Putin Of "Smuggling Humanitarian Aid"

The opening of this statement by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs is in a literal sense correct. But the intended accusatory implication is somewhat off:

On August, 22 Russia began smuggling humanitarian aid to Ukraine, ...

Why, one might ask, is there need for humanitarian aid in Ukraine? Why doesn't the government care for its people? And why is it necessary to "smuggle" aid in?

Posted by b at 09:42 AM | Comments (97)

August 21, 2014

Syria: U.S. Intelligence For Syrian Air-Force Bombing

Pepe Escobar writes in ATOL on the IS rampage in Syria and Iraq:

[H]ow convenient that a Briton beheading an American - what a "special relationship" plot twist! - fully sanctions the Return of Iraq Bombing ("for months", in Obama's words); more strikes; more drones; perhaps more boots on the ground; perhaps, in the near future, a Syria extension.

Indeed. But the mission creep, or maybe the planned escalation, was already ongoing before the beheading video of James Foley was published:

Monday, the President again broadened the bombing’s objectives. The airstrikes against ISIS still protect U.S. personnel and serve humanitarian purposes, he said, but now, it seems, those are general goals that ongoing bombing serves. The President also suggested that ISIS is a security threat to the United States. Not for the first time, he said that once the new Iraqi government forms, we will “build up” Iraqi military power against ISIS.

Only the speed of this slide down a slippery slope is surprising.

The U.S. is again fully at war in Iraq. But bombing in Syria, it seems to me, will be left to the Syrian air-force. For some days now it has attacked IS targets in Raqqa with precise ammunition, not with the usual "barrel bombs". Precise weapons need precise intelligence to designate precise targets. Two knowledgeable journalist from the region have suggested that the U.S. is providing such targeting data to the Syrian government. The Angry Arab reports:

The highly able and reliable correspondent of As-Safir in Paris claims that the US has been providing intelligence help to the Syrian regime regarding positions of ISIS in Syria.

That As-Safir correspondent is Mohammad Ballout. Elijah J. Magnier, AL RAI chief international correspondent, tweeted two days ago:

#BreakingNews: #USA #Syria: #SAF Mig-29 is bombarding on daily basis #IS selective targets in #Raqqa w guided missiles following #USA info

Reuters reports that Syrian hopes to find a detente with the "west" over the threat of the Islamic State:

Ghaleb Kandil, another Lebanese journalist with close ties to the Syrian government, said the West would be forced to deal with Assad sooner or later. In return for security cooperation, Assad would demand full political rehabilitation.

"The Syrian state is the only body with adequate intelligence about the terrorists," he said.

With the U.S. providing targeting data to the Syrian air-force at least some informal detente has already been agreed upon. More opportunities for a public reversal of the "western" position will appear soon.

Unlike Pepe Escobar anticipates, "a Syria extension" of U.S. air-force attacks is unlikely to happen as long as the Syrian air-force has and keeps its capabilities to act on anti-IS (signal-)intelligence the U.S. provides. Russia (and Iran) will take care that the Syrian air-force will have the material and personal capacities to achieve that.

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (147)

August 20, 2014

Malooga On Ferguson - The Bigger Picture

by Malooga
lifted from a comment

@154 luca kasks: "Why don't you people wait for all the facts to come in?"

Facts are not like beloved relatives coming in to visit on cherished holidays; facts are like murdered ex-collaborators, to be secretly disappeared and buried deep in some dank forgotten hole in the ground.

Facts, for the ruling class, are dangerous beasts. Myths and stories are far safer fare.

Facts may escape unexpectedly at the very beginning of an event, before proper control systems are in place, after that all one is likely to get is the official story, or if that fails, the official fall-back position.

How could one get what is going on geopolitically by following this blog, and not get that the same conditions and principles of domination, control and brutalization operate similarly on a local scale?

Perhaps it might be helpful to detail those conditions and principles in order to remind ourselves what the theater in which these events take place is truly like, both for the residents of places like Ferguson, and for the police who manage those residents.

Cont. reading: Malooga On Ferguson - The Bigger Picture

Posted by b at 06:49 AM | Comments (152)

 
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