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:
- Russian Hackers Blackmail US Liberal Groups After Stealing Emails And Documents, Report Says
- US officially accuses Russia of hacking DNC and interfering with election
- Iran hacked an American casino, U.S. says
- Iran suspected for the attack on the Saudi Aramco
- North Korea 'hacks South's military cyber command'
- Official: North Korea behind Sony hack
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.
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.)
NYT Blames Trump For Reading Its Reports
[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:
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.
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.
Open Thread 2017-09
News & views ...
(I am on an extended family weekend which includes some ceremonies and festivities. Therefore: light posting)
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.
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.
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!
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.
Open Thread 2017-08
News & views ...
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.
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?
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:
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'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.
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.
Open Thread 2017-07
News & views ...
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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:
- NYT - Turmoil at the National Security Council, From the Top Down
- WaPo - As Flynn falls under growing pressure over Russia contacts, Trump remains silent
- WSJ - Mike Flynn’s Position as National Security Adviser Grows Tenuous in White House
- Politico - Trump reviews top White House staff after tumultuous start
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.
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.
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.
… 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.
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.”
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.
Open Thread 2017-06
News, views & whatever ...
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.
Hearsay Extrapolated - Amnesty Claims Mass Executions In Syria, Provides Zero Proof
A new Amnesty International report claims that the Syrian government hanged between 5,000 and 13,000 prisoners in a military prison in Syria. The evidence for that claim is flimsy, based on hearsay of anonymous people outside of Syria. The numbers themselves are extrapolations that no scientist or court would ever accept. It is tabloid reporting and fiction style writing from its title "Human Slaughterhouse" down to the last paragraph.
But the Amnesty report is still not propagandish enough for the anti-Syrian media. Inevitably only the highest number in the range Amnesty claims is quoted. For some even that is not yet enough. The Associate Press agency, copied by many outlets, headlines: Report: At least 13,000 hanged in Syrian prison since 2011:
BEIRUT (AP) — Syrian authorities have killed at least 13,000 people since the start of the 2011 uprising in mass hangings at a prison north of Damascus known to detainees as "the slaughterhouse," Amnesty International said in a report Tuesday.
How does "at least 13,000" conforms to an already questionable report which claims "13,000" as the top number of a very wide range?
Here is a link to the report.
Before we look into some details this from the "Executive Summary":
Russia, Ukraine - Neocon Ceasefire Sabotage Fails To Change Trump's Mind
There are serious signs that the Trump administration will continue to seek better relations with Russia. It declines to get involved in the hustling in Ukraine. It is ready to give up on the catastrophic regime-change agenda the neocons implemented in Kiev with the help of Ukrainian Nazi organizations.
Let us recap. On New Year the neo-conservative Senators McCain and Graham were in Ukraine to fire up Ukrainian troops at the front lines for a new fight with Russia supported rebels in Donetsk and Lugansk. A few days later then Vice President Biden also dropped in on Kiev. The three are declared enemies of Trump's more friendly position towards Russia. They obviously intended to reignite the conflict in Ukraine to sabotage Trump's new foreign policy.
The former Georgian President Saakashvilli has once fallen for the Bush administration's incitement and attacked Russian peacekeepers in South Ossetia. When that war went badly he received none of the hoped for backup from Washington and NATO.
Poroshenko should have learned from that. Instead he fell for the incitement and assurances from the senators and restarted the war with the separatist. Multiple news outlets and even Ukrainian generals first admitted that it was the Kiev government that started the current round of fighting by "creeping" into the no-man's zone that was supposed to separate the belligerents. But as usual the "western" media now try to change history and to put the guilt on Russia. They press for a U.S. "response" to the "Russian aggression".
At first it looked that this impressed the Trump administration. The new U.S. ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley held a speech that might have been written by her "wailing banshee" predecessor Samantha Powers. It condemned Russia for about everything and promised that sanctions on Russia would stay. But two days later she visited the Russian UN ambassador Churkin in his private home in New York city to make nice. The speech was probably just a head-fake or some uncoordinated screw-up.
The Ukrainian President Poroshenko had tried for several days to get a phonecall scheduled with President Trump. But on Thursday Trump met, very shortly though, Poroshenko's opposition in Ukraine Yuliya Tymoshenko. She is a former prime minister and - said mildly- a controversial figure: always scheming, lying and ready to be offered and take huge bribes. But with some help she could probably win an election in Ukraine should Poroshenko step down.
Only on Saturday Trump finally had a phonecall with Poroshenko. The very short readout is a blast. It speaks of "Ukraine's long-running conflict with Russia" and adds:
The Empty Threat Against Iran - National Security Advisor Flynn Embarrasses Himself
Trump's National Security Advisor Flynn keeps demonstrating the limits of is strategic-intellectual capacity. He went in front of the cameras and issued this empty threat:
The international community has been too tolerant of Iran’s bad behavior. The ritual of convening a United Nations Security Council in an emergency meeting and issuing a strong statement is not enough. The Trump Administration will no longer tolerate Iran’s provocations that threaten our interests.
The days of turning a blind eye to Iran’s hostile and belligerent actions toward the United States and the world community are over.
What is such bluster supposed to achieve?
Interestingly the statement came out just an hour after Donald Rumsfeld left the White House where he had talked about "process" with Flynn and NSC staff.The neo-conservatives are of course very happy about such nonsense talk. Obama Should Thank Trump for Putting Iran on Notice writes Eli Lake. James Rubin intones: Finally, the president made a smart move on foreign policy. For the very first time the neoconned Washington Post editors are lauding Trump and highlight Flynn's juvenile outburst.
But the U.S. has no way to coerce the 80 million Iranians into anything. The Bush administration learned that (it was one reason why Rumsfeld was fired), the Obama administration acknowledged it and the Trump administration will have to accept that too.
Iran has been under U.S. sanction since 1979. A few more years of unilateral U.S. sanctions will not change its positions one iota. The "international community" supports the nuclear deal and encouraged the lifting of international sanctions. It will not agree to new ones just because some Trump flunky says so.
Iran is needed to achieve peace and to fight Islamic terrorism in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. To even try such without Iranian involvement would require hundred-thousands of U.S. troops. They would fail should Iran decide to not support them. Indeed there is nothing that can be achieved in the Middle East without Iran. While it has only limited capabilities to actively interfere in other countries it can throw up hurdles everywhere and block U.S. controlled solutions.
Smaller direct U.S. attacks on Iran would be responded to with attacks by Iranian proxies elsewhere. U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, especially their resupplies, would be in imminent danger. A large attack on Iran itself would lead to the destruction of U.S. military bases in Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar, Oman and Saudi Arabia. Every U.S. ship passing through the Street of Hormuz would come under fire.
There will be no significant international support for any U.S. move against Iran. Sending the USS Cole to the Yemeni coast while fantasizing about Houthi mining the waters is a just too obvious setup for a "Gulf of Tonkin" replay.
Any significant military move against Iran would be a strategic foreign policy disaster just like the Bush administration attack on Iraq was one. That attack strengthened Iran's long term position. An attack on the country itself would achieve the same on a much larger scale.
The more grown ups in the Trump administration know all this. Secretary of Defense Mattis, no friend of Iran at all, pulled the rug out from under Flynn's empty threat:
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said Saturday that the threat from Iran’s missile program does not currently require the realignment of U.S. forces in the Middle East, striking a note of restraint shortly after the White House issued a strong warning to Tehran.
The U.S. Central Command on the Middle East was not even informed about the Flynn threat towards Iran. The move is obviously no a thought through administration policy.
Is Flynn freelancing with such threats trying to prove his worthiness for the administration? Or was he set up by others to embarrass himself?
Open Thread 2017-05
News and views ...
Crazy Ideas About The U.S. Attack In Yemen
The Fake Outrage About Trump piece included a part on a U.S. special force attack in Yemen that had happened just hours before:
The rural home of a tribal leader's family, friendly with some Yemeni al-Qaeda members, was raided by a special operations commando. A U.S. tiltrotor military aircraft was shot down during the raid. One soldier was killed and several were wounded. The U.S. commandos responded with their usual panic. They killed anyone in sight and bombed the shit out of any nearby structure. According to Yemeni sources between 30 and 57 Yemenis were killed including eight women and eight children (graphic pics). The U.S. military claimed, as it always does, that no civilians were hurt in the raid.
One of the killed kids was the 8 year old daughter of al-Qaeda propagandist Anwar al-Awlaki.
But an open question is still why the raid happen. The military and the administration claim it was to get intelligence, laptops, hard-drives and the like. But that is not a good explanation for an elaborate raid that needed lots of resources and backup. We had noted that "Yemeni sources say that at least two men were abducted by the U.S. military." The U.S. Central Command claims that no prisoners were taken only intelligence material. But a few days ago it also claimed that no civilians were hurt which it now admits indeed happened. My gut tells me that we will hear more on this issue.
There are also some weir conspiracy theories around the raid.
Marcy Wheeler aka Emptywheel headlined: Trump Fulfills Another Campaign Promise: Kills 8-Year Old American Girl and asked "Was that the point?"
Ukraine - Coup Government Tries To Sabotage U.S.-Russia Rapprochement
Fighting in east Ukraine has restarted. This is an attempt by "deep state" forces to prevent any rapprochement between the U.S. and Russia under the new Trump administration.
The west-Ukrainian forces under command of the coup government of President Poroshenko started a large attack against the Russian supported Ukrainian self-defense forces in Donetsk and Lugansk governate.
A ceasefire arranged after the Minsk II agreement provided for demilitarized zones along a line of separation. The Ukrainian government has so far avoided to fulfill the Minsk II agreement that would allow a reuniting of the country. An OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM), which includes officers from NATO countries as well as Russia, is supervising the ceasefire and issues daily reports.
On January 26 the SMM reported:
The SMM recorded more ceasefire violations  in Donetsk region, including about 420 explosions, compared with 228 in the previous reporting period. More than 160 explosions were recorded around the Svitlodarsk area, with exchanges of fire also recorded around Avdiivka and Yasynuvata.
The Mission revisited a Ukrainian Armed Forces permanent storage site, whose location corresponded with the relevant withdrawal lines and observed that 12 tanks (T-64) and four mortars (2B9 Vasilek, 82mm) were missing, as previously noted.
The SMM followed up on reports of a blockade of a railway track near government-controlled Hirske. The railway leads towards the “LPR”-controlled settlements of Donetskyi and Sentianivka (formerly Frunze) (49 and 44km west of Luhansk, respectively). The Mission had observed a train travelling east through Donetskyi on 23 January. The SMM observed that the tracks had been blocked by tree trunks under a bridge on the southern edge of the settlement. About 20 unarmed men wearing camouflage clothing told the Mission that they were veterans from former volunteer battalions. The SMM observed a tent near the blockade site.
The observations on the 26th pointed to the preparation of a full attack which was launched on January 28:
The SMM recorded fewer ceasefire violations in Donetsk region between the evenings of 27 and 28 January compared with the previous reporting period (including about 330 explosions compared with about 520). In the following 24 hours, however, the SMM recorded over 2,300 explosions, primarily in the Avdiivka-Yasynuvata-Donetsk airport area.
The SMM observed that the intense artillery barrage was launched north to south originating from the government held area.
The NAZI volunteer battalions from west-Ukrainian Galicia are spearheading the attack. There is ongoing fighting with intense artillery usage on several points along the ceasefire line (map). One main battle ground is the city of Avdeevka in the demilitarized zone north-west of Donetzk city.
The U.S. government propaganda site RFERL sees a "creeping offensive" initiated by the government side. Even the belligerent and anti-Russian Washington Post editors have to acknowledge that the Ukrainian government started this round. While unreasonably blaming Russia they observes:
Open Thread 2017-04
News & views ...
Outrage About Trump Exposes "Librul" Hypocrisy
The current "librul" outrage about Trump's announced policies is somewhat amusing. Yes, these policies are bad, very bad. Trump is bad. But so was Obama and so is Clinton. Protesting the policies of one while not protesting when the other implemented the same policies is insincere grandstanding.
Wherever you look, those Trump policies are building directly on, or simply repeat Obama policies. The now theatrically outraged people swallowed those without a word of protest.
A Trump order yesterday introduced a temporary ban on visa holders and visa issuing to citizens of seven Middle East countries. These countries are: Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. Those countries have one thing in common. No terrorist who killed on U.S. soil originated from them. The (few) terrorists who attacked within the U.S. came from the Middle Eastern countries not on the list. Following Trump's order, outcries on social media and in various papers ensued. People went to airports to protest. TV was there to spread the news.
But it is nothing new that the citizens of those countries are targeted with U.S. visa restrictions. It was Obama who introduced such in 2015 and 2016. The Trump order links directly to them. It does not name any country but refers to them as "countries designated in Division O, Title II, Section 203 of the 2016 consolidated appropriations act."
U.S animosities against these countries is even older. According to the former general Clark, plans were made to wage war against six of the now named seven countries back in 2001. Yemen was later added while Lebanon was (temporarily?) taken off the list. The administrations change, the selected "enemies" stay the same.
In 2011 Obama stopped processing Iraqi visa requests for six month. That move was quite similar to Trump's current one. Where was the outcry in 2001? In 2011, 2015 and 2016? Is it only bad when Trump restricts visits for certain people from certain countries?
Sure, Trump introduces his "outrageous" measures loud and abruptly where Obama sneaked them in. But that is just different marketing, not a different product.
It is the coin that is bad, not just one side of it.
The End Of Mingling - "Moderate Rebels" Join Al-Qaeda In Syria
There was a lot of confusion about the infighting in the "rebel" held Idleb governate in Syria. The situation is now clearing up. After other tricks, like renaming the group, did not work to deceive, al-Qaeda finally pulled back the veil. It is no longer hiding between the "moderate rebels" but is now (again) a clearly identifiable groups. Groups near to al-Qaeda integrated with it, other groups split with significant parts joining the al-Qaeda organization.
Qalaat Al Mudiq @QalaatAlMudiq
N. #Syria: Tahrir Al-Sham Corps is born. Zinki, #JFS, Jaish Al-Sunna, Ansar Al-Din & Liwa Al-Haq merged under unified leadership (Abu Jaber)
The Zinki (Zengi) group had CIA support and received anti-tank weapons from the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. JFS is the short form of Jabhat Fateh al-Sham, formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the official al-Qaeda group in Syria. It is the strongest "rebel" group on the ground. Abu Jabar is a former Ahrar al-Sham leader who had long argued for integrating both groups. The Turkish and U.S. supported Ahrar al Sham has now officially split. The probably larger part under Abu Jabar has joined al-Qaeda.
The "new" Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS) is not a coalition of the various groups but THE new al-Qaeda group on the ground with a unified command and ideological structure. The operative military leader is Abu Jabar while the founder of al-Qaeda in Syria, Abu Mohammad al-Julani, will stay in the background as the overall emir of the group. Hayyat Tahrir Al-Sham has a military alliance in Idleb with the smaller local ISIS group Jund al-Aqsa. Joining with them is not (yet) convenient.
Trump-art Caption Contest
Any caption idea for this Trump "art"?
Fake News Of "Interests" And "Intervention"
U.S. and other media continue their strong move towards baseless, aka fake, news. We recently caught the New York Times claiming that Russia started the war in Georgia, something the NYT had earlier debunked itself. The Washington Post claimed that Russian hackers were sneaking into the U.S. electricity grid. The story fell apart within a few hours. Nothing in it was true. Hundreds of pieces were written about "peaceful demonstrator" rebels in Syria, about 250,000 civilians besieged in Aleppo or Syrian government bombings of hospitals that lacked any base in reality.
That onslaught of fake news by repudiated media continues unabated in print, web and TV.
Yesterday a sensational piece in the Washington Post claimed that The State Department’s entire senior administrative team just resigned:
The entire senior level of management officials resigned Wednesday, part of an ongoing mass exodus of senior Foreign Service officers who don’t want to stick around for the Trump era.
The simple truth: These were people in political positions who serve "at the pleasure of the President". They got fired even though some of them wanted to stay on. For bureaucratic reasons they had to write formal resignation letters. They did so after they were told to leave. There was also nothing sensational about that. It happens with any change of the President. As the American Foreign Service Association (AFSA) explained:
While this appears to be a large turnover in a short period of time, a change of administration always brings personnel changes, and there is nothing unusual about rotations or retirements in the Foreign Service.
Only one higher manager in the State Department "survived" the 2001 change of administration from Clinton to Bush. There was no reason to think that the current change would be any different.
[H]is administration crafted a draft order that would direct the Pentagon and the State Department to submit plans for the safe zones within 90 days. The order hasn't yet been issued.
The draft of the order, which will be endlessly revised, says that safe zones could be in Syria or in neighboring countries. The Pentagon has always argued against such zones in Syria and the plans it will submit, should such an order be issued at all, will reflect that. The safe zones in Syria ain't gonna happen.
Another fake news item comes in the description of a Theresa May speech she yesterday held in front of U.S. Republicans. The BBC headlines: Theresa May: UK and US cannot return to 'failed' interventions. Sky News likewise headlines: Theresa May warns US and UK cannot return to 'failed' interventions. From the BBC piece:
BBC political editor Laura Kuenssberg said Mrs May was signalling there would be no more wars like those in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan, and it was significant that she had chosen her US speech to signal such a shift.
BBC diplomatic correspondent James Robbins said it was a hugely significant speech, arguably the biggest by a UK PM in the US since Tony Blair's 1999 speech in Chicago advocating armed interventionism against dictators - something repudiated by Mrs May.
The claims by these BBC commentators are ludicrous. May did not call for less intervention as those comments make seem. Indeed she argued for more intervention. She argued against interventions for "values" (which were anyway always just a propaganda ploy) but strongly called for intervention for "interests". She of course would not like such interventions to 'fail'. From her speech:
It is in our interests – those of Britain and America together – to stand strong together to defend our values, our interests and the very ideas in which we believe.
This cannot mean a return to the failed policies of the past. The days of Britain and America intervening in sovereign countries in an attempt to remake the world in our own image are over. But nor can we afford to stand idly by when the threat is real and when it is in our own interests to intervene. We must be strong, smart and hard-headed. And we must demonstrate the resolve necessary to stand up for our interests.
Shorter: "It is in the U.S. (and our ass-kissing country's) interest to defend its interests by intervening for the sake of its interests."
May destroys the fake facade of liberal interventionism, the "responsibility to protect" nonsense, and argues for wars of aggression for purely monetary or geo-political reasons - "interests" as she calls it.
That is not, as the BBC claims, "signalling that there would be no more wars like those in Iraq and perhaps Afghanistan" but the opposite. There will be more such wars and all will predictably end with bad consequences for those invaded as well as for those who invade.
This is May's approval for Trump's call for stealing Iraq's oil:
[H]e suggested the costly and deadly occupation of the country might have been offset somewhat if the United States had taken the country's rich petroleum reserves.
"To the victor belong the spoils," Trump told members of the intelligence community, saying he first argued this case for "economic reasons."
"So we should have kept the oil," he said. "But, OK, maybe you'll have another chance."
With stealing Iraq's oil the invasion would have been in the U.S. and UK's "interest". As such it would not have "failed".
(The end result though, would have likely been the same. The U.S. and its British sidekick would have been kicked out of the country.)
To turn such talk around and argue, as the BBC does, that May "repudiated" such wars, is worse than simple fake news. It is Orwellian.
Al-Qaeda Consolidates Its Front Groups In Syria
A few days ago Al-Qaeda in Syria and the Salafist Takfiri group Ahrar al Sham produced a show claiming they were fighting each other. I fell for it and wrote:
The Turkish, Russian and Iranian governments had agreed on talks in Astana in Kazakhstan between delegations from "moderate" militant groups in Syria and the Syrian government. Ahrar al Sham, which ideologically borders between al-Qaeda and the "moderates", was also invited. It declined to take part in solidarity with the not invited designated terrorist group Jaish Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front aka al-Qaeda in Syria).
Russia had suggested the talks with the intent of separating the "moderate" Takfiris under Turkish control from the designated "terrorist" Takfiris. The talks had no immediate results but still achieved their purpose. Shortly after the talks began al-Qaeda attacked Ahrar al Sham. After some on and off fighting al-Qaeda started yesterday to attack all "moderate" Takfiri groups in Idleb and Aleppo governate.
I was wrong. Ahrar did not fight with al-Qaeda, al-Qaeda did not attack it. As far as one can tell they coordinated their actions for the purpose of eliminating smaller "rebel" groups under the disguise of Takfiri infighting. Those smaller groups are led by local war lords and supported by Turkey and the CIA. They all had earlier cooperated with al-Qaeda which provided the "storm troopers" for their attacks on Syrian government forces. They recently took part in the Astana talks while Ahrar declined in solidarity with al-Qaeda.
The ruse came to light when the "reports" of Ahrar and al-Qaeda infighting were not followed up with any reports of casualties, neither from the sides of those groups nor from any other account. How can there have been fighting when no one was killed or wounded?
Ehsani explains the situation:
Thread on Battles in #Idlib: All battles that took place in Naaman & Jabal Al Zawiye are imaginary battles that were essentially prearranged
2-The main purpose of these prearranged battles is to swap checkpoints of #Ahrar with #Nusra and vice versa
3-Even the v public battle in village of Dana is also imaginary as shooting that took place involved firing in the air around Dana crossing
4-Even news of arrest of the two Nusra security officers is untrue as both spent the time at residence of Amr al jeldi, Emir of #Ahrar
5-This #Ahrar Emir's residence in M'araa acted as joint operations center for both #Ahrar & #Nusra to coordinate this entire scenario
6-Importantly, it appears that there has not been a single casualty yet during these entire so-called battles
That report has since been confirmed by several other accounts and sources on the ground.
Al-Qaeda in Syria (aka Jaish Fateh al-Sham aka Nusra Front) did attack several local groups, raided their headquarters and confiscated their CIA supplied weapon and ammunition caches. One major alliance of local groups, the Army of Mujaheddin, was eliminated. Other local groups took refuge by joining Ahrar al-Sham:
SOHR was informed that the factions of Soqor al-Sham, alMOjahdin Army, Eqtasim Kama Amart grouping, al-Islam Army in Idlib and the Shamia front in western Aleppo, joined Ahrar al-Sham Islamic faction against Fateh al_Sham front
It seem that the plan for now is to keep Ahrar al-Sham as a "moderate" front group for al-Qaeda while eliminating all other "moderate" forces on the ground. Parts of Ahrar al-Sham take part in the Turkish "Euphrates Shield" operation against the Islamic State while al-Qaeda in Syria is no longer openly supported by the Turkish state.
The ruse of the claimed fight between Ahrar and al-Qaeda is used to uphold a distinction between these groups even when hardly any exists. Ahrar al-Sham was, like al-Qaeda in Syria, founded by a senior member of al-Qaeda central under command of the al-Qaeda's central leader Ayman al-Zawahiri.
There once were components within Ahrar that argued for a less radical course. But other significant parts had argued for officially joining al-Qaeda. The middle ground found now is to cooperated with al-Qaeda as a means for absorbing all other "rebel" groups on the ground while keeping up good relations with Turkey.
Some (minor) ideological differences between Ahrar and al-Qaeda in Syria still exist. It is expected that a fight for primacy will indeed start between (parts of) these two groups in the not so distant future. But that will only happen after all weaker groups on the ground are eliminated and after Ahrar is exposed and can no longer act as a Turkish supported intermediary for weapons and other supplies.The Associated Press still reports fighting between Ahrar and Al-Qaeda based on quotes of the Gulf propagandist Charles Lister. Like us it fell for the ruse. Unlike us it will probably stick to the fake version. The ruse will thus have worked in deceiving the "western" public and decision makers.
Syria - "Rebel" Infighting And Turkish Losses Help the Government And Its Allies
On the last days of the Obama administration the U.S. military hit a large Al-Qaeda training camp in Idleb governate in Syria. The camp was known as a training area for European fighters. B-52 strategic bombers dropped a large amount of bombs on the camp Over 100 people were killed in the attack. The camp's existence, though probably not the exact location, was known since 2013 but the U.S. had not touched it before. Some suggested that the attack had the purpose of destroying evidence of U.S.-al-Qaeda cooperation in Syria.
The Turkish, Russian and Iranian governments had agreed on talks in Astana in Kazakhstan between delegations from "moderate" militant groups in Syria and the Syrian government. Ahrar al Sham, which ideologically borders between al-Qaeda and the "moderates", was also invited. It declined to take part in solidarity with the not invited designated terrorist group Jaish Fateh al-Sham (the former Nusra Front aka al-Qaeda in Syria).
Russia had suggested the talks with the intent of separating the "moderate" Takfiris under Turkish control from the designated "terrorist" Takfiris. The talks had no immediate results but still achieved their purpose. Shortly after the talks began al-Qaeda attacked Ahrar al Sham. After some on and off fighting al-Qaeda started yesterday to attack all "moderate" Takfiri groups in Idleb and Aleppo governate. (Al-Qaeda is allied with Jund al-Aqsa, an ISIS splinter group, and with the Zinki group, a CIA vetted "moderate" gang known for receiving TOW missiles from the CIA as well as for the beheading of a Palestinian child.) As al-Qaeda it is the biggest group on the rebel held ground it can only be fought by a united opposition. That fight is currently ongoing.
The separation of "moderates" from "terrorists" has thereby happened. Russia had asked the U.S. for over a year to help with the separation. But all Russian agreements with the State Department were sabotaged by the CIA and the U.S. military and the U.S. claimed that the groups were too "mingled" with al-Qaeda to be separated. from them Now, without U.S. interference, the separation has happened.
Distracted Media Fails To Catch Trump Policy Decisions
For two days the media have been busy counting people gathering in Washington DC. 90.3% of the voters in Washington DC had chosen Clinton.
A recent DC gathering of a Republican aligned crowd on a rainy work-day attracted many people. A following gathering of a Democratic aligned crowd on a work-free day without rain attracted more people.
The media watched, counted and was "astonished". Thousands of lines of "political analyses" were written to explain the difference of the crowd size without mentioning the significance of where it happened, what day of the week it happened and the environmental circumstances. The result of such analysis was a lot of bullshit.
The new Trump administration was quite happy about this diversion of attention. It additionally lampooned the media when its new spokesperson condemned the press for not being able to count at all. More lines of bullshit analysis were written about that insult.
Just like during the election campaign the media fell for the cheap stunt and thereby missed the serious processes and the decisions that were taking place behind the curtains.
Today the Trump administration announced the end of the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement:
The president’s withdrawal from the Asian-Pacific trade pact amounted to a drastic reversal of decades of economic policy in which presidents of both parties have lowered trade barriers and expanded ties around the world. Although candidates have often criticized trade deals on the campaign trail, those who made it to the White House, including President Barack Obama, ended up extending their reach.
The NYT seems astonished that, unlike Obama, Trump stood by his words. The media had expected different and was distracted. It failed to report the issue until the decision was taken.
Open Thread 2017-03
News & views ...
The Not-Hillary President
It is impossible to know what the Not-Hillary inauguration will bring. Not-Hillary because putting up Hillary as candidate was the most stupid thing the Democratic party and it paymasters could do. She had extremely high negative ratings and stood for everything that one could dislike with the party's policies. Many who ended up not voting or voted for Trump could have been easily won by a different Democratic candidate even with much of the same general policies (see: Obama, Barack).
Hillary would surely have lost against any middle-of-the-road Republican candidate. History will note that she was an arrogant but incompetent Democratic candidate who lost against a rather bad Republican candidate, one who lacked support even from his own party. Trump won barely, but she lost completely.
Seen from the perspective of power centers Clinton once had all the support she needed. But she then lost a decisive group due to her uncompromising neo-conned foreign policy. Here is an interesting take based on a theory from the 1950s:
[T]he power elite can be best described as a “triangle of power,” linking the corporate, executive government, and military factions: “There is a political economy numerously linked with military order and decision. This triangle of power is now a structural fact, and it is the key to any understanding of the higher circles in America today.”
The 2016 US election, like all other US elections, featured a gallery of pre-selected candidates that represented the three factions and their interests within the power elite. The 2016 US election, however, was vastly different from previous elections. As the election dragged on the power elite became bitterly divided, with the majority supporting Hilary Clinton, the candidate pre-selected by the political and corporate factions, while the military faction rallied around their choice of Donald Trump.
That is only a rough take. The corporate factions are divided within. The oil industry does not like it when wars disturb its long term businesses (see Russia and Libya). Boeing wants to sell planes to Iran. Other corporate parts don't mind such wars as long as they create new markets or easy access to cheap labor. The media love war as it creates ever thrilling content around which they can sell advertisements.
The decisive political point in this election round was the fight between neo-conservatives/liberal-interventionists and foreign policy realists. One side is represented exemplary by the CIA with the U.S. military on the other:
A schism developed between the Defense Department and the highly politicized CIA. This schism, which can be attributed to the corporate-deep-state’s covert foreign policy, traces back to the CIA orchestrated “color revolutions” that had swept the Middle East and North Africa.
The CIA created bloodthirsty future enemies the military will later have to defeat. Fascists in Ukraine and Takfiris all over the Middle East are used by the CIA to further neocon aims but then require relative cheap military intervention at high human costs. The Generals do not like that. (The precedence of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan was enough for them.) Neither does the military industry. Fighting Takfiris does not require big ticket items. Ratcheting up the rhetoric against peer competitors (without ever fighting a real war) is the best justification for a two million strong military and huge military contracts.
"The DNC Emails Were Leaked" Obama Takes Parting Shot At Brennan, Clapper, Clinton
Three U.S. Intelligence Agencies (CIA, NSA and FBI) claim that IT-Systems of the Democratic National Committee were "hacked" in an operation related to the Russian government. They assert that emails copied during the "hack" were transferred by Russian government related hackers to Wikileaks which then published them.
President Obama disagrees. He says those emails were "leaked".
Wikileaks had insisted that the emails it published came from an insider source not from any government. The DNC emails proved that the supposedly neutral Democratic Party committee had manipulated the primary presidential elections in favor of the later candidate Hillary Clinton. This made it impossible for the alternative candidate Bernie Sanders to win the nomination. Hillory Clinton, who had extremely high unfavorable ratings, lost the final elections.
The President of the United States disagrees with those Intelligence Services. He says that the DNC emails were "leaked", i.e. copied by an insider, and then transferred to Wikileaks. (At the time around the leaking the DNC IT-administrator Seth Rich was found murdered for no apparent reason in the streets of Washington DC. The murder case was never solved.)
First of all, I haven't commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether Wikileaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.
The DNC emails "that were leaked" - not "hacked" or "stolen" but "leaked".
One wonders if this is a parting shot is primarily aimed at the involved Intelligence Agencies led by James Clapper and John Brennan. Or is dissing Hillary Clinton and her narrative the main purpose?
The presidential judgement could change the political pressure towards a new cold war with Russia if the mainstream media would pick it up and discuss it. But the media are widely invested in the "hacking" claims (and even create their own ones from hot air). They are also furthering the anti-Russian narrative. We therefore can not expect that they will report this presidential parting shot at all.
h/t - Shuaib M. Almosawa
How The U.S. Enabled ISIS To Take Deir Ezzor
The city of Deir Ezzor (Deir ez-Zur) in east-Syria is on the verge of falling into the hands of the Takfiris of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). More than 100,000 civilian inhabitants of Deir Ezzor and thousands of soldiers defending them are in immediate danger of being murdered by the savage ISIS forces. The current situation is a direct consequence of U.S. military action against the SAA and non-action against ISIS.
Deir Ezzor is besieged by ISIS since September 2015. But the city was well defended by its garrison of Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and all further attacks by ISIS were repelled. Supply to the city was hauled in by air through the Deir Ezzor airport and through air drops by the Syrian and Russian airforces. Relief by ground forces and ground supplies are not possible as Deir Ezzor is more than 100 km away from the nearest SAA positions west of Palmyra and as the desert in between is under the control of ISIS.
Google map - bigger
Four days ago a new attack by ISIS on Deir Ezzor was launched and has since continued. ISIS reinforcements and resupplies had come over months despite air interdiction from the Russian and Syrian airforces. Yesterday ISIS managed to cut off the airport, where the local SAA command and its main supplies are hosted, from the city proper. It is now attacking in full force from all sides. Bad weather makes air support from the outside sporadic and difficult. Unless some unforeseen happens it is only a question of time until the airport and the city fall to ISIS.
The U.S. has condoned and/or even actively supported the imminent ISIS taking of Deir Ezzor by (at least) three measures:
Libya - How U.S.-Russian Cooperation May (Re-)Unite The Country
By Richard Galustian
On January 20th Trump will be sworn in as President. US Foreign Policy will crystallize when the full cabinet is approved by the U.S. Congress. The Russians will try and make their moves on the world chess board during this transition period to further their interests.
As far as Libya is concerned will Russia’s now overt support for the LNA (Libyan National Army) and 74 years old General Khalifa Haftar, a former(?) CIA asset, cause a problem? The U.S. has up to now supported the UN installed GNA (Government of National Accord) which has little following in the country. Could Russia's LNA support put it at odds with the incoming Trump administration or will this be a welcome and calculated play from Trump's perspective?
Haftar and the LNA are also supported by Egypt and the United Arab Emirates. Last week Blackwater founder Erik Prince allegedly provided private mercenary pilots in armed agricultural aircraft to bomb Western Libya's Islamist extremists. Prince's mercenary air force is paid by the UAE. He is a brother Betsy DeVos, the U.S. president-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be secretary of education.
What will change as a result in the complicated ground war in Libya between the various warring factions in south, east and west Libya?
What of ISIS relatively small presence in the Sirte and Sabratha regions?
What of the tentative potential thawing of US/Russia relations put on edge by last week's inevitably doubtful allegations of Trump's being blackmailed by Russia.
The first three months following the inauguration will be the most telling.
Until then, let us hazard a guess as to what will unfold:
"It Can't Happen Here" - Color Revolution By Force
The "Donald Trump likes Russia" and "Russia bad" strategy was propagated by the Clinton election campaign. It build on constant U.S. incitement against Russia after the U.S. coup in Ukraine partially failed and after the Russian intervention on the side of the government in Syria. Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State was the main force behind the original anti-Russian campaign. When Clinton lost the election to Trump the theme connecting Trump and Russia was continued and fanned by parts of the U.S. intelligence community.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the FBI published a propaganda report claiming nefarious Russian cyber activities during the election without providing any evidence. The report came together with the expulsion of 35 Russian diplomats by the Obama administration. The DHS then planted a false story of Russian cyber-intrusion into a Vermont utility with the Washington Post.
The Director of National Intelligence Clapper followed up with a "report" of alleged Russian interference with the election. Even the Putinphobe Masha Gessen found that to be a shoddy piece of implausible propaganda. The DNI then helped to publish an MI6 "report" of fakes asserting Russian influence on Trump. In an unprecedented threat escalation the Pentagon sends a whole brigade and other assets to the Russian border.
Now the head of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, warns the President elect to "watch his tongue". Is there any precedence of some "intelligence" flunky threatening a soon to be President?
This has been, all together, a well though out propaganda campaign to reinforce the scheme Clinton and her overlords have been pushing for quite some time: Russia is bad and a danger. Trump is aligned with Russia. Something needs to be done against Trump but most importantly against Russia.
Propaganda works. The campaign is having some effects:
Open Thread 2017-02
News & views ...
"35 Pages" Attack Against Trump Fails - Foreign And Domestic Losses
UPDATED (at end of original)
The tale about the fake accusations about Russian influence on the U.S. presidential election becomes more gripping by each day. The are part of a larger war between various groups of the "elites" but also include infighting between U.S. government organizations.
We know that there was heavy Ukrainian influence on the side of Clinton in the election and in the current smear campaign against Trump and Russia. But it certainly wasn't Ukraine alone that is behind this. There are more international connections.
The "former" desk officer for Russia in the British MI6 Christopher Steele was the one who prepared the 35 pages of obviously false claims about Russian connections with and kompromat against Trump. There are so many inconsistencies in these pages that anyone knowledgeable about the workings in Moscow could immediately identify it as fake. Putin personally started working on Trump five years ago when Trump had no political role or hope whatsoever? A Trump associate met Russian officials in Prague even though he has never been in the Czech Republic?
Steele spread the fakes throughout the press corps in Washington DC but no media published them because these were obviously false accusations.
Steele then decided to hand the papers to the FBI and to talk to its agents hoping they would start an official investigation. He cleared his move (or was ordered to proceed?) at the highest level of the British government:
The Deep State Versus Donald Trump - New Smears And The Ukrainian Connection
UPDATED (3x) (at end of original)
As remarked on January 6:
When Hillary Clinton was defeated in the U.S. presidential election the relevant powers launched a campaign to delegitimize the President elect Donald Trump.
The ultimate aim of the cabal is to kick him out of office and have a reliable replacement, like the Vice-President elect Pence, take over. Should that not be possible it is hoped that the delegitimization will make it impossible for Trump to change major policy trajectories especially in foreign policy. A main issue here is the reorientation of the U.S. military complex and its NATO proxies from the war of terror towards a direct confrontation with main powers like Russia and China.
The deep state campaign against Trump opened new grounds today with the publication of completely fake and thereby unverifiable anonymous assertions which include the smear that Trump had some fun in a Moscow hotel and that Russian secret services is using that to manipulate him.
Like many smears against Trump via proxies of the Clinton presidential campaign these new ones seem to origin from Ukraine related sources and Ukrainian "nationalist" (aka fascist) putsch supporters.
The new assertions about Trump come in 35 pages of "reports" by an anonymous (claimed) former British intelligence operator working for a private U.S. company with dates ranging from June 20 2016 to December 13 2016. They say that Russia has some tapes of Trump watching sex games in 2013, they claim that Trump campaign officials coordinated the Clinton campaign leaks with Russia and that the Russian President Putin was highly involved in all of this.
Here is how the claimed former intelligence operator typically describes his sources in these "reports":
Speaking to a trusted compatriot in June 2016 sources A and B, a senior Russian Foreign Ministry figure and a former top level Russian intelligence officer still active inside the Kremlin respectively, the Russian authorities had been cultivating and supporting U.S. Republican presidential candidate, Donald TRUMP for at least five years. Source B asserted that the TRUMP operation was both supported and directed by Russian President Vladimir PUTIN.
The anonymous former British operator hears from an anonymous asserted compatriot what two anonymous sources, asserted to have access to inner Russian circles, claim to have heard somewhere that something happened in the Kremlin.
They assert that Trump was supported and directed by Putin himself five years ago while even a year ago no one would have bet a penny on Trump gaining any political significant position or even the presidency.
There is a lot more of such nonsense in these new Hitler diaries. It is bonkers from a to z.
Even as they are obvious fake the FBI tried to use these "reports" to get a wide warrant from the foreign intelligence surveillance (FISA) court to listen in on Trump campaign officials. The court thankfully denied or at least narrowed down the request.
ISIS, Al-Qaeda And The U.S. Airforce Wage War On Syria's Public Utilities
There is a campaign underway to destroy Syria's public utilities. Al-Qaeda, ISIS and the U.S. airforce are involved. Their action is coordinated.
That is an outrageous statement? No such coordination would ever happen? Consider:
The idea of the Islamic State was "born" in the U.S. military prison camp Bucca in Iraq. Many of its future leader were interned there and had time and space to develop their philosophy and to plan their future operations.
In 2012 the Defense Intelligence Agency warned of the rise of an Islamic State entity in Syria and Iraq:
THERE IS THE POSSIBILITY OF ESTABLISHING A DECLARED OR UNDECLARED SALAFIST PRINCIPALITY IN EASTERN SYRIA (HASAKA AND DER ZOR), AND THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT THE SUPPORTING POWERS TO THE OPPOSITION WANT, IN ORDER TO ISOLATE THE SYRIAN REGIME…”.
In an August 2014 NYT interview with Thomas Friedman President Obama said that the U.S. knew about the dangers of ISIS but did nothing to stop its expansion in Iraq because it could be used to oust then Prime Minister Maliki:
The reason, the president added, “that we did not just start taking a bunch of airstrikes all across Iraq as soon as ISIL came in was because that would have taken the pressure off of [Prime Minister Nuri Kamal] al-Maliki.
In a recent talk with some U.S. paid members of the Syrian opposition Secretary of State Kerry (video - 25:50) made a similar point but wuth regard to Syria:
"And we know that this was growing, we were watching, we saw that DAESH was growing in strength, and we thought Assad was threatened" Kerry told the Syrians. "(We) thought, however," he continued. "we could probably manage that Assad might then negotiate. But instead of negotiating he got Putin to support him."
There are doubts that the U.S. was only watching from afar. The beginning and growth of ISIS was financed by U.S. Gulf "allies" which are subordinated to U.S. wishes. When the Obama administration had to start bombing ISIS after it killed a U.S. journalist the few bombs its airforce dropped were hitting an "ISIS fighting position" or an "ISIS excavator". That wasn't a serious campaign. Meanwhile thousands of Turkish tanker trucks were waiting in the deserts to load oil from ISIS controlled wells to sell it to Turkey. Only after the Russian President Putin showed satellite pictures of those huge truck columns to his colleagues at a G20 meeting did the U.S. start to attack this major source of ISIS finances.
At the end of last year the U.S. military bombed a Syrian government position in Deir Ezzor where some 100,000 Syrians are besieged by ISIS. It killed more than Syrian 100 troops and enabled ISIS to take important hill positions that may eventually help it to conquer the city. This was an intentional strike.
Currently a campaign is waged by the Takfiri forces opposing the Syrian government and by the U.S. to deprive the people under its protection of all public utilities - water, gas and electricity. After the start of the current blocking of the water supplies to Damascus and its 5-6 million inhabitants we noted:
This shut down is part of a wider, seemingly coordinated strategy to deprive all government held areas of utility supplies. Two days ago the Islamic State shut down a major water intake for Aleppo from the Euphrates. High voltage electricity masts on lines feeding Damascus have been destroyed and repair teams, unlike before, denied access. Gas supplies to parts of Damascus are also cut.
This campaign against basic infrastructure has since continued. U.S. support "rebel" groups take part in it. Al-Qaeda in Syria, aka Jabhat al Nusra, does its share in Wadi Barada. The U.S. military just bombed another Syrian power station. In 2015 it had already waged a campaign against such installations creating huge material damages. Since three days Deir Ezzor and surroundings have no electricity at all. Yesterday ISIS again joined the campaign and blew up a huge gas processing facility in Hayyan in east Homs. Hayyan is the largest such station in Syria and provided electricity, heating gas and cooking gas for all of south Syria including the capital Damascus.
This is a systematic, wide ranging campaign against Syrian infrastructure designed to deprive the people living under government protection of the basic necessities.
If you would ask the U.S. government it would of course say that such a campaign does not exist and is totally not coordinated by the U.S. and its Gulf proxies. It is just coincidence that U.S. supported "rebels", al-Qaeda, ISIS and the U.S. airforce all hit the same category of targets in Syria at the very same moment of their war against the Syrian people.
In knowledge of the top U.S. sources quoted above I would be inclined to doubt such an assertion.
The campaign is in prelude to the next stage of the war for which all involved parties currently prepare. As Obama still gives the orders we can expect it to be more vicious and with even more propaganda support than his failed "defense" of his proxy forces in east-Aleppo.
Intelligence Report On Russian Election Influence Is A Flop
Yesterday the U.S. Director of National Intelligence, the CIA, the NSA and the FBI released a report about alleged Russian hacking of the Democratic National Council and on Russian influence operation on the U.S. presidential election. The report failed to convince anyone. It is indeed a public relation disaster for the Intelligence Community.
John Harwood covers "the economy and national politics for CNBC and the New York Times." More then 100,000 people follow him on Twitter. He is known as Hillary Clinton supporter and chummy with John Podesta who ran Clinton's election campaign.
Harwood set up a simple poll. It is not statistically representative but gives a picture of a general sentiment.
This result surely shows the limits of power of the so-called Intelligence Community. But it is worse: yesterday's "Russian hacking" claims failed to convince even its most ardent and anti-Russian supporters.
Kevin Rothrock (Moscow Times):
New Intelligence Report Adds No Evidence Of "Russian Hacking" (Updated)
UPDATE: Up to today there is no public evidence that Russia hacked the Democratic National Council and/or released DNC material to Wikileaks. After today's new intelligence report (pdf) there is still no such evidence. (One third of the report is dedicated to criticize the Russian government's TV outlet Russia Today for criticizing Hillary Clinton. The RT viewer numbers claimed in the report are evidently false from 2012 and thereby completely irrelevant.) There are rather wild assertions and a lot of conjecture but zero facts that could be accepted as proof.
Alexi de Sadesky saz: "ноль + ноль = ноль"
When Hillary Clinton was defeated in the U.S. presidential election the relevant powers launched a campaign to delegitimize the President elect Donald Trump.
The ultimate aim of the cabal is to kick him out of office and have a reliable replacement, like the Vice-President elect Pence, take over. Should that not be possible it is hoped that the delegitimization will make it impossible for Trump to change major policy trajectories especially in foreign policy. A main issue here is the reorientation of the U.S. military complex and its NATO proxies from the war of terror towards a direct confrontation with main powers like Russia and China.
The cabal consists of President Obama, the defeated candidate Hillary Clinton, neoconservatves like the State Department's cookie dispenser Victoria Nuland, the Republican senators McCain and Lindsay and the military-industrial complex. (One of the few neocons planted near to Trump, former CIA director James Woolsey, threw the towel today and left the Trump transition team.)
A major role in directing the plot has fallen to Obama's consigliere John Brennan, the current director of the CIA. Another role has been delegated to the various military and NATO think tanks like the Atlantic Council and the British RUSI and reliable proxies within the media.
The current emphasis of the campaign is on the release of emails and papers from the Clinton campaign through Wikileaks. It is alleged that some releases were gained through hacking, planned and executed by the Russian government. Trump had announced that he plans to seek good relations with Russia, the power that the cabal had earlier chosen as the new enemy de jour.
But there is a problem. There is no real evidence that a "hack" ever happened. There is no evidence that Russia is involved. None at all.
Three cases of paper releases have to be differentiated:
Open Thread 2017-01
News & views ...
The Enemy Du Jour Is Always Hacking
Three pieces in the same leading newspaper show how little changes with "hacking" stories when the powers-that-are decide that some country is now the "enemy."
1. By NYT staff reporter Erich Lichtblau: Increase in Electronic Attacks Leads to Warning on Hackers and U.S. Safety
Intelligence officials are concerned that a recent rise in electronic attacks against government and military computer networks in the United States may be the work of pro-[country] hackers and could signal a "potential crisis" in national security, according to a classified F.B.I. assessment.
The assessment, prepared last week by the National Infrastructure Protection Center at the Federal Bureau of Investigation, warned intelligence officials that the attacks, which have been relatively limited, are likely to grow more widespread and "more dangerous" as tension over a possible war against [country] grows.
American intelligence analysts say they have long been concerned by the notion that Al Qaeda could use computers to wage terror -- disrupting water treatment plants or nuclear facilities, for instance. Experts say the link between [country] and computer hacking may have been underestimated and poses a growing threat to United States security.
"[Country] is certainly among the places in the world that we think a cyberattack might well be launched from," Representative Robert E. Andrews of New Jersey, a Democrat on the House Armed Service Committee who has been active on cyberwarfare issues, said in an interview.
Mr. Andrews noted that computer attacks were difficult to trace and could be damaging, which he said met 's goals. "A cyberattack really fits [country]'s [leader] paradigm for attacking us," he said.
2. By NYT staff reporter Nicole Perlroth: Cyberespionage Attacks Tied to Hackers in [country]
SAN FRANCISCO — An elaborate, three-year cyberespionage campaign against United States military contractors, members of Congress, diplomats, lobbyists and Washington-based journalists has been linked to hackers in [country].
The campaign compromised the computers of some 2,000 victims and went unnoticed since 2011, according to a report to be released Thursday by iSight Partners, a computer security firm in Dallas.
American intelligence officials have long said [country]'s hackers are a serious threat, [..]
[L]ast year, American officials said [country] hackers were behind a wave of attacks on several American oil, gas and electricity companies,that officials described as probes looking for ways to disrupt critical processing systems.
3. By NYT staff reporter Erich Lichtblau: Computer Systems Used by Clinton Campaign Are Said to Be Hacked, Apparently by [country]
WASHINGTON — Computer systems used by Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign were hacked in an attack that appears to have come from [country]’s intelligence services, a federal law enforcement official said on Friday.
The apparent breach, coming after the disclosure last month that the Democratic National Committee’s computer system had been compromised, escalates an international episode in which Clinton campaign officials have suggested that [country] might be trying to sway the outcome of the election.
Clinton campaign officials have suggested that [leader] of [country] could be trying to tilt the election to Mr. Trump, who has expressed admiration for the [country]'s leader. But the campaign officials acknowledge that they have no evidence. The Trump campaign has dismissed the accusations about [country] as a deliberate distraction.
The first piece was published on January 17 2003, the country is Iraq and the leader is Saddam Hussein.
The second piece was published on May 29 2014, the country is Iran.
The third piece was published on July 29 2016, the country is Russia and the leader is Vladimir Putin.
U.S./UK Paid "White Helmets" Help Blocking Water To 5 Million Thirsty Syrians
The blockade of water from Wadi Barada to 5 million people in Damascus is taking an interesting turn. The U.S. and UK financed White Helmet organization seems to be directly involved in it. This increases the suspicion that the illegal blockade of water to civilians in Damascus is part of a organized campaign under U.S. command. The campaign is designed to block utilities to government held areas as revenge for the liberation of east Aleppo.
As we described it yesterday:
After the eastern part of the city of Aleppo was liberated by Syrian government forces, the local rebels and inhabitants in the Barada river valley were willing to reconcile with the Syrian government. But the al-Qaeda Takfiris disagreed and took over. The area is since under full al-Qaeda control and thereby outside of the recent ceasefire agreement.
On December 22 the water supply to Damascus was suddenly contaminated with diesel fuel and no longer consumable. A day later Syrian government forces started an operation to regain the area and to reconstitute the water supplies.
Photos and a video on social media (since inaccessible but I saw them when they appeared) showed the water treatment facility rigged with explosives. On Dec 27th the facility was blown up and partly destroyed.
The Syrian government is ready to send repair teams to rehabilitate the water flow to the millions of civilians in Damascus. But access to the site is denied and the Syrian army is now trying to push al-Qaeda and its allies away from it.
Curiously some "civil" groups today offered access under several (not agreeable) conditions:
Hassan Ridha @sayed_ridha - 2:10 AM - 3 Jan 2017
Wadi Barada statement: we will let teams to fix water spring if SAA-Hezb stop attack, siege lift & monitor ceasefire by intl observers
EHSANI2 @EHSANI22 - 6:43 AM - 3 Jan 2017
Offer by opposition to trade access to water source for #Damascus with halting of military operations by army
Here is the attachment to both tweets. Note who signed it: