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July 29, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-37

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Bloomberg fell for Netanyahoo's trick:

To limit Iran’s role, Russia had proposed a 100-km (60-mile) buffer zone on the Syrian side of the border that would be off limits to Iranian forces and their allies. But Israel is demanding further protections, including the removal of long-range Iranian missiles from Syria and limits on weapons supplies, according to media reports in Israel and Russia.

The MoA piece provides that it was Israel that claimed Russia had set the 100 km range, something it had not done, and it is Israel that demands even more.

This was, for several reasons, an unproductive week for your host. Next week the blog will, hopefully, be back to (nearly) daily posts.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (195)

July 27, 2018

'Western' Press Dislikes Imran Khan's Win In Pakistan's Election

Imran Khan election win in Pakistan receives a hostile reaction in U.S. and British media. The headlines are generally negative and the descriptions of Imran cast a damning light of him.

From the New York Times print edition front page:


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The word "Pakistan" was probably too long for the valuable front-page space. Thus the NYT shortened it to "Nuclear-Armed Islamic Republic". The attribute "unpredictable" for Imran Khan is curious. (If one cuts out the "Islamic" the headline fits to Trump's election victory. Was that the intended joke?)

The piece by Jeffrey Gettleman repeats the "unpredictable" claim:

Friends and foes describe Mr. Khan, 65, as relentless, charming, swaggering and highly unpredictable.

But there is no evidence, not one example in the piece that supports that attribute. It describes how he, in the late 90s, entered politics:

Cont. reading: 'Western' Press Dislikes Imran Khan's Win In Pakistan's Election

Posted by b at 02:47 PM | Comments (121)

July 26, 2018

Pakistan's 'Populist' Wins The Election

Imran Khan won yesterday's elections in Pakistan. He is an unusual politician and his political program is laudable. The task he is taking on is difficult and fraught with danger:

Imran Khan has claimed victory for his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party (PTI) in an historic election for Pakistan. The PTI represents a populist swing away from the legacy mainstream parties PML-N and PPP that both fared poorly during the election. Additionally, religious extremist parties fared particularly poorly compared to the previous two elections and also when contrasted with the expectations that many theocratic parties set for themselves prior to polling day. Lastly, the deeply controversial MQM ended up losing both seats and electoral momentum in its Karachi heartland, surrendering its erstwhile momentum to PTI.

Likewise, the incumbent PML-N not only fared poorly in the national vote in their traditional Punjab stronghold but even in the Punjab assembly election, Imran Khan’s PTI has proved formidable. Finally in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa which since 2013 has been governed by a PTI led provincial council, women were able to cast their votes for the first time. As was expected PTI heavily dominated throughout Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Imran Khan is an interesting character. He was born in 1952 into an affluent Pashtun family with an anti-colonial tradition. He was educated in Britain. After graduating from Oxford he excelled as a professional cricket player. In 1992 he won the Cricket World Cup for Pakistan as captain of the team. That made him a national hero but the high life also gave him a reputation as womanizer and playboy.


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His 2012 talk with Julian Assange (vid) demonstrates that he is way more than that. In 1996 he founded his political party and slowly moved it into a winning position. The PTI rule in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the poor and war-torn Pashtun state next to Afghanistan, was surprisingly successful.

Cont. reading: Pakistan's 'Populist' Wins The Election

Posted by b at 01:19 PM | Comments (90)

July 24, 2018

Syria - For The Third Time Israel Falsely Claims Iran Pull-Back Deal With Russia

A typical Israeli propaganda scheme is to falsely claim that an agreement with some entity has been made and to then push that entity to stick to a "deal" it never agreed to. Israel dislikes any 'Iranian presence' in Syria. It tries to press on Russia to push Iran out of Syria by claiming that Russia offered or made such a deal.

Last fall a campaign in Israeli media claimed that Russia had agreed to push Iran away from the border with Israel. Russia denied that anything like that happened. Iranian forces in Syria are legitimately there. In late May a similar campaign repeated that scheme. It claimed that the Russian Foreign Minister had agreed to move Iran out, when in fact he had called on U.S. forces to leave Syria. Moon of Alabama documented both campaigns.

Yesterday we saw a third attempt by Israel to pretend that Russia had offered or made a deal to counter 'Iranian presence':

A senior political source participated in the meeting between Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Russian Chief of Staff Valery Gerasimov, at the Prime Minister's Office in Jerusalem Sunday evening.

"It was made clear again that we would not accept Iranian consolidation in Syria, not near the border, and not in the 100-kilometer strip that the Russians are talking about and committing to," the senior official said. "We said that there is long-range weapons placed beyond this area and all these forces have to leave Syria. Russia has considerable capabilities to deal with this, because it is a very significant factor within Syria."

Damascus is only some 50 kilometers from the Israel occupied Golan Height. Does anyone believe that Russia can tell Iranians to not go to Damascus? That it can tell Iran to not defend its ally Syria? Such an "offer", which Russia most likely never made, would be nonsense. Russia has no means to tell Iran what to do. Even the U.S. acknowledges that:

Cont. reading: Syria - For The Third Time Israel Falsely Claims Iran Pull-Back Deal With Russia

Posted by b at 09:17 AM | Comments (174)

July 22, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-36

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Charlie Rowley, allegedly poisoned by a 'Novichok', has been released from hospital. There is no word of his whereabout.

[Meta remark: 519 comments - are you nuts? When am I supposed to read those?]

Adding;

A nice history piece with some surprising insights: Why Did the Dutch Give Up Manhattan for Nutmeg? Because the spice must flow ...

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:20 PM | Comments (268)

'Progressives Are Putin Stooges' - How Centrist Democrats Help To Reelect Trump

Updated Below
---

Blaming 'Russian meddling' for their loss of the 2016 elections allowed the democratic establishment to avoid any discussion about their unelectable candidate and their bad centrist policies. Meanwhile the party base has moved on. Progressives candidates continue to win in primaries. The centrist party establishment will now use their genius invention of 'Russian meddling' to defeat them.

Lambert Strether at Naked Capitalism links several recent pieces about the democrats and notes:

Suddenly a lot of stories about centrists. Somebody must have gotten funding.

The centrists and their big money sources feal endangered. They try to find strategies to defeat calls for 'medicare for all', demands to 'abolish ICE' and other progressive aims:

The gathering here was just that — an effort to offer an attractive alternative to the rising Sanders-style populist left in the upcoming presidential race. Where progressives see a rare opportunity to capitalize on an energized Democratic base, moderates see a better chance to win over Republicans turned off by Trump.

The fact that a billionaire real estate developer, Winston Fisher, co-hosted the event and addressed attendees twice underscored that this group is not interested in the class warfare vilifying the "millionaires and billionaires" found in Sanders' stump speech.
...
The invitation-only gathering brought together about 250 Democratic insiders from key swing states. Third Way unveiled the results of focus groups and polling that it says shows Americans are more receptive to an economic message built on "opportunity" rather than the left's message about inequality.

"Once again, the time has come to mend, but not end, capitalism for a new era," said Third Way President Jon Cowan.

McClatchy's lede about the meeting is on point:

Leading moderate Democrats forcefully argued this week that the party can embrace a robust agenda of change while still praising capitalism and downplaying income inequality.

In other words, everything the empowered liberal base has spent a year and a half mobilizing against.

The 2016 elections have shown that people no longer buy the Third Way nonsense. The republican electorate moved to the more radical candidate Trump. The democratic electorate is now well underway to mirror that move:

Cont. reading: 'Progressives Are Putin Stooges' - How Centrist Democrats Help To Reelect Trump

Posted by b at 12:53 PM | Comments (99)

July 21, 2018

Either Trump Fires These People Or The Borg Will Have Won

President's Trump successful summit with President Putin was used by the 'resistance' and the deep state to launch a coup-attempt against Trump. Their minimum aim is to put Trump into a (virtual) political cage where he can no longer pursue his foreign policy agenda.

One does not have to be a fan of Trump's policies and still see the potential danger. A situation where he can no longer act freely will likely be worse. What Trump has done so far still does not add up to the disastrous policies and crimes his predecessor committed.

The borg, financed and sworn to the agenda of globalists and the military-industrial-media complex, has its orders and is acting on them. The globalists want more free trade agreements, no tariffs and more immigration to prevent higher wages. Capital does not have a national attachment. It does not care about the 'deplorables' who support Trump and his policies:

[P]olls show that Trump appears to still have the support of the bulk of Republican voters when it comes to tariffs. Nearly three-fourths, or 73 percent, of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents who responded to a Pew Research survey out this week said they felt increased tariffs would benefit the country.

His 'isolationist' economic policies make Trump an enemy of the globalists:

Donald Trump is, indeed, a kind of traitor to the Washington Consensus, a hyper-militarized capitalist utopia of corporate dominated global supply chains that doubled the international wage-slave workforce in the last two decades of the 20th century and herded these desperate billions into a race to the bottom. The leadership of both corporate parties conspired to force U.S. workers into the global meat-grinder.

The weapon industry and the military recognize that the 'war of terror' is nearing its end. To sell more they need to create an new 'enemy' that looks big enough to justify large and long-term spending. Russia, the most capable opponent the U.S. could have, is the designated target. A new Cold War will give justification for all kinds of fantastic and useless weapons.

Trump does not buy the nonsense claims of 'Russian meddling' in the U.S. elections and openly says so. He does not believe that Russia wants to attack anyone. To him Russia is not an enemy.

Trump grand foreign policy is following a realist assessment. He sees that previous administrations pushed Russia into the Chinese camp by aggressive anti-Russian policies in Europe and the Middle East. He wants to pull Russia out of the alliance with China, neutralize it in a political sense, to then be able to better tackle China which is the real threat to the American (economic) supremacy.

This week was a prelude to the coup against Trump:

Cont. reading: Either Trump Fires These People Or The Borg Will Have Won

Posted by b at 02:43 PM | Comments (186)

July 19, 2018

Israel Declares Itself Apartheid State

Today Israel declared itself to be an apartheid state:

The Knesset passed early Thursday a controversial bill that officially defines Israel as the national homeland of the Jewish people and asserts that "the realization of the right to national self-determination in Israel is unique to the Jewish people," with 62 lawmakers voting in favor of the legislation and 55 opposing it.
...
The nation-state law also includes clauses stating that a "united Jerusalem" is the capital of Israel and that Hebrew is the country's official language. Another says that "the state sees the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment and consolidation."

The new law has constitutional status:

The bill, which has the status of a basic law (approximately the same as a constitutional law in countries with a written constitution), was passed overnight to Thursday with 62 votes in favor and 55 against after hours of fierce argument and debate. It will now come into force as soon as it's published in the Knesset's Official Gazette.
...
In a clause that set Arab lawmakers off, the bill explicitly states that "the right to exercises national determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people."

The law stipulates segregation:

part of the law [is] aimed at promoting the "establishment and consolidation" of Jewish settlements

Israel has never defined its borders. It has illegally taken ownership of all public land in the occupied West Bank. This land is then exclusively granted to Zionist settlers:

Over five decades in control of the West Bank, Israel has marked out hundreds of thousands of acres as public land, and it has allocated almost half of them for use.

But only 400 of those acres — 0.24 percent of the total allocated so far — have been earmarked for the use of Palestinians, according to official data obtained recently by an anti-settlement group after a freedom of information request. Palestinians make up about 88 percent of the West Bank’s population.

The group, Peace Now, said the other 99.76 percent of the land went to help Israeli settlements.


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The Arab population of Israel and the occupied territories is as big as the Jewish population. The allocation of "public" land stolen from the indigenous Arab population solely to Jewish immigrants was already one of many clearly discriminating apartheid issues. It was in contradiction even to Israeli law. Now the creation of solely Jewish settlements is required by constitutional mandate. The blatantly illegal creation and expansion of solely Jewish settlements on stolen Palestinian land is now rationalized as requirement of basic law. Muslim and Christian Palestinians now have to pay taxes for their own expropriation.

Is there a Buddhist people, a Catholic people? Do they deserve their own nation and land? No. Even the though of such is weird. Are Jews originating from Ethiopia, India, Lithuania, Iran and Poland a common race? Why then is there supposed to be a 'Jewish people' as the new law stipulates?

It is historically crazy that a number of humans, living in dozens of mostly east-European countries, would suddenly define themselves as a unique 'race' by virtue of believing in the same religious fairy tales. The concept mirrored and enabled the racism of the fascists. The self declared ethnicity then laid claim on far away land in west-Asia based on old stories of temples for which there is little to no archeologic evidences.

Primarily Great Britain, France and the United States, furthered and support this ethnocratic, colonialist, undemocratic, imperialist, and genocidal scheme to their own advantage.

It is high time to end this illegal and immoral aberration.

Posted by b at 07:56 AM | Comments (207)

July 17, 2018

Helsinki Talks - How Trump Tries To Rebalance The Global Triangle

The reactions of the U.S. polite to yesterday's press conference of Pgresident Trump and President Putin are highly amusing. The media are losing their mind. Apparently it was Pearl Harbor, Gulf of Tonkin and 9/11 all in one day. War will commence tomorrow. But against whom?

Behind the panic lie competing views of Grand Strategy.

Rereading the transcript of the 45 minutes long press conference (vid) I find it rather boring. Trump did not say anything that he had not said before. There was little mention of what the two presidents had really talked about and what they agreed upon. Later on Putin said that the meeting was more substantive than he expected. As the two spoke alone there will be few if any leaks. To understand what happened we will have to wait and see how the situations in the various conflict areas, in Syria, Ukraine and elsewhere, will now develop.

The 'liberal' side of the U.S. did its best to prevent the summit. The recent Mueller indictment was timed to sabotage the talks. Before the meeting in Helsinki the New York Times retweeted its three weeks old homophobic comic flick that shows Trump and Putin as lovers. It is truly a disgrace for the Grey Lady to publish such trash, but it set the tone others would follow. After the press conference the usual anti-Trump operatives went ballistic:

John O. Brennan @JohnBrennan - 15:52 UTC - 16 Jul 2018

Donald Trump’s press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of “high crimes & misdemeanors.” It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump’s comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???

Senator John McCain released a scathing statement:

... “No prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant. Not only did President Trump fail to speak the truth about an adversary; but speaking for America to the world, our president failed to defend all that makes us who we are—a republic of free people dedicated to the cause of liberty at home and abroad. ...

These imbeciles do not understand the realism behind Trump's grand policy. Trump knows the heartland theory of Halford John Mackinder.  He understands that Russia is the core of the Eurasian landmass. That landmass, when politically united, can rule the world. A naval power, the U.S. now as the UK before it, can never defeat it. Trump's opponents do not get what Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor of President Carter, said in his book The Grand Chessboard (pdf) about a Chinese-Russian alliance. They do not understand why Henry Kissinger advised Trump to let go of Crimea.

Trump himself professed his view (vid) of the big picture and of relations with Russia in a 2015 press conference:

Cont. reading: Helsinki Talks - How Trump Tries To Rebalance The Global Triangle

Posted by b at 07:41 AM | Comments (536)

July 16, 2018

The Magic Of Novichok - Deadly Agent Found In Perfume Bottle

This before-after advertisement for Novichok perfume, featuring Yulia Skripal, made the rounds a while ago.


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The ad was published before May 27. Its creator must have had real vision. Last night the BBC reported:

Amesbury: Novichok found in perfume bottle, says victim's brother

The nerve agent that poisoned two people in Amesbury was contained in a perfume bottle, the brother of one of the victims has said.

Matthew Rowley said his brother Charlie, who is seriously ill in hospital, told him he had picked up the perfume bottle.

The Metropolitan Police, which is leading the investigation, refused to confirm the claim.

Previously the force has said only that it was found in a "small bottle".

Sergej Skripal and his daughter Yulia both mysteriously recovered from the alleged 'nerve agent' 10 times as deadly as VX. It was the magic of the Novichok perfume that did it.

One victim of the second 'Novichok' incident in Wiltshire, Matthew Rowley, is also on the path to full recovery. His friend Dawn Strugess, a drug addict with serious medical preconditions, died. Like with the Skripal case the details of the second incident raise lots of new questions.

According to the police the 'small bottle' contained an agent of the 'Novichok' group:

Cont. reading: The Magic Of Novichok - Deadly Agent Found In Perfume Bottle

Posted by b at 01:32 PM | Comments (78)

July 15, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-35

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Airbus is pissed. It was asked by May to give a dire warning about Brexit which it dutifully did. The next day May handed a big no-bid contract to Boeing.

Trump today added to turmoil he caused in Europe:

In an interview with "CBS Evening News" anchor Jeff Glor in Scotland on Saturday, President Trump named the European Union -- comprising some of America's oldest allies -- when asked to identify his "biggest foe globally right now."
"Well, I think we have a lot of foes. I think the European Union is a foe, what they do to us in trade. Now, you wouldn't think of the European Union, but they're a foe. ..."

Bashing allies is an essential component of the Trump doctrine:

The second-best self-description of the Trump Doctrine I heard was this, from a senior national-security official: “Permanent destabilization creates American advantage.” The official who described this to me said Trump believes that keeping allies and adversaries alike perpetually off-balance necessarily benefits the United States, which is still the most powerful country on Earth.
...
The best distillation of the Trump Doctrine I heard, though, came from a senior White House official with direct access to the president and his thinking. I was talking to this person several weeks ago, and I said, by way of introduction, that I thought it might perhaps be too early to discern a definitive Trump Doctrine. “No,” the official said. “There’s definitely a Trump Doctrine.” “What is it?” I asked. Here is the answer I received: “The Trump Doctrine is ‘We’re America, Bitch.’ That’s the Trump Doctrine.”

Adam Carter at Disobedient Media finds contradictions between the indictment and publicly known evidence.

M.K. Bhadrakumar mulls on the indictment timing and previews the Helsinki summit.

The U.S. foreign policy establishment, here the president of the Council of Foreign Relations, is losing it:

Richard N. Haass @RichardHaass - 21:26 UTC - 14 Jul 2018
International order for 4 centuries has been based on non-interference in the internal affairs of others and respect for sovereignty. Russia has violated this norm by seizing Crimea and by interfering in the 2016 US election. We must deal w Putin’s Russia as the rogue state it is.

Shorter: "Westphalianism for us, intervention for everyone else."

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 11:16 AM | Comments (172)

July 13, 2018

No Evidence In Mueller's Indictment Of 12 Russians - Release Now May Sabotage Upcoming Summit

The Special counsel Robert Mueller issued an indictment (pdf, 29 pages) against 12 Russian people alleged to be officers or personal of the Russian Military Intelligence Service GRU. The people, claims the indictment, work for an operational (26165) and a technical (74455) subunit of the GRU.

A Grand Jury in Washington DC issued 11 charges which are described and annotated below. A short assessment follows.

The first charge is for a "Conspiracy to Commit an Offense Against the United States" by stealing emails and leaking them. The indictment claims that the GRU units sent spearfishing emails to the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party organizations DNC and DCCC. They used these to get access to email boxes of John Podesta and other people. They are also accused of installing spyware (X-agent) on DNC computers and of exfiltrating emails and other data from them. The emails were distributed and published by the online personas DCLeaks, Guccifer II and later through Wikileaks. The indictment claims that DCLeaks and Guccifer II were impersonations by the GRU. Wikileaks, "organization 1" in the indictment, is implicated but so far not accused.

Note: There is a different Grand Jury for the long brewing case against Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Assange has denied that the emails he published came from a Russian source. Craig Murray, a former British ambassador, said that he received the emails on a trip to Washington DC and transported them to Wikileaks.

The indictment describes in some detail how various rented computers and several domain names were used to access the DNC and DCCC computers. The description is broadly plausible but there is little if any supporting evidence.

Charge 2 to 9 of the indictment are about "Aggravated Identity Theft" for using usernames and passwords for the personal email accounts of others.

Charge 10 is about a "Conspiracy to Launder Money". This was allegedly done "through a web of transaction structured to capitalize on the perceived anonymity of cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin". It is alleged that the accused mined bitcoins, channeled these through dozens of accounts and transactions and then used them to rent servers, virtual private network access and domain names used in the operation.

Note: The indictment reinforces the author's hunch that bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are creations and playgrounds of secret services just like Tor and other 'cool' internet 'privacy' stuff are. Its the very reason why one should avoid their use.

Cont. reading: No Evidence In Mueller's Indictment Of 12 Russians - Release Now May Sabotage Upcoming Summit

Posted by b at 02:39 PM | Comments (177)

July 12, 2018

Syria Sitrep - Army Liberates Daraa City

Today the current Syrian government campaign in Daraa governorate saw another highlight. The 'rebels' in the southern part of the city of Daraa gave up and reconciled with the government. Currently the Syrian army is taking control of the area. The Syrian flag has been raised over its buildings.

The whole Daraa governorate campaign in southwest Syria proceeded with astonishing speed. In just three weeks the government forces recovered 84% of the 'rebel' held territory and dozens of cities and villages with little force. Jordan and the U.S. had finally denied support for the 'rebels' and their only choices were to reconcile or to die. Almost all of them chose to give up. An enormous amount of weapons, including at least 18 U.S. made TOW anti-tank missiles systems and two British made armored infantry carriers, were handed over to the Syrian government.

The maps show the situation at the beginning of the campaign and as of today. (red - Syrian government; green - 'rebels' and al-Qaeda; grey - Islamic Statel; blue - Golan Heights occupied by Israel; Jordan is to the south) Note: The encircled southern part of the city of Daraa on the current map is still marked green as the government is only now taking control of it.


June 19 2018 bigger - July 12 2018 bigger

Israel is threatening the Syrian forces not to come near the deconfliction line on the Golan Heights. It wants to keep a buffer of Jihadis between itself and the Syrian army. Any attempt to achieve that will be in vane. Syria and its allies are determined to eradicate the Jihadis.  As these are experienced fighters willing to die the fight will likely take several weeks. After that the Syrian army will move north and liberate Idleb.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - Army Liberates Daraa City

Posted by b at 01:41 PM | Comments (171)

July 11, 2018

Trump's False Arguments Will Not Sell Well In Europe

Donald Trump, the 'America First' salesman, came to Brussels today to demand more tribute to the empire. He wants Europe to buy more U.S. made weapons and to use U.S. liquefied natural gas (LNG). But his arguments are all wrong. The people in Europe are not impressed by them and they will reject his appeals.

His first talk in Brussels was a profoundly wrong bashing of Germany to push it into buying very expensive LNG from U.S. fracking producers. Trump, Putin's puppet according to the 'resistance', used the Russian bogeyman to set the scene:

Well, I have to say, I think it’s very sad when Germany makes a massive oil and gas deal with Russia, where you’re supposed to be guarding against Russia, and Germany goes out and pays billions and billions of dollars a year to Russia.
...
So we’re protect you against Russia, but they’re paying billions of dollars to Russia, and I think that’s very inappropriate. And the former Chancellor of Germany is the head of the pipeline company that’s supplying the gas. Ultimately, Germany will have almost 70 percent of their country controlled by Russia with natural gas.

So you tell me, is that appropriate? I mean, I’ve been complaining about this from the time I got in. It should have never been allowed to have happened. But Germany is totally controlled by Russia, because they will be getting from 60 to 70 percent of their energy from Russia and a new pipeline.
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Now, if you look at it, Germany is a captive of Russia because they supply. They got rid of their coal plants. They got rid of their nuclear. They’re getting so much of the oil and gas from Russia.
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I think trade is wonderful. I think energy is a whole different story. I think energy is a much different story than normal trade. And you have a country like Poland that won’t accept the gas. You take a look at some of the countries — they won’t accept it, because they don’t want to be captive to Russia. But Germany, as far as I’m concerned, is captive to Russia, because it’s getting so much of its energy from Russia. So we’re supposed to protect Germany, but they’re getting their energy from Russia. Explain that. And it can’t be explained — you know that.

Trump was talking about the Nordstream II pipeline which will supply Germany and other European countries with natural gas from Russia.


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Nord Stream I has been operating for a while. Nord Stream II is currently being build by private Austrian and German companies.

Cont. reading: Trump's False Arguments Will Not Sell Well In Europe

Posted by b at 02:50 PM | Comments (204)

July 10, 2018

German Parliament Report: U.S. Presence in Syria Is Illegal

The Scientific Services of the German Bundestag are the equivalent to the Congressional Research Service in the United States. Members of Parliament can ask the services to give their neutral expert opinions on legal questions and other issues. Opinions by the Scientific Services are held in high regard.

Alexander Neu, a Member of Parliament for the Left Party in Germany, requested an opinion on the legality of the military presence and operations by Russia, the United States and Israel in Syria.

The result (pdf, in German) is quite clear-cut:

- Russia was asked by the recognized government of Syria to help. Its presence in Syria is without doubt legal under International Law.

- U.S. activities in Syria can be seen as two phases:

Regime Change

The provision of arms to insurgents in Syria by the U.S. (and others) was and is illegal. It is a breach of the Prohibition on the Use of Force in international law specifically of the UN Charter Article 2(4):

All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

Fight against ISIS

The U.S. argues that its presence in Syria is in (collective) self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter because the Islamic State in Syria threatens to attack the United States. That, in itself, would be insufficient as Syria is a sovereign state. The U.S. therefore additionally claims that the Syrian state is "unwilling or unable" to fight against the Islamic State.

The Scientific Services says that the claim of "unwilling or unable" was already dubious when the U.S. operation started. This for two reasons:

  • It is not law or an internationally accepted legal doctrine. (The 120 members of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) and others have argued strongly against it.)
  • The Syrian government itself was fighting ISIS, but it could not operation in large parts of its territory where the Islamic State had taken control. Some argue that this justified the "unable" argument. But ISIS is largely defeated and it no longer has any significant territorial control.

The already dubious legal case for the presence of U.S. (and other 'coalition' troops in Syria) can thus no longer be made. The U.S. presence in Syria is illegal.

- Israel's attacks on Hizbullah and Iranian units and installations in Syria, as well as against Syria itself, are claimed by Israel to be 'anticipatory self-defense' under UN Charter Article 51. But 'anticipatory self-defense' could only be claimed when attacks against Israel were imminent. That case has not been made. The Israeli attacks are thus 'pre-emptive self defense' which is not an accepted doctrine of International Law.

The service was not asked for an opinion on Turkey's incursion into Syria but it notes that claims of 'self defense', as Turkey makes in its fight against Kurdish entities in Syria, are often abuses for Geo-strategic purposes.

So far the Scientific Services opinion.  

The given legal arguments are not new. Other have long reasoned along the same lines and came to the same results.

But Germany is a partner of the U.S. coalition of the willing against ISIS. Its military has flown reconnaissance missions from Turkey and Jordan in support of the U.S. operation under the same legal argument the U.S. made. The German parliament is now unlikely to renew the mandate for the anti-ISIS operation. Other countries will likely follow and end their participation in the U.S. coalition.

While this is will not change the situation on the ground in Syria it does change the international political atmosphere. It also 'rehabilitates' the Syrian government in the European public eye as it can no longer be depicted as an 'enemy.' 

Posted by b at 02:48 PM | Comments (90)

July 09, 2018

BREXIT - Still Not Gonna Happen

Good news: The pictured man is no longer the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.


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Bad news: The pictured man may soon be the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.

Hours before Boris Johnson quit his position, Brexit Secretary David Davis resigned from Prime Minister May's cabinet.

On July 6 the British government held a cabinet meeting at Chequers, the private seat of the prime minister. Following the meeting it published a paper (pdf) that took a weird position towards exiting the European Union. If it would be followed, Britain would practically end up with staying in the EU, accepting nearly all its regulations and court decisions, but without any say over what the EU decides. The paper was clearly written by the 'Remain' side. The two top Brexiters in May's cabinet felt cheated and resigned. More are likely to follow.

The majority of the British people who voted to leave the EU must feel duped.

Cont. reading: BREXIT - Still Not Gonna Happen

Posted by b at 11:43 AM | Comments (158)

July 08, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-34

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

By Friday the new 'Novichok' fairytale had already vanished from the front pages. The story the British government tells is no longer believed. Even the Guardian allowed a comment that doubts the claims:

If the novichok was planted by Russia, where’s the evidence?

The most obvious motive for these attacks would surely be from someone out to embarrass the Russian president, Vladimir Putin – someone from his enemies, rather than from his friends or employees.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 02:27 PM | Comments (168)

Pyongyang Talks - How Pompeo Put The Cart Before The Horse

U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo just visited North Korea to further the agenda President Trump and Chairmen Kim had agreed upon in Singapore. The visit did not go well:

The specifics of what happened behind closed doors remain unclear. Whether Pompeo somehow annoyed his counterpart, or pressed too hard, or whether the North Koreans are simply reverting to their hot-and-cold tactics, is hard to say. But the regime made sure to have the final word, and it was not pleasant.

As he was leaving, Pompeo told reporters the conversations were “productive and in good faith.” Hours later North Korean state media issued a statement that did not mention him by name but called the demands he presented “gangster-like.”

The Trump administration has long set out its goal as CVID, the "Complete, Verifiable and Irreversible Dismantlement" of North Korea nuclear weapons program. After applying "maximum pressure" on North Korea through international sanctions, the U.S. believed that long planned steps North Korea took to start talks with its adversaries were already the total surrender it was hoping for. Somehow the people became convinced that North Korea would give up its nuclear weapons. From a Washington Post story:

Amid increasing scrutiny of North Korea's commitment to giving up its weapons, Pompeo came to Pyongyang in a bid to hammer out the details of a denuclearization plan. While the secretary told reporters that progress was made "on almost all of the central issues” and involved “good-faith negotiations,” North Korea said the U.S. attitude, demanding denuclearization, was “regrettable.”

"North Korea's commitment to giving up its weapons" is presented as a matter of fact in the U.S. media. However, North Korea never made such a commitment. The declarations it agreed to set out denuclearization as an aspiration goal that will be worked on only after the normalization of economic and military relations and after a peace treaty has been agreed on or signed. The record on that is clear.

Cont. reading: Pyongyang Talks - How Pompeo Put The Cart Before The Horse

Posted by b at 02:02 PM | Comments (46)

July 07, 2018

Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

Some mainstream media are outright lying about the OPCW report on the alleged 'chemical attack' in Douma.

The Washington Post writes:

[A] global watchdog concluded that chlorine was indeed used in the city of Douma a day before rebel forces surrendered there.
...
In an interim report released Friday, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said its inspectors had discovered traces of “various chlorinated organic chemicals” across two sites it inspected.

The OPCW did not conclude at all that "chlorine was indeed used". It found some chemical compounds which have chlorine, carbon and hydrogen in various configurations as their main elements. There are hundreds if not thousands of "chlorinated organic chemicals". A plastic pipe made from polyvenylchlorid (PVC = (C2H3Cl)n) is made of the same elements. One could call it a "chlorinated organic chemical". Burning something made of PVC will releases various compounds many of which will themselves be "chlorinated organic chemicals". But finding residues of a burned plastic pipe or isolation in a home does not mean that chlorine gas was used in that place. Several of the compounds the OPCW found result from using chlorine to disinfect water. They can be found within the chlorinated water and about anywhere where chlorinated water was used. 

The BBC made a similar 'mistake'. It headlined "Syria war: Douma attack was chlorine gas - watchdog".


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Cont. reading: Syria - Mainstream Media Lie About Watchdog Report On The 'Chemical Attack' In Douma

Posted by b at 02:48 PM | Comments (66)

July 06, 2018

Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma

On April 7 2018 Syrian 'rebels' claimed that the Syrian government used chlorine gas and Sarin in an attack on the besieged Douma suburb near the Syrian capital Damascus. They published a series of videos which showed the dead bodies of mainly women and children.

During the night the incident allegedly happened Douma was hit with artillery and air strikes in retaliation for earlier deadly attacks by some 'rebels' splinter groups on Damascus city. Jaish al-Islam, the main 'rebel' group in Douma, had already agreed to leave towards Idleb governorate.

The claim of the 'chemical attack' was made shortly after U.S. President Trump had announced that he wanted U.S. troops to leave Syria. It was designed to "pull him back in" which it indeed did.

Moon of Alabama published several pieces on the issue:

April 8 - Syria - Timelines Of 'Gas Attacks' Follow A Similar Scheme (Update II)
April 9 - Syria - Any U.S. Strike Will Lead to Escalation
April 11 - Syria - A U.S. Attack Would Be Futile - But Serve A Purpose - by M. K. Bhadrakumar
April 11 - Trump Asks Russia To Roll Over - It Won't
April 12 - Syria - Threat Of Large War Recedes But May Come Back
April 13 - Syria - Manipulated Videos Fail To Launch World War III - Updated
April 14 - F.U.K.U.S. Strikes Syria - Who Won?
April 16 - Syria - Pentagon Hides Attack Failure - 70+ Cruise Missiles Shot Down
April 19 - Syria - Who Is Stalling The OPCW Investigation In Douma?

It seemed obvious from the very first claims of the 'gas attack' that it did not happen at all. The Syrian government had no motive to use any chemical weapon or an irritant like chlorine in Douma. It had already won. The incident was obviously staged, like others before it, to drag the U.S. into a new attack on Syria.

Even a prominent opposition outlet said that no 'chemical attack' had taken place. As noted on April 9:

Cont. reading: Syria - OPCW Issues First Report Of 'Chemical Weapon Attack' in Douma

Posted by b at 03:23 PM | Comments (76)

July 05, 2018

Syria Sitrep - UN Refugee Numbers For Daraa Are Mere Propaganda - They Make No Sense At All

UN organizations claim high internal refugee numbers in southwest Syria due to recent fighting in Daraa governorate. A review of the evidence finds that these numbers are implausible.

Over the last two weeks the long announced operation of the Syrian army and its allies to liberate southwest Syria from terrorist organization and 'rebels' proceeded well. The eastern part (red) of the 'rebel' held area has been recovered without much serious fighting. Most towns in the area accepted the Russian offers to reconcile with the Syrian government. The various local 'rebel' groups in those towns handed their heavy weapons to the Syrian army, joined the army or laid down their arms. Other fled further south. Those groups who resisted received a short but sharp lashing by the Russian airforce and Syrian artillery until they were convinced to give up or move out. There were only few casualties. The Syrian army recovered more then ten tanks and a huge amount of ammunition (video) that the sponsors of the rebels had previously delivered to them. Among the weapons found were at least 7 U.S. delivered TOW anti tank missile systems. A fifteen minutes long report by the Russian language ANNA TV documents the campaign (vid, English subs).

Daraa governorate, July 5 2018 - bigger

Over the last few days negotiations with groups which control the M5 highway and the Nassib-Jaber border crossing to Jordan proceeded but failed. Among other issues the 'rebels' demanded to tax future transports through the crossing. The demand is unreasonable and was rejected. This morning a new Syrian army operation was launched with the aim to reach the crossing and to reestablish government control over the border area.

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - UN Refugee Numbers For Daraa Are Mere Propaganda - They Make No Sense At All

Posted by b at 03:26 PM | Comments (56)

July 04, 2018

British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck

It seems that Theresa May felt a need to stoke some more Russia hate:

Just as the World Cup had forced the British media to grudgingly acknowledge the obvious truth that Russia is an extremely interesting country inhabited, like everywhere else, by mostly pleasant and attractive people, we have a screaming reprise of the “Salisbury incident” dominating the British media.

All British media outlets report of a middle-aged British couple, Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley, who fell seriously ill in Amesbury, a town near Salisbury and near the British chemical weapon site Proton Down. The couple were transported to the Salisbury hospital. They were first suspected to have taken drugs but the police now speaks (vid) of a "potential exposure to an unknown substance" and that they "remain in a critical condition". [Update - July 5: British officials now say the two were poisoned with "Novichok".]

The parallels to the poisoning of the British-Russian spy Sergej Skripal and his daughter four month ago are obvious. The government alleged the Skripals were poisoned by a nerve agent of the Novichok series.  Like back in March the British government will soon name the evildoer of this new drama.

The most curious issue of the current case is that it happened Saturday morning. A lot of local emergency action took place since then. But news of the incident emerged only early today. None of the pieces I read explains the four days long lack of reporting. The British government obviously issued a D-notice and prohibited all news of the case until early today and now prohibits to explain the censoring.

Why?

A "friend of the couple", who had been with them on Friday night and Saturday, was interviewed by several outlets:

Cont. reading: British Government Peddles Warmed Over Novichok Muck

Posted by b at 02:21 PM | Comments (197)

July 03, 2018

Secret U.S. Wars Endanger Africa

Under the pretense of waging their 'war of terror' U.S. Special Forces use lots of money and murky legal authorities to worm themselves into the intestines of Africa. Their secret action is likely to lead to more instability and is endangering the peoples of Africa and their governments.

In a recent interview Seymour Hersh spoke (@2:50m) about U.S. military operations in Africa:

"We have a big special forces community that are active particular in Africa, in lot of places. I think the public knows very little about it. I don't think my president has been briefed on it. I think he isn't interested in it or just doesn't know about it. I know there is concern among some people in the military, high up in the military, in the government, in Washington: 'What are these guys doing? Who is in control?' There is a lack of control among the special forces. Many of them are driven with the idea that they are in a crusade. That they are the Knights of Malta fighting the infidels in the 14th century or 13th century. I mean that's really crazy stuff. So when I hear in the military, what the special operations command says about Mali: 'Here is what happened when four guys died and how.' I am sorry but I think there is much more to the story, there is much more to our presence there, but it is very hard to get that stuff."

The U.S. has only few of its regular military stationed in Africa. But there are plenty of U.S. special forces there, mostly working in secret. They are supposed to be under control of AFRICOM, the imperial U.S. command for that continent.

In 2007 Moon of Alabama commentator b real wrote a three part series, Understanding AFRICOM: A Contextual Reading of Empire's New Combatant Command, which documents how and why AFRICOM came about:

In early February 2007 the White House finally announced a presidential directive to establish by September 2008 a new unified combatant command with an area of responsibility (AOR) solely dedicated to the African continent.
...
The U.S. African Command (AFRICOM) will replace the AOR for each of three other geographic combatant commands (there are now a total of six) currently tasked with portions of the second-largest continent, with the small exception of U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) retaining AOR for Egypt. Further details on operations have not been made public apart from the usual basic press briefings and the formation of a transition team, though it is not a mystery to identify what role AFRICOM will play in both the U.S. and Africa's future.

Africa is huge with a relatively small population of 1.2 billion, less than India or China. Its 54 countries have various kinds of natural wealth. Next to oil, gas and uranium there are all types of strategic minerals and metals, from cobalt needed for rechargeable batteries to rare earth elements used in electronics. 


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China is making friends in Africa by investing in infrastructure to further development and trade. It is building ports, railways and telecommunication lines. These projects aim at win-win situations where China as well as the host country profit from them.

To counter China the U.S. is using its 'regime change' tools and secret military operations instead of economic cooperation. While its military missions are claimed to be 'to train, advise and assist' with no combat role for U.S. soldiers the reality is much different. A recent attempt to catch the local smuggler/insurgent Doundoun Cheffou in the Niger-Mali border area ended with the death of four Nigerien soldiers, four U.S. soldiers and one Nigerien translator. The local insurgent group claimed to be part of the Islamic State (ISIS) but there is no evidence that it ever communicated with ISIS central or that it was accepted into the ISIS structure.

The incident finally led to more detailed reporting which finds that the operation was under direct control of U.S. special forces who (ab)used the Nigerian military under a secret "rent auxiliaries" program.

Two recent pieces detail the murky legal background and discuss the consequences of such operations. Joe Penny writes in World Politics Review about: The ‘Myths and Lies’ Behind the U.S. Military’s Growing Presence in Africa:

Cont. reading: Secret U.S. Wars Endanger Africa

Posted by b at 11:20 AM | Comments (56)

July 01, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-33

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:31 PM | Comments (345)

On The Path To Failure - U.S. Attempts Violent "Regime Change" In Iran

In early 2014 we remarked on Color Revolution by Force in Syria and Ukraine:

Accompanying the demonstrations and illegal occupations of government buildings are in both cases brutal, criminal attacks on the police and other government forces. In Syria the violence "muscle" part was done by foreign financed Jihadists while neo-nazi gangs are used in the Ukraine. The demonstrations and the attacks on the state are planned and go together. There is nothing "peaceful" in demonstrations that are only the public-relations cover for attacks on the state. But the foreign politicians and media immediately utter "concerns" and threats over completely normal government responses to them. It is a scam to justify "western" "support" for the demonstrators and to further the violence.

The aim is "regime change" of legitimate governments by small minorities. Should the "regime" resist to that the alternative of destroying the state and the whole society is also wholeheartedly accepted.

We have since seen similar CIA operations in Venezuela and most recently in Nicaragua. The same concept is used to attack Iran. In December peaceful economic protests were hijacked by violent elements. Last night a similar attempt occurred:

Sayed Mousavi @SayedMousavi7 - 22:17 UTC - 30 Jun 2018

Khoramshar water shortage protest turned violent tonight.
What we know:
- At least 2 protesters shot, possibly by getting close to military zones
- Mobs set 2 museums on fire (reports)
- 1 hour of calm
- No base takeovers (anti-regime journos have claimed)
- Armed bike is suspicious

The scene with the "armed bike" in the video attached to the above tweet can be seen better in another video. It shows two "peaceful protesters" on a motorcycle shooting at police with an automatic gun. The shooter is hit and falls off. Another "peaceful protester" picks up the gun and continues shooting.


via Sayed Mousavi - bigger

A year ago the CIA created a new mission center to attack Iran:

Cont. reading: On The Path To Failure - U.S. Attempts Violent "Regime Change" In Iran

Posted by b at 12:21 PM | Comments (73)

June 30, 2018

"Officials" Attempt To Sabotage Further North Korea Talks

Several Congress people and some officials in the CIA and Trump administration try to throw a spanner into the negotiations with North Korea. They "leak" to NBC News about an intelligence assessment on North Korea's nuclear facilities. The result is a sensationalized piece that includes no surprising facts.

North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials
"Work is ongoing to deceive us on the number of facilities, the number of weapons, the number of missiles," said one U.S. official.

One of the NBC authors is Ken Dilanian who is well known for his tight cooperation with the CIA.

Its opening:

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that "there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea."

Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don't see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.

The result of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore was a "freeze for freeze" deal. North Korea stopped its nuclear and missile testing while the U.S. stopped the large maneuvers it regularity held with South Korea's army. Both sides agreed to further talks. North Korea made some aspirational statements about denuclearization which have the same time frame as similar aspirational statements made by the U.S. in Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). There is no time frame to reach a certain state. There is no commitment towards declaring nuclear sites nor is there a commitment to stop the production of nuclear stuff.

Trump declaration that there is "no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea" is correct in the sense that there is certainly no North Korean intent to launch a nuclear attack.

Kim Jong Un will not only "try to hide" the North Korean nuclear facilities. He will surely keep them secret as long as he can. The security of his country depend on them.

That "more than a dozen American officials" talk with NBC on that issue shows that there is a concerted operation to sabotage a possible deal. Those opposed try to move the goalposts.

While the North Koreans have stopped missile and nuclear tests, "there's no evidence that they are decreasing stockpiles, or that they have stopped their production," said one U.S. official briefed on the latest intelligence. "There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S."

Four other officials familiar with the intelligence assessment also said North Korea intended to deceive the U.S.

Why is it "deceiving" when North Korea continues something that it did not promise to stop? Why is it "deceiving" when North Korea rejects to submit targeting coordinates of its nuclear facilities? There is no deceiving in either.

The intelligence assessment the "American officials" (the term includes Congress staffers) talk about says that North Korea has the well known Uranium enrichment site in Yongbyon, a second one at an unnamed place and possibly a third one. All of this was known to people who read the details about the issue. They are not new and were certainly known to the CIA boss Pompeo and Trump while the negotiations took place:

Ankit Panda @nktpnd - 12:00 UTC - 30 Jun 2018
These assessments have been around since at least May, I understand, so POTUS should have been briefed prior to the Singapore summit.

The "leak" to the NBC/CIA's Ken Dilanian lacks any surprising content. The only interesting point is that it happened at all. It demonstrates that are are serious forces who will try their best to sabotage the talks and a possible agreement.

To take the next steps towards a larger deal and towards peace on the Korean peninsula will require month of diligent and detailed talk and serious attention by senior administration officials. Until a special envoy is named to lead further talks Secretary of State Pompeo will continue the negotiations. He will visit Pyongyang next week to push the issue.

In my view the Korea talks are one of the few things the Trump administration is doing right. It is sad that many are out to destroy them.

Posted by b at 02:45 PM | Comments (49)

June 29, 2018

British Parliament Confirms 'Conspiracy Theory' - Torture and Renditions Continue

On December 13 2005 the British Secretary of State Jack Straw was questioned by the British Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs about illegal "renditions". Straw responded:

Unless we all start to believe in conspiracy theories and that the officials are lying, that I am lying, that behind this there is some kind of secret state which is in league with some dark forces in the United States, and also let me say, we believe that Secretary Rice is lying, there simply is no truth in the claims that the United Kingdom has been involved in rendition full stop, because we have not been, and so what on earth a judicial inquiry would start to do I have no idea.

Those who believed in that 'conspiracy theory' were right, finds the British Parliament:

Britain’s intelligence services tolerated and abetted “inexcusable” abuse of terrorism suspects by their American counterparts, according to a report released by Parliament on Thursday that offers a wide-ranging official condemnation of British intelligence conduct in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
...
The committee documented dozens of cases in which Britain participated in sending suspects to other countries that were known to use torture or aided others in doing so — a practice known as rendition.

There has still not been a judicial inquiry into the issue. The parliament report notes that the British government blocked access to relevant documents and prohibited the questioning of many witnesses the parliament inquiry wanted to hear.

Ambassador Craig Murray, who blew the whistle on British complicity in torture in Uzbekistan, notes:

Theresa May specifically and deliberately ruled out the Committee from questioning any official who might be placed at risk of criminal proceedings – see para 11 of the report. The determination of the government to protect those who were complicit in torture tells us much more about their future intentions than any fake apology.

In fact it is impossible to read paras 9 to 14 without being astonished at the sheer audacity of Theresa May’s attempts to obstruct the inquiry. They were allowed to interview only 4 out of 23 requested witnesses, and those were not allowed “to talk about the specifics of the operations in which they were involved nor fill in any gaps in the timeline”.

There is also evidence that the British MI6 outsourced illegal operations to other countries or agencies:

Although British policy prohibited rendition, the committee found, British agents repeatedly aided other countries in sending suspects to places where there was a high probability they would be mistreated. In three cases, it reported, the British paid, or offered to pay, for renditions; in 28, they “suggested, planned or agreed to rendition operations” conducted by others; and in 22, they provided intelligence to enable a rendition to take place.

The United Nations considers such extraordinary renditions to be crimes against humanity. Neither the U.S. nor the United Kingdom has held anyone but a few grunts accountable for their involvement in these crimes.

Murray concludes:

The British state has since repeatedly acted to ensure impunity for those involved, from Blair and Straw down to individual security service officers, who are not to be held responsible for their criminal complicity. This impunity of agents of the state is a complete guarantee that these evil practices will continue.

It seems that impunity is part of the "western values". The CIA, MI6 and the myriad of "special forces" under this or that name continue to use these illegal practices.

The United Arab Emirates were just found to torture random Yemenis in its prisons in south Yemen. U.S. special forces and CIA interrogators are present:

Hundreds of men swept up in the hunt for al-Qaida militants have disappeared into a secret network of prisons in southern Yemen where abuse is routine and torture extreme — including the “grill,” in which the victim is tied to a spit like a roast and spun in a circle of fire, an Associated Press investigation has found.
...
Several U.S. defense officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the topic, told AP that American forces do participate in interrogations of detainee.

Prisoners get isolated, threatened with dogs, waterboarded and more:

They raped detainees while other guards filmed the assaults. They electrocuted prisoners' genitals or hung rocks from their testicles. They sexually violated others with wooden and steel poles.
"They strip you naked, then tie your hands to a steel pole from the right and the left so you are spread open in front of them. Then the sodomizing starts," said one father of four.

The U.S. defense establishment claims that none of its soldiers are "present" when actual torture happens. It also put bridges on sale. The CIA declined to comment to AP.

Some of the chaps the Saudi-UAE alliance or its al-Qaeda allies round up are brought onto (U.S.?) ships off the Yemeni coast where U.S. personal - special forces, CIA agents or their contractors - 'interrogate' these prisoners. To say that they directly torture them is - Jack Straw would say - a conspiracy theory.

Unless some court finally takes up the issues and throws some higher ranking officers and politicians into prison for committing these crimes nothing of this will change.

Posted by b at 10:48 AM | Comments (145)

June 27, 2018

China's Port In Sri Lanka's Is Good Business - The NYT's Report On It Is Propaganda

'China's financial imperialism' is a relatively new genre in western journalism. China is providing loans to other countries to build infrastructure. If those countries can not pay back the loans, China offers to lease and manage the infrastructure built with its money. That somehow is supposed to create a "debt trap for vulnerable countries".

Yesterday the New York Times lamented about Sri Lanka's Hambantota Port Development Project:

Over years of construction and renegotiation with China Harbor Engineering Company, one of Beijing’s largest state-owned enterprises, the Hambantota Port Development Project distinguished itself mostly by failing, as predicted. With tens of thousands of ships passing by along one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, the port drew only 34 ships in 2012.

And then the port became China’s.

Mr. Rajapaksa was voted out of office in 2015, but Sri Lanka’s new government struggled to make payments on the debt he had taken on. Under heavy pressure and after months of negotiations with the Chinese, the government handed over the port and 15,000 acres of land around it for 99 years in December.

The port is in a strategic location right alongside the shipping lines between Asia and the Middle East and Africa.


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The U.S. does not like it that China is building infrastructure in such a strategic position. Instead of competing with it in the same field it is betting on propaganda and a more militaristic approach.

The first warning flag that the NYT piece is part of such propaganda is the quoted statistic. Why is it using a 2012 number of 34 ship arrivals  for a port that only opened in late 2010? Ocean ports do not develop in just two years. It takes decades to develop their hinterland and businesses. Unlike Sri Lanka's main port Colombo, which is specialized in container traffic and already congested, Hambantota was build to handle other goods:

Cont. reading: China's Port In Sri Lanka's Is Good Business - The NYT's Report On It Is Propaganda

Posted by b at 07:12 AM | Comments (107)

June 26, 2018

Open Thread 2018-32

[Just arrived back home after an extended and somewhat hilarious stay with my extended family. Regular blogging will proceed tomorrow.]

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:13 PM | Comments (117)

June 24, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-31

[Please excuse the lack of posts this week. I am with my larger family and the kids keep me busy.]

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The U.S. embassy in Jordan let the "rebels" in southwest Syria know that they are on their own: ".. you should not base your decision on the assumption or expectation of military intervention by us." Several towns in the area have already decalred their will to reconcile with the Syrian government. More will follow. The Russian air force started to support the Syrian operations around Daraa with heavy bombing. The U.S. or Israel are now unlikely to intervene with anything but the usual propaganda. Get ready for new "last hospital", "barrel bombs", "chemical attack" and other nonsense headlines. Eva Bartlett is on the ground and reports from Hader, A Village Under Siege by al-Qaeda and Israeli Forces Alike.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 05:02 AM | Comments (312)

June 22, 2018

Syria - Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf

On June 8 we asked if the then ongoing ISIS attack on Albu Kamal was part of a U.S. plan:

There is sneaking suspicion that the U.S. directed the ongoing ISIS attack on Abu Kamal to gain control over the crossing and to disable road supplies from Iran through Iraq into Syria.
...
The U.S. must be given no chance to use the ISIS pretext to take Abu Kamal. The Syrian government must rush to support its forces in the border city. It must immediately request that Iraqi forces cross the border from Al-Qaim and support the endangered Syrian troops.

Some reinforcement came in and Albu Kamal was soon back in Syrian government hands. The Syrian army also launched an operation to destroy ISIS positions in southeastern desert.


Southeast Syria (red: Syrian Army, green: U.S. zone around al-Tanf crossing to Iraq, grey: ISIS, yellow: U.S./Kurdish SDF) bigger

But U.S. interference in the east continued:

The Russian military is warning of a false-flag "chemical incident" in Deir Ezzor governorate. The Syrian Observatory reports that Islamic State remnants in the southeastern desert and in the Rukban camp, both under cover of the U.S. occupied zone around al-Tanf, prepare for a large attack on Syrian government forces. It claims that such an attack is an attempt to occupy the zone between al-Tanf and Albu Kamal at the Euphrates. Both operation would be planned diversions intended to draw Syrian forces away from Deraa and could provide excuses for U.S. intervention on the opposition side.

Late Sunday an airstrike destroyed a building in the Harri area near Albu Kamal directly on the Syrian-Iraqi border. The building was used as a headquarter for the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) who are securing the border in coordination with the Syrian army in the fight against the Islamic State. More than 20 fighters were killed and more than 10 were wounded. This may have been in preparation for the reportedly planned large ISIS attack.

Another serious incident followed last night when U.S. supported Maghawhir al-Thawra "rebels" (which include 'former' ISIS fighters) attacked Syrian government forces:

Cont. reading: Syria - Damascus And Its Allies Prepare To Remove U.S. Forces From Al-Tanf

Posted by b at 06:30 AM | Comments (108)

June 21, 2018

Open Thread 2018-30

News & views ...

Posted by b at 01:47 PM | Comments (115)

June 20, 2018

Pity The Russophobe Journos Whom No One Believes

The "western" reporting on the World Cup in Russia is a stream of continuous Russia bashing. Some positive remarks are made about the obviously excellent atmosphere and organization. But no piece gets published that does not include a reinforcement of the official anti-Russian propaganda lines.

Alec Luhn is the "Russia correspondent for The @Telegraph". Shaun Walker is a correspondent for the British Guardian who is "Covering central and eastern Europe for The Guardian." This week both were in Volgograd, the former Stalingrad, to report on the World Cup game between England and Tunisia.

On Monday Alec Luhn wrote about the excellent welcome the English fans received:

It’s been brilliant,” said Adam Haimes, 29, a geologist and Plymouth Argyle supporter drinking in the fan zone, set up on the west bank of the mighty Volga River. “I have had absolutely zero problems. All sorts of Russians have come up to us and are being friendly and just wanting to have drinks with us. I didn’t expect it but they are so lovely.

That positive picture of Russia can of course can not stand alone. Luhn thus mentions: the "threat of violence", the "attempted assassination of the Russian spy Sergei Skripal", "ratcheted up tensions", "Russian Ultras" and "Volgograd’s local hoodlums".

On Tuesday evening Shaun Walker wrote a piece for the Guardian which followed a similar scheme:

[T]hose who came were almost uniformly positive about the experience so far. At a central Volgograd bar in the early hours of Tuesday, Craig and Tommy, two Sunderland fans, were practising Russian phrases with obliging locals and said they had spent three days in “fantastic” Volgograd, bonding with the locals and taking military history tours.

“We’re sick of people talking about trouble. If you’re respectful there won’t be any problems,” said Tommy.

Reading Walker's piece would make Tommy even sicker. It repeats all the usual propaganda points: "unprecedented tension", "strongly critical of Russian authorities", "poisoning of Sergei Skripal", "1936 Olympics, held in Nazi Germany" and "safety of LGBT fans".

After having delivered their propaganda routines Luhn and Walker joined the English fans in a local pub.

Alec Luhn @ASLuhn - 00:02 UTC - 19 Jun 2018

Harat's Pub, Volgograd, 3am. 100 or so drunk British fans, some Tunisians, and some Russian guys who just chanted something about "jugend SS." What could wrong?

Cont. reading: Pity The Russophobe Journos Whom No One Believes

Posted by b at 04:14 PM | Comments (82)

June 19, 2018

Syria - Ready To Start The Daraa Campaign

There are signs that the long expected liberation of the Daraa region in southwest Syria is about to begin. After a month of negotiations between Russia, Israel, Jordan and the U.S. no peaceful solution has been found. The various terrorist forces in the (green) area, including al-Qaeda aligned HTS and groups loyal to the Islamic State, have rejected all negotiations. For over a month Russian negotiators tried to convince locals to give up and to reconcile with the government. But the hardliners under the rebels have killed anyone who talked with the Russians. The U.S. government has warned against a Daraa operation and threatened to intervene.


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First airstrikes were launched by the Syrian government today against villages in the eastern part of the Deraa area. Some local fighting is ongoing. This is not yet the expected all out attack on the 'rebel' held areas but the testing of enemy forces. The Syrian army has assembled a large force to liberate the southwest. It includes ten thousands of soldiers, more than 100 tanks and lots of artillery. Short range air defenses have been moved into the area to protect the Syrian troops. A well coordinated attack on several front and multiple axes should allow for a quick victory.

Cont. reading: Syria - Ready To Start The Daraa Campaign

Posted by b at 02:00 PM | Comments (102)

June 18, 2018

Counterdrug Programs Come With Increased Drug Production - Where Does The Money Go?

Two reports published today point to some curious phenomenon. Immensely expensive U.S. counter-narcotics efforts go along with massive increases in drug production.

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction report Counternarcotics: Lessons from the U.S. Experience in Afghanistan finds:

From fiscal year (FY) 2002 through FY 2017, the U.S. government spent roughly $8.62 billion on counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan.
...
From 2002 to 2017, Afghan opium poppy cultivation soared.
In 2002, cultivation estimates ranged from 31,000 to 74,000 hectares, compared to 328,000 hectares in 2017. Opium production also rose to historic levels, from approximately 3,400 metric tons in 2002 to roughly 9,000 metric tons in 2017. No counterdrug program undertaken by the United States, its coalition partners, or the Afghan government resulted in lasting reductions in poppy cultivation or opium production.

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The Washington Post reports on the newly installed U.S. stooge in Colombia: A conservative ‘D.C. Colombian’ wins his country’s presidency":

BOGOTA, Colombia — Conservative Ivan Duque captured Colombia’s presidency Sunday, bringing to power a U.S.-educated 41-year-old whose victory promises an aggressive new era in the drug war and could upend a historic peace deal that ended Latin America’s longest running insurgency.
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Duque’s win could herald a return to more forceful tactics. The United States has spent $10 billion in two decades fighting coca growth here — only to find it higher now than at the launch of the campaign.

Since its creation the CIA was involved in drug production and trafficking. In many cases this appears to have been a 'side effect' of other operations like running the rightwing 'Contras' against a leftish government in Nicaragua. The contras needed money which drug smuggling provided. The CIA helped along to achieve the 'higher purpose' - the overthrow of the Nicaraguan government. I am not aware of any sound evidence that shows that the CIA reaped financial profits from drug dealing.

There is no such excuse for counternarcotics programs. There is no 'higher purpose' to be achieved. But the sums spent on these programs are so big now, and their effect so counterproductive, that one must assume that the money is not used as intended. Layers of contractors will be involved in crop eradication programs in Afghanistan and elsewhere. These may cost a few millions per year. But the effects are so minor that one can not imagine how several billions of dollars get spent on them.

I find no accounting for these programs. Where does all that money go? Who is profiting from these?

Posted by b at 01:18 PM | Comments (68)

June 17, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-29

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Patrick Cockburn calls the attack a deliberate act of cruelty by the Trump administration. But he, like others, still does not get the real dimension of the cruelty. The attack is not about Hodeidah. It is about blockading all food supplies to some 18 million people living in Sanaa and further north. An unprecedented siege on a large and defenseless population that is intended and guaranteed to cause a famine.

The U.S. and the UK blocked a Swedish resolution at the UN Security Council that called for an immediate ceasefire at Hodeidah.

LeFigaro reports that French special forces are on the ground in Yemen but the French claim that those are not at Hodeidah. There were also unconfirmed reports that France agreed to deploy minesweepers to clear the harbor of Hodeidah of potential mines. Two Houthi sources claimed today that they had caught French troops on a ship in Hodeidah. But information from the ground is unreliable. Both sides have made false claims about their progress and positions.

Yonhap, the South Korean news agency, reports that South Korea and the U.S. will soon announce the suspension of all major military exercises. This is, like North Korea's suspension of nuclear and missile testing, easily reversible.

Other issues:

The Nation: The Mueller Indictments Still Don’t Add Up to Collusion - A year of investigations has led to several guilty pleas, but none of them go to the core of the special counsel’s mandate. By Aaron Maté. This is the first piece in main stream media that points out that the St. Petersburg–based Internet Research Agency was a commercial marketing scheme and not a "Russian influence" operations. One wonders (or not) where Aaron Maté got that idea.

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:00 PM | Comments (111)

June 15, 2018

Jordan Shows Gratitude For Saudi Gift By Planting Fake News

Politicians like to manipulate news outlets for their purposes. Below is a nice little example of how this works.

Today the Saudi owned fish-wrap Al Arabiya tweeted this:

Al Arabiya English @AlArabiya_Eng - 11:12 AM - 15 Jun 2018
#Jordan withdraws ambassador from #Iran: Source tells Al Arabiya English: “There is no intention to name another Jordanian envoy in #Tehran at the time,” the source said.
http://ara.tv/n4ngn

That tweet made me curious. I was pretty sure that Jordan had withdrawn its ambassador from Iran quite a while ago. Indeed - on April 18 2016 several outlets had reported such: Jordan follows Riyadh's lead and recalls Iran ambassador

Abdullah Abu Rumman, Jordan's ambassador to Iran, has been recalled to Amman over Tehran's policies towards Arab countries, said Mohammed Momani, the government spokesperson.

An Iranian contact confirms to me that there has been no Jordanian ambassador in Iran since April 2016.

What happened?

The Al Arabiya link goes to a page with the URL:

https://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/middle-east/2018/06/15/Jordan-withdraws-ambassador-from-Iran-Source-tells-Al-Arabiya.html

The original headline of the piece, visible in the URL, was "Jordan withdraws ambassador from Iran: Source tells Al Arabiya". It  has since been changed to:

Jordan won’t name an ambassador to Iran: Source tells Al Arabiya English

A high-ranking Jordanian source told Al Arabiya English on Friday that Jordan transferred its ambassador Abdullah Abu Rumman from Iran to the Jordanian Foreign Ministry headquarters in Amman based on a decision by the Jordanian cabinet.

“There is no intention to name another Jordanian envoy in Tehran at the time,” the source told Al Arabiya English.

Commenting on the decision’s circumstances, the source reiterated: “Jordan’s fixed position from Iranian policies which include interfering in the affairs of the region’s countries,” and voiced Jordan’s concern over “the security of the region’s countries particularly of Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries.”

“Saudi Arabia’s security is (part) of our security,” he said, adding: “We are concerned over our Arab and Gulf depth.”

In response to a question from Al Arabiya English, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi stressed that “the security and stability of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is part of the security and stability of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan”.
...

It seems to me that the "high-ranking Jordanian source", very likely the later quoted Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, scammed Al Arabiya. He used vague wording to insinuated that Jordan just now recalled its ambassador from Iran when that in fact had happened two years ago. It took a while for Al Arabiya to recognize that it had been had and to change its headline.

A week ago I wrote about how U.S.-Saudi Pressure On Jordan Opens The Way For Iran. Jordan is in economic and political trouble. It needs  financial sponsors. Saudi Arabia and the U.S., its traditional donors, are pressing for an Israel policy that the Jordan's King can not support. I speculated that this might give an opening for Iran.

But the Jordan king decided differently. He went to Saudi Arabia, met the Saudi King and received a nice package to help him over his budget difficulties. On June 10 Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Kuwait coughed up fresh money for Jordan:

Cont. reading: Jordan Shows Gratitude For Saudi Gift By Planting Fake News

Posted by b at 12:00 PM | Comments (42)

June 14, 2018

The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit - Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement)

The aftermath of the Trump-Kim summit in Singapore confirms my early take on the talks. What both sides committed to is the "freeze for freeze" agreement North Korea had offered since at least 2015. The U.S. stops its threatening maneuvers while North Korea stops missile and nuke testing. Both sides further committed to future talks about a peace treaty in exchange for some nuclear disarmament

Under pressure from hawks the Trump administration tries to spin additional Korean concessions into the summit declaration. It claims that North Korea committed to "verifiable and irreversible" steps. It is a bad move as that is not the case. Only the written words count. "[T]he DPRK commits to work towards the complete denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula" is the binding wording.

In 1970 the U.S. committed itself to its own complete nuclear disarmament in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT):

Article VI - Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.

Both statements are aspirational. "To work towards" and to "undertake to pursue negotiations" are both intentionally vague and of equal determination.

The real point of the Singapore summit was the "freeze for freeze" the U.S. and North Korea both committed to it.

After North Korea successfully tested a thermonuclear device and an intercontinental range missile the U.S. was no longer able to go to war against it without risking the destruction of a major U.S. city. It had to negotiate towards some new truce with North Korea that would reduce the risk of a nuclear conflict. Freeze for freeze is the first step towards that.

North Korea had economic reasons for seeking nuclear weapons. The cost of constant military preparedness against a potential U.S. attack was killing its economy:

Cont. reading: The Real Results Of The Trump-Kim Summit - Freeze For Freeze (And Some Amusement)

Posted by b at 02:57 PM | Comments (92)

June 13, 2018

Yemen - The Starvation Siege Has Begun

Last night the Saudi coalition launched its attack on the city of Hodeidah in Yemen. Hodeidah is the only Yemeni harbor on the Red Sea coast that can take large vessels. It is ruled by the Houthi who in 2014 took over the capital Sanaa and disposed of the Saudi installed Hadi government. 90% of the food for the 18 million people living in Houthi controlled areas comes through Hodeidah.

Saudi-owned satellite news channels and later state media announced the battle had begun, citing military sources. They also reported coalition airstrikes and shelling by naval ships.

The initial battle plan appeared to involve a pincer movement. Some 2,000 troops who crossed the Red Sea from an Emirati naval base in the African nation of Eritrea landed west of the city with plans to seize Hodeida’s port, Yemeni security officials said.

Emirati forces with Yemeni troops moved in from the south near Hodeida’s airport, while others sought to cut off Houthi supply lines to the east, the officials said.

The port is now classified as a zone of active military conflict. Prolonged fighting may well destroy the port infrastructurer. Even if the Saudi coalition forces take and reopen it they will continue to block food supplies for the central highlands of Yemen. They want to starve the Houthis into submission.

The attack from the south includes 3,000 to 5,000 troops under the command of Tariq Sale, a cousin of the recently killed former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh. They have been equipped with trucks and new weapons by the UAE. More forces are on their way from Aden and Taiz. They are supported by Emirati artillery, tanks and Saudi aerial bombing. The Saudi coalition forces are commanded by former officers from Australia, the U.S. and UK who have been hired by the UAE.

The New York Times editors do not want to understand the real problem with this attack:

Cont. reading: Yemen - The Starvation Siege Has Begun

Posted by b at 02:12 PM | Comments (126)

June 12, 2018

First Thoughts On The Kim Trump Photo-Op Summit

The photo-op summit between U.S. President Donald Trump and Chairman Kim Jong-un of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea went well. The visuals show North Korea and the United States as equal partners.


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The atmosphere was cordial.


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Both sides won.


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The signed document is short. The core part:

Cont. reading: First Thoughts On The Kim Trump Photo-Op Summit

Posted by b at 04:58 AM | Comments (182)

June 11, 2018

Yemen - U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide

The genocide in Yemen is going to start tomorrow. Eight million are already on the brink of starvation. Eighteen out of twenty-six million Yemenis live in the mountainous heartlands (green) which are under control of the Houthi and their allies. They are surrounded by Saudi and U.A.E. forces and their mercenaries. There is little agriculture. The only supply line from the outside world will soon be cut off. The people will starve.


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Even before the war Yemen imported 90% of its staple food. Three years of Saudi/UAE bombing have destroyed local infrastructure and production. The ongoing war has already caused mass starvation and the outbreak of a large cholera epidemic. The Yemeni coast is under blockade by Saudi and U.S. naval forces. The only supplies coming in are UN and commercial deliveries through the Red Sea Hodeidah port (Al Hudaydah on the map).


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The United Arab Emirates is leading local mercenaries and Islamist gangs against the Houthi and their allies. During the last months these forces moved from the south along the coast up to Hodeidah. The fighting is fierce:

Heavy fighting in Yemen between pro-government forces and Shiite rebels has killed more than 600 people on both sides in recent days, security officials said Monday.

Tomorrow, when the media will be busy with the Kim-Trump photo-op summit, the UAE forces will launch their attack on the city.

The UN, which oversees the aid distribution through Hodeidah, tried to negotiate between the parties:

The U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, traveled to the U.A.E. capital over the weekend in an effort to forestall an attack. Mr. Griffiths had secured an agreement with Houthi rebels who control Hodeidah to allow the U.N. to operate the port jointly, the people said. But people briefed on the discussions said they doubted the U.A.E. would accept the offer or delay the planned assault.

The briefed people were right. The UN is now evacuating its staff:

Cont. reading: Yemen - U.S. Grants Approval For Genocide

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (76)

June 10, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Open Thread 2018-28

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Trump is in Singapore to meet Kim Jong-un. Bolton will take part in the meeting. That is bad because it makes it more likely that it will fail. Bolton is on the record saying that he wants to 'get over' the negotiation phase as fast as possible to then escalate into war.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) pulled out 71 of its foreign staff in Yemen after one was assassinated. It still has local staff on the ground but the ICRC is usually respected by both sides of a conflict and is used to work under the worst circumstances. Presumably it was the Saudi side that tried to instrumentalize the ICRC and killed one of its employees when the ICRC did not agree.

SaadAbedine @SaadAbedine - 16:21 UTC - 9 Jun 2018
King Abdullah II @KingAbdullahII and Crown Prince Hussein bin Abdullah @AlHusseinHKJ of Jordan will participate in the Mecca meeting called by #Saudi King Salman @KingSalman with leaders of the #UAE & #Kuwait to discuss economic aid #Jordan in the face of the economic crisis.

There will be strong pressure on Abdullah to agree to the Trump/Kushner/MbS/MbZ Israel plan. Al-Aqsa would be lost. 70% of the people in Jordan are Palestinians. I do not see how Abdullah can agree to the plan without losing everything.

Interestingly the new prime minister of Jordan, Omar al-Razzaz, once worked at the World Bank where his main projects were development programs in Iran. I wonder if he speaks Farsi ...

The Islamic State was pushed back from Abu Kamal but renewed its attack early today. The spokesperson of the Russian Ministry of Defense points out that all remaining ISIS zones in Syria are in US-controlled territory.

Journalist Hala Jaber interviewed the Syrian President Bashar al Assad for the British Daily Mail. SANA provides a full transcript and a six minute video. The Daily Mail write up: I use chemicals? Prove it! Syrian President Assad brands gas attacks 'fake news' and calls Theresa May a 'colonialist and a liar' in astonishing face to face interview

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On May 14 we wrote about the election in Iraq: The 'Kingmaker' Is Back - Muqtada Al-Sadr Wins The Election In Iraq. Observers agreed that the elections went quite well. Since then the political situation deteriorated. In several areas the electronic vote count was manipulated. The election commission decided to do a manual recount. All ballot boxes were brought to Baghdad and stored in a warehouse. Today the warehouse burned down:

Abdulla Hawez @abdullahawez - 14:19 UTC- 10 Jun 2018
- The guy filming asks the security guard: "how many of the ballots lost in the fire?"
- The security guard all smiling: "all of them were lost".
vid

Yesterday Elijah Magnier took a peak behind the scene. A weak and divided Iraq is stumbling towards an unbalanced future

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:39 AM | Comments (42)

June 09, 2018

The 'West' Is Past

G-7 summits are supposed to symbolize "the west", its unity and its power. The summits pretended to set policy directions for the world.

We are happy to see that they are dead.


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I do not know who made this pic.

It is a modification of a photo by German chancellor Merkel's staff photographer Jesco Denzel that was uploaded to her Instagram account:

Cont. reading: The 'West' Is Past

Posted by b at 03:14 PM | Comments (113)

June 08, 2018

Syria - Is The ISIS Attack On Abu Kamal Part Of A U.S. Plan?

The people in Syria and Iraq believe that the Islamic State (ISIS) is an instrument the U.S. uses for its own purposes. A new ISIS attack on Syrian government forces today will deepen these beliefs.

Since November 2017 the U.S. and its proxy forces in north-east Syria did absolutely nothing against ISIS in east Syria north of the Euphrates. U.S. air strike were stopped and ISIS's territorial hold did not change one bit.

In February local tribal forces aligned with the Syrian government crossed the Euphrates from south to north in order to attack the ISIS pocket and to take control of an oilfield. The U.S. claimed that its Kurdish SDF proxy forces were attacked by the Syrian government aligned group. Curiously no one on the side of the U.S. and its proxies was hurt at all. Soon a large number of U.S. air support assets arrived and bombed the Syrian group to smithereens. 

ISIS in the northeastern pocket is the justification for the continuing U.S. occupation. But when Syrian government forces attacked those ISIS forces the U.S. claimed that only its forces were there. On June 6, six months after the U.S. had stopped attacking ISIS,  U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis finally announced that U.S. proxies forces had again taken up the fight:

48 hours ago, the SDF, the coalition force and -- advising the Syrian Democratic Force, recommenced their offensive against one of the last remaining pockets of ISIS.

There have been no reports yet of these new attacks against ISIS.

According to Mattis the offense re-started on June 4. Just the night before the restart of the U.S. operation several hundred well rested ISIS fighters crossed the Euphrates towards the south and attacked the Syrian government forces on the southern side.


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They shortly interrupted traffic on the road between Deir Ezzor city and Abu Kamal on the Syria-Iraq border and then hid away in some local farms.

Last night these forces reemerged, moved southeast and attacked the border city Abu Kamal:

Cont. reading: Syria - Is The ISIS Attack On Abu Kamal Part Of A U.S. Plan?

Posted by b at 02:39 PM | Comments (40)

June 07, 2018

U.S.-Saudi Pressure On Jordan Opens The Way For Iran

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has traditionally been in the 'western' camp. It is politically attached to the United Kingdom and the United States as well as to Saudi Arabia and other Sunni majority Gulf states. The Jordanian King Abdullah II has in the past been hostile to Iran. He was to first to publicly stoke fear of a 'Shia crescent'.  But the new Saudi and U.S. plans for 'peace' with Israel are a threat to Jordan and to King Abdullah's personal legitimacy. He needs to change his position. Provided with the right incentives Jordan could, eventually, join the 'resistance' side with Iran, Syria and Hizbullah.

The country ruled by King Abdullah has nearly ten million inhabitants but is relatively poor. It has few natural resources. The generally well educated population attracted some foreign investment in its industry. Many Jordanians work abroad and send remittances. But all that is not enough. The country needs foreign subsidies to keep its standard of living.

The King of Saudi Arabia derives legitimacy from his title as "Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques" in Mecca and Medina. The King of Jordan springs from the thousand year old great Hashemite dynasty. He heads the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf (Foundation) and is the custodian of the Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem, the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. This responsibility is the only prominent function left for the Hashemite family. It is the source of King Abdullah's legitimacy.

The changes in Saudi Arabia's policy towards Israel and the Zionist 'peace plan' the Trump administration develops create a new situation for Jordan. It is put under immense economic pressure to agree to these plans.

Jordan took part in the war on Syria. While Turkey provided support for the "rebels" attacking Syria from the north Jordan played a similar role in the south. Weapon and ammunition supplies from Saudi Arabia and Qatar were shipped through Jordan and smuggled into Syria. The country welcomed the families of the 'rebels' as refugees and provided medical support. The "southern operation room" of the 'rebels', run by the CIA, was hosted in Jordan's capital Amman.


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Cont. reading: U.S.-Saudi Pressure On Jordan Opens The Way For Iran

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (68)

June 06, 2018

Yemen - The Attack On Hodeidah Is A Prelude To Genocide

Yemen is on the verge of another catastrophic event. The Saudi and United Arab Emirates plan to take the Red Sea port Hodeidah through which most of the food supplies to Yemen's come in.

The port is already under blockade and all ships are strictly controlled. Saudi 'inspections' of ships already taking so long that some food rots before it can reach land. The UN is complaining that there is too little food is coming through:

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations, with some 8.4 million people severely short of food and at risk of starvation.
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“I am particularly concerned about the recent decline of commercial food imports through the Red Sea ports,” Mark Lowcock, U.N. emergency relief coordinator, said in a statement read out to a Geneva briefing on Friday.
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“If conditions do not improve, a further 10 million people will fall into this category by the end of the year,” he said.

Eighteen out of twenty-six million Yemenis may soon die of hunger. If that happens it will be a genocide.

The UN has warned that any fighting over the port will have extreme consequences. Eighteen million people will probably starve if the port is blocked or the roads from the port into the hinterland get destroyed due to fighting.

For three years the Saudi and UAE forces have tried to dislodge the Houthi movement from the Yemeni heartland and the capital Sanaa. The Saudis managed to take the flat desert areas in the east and the UAE took the southern coast but all their attempts to move into the mountainous western core of Yemen have failed. The Saudi and UAE forces on the ground are by now mostly local mercenaries from the south reinforced by a few tank and artillery troops from the UAE.


Map via IWN - bigger

The cities and towns in the north where the Houthi originally lived were all destroyed by Saudi air attacks. They have no where to go and nothing left to loose. They will not give up.

Cont. reading: Yemen - The Attack On Hodeidah Is A Prelude To Genocide

Posted by b at 02:28 PM | Comments (66)

June 05, 2018

John Bolton Wants No Deal With North Korea Or Iran - But Is There Any Other Choice?

U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton nearly succeeded in sabotaging talks with North Korea. But the summit train is back on its tracks. Trump will meet Kin Jong-un on on June 12 in Singapore. The South Korean President Moon rescued the situation. Secretary of State Pompeo helped.

Pompeo managed to keep Bolton away from the negotiations with North Korea. Bolton's attempt to derail talks with North Korea by citing the "Libya model" failed. But Bolton will be back. He will try to torpedo any agreement with 'hostile' countries - be it North Korea or Iran. He is now building up his power for the upcoming bigger fight.

When the North Korean envoy Kim visited the Oval Office to hand an oversized letter to Trump John Bolton was not present:

Pompeo told Trump it would be "counterproductive" to allow Bolton to attend the Oval Office meeting with visiting North Korean official Kim Yong Chol, two people familiar with the matter said, citing an escalating feud between the top diplomat and Bolton.
A big letter

A bigger letter :-)

Pompeo can take credit for moving Trump away from his demand of immediate and complete de-nuclearization of North Korea. It is obviously unachievable. Any move towards disarmament will have to be reciprocal and step by step. Completely dismantling North Korea's nuclear program, which is unlikely to ever happen, would anyway take ten to fifteen years (pdf).

North Korea has already shown that it is willing to seriously negotiate. It has thereby gained fresh backing from its allies. The sanction regime is already breaking down. Air China is again flying to Pyongyang. North Korean coal is again delivered to Chinese ports and oil comes in from Russia. China as well as Russia have called for a phased approach. Russia's Foreign Minister Lavrov emphasized that during his recent visit to North Korea:

Cont. reading: John Bolton Wants No Deal With North Korea Or Iran - But Is There Any Other Choice?

Posted by b at 01:47 PM | Comments (93)

June 03, 2018

The MoA Week In Review - Italy And The Euro - Open Thread

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Recent news confirmed my analysis. The reported deal had not happened. The Syrian government insists that a U.S. retreat from al-Tanf must be part of any deal over southwest Syria: Syria FM links talks on south to US withdrawal from border area. Interestingly the idea of connecting al-Tanf with a solution in the southwest originally came from the U.S. itself. Next week the deputy foreign ministers of Russia, Jordan and the U.S. will meet in Amman to discuss the pending deal. The current demonstrations in Jordan over economic problems threaten to escalate into a revolt against the state. This gives Jordan, the U.S. and Israel an extra incentive to push for a fast deal with Syria. Jordan could then send back hundred thousands of Syrian refugees and alleviate its economic problems.

Italy voted for a coalition government between the Lega Nord and the Five Star Movement. When the parties presented their new government Berlin and Brussels protested against the new finance minister Paolo Savona, a known critic of the Euro. Directed by the ECB the financial markets immediately demanded higher interest rates for Italian bonds. Under pressure the Italian President Sergio Mattarella vetoed the new government. The parties capitulated. They named Giovanni Tria as their new finance minister. Tria is a member of the 'think tank' FMC (Fondazione Magna Carta):

The think tank aims at combining elements of liberalism with Catholic social teaching, supports the so-called "Judeo-Christian roots" of Europe, and takes a strong pro-United States and pro-Israel stance in foreign policy, especially in relation to radical Islam and Islamic terrorism. [...] FMC has had close ties with American neocons.

The new government has little experience in ruling. The powers-that-be selected Giovanni Tria to potty-train it. The rejected Paolo Savona will serve as Minister for European Union Affairs. This configuration guarantees lively cabinet meetings in Rome and loud discussions in Brussels.

Paolo Savona is right, the Euro was a mistake. It is destroying Italy and other southern countries of the continent. How it does that, why leaving the Euro is the only sane response and how to manage leaving it is detailed here: Sacrificing at the Altar of the Euro.

Also recommended:

- What if Babchenko had decided to stay “dead”? - OffGuardian
- The New York Times and the murder that wasn’t - WSWS
- "Kiev Committed an Act of Terrorism Against Public Opinion by Staging Babchenko's 'Murder'" - Stalkerzone

This is the end of our biannual request for Moon of Alabama donations. A big THANK YOU! to everyone who chipped in. If you haven't done so yet please click above for further instructions.

 Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:03 PM | Comments (168)

June 01, 2018

Ukraine - The Babchenko Hoax Was Part Of A Corporate Raid

The case of the death and resurrection of the Russian journalist Babchenko in Kiev is even more surreal than it seemed so far. According to Ukrainian sources and court documents the whole hoax was part of an attempt to raid and take over a private company. 

Babchenko himself and the man who was hired to "kill" him had cooperated with the main branch of the Ukrainian national security service (SBU). The "operator", who is accused of having hired the "killer" for Russia, appeared in court. He claimed to have cooperated with the Ukrainian counter intelligence agency, which is side branch of the national security service. The accused "operator" is an executive of a private joint venture and has been under pressure over claims against his company. There are indications that the whole stunt may have been staged to get him "out of the way" to then take over the company he leads.

The suggestion is that high levels of the Ukrainian security services staged the whole affair not only to blame Russia but also for someone's personal gain.

In 2017 Arkady Babchenko, despised in Russia for his open hostility against its people, came via Israel to the Ukraine. He was welcome in Kiev for his anti-Russian position. Babchenko found a job with ATR, a Crimean Tatar TV station. The fine-print on the ATR website says that it "was supported by the Media Development Fund of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine".

On May 29 the Ukrainian government claimed that Babchenko had been assassinated. As usual the death of a journalist hostile to Russia was used by NATO aligned media to blame Russia, the Kremlin and Putin. That there was zero evidence that Russia was involved did not matter at all.  A photo of the allegedly killed Babchenko laying in his blood emerged.


Crisis actor Arkady Babchenko - bigger

The very next day the General Prosecutor of the Ukraine Yuriy Lutsenko and the head of the National Security Service (SBU) Vasyl Grytsak (also written as Hrytsak) held a press conference and presented a very alive and happy Arkady Babchenko. He had not been shot at all. The whole hoax, it was explained, was launched to find the people behind an alleged assassination campaign originating in Russia. In this official version the Russians hired some Ukrainian "operator" who then hired the "killer" to assassinate Babchenko. The hired killer told the police about it and the hoax of Babchenko's death was staged to find the culprits behind the plot.

All those western "journalists" who had believed Ukrainian government claims without any evidence and wrote unfounded accusations  against Russia were not amused. The Ukrainian government exposed them as the mere propaganda tools and fools they are. The "journalist"  Babchenko himself, interviewed by Bloomberg's Leonid Bershidsky, comes off as a naive and rather dim light.

Yesterday the "hired killer", one Alexey Tsymbalyuk, went public. He is a Ukrainian nationalist who had fought against the the Russia supported entities in eastern Ukraine. He has since become an orthodox priest.

Cont. reading: Ukraine - The Babchenko Hoax Was Part Of A Corporate Raid

Posted by b at 12:33 PM | Comments (93)

May 31, 2018

How Many People Read This Blog And What Does It Take To Run It? - A Donation Request

As I ask you to donate for this blog I feel compelled to detail some numbers.

The system Moon of Alabama runs on does not store individual user data. It only delivers summary statistics. Here is the available overview.

Over the lifetime of this blog its pages have been viewed -in total- about 31,200,000 times. Some 7,000 posts were published here and the readers contributed about 350,000 comments (screenshot [link corrected] taken at 14:30 UTC today).

During the last few months page-views per day varied between 20,000 and 30,000. Each individual reader will view two to three pages per visit. The total average readership is thus up to 10,000 people per day.

Once a while some bigger blog or news site will link to Moon of Alabama. This creates peaks of 100,000 and more page-views per day.

Screenshot taken at 14:30 GMT/UTC today - bigger

The daily number depends on the season, day of the week and other such variables.

The most important factor though is the subject-matter and quality of what I write and post. The pieces about the recent Skripal affair were especially well received.

The average Moon of Alabama post is about 1,000 words long. The aim is to publish one of these per day.

Continuous research is the most time-consuming part of the work. It takes six to eight hours per day to stay current in the fields the blog seeks to cover. An average length piece takes between two and four hours to write and another one or two hours to edit. (Inevitably there will still be mistakes in it.) Reading and policing the 100+ reader comments per day takes another hour. Writing for and running Moon of Alabama is truly a full time job.

That is why your support is absolutely essential to continue this site. Your donations are the only income I have. 

A big thank you to everyone who already contributed to the current Poor Poet campaign.  

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Those who have not done so can still chip in.

Each donation to this Poor Poet - be it $5, $50 or $500 - is equally welcome and needed.

Transaction costs are the smallest when you send cash or a check. You can also use a bank transfer (SEPA/IBAN). Send email to MoonofA @ aol.com (remove the spaces) for the necessary details. (They are the same as before.) You can use a credit card or other means when you donate through the PayPal button below. (The receiving account is in Euro - 1 Euro is about US$ 1.20)

Thank you very much!

Bernhard aka b.

Posted by b at 01:27 PM | Comments (47)