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February 18, 2019

Syria Sitrep - French Officer Criticizes U.S. Way Of War - Assad Offers Kurds Some Autonomy

A large double-tap car bombing (vid) hit Idleb city in northwest Syria today. Some 20 to 30 people were killed and more wounded. Idleb governorate is controlled by the al-Qaeda aligned Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) but many other terrorist groups continue to exist within the area. All fight each other over the available resources.

In September the Astana agreement between Turkey, Russia and Iran was the basis of a ceasefire in Idleb governorate. Turkey was supposed to cleanse the area of HTS and other terrorist groups. It deployed soldiers to fortified observation posts around the region but did little else to fulfill the agreement.

Turkey is not only dragging its feet on Idleb but allows new foreign fighters to go there:

According to local sources in the province cited by Sputnik, around 1500 terrorists crossed the Turkish border into Idleb under the cover of the Turkish authorities supported by Turkish agents and directly supervised by the Turkish Gendarmerie (Jandarma) that is affiliated to the Turkish army.
...
The sources mentioned that the terrorists are of Western nationalities, in addition to others who hold nationalities of East Asian and Arab countries, who were transported towards Jisr al-Shughour area that is under the control of terrorists from China and Turkistan, while the other foreign terrorists were transported to camps of Jabhat al-Nusra and Hurras Eddin in the southern and southeastern countryside of Idleb.

It is likely that many of these new arrivals are ISIS terrorist who fled from east Syria to Turkey and were then routed towards Idleb. The terrorist in Idleb governorate continue to attack Syrian troops around them. They use up quite a lot of ammunition and must have supply lines from Turkey to sustain the fighting.

Another recent meeting in the Astana format with Russia, Iran and Turkey confirmed the basic agreement but did not achieve a common position on how to proceed.

The Turkish newspaper Hurriyet just published an interview with Putin’s spokesperson Dmitry Peskov. On Idelb he said:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - French Officer Criticizes U.S. Way Of War - Assad Offers Kurds Some Autonomy

Posted by b at 02:15 PM | Comments (8)

February 16, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-10

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

The U.S. attack against Venezuela triggered riots in Haiti. Haiti received oil and credit from Venezuela under very preferential conditions. The money saved was supposed to go into a special PetroCaribe fund to be spend on social projects in Haiti. When the U.S. enacted sanctions against Venezuela, Haiti stopped paying and the cheap oil flow ended. The fund was looted by local politicians. When the government then supported the U.S. coup attempt against Venezuela the people had enough and took to the streets.

BajoElCieloDeMoscú @VuelvaLaURSS - 17:28 utc - 14 Feb 2019
Translated from Spanish
The Haitian people have been protesting for five days against the dictator who supports Guaidó in Venezuela, Jovenel Moises. In 5 days, the repressive forces of this criminal have murdered 52 Haitians and left 247 wounded. So you can see the streets of Puerto Principe, full of bodies.

The video attached to the above tweet shows five civilians, presumably dead, laying in the road.

---

A former chief of staff Nicolas Maduro, now a professor at Science Po in Paris, warns in an interview that the situation in Venezuela could easily escalate into a civil war.

Q: One of the things that have been said by the opposition very clearly is that there will be new elections. That is part of their plan.

A: And what guarantees that the departure of Maduro doesn't create a civil war, for instance? The reality of Venezuela is that it is a very polarized country. It is totally unrealistic or irresponsible to think or to assume that there are all the guarantees for Venezuela to be in a peaceful situation. In order to be an election, you have to agree on the terms of that election. When will the election be held? Who can be allowed to run for those elections? And that's exactly the problem — saying there will be elections is assuming that the problem is solved before even addressing it.

---

Greg Grandin on sovereignty and Latin America: What’s at Stake in Venezuela?

---
---


Other stuff:

- "It's all about the Benjamins baby." That tweet by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, and the reaction to it, put new focus on the Zionist lobby. M.J. Rosenberg: This Is How AIPAC Really Works - WSJ: Aipac raises more than $100 million a year, which it spends on lobbying politicians

- A longread by Matthew Hoh, who resigned over Obama's 2009 surge in Afghanistan: Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies

- A Chinese anime video series about the life and work of Karl Marx: The Leader (with subtitles in 7(!) languages)

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 01:04 PM | Comments (134)

The Deep Nation Of Russia

In a newly published essay, a close aide to the Russian President Vladimir Putin describes the system of governance in Russia. It stands in contrast to the usual 'western' view of the 'autocratic' Russian state.

U.S. media often depict Russia as a top-down state, run at the whims of one man. They cite western paid scholars to support that position. One example is this column in Friday's Washington Post:

Why Russia no longer regrets its invasion of Afghanistan
Putin is reassessing history to make the case for adventures abroad.

On February 15 1989 the last soldiers of the Soviet army left Afghanistan. Later that year the Congress of People’s Deputies, the elected parliament of the USSR, passed a resolution that condemned the war:

Now, however, the Russian government is considering reversing this earlier verdict, with the Duma set to approve a resolution officially reevaluating the intervention as one that took place within the bounds of international law and in the interests of the U.S.S.R.

The authors ascribe the move to the Russian president and claim that he makes it to justify Russia's engagements in current wars:

The Kremlin is rewriting history to retrospectively justify intervention in countries such as Ukraine and Syria as it seeks to regain its status as a global power.
...
To avoid domestic opposition, [Moscow] cannot allow the public to perceive Syria through the prism of the Afghan experience. Putin and his allies have decided to tackle this problem head-on by reinterpreting that experience.
...
That is why perhaps Putin, and Russian lawmakers, are marking the poignant anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by attempting to ascribe meaning to that long-lost meaningless war.

The columns is typical for the negative depiction of Russia, and its elected leader. Each and every move in the bowels of the Russian Federation is, without evidence, ascribed to its president and his always nefarious motives.

It is also completely wrong. The new resolution it muses about never came to a vote:

Cont. reading: The Deep Nation Of Russia

Posted by b at 06:32 AM | Comments (155)

February 14, 2019

Venezuela - Media Find Trump's Coup Plan Does Not Work

On January 25, two days after Random Guyidó declared himself President of Venezuela, the lack of planing in the U.S. coup attempt was already obvious:

My impression is that Trump was scammed. It was long evident that he gives little attention to details and does not think things through. Most likely Bolton, Pompeo and Rubio presented him with a three step plan:

Phase 1. Support the self declared president Guaidó; Phase 2: ... (wishful thinking) ...; Phase 3: Take half of their oil!
...
Bolton and Pompeo are both experienced politicians and bureaucrats. They likely knew that their plan was deeply flawed and would require much more than Trump would normally commit to. My hunch is that the soon coming mission creep was build into their plan, but that they did not reveal that.

The U.S. coup planners and their Venezuelan puppets had hoped that the Venezuelan military would jump to their side. That was wishful thinking and unlikely to happen. They also thought up some "humanitarian aid" scheme in which pictures of trucks crossing a long blocked bridge would soon shame the Venezuelan president into stepping down. That was likewise nonsense.

Unless the U.S. is willing and able to escalate, the coup attempt is destined to fail.

'Western' media now recognize that phase 2 of the coup plan is in deep trouble. Today the Guardian, Bloomberg and the New York Times all describe growing frustration with the lack of success.

The Guardian notes:

[T]hree weeks after Guaidó electrified the previously rudderless opposition movement by declaring himself interim leader, there are signs his campaign risks losing steam.

An anticipated mass defection of military chiefs – which opposition leaders admit is a prerequisite to Maduro’s departure – has not materialized, and Maduro’s inner-circle has begun claiming it has weathered the political storm.

Bloomberg writes:

Since Juan Guaido declared himself interim president three weeks ago and offered amnesty to officers who abandon Maduro, more than 30 countries led by the U.S. have hailed the move, waiting for the military to follow. There hasn’t been a rush to his side.
...
In a country with more than 2,000 generals and admirals, only one top officer -- who commands no troops -- has pledged allegiance to Guaido.
...
This is a major reason why the revolution isn’t moving as quickly as some had hoped when Guaido electrified the world on Jan. 23 with his declaration. This has led to impatience and finger-pointing. U.S. policy makers and those around Guaido -- as well as leaders in Brazil and Colombia -- are eyeing one another and worrying about failure. Officials in each camp have said privately they assumed the others had a more developed strategy.

The NY Times shows similar frustration:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Media Find Trump's Coup Plan Does Not Work

Posted by b at 01:58 PM | Comments (155)

February 13, 2019

Netanyahoo Asks Arabs To "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"

The U.S. had called for a high level anti-Iran meeting in Poland. The purpose of the meeting was to bring with its allies and poodles into line with the U.S. agenda on Iran, to press them at least into issuing harsher sanctions. But the European rejected that.

The State Department then changed the agenda:

“The idea was to have a conference, a ministerial, and basically break our diplomatic isolation on Iran,” said a person familiar with the planning of the event. “It started out as an Iran conference in disguise but has probably actually been forced to take on more actual broader Middle East content now."

The person added: “They changed some of the focus and were forced to pony up with content on Syria and Yemen particularly."

The meeting took place today but the European powers did not fall for the trick. They want keep the nuclear agreement with Iran:

Even Poland on Tuesday said it disagreed with the U.S. approach to Iran. Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters the nuclear pact was valuable and expressed hope the conference could help participants find common ground.

While the U.S. delegation includes Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and senior White House adviser Jared Kushner, other major players have either refused to attend or are sending low-level delegations. The EU’s foreign-policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said she had other commitments.

Germany and France only sent lower level staff. The British foreign minister will only attend a side session on Yemen.

The State Department went to some length to obfuscate the real purpose of the conference. Its press statement today says:

The agenda is wide-ranging, and will include a discussion of the Administration’s efforts to promote a comprehensive and lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as a conversation on how to address ongoing regional humanitarian crises. The Secretary will provide an update on the situation in Syria and discuss other U.S. priorities in the region, including concerns regarding Iran’s destructive activities.

Smaller breakout sessions will provide ministers the opportunity to focus on specific areas of concern such as missile development and proliferation, cyber security and emerging threats, and terrorism and illicit finance.

That State Department effort to somewhat hide the real agenda was sabotaged when the Prime Minister of Israel arrived and made it clear what the meeting is all about:

I am going to a meeting with 60 foreign ministers and envoys of countries from around the world against Iran. What is important about this meeting – and this meeting is not in secret, because there are many of those – is that this is an open meeting with representatives of leading Arab countries, that are sitting down together with Israel in order to advance the common interest of war with Iran."

Cont. reading: Netanyahoo Asks Arabs To "Advance The Common Interest Of War With Iran"

Posted by b at 03:03 PM | Comments (99)

February 12, 2019

Russiagate Is Finished

For more than two years U.S. politicians, the media and some bloggers hyped a conspiracy theory. They claimed that Russia had somehow colluded with the Trump campaign to get him elected.

An obviously fake 'Dirty Dossier' about Trump, commissioned by the Clinton campaign, was presented as evidence. Regular business contacts between Trump flunkies and people in Ukraine or Russia were claimed to be proof for nefarious deals. A Russian click-bait company was accused of manipulating the U.S. electorate by posting puppy pictures and crazy memes on social media. Huge investigations were launched. Every rumor or irrelevant detail coming from them was declared to be - finally - the evidence that would put Trump into the slammer. Every month the walls were closing in on Trump.

At the same time the very real Trump actions that hurt Russia were ignored.

Finally the conspiracy theory has run out of steam. Russiagate is finished:

After two years and 200 interviews, the Senate Intelligence Committee is approaching the end of its investigation into the 2016 election, having uncovered no direct evidence of a conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia, according to both Democrats and Republicans on the committee.
...
Democrats and other Trump opponents have long believed that special counsel Robert Mueller and Congressional investigators would unearth new and more explosive evidence of Trump campaign coordination with Russians. Mueller may yet do so, although Justice Department and Congressional sources say they believe that he, too, is close to wrapping up his investigation.

Nothing, zero, nada was found to support the conspiracy theory. The Trump campaign did not collude with Russia. A few flunkies were indicted for unrelated tax issues and for lying to the investigators about some minor details. But nothing at all supports the dramatic claims of collusion made since the beginning of the affair.

In a recent statement House leader Nancy Pelosi was reduced to accuse Trump campaign officials of doing their job:

“The indictment of Roger Stone makes clear that there was a deliberate, coordinated attempt by top Trump campaign officials to influence the 2016 election and subvert the will of the American people. ...

No one called her out for spouting such nonsense.

Russiagate created a lot of damage.

The alleged Russian influence campaign that never happened was used to install censorship on social media. It was used to undermine the election of progressive Democrats. The weapon salesmen used it to push for more NATO aggression against Russia. Maria Butina, an innocent Russian woman interested in good relation with the United States, was held in solitary confinement (recommended) until she signed a paper which claims that she was involved in a conspiracy.

In a just world the people who for more then two years hyped the conspiracy theory and caused so much damage would be pushed out of their public positions. Unfortunately that is not going to happen. They will jump onto the next conspiracy train and continue from there.

Posted by b at 01:38 PM | Comments (136)

February 11, 2019

Venezuela - 57% Say Maduro Is Their Legitimate President

The legitimacy of a ruler can best be determined by asking the ruled people.

The independent Venezuelan polling firm Hinterlaces asked (in Spanish) 1,580 Venezuelans in direct interviews who they consider to be the legitimate president of Venezuela.

57% said that the Nicolás Maduro is the legitimated president. 32% said Juan Guaidó. 11% did not know or did not respond.

---

The well-respected scientific research service of the German Bundestag advised (in German) that foreign recognition of someone as a president does not confer legitimacy. Legitimacy of a president requires that he has actual enforcing capabilities within the country. As long as that is not established a recognition must be seen as interference in the internal affairs of the foreign country. Such an interference, which the German and other governments committed, is inconsistent with international law.

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Alfred-Maurice de-Zayas, a professor for international law and a longtime senior lawyer at the United Nations, confirms that opinion. He writes:

Members of the United Nations are bound by the Charter, articles one and two of which affirm the right of all peoples to determine themselves, the sovereign equality of states, the prohibition of the use of force and of economic or political interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. Yet these fundamental principles of international order are being grossly violated in the case of Venezuela.

---

ignoring the will of the people of Venezuela and the rule of law U.S. media continue to manufacture consent for regime change in Venezuela.

Posted by b at 01:53 PM | Comments (91)

February 10, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-09

It was a quiet week as your host had the sh**s and was generally unwell. The full service will resume next week.

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Steffan Watkins found that the weapons mentioned in the above post came within a larger CIA operation.

Steffan Watkins @steffanwatkins - 4:54 utc - 10 Feb 2019
U.S. registered Boeing 767 Cargo plane N881YV (ICAO:AC23C6), operated by 21 Air, LLC, wet-leased to GPS-Air, flew every single day from 2019-01-11 to 2019-02-07 from Florida to VZ or CO, sometimes both; then stopped.
On the 7th. Why might that be?
Funny story; do you know when the Venezuelans published the name of the suspect flight and laid out the spread of guns allegedly from the plane? February 5th. Flights stopped when the public were told about them happening February 7th.

Others found that several people involved in the above flights were also involved in 'extraordinary rendition' torture flights for the CIA. They, of course, deny this but the evidence is clear: Miami Herald: Air charter firm, client both deny role in alleged shipment of arms to Venezuela

When I wrote the above I was not aware of this Greg Palast piece on the same issue: In Venezuela, White Supremacy Is a Key Driver of the Coup

More on Venezuela:

RT has an interview with Rafael Ramírez who ran the Venezuelan oil industry under Hugo Chavez. He fell out with Maduro and very much dislikes his policies. He is also against the U.S. led coup attempt. I sthere a chance for a 'third way'?
Hasta la (Cha)vista? Rafael Ramirez, ex-permanent representative of Venezuela to the UN

Fox News claims that "Venezuela stockpiles 5,000 long-range Russian missiles" that threaten the United States. Those 5,000 missiles are Man Portable Air Defense Missiles (MANPADs) with a maximum range of some 6,000 meters(!).

Adam Johnson list other propaganda points:
Western Media Fall in Lockstep for Cheap Trump/Rubio Venezuela Aid PR Stunt

The Democratic Party leadership is fully on board with the Trump administration's regime change plans and repeats all its talking points. It suddenly forgot #Russiagate and that Trump only does what Putin wants him to do.

It is hard to think of anything more condemning than this:

John Bolton @AmbJohnBolton - 1:43 utc - 10 Feb 2019
Appreciate @SpeakerPelosi‘s strong statement of support. The U.S. stands united in its support of Venezuelan Interim President Juan Guaidó, and of the peaceful, constitutional transition to democracy in Venezuela.
Pelosi Statement on the Situation in Venezuela

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 10:12 AM | Comments (165)

February 09, 2019

Racism And The Fight Over Venezuela

The U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela is not only about oil and general U.S. imperialism. It is attempt to bring a specific type of people back into power. The same type of people that rule in Washington DC.

The Nation describes how the U.S. has long funded and manipulated the opposition in Venezuela. The Random Guy™ Juan Guaidó, who claims the presidency, was created through this process:

How Washington Funded the Counterrevolution in Venezuela
Self-declared president Juan Guaidó comes from the right-wing, US-backed student movement that tried to subvert Hugo Chávez’s government.

The piece includes this revealing sentence:

A former USAID/OTI member who helped devise US efforts in Venezuela said the “objective was that you had thousands of youth, high school, and college kids that were horrified of this Indian-looking guy in power. They were idealistic.

Being "horrified" that the "Indian-looking" Hugo Chávez was in power does not seem "idealistic". One might call it racist though. A number of those white, well off, U.S. trained college kids joint politics in right wing parties. They wanted to take power. But to sell one of theirs as a leader of a country where the majority is mestizo was a problem.

To solve that problem the Random Guy, despite being known only by 20% of Venezuelans, was selected to lead the U.S. coup attempt:

A figure named Juan Andrés Mejía would have been next in line but for reasons that are only now clear, Juan Guaido was selected.

“There is a class reasoning that explains Guaidó’s rise,” Sequera, the Venezuelan analyst, observed. “Mejía is high class, studied at one of the most expensive private universities in Venezuela, and could not be easily marketed to the public the way Guaidó could. For one, Guaidó has common mestizo features like most Venezuelans do, and seems like more like a man of the people.

Guaido is a stand in. He was selected because he somewhat looked like the majority of the people of the country.

The two pictures below further demonstrate the role race plays in the conflict in Venezuela.

Venezuela currently has two assemblies that claim the right to legislate. In 2015 the opposition won a majority in the National Assembly, the original parliament of Venezuela:

However, the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred four lawmakers from taking their seats while it probed allegations of electoral fraud. As a result, only 163 of the 167 lawmakers were sworn in on January 5. The next day, three opposition deputies were sworn in over protests by members from the legislature’s minority who announced their intention to challenge the move.

The Supreme Court of Venezuela then held that the National Assembly was in contempt of the court. The move created a political stalemate. To solve it the president called for the election of a Constitutional Assembly. Its main task is to consider constitutional changes. But it can also overrule legislation that the National Assembly makes. The Supreme Court accepted the solution. The National Assembly, the rotational presidency of which Random Guy took at the beginning of this year, is since only a secondary parliament.

There is a visual difference between the two assemblies:

Cont. reading: Racism And The Fight Over Venezuela

Posted by b at 02:59 PM | Comments (99)

February 08, 2019

Open Thread 2019-08

News & views ...

Posted by b at 12:34 PM | Comments (222)

February 07, 2019

Venezuela - U.S. Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

A day after the U.S. coup attempt in Venezuela the U.S. game plan was already quite obvious:

The opposition in Venezuela will probably use access to that 'frozen' money to buy weapons and to create an army of mercenaries to fight a 'civil' war against the government and its followers. Like in Syria U.S. special forces or some CIA 'contractors' will be eager to help. The supply line for such a war would most likely run through Colombia. If, like 2011 in Syria, a war on the ground is planned it will likely begin in the cities near that border.

bigger

The U.S. is using the pretext of 'delivering humanitarian aid' from Columbia to Venezuela to undermine the government and to establish a supply line for further operations. It is another attempt to pull the military onto the coup plotter's side:

[I]f the trucks do get across, the opposition can present itself as an answer to Venezuela’s chronic suffering, while Mr. Maduro will appear to have lost control of the country’s borders. That could accelerate defections from the ruling party and the military.

Dimitris Pantoulas, a political scientist in Caracas, called the opposition’s aid delivery plan a high-stakes gamble.
...
“This is 99 percent about the military and one percent about the humanitarian aspects,” he said. “The opposition is testing the military’s loyalty, raising their cost of supporting Maduro. Are they with Maduro, or no? Will they reject the aid? If the answer is no, then Maduro’s hours are numbered.”

A New York Times op-ed by a right-wing former foreign minister of Mexico, Jorge G. Castañeda, details the escalation potential:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - U.S. Aid Gambit Fails - War Plans Lack Support

Posted by b at 02:19 PM | Comments (103)

February 06, 2019

U.S. Asks More Countries To Occupy Northeast Syria

Monday's piece about the situation in Syria included a judgment that now seems to be wrong.

The Trump administration planned to replace U.S. troops in northeast Syria with those of various allies.

James Jeffrey, the neoconservative U.S. special envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition, thought up an elaborate scheme to 'protect the Kurds' and to secure the borders to Turkey with the help of allied troops.

Aaron Stein @aaronstein1 - 17:33 utc - 24 Jan 2019

The Jeffrey plan being carried to Ankara/Rojava is very complex, requires open-ended commitments from UK-France, Turkish patrols in rural areas, SDF acquiescence, 3rd party forces, and US top cover, perhaps including a US enforced NFZ (unclear if POTUS is on board with this bit)

A week later the Wall Street Journal reported that the crazy scheme failed to win support from any of the relevant parties. The Kurds rejected it and Britain and France declined to send troops on a never ending mission between the waring Turkish and Kurdish sides.

The assertions that the scheme failed may have been premature. There are signs that it is still been worked on.

Today Secretary of State Mike Pompeo talked to foreign ministers and officials of the U.S. coalition against ISIS. He made a remark that seems to announce a request to these allies to send their troops to replace the U.S. forces in northeast Syria:

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday reassured allies that the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Syria was not “the end of America’s fight” and called on them to recommit to permanently defeating Islamic State in Syria and Iraq.
...
“Our mission is unwavering, but we need your help to accomplish it, just as we’ve had over the past months and years,” Pompeo said, “To that end, we ask that our coalition partners seriously and rapidly consider requests that will enable our efforts to continue.

“Those requests are likely to come very soon,” he added, without elaborating.

Pompeo also wants (vid) the coalition to "removal of all Iranian led forces from Syria." He also asked for hundreds of millions fro Iraq.

One of the participants of the meeting was the German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, a rather daft member of the formerly social democratic party. As he traveled to Washington DC he lamented (in German) about a "vacuum" that would be created when the U.S. troops withdraw (my translation):

Before his flight to Washington Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) said: "In Syria we still have no clarity how a vacuum can be avoided after the announced U.S. troop draw-down, so that no new escalation of old conflicts and a resurgence of the Islamic State can happen." He hoped to receive more information on the issue during the talks in Washington. The danger from the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq "is by far not over."

How come these politicians never learned physics? Northeast Syria is not closed off from the atmosphere or the surrounding lands. That makes a vacuum there impossible.

Former British ambassador to Syria Peter Ford offers a helpful Guide to Decoding the Doublespeak on Syria. It includes this entry:

Cont. reading: U.S. Asks More Countries To Occupy Northeast Syria

Posted by b at 01:24 PM | Comments (106)

February 04, 2019

Syria Sitrep - Trump Says U.S. Will Leave But Pentagon Keeps Adding Forces

The U.S. retreat from northeast Syria is still not happening. In yesterdays interview with CBS President Trump again said the troops would leave, but the the Pentagon is doing the opposite of retreating.


(not current) bigger

The Islamic State forces north of the Euphrates are left to holding some 4 square kilometer of ground near the border to Iraq. The few hundred ISIS fighters still alive could be killed in a day or two which would then be the right time for the U.S. to leave as President Trump announced two month ago.

But the U.S. military keeps increasing its troop numbers and supplies in the area. During the last two month the number of U.S. soldiers in northeast Syria rose by nearly 50%. Instead of the officially acknowledged 2,000 there are now at least 3,000 U.S. soldiers in northeast Syria. New weapons and equipment arrive every day. Additionally, the Syrian Observatory reports, the U.S. is bringing in a significant number of TOW anti-tank missiles and heavy machine guns even though there is no longer an apparent use for these:

[T]he International Coalition Forces brought quantities of anti-armor thermal missiles during the recent period, to their bases east of Euphrates area, in conjunction with bringing quantities of machineguns known as “DShK”, and the reliable sources confirmed to the Syrian Observatory that the range of the missiles reaches about 6 km, but the reasons for bringing these weapons was not known, especially as the “Islamic State” Organization in its last pocket at the east bank of Euphrates River is almost ended, ..
...
[T]he Syrian Observatory has documented since the US president’s decision to withdraw until the 3rd of February 2018, the entry of 1130 trucks at least, carrying equipment, ammunition, weapons, military, and logistic equipment to bases of the International Coalition east of Euphrates, ..
...
The process of entering the trucks also comes in conjunction with the arrival of hundreds of soldiers of the US Special Forces to the Syrian territory in a specific and special operation, the goal of which is to arrest the remaining leaders and members of the “Islamic State” Organization who are trapped in the remaining 4 kilometers for it east of Euphrates, ..

Today the New York Times finally confirms the increased troop numbers the Observatory reported weeks ago:

Cont. reading: Syria Sitrep - Trump Says U.S. Will Leave But Pentagon Keeps Adding Forces

Posted by b at 01:09 PM | Comments (180)

February 03, 2019

The MoA Week In Review - OT 2019-07

Last week's posts on Moon of Alabama:

Use as open thread ...

Posted by b at 12:42 PM | Comments (141)

U.S. Coup Attempt In Venezuela Lacks International Support

There is little doubt where 'western' media stand with regards to the U.S. led coup-attempt (vid) in Venezuela. But their view does not reflect the overwhelming international recognition the Venezuelan government under President Nicolás Maduro continues to have.

The Rothschild family's house organ, the Economist, changed the background of its Twitter account to a picture of the Random Dude™, Juan Guaidó, who the U.S. regime changers created to run the country.


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The tweet is quite revealing:

The Economist @TheEconomist - 23:59 utc- 31 Jan 2019

Juan Guaidó and Donald Trump are betting that sanctions will topple the regime before they starve the Venezuelan people econ.st/2DMOeEk

It is quite obvious that Trump’s Illegal Regime Change Operation Will Kill More Venezuelans. The Economist supports that starvation strategy.

The supposedly neutral news agencies are no better than the arch-neoliberal Economist. The Reuters' Latin America office also changed its header picture to Random Dude. It reverted that after being called out.

Agence France-Press stated at 11:10 utc yesterday that "tens of thousands" would join a rally.

Cont. reading: U.S. Coup Attempt In Venezuela Lacks International Support

Posted by b at 12:31 PM | Comments (114)

February 01, 2019

Venezuela - Coup Propaganda Claims Gang Violence Is Coup Supporting Protest

To demonize the President of Venzuela, Nicolás Maduro, and Venezuelan government forces, a concerted effort is made to falsely depict gang violence, and the police reaction to it, as a confrontation between coup supporting protesters and the Maduro government.

Gang violence in the various slums in Caracas and elsewhere has been a problem for decades. The phenomenon is by far not exclusive to Venezuela. The gangs mostly fight each other over territory, but sometimes collide with the police that tries to keep the violence level down. This violence has nothing to do with the recently attempted coup or the anti-government protest by the mostly well-off people who support it.

On January 29 the Washington Post, the CIA's favored outlet, launched the campaign. As detailed yesterday an incident of gang violence and the police's reaction to it was manipulated into a story of anti-government protest.

The first three paragraph of the story told of an alleged anti-government protests in a slum in Caracas which included the arson of a culture center. The next day the police arrested some culprits which led to more violence. Some twenty propaganda filled paragraphs about the coup attempt follow. Only at the end of the Washington Post piece was revealed what really happened. The arson incident took place a January 22, a day before the coup attempt. It was a gang attack:

Around midnight, neighbors say, a group of hooded boys threw molotov cocktails at the culture center.

The following day the police arrested some of the arsonists. More rioting followed:

A group set fire to barricades, threw stones and attacked an outpost of the National Guard. ... Neighbors said that criminal gangs were among the crowd and created havoc by violently confronting the police.

The whole tit for tat incident was typical gang vs. police violence. It likely had nothing to do with the coup attempt.

On January 30 the New York Times added to the propaganda theme:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Coup Propaganda Claims Gang Violence Is Coup Supporting Protest

Posted by b at 03:08 PM | Comments (284)

January 31, 2019

Venezuela - Coup Attempt Part Of A Larger Project - Military Intervention Likely To Fail

The Trump administration has launched a large political project to remake several states in Latin America. The Wall Street Journal headlines:

U.S. Push to Oust Venezuela’s Maduro Marks First Shot in Plan to Reshape Latin America
The Trump administration’s broader aim is to gain leverage over Cuba and curb recent inroads in the region by Russia, Iran and China

The plan includes regime change in Venezuela, Nicaragua and eventually Cuba. The removal of any Russian or Chinese interest is another point. It is a multiyear project that has bipartisan support. It will likely require military force.


The targets: Raúl Castro of Cuba, Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela.
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The project seems to echo the "New Middle East" plan then Secretary of State Condeleeza Rice launched in 2006. It largely failed due to U.S. incompetence but left behind severely damaged states.

That the U.S. is going for such a wide ranging plan in the western hemisphere might explain why Trump is pressing to end the other military projects in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

The starting shot for the new plan, the U.S. led coup attempt in Venezuela, is already in trouble. The U.S. selected puppet Juan Guaidó had called for demonstrations in support of his coup that were supposed to take place yesterday. But even the NYT, which propagandizes for each and every regime change operation the U.S. undertakes in Latin America, could find only little evidence of support:

Mr. Guaidó also took part in protests on Wednesday at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas, where he was swarmed by international reporters. Wearing a white lab coat, he linked arms with medical students and marched with them up a roadway, before speeding off on the back of a motorbike.

The demonstration was one of a handful in the city on Wednesday, though on a smaller scale than some recent demonstrations. Some workers walked out of their jobs for hours in protest against Mr. Maduro and his government, gathering on corners through the capital.

Videos from Venezuela showed a crowd of some hundred people in the better off quarters of Caracas. Meanwhile pictures of several pro-Maduro demonstrations in various cities showed much larger crowds. New demonstrations will be held on Saturday and are likely to show similar results.

The Washington Post claims that anti-government protests took place in two of the more destitute areas of Caracas. But the report contradicts itself. It starts:

As the opposition campaign to oust President Nicolás Maduro dramatically escalated, the warren-like streets of the Puerta Caracas slum filled with pot-banging, anti-government demonstrators. A culture center run by Maduro loyalists was burned down. Hungry, beaten-down residents felt a rush of hope.

Then night fell, along with the boot steps of government forces.

Maduro called the arsonists “fascist criminals,” and residents in the western Caracas enclave paid the price. Mask-wearing special forces, locals said, swarmed the neighborhood last week, kicking in doors, rounding up young people and imposing an effective curfew.

Twenty propaganda filled paragraphs later we learn that the described arson of a culture center took place before the coup attempt happened and likely has nothing to do with it:

Cont. reading: Venezuela - Coup Attempt Part Of A Larger Project - Military Intervention Likely To Fail

Posted by b at 01:59 PM | Comments (220)

January 30, 2019

When 'Former' Spies Run Wild, Bad Things Happen

A number of related stories describe nefarious activities by 'former' NSA, 'former' CIA, 'former' military officers who joined private businesses which harm other people. They demonstrate that there is a structural problem when those trained to be weapons are allowed to run in the wild.

Reuters just published a two part story about 'former' NSA staff, more than twenty in total, who since 2013 built a snooping center for the United Arab Emirates.

Inside the UAE’s secret hacking team of American mercenaries
Ex-NSA operatives reveal how they helped spy on targets for the Arab monarchy — dissidents, rival leaders and journalists.

The 'former' NSA staff did not mind to spy on local dissidents or 16 year old kids on Twitter for the dictatorial Gulf State. Only some of them jumped ship when they found out that their shop was also used to spy on Americans. The 'private' company they worked for is named Dark Matter. It claims to do only cyber-security work, but is a known snooping shop directly connected to the UAE's digital intelligence service NESU. It even resides in the same building.

In October 2016 Jenna McLaughlin reported on Dark Matter for the Intercept:

How the UAE is recruiting hackers to create the perfect surveillance state.

In December 2017 she followed up with an piece in Foreign Policy:

Deep Pockets, Deep Cover
The UAE Is paying Ex-CIA officers to build a spy empire in the Gulf

McLaughlin reports that Dark Matter is under FBI investigation.

The UAE hires not only 'former' NSA and 'former' CIA spies but also 'former' U.S. special operations soldiers:

A Middle East Monarchy Hired American Ex-Soldiers To Kill Its Political Enemies. This Could Be The Future Of War.

The second Reuters story published today describes the technical side of the UAE's cyber-spy shop:

UAE used cyber super-weapon to spy on iPhones of foes

The ex-Raven operatives described Karma as a tool that could remotely grant access to iPhones simply by uploading phone numbers or email accounts into an automated targeting system.

Reuters does not say so, but from the description of the spy tools it seem clear that the Karma tool was bought from the notorious Israeli spy shop NSO Group. The tool's original marketing name is Pegasus. The quoted 'former' NSA spy in the Reuters piece makes some curious claims like 'the tool could not record phone calls'. But that claim makes no sense. Once a decent spy software is on the phone everything is accessible. The claim is obviously made to divert from NSO/Pegasus. Sales of the NSO Group tools to the UAE were confirmed in earlier reports. From August 2018:

Cont. reading: When 'Former' Spies Run Wild, Bad Things Happen

Posted by b at 04:33 PM | Comments (73)