Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
April 11, 2017

Is There A New U.S. Syria Policy? Is There One At All?

What does the U.S. administration want with regards to Syria?

The elements were clear just a few days ago. The U.S. would split off the east and set up a Kurdish enclave which it would then occupy with the help of proxy forces. It would use the leverage to push for political regime change in western Syria. Israel would occupy another piece of the Golan.

While that looked somewhat favorable for the U.S. in the short term it was bad long term strategy. U.S. forces in the east would be surrounded by hostiles, cut off from the sea and under permanent guerilla attack from various opposing forces. But it looked at least like a viable short term way forward.

The new strategy, which may not be one at all, and the new U.S. commitment is all over the place:

As various officials have described it, the United States will intervene only when chemical weapons are used — or any time innocents are killed. It will push for the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria — or pursue that only after defeating the Islamic State. America’s national interest in Syria is to fight terrorism. Or to ease the humanitarian crisis there. Or to restore stability.

I don't get it. The cacophony of the last days does not make any sense. There is no viable endgame I see here that would be advantageous for Trump or general U.S. borg policy - neither internationally nor domestically - neither short term nor long term. Trump is now losing the "America First" followers he will need to win another election.

Due to the anti-Russian panic Trump surrendered to the neocons. Suddenly the borg is lauding him for a senseless escalation. The neocons want chaos but chaos is not a plan. There seems to be no plan that will help any cause.

There is no chance that the U.S. can split Syria from its allies, Hizbullah, Iran and Russia. While Russia is under pressure in Kaliningrad, Crimea and Syria it has lived through way worse situation and these have always increased its determination. I don't see how or why it would fold now.

Trump had an intelligent strategy when he won against Clinton. He deftly use his advantages. There are few advantages that he has and can play with regards to Middle East policy. Use pure military force? That's not a strategy, just tactical game play. Though the generals who run his cabinet may not be capable to see that. If he destroys Syrian then Lebanon and Jordan will also fall to radicals. Other countries will follow. Iraq would again throw out all U.S. troops. Would the U.S., or Israel, want that? Why?

Whatever one might say about Trump, he is not stupid. He must have some kind of plan.

Help me out. What are his thoughts behind this. Or are there really none at all.

Posted by b at 06:54 AM | Comments (274)

April 10, 2017

Open Thread 2017-14

News & views ...

Posted by b at 04:32 AM | Comments (140)

April 08, 2017

The Khan Sheikoun Show - A New President Proudly Presented By Trump Productions

The "chemical attack" at Khan Sheikoun was faked and a show; though a number of people were killed or hurt during its production.

This video for example, of doctors and patients in an emergence room was pure theater, taken over a longer time period. The main presenter was a well-known criminal Takfiri but with links to the British secret service. The whole show was perfected, by specialists one would think, to fit for U.S. TV screens. 

There were no scenes, zero in all the coverage, that showed casualties in places where they were surprised by gas and died. No basement was searched, no place of work or living was shown - only rescue centers. The male "victims" were clean shaven, despite living in al-Qaeda land. They even had two blond "Syrian" kids in there (vid) to convince the racist constituency that "revenge" was needed and just.  A cut right out of Wag The Dog (vid). It is now racist to object to the war!

Dilbert creator Scott Adams, one of the few who understands Trump's persuasion style and predicted his win, remarks:

It is almost as if someone designed this “tragedy” to be camera-ready for President Trump’s consumption. It pushed every one of his buttons. Hard. And right when things in Syria were heading in a positive direction.
...
I’m going to call bullshit on the gas attack. It’s too “on-the-nose,” as Hollywood script-writers sometimes say, meaning a little too perfect to be natural. This has the look of a manufactured event.
...
So how does a Master Persuader respond to a fake war crime?

He does it with a fake response, if he’s smart.

The response by the U.S. was not completely fake but as small as it could be. The base was warned and had been evacuated. All movable and valuable stuff had been taken away. The attack was even smaller than planned. The Russian Defense Ministry says only 23 out of 59 cruise missiles hit the base. The others were shot down by air defense or diverted by the famous Russian Electronic Counter Measures. The Pentagon insists that all 59 hit. But the pictures and video from the base only show damage to 11 aircraft shelters. Additionally one radar, one missile launcher and a fuel depot were hit. That effect is too small for 59 impacts. The base was in use again 12 hours after the strike. The attack on it was not really serious.

Adams makes it look as if Trump did not sign off on the whole stunt before it happened. As if it was made for Trump’s consumption. Why does he think so? Does he believe the CIA bureaucrats would not ask for a direct order and presidential cover before launching such a risky operation?

The pictures and scenes were not constructed for Trump's consumption. They were constructed by Trump for consumption by the "western" public.  Never forget that Trump is also a successful professional TV presenter who knows how to act in front of cameras. The plot followed Trump's persuasion style. The same style he used during the campaign and that let him win. Trump had several reasons to create such an incident. It was perfectly timed for the visit of the Chinese President Xi. This was a stunt to Trump's liking. It was his production. The blond children were there to allowed for his "Beautiful babies were cruelly murdered ..." punch line. Trump proudly produced and presented to you: "Trump the NEW President".

The whole show was designed to let Trump look strong and presidential and to get rid of the "Russia Gate" nonsense the neocons ran against him. The prospect of stopping those attacks was an offer he could not refuse. Here a tweet of mine sent on the evening before the attack was launched:

Moon of Alabama‏ @MoonofA

Prediction:
If Trump now commits to war on Syria the anti-Trump "Russia spies" campaign will immediately stop.
Ransom paid, hostage released
8:23 PM - 6 Apr 2017

Those who once warned that Trump would launch a new world war now laud him for nearly doing so:

Cont. reading: The Khan Sheikoun Show - A New President Proudly Presented By Trump Productions

Posted by b at 12:35 PM | Comments (288)

April 07, 2017

Syria: New U.S. Air Support On Request Scheme For Al-Qaeda

On this day one hundred years ago the U.S. joined World War I. Last night the U.S. attacked a Syrian government airport in an openly hostile and intentional manner. The strike established a mechanism by which al-Qaeda can "request" U.S. airstrikes on Syrian government targets. It severely damaged the main support base for Syria's fight against the Islamic State in eastern Syria. The event will possibly lead to a much larger war.

On April 4 Syrian airplanes hit an al-Qaeda headquarter in Khan Sheikoun, Idleb governate. Idleb governate is under al-Qaeda control. After the air strike some chemical agent was released. The symptoms shown in videos from local aid stations point to a nerve-agent. The release probably killed between 50 and 90 people. It is unknown how the release happened.

It is unlikely that the Syrian government did this:

  • In 2013 the Syrian government had given up all its chemical weapons. UN inspectors verified this.
  • The target was militarily and strategically insignificant.
  • There was no immediate pressure on the Syrian military.
  • The international political atmosphere had recently turned positive for Syria.

Even if Syria had stashed away some last-resort weapon this would have been the totally wrong moment and totally wrong target for using it. Over the last six year of war the Syrian government army had followed a political and militarily logical path. It acted consistently. It did not act irrational. It is highly unlikely that it would have now take such an illogical step.

The chemical used, either Sarin or Soman, was not in a clean form. Multiple witnesses reported of a "rotten smell" and greenish color. While the color would point to a mixture with Chlorine the intense smell of Chlorine is easily identifiable, covers up most other odors and would have been recognized by witnesses. Both Sarin and Soman are in pure form colorless, tasteless and odorless. The Syrian government once produced nerve agents on a professional, large scale base. Amateurishly produced nerve-gases are not pure and can smell (example: Tokyo subway incident 1995). It is unlikely that the Syrian government experts would produce a "rotten smelling", dirty, low quality stuff in an unprofessional and dangerous process.

The nerve agents in Khan Sheikoun, should they be confirmed, came either from stashed ammunition at the place attacked by the Syrian government or it was willfully released by the local ruling terrorist groups -al-Qaeda and Ahrar al-Sham- after the strike to implicate the Syrian government. The relatively low casualty numbers of mostly civilians point to the second variant.

Several reports over the years confirm that Al-Qaeda in Syria has the precursors and capabilities to produce and use Sarin as well as other chemical agents. This would not be their first use of such weapons. Al-Qaeda was under imminent pressure. It was losing the war. It is therefor highly likely that this was an intentional release by al-Qaeda to create public pressure on the Syrian government.

For a release incident of powerful chemical weapons the casualty numbers were low, lower than the casualty numbers of recent conventional U.S. air strikes in Syria and Iraq. Despite that fact a huge international media attack wave, seemingly prepared in advance, against the Syrian government was released. No evidence was presented that the incident was caused by the Syrian government. The only pictures and witness reports from the ground came from or through elements, like the White Helmets, who are known to by embedded with al-Qaeda and ISIS (video) and are acting as their propaganda arm.

Last night U.S. president Trump "responded" to the incident by ordering the launch of 59 cruise missiles on the Syrian military airport Al Syairat (vid). The cruise missiles were launched from sea in a volley designed to overwhelm air defenses. According to the Syrian and Russian military only 23 cruise missiles reached the airport. The others were shut down or failed. Six Syrian soldiers were Killed, nine civilians in a nearby village were killed or wounded and nine Syrian jets were destroyed. The airport infrastructure was severely damaged. The Syrian and Russian governments had been warned before the strikes hit and evacuated most men and critical equipment. (Was the warning part of a deal?) The air attack coincided with an Islamic State ground attack east of the airport.

Cont. reading: Syria: New U.S. Air Support On Request Scheme For Al-Qaeda

Posted by b at 04:22 AM | Comments (346)

April 06, 2017

Israel Just Received A HUGE Gift From Russia. What Is Its Side Of The Deal?

Russia just published a quite sensational statement on Israel and Palestine. It recognizes, as before, East-Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Palestine. But Russia now also recognizes, under certain condition, West-Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

This statement will make quite a wave and it has to be seen in the wider context of the war on Syria. Here is the original statement in Russian on the Foreign Ministry site and the auto-translation (excerpt):

Moscow continues to consider the formula for negotiating a two-state settlement of an optimal and friendly to us Palestinian and Israeli people, as well as to the interests of all countries in the region and the world community as a whole.

We reaffirm our commitment to the UN resolutions on the principles of settlement, including the status of East Jerusalem as the capital of the future Palestinian state. At the same time, we consider it necessary to say that in this context we regard West Jerusalem as the capital of the State of Israel.

Specific parameters for addressing the full range of issues of the final status of the Palestinian territories, including the Jerusalem problem, should be agreed upon in direct negotiations between the parties.

The part marked by me in bold is new. Older statements of Russia never included such a recognition. It is bound to conditions ("in this context") so there is no free lunch for the Zionists. But it is still a huge achievement for Netanyahoo.

For a wider context of the new Russian position we have to look at the conflict in Syria. There the pressure on President Trump to launch a war on Syria's government (and, make no mistake, thereby also on Hizbullah, Russia and Iran) is increasing. The probably staged chemical incident yesterday was the starting point for an intense pro-war campaign.

Yesterday the Israeli Defense Minister Lieberman accused Syria:

Lieberman told Yedioth Ahronoth that Syrian planes carried out the two chemical attacks, which were “directly ordered and planned by Syrian President Bashar Assad.” He stressed he was “100 percent certain.” The defense minister said he did not know if Russia was involved in the attack.

Russia and Syria have denied that either of them used any chemical ammunition. They say that the Syrian air force bombed an al-Qaeda ammunition depot which, unknown to them, may have included chemical weapons.

Today the Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahoo called the Russian President and part of that call was a serious rebuke from Putin:

Mr Putin and Mr Netanyahu exchanged views on the incident involving chemical weapons on April 4 in the Syrian province of Idlib. Mr Putin underscored, in particular, that it is unacceptable to make groundless accusations against any party until a thorough and objective international investigation has been conducted.

But also part of that call, though not mentioned in the official note, must have been some agreement that led to the release of the statement above by the Russian Foreign Ministry.

A deal must have been made. A give and take and the West-Jerusalem release is part of the payment or reward. It is a HUGE price to win for Israel. It is against the long held international consensus which only considers Tel Aviv to be Israel's capital. Russia's concession gives cover for President Trump to make a similar announcement without messing up U.S. relations with Arab states or anyone else.

We can only speculate on the Israeli side of the deal, but there must be something Netanyahoo committed to. Russia would not offer this new position for nothing.

My speculation:

The mighty Zionist lobby in the U.S. (AIPAC & Co) is pushing for an immediate war on Syria. (It did so in 2013 but Obama called the war off at that time after the British parliament and later Congress rejected it.)

Netanyahoo could let it known that he prefers no war on Syria. The Zionist lobby in the U.S. would then shut up, pressure on Trump would be much relieved, a new war on Syria could be avoided.

In 2013 Putin arranged for a deal to destroy Syria's chemical arsenal. The elimination of Syria's strategic weapons was a huge gift to Israel. It also allowed Obama to keep face and keep away from war despite all pressure.

Now Putin is making another huge offer. Will Israel take this gift? Will Netanyahoo call off its AIPAC dogs of war?

The offer is not Russia's last political resort with regard to Israel.

A million Israelis are of Russian heritage. They emigrated to Israel in the 1980s and 90s. They are mostly not really Jews but vote conservative. They also admire and cherish Putin. That is one reason why no Israeli politician, especially Netanyahoo, can afford a big political conflict with Russia.

Putin's ultimate threat to Netanyahoo is to influence the Russian voters in Israel and to make them vote against him. It is a personal nuke under Netanyahoo's seat.

But Putin does not like to issue threats. He offers and makes deals. So one wonders what the real deal behind the above acknowledgement of West-Jerusalem is. Is my speculation correct or are their better explanations?

Posted by b at 03:13 PM | Comments (180)

April 05, 2017

WMDs In The UNSC - History Repeats Itself, First As Tragedy, Second As Farce

Pic: April 5 2017 - U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley during an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council

Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, on Wednesday strongly condemned the Syrian government in the wake of an alleged chemical weapons attack perpetrated on its own civilians this week. "When the UN consistently fails in its duty to act collectively, there are times in the life of states that we are compelled to take our own action," Haley said. She added that if the UN doesn't take collective action, "we may."

Posted by b at 01:29 PM | Comments (161)

Ignoring The People - Where The Left Of The Aisle Side Fails

Since the election the U.S. Democrats have been outraged over Trump and obsessed by "Putin did it" conspiracy theories. What they did not do was to assess why the Clinton campaign failed, why the party has lost seats all over the country over the last eight years and why the formerly core Democratic constituency voted for Trump.

The reason for that are straightforward and simple. Trump promised jobs, less globalization, less war and less obsession with social matters of marginal interest. Stuff that workers outside of the coastal cities like. The Clinton campaign was mealy mouthed on policies except for some special peoples' "right" of using the other genders toilet facilities. Her campaign was solely built on bashing Trump and it failed.

This is not a U.S. specific situation. A similar situation has evolved in Europe where the former social-democratic parties have moved away from fighting for employment, better wages and working class issues to argue for "liberal" social or international stuff like migration. These are only of marginal interest to their former core voters if not outright against their interests. Meanwhile the political right is promising to do what the formerly left voters really like. In result the Social-Democrats in Germany have dropped from once 50% to now 30%. The Socialists in France are practically dead. Labour in Britain has currently no chance to come back to power. It is the same all over the continent.

U.S. Democratic Party operatives out in the country understand what happened. They are desperate. The party apparatus in Washington DC still does not get it. Here is the first piece I have seen in the main stream media that gets to these important points: Democrats are still ignoring the people who could have helped them defeat Trump, Ohio party leaders say:

One by one, members of the Mahoning County Democratic Party poured out their frustrations: Just months after the presidential election, they felt folks like them were being forgotten — again. The party’s comeback strategy was being steered by protesters, consultants and elitists from New York and California who have no idea what voters in middle America care about.

But worst of all, they said, the party hadn’t learned from what they saw as the biggest message from November’s election: Democrats have fallen completely out of touch with America’s blue-collar voters.

The piece includes some choice quotes:

Since the election, Democrats have been swallowed up in an unending cycle of outrage and issues that have little to do with the nation’s working class, they said, such as women’s marches, fighting Trump’s refugee ban and advocating for transgender bathroom rights.
...
“Every time Trump so much as sneezes, we as a party are setting our hair on fire and running around like it’s the end of the world,” Betras said as the dinner wound down. “Most people around here don’t care. They are living paycheck to paycheck, just trying to hold on. After everything that’s happened, if we as a party still aren’t speaking to them, then we are never getting them back.”
...
“What Trump slapped onto his plate last election was a big juicy steak. Real or not — that’s what it looked like to the hungry working voter,” Betras said. “What the elitists in our Democratic Party did with their side issues was say, ‘Look at all this broccoli we have for you. Sure, there’s some meat pieces mixed in, too, but look at the broccoli.’”

The demagogic right wins elections because it at least speaks about the real stuff while the party leaders on the "left" ignore the core issues of their (former) constituency. When the right wins it will throw some small pieces of meat to its working class voters. Those then will be happy because finally their existence has been acknowledged again. That is naturally more important to them than the long term damage the rule of the right will cause for all of us.

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (41)

April 04, 2017

Various Issues

1. The anti-Russian mania and the Putin derangement syndrome in the U.S. and other "western" countries has left the realm of reasonability. It is of no use to argue over it. What is the endgame of the people who plant and propagate this nonsense?

2. Al-Qaeda in Syria and its subordinate "moderate rebels" are being defeated in their last big attack on Hama governate. The Russian defense ministry said that more than 2,000 Jihadis had been killed during the failed attack. Another attack on Latakia was stopped cold by massive Russian air strikes on the staging areas. Al-Qaeda's back yard in Idleb is under constant air interdiction.

The usual response when under such pressure are incidents of "chemical attacks" "on civilians". Such is claimed today in Khan Sheikhoun. The video footage, taken (when?) in a White Helmets base, shows "rescuers" spraying water on people who are claimed to have been effected by Sarin. If this were a real chemical incident involving Sarin or similar stuff these unprotected, unprofessional "rescuers" would be heavily effected if not dead.

Conveniently this incident also happens just two days before another international conference on Syria. The heavy media attention is likely the starting shot of a new campaign of CIA support for al-Qaeda in Idleb and a second leg of Turkey's invasion of Syria.

3. Trump had promised to change or eliminate "Obamacare". He let the Republican party under Ryan come up with a plan. That plan was crazy, disliked by the people and Trump rejected to take responsibility for it. Ryan was left hanging when the plan died in Congress.

Trump also promised to eliminate ISIS. He let the U.S. military come up with a plan. That plan is to bomb Mosul and Raqqa to smithereens and to kill everyone ISIS. The Pentagon has no viable plan for the time thereafter. Who will rule (and pay for) the destroyed Raqqa when the campaign is over? Who will have responsibility for the larger consequences? If the Kurds get it, the Arabs will rebel. If the Turks get it, the Kurds will fight them. If some (former ISIS) Arabs get it, Syria, Russia, Iran and Iraq and the Kurds will fight them and the U.S. military will have to protect them. The Pentagon has no answer to that problem. Trump will let the generals hang just as he let Ryan hang. They will have to take the responsibility. Don't they smell the trap?

Posted by b at 07:33 AM | Comments (114)

April 02, 2017

Iraqi WMDs Anyone? Washington Post Makes Unfounded Claims Of Iranian Supplies To Insurgencies

The Washington Post falls back into its 2005 mode of blaming Iran for the capabilities of a local insurgency. This time it is not Iraq where Iran is allegedly providing to insurgents, but Bahrain.

Old and debunked claims are hauled up and propaganda from the U.S. proxy Sunni dictatorship is cited as "evidence". It is a top-right front-page story in the Sunday edition and thereby "important". It is also fake news.

The headline: U.S. increasingly sees Iran’s hand in the arming of Bahraini militants.The core:

The report, a copy of which was shown to The Washington Post, partly explains the growing unease among some Western intelligence officials over tiny Bahrain, a stalwart U.S. ally in the Persian Gulf and home to the Navy’s Fifth Fleet. Six years after the start of a peaceful Shiite protest movement against the country’s Sunni-led government, U.S. and European analysts now see an increasingly grave threat emerging on the margins of the uprising: heavily armed militant cells supplied and funded, officials say, by Iran.

The authors insert caveats:

While Bahraini officials frequently accuse Tehran of inciting violence, the allegations often have been discounted as exaggerations by a monarchy that routinely cites terrorism as a justification for cracking down on Shiite activists.

But after noting that Bahraini authorities notoriously lie the authors regurgitate approvingly the claims of exactly those authorities:

... the country’s investigators said in a confidential technical assessment ... a copy of which was shown to The Washington Post ...

That is supported, the authors say, by:

... interviews with current and former intelligence officials ...

Surly, "current and former intelligence officials" are paragons of truth and veracity and whatever they claim MUST be true.

At issue is the detection of one basement workshop in Bahrain where someone is using "$20,000 lathes and hydraulic presses" to produce shaped charges and also stored a pile of C4 explosives.

A $20,000 lathe is at the lower end of low-quality professional tooling. Hydraulic presses can be made from car jacks. How to make hollow charges and explosive formed penetrators (EFPs) is described in the CIA's Explosives for Sabotage Manual which the U.S. translated and distributed for decades in Afghanistan and elsewhere. C4 explosives of various origins, including from Iran, are available on black weapon markets throughout west-Asia.

Source: CIA Handbook

Nothing of the above points to the conclusion that these are "cells supplied and funded .. by Iran". The only connection to Iran the Bahrani police found and which is noted in the piece is:

One of the six caches “involved C-4 in its original Iranian military packaging,” the report said.

The piece does not note where the C4 in the other five caches came from. A detailed chemical analysis will be able to find the "signatures" of the chemical production facilities. If only one of six explosive caches comes from an Iranian manufacturer the problem Bahrain has on hand with the C4 is hardly of Iranian origin. So why are the manufacturing origins of the other five caches of explosives not mentioned at all? Did those caches come from the U.S. or from Saudi factories?

But the problems with the piece do not end there.

After noting how unreliable Bahrain official claims are, it discussed at length such Bahraini claims.

After describing the cheap equipment used to make shaped charges in Bahrain it goes on to explain how Iran, and only Iran, gives those to insurgencies. It quotes some guy from the Zionist propaganda shop Washington Institute who:

saw echoes in Bahrain of Iran’s practice of supplying tank-crushing EFPs to Iraqi Shiite militias, which used the devices in an effort to create no-go zones around Shiite strongholds.

Iran did not and does not supply EFPs to Iraqi insurgents. The Iraqis made those themselves. That was documented here and elsewhere even ten years ago:

For quite a while this story has been debunked by reports about EFP manufacturing in Iraq. These were substantiated, while the "Iran provides EFPs" meme was never proven by any evidence.

There were pieces in the Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times and by Reuters. Doubts about the Iran origin of EFPs have also been raised in the New York Times. NBC news had U.S. officials at least partly walking back their claims. The Columbia Journalism Review, Inter Press Service and Newshogger Cernig ran good summary stories including many sources. We also discussed the 'evidence' here.

The WaPo story, though on today's Sunday paper's frontpage, has a (web-)dateline of April 1. That is probably the only reliable claim it carries.

There is no evidence that Iran provides for a Shia insurgency in Shia majority-Sunni ruled Bahrain just as there is no evidence that it supplies Zaidi fighters in Yemen who fight Al-Qaeda and its Saudi sponsors.

But there is by now a steady stream of Saudi and U.S. propaganda that makes such claims. These claims sound awfully similar to the claims made before the war on Iraq of (non-existing) Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. To find such again on page one of the Sunday edition of a major newspaper is more than disturbing.

Posted by b at 10:40 AM | Comments (77)

March 31, 2017

Syria - Trump Administration Will Continue Obama Policy

There is a serious confusion about statements made yesterday by the Trump administration. It sets the fight against ISIS as the top priority and no longer demands an immediate leaving of Bashar Assad as the Syrian president. Reports try to sell this as a new position. But it is not new at all.

The U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley announced a "change of priorities":

"You pick and choose your battles and when we're looking at this, it's about changing up priorities and our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out," U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley told a small group of reporters.

Secretary of State Tillerson confirmed that position:

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, speaking in Ankara on Thursday, said Assad's longer-term status "will be decided by the Syrian people."

Southfront headlines the Haley talk as ‘Assad Must Not Go’. The International Business Times wrote about those statements:

The United States has announced a shift in its diplomatic policy on Syria and is no longer insisting that its president Bashar al-Assad be removed as the head of the war-torn country.

In a clear departure from the Obama administration's stance on Assad, and against EU policy, the US is now moving its focus to its battle with Isis.

But the Trump administration statements are not new at all. The "announced" positions were established under Obama:

President Barack Obama spent a significant portion of his final State of the Union speech discussing the fight against the terrorist group ISIS.
...
Obama said that fighting ISIS (also known as the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh) and other terrorists is the top priority of his administration.

Also in January 2016 then Secretary of State Kerry used a similar wording as Tillerson used now:

"It's up to the Syrians to decide what happens to Assad," Kerry said. "They are the negotiators and they will decide the future.""It's up to the Syrians to decide what happens to Assad," Kerry said. "They are the negotiators and they will decide the future."

There is no change of policy. The top priority has been and will be for a while the fight against ISIS. The U.S. will use this to occupy the eastern parts of Syria. When ISIS is suppressed enough to no longer be an immediate issue the removal of Assad will again become a top priority.

That Assad's position will be "decided by the Syrian people" is just obfuscating as long as it is not said WHICH Syrian people are HOW to decide over it.

The War On Syria will go on until the U.S. really changes its positions and until the Wahhabi oil sheiks stop their financing of their various Takfiri mercenaries - be they ISIS, al-Qaeda or whatever name they want to apply.

Posted by b at 01:10 PM | Comments (177)

March 30, 2017

Open Thread 2017-13

News & views ...

Posted by b at 02:13 PM | Comments (138)

March 29, 2017

Trump Is a . . . Agent

Everyone agrees that Trump is an agent. But who's agent is he? Thousands of words have been spilled discussing the issue. The opinions differ:

The question seems to be difficult. Luckily we have have the paper of record and its eminent next-six-months columnist Thomas Friedman who finally provides the clear and banal answer:

Trump Is a Chinese Agent

I though you would like to know that ... it is preposterous nonsense. But what else could one expect from Friedman.

More seriously. My impression is that there is only one person for whom Donald Trump is willing to act as an agent. That person is Donald Trump.

So the person Trump works for is not very knowledgeable, not very smart and not very likeable.

I would have been nice if the U.S. electorate had had a chance to vote for a better one. But that was - unfortunately - not the case.  The result has to be accepted. Fighting it is useless. The war on issues has begun.

Could someone go and tell the Democrats?

Posted by b at 01:22 PM | Comments (109)

March 28, 2017

Democrats: "Russia Ate Our Homework"

TRUMP increases sanctions on Russia.

DEMOCRATS: "Putin installed this president! Trump is illegitimate!"

TRUMP expands wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya and Syria

DEMOCRATS: "Russia is out to get us!"

TRUMP dismantles environmental regulations.

DEMOCRATS: "White House distracts from Russia investigation!"

TRUMP kills worker protection, lowers billionaire taxes.

DEMOCRATS: "Putin's interference cost us the election!"

TRUMP launches nuclear war with North Korea.

DEMOCRATS: "Russia ate our homework!"

Posted by b at 01:15 PM | Comments (99)

March 27, 2017

U.S. To Escalate Its Two Years War On Starving Yemen


bigger source drone video

The picture shows yesterday's rally in Sanaa,Yemen where up to 1 million people were condemning the war Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and the U.S. have been waging on them for two years.

Nether the New York Times nor the Washington Post reported of the million strong rally. Both though reported widely of a 8,000 strong demonstration in Moscow led by the ultra-nationalist anti-semitic racist Alexey Navalny (vid). Navalny, who polls less than 1% in Russia, is their great and groundless hope to replace the Russian President Putin.

The war on Yemen was launched to show the manliness of the Saudi princes. Well, that may not be the proclaimed reason but it is the only one that makes sense. The U.S. takes part in the war because ... well - no one knows:

The morning after that NSC news release was posted on the White House webpage two years ago, Gen. Lloyd J. Austin, commander of the U.S. Central Command, was asked about the objectives of the U.S. support. His stunning reply remains the most accurate characterization from a U.S. official: “I don’t currently know the specific goals and objectives of the Saudi campaign, and I would have to know that to be able to assess the likelihood of success.” Other than dropping weapons with an unconscionable lack of discrimination and proportionality, it appears there are no clear goals and objectives to this day.

The Saudis claim their coalition has dropped 90,000 bombs during the two year war. That are 123 bombs per day. 5 each and every hour for no good reason. It hasn't helped them at all. The Houthi/Saleh alliance the Saudis fight claims (vid) to have destroyed 176 AFVs, 643 MRAPs, 147 MBTs, 12 Apaches, 20 drones, 4 aircraft. Additionally 109 tactical ballistic missiles were fired. Many of those (certainly exaggerated) Houth/Saleh successes happened on Saudi ground. Its southern desert does not protect Saudi Arabia, it opens it up to attacks.

The U.S. provides planing, intelligence, air-refueling and the ammunition for the Saudi bombing. Without U.S. support this war would not happen at all!

The United Nation claims that the death toll of the war is a mere 5,000. Others speak of 7-8,000. These numbers are laughable. One Saudi attack alone, a "double tap" on a Sanaa funeral hall, killed more than 800. The real death toll of the war is by now likely beyond 100,000. Especially in north-west Yemen, along the Saudi border, each and every Yemeni town and city has been bombed into ruins. Where are the people who once lived there?

The Saudis have simply threatened the UN that they will stop to provide any money for any of its relief efforts should it it make any noise. The UN folded.

Yemen is starving. Even before the war 90% of Yemen's staple food was imported. The Saudis have since bombed each and every food production facility, chicken farm and port. All larger bridges have been cut. There is no longer any way to import food into the capital Sanaa and the other areas the Saudis besiege. Too small official relief efforts are still running through the Hodeida port on the western coast. The port itself is controlled by the Houthi/Saudi alliance the Saudi want to eliminate. But the port is blockaded from the water side. The Saudis navy and airforce destroys all ship who try to enter or leave it. Some official relief ships are allowed to pass but they have difficulties to unload. All large cranes in the harbor have been destroyed by air attacks.

Still - to deliberately starve off all of the 17 million Yemenis who are "food insecure", i.e. extremely hungry and nearly starved, the port needs to be closed down for good. That is why the UAE and the Saudi plan to invade, conquer and occupy it. The fighting about the port will be a good excuse to close it down for good until no one in Sanaa is left alive.

The Pentagon is now requesting a free hand to help the Saudis to conquer and occupy the Hodeida harbor. Why the U.S. would do this? Well - the reason is at least as good as the one given two years ago:

[I]f decisions are not made soon, the senior administration official said, “we’re afraid the situation” in Yemen may escalate, “and our partners may take action regardless. And we won’t have visibility, and we won’t be in a position to understand what it does to our counterterrorism operations.”

So if the U.S. does not "help" (i.e. organizes) to close down the last source of food for the millions besieged by the Saudis then it may not be able to understand what that means.

Now there is a really good reason to put boots on the ground! "Unless we do it, we will not know the consequences and that is something we would want to know, right?"

Posted by b at 02:01 PM | Comments (69)

March 26, 2017

Gas From Israel And The Flynn Wiretapping - Behind The Deep-State Infighting Over The Trump Election

What is really behind the deep-state infighting over the U.S. elections and the "wire tapping" of the Trump campaign? Why was the CIA-Neocon axis vehemently lobbying against Trump? What foreign interests and what money is involved in this? Answers to these questions are now emerging.

The former director of the CIA under Clinton, James Woolsey, went to the Wall Street Journal and offered some information (likely some true and some false) on the retired General Flynn and the lobbying businesses he was involved in. Woolsey is an arch-neoconservative. He had worked on the transition team of Trump but got fired over "growing tensions over Trump’s vision for intelligence agencies." Flynn is the former National Security Advisor of Trump who later also got fired. Woolsey was a board member of Flynn's former lobbying company FIG.

Woolsey claims: In September 2016 he took part in a meeting between Flynn and high level Turkish officials, including the Turkish foreign minister and the energy minister who is the son-in-law of the Turkish president Erdogan. During the meeting, Woolsey claims, a brainstorming took place over how the Turkish cult leader Fethullah Gülen could -probably by illegal means- be removed from the U.S. and handed over to Turkey.

Gülen is accused by the Erdogan mafia of initiating a coup attempt against it. The U.S. claims officially that there is no evidence for such an accusation and that Gülen can therefore not be rendered to Turkey. Gülen is an old CIA asset that helped the U.S. deep state to control Turkey.  Erdogan divorced from the Gülen organization after it became useless for his neo-Ottoman project.

Here is the WSJ report on the Woolsey claims and a video clip with parts of his WSJ interview. Woolsey also went on CNN where he repeated his WSJ story.

Flynn was accused by the anti-Trump campaign to have worked for Russia. He had taken several $10,000 for speeches he gave in Moscow. He also, at times, had argued for better U.S. relations with Russia. But Flynn's pro-Russia stand was probably honest. (Or the bribes involved were just smaller than the ones paid by others.) The money he got on the speaker circus was rather small for a man in his position.

Flynn's real corruption was on another issue. After having been fired from the Trump administration, Flynn retroactively filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). His lobbying firm had a contract over $530,000 to work for a company near to the Turkish president Erdogan:

In its filing, Mr. Flynn’s firm said its work from August to November “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” The filing said his firm’s fee, $530,000, wasn’t paid by the government but by Inovo BV, a Dutch firm owned by a Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin.

This lobbying, not the alleged Flynn-Putin relation, is the real scandal and part of the Trump/CIA/Clinton deep-state in-fighting.

The meeting Woolsey described was under the "Turkish" Flynn contract. The Turkish business man, and owner of Inovo, Ekim Alptekin is a member of the Erdogan gang. But hidden at the very end of the WSJ story is the real key to understand the shady network:

Inovo hired Mr. Flynn on behalf of an Israeli company seeking to export natural gas to Turkey, the filing said, and Mr. Alptekin wanted information on the U.S.-Turkey political climate to advise the gas company about its Turkish investments.

It was the Israeli gas company, not the Alptekin outlet, that drove the issue.

The Leviatan (and Tamar) gas fields in the Mediterranean along the Israeli coast are a huge energy and profit resource IF the gas from them can be exported to Europe. Several companies are involved in the exploration and all are looking for ways to connect the fields to the European gas network. There are (likely true) rumors that huge bribes have been payed in Israel, Jordan and elsewhere to win exploration contracts and to sell the gas. Negotiations between Israel and Turkey over the pipeline have been on and off. They depend on a positive climate towards Israel in the Turkish government which again depends on the often changing political position of the Erdogan gang.

The picture evolving here (lots of sleuthing and sources) is this:

An Israeli company (or whoever is behind it) wants a gas pipeline to Turkey. It hires Flynn and Alptekin to arrange a positive climate for the Leviathan pipeline within the Turkish government. It offers Flynn more than half a million for a little (4-month long) influence work. His job is to create a "friendly atmosphere" for the deal by using his influence in the U.S. to accommodate Erdogan. A major point that is expected from Flynn is to arrange the handover of Gülen, by whatever means, from the U.S. to Erdogan.

After accepting the (lobbying) bribe Flynn-the-whore suddenly changes his former anti-Turkish, pro-Russian, pro-Kurdish political position into a pro-Turkish, neutral-Russian and anti-Kurdish one. (His lobbying firm also makes some smaller payments related to the Clinton email-server scandal. This may be related to links between the Clinton family and the Gülen school empire.) He has a meeting with the Turkish government/Erdogan officials part of which is a discussion of a removal of Gülen to Turkey. He pens a pro Erdogan anti-Gülen op-ed which is published on the day of the election and he denigrates the Pentagon plan to work with the Kurds in Syria.

The NSA, CIA and the FBI are listening to Flynn's conversations with Turkish and Israeli interests. (For the old and long history of such "wiretapping" of Turkish and Israeli connections and various dirty and criminal deals they revealed read and ask Sibel Edmonds.)

The projects which Flynn is involved in, especially removing Gülen, are against the long term interests of the (neoconservative-driven) CIA. Selected tapes of his talks are transcribed and distributed within the anti-Trump campaign. This is the origin of the "wiretapping" of the Trump Tower the U.S. president lamented about. The stuff the CIA dug up about Flynn's dealing was and is used against Trump.

Woolsey is caught up in this as he also worked for Flynn's lobbying firm. (His neocon-pro-Zionist history suggests that he is the senior Israeli watchdog over Flynn in all this.) He is now engaged in damage control and is "coming clean" and selectively leaking his anti-Flynn stuff to exculpate himself. (There is probably also some new, better deal involved that will pay off from him.)

The Israeli-Turkish pipeline and the related deep-state fight are not the only issue involved in the campaign against Trump. There are also British interests and British intelligence involvement especially with the accusations against Russia of "hacking" of the DNC. If and how these fit in with above has not yet been revealed.

Posted by b at 07:06 AM | Comments (75)

March 24, 2017

Open Thread 2017-12

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:21 PM | Comments (249)

March 23, 2017

Syria Summary - The U.S. Move On Tabqa Will Complicate The Political Situation

Turkey is at a dead end in Syria. Erdogan's dream of going on to Raqqa and Deir Ezzor  or even Aleppo city has been blocked by an agreement between the U.S. and Russia. His proxy forces are stuck north-east of Aleppo city and have no way to go further south, east or west. They conquered a piece of rural land that gives Erdogan no negotiation leverage but potentially a lot of headaches. A small Russian contingent has moved into the Kurdish enclave in north-west Syria around Afrin blocking any serious Turkish move against that area.

Turkey and its paymasters in Qatar, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia have lost the fight over Syria. Still tacitly backed by the U.S. they are currently trying a Hail-Mary pass to again achieve some negotiation power for the next round of Geneva talks. This is likely to again fail. Their proxy forces in the north west, including al-Qaeda, moved from the north towards the city of Hama (see map, red=Syrian government). Over the last days they captured 11 small villages which were only lightly defended. The Russian and Syrian airforce are now devastating them and a counter-attack by the Syrian army is prepared and will soon throw them back.


Source: Islamic World News - bigger

Coordinated with the Hama attack was an attempt to capture ground on the eastern periphery of Damascus and in the south around Deraa. The Damascus attack has run its cause. No ground was taken and held by the Takfiris and the counterattack against them is advancing. The attack in Deraa failed to break the Syrian army defense lines.

Cont. reading: Syria Summary - The U.S. Move On Tabqa Will Complicate The Political Situation

Posted by b at 02:34 PM | Comments (114)

March 22, 2017

Fool Me Once ... DNC Ally Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One At Least Was Fake

The cyber-security company Crowdstrike claimed that the "Russia" hacked the Democratic National Committee. It also claimed that "Russia" hacked artillery units of the Ukrainian army. The second claim has now be found to be completely baseless. That same is probably the case with its claims related to the DNC.

Sometime around May 2016 the Democratic National Committee lost control over its email archives. It claimed that its servers had been "hacked" by someone related to Russian interests. DNC emails were published by Wikileaks and provided that the DNC had worked during the primaries against its statutes and in favor of one presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. The DNC chair was forced to resign over the case.

The DNC had called in Crowdstrike, a company led by a one Dimitry Alperovich, a Senior Fellow of the NATO aligned "think tank" Atlantic Council. After a short investigation Crowdstrike claimed to found intruding software on the DNC servers that, it says, has been exclusively used by Russian intelligence services. From there followed claims that "Russia hacked the U.S. elections".

When the DNC went public with the Crowdstrike claims the FBI never requested access to the servers to determine if a crime had been committed and to detect the culprit. Access to the servers had been informally denied by the DNC. The FBI simply followed (pdf), without any own forensic investigation of its own, the conclusions Crowdstrike had made.

Imagine that some white guy claims that his house has been broken in and a large amount of money has been stolen. He hires a private investigators who says a window was broken and therefore the crime must have been committed by those "niggers" down the road. But others ask if the man hides the money himself, or if the man's son might have taken it. But the police does not investigate if a crime has actually happened. It does no forensics at the crime scene. It does not even check if a window has indeed been broken. It simply follows the conclusion of the private investigator and accuses the "niggers". This is what happened in the DNC case.

Month later and in a different case the same Crowdstrike investigators claimed (pdf) that the artillery units of the Ukrainian army had had "excessive combat losses" of up to 80% in their fight with Ukrainian separatists. Crowdstrike asserted that Russian intelligence hacked an application used by the Ukrainians to aim their guns. The hack, it was claimed, enabled well targeted counter-fire that then destroyed the Ukrainian guns.

The author of the application denied that any such hacking had taken place. His software was provided only directly from him to Ukrainian army units. Independent cyber-security researchers also doubted the claims.

Crowdstrike had based its numbers for "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery units on statistics collected by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). The IISS now says that its statistic do not provide what Crowdstrike claimed. There were no "excessive losses" of Ukrainian artillery.

VOA first contacted IISS in February to verify the alleged artillery losses. Officials there initially were unaware of the CrowdStrike assertions. After investigating, they determined that CrowdStrike misinterpreted their data and hadn’t reached out beforehand for comment or clarification.

In a statement to VOA, the institute flatly rejected the assertion of artillery combat losses.

It seems that the whole "Ukrainian artillery hack" claims by Crowdstrike was simply made up. There was no "hack" and the claimed damage from the "hack" did not occur at all. Crowdstrike evidently found a "crime" and "Russian hacking" where none had happened.

Cont. reading: Fool Me Once ... DNC Ally Crowdstrike Claimed Two Cases Of "Russian Hacking" - One At Least Was Fake

Posted by b at 09:59 AM | Comments (87)

March 21, 2017

Airlines Want Protectionism - U.S. Bans Laptops, Tablets On Competition's Flights

February 2017: CEOs of Delta, United and American Hope Trump Will Block Arab Competition

The big three U.S. airlines maintain that Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways — airlines backed by governments of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates — are unfairly subsidized and that their expansion into the U.S. market represents unfair competition that should be blocked by regulators.

“The Gulf carriers have received over $50 billion in documented subsidies from their government owners since 2004,” the chief executives of the big three wrote in a recent letter to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson. “Mr. Secretary,” the letter continues, “we are confident that the Trump Administration shares our view on the importance of enforcing our Open Skies agreements, ensuring that U.S. airlines have a fair and equal opportunity to compete in the international market, and protecting American jobs.”

March 2017: US bans laptops, tablets on flights from Turkey and Arab world

Senior US officials told reporters that nine airlines from eight countries had been given 96 hours, beginning at 3:00 am (0700 GMT), to tell travelers to pack any device bigger than a smartphone in their checked luggage.

Laptops, tablets and portable game consoles are affected by the ban -- which only applies to direct flights to the United States from the blacklisted airports.

No US carriers are affected by the ban, but passengers on approximately 50 flights per day from some of the busiest hubs in Turkey and the Arab world will be obliged to follow the new emergency ruling.
...
The ban will hit flights operated by Royal Jordanian, EgyptAir, Turkish Airlines, Saudi Airlines, Kuwait Airways, Royal Air Maroc, Qatar Airways, Emirates and Etihad Airways.

The U.S. move is certainly not about security. What now hinders anyone to fly from Dubai to Paris and on to New York with a laptop and tablet in her carry on luggage? Why would that be more secure than a direct flight with Emirates Airline?  No. This is all about unwanted competition and an effort of the highly subsidized U.S. airlines to sell higher priced tickets with less service.

Flying from the Middle East to the U.S. one can now choose between a direct flight without any personal entertainment equipment, or take a flight with some additional stop on a (code-sharing) U.S. carrier. The second variant is of course more "secure".

A bit funny: The Brits immediately followed up with their own "security measures". But they banned different airports and airlines than the U.S. There are no new, additional "security measures" for flights to Britain from Kuwait, Qatar and Morocco. Instead Tunisia is on the British list. That of course does not make sense from a security standpoint. But it probably reflects the importance of certain investors for the City of London as well as the competitive situation of British Airways.

Posted by b at 02:17 PM | Comments (54)

March 20, 2017

The False Handshake Story Aims To Delegitimize Trump

I dislike Trump and his policies. I dislike Merkel and her policies. Both are my political enemies. But what I dislike even more are lying media which try to deceive for undeclared political aims.

A recent example:

The pieces linked above go on to speculate about personal animosities between Merkel and Trump and about diverging U.S. and European political directions.

While differences may exist between Trump and Merkel they have nothing to do with a handshake in an Oval Office photo op. Not mentioned in the above reports is that Merkel and Trump shook hands with each other several times and in cordial ways.

Here as Merkel arrives at the White House:


bigger

And here at the end of the press conference after their talks:


bigger

So why the headlines above?

Cont. reading: The False Handshake Story Aims To Delegitimize Trump

Posted by b at 11:12 AM | Comments (99)

March 19, 2017

Red Scare Redux: "Russian Weapons Stocked Right Up At NATO's Border!"

A Washington Post news piece on the current NATO budget spat remarks:

Russia, for its part, keeps tanks and missiles stocked right up against the NATO border.

Now, that's truly threatening of Russia and DANGEROUS!

How did that come to be?


bigger

UPDATE:

Found some of the stocked up weapons ...

Cont. reading: Red Scare Redux: "Russian Weapons Stocked Right Up At NATO's Border!"

Posted by b at 11:22 AM | Comments (80)

March 17, 2017

Which "War Torn" Country? - U.S. Slaughter In Somalia, Yemen And Syria


bigger - original tweet

When I saw the above tweet this morning I wondered which "war torn" country those Somalis were fleeing from when they were murdered. The tweet doesn't say. Were they fleeing from the "war torn" Somalia? Or were the fleeing from "war torn" Yemen?

It is a sad world when has to ponder such.

It tuned out these people were fleeing from both wars:

Coast guard Mohammad Al Alay told Reuters the refugees, carrying official UNHCR documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab Al Mandeb strait.

An Apache attack helicopter shot up the refugees' boat. There are Saudi, United Emirati and U.S. Apache helicopters in or around Yemen. It is unknown which of them ordered and which executed the strike. These helicopters, their ammunition and the service for them are a favored U.S. export to belligerent dictatorships like Saudi Arabia.

The UN warns that 5 million people in Yemen are only weeks away from starving. The Saudis, the U.S. and the Emirates block all land routes, air ports and the coast of Yemen and no food supplies come through. This is an ongoing huge war crime and literally a genocide. But "western" media seem totally unimpressed. Few, if any, reports on the war on Yemen get published. Never have they so openly displayed their hypocrisy.

Somalia is falling back into an all-out civil war fueled by the decades old unwillingness of the U.S. to condone an independent local unity government. The Islamic Court Union, a unity government created by the Somalis in 2006, was the last working instance of a real Somali state. It had no Jihadist agenda and held down local warlords. It was destroyed by the Bush administration:

A UN cable from June 2006, containing notes of a meeting with senior State Department and US military officials from the Horn of Africa task force, indicates that the United States was aware of the ICU’s diversity, but would “not allow” it to rule Somalia. The United States, according to the notes, intended to “rally with Ethiopia if the ‘Jihadist’ took over.” The cable concluded, “Any Ethiopian action in Somalia would have Washington’s blessing.” Some within the US intelligence community called for dialogue or reconciliation, but their voices were drowned out by hawks determined to overthrow the ICU.

During the last 10 years an on-and-off war is waged in Somalia with the U.S. military interfering whenever peace seems to gain ground. Currently a new round of war is building up. Weapons are streaming into Somalia from Yemen, where the Houthi plunder them from their Saudi invaders:

Jonah Leff, a weapons tracing expert with conflict Armament Research, said many [Somali] pirates had turned to smuggling. They take boatloads of people [from Somalia] to Yemen and return with weapons, he said.

The wars on Somalia and Yemen are the consequences of unscrupulous and incompetent(?) U.S. foreign policy. (Cutting down the size of the U.S. State Department, as the Trump administration now plans to do, is probably the best thing one can do for world peace.)

The U.S. military should be cut down too. It is equally unscrupulous and incompetent.

Last night the U.S. military hit a mosque in Al-Jīnah in Aleppo governate in Syria. It first claimed that the strike, allegedly targeting a large meeting of al-Qaeda, was in Idleb governate. But it turned out to be miles away west of Aleppo. Locals said a mosque was hit, the roof crashed in and more than 40 people were killed during the regular prayer service. More than 120 were injured. The U.S. military said it did not hit the local mosque but a building on the other side of the small plaza.

The U.S. maps and intelligence were not up-to-date. A new, bigger mosque had been build some years ago opposite of the old mosque. The old mosque was indeed not hit. The new one was destroyed while some 200 people were in attendance. Eight hellfire missiles launched from two Reaper drones were fired at it and a 500lb bomb was then dropped on top to make sure that no one escaped alive. Al-Qaeda fighters were indeed "meeting" at that place - five times a day and together with the locals they have pressed by force to attend the Quran proscribed prayers.

Had the Russian or Syrian army committed the strike the "western" outcry would have been great. For days the media would have provide gruesome photos and stories. The U.S. ambassador at the UN would have spewed fire and brimstone. But this intelligence screw-up happened on the U.S. side. There will now be some mealymouthed explanations and an official military investigation that will find no fault and will have no consequences.

Amid this sorry incident it was amusing to see the propaganda entities the U.S. had created to blame the Syrian government turning against itself. The MI6 operated SOHR was the first to come out with a high death count. The al-Qaeda aligned, U.S./UK financed "White Helmets" rescuers made a quick photo session pretending to dig out the dead. The sectarian al-Qaeda video propagandist Bilal Abdul Kareem, which the New York Times recently portrait in a positive light, provided damning video and accusing comments. The amateur NATO researchers at Bellingcat published what they had gleaned from maps, photos and videos other people created. The NATO think tank, which defended al-Qaeda's invasion of Idleb, will shed crocodile tears.

Each new lie and obfuscation the U.S. Central Command in the Middle East put out throughout the day was immediately debunked by the horde of U.S. financed al-Qaeda propaganda supporters. This blowback from the "information operation" against Syria will likely have consequences for future U.S. operations.

In another operation last night the Israeli air force attacked Syrian forces near Palmyra which were operating against ISIS. The Israeli fighters were chased away when the Syrians fired air defense missiles. This was an Israeli attempt to stretch the "rules of operation" it had negotiated with the Russian military in Syria. The Russians, which control the Syrian air space, had allowed Israel to hit Hizbullah weapon transports on their way to Lebanon. Attacks on any force operating against Jihadis in Syria are taboo. The Russian government summoned the Israeli ambassador. Netanyahoo broke the rules. He will now have to bear the consequences.

Posted by b at 03:42 PM | Comments (134)

March 15, 2017

Third Time's The Charm - These Neocons Want Another Sunni Insurgency (Updated)

UPDATED below:

When the U.S. was confronted with an insurgency in Iraq it did not find fault with own behavior but identified Syria and Iran as the culprits. It decided to attack them too. As Seymour Hersh reported in 2007:

To undermine Iran, which is predominantly Shiite, the Bush Administration has decided, in effect, to reconfigure its priorities in the Middle East. In Lebanon, the Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Four years later the U.S. used the Sunni militants it created to first attack Libya and then Syria. With U.S. support the militants destroyed the independent Libyan state under Ghaddafi. The country is now in total chaos. In Syria the militants, with clandestine support from the U.S. and its allies, waged a six year long war to overthrow the government. Many of them joined the Islamic State and al-Qaeda, the Takfiri offsprings of the U.S. program and Saudi money that went (somewhat) rogue. These groups did not limit, as the U.S. wished, their attacks to U.S. enemies but committed several larger scale attacks against U.S. allied countries. Now the groups themselves are enemies.

The project of creating a controllable "Sunni Arab force" to destroy Syria had failed. The Pentagon made another attempts, spending tens of millions of dollars, to train a new Sunni Arab force in Syria to attack the Syrian government as well as the Takfiris. As soon as these new groups entered into Syria they joined the Takfiris and handed over the weapons the U.S. army had given them.

The U.S. is now engaging with Russia and local Kurdish forces in Syria to destroy the Takfiri groups on the ground. The Kurds are of various religions and denominations with a mostly secular outlook. That plan made some progress though an actual attack on Raqqa, the current center of the Islamic State, is still weeks off. The Syrian government is winning its part of the fight in the west of the country.

But that is not enough for the U.S. neoconservatives. Their task is to further Zionist plans by creating more chaos in the Middle East. Their partner and money source is the Sunni-Wahhabi Saudi Arabia. Having successfully arranged the destruction of Iraq, various failed "surges" as well as the attack on Syria, they cannot condone that the Syrian government survives the war.

Thus they set out to create a new (the third now) Sunni-Arab force to continue what their original war plan prescribed.

Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, luminaries of the neoconservative family, initiate their new campaign on the neoconned opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal: A New Strategy Against ISIS and al Qaeda - The U.S. has been relying too heavily on Shiites and Kurds. It needs to cultivate Sunni Arab partners.

The Kagan family - other well known members are Robert Kagan and Victoria Nuland - were also main instigators of the war on Iraq. Here they are in 2008 strolling (heavily guarded) through the occupied Basra, Iraq amusing themselves off the destruction they created.

Cont. reading: Third Time's The Charm - These Neocons Want Another Sunni Insurgency (Updated)

Posted by b at 03:43 PM | Comments (110)

March 14, 2017

The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)

UPDATED below
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A while ago Matt Tabbi in Rolling Stone warned: Why the Russia Story Is a Minefield for Democrats and the Media:

If we engage in Times-style gilding of every lily the leakers throw our way, and in doing so build up a fever of expectations for a bombshell reveal, but there turns out to be no conspiracy – Trump will be pre-inoculated against all criticism for the foreseeable future.

Sanity is finally winning over. After raising all kinds of shambolic rumors about "Russian interference" the "western" intelligence agencies are walking back their previous outrageous claims:

  • Former DNI James Clapper admits (vid) that he has zero evidence for any Trump-Russia collusion;
  • The British Foreign Secretary now says there is "no evidence" of any Russian interference with British democracy;
  • The German secret services have no proof (in German) for any Russian disinformation campaign.

There is no evidence for any Russian interference in the U.S., or any other, election. No evidence has been show, despite many claims, that Russia or its proxies hacked John Podesta's emails or the DNC or collaborated with Wikileaks.

Even the Democrats now concede that the whole mountain of bullshit their anti-Trump and anti-Russian campaign created stinks to high heaven:

[S]ome Democrats on the Intelligence Committee now quietly admit, after several briefings and preliminary inquiries, they don’t expect to find evidence of active, informed collusion between the Trump campaign and known Russian intelligence operatives, though investigators have only just begun reviewing raw intelligence. Among the Intelligence Committee’s rank and file, there’s a tangible frustration over what one official called “wildly inflated” expectations surrounding the panel’s fledgling investigation.

Ardent Russia critics like Masha Geesen and former ambassador Michael McFaul now warn of irreparable damage the irrational anti-Russian campaign may cause. A New York Times opinion piece points out that the reignited anti-Russian attitude goes back to the 19th century and was as wrong then as it is now. Claims that meetings between the incoming Trump administration and the Russian ambassador were nefarious are hard to hold up when members of the Clinton campaign also met him. Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn was accused of colluding with Russia when in fact he was paid by Turkey to lobby for Erdogan.

The disinformation campaign against Russia is falling apart for lack of any evidence. The media who ardently supported it have lost trust. As they obviously lied about Russia how much truth are they telling on other issue?

Tabbi's warning was late. The damage is done. "Western" relations with Russia have been hurt. But also hurt are the reputations of the media and of the Democratic party. Trump though has been justified with his rejection of that campaign. He now is, as Tabbi predicted, "pre-inoculated" against other accusations - at least with his followers and those sitting on the fence. Trump has now the space to develop his original grand strategic idea of seeking amiable relations with Russia before getting embroiled in any other international dispute. Those relations are now developing on the ground in Syria where cooperation between Russian and U.S. troops intensifies:

Moscow, Pentagon spokesman Jeff Davis added, has "kept us abreast of their operations" in Manbij, ..

Signs are that there is way more of that then the Pentagon admits. There have been several meetings at the highest levels of Russian and U.S. military and whoever commands U.S. forces in Syria will surely have a direct line to the Russian ground commander to coordinate their moves.

The Democrats failed in their anti-Trump, anti-Russia campaign.

UPDATE:

The belligerent dude Hillary Clinton's wanted as CIA boss now admits that the British Steele dossier is total bullshit. (We said so months ago.)

Clinton Ally Says Smoke, But No Fire: No Russia-Trump Collusion

Cont. reading: The Democrats Anti-Russia Campaign Falls Apart (Updated)

Posted by b at 12:02 PM | Comments (127)

March 13, 2017

Open Thread 2017-11

News & views ...

Posted by b at 03:49 PM | Comments (125)

March 12, 2017

When Nothing "Left" Is Left The People Will Vote Far Right

Some of the people around the U.S. Democrats finally start to get the message of the 2016 election. An editor at Salon writes a slightly satirical critic of the Democratic Party under the headline: How the DudeBros ruined everything: A totally clear-headed guide to political reality . The core sentence:

When “the left” endlessly debates which core issues or constituencies must be sacrificed for political gain, as if economic justice for the poor and the working class could be separated from social justice for women and people of color and the LGBT community and immigrants and people with disabilities, it is no longer functioning as the left.

When LGBT claptrap, gluten free food, political correctness and other such niceties beat out programs to serve the basic needs of the common people nothing "left" is left. The priority on the left must always be the well-being of the working people. All the other nice-to-have issues follow from and after that.

Many nominally social-democratic parties in Europe are on the same downward trajectory as the Democrats in the U.S. for the very same reason. Their real policies are center right. Their marketing policies hiding the real ones are to care for this or that minority interest or problem the majority of the people has no reason to care about. Real wages sink but they continue to import cheep labor (real policy) under the disguise of helping "refugees" (marketing policy) which are simply economic migrants. (Even parts of the German "Die Linke" party are infected with such nonsense.)

The people with real economic problems, those who have reason to fear the future, have no one in the traditional political spectrum that even pretends to care about them. Those are the voters now streaming to the far right. (They will again get screwed. The far right has an economic agenda that is totally hostile to them. But it at least promises to do something about their fears.) Where else should they go?

The U.S. Democrats are currently applauding the former United States attorney in Manhattan, Preet Bharara. The position is a political appointed one. Whoever is appointed serves "at the pleasure of the President". It is completely normal that people in such positions get replaced when the presidency changes from one party to the other. The justice department asked Bharara to "voluntary resign". He rejected that, he was fired.

Oh what a brave man! Applause!

The dude served as United States attorney during the mortgage scams and financial crash. Wall Street was part of his beat. How many of the involved banksters did he prosecute? Well, exactly zero. What a hero! How many votes did the Democrats lose because they did not go after the criminals ruling Wall Street?

Bharara is one reason the Democrats lost the election. Oh yes, he is part of a minority and that makes him a favorite with the pseudo left Democrats. But he did nothing while millions got robbed. How can one expect to get votes when one compliments such persons?

But the top reader comments to the New York Times report on the issue are full of voices who laud Bharara for his meaning- and useless "resistance" to Trump.

Those are the "voices of the people" the political functionaries of the Democratic Party want to read and hear. Likely the only ones. But those are the voices of people (if real at all and not marketing sock-puppets) who are themselves a tiny, well pampered minority. Not the people one needs to win elections.

Unless they change their political program (not just its marketing) and unless they go back to consistently argue for the people in the lower third of the economic scale the Democrats in the U.S. and the Social-Democrats in Europe will continue to lose voters. The far right will, for lack of political alternative, be the party that picks up their votes.

Posted by b at 03:49 PM | Comments (108)

March 10, 2017

Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib

During the last week significant moves in Syria have taken place east of Aleppo. But the situation there will likely soon calm down. The next intense phase of the war may well be a Syrian army attack on al-Qaeda's position in Idlib governate in the north-west of the country.

One objective of the Syrian Arab Army move east of Aleppo city was to block the invading Turkish forces from reaching further south. This had been achieved as of last week. The main objective though was to reach the pumping stations at the Euphrates which supply Aleppo city with drinking water. This aim was achieved yesterday. The SAA managed to evict the Islamic State from the shut-down station before it could blow it up. The generators and pumps were booby trapped but seem otherwise operational. After 40 days of strictly rationed water Aleppo city and its nearly 2 million people will soon be back on a normal water supply.


map by Peto Lucem bigger

I expect that the SAA contingent in east-Aleppo will now move further south and then east along the Euphrates towards Raqqa. This move though will no longer have a high priority. There is no longer an urgent need to continue in the area. Should the Islamic State stop its retreat in the area and show significant resistance the SAA is likely to stop and only hold its line.

The Turkish government still insists on taking Manbij currently held by the Kurdish YPK (under the label "Syrian Democratic Forces" (SDF)) which is now a U.S. proxy force under U.S. military command. Russia moved to insert Syrian army forces between the Turkish forces west of Manbij and the city. Thereby a buffer has been created between the Turkish (proxy) forces of "moderate rebels" and U.S. proxy forces of the Kurdish SDF. A few Russian special forces entered the area. As no SAA soldiers were readily available some local Arabs and Kurds were asked to put up a Syrian flag and to call themselves "Syrian border guard". They happily agreed to do so.

Cont. reading: Syria - Preparing For The Big Move On Idlib

Posted by b at 02:33 PM | Comments (153)

Open Thread 2017-10

News & views ...

Posted by b at 04:56 AM | Comments (100)

March 09, 2017

Snake-Oil Alert - Encryption Does Not Prevent Mass-Snooping

The WikiLeaks stash of CIA hacking documents shows tools used by the CIA to hack individual cell-phones and devices. There are no documents yet that suggest mass snooping efforts on a very large scale. Unlike the NSA which has a "collect it all" attitude towards internet traffic and content the CIA seems to be more interested in individual hacking.

This suggests that the CIA can not decipher the modern encrypted communication it adversaries use. It  therefore has to attack their individual devices.

But it does not mean that the CIA can not engage in mass snooping.

The New York Times description is wrong:

Some technical experts pointed out that while the documents suggest that the C.I.A. might be able to compromise individual smartphones, there was no evidence that the agency could break the encryption that many phone and messaging apps use.

If the C.I.A. or the National Security Agency could routinely break the encryption used on such apps as Signal, Confide, Telegram and WhatsApp, then the government might be able to intercept such communications on a large scale and search for names or keywords of interest. But nothing in the leaked C.I.A. documents suggests that is possible.

Instead, the documents indicate that because of encryption, the agency must target an individual phone and then can intercept only the calls and messages that pass through that phone. Instead of casting a net for a big catch, in other words, C.I.A. spies essentially cast a single fishing line at a specific target, and do not try to troll an entire population.

“The difference between wholesale surveillance and targeted surveillance is huge,” said Dan Guido, a director at Hack/Secure, a cybersecurity investment firm. “Instead of sifting through a sea of information, they’re forced to look at devices one at a time.”

Snake-oil alert: Right diagnosis, wrong conclusion and therapy.

If the CIA breaks into an individual Samsung Galaxy 7 it can record what is typed on the screen, and whatever gets transferred via the microphone, camera and loudspeaker. No encryption can protect against that. But why should the CIA break into only one Galaxy 7?

It is wrong to conclude that the CIA can therefore not "intercept such communications on a large scale". It can. Easily.

If you can break into one individual Samsung Galaxy 7 you can break into all of them. This can be automated.

Cont. reading: Snake-Oil Alert - Encryption Does Not Prevent Mass-Snooping

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (80)

March 07, 2017

CIA Leak: "Russian Election Hackers" May Work In Langley

Attribution of cyber-intrusions and attacks is nearly impossible. A well executed attack can not be traced back to its culprit. If there are some trails that seem attributable one should be very cautions following them. They are likely faked.

Hundreds if not thousands of reports show that this lesson has not been learned. Any attack is attributed to one of a handful of declared "enemies" without any evidence that would prove their actual involvement. Examples:

In June 2016 we warned The Next "Russian Government Cyber Attack" May Be A Gulf of Tonkin Fake:

All one might see in a [cyber-]breach, if anything, is some pattern of action that may seem typical for one adversary. But anyone else can imitate such a pattern as soon as it is known. That is why there is NEVER a clear attribution in such cases. Anyone claiming otherwise is lying or has no idea what s/he is speaking of.

There is now public proof that this lecture in basic IT forensic is correct.

Wikileaks acquired and published a large stash of documents from the CIA's internal hacking organization. Part of the CIA hacking organization is a subgroup named UMBRAGE:

The CIA's Remote Devices Branch's UMBRAGE group collects and maintains a substantial library of attack techniques 'stolen' from malware produced in other states including the Russian Federation.

With UMBRAGE and related projects the CIA cannot only increase its total number of attack types but also misdirect attribution by leaving behind the "fingerprints" of the groups that the attack techniques were stolen from.

UMBRAGE components cover keyloggers, password collection, webcam capture, data destruction, persistence, privilege escalation, stealth, anti-virus (PSP) avoidance and survey techniques.

Hacking methods are seldom newly developed. They are taken from public examples and malware, from attacks some other organization once committed, they get bought and sold by commercial entities. Many attacks use a recombined mix of tools from older hacks. Once the NSA's STUXNET attack on Iran became public the tools used in it were copied and modified by other such services as well as by commercial hackers. Any new breach that may look like STUXNET could be done by anyone with the appropriate knowledge. To assert that the NSA must have done the new attack just because the NSA did STUXNET would be stupid.

The CIA, as well as other services, have whole databases of such 'stolen' tools. They may combine them in a way that looks attributable to China, compile the source code at local office time in Beijing or "forget to remove" the name of some famous Chinese emperor in the code. The CIA could use this to fake a "Chinese hacking attack" on South Korea to raise fear of China and to, in the end, sell more U.S. weapons.

Russia did not hack and leak the DNC emails, Iran did not hack American casinos and North Korea did not hack Sony.

As we wrote: "there is NEVER a clear attribution". Don't fall for it when someone tries to sell one.

(PS: There is a lot more in the new Wikileaks CIA stash. It seems indeed bigger than the few items published from the Snowden NSA leak.)

Posted by b at 12:46 PM | Comments (144)

NYT Blames Trump For Reading Its Reports

NYT March 6 - Trump’s Wiretapping Claims Puncture Veneer of Presidential Civility

[W]hen Mark Levin ... contended that Mr. Obama had targeted Mr. Trump for surveillance ... it struck a chord. Along with reports that in Mr. Obama’s last days in office his administration changed the rules on distributing intelligence and made a point of spreading information about Mr. Trump’s team and Russia to different parts of the government to “preserve” it, the wiretapping allegation pushed Mr. Trump over the top.

NYT March 5 - When One President Smears Another

In four tweets ... Mr. Trump declared as fact a theory he apparently encountered on alt-right websites: “How low has President Obama gone to tapp [sic] my phones during the very sacred election process. This is Nixon/Watergate. Bad (or sick) guy!”

The above assertions by the New York Times raise the question where Mr. Levine got his information from. A reader might also ask who published those ominous "reports" and on which "alt-right website" one might encounter such theories?

The New York Times does not know where all this came from? That is a bit astonishing. Let me help:

  • On targeting Trump and his campaign for surveillance:

NYT - January 19 Intercepted Russian Communications Part of Inquiry Into Trump Associates

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies are examining intercepted communications and financial transactions as part of a broad investigation into possible links between Russian officials and associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump, including his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, current and former senior American officials said.
...
It is not clear whether the intercepted communications had anything to do with Mr. Trump’s campaign, or Mr. Trump himself.

NYT - February 14 - Trump Campaign Aides Had Repeated Contacts With Russian Intelligence

Phone records and intercepted calls show that members of Donald J. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and other Trump associates had repeated contacts with senior Russian intelligence officials in the year before the election, according to four current and former American officials.

American law enforcement and intelligence agencies intercepted the communications ...

  • Those "reports" that Obama spread the information on Trump and his associates?

NYT January 12 - N.S.A. Gets More Latitude to Share Intercepted Communications

In its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

NYT March 1 - Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking

In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information ... about possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government ... to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.
  • The "alt-right website" that peddled all this?

By now you will have guessed it. It is the New York Times itself that reported (and slandered) the news about the Obama administration's surveillance of Trump and those associated with him.

The NYT and its editors now blames Trump for repeating, in a condensed tweet, the open and hidden assertions made in various reports by the New York Times itself.

There is zero evidence of any Russian involvement or hacking of the U.S. election. There is zero evidence of any collusion of Trump and those around him with Russia. There is zero evidence that any of the lunatic claims made in that Steele dossier, ordered up and financed by Trump's political enemies, are true.

Even if Trump's personal phone and email were not under direct wiretap, people near to Trump definitely were under communication surveillance. Inevitably such surveillance will have caught communication with and of the would be next president, Donald Trump. The Obama administration made sure that such taped communication would be widely distributed in raw form, guaranteeing future out-of-context leaks.

The Times knows all this and reported it - though often hidden in plain sight with misleading headlines and context.

Blaming Trump and others for repeating such reports is lame hypocrisy.

Posted by b at 09:49 AM | Comments (66)

March 04, 2017

Open Thread 2017-09

News & views ...

(I am on an extended family weekend which includes some ceremonies and festivities. Therefore: light posting)

You may want to discuss if "Obama wiretapped Trump". Not mentioned at the link is the Obama abuse of classification discussed earlier here.

My guess on the wiretapping:

  • The Obama administration did this at least before the election.
  • The "official target" was not Trump but someone else.
  • Nothing usable was found on Trump.

 

Posted by b at 10:33 AM | Comments (374)

March 02, 2017

Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies

In its last months the Obama administration ordered the intelligence agencies to collect and distribute information of contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia. This to prevent any change by the Trump administration of the hostile policy towards Russia that the Obama administration instituted. The intent was also to give the intelligence services blackmail material against the Trump crew to prevent any changes in their undue, freewheeling independence.

The above is reported in a little discussed New York Times piece published yesterday. The reporting angle captured in the headline is biased to set the Obama efforts into a positive light: Obama Administration Rushed to Preserve Intelligence of Russian Election Hacking.

Make no mistake by straight-reading that headline. Not single shred of evidence has been provided that "Russia hacked the election" or had anything to do with various leaks of Clinton related emails. A lot of fluff and chaff was thrown around but not even one tiny bit of evidence.

The Obama effort was clearly to sabotage the announced policy of the incoming administration of seeking better relations with Russia. Obama intended to undermine the will of the voters by abusing instruments of the state.

Excerpts from the piece:

In the Obama administration’s last days, some White House officials scrambled to spread information about  ... possible contacts between associates of President-elect Donald J. Trump and Russians — across the government. Former American officials say they had two aims: to ensure that such meddling isn’t duplicated in future American or European elections, and to leave a clear trail of intelligence for government investigators.

It is completely normal for any campaign, and especially an incoming administration, to have contacts with foreign government officials.

Cont. reading: Obama Ordered Abuse Of Intelligence To Sabotage Trump Policies

Posted by b at 02:54 PM | Comments (100)

March 01, 2017

Syria - Erdogan's Lost Bet - Trump Likely To Follow A Cautious Strategy

The last Syria thread noted:

South of Al-Bab the Syrian army is moving towards the Euphrates. It will cut off the Turkish forces path to Raqqa and Manbij.

That move concluded. The Turkish invasion forces are now blocked from moving further south. They would have to fight the Syrian army and their Russian allies to move directly onto Raqqa. They would have to fight the Syrian-Kurdish YPG and its U.S. allies to move further east.

For the first time since the start of the war the supply lines between Turkey and the Islamic State are cut off!


map by Peto Lucem bigger

 

Cont. reading: Syria - Erdogan's Lost Bet - Trump Likely To Follow A Cautious Strategy

Posted by b at 11:42 AM | Comments (106)

February 27, 2017

Al-Qaeda Gets An Oscar

Hollywood is all about fake. That is what movies are - fake depictions of a fake reality that only exist in the mind of scriptwriters, directors and a usually gullible audience. (Disclosure: I do like some movies.)

Hollywood has never been shy of plagiarizing. Every idea, tale of cinematographic trick that made a splash somewhere - and is thereby a potential money generator - will get copied again and again. Every successful make gets a remake. And another one.

In 2015 the promoting host of the Miss Universe franchise "misread" the name of the winner. He announced "Columbia" when the chosen winner was "Philippines". After he few minutes he "corrected" himself. That "mistake" brought a lot of additional media attention - and financial value - to the event owner.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the U.S. marketing and lobby organization of the movie makers, hands out some yearly rewards arranged to promote specific movies or persons in the movie business. The academy award ceremony is a rather boring event but it gets a lot of hype and media attention (and thereby generates lots of advertisement revenue).

To further increase its value this years event plagiarized the idea of the Miss Universe promoters. One of the hosts announced the wrong winning movie for some category and then reversed himself to announce a different "real" winner. It was a "mistake" just as surely as Hollywood's latest movie was a description of real life.

Those without memory went into the desired frenzy, the insiders yawned. "Oh, that clumsy fake again."

One of this years prices went to a fake "documentary" about a fake "rescuer" group which makes and distributes fake videos, staged photos and fake victims of the war on Syria. These al-Qaeda propaganda sidekicks, the White Helmets, are a British disinformation operation that is financed by more than $100 million of U.S. and UK taxpayer money. Its general task is to convince the "western" public that the war on Syria is justified because of the "cruelty of the Syrian government" which the fakes intend to establish in the mind of its consumers.

Hollywood never was shy of taking government money to promote war on this or that country or "enemy". The Pentagon's liaison office in Hollywood finances many movies. If there are some tanks needed and military heroes in a script the Pentagon will organize the props, real tanks and soldiers, at no cost - provided of course that it can read and "correct" the script the way it sees fit. The makers of "Top Gun" need planes, air craft carriers and lots of explosions? No problem at all and at no costs to the producers. In exchange military recruitment staff will wait to trap moviegoers when they leave the theaters. Congress will happily pass the money for more useless planes.

An Academy Award reinforces the message a production carries and gives the people behind the message additional value. The marketing companies that create and run the "White Helmets" will surely receive a few extra millions for yesterday's Oscar promotion.

Hollywood is all fake. The wrong winner is announced and al-Qaeda gets an Oscar. "No harm done," the promoters of such fakes might say.

Except to the people of Syria. For them the destruction and death promoted by the fancy people in Los Angeles is all too real.

Posted by b at 10:49 AM | Comments (110)

February 26, 2017

Open Thread 2017-08

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (112)

February 25, 2017

Librulism Run Amok - "My 7-Year-Old Is Transgender"

A society concerned about the welfare of its children would protect this boy from his mother's abuse.  But here she is rewarded with Washington Post op-ed space to promote her politics to the detriment of her child.

My 7-year-old daughter Henry is transgender. She’d change Trump’s mind.

The first time we knew that Henry was different, she was 2. When she found her cousin’s Barbie doll, she lit up like a Christmas tree. “The hair, Mama,” she cooed. “Look at her looong hair!” Henry continued to show us, in every way she could, that she wanted to live as a girl.

Henry is a boy. His mother is as crazy as this dude.

I have raised children. Two, three or seven year old kids have no real concept of gender. They can and do change their roles all the time. Henry is a boy, born a boy with all the biological accessories. A boy who likes to play with dolls is perfectly normal and does not express or constitutes anything special.

Every boy I watched growing up tried and mimicked at times a girls role - put on skirts, put on lipstick etc. (I also inherited pictures showing me as a child doing such.)  Likewise girls also change their role into male ones, taking up typical male role behavior, "I am the father now." That is the "play age".

Later, in the early pubertal development, comes a phase where sexual enthusiasm to persons of ones own gender is prevalent. A boy's first "best friend forever" is usually a boy. The girl's "best friend forever" is usually a girl. It does in no way mean that these kids are homosexual. After that phase comes the real sexual orientation and with it the development of a real gender identity. Only when that process is finished can a judgement be made whether the psychological gender identity really differs from the biological one. Only then can real transsexuality, which is a rare phenomenon, be diagnosed.

Is there any peer review research that comes up with a different conclusion?

Real transsexuals can find help with a medical gender change. The country with the most liberal attitude towards such is (the usually demonized) Iran.

I find the current propaganda campaign in "librul" U.S. media for the "rights" of "transsexual children" deeply disturbing. It puts policy above the welfare of children. Equally disturbing is the role of parents in creating such "transsexuals".

The mother writing the WaPo op-ed is doing her child no favor in projecting her preferences on him. She reminds me of those crazy parents who sent their 7 year old child to blow herself up in a police station in Damascus. That girl did not believe that she was a boy. But she believed, like her parents, that she would immediately go to heaven after killing Syrian policemen by blowing herself up in a police station. Her father had told her so.

What is the difference between that father and the mother that tells her five year old boy to use a public girls bathroom because she think he feels like one?

Posted by b at 08:29 AM | Comments (190)

February 23, 2017

Syria - A Confused Trump Strategy Lets Erdogan U-Turn Again

There are two new developments on the Syrian front. The Islamic State suddenly changed its tactic and the Turkish President Erdogan again changed his policy course.

In the last 24 hours news announcements about victories against the Islamic state (ISIS) rapidly followed each other:

  • The Kurdish U.S. proxy forces in east Syria (SDF) announced that it had reached the northern bank of the Euphrates between Raqqa and Deir Ezzor. This cuts the ISIS communication line between the two cities.
  • Turkish forces and their "Syrian rebel" mercenaries have been attacking Al-Bab east of Aleppo for nearly four month. They made little progress and incurred huge losses. Late yesterday they suddenly broke into the city and today took control of it. Various sources claim that a deal was made between the Turkish forces and ISIS for the later to evacuate Al-Bab unharmed and with its personal weapons. It is not yet known what price Turkey paid in that deal.
  • South of Al-Bab the Syrian Army is moving further east towards the Euphrates and took several villages from ISIS. The Syrian move is largely designed to cut the roads between the Turkish forces around Al-Bab and the Islamic State forces in Raqqa. (This now might become a race.)
  • Further south another Syrian Army group is moving east towards Palmyra.
  • In the eastern city of Deir Ezzor the Syrian army garrison is under siege by Islamic State forces. A few weeks ago the situation there looked very dire. But with reinforcements coming in by helicopter and massive Russian air force interdiction the position held out quite well. In recent days the defenders took several hills from a retreating ISIS.
  • In Iraq the army, police and the various government militia are pushing towards south Mosul. Today the airport south of the city fell into their hands with little fighting. Like everywhere else ISIS had stopped its resistance and pulled back. Only a few rearguards offered tepid resistance.

While ISIS was under pressure everywhere the sudden retreat on all fronts during the last 24 hours is astonishing and suggest some synchronicity. A central order must have been given to pull back to the buildup areas of Raqqa in Syria and south Mosul in Iraq.

But ISIS has nowhere to go from those areas. Mosul is completely surrounded and Raqqa is mostly cut off. After the massacres they committed everywhere ISIS fighters can not expect any mercy. They have made enemies everywhere and aside from a few (Saudi) radical clerics no friends are left to help them. The recent retreats are thereby likely not signs of surrender. ISIS will continue to fight until it is completely destroyed. But for now the ISIS leaders decided to preserve their forces. One wonders what they plan to stage as their last glorious show. A mass atrocity against the civilians in the cities it occupies?

When in late 2016 the defeat of the "Syrian rebels" proxy forces in east-Aleppo city was foreseeable the Turkish President Erdogan switched from supporting the radicals in north-west Syria to a more lenient stand towards Syria and its allies Russia and Iran. The move followed month of on and off prodding from Russia and after several attempts by Erdogan to get more U.S. support had failed. In late December peace talks started between Syria, Russia, Turkey and Iran with the U.S. and the EU excluded.

But after the Trump administration took over the Turkish position changed again. Erdogan is now back to betting on a stronger U.S. intervention in Syria that would favor his original plans of installing in Syria an Islamic government under Turkish control:

Cont. reading: Syria - A Confused Trump Strategy Lets Erdogan U-Turn Again

Posted by b at 10:42 AM | Comments (125)

February 22, 2017

The War Hawks Rolled Donald Trump

President Trump's first National Security Advisor Mike Flynn got kicked out of office for talking with Russian officials. Such talks were completely inline with Trump's declared policies of détente with Russia. (I agree that Flynn should have never gotten the NSA job. But the reasons for that have nothing to do with his Russian connections.)

Allegedly Flynn did not fully inform Vice-President Pence about his talk with the Russian ambassador. But that can not be a serious reason. The talks were rather informal, they were not transcribed. The first call is said to have reached Flynn on vacation in the Dominican Republic. Why would a Vice-President need to know each and every word of it?

With Flynn out, the war-on-Russia hawks, that is about everyone of the "serious people" in Washington DC, had the second most important person out of the way that would probably hinder their plans.

They replaced him with a militaristic anti-Russian hawk:

In a 2016 speech to the Virginia Military Institute, McMaster stressed the need for the US to have "strategic vision" in its fight against "hostile revisionist powers" — such as Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran — that "annex territory, intimidate our allies, develop nuclear weapons, and use proxies under the cover of modernized conventional militaries."

General McMaster, the new National Security Advisor, gets sold as a somewhat rebellious, scholar-warrior wunderkind. When the now disgraced former General Petraeus came into sight he was sold with the same marketing profile.

Petraeus was McMaster's boss. McMaster is partially his creature:

He was passed over for brigadier general twice, until then-Gen. David Petraeus personally flew back to Washington, D.C., from Iraq to chair the Army’s promotion board in 2008.

When Petraeus took over in the war on Afghanistan he selected McMaster as his staff leader for strategy,

McMaster was peddled to the White House by Senator Tom Cotton, one of the most outlandish Republican neocon war hawks.

McMaster's best known book is "Dereliction of Duty" about the way the U.S. involved itself into the Vietnam War. McMaster criticizes the Generals of that time for not having resisted then President Johnson's policies.

He is the main author of an Army study on how to militarily counter Russia. McMaster is likely to "resist" when President Trump orders him to pursue better relations with Moscow.

Trump has now been boxed in by hawkish, anti-Russian military in his cabinet and by a hawkish Vice-President. The only ally he still may have in the White House is his consigliere Steve Bannon. The next onslaught of the "serious people" is against Bennon and especially against his role in the NSC. It will only recede when he is fired.

It seems to me that Trump has been rolled with the attacks on Flynn and the insertion of McMaster into his inner circle. I wonder if he, and Bannon, recognize the same problematic development and have a strategy against it.

Posted by b at 12:19 AM | Comments (166)

February 20, 2017

The "Blind Sheik" And The CIA - Media Again Bury U.S. Support For Radical Islamism

Two days ago the Takfiri Islamist leader Omar Abdul-Rahman , the so called "Blind Sheik", died in a U.S. prison. He had been found guilty of involvement in the 1993 attempt to bring down the World Trade Center in New York and of other crimes.

The obituaries of Omar Abdul-Rahman in U.S. media are an example of white washing of the U.S. exploitation of radical Islamism for its imperial purposes. While extensively documented in earlier media and official reports the CIA's facilitation and involvement with Abdul-Rahman is seemingly stricken from history.

Since the 1970s Omar Abdul-Rahman was involved in the growth of radical Sunni Islamism:

Founded in 1976, Faisal Islamic Bank of Egypt (FIBE) is part of the banking empire built by Saudi Prince Mohammed al-Faisal. Several of the founding members are leading members of the Muslim Brotherhood, including the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.

Financed by Saudi sources Abdul-Rahman created various groups of radicals in Egypt and gets deeply involved with Al-Qaeda, recruiting fighters for Afghanistan in cooperation with the CIA and the Pakistani secret services. He was the ideological leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, an Islamic radical organization in Egypt responsible for several terrorist attacks. He traveled to the U.S. several timed between 1986 and 1990 to further his violent ideology. His visas were issued by CIA agents despite his appearance on a State Department terrorism watch list. In 1990 he moves to the U.S. where he preached his violent Islam and continued to recruit fighters for radical causes.

In December 1990 the New York Times reported:

The 52-year-old religious leader, Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, entered the country more than five months ago despite being on a State Department list of people with ties to terrorist groups, the authorities said. He illegally obtained a tourist visa from a consul in the United States Embassy in Khartoum, the Sudan, in May, according to records of the Federal Immigration and Naturalization Service and State Department officials.

In July 1993 the NYT reported that "illegally obtained tourist visa" was not illegal at all:

Central Intelligence Agency officers reviewed all seven applications made by Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman to enter the United States between 1986 and 1990 and only once turned him down because of his connections to terrorism, Government officials said today.
...
Mr. Abdel Rahman helped to recruit Arab Muslims to fight in the American-backed war in Afghanistan, and his lawyer and Egyptian officials have said he was helped by the C.I.A. to enter the United States.
...
American officials had acknowledged last week that the diplomat at the United States Embassy in Khartoum who signed the May 1990 visa request that allowed Mr. Abdel Rahman to enter the United States was in fact a C.I.A. officer.

Several attempts to remove Abdel-Rahman from the U.S. mysteriously failed. In 1991 he was inexplicably granted a Green Card despite still being blacklisted.

His involvement in the 1993 WTC bombing was a typical "blowback" from the CIA's chronic support of radical takfiri Islamism, supported by Saudi Arabia, whenever it helps its "regime change" plans here or there. Over the last years such CIA support led to the growth of Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.

After the recent death of Omar Abdul-Rahman several obituaries appeared in U.S. media. But none of them mention or dig into his deep and long CIA connections and the continuing CIA support for radical Islamism.

There is zero mentioning of the CIA and the visa shenanigans in his NYT obit, despite its earlier reporting. Neither the Associated Press nor AFP mention any connection to the CIA. The British service Reuters buries the visa story in one sentence in the 12th paragraph.

That the deep involvement over the years of the CIA (and FBI) in the crimes Omar Abdul-Rahman is now swept under the carpet and forgotten is not just coincidentally. It is a distinct feature of U.S. political culture.

The British poet Harold Pinter referred to this in his 2005 Nobel lecture:

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest.

I have called this chronic forgetfulness the concept of immaculate conception of U.S. (foreign) policy. There never is an acknowledged history of U.S. misdeeds that may have led to this or that current blowback. When there is one it immediately gets buried, pushed out of sight, never to be talked about. The same applies to partisan policies within the U.S.

Currently the fake "resistance" against a Trump presidency blasts his policy of seeking better relations with Russia, his temporary travel ban reference to seven specific countries and his words against media leaks. But it was the Secretary of State Clinton who initiated a "reset" with Russia, it was the Obama administration that set a ban on those seven countries and it was the Obama justice department that used the espionage act against journalists for publishing leaked material. That all is now forgotten and not to be talked about.

Likewise the deep CIA connection with Omar Abdul-Rahman is now scrubbed from any of the semi-official media reporting. This at the same time the CIA continues its involvement with radical Islamists in Syria and elsewhere.

Pinter continued his lecture:

The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.
...

To not be taken in by the "immaculate conception" mechanism I recommend to reread or watch Pinter's lecture every once a while.

Posted by b at 02:53 PM | Comments (61)

February 19, 2017

Open Thread 2017-07

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:55 PM | Comments (125)

February 18, 2017

Elections In France - CIA Spies On Political Parties, NYT Claims "Russian" Interference

New York Times Editorial, February 18, 2017: Keeping the Kremlin’s Hands Off France’s Elections

With the United States engulfed in questions about Russia’s role in the 2016 presidential election, France is determined to head off any such meddling in its coming presidential election.

Wikileaks, February 16, 2017: CIA espionage orders for the 2012 French presidential election

All major French political parties were targeted for infiltration by the CIA's human ("HUMINT") and electronic ("SIGINT") spies in the seven months leading up to France's 2012 presidential election. The revelations are contained within three CIA tasking orders published today by WikiLeaks ...


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NYT:

On Monday Richard Ferrand, the director of Emmanuel Macron’s campaign, claimed that the Russians had unleashed “hundreds and even thousands” of hacking attempts against Mr. Macron, and that RT and Sputnik, government-controlled news outlets, are spreading fake news, as they were said to have done during the American election cycle. The stories about Mr. Macron range from allegations that he is engaged in a secret extramarital gay affair to accusations that he used state funds to pay for foreign travel.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right National Front candidate, who has received Russian financing, is expected to win the most votes in a crowded field in the first round of voting, on April 23.

Wikileaks:

Cont. reading: Elections In France - CIA Spies On Political Parties, NYT Claims "Russian" Interference

Posted by b at 06:05 AM | Comments (81)

Syria - Turks Fail To Take Al-Bab - "Rebels" Die In Infighting

This week the Turkish President Erdogan visited the Gulf states. He asked for bigger investment in Turkey and for cash for his project to occupy more parts of Syria. A week ago Erodgan had claimed:

“Al-Bab is about to be captured. Manbij and Raqqah are next,” Erdogan said, adding their number one priority was to form a safe zone in the country.

This week he brought his Army Chief of Staff Arak to the Gulf to declare victory. Several Erdogan friendly media outlets in Turkey (any other left?) reported:

Operation Euphrates Shield has entered a new phase in al-Bab, as the offensive stage is over now that the town has largely been recaptured from Daesh.

“The operation in al-Bab is over," Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar said at a press conference in Qatar on Wednesday during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's trip to Gulf countries.
...
Silence now dominates the area that was once scene to heavy clashes. Turkish tanks patrol al-Bab's streets and the Syrian opposition has pressed a major advance.

That claim was a huge lie. While Turkish forces had earlier taken some outskirts of Al-Bab and claimed to own 40% of the city they were by then stuck and later in full retreat.

Yesterday the Turkish forces lost the Al-Hikma hospital and the automatic bakery they had earlier captured and retreated from all inner districts of Al-Bab. At least 90% of Al-Bab is still in Islamic State hands.

Geolocated video by the Islamic State and Turkish supported forces show that the Turks are back at their starting points at the outer city limits.


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As many as 430 Syrian civilians have been killed by Turkish forces and their auxiliaries. Just last week the MI-6 sponsored Syrian Observatory said that Turkish bombing killed more than 60 in Al-Bab. It confirmed videos posted by the Islamic State which showed killed children and destroyed houses. Unlike with every death cause by fighting between Takfiris and the Syrian Army no "western" main-stream media picked up on that.

Cont. reading: Syria - Turks Fail To Take Al-Bab - "Rebels" Die In Infighting

Posted by b at 01:53 AM | Comments (42)

February 16, 2017

In Which Reporting About "Fake News" Turns Out To Be Such

Another rather amusing piece about fake news is published in today's New York Times.

The headline:

Fake News, Fake Ukrainians: How a Group of Russians Tilted a Dutch Vote

It is amusing because no fact in the piece agrees with the headline. The piece itself turns out to be fake news. It is about old stuff, not news at all, and the content does not support the theses. 

Some Ukrainian expats lobbied in the Netherlands against a vote for a EU-Ukrainian association agreement. Some Dutch people of Russian heritage also lobbied that way. The Dutch eventually rejected the agreement with 61.1% of votes against it and 38.1% in favor.

That vote took place in April 2016. I am not aware of any reason why that poll would now deserve a piece. Its purpose is certainly not to report current news or the vote itself. It does no explain what the vote was really about nor does it mention the numeric results.

A few expats in the Netherlands took part in public discussions and argued for the side of the vote that eventually won. They did so without hiding their identity, fairly and completely within the bounds of all laws. There is no sign at all that they had any influence on the vote.

But that is not good enough for the NYT. "Putin did it" is a standing order. Indeed the lobbying Ukrainians must have been "fake Ukrainians" and secretly Russians because somehow no Ukrainian would ever argue against the violent  Maidan putsch and its consequences:

They attended public meetings, appeared on television and used social media to denounce Ukraine’s pro-Western government as a bloodthirsty kleptocracy, unworthy of Dutch support.
...
The most active members of the Ukrainian team were actually from Russia, or from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine, and parroted the Kremlin line.

The author seems to express that people "from Russian-speaking regions of Ukraine" (which include at least a third of the country) are "fake Ukrainians"? That they have no agency as Ukrainians but are only capable to "parrot the Kremlin line"? Are these Russian speaking Ukrainians of less value? Is there something wrong with having an opinion that does not parrot the Washington/Brussels line?

Then comes a caveat that takes the intended blow out of the whole buildup of the piece:

It is unclear whether the Ukrainian team was directed by Russia or if it was acting out of shared sympathies ...

Could it be that it is neither-nor? That there is third reason why they acted that way? Maybe because they are convinced that the EU-Ukraine agreement is not in the best interest for either country? (Not said in the piece: The agreement in questions is way more than an trade or economic agreement. It includes binding defense and political alignment clauses.)

Let us look at the "Fake Ukrainians" and "Group of Russians":

One such [Russian] contact is Vladimir Kornilov, a Russian-born historian and political analyst who grew up in eastern Ukraine and now lives in The Hague, where he runs a one-man research outfit called the Center for Eurasian Studies.

Before the Dutch referendum last year, Mr. Kornilov campaigned against the Ukraine trade deal, describing himself benignly as “a Ukrainian expat in The Hague” who was “stunned by the seemingly endless stream of lies and propaganda” about Russia and felt obliged to respond.

Vladimir Kornilov looks around 40 years old. When he was born there was no "Russia" or "Ukraine" as we understand them today. The historic Russia included the Ukraine. When Kornilov was born there was the Soviet Union with many federal entities. "Russian-born" and "grew up in eastern Ukraine" is a national categorization that no one made before the USSR fell apart. People would have said "born in Moscow" and "grew up in Donetsk" or something of that kind.

Kornilov strongly disagrees with the NYT piece and especially the "fake Ukrainians" headline:

Vladimir Kornilov @Kornilov1968

@nytimesworld Dear editors! What does it mean "Fake Ukrainians"? Your author know that I'm an Ukrainian citizen and don't have another pass
4:07 AM - 16 Feb 2017

The only "Russian" with which the piece comes up with is a young student who came to the Netherlands as a child:

A particularly active member of the Ukrainian team was Nikita Ananjev, a 26-year-old student born in Moscow who moved with his mother to the Netherlands, where he is now chairman of the Russian Student Association.

Ananjev describes himself publicly as "Dutch raised but still 80% Russian".

Kornilov and Ananjev are the only two relevant persons the NYT piece identifies. They are the "Fake Ukrainians" and "Group of Russians" the headline describes.

The "fake Ukrainian" is not "fake" at all but a real Ukrainian. The "Group of Russians" is a Dutch raised student in Rotterdam. The NYT has found no sign of any actual Russian influence on their public arguments or opinions. There is zero evidence in the piece, none at all, that these people "tilted a Dutch vote". There is not even one attempt made to show that this was the case.

The people of the Netherlands, Dutch people, voted against the preference of the NYT editors by a quite large margin. That this might have to do with the rather bad agreement the vote was about, or with the illegality of the U.S. organized Maidan putsch, does not deserve any question or attention. Instead we get false assertions about foreign influence stated as facts with nothing to back that up.

The "fake news" in the headline makes sense only as a description of the piece itself.

There is no argument in it that actually supports the headline. There are no "fake Ukrainians", there is no "Group of Russians" and those few expats who were active did not "tilt the Dutch vote".

The piece is also fake news because it contains no news at all. The vote was 10 month ago. The expats lobbied openly before the vote took place. Nothing mentioned in the piece has since changed. There is no one new fact in it.

It is cooked up propaganda which does no include any facts to back up its message. A rather sorry attempt to stoke the anti-Russian campaign that was intensified by Hillary Clinton first to win the election and, when that had failed, to explain her loss. It fits the imperial illusion of the "sole superpower" the NYT generally peddles. But it does not really serve its purpose.  It is completely unconvincing and easy to debunk. It is fake news.

Posted by b at 04:03 PM | Comments (132)

February 15, 2017

The Dangerous Precedents Of The Hunt Against Flynn ... And Trump

Kicking Flynn out of his office has hurt Trump. His standing is diminished. The efforts against Flynn, mainly by the "deep state" in the intelligence agencies, were designed to change Trump's declared foreign policy aims. They worked. Yesterday the White House spokesperson said:

President Trump has made it very clear that he expects the Russian government to deescalate violence in the Ukraine and return Crimea.

Today Trump tweeted:

Donald J. Trump Verified account @realDonaldTrump
Crimea was TAKEN by Russia during the Obama Administration. Was Obama too soft on Russia?
4:42 AM - 15 Feb 2017

That is a position Trump had not preciously taken. "Return Crimea" is a no-no to any current and future Russian government. If Trump insists on this the prospective détente is already dead.

Several writers along the political spectrum point out that this show of raw power by the "intelligence community" is a great danger.

Damon Linker in The Week:

Cont. reading: The Dangerous Precedents Of The Hunt Against Flynn ... And Trump

Posted by b at 02:35 PM | Comments (210)

February 14, 2017

The Flynn Defenestration Will Hamper Trump's Foreign Policy

Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn resigned after only three weeks in office. While I am certainly no fan of Flynn or of Trump I find this defenestration a dangerous event. It will hamper any big change in U.S. foreign policy that Trump may envision.

The resignation followed a highly orchestrated campaign against Flynn by intelligence officials, the media and some people within the White House.

After the election and Trump's unexpected win the Obama administration slapped sanctions on Russia and sent Russian embassy officials back to Moscow. This move was intended to blockade a Trump policy of better relations with Russia. Flynn talked with the Russian ambassador and, as a direct result, the Russian's did not respond tit for tat for the sanctions and expulsions. This was an absolutely positive move and in full accordance with announced Trump policies. Henry Kissinger made a similar move and visited the Russian embassy weeks before he became Nixon's NSC. During the 2012 election Obama made a similar "deal" with the Russians in a comparable situation:

President Barack Obama was caught on camera on Monday assuring outgoing Russian President Dmitry Medvedev that he will have "more flexibility" to deal with contentious issues like missile defense after the U.S. presidential election.

Despite tens or hundreds of claimed White House leaks in the media I am still not sure what really happened next. Trump's enemies and some intelligence officials accused Flynn of lying about the phone calls with the Russian ambassador. It is unclear what the alleged lies really are and especially why they should matter. Obfuscation is part of any White House business. If Flynn had secretly talked with the Israeli ambassador (which he probably did) no one would have attacked him.

So why was Flynn really under pressure and why didn't Trump back him? It would have been easy for Trump to say: "I ordered Flynn to do that. Obama did similar. In both cases it was a GREAT success. USA! USA! USA!" Nobody would have been able to further attack Flynn over the issue after such a protective move.

But Trump, completely against his style, held his mouth and did nothing. What else happened in the White House that let him refrain from backing Flynn?

Sure, the real beef other people have with Flynn is not about Russia but other issues, like his plans to reform the intelligence services. But by throwing Flynn out like this Trump opened himself to further attacks.

As it looks now a rather small gang of current and former intelligence officials - with the help of the anti-Trump media - leaked Flynn out of his office. They will not stop there.

Now blood is in the street and the hyenas will lust for more. The Trump magic is broken. He has shown vulnerability. Now they will go after their next target within the Trump administration and then the next and the next until they have Trump isolated and by the balls. He just invited them to proceed. All major foreign policy moves he planned will be hampered. The detente with Russia has probably ended before it even started.

There is another, overlooked country where Flynn's position as NSC influenced policy decisions. Flynn had at times lobbied for Turkey and good relations with the Erdogan government. Even on the very day of the presidential election an op-ed of his damning Erdogan's enemy Gülen and lauding Turkey was published.

After Trump was inaugurated and again talked of no-fly-zones the Turkish president Erdogan made another of his famous 180 degree turns.

Erdogan had wanted a no-fly-zones (aka a Turkish protectorate) in Syria from the very beginning of the war. The Obama administration would not give him one and in the later years shunned him. Erdogan turned to Russia but was told that he would have to limit his ambitions in Syria: no no-fly-zone, no Turkish march to Manbij or Raqqa. Erdogan agreed. But after Trump talked of new sanctions  and Flynn was installed as NSC Erdogan again changed his position. He is now again calling for a no-fly-zone and is again promising to conquer Manbij (held by Kurds) and Raqqa (held by the Islamic State). (Any such attempt would be hopeless. The Turkish army and its Islamist proxy forces have tried to conquer the much smaller Al-Bab, held by the Islamic State, for over four month now and still fail at it.)

The Russian's will have taken note of such unreliable behavior. One wonders how Erdogan now feels as his lobbyist in a top position of the Trump administration is gone. If the Trump administration now acts against his plans will he creep back to Putin and ask for forgiveness? Would that be accepted?

Flynn is no big loss for the world, the U.S. or the Trump administration. But Trump has now lost the initiative. He long managed to set the media agenda for the day by this or that "outrageous" tweet or remark. Now this advantage has been taken away from him over some nonsense allegations and his lack of backing for one of his top people.

He will soon rue the day he let this happen.

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (145)

February 13, 2017

Organized Campaigns Hit At Trump's Foreign Policy Plans

At the end of his administration Obama implemented a series of anti-Russian moves. The most obvious was the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats over unfounded allegation of Russian interference in the U.S. elections. Other moves included the launching of an Ukrainian offense against the Russian supported resistance in the east Ukraine.

These moves were designed to impede the incoming Trump administration in its announced plans towards more friendly relations with Russia. The incoming Trump administration countered Obama's sanction move. Its designated National Security Advisor Flynn phoned up the Russian ambassador in Washington. He did not promise to immediately lift the sanctions but indirectly asked him to refrain from any harsh response:

The transcripts of the conversations don’t show Mr. Flynn made any sort of promise to lift the sanctions once Mr. Trump took office, the officials said. Rather, they show Mr.Flynn making more general comments about relations between the two countries improving under Mr. Trump, people familiar with them said.

This was arguably a sensible move in line with a smooth transition of government.

In the end the Russian government refrained from any in kind reaction to the Obama sanctions.

This was blow to the promoters of hostilities with Russia. It did not stop their meddling. The effort moved towards kicking Flynn out of his new position as NSC. A concerted media campaign was launched to insinuate an early Flynn failure and to press for his dismissal.

Bradd Jaffy @BraddJaffy
Within the last 30 mins — NYT, WashPost, WSJ and Politico each dropped pieces that have to be alarming for your future if you're Mike Flynn
5:51 PM - 12 Feb 2017

Keep in mind that some 95% of the U.S. media was hostile to Trump during the election campaign. They all peddled the nonsense of "Russian hacks" when an insider leaked emails from the Democratic National Council. They are all willing to support any move that might hinder the Trump administration.

Thus this morning news was filled with these headlines:

All these stories are based on "inside views" from multiple "former and current officials". All are build around the baseless allegations against Flynn of somehow colluding with the Russian government. All are likely more wishful thinking than fact.

It would be astonishing if Trump falls for this obviously well organized campaign against his administration. Should he fire Flynn or give in to such  pressure his enemies will smell blood, find a new target within his administration and intensify their fire.

Indeed a second well coordinated assault on an announced Trump policy, a change of course in Syria, is already in the making. This one aims at further maligning the Syrian government in an effort to make it impossible to argue for cooperation in the fight against the Islamic State.

  • A few days ago Amnesty International published an unfounded report about alleged executions in Syrian prisons.
  • Today Human Rights Watch claims that the Syrian government systematically used Chlorine in the fight over Aleppo. The sources are solely opposition supporters.
  • Based on similar vague "facts" the Atlantic Council, a NATO lobby with financial ties to Gulf governments, launches a huge propaganda report (large pdf) about the "war crime" of liberating Aleppo from Jihadis.

None of these "humanitarian" organization is concerned about the current devastating situation in Aleppo. For 40 days the water has been cut off by the Islamic State at the Euphrates pumping stations. There is no electricity. Fuel is sparse. Medications are difficult to find.

Their hypocrisy stinks to high heaven. These organizations all assert that the Syrian government, for example, attacked hospitals in east-Aleppo solely to hit civilians. At the same time they all applaud a much bigger assault on the Islamic State held Mosul by U.S. and Iraqi troops. There, the head of Human Rights Watch asserts, the hospitals are used by the Jihadis and thus attacks on them are justified:

Kenneth Roth @KenRoth
As battle for Mosul proceeds, ISIS is regularly occupying hospitals & medical facilities, endangering patients/staff bit.ly/2kqXuUR

The anti-Flynn campaign as well as the bad-Assad campaign are aimed at Trump policy changes. These changes move away from the course the borg implemented throughout the Obama reign.

Meanwhile the Trump administration implements regressive economic and social policies without any noticeable resistance in the media, in Congress or from so called Non-Government-Organizations:

President Trump has embarked on the most aggressive campaign against government regulation in a generation, joining with Republican lawmakers to roll back rules already on the books and limit the ability of federal regulators to impose new ones.

The borg or deep state is way more concerned with keeping up its plans of uncontested global dominance than with the welfare of the citizens within the empire.

Trump promised to put "America first", to prioritize the inner well being of the States over the quest for global hegemony. His voters elected him for that purpose. Should he fall for the organized campaigns against his plans predictable foreign policy disasters will dominate his presidency. He will then lose any chance for reelection.

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (158)

February 11, 2017

CIA Honors Major Terrorist Financier For Successful Cooperation

Seymour Hersh - The Redirection:

[T]he Administration has cooperated with Saudi Arabia’s government, which is Sunni, in clandestine operations that are intended to weaken Hezbollah, the Shiite organization that is backed by Iran. The U.S. has also taken part in clandestine operations aimed at Iran and its ally Syria. A by-product of these activities has been the bolstering of Sunni extremist groups that espouse a militant vision of Islam and are hostile to America and sympathetic to Al Qaeda.

Former Vice President Biden explaining who finances Takfiri terrorism (video):

Mr Biden said that "our biggest problem is our allies" who are engaged in a proxy Sunni-Shiite war against Syrian President Bashar Assad. He specifically named Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

"What did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad – except that the people who were being supplied were (Jabhat) Al-Nusra and al-Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world," Mr Biden said.

Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explaining who finances Takfiri terrorism (original):

… we need to use our diplomatic and more traditional intelligence assets to bring pressure on the governments of Qatar and Saudi Arabia, which are providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups in the region.

ISIS, Iraq, and the Lessons of Blowback:

Qatar’s military and economic largesse has made its way to Jabhat al-Nusra, to the point that a senior Qatari official told me he can identify al-Nusra commanders by the blocks they control in various Syrian cities. But ISIS is another matter. As one senior Qatari official stated, “ISIS has been a Saudi project.”

CIA honors Saudi Crown Prince for efforts against terrorism

The Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Interior, received a medal on Friday from the CIA for his distinct intelligence-related counter-terrorism work and his contributions to ensure international peace and security.

The medal, named after George Tenet, was handed to him by CIA Director Micheal Pompeo after the Crown Prince received him in Riyadh on Friday in the presence of Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman al-Saud, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense.

Posted by b at 11:19 AM | Comments (128)

Open Thread 2017-06

News, views & whatever ...

Posted by b at 09:35 AM | Comments (84)

February 09, 2017

Its Foreign Greed And Delusion That Kills Yemeni Children

Ten-thousands, and soon hundred-thousands die in Yemen as result of zealotry, greed and bureaucratic infighting of foreign countries. The Wahhabi Saudis fight in Yemen against Iranian Shia that ain't there. Under the eyes of the CIA they nurture local al-Qaeda forces to do their bidding. The UAE seeks new ports in Yemen thereby disturbing Saudi pipeline dreams. The Pentagon tussles with the CIA over budgets of special operations.  The minor local Yemeni conflicts between the various tribes develop into a war due to foreign interference and financing. Bombing campaigns have replaced tribal mediation.

The executive branch of the United Nations is under pressure from the U.S.-Saudi coalition. It is not allowed to report on the real consequences of the devastating war on Yemen. The leads to rather comical assertions.

On August 31 2016 the UN coordinator on Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said that 10,000 people had died due to the war on Yemen:

Speaking from the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator said the new figure was based on official information from medical facilities in Yemen.

The number could rise further, McGoldrick said, as some areas had no medical facilities, and people were often buried without any official record being made.

"We know the numbers are much higher but we can't tell you by how much," McGoldrick told reporters

On January 17 2017 the UN coordinator on Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said that 10,000 people had died due to the war on Yemen:

"[T]he estimates are that over 10,000 people have been killed in this conflict and almost 40,000 people injured", UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick told reporters in the capital Sanaa on Monday.

He did not provide a breakdown between civilians and combatants.

The UN numbers did not change from August 2016 to January 2017. Despite intense bombing and ravaging famine no one seems to have died. But those numbers are of course mere fantasies. The real death toll due to the war on Yemen is at least ten times higher. The numbers the UN envoy claims are political. He is not allowed to reveal the real ones.

In mid 2016 the Saudis pressured the then UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon to take it off a list of countries that are harming children:

Muslim allies of Saudi Arabia piled pressure on UN chief Ban Ki-moon over the blacklisting of a Saudi-led coalition for killing children in Yemen, with Riyadh threatening to cut Palestinian aid and funds to other UN programs, according to diplomatic sources.

A UN Secretary General with some backbone would not have relented but would have publicly shamed the Saudis and their allies at each possible occasion. Not so Ban Ki-moon:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he temporarily removed the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen from a U.N. blacklist for violating child rights because its supporters threatened to stop funding many U.N. programs.

Ban said he had to consider "the very real prospect" that millions of other children in the Palestinian territories, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and many other places "would suffer grievously" if U.N. programs were defunded.

The United States and Britain actively supported Saudi Arabia in getting its way at the UN and within the UN Security Council.

But the UN giving in to blackmail did not save any children. UNICEF, somewhat independent from the General Secretary, reports much higher (though still incomplete) numbers that come nearer to the truth:

Yemen has lost a decade's worth of gains in public health as a result of war and economic crisis, with an estimated 63,000 children dying last year of preventable causes often linked to malnutrition, the U.N. Children's Fund (UNICEF) said on Tuesday.
...
A decade has been lost in health gains," she said, with 63 out of every 1,000 live births now dying before their fifth birthday, against 53 children in 2014.
...
Releno later told a news briefing that the rate of severe acute malnutrition had "tripled" between 2014 and 2016 to 460,000 children.

"The under-5 mortality rate has increased to the point that we estimate that in 2016 at least 10,000 more children died of preventable diseases," she said.

In medical statistic terms these are "excess death". They would not have occurred without the war waged on the country. It is unlikely that these  UNICEF numbers are complete.

The mountainous north-west of Yemen is the core area of the Zaidi Shia population from which the Houthi militia fighting the Saudis and their proxies derive. It is now mostly cut off from communication and supply channels. Hospitals and schools in the area have been heavily bombed and its main northern city Sadah has been completely destroyed by Saudi air attacks. The Zaidi comprise about 45% of Yemen's 24 million people and up to 1962 Zaidi caliph ruled the country for over 1,000 years. For the Saudi Wahhabi zealots the Zaidi are not real Muslims and deserve to die.

Many people in the north west have fled to Yemen's capital Sanaa. But even there food is running out. Hungry children roam the streets begging for food.

Cont. reading: Its Foreign Greed And Delusion That Kills Yemeni Children

Posted by b at 12:37 PM | Comments (105)

 
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